The Spectacle Blog

Re: House Race

By on 1.15.06 | 12:02PM

John, Of course a campaign is necessary. These guys have to get their message out to the caucus and to the party. But changes still can and will come along in the next couple weeks of jockeying. The proclaimed vote totals ought to be taken for what they are: rough estimates by self-promoters. That's their job. But some pundits are occupied with these slight shifts as if it were election night and returns were pouring in from across the country. This race is "inside baseball" for now.

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Re: House Race

By on 1.15.06 | 10:00AM

But Dave, if nothing matters until the secret ballot vote, then why have a campaign at all?

Frontrunners never say "the only poll that matters is the one on election day," or any variation thereof. Plainly, Boehner's losing.

UPDATE: Catching up, I now see that Boehner started with this talking point yesterday in response to a release claiming that Blunt has the race wrapped up, with 117+ commitments. Boehner's other objection to the Blunt announcement is stronger: If Blunt has it won, why not step down from the whip post? Shadegg, meanwhile, claimed yesterday that "We already have defections from the Blunt list and we expect more."

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House Race

By on 1.15.06 | 8:41AM

The three House majority leader candidates are on Fox News Sunday. Rep. John Boehner on the ongoing tallies (approx. transcript): "We're polling our colleagues. Nothing matters until they vote by secret ballot." Those few words of common sense outweigh the week of hot air emitted by these candidates, their surrogates, and the punditocracy.

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Glory Road forty years onward

By on 1.15.06 | 12:51AM

Most enjoyed Glory Road this evening, a recognizably friendly sports flick, recreating the back country El Paso underdogs rising with heroic sweat to win the big game of the NCAA championship in 1966. The heartfelt reason to see the movie is the music, a medley of Motown from the time that makes for sweet memory. It was fretful and puzzling to be seventeen years old in 1966, with LBJ, Vietnam, Cold War, civil rights, rock and roll, marijuana, and the perennial mystery of romance; but sitting in a suburban Philadelphia theater at Narbreth in a wet snow storm in 2006 while watching the turbulent sixties on the big screen with Smokey Robinson and the Temptations as accompaniement, I felt magical to have been there, even as a boy-man spectator. I think I remember watchng the actual victory on black and white tv, Texas Western defeating the imperial Kentucky, a black Cinderella ascending to the throne. Forty years passed like a Koufax fastball.

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Zawahiri Alive?

By on 1.14.06 | 4:09PM

There are several interesting aspects of the apparent failure of the CIA to kill al-Qaeda #2 Ayman al-Zawahiri. First, for us to be mounting such an attack on Pakistani soil requires first intelligence sufficient to justify the mission and second, permission from the Pakistani government to do it. The latter, since 2001, has been regularly supplied though best concealed. For example, when mounting the attack on the Taliban, the Pakistanis allowed American landings on their soil, but only between dark and dawn. The lengths to which we went to help Pakistan conceal its assistance to us were considerable. That such a mission would be mounted openly now indicates that Musharraf believes his grip on power is greater than it was four years ago.

Second, though we did mount this operation on Pakistani soil, the failure of the mission gives rise to the question of whether the rules of engagement Pakistan has agreed to may have compromised it. Pakistani intelligence agency, ISI, was one of the creators of the Taliban. How much were we required to tell the ISI, and did they warn Zawahiri?

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Re: Zawahiri Dead?

By on 1.14.06 | 12:24PM

Dave, Jed: In case you missed it, John Batchelor called it right late last night, in this note in response to "Zawahiri Dead?" which is posted under the "View Comments" to that item:

"See report, am not checking tonight, but am following orthodox response, which Jed follows as carefully, no confirm, no confirm. Wait on this. No confirm."

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Zawahiri Dead?

By on 1.13.06 | 8:26PM

"Dr." Ayman al-Zawahiri, the al Qaeda No.2, may have been killed by a US air strike in Pakistan. The forensic tests on the remains will be finished in a few days. But what if he is dead? Bin Laden himself has not been seen -- even on video -- for a year. Rumors of his death are usually tied to kidney disease. And his disease is probably an urban legend. If bin Laden is dead, it is probably for other reasons. If Zawahiri is dead, al Qaeda has lost its most visible presence on the world stage. But has it lost more important assets to other American efforts? Remember the letter Zawahiri sent to Zarqawi in Iraq last summer? In which Zawahiri asked his subordinate for a coupla hundred grand to keep the old school colors flying? Al-Q is now little more than a franchise operation. If Zawahiri is dead, it may have lost more than its operational commander. Most importantly, it may have lost the ability to conceal bin Laden. If Zawahiri is dead, and bin Laden still alive, OBL will have to risk making videos and communicating with his operators and franchises by courier and otherwise. And the more often he communicates, by any means whatever, the more likely we are to get him.

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Iran and the U.S.

By on 1.13.06 | 2:39PM

President Bush and German Chancellor Angela Merkel said all the right things on Friday morning, and they appear to be doing the right things too.

According to State Department sources, State Department European expert negotiator Nicholas Burns will be traveling to Europe for meeting early next week to coordinate the united response to Iran's nuclear threats. It appears the United States is now ready to take more of an active role, after leaving negotiations with Iran to European nations for the past two years.

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