Senator Joe Biden took a pretty good shot at Rudy Giuliani during last night's debate. It was in response to Rudy's recent claims that many in the Democratic field lack executive experience, and are therefore unqualified for the presidency.
Biden called Giuliani unqualified, and said that his answers consist of "three things: a noun, a verb and 9/11."
The Senator's comments got a strong response from Giuliani communications director, Katie Levinson:
"... Senator Biden certainly falls in to the bucket of those on the stage tonight who have never had executive experience and have never run anything. Wait, I take that back, Senator Biden has never run anything but his mouth. Such a desperate attack from Senator Biden is to be expected considering I – Katie Levinson – have a better chance of becoming President than he does.”
This is fun.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
Senator Joe Biden took a pretty good shot at Rudy Giuliani during last night's debate. It was in response to Rudy's recent claims that many in the Democratic field lack executive experience, and are therefore unqualified for the presidency.
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
John Edwards has been in the news recently. It's go time for his campaign. Yesterday, I posted that Obama was gearing up to take on Hillary more directly, well that goes double for Edwards, times 10 (that's 20x overall, for those keeping score). Edwards staked his campaign on winning Iowa, and he's now running third (albeit a close third). So he's gotten serious, outlining bold policy propositions and forcefully criticizing Clinton.
On the policy front, Edwards has proposed a slew of New Deal- esque programs to fight poverty. Edwards would look to raise the minimum wage to $9.50, provide a million new Section 8 housing vouchers for the poor, and also pledged to start a government-funded public higher education program called "College for Everyone."
"It is central to what I want to do as president to do something about economic inequality. I do not believe it is okay for the United States of America to have 37 million people living in poverty. And I think we need, desperately need, a president who will say that to America and call on Americans to show their character."
Edwards said his top three priorities are: Ending the war in Iraq, enacting universal health care, and overhauling our energy policy.
As for the Hill, he ripped her for taking money from federal lobbyists and for her vote calling Iran's Revolutionary Guard a terrorist group. Edwards said the vote could give the president the authority to bomb Iran. Obama missed the vote, but attacked Clinton similarly.
I feel bad for Edwards, he's not winning this thing, and he's damaged goods so the VP slot's not happening. The only thing that could save him may be an endorsement from SAM Online... but we're not there yet.
Speaking of endorsements... NBC reports that after heavy lobbying by the Democratic field, the New Hampshire SIEU, one of the state's largest unions, has endorsed Edwards. The nod could be a big help for him, who is way behind in New Hampshire polls, because it means votes and volunteers.
This is the 12th state SEIU endorsement Edwards has won; the others include Iowa and California.
By the way, SAM is also being lobbied for our endorsement. We're leaning Gravel, but nothing's final just yet.
Monday, October 29, 2007
I'm really not sure if I should post this, but I will. Radar Magazine puts its readers to the test by asking: Fox Business anchor or porn star?
Find the link here.
I don't know if I should make this public, but I was a perfect 10 for 10 in this quiz. But I swear I had no previous knowledge of any of the ladies featured... like I'd admit to watching Fox, anyway.
“She hasn’t run anything, and the government of the United States is not a place for a president to be an intern. You need to have experience actually leading and running things.”
- Mitt Romney on Senator Hillary Clinton's lack of executive experience. Interesting choice of words seeing as how Sen. Clinton's husband, Bill Clinton, was impeached for lying about oral sex with a White House intern.
Of course, Romney may not have known about that.
Barack Obama has announced that the gloves are off, and he's going to take on Hillary Clinton directly and forcefully. To that end, the campaign has posted his speech on Social Security reform on its YouTube site. Notice, more specifically, that Obama is introduced by a "regular person"-- an Iowa school teacher who stumbles over his words in a humble and honest way. You can tell he wrote the introduction himself, probably with a pen and notebook. It's a nice touch.
As for the speech itself, I like it. It's very direct and honest. And, he refers to Clinton as "ducking the issue" and following "conventional Washington thinking." He calls for a renewed sense of purpose and "shared responsibility."
//More from Iowa\\
NBC reports that Mitt Romney's lead in Iowa has expanded to a commanding 36.2% to 13.1% over Rudy Giuliani. Mike Huckabee is on Giuliani’s heels at 12.8% and Thompson is fourth with 11.4.%. Romney was at 27.8% in August; Huckabee was at just 1.8%. McCain stands at just 6%. Nearly 15% of Republican voters say they are undecided.
Romney was the only Republican candidate polling better with women than men, he's dominating with females (must be the hair). In fact, most Iowa Republican men are supporting Giuliani or Huckabee, but overall the race doesn't appear to even be close.
Friday, October 26, 2007
ESPN.com has learned from AP reports of the suspension of Genarlow Wilson's prison sentence by the Georgia Supreme Court. The 4-3 decision ruled that Wilson, now 21, received a "cruel and unusual" sentence following his guilty conviction of aggravated child molestation. The charge stems from a New Year's Eve party in Douglas County, GA, where Wilson, then 17, had oral sex with a 15-year old girl in a hotel room. He was found innocent of rape charges from the same night, but upon a 17-year old girl instead. For his conviction, Wilson received ten years in prison.
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
USAToday.com has an article about Senator Hillary Clinton's thoughts on Executive Power, and what she intends to do with it if elected President. Speaking to the British publication, The Guardian, Mrs. Clinton says she "would consider giving up some" power, while acknowledging that the Bush Administration has gone a bit beyond the Constitution's boundaries regarding its use of Executive Power.
Recently, PBS's Frontline produced a compelling piece about this very subject within Mr. Bush's White House called "Cheney's Law". The documentary examines how the current administration, led by Vice President Dick Cheney, was intent on restoring pre-Watergate Executive Authority and doing so irregardless of legal precedents, congressional opposition and judicial objections. From the NSA wiretap operation involving the telecommunications industry to the use of torture tactics in foreign lands, Mr. Cheney was (and may still be) determined to concentrate the President's power in the Oval Office, using the Justice Department as his tool in the process.
Mrs. Clinton's ambiguous comments ought to be taken seriously, and not because she may curb Executive Power, but because she may do the exact opposite. In the interview with The Guardian, she never gives any specifics regarding Mr. Bush's transgressions, nor does she enlighten us as to how she would specifically narrow Executive Power. It's amazing that one of the most lasting impressions of the Bush presidency for generations to come will be his use of Executive Power, yet she chooses to address it lightly, and only when a foreign reporter brings it up.
This is not something that's unique to Mrs. Clinton, but to all of the Presidential candidates. In the Republican field, there seems to be a greater appetite for torture techniques, so you can assume Executive Power will not be trimmed back. Nor do you hear any specifics from the Democratic heavyweights on how they would return to a system of checks and balances, and not one of King George III, ruling the country without any accountability. It makes one pause regarding the reasons they're running. Is it to improve the nation and continue its progress, or is it for the power?
In extraordinary times, it's important to have a President, Congress and Judiciary willing to make the important, tough decisions that will preserve our safety and maintain the democracy. It is always imprudent, however, for citizens to not be more accountable to each other and hold elected officials as such in those extraordinary moments.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
The progressive interest group, People for the American way has a parody website called "The Right- Wing Facebook." The slogan: We watch the right so you don't have to. Check it out, it's formatted exactly like the real Facebook, with funny profiles and a newsfeed that covers everthing going on with Republican candidates, along with a decidedly liberal bias.
It's kind of interesting to see... check it out.
Monday, October 22, 2007
In an effort to secure the "aging B-list bearded action star/ home gym enthusiast/ internet punchline" demographic, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee has picked up a key endorsement.
None other than Chuck Norris himself has come out in favor of the "compassionate conservative." He even compared the candidate to a Biblical King, NBC reports.
"Given Huckabee’s underdog status, Norris 'recalled another leader in ancient times that didn't match up in the line up: King David. Seven men were poised and paraded for the position of king, but David was left in the field shepherding because he wasn't ‘a front-runner in the polls.’ They overlooked the best because they were too busy judging by outward appearance. But God appointed David king.'
Norris also writes that Huckabee’s 'not afraid to stand up for a Creator and against secularist beliefs.'”
That makes sense, as Walker Texas Ranger was never afraid to take on drug smugglers, assassins and science teachers who taught evolution.
It's still unclear how this huge endorsement will impact the race, but I predict we'll soon see Governor Huckabee climbing the national polls and fundraising race. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to go work my abs on my Total Gym, while watching my new Delta Force Collector's Editon DVD, and growing out my manly, red and grey flecked beard.
College football is in its mid season form, once again, and it began last week with the inaugural Bowl Championship Series rankings. As opposed to previous seasons when, say, eight of the top ten teams were the usual suspects fans were accustomed to seeing at the top (from Miami to Oklahoma to Southern California), this year's rankings are a bit different. As of Monday, October 22nd, Boston College is number two behind Ohio State, this being the Jesuit school's first crack into the top five of the BCS rankings. Just last week, South Florida (USF) was sitting pretty at number two before committing the most unforgivable sin an up-and-coming, no-name program can commit in college football: they lost at Rutgers, currently ranked twenty-five in the AP poll.
Friday, October 19, 2007
Notre Dame is heading for fall break, and I made the questionable call of skipping the USC game (my old school) to head home early. What does this mean for SAM? I'll be posting whever I can... but probably not as much for the next 2 weeks. I'll be traveling in New York and to Washington, so I won't have net access too much.
That means that I'm pleading with my fellow SAMs to please please keep posting, maybe even post more than usual. I'm looking in your direction Goose, John Kennedy, CPColeta, AEP, ptb, Douglas Flynn, stevekrik, and anyone else who wants to write for this site. Do me this solid and be active posters for the next couple of weeks.
I actually won't be back to ND until November 1st... so try to help me out.
As Wyclef once said:
Evertime I make a run
Girl you turn around and cry
I ask myself: Why oh why?
You see you must understand
I can't work a 9-5
So I'll be gone
Last Wednesday night, the local school board of Portland, Maine approved a measure allowing for middle school students to receive birth control devices from the school's nurse(s). The story is best captured in this msnbc.com article, which details the measure, vote and subsequent outcry. The issue, in and of itself a political dynamite, was further ensconced in controversy because the middle school students can request anything from birth control pills to condoms without their parents' permission. This last bit is what has the whole country talking about the measure, and the likes of Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh up in arms.
Still, the question ultimately comes down to teaching kids about sex. It's important for parents to speak honestly and frankly about sex with their kids, no matter how uncomfortable or awkward it may seem to both parties. However, whatever a parent says (or doesn't) has serious competition from a few factors: friends and interests. If a child loves rap music and has sexually active friends, how likely is it that the child is not going to engage in any sexual activity before the end of high school? I don't know the answer to that, but experience tells us all to put our money on the under. Schools may want to inform parents about what the child will learn in the classroom, after all, whether tuition or taxes, the parents are paying for the lesson. Schools should not shy away from teaching kids about their bodies and how to protect it and prevent dangerous circumstances.
Kids are having puberty at younger ages than before, and no one knows the actual causes of this. With everything that's on television, from Britney Spears wearing no underwear to A&F selling thongs to adolescents, sexual messages are pervasive as ever. The only thing to guide young people toward making good decisions is information, and all of it. Teach young people about the changes going on in their bodies. Enlighten them about sexual activities, the risks involved and preventative measures. Give them birth rate statistics, involving babies born to h.s. dropouts, in single-parent households, out-of-wedlock marriages, et cetera. If this strategy works for investors who want to maximize their Q3 earnings, why shouldn't it work for a teen couple contemplating whether or not to use a condom? Totally different worlds, I understand, but it's information that serves as the x-factor.
I received some illuminating statistics recently regarding teen birth rates by state. The first stat is from 2000 (a bit old, I know), and gives percentages, by state, of teen births. It's bare-bones stats that ultimately has one conclusion: progressive policies help reduce teen births. The second tells the same story, but shows a pattern from the seventies through 2005, and gives the teen birth rate per one thousand births in each state. A similar conclusion to the first, one must immediately begin to accept the idea that the Maine folks are on to something.
Of course, all of this would be simple academics if parents chose to speak to their kids, as opposed to leaving it to that Korean woman on MTV. So someone has to do the tough job of preparing our kids to help prepare themselves. Next objective: Teaching geography.
Thursday, October 18, 2007
One of the most liberal members of Congress, Nothern California's Pete Stark made some very controversial remarks today on the floor of the US House.
The remarks centered around the President's veto of a Child's Health Insurance Bill, and a failed attempt to override the veto.
In case you can't or don't want to watch the video, here's an exerpt:
"I'm just amazed that they can't figure out -- the Republicans are worried that they can't pay for insuring an additional 10 million children. They sure don't care about finding $200 billion to fight the illegal war in Iraq."
"Where are you going to get that money? Are you going to tell us lies like you're telling us today? Is that how you're going to fund the war? You don't have money to fund the war or children. But you're going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president's amusement.
I don't know how lame this may be, but I feel compelled to direct the good people who visit this site's attention to a blog on Huffington Post by John Ridley. Ridley, my kind of clear thinking individual who looks for practical results as true solutions to problems, has hit the hammer on the proverbial nail regarding Illegal Immigration (Yeah, I said it). He exposes a damaging flaw in the standard liberal position regarding the matter, because in the end, liberals who stand for illegal immigrants' "rights" are actually standing for the employers' "rights" to exploit them. He is right in pointing the unlikely (?) marriage between "'civil rights'" groups who fight for illegal immigrants to stay and Wall Street. They're marriage has been sustained because the likes of President Bush and Senator Kennedy legitimize the union.
Steps do need to be taken to solve this issue, starting with acknowledging what it is. "Undocumented workers" is a misnomer. A student I once knew used to be an "undoc. worker" when (s)he "interned" for a law firm, and at week's end, had $300 cash in the pocket. No W-2's. No Social Security numbers. Illegal Immigration is what upwards of twenty million people go through by sneaking into the country or staying beyond the alotted time on their visas. And I'm not trying to vilify folks for it. If I had the choice between Mexico City or Jackson City, it's no question.
Still, we must understand that even if people come to this country to be exploited, it's still not right. Just because there are migrants, who came and remain here illegally, willing to work for two dollars an hour with no ability to unionize, that doesn't make it right. The Guest-Worker Program smells of what Ridley calls indentured servitude. It's an accurate way to describe exactly what the business community wants, and what liberals fight for.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
So there is yet again another uproar over a picture depicting the prophet Mohammed. This time a Swedish artist drew the head of Mohammed on the body of a dog. Conservative Muslims (is there a such thing as liberal Muslims? And if so, could they please become more vocal?) believe that dogs are unclean animals and Islam forbids any depiction of the prophet. When the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published cartoons of Mohammed back in September of 2005, the Muslim world reacted with hysterical furor. Death threats were issued and protests were chock-full of signs which portrayed not only the irony of the situation of the very real intolerance and obedience expected from many Muslims across the globe. The rest of the world reacted cowardly and shamefully and refused to stand up for the artists' and the newspaper's freedom of speech, a right that we supposedly hold very dear here in the U.S. of A. While this Swedish artist was being purposely provocative, the reaction from the Muslim community, which has become increasingly typical, is nonetheless unacceptable. Enough is enough. It's all well and good if Islam teaches that it is a sin to depict the prophet, but not everybody is Muslim! Believe any of the crazy things that you want to but leave the rest of us out of it. While we keep hearing over and over again that "Islam is a religion of peace that has been hijacked by extremists," it is simply not the case. From the Salman Rushdie incident to Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the reaction from the Muslim world has been the same. Enough is enough. The rest of the world needs to stop acquiescing every time there is Muslim outrage. We hold our rights to freedom of speech and press as dearly as they hold their religious beliefs. Don't make the same cowardly mistake we made during the Danish cartoon incident. Stand up for this man's right to free speech. No one deserves death threats for drawing a picture, certainly not from a "religion of peace."
Here is an interesting find from the AP:
WASHINGTON (Oct. 16) - Though they may spar across the political aisle, Vice President Dick Cheney is close enough to Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama to call him "cousin."
Eighth cousin, that is.
Lynne Cheney, the vice president's wife, revealed this tantalizing bit of political trivia during a television interview Tuesday.
She said she uncovered the long-ago ties between the two while researching her ancestry for her latest book, "Blue Skies, No Fences," a memoir about growing up in Wyoming.
"This is such an amazing American story that one ancestor ... could be responsible down the family lines for lives that have taken such different and varied paths as Dick's and Barack Obama," Lynne Cheney told MSNBC.
According to her spokeswoman, Sen. Obama, D-Ill., is a descendent of Mareen Duvall. This French Huguenot's son married the granddaughter of a Richard Cheney, who arrived in Maryland in the late 1650's from England, said Ginny Justice, a spokeswoman for Lynne Cheney.
The vice president's full name is Richard B. Cheney.
A spokesman for Obama, who wants to be the first black U.S. president, offered a tongue-in-cheek response. "Every family has a black sheep," said spokesman Bill Burton.
Lynne Cheney did not reference the ancestral ties between her husband and Obama in the book.
I love the black sheep comment, priceless.
"We've got a leader in Iran who has announced that he wants to destroy Israel... So I've told people that, if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon."
- President George W. Bush in a strong statement against Iran's ongoing nuclear program. This comes one day after Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated his country's commitment to helping Iran build a nuclear power plant, and stated that an attack on one Caspian nation is an attack on all Caspian nations.
I feel like I've seen this movie before.
I haven't lived in New York City since I was a small child, I'm a proud product of the suburbs. But I still spend a lot of time there, and like to think I know my way around pretty well. But every time I get out of the subway I feel like a hayseed who just fell off the back of a potato truck. Sense of direction, to put it mildly, just isn't my thing. So it never fails, off the subway I walk in the wrong direction almost every time. Once I get close enough to see the sign on the next street corner (which takes a while because my eyesight's terrible) I have to do the embarrassing, a cardinal sin in New York City: turn around and walk in the opposite direction.
Well, turns out, I'm not alone. The New York Times reports that city officials have arranged to place decals outside of popular stops to serve as compasses. 9th ave. is to the left, Madison is straight ahead, etc.
Awesome idea, but it's kind of like when Tic Tac came out flavors with to go along with Green Mint, White Mint and Orange-- what took so long?!
The past few days, I've debated posting this video, because it is disrespectful to our president. It suggests that he is headed toward senility. I am no doctor, not even close, and I have absolutely no idea how legitimate the diagnosis talked about in the video is.
But here's why I posted it: I have watched extensive video of George Bush as a young man and when he ran for governor. The difference is quite simply striking. You cannot deny it, check it out for yourself. I mean, you can't say "well it's because you are cherry picking quotes," because I listen to him speak all the time, and know he's bad, and I know I've never seen him speak as well as in the clips I've seen of him from eight or 12 or 20 years ago (beyond the two clips shown above). And if there was ever a time for him to speak clearly and without notes, it would be when President Bush was debating Senator John Kerry in 2004. I watched those debates, the president never sounded as good then as in his 1994 debate with Texas Governor Anne Richards.
That's all this is about. Here's a clip from the 2000 campaign, I don't think we see him this good any more, either. Again, try to put aside the political message, because that's really not the point of this post. I tried to get clean clips of him from back then, but just couldn't find any. If anyone does, let me know and I'll change the post.
I mean he was damn good. I don't know, it's just crazy to me.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
According to Lynne Cheney's new book, Blue Skies, No Fences her husband is (distantly) related to... wait for it... Barack Obama. Yup, Mrs. Cheney did extensive research on the Vice President's family tree, and the two are 8th cousins.
According to the Chicago Sun Times, Cheney and Obama are 9th cousins, while Cheney and his boss are 11th cousins.
Damn, I guess when you go back far enough we're all related.
Other revelations in Mrs. Cheney's book include:
Hillary Clinton and Kenneth Starr are 4th cousins.
Patrick Ewing and Michael J. Fox are 3rd cousins, once removed.
Rush Limbaugh plays golf with Satan.
Snoop Dog's great great grandmother once had lunch with Tipper Gore's 8th cousin.
Paul Bryce's 10th cousin dated Derek Jeter's relative in 1889.
Emilio Estevez and Charlie Sheen are brothers.
David Hasselhoff and Ralph Macchio had the same barber until 1987.
And I once split a cab with Kevin Bacon.
The fiery figure seen above emerged from a bonfire at a ceremony marking the second anniversary of the passing of beloved Pope John Paul II. The director of the television station Vatican News Service, Fr. Jarek Cielecki, a Polish priest and close friend of the deceased Pontiff, is convinced the image is Pope John Paul II visiting supporters from beyond.
"You can see the image of a person in the flames and I think it is the servant of God, Pope John Paul II," he said.
The bonfire took place back on April 2 in Beskid Zywiecki, close to John Paul's birthplace at Katowice in southern Poland.
Gregorz Lukasik snapped the photo and realized he "had something" some time later. He began showing the picture to friends and family and finally to his local bishop, who told him that "John Paul II made many journeys in life and is still making them in death."
And in a related story...
Monday, October 15, 2007
Here's a new daily segment for SAM-- the picture of the day. Who better to be the first subject of "Picture of the Day" than Heisman hopeful (front-runner?) Matt Ryan. Ryan led the #3 Eagles to a 27-14 win over Notre Dame on Saturday with close to 300 yards passing, 2 TDs and 1 INT. This season he has thrown 17 touchdown passes and only 6 interceptions.
Even though I am standing in the bleachers directly behind Ryan in this picture, I like to think that he's raising his helmet to me.
On an unrelated note, this picture strangely became the background photo on my roommates' computer when he left it sitting in the library for 20 mins. Which is weird because he is Notre Dame's biggest fan. Odd.
"I'd worked hard for him here in the state. I was a co-chair of his campaign on Capitol Hill. And he not only threw me under his campaign bus, he backed up and ran over me again."
~Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID), in an interview with Matt Lauer regarding Former Governor Mitt Romney's treatment of him following disclosure of Craig's arrest in a Minneapolis Airport bathroom well-known for homo-erotic misdemeanors.
Foreign Affairs has published an essay by Hillary Rodham Clinton, in which the Senator outlines the overall foreign policy strategy of her would-be administration.
As NBC reports, in it she talks about how she will end the war in Iraq, deal effectively with Iran, reinforce the military effort in Afghanistan, fight terrorism, strengthen America's relationship with our allies, rebuild the military, engage Russia and China, affirm human rights and work with other countries to address climate change, while placing a strong focus on diplomacy.
Clinton talks about the importance of engaging adversaries like Iran:
“Iran must conform to its nonproliferation obligations and must not be permitted to build or acquire nuclear weapons. If Iran does not comply with its own commitments and the will of the international community, all options must remain on the table. On the other hand, if Iran is in fact willing to end its nuclear weapons program, renounce sponsorship of terrorism, support Middle East peace, and play a constructive role in stabilizing Iraq, the United States should be prepared to offer Iran a carefully calibrated package of incentives. This will let the Iranian people know that our quarrel is not with them but with their government and show the world that the United States is prepared to pursue every diplomatic option.”
“Of all the things that can happen in this world, we’ll be prepared for that, yes we will. We’ll be prepared for anything that happens.”
- Rudy Giuliani answering a young boy's question at a campaign stop in Exeter, NH.
The boy's question?
“...if (there’s) something living on another planet, and it’s bad and it comes over here, what would you do?”
Well, I'll sleep better tonight.
Writing that last post on Nancy Pelosi reminded me of this hilarious bit Letterman did after January's State of the Union address.
I think they went back and did it with another clip later, but I couldn't find that one.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is bringing a bill to the House floor that would call the forced deportation and eventual murder of over a million Armenians in World War I- era Turkey a genocide. On Wednesday, the House Foreign Affairs Committee voted 27-21 to pass the resolution, and now its destined for a full vote.
It's a profoundly sensitive situation because it would damage US relations with a key ally. Currently, Turkey is one of the few countries left with troops in Iraq besides the United States. Even more importantly, they are allowing the US military to use Turkish bases to get supplies into Northern Iraq. 70% of US supplies go over or through Turkey. Turkey has recalled its diplomats and said the resolution would do "irreparable" damage to American- Turkish relations; the president himself made clear that the House vote does not indicate his position, and implored Pelosi to drop the issue.
But she's pushing forward, motivated to act now because of the survivors' advanced age.
"When I came to Congress 20 years ago, it wasn't the right time because of the Soviet Union. Then that fell, and then it wasn't the right time because of the Gulf War One. And then it wasn't the right time because of overflights of Iraq. And now it's not the right time because of Gulf War Two.
"And, again, the survivors of the Armenian genocide are not going to be with us."
Armenian Americans have a powerful political lobby. I don't know their connection with the speaker, but they usually support Democrats, and their sole issue is recognition of this terrible chapter of history.
Turks insist that the killings were not organized or systematic, and many Turks died in the chaos of the period as well.
Sunday, October 14, 2007
"There is no question that America is living a nightmare [in Iraq] with no end in sight... From a catastrophically flawed, unrealistically optimistic war plan, to the administration’s latest surge strategy, this administration has failed to employ and synchronize the political, economic and military power"
- Retired Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, former commander of US forces (2003-2004) in Iraq in an Interview with Stars and Stripes, a military publication.
Friday, October 12, 2007
Al Gore has won the Nobel Prize for Peace, and his Fred Thompson-like candidacy is supposed to now gain steam. Not that Gore has been a shameless exploiter of his position, like the former senator and actor was before finally throwing his hat in the ring. Gore has consistently rejected all notions that he'd run for the Democratic nomination, and tries to assure all that he'll stay a public statesman and raise issues he cares about.
However much Gore would like to convince the world (or maybe even himself) that he's done with national politics, there is a vibrant movement that wants to adopt Gore as a candidate for president. Msnbc.com has an interesting piece about die hard Goridians (yes, as in Floridians) who want to convince the liberal lion to run. They believe he's a new man and has the resume to challenge Senators Clinton, Obama and Biden, yet has the executive experience to thwart anything the Republicans throw his way.
It's great to see citizens motivated by an individual as such. Al Gore does bring a fresh sense of liberalism that isn't as calculating as Senator Clinton's, yet as drenched in ideal naivete as Senator Obama's. The former is as Charles Krauthammer perfectly describes: We can stand a Clinton presidency because she stands for nothing. The latter, the danger of executive inexperience, coupled with pie-in-the-sky dreams, can lead to a Carter-like term; a harsh realization of what it takes to lead creates inertia, then malaise. Gore can strive beyond that, and guide the nation into a new international system that calls for innovative domestic policies.
No doubt, Gore falls in that unfortunate group of presidential candidates who were more than qualified to win, but due to outside factors, basically politics, came just short. From New York Governor Al Smith to Senator John Kerry, there will always be shining examples of the should haves. Gore's painful 2000 loss is the stuff nightmares are made of: To be on the cusp of victory, then suddenly finding oneself as far back as Dennis Kucinich.
Still, if Gore wants to run, it has to be his decision. A committee cannot compel him to change his mind because it wants to. We're electing a king for four years, and this king is going to have to serve thousands of pancakes in Iowa, kiss even more babies in New Hampshire, and go hunting with union reps in Michigan before being crowned. It's considered the humbling of vain individuals who believe enough in themselves to lead the most powerful and wealthiest nation the world has yet known.
A Nobel Peace Prize notwithstanding, Gore's going to have to buck up and play. Yet, to get into the game now only shows him to be using the same prize awarded to men like Gandhi and Reverend King for political purposes. Gore should remain on the sideline, and await a Clinton win. Then, as the Clinton team prepares its cabinet, just remember where you heard it first: Al Gore will head the Environmental Protection Agency.
Al Gore, whose words inspired this site, won the Nobel Peace Prize today, it was announced in Oslo, Norway. Gore splits the award with the UN Intergovernmental panel on climate change.
According to the NY Times, Gore's citation states that he is "probably the single individual who has done most to create greater worldwide understanding of the measures that need to be adopted." And the UN Panel, a network of some 2,000 scientists, has produced two scientific reports that have “created an ever-broader informed consensus about the connection between human activities and global warming.”
Gore said that he plans to donate his half of the $1.5M prize to Alliance for Climate Protection.
This will no doubt make the calls for a Gore presidential run grow, but I still don't think it's happening. James Carville says there's a 25% chance he'll run (as Carville anticipates Jeb Bush entering the Republican race). Gore will endorse at some point, and he'll either go with Obama (he was always butting heads with Hillary in the Clinton White House) or Hillary (in exchange for a high level cabinet position). That's my take at least.
For the record, I don't think Jeb will run. He's waiting for the "inevitable" Hillary Clinton presidency and will challenge her in 2012, setting up another Bush/Clinton match-up and signaling the coming apocalypse.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
Joe Klein has been one of my favorite political writers since I faked reading Primary Colors in high school and watched the movie instead. (I finally went back and read it for real last summer.) Klein wrote that very compelling book anonymously, and only revealed his identity after the movie's release in 1998.
I also read a lot of his Time Magazine articles for poli- sci classes in college, and his short and sweet Clinton bio The Natural.
So Klein was a favorite of mine based on his talent and style before I read that he is a colossal Mets fan. So you can imagine how I feel about him now. Here Klein pens an article on the Mets collapse entitled: Oh, My Mets!.
Many of you will remember Iranian President Ahmadinejad's curious statement that there are no homosexuals in Iran. You can listen to it above, and remember it spawned a funny SNL video.
But now, a media adviser is "clarifying" his statement.
“What Ahmadinejad said was not a political answer. He said that, compared to American society, we don’t have many homosexuals,” Mohammad Kalhor said.
As silly as the statement and its cover-up are, this is no laughing matter. Consider Nazila Fathi's article in the New York Times.
(as quoted in a piece by blogger Mike Nizza)
Gays are punished by lashing or death if it is proved that they have had homosexual relations. Two gay teenagers were executed in 2005 in Mashad, a northeastern city.
Fear of persecution is so strong that some gay men and lesbians have sought and received asylum in Western countries.
The Iranian Student News Agency reported in 2005 that a lesbian had been killed in prison by other inmates whom, it was alleged, she had forced to have sex with her. Tehran’s chief prosecutor, Saeed Mortazavi, said in May in an interview on state-run television that the police were looking for men who dressed and looked like homosexuals.
"I'm heartbroken... HEARTBROKEN!"
- John McCain to reporters during his morning gaggle, pointing toward a television set. What was on screen? An MSNBC report that 24 star Keifer Sutherland is headed to jail on DUI charges.
"My hero, Jack Bauer," McCain said.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
The gay Republican group, Log Cabin Republicans, uses sarcasm in a new ad in New Hampshire, intent on bringing down Mitt Romney. It goes after him as a flip flopper, who has been disingenuous about abortion, guns (gasp!) Ronald Reagan.
There's an obvious question here:
Why are the Loggers (that's what I call them) going after Romney?
Maybe because he distanced himself so quickly from his old buddy Larry "Slide your palm along the bottom of the stall" Craig. Or maybe they didn't like his anti-gay rhetoric in the lead-up to gay marriage in Massachusetts. Or maybe it has more to do with the Republican part of their identity than the Log Cabin part.
Whichever, it's bad news for Mitt. As President Bush's inside man, Dan Bartlet, said during a speech yesterday, a narrative is building against Romney as a flip flopper, and once it starts it's very tough to overcome. (Ask Al Gore or John Kerry about that.)
Bartlet said he thought the bigger issue was the candidate's Mormonism, which people don't like in the South, and that flip flopping is kind of a red herring for why they won't support Romney. Bartlet pointed out that Romney's team made the miscalculation that the Republican field would be more conservative than it's proven to be, and he adjusted his positions accordingly.
Rudy Giuliani has moved slightly to the right, but in a more nuanced way. Whereas Rudy vowed to appoint "constructionist" judges (who tend to be conservative on social issues), he hasn't completely ceded his stances as mayor of New York. Rudy has kept the faith that people can put up with his liberal views because they also represent perhaps his greatest asset: electability. Meanwhile, Romney described his change of heart on abortion and stem cells as almost a religious conversion.
So even if Barlet is right, and right now flip-flopping is code for "Mormon," a few more ads like this, and rest assured they'll come, and the building narrative might turn deafening.
From a transcript of Notre Dame head football coach, Charlie Weis' press conference on his team's match-up with #4 Boston College this weekend.
Q: Can you talk also about the football aspect of [the BC- ND rivalry]? It seems like there's a history of one team ruining another season.
COACH WEIS: Well, they're not going to ruin our season. (laughter)
Tuesday, October 9, 2007
Politician DQed from marathon
Berlin Marathon officials claim he took two shortcuts
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- After a humiliating defeat in Mexico's presidential election last year, Roberto Madrazo appeared to be back on top: He'd won the men's age-55 category in the Sept. 30 Berlin marathon with a surprising time of 2:41:12.
But Madrazo couldn't leave his reputation for shady dealings in the dust. Race officials said Monday they disqualified him for apparently taking a short cut -- an electronic tracking chip indicates he skipped two checkpoints in the race and would have needed superhuman speed to achieve his win.
According to the chip, Madrazo took only 21 minutes to cover nine miles -- faster than any human can run. "Not even the world record holder can go that fast," race director Mark Milde said.
In a photograph taken as he crossed the finish line, Madrazo wears an ear-to-ear grin and pumps his arms in the air. But he also wore a wind breaker, hat and long, skintight running pants -- too much clothing, some said, for a person who had just run 26.2 miles in 60-degree weather.
Madrazo's outfit caught the attention of the New York-based marathon photographer Victor Sailer, who alerted race organizers that they might have a cheater on their hands.
"It was so obvious to me, if you look at everyone else that's in the picture, everyone's wearing T-shirts and shorts, and the guy's got a jacket on and a hat or whatever," Sailer said. "I looked at it and was like, wait a second."
The world record for 15 kilometers -- the distance Madrazo covered in 21 minutes -- is 41 minutes 29 seconds, by Felix Limo of Kenya.
At a Mexico City taxi stand on Monday, drivers Octavio Elizalde Cerrillo and Roberto Valle Rivera poked fun at Madrazo's troubles. They, like other Mexicans their age, lived under decades of uninterrupted rule by Madrazo's Institutional Revolutionary Party, which often resorted to fraud to win elections, leaving many deeply distrustful of politicians.
"If he's a cheat at one thing, he'll cheat at anything," said Valle Rivera, 44.
"If you're going to steal, you'll steal here, in the United States, in Europe, everywhere in the world," Elizalde Cerrillo, 41, added with a smile.
Madrazo's reputation at home was already tarnished. In 1996, Mexico's attorney general confirmed reports that he had spent tens of millions of dollars more than the legal campaign spending limit in his winning 1994 bid for the Tabasco state governorship.
While under investigation on those charges, Madrazo told police he was kidnapped for seven hours, beaten and threatened with death by unidentified assailants. Police couldn't find evidence of any such abduction, and many saw it as a sympathy ploy.
During the 2006 presidential campaign, opponents plastered walls with posters reading, "Do you believe Madrazo? I don't either!"
In June, Madrazo completed the San Diego marathon with a time of 3:44:06 -- more than an hour slower than his time in Berlin, Mexican newspaper Reforma reported. Madrazo's office did not return phone calls from The Associated Press.
Race director Milde noted that Madrazo may have intended to drop out and taken a shortcut to reach the start-finish area.
"I don't know if it was his intention or accidental: I try to believe in the good of people," Milde said. But the fact that Madrazo appears to be celebrating in the photograph could go against this theory, he added.
Some 32,500 people finished the race and about 40 are disqualified every year, Milde said.
"Oh sh--, he's dumb as hell..."
- President Richard Nixon on minority counsel Fred D. Thompson, a young lawyer in the Senate during the Watergate trials.
The Nixon tapes reveal the following about old Fred (from ABC News):
HR Halderman, Chief of Staff: Baker has appointed Fred Thompson minority counsel."
Nixon: Oh, s-- that kid?
Nixon: Well [majority counsel] Dash is too smart for that kid.
John Dean, presidential aide: Sure, run circles around him.
Nixon: He's not very smart is he?
Fred Buzhardt, White House counsel: No, not very, but he's--
Nixon: But he's friendly.
Buzhardt: He's friendly.
As the NY Times points out, the 2008 race for the Democratic Nomination has an unprecedentedly qualified field of "second tier" candidates. In my mind, Joe Biden leads that pack.
I can't stand that this guy doesn't get more attention.
He's the best debater and speaker of any presidential candidate (check out the YouTube clip below if you disagree), and the most experienced of any candidate in the field. His positions are nuanced and his mind is tack- sharp, it's unbelievable.
For instance, Biden questioned Barack Obama's foreign policy knowledge after Obama called for strikes against terrorist camps in Pakistan if the Pakistani government failed to act, because that is already current US policy.
Biden also gave a detailed plan on what to do in Iraq (imagine that!) over a year ago. The plan, which calls for increased autonomy for Iraq's 3 separate geographic/ religious/ political factions into a loose federation of states, has passed the Senate.
He chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has a reputation as an innovative problem solver, an independent thinker and policy wonk. Listening to him talk, and understanding his stance on issues, Biden is not unlike a more jagged President Jed Bartlet.
This is a man who has overcome unbelievable obstacles: Professionally, his hot start in the 1988 campaign for president ended in embarrassment (read the Times article). He was first elected to the Senate at age 29 (Biden was the 5th youngest Senator ever), and won a reputation as a dazzling public speaker by overcoming a severe childhood stutter.
Personally, he lost his young daughter and wife in a car accident soon after his election to the Senate. His two sons were hospitalized with serious injuries. Although Biden tried to give up his Senate seat, he was convinced by his peers to stay, and was sworn into office in his sons' hospital room. He went to Washington, but decided to commute daily from Delaware in order to raise his boys.
Later, he suffered two brain aneurysms, and was hospitalized for months in 1988.
Biden isn't a perfect candidate, not by a long shot. He's long-winded and speaks too fast, often throwing out his gut reaction in ineloquent ways. For example, his campaign got off to a terrible start when he said that Obama was "the first mainstream African-American [presidential candidate] who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy." It was a stupid comment, not only because it was factually incorrect.
But he deserves better than to be polling in single digits without any cash on hand. I've followed him since his frequent appearances on Imus in the Morning, and the guy is flat out honest. And smart. Below is a compilation of some of Biden's answers in a debate on labor issues, sponsored by the country's largest union.
Let me know what you think.
Monday, October 8, 2007
John McCain is running this ad in Michigan as he attempts to re-energize his campaign. It's a good ad, but what's most interesting is who is giving the the endorsement.
It's Utah governor Jim Huntsman, you know it because his name and title are left up for the duration of the spot. Choosing Huntsman to deliver the ad shows McCain is ready to take on Mitt Romney, who grew up in Michigan, but lived in and has close ties to Utah.
It'll be interesting to see how aggressively McCain goes after Romney in tomorrow night's debate.
As pretty much everyone knows, last week the Mets collapsed in historic fashion and missed the playoffs, despite being in first place for almost the entire 162-game season. As not everyone knows, this weekend I went to Chicago and watched the Cubs season end on a losing note for 99th consecutive year. I am a huge Mets fan, and our loss crippled me and my fellow believers.
But now I'm ready to move on.
To that end, Time Magazine has an article entitled "Mental Help for Mets Fans." It's about how to cope with the biggest meltdown in the history of baseball. It's written by Sean Gregory, a lifelong Mets fan, and isn't patronizing. Dr. Richard Lustberg, a psychologist and also a big Mets fan, says "Baseball is being taken away from you. It's difficult to handle, especially when watching Mets games have become part of your routine. There's some reality to it. It's like you've suddenly had an aneurysm.
"I was driving to work today, and I go, 'Aw, s__, the Mets aren't on tonight," says Lustberg. "What am I going to do? I'm annoyed with the team. There has to be a period of withdrawal, and I know it's going to take a little while."
So, this is a good read for fans of the Mets, Cubs, or other choking teams. As this indicates, sometimes fans need a lesson in acceptance.
Also, this SNL skit is pretty good, and puts a fine point on the emotions that accompany that shocking loss.
However, I think most of Mets-nation found comfort in the ugly 3- game sweep suffered by the Phillies (who were the beneficiaries of the Mets' downfall)... and you have to look at the bright side-- at least my second favorite team, "Whoever plays the Yankees," is still going strong.
Friday, October 5, 2007
On Monday October 8th 2007, Notre Dame will again host a policy forum addressing one of the most important issues for the future of our country. Immigration has received a lot of attention as a complex issue to which there are many perspectives. I invite all the bloggers and readers to check out forum.nd.edu, the forum's website as it has a host of resources such as academic articles, faith based dialogue, and short online courses for all your immigration questions.
There has been some disucssion of immigration on this blog in the last few weeks and my hope is that this forum might invite some of you to consider the issues and engage the issue of immigration in a way you may not have before.
The forum will have some of the most prominent voices in this debate including Cardinal Michael Mahony, Archibishop of Los Angeles, Louis J. Barletta, Mayor of Hazleton Pennsylvania (to address the issue brought up in this blog last week about migrants' impact on small towns), Mel Martinez, R-Senator of Florida, and Janet Napolitano, Governor of Arizona.
I invite all of you who are interested in the immigration issue to go through the website this weekend and if you find it interesting join us on Monday Oct. 8 at 3pm est as the entire forum including all the speakers will webcast via the website. I appreciate SAM MAG allowing me to let you all know about the forum and look forward to hopefully sparking an inquisitive and lively deabte.
The Times has a piece on the weekly radio show Rudy Giuliani had as mayor that is, at turns, enlightening, disturbing and hilarious.
This is a must read.
Here are some quotes from "Live from City Hall with Mayor Rudolph Giuliani."
One quote that could get him into trouble-
"When a National Rifle Association member opposed a ban on assault rifles in 1994, Mr. Giuliani really got annoyed. 'Now the reason why the N.R.A. has lost all credibility is statements like that,' he said. 'By definition these are attack weapons. They are used for offense. It really is absolutely astounding that the N.R.A. continues to have influence in areas in which they make no sense at all.'”
But the thrust of the piece is the fervor with which Rudy goes after his critics, the language and imagery he uses, and the monumental chip on his shoulder. From the article:
Then there was David from Oceanside, who was president of Ferrets’ Rights Advocacy. He was furious that the city health code had just been changed to bar ownership of ferrets.
The mayor was outraged that David was outraged. They went back and forth during the summer of 1999.
“David, your compulsion, your excessive concern for weasels is a sign of something wrong in your personality,” the mayor said. “I am giving you the benefit of 55 years of experience — having handled insanity defenses, you need help.”
... When Bob from Manhattan asked in 1999 about a report linking a mayoral friend to ethical wrongdoing, Mr. Giuliani butted in.
“Why don’t you seek counseling somewhere, Bob? I think you could use some help. I can see the direction we’re going in — there are people so upset and so disturbed that they use radios for these sick little attacks on people,” Mr. Giuliani said. “I hope you take this in the right spirit, Bob.“You should go to a hospital. You should see a psychiatrist.”
As mayor of New York, he was tough, brash and in-your-face. The radio show gives you an unflinching look into his psyche, and really makes you wonder what the guy is like behind closed doors. Running for president, the quotes might come back to haunt him, or they could reinforce the notion of Giuliani as a strong (if often ineloquent) leader.
Thursday, October 4, 2007
My man James Carville was on ESPN the other night talking about his alma mater, LSU, and their upcoming game against Florida. He also likens the respective coaches to a couple of recent presidents.
"I made my arguments and went down in flames. History will prove me right."
-- George W. Bush, then owner of the Texas Rangers after voting against realignment and a new wild-card system during a Major League Baseball owners meeting in September 1993. Bush was the lone dissenter in a 27-1 vote.
Since realignment and the wild-card came to baseball, MLB profits have increased from $1.2B to $5.8B and attendance records have been broken almost yearly.
USAToday.com is reporting that France has acknowledged Iranian nuclear efforts have brought the Shi'ite state to "run nearly 3,000 uranium centrifuges". This would give the Iranians the capability to build about a nuclear bomb per year. Diplomats based their revelation on an International Atomic Energy Agency's memorandum received in Paris. This all comes in a time, the report insists, when Paris is considering tougher measures against Tehran, quite possibly taking the issue up to the European Union.
At the United Nations opening of the General Assembly last week, French President Nicolas Sarkozy was adamant about not being weak with respect to Iran's defiance. Mr. Sarkozy said, "There will be no peace in the world if the international community falters in the face of nuclear arms proliferation," referring to the Security Council's attempts at curbing Iran's nuclear goals. His direct tone allowed President Bush to be less vigilant in his speech, instead giving the President some leeway to speak on global poverty and third-world development.
Although a war with Iran may seem imminent, it's obvious the European governments are much more willing to be involved in this measure than during the run-up to Iraq. Not only is there ample evidence of nuclear technological build-up, but Iranian rejection of the international community's demands begs for a committed diplomatic effort by leading powers to intervene. A nuclear Iran needs to be seen as a threat to the world's stability, not just U.S. interest and allies.
Wednesday, October 3, 2007
Is that he often doesn't know what he's talking about.
So far on his campaign trail, Thompson pleaded ignorance to, or misspoke on the following issues:
- Terry Schiavo
- Oil Drilling in the Everglades
- Lethal injection being ruled unconstitutional in his home state of Tennessee
- Whether Democrats or Republicans controlled Congress during Chief Justice John Roberts' confirmation hearings.
And these are pretty bad mistakes. When you're doing an event in Florida, know about the debate over the Everglades, if you're from Tennessee, know about major court cases there.
The Roberts thing, which just happened, was also pretty disturbing. Thompson was bragging about how he guided Roberts to confirmation, at the request of the president.
“The president called me up and asked me to help shepherd Judge Roberts’ nomination through the Senate confirmation process. I was honored that I got that call. I was honored that he thought I had enough friends on the Democratic side that they wouldn't run me out of town!... Even though the other party controlled the Judiciary committee, we got some votes there."
Except, Republicans were in charge at that point. So either he's lying to beef up his bipartisan credentials, or he's confused about something pretty basic.
Sorry, Senator Thompson, but the American people would never elect a man with such a loose grasp of current events.
The New York Times reports that it appears the 6- party talks have worked, and North Korea is ready to disclose and disable its nuclear weapons program, in exchange for 950,000 metric tons of fuel oil or its equivalent in economic aid. The announcement was made by China in Beijing today.
The United States has endorsed the agreement, but is waiting for approval from the other parties (South Korea, Japan and Russia).
"As part of the agreement, North Korea will make a full declaration of all its nuclear programs by the end of the year and will complete the disabling of its plutonium-producing reactor at Yongbyon.
Mr. Wu said that as part of the agreement, Washington would lead an expert group to the capital, Pyongyang, 'within the next two weeks to prepare for disablement' and would provide initial payment for the disablement activities."
The announcement comes as North Korea's Great Leader Kim Jong-il concludes an historic 3- day summit with South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun. It was only the second meeting between the two countries since a cease- fire ended the Korean Conflict in 1953.
(For those scoring at home, that's two straight 30 Rock references)
From NBC's Domenico Montanaro:
The Dodd campaign sent out an e-mail that looked like it could have come straight from the RNC. The headline: “Happy (Belated) Anniversary, Senator Obama.”
The text: “Today, the Obama campaign is celebrating the 5th anniversary of the speech that then-State Senator Barack Obama gave opposing the invasion of Iraq. But unfortunately, they forgot to celebrate another anniversary. July 26th marked the 3rd anniversary of the New York Times story in which Obama admitted that he did not know how he would have voted on the Iraq resolution had he been serving in the United States Senate at the time of the vote.”
The campaign also oppo-dumps the actual quote from the Times interview.
Liz: Why are you wearing a tux?
Jack: It's after six. What am I, a farmer?
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
According to Radar Magazine (and when are they ever wrong?) two of my favorite things are coming together, because Al Gore (one of my favorite pols) has taped an episode of 30 Rock (one of my favorite shows). No word on the plot or when it will air, but it's a good bet Gore will square off with Jack Donaghy, the right-wing NBC exec played by Alec Baldwin. 30 Rock's second season starts Thursday at 8:30 on NBC, and it's hilarious. Currently, it's passing The Office as my favorite comedy on television. If you haven't seen it yet, you can watch the first season (for free) here. And, no, I don't have a life (but I do have a blog).
The past few months, a lot of speculation has surrounded Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin, Russia's second president, is a former KGB agent (and judo enthusiast and Sambo grandmaster) with an authoritarian streak. He has been cracking down on dissent and tightening a grip on the press, in addition to holding a hard line against Chechen separatists, and speaking out against the United States.
In the aftermath of Sept. 11, Putin had a strong relationship with the Bush White House. He was the first foreign head of state to call and offer condolences, and when he visited Bush's home in Crawford, the American President said Putin was a man he could trust.
"I looked the man in the eye. I found him to be very straightforward and trustworthy. We had a very good dialogue. I was able to get a sense of his soul; a man deeply committed to his country and the best interests of his country. And I appreciated so very much the frank dialogue."
However, something changed as Eastern European nations began electing Western-style governments in 2005. Putin resented that the US so publicly backed candidates whom he viewed as his political opponents. At the time, the new governments in the Ukraine and other countries were the potential crowning achievement of the Bush administration. Freedom was on the march, relations with Russia took a backseat.
According to insiders, the experience changed Putin, soured him (or maybe just gave him an excuse). He has talked wistfully of Russia's Cold War power, and about Russia re-emerging to challenge the United States.
In a speech in Germany, he focused on the US trying to establish a "unipolar" world: "...it means one single center of power, one single center of force and one single master... It has nothing in common with democracy because that is the opinion of the majority taking into account the minority opinion... People are always teaching us democracy but the people who teach us democracy don't want to learn it themselves."
So the tension is palpable.
But a funny thing happened on the way to dictatorship.
Russia's Constitution states that the president may only serve 2 four year terms, meaning Putin would be done after Russia's 2008 elections. So Putin had been accumulating all this power, but all the while he maintained he would respect the Constitution and step down after his term, leaving many, myself included, to wonder how this guy was going to hang on to power.
Well, we have our answer.
Here's how he did it:
Step One: Dissolve Government. A few weeks ago, Putin accepted the "resignation" of the Prime Minister, and the rest of his cabinet.
Step Two: Install Puppet. Putin surprised everyone paying attention by appointing Viktor Zubkov, a little-known but well-connected ally as prime minister. Zubkov is a former financial watchdog who worked with Putin during the 90s in St. Petersburg. Translation: He knows who signs his checks. I mean, reports around his appointment said he was "known for his loyalty."
Step Three: Step down from the presidency, right on schedule. We don't want to put the world ill at ease, assure everyone that the Russian democracy is fully functioning. Have your prime minister, your hand-picked successor, take over as president.
Step Four: Have puppet appoint you prime minister. Yesterday, Putin said it's "entirely realistic" that he would seek a post as Prime Minister. Former leaders often run for Parliament after retiring, mainly to attract votes for their party, and serve mostly as figureheads. This seems different, like a new center of power would be created with Putin at its head.
That wasn't so hard, was it?