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Bhutto and the Campaign Pundits' Conventional Wisdom

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I am so irritated listening to the mainstream media discuss the impact of the Benizir Bhutto assassination on the campaign I want to scream. Somehow it obviously helps Guliani, says Morning Joe, obviously, grinning. That's obvious. When the world is scared, and we are scared. Then we want someone who scares us to death. they say. I can see why. If Democracy is punched in the gut in Pakistan, let's punch it in the gut here! Let's put on a bulldog face to Al Qaeda and what? What is the end of this sentence? We know the end of the strategy. Nothing.

Then: It helps Hillary, says Craig Crawford. She knew Bhutto. So that means, she's ..what? cool? qualified? In the girl's club? I want to point out tragically that she's dead, and knowing her is no longer helpful: press delete. Is it her husband or her rivals in her party who will lead it? Whom do you know in the new crowd of leaders who can rise up and take her place, Hill? Who does?
Then: It helps McCain, says Howard FIneman. He makes us feel secure, a variation of Giuliani. He's been there done that ("I had Musharaff on the phone three times today" -- a busy man - in the middle of an epic national crisis, on the phone with Biden and Edwards too). Very reassuring, until we remember him singing Bomb, Bomb Iran, to the tune of the Beach Boys' "Barbara Ann," and realize he will call only those over 60 he trusts, and that means Musharaff, the old ally who has gamed us to the hilt, and whose fake alliance almost tainted Bhutto will make him his boy toy too. There's no finding Osama in this whack-a-mole-sinkhole-of-cash strategy, as we've learned the hard way.

Then, Biden, (who the pundits forget to mention in their infinite punditry), whom it should help, but because being ready day one doesn't really count, the truly-ready-day-one guy, the brain trust of the democrats, who knows his foreign relations, isn't really in the running. I like Biden but he talks too much. This time, when he could be really helpful with some ideas, his name drops on Hardball, and kind of blows it, tells us an I told you so -- he'd personally warned Musharaff on her security, he'd warned him this could happen -- spoke to him three times last week -- she was a personal friend, he knows just what should happen, they should have elections in eleven days, even without a candidate. Rush elections in a state of panic without a candidate? That could just solidify and legitimize Musharraf! Oh dear. Think this through, Joe.

And Bill Richardson. He is the undiplomatic diplomat. Says the right thing wrong, afraid they won't hear. Musharraf must go. Of course this may be right. Do we say this today? Tomorrow! Maybe the Pakistanis should say this, at the ballot box, when they have someone to replace him.
Everything we touch in Pakistan we taint. Which is why we need unconventional wisdom. We almost tainted Bhutto trying to ally her with our boy, Musharraf. We talk with our money. Like you can't have anymore, until you let the head of the Supreme Court out of jail.

Watching the pundits talk and the candidates spin, makes me realize that Pakistan is like the movie business: a real pro admits nobody knows anything.

So having a worldview not based on fear of the other, having wisdom and the ability to look at a situation with fresh eyes -- the very things Obama has run on, are his advantages here, yet the pundits run from him at the first call of international turmoil. When as a new event threatens to frighten us, Obama feels to me to be exactly what America needs at a time like this; hopefully our voters are smarter than our pundits.

The Bush-Cheney response of meeting fear with greater fear, to meet anarchy with belligerence and control, the delusion that we can control the outcomes of elections in countries we refuse to understand, have taught us the deepest meaning of unintended consequences. Because fear is not a reason to create more fear, but to create more understanding.

Our experience of and in Pakistan has been all wrong. To rely on past patterns would be to show we have learned nothing as a nation these past eight years, and do not know how to begin anew, and are bound, like the Flying Dutchman, to reach for the stars, but be tied to the ground by our baser instincts.

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