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Advancing Progressive Ideas

News Roundup, 4/7/2008: A Dichotomy of Believability

News items rarely split the weekend into distinct categories of A) unbelievable and B) unsurprising, but that's what happened from Friday to Sunday.

For an example of the unbelievable, I offer the State Department's renewal of Blackwater's contract for security services in Iraq. I didn't even think something like this — such a brazen disregard for... well, for everything sensible and good, really — was even possible. At this late date, I suppose I should know better.

In contrast, it was in no way shocking to hear that the Olympic Torch relay was protested and disrupted as it progressed through London. A similar thing is happening today in Paris, and when the torch makes its only US appearance in San Francisco, I imagine the song will be the same.

I did not expect to hear any kind of rumbling out of DoD about reduced troop deployment times before Bush leaves office, and especially not on the heels of the recent increased violence in Iraq in fighting with al-Sadr's militia. The AP provided another shock this weekend, though, with a report that deployments are likely to be shortened from 15 to 12 months in the near future.

Following soon after the announcement that the DNC was committed to seating the Florida delegates came the news that Michigan would also be brought along to Denver, one way or the other. Now the onus for making the deal falls upon Dean and the DNC, because somehow they must cook up an idea that not only seats the delegates but also satisfies both campaigns, and even a great idea will be a tough sell.

Most people were not shocked to learn that John McCain had voted against making Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday a federal holiday, and I don't think anyone was floored by the fact that the crowd booed during his speech on the 40th anniversary of King's assassination in Memphis on Friday.

Likewise, I had been waiting for McCain to drop back into a mode where he would accept public funding for his campaign, as he has consistently been unable to keep pace with either Clinton or Obama in fundraising and has nothing to indicate that it will be any different when one of them becomes the nominee. That is now happening, as McCain is returning a cool $3 million in donations for use in the general and asking donors to submit to a legal defense fund instead.

I had no idea that Condoleezza Rice would campaign for the VP spot on the McCain ticket — I had kind of assumed that if she was the pick, the party would sort of cram her into the job. But the reports are what they are, and the buzz this morning is that McCain says "Thanks, but no thanks."

The only news item that falls into both categories as "a long time coming" and "a total surprise" is Mark Penn's resignation from the Clinton campaign. I guess I classify it as both sides of the dichotomy because, with all the reports about internal turmoil, I guess I thought he would have bailed out a while ago. When he didn't get out at the height of that reporting, I figured he was in to stay. The Colombian free trade deal is what tipped the scales though, and now Penn is out.

Still two weeks to Pennsylvania, but there will plenty of news in progressive politics between now and then. Stay with us, and thanks for reading.

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