Election '08: Tip O'Neill, Meet Benazir Bhutto

Rest in peace, Tip O’Neill, but all politics isn’t local anymore. We live in a tiny, virtual world now and the shots fired at Benazir Bhutto in Rawalpindi, Pakistan yesterday exploded in Des Moines, Iowa minutes later. Whoever killed Benazir and the others upended the US Presidential election as well, at least for a bit and possibly permanently.


Within minutes, the electoral scavengers were out (I among them), weighing the winners and losers. The Politico was one of the first out of the box: “The instant conventional wisdom will say that heavy news coverage of the gun and bomb attack will bolster the arguments of Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and John McCain, both members of the Armed Services Committee…That same instant, C.W. will say that the candidates most damaged will be Sen. Barack Obama and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.”

Well, they were certainly right about Huckabee who, almost instantly, shot himself in his already wounded foreign policy foot, improbably apologizing to Pakistan on our behalf for what had happened.

And he wasn’t the only candidate to jump the shark, as the saying goes. Bill Richardson called for Musharraf to step down before anyone even knew who did it. And foreign policy is supposed to be the New Mexico governor’s strong suit. Joe Biden’s people gave him a deserved hiding:

“It’s so wildly irresponsible that it can’t go unchallenged,” Biden spokesman Larry Rasky said of Richardson’s statement. “Asking Musharraf to step aside now would leave a huge power vacuum at a time of crisis in Pakistan. It’s the last thing we need until we know what really happened and who’s responsible.”


Most of the other candidates had the good sense to keep their mouths shut or at least use them to mouth the usual platitudes, according to that same Politico round up.

But what the website doesn’t say – and it’s no surprise considering The Politico’s documented bias – is that events like the Bhutto assassination are good for the Republicans in general (except Paul, of course) because they remind the nation of the reality of the War on Terror. No one on the Democratic side – not even Hillary – has been particularly forthright about the dangers of Islamofascism with the possible exception of Biden, who seems marginalized. The others had been hoping it would go away – or at least go into relative hibernation until after November 2008.

No such luck, obviously. Now the question is what are the Democrats going to do, because this event will doubtless serve as something of a wake up call. Unfortunately, the Dems are hedged in by their left pacifist wing. It’s hard to imagine Edwards or Obama having much of interest to say without creating a firestorm at the DailyKos. But Hillary is in difficult shoals as well – trapped by Edwards and Obama on her left. (Of course, Edwards was originally on her right – but that was then and this is now.)

Now bad as the Benazir Bhutto assassination is, it could have been worse. Bhutto was no saint and far from a Gandhi. Still, I predict its ramifications will be great. Any Democratic strategist worth his pay must be thinking: what if there is a major terror action before November – another London or Madrid or, worse yet, something domestic – what will we do?


Well, frankly, I don’t know. They will be in the deep you-know-what. They made a similar wager on The Surge, betting that it would fail. Lately, it’s been succeeding. But that failed bet – no matter what happens to it – will seem as nothing compared to a major terror attack.

There are auguries in Bhutto’s death. And as that wise man said, “Beware the Ides of March.” Or April or May or June or…

Roger L. Simon is an Academy Award-nominated screenwriter, novelist and blogger, and the CEO of Pajamas Media.


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