John Edwards Acts Presidential After Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

The fact is that events such as the assassination of Benazir Bhutto will have an impact on the Iowa caucus.  International events have a direct impact on the voters, and the death of Bhutto shows the folly to Bush’s foreign policy in Pakistan and the Middle East.  So it was important to watch the various presidential candidates as they talked on Thursday after the news of the assassination became known.

While Hillary Clinton and others talked John Edwards acted, as CNN reported.

“I actually spoke to President Musharraf just a few minutes ago as I was about to come in here,” Edwards told an audience at Luther College here. “And he was in Islamabad. And I urged him to continue this democratization process … I also urged him to allow international investigators into Pakistan to determine the facts.”

Edwards told reporters after the event that the investigators are needed “for transparency purposes and credibility purposes to determine what happened.”

The former senator said he had put in a request with Pakistan’s ambassador to the United States earlier this morning to speak with Musharraf, and that Musharraf called him back before the town hall meeting.

“He called me because I told the ambassador I would like to speak to him,” Edwards said. “I met him a few years ago, which I think I told you earlier.”

Edwards would not reveal whether Musharraf welcomed the idea of an independent investigation into the Bhutto attack.

“I’m going to let him speak for himself. I don’t think it would be responsible to make an announcement on that,” he said.

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Must Read Paragraphs In Newspaper Concerning Pakistan And President Bush

There is no doubt today that the idea of placing all our hopes with President Musharraf of Pakistan was a poor choice.  Had President Bush listened instead of swagger the world might be in a different spot today.  There was plenty of debate about the course American foreign policy should take in relation to Pakistan.  But Bush opted for a policy that was based on Musharraf, instead of a broad based Pakistan policy.  In the end, Bush’s hope to bring democracy to the Muslim world, and his desire to force out the Islamist militants who have hung on tenaciously in Pakistan have both failed.

Having said that there is a wonderful editorial in Friday’s New York Times that must be read. 

Betting America’s security (and Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal) on an unaccountable dictator, President Pervez Musharraf, did not work. Betting it on a back-room alliance between that dictator and Ms. Bhutto, who had hoped to win a third try as prime minister next month, is no longer possible.

That leaves Mr. Bush with the principled, if unfamiliar, option of using American prestige and resources to fortify Pakistan’s badly battered democratic institutions. There is no time to waste.

With next month’s parliamentary elections already scrambled, Washington must now call for new rules to assure a truly democratic vote.

That means a relatively brief delay to allow Ms. Bhutto’s party, probably the country’s largest, to choose a new candidate for prime minister and mount an abbreviated campaign. Washington must also demand that Pakistan’s other main opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, be allowed to run. And it must insist that Mr. Musharraf reinstate the impartial Supreme Court judges he fired last month in order to block them from overturning his rigged election.

Mr. Musharraf is stubborn. Washington will need to send the same message to Pakistan’s military leaders, perhaps the ex-general’s only remaining backers.

The Bush administration has to rethink more than just its unhealthy and destructive enabling of Mr. Musharraf. It also must take a hard look at the billions it is funneling to Pakistan’s military. That money is supposed to finance the fight against Al Qaeda and the Taliban. As a report in The Times on Monday showed, Washington hasn’t kept a close watch, and much of it has gone to projects that interested Mr. Musharraf and the Pakistani Army more, like building weapons systems aimed at America’s ally, India. Meanwhile, Al Qaeda and the Taliban continued, and continue, to make alarming gains.

The United States cannot afford to have Pakistan unravel any further. The lesson of the last six years is that authoritarian leaders — even ones backed with billions in American aid — don’t make reliable allies, and they can’t guarantee security.

American policy must now be directed at building a strong democracy in Pakistan that has the respect and the support of its own citizens and the will and the means to fight Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Pakistan is a nation of 165 million people. The days of Washington mortgaging its interests there to one or two individuals must finally come to an end.

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Pictures Of The Madness In Pakistan As Benazir Bhutto Assassinated

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Benazir Bhutto got into a car to leave, waving to supporters moments before being attacked.

Benazir Bhutto was one of those gutsy ones on the world stage that gave hope to the notion that things might be changed by getting involved in politics.  Her tragic assassination today in Pakistan removes one of the dreamers in the world.  And it makes me sad.  These are some pictures from the BBC of today’s news.

James and I watch BBC News where international stories get the coverage they deserve.  It was recently on one of their broadcasts that we remarked over the bravery Bhutto exhibited over her return to Pakistan to run in the nations general election.   All polls showed that she was the likely winner when the balloting was to start on January 8, 2008.  In fact only last week she had stated that the only way she could lose was if vote-rigging took place. 

So the action today of those who wish to destroy the best chances to make progress in Pakistan may claim success.  While they succeeded in silencing Bhutto, the idealism and class that she brought to the world stage will inspire and remind all that much work needs to be done in Pakistan.

While I have grave problems with Pervez Musharraf, I also find the other main contender for election, Nawaz Sharif, short sighted and ill-suited for the role of moving Pakistan in a careful direction given the internal chaos there, and the international complexities that surrounds the country.  Benazir Bhutto was the one most suited for the job of uniting her people and the world community at this juncture.  She was the best one in Pakistan to bridge the divides and calm the nation.

Now instead there will be anger and riots in Pakistan, followed by long term uncertainty. 

And much sadness around the globe.

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Presidential Primaries Have Always Been Exciting

This is an interesting read for a slow day after Christmas. 

When it comes to electing the President, the modern campaign era has its roots 95 years ago when North Dakota held the first presidential primary. CQ Politics looks back and charts for you, election by election, how this process grew over the last century into the long and sprawling campaigns that have become part of the political landscape. This first in a series covers 1912-64.

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Why Quirky Ron Paul Is Wrong About The Civil War

In their zeal to limit taxation and ‘government intrusion’, libertarians often show their lack of moral fiber on national issues that resonate with most Americans. That is one reason that thankfully they do not hold many elective offices in the nation.  The problem with libertarian thinking was demonstrated again most recently when Ron Paul was featured on “Meet The Press’ this past Sunday.

I had to shake my head in bewilderment as to why a candidate for president in 2008 would bash President Lincoln, arguably the most important leader this nation ever had.  Can Ron Paul be truly void of understanding the moral victory by having slavery ended in the Civil War?  Does his reading of American history about the decades that led up to the Civil War make him feel that a ‘buy out” of the slaves would have actually worked?  And who was to pay for this plan, or execute it, given that folks like Paul hate taxation and government meddling?

Men such as Vice President of the Confederacy Stephens told Abe Lincoln directly that the south would never allow slavery to be ended based on public opinion. Men such as Stephens were not delivering empty threats.  Slavery was seen by a powerful segment of society as a way of life and a right.  Given that the southern economy was tied to slavery I think Ron Paul should consider how a whole radically reformed south was to have been born once the government bought the slaves.  There is no credible argument for buying out the slaves as a means to ending the shameful practice that the south loved.  And Ron Paul knows that. 

While talking about Ron Paul’s slavery issue over Christmas Eve dinner with friends, it was noted that libertarian types love to get frothy over these types of eclectic arguments, and that Paul was probably hoping for another dozen votes by bashing Abe Lincoln.  I am not sure about the votes, but he did get plenty of snickers.

The problem is that Ron Paul was wrong with his assessment concerning the reasons why Lincoln took the nation to war.  Lincoln’s main motive was not to crush the Constitution or alter the founding father’s intentions.  There is a whole cottage industry of Lincoln bashing that has built into a rabid following based on such malarkey.  Paul was feeding into that line of crap in a pathetic grab for a few votes.  Lincoln knew that toughness had to be employed if the Union was to be maintained.  And the bulk of society has been forever grateful.

One might argue that Lincoln was too risky in some of the measures he employed to secure the survival of the Union, such as the suspension of habeas corpus.  Arguments abound if Lincoln had thought enough about how his actions might make it easier for future presidents to act in such a manner.  What is often lost in this line of thinking is that democratic nations do have the right to effectively fight for their survival.  There is no civil war that has ever been fought where a bit of repression is not required to obtain victory.  Just a fact.  

Lincoln was right that the Union should not be dissolved.  John Hay, Lincoln’s secretary during the war, wrote that in Lincoln’s mind it was a necessity to prove that popular government was not an absurdity.  While the war was very much centered on the question of slavery, the need to put aside the notion of a split Union was forefront to all the actions that Lincoln would take.   The fact that Lincoln never had a desire to be a dictator, and relaxed the necessary steps he used at times during the war, is proof of his intentions.

I suppose out of the need to be honest with my readers I should mention that President Lincoln is my favorite person that has sat in the Oval Office.  I do not care for the ripping on Lincoln that some think is great sport.  Abe Lincoln and the Civil War are well represented on my bookshelves and I much enjoy the writings of folks such as Shelby Foote and Carl Sandburg.   In addition, James fifth great grandmother was a third cousin to Hannibal Hamlin.  And as I said before most of us in America are grateful for the tall lanky man with the high voice from Illinois.

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Wisconsin And Southern Santa Train 2007

Still on Christmas blogging break, but this video of the Wisconsin and Southern Santa train from this year is just awesome.  I had to post it!  Turn your speakers up and walk back in time.

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Ready To Celebrate Christmas

The Christmas mood has settled in over our home.  Much like the fog outside it seems insulating and perfect.  A couple more gifts to wrap, and some more cookies to make are all that remain to be done.  Relaxing and enjoying the tree and the meaning of the season will be at the top of our agenda.    With another major winter storm aiming for Wisconsin we are glad to have all the shopping completed so we can stay off the roads during the bad weather slated for this weekend in Madison.

I hope that all of you have a Merry Christmas! I will be back to blogging on December 26.

Below you will find my Mom’s favorite Christmas song.  I thought this a good place to post it.

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Stonewall Jackson Keeps Up The Fight At The Grand Ole Opry

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There is good news to report tonight over the continuing fight to insure that the legends of the Grand Ole Opry can continue to perform on the nation’s longest running radio show.  Earlier this year I wrote about how growing old at the Grand Ole Opry can be a trying experience. The blog post went national with the help of a Nashville blogger, and the comments I got were amazing and heartfelt. 

I was thrilled tonight to learn that Stonewall Jackson’s lawsuit against the Opry is able to go forward. 

A federal judge has cleared the way for country music singer Stonewall Jackson to pursue claims of age discrimination against the Grand Ole Opry.

Jackson, who joined the Opry in 1956 and had a string of hits in the ’50s and ’60s, including the No. 1 single “Waterloo,” filed a $20 million lawsuit earlier this year against Gaylord Entertainment and Opry General Manager Peter Fisher.

The singer claimed breach of contract, retaliation and age discrimination.

Gaylord, which owns the Opry, denied the allegations and in court papers accused the 75-year-old singer of filing the lawsuit to boost his career.

Neither Jackson nor his manager could be reached for comment, but the singer’s attorney said Jackson was pleased with the recent decision by U.S. District Judge William Haynes Jr.

“He feels, and has always felt, that he was an employee of the Grand Ole Opry, and he feels that he’s entitled to the protection of the federal law,” stated Jackson’s attorney.

The reason this story might draw the attention of the average person in the nation is due to the issue of people growing older, while still wanting to contribute with the talents and skills one has been given.  For those of us who find the Grand Ole Opry a real slice of Americana this story is personal.

For the past 15 years I have videotaped from TV countless hours of the Grand Ole Opry, with the likes of Roy Acuff, Minnie Pearl, and other legends of the famed radio show performing to adoring audiences. This year James and I bought a machine to convert VHS to DVD, so I sat down with a tech-friend to learn how to edit tapes.  The project turned out to be a labor of love while watching the old singers, and listening to their folksy humor.  As a long time lover of the Opry, the homey old-fashioned way of performing was most comforting.  I recalled many of the singers from days at my grandparent’s place where we all watched “Hee Haw”.  Still others were memories from when as a boy I heard the Opry over WSM on the radio in my parent’s dining room.  Those old singers were still relevant even in their older years. 

To somehow pretend that these singers were not instrumental in the golden age of the Opry, and should not be honored, is shameful. To assume that they no longer have the right to stand on the famed round circle located center stage at the Opry based on their age is just plain wrong.  And if justice is served, it will be illegal.

I hope that Stonewall fights hard for his rights.  With each stand he takes he also fights for the others who wish to continue to hear the applause, and wish to continue their careers at the Opry.  With each day Stonewall fights he also makes those of us who know the Opry is more than a bottom line on a ledger book most proud.

Keep Up The Fight Stonewall!