Monday, March 16, 2009

Rob Simmons’ Chances

Connecticut seems incapable of producing Republican politicians who are not moderate. The media in the state is liberal and tends to strangle in their cribs any politician who exhibits dangerous conservative tendencies.

For this reason, when the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (DSCC) issued a press release that sought to tie Simmons to former President Bush’s soiled coattails, most commentators in his home state shrugged off the spitball as politics as usual.

"Rob Simmons is no moderate -- he was a staunch supporter of George Bush's failed economic policies and this race will be an opportunity to hold him accountable for that record," said DSCC communications director Eric Schultz. The DSCC also noted that Simmons had once described himself as a “big fan" of Bush.

Big yawn.

The Washington Post, not in the Bush camp, has noted that on a scale of 1 to100, Simmons’ voting record was 53 percent, which means that Simmons voted more liberally than 53 percent of his Republican colleagues, a figure that could not have pleased the president, who in any case has now left the building.

A week ago, some pushers and shovers in the Obama White House, finding that in the absence of Bush they needed a new albatross to hang around the necks of Republican challengers, tried to recruit radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh for this purpose. But those best laid plans somehow were torn asunder.

Some Connecticut commentators noted that the late war in Iraq did not help Simmons in his contest with Joe Courtney. True enough; but the war in Iraq has for all practical has been won, according to an ABC-BBC news poll. Neither ABC nor the BBC may justly be accused of having been tied inextricably to the former president’s war policies.

With an Iraq victory in his pocket, courtesy of the departing president, President Barack Obama already has moved on, at least rhetorically, to Afghanistan, the Democrat’s equivalent of the Republican’s Iraq war.

Afghanistan is a considerably tougher nut to crack than Iraq, even if the president were to apply to Afghanistan the belated but successful strategies that turned the war in Iraq in favor of the good guys. And yet President Barack Obama appears to be anxious to prosecute an Afghan war that, to be won, must involve a military incursion into Pakistan. One wonders whether the United Nations will oblige the persuasive Obama and authorize the invasion of a sovereign nation sometimes friendly to the West. It is Pakistan’s week in the knees government that makes winning a war in Afghanistan an iffy proposition. Obama is on record as saying that he would be willing to carry the war into Pakistan to rout al-Quada and pursue bin-Laden, assuming he is alive, to the gates of Hell. If one discounts CIA opinion on the matter and accepts the judicious opinion of other agencies, a tolerable option, there is a very good chance that bin-Laden expired three or four years ago.

What we have here is the extension of Bush policies by other means. Will Obama’s good war ruffle the feathers of anti-war activists who, along with the president, wanted to withdraw American troops from Iraq last April, not a winning strategy as it turned out? What positions will Connecticut’s Sen. Chris Dodd take on the matter? Dodd was resolutely against the first Persian war, which he thought might be a quagmire. He was for the war in Iraq before he was against it.

Obama’s Afgan war is a new war, which will allow for new perceptions. We don’t know what the Middle East – not to mention the USA – will look like in two years.

Much can happen in two years. Wars thought lost can be won; wars we think we may win can be lost.

And there are practical questions to consider. If non-combatants -- or whatever terms the Obama administration prefers to signify the terrorists in the soon to be dismantled prison in Cuba – are captured during Obama’s Afghan adventure, where do we put them? Can their habeas corpus rights be denied them at this point? What would Chris Dodd say if the prisoners were not upon capture immediately apprised of their Miranda rights?

The problems that bedeviled the Bush administration aren’t going to go away. The pressures brought to bear against a weakened president by the legislature during the Bush administration, as well as successful legislative and Supreme Court challenges to the war making powers of the president, will not help Obama to efficiently prosecute his good war. And it is not at all certain that Obama’s economic prescriptions will settle problems in the economy either.

But in two years or less, we’ll know the answers to some of these questions. So will Dodd and his Republican challengers.
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