Thursday, March 27, 2008

Happy Anniversary

Last week marked the fifth anniversary of the second United States invasion of Iraq. Since that day in March of 2003, over 4,000 American service men and women, and countless Iraqi soldiers and civilians have given their lives for...what? Trying to justify this crusade now involves revisiting the tired, and in many cases wholly discredited reasons that the Bush administration has paraded before the public time and again, without much care or regard for the public's reaction. To review:

- "Saddam Hussein is developing weapons of mass destruction."

Proven false. Not only were these claims unfounded at the time of their assertion, they remained so at the time of invasion and throughout the subsequent occupation. The United States did finally admit in 2004 that there were, it seems, never any WMDs in Iraq after all.

- "Al Qaeda is operating in Iraq."

Nope. There is categorically zero evidence that prior to 2003 Al Qaida was any more operational in Iraq than in was in Dearborn, Michigan. Of course, there's one proven way to ensure that Al Qaida will operate in Iraq: remove any form of a central government, and place 150,000 United States soldiers into the mix. Conveniently for the President, one can no longer argue that Al Qaida is not present in Iraq.

- "The world is a safer place without Saddam Hussein and his sons in power."

This is true. However, the world would most likely be safer without Kim Jong Il, Pervez Musharraf, and Vladimir Putin, too. Is it logical to go to war with every leader with whom there is a conflict of ideology? Hardly. Of course, if the removal of a despot could turn the tide towards world peace, who could possibly oppose that? After all...

- "A democratic Iraq will have a stabilizing effect on the rest of the Middle East."

How's that working out for you, George?

All kidding aside, the examination of the case for this war, now five years on (granted that many of these reasons "evolved" out of circumstance) sheds light on a great American tragedy. George W. Bush took office in 2001 claiming to possess the power to unite America, and the knowledge needed to keep from further dividing us. This is, quite literally, the exact opposite of the result we have endured and experienced. We are a nation divided, a nation at war, a nation in peril.

The menace of this administration has successfully curbed the tongues of those who have spoken out against it, and dissuaded its detractors from full engagement. As the Democrats in-fight their way towards another national election, maybe they should stop to consider their quest for an identity, in the wake of a humiliating eight years.

This is a party all too familiar with scrutiny, with lying under oath and impeachment. When is it that Democrats will realize that their "moral high ground" cannot automatically exclude the act of confrontation, and that if one precludes themself from retaliation, their adversary will perpetually attack?

This may not be the most cohesive, compelling, or thought provoking piece you hear on behalf of these ideals, but hey, as our President loves to point out, "fool me once..."

Never Forget

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Who's Winning?

It's no secret that Americans are witnessing one of, if not the closest Democratic primary contests in recent history. The nightly news is reaching the saturation point for the terms "superdelegate," "do-or-die" and "momentum." Recently, the story of this run-off election has focused on Barack Obama's momentous charge towards 11 straight primary victories, his ever growing list of influential and powerful backers, and his seemingly inevitable march towards the White House.

There is no denying that Obama enjoyed quite a February. Coming into the month trailing Senator Hillary Clinton, with many observers questioning just how long he could hold out, something unexpected, at least to most, began to happen: Obama began picking up some very key endorsements. Most notable were Ted Kennedy and John Kerry, the two U.S. Senators from Massachusetts, both former presidential candidates themselves. The reasoning these two Democratic stalwarts pointed to was that Obama, to paraphrase the two, "felt like a winner." At the time, this seemed an odd notion. Clinton was leading in the polls, had secured strong results in the early primaries and caucuses, and looked to be well on her way to securing the nomination. Then a funny thing began to happen: Obama began winning. He didn't stop winning, in fact, until this past Tuesday, when Clinton defeated him in Ohio, Rhode Island and Texas (more on this in a minute) in what was looked upon by many as a last ditch effort to save her campaign.

Even now, many Obama supporters claim that Clinton's victories this week were "too little, too late," and the time has come for her to step aside and allow Obama to secure the nomination. Indeed, it is hard to argue with Obama's supporters, who can point to 24 primary and caucus victories, including the aforementioned 11 straight, and to a well oiled campaign machine that seems to be impenetrable even to Clinton's fiercest attacks. Then again, a closer look at the numbers to date suggests there may not be an argument at all.

This November, the two (sorry, Ralph) eventual presidential candidates will be vying for the magic number of 270 electoral votes. Each state is worth a predetermined amount of these votes, and in nearly every instance in modern campaign history, it's winner-take-all. Looking at the Democratic primary and caucus results to date, a very different picture than the one being illustrated in the media begins to take shape. If electoral votes were to be handed out right now to Senators Clinton and Obama based upon their victories to date, the results would read like this:
Clinton - 229 Obama - 190
Now, there are a few caveats to these numbers, and they are as follows: The primary contests in Michigan and Florida are currently being withheld from the delegate counts for either candidate. Clinton won both Florida and Michigan, but Obama did not appear on the Michigan ballot, and both contests were disqualified by the Democratic National Committee for taking place too early in the primary season. For the sake of argument, Michigan's 17 electoral votes will be struck from Clinton's tally, bringing her to 212. Next is the issue of Texas, which held both a primary election and caucuses on Tuesday, in a confusing and yet unresolved election process. Two thirds of the states delegates are awarded to the primary victor, while the remaining third are doled out in the caucuses. While the results of this process are still being calculated, one number has been confirmed: Clinton won the popular vote by roughly 100,000 votes.
In the figures above, Texas' 34 electoral votes were not awarded to either candidate, nor are they likely to be in November. In fact, many of the states won by Clinton and Obama will go to neither in November, regardless of who ends up winning the nomination. Texas, like many Southern and Midwestern states, is "red," meaning it will nearly always end up awarding its electoral votes to a Republican.
So what does this mean for Clinton and Obama? Well, looking again at the election results to date, they show Clinton having won two traditional "red" states: Arizona (sure to go to home town favorite John McCain), and Oklahoma. No doubt there are other states, Tennessee, Arkansas and Nevada that teeter on the "purple precipice," if you will, but none of the states is a true home run for Republicans. Taking away the electoral votes of Arizona and Oklahoma drops Clinton to 195 in this tally. Obama, on the other hand, has won a whopping seven "red" states: South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Louisiana, North Dakota, Idaho and Alaska. Like Clinton, he was won several "in between" states, but for this argument only the seven states listed will be subtracted. In doing so, Obama's total electoral votes drops to 139.
Granted, this calculation is far from scientific, and if elections were held again today the results may change, but in viewing the statistics in this light, one must wonder who's time has come to step aside, and who, in fact, "looks like a winner."

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The Philosophy of Rhetoric

If we rightfully discredit our President for basing policies on intangible and emotional ideals such as terror.... should we look upon a candidate who bases their campaign on different intangible and emotional ideals, however appealing they may be?