Thursday, August 7, 2008

Bush Agrees to a Timetable: U.S. out of Iraq by 2010?

It looks like Bush is ready to eat crow. In the process, he just cut McCain's legs from under him. Wow!

Iraq and the U.S. are near an agreement on all American combat troops leaving Iraq by October 2010, with the last soldiers out three years after that, two Iraqi officials told The Associated Press on Thursday. U.S. officials, however, insisted no dates had been agreed.

The proposed agreement calls for Americans to hand over parts of Baghdad's Green Zone — where the U.S. Embassy is located — to the Iraqis by the end of 2008. It would also remove U.S. forces from Iraqi cities by June 30, 2009, according to the two senior officials, both close to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and familiar with the negotiations.

The officials, who spoke separately on condition of anonymity because the talks are ongoing, said all U.S. combat troops would leave Iraq by October 2010, with the remaining support personnel gone "around 2013." The schedule could be amended if both sides agree — a face-saving escape clause that would extend the presence of U.S. forces if security conditions warrant it.

U.S. acceptance — even tentatively — of a specific timeline would represent a dramatic reversal of American policy in place since the war began in March 2003.

It is possible the surge did work after all if political debate is replacing political violence in Iraq...or maybe not.
A growing number of Iraqi groups are choosing to pursue their agendas through politics instead of bloodshed, a trend that has helped bring down levels of violence. But as Iraqis leave behind the sectarian cataclysms of recent years, ethnic and regional political disputes in several parts of Iraq are becoming more pronounced.

In the south, the ruling Shiite parties are vying for electoral power against loyalists of Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr and Shiite tribal leaders. In the west, Sunni tribes are challenging the political control of established Sunni religious parties. And in the north, ethnic Kurds, Arabs and Turkmens are in a struggle for control of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk.

"What we have now is people who know how to use weapons and who now want to play politics," said Mithal al-Alusi, an independent Sunni legislator. Even so, some leaders seem unable to decide whether to trust their fortunes to the ballot box.

The fight over Kirkuk is proving to be particularly intense. The dispute over power sharing in the ethnically mixed city triggered an attack by a suicide bomber and ethnic clashes that killed 25 people there last month. This week, Iraqi lawmakers failed to reach an agreement on provincial elections legislation, placing in doubt the timing of the vote and slowing political reconciliation.

"There is no doubt the violence will increase in Kirkuk if its case does not get solved," said Khalaf al-Elayan, a Sunni lawmaker who heads the Iraqi National Dialogue Council, part of the largest Sunni political bloc.

Iraqi lawmakers and U.S. officials say several factors are behind the shaky transition to more robust politics. Militant groups are tired of fighting U.S. forces and are joining the political process as a way to survive. With the Bush administration in its last months, Iraq's political parties, sensing the possible end of the U.S. presence in Iraq, want to consolidate their political standing. Others view political ascendancy as a way to exert pressure on U.S. troops to leave Iraq.

Now McCain will have include George Bush in his list of defeatists along with Obama, and the American people.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who has contended that Barack Obama is willing to lose in Iraq to win the election, on Thursday said his rival would forfeit the war as part of an agenda that also promotes big government and high taxes.

McCain told those gathered for a town hall meeting that Obama is a talented orator with an agenda that could be boiled down to simple policies the Arizona Republican opposes.

"Government is too big, he wants to grow it. Taxes are to high, he wants to raise them," McCain said. "Congress spends too much and he proposes more. We need more energy and he's against producing it. We're finally winning in Iraq, and he wants to forfeit."

Ron Suskind on Countdown: Bush Could get Impeached Over This Book

Ron Susskind was interviewed by Keith Olbermann on Countdown. He is the author of the book that claims the Bush White House paid an Iraqi insider to fabricate a letter as a way of pushing for war with Iraq. Read the entire transcript.

Ron Suskind in a moment. First, the details of what he has written in “The Way of the World” published today. The Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, writing that before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, President Bush already knew that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, something that did not stop him from ordering the invasion anyway.

Suskind speaking on the record with U.S. intelligence officials, who told him that in early 2003, in secret meetings with British intelligence, Saddam‘s own intelligence chief, Tahir Jalil Habbush, revealed that Iraq, in fact, did not have weapons of mass destruction, information that was passed on to the CIA.

When that information was then passed on to Mr. Bush—author Suskind says—the president became frustrated and said of Habbush, quote, “Why don‘t they ask him to give us something we can use to help us make our case?”

Habbush then held weekly meetings with British intelligence, telling them that Saddam had no WMD stockpiles and no active nuclear, chemical or biological weapons programs.

When all this was shared with CIA Director George Tenet, he said, quote, “They‘re not going to like this downtown,” downtown being the White House. It sounds like a police drama.

“The White House then buried the Habbush Report. They instructed the British that they were no longer interested in keeping the channel open.

Rob Richer, the CIA‘s Near East Division head, telling Suskind again on the record, quote, “Bush wanted to go to war in Iraq from the very first few days he was in office. Nothing was going to stop that.”

Now, for the smoking gun about the smoking gun that was never a smoking gun. CIA division head, Richer, is telling Suskind that not only did the order to forge a fake letter come from the White House, but the assignment had been written on creamy White House stationary.

“The White House had concocted a fake letter from Habbush to Saddam, backdated to July 1, 2001. It said that 9/11 ring leader , Mohammed Atta had actually trained for his mission in Iraq—thus showing finally that there was an operational link between Saddam and al Qaeda, something the Vice President‘s Office had been pressing CIA to prove since 9/11 as a justification to invade Iraq. There is no link.”

Another CIA official, John Maguire who oversaw the Iraq operations group also is confirming the existence of the forged letter to author Suskind, but Mr. Richer backtracking for both of them tonight in a statement to MSNBC, quote, “I never received direction from George Tenet or anyone else in my chain of command to fabricate a document from Habbush as outlined in Mr. Suskind‘s book.

Further, today, (5 August 2008) I talked with John Maguire, who has given me the permission to state the following on his behalf, ‘I never receive any instruction from then Chief/NE Rob Richer or any other officer in my chain of command instructing me to fabricate such a letter. Further, I have no knowledge to the origins of the letter and as to how it circulated in Iraq.”

The letter, whatever its origins, was passed in Baghdad to Con Coughlin, a reporter for the “Sunday Telegraph” of London who wrote it about in the front page of his newspaper on December 14th, 2003, the same day that Saddam Hussein was discovered in his hiding hole in Iraq. That day, Mr. Coughlin describing the significance of his find to Tom Brokaw on “MEET THE PRESS.”

[...]They‘re coming at you kind of forcefully. What‘s your response to that forcefulness and these comments?

SUSKIND: Well, the fact is, a lot of this is expected. I‘m one person who is standing at this point with the sources behind me, those who are holding firm, and, obviously, they‘re under acute pressure—to say this is an action that has constitutional implications along with, you know, the possibility of impeachment proceedings. All this in an odd way, you know, character assassination is what they do when they have nothing else to say.

OLBERMANN: Ask Scott McClellan.

Obama has Big Lead Among Working Class Whites, Women

We've been told for months that working class whites wouldn't support Obama. And That was because the Illinois Senator was an elitist. Pat Buchanan has been making the argument sing Hillary beat Obama soundly during the West Virginia primaries. It turns out that it is not the case. They also said Obama had a woman problem and that's why they needed Hillary as a running mate. The latest poll debunk these theories. Furthermore, McCain is not catching up to Obama overall.

The new CBS poll has an interesting result for all of us who have been thinking about the day-to-day variations of the campaign: The top-line numbers have not changed one bit since their last poll three weeks ago.

The numbers: Obama 45%, McCain 39%, with a margin of error of ±3%. Three weeks ago it was Obama 45%, McCain 39%.

The internals have some interesting demographic numbers. The two candidates are tied 40%-40% among independents. Obama leads 46%-42% among men and 44%-36% with women, and Obama has a 55%-33% lead with voters under age 45 to McCain's 44%-36% lead among voters over 45; And Obama is ahead 44%-32% among working class whites, a demographic that conventional wisdom had held he'd do badly with.

The press still continues to insist that there is trouble for Obama. That people are getting tired of him. Where's the evidence?
After two weeks of sharpened attacks between the campaigns, Barack Obama is maintaining a narrow 5% lead over John McCain in the race for the White House, a new TIME poll shows. Overall, the poll shows Obama leading McCain 46% to 41% when undecided voters with a slight preference are included (the margin of error was plus or minus three percentage points). That gap is the same as the presumptive Democratic nominee held in June.

The CNN lead is 5 percent. It is still a statistically significant lead.
With three months to go before election day, Obama's advantage is largest on atmospheric issues: he is seen as far more likeable and a greater force for change than McCain. Asked which candidate is most likeable, Obama beats McCain 65% to 20%; as for which is the real candidate for change, he leads 61% to 17%. Obama also beats McCain 48% to 35% on who understands voters' concerns best, another key indicator of appeal.

But on specific issues, Obama is treading water or sinking a bit. On the number one issue of the campaign right now, the economy, Obama leads McCain 43%-39%, compared to 44%-37% reported by TIME's poll in June. Despite his highly touted tour of Europe, the Middle East and Afghanistan last month, Obama may be in something of a late summer slump. The poll shows that voters have increased their faith in McCain's ability to manage the Iraq war, favoring him over Obama by a margin of 51%-36%, a five point jump since June. And voters boosted their belief that McCain would do a better job in managing the war on terror than they did in June, favoring the Arizona Senator over his colleague from Illinois by a 56%-29% margin, up from 53%-33% in June.

Obama did get good news from some segments of the population. Women now favor him by ten percentage points over McCain, 49%-39%. That seems to quell the notion that women would penalize Obama for beating Hillary Clinton in the primary. And Obama is holding his own with males, as he and McCain split them 43% each. McCain is leading Obama by seven points, 47%-40% among white voters, but that is well short of George W. Bush's 58%-41% edge over John Kerry in exit polls from the 2004 election. Obama, meanwhile, is getting the votes of 85% of blacks to McCain's 6%.

McCain is lagging in enthusiasm. Forty-nine percent of Obama voters describe themselves as "very enthusiastic," compared to just 21% of McCain backers, and a full 27% of the Republican nominee's supporters say they are either "not very" or "not at all" enthusiastic about him, compared with 10% for Obama.

George W. Bush, meanwhile, appears to still be a factor in the race to succeed him. Bush's approval rating hovers steadily at 29%. The percentage of people who disapprove of Bush who are supporting the Republican candidate anyway — a key indicator of the election — reveals how close the race remains. McCain is getting the support of 20% of voters who disapprove of Bush's handling of his job. Most pollsters believe that McCain will need closer to 30% of "Bush disapprovers" to beat Obama in November.

If you look at an average of all the polls, Obama continues to maintain a consistent lead (according to Whereas McCain numbers are inconsistent. He is dropping once again after rising last week. McCain has not been a 46% since early June, when the primaries were still going on. Conversely, Obama has been at 46 percent, and over, since early May! And now McCain is beginning to drop again while Obama is rising. The latest theory that the increased attacks on Obama are succeeding does not hold water.