Monday, November 20, 2006

# Posted 11:09 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUNDAY MORNING ROUND-UP: Things are quiet on Sunday morning, with the pressue of the election now past. The winners are magnanimous. The losers welcome a chance to rest. But the war goes on. Senators-elect Jim Webb and Jon Tester were on NBC, followed by a journalist roundtable. Charlie Rangel, the incoming chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republic of South Carolina, were on CBS. ABC had John McCain followed by incoming majority leader Steny Hoyer.
Jim Webb: B-. The usual Democratic line on Iraq. Have a big conference with Iran and Syria. But at least that is a concrete proposal. Otherwise, Webb stuck with the usual approach of insisting that Democrats want a change of direction but evading the fact that they have no direction to offer. You'd think a former Secretary of the Navy would know better. Also, I was sort of turned off by Webb's dire warnings of class division and class conflict in the United States.

Jon Tester: B. Tester had one great moment of honesty, which can probably be attributed to his lack of experience as a talking head. Russert asked him:
Jon Tester, is it fair to say that neither the Democrats nor President Bush at this time really have a plan [for Iraq]?
and Tester answered "Well, I mean, possibly." He then tried to back away some from the answer and remember some of his talking points, but the real instinct showed itself first.

Lindsey Graham: B. Calling for a significant increase in the number of US troops in Iraq is one of the few positions on the war you can defend on logical grounds. We've never had enough, and if we really believe the consequences of defeat are catastrophic, it's the only available choice. But if neither Republicans nor Democrats have the will to send more troops, what good is it to demand more boots on the ground? That is the question Bob Schieffer should've asked Sen. Graham.

Charlie Rangel: B-. He sounded moderate and conciliatory on the subject of taxes, which is his bailiwick. But then Rangel started doing his best to undermine his party's credibility on security issues by calling for the reinstatement of the draft. Why? Because the high morale and professionalism of the all-volunteer force is a problem? Because America would be safer with conscripts on the front lines? No, because Chairman Rangel thinks a drafted army will tie the hands of the president. The same way, I guess, that it tied LBJ's hands in Vietnam.

John McCain: A-. Stephanopoulos picked right up where Russert left off the previous Sunday in his discussion with McCain. He also asked the questions Schieffer should've asked of Graham. How long can keep you keep insisting that we need more troops in Iraq if there is so little public support for that position? If you say that victory is imperative and that victory demands more troops, won't you have to support a withdrawal if the President and the American public won't send more troops?

McCain didn't try to evade the question. As he did last week, he acknowledged the logic of what was being asked. McCain said at some point, that might be necessary, but right now there is still some hope. No matter how many talking heads I watch, it's still refreshing to see one who actually engages with the interviewer and sounds like a human being who is having an actual discussion rather than an automated talking point. But imagine the political earthquake McCain would set off if he announced that there was no hope for victory and that we can't ask American soldiers to die for a lost cause.

Steny Hoyer: B. Pleasant. Moderate. Bipartisan. Admirable, but not a hard pose strike after a major victory at the polls and before the next battle has begun. I guess we'll have to wait a bit to find out what kind of leader Steny Hoyer is.
By the way, it is well worth noting that Meet the Press is now available as a video podcast, not just an audio stream. Sometimes, it really is important to see the look on someone's face when they say what they're saying.

For example, take Jon Tester's words from above, "Well, I mean, possibly." If you are reluctant to see those words as an admission that the Democrats don't have a plan for Iraq, you can say that they are just generic space-fillers from a brand new Senator without much experience. They mean nothing.

But if you listen to the audio track, you can hear Tester stumbling over "well" and "I mean", then saying in a much more certain and direct voice: "Possibly." And if you have the video track, you can see Tester stumble over "well" and "I mean", then lift an eyebrow and grin on "possibly", as if he'd were a well-meaning kid caught-red handed by an old pro like Tim Russert.

See ya in seven.
(14) opinions -- Add your opinion

Now that you've gone on record telling us you plan already to vote for McCain, and in fact are hoping to WORK for McCain, a report card in which you give McCain the highest weekly grade is worth, well, nothing at all.
As you correctly note, I've clearly laid my biases on the table. The relevant question, I think, is whether my analysis is based on a fair interpretation of the evidence or whether I've lost all perspective as a result of my bias.
My how times have changed. It used to be that Republicans were in favor of the draft. You are certainly stretching it to say that Rangel is undermining the party's credibility here. You might give him some credit for presenting a difficult idea and then attack the idea on its merits rather than on its politics.

McCain would get owned in a debate with Hillary. Sad to say but his epitaph will read: got shot down, lost to a Bush, lost to a Clinton, fade away.

Why should we treat Rangel's idea any other way than political. He has stated that the reason for doing this is so it would be harder for a President to go to war. That's political. His very idea is political.
Cumpulsory national service is required in Switzerland, Israel, Germany, South Korea, Russia, .... The notion of a draft goes back at least to the Greeks, and still exists in 'conscription' for juries. It has the element of fairness. By contrast, professionalizing the military was one of the Marian reforms. Much more could be said.

Or you could just say that it "undermine[s] his party's credibility on security issues."

Lastly, it should be hard for a President to go to war. It's called leadership not dictatorship.
Why do Webb's points about American economic inequality and class division "turn you off"? Is it because he is saying something untrue? Surely that's not the case, because numerous studies have confirmed that, indeed, the middle class is narrowing, poverty is increasing, and -- just in the NYT today -- the only battles that get press coverage are the jealousies the merely rich have toward the super-rich. So why does it "turn you off"? Is it because it contradicts your belief in trickle-down economics (a belief that is somewhat unfounded, as the trickle that goes down is a drip-drop that forms a pool in the upper-middle class and descends no further)? Webb produced a spectacular, and very well-written, opinion piece in the WSJ, of all places, talking about income inequality. So I'd like to know exactly why this very important issue is unimportant to you.

Anonymous has made a good point and I believe that the question to ask is not whether to send more troops, but where he thinks they'll come from. he ahs yet to answer that.
He being McCain, of course.
The question of forces levels needed in theater should always be made on the ground by military leaders like General Abizaid, not from Washington. Both the "increase" and "decrease" crowds need to listen to the senior leaders on the ground in theater.

As for where to get forces for increased levels in theater: Push active Army deployments to 18 months, hit up the Army Reserve and Guard for another mobilization/deployment, and push USMC deployments to 9 or 12 months and/or try to increase the size of the active duty force pool again.

Interesteding statistic: "About 42% of the Army's 500,000 active-duty soldiers have not deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. They include about 80,000 fresh recruits, most of whom are being trained. More than 90,000 others are in the so-called institutional Army, those who train, equip and manage soldiers."

dignam, I address your comments in my latest post.

Randy, my list of questions is only beginning, so thanks for adding one.

Jon, have you read "Supreme Command" by Eliot Cohen? He would argue (and I would agree), that troops levels are precisely the kind of issue that must be decided by the President.

The ultimate quesiton we must ask is how much we are willing to sacrifice in the name of victory. And that is a question that can only be answered by someone with a direct mandate from the people.

Robert Reich has an interesting take after talking with McCain.

David, when General Abizaid tells McCain that current troop levels cannot sustain a 20,000 troop increase and McCain still insists on such an increase, it appears to me he either

1.) Thinks Abizaid is lying or

2.) Roebrt Reich is right in the post linked to above and McCain is only giving himself a bit of cover.

Not what I call straight talk.
I think, David, that your review posts would be better served on a 1-10 scale (or none at all) than the A-B-C-D-F method you're currently employing (a scale that doesn't use the C-D-F options very often, if at all)

That is to say that the 1-10 scale could be better assuming you don't give everyone 9's and 10's...

I guess what I'm trying to say is not all of the guests can be A and B grades. If you're going to attempt to rate them in relation to each other as to their performance on any given Sunday morning, you need to employ the full scale (whether numbers or letters), otherwise it's uninteresting.
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