No Panaceas

Friday, February 21, 2003
Of Corn and Statehood: The District of Columbia is trying to move its Democratic presidential primary to January 13, 2004, six days earlier than Iowa's caucus and two weeks earlier than New Hampshire's primary. This is a good idea, but it has about as much chance of succeeding as I do of winning the Tour de France. (Well, I am a Texan and I do own a bicycle.)

The reasoning behind the primary is simple and smart. Any candidate wanting to do well here will have to endorse DC statehood and promise to fight for it once in the White House, much like serious contenders for Iowa have to endorse and vow to protect the Ethanol Tax Credit. Look, DC will never get statehood by arguing the merits. If this decision was based solely on principle then two more seats would have been added to the Senate long ago. To win, DC must find some political leverage -- like the first primary -- or figure out a way to find a reliable Republican-voting territory to make the 52d state. I suggest Alberta.

Unfortunately the primary idea will not fly, at least not for 2004. New Hampshire and Iowa have fended off these kinds of challenges for years and they have managed to codify their vanguard status with the RNC and DNC. See Donna Brazile's column on this point. Marc Fisher does some unconvincing hand-waving here.

Brazile suggests that the District go for February, but having it in February is a waste of time. By then the campaigns shift to much bigger states. DC would be just one more stop on the way to somewhere else.

Thursday, February 20, 2003
One of the amusing stories this week is that a couple of major Democratic donors plan to finance a liberal radio network. It's good, I guess, to see that the bust has not completely separated all the fools from their money. There are so many reasons why this won't fly, but it all comes down to audience and sponsors. Really, if Jim Hightower couldn't make a go of it then, believe me, Al Franken doesn't have a chance. If the Drobny's want to do something to keep liberal voices on the airwaves then they should support the few remaining independent community radio stations around the country.

District area residents can put up with a lot. Disenfranchisement. Terrible traffic. Terrorist attacks. Ongoing terrorist threats. Anthrax. Snipers. Unplowed snow. Ferret-size rats. But really, we need to draw the line at EXPLODING MANHOLE COVERS. Or maybe we can turn it into a tourist attraction. Come to Georgetown. See the old buildings. Eat at expensive restaurants. Watch the EXPLODING MANHOLE COVERS.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003
ObL and SH: The United States, via Colin Powell, was quick to pounce on Osama bin Laden's seeming statement of brotherhood with the Iraqi people. ObL's comments were rather cryptic, and it's easy to read just about anything you want into them. Powell preferred to see the comments as proof of, at minimum, bin Laden and Saddam Hussein solidarity. Evil as he is, Osama bin Laden is obviously a bright, calculating adversary. I suspect that he doesn't say a single public word without a specific goal in mind. What does this say about his recent comments? Let's suppose that bin Laden believes the following: 1) a U.S. attack on Iraq will divert resources from the war against terror; 2) a U.S. attack on Iraq, especially one with little multilateral support, will undercut international cooperation in pursuing terrorists; and 3) a U.S. attack on Iraq will help boost Islamic alienation against the West and thus breed more terrorists. In other words, what if bin Laden believes exactly what critics of the Bush administration believe? In this case, what Osama bin Laden wants is for the U.S. to attack Iraq, preferably unilaterally.

So what does bin Laden do? He could plant (or reveal) evidence that, in fact, he and Hussein have been in cahoots all along. This is a bad idea because a convincing link between al Qaeda and Hussein would pulverize European resistance to the war. So instead he issues a cryptic statement, one sure to further convince those already convinced that war is necessary and perhaps make unilateral war seem more palatable to some U.S. fence sitters. At the same time the comment is too cryptic to slow down French, etc resistance to a multilateral effort.

I am not saying I believe the above is correct. It's just something to think about. But I don't think for a moment that bin Laden cares about the fate of the Iraqi people any more than he cared about the Muslims he murdered at the World Trade Center. So if he does not care about the Iraqis, and he knows perfectly well that his comments would be construed by Bush as more justification for war, then why the comments about Iraq?

Check out This Modern World for a different angle.

There's nothing like a big snowstorm to remind us that D.C. is the most poorly managed big city in the United States.