It’s Over.

I’ve been sitting on this post for a long time. Mainly, I didn’t want to call the election too early; I wanted the democratic process to play out and run its course.

At this point, though, the reality is undeniable.

I know a lot of Clinton supporters, and they’re all great people. Smart, engaged, passionate, hard-working Democrats through-and-through. And I know the situation they’re in—I know what it feels like to know that your candidate is losing. I know what it’s like to dig your heels in, to vow to stay in to the bitter end, to sit and wait for every last single vote to be counted and until every last bit of hope is gone.

But it’s time. It’s time to face the facts and acknowledge that Hillary Clinton will not be the Democratic nominee. It’s a painful realization—it would be painful for me if I had to acknowledge that Obama would not be the nominee—but it’s necessary. We have to do this.

Let’s look at how Clinton could—or could not—become the nominee.

(All delegate calculations use Slate’s Delegate Calculator)

  • Hillary Clinton wins enough pledged delegates to win the nomination, and thus the superdelegates won’t matter.

    This outcome is impossible at this point. Even if Clinton wins every remaining primary with 100% of the vote, she’ll have 1821 pledged delegates to Obama’s 1413. No matter what, the superdelegates will end up choosing the nominee.

    • Hillary Clinton wins enough pledged delegates to take the lead, and the superdelegates go along with the popular vote and give her the nomination.

      Even if Clinton wins every remaining primary with 60% of the vote, she’ll still trail Obama by 42 pledged delegates. It’s obvious that Clinton won’t win every remaining primary, let alone with a 20% margin of victory.

      And there’s Clinton’s problem. No matter how the rest of the primary turns out, she’ll still trail Obama in terms of pledged delegates.

      Now, the superdelegates are free to vote how they please. But barring the massive, unprecedented collapse of the Obama campaign, they’re not going to throw her the nomination.

      See, if they give the nomination to Obama, he’ll have a certain measure of legitimacy—he won the popular vote, which is why the superdelegates supported him. If the superdelegates were to give the nomination to Clinton, they would be directly contradicting the will of the Democratic electorate, and there would be a massive backlash. The superdelegates know this, and they’re going to do everything they can to avoid that backlash.

      The argument that the superdelegates can give the nomination to the loser of the popular vote is inherently undemocratic. It assumes that the electorate are idiots, and that we need elites to protect us from selecting the ‘wrong’ candidate. We are the Democratic Party, and the heart of democracy is that the people decide, right or wrong.

      Should Clinton drop out? Yes. She can’t win, and all she’s doing now is hurting Barack Obama and the Democratic Party. Yes, the long primary means that our base, our activists and our donors are more engaged than ever, and that we Democrats are paying attention to states that almost never get any attention. But those benefits will only go so far, and I think we’ve reached the limit. At this point, Clinton will have to retract a lot of her statements and eat a lot of crow once this is all said and done, and some of her attacks on Obama have left lasting damage.

      Some people may allege that I’m saying PA, NC, KY and the other states who haven’t voted don’t matter. No, of course they matter—people voting, participating, and letting their voices be hears always matter. But what I am saying is that they won’t choose the nominee, just like no other state to date has chosen the nominee. That’s just a fact.

      This has gone on long enough. Obama is the only one who has any realistic paths to the nomination; Clinton’s paths are all based on assumptions, unrealistic expectations, or outright ludicrous scenarios. It’s time for us to get together and focus our efforts on the real threat to America: John McCain and his supporters in the media.

      John McCain & Lobbyists

      We already know John McCain isn’t a maverick–he’s a pure Washington insider, steeped in 25 years of D.C. culture.

      In fact, not only does McCain have inappropriate relationships with lobbyists, but his entire Presidential campaign is run by special interest lobbyists.

      Need proof?Take a look at just how far special interests have infiltrated the McCain campaign (a handy visual analysis is here):

      INNER CIRCLE
      Mike Dennehy National Political Director Founder, The Dennehy Group
      Richard Davis Campaign Manager Founder, Davis Manfort Inc; COMSAT, SBC Inc.
      Christian Ferry Deputy Campaign Manager SBC Communications, Verizon
      Charles Black Chief Political Adviser Chair, BKSH & Associates; General Motors, United Technologies, JP Morgan, AT&T
      Wayne Berman Senior Policy Adviser, National Finance Committee Co-Chair Managing Director, Oglivy Government Relations; Carlyle Group, Citigroup, Airbus
      David Crane Senior Policy Adviser Quadrapoint Strategies, Bank of America, Financial Services Roundtable, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
           
      CAMPAIGN CHAIRS
      James Courter National Finance Committee Co-Chair Marril Lynch, NBC, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, Goldman Schs, SBC Communications
      Susan Nelson National Finance Committee Co-Chair The Loeffler Group, Airbus
      Brian Ballard National Finance Committee Co-Chair Smith Ballard & Logan, Florida Power & Light, GTech, Honda North America
      Thomas Loeffler National Finance Committee Co-Chair, Campaign Co-Chair Founder, The Loeffler Group; AT&T, National Association of Broadcasters, Pharmecutical Research And Manufacturers of America, Port of Huston, Southwest Airlines, Toyota
      Kirk Blalock National Chair, Young Professionals For McCain Fierce Isakowitz & Blalock, Airbus
      Jerry Kilgore State Co-Chair (VA) Williams Mullen, Shell Oil, Alpha National Resources
      Don Sunquist State Co-Chair (TN) Co-Founder, Sunquist Anthony; Freddie Mac, The Hartford, Waste Management
      William Hilleary State Co-Chair (TN) Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, SMS Holding, AmSurg, Militec
      Matt Salmon State Co-Chair (AZ) President, Comptel
      Slade Gordon Honorary Co-Chair T-Mobile, Microsoft, Delta Airlines, Air Transport Association of America, Kirkpatrick & Lockhart Preston Gates Ellis
      Richard Zimmer Honorary Vice-Chair Gibson Dunn & Crutcher, Network Solutions, T-Mobile, Business Roundtable
           
      ADVISERS
      Anthony Villamil Economic Policy Adviser Public Service Enterprise Group
      James Rill Economic Policy Adviser Howery LLP, Smokeless Tobacco Council, Intel
      Carlos Bonilla Economic Policy Adviser Senior Vice President, Washington Group; Freddie Mac, Time Warner, Motrola, National Cable & Telecommunications Associaton
      Grant Aldonas Economic Policy Adviser Managing Director, Split Rock International; Mittal Steel USA
      Nancy Pfotenhauer Economic Policy Adviser Koch Industries
      Joseph Wright Economic Policy Adviser CEO, PanAmSat
      Aquilez Suarez Economic Policy Adviser Vice President of Government Affairs, National Association of Industrial & Other Properties
      John Green Adviser Co-Founder, Oglivy Government Relations; BellSouth, NRA, Airbus, U.S. Telecom Association
      John Timmons Adviser Founding Partner, Cormac Group; Time Warner, AT&T, Association of American Railroads, National Association of Broadcasters
      Robert Aiker Adviser Vice President, Pinnacle West Capitol Corp
      Timothy McKone Adviser Vice President, AT&T
           
      FUNDRAISERS
      William Ball Fundraiser Oglivy Government Relations, Airbus

      How can thus guy claim to be some maverick standing up for the little guy while paying millionaire special interest lobbyists to run his campaign? How does McCain get away with being so two-faced? Well, because the media lets him get away with it:

      The media is particularly fond of the myth that John McCain is the senatorial thorn in the side of Washington lobbyists. This myth is pervasive and it suggests that McCain is the “maverick, moderate reformer” that he claims to be. Despite all of his posturing, McCain’s 2008 presidential campaign is rife with lobbyist connections.

      Not only does the McCain campaign have more current and former lobbyist bundlers than any other candidate, but McCain has more current and former lobbyists working on his campaign staff than any other candidate in the 2008 presidential election.

      The conservative press loves John McCain. Too bad their skewed representation of one of America’s most corrupt Senators leaves the American people in the dark.

      Want to fight back? Demand accountability and honesty here.

      Iraq Is Burning: Day 4 (UPDATED)

      Day 1Day 2Day 3

      From the BBC:

      More than 130 people have been killed and 350 injured since a clampdown on militias began in Basra on Tuesday.

      Today, the Iraqi government extended the deadline for disarmament they placed on the insurgents a few days ago from 3 days to 10.

      According to BBC analyst Magdi Abdelhadi, the extension shows either the fighting is proving more difficult than the Prime Minster predicted, or there are behind-the-scenes peace negotiations. The former seems more likely–the Iraqi government can’t put down the armed rebellion themselves, and they don’t know where to proceed after the deadline expires, so they’re extending it in the hopes a solution will somehow present itself.

      Iraq’s progress in the 5 intervening years since the start of the war has been absolutely abysmal. The Iraqi government and military are nowhere near prepared to deal with the deep sectarian divisions in their country, and this most recent uprising shows it. Predictably, when the efforts by the Iraqis did nothing to stop the violence, U.S. forces had to intervene:

      American military forces conducted air strikes on targets in Basra late Thursday, joining for the first time an onslaught by Iraqi security forces intended to oust Shiite militias in the southern port city.

      Two American war planes shelled two targets in Basra, entering the battle at the request of the Iraqi Army, which asked the American and British forces to make the strikes, according to Maj. Tom Holloway, a spokesman for the British Army in Basra.

      The air strikes are the clearest sign yet that the coalition forces have been drawn into the fighting in Basra. Up until Thursday night, the American and British air forces insisted that the Iraqis had taken the lead, though they acknowledged surveillance support for the Iraqi Army.

      More from The Washington Post:

      Four U.S. Stryker armored vehicles were seen in Sadr City by a Washington Post correspondent, one of them engaging Mahdi Army militiamen with heavy fire. The din of American weapons, along with the Mahdi Army’s AK-47s and rocket-propelled grenades, was heard through much of the day. U.S. helicopters and drones buzzed overhead.

      The clashes suggested that American forces were being drawn more deeply into a broad offensive that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite, launched in the southern city of Basra on Tuesday, saying death squads, criminal gangs and rogue militias were the targets. The Mahdi Army of cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite rival of Maliki, appeared to have taken the brunt of the attacks; fighting spread to many southern cities and parts of Baghdad.

      This has been the story of Iraq, day in and day out, for years. Whenever things get tough, the Iraqi government leans on the United States to solve their problems for them. It’s been five years since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government–five years to negotiate, to build a military, to stabilize the country and begin making progress. Unfortunately, due to George W Bush and the Republicans’ disastrous policies, the Iraqi government hasn’t made nearly as much progress as they should have. And now, whenever violence breaks out, American soldiers end up getting caught in the middle.

      That’s why this war needs to end as soon as possible. As long as we’re there propping them up, the Iraqi government and military will never need to actually deal with their country’s problems. They’ll never be independent problem-solvers. And whenever things get tough, they’ll use us as a crutch.

      That’s why I’m glad to see that 42 Democratic Congressional candidates have signed onto “A Responsible Plan To End The War In Iraq.” Iraq needs independence, not co-dependence. Iraq needs to be able to stand up and lead on their own, without the United States holding their hands every step of the way. The sooner we start to withdraw our troops, the sooner we can send a signal to the Iraqi government that we’re serious about leaving and the sooner we can begin preparing them to be independent once and for all.

      UPDATE: Fred Kaplan puts the present strife in perspective:

      The fighting in Basra, which has spread to parts of Baghdad, is not a clash between good and evil or between a legitimate government and an outlaw insurgency. Rather, as Anthony Cordesman, military analyst for the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, writes, it is “a power struggle” between rival “Shiite party mafias” for control of the oil-rich south and other Shiite sections of the country.

      Yesterday, President Bush portrayed the intense fighting in Iraq as a return to ‘normalcy.’  While I agree that massive  amounts of violence and bloody sectarian fighting have become the norm in Iraq, that’s not exactly the kind of progress I would tout if I were him.

      John McBush Has Some Problems

      John McCain has some problems to deal with.

      First, his latest FEC report shows his campaign violating the $54 million fundraising limit set by campaign finance laws. McCain opted into the public financing system months ago; by exceeding this limit, he has broken the very campaign finance reform laws he shepherded through Congress in 2002.

      Then again, this isn’t unexpected. On this issue, McCain declared that the laws don’t apply to him–that he’s no longer restricted by public financing limits. Unfortunately for him, this isn’t his decision to make–McCain opted into public financing (receiving benefits such as money and ballot access) and he can’t pull out until and unless the FEC agrees.

      A month ago, the FEC sent McCain a letter:

      The nation’s top federal election official told Sen. John McCain yesterday that he cannot immediately withdraw from the presidential public financing system as he had requested, a decision that threatens to dramatically restrict his spending until the general election campaign begins in the fall.

      […]

      The implications of that could be dramatic. Last year, when McCain’s campaign was starved for cash, he applied to join the financing system to gain access to millions of dollars in federal matching money. He was also permitted to use his FEC certification to bypass the time-consuming process of gathering signatures to get his name on the ballot in several states, including Ohio

      […]

      By signing up for matching money, McCain agreed to adhere to strict state-by-state spending limits and an overall limit on spending of $54 million for the primary season, which lasts until the party’s nominating convention in September. The general election has a separate public financing arrangement.

      […]

      Knowingly violating the spending limit is a criminal offense that could put McCain at risk of stiff fines and up to five years in prison.

      In response to John McCain breaking campaign finance laws, the DNC filed an FEC complaint. In addition, a number of progressive bloggers also filed an FEC complaint; they’re coupling it with a petition, which you can sign here.

      Second, McCain gave what was billed as a major foreign policy speech yesterday. Unfortunately for him, it was light on specifics, and the policies he actually proposed were more than lacking.

      McCain echoed George W. Bush’s rhetoric on Iraq, casting the war as a choice between staying the course and winning or ‘cutting and running’ and surrendering to Al-Qaeda. Middle East expert and former Ambassador Marc Ginsberg had this to say about McCain’s false choice:

      The trouble with this set up is that McCain’s core premise is dead wrong. By our own senior commanders’ accounts, Al Qaeda is but a minor player in Iraq, and there is no way the U.S. presence, surge or not, that will keep a lid on sectarian tensions. Just look at what is going on in Iraq at the very tragic milestone of 4,000 Americans killed: the worst sectarian violence in months has broken out with hundreds of lives lost despite a McCain’s surge that he continues to tout as the fire extinguisher that will stop sectarian strife from igniting once again.

      McCain proposed forming a ‘League of Democracies,’ a new international institution that would provide political cover for whatever disastrous foreign policies a McCain presidency would come up with.

      But the League of Democracies would be the ‘Coalition of the Willing’ by a different name, made up of countries trying to curry our favor by rubber-stamping our foreign policy decisions, no matter how idiotic or ill-fated. In other words, it would be the exact kind of wrong-headed ad-hoc alliance that helped get us into Iraq in the first place.

      In addition, the League of Democracies would be a formalized version of Bush’s cowboy diplomacy–it would institutionalize our current foreign policy, which ignores and marginalizes any country that doesn’t follow our foreign policy directives. Much like the Bush presidency, this plan will both galvanize and unite America’s enemies, creating a dangerous, unstable bi-polar world.

      Ambassador Ginsberg says it best:

      What is so strikingly and inherently wrong with McCain’s world vision is that America’s global leadership will not be restored by ignoring adversaries that, left to their own devices, may further challenge and undermine America’s national security.

      If this is the kind of foreign policy insight 25 years in Congress gets you, then I’d say Barack Obama has a point.

      Third, McCain’s speech invoked this gem from his childhood:

      When I was five years old, a car pulled up in front of our house in New London, Connecticut, and a Navy officer rolled down the window, and shouted at my father that the Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.

      Good God, John McCain remembers Pearl Harbor. Nothing like reminding the American people that, if elected, you would be the oldest President in American history.

      Along those lines, take this quote from a McCain staffer:

      If America is looking for a second term of the Jimmy Carter Administration of high taxes at home and weakness abroad vote Obama. I doubt they are.

      Looking over the 2000 census numbers, roughly half of the voting-age population in the United States is 40 years or younger. If you’re 40 today, that means you were born in 1967 or 1968; since Jimmy Carter left office in January, 1977, it stands to reason that if you’re 40 or below, you probably don’t remember very much about the Carter administration.

      So the McCain campaign is invoking the Carter administration, despite the fact that nearly half of America’s voting-age population aren’t old enough to even remember it. (Hell, I wasn’t even born until the Reagan years)

      Of course, there’s a good way to re-work that quote to make it more recent…and more accurate:

      If America is looking for a second term of the [George Bush] Administration of [economic devastation] at home and weakness abroad vote [McCain]. I doubt they are.

      There. Perfect.

      Iraq Is Burning: Day 3

      BREAKING: CNN brings us this headline:

      A U.S. government official was killed today when militants fired rockets into the Green Zone in Baghdad, the U.S. Embassy says.

      Today, violence has continued to rage in Iraq:

      Forty-two people were killed Thursday in Kut, southeast of Baghdad, Iraq’s Interior Ministry said, the latest casualties in three days of clashes between militias and Iraqi security forces.

      […]

      Since Tuesday, clashes in Basra and throughout Iraq’s Shiite heartland have left more than 100 dead and many wounded in Basra, Baghdad, Hilla, Kut, Karbala and Diwaniya.

      […]

      Thursday, a car bomb explosion killed three people and wounded five others near a police patrol in central Baghdad, an Interior Ministry official said. There are no apparent links to the violence in the Shiite regions.

      Witnesses in Basra report smoke rising and gunfire and explosions ringing out across the city, where Iraqi security forces, backed by U.S. and British troops, have been taking on fighters using grenades, mortar rounds and machine guns.

      There was fighting Thursday in Jamhouriya, one of five neighborhoods the Mehdi Army controls, and Muqal, according to an official from Basra province and witnesses.

      In addition to the recent death of an American official, an Iraqi government official has been kidnapped:

      A spokesman for the Baghdad security plan, Tahsin al-Sheikhly, was kidnapped from his Baghdad home by armed men on Thursday, security officials told AFP.

      The officials said Sheikhly, who spoke on civic matters related to the security plan launched in February last year, was abducted from his home in Baghdad’s al-Amin neighborhood at around 2:30 pm (1130 GMT).

      “Armed men stormed his home at a time when there were clashes in his neighborhood,” a security official with the interior ministry said.

      “They burnt his home and stole two cars and weapons before fleeing with him.”

      Meanwhile, the Pentagon is saying that the end of Al-Sadr’s ceasefire and the violent armed rebellion by his Mahdi Army is a good thing:

      The fighting in Basra, and rocket attacks on Baghdad’s Green Zone by members of the Mahdi Army militia, have led some analysts to believe the unilateral ceasefire called by the militia’s powerful leader Moqtada al-Sadr is falling apart. Among those analysts is Ilan Goldenberg, policy director of the National Security Network, a frequent critic of the Bush Administration’s Iraq policy.

      “It looks like it’s breaking down. If it is in fact breaking down, and not just a temporary blip, then you could have a major increase in violence,” he said.

      That’s not how the Pentagon sees it, according to Press Secretary Geoff Morrell. “I do not think at this stage, at this stage, which is mere days into this operation, anyone is prepared to stand here and tell you that they feel as though the gains we’ve made over the past several months are in jeopardy,” he said.

      […]

      Goldenberg sees the situation very differently. “Realistically, this is a massive power struggle between the two strongest segments in the country, at least in the Shia’ south. I can’t see this as being a good thing especially since you already see it spreading to other cities, like Baghdad and Kut and Najaf. What you’re looking for here is potentially an all-out breakout in Shia’ civil war. I can’t really see how that’s a wonderful sign,” he said.

      That’s the standard Bush administration/Republican line for you: no matter what happens in Iraq, it’s good news.

      If violence goes down, they say it means that our strategy is working and it’s good news. Of course, then we can’t bring American troops home since they’re the only thing keeping violence down.

      If violence stays the same, they say it means we’re stabilizing the country and it’s good news. Of course, then we can’t bring American troops home since they need to maintain the stability and make further progress.

      And if violence goes up, they say it means we’re doing so well that the anti-American forces are desperately lashing out against us (in what is inevitably their ‘last throes) and it’s good news. Of course, then we can’t bring American troops home because they have to put down the uprisings and bring stability.

      What does this show us? Well, that–in the eyes of Republicans–spin trumps reality.  Right now, though, the reality on the ground is undeniable: violence is going up in Iraq, and it’s bad news no matter who you are.

      Iraq Is Burning: Day 2 (UPDATED)

      Ilan Goldenberg at Democracy Arsenal explains the connection between the Mahdi Army’s ceasefire and the reduction of violence in Iraq:

      The drop in violence in Iraq has generally been attributed to four elements 1) More American forces and the change in tactics to counterinsurgency; 2) The Awakening movement; 3) The Sadr ceasfire; and 4) The ethnic cleansing and physical separation of the various sides.

      It’s hard to say for sure, which of these factors was the most important. The Bush Administration will tell you it’s all about the troop levels. I’ve tended to believe it’s more of a mix and was most inclined towards the Anbar Awakening and the sectarian cleansing as the important factors. But when you look at the data it really seems to indicate that the Sadr ceasefire may have been the key.

      […]

      If you look at the graph that MNF-I has been using on civilian casualties [available here] it looks to tell a pretty clear story. The first major drop in violence came in early 2007 before the troop surge. It looks like it was mostly based on the fact that the worst of the sectarian cleansing in Baghdad had been completed

      […]

      The second drop in violence came in September. By that time the full surge had already been in effect for 2-3 months and the Awakening had been going on for a year. The Sadr ceasefire occured on August 28 and suddenly boom a big drop in violence. That could be a coincidence and it could be that all four factors came together. But the data seems to point to the fact that the Sadr Ceasefire more then anything else is what caused the drop in violence in the early fall.

      [Emphasis added]

      So data from the Multinational Force in Iraq (MNF-I) shows that, to a large extent, the Mahdi Army’s ceasefire played a major role in the drop-off in casualties and violence since the end of summer. Now that they’re once again clashing with both U.S. and Iraqi forces, will violence go up to where it was in August?

      The major question is, what sparked the Mahdi Army to take up arms once again after over seven months of a successful ceasefire? Well, Iraqi’s security forces began cracking down on Sadrists for, ostensibly, political & sectarian reasons. Eric Martin explains:

      It is no secret that America’s main ally in Iraq (and Iran’s), the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI), is likely to lose ground to the more popular Sadrist current in the upcoming provincial elections (the Sadrist current boycotted the 2005 round). Absent some extracurricular activities to level the playing field that is. As Cernig noted quoting an AP article on Friday, ISCI, whose Iran-trained militia (the Badr Corp.) has heavily infiltrated Iraqi Security Forces, has been moving aggressively (in tandem with US forces) to help overcome what it lacks in popular appeal:

      A Sadrist member of parliament alleged that the crackdown in Kut and elsewhere in the south was part of a move by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s Dawa party and [ISCI] to prevent al-Sadr’s followers from winning control of key southern provinces in provincial elections expected this fall.

      “They have no supporters in the central and southern provinces, but we do,” Ahmed al-Massoudi told the AP. “If the crackdown against the Sadrists continues, we will begin consultations with other parliamentary blocs to bring down the government and replace it with a genuinely national one.”

      So the Iraqi government, fearful of losing ground to the Sadrists in the upcoming election, implemented a crackdown in order to reduce their influence in the upcoming elections, particularly in their strongholds in southern Iraq. Unfortunately, that crackdown pushed the Mahdi Army too far, leading them to violently revolt against the government.

      Recently, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki gave the militia three days to lay down their arms:

      Clashes continued Wednesday between Iraqi security forces and Shiite militias in the southern city of Basra, as Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki laid down a deadline for gunmen to surrender and fresh rocket attacks hit Baghdad’s Green Zone.

      […]

      According to wire service reports, Maliki issued a statement giving gunmen in Basra three days to give up their weapons and renounce further violence. Those who don’t, said a Maliki aide, will be targeted for arrest in the ongoing security operation.

      […]

      In a sign of the offensive’s importance, Maliki flew to Basra on Monday to oversee operations.

      By Tuesday evening, Iraqi security forces and Shiite militias had also clashed in the cities of Kut and Hilla, as well as outside Sadr’s Baghdad stronghold of Sadr City. Dusk-to-dawn curfews were imposed on at least six cities in southern Iraq, police said.

      The head of the Mahdi Army, Moqtada Al-Sadr, hasn’t officially lifted the ceasefire yet, but he has told his followers that they can attack Iraqi and American forces in self-defense. While it’s good news that the ceasefire technically still stands, the bad news is that he gave his followers orders to use violence when necessary. The ceasefire is already crumbling, and it will continue to do so with or without his explicit endorsement–the violence will rage on regardless of what he does.
      This is a key test at a critical time in Iraq. While the administration and their Republican allies claim that progress is being made in Iraq, the level of violence remains abysmally high. The fact that Iraq’s security forces went after the Sadrists for political reasons shows that sectarian interests are trumping Iraq’s national interest in the eyes of the government. If Iraq’s security forces can’t put down this armed rebellion, there will be no question that the Republican policies in Iraq have failed.

      This is exactly why we need to end the war in Iraq–the Iraqi government has become too reliant on American troops to keep them safe. Five years after the start of the war, the Iraqi government’s crippling dependence on us is shameful; we should have been pushing them towards independence a long time ago. We need to teach the Iraqi government to solve their own problems, and we need to show them that the United States of America isn’t going to stick around and protect them forever.

      Iraq has extensive problems and deep divides that can’t be solved with bullets–there needs to be political reconciliation that brings all of Iraq’s major players to the table and charts a course for the future of the country. They need to be able to manage their own factions, to hold their own country together, to provide basic security and stability to their people. Unless we give the Iraqi government a wake-up call and start pushing them in the right direction, every violent flare-up in Iraq will consume more American lives.

      UPDATE: More news from the battlefield:

      The day saw street battles in Baghdad and Basra, mortar attacks by Shiite rebels against Baghdad’s Green Zone, bombing by U.S. aircraft and encounters that left government tanks in flames. More than 97 people were reported killed and hundreds were wounded since the operation began early Tuesday.

      In Baghdad, at least nine Iraqi civilians were killed and 42 were wounded in mortar attacks, police said. The Mahdi Army, loyal to firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr, opened fire on civilians in downtown Baghdad and clashed with Iraqi security forces in Kadhemiya in north Baghdad.

      In Baghdad’s Shiite Sadr City neighborhood, clashes between the Mahdi Army and Iraqi security forces supported by U.S. forces left at least 20 dead and 115 were injured. By early afternoon, people took to the streets in protest of the Iraqi government.

      Mortar rounds crashed into the heavily fortified Green Zone for the third straight day, injuring three U.S. government employees, all U.S. citizens, said U.S. Embassy spokeswoman Mirembe Nantongo.

      How Sweet It Is

      The Pew Research Center has tracked party identification and the voting patterns of independents over the past eight years; take a look at the most recent trends:

      In 2001-2002, nearly as many Americans identified themselves as Republicans as Democrats.  During the same period, independents were favoring Republicans by about 1%. This was the peak of Republican dominance in American government.

      Today, 9% more Americans identify themselves as Democrats than Republicans, and independent voters favor Democrats bya margin of 5%.

      Karl Rove dreamt of creating a permanent majority, and he got his wish–unfortunately for him, it’s a Democratic majority, not a Republican one.