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Monday, September 22, 2003

Political updates

OK, let me update two threads I've been discussing for the past few weeks.

1. The Presidential Race: It's all over the news, but the data is usually delivered without much analysis. The media cover only the horse race part of the election. According to a new poll from CNN-Gallup-USA Today, Wesley Clark has jumped to the top of the list of Democratic presidential candidates. Here's the list:

Clark 22%
Dean 13
Kerry 11
Gephardt 11
Lieberman 10

Most importantly, the poll said Clark beats Bush 49-46%. Kerry also wins 48-47. All the other top Democrats lose by only a couple of percentage points. Since the sample error is 3.5%, none of these results mean anything really -- and all the candidates behind Clark are essentially equal.

So, in the first week, Clark is sailing along on his first rate biography. There has already been a flap about whether Clark genuinely opposed the war or not, so it will be interesting to see if he can sustain a lead.

Some of the criticisms, by the way, are unfair. Clark has frequently and clearly expressed a desire for a much more multilateral US foreign policy. Actually, he wrote a nice article in The Washington Monthly last September that more fully explains his views. He would have prosecuted Afghanistan with NATO, for example. In a January interview with a columnist for the Washington Post, Clark also criticized Bush administration priorities:

"They picked war over law. They picked a unilateralist approach over a multilateral approach. They picked conventional forces over special-operations forces. And they picked Saddam Hussein as a target over Osama bin Laden."

Graham has been saying these same sorts of things for quite awhile, but the criticisms will likely get more attention coming from Clark's mouth.

2. Iraq and Bush: Tuesday morning, President Bush is speaking at the UN and various media are reporting (often based on Bush's interview with Fox) that the President has no intention of expressing any regrets to the UN over the events earlier this year.

Given that most states in the UN opposed the US war, and that the UN was again the target of a terrorist car bomb attack in Iraq Monday, I doubt Bush is going to find a particularly sympathetic audience.

Since the address is going to be widely televised within the US, I also doubt if the primary target of this Bush speech is the UN. Rather, the Bush administration is working hard to make this war look good in retrospect.

Keen observers probably noticed that the Republicans are all over the media claiming that the war is going well. For example, they often point out that the northern area of Iraq is quite stable.

NEWS FLASH: the northern area of Iraq was Kurdish controlled before the war. In fact, it was protected by the "no fly zone" established by US/UK aircraft (and not, as a matter of fact, by the UN).

Then again, when the Bush people were arguing before the war that al Qaeda was in Iraq, many critics pointed out that the evidence pointed to terrorist links in Kurdish areas, which were not under Saddam Hussein's control.There was a good story about this in the BBC last July (2002).

Anyway, to wrap this up, I look for Bush to again "challenge" the UN to live up to its if the US alone has the right idea regarding world politics.

Will audience members (whether at the UN or on TV in the US) remember the Wake Forest debate answer from Bush, when asked "Should the people of the world fear us, or see us as a friend?"

Bush said: "It really depends upon how [our] nation conducts itself in foreign policy. If we’re an arrogant nation, they’ll resent us. If we’re a humble nation, but strong, they’ll welcome us. Our nation stands alone right now in the world in terms of power. And that’s why we’ve got to be humble and yet project strength in a way that promotes freedom. We’re a freedom-loving nation. If we’re an arrogant nation, they’ll view us that way, but if we’re humble nation, they’ll respect us."

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