Former Secretary of State and Iraq Study Group co-chairman James Baker
discusses the ME with Ali G.
** ADVANTAGE JOHN EDWARDS AS OBAMA TRIES TO MATCH HILLARY AS A TRIANGULATOR? That’s what Dick Morris, the quirky yet brilliant longtime Bill Clinton guru-turned-Hillary Clinton-hater-and-Fox News commentator seems to think. He thinks the second term U.S. senator and former first lady still has the edge for the Democratic presidential nomination.
But he sees Edwards as running in the open field with his clearcut opposition to the Iraq War. The former North Carolina senator and 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee leads all the polls I have seen from the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses. And although Hillary leads in the private polling I’ve seen from second-in-the-nation Nevada, I know from also having done Nevada that an attractive and articulate trend presidential candidate, which Edwards is, can sweep to victory in the Silver State. And that is without factoring in the union support that Edwards will have in the Las Vegas market, which should comprise about 70% of the Democratic vote in Nevada come next January 19th.
** AFGHANISTAN COMMITMENT COMING UP SHORT. Secretary of State Condi Rice gave a strong pitch today at the NATO meeting in Brussels for more troops and more aid to Afghanistan. Citing an anticipated “bloody spring offensive” by the Taliban, the former Stanford University provost came away with no firm commitments for new military forces from the NATO allies, who in turn were looking for more of a commitment from the US, fearing that America was fatefully preoccupied with the collapsed policy in Iraq. Rice said that the Bush Administration will seek another $10.6 billion — a tiny fraction of what is being spent on Iraq — from Congress in training and equipment for the Afghan Army and financial aid for the government. Defense Secretary Bob Gates yesterday announced that several thousand American light infantry troops would find their deployments in Afghanistan extended to meet the threat of the resurgent Taliban, who appear to have a safe haven in the form of America’s putative ally in the Terror War, Pakistan.
Nevertheless, no firm commitments of more troops from NATO allies has been forthcoming. Of the more than 42,000 US and NATO troops in Afghanistan, 24,000 are Americans. In fact, the European Union will actually cut its level of financial aid to the Afghan government.
** PETRAEUS CONFIRMED BY SENATE. Army Lieutenant General David Petraeus has just been confirmed by the U.S. Senate as America’s new commander in Iraq. The vote was 81-0.
** OIL UP TO $55 PER BARREL. The price of crude oil has jumped up to $55 per barrel on colder weather in much of the US — the spring-like weather last month in New York City has turned to an arctic chill — and an OPEC production cut next week. What does this do to the theory that Saudi Arabia was working to pressure Iran by keeping oil prices lower?
** NOT TO BE CONFUSED WITH GENERAL JACK D. RIPPER. America’s new commander in Iraq, anointed by President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney to save their scalded bacon, is Lieutenant General David Petraeus. (For the uninitiated, that means he wears three stars.) Some on the left, given the avidity with which this appointment has been greeted by many war hawks, seem to think Petraeus is some sort of yee-haw figure out of Dr. Strangelove.
Actually, he is not. Petraeus is a warrior/scholar, a paratrooper with a PhD. from Princeton who is friendly with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. He is also the principal author of America’s new counter-insurgency doctrine, which can be viewed here. As you will see, the Petraeus doctrine can be described as high-intensity community policing. Can it work in Iraq? Are there enough troops in the “surge” that is really a slow-rolling wave? Is the situation — one part insurgency, one part sectarian war, one part externally-directed (from Iranian elements) attack on American forces, one part a piece of a larger Al Qaeda design — too far gone for these techniques?
** THE WESTLY GROUP AND KLEINER PERKINS. Back on January 9th, in this NWN video and column, former California state Controller Steve Westly, the ex-eBay honcho who ran a near miss campaign for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, laid out his future plans. Invest in and foster new greentech firms and run a political action committee with an eye to a future race for governor or senator. Since then, he’s further concretized those plans, establishing the Westly Group as a Silicon Valley venture capital firm. The Westly Group is housed in the offices of Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield, and Byers, perhaps the most important venture capital firm in America. But, contrary to a press report, Westly is not on the board of Kleiner Perkins. For one thing, as he notes, Kleiner Perkins doesn’t have a board. For another, the relationship is more of a strategic alliance.
** A TEAM ARNOLD SHIFT. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s very able and well-liked campaign press secretary, Julie Soderlund, a deputy press secretary in the Governor’s Office before that, is shifting to the private side with Wilson-Miller Communications. Wilson being Schwarzenegger’s finance chief, Marty Wilson, and Miller being former Governor Pete Wilson’s former spokeswoman Beth Miller. But even though she’s brand new to the private sector, Soderlund already has her very own first client. It’s Schwarzenegger’s political committee. The new Team Arnold committee doesn’t have a name as yet. NWN will be suggesting one.
** TAUSCHER REMOVED FROM TARGET LIST. There’s been a fair amount of lefty blogosphere chatter about Bay Area Congresswoman Ellen Tauscher becoming the “new Joe Lieberman,” i.e., a target for removal in a Democratic primary. (Not that Lieberman got removed in the end.) Why? Because she’s something of a DLC type, has a chummy photo with George W. Bush, one of her advisors said mean things about lefty bloggers, etc. The folks who’ve been pushing this notion on the Net are largely a relatively small crew who used to try to swarm NWN, insisting that Phil Angelides was really a great candidate for governor of California and was really doing much better than I reported. (Actually, he was sometimes doing worse than I reported, but I don’t like kicking a dead horse every day.) It didn’t seem like a very big deal, especially since, when I asked, they couldn’t produce the name of a credible opponent.
Then a new labor/liberal outfit emerged to keep Democrats on the straight and narrow, i.e., left-liberal path. They put Tauscher at the top of a hit list. That seemed more serious.
But not for long. She’s off the list. It seems that everyone forgot something rather important, which I’m sure I mentioned at one point. Tauscher is part of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi‘s leadership team, as a regional Democratic whip in the Congress. I know Nancy Pelosi. She comes out of machine politics in Maryland. She is not going to allow a member of her leadership team to be defeated in a Democratic primary. Even if she deserves to be.
** IRAQ STUDY GROUP INFLUENCE. Anyone who thinks that the much-maligned-from-the-right-wing Iraq Study Group is not influencing the Iraq policy already is quite mistaken. This article for the Atlantic by writer Robert Kaplan, whose work anticipated the current post-Cold War, post-modern chaos in much of the world, points up what I’ve been hinting at, that in fact the ISG is quite influential, even now at what seems to be the moment of President George W. Bush‘s defiance of his defeat in the November elections, the acknowledged collapse of his Iraq policy, and overwhelming polling numbers against him.
The Iraq “Surrender” Group, as some of the quite fragrant right-wing critics have called it — bear in mind, as the ahistorical do not, that it contains two-thirds of the troika that ran the Ronald Reagan White House during the winning of the Cold War — called for a modest surge of US troops into Iraq to try to tame an out-of-control security situation. That’s what is happening. It suggested that this be a plan for this year. That’s what it seems to be. It called for an Iraq reconstruction plan. That’s what Bush is proposing. It called for a renewed Israeli/Palestinian peace process. Bush is pushing that.
It also called for engagement with Iran and Syria on Iraq. Which Bush says he won’t do. Now. But his team says they will engage with a more amenable Iran. Which serious economic pressure and the dispatch of a second aircraft carrier battle group to the Persian Gulf may well produce. Of course, Bush himself did meet with the leader of a pro-Iranian faction in the Iraqi Parliament. Meanwhile, the British have been talking. And so has the Iraqi government we support. They apparently can’t have enough summits in Tehran.
** Monitor computer memory prices on a daily basis. Prices are relatively stable.
** Track global and national energy prices in near real time via Bloomberg. Crude oil prices are around $53 to $54 per barrel. Record heat in New York has given way to record cold.