Skip to comments.FROM IOWA TO PAKISTAN AND BACK (Reinhard)
Posted on 12/30/2007 9:48:25 AM PST by jazusamo
Sunday, December 30, 2007
I was just settling down to write about Iowa, New Hampshire and the related wretched excesses of our 2008 presidential race when news of Benazir Bhutto's assassination came in.
Yes, there are big problems with the way our two major parties now pick their standard bearers. No sooner does one presidential race end than the next one begins. The whole process is front-loaded and drawn-out because the good burghers of Iowa and New Hampshire insist on going first, and they're willing to leapfrog any upstart state that threatens their monopoly on their "First in the Nation" caucuses or primaries. You wanna pick delegates on Jan. 3? We'll pick ours on Dec. 26, and don't think we won't go to Christmas Day. What's even worse is that rural and white New Hampshire and Iowa are among the least-representative states in this broad land.
The upside of today's process? It gives voters a glimpse of what an eternity is like. The downside? It diminishes almost everyone involved -- most important, the candidates.
Yet, just when you think catcalls and horselaughs are the only fit response to -- what do the media's throat-clearers call it? -- "Decision 2008," comes word of Bhutto's murder. Killed, leaving a campaign rally ahead of that country's own elections on Jan. 8.
Yes, we are a polarized nation. Our politics are embittered when they're not silly. Our presidential nomination process is out of control. But the Bhutto assassination reminds us of two things: One, how lucky we are. Two, how serious the stakes are in this election, because of events in Pakistan.
Our candidates don't hit the campaign trail fearing there are forces that want them dead or that the administration in power won't provide adequate security for them -- even after prior assassination attempts. A front-loaded primary schedule, ad nauseam debates, even vicious attack ads are trifles next to what Bhutto faced in Pakistan. And what the next American president will face in our dealings with Pakistan.
An already complex and dangerous -- perhaps impossible -- situation became all the more so as a result of last week's assassination and suicide bombing in Rawalpindi.
Pakistan is a central front in the war against Islamic jihadists, and Bhutto was the Pakistani leader most committed to fighting the war on terror. She had said, for example, she would let U.S. troops hunt down Osama bin Laden in Pakistan. She was a democrat and a force for moderation. It's still unclear if al-Qaida and its allies were responsible for her murder. But they swore they would kill her before she returned from exile, and here's what they claimed Thursday: "We terminated the most precious American asset which vowed to defeat [the] mujahadeen."
An enemy of the mujahadeen and a woman no less.
This is not to lift Pakistan's latest martyr to lost savior status. Bhutto may not have proved the answer to Pakistan's problems -- or our Pakistan problems. Her earlier stints as prime minister weren't any great shakes. She had cozied up to Islamic extremists in the region, and her tenure ended amid corruption charges. Nor is it clear a pro-Western, anti-terrorism woman would have been the right fit in increasingly radicalized Pakistan. She was simply the best of the West's options in a nuclear-armed nation -- in a whole region, really -- of bad options.
Last Thursday, those bad options just got worse.
Can we put our hopes in democracy and the Jan. 8 elections? Please. Pakistan's other opposition leader, Nawaz Sharif, announced the day of Bhutto's assassination that his party will boycott the elections. He also called for President Pervez Musharraf's immediate resignation and a nationwide strike.
Can we pin our hopes on Musharraf? Please. Bhutto's murder may force him to delay elections. Escalating violence may force him to impose martial law again. All of this could make his perch atop Pakistan's powder keg even more precarious.
And what if Pakistan's only real functioning institution -- the military -- experiences the fracturing now seen in the larger society? Please, no. That would pose the threat of Pakistan's nuclear weapons falling into the hands of Islamic radicals.
No, we're more likely to be reacting to events than setting any agendas in Pakistan. That will require the kind of sobriety and realism we've seen little of so far in the 2008 presidential race. If we're paying attention, Benazir Bhutto's murder should have almost as much impact on our January elections as Pakistan's.
The guy who wrote this article is delusional. Anyone who ignores Bhutto’s past as an autocratic prime minister and thinks she would have magically turned into a pro-democracy person overnight is, to use the vernacular, a nutbag. Bhutto is less pro-democracy than is Musharrif. And the nutbags in the Pakistan People’s Party by chosing her 19-year-old son as their new leader—that’s just what we need, a teenager in charge of a nuclear arsenal—show they are not ready to assume power in Pakistan.
Her earlier stints as prime minister weren't any great shakes. She had cozied up to Islamic extremists in the region
This is a racist and stupid statement. I'm not fond of starting the process in January either.
But New Hampshire and Iowa are the ultimate bellweather states. Throw in New Mexico and you have two of the only three states which flipped electoral votes between 2000 and 2004.
Go back to New Mexico statehood and you can't find a single presidential winner who lost all three of these states.
Gerald Ford carried all three states in 1976 and lost to Jimmy Carter, barely.
But only two other candidates lost two of these three bellweather states and still managed to win the election: JFK (1960) amd Bush II (2000) . . . again both elections swung on very thin margins nationally.