In a more diverse America, a mostly white convention

Organizers conceived of this convention as a means to inspire, but some African American Republicans have found the Xcel Energy Center depressing this week. Everywhere they look, they see evidence of what they consider one of their party’s biggest shortcomings.

As the country rapidly diversifies, Republicans are presenting a convention that is almost entirely white.

Only 36 of the 2,380 delegates seated on the convention floor are black, the lowest number since the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies began tracking diversity at political conventions 40 years ago. Each night, the overwhelmingly white audience watches a series of white politicians step to the lectern — a visual reminder that no black Republican has served as a governor, U.S. senator or U.S. House member in the past six years.

Editor’s Comment — How can a party that doesn’t resemble the country, credibly put the “country first”?

A white minority that claims a right to speak for everyone is merely expressing its contempt for those outside its ranks.

That Sarah Palin can rouse the spirits of the Republican faithful by no means suggests that she’s about to inspire a groundswell of popular support across the nation. That John McCain was correct in believing that Palin could fire up a lackluster campaign does not resolve the Republicans’ fundamental challenge: How can a party that has been dominant for this long now plausibly present itself as a force for change?

Biden: Israel’s decisions must be made in Jerusalem, not D.C.

The former chairman of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations also criticized presumptive Republican Presidential Nominee John McCain’s approach to Israel and the United States’ diplomatic tensions with Iran by portraying the Islamic Republic as being in a fractured and weak state.

“McCain says it’s status quo or war – and there’s nothing in between. We all know Iran is weak and weak economically,” Biden said. “We should stop making Iran into this 12-foot giant. They are not. They are not. The more we do that, the more we undercut our own self-interest.”

Biden also questioned the wisdom of a pre-emptive U.S.-led attack on Iran, at a time when the U.S. is “bogged-down in Iraq,” adding that he has been “stunned by the incompetence” of the Bush administration in its handling of the war in Iraq.

Biden defended his opposition to the Kyl-Lieberman Iran amendment, which calls for labeling Iran’s Revolutionary Guard a terrorist organization and passed by a vote of 76 – 22, saying that he didn’t want to help the government find a “pretext for war with Iran,” especially in light of what he described as the Bush administration’s inept handling of the war in Iraq.

Going on an imperial bender

Here it is, as simply as I can put it: In the course of any year, there must be relatively few countries on this planet on which U.S. soldiers do not set foot, whether with guns blazing, humanitarian aid in hand, or just for a friendly visit. In startling numbers of countries, our soldiers not only arrive, but stay interminably, if not indefinitely. Sometimes they live on military bases built to the tune of billions of dollars that amount to sizeable American towns (with accompanying amenities), sometimes on stripped down forward operating bases that may not even have showers. When those troops don’t stay, often American equipment does — carefully stored for further use at tiny “cooperative security locations,” known informally as “lily pads” (from which U.S. troops, like so many frogs, could assumedly leap quickly into a region in crisis).

At the height of the Roman Empire, the Romans had an estimated 37 major military bases scattered around their dominions. At the height of the British Empire, the British had 36 of them planetwide. Depending on just who you listen to and how you count, we have hundreds of bases. According to Pentagon records, in fact, there are 761 active military “sites” abroad.

American forces attack militants on Pakistani soil

Helicopter-borne American Special Operations forces attacked Qaeda militants in a Pakistani village near the border with Afghanistan early Wednesday in the first publicly acknowledged case of United States forces conducting a ground raid on Pakistani soil, American officials said.

Until now, allied forces in Afghanistan have occasionally carried out airstrikes and artillery attacks in the border region of Pakistan against militants hiding there, and American forces in “hot pursuit” of militants have had some latitude to chase them across the border.

But the commando raid by the American forces signaled what top American officials said could be the opening salvo in a much broader campaign by Special Operations forces against the Taliban and Al Qaeda inside Pakistan, a secret plan that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has been advocating for months within President Bush’s war council.

It also seemed likely to complicate relations with Pakistan, where the already unstable political situation worsened after the resignation last month of President Pervez Musharraf, a longtime American ally.

Ukraine government near collapse

The Western-leaning governing coalition in Ukraine, which took power during the Orange Revolution in 2004 but has endured repeated tumult ever since, appeared once again near collapse on Wednesday.

The president of Ukraine, Viktor A. Yushchenko, asserted that he was the victim of a “political and constitutional coup” carried out by his ally, Prime Minister Yulia V. Tymoshenko, and threatened to call for early parliamentary elections. She blamed him, saying he was seeking ways to rebuild his flagging popular support.

The instability erupted on the eve of a visit to Ukraine by Vice President Dick Cheney, who arrived in the region to show his support for American allies in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Georgia last month.

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