Today’s opining on the public discourse.
Things are moving in Iraq, no thanks to the Bush regime:
After nearly one year of negotiations, the Iraqi cabinet voted “overwhelmingly” Sunday to approve a security agreement requiring “coalition forces to withdraw from Iraqi cities and towns by the summer of 2009 and from the country by the end of 2011,” the New York Times reports. “An earlier version had language giving some flexibility to that deadline…but the Iraqis managed to have the deadline set in stone, a significant negotiating victory.” Earlier this month, the Times reported that Barack Obama’s victory spurred the Iraqi political process toward finalizing a withdrawal agreement. In the words of one Iraqi politician:
“Before, the Iraqis were thinking that if they sign the pact, there will be no respect for the schedule of troop withdrawal by Dec. 31, 2011,” said Hadi al-Ameri, a powerful member of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a major Shiite party. “If Republicans were still there, there would be no respect for this timetable. This is a positive step to have the same theory about the timetable as Mr. Obama.”
Think Progress includes an update from Spencer Ackerman:
Spencer Ackerman: “The Bush administration intended the SOFA process to entrench the occupation. Instead it gave the Iraqi government the means to end it. And that’s the best-possible way for the war to end: with the Iraqi government — the one we’ve disingenuously told the world we’re in Iraq to support — showing its political maturation to get us out the day after tomorrow. And out actually means out. The SOFA demands that every last U.S. serviceman is on a plane by December 31, 2011. Obama’s plan for a 30,000-troop residual force? Officially overtaken by events. As I say, the impact of this appears not to have sunken in. The Iraqis have forced an end to the war.”
So. We vote Obama in, Iraqis gain confidence in the notion that America might actually keep its promises, and gridlock starts to disappear. This, however, is a victory with a caveat – the deal could still get scuttled:
The Iraqi Cabinet today voted to approve the SOFA. This evening, we are very pleased to have Mohammed Ibn Laith, a member of the Sadrist trend, joining us to discuss the latest developments. In earlier comments, he has noted:
I would point out that it must be approved by the green zone parliament and that the Sunni blocs are unlikely to agree. Indeed there are reprorts of them on the radio rushing to denounce it. Also the References (what you would call the Ayatollahs and the Grand Ayatollahs) are by no means clearly in favour and have in the case of the Sayyid Al-Sistani said it must pass by consensus of the community.
There’s still a lot of work to be done before enough Iraqis are on board for a firm agreement to be reached, but the important point is this: they want a President they can trust to keep the agreements they reach, and now that they believe they’ll have that from America, things are moving politically in Iraq.
It’s a welcome change after the endless fuckery of the Bush years.
On the Obama transition front, a theme is emerging:
We may not learn about Obama’s cabinet choices until after Thanksgiving, but in the interim, the White House staff is clearly taking shape.
Up until a few days ago, the list was fairly brief: Rahm Emanuel will be chief of staff, Robert Gibbs will be press secretary, and David Axelrod will be a senior advisor to the president. Yesterday, the Obama/Biden team formally added two more members: Ron Klain will become Vice President Joe Biden’s chief of staff, while Valerie Jarrett will serve as Senior Advisor and Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental Relations and Public Liaison. (As Karen Tumulty noted, Jarrett’s title suggests a “very broad troubleshooting portfolio.”)
We’ve since learned of a few other officials in key White House posts. Phil Schiliro, a long-time aide to Henry Waxman and Tom Daschle, will be Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs. Peter Rouse, a long-time aide to Daschle and Dick Durbin, will be a senior advisor to the President. Mona Sutphen, a U.S. foreign service officer and member of Bill Clinton’s National Security Council, will be a deputy chief of staff. And Jim Messina, a former aide to Sens. Max Baucus and Byron Dorgan, will also be a deputy chief of staff.
Ezra made an important point about what most of these people have in common.
One of the themes I’ve been trying to push lately is that the success of Obama’s presidency is dependent on his ability to navigate an increasingly dysfunctional Congress, and that the ability to pass bills through the institution requires pretty fair knowledge of how it works and pretty good relationships with the key players. Clinton didn’t have that. He entered office and showed very little respect for congressional expertise, surrounding himself with trusted associates from Arkansas and young hotshots from his campaign.
Obama is not making the same mistake. He’s surrounded himself with Gephardt and Daschle advisers, elevated Rahm Emanuel to chief of staff, and just named Phil Schiliro to be the administration’s point person on legislative affairs. Schirilo was previously Henry Waxman’s chief of staff, and as Marc Ambinder says, was “known as one of the savviest, smartest chiefs of staffs in DC.” He also served as policy director to Tom Daschle, which only furthers the odd rebirth of the Daschle team within the Obama administration.
Steve Benen ends that post with a note to all of the folks who may find this a lot less change than they were looking for. I’d suggest you head on over and read it if you’re feeling alarmed by all these experienced faces.
Change is coming, but it seems to be leaving Republicons well behind. A variety of right-wing voices have been chanting “Center Right!” ever since Obama got elected (funny how he went from icky socialist to Reaganite overnight, innit?). Neocons believe they weren’t neocon enough. They believe if they repeat the myth of “co
nservative America” endlessl
y, they can change reality.
At least one conservative former advisor to McCain ain’t buying it:
Regular readers know that I’ve been annoyed by the constant refrain from Republicans and mainstream media figures that the United States, even now, is a “center-right nation.” I’d hoped the cold, hard facts of the election results would have proven otherwise, but many conservatives prefer not to believe their lying eyes.
Today, Policy Review editor Tod Lindberg, a fellow at Stanford’s conservative Hoover Institution and an informal foreign policy adviser to the McCain campaign, explains that it’s time for the right to realize that the electorate has shifted and the “country’s political center of gravity is shifting from center-right to center-left.”
Here’s the stark reality: It is now harder for the Republican presidential candidate to get to 50.1 percent than for the Democrat. My Hoover Institution colleague David Brady and Douglas Rivers of the research firm YouGovPolimetrix have been analyzing data from online interviews with 12,000 people in both 2004 and 2008. It shows an overall shift to the Democrats of six percentage points. As they write in the forthcoming edition of Policy Review, “The decline of Republican strength occurs by having strong Republicans become weak Republicans, weak Republicans becoming independents, and independents leaning more Democratic or even becoming Democrats.” This is a portrait of an electorate moving from center-right to center-left.
Some analysts like to explain this shift by pointing to Democratic gains and Republican losses among particular regions and demographic groups, arguing that the GOP has growing problems winning over such areas as the Southwest and such groups as Latinos, educated professionals, Catholics and single women. There’s something to this, but the Republican problem is actually larger and more categorical. In 2004, Republicans and Democrats each constituted 37 percent of the electorate. In the 2006 congressional election, Democrats outnumbered Republicans 38 percent to 36 and won big. This year, the Democrats made up a stunning 39 percent of the electorate, compared with just 32 percent for the Republicans. Add the painful fact that Obama outpolled McCain among independents, 52 percent to 48, and you have a picture of a Republican Party that has lost its connection to the center of the electorate. […]
Perhaps, as Rove says, Obama was running to the center. But can anybody make a serious case that people were mistaking him for a center-right politician? Or even a “New Democrat” such as former president Bill Clinton? The McCain campaign was not shy about letting voters know about the elements of Obama’s record that marked him as a man of the left. Perhaps voters simply didn’t believe a word of it, but a better explanation is that a majority of them heard McCain’s warnings and just didn’t mind. Center-left nation, anyone?
Just to reemphasize, Lindberg clearly wishes he were wrong. He’s a conservative who, among other things, was the editor of the far-right Washington Times’s editorial page. He’s not Christy Todd Whitman, urging the Republican Party to move to the center; he’s a conservative urging the Republican Party to acknowledge reality.
Too bad it doesn’t seem like any other cons are willing to take Lindberg up on the offer to join reality. Neither are the talk shows.
We should be able to keep ourselves well entertained watching the Cons chase after the mythical center-right for another few years.