Monday, December 18, 2006

# Posted 10:07 PM by Ariel David Adesnik  

SUNDAY MORNING ROUND-UP (MINUS NEWT): In response to overwhelming popular demand, I posted an early evaluation of Mr. Gingrich's performance on Meet the Press. So today I'll limit myself to a discussion of Colin Powell's exclusive interview with CBS and ABC's discussion with Harry Reid, followed by Gen. Jack Keane (ret.) and Vice Adm. Joe Sestak (ret.), the new congressman from Pennsylvania.
Powell: B. This interview just made me want to scream. I know Bob Schieffer only throws softballs, but this was a terrible waste of an opportunity. Powell was inside the administration and at the highest levels when the decision was made to go to war and when so many tragic decisions were made in the early going of the occupation of Iraq. How could Schieffer not ask Powell what measures he took to verify the intelligence about WMD in Iraq before his address to the United Nations? How could he not ask about the debate within the White House about how many boots on the ground were necessary for the occupation?

Instead, Powell fielded some questions about the current situation in Iraq. Not surprisingly, Powell assumed the bearing and tone of a thoughtful statesmen who wants the best for his country but isn't afraid to be honest about how bad things are. The man almost seemed to be pretending that he had nothing personally to do with the war in Iraq or the occupation. But ultimately, you can't blame Powell for acting in his own best interest. It's Schieffer's job to dig up the truth.

Reid: B. Quite the smooth talker. Stephanopoulos asked him five different ways if he would support an independent, non-partisan oversight office for congressional ethics. Reid found gentle ways to evade the question every time. On Iraq, the incoming majority delivered his party's usual tag line about "no military solution". Also, he advanced the party's subtle effort to redefine a "change of direction" as the equivalent of withdrawal, this time in accord with the Baker report's call for a major drawdown by early 2008. But then Reid wouldn't say yes or no when it came to proposals for a temporary surge in order to stabilize the situation in Iraq. It seems the Democrats are still hunting for a policy.

Keane: B. He made a good (but not great) case for a temporary surge. I say that as someone who favors the option but doesn't think it has more than a 1-in-3 chance of working. Keane is right that we've never put in enough troops to clear Baghdad and then hold it, in concert with Iraqi forces. In theory, a surge would also provide enough troops to put the insurgents on the defensive in Anbar while we stabilize Baghdad. But how confident can we be that stabilizing Baghdad won't just push the insurgency elsewhere? And even if the surge pacifies Baghdad -- which would be a major achievement -- what reason is there to believe that achievement will last?

Sestak: B. Sestak is the highest-ranking retired officer ever elected to Congress. Will he become a regular spokesman on national security issues for the Democratic Party? I thought Sestak's delivery was superb. Very calm. Not too loud. Not too soft. Firm. He sounded neither rehearsed or artifical. On the other hand, the substance of what he said was almost identical to his party's talking points on Iraq. Like those Democrats without military experience, he refused to grapple with the consequences of withdrawal. Again like those Democrats without military experience, he insisted that a surge would accomplish nothing in Baghdad, even though our problem since the beginning has been a lack of manpower. And Sestak insisted that the Iraqi government won't take responsibility for the situation until we're gone, as if the Iraqi government could choose to resolve a situation that is far beyond its control. You might say this is the Democrats' brand of optimism.
Sorry to give out so many 'B's. The real excitement was actually during the talking-head sessions that followed the interviews on ABC and NBC were extraordinary. The excitement about Obama is like wildfire. Republicans are almost as excited as Democrats. After all, David Brooks really got this ball rolling.

Even if the pundits are going over the top, I think they're right about the intense thirst Democrats have for a candidate they can love instead of a candidate they support because they have no choice. Among my friends and acquaintances, mainstream Democrats are no less enthusiastic than the left.

Strangely, it is only those I know best who support Hillary with real joy. My mother has wanted her to be president since 1992. And then there's my girlfriend, who has a thing for over-achieving lawyer-feminists. My sweetheart also supports Hillary out of pure spite, since she knows exactly how much OxBlog can't stand her.

But honey, you have to admit this much: You would give anything to make sure the Republicans get thrown out of the White House in 2008. You would even trade in your controversial heroine for a charismatic young senator who really can deliver the goods on election day.
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