Coles Advice To Hilary On Iraq Reply To

Cole’s Advice to Hillary on Iraq
Reply to Edwards on the South Lite

The Chicago Sun Times has a run down of what the Democratic presidential candidates recently said, some of it Iraq-oriented. Actually, I would argue that everything in this election is tinged by Iraq.

The article, like many others, notes that at Hillary Clinton’s speech at Take Back America, the Code Pink antiwar demonstrators were out in fewer numbers this time and that she got support from other parts of the crowd. The demonstrators objected when she blamed what went wrong in Iraq on the Iraqi government. They were right to protest.

If I were advising Senator Clinton on what to say about Iraq, this would be it: “Our troops have fought courageously and with great skill against the totalitarian, genocidal Saddam Hussein regime and its security forces. They did their job, but the Bush administration did not do its. Bush failed to secure a United Nations Security Council resolution for the war, depriving the war effort of key international support and casting the administration as an outlaw regime in the eyes of much of the world. There was no planning for the aftermath of the war. Stupid decisions were taken to dissolve the Iraqi army, to fire thousands of experienced bureaucrats and teachers, to marginalize the Sunni Arab community, and to deliver Iraq into the hands of expatriate carpetbaggers, some of them overly friendly with the ayatollahs in Tehran. Neither the US military nor the Iraqis bear the primary blame for the subsequent catastrophe. It is on the shoulders of the Bush administration. The administration has so spoiled the situation that there is no longer any hope of a military solution. Any solution to this festering crisis must be political and diplomatic. The US military is essentially being ordered to support some sides in a multi-pronged civil war against others, but without any real hope of having being able to triumph decisively in these low-intensity guerrilla wars. That is why I favor getting our troops out of Iraq and insisting that regional powers, NATO and the UN now come in to bring about a political resolution, even as the world ensures that a nonsectarian Iraqi military is trained, equipped and deployed for the protection of all Iraqis.”

Caveat: I am not giving my own speech above. I’m just taking what Senator Clinton often says and rephrasing it so that the blame is put where it belongs, which is not on the poor Iraqi public but on Bush-Cheney. I think she’d find this approach a stronger rallying cry and also that it would allow her to occupy a higher moral ground.

The Sun-Times article mentions that John Edwards is hinting around that Clinton and Obama cannot win in the South and that he can. I agree with him that this issue has to be part of Democratic strategizing, but I disagree with his point of view on it. Edwards’s ticket couldn’t take his own state, North Carolina, in 2004, and it is unclear that that would change if he were at the top of the ticket. And anything south of North Carolina is Republican territory, which Edwards cannot win, either. So what is in play? Virginia, Tennesee, West Virginia, southern Ohio, Arkansas, etc. The South Lite. They can still swing either way.

Ordinarily Edwards might have a better chance in the mid-Atlantic states than his main rivals. But 2008 will be a peculiar election, because many Republican voters are likely to stay home out of discouragement. At the moment, many key constituencies in the Republican Party (e.g. the evangelicals, the small-government conservatives, the Libertarians) feel unrepresented by the front runners. Fully a third of evangelicals voted Democratic in the fall ’06 election!

I am not sure at this late date, and given the money already raised by front runners, a Fred Thompson candidacy is plausible, and he’s the only one on the horizon who could help fix this problem on the Republican side. Even he would have the Iraq albatross around his neck, which is likely to discourage Republican voters from coming out. I think a third party run by Bloomberg/Hagel would draw off Republicans 2-1 against Democrats, just as Ross Perot did in 1992. In the absence of such a consideration, the Democrats will win because right of center independents defect to them and because Republicans are too disheartened to come out in force.

These considerations might in fact allow Clinton and Obama to take Virginia and Tennesee and West Virginia. The remarkably good showing that Harold Ford made in the Tennesee senate race last fall underscores what I am saying.

So I agree with Edwards that one key to a Democratic presidential win in ’08 will be the South Lite. And in ordinary times he might in fact be better positioned to win there. But in ’08 the independents are leaning Democratic and evangelicals are likely to either bolt the Republican Party or stay home, and I think Clinton and Obama both are electable in the South Lite.

Barack Obama wants 45 mile a gallon automobile fuel efficiency as a way of reducing US dependency on Middle East petroleum. I’m all for that, but I don’t think he appreciates the engineering challenge here or the pinch the middle and working classes would feel from the big spike in the cost of automobiles. It is also a global market, and if the US stopped making low-efficiency luxury cars, SUVs, etc., the likelihood is that the public would just import them, sending more jobs overseas. Being in the Detroit area, I’m not sanguine about most Americans wanting to drive around in dinky little cars or wanting to spend more for a local one than one made overseas. In other words, I’d like to hear more from Senator Obama about how this would work exactly, so as to avoid driving more Michigan jobs overseas.

And, just a word of advice to Senator Obama: the petroleum market is just one global market. It doesn’t matter whether the US gets petroleum from the Middle East or from Venezuela. In fact, the Saudis deliberately make petroleum deals with US firms so as to make political points, when from a market point of view they could just let the contracts fall where they may. You can’t fix any problems by switching which countries you buy petroleum from. It is like trying to get the level of the water in your bathtub lower in one corner. Can’t be done. It is just one bathtub and level will equalize throughout.

Dennis Kucinich wants a massive government program to retrofit homes for solar and wind energy. I don’t know if homes are the place to start, but I agree that solar and wind would become more viable if the government threw a lot of money at them. Personally, I’d start by making the Defense Department and the military as green as possible. This would have the advantage of being attractive to the Republicans, of getting the corporations on board, of potentially giving our military advantages in the field, and of being hard for the conservatives to argue against.

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