Have Conservatives Changed The Paradigm?

It would be the highest irony if the evidence of conservative evolution came on the occasion of a bruising midterm election, but two stories by the media today appears to indicate that conservatives have successfully changed the paradigm of politics over the last generation. A CNN poll indicates that a majority of Americans now believes that government tries to do too much, while the New York Times reports that Democrats have begun producing less liberal candidates in order to win seats in Congress. Both together show that the Reagan Revolution has continued to influence politics well past the end of his administration.
The CNN poll shows that the current polarization does not apply to the question of government’s size:

A quarter century after the Reagan revolution and a dozen years after Republicans vaulted into control of Congress, a new CNN poll finds most Americans still agree with the bedrock conservative premise that, as the Gipper put it, “government is not the answer to our problems — government is the problem.” …
Queried about their views on the role of government, 54 percent of the 1,013 adults polled said they thought it was trying to do too many things that should be left to individuals and businesses. Only 37 percent said they thought the government should do more to solve the country’s problems.

Politics follow shifts in public opinion, and the Democratic Party has tried to steal a march on Reagan’s party in the midterm elections:

In their push to win back control of the House, Democrats have turned to conservative and moderate candidates who fit the profiles of their districts more closely than the profile of the national party.
One such candidate, Heath Shuler, was courted by Republicans to run for office in 2001. Mr. Shuler, 34, is a retired National Football League quarterback who is running in the 11th Congressional District in North Carolina. He is an evangelical Christian and holds fast to many conservative social views, like opposition to abortion rights.
“My guess is that if Democrats are in the majority, it’s going to be because of these New Democrat, Blue Dog candidates out there winning in these competitive swing districts,” Representative Ron Kind of Wisconsin, co-chairman of a caucus of centrist House Democrats, said in an interview.
But if candidates like Mr. Shuler do help the Democrats gain majority control of Congress, it could come at a political price, which may include tensions in the party between its new centrists and its more liberal political base.

It shows the success of the Reagan message, and once again underscores the profound impact he had on American politics. His Western conservatism has resonated because it based itself on the truths that informed the founders of the nation: that government which governs least governs best. America does best when it allows individuals to live their lives free of government interference, when it respects private property, and when it keeps most political questions as close to local governments as possible. It’s the marvel of the Constitution that it reveals all of these truths, and Reagan (and Barry Goldwater before him) understood how to communicate that exceptionality.
If the Republicans find themselves in trouble at the midterms, it may come in reaction to the extent that they have failed to grasp the Reagan message. The smaller-government message will still win elections, but the question may be for whom it wins those contests when the GOP fails to tend to its Reagan legacy. (via Heritage Foundation Policy Blog)

It’s A Blog Party, And CQ’s Invited

What are you doing for Election Night? Hopefully CQ readers will follow some of the coverage on CNN, because I’ll be part of blogger coverage for CNN in the evening of Election Night. The Los Angeles Times reported the story this morning that CNN will invite about two dozen bloggers to a blog party, where they intend to check our reactions to breaking news on their main broadcast as well as provide continuous coverage through CNN Pipeline:

Who says the mainstream media don’t respect the blogosphere?
CNN is trying to incorporate bloggers directly into its coverage of next week’s midterm elections by inviting them to an “E-lection Nite Blog Party,” an event aimed at corralling some of the top online opinion makers in one place to provide instant reaction as the results come in.
The cable news network plans to host more than two dozen bloggers from across the political spectrum — including sites like RedState and Daily Kos — at a Washington Internet lounge where they can monitor the election returns on a slew of flat-screen televisions. (Each blogger will get his or her own monitor, which can be tuned to any channel.) There will be free wireless access — and plenty of food and beverages, natch.
CNN Internet reporters Jacki Schechner and Abbi Tatton have been assigned to cover the gathering and provide regular updates on the air about the topics that are generating the most chatter.
“Bloggers are leading the conversation,” said David Bohrman, CNN’s Washington bureau chief. “You could argue that most of the political dialogue in this country is happening online, so if you don’t incorporate that into your coverage, you’re missing a major element.”

I’ve been working with CNN for a few days on the arrangements, which have now been finalized. I’ll be flying into DC on Tuesday afternoon, freshening up at a hotel, and then heading over to the restaurant where we will set up. The physical description of the workspace in the Times has more details than what I have heard, but it all sounds first-class. I’ll be joining Lorie Byrd and Kevin Aylward at Wizbang, Betsy Newmark at her eponymous blog, Jeralyn Merritt at TalkLeft, John Aravosis at Americablog, Patrick Hynes at Ankle Biting Pundits, and a number of others.
Needless to say, we’ll all be live-blogging the event. I will also be calling into the Election Night coverage at AM 1280 The Patriot, which will go live after the end of the Hugh Hewitt show at 8 pm CT. Our show starts at 7 pm ET and will run until the outcome of the election is no longer in doubt, or until around 2 am ET, whichever comes first. I’m hoping that CQ readers will stick around regardless of the outcome and celebrate another example of democracy in action.
UPDATE: Hmmm. The CQ community seems to think poorly of my decision. I’ll elaborate a little on my decision to join CNN’s coverage.
First, CNN has its biases, but it has handled blog coverage fairly well. They have made it a staple of their daily reviews, and the two women organizing this effort (Abbi Tatton and Jackie Schechner) have done their best to cover the blogs in an even-handed way.
Second, I am not getting paid to appear on CNN. They are covering my expenses, but they have made no demands of positive coverage or even that I will watch CNN’s coverage on this evening. They are covering my expenses, just as anyone who engaged me as a public speaker would do, and even then it’s limited to a round-trip ticket and one night at a Marriott-brand hotel. I may have my price, but that and a free meal ain’t it, if you know what I mean.
Third, if we fail to engage CNN and acknowledge when they attempt to be fair, then why should they bother? Abbi and Jackie have juggled invitations, acceptances, and declines in order to ensure that the blogging bunch will be evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. They’ve tried their best to stage a balanced program for CNN viewers, at least as far as the bloggers go.
I understand that some people do not like CNN, and I respect it. However, we talk a lot about using our efforts to get CNN and other media outlets to recognize other points of view. I think we have to recognize their efforts to do so.

We Apologize For The Inconvenience

A series of technical breakdowns kept CQ off the air this morning, and I was not able to post much as a result — and now I’m off to the day job. Hosting Matters got the problem resolved fairly quickly, but I have a narrow window in which to work, unfortunately.
It does give me an opportunity to open a thread for CQ readers, though. We’re entering the last week of the mid-term campaign, and most of us are waiting for the big-time, last-minute smears to arise. Where and when do you think they will appear, and what effect do you think they’ll have?
NOTE: I did have to make a change to the comments script tp avoid the spambots. If you have trouble posting a comment, reload the page and then try again. It does work now.

What Does Bob Casey Do As Treasurer?

Rick Santorum will hold a press conference later this morning to discuss the record of his opponent for the Senate, Bob Casey Jr, in his previous position as state Treasurer. Santorum will point out that Casey invested Pennsylvania pension funds in a series of companies that do business in Iran. Appearing with Santorum to discuss the role of state treasurers in investment decisions will be Sarah Steelman, Missouri State Treasurer.
Santorum bases his allegations on a series of investments by Pennsylania pension funds such as PSERS and SERS. The two funds have invested a total of $175 million in companies that do business with the mullahcracy. These investments seem rather focused on China, which brings up a raft of other questions about what Pennsylvania pensions support. This list is for SERS:
CHIYODA CORP Y50 2,086,923
PTT PUB CO THB10 (ALIEN MKT) 3,687,533
And for PSERS:
CHIYODA CO 129,611
PETROCHINA CO 23,095,275
PTT PUB CO THB10 (ALIEN MKT) 7,343,945
In May 2005 Steelman demanded an end to US investments in companies doing business with unfriendly nations. She made it a public crusade after discovering that Missouri had investments in Arab Bank, under investigation from the FBI regarding potential terrorist connections and at the time the subject of a lawsuit brought by the widow of a man shot to death in Gaza. John Linde Jr died in an ambush of an American diplmatic convoy that was supposed to interview Fulbright scholarship candidates, a terrorist act that even embarrassed Yasser Arafat. Her rhetoric reflected her amazement at finding this investment:

“This is like financial friendly fire on our troops and our citizens,” Steelman said. “It is an outrage for our retirement fund to hold more than $80,000 in investments in Arab Bank while it is under investigation for allegedly financing terrorists and is being sued for helping kill Missouri citizens. This must stop and stop now.”
In addition to Arab Bank, MOSERS also is directly invested in a number of foreign companies that are engaged in development and investments in Iran. American companies are prohibited by current U.S. policy from doing business in Iran.

In fact, Steelman discovered that Missouri did business with companies like Royal Dutch Petroleum, Siam Cement, Sinopec Shanghai Petrochemical, and Chiyoda — the same companies in which Pennsylvania pensions still invest.
Santorum will point to a bill passed by the Pennsylvania House in 2003 (HR 263), a direction from the legislature to PSERS, SERS, and the State Treasury to identify those investments that had any connection to companies or nations doing business in Iran, as well as Libya, Syria, Sudan, Iraq, and North Korea. It’s clear that the legislature wanted Pennsylvania to redirect their investments away from such companies and projects. However, Casey apparently has done nothing to keep Pennsylvania funds from supporting companies that do business with the same nations that threaten us.
Keep an eye out for this press conference. The fallout should be interesting.

Checkbook Politics Still Drawing Interest

In 2002, Russ Feingold and John McCain convinced Congress and the American people to sell out the First Amendment in exchange for getting the big money out of politics. Accept these limitations on free speech, proponents of the BCRA asked, and we’ll keep rich people from buying our elections. On that basis, it passed both houses and George Bush signed it into law.
So how has it worked? The First Amendment restrictions have worked rather well; people still cannot criticize incumbents in the final 60 days before an election, a development that would have shocked and angered the men who wrote and adopted the First Amendment as a check against professional politicians. However, the money keeps on rolling into politics, only now it goes outside the channels of accountability, as the Los Angeles Times reports:

Unions, corporations and wealthy individuals have pumped nearly $300 million this year into unregulated political groups, funding dozens of aggressive and sometimes shadowy campaigns independent of party machines.
The groups, both liberal and conservative, air TV and radio spots, conduct polls, run phone banks, canvass door-to-door and stage get-out-the-vote rallies, with no oversight by the Federal Election Commission. Set up as tax-exempt “issue advocacy” committees, they cannot explicitly endorse candidates. But they can do everything short of telling voters how to mark their ballots.
Because they can accept unlimited donations from any source, the committees — known as 527s — have emerged as the favored vehicle for millionaires and interest groups seeking to set the political agenda. …
Named for a section of the IRS code, 527s have been around for years but became a political force in 2004 after the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 — also known as the McCain–Feingold Bill — limited donations to political parties. Groups such as Swift Boat Veterans for Truth on the right and America Coming Together on the left contributed $600 million that year, with a heavy focus on the presidential race.

The midterms have generated lower contributions, but the process has become more sophisticated. In Colorado, three liberal millionaires have funded a 527 named Coloradans for Life, attacking the Republican incumbent for not being sufficiently pro-life, when the Democrat is more pro-choice than the Republican. The largest contributions to 527s this year come from unions, which amounts to $60 million of the $300 million collected thus far by the tax-free advocacy groups.
Who tops the list in individual checkbooks? Bob Perry, who financed the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth, has contributed $5.5 million for conservative issues. He’s matched by Jerry Perenchio, with another $5 million for similar purposes. George Soros and Peter Lewis fund liberal groups with donations of $3 million and $1.6 million respectively, and they’re joined by John Hunting with another $1.6 million. The top two 527s both come from unions (SEIU, $23.2 million and AFSME, $16.3 million).
Ironically, the Times found all of these figures at Opensecrets.org, the web site devoted to full disclosure in politics. This represents the real reform of the campaign system in the US; disclosing whose money supports which politicians. If that money went directly to the candidates in question, we could draw direct lines between politicians and contributors. We could also hold the campaigns and political parties responsible for their campaign messages, rather than witness the slew of attack ads that come from left field, especially in the final weeks of the election cycle.
John McCain and Russ Feingold sold America a bill of goods. Restricting free speech did not free us from checkbook politics; in fact, it made the problem worse by allowing it to hide behind these so-called advocacy groups. We should be ashamed of buying such a scheme, almost as much as the men who sold it to us in the first place.

Palestinian Jihad Part Of Iraq Insurgency

A new document translated by Joseph Shahda indicates that the Saddam Hussein regime agreed to allow the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) to stage suicide operations within Iraq in the opening days of the American invasion. Document CMPC-2003-015588 is a handwritten memo from the Foreign Ministry’s Arabic Department recounting the meeting between PFLP officials and representatives of the Iraqi government. It also makes a reference to a neighboring country as having given permission for the PFLP to make these arrangements:

The Embassy of Democratic and Popular Republic of Algeria. Interest Section of the Republic of Iraq
Number: 1/110
Date: 25/3/2003
Secret and Confidential and Immediate
Foreign Ministry/ The Arabic Department
Subject: Meeting
This mornining of 25/3/2003, Mr. Khlaed Ahmad Gibril and Dr. Talal Naji the Deputy of the General Secretary of the Popular Front For the Liberation of Palestine (General Headquarters) visited our mission and met our Ambassador the chairman of the mission and the delegation indicated it solidarity and support to Iraq.
Mr. Khaled Ahmad Gibril and Dr. Talal Naji said that there is coordination going on with the organizations of Hamas and Islamic Jihad and other Palestinian organizations to escalate the suicide operations in the inside and that is timed with the resistance of the Iraqi people.
Mr. Khaled Ahmad Gibril and Dr. Talal Naji informed us that the Front decided to send forces to Iraq to fight to the side of the Iraqi people and in the locations chosen by the Iraqi leadership, and preferably to be in cities. And the groups that will be sent are elite units and have experience in cities warfare and that thess forces will be made of 500 fighters and it will arrive Iraq in groups and as follow:
1. The first unit: It will be composed of 100 fighters and will arrive in three days with its complete machines and equipments, and each platoon from these platoons is made of an air defense anti-aircraft group and equipped with 23 mm Strella machine guns.
2. The second unit: it will be made of anti-tank with SPG-9 launchers and a military engineering group to plant improvised bombs that are remotely guided and car bombs and it include Suicide Martyrs groups and each platoon of these platoons has these weapons.
3. The third Unit: The fire support unit and made of multi rocket launchers 107 and include Suicide Martyrdom elements and fighting elements and also has a guiding unit.
The Front ask that these forces enter from the North of Abou Kamal area, and these forces do not need anything since it has enough weapons and ammunitions and it only need fuel.
The delegation said that they go the initial approval by the Syrian side to send these forces to Iraq.
It is noteworthy that the delegation expressed its amazement of the administration of the battle from all its political, media, military, and economic sides, and they are optimistic of the certainty of victory God willing.
Please let us know quickly and give us directions, with regards
Mohamad Rifaa’t Ali Al AA’NI
The Chairman of the Mission
Now the handwritten notes from Taha Yassin Ramadan Saddam Chief Deputy
To the Respected Mr. Foreign Minister
Yes we approve their coming with all appreciation to this position. And let the ambassador inform us about the time of arrival of each unit and the area of entry so we can send the vehicles to transport them.
Taha Yassin Ramadan

The mention of Syria seems significant. Syria has run Hamas for years, and Islamic Jihad at least in part. The PFLP gets support from Damascus, and they speak about using all three groups in Iraq to fight off the American invasion. It implies strongly that Syria partnered with Saddam Hussein at some level, which again begs the question about Saddam’s missing weapons. Did Damascus partner with Saddam on those as well as on martyrdom operations and insurgent fighting?
In any case, it shows that the previous thinking on the entry of foreign insurgents was not entirely correct. Saddam didn’t keep terrorists out of Iraq; in this case, he has a good enough relationship with the PFLP and through them Hamas and Islamic Jihad to call on them for action on his behalf. Supposedly these groups only have Palestinian interests in mind, but here they seem anxious to help rescue a secular Iraqi dictator. Saddam had plenty of connections to terrorists in the region, and it hardly surprises that he would rely on them in his hour of need. (h/t: Squiggler)

Just Another Pleasant Valley Sunday

I decided to take the day off and have a little fun with the First Mate and the Little Admiral this afternoon, and it stretched well into the evening. We drove 80 miles to a fun little place called Pleasant Valley Tree Farms, a pumpkin patch with plenty of old-fashioned fun for the younger set. My son was a bit amused when we told him of our plans — he wondered why we had to drive 80 miles to find a place like this — but it was well worth it.
As soon as we arrived, our four-year-old granddaughter started running all over the place, unable to decide which activity she wanted to do first. She played on the playground, rode John Deere tricycles for a while, took us through a cornfield maze (not the FM’s favorite activity today), and dragged the Captain through the “Spooky Trail”. We took a hayride through their Christmas tree farm, which was spectacular, and a nice woman across from us took this picture:
After spending the day at Pleasant Valley, on one of the nicest days of weather we’ve had in weeks, we drove back to Minneapolis and had dinner with my son and daughter-in-law at Loring Pasta Bar, one of the best restaurants in Dinkytown. (Don’t ask.) We just got home a little while ago, and the FM is already asleep. I’ll be right behind her, but I thought I’d share the day with CQ readers. A Pleasant Valley Sunday is exactly what I needed. I hope you had the same kind of day with your loved ones.

Strange Resignation Talk

Jules Crittendon, one of my favorite columnists, usually has a gimlet-eyed bead on the truth and excellent analysis, which is why he should be a must-read for anyone interested in national politics. Every once in a while, and less often than I do, Jules throws a shoe — and today’s the day. Jules demands Bush administration resignations in order to rescue the war in Iraq, and he wants them in the next week … from Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney?

[T]he United States must remain committed to Iraq. We must quietly apply pressure on Iraqi leaders to take control of their country, to look beyond personal, partisan, sectarian objectives. We must increase the number of U.S. advisors attached to Iraqi army and police units. We must put enough troops in Iraq to destroy the Shiite militias, and hand bellicose Iran’s proxy forces another defeat, on top of their defeat in Lebanon this year. We must destroy al-Qaeda and the Sunni insurgency. Ruthlessly.
To accomplish this, President Bush must finally do what he failed to do five years ago: Increase the size of the U.S. military. We needed it then, as these wars were forced on us, and we need it now, not just in Iraq and Afghanistan, but as a credible deterrent to threats from Iran, North Korea and eventually China.
Congress, whether Democratic or Republican, must provide funding to recruit, train and equip a larger army. Technology and special forces, tanks and infantrymen. But just as important, we need the national political will to continue to prosecute this war.
This means Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney must go. They must announce before this election decides which party will control Congress. On Jan. 1, heads high, with their president’s accolades, Cheney and Rumsfeld must walk out the door.

I understand the calls for Rumsfeld’s resignation, even if I don’t share the sentiment. Rumsfeld, as Secretary of Defense, has the penultimate responsibility for the composition and use of American military assets and the success and failure of military actions. Many have concluded that we had enough troops to win the war against Saddam Hussein but didn’t commit enough resources to win the peace. A lack of troops, the argument goes, allowed the rise of the militias and the general insecurity that has resulted since May 2003. It’s certainly possible, although one has to wonder whether Congress would ever have agreed to station 250,000 to 300,000 American troops in Iraq after the invasion, the figures that seem to be the median suggested (Shinseki said 4-500,000, John Kerry said an additional 40,000 during his presidential run) Given the politics of 2003-6, that seems rather doubtful, even if the Secretary of Defense had been Joe Lieberman.
As a political appointee, Rumsfeld serves at the pleasure of the President, who has the ultimate responsibility for the success and failure of military action. If George Bush has lost confidence in Rumsfeld’s ability to carry out his policies at the Pentagon, or if Bush decides that he needs to make a change for political purposes — both of which Jules argues — then it’s appropriate for Bush to ask for his resignation. I don’t think the change will do any good, because the Democrats are certainly not going to agree to allocate more funding for our operations in Iraq, and certainly not at a rate of double what we’re spending now. They’ve made it clear that they want to defund the operation altogether, and kicking the SecDef under the bus isn’t going to change their minds.
However, Dick Cheney isn’t a political appointee. He was elected Vice President by the people of the United States, and Bush doesn’t have the authority to demand his resignation. Cheney serves at the pleasure of the people, not the President, and many voters who cast their ballots for Bush in both elections did so with more enthusiasm for Cheney than the President. It’s inappropriate, outside of some specific charge of personal malfeasance, to demand the resignation of the Vice President — especially for the political purposes Jules describes here.
Jules wants Condoleezza Rice to take over for Dick Cheney. I think Rice would make an excellent Vice President … which is why I suggested the move in 2003, when Cheney looked like more of a political liability than an asset. That was the appropriate time for a change in the office — at the election, when the voters could decide whether to support a Vice President Rice. It would have put her in a good position to run for President in 2008, and it also would have given the administration an opportunity to use her considerable diplomatic skills on domestic policy and consensus building.
However, the Republicans kept Cheney on the ticket in 2004, and he won the election. Cheney should leave when his term expires, as the voters decided, not when someone needs another body to throw under the bus for political purposes. And in practical terms, the resignation of either or both just days before the election will not inspire new support for the Iraq project, but instead completely demoralize its supporters and provide momentum to the cut-and-run crowd as voters go to the polls. It’s a bad idea, and it comes from someone whose long run of good ones far outweighs this momentary lapse.

The Condescension Of HAVA

George Will has another excellent column today, this time on the paternalistic and condescending nature of the Help America Vote Act (HAVA). Enacted in 2002 amid a panic induced by one close presidential election — the second such election in 208 years, spread across 50 states — HAVA took voting-infrastructure decisions away from the states and spent billions of dollars on the notion that the world’s oldest representative democracy had citizens that were just too stupid to vote correctly:

For over two centuries before Congress passed HAVA, Americans voted. Really. Unlike today, those who were elected — Clay, Webster, Lincoln and lesser lights — often were more complex and sophisticated than the voting machinery.
Using pencils to make marks on paper and later using machines to punch holes in paper ballots, voters — without federal help; imagine — caused Congresses and presidents to come and go. States ran elections; some ran them better than others. Some ballots have been better designed than others, as have some voting machines. Most have been adequate. The gross defects of American voting practices were laws that established or permitted discrimination and other abuses. Tardily, but emphatically, those laws were changed and other abuses were halted.
Then came 2000 and Florida and the 36-day lawyers’ scrum about George W. Bush’s 537-vote margin of victory. In response to which, Congress passed HAVA, which in 2006 may produce fresh confirmation of the prudential axiom that the pursuit of the perfect is the enemy of the good.

Citizenship used to assume certain responsibilities. Citizens had the duty to inform themselves of the issues and the candidates before casting their votes, and they had the duty to understand the procedures in the voting booth before attempting to do so. When they failed to do either, citizens understood that any failure to have their choices recorded belonged to them and not the system that managed to record 98% of all other votes with no problem.
Then came Florida in 2000. Instead of sticking with both the law and the tradition of citizen responsibility, an army of activists descended on the state determined to rescue a handful of voters from their own incompetence. They professed to be able to determine voter intent by analyzing the tenacity of little chips of paper in clinging to the ballots — chads which got further dislodged by the handling of the ballots. After this debacle proved fruitless, do-gooders decided to install systems that would prove foolproof.
Four years later, HAVA has turned a highly-successful voting infrastructure into a nightmare. Maryland voters may have to abandon the voting booth altogether and use absentee ballots to avoid the malfunctining electronic voting machines. Ohio found out that their electronic voting machine security codes have been exposed, meaning that someone could theoretically hack into the machines and change the votes. And in the aftermath of the Florida recounts, the geniuses that pushed these machines through HAVA never planned on paper receipts for recounts in close elections.
Not coincidentally, HAVA came from the same session of Congress (107th) that produced the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act, otherwise known as the McCain-Feingold Act. The BCRA also represented an effort to reform the political system by treating voters as incapable little children, despite 200 years of proof to the contrary. The BCRA continues to do damage to free political speech, although not as spectacularly as HAVA has done to the credibility of our elections. The 107th Congress may go down in history as one of the most damaging to our freedoms in modern history.
HAVA needs to be repealed, and the money withdrawn, except to those states who now have to junk their new and unreliable machines. States should make their own decisions and spend their own money on voting infrastructure. They cannot do as badly as the federal government has done with HAVA. My suggestion, which I have made repeatedly here at CQ, is to use the optical-scan ballots that voters complete by hand and have read before they leave the polling station. Voters then know that their ballots will be successfully counted, or they have the opportunity to fix them before they leave.
Beware reformers, and beware decisions made in a panic. HAVA and BCRA are two great examples of both.

A Coup In Palestine?

Can a president of a government conduct a coup? That question may soon find an answer in the Palestinian territories, as Mahmoud Abbas insists that he will dissolve the Hamas government in favor of an appointed technocracy. The threat comes as Hamas still refuses to form a national-unity government that will meet the requirements of Western nations for a restoral of badly-needed subsidies:

Palestinian Authority Chairman Mahmoud Abbas said he will dissolve the Hamas-led government within two weeks if the Islamic group does not agree to form a governing coalition with his Fatah Party, Palestinian officials said.
Abbas told the European Union’s top diplomat that he would replace the Cabinet with an apolitical panel of professionals, the officials said Friday.
The moderate Palestinian president has raised the idea before but promised not to force it on a reluctant Hamas. His new stand suggested a willingness to take a stronger line against Hamas in a bid to ease crippling Western sanctions designed to force the Islamic group to moderate its militantly anti-Israel ideology.

The Jerusalem Post’s source comes from Javier Solana’s EU office, which will no doubt raise some eyebrows among the Quartet. The EU has only reluctantly abided by the sanctions which have crippled the Palestinian economy, and they want to see a clear way to end them soon. A Palestinian technocracy that recognizes Israel and agrees to abide by past agreements would allow aid to flow immediately into Gaza and the West Bank, although with the former, the Israeli military action would complicate distribution unless Gilad Shalit is freed soon. The Europeans may be indulging in either some wishful thinking or an effort to push Abbas into action.
Assuming Abbas attempts a forced change in government, where does that leave the Palestinians? Hamas, after all, won a majority by convincing a majority of Palestinians to vote for them. The resultant economic catastrophe may have changed their minds, but we won’t know that without another election. Given the track record of Abbas and Fatah, they’re not terribly likely to give him a big endorsement, especially if he removed the representative government they elected.
On the other hand, we know that neither of the two organizations will ever work for peace and a two-state solution. Both Hamas and Fatah are too compromised with terrorism to be agents for peace, and the Palestinians desperately need a third choice. They have not produced one as yet, but a technocracy might give them the space to find it. However, and this is really the big problem, how would a technocracy secure its rule against Hamas and even Hamas and Fatah? They would have to solicit the protection of one or the other, since those two organizations have all the guns.
Given that Abbas would appoint this Cabinet, it would necessarily have to exist at Fatah’s pleasure. The only way this would work would be to have Hamas agree to it. If Abbas wants to do this as a coup, it won’t last a week.