Arizona Democrats seemed to have long ago given up, rolled over, and played dead when it came to John McCain’s Senate seat. He waltzed away with every election since 1986.
That’s about to change. On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick announced her candidacy for his Senate seat. She’s such a strong candidate that, within hours of her announcement, Roll Callchanged their rating of the race from ‘Republican Favored’ to ‘Leaning Republican’. And that’s just the beginning.
Kirkpatrick has been a resilient campaigner. She first won her seat in Arizona’s 1st Congressional District in 2008, lost it in 2010 to Tea Partier Paul Gosar, regained it in 2012, then held onto it during the Republican sweep of 2014. The right has tried to characterize her as President Obama’s foot soldier and she is decidedly liberal, but the 1st District swings both ways, politically. It contains the largest Native American population of any district in the nation and includes the northern university town of Flagstaff.
Kirkpatrick has deep ties to the northern part of the state, especially with the Navajo Nation. Her emphasis is on jobs, jobs, jobs — plus veterans’ affairs and restoring the nation’s infrastructure. In the video of her announcement, she says:
“I’ve got a vision for the future of Arizona — and it’s all about jobs. I know this isn’t going to be an easy race. But I’ve got my boots on, my sleeves are rolled up, and I’m ready to work.”
There’s still time for other Democrats to join the primary race. A redistricting case before the Supreme Court may influence other candidates’ decisions, as it may change the composition of districts from which Democratic candidates like Rep. Kyrsten Sinema would have to run, increasing the tilt toward the Republican Party. The case was heard in August, with a decision to come soon.
Nevertheless, Kirkpatrick is an extremely credible candidate who can draw donors from both within and without the state, especially since McCain is in increasing trouble with Arizona voters. According to a recent report by Public Policy Polling (PPP), only 41% of Republican primary voters approve of the job he’s doing. Among those who identify as ‘very conservative’, only 11% say they would vote for McCain. He’s likely to also face a strong challenge from the far right, which could help consume some of his own vast financial resources.
To get a preview of what McCain can expect from candidate Ann Kirkpatrick, watch her announcement video below:
Going into 2016, Mitt is “determined to re-brand himself as authentic” — which is indeed the very essence of Mitt
If you’re looking for the very stuff of Willard Mitt “Mitt” Romney, the pure essence that lies at the center of his political soul, it can be found in the fourth paragraph of Tuesday’sWashington Post story on the embryonic stages of Mitt’s 2016 presidential campaign (emphasis added):
If he runs again in 2016, Romney is determined to re-brand himself as authentic, warts and all, and central to that mission is making public what for so long he kept private. He rarely discussed his religious beliefs and practices in his failed 2008 and 2012 races, often confronting suspicion and bigotry with silence as his political consultants urged him to play down his Mormonism.
This is Mitt Romney’s burden – a never-ending struggle to convince the country that he’s a normal fellow who does normal fellow things. If only America knew the “real” Mitt Romney, if only they could just see Mitt being Mitt, well, by gosh and by golly, they’d make him president tomorrow! Apparently an important part of the strategy he’s settled on, per the Post, is to talk about being a Mormon, recite Scripture, and “crack jokes about Joseph Smith’s polygamy.” Then he’ll emerge from his custom-built “manse complete with a ‘secret door’ hideaway room and an outdoor spa off the master bath” to give a speech or two on poverty, which will be “a central theme of his next campaign.”
The problem for Romney is that he’s tried this “I’m authentic! Really!” routine so many times before, and it has obviously never worked. He foundered in the 2008 primaries against John McCain and Mike Huckabee because they came off as more genuine in their policy positions and more comfortable in their ideological skins than Romney, who desperately wanted Republican voters to believe that he was a true conservative and a real person. And so going into 2012, Romney and his advisers were committed to show the political world that Mitt was a conservative Average Joe.
They sent Mitt to NASCAR events, where he forged his link with the common man by talking about his wealthy friends who own NASCAR teams. They sent him down to the South, where we sampled the local cuisine and took a stab at speaking the regional dialect: “I’m learning to say ‘y’all’ and I like grits. Strange things are happening to me.” These are the ways Mitt Romney tries to connect with people. He’s not offensive and he’s not completely robotic – he just has no idea what people expect of him.
The Romney awkwardness finally came to a head in early October 2012. Behind in all the polls and not gaining traction on any issue, Mitt’s people fed to Politico the story of how Romney’s family usurped the campaign strategists and “pushed for a new message, putting an emphasis on a softer and more moderate image for the GOP nominee — a ‘let Mitt be Mitt’ approach they believed more accurately reflected the looser, generous and more approachable man they knew.” At the time the story ran, Romney was bouncing back in the polls owing to his stronger-than-expected performance in the first debate against Obama, and Team Romney was eager to paint the turnaround as a consequence of The Authentic Romney finally emerging. “When the history of this campaign is written, the family intervention will be among the most important turning points in the Romney saga,” Politico reported at the time.
Of course, Mitt spent the entire month of October “being Mitt” and still lost handily – turns out you can’t erase multiple years of poor campaigning and quell voters’ long-standing suspicions with a few weeks of not-totally-incompetent messaging.
And now, after letting himself be himself and failing, Romney wants to rebrand as a still more authentic version of himself. There is no known limit to the depths of Romney’s authenticity. And that, again, gets to Romney’s problem of never knowing what people expect of him. He keeps promising us over and over that we still haven’t seen the “real” Mitt Romney. He probably thinks that’s what people want to hear, and doesn’t quite get that he’s just confirming to anyone who still cares that every Mitt Romney we’ve seen up to now has been fake.
Mike Huckabee prepares for a 2016 run, the first popularly elected black senator dies, and more.
1. Mike Huckabee leaves Fox News to consider 2016 bid
Fox News host Mike Huckabee announced Saturday he would leave his TV show while weighing whether to mount another White House bid. The former Arkansas governor, who fell short to eventual nominee John McCain in 2008, said the speculation surrounding his intentions was not fair to Fox and that the “honorable thing to do at this point” was leave the network. Huckabee said he would make a final decision on a 2016 bid by late spring. [Politico]
2. Edward Brooke, first elected black senator, dies
Edward W. Brooke, the first African-American ever elected by popular vote to serve in the U.S. Senate, died Saturday at the age of 95. A Republican, Brooke won his first Senate election in Massachusetts in 1966, and later became the first Republican senator to call for President Richard Nixon’s resignation. The only two black senators to precede Brooke, Blanche K. Bruce and Hiram R. Revels, were both elected by Mississippi’s legislature — not the people — in the 1870s. [The Boston Globe]
3. Israel withholds Palestinian tax payment
Israel on Saturday froze about $127 million in tax payments in retaliation for Palestine applying to join the International Criminal Court. Palestine moved on Friday to join the ICC in hopes of addressing alleged Israeli war crimes. Collected by Israel on behalf of Palestine, the tax revenue makes up more than half of the Palestinian Authority’s annual budget. [The Wall Street Journal, Al Jazeera]
4. North Korea blasts U.S. over Sony hack sanctions
North Korea on Sunday struck back at the U.S. over new sanctions aimed at punishing the Hermit Kingdom for its alleged role in the massive Sony cyberattack. Imposed Friday, the sanctions target three companies and 10 government officials the U.S. claims had a hand in the hack. In response, North Korea continued to deny any involvement in the breach, instead accusing Washington of “groundlessly stirring up bad blood” and maintaining an “inveterate repugnancy and hostility” toward the Pyongyang. [BBC]
5. Funeral to be held Sunday for slain NYPD officer
The funeral of New York Police Department officer Wenjian Liu, who was killed in the line of duty last month, will be held Sunday in Brooklyn. Thousands of police officers and politicians from around the country are expected to attend the memorial service. At a funeral last weekend for Rafael Ramos, the other officer killed in the December ambush, some members of the city’s police force turned their backs on Mayor Bill de Blasio, highlighting lingering tension between City Hall and the NYPD. [CBS]
6. U.N. report: 12,300 civilian deaths in Iraq last year
An estimated 12,282 civilians died last year in violence across Iraq, making it the deadliest year there since 2007, according to the United Nations. The bulk of the deaths came later in the year as ISIS gained ground in the country. “This is a very sad state of affairs,” Nickolay Mladenov, a U.N. representative for Iraq, said. [The Los Angeles Times]
7. Boko Haram abducts dozens in Nigeria
The militant Islamist group Boko Haram last week abducted about 40 men and boys from a village in northern Nigeria. The group seized its captives on Dec. 31, but news of the abduction didn’t trickle out for a few days due to faulty communications infrastructure destroyed in previous Boko Haram attacks. [CNN]
8. Pope Francis names 15 new cardinals
Pope Francis on Sunday named 15 new cardinals from disparate places around the globe, saying the selections were intended to “show the indelible tie with the church of Rome to churches in the world.” Francis tabbed cardinals from Myanmar, Ethiopia, and Tonga, among others. [The Associated Press]
9. Oregon, Ohio, to change name for college football championship
The town of Oregon, Ohio, says it will temporarily change its name ahead of next week’s college football title game. The first ever College Football Playoff National Championship pits the Oregon Ducks against the Ohio State Buckeyes, which prompted two Oregon — the suburb, not the state — natives to petition the city council for a name change. Oregon City Administrator Michael Beazley told the Toledo Free Press the town had not settled on a new name yet, but that they were “going to do something” in the next few days. [Toledo Free Press, ESPN]
10. Opry star Jimmy Dickens dead at 94
Jimmy Dickens, a Country Music Hall of Fame member known best for his decades-long presence at the Grand Ole Opry, died Friday at a hospital in Nashville after suffering a stroke. He was 94 years old. Standing at just 4-foot-11, the country music star earned the nicknames “Little Jimmy Dickens,” and, as he called himself, “Mighty Mouse in Pajamas.” [The New York Times]
Meet The Press: White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; Former Secretary of State James Baker; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Roundtable: Nia-Malika Henderson(Washington Post), Helene Cooper (New York Times), Republican Strategist Mike Murphy and Jim VandeHei (Politico).
Face The Nation: Secretary of State John Kerry; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX); “The Roosevelts” Roundtable: Filmmaker Ken Burns, Presidential Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin and Author Geoffrey Ward.
This Week: White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA); Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; Roundtable: Democratic Strategist Donna Brazileand Republican Strategist Matthew Dowd.
Fox News Sunday: Former CIA/NSA Director Gen. Michael Hayden; Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC); Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI); Roundtable: Brit Hume (Fox News), Kristen Powers (USA Today), Republican Strategist Karl Rove and Juan Williams (Fox News).
State of the Union: White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough; Major General Paul Eaton (Ret.); Lieutenant General James Dubik (Ret.); Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN); Rep. John Conyers (D-MI); Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA); Roundtable: Former White House Press Secretary Jay Carney, Republican Strategist Lanhee Chen, S.E. Cupp (CNN) and LZ Granderson (ESPN).
60 Minutes will feature: a report on severe shortcomings in the state of mental health care for young people (preview); a report on the FBI’s 16-year hunt for Boston gangster Whitey Bulger and his girlfriend (preview); and, an interview with University of Alabama football coach Nick Saban (preview).
Along with this good friend Sen. Lindsey Graham(R-SC), Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) penned a New York Timesop-ed this weekend calling on President Barack Obama to “confront ISIS now” and criticizing him for saying “We don’t have a strategy yet.” But asked by Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren what the U.S. should do about ISIS Tuesday afternoon, his first response was two short words: “Kill ‘em.”
“They’ve got to be destroyed, and you’ve got to have a goal, the president does, and we have to have a strategy to fit that goal and policies that will implement it. We have none of the above,” McCain said on Fox. He called Obama’s recent comments about the “messy” world “one of most unbelievable comments ever made.”
McCain continued his push for war in both Iraq and Syria, saying the fight requires the “full weight of American air power” as well as “some more boots and support on the ground.” He added, “All this didn’t have to happen. We could have left a force behind in Iraq that would have stabilized Iraq. And we are paying an incredible price for the president’s leading from behind, whether it be in Iraq, in Syria, in Libya, or a number of countries in the Middle East. We are seeing the chickens coming home to roost.”
The senator proceeded to seriously misspeak when he described a 2013 meeting in the White House in which everyone on the administration’s national security team “recommended arming ISIS.” But, he explained, “the president, by himself, turned it down.”
What McCain likely meant to say was that Obama’s team, including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, wanted to arm the “moderate” Syrian rebels in their fight against President Bashar al-Assad, but Obama did not want to. Van Susteren neglected to correct his mistake.
As Obama decided at the time, the lack of distinction between the “moderate” rebels and the Islamic extremists, including ISIS, who were fighting Assad made the idea of arming any opposition in Syria an extremely risky proposition.
On the day that the video ISIS beheading U.S. journalist James Foley was released, the group VoteVets sent out a fundraising email claiming McCain had actually posed for photos with ISIS fighters in Syria. McCain has fought back hard against those claims, even pointing out that ISIS has labeled him a top enemy in order to prove his point:
While the claims that McCain “palled around” with ISIS fighters remain unfounded, his slip of the tongue on Fox News Tuesday afternoon demonstrates the complexities of the situation both two years ago and today in Syria and Iraq. On top of that, it bolsters Obama’s inclination to act prudently when it comes to the perilous situation in the region. The solution to this problem ultimately has to be more thought out than “kill ‘em.”
On MSNBC’s Politics Nation with host Al Sharpton, Salon columnist Joan Walsh addressed Sen. John McCain’s (R) claims in which he said,, “It’s just been cowardly. It’s a cowardly administration that we failed to give the Ukrainians weapons with which to defend themselves.”
“You don’t say that about the commander-in-chief,” Walsh said.
Walsh went on to say, “This is a man, I respect him for his service, but if we’re going to talk cowardly, somebody tried to put Sarah Palin a heartbeat away from the presidency so that he hoped to hold onto his right-wing base.” Walsh added, “I mean, somebody that has a lot to atone for and a lot to think about and shouldn’t be tossing around words like cowardly.”
Walsh also slammed McCain for calling the President AWOL, saying, “You know what they do to people who are AWOL. This is, again, the extremism of this rhetoric.”
This simply sounds like sour grapes directed toward Obama supporters, but McCain and his ilk are not saying these things to upset Obama’s base. Right-wing politicians are trying to stir up their Obama-hating base so they will come to the polls in 2014. They’ll worry about 2016 after the mid-term elections.
When he appeared on MSNBC and CNN Thursday afternoon, shortly after news broke of the Malaysia Airlines passenger jet that had been shot down over Ukraine, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) warned that if Russia turned out to be responsible, there would be “hell to pay.” But by the time he joinedSean Hannity on Fox News last night, he had turned his outrage directly at President Barack Obama.
“It’s just been cowardly,” McCain said. “It’s a cowardly administration that we failed to give the Ukrainians weapons with which to defend themselves.” He speculated that the Russian separatists who allegedly shot down the plane “may not even have occupied and had access to these weapons, which apparently they got at an airfield,” if the U.S. had intervened earlier in the Ukrainian conflict with Russia.
McCain then told Hannity what he would do in response to the deadly crash:
“First, give the Ukrainians weapons to defend themselves and regain their territory. Second of all, move some of our troops in to areas that are being threatened by Vladimir Putin, in other countries like the Baltics and others. Move missile defense into the places where we got out of, like the Czech Republic and Poland and other places. And impose the harshest possible sanctions on Vladimir Putin and Russia. And that’s just for openers.”
And just like that, the likely accidental shooting down of a Malaysian plane carrying mostly Dutch passengers by Russian separatists in Ukraine is President Obama’s fault.
In a move that can be seen as either desperation or ‘we’re all gonna die anyway, so what the hell?’ conservatives are casting their eyes westward to a man — a stoic man, an honest and true man of values, standing knee deep in the Pacific Ocean watching the sun go down on America — as their savior in 2016.
That man is a man called Mitt. Family man, businessman, gentle and attentive lover, and owner of both a car elevator and a losing career in elections.
Surveying the 2016 GOP field and falling into a pit of existential dread and despair where there is no light, no hope, no exit, nothing but a bleak meaningless abyss of wretchedness and desolation, Republicans see hope in the sparkle of Mitt Romney’s eyes and the Earth-mother joy in life his wife Ann brings to the party.
So the ‘Why not Mitt?’ crowd is going to throw some shit against the wall and see what sticks. After all, that is what fan-mag Politico does.
In an article subheaded, “I’m absolutely serious,” a former George W Bush White House person you have never heard of states his case.
Pointing to a recent poll stating 45 percent [or 3 percent less than voted for him in 2012] of voters polled said the United States would be better off today with Romney as president, Emil Henry says that Mitt Romney was very well received indeed at a rave he threw for a bunch of his pals in Utah:
That was also the question on not just the minds but the lips of many at a recent private gathering in Utah known as the E2 Summit, Romney’s now-annual retreat for high-profile politicians, policymakers, innovators, entrepreneurs, business leaders, top bundlers and, of course, a core group of long-time Romney loyalists.
Noting that the GOP field is “fractured” and filled with loons, untested loons, corrupt loons, and loser loons, Henry suggests that Romney is better than nothing and, besides, Morning Caffeinated Anger Dad Joe Scarborough — who may or may not have had a hand in a rage-filled explosion of lust and betrayal resulting in a staffer’s death – says Romney is ‘da bomb,’ which is a phrase popular with middle-aged white men who consider themselves ‘hip to the kids lingo, yo.’
MSNBC host Joe Scarborough, who opened the conference in Utah, said it best: There is no Republican who can “fill the stage” better than Mitt Romney.
Again: YOU DON’T HAVE TO GO TO CLEVELAND IN THE SUMMER, REPUBLICANS. DO YOU WANT THIS GIFT-WRAPPED?
Lastly Henry notes that all the other Presidential failures (George McGovern, Michael Dukakis, Bob Dole, Al Gore, John Kerry and John McCain) were “career politicians.”
Where Romney stands out versus every failed nominee of the last half century is that he, a lifelong businessman with just one successful four-year stint as governor of Massachusetts, is not a career politician.
This is true. Romney ran against Ted Kennedy for a Senate seat and lost in 1994. He then licked his wounds, saved the Olympics, and came back and was elected governor of Massachusetts in 2002. Then he ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008, only to lose to shouty Palin-annointer John McCain. And most recently he ran against Barack Obama in 2012 and lost again giving him a career record of 1-3.
So while it is true that he is not a “career politician,” that might have something to do with the fact that people who vote cooperated and kept him that way by giving him a helping hand.
With one finger extended.
So, yeah, he’s your guy. His record speaks for itself and he’s totally due so you guys should do this thing.
After the last two elections, we expect nothing less.
Republicans have their queen of the 1 percent. In the wake of her flip comments about having been “dead broke” and not “truly well off,” the GOP and its conservative echo chamber are portraying Hillary Clinton as the reincarnation of Leona Helmsley. Hoping to provide additional fodder for the right, Bloomberg News suggested estate tax supporter Hillary is a hypocrite because of the ways the Clintons manage their finances to reduce their estate tax exposure. The right-wing research group America Rising notified its email list that Secretary Clinton “might be advised to take a lengthy sabbatical from her $200k per pop speaking tour and private shopping sprees at Bergdorfs to try and reconnect with what’s happening back here on Earth.”
Of course, it is the GOP hoping the American people slept through the last decade here on planet Earth. After all, it was President George W. Bush, then worth $21 million, who described his plan for life after the White House, “I’ll give some speeches, just to replenish the ol’ coffers.” And as it turns out, the Clintons have released more than 30 years of tax returns, which means their finances—unlike those of the Romneys and McCains—are no secret.
To be sure, Hillary and Bill Clinton are “obviously blessed.” As the New York Times reported during the 2008 presidential primaries, between 2001 and 2008 the Clintons earned a whopping $109 million, almost all of it from speaking fees and book royalties. But because almost all of their earnings are taxed as regular income, the Clintons disproved Leona Helmsley’s motto that “only the little people pay taxes.”
During that time, theClintons paid $33.8 million in federal taxes and claimed deductions for $10.2 million in charitable contributions…In releasing seven years of tax returns, plus a summary of income for last year, the Clinton campaign noted that the couple had disclosed all their income tax records since Mr. Clinton was governor of Arkansas…”The Clintons have now made public 30 years of tax returns, a record matched by few people in public service,” said Jay Carson, a campaign spokesman. “None of Hillary Clinton’s presidential opponents have revealed anything close to this amount of personal financial information.”
Certainly not John McCain or Mitt Romney. And while the details of their finances remained secret, their plans to dramatically slash their own tax bills were quite public, as you’ll see below.
Thanks to the wealth of his beer heiress wife Cindy, John McCain had the luxury to forget how many homes he owns. But with his proposals to cut income tax rates for the wealthy, slash the capital gains tax rate in half and eliminate the estate tax, President McCain would have delivered a massive windfall to his family for years to come.
Then, of course, there was Mitt Romney, the GOP’s once and possibly future White House hopeful. Worth at least a quarter of a billion dollars, the son of an auto company magnate ran on a platform of keeping as much of it away from Uncle Sam as possible.
Thanks to lax campaign laws that tilt the playing field in favor of the rich, Mitt was able to spend $45 million of his own money in his losing effort to secure the GOP nomination in 2008. Hoping to become John McCain’s running mate, he parts with the loss of a fifth of his net worth and over two decades of tax returns. As Brian Williams pointed out during a January 2012 debate, “You said during the McCain vetting process you turned over 23 years which you had at the ready because, to quote you, you`re something of a packrat.” But in 2012, the American people only get two because, as Mitt helpfully explained two years ago:
“I don’t put out which tooth paste I use either. It’s not that I have something to hide.”
Of course, Mitt Romney had a lot to hide. For starters, few Americans would describe themselves as “part of the 80 to 90 percent of us” who are middle class, when just the “not very much” $374,000 he earned in speaking fees in 2011 put him in the top one percent of income earners. As I noted back in 2012:
It’s bad enough that the $250 million man Romney pays less than 15 percent of his income to Uncle Sam each year, a rate well below most middle class families. Worse still, the notorious “carried interest” exemption for private equity managers Romney wants to preserve taxes him not at the ordinary income rate of 35 percent but at the capital gains rate now half of what it was only 15 years ago. (As it turns out, most of Mitt’s millions each year come from his controversial former employer, Bain Capital.) On top of his Cayman Island investments and past Swiss bank accounts, Romney has created a $100 million trust fund for his sons – tax free. Thanks to some (apparently legal) chicanery on the part of his former employer, Mitt has also accumulated an IRA worth a reported $100 million. (The Romney camp even complained about that, worrying that recent tax code changes has “created a tax problem” for the former Massachusetts governor and asking, “Who wants to have $100 million in an IRA?”) And largely unmentioned, Mitt wants to eliminate the estate tax, a change that would not only save his clan over $80 million, but more than pay for the $45 million of his own money he spent on his 2008 campaign.
Neither McCain nor Romney paid anywhere near the Clintons’ 30 percent tax rate from 2001 to 2008. For his part, in 2012 Romney boasted that over the previous decade, “Every year, I’ve paid at least 13 percent, and if you add, in addition, the amount that goes to charity, why the number gets well above 20 percent.” Of course, if you added the Clintons’ $10 million in contributions to their own and other charities, why the number gets well above 20 percent—times two.As the Washington Post reported, in 2000 the Clintons were in debt to the tune of $10 million. Thanks in part to those stratospheric speaking fees, by 2004 those debts were paid off. Regardless, Hillary Clinton is going to need a better approach to putting her newfound status as “truly well-off” if she wants to succeed her husband in the Oval Office. She might start by borrowing from Bill’s script. As he put it in 2004:
“You might remember that when I was in office, on occasion, the Republicans were kind of mean to me. But soon as I got out and made money, I began part of the most important group in the world to them. It was amazing. I never thought I’d be so well cared for by the president and the Republicans in Congress. I almost sent them a thank-you note for my tax cuts – until I realized that the rest of you were paying for the bill for it, and then I thought better of it.”
Republicans trying to paint any Democratic presidential candidate as “out of touch” with every day Americans should think the better of it, too.
In the history books, the U.S. Republicans will never live down the fact that they “Iranified” Iraq, disrupting thousands of years of calibrating regional balance. That country long served as a buffer state for one purpose only — to suppress the implosion of the region. True, the Democrats who backed the invasion aren’t much better, because they were swayed by the idiotic “patriotic” fervor of 2003.
But at least they seem to recognize the error, even if it should have been visible at the time: Any U.S. leaders who take an action that, historically speaking, must inevitably hand Iraq to Iran and restore Iran as the dominant regional power needs to have their heads examined.
It is well known that John McCain, the former U.S. presidential candidate and prisoner of war, likes to pour oil into any fire he sees. It is in his nature to do so. The question is why we let him do so without at least first forcing him to pay penance for his past sins of warmongering.
BOMB, BOMB, BOMB
The senior senator from Arizona now wants to take his pyromaniac style of foreign policy into Iraq once more, echoing his “bomb, bomb, bomb” spirit of a decade ago. In that, he is guided not by any sense of patriotism, but by all the impetuousness of an anarchist that he can muster.
McCain is not only one of the chief propellants of the American pyromania that destroyed Iraq, but also one of the most senior still holding political office.
The most basic fact of the matter is this: Anybody who was out to topple Saddam Hussein — and thereby turn all of Iraq into a powder keg — at best showed complete ignorance of the history of the region.
A deep-seated sense of religiously fueled enmity throughout the ages has shaped life in West Asia for ages. Shiites and Sunnis, when pitted against each other, and then presented with an opportunity, have always been inclined to make a blood sport out of the pursuit of the other.
The crucial role that Iraq has traditionally played in that kind of highly combustible environment was that it served as a satellite buffer state that essentially separated the Levant and Asia Minor from Iran/Persia, providing a check on the expansion of empires from either direction.
Internally divided due to shifting borders and occupiers from repeated conquests, Iraq has often stood at the crossroads between large Western Sunni powers and the Shia Persian power to the east.
Even before the rise of Islam and its factions, the area was the dividing zone between western and eastern empires. Even Rome sometimes held Mesopotamia, during its long-running struggle with what is now Iran.
However, with the Cheney/Bush/McCain clan’s resolutely amateurish move into Iraq, that crucial buffer disappeared and turned itself into a wall of fire.
Their collective amateurishness is only superseded by the ahistorical U.S. foreign policy-making in the region.
THE UK GOVERNMENT FAILED
The whole Iraq episode and the current conundrum also show what a terrible ally the United Kingdom has been for the United States over the past decade or so.
True, the post-Empire UK has long made it a habit of punching above its weight class, usually by acting as America’s sidekick. But for all the immense ambitions that this points to, traditionally the UK government has at least usually been mindful of history.
To be sure, the British Foreign Office had enough smart people who knew about Iraq’s historic role inside the Muslim world as a buffer state — to keep religious emotions from exploding.
Evidently, Tony Blair was so eager to please his American master that this most critical advice was suppressed. Even if the American ally had been unprepared or unwilling to listen, it would have been all the more incumbent on the UK to speak out loud.
That is what good allies do. In fact, that is what Germany and its then-Chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, did at the time, when he warned the U.S. government publicly of an ill-advised “adventure.”
Which is exactly how this all turned out to be. But that public courage, of course, didn’t keep Schroeder from becoming the U.S. political establishment’s favorite bête noire. Yes, it is true that once he left office, he made some distasteful career choices.
But that does not in any sense invalidate the character he displayed while in office, when he warned the Americans of the inferno(s) to come.
Tony Blair, meanwhile, the snake-charming, bomb-throwing sidekick to George Bush, is still in the good graces of many Americans. The only promising step of sorts toward penitence that Blair has made since then is that he has converted to Catholicism.
While that is very unusual for a (former) British leader, he is at least on the right track. He has much to atone for. It will take a long line of Catholic priests to hear all the confessions Mr. Blair still needs to make.
On the U.S. side of the disaster initiated in 2003, however, it seems that all such confessions of guilt will go entirely unspoken. If the recent round of cheerleading for re-invasion is any indication, McCain and friends are not only unrepentant but still actively in denial that they ever made any mistake in the first place.