Does Mugabe Have The Collapse Playbook?

Robert Mugabe has thus far done everything known to bring about an economic collapse in Zimbabwe, and perhaps invented a couple of new twists along the way. Lately, his steps have become as predictable as they are disastrous, with price freezes, confiscation, and the state takeover of foreign assets. Now Mugabe has announced a wage freeze, a move that guarantees an end to any remaining buying power among Zimbabwe’s working class:

Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe has banned all pay rises without authorisation and given himself extra powers in a new bid to curb the world’s highest inflation rate, state media said Friday.
As part of the measures, all rents, school fees and service charges must be frozen for the next six months.
“No one in private or public sectors can now raise salaries, wages, rents, service charges, prices and school fees on account of increases or anticipated increases in the consumer price index, the official and unofficial exchange rates, or valued added tax and duty,” said the government-controlled Herald newspaper.

One has to be reminded of King Canute, showing his acolytes and fawners on the English shore that he could not stop the tide by his command. Mugabe qualifies as Canute’s polar opposite. He apparently believes that he can stop a 7,600% inflation rate by ensuring that everyone but himself becomes rapidly insolvent.
Already, Zimbabwe has an 80% unemployment rate. That makes a wage freeze almost irrelevant to inflation. Employers won’t have to raise salaries, but if they don’t offer any buying power in return for labor, the labor will cease to exist. Employees will leave in order to look for other ways to subsist, and whatever remains of Zimbabwe’s economy will crash into oblivion.
With no economy, the government will have no revenue. Without revenue, it will have no means with which to pay the armed forces, among others. Soldiers may have some issues with remaining loyal when what little money they have won’t buy them anything at all. Even if they get raises, where will they spend the money? Hardly any retail business can stay open now, and the wage freeze will rapidly start closing doors.
The only economy left will be the black market, in which the government cannot participate. The wage freeze will push the rest of the nation into the underground economy, and new power brokers will emerge outside of government control. Eventually they will control the arms in civil society, and the new warlords will bust Zimbabwe into pieces. It’s the anarchy playbook, where strongmen exist outside of any sense of law and order, and those strongmen impose law rather than the people.
If Mugabe has set out to destroy Zimbabwe, he’s certainly made all the right moves in the exact order necessary to do so. It would make a fascinating laboratory for economic and political incompetence if it wasn’t so tragic and unnecessary.

Harry Getting Desperate

August recesses seem to have some magical quality this year that drives legislators towards compromise. In Iraq, the absence of a legislative session allowed Nouri al-Maliki to reach an agreement on key political reforms with Sunni, Shi’ite, and Kurdish leadership. As a result, Harry Reid now wants an agreement with dissident Republicans before he finds himself on the losing end of the Petraeus report, and he’s willing to trade down out of desperation:

Saying the coming weeks will be “one of the last opportunities” to alter the course of the war, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) said he is now willing to compromise with Republicans to find ways to limit troop deployments in Iraq.
Reid acknowledged that his previous firm demand for a spring withdrawal deadline had become an obstacle for a small but growing number of Republicans who have said they want to end the war but have been unwilling to set a timeline.
“I don’t think we have to think that our way is the only way,” Reid said of specific dates during an interview in his office here. “I’m not saying, ‘Republicans, do what we want to do.’ Just give me something that you think you would like to do, that accomplishes some or all of what I want to do.”
Reid’s unwavering stance this summer earned him critics who said he was playing politics by refusing to bargain with antiwar Republicans. In the interview, he said that his goal remains an immediate return of U.S. troops but that now is the time to work with the GOP. He cited bringing up legislation after Labor Day that would require troops to have more home leave, forcing military leaders to reduce troop levels, a measure that has drawn some Republican support.

Shailagh Murray details the long and laughable line of Reid’s miscalculations on the war. First, he and Nancy Pelosi took 108 days to get a supplemental funding bill passed, hoping to pressure the White House into ordering a withdrawal that Congress could easily have accomplished by defunding the mission. Instead, with time running out, Congress passed exactly what Bush wanted. Then Reid decided to pull an all-nighter, which turned into a debacle when Republicans actually showed up for it and spent more time on the floor than Reid did, arguing against an early withdrawal.
The final straw for Reid came when he dropped the war debate entirely. He figured that Iraq would get worse and the pressure on Republicans would increase. Unfortunately, Reid miscalculated again. The end of the debate gave the surge some breathing space, and the perception of its success got shaped by actual facts and news rather than Democrat spin.
Now Reid wants to cut a deal, and he’s desperate to get it done while he has any credibility left at all. He’s broken from his hard-line stance about timetables for withdrawal, and now he’s just talking about using back-door methods to get modest troop reductions with no firm date at all to end the mission. After Petraeus reports to Congress on the military progress from the surge and on the political reform agreement engineered by Maliki, Reid will have little standing to declare the war “lost” as he did just a few months ago.
He could pick up some Republicans at the margins. John Warner wants to see a 5,000-troop reduction by Christmas as a token to show that we won’t be there forever, even if he has no idea by his own admission which troops should leave and what functions should be abandoned. However, given his actions and rhetoric all year long, few Republicans have any reason to trust Reid or to pull his chestnuts out of the fire. Just as in dating, desperation does not attract interest.

Sneak Peak At Surge Report

General David Petraeus gave an interview to The Australian after briefing the Defence Minister in Baghdad, and he tipped his hand as to the content of his surge report due next month in Washington. The increased and newly-aggressive US forces have pushed al-Qaeda in Iraq off balance, and the result has been a “dramatic” decrease in both sectarian violence and roadside bomb attacks:

David Petraeus, the top US commander in Iraq, said the build-up of American forces in Baghdad since late January had produced positive outcomes. These included the killing or capture of al-Qa’ida fighters, causing the terrorist group to lose influence with local Sunnis.
The strategic gains against insurgents would lead to a changed and possibly longer-term role for Australian troops, shifting from security operations to a focus on training Iraqi soldiers and police.
General Petraeus told The Australian during a face-to-face interview at his Baghdad headquarters there had been a 75 per cent reduction in religious and ethnic killings since last year, a doubling in the seizure of insurgents’ weapons caches between January and August, a rise in the number of al-Qa’ida “kills and captures” and a fall in the number of coalition deaths from roadside bombings.
“We say we have achieved progress, and we are obviously going to do everything we can to build on that progress and we believe al-Qa’ida is off balance at the very least,” he said.

How have things changed in Iraq? Petraeus compared the previous condition of Ramadi to Stalingrad. The general told the newspaper that having to stay on defense had taken its toll on American strength and had emboldened the enemy. Switching to offense has changed everything, and AQI simply cannot contend with a modern army with initiative on its side.
That’s not the only progress that the general will report. Petraeus will tell Congress that sectarian violence has dropped 75% since last December. He will also call that one of the most important measures of success, which makes sense, as the sectarian violence had been the biggest obstacle to political reconciliation.
Roadside bombs continue to be the largest danger to American forces, but those have declined over the period of the surge as well. Eight of the last eleven weeks have seen reductions in these attacks, and now the rate is lower than it has been throughout Iraq in over a year. It’s been AQI’s weapon of choice, and as the US has put them on the run and captured more and more of their weapons caches, the less they have been able to use it.
It’s an interesting advance look at the Petraeus testimony due on September 11th. Combined with the announcement of an agreement among Iraq’s political factions on political reform, it will make a formidable case for continuing on the mission. Democrats will have a difficult time asking for retreat just when obvious progress can be seen.

Craig Audio: Better Or Worse?

The Washington Times published the audio of the police interrogation immediately following the arrest of Senator Larry Craig in Minneapolis last June. The newspaper does not explain where it got the audio, but the arresting officer and Craig clearly have a difference of opinion about the incident. In fact, the exchange seems rather strange in one part:

Officer: You’re not being truthful with me. I’m kind of disappointed in you, Senator. I’m real disappointed right now. Just so you know, just like everybody I treat with dignity, I try to pull them away from the situation —
Craig: I appreciate that.
Officer: — and [crosstalk] Every person I’ve had so far has told me the truth. We’ve been respectful to each other and we’ve gone on their way. I haven’t put anyone in jail because everyone’s been truthful to me.
Craig: I don’t want you to take me to jail —
Officer: And I’m not going to take you to jail as long as you’re going to be cooperative and not lie.

Each man acknowledged that their jobs forced them to deal with people who lie, which is another conversation entirely. But then there’s this:

Officer: Okay, so let’s start over. You’re going to get out of here, you’re going to have to pay a fine, and that’ll be it.
Craig: Fine.
Officer: I don’t call media, I don’t do any of that type of crap.

It sounds as if the officer threatened to haul him to jail and alert the media if Craig refused to make a confession on tape. Craig continued to insist that the officer misconstrued his actions, and in fact pointed out that his ring was on the wrong hand for the officer to have seen in as he said, a point made by a few CQ readers. The officer apparently didn’t much care for Craig’s attitude:

Officer: I would respect you, I don’t disrespect you, I still respect you, but that’s not the point. I’m being disrespected right now, and I’m not trying to act like I have all kind of power or anything, but you’re sitting here lying to a police officer.
Craig: I — [crosstalk]
Officer: I’ve been trained to do this. I know what I’m doing …. I just have to say that I’m really disappointed in you, sir. I expect this from the guy that we get out of the hood — I mean, people vote for you! Unbelievable!

Does this make the story any better or any worse for Craig? He never admitted to the charge during the interview that he had tried to request a sexual favor, which clearly nettled the officer. The officer seems to be threatening Craig with some form of exposure and clearly uses a trial as a lever to get his confession. On the other hand, one has to wonder why he bothered going through this interrogation and then pleading out the charge later.
Do you think that the reference to “the guy in the hood” will get any attention here in Minneapolis? I’m betting it does.
UPDATE: Kathryn Jean Lopez says the audio makes Craig look worse. Scott and John at Power Line aren’t so sure.
UPDATE II: I wish I’d seen that ABC had transcribed the entire tape; it would have saved me some time. I thought this part also looked provocative:

Officer: Embarrassing, embarrassing. No wonder why we’re going down the tubes.

That shows a bit of animus towards Craig, although Craig certainly earned it by trying to intimidate him with the business card and “What do you think of that?” I’d say it makes a good case for the police officer as the source for the initial news reports, and perhaps the audio as well.
UPDATE III: John Podhoretz thinks it makes Craig look better:

But seriously, folks — a guy taps another guy’s foot and reaches his hand under a stall and is arrested for that? And is evidently going to get railroaded out of the Senate for it? If I remember my Joseph Wambaugh vice-squad novels correctly, it used to be the rule that the object of the act of entrapment actually had to make a specific request with words of the entrapee at least. Now you can lose it all for sending messages in semaphore?
The very existence of this sort of coded behavior is vice’s tribute to virtue — it has meaning only to those who know its meaning. If someone tapped on my foot in a men’s room stall, I would just assume that person…had a wide stance and was a foot jiggler. If, on the other hand, I was in on the code and wanted to respond, I could do so.
What I should not do, in that case, is actually engage in carnal activity in a public place. That is offensive and illegal. The tap-and-hand wouldn’t be offensive to anyone who didn’t know what they meant — and illegal only in the sense that invading someone else’s space should be illegal, which is to say, it shouldn’t be.

This gets back to my post from two nights ago, as to why this is a crime at all. The Washington Times reports that this kind of signaling is all that it takes to get arrested in Minneapolis; this was not an isolated incident, nor was it aimed at Craig in any way. That’s why Craig is almost secondary in that sense, because many men must have already been caught and shamed into guilty pleas in the same manner and for the same ridiculously vague and inconsequential actions. That’s really the story, not a Senator who could easily have mustered the resources to fight the charges.
If they actually do something lewd, then arrest them for that. Flirting isn’t a crime, or at least it shouldn’t be.

Thompson Launch Date Set

Fred Thompson has announced his announcement date, a sentence that only makes sense in the Byzantine world of American campaign finance law. He will officially declare himself a Presidential candidate on September 6th, a move that will allow him to publicly argue for his election based on specific policy proposals, raise cash, and attend debates:

Republican Fred Thompson, whose entry into the presidential race has been long anticipated, will officially launch his candidacy Sept. 6 in a webcast on his campaign site, followed by a five-day tour of early primary states, the Associated Press has learned.
A tour of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina will quickly follow the Internet announcement, with stops in Florida as well, and a homecoming event in Lawrenceburg, Tenn. on Sept. 15.
Thompson brings to the eight-man GOP field a right-leaning Senate voting record with a few digressions from GOP orthodoxy and a healthy dose of Hollywood star power. He is hoping to attract conservatives who are lukewarm about the current crop of candidates.
Earlier this year, Thompson watched his popularity soar in polls when he acknowledged he was considering a run. Since then, he’s consistently ranked among the top Republicans in national polls and surveys in key states alike.

Not surprisingy, the Senator got asked a couple of questions at the Minnesota State Fair press conference just prior to my interview. He gave a pretty extensive answer to it, which can be found in the full transcript at Heading Right. He talked of his long period of exploration and what it meant — and what it didn’t mean:

We’ve been working hard for a long time. We’ve been doing in a few months what others have taken years to do in some cases. You have to build an organization and a financial network and all that, and it’s best to go ahead and do it and not worry about the Beltway Pundits and all those people making money off the political scheme nowadays and the rules that they make up. Traditionally, you know, people announce in September, October, November and even later historically. They all changed the rules this time.

One reporter suggested that the delay allowed Thompson to get a free ride, a suggestion at which Thompson scoffed:

Well, the question is that I’ve gotten a free ride and nobody has criticized me but that might change if I announced. Have you not been reading the papers and listening to the news? They’re firing everything at me but Gatling guns and have been for months and it doesn’t seem to hurt me much but, you know, they may ratchet it up once I’m out, I don’t know but there’s been criticism of me and stories put out about my family and wife and all that for a long, long time now as if to discourage me and frankly it makes us more resolute.

People have criticized the long entry time for Thompson into the race, but it’s really a reflection of his later start on even considering a candidacy. Rudy Giuliani has been putting together an organization since 2004, as has John McCain. They started their official exploratory committees in November or December, but they had made it plain that they would run in 2008 long before then. Thompson didn’t consider it until this year, and it takes time and effort to put together a viable national organization for a presidential run — and in the fifty-plus presidential cycles before now, a September launch would have been early rather than late.
Now that he’s a candidate, he has the opportunity to flesh out some of his positions. His exploratory status constrained him to a certain extent, but he still tried working around it when possible through his syndicated column or website presentations. He doesn’t sound like a man looking to avoid a fight, and in fact on Monday sounded like a man spoiling for one:

Q: Senator, as a follow up to that, Congress as you mentioned, has very low approval rating, so does the President. Are you worried that the next election for Republicans is going to be a referendum on President Bush?
FT: Well, if we make this a referendum on the past like the Democrats want, and we insist on doing everything the same way as we have in the past, we run the traditional king of campaign with the traditional kind of candidates and saying the traditional kind of things to the traditional kinds of people, we’ll lose , big time. This election is about the future. No question the Republicans have a ditch to get out of before we can get on equal footing. We’ve got to recognize that and do better. But that doesn’t mean wallowing in the past or mistakes that the President or anyone else has made. Goodness knows he made some, he’s human. My history books tell me that every President that we’ve ever had has done that. We’ve got to concentrate on the future and our vision of this country and our faith in this country and our beliefs and that we can be stronger and we can come out of these problems wiser than we have been in times past. If we do that compare what we have to offer or what our candidate has to offer, if we do it the right way, we’ll be just fine and ancient history won’t be the difference.

Be sure to read the whole transcript. Also, check out Jim Geraghty’s take on the announcement.

CQ Radio: NZ Bear, AARP, And More

blog radio
Today on CQ Radio (2 pm CT), NZ Bear joins us from the Victory Caucus to discuss the latest news on the war and other topics. We’ll also be joined by Jill Greenberg of the AARP to talk about their latest polling in five key primary states and their policy positions on health care and entitlements.
Call 646-652-4889 to join the conversation!
Did you know that you can listen to CQ Radio through your TiVo service? Click here for the instructions. Also, you can subscribe to CQ Radio through iTunes now by clicking this link:
Add to iTunes
NOTE: Comments have been up and down today, and I apologize for the problems. We’re still working hard on fixing the issues, and I have a number of people working on those solutions. Thanks for being patient!
UPDATE: Comments are open again, as we test one theory of failure.

Chemical Weapons Souvenirs At The UN

I visited New York City when I was eleven years old, and one of the places we visited was the United Nations building. People could buy souvenirs there and all over the Big Apple about the UN. I’m betting that they didn’t sell phosgene vials as souvenirs then or now, however:

ABCNews has learned that United Nations weapons inspectors discovered six to eight vials of a dangerous nerve gas, phosgene, as they were cleaning out offices at a U.N. building in New York Thursday morning.
Federal authorities said the office, in a U.N. building near headquarters, was being evacuated and the White House had been notified at 10 a.m.
New York police and fire officials said federal authorities had not notified them of any problem at the U.N. building, as of 11 a.m.

First, phosgene isn’t technically a “nerve gas”, although it certainly qualifies as a chemical weapon. Phosgene chokes its victims, and it works slowly, which helps prolong exposure. The combatants in the First World War would combine it with chlorine gas to get the most out of an attack.
This really isn’t much of a find, except to show how idiotic diplomats can be. The vials apparently came from Gulf War-era Iraq and probably has sat in the offices as a weird kind of souvenir. The vials would have been used for detection equipment, as they are too small for any kind of large-scale attack. It’s dangerous enough, though, to justify the full-scale evacuation that apparently began two hours ago.
I guess our next WMD hunt should start at Turtle Bay, eh? (via Hot Air, Instapundit, and The Corner)

Democrats Split Over Terrorism

After essentially caving on FISA legislation, Democrats have started to turn on each other, according to the Washington Post. Activists blame Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid for failing to use their majorities to turn back Bush administration policies, while conservative Democrats warn that the Left will push them back into minority status:

A growing clamor among rank-and-file Democrats to halt President Bush’s most controversial tactics in the fight against terrorism has exposed deep divisions within the party, with many Democrats angry that they cannot defeat even a weakened president on issues that they believe should be front and center.
The Democrats’ failure to rein in wiretapping without warrants, close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay or restore basic legal rights such as habeas corpus for terrorism suspects has opened the party’s leaders to fierce criticism from some of their staunchest allies — on Capitol Hill, among liberal bloggers and at interest groups.
At the Democratic-leaning Center for American Progress yesterday, panelists discussing the balance between security and freedom lashed out at Democratic leaders for not standing up to the White House. “These are matters of principle,” said Mark Agrast, a senior fellow at the center. “You don’t temporize.”

The Left has finally started taking off the gloves. They may now realize that the Democrats overpromised in the 2006 elections, raising money among the more extreme groups while electing Blue Dogs to office. The demographics of their majority form the basis of the obstacles facing Reid and Pelosi, but without the conservative Democrats, none of their agenda could possibly pass.
Nevertheless, Reid and Pelosi promised yet again to fulfill the Left’s demands. They plan to propose habeas corpus rights to foreign unlawful combatants for the first time in American history, a move that will require the troops that capture them to travel back to the US to testify against them. They want to revisit the FISA disaster short of the six-month limit they themselves placed on the legislation in order to shut down a program they explicitly endorsed four weeks ago. They also want to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, which has some symbolic meaning but fails to address where we want to put captured terrorists, especially those whose home countries don’t want returned, for obvious reasons.
All of these will prove popular among the Left, but the rest of the country may wonder whether the Democrats have lost their minds. None of these proposals have a hope of gaining passage in the Senate, thanks to the cloture requirement, but it’s doubtful that any of them would garner a majority. The FISA revamp won 60 votes, including 16 Democrats and Joe Lieberman. The House would have trouble passing most of these as well, given the conservative nature of almost a quarter of the Democratic caucus there.
The Democrats are well on their way to scaring off center-right voters in the districts they took from Republicans last fall. If they grant foreign terrorists the same rights as Americans in civil courts, they will be spending the 2009-10 session of Congress in the minority.

Hillary Not Hsu Happy

Hillary Clinton has decided to return some of the money donated to her campaign through Norman Hsu after learning of his outstanding warrant for fraud and failure to appear. She will direct $23,000 to charity, less than half of the amount identified by the Los Angeles Times that came from the Paw family, whose connections to Hsu led to his exposure as a convicted con man:

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign said yesterday that it would give to charity $23,000 it had received from a prominent Democratic donor, and review thousands of dollars more that he had raised, after learning that the authorities in California had a warrant for his arrest stemming from a 1991 fraud case. …
On his own, Mr. Hsu wrote checks totaling $255,970 to a variety of Democratic candidates and committees since 2004. Even though he was a bundler for Mrs. Clinton, his largess was spread across the Democratic Party and included $5,000 to the political action committee of Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of Illinois.
Last month, Mr. Hsu was among the honored guests at a fund-raiser for Representative Patrick J. Kennedy, Democrat of Rhode Island, given by Stephen A. Schwarzman of the Blackstone Group at the New York Yacht Club.
Al Franken, a Democratic Senate candidate in Minnesota, said he would divest his campaign of Mr. Hsu’s donations, as did Representatives Michael M. Honda and Doris O. Matsui of California and Representative Joe Sestak of Pennsylvania, all Democrats.

The New York Times neglects to mention the actual amounts that Hsu redirected to Hillary’s coffers. The Paw family alone gave $55,000 over the last three years to Hillary’s campaigns, bundled through Hsu. The Lee family in New York donated over $37,000 to Hillary through Hsu as well, for a total just shy of six figues. The charitable donations to which Hillary has committed amounts to 25% of Hsu’s bundled donations from just the two families reported by the LAT.
Why not part with all of it? She’s been raising at least 1000 times the amount of her divestment in each of the last two quarters. While she will certainly need the money, clearing her name should take a higher priority. Quarter-measures like this make her look as though she’s only interested in token actions meant to take the heat off for just long enough to keep as much Hsu money as she can.
Beyond Hillary’s peculiar pecunary posturing, the path of Norman Hsu seems rather amusing. The man convicted of fraud and wanted for fleeing his prison sentence did not seem unduly handicapped by either in his career. The famous liberal New School made him a trustee and became a trustee at its Eugene Lang College. That came after he started donating heavily to the Democratic Party in his new incarnation, and the failed businessman and convicted fraudster somehow generated large amounts of cash for these efforts, with “connections” (as the New York Times puts it) to clothing related businesses. None of these organizations ever did as much as a cursory check on the Hong Kong native.
Where did Hsu get all this money? That remains to be seen, and it may be the most interesting question yet. So far, his entire history has been one failed enterprise after another — and yet as a fugitive on the run, he managed to manipulate millions of dollars for the Democrats. That’s a pretty neat trick.
UPDATE: Added link to the Los Angeles Times story with the donation amounts that the New York Times failed to report. Here are the excerpts:

The Paws — seven adults, most of whom live together in a small house near San Francisco International Airport — apparently had never donated to national candidates until 2004. Over a three-year period, they gave $213,000, including $55,000 to Clinton and $14,000 to candidates for state-level offices in New York. …
Danny Lee, a manager at the packaging firm, has given $95,000 to federal Democratic campaigns — $19,500 of which went to Clinton. Yu Fen Huang, who shares a New York house with Lee, has given $52,200 to Democrats, $8,800 to Clinton. Soe Lee has contributed $54,000 to Democrats, $8,800 to Clinton.

The amounts add up to $92,100 going directly to Clinton. She’s giving up $23,000.

Fred Thompson Interview Transcript

On Monday, I had the opportunity to interview Fred Thompson briefly between stops at the Minnesota State Fair. I aired the recording of the interview the same day on my CQ Radio show, along with a recording of the press conference that preceded it. For those who missed the show, I have the transcript of my one-on-one walking interview with the presidential aspirant, who discusses the tone he wants to set with his upcoming campaign.
EM: I’m Ed Morrissey from Captain’s Quarters.
FT: Oh, Captain’s Quarters, yea
EM: Well thank you very much for agreeing to talk to me for a little bit here Senator.
FT: Well, not at all … Captain’s Quarters! I’m a big fan of yours. We’ve dealt with similar subjects in times past
EM: Yes we have, Federalism is among them. … Senator, what do you see as the most pressing foreign policy issue outside of Iraq for the next administration to deal with?
FT: Two things that we need to think about and they’re overlapping. One is the United States’ role in the 21st century. We have been bulwark and the symbol for hope and freedom to the people of the world for a long time. We’ve helped people achieve freedom and economic prosperity for a long time in this world and led the way toward democracy. But there’s a false dichotomy going on right now between idealism and realism. We need both. We need to learn from our mistakes; we can’t go everywhere and be all things to all people and solve everybody’s problems. We got to be smart as to what we’re capable of doing. We’ve got to make sure that the people are together for any tough engagements. On the other hand if that’s all we care about, we’ll no longer be the United States we’ve known in times past. We can’t lose the traditional role that we played in assisting and helping those who want freedom. And so, to me,
EM: Right.
FT: It’s both. The second part is, Iraq is not the war. Iraq is a part of the war. Iraq and Afghanistan are current fronts in a global war that I don’t think we yet totaling appreciate the dimensions of. How long it’s going to last, how much resources we’re going to have to commit to it and how resolute we’re going to have to be.
EM: Well, speaking of that Senator, you’ve got a lot of commentary about your sober, realistic tone that you took in Indianapolis, yesterday or the day before, is that the type of campaign you want to bring to people to hear some tough truths to prepare us for the battles ahead?
FT: Well, let’s just say that the rah-rah stuff has its time and place and I’m not above a little of that from time to time but that’s not why I am where I am right now. Life is too short, the difficulties facing our country are too serious, not to tell the truth about what we’re going to have to do as a nation. It’s sober in a way but it’s optimistic in a way. It’s not optimistic not because of the world we see around us but because we think we can do something about it, that we can do better. That’s the source of my optimism. And I’m not going to shy away from the facts; I’m not going gear myself to try to get a party applause line every second or third sentence I make. Republicans and well as the rest of the American people need to come together on the fact that we have some tough choices ahead of us and the one thing that is not sustainable is our current path with regard to our attitude toward global conflicts and with regard to our attitude toward our economic future, current trends and our attitude with regard of what it’s going to take to do better; and that’s unity of the American people.
EM: How do you — [interrupted by aide] OK, the butter sculptures are coming up, Senator. It’s been a pleasure talking with you. I know you have a lot of fans among my readers and I just wanted to say thank you again.
FT: Thank you very much and thank you for what you’re doing.
Coming up at Heading Right: the press conference transcript.
UPDATE: The “ST” stood for Senator Thompson, but I see how this could be confusing. I changed them to FT instead.
UPDATE II: I should explain that the Butter Sculpture is a long and honored tradition at the Minnesota State Fair, and it trumps a blogger interview every single time…
CQ commenter Filistro asks me “how did he strike you… as a person, I mean?” Given a caveat that I tend to find most people likable on a personal level, I was impressed with his warmth and sincerity, both with me and with the crowd. I talked a bit about this during my show that day, but the crowd clearly sensed his approachability and his geniality. He did not strike me as someone going through the motions, but as a man who genuinely enjoys interacting with people, even the press.
Does that make him the best candidate? Not on its own, but it does give a sense of why he will make a very good candidate on the trail. The interview gives a sense of why he’s running in the first place.