Rudy’s Polling Indicates Strength In Key Races

Yesterday, the Rudy Giuliani campaign promoted the results of polling by several groups last month, surveys which shows that Giuliani has more strength in traditionally blue states than other Republicans, especially the former “maverick” John McCain. Once expected to be the centrist candidate of choice, and even a risk for an independent bid that would capture the center from both parties, McCain seems to have ceded most of that ground to Giuliani, at least at this early stage of the campaign:


Mayor Giuliani

Closest Competitor


California 33% 19% (Gingrich) ARG – Jan. 11-17
Florida 30% 16% (Gingrich) ARG – Jan. 4-9
Illinois 33% 24% (McCain) ARG – Jan. 11-14
Michigan 34% 24% (McCain) ARG – Jan. 4-7
Nevada 31% 25% (McCain) ARG – Dec. 19-23, ‘06
New Jersey 39% 21% (McCain) Quinnipiac – Jan. 16-22
North Carolina 34% 26% (McCain) ARG – Jan. 11-15
Ohio 30% 22% (McCain) Quinnipiac – Jan. 23-28
Pennsylvania 35% 25% (McCain) ARG Jan. 4-8
Texas 28% 26% (McCain) Baselice Jan. 17-21

The Battleground Poll, one of those cited by the Giuliani campaign, makes a less impressive case for Giuliani as the front-runner. The analysis by Ed Goeas shows both men to be neck-and-neck in the race, with almost the same exact favorable/unfavorable ratio (2.5:1) and similar results against the prospective Democratic candidates. Both mean beat Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama by a wide margin, a result that has to worry Hillary. As Goeas notes, she has been such an imposing national figure that she has almost no untapped well of voters to reach; she will have to convince people who already don’t like her to change their minds, a difficult task to accomplish.
Of course, Goeas uses national numbers to calculate his predictions. Giuliani’s team does a better job at analyzing the race on a state-by-state basis, which is how primaries and general elections for President get conducted. Rudy’s strength in places like California and Michigan will not have much impact on either, since they have late primaries and traditionally go Democratic in the general election anyway. Rudy’s comparative strength in Florida, New Jersey, Ohio, and Pennsylvania should be taken more seriously, especially Florida. The GOP has to hold that state to have any chance of winning the Presidency, and so far Newt Gingrich comes in second with only 16% in the Sunshine State. He also outpolls McCain in North Carolina, where one might expect the more conservative McCain to have an edge. It makes one wonder who would be the better candidate to hold the South.
Goeas also mentions that Mitt Romney remains a wild card, one that could disrupt the normal process of Republican primaries by becoming a credible third choice in the race at primary time. His favorability ratio is about the same as McCain and Giuliani, but he has a much larger pool of people unfamiliar with him. If he mounts an excellent campaign, he could wind up as the dark horse, able to define himself in a manner tuned to the party at the right time. His big advantage is his ability to raise money and his lower national profile, an interesting (and rare) combination.
This shows pretty clearly that the Republican nomination remains wide open between these three candidates. It also hints that the door may have more or less closed on anyone else, even at this early stage. With two well-regarded candidates and one other with the money to build his own national profile, the prospects of anyone without an established national reputation cracking into the top tier seems rather remote.

The Force Came To Get Him

It’s hard out here for a Wookie. First, clone armies supposedly helping you wind up shooting up your home planet. Then you get stuck on the worst-looking hyperspace vehicle in seven systems, piloted by an undisciplined cowboy who inexplicably winds up with a galactic princess, making you a hairy third wheel. Finally, some tour guide accuses you of molesting Japanese tourists and gets you fired from your worst gig ever. Who wouldn’t snap?

A man dressed as Chewbacca was arrested after police said the street performer head-butted a tour guide operator in front of Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.
Frederick Evan Young, 44, of Los Angeles, California, was booked Thursday for investigation of misdemeanor battery, police Lt. Paul Vernon said.
Police said the 6-foot-4 street performer was seen arguing Thursday afternoon with a tour guide who had expressed concern that the Star Wars wookie impersonator was “harassing and touching tourists” in violation of city law.

Maybe now we can get to the bottom of the galaxy’s biggest controversy — did Greedo really shoot first?

NIE: It’s A Civil War

The intelligence community released its National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq yesterday, a nine-page document that the Washington Post correctly characterizes as “bleak”. It adopts the term “civil war” for the ongoing conflict in Iraq, and at the same time notes that the term doesn’t do justice to the myriad of conflicts active in the country at the moment. However, it also warns about the effect a withdrawal would have on the region.
First, though, the bad news:

The U.S. intelligence community yesterday released a starkly pessimistic assessment of the situation in Iraq, warning that even if security improves, deepening sectarian divisions threaten to destroy the government and ultimately could lead to anarchy, partition or the emergence of a new dictatorship.
Citing “the current winner-take-all attitude and sectarian animosities infecting the political scene,” declassified judgments of a new National Intelligence Estimate predicted that Iraqi leaders will be “hard pressed” to reconcile over the next 18 months.
Despite the stepped-up training and U.S. support for Iraqi security forces — major parts of the new Iraq strategy President Bush announced last month — the estimate concluded that the Iraqi military will find it very difficult to carry out any new responsibilities or to operate independently against sectarian militias.

That’s a pretty reasonable capsulization of the NIE’s assessment. It does contain very pessimistic language about how the political situation will develop in Iraq without some change in strategy that will reverse some deadly trends. The biggest problem remains the Sunni minority’s refusal to accept their loss of control over Iraq. They see the situation in very stark terms — either they rule or Iraq becomes Persian. They see the Shi’a majority as a threat to the Arabic nature of Iraq, and they refuse to compromise with them and allow Iran to essentially make Iraq a vassal state.
The Shi’a, on the other hand, do not trust in their own majorities. Decades of oppression by the Sunni minority has left them “deeply insecure about their hold on power”. That keeps them from reaching out to the Sunnis to reach the necessary compromises that would make both groups more secure about their place in the new Iraq. It also creates mistrust of the American efforts to forge those kinds of compromises, and the new American insistence on stopping Shi’ite militias compounds that mistrust.
That has fueled what the NIE now acknowledges is a civil war:

The Intelligence Community judges that the term “civil war” does not adequately capture the complexity of the conflict in Iraq, which includes extensive Shia-on-Shia violence, al-Qa’ida and Sunni insurgent attacks on Coalition forces, and widespread criminally motivated violence. Nonetheless, the term “civil war” accurately describes key elements of the Iraqi conflict, including the hardening of ethno-sectarian identities, a sea change in the character of the violence, ethno-sectarian mobilization, and population displacements.

However, the NIE does not say that the situation is hopeless, only very difficult. It prefaces the entire report by saying “Unless efforts to reverse these conditions show measurable progress during the term of this Estimate, the coming 12 to 18 months, we assess that the overall security situation will continue to deteriorate at rates comparable to the latter part of 2006.” The NIE presupposes that the US will try to reverse these conditions with positive effort on the ground in Iraq, especially to try to tamp down violence in the short term in order to give the Iraqi government some breathing room to counter these trends. It also warns of the effects a withdrawal will have:

Coalition capabilities, including force levels, resources, and operations, remain an essential stabilizing element in Iraq. If Coalition forces were withdrawn rapidly during the term of this Estimate, we judge that this almost certainly would lead to a significant increase in the scale and scope of sectarian conflict in Iraq, intensify Sunni resistance to the Iraqi Government, and have adverse consequences for national reconciliation.
• If such a rapid withdrawal were to take place, we judge that the ISF would be unlikely to survive as a non-sectarian national institution; neighboring countries—invited by Iraqi factions or unilaterally—might intervene openly in the conflict; massive civilian casualties and forced population displacement would be probable; AQI would attempt to use parts of the country—particularly al-Anbar province—to plan increased attacks in and outside of Iraq; and spiraling violence and political disarray in Iraq, along with Kurdish moves to control Kirkuk and strengthen autonomy, could prompt Turkey to launch a military incursion.

They recommend that we at least keep our deployment at present force levels for the next 12-18 months, while working on new strategies to reverse the trends they describe. Given that advice, it’s easy to see why the administration has decided on the surge strategy. They want to create enough room and enough of a reduction of the violence that fuels the split for the Shi’ites and the Sunnis to find some way to compromise on governance. The Shi’ites are a majority and the Sunnis are not, and the Sunnis will have to find their way to accepting that reality, The Shi’ites will have to learn that they cannot ever securely hold power without gaining the cooperation of the Sunnis. Those rational realizations will not take root until we clear the streets of the militias and allow both sides to see how to reach that accommodation.
The NIE is mostly bad news, and no one can doubt that. Those advocating for a bug-out want to take the one option guaranteed by the intelligence community to make Iraq exponentially worse than it is now, in a region where we cannot allow a failed state to serve as a host for parasitic terrorist groups.
UPDATE: Jules Crittenden correctly states the purpose of the NIE: “It is not a strategy. But it is a report that, by design, should be worst-case and pessimistic.” That’s what you will see when you read the 9-page declassified version of the NIE, but it does have some elements of strategy and optimism as well. They’re just not making the headlines.

Warner Opposing His Own Resolution?

John Warner has declared that he will filibuster his own non-binding resolution on the surge to protest the conduct of Harry Reid in limiting votes on alternatives, such as John McCain’s proposed language that supports the President’s new stratey for Baghdad and Anbar. The GOP says they can organize all 49 Senators in their caucus, which would keep any resolution from proceeding to a vote:

Sen. John W. Warner will join his fellow Republicans in voting Monday to block the resolution he wrote rebuking President Bush’s Iraq war policy.
“Senator Warner supports the Senate Republican leadership’s effort to establish a free and open debate on Iraq on the Senate floor, including possible amendments,” a spokesman for the Virginia Republican said yesterday afternoon.
Earlier in the day, Mr. Warner told colleagues during a closed-door strategy meeting at the Library of Congress that he opposes the manner in which Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Nevada Democrat, is conducting debate on his resolution, which condemns Mr. Bush’s plan to send 21,500 more troops to Iraq.
Senate Republicans are opposed to a vote on the Warner resolution unless they also get votes on two other resolutions. One of those alternatives supports Mr. Bush’s plan, and the other would prohibit cutting funds for the war. Republicans also want each resolution to require 60 votes to pass.

Mitch McConnell seems to have aroused more opposition to the resolutions than first thought. He appeared on Hugh Hewitt‘s radio show this week, and McConnell told Hugh that he was aware of the NRSC pledge effort to deny the Senate Republican election committee any funding if they lost their nerve on the war. That message seems to have been heard by the caucus, and the sudden reversal by Warner makes it clear that we have made them nervous about the outcome.
Without Warner’s cooperation, none of the resolutions have a chance to make it to a vote. Even with Warner’s backing, it was doubtful that Reid could overcome a filibuster; the only swishes on this bill were Warner himself, Susan Collins, Chuck Hagel, and Olympia Snowe, or at least the only Republican Senators who publicly supported the Warner-Levin language. The appearance of the McCain proposal has given the GOP an alternative that allows Congress to have its say in the conduct of the war but does not kneecap the general they unanimously selected to lead the effort in Iraq before he takes full command. That gives the GOP plenty of cover to conduct a filibuster, and now it’s clear that it will succeed.
What will Reid do if Warner successfully filibusters his own resolution? It would be a mild embarrassment to Reid, who will have to explain why he didn’t want to allow amendments or alternatives to reach the floor for an up-or-down vote. After all his talk about bipartisanship and working across the aisle — and his constant whining about Republican failures to do so over the past two years — having a major issue filibustered because of his refusal to meet the GOP halfway will seem just a bit incongruous. Worse, however, will be his inability to deliver some kind of rebuke to the White House after having built up the expectation of it for the past three weeks.
In the end, though, I suspect, a filibuster might work in everyone’s interests. The Democrats can claim they tried to pass a useless resolution scolding the White House, the Republicans can claim they protected the effort to win in Iraq, and the White House can get on with its surge strategy for Baghdad. In a weird way, all three had better hope the new strategy works, or the political fallout from these efforts around non-binding resolutions will be harsh indeed.

CQ, CPAC, And The Importance Of … Advertising

Earlier today, I accepted an offer from the organizers of the 2007 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) next month in Washington DC. I’ll be one of the bloggers covering the event from Blogger Alley, similar to what I did at the Republican National Convention in 2004. I’ve not been able to attend CPAC before, and it seems more critical than ever to get involved after the midterm losses and the weakening of resolve on the war.
Even with all of that, I put off the decision for a couple of weeks until we got a clearer picture of the First Mate’s prognosis. It turns out that the nephrectomy was successful in eliminating the BK virus from her system. She’s had at least one blood test come back completely negative, which means she can now have a transplant. At the same time, her donor — a very generous friend of ours — just got done with his tests, and is approved for the operation. We’ll be ready for it towards the end of March. It’s great news, and we’re all very excited about it.
Earlier today, I made a few arrangements. The first was to get the travel and lodging arranged for the convention, and the second was to add a little more advertising here at CQ to increase the revenue stream. For the first time, I added a popunder ad from my sponsoring agency, a move I have resisted for over a year. However, it has been money left on the table, so to speak, and more sponsors are insisting on popunders for their campaigns.
I hope CQ readers will take the time to support the advertisers that support this blog. Click through when you get the chance. It’s much appreciated.

Kim’s Son: Not Ronery

The producers of South Park hilariously depicted North Korean dictator Kim Jong-Il in their movie Team America: World Police in a musical sequence titled I’m So Ronery. Apparently, that song wouldn’t apply to Kim’s jet-setting son, whom the London Telegraph noted has the kind of latitude denied the subjects of his father’s regime:

The son of Kim Jong-il, North Korea’s reclusive dictator, has been living in five-star luxury in the gambling haven of Macau even as his people starve, according to reports in Hong Kong yesterday.
Kim Jong-nam, 35, was tracked to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, where he has been staying on and off for three years.
While the international community alternates sanctions on his father for his nuclear weapons programme with economic aid for his starving subjects, the younger Kim has been spotted gambling in Macau’s numerous casinos and eating in local restaurants, according to the South China Morning Post.
Although travel is strictly proscribed for North Korean citizens, Kim Jong-nam has roamed the world.

Apparently, his father isn’t amused by Jong-nam’s lifestyle. He has replaced Jong-Nam in the succession with his half-brother, which might have happened after Jong-nam got caught with a forged passport in Japan five years ago. He told authorities that he wanted to take his own young son to Tokyo Disneyland.
The proximity to Macau sounds somewhat intriguing, however. Kim Jong-Il used a Macau bank as the center of his massive counterfeiting operation that flooded the globe with high-quality fakes of American $100 bills, an operation which resulted in sanctions that Pyongyang wants ended before any other talks on denuclearization can proceed. Jong-nam might be his father’s envoy to the financial world of Macau. It would explain his presence there rather than home in Pyongyang, working in the family business. One would assume that Daddy Kim would cut off his money if he wasn’t doing something useful in Macau, even if he has become something of a dissolute embarrassment to the regime.

Maybe It’s A Problem In The Translation

The world may soon adopt “Palestinian cease-fire” as a self-evident oxymoron. Hours after announcing the latest cessation of hostilities between Fatah and Hamas, both groups conducted major attacks on the other, leaving a broadcast station in ruins and ambulances dodging bullets across Gaza:

Hamas fighters blew up a pro-Fatah radio station in Gaza, ambulances were caught in the crossfire and gunmen exchanged heavy fire in deserted streets as a new wave of factional fighting raged Friday throughout the chaotic coastal territory.
The resurgent violence, which has killed 10 people since Thursday, destroyed a brief truce between Fatah and Hamas and forced thousands of Gazans to huddle in their homes to escape the crossfire.
In a symbol that the two sides had returned to open warfare, their respective radio stations stopped playing songs of national unity and broadcast songs about armed struggle and fighting the enemy.

In this case, for those keeping score, Egypt blamed Hamas for breaking the truce with an attack on an official convoy. It didn’t take long for the situation to escalate from there. The presidential guard of Mahmoud Abbas surrounded the Interior Ministry, controlled by Hamas, and started exchanging gunfire on the compound. Hamas started launching mortar shells at a Fatah training base.The fighting has disintegrated into street fighting now, wounding more than a hundred people in Gaza City alone. Hamas blew up a radio station, and no civil authority exists to put an end to the fighting.
It seems that the Palestinians have slipped into open civil war, a development that will surprise no one. Instead of attempting to arm one side over the other, as the West has proposed by sending arms to Abbas, the better solution would be to isolate the territories and let them fight it out amongst themselves. None of the factions involved support democracy or peaceful co-existence, and no faction ever will as long as the West keeps supporting terrorists of any stripe.
Maybe at some point the Palestinian people will tire of this civil war and generate leadership interesting in peace. Until then, any mention of a Palestinian cease-fire will continue to evoke nothing but cynical laughter.

Canadian Office In London Shut Down In Terror Probe

A Canadian mission in London has been evacuated after someone noticed a suspicious package outside:

The Canadian High Commission in central London has been evacuated and surrounding streets closed after a suspect package was found, a police spokesman said.
“A suspect envelope has been found … we are checking it out at the moment,” a police spokeswoman told AFP Friday, adding: “The roads in the immediate area have been closed off as a precautionary measure.”

The lockdown extends to parts of Trafalgar Square, where the commission offices are located. No further details have yet been released. These kinds of discoveries are almost always false alarms. However. the British are doing the right thing by securing the area as they investigate the package.
Has Turner Broadcasting started promoting the Aqua Teen Hunger Force movie in Britain? Just asking …

Florida Dumps Touch-Screen Voting

Florida has decided to end its use of electronic voting machines, reversing a decision made at the height of the controversy over the 2000 election. The state will opt for the optical-scan technology that retains the paper trail necessary to ensure the ability to conduct recounts when necessary:

Gov. Charlie Crist announced plans on Thursday to abandon the touch-screen voting machines that many of Florida’s counties installed after the disputed 2000 presidential election. The state will instead adopt a system of casting paper ballots counted by scanning machines in time for the 2008 presidential election.
Voting experts said Florida’s move, coupled with new federal voting legislation expected to pass this year, could be the death knell for the paperless electronic touch-screen machines. If as expected the Florida Legislature approves the $32.5 million cost of the change, it would be the nation’s biggest repudiation yet of touch-screen voting, which was widely embraced after the 2000 recount as a state-of-the-art means of restoring confidence that every vote would count.
Several counties around the country, including Cuyahoga in Ohio and Sarasota in Florida, are moving toward exchanging touch-screen machines for ones that provide a paper trail. But Florida could become the first state that invested heavily in the recent rush to touch screens to reject them so sweepingly.
“Florida is like a synonym for election problems; it’s the Bermuda Triangle of elections,” said Warren Stewart, policy director of VoteTrust USA, a nonprofit group that says optical scanners are more reliable than touch screens. “For Florida to be clearly contemplating moving away from touch screens to the greatest extent possible is truly significant.”

The move points up the potential for costly errors when decisions are made in haste. After the 2000 election, Florida felt tremendous pressure to upgrade its voting infrastructure after widespread complaints about the punch-card system that had been used there — and elsewhere — for decades. Rather than take the time necessary to test the various systems and make rational decisions about the value of the various options on all, Florida and several other jurisdictions lept to the most high-tech solution on the market.
Unfortunately, the new technology had two basic problems that should have warned the governments involved right from the start. First, security on the machines turned out to be questionable. Any time computers get networked on a wide scale, the potential exists for malfeasance, and vulnerability increases with scale. Businesses manage those vulnerabilities by having IT professionals conduct continual maintenance on systems, but elections come only twice a year, requiring redeployment of wide-area networks for a single day 2/365ths of the year.
The security issues could be managed. However, the lack of a direct paper record of the voter’s ballot seems like it should have been a showstopper, especially considering the high-profile recount that took place in Florida after the 2000 election. No one apparently thought that recounts would be necessary with the high-tech machines, a rather naive view of both technology and elections. When disputes arose about the counting functions of the machines, officials had no independent method to assure voters that their ballots had been properly counted.
Minnesota and other states have used optical-scan ballots for years, and they make the most sense. It retains the paper ballot that has the direct notation of voter intent, and the machines determine immediately if the ballot is properly executed. The system delivers an immediate count of the balloting after the polls close, but the ballots still exist if any disputes arise. Anyone who has used a Scantron form for a school test knows how to fill out the ballot. It’s such an obvious choice that governments, and not just Florida’s, couldn’t see it.
I’d like to hope that people will remember this experience the next time an irrational panic regarding infrastructure arises. Just as with the Y2K scare, the rush to find solutions to problems that exists only on the fringe costs a lot of money and frustration. Just as with the Y2K scare, I doubt that this wisdom will be remembered in the next instance.

Obama Can’t Count On The Black Vote?

The New York Times indulges itself in the latest oddity of racial politics today regarding Barack Obama. The meme that he will struggle to find support in the black community has floated in the media for the past few weeks; I noted an article from Agence France Presse on the topic six weeks ago. At the time, African-American radio host Stanley Crouch had written a column that rejected Obama’s inclusion in black America as lacking the shared background and experience of the descendants of slaves. It turns out that he’s not alone:

The black author and essayist Debra J. Dickerson recently declared that “Obama isn’t black” in an American racial context. Some polls suggest that Mr. Obama trails one of his rivals for the Democratic nomination, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, in the battle for African-American support.
And at the Shepherd Park Barber Shop here, where the hair clippers hummed and the television blared, Calvin Lanier summed up the simmering ambivalence. Mr. Lanier pointed to Mr. Obama’s heritage — he is the American-born son of a black father from Kenya and a white mother from Kansas — and the fact that he did not embody the experiences of most African-Americans whose ancestors endured slavery, segregation and the bitter struggle for civil rights.
“When you think of a president, you think of an American,” said Mr. Lanier, a 58-year-old barber who is still considering whether to support Mr. Obama. “We’ve been taught that a president should come from right here, born, raised, bred, fed in America. To go outside and bring somebody in from another nationality, now that doesn’t feel right to some people.”
On Wednesday, the question of race took center stage in the presidential campaign because of remarks that Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., Democrat of Delaware, made about Mr. Obama. Mr. Biden characterized Mr. Obama as “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy” and then spent the day — his first as an official presidential candidate, explaining and apologizing for his remarks.

On the surface, this is absurd. Obama grew up as a child of an interracial couple, and I’m certain that the bigots he met along the way didn’t give him a pass because his father turned out to be African rather than an American. The difference would have been almost purely rhetorical during his formative years. It’s the kind of silliness that ensues when people get so wrapped up in identity politics and victimization that they start excluding people naturally inclined and suitably positioned to help them achieve their goals based on a perceived lack of authenticity.
The meme itself seems vapid beyond belief. I’m certain that the African-American community as a whole will look at Obama and see someone who champions their positions far more than the spouse of the nation’s “first black President”. Hillary may have her support within that voting bloc, but her run to the center will not have built a tremendous store of goodwill there, and Obama has focused on issues such as poverty from the time he worked as a community activist in Chicago. That’s the kind of authenticity that wins votes in any electoral bloc.
So far, this particular subplot of Obama’s lack of support in the black community appears based mainly on Crouch and Dickerson’s objections, and the lack of endorsement from Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. That also seems a stretch. Not too many presidential endorsements come a year before the first primary, and no one knows what other candidates may yet run. In 2004, both Sharpton and Carol Mosely Braun ran credible campaigns in the primary, and both may try again — which would certainly explain Sharptons reluctance.
The story here is that there is no story here.