TNR Staff

In "Is The A Middle Way?" in the latest issue of TNR, Stephen Biddle argues that half-measures in Afghanistan will ultimately fail.  Today, two experts in the field, The New America Foundation's Michael A. Cohen and Boston University professor Andrew J. Bacevich, respond. Click here to read Stephen Biddle's original piece on the need for a full counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan. Click here to read Michael A. Cohen suggest that there are more options for how to fight in Afghanistan than Biddle acknowledges. Click here to read Andrew J.

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I had to watch the Obama speech twice to be sure: But at a moment early in his oration, his crowd responded by shouting, “USA! USA!” I’ve been slow to fall for Obama. (After my early infatuation with Wes Clark in 2004, I’ve tried to discipline myself to be slow to fall for all candidates.) Still, his emphasis on the “nation”—one of his most recurrent themes—is also one of his most appealing. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a crowd of Democratic primary voters erupt in a spontaneous display like this. It was a genuinely moving moment, and another leading indicator of his electibility.

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The last month or so has been, if not great, then at least encouraging for Joe Biden. He's seen real (if modest) upward movement in various Iowa polls, picked up a few endorsements from local newspapers and politicians there, even started to win some attention from national pundits (see, for example, here). While breaking into the top tier is still a long shot (perhaps more so after this gaffe during a recent conversation with The Washington Post), it's not crazy to think Biden could win a ticket out of Iowa if one of the Big Three falters.

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Josh Marshall raises a great question today about Social Security, one I've wondered about myself for quite a while: If you believe the Social Security trust fund is one big myth, as most conservatives do, why on earth does it make sense to start "saving" Social Security today? After all, the Social Security program will be running surpluses for another decade or so. Those surpluses currently help fund the rest of the government, which, in return, sticks a lot of IOUs in the Social Security trust fund.

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The Bill Clinton Defense

Richard Wolffe has an interesting nugget in Newsweek about Clinton's plan to defuse the attacks headed her way:  But Clinton's campaign is honing its counterattack. Her aides say the opposition isn't just attacking Hillary but also impugning her husband—a tack they're confident will turn off most Democrats. "I don't think there's a very large constituency in the Democratic Party for that," says Clinton's communications director, Howard Wolfson.

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This passage from today's New York Times piece on Hillary and illegal immigrant driver's licenses sounded strange to me: After the debate, Mrs. Clinton did not again publicly address the [driver's license] issue herself, but her campaign struck back at Mr. Obama by mocking his theme of “the politics of hope.” “With each attack, Senator Obama undermines the central premise of his candidacy,” said Mark Daley, a spokesman for the Clinton campaign.

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Edwards deputy campaign manager Jonathan Prince makes a few points in response to my previous item. They're as follows (I'm paraphrasing): 1.) There's no historical example of someone getting killed in between wrapping up the nomination and the convention, at least not under analogous circumstances. True, Dole took a big hit from Clinton in 1996.

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Edwards's Dilemma

The Edwards camp has obviously been eager to talk about how money is corrupting politics. The campaign is starting to make that point in a kind of meta way, too. Edwards has now had two debates in a row where he was by most accounts the winner, and where he overshadowed Obama in pressing the case against Hillary. And yet, the day after the pundits heap praise on his performance, they'll likely revert to discussing him (at least implicitly) as a quasi-marginal candidate. What's more, it's hard to fault them for it.

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Former TNR hand Tim Fernholz has somehow found and passed along a clip of the 2000 Bush-Gore debate I mentioned in my item below about the Hillary "glare." Clinton wasn't nearly this clumsy last night, of course, but I do think the spirit may have been the same. Now I need to find a clip of Lazio confronting her in their famous 2000 debate. (Skip ahead to about 0:55 on the clock if you're impatient):   --Michael Crowley

For what it's worth, I actually buy the Clinton stance on immigrant driver's licenses, though I think Mark Penn (via Ambinder) articulated it better than she did during the debate. All she meant was that, in the absence immigration reform on the federal level, individual governors may have to resort to some unorthodox measures, which is what Eliot Spitzer did by contemplating driver's licences for illegal aliens. (Whether we like it or not, illegal aliens drive--and get into accidents--like the rest of us.) Given that she's a U.S.

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