A presidential candidate's usual fake deficit-reduction plan involves promises to "crack down on tax loopholes" and the like. Witness Barack Obama's pledge to "end wasteful government spending" and "make government more accountable and efficient." Good luck with that, Barack. As any student of the federal budget knows, such savings rarely materialize or are much smaller than claimed.
But John McCain's vow to balance the federal budget by the end of his first term takes the cake. Take a gander at how he plans to pull off this feat:
The McCain administration would reserve all savings from victory in the Iraq and Afghanistan operations in the fight against Islamic extremists for reducing the deficit. Since all their costs were financed with deficit spending, all their savings must go to deficit reduction."
Given today's news that Iraq is considering imposing a timetable for withdrawal on U.S. troops, McCain may get his "victory" there sooner than he imagines.
But Afghanistan? That's another story. As the Washington Post notes, there were more Western troop deaths in Afghanistan in May and June than there were in Iraq. The Taliban has proven in recent weeks that it can threaten Kabul and Kandahar, while slinking back across the border to safe havens in Pakistan. What's McCain's plan for turning this situation around quickly? Imagine telling your mortgage lender: "My plan to pay off this debt in four years is to get a new job that pays me a million dollars a year." Sure, it could happen. But I doubt the bank would be impressed by the proposal.
The politics of pushing a deficit-reduction plan right now are odd, too. Has there been any public clamor for such a thing? With
gas prices soaring, the job market tanking, and the cost of everything
going up, are Americans really worried about the budget deficit
right now? I fail to see the political payoff here. Time to bring in some new talent?
In the harshest criticism yet of the stolen election in Zimbabwe, neighboring Botswana called today for the African Union to ban Mugabe from its meetings:
In our considered view, it therefore follows that the representatives of the current government in Zimbabwe should be excluded from attending SADC (Southern African Development Community) and African Union meetings," a text of summit remarks by Vice President Mompati Merafhe said.
"Their participation in the meetings of the two organisations would give unqualified legitimacy to a process which cannot be considered legitimate."
"Botswana's position is that such a scenario would be unacceptable."
Unconfirmed reports claim that Nigeria has also refused to recognize Mugabe's government.
Botswana's stand came during closed-door proceedings today at the AU summit in Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt. It remains to be seen what effect it will have on Zimbabwe, but it's good to see that some rulers in Africa appear to be showing a little spine.
They'll need it. Mugabe has been defiant over last Friday's fraudulent election, where he was the only candidate running and many citizens were threatened with violence if they did not vote for the 84-year-old ruler. Responding to international criticism today, a Mugabe spokesman told the United States and other Western states to "go hang a thousand times."
Incredibly, the situation is Zimbabwe grows ever more outrageous. There is simply no doubt that the runoff election on June 27 is going to be stolen by Mugabe's thugs. Opposition rallies have been banned. Aid organizations have been shuttered and diplomats detained. In a country on the brink of famine, authorities yesterday confiscated food aid earmarked for starving children and doled it out to Mugabe's supporters instead. Jails are being emptied to make room for opposition troublemakers -- anything to intimidate people away from polls (as if top generals weren't already doing a fine job of that). Abductions, beatings, and torture are commonplace since opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai bested President Mugabe at the polls in March.
But where are the outraged public statements? Hitchens is right: A denunciation from Mandela would boom in this enviroment, as would the pope's. (Good to see Desmond Tutu calling Mugabe's regime a "nightmare" yesterday.) South Africa's Mbeki has shown himself spineless in denouncing Mugabe's actions, and this recent statement by President Bush is simply not going to cut it. The polite applause Mugabe earned on his recent trip to Rome was just too much.
What's Bush got to lose? He should be out there every day condemning the brutalization of Zimbabwe's opposition and the inevitability that the country simply won't get anything approaching a free and fair election on June 27. What's preventing him -- or anyone else in a position of power -- from doing more than just throwing stern glances in Mugabe's direction?
Seven years ago, it was Albanian-Macedonian tensions that brought the Republic of Macedonia to the brink of war, but given what happened in the days surrounding Macedonia's parliamentary elections last Sunday, it now appears that Albanian-on-Albanian violence poses the greatest threat to Macedonian stability.
Compared with other former Yugoslav republics, Macedonia has been quite the success story. Its declaration of independence from Yugoslavia was followed by years of relative peace. Violence flared up in 2001 when Albanian guerrilla forces launched attacks on the majority Slavic Macedonian authority, but within the year the respective Macedonian and Albanian leaderships had signed on to the Ohrid Agreement, upping protection and rights for Macedonia's 25 percent ethnic Albanian minority.
And for the most part, Ohrid seems to have worked. Today, Macedonia is an EU candidate country, and it fell just short of a NATO membership invite (no thanks to its neighbor to the south). But rifts within the Albanian community -- between the Albanian Democratic Union for Integration (DUI) and the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) -- could launch the country back into pre-Ohrid bloodshed. And if that's the case, the death count has already begun.
Violence started in the weeks leading up to Sunday's elections with clashes between DUI and DPA members but culminated yesterday when a man with a Kalashnikov reportedly threatened voters at a polling station in the majority Albanian town of Aracinovo while his men stuffed the ballot box. Other sources report that Macedonian police in Aracinovo shot three men, killing one and injuring two in a clash with six armed individuals. The DUI announced that the injured men were party members, accusing the DPA and the police of collaborating to stir up trouble.
That the violence has largely been contained within the Albanian community is a good sign, but intra-Albanian tensions could nonetheless hamper Macedonia's future government.
For months, the rough consensus of the pundit class has been that Iraq is an albatross around the neck of John McCain. Surge or no surge, the U.S. public had largely made up its collective mind about the war -- the toll on the military, the massive expenditures, and everything else -- and decided it wanted to get out. (As über-pollster Andrew Kohut observers, however voters are divided on how fast to get out, and they overwhelmingly prefer McCain to Barack Obama on national security.)
But what happens when the facts change? May saw the lowest number of U.S. combat deaths of any month in the war's five-year history, and Iraqis are increasingly taking the lead. Iraqi military operations in Basra, Sadr City, and Mosul have all gone better than many outside observers expected. Although it's easy to imagine the violence picking back up again, it's also conceivable that, by November, Iraq could be very calm indeed.
The Washington Post editorial board seems convinced that this will present trouble for Obama. I'm not so sure. It's possible the war staying out of the news will only help focus the race on the economy, where the Democrats have an advantage. But I can see it cutting both ways. At the very least, it will be awkward for Obama to pivot from saying, "the war is lost, let's get out" to "the war is won, let's go home." Readers, what do you think?
Here in the United States, the military has a strong tradition of staying out of politics. Last week, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff recently reminded the Armed Forces of this duty in an essay for Joint Force Quarterly, writing:
The U.S. military must remain apolitical at all times. It is and must always be a neutral instrument of the state, no matter which party holds sway."
But that's not exactly the tradition in Zimbabwe, as Major-General Martin Chedondo the country's army chief of staff made clear on Saturday:
The constitution says the country should be protected by voting and in the 27 June presidential election run-off pitting our defence chief Comrade Robert Mugabe (against) Morgan Tsvangirai of the MDC, we should, therefore stand behind our commander-in-chief."
Observers handicapping the upcoming runoff can take this as a sign that the army will do everything it can to prevent a Tsvangirai victory. Chedondo continued:
Soldiers are not apolitical. Only mercenaries are apolitical. We have signed and agreed to fight and protect the ruling party's principles of defending the revolution.... If you have other thoughts, then you should remove that uniform."
He didn't need to add: "Or we will remove it for you."
It looks like Georgia's opposition may have a legitimate beef about yesterday's parliamentary election, which President Mikheil Saakashvili's party appears to have won commandingly. Here's what the observer mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe had to say:
Parties were able to campaign actively, but there were numerous allegations of intimidation, some of which could be verified [...] Election day was overall calm and generally assessed positively, although problems with inking and instances of pressure on observers and proxies were noted. Counting and tabulation was evaluated less positively, with many significant procedural shortcomings observed.
While they differ little on policy, opposition parties accuse Saakashvili's government of widespread corruption and are still angry over the crackdown on demonstrators in Tbilisi last year.
But as valid as their complaints may be, last night's post-election rally sounds like one uninspiring affair:
The opposition called for protests in Tbilisi late on Wednesday night, saying tens of thousands would gather, but only about 1,000 people showed up [...] Protesters then watched live coverage of the Champions League final in Moscow between English teams Manchester United and Chelsea.
It does sound like it was a good game, but still, this is no way to overthrow a government. I hope they weren't Chelsea fans at least.
For months, Greece has been threatening to veto Macedonia’s admittance into the EU, all because the two can't agree on the name issue. But with violent outbreaks pock-marking Macedonia in the weeks before its June 1 elections, it appears the tiny Balkan state might just knock itself out of contention before Greece even gets the chance.
Since the beginning of the campaign last Sunday, a member of the Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA) has been stabbed to death and members of the rival Democratic Union for Integration (DUI), have been beaten, shot at, and had their offices attacked. In the latter cases, the DUI has blamed the violence on DPA supporters.
EU leaders have expressed concern over
This seems like an awfully understated response on the part of the EU, for whom Macedonia is quite close to the front of its new membership queue. A candidate country since 2005, Macedonia is on track for EU membership in the coming years. But if the country can’t better control its pre-election tensions, is it really ready? After all, as Bulgaria has shown, EU membership is not just going to make crime and corruption disappear. But on the flip side, the promise of an EU future may be the only thing keeping countries like Macedonia on track toward an eventually stable government.
So back to Greece and its veto-happy approach to its northern neighbor. Is prolonged regional instability really worth it for one little modifier?
You may have been wondering what Rudy Giuliani has been up to since the ignominious end of his presidential campaign. It turns out that "America's mayor" is getting back into urban politics...in Ukraine.
Giuliani was in Kiev on Tuesday, speaking with former world heavyweight boxing champion Vitaly Klitschko, who is running for mayor. Giuliani has signed on as an advisor to Klitschko's campaign. At yesterday's press conference he offered this advice:
"If Vitaly is elected mayor of Kiev, my first piece of advice for him would be to say ... no more corruption, corruption is over."
Klitschko is one of the front runners in a wild election that has drawn 79 candidates, but the ex-boxer known as Dr. Iron Fist has been mocked by his opponents for his perceived lack of intelligence and poor command of Ukrainian. (Like many Ukrainians, he grew up speaking Russian.) The former champ, who actually has a doctorate in physical education, seems to be longing for the simplicity of his sport:
"Sometimes I wish I could meet people inside the ring, where there are clear rules," said Klitschko, who has 34 career knockouts and literally towers over the political field at 6-foot-7 (2 meters). "But physical power decides nothing in politics."
Indeed, in addition to running for mayor Klitschko is training for a shot at retaking his title this summer, two goals that might seem contradictory.
But Giuliani seems confident in his new protege and sees parallels between Klitschko's rise and another slow-talking muscleman turned transformational leader, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Kiev's squeegee-men better watch out.
Boris Tadic, Serbian president and leader of the coalition “For a European Serbia,” declared victory after elections Sunday in which his party took an estimated 103 of the national assembly’s 250 seats.
True, yesterday’s large pro-Europe voting turnout did come as a pleasant surprise to
But “victory,” this election was not. If anything, Sunday has shown just how little has changed in
Once again, the SRS, whose founder currently stands trial at the Criminal Tribunal for the former
But the take away message from Sunday's results is not one of Milosevic’s inescapable legacy or of inevitable stagnation. Rather, it’s the recognition that
Inner change was the message of
If Sunday’s elections follow the gamblers’ gut,
Ironically, a pro-Europe prime minister could only come out of a coalition that includes the leftist parties and the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) -- Milosevic's former party. SPS isn't quite what it used to be, but its inclusion still shows how weak the pro-Europe forces in Serbia's politics are.
A shipment of ammunition, rockets, and mortar bombs en route from
Although the An Yue Jiang is expected to return to China, a South African paper, News24, reports that a second arms shipment from China is scheduled to arrive by air in order to "expedite the delivery and to circumvent the controversy around last week's shipment by sea." The story also claims that both orders, placed by the Zimbabwean government, were finalized just days after
The arms shipments brings to light the hazards of
Take, for example, the dam being built at Imboulou in
From weapons to shoddy cement, the Chinese-Africa deal is looking more like a recipe for disaster every day.
From weapons to shoddy cement, the Chinese-Africa deal is looking more like a recipe for disaster every day.
After its surprisingly strong showing in Italian parliamentary elections last week, the quasi-separatist, anti-immigrant Northern League Party is likely to take over several key posts in Silvio Berlusconi's cabinet including the interior, reforms, and agriculture ministries. The League's control of the Interior Ministry puts Italy's immigration policy is in the hands of a party whose leaders have suggested that the navy fire on rafts carrying illegal immigrants.
Italy's new deputy prime minister is likely to be Roberto Calderoli, a guy who proudly wears T-shirts emblazoned with the Danish Mohammed cartoons, promoted a "pig day" protest in a Muslim neighborhood, and, after the Italian team's World Cup victory, dismissed their French opponents as "negroes, communists and Muslims."
Berlusconi, who mocked his Spanish counterpart for appointing too many women to top posts, may want to watch his words considering the classy fellows in his own cabinet.
When I read today that Hillary Clinton is playing John Mellencamp's "Small Town" at her rallies this week, I had to laugh. Because, seriously? How literal are we going to get here? (Plus, I had to wonder whether Mellencamp, a former Edwards supporter, has endorsed anyone yet. He famously asked John McCain to stop playing his songs at rallies earlier this year.)
And in my 5-minute Google search to find out whether Mellencamp's made a pick, I discovered that Bruce Springsteen has just announced this afternoon that he's backing Obama. Here's what Mr. Working Class America said about Bittergate:
He has the depth, the reflectiveness, and the resilience to be our next President. He speaks to the America I've envisioned in my music for the past 35 years, a generous nation with a citizenry willing to tackle nuanced and complex problems, a country that's interested in its collective destiny and in the potential of its gathered spirit. A place where '...nobody crowds you, and nobody goes it alone.'
Does this mean no more Springsteen songs at Clinton rallies?
UPDATE: A Getty Images search for "Springsteen Obama" brings this result:
The Guardian's Chris McGreal has filed a grim report from rural Zimbabwe, where Robert Mugabe's goons have launched Operation Makavhoterapapi, or "Where did you put your cross?" in the local language. The operation amounts to a campaign of violence and intimidation against suspected opposition supporters, and in some cases even their children. Singled out for reprisals are those who did not vote at polling places that were known to be monitored by Mugabe loyalists. Said one victim:
When they were beating me they wanted to know why I didn't go to their polling station. They said to me: there we could see how you put your vote, if you vote in the other place it's secret and that means you voted for the opposition. They said they knew how people voted in that polling station from the figures and it wasn't for Zanu-PF."
Meanwhile, opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has changed his mind and will contest a runoff election against Mugabe. This can only get uglier.
Within the fragile coalition that has brought Silvio Berlusconi back to power, the big winner appears to be the Lega Nord, a separatist party that advocates federalism or even complete independence for Northern Italy (or Padania, as they call it.) The Lega won about 8.3 percent of the vote out of a total of 47 percent for Berlusconi's center-right coalition.
There's already speculation that the Lega will use its new influence to push for tougher immigration laws. The Lega has become known for its extreme anti-immigrant sentiment in recent years due to neighborhood patrols aimed at intimidating immigrant communities, racist campaign posters, and the inflammatory rhetoric of party leader Umberto Bossi, who once said that the Italian navy should open fire on boats carrying illegal immigrants. The party has already used its influence over Berlusconi to nix an idea he had hinted at during the campaign for giving immigrants the right to vote.
The Lega's position in Italy's governing coalition means that it will probably have to soften its Padanian separatist stance, but the party might still push to give regional governments more autonomy and budgetary control. That will be a tough pill for Berlusconi to swallow, but with all the challenges he's facing, he'll need all the help he can get. After all, a defection by the Lega brought down another Berlusconi government in 1994. He's not likely to cross them this time.
In summer 2001, I was on a trip to Kathmandu, Nepal with some friends from college. It just so happened that my long-planned visit came just after the royal heir supposedly went crazy, machine-gunned his father and dozens of palace guards, and then committed suicide (naturally, by shooting himself in the back with an AK-47). The king's unpopular brother, who seemed a lot like Scar from The Lion King, took power. Meanwhile, Maoist insurgents held something like seven provinces at the time.
Needless to say, the country was a bit on edge when my friends and I arrived. We felt safe, but it often seemed like we were the only tourists around.
I remember taking a rickety taxi out to see the famed "monkey temple," a.k.a. Swayambhunath stupa. On the way, I craned my neck incredulously to see a bombed-out bus that looked like it might still be smoldering. "What's that?" I asked the driver. "Don't worry," he laughed. "It's just the Maoist rebels." He assured me that they only killed policemen. When I returned to my hotel that evening, a note from the U.S. Embassy warned us not to go to the attached casino, which had received bomb threats.
Nearly seven years later, the Maoists are going to be in charge. Ain't democracy grand?
Zimbabwean opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai has an op-ed in today's Guardian in which he predicts that President Robert Mugabe is about to bring the hammer down to maintain power after last week's election, the results of which have still not been released:
Adept at stealing elections from the hands of voters, Mugabe is now amassing government troops; blocking court proceedings where we have attempted to seek an order simply for the electoral commission to release the final tally of the March 29 poll; raiding the offices of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC); and casting a pall of suppression and gloom over the country. The feared militias, made up of misguided activists and the same war veterans who pushed for and benefited from the disastrous land confiscations from the late 1990s, are being mobilised. This can only mean, despite some earlier evidence to the contrary, that sanity has been discarded along with truth in the offices of Zanu-PF.
Tsvangirai goes on to promise Mugabe that he need not fear prosecution if he steps down.
Mugabe, predictably, is going back to one of his favorite tactics by raiding the country's few remaining white-owned farms and accusing white farmers of trying to regain their lost property amid the election chaos:
"Land must remain in our hands. The land is ours, it must not be allowed to slip back into the hands of whites," President Mugabe told a crowd gathered at a funeral of his wife's uncle.
Stoking racial tensions has worked for Mugabe in past times of crisis, but the fact that election results have still not been released and he is accusing his own handpicked election commission of "errors and miscalculations" is probably a sign that Mugabe did much worse than expected. Mugabe's "father of the nation" routine is going to be harder to pull off this time. Short of resorting to brute force on a massive scale, it's hard to see how he gets out of this one.
After promising to do so for months, the Clintons have just released their tax returns. And they've made a pretty penny since Bill left office.
Total income since 2000: $109,175,175
Bill's cumulative speech income: $51,855,599
Last year, it was reported that Bill gave more than 350 speeches in 2006, but that only 20 percent (so, 70 speeches) were for personal income. Their 2006 returns show that he made about $10.5 million that year on speeches, or about $150,000 a pop. So, given that he's commanded far more than that for various events (as high as $450K a speech in '06), I'm actually surprised he hasn't made more.
Security agents and paramilitary police in riot gear are surrounding a Harare hotel housing foreign journalists.
A man answering the phone at the hotel says they are taking away some reporters.
The man refused to give his name but said about 30 police entered the hotel Thursday and were preparing to take away four or five journalists.
The elections definitely haven't been playing out according to Mugabe's script. If you're positioning yourself to steal a runoff, a good first step would be to lock up anyone who might call you out.
Update: One of the arrested journalists is reportedly the NYT's Barry Bearak.
Tomorrow, nearly 6 million of the world's poorest billionaires will head to the polls to elect Zimbabwe's next president. Which could be same president the country has now.
Yet Freedom House Deputy Executive Director Thomas Melia yesterday described the atmosphere in Harare, the nation's capital, as one of "nervous hopefulness" at an event co-hosted with the United States Institute of Peace (USIP). That's because this is shaping up to be the 84-year-old Robert Mugabe's toughest election since he took over as president in 1980.
The tide may have turned against Mugabe in rural areas that he and his party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), used to be able to count on for support. Thousands now rally for rival party MDC, largely without the kind of politically targeted violence that took place last year against Morgan Tsvangirai, who has been the party's leader since 1999.
If elected, Tsvangirai promises to make desperately needed reforms including improvements to the health sector, better food security, and the creation of new jobs (admittedly, it's hard to do worse on these fronts than Mugabe has). Tsvangirai has also proposed desperately needed reform of the economy and vowed to create a new currency within the first six months of his presidency. The value of Zimbabwean dollars it plummeting so quickly these days that it is being issued with expiration dates.
In addition to Tsvangirai, a new opposition candidate has recently thrown his hat in the ring. Although some think his candidacy will split the opposition vote and end up helping Mugabe, he is more than just the Ralph Nader of Harare. Simba Makoni, ZANU-PF party member and former finance minster, has presented himself as an alternative to Tsvangirai, and there are rumors that his ties to the ruling party could be helping him to build a secret coalition of powerful supporters. His candidacy could be laying bare fissures within ZANU-PF and hurting Mugabe's hold on the party.
The two opposition candidates announced yesterday that they would form a united front in the event of a runoff. But if Mugabe and his supporters have anything to do with it, they'll never get that far. Multiple incidents of attempted election rigging have been cited, including the printing of 9 million ballots for a registered 6 million voters. Investigations have also determined that recently deceased Ian Smith, the last white leader of what was then known as Southern Rhodesia is still on the ballot. Add to this allegations of planned intimidation at the polls and a new gerrymandered voting district system (click here for an interactive map outlining other deleterious election conditions), and it seems a foregone conclusion that Mugabe will be declared the winner.
The real question isn't whether Mugabe tries to steal the election -- his attempts to do so are glaringly obvious -- it's whether his fellow Zimbabweans, party leaders, military elements, and civil servents will agree to help him do so yet again. While he seems to still be able to get folks to rallies, it's possible that the time has come when the bribes simply aren't enough to keep him in power.
Ruling Democratic Progressive Party candidate Frank Hsieh, who has trailed in media polls, has pushed a message that to vote for the more China-friendly Nationalist Party candidate Ma Ying-jeou could make Taiwan "a second Tibet".
These voters, at least, seem a lot more concerned with the sagging economy, and Ma has been touting a potential "common market" with Beijing. We'll soon see whether Tibet has reminded voters that Chinese guns may accompany the butter.
A power-sharing deal has been signed in Kenya, but it will take far more than a handshake in Nairobi to heal the wounds -- more than 1,000 dead and 600,000 displaced -- of the past few months. Here, Massai warriors battle a rival ethnic group in western Kenya with bows and arrows.
It's an image that brings to mind what former Kenyan corruption czar John Githongo recently told FP:
Negotiations are taking place in Nairobi, mediated by Kofi Annan, but it is the realities on the ground that will likely drive things, not the talks.
Looking at the image above, I'd call that an understatement.
On the day of Iran's parliamentary elections, The Economist's correspondent runs into some cynical folks in Tehran:
"I have voted once in 30 years, and that was for the creation of an Islamic Republic" says an old gentleman who deals in real estate. "I'm not going to get [expletive] again."
Driving back to the hotel late at night, my taxi driver is clearly drunk. As we careen along the near-empty expressway, he belts out made-up lyrics to "Old McDonald", ending in a refrain that has something to do with getting a visa to France and drinking viski. Pointing at a billboard of a senior bearded cleric he shouts, "Shaitan!" (Satan) and draws a finger across his throat. Somewhat timidly, I ask in my limited Farsi about the elections. He cackles with laughter, then clutches his head in mock-dismay.
Thousands of Serbs took to the streets of Belgrade again Wednesday, but not to burn embassies or protest Kosovo's status change. Instead, they gathered in memory of Zoran Djindjic, Serbia's westward-looking prime minister who was assassinated five years ago to the day.
The commemorative gathering fell on the eve of Serbian President Boris Tadic's decision to dissolve parliament and call for new elections on May 11. The decision came after Serbia's ruling democratic coalition split irreconcilably over the Kosovo issue.
Local and international experts alike agree that the May election could well determine whether Serbia eventually joins the EU and prospers or remains isolated over Kosovo. While Serbia's election may be about its future, it is also a choice between legacies of the past –- between Djindjic's hope for a European Serbia, as embodied by the pro-European party of President Tadic, and Milosevic's nationalist scheme for a Greater Serbia, a banner carried on by former PM Vojislav Kostunica in coalition with the Serbian Radical Party.
Europe is hopeful that elections will produce a Serbia that leans westward. But with Kostunica's willingness to pander to the emotional loss of Kosovo, Europe might find itself short a key Balkan player, and Serbs might find themselves, yet again, poor and alone.
The blog English Russia has a fantastic collection of creatively filled-out ballots from the recent Russian presidential election. The ballot above is a vote for Vladimir Putin's dog Koni. Variations on the essentially untranslatable "Preved Medved" Internet meme were quite popular. Adolf Hitler and Chuck Norris picked up some write-in votes as well.
I've always heard about John McCain's legendary temper, but never really seen it in action. Here's how the Arizona senator responded to a question about a conversation he had about being John Kerry's running mate in 2004:
(Hat tip: The Caucus)
Here's a clip of Susan Rice, one of Barack Obama's foreign-policy advisors, discussing the infamous 3 a.m. phone call ad:
Clinton hasn't had to answer the phone at 3 o'clock in the morning and yet she attacked Barack Obama for not being ready. They're both not ready to have that 3 a.m. phone call."
(Hat tip: The Caucus)
UPDATE: MSNBC sends along the full clip, so that you can see the context and judge for yourself.
It's puzzling to me why it's so difficult for some to let go of the old 1990s formulation that the economy still matters most in elections.
"[I]t's really about the economy," declared a BusinessWeek headline yesterday morning. To be sure, the economy has played an important role in the campaign over the last couple weeks. But if Hillary Clinton's victories in Ohio and Texas last night prove anything, isn't it the opposite? Voters are still very much in a Sept. 11th mindset. Clinton won last night in large part by beating Barack Obama two to one among voters who made their decision within the last three days of the race. And she did that by attacking his preparedness to handle national security, not the subprime crisis. Most notably via the now-infamous, and apparently effective, "It's 3:00 A.M...." ad.
Why did that strategy work? Because, as Michael Gerson points out in today's Washington Post, this is really the only issue on which Obama is beatable. Clinton insiders have, it appears, finally grasped this fact. "His vulnerability is experience and judgment on national security," Harold Ickes and Mark Penn wrote in a memo last night.
I suspect foreign policy is now the issue on which Obama's political future will live or die. This morning, he told reporters aboard his campaign plane, "Over the coming weeks we will join [Clinton] in that argument. Was she negotiating treaties? Was she handling crisis? The answer is 'no.'"
John McCain is already signaling that he intends to make November a referendum on national security. Like it or not, it's a foreign-policy election.
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