Mission accomplished, peace with honor, or the courage to come home?

(Cross-posted from Think it Through.)

As a former speechwriter for politicians, I pity President Obama's scribes this week. Their assignment is to craft a speech recognizing the last U.S. “combat” troops leaving Iraq. I can feel their frustration at being asked to draft remarks that defy reality.

Here is an opportunity for the President’s word merchants to turn frustration into a positive result for the country.

There's more...

The promise of a primary for Obama

Here's where the line is drawn and the scales tip. Everyone pretty much believes now that Republicans are going to win back the House. In the Senate, a flip is also possible, but less likely it seems. There are two issues that, if Obama does not draw his own line with Republicans, that he will lose the Party over.

First, the Bush tax-cuts. The notion that this is going to be something where Democrats can keep them in place for those under $250K, and end it for those above, is a false lie for anyone to pretend such a possibility exists. The Republicans will not let that happen-- its all of them, or nothing.

The question is, with a Republican House sure to pass them, will there be 40 Senate Democrats to filibuster the passage of the complete tax package, say, in the spring of 2011?  Do the math. Looking at it the other way, are there 13 or so Democrats who the Republicans can count on for cloture?  So, that (the complete Bush Tax Cuts) lands on Obama's desk. Lets ponder whether he would veto it or not.

Second, the Afghanistan quagmire. All it takes is to watch this video to realize the disingenuity that Obama has performed (Senator Obama vs. President Obama on Afghanistan); a reckless abandoment of the promise of his entire candidacy. There are knaves who would like to pretend that Obama played a straight hand on Afghanistan with Democrats in the leadup to the 2008 election. We are currently amidst Obama's own Friedman Unit-- one that expires in July 2011.

General Petraeus has played the President like a fiddle with the surge to over 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. The Generals now openly speak of there being no such deadline, and being in Afghanistan until 2020. VP Biden has cowardly backtracked on the deadline he said was set in stone.

That Obama will give us enduring war in Afghanistan beyond July 2011 seems a given. Will it come on the heels of his buckling to the Republican passage of the permanent Bush Tax cut package for millionaires? 

And when I say lose the Party, I mean explicitly that he will face a Democratic primary in 2012, and hopefully, denied the nomination.

Some of you still might see this as far-fetched. But watch and see how losing 50 seats, setting the Democrats back below 200 in the House, has a way of changing the perception.

But that alone is probably not enough-- its strike one. The betrayal by Obama over the Bush Tax Cuts (if he doesn't let the entire package expire-- all or nothing will be the only choice) will be the second shoe. Then, the unlikelihood of his getting us out of these damned military occupations, and his being played like a puppet of the Pentagon's desire to build a military empire in Afghanistan, will be the final straw.

Baked Alaska

Up in Alaska, Senator Lisa Murkowski trails Joe Miller, a Fairbanks lawyer who received endorsements from Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck's 9-12 Project and the Tea Party Express. With 429 of 438 precincts reporting, Miller has 45,909 votes while Murkowski has 43,949 votes. According to the Alaska Division of Elections, more than 16,000 absentee ballots were requested and fewer than half (7,600) had been returned as of Monday night. The full results won't be known for at least a week and it is possible that Murkowski may yet overtake Miller. The Anchorage Daily News has more:

Miller credited the support of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin for his lead.

"I'm absolutely certain that was pivotal," he said.

Murkowski on Tuesday night took a shot at Palin, saying that when Palin resigned as governor last summer she said she would use her new national role to help out Alaska.

"I think she's out for her own self-interest. I don't think she's out for Alaska's interest," Murkowski said as she waited at her campaign headquarters for results to come in.

Her campaign spokesman, Steve Wackowski, was holding out hope that she would benefit from support in rural and coastal areas of the state that hadn't yet reported.

"We knew the race was going to be tight. The rural areas have yet to come in and we know Sen. Murkowski is going to be very strong in the rural areas."

Most of the remaining precincts are in rural areas, where paper ballots are counted by hand.

The final results of the race won't be known for over a week. The Alaska Division of Elections said over 16,000 absentee ballots were requested and as of Monday night 7,600 had been returned. The first count of absentees will be next Tuesday and there will be two subsequent counts as the absentee votes trickle in on Sept. 3 and on Sept. 8.

Polls prior to vote had Murkowski winning comfortably by double digits. The last poll I saw was from RT Nielson poll, a poll commissioned by the Tea Party Express backing Miller, put Murkowski at 46.91 percent and Miller at 35.39 percent. Clearly, the polls were off.

Here's what we know about Miller. He is a 43-year-old father of eight and deeply religious. Born in the mid-west ( I've heard both Kansas and Illinois), he graduated from West Point in 1989 and served in the first Gulf War. He went on to earn a law degree from Yale in 1995 and moved to Alaska to take a law firm job. In Alaska, he earned a Master's in Economics from the University of Alaska. He soon became a U.S. magistrate judge before stepping down in 2004 to make an unsuccessful run for state representative. He is currently an attorney in private practice in Fairbanks. He is a friend of Todd Palin which is how he got the endorsement of Sarah Palin.

Salon has some more color:

His positions on the issues -- though we don't know many specifics -- would put him in line with diehard conservatives in the Senate like Jim DeMint of South Carolina. He says not only that he would repeal what he calls "ObamaCare," but that the health care overhaul law is not consititutional. Ditto for cap and trade legislation: he opposes it, and argues it is unconstitutional. Miller has said he would cut funding to the U.N. and the IMF and other foreign aid, but maintained in a letter to seniors he would not cut Social Security.

Miller also holds that unemployment insurance is unconstitutional. A strict constitutionalist, Miller says he believes the Federal Department of Education and the Department of Energy should be abolished and that, over the long term, the government should stop offering Social Security and Medicare. He believes that the TARP and the healthcare reform are not just wrong but unconstitutional. 

On other issues, Miller has placed himself in line with other Tea Party candidates running for Senate seats this year -- including Nevada's Sharron Angle and Colorado's Ken Buck -- by saying that he is opposed to allowing women to obtain abortions, even in cases of rape and incest. In a recent interview with the Fairbank Daily News-Miner, he said that he is "unequivocally pro-life," except "when the mother's life is in danger." He supports the Arizona immigration stance and does not believe the millions of immigrants already here illegally should be granted amnesty.

The winner of the Murkowski-Miller race will face Democrat Scott McAdams, the former mayor of Sitka, in the November general election. If Murkowski does lose, there's a chance that she can run on a third party ticket or perhaps run a write-in candidacy. She cannot, however, run as independent a la Joe Lieberman. The filing deadline for independent candidates ended in June.


Quick Hits

Here are some of the other news stories making the rounds today.

Judge Royce C. Lamberth, a US District Court judge, granted a preliminary injunction Monday to stop federal funding of embryonic stem cell research that he said destroys embryos, ruling it went against the will of Congress. Lamberth's ruling said all embryonic stem cell research involves destroying embryos, which violates the Dickey-Wicker Amendment included in federal spending bills. The ruling overturns the guidelines issued by President Obama early in his Administration to allow federal funding for embryonic stem cell research.The full story from CNN.

General David Petraeus, the top commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said the Afghan Taliban's momentum has been reversed in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, as well as near Kabul. The Christian Science Monitor has the details.

One in four Californians lack health insurance according to a study released Monday by the UCLA Center for Health Policy Research. According to the latest estimates, the state's uninsured population rose by over 31 percent over the past two years. The number of uninsured has reached 24.3%, or about 8.4 million, up from 6.4 million in 2007. In Los Angeles County, 28.9% of residents were uninsured for all or part of last year, the largest number of uninsured residents of any county in the state. The Los Angeles Times has more on this story.

My former colleague at Goldman Sachs, Wallace Turbeville writes about how an SEC/CFTC roundtable exposes how little is being done about the next financial time bomb in a post entitled Derivatives Clearing: At the End of the Beginning over at New Deal 2.0. The post tackles the issue of clearinghouses that were set up the recently passed 880 page Dodd-Frank Financial Reform Law and that are dominated by ten or so large financial institutions. As Yves Smith over at Naked Capitalism writes "we were skeptical of derivatives reform efforts as inadequate to deal with the product that needed to be reined in, credit default swaps, and subject to evisceration depending on how various details were sorted out" noting that "if the types of contracts that wind up being covered are reasonably broad, the new derivatives clearinghouse is merely another too big to fail entity." Turbeville suggests that new derivatives clearinghouses "are, or soon will be, Too Big to Fail." This, of course, points to the problem of doing incremental, if not half-assed, reform. No credit will be rewarded for moving the ball forward and all blame will come due when the inevitable failure occurs. 

Former House Majority Leader and de facto leader of the Tea Party Movement Dick Armey (R-Texas) on Sunday said lawmakers who have not signed onto Rep. Paul Ryan’s plan to balance the budget lacked “courage” and could be targeted by the conservative tea party movement as a result. “All Paul Ryan is saying is let Social Security be voluntary, let Medicare be voluntary,” Armey said. “The fact that he only has 13 co-sponsors is a big reason why our folks are agitated against the Republicans as well as the Democrats — the difference between being a co-sponsor of Ryan or not is a thing called courage.” Or political suicide. More from the Congressional Quarterly.

Quick Hits

Here are some other stories that are making the rounds today.

General Motors has filed for a public stock offering. The company said that it would offer both common stock and preferred stock in the offering, which could begin as early as October. The deal is being lead-managed by Morgan Stanley. The US government has invested about $50 billion in GM and holds a 61 percent share. The IPO will allow the Treasury Department to bring its holding below the 50 percent share but the filing made clear the government will continue a sizable portion of the automaker. The company has already repaid about $6.7 billion in loans, but most of the rest was converted into equity and can be repaid only by selling those shares. The full story in the New York Times.

Afghan and coalition security forces captured or killed several Haqqani Network and several Talban leaders to include a dual-hatted Taliban sub-commander and Al Qaeda group leader in Afghanistan during 36 separate operations this week according to the ISAF. The Afghan-led operations resulted in more than 110 suspected insurgents detained and more than 20 insurgents killed.Afghan locals in Kunduz province. Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports that as of Thursday, Aug. 19, 2010, at least 1,130 members of the US military had died in Afghanistan as a result of the US invasion of Afghanistan in late 2001. Additionally since the start of U.S. military operations in Afghanistan, 7,529 U.S. service members have been wounded in hostile action, according to the Defense Department.

In a military-related story, Paul Rieckhoff, the founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, has a post on Big Think that looks at the disturbing rise in military suicides.

A Federal grand jury has indicted former All Star pitching ace Roger Clemens on charges of making false statements to Congress about use of performance-enhancing drugs. Clemens last pitched in the Majors in 2007 after a long career mostly with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. The New York Times has more on the story.

President Barack Obama made four recess job appointments to his Administration, including a new US Ambassador to El Salvador, postponing the need for Senate approval. Recess appointments, which have been made by presidents of both parties, allow a president to temporarily bypass the Senate confirmation process required for senior Federal posts by filling vacant positions while lawmakers are on vacation. Mari Carmen Aponte is the new envoy to San Salvador. More on her background from Foreign Policy.

Felix Salmon writes on the Treasury Bubble meme.



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