Whether the Republican presidential ticket wins or loses on Tuesday, a group of prominent conservatives are planning to meet the next day to discuss the way forward, and whatever the outcome, Gov. Sarah Palin will be high on the agenda.
Ms. Palin, of Alaska, has had a rocky time since being named as Senator John McCain’s running mate, but to many conservatives her future remains bright. If Mr. McCain wins, she will give the social conservative movement a seat inside the White House. If he loses, she could emerge as a standard bearer for the movement and a potential presidential candidate in 2012, albeit one who will need to address her considerable political damage.
Her prospects, in or out of government, are the subject of intensive conversations among conservative leaders, including the group that will meet next Wednesday in rural Virginia to weigh social, foreign policy and economic issues, as well as the political landscape and the next presidential election. [continued…]
Editor’s Comment — Richard Cohen nailed it in his description of how Palin had the National Review and Weekly Standard editors drooling over her:
Palin is a down-the-line rightie, so her inexperience, her lack of interest in foreign affairs, her numbing provincialism and her gifts for fabrication (Can we go over that “bridge to nowhere” routine again?) do not trouble her ideological handlers. Let her get into office. They will govern.
Could the polls be wrong?
Sen. John McCain and his allies say that they are. The country, they say, could be headed to a 2008 version of the famous 1948 upset election, with McCain in the role of Harry S. Truman and Sen. Barack Obama as Thomas E. Dewey, lulled into overconfidence by inaccurate polls.
“We believe it is a very close race, and something that is frankly very winnable,” Sarah Simmons, director of strategy for the McCain campaign, said yesterday.
Few analysts outside the McCain campaign appear to share this view. And pollsters this time around will not make the mistake that the Gallup organization made 60 years ago — ending their polling more than a week before the election and missing a last-minute surge in support for Truman. Every day brings dozens of new state and national presidential polls, a trend that is expected to continue up to Election Day. [continued…]
The Afghan war is at its highest pitch since it began seven years ago, growing daily in scope and savagery. Yet on both sides of the conflict, the possibility of peace negotiations has gained sudden prominence.
Among Western and Afghan officials, analysts and tribal elders, field commanders and foot soldiers, the notion of talks with the Taliban, once dismissed out of hand, has recently become the subject of serious debate.
Both sides acknowledge that there are enormous impediments. Each camp has staked out negotiating positions that are anathema to the other. Neither side professes the slightest trust in the other’s word. Each side claims not only a battlefield edge, but insists that it is winning the war for public support.
But whether they are willing to admit it publicly, both sides have powerful incentives for turning to negotiations rather than pushing ahead with a grinding war of attrition. Would-be mediators have emerged, preliminary contacts have taken place, and more indirect talks are likely soon. [continued…]
The U.S. is actively considering talks with elements of the Taliban, the armed Islamist group that once ruled Afghanistan and sheltered al Qaeda, in a major policy shift that would have been unthinkable a few months ago.
Senior White House and military officials believe that engaging some levels of the Taliban — while excluding top leaders — could help reverse a pronounced downward spiral in Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan. Both countries have been destabilized by a recent wave of violence.
The outreach is a draft recommendation in a classified White House assessment of U.S. strategy in Afghanistan, according to senior Bush administration officials. The officials said that the recommendation calls for the talks to be led by the Afghan central government, but with the active participation of the U.S.
The idea is supported by Gen. David Petraeus, who will assume responsibility this week for U.S. policy in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Gen. Petraeus used a similar approach in Iraq, where a U.S. push to enlist Sunni tribes in the fight against al Qaeda in Iraq helped sharply reduce the country’s violence. Gen. Petraeus earlier this month publicly endorsed talks with less extreme Taliban elements.
The final White House recommendations, which could differ from the draft, are not expected until after next month’s elections. The next administration wouldn’t be compelled to implement them. But the support of Gen. Petraeus, the highly regarded incoming head of the U.S. Central Command, could help ensure that the policy is put in place regardless of who wins next month’s elections.
The proposed policy appears to strike rare common ground with both presidential candidates. Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama has said he thinks talks with the Taliban should be considered and has advocated shifting more military forces to Afghanistan. Republican contender Sen. John McCain supports, as part of his strategy, reaching out to tribal leaders in an effort to separate “the reconcilable elements of the insurgency from the irreconcilable elements of the insurgency,” Randy Scheunemann, the campaign’s top foreign-policy adviser, said Monday. [continued…]