** OBAMA STIRS IT UP IN NEW HAMPSHIRE. Senator Barack Obama drew large crowds today in his first foray into the early primary state as a media sensation, stirring Kennedyesque enthusiasm with his call for “a new sense of hope.” As someone once said, a little vagueness goes a long way in this business.
** 35 TO 24. (No, not the Saints-Cowboys score, that ended up 42-17.) Just 35 days till the season premiere of the official NWN show, 24. Should I spoil the DVD prequel of what happens in between last season and the next?
** HASTA LA VISTA, PINOCHET. New West friend Marc Cooper, who barely managed to escape with his life and that of his fiancee as a young interpreter for murdered Chilean President Salvador Allende during the bloody 1973 coup that installed the brutal regime of right-wing General Augusto Pinochet, reflects on today’s passing of the former dictator. Pinochet died on the verge of facing various murder and corruption charges. Today, in an intriguing irony, is International Human Rights Day.
** WHY JANE HARMAN WAS THE BEST CHOICE FOR HOUSE INTEL CHAIR. I’ve been reporting that incoming House Intelligence Committee Chairman Silvestre Reyes, a Texas Democrat who was in the Border Patrol for 27 years, is not, shall we say, highly regarded among foreign policy and intelligence experts. A “timeserver” on the committee, as I quoted one intelligence expert on a few occasions.
It’s actually a little worse than I thought.
Reyes proved unable to answer some very basic questions in an interview with Congressional Quarterly. As you will see, he seems to have less basic understanding of key elements of his job than any well-informed reader of NWN would have. And this is not exactly the global intelligence primer here.
Chairman Reyes does not know the religious makeup of Al Qaeda. Nor does he know the makeup of Hezbollah. He actually believed that Al Qaeda includes Sunnis and Shiites, the two fundamental rival sects of Islam. Actually, he thought Al Qaeda is mostly Shiite, which is not only wrong, but horribly wrong. (They’re Sunnis, of course, which is why so many of the 9/11 bombers were Saudis. Iran is Shiite, which is why the Saudis say they may intervene when the US withdraws from Iraq.) For someone who has spent years — or “served time,” as my source had it weeks ago as he typed the congressman as a typical political hack — on the House Intelligence Committee and the House Armed Services Committee — to have this level of ignorance is astounding.
LA Congresswoman Jane Harman may be a brusque pain in the butt at times, and undoubtedly reminded incoming House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on more than a few occasions of her intellectual credentials, but even when she is wrong, she knows what she is talking about. And, unlike Pelosi’s first alternative to Harman, Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings, she didn’t lose a federal judgeship for malfeasance in office.
Of course, let’s not forget that outgoing Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld was shocked by the guerilla war in Iraq, the very existence of which he denied for months. And all the other misjudgments that have led us to this preposterous situation.
** OBAMA DAY IN NEW HAMPSHIRE. Media sensation Barack Obama, the freshman Illinois senator who has vaulted into the top ranks of presidential prospects, makes a highly-anticipated trip today to New Hampshire, the legendary early primary state. Along with a few thousand activists, 150 to 200 media reps are expected to be on hand as he signs copies of his best-selling book, “The Audacity of Hope,” and then speaks to a crowd of state Democrats celebrating last month’s Democratic victories.
On the strength of his polished and rousing keynote address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Obama has emerged as a major player in national Democratic politics. But is he for real, or is he someone famous for being famous?
He runs a distant second to Hillary Rodham Clinton in national Democratic polls, roughly tied with John Edwards and Al Gore, the latter of whom may not be running. But he has the buzz.
One major politician who I know quite a few NWN readers like thinks he is for real. He does make an impressive impression. Yet he was a state legislator less than two years ago. He’s never been in a real, competitive statewide race, much less a national campaign. Obama was elected to the U.S. Senate in mostly blue Illiniois. His first Republican opponent, millionaire Jack Ryan, was forced to drop out when records of his divorce with Star Trek star Jeri Ryan, a former Miss Illinois, were revealed. He was alleged to have forced her to go to live sex clubs with him, where of course he allegedly wanted her to perform. Ryan dropped out of the race. The Republicans then imported right-winger Alan Keyes from Maryland to run against him. It’s safe to say Obama’s never been in a real campaign.
Then there’s the question of expertise. Would America elect a president with so little national security credentials in such a dangerous time? And, of course, the biggest elephant in the room. Obama is African-American.
But he’s a very smart guy — first black president of the Harvard Law Review (I suspect he knows the difference between Sunni and Shia) — and a lot of people are excited.
** NEWSOM STRONG IN SAN FRANCISCO. As San Francisco Mayor and rising Democratic star Gavin Newsom gears up to run for re-election — you’ll recall that NWN didn’t buy his seeming reluctance as amounting to much — it seems that he is in a very strong position. A San Francisco Chronicle survey of potential opponents finds little appetite to take him on. Since Newsom has an 80% favorable rating in the City by the Bay, that’s not terribly surprising.