Friday, May 11, 2007

Revolt of the GOP moderates

Here’s an interesting new quote from Capitol Hill: “We need to get out of the combat business in Iraq,” by setting a timeline for U.S. troop withdrawal, in accordance with the recommendations of the bipartisan Iraq Study Group.

Surely this must be a defeatist Democrat who has sold his soul to, right? Nope. The senator who uttered those remarks yesterday was none other than Lamar Alexander, Republican of Tennessee – a heretofore loyal Bushie on Iraq.

Meanwhile, we now have Senator Olympia Snowe, Republican of Maine, working up a bill that would require President Bush to roll back U.S. troop levels to pre-Surge numbers if the Iraqi government fails to meet specific benchmarks of progress.

Meanwhile, even House Republican leader John Boehner is saying that rank-and-file Republican patience is likely to run out by early autumn; as he put it the other day, “By the time we get to September, October, members are going to want to know how well this (Surge) is working, and if it isn’t, what’s Plan B.” Boehner was later seconded by Maine Senator Susan Collins, who is up for re-election next year in a state where antiwar fervor is now reportedly strong; in her words, “I do believe there comes a point in September where, if it’s evident that the new strategy is not successful and it’s not going to succeed, that we do have to change course. And that means looking at all the options, including a plan for withdrawing.”

Meanwhile, this week, we also learned that a delegation of elected Republican moderates trekked to the White House to perform a task that was once deemed to be unthinkable: Piercing the Bush bubble and telling Bush to his face that it was past time for him to start dwelling in the real world, to recognize the wreckage of his credibility, to grasp the fact that most Americans want him to be held accountable for his failures – and to understand that further intransigence on Iraq may well wreck the Republican party in 2008. One congressman reportedly told Bush, “My district is prepared for defeat.”

I, as well as many other observers, have argued all along that the top political story this year would be the potential willingness of beleaguered congressional Republicans to liberate themselves at last from Bush fealty, to grasp the fact that Bush has been driving them over a cliff, and to communicate these concerns to Bush in an effort to force a change of course in Iraq. This finally appears to be happening; barring an unlikely miracle in Iraq, the trend can only accelerate.

GOP moderates are seriously imperiled in 2008; they tend to represent states and districts where antiwar sentiment is strong. It’s noteworthy that the meeting with Bush was organized by House Republicans from Illinois and Pennsylvania (key states in the ’08 presidential race), and that even a congressman from Virginia (an increasingly competitive state) felt compelled to tell Bush that, in one section of his district, he estimated that support for the president had fallen to…five percent.

On the Senate side, meanwhile, four Republicans are thought to be vulnerable in 2008: Collins, John Sununu of New Hamshire, Gordon Smith of Oregon, and Norm Coleman of Minnesota. Another, Wayne Allard is vacating his seat in a state (Colorado) that has been trending Democratic. Collins, Smith, and Coleman hail from states that voted for John Kerry in 2004. Sununu hails from a state where voters in 2006, driven by distaste for the war, kicked two House Republican incumbents out of their jobs – giving the Democrats both seats for the first time since 1915.

Naturally, there are still some Bush defenders who think that the revolt of the moderates is either no big deal, or simply irrelevant. Conservative commentator John Podhoretz writes today that the delegation of 11 moderates who met with Bush constitutes only five percent of all the Republicans currently serving in Congress. (Quiz for Podhoretz: How many congressional Republicans went to the White House in August 1974, to tell Richard Nixon that he had lost his party’s support on Watergate? Answer: three.)

And it’s Dick Cheney (no surprise) who thinks that the moderate revolt is irrelevant, when compared to the importance of the glorious American mission in Iraq. As he told Fox News yesterday, “We didn't get elected to worry just about the fate of the Republican Party.”

The reality, however, is that, beginning this autumn, Bush and Cheney may find it difficult to prosecute the war as they see fit. If the war is still going badly, and if Gen. David Patraeus fails to deliver a credibly sunny forecast, a sizeable number of vulnerable Republican incumbents might bail out on Bush (and vote with the Democrats for a change of course) in an effort to save their political hides. That might not be the most enlightened rationale for winding down the U.S. combat role, but, at this point, a landslide majority of the American people would welcome any motivation for doing so.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Candidate howlers of the week

Barack Obama’s statistical misfire on the Kansas tornado death toll, referenced here yesterday, was not his finest moment. But in the annals of candidate howlers, it barely qualifies for membership. This week alone, Obama already has been trumped by several of his rival aspirants.

Consider John Edwards, for example.

On a few recent occasions, the Democratic White House hopeful has been asked to explain why, as a self-professed champion of poor people and working stiffs, he nevertheless felt compelled to work as a consultant to a lucrative hedge fund and private equity firm – the kind of operation that is dedicated to finding ways to make the rich even richer.

If Edwards is so bonded to the poor, why sign on to hobnob with a bunch of executives who are listed by Forbes magazine as billionaires? Why work for a year – from the autumn of 2005 to the autumn of 2006 – for a firm that generally restricts its membership to rich investors, and offers investment returns that far exceed whatever the average Joe can typically extract from a mutual fund?

Asked about this again the other day, Edwards told the Associated Press that it was really quite simple: He joined the Fortress Investment Group, with assets of $35 billion, “mainly in order to learn about the relationships between financial markets and poverty…How else would I have done it?”

In other words, he basically contends that he worked for the rich (for a stipend that he has yet to disclose) in order to better understand the poor.

Yeah, right. And Roger Clemens signed with the Yankees for $28 million in order to better understand the privations of pitching minor league ball in the sticks. And the swinger who joins a sex orgy does so in order to gain a deeper knowledge of abstinence.

Edwards said that his job was to advise Fortress on U.S. economic trends, as well as international trends gleaned from his overseas travels. How that role would have furthered his understanding of the blue-collar factory worker is still not clear to me. Nor was it clear, from the AP story, about what he did specifically learn in the end about that relationship between the markets and poverty.

But since Edwards is trying to market himself as the candor candidate, we can give him a modest kudo for this answer: When an AP reporter told Edwards that he could have “learned” more about the relations between the markets and poverty simply by taking a university course, the candidate replied, “That’s true.”

On the other hand, if he had merely enrolled in a college course, it’s doubtful that Fortress employes would have donated $167,000 to Edwards’ presidential campaign. That’s the latest official figure, and it aptly demonstrates how learning can be politically lucrative.


Meanwhile, on the GOP side, we have a fresh example of Mitt Romney’s obsession with France. As referenced here not long ago, a Romney memo made it clear that the candidate intended to engage in some France-bashing, apparently because that rhetorical exercise is quite popular with the conservative base.

And what better way to curry favor with the conservative base than to combine France-bashing with another trait that has been popularized by the current president: making claims that contradict factual reality?

Speaking the other day at Regent University (the Pat Robertson school, naturally), Romney was in the midst of a riff about loose morals when he said: “It seems that Europe leads America in this way of thinking. In France, for instance, I’m told that marriage is now frequently contracted in seven-year terms where either party may move on when their term is up. How shallow…”

Wow, a French law dedicated to codifying the seven-year-itch. I had no idea that such a thing existed. I would have assumed that its passage would have been reported in the news.

But wait, the seven-year-itch law does indeed exist…in a science-fiction novel called “The Memory of Earth,” written by Orson Scott Card. The novelist, who, like Romney, is a Mormon, uses this form of marriage contract as a plot point - in a saga that takes place in outer space.

And there’s also a 2003 French film comedy entitled 7 ans de mariage, so maybe that’s where Romney got confused.

Let us assume, however, that Romney didn’t read the book or see the movie. And let us also assume that a staffer didn’t simply feed him this fictional info as fact (what did he mean by the phrase “I’m told”?). Yet if we assume all this, what would explain his uttering of such a blatant falsehood?

Maybe Romney was merely confused. France does have a law that allows same-sex couples, as well as heterosexual couples, to sign “civil solidarity pacts,” which provide certain social and financial benefits, but falls far short of all the rights conferred by marriage. And there is no seven-year provision in the law.

Bingo: A Romney spokesman now says that Romney was intending to refer to the civil union law. And that Romney meant to say that the law has been in effect for seven years. (He’s wrong on that, too. The law has been in effect for eight years.)

Whatever. Candidates frequently say fictional things. What’s arguably worse is when political reporters merely repeat the fictions as if they were fact – which is what The Washington Post did the other day, by failing in print to question Romney’s France falsehood. That too should qualify as one of the week’s top howlers; after all, stenography does not qualify as reporting.


Nor does cheerleading qualify as reporting. In this week’s Sopranos episode (answering yesterday's pop quiz), Carmela Soprano was in bed reading Fred Barnes’ worshipful biography of President Bush. Perhaps she likes the fact that Bush cut taxes on the rich; on the other hand, why should Carmela care about that? She and Tony have paid no taxes on all the cash that’s still sitting in the backyard dumpster.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Rudy puts his own money where his mouth isn't

Given the latest news, about Rudy Giuliani’s monetary gifts to Planned Parenthood, the next clarification of his abortion stance might sound something like this:

“I hate all abortions. I hate the idea that any woman would choose to have an abortion. I would counsel women to adopt instead, rather than support the groups that perform abortions. But I also hate the idea that Americans should not have the right to choose to support groups that advance the ideas that they hate. And I am one such American who chooses freely to give money to such groups. I may personally hate, or at least claim to hate, everything that these abortion groups stand for, but this does not mean that I should not be free to make personal donations to advance the causes that I personally would prefer not to see advanced, because I also happen to respect the right of women to have a personal or emotional reason for choosing to disagree with me on this issue. And if impoverished women choose to have abortions paid for by the taxpayers, I respect the right of states to perform such abortions, unless those women reside in states that choose not to perform taxpayer-funded abortions - in which case I respect those states, as well. In other words, my overall position on abortion is consistent, it always has been consistent, and that is the essence of what leadership in the 9/11 era is all about.”

How else, perhaps, can Giuliani seek to reconcile his personal hatred of abortions (which he reiterates at every turn on the campaign trail), with the fact that he and his then-wife Donna Hanover personally donated money to Planned Parenthood in 1993, 1994, 1998, and 1999? This is the same Planned Parenthood that, according to the latest available figures, performed roughly 260,000 abortions in 2005; the same group that is viewed as a symbol of evil in the evangelical community; the same group whose clinics are picketed on a regular basis by anti-abortion activists.

Is there a disconnect between Giuliani’s professed personal beliefs and his personal actions? Maybe not, if you accept the notion that there is nothing inconsistent about a candidate who expresses personal hatred of guns, for instance, yet decides to personally donate money on multiple occasions to the National Rifle Association. Assuming that such a candidate would ever exist.

This Giuliani disconnect – which was fed yesterday to the website by a rival GOP campaign – is just the kind of wedge that the other ’08 Republican candidates hope to exploit, as they seek to erode his top-dog standing in the nomination race. They see it as a potential two-fer. They think that the abortion disconnect - underscored by Giuliani's fence-straddling at the May 3 GOP debate (see Friday's post)- can be used to discredit Giuliani’s leadership creds, and they think that the Planned Parenthood donations might help turn off the religious conservatives who tend to vote heavily in the early Iowa and South Carolina contests.

Until quite recently, Giuliani didn’t talk about personally hating abortions; rather, he stressed his belief that respecting the abortion option was totally consistent with GOP philosophy. As he told an abortion rights luncheon just six years ago, “the Republican party stands for the idea that you have to restore more freedom of choice…more opportunity for people to make their own choices rather than the government dictating those choices.”

Yet the GOP platform has long decreed that government should dictate a lack of choice. In 1980, the senior George Bush dropped his abortion-rights sympathies in order to make himself acceptable as Ronald Reagan’s running mate, and no serious GOP presidential hopeful has subsequently dared to defy the party orthodoxy (conversely, no serious Democratic hopeful has dared inveigh against abortion rights).

Hence, Giuliani’s challenge: He’s the first major GOP candidate in memory with an abortion-rights track record, albeit with tortured verbal caveats, and his rivals will argue – as John McCain sought to do yesterday – that the “choice” stance should be a deal-breaker for GOP primary voters.

At least one prominent conservative tastemaker, Rich Lowry, is turned off by Giuliani's wordplay. He wrote yesterday: "Rudy Giuliani is supposed to be the candidate of authenticity, the tough-talking former New York City mayor who sticks to his beliefs no matter what. But he is repeating a line that is so flagrantly insincere, it makes any of Hillary Clinton's canned talking points seem free and natural by comparison. Giuliani claims he 'hates abortion.' Oddly, this hatred didn't manifest itself until Giuliani realized he had to have something to say to pro-lifers besides that he supported abortion on demand in any circumstance. Giuliani has been pounded by pundits for his answers on abortion at the first GOP debate. But he didn't commit a gaffe. He only suffered from the contradictions of a position that appears to be the product of poorly thought-out political calculation."

Yet Giuliani might surmount this alleged deal-breaker; we shouldn't assume that most GOP primary voters will view abortion as the most important issue. This is especially true in the northeast, where Giuliani is potentially strongest, where memories of 9/11 are most visceral, and where moderate “pro-choice” Republicans are quite numerous. Moreover, New York and New Jersey have rescheduled their GOP primaries for the earliest available date, Feb. 5.

By the way, a Giuliani spokeswoman did contend yesterday that the candidate’s personal hatred of abortion and personal donations to abortion groups are very much in sync: “Mayor Giuliani has been consistent in his position – he is personally opposed to abortion, but at the same time he understands it is a personal and emotional decision that should ultimately be left up to the woman. From the start, Mayor Giuliani has been straight with the American people about where he stands on the issues and saying exactly what he thinks…It’s a sign of leadership to stand by your position in the face of political expediency.”

And when Giuliani was asked yesterday by a radio show host to explain his personal donations, he said he liked the fact that Planned Parenthood provided information about adoption. Is that good enough to play in Iowa - or perhaps Iowa won't matter in the end?


But, in terms of verbal screwups, Barack Obama wins yesterday's award. In Virginia, he said this about the Kansas tornado:

"In case you missed it, this week, there was a tragedy in Kansas. Ten thousand people died — an entire town destroyed."

He was totally accurate about the death toll, as long as you subtract 9988.


Here's a pop quiz. In last Sunday's episode of The Sopranos, name the book that Carmela was reading in bed:

a) The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright (a 9/11 book; Carmela once lamented to Tony that "everything comes to an end")

b) Living History by Hillary Clinton (Carmela once said that Hillary was an inspiration, because she stuck it out with her husband and got something for herself)

c) Rebel-in-Chief by Fred Barnes (a cheerleading biography of President Bush; Carmela once remarked in passing that she voted for Bush in 2004)

The answer tomorrow. Those of you with high-definition TV have an advantage.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Should the First Amendment reign supreme in cyberspace?

I was a teenager, playing Scrabble at the kitchen table with my family, when the radio announced that Martin Luther King had been assassinated. I don’t recall being particularly shocked by the news; after all, King was a transformative figure, a black leader in a country still marred by white racism. But clearly that killing must have affected me, because last week I was relieved when I learned that the Secret Service had been brought in to protect Barack Obama.

Maybe it’s a baby-boomer thing. A colleague of mine, who is roughly my age, told me last week that he too has been fretting about Obama’s exposure, fearing that the first serious black candidate could draw the racists out of the woodwork. Referring to the Secret Service story, he remarked, “I’m happy to see my tax dollars spent that way.”

In similar fashion, I was relieved – at first, anyway – to learn last Friday that the website at CBS News has decided to ban all posted comments about Obama, because of the “volume and persistence” of racist invective. The website doesn’t have the resources to screen the flood of comments received every day (a task that is tougher and more time-consuming than it might seem), so they’re going for a blanket ban. The director of news operations at put it this way: “It's very simple. We have our rules of engagement. They prohibit personal attacks, especially racist attacks. (Comments) about Obama have been problematic, and we won't tolerate it."

Which is a polite way of saying that a major outlet does not feel any obligation to provide a forum for knuckle-draggers with keyboards. Why validate the kind of people who think the same way as James Earl Ray?

But, upon reflection, the issues here are more complicated than that. The transparency of the Internet has broadened the range of public discourse, and forced media outlets to think anew about the risks of unfettered free speech and the slippery slope of censorship. Nobody has quite figured out how to put these factors into proper balance. The new CBS policy is one possible solution. But by banning the kind of hate speech that was commonly associated with Jim Crow violence a few scant generations ago, the kind of hate speech that was common at the time of King’s killing, the website is also penalizing the many thoughtful Americans who do want to debate about Obama in a civil manner.

In other words, a case can be made that, by censoring the racists, the racists have won. An Obama spokesman appeared to rebuke the CBS decision when he said, “It’s too bad that a few discordant voices would be allowed to muzzle the vast majority of folks who are interested and want to participate in the dialogue.”

The civil libertarian argument, to which I am sympathetic, is that the First Amendment should reign supreme in cyberspace - protecting everybody, from Mensa members to morons – thus promoting the freest possible marketplace of ideas, and exposing racists to the rigors of reasoned rebuttal. For many online media outlets, this argument is also a marriage of principle and economics, because (a) they don’t want to be in a position of censoring some comments while allowing others, especially since it’s often hard to determine where to draw the line on acceptability; and, frankly (b) they often don’t have the financial resources to screen each and every comment prior to online publication.

Yet clearly, some lines do need to be drawn somewhere. The U.S. Supreme Court, back in 1919, ruled that the First Amendment is not absolute in all cases; it said that free speech was not acceptable if it constituted “a clear and present danger,” or caused public panic (such as falsely “shouting fire in a crowded theatre”). But those terms as well are open to interpretation; in some quarters, it has already been deemed a clear and present danger (or perhaps simply offensive in the visceral sense) to post a blithe comment about the issue of assassination. This past February, for example, Arianna Huffington posted a wire story on her liberal website about a failed attempt in Afghanistan on the life of Vice President Cheney; when readers sought to express their (presumably facetious?) disappointment that Cheney was still alive, she shut down the comments section.

These issues will not be resolved any time soon. Undoubtedly, media outlets will grope for a middle ground, perhaps by hiring more screeners. CBS News has already signaled that it would like to proceed that way, and reopen the forum to acceptable Obama comments, assuming it can fairly define what is acceptable.

Twelve years ago, there was a lot of buzz about Colin Powell running for president, but in the end he reportedly bowed to the wishes of his wife, Alma, who feared that, like Martin Luther King, he too would become a target. And this all happened before the Internet became ubiquitous. I would bet, given what’s happening online today, with its attendant free speech issues, that the Powells have no regrets.

Monday, May 07, 2007

The fine art of Washington weasling

I caught George Tenet’s act yesterday on Meet the Press, and found him to be emblematic of a certain subspecies of animal: the Washington weasel.

The ex-CIA director and proud recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom is still doing the modified limited hangout route (Richard Nixon’s term for a partial confession), offering quasi-mea culpas, declaring his willingness to “share responsibility” for drawing us into a disastrous war (now that it’s too late to do anything about it), and asking us to fork over thirty bucks apiece for the privilege of reading his hardcover account of how he and his Bush administration comrades – by a toxic combination of deception, incompetence, and (and in Tenet’s case) cowardice – managed to hoodwink the nation.

Listening to Tenet, it’s no wonder that President Bush now commands the support of a mere 28 percent of the citizenry (his worst showing ever in the Newsweek poll; see question 19). Tenet's depiction of the prewar backstage deliberations is hardly flattering, what with Vice President Cheney blowing him off and making alarmist public speeches that had little basis in fact – and with the CIA director (that would be Tenet) uttering nary a word of protest about Cheney’s effrontery.

This came up in the NBC interview yesterday. After Cheney insisted in an August 2002 speech that “there is no doubt that Saddam Hussein now has weapons of mass destruction,” Tenet, who knew at the time that Cheney’s claim was less than accurate, said nothing. As he recalled yesterday, “the speech was not provided to us for clearance. I should not have allowed my silence to imply acquiescence at that moment. That’s my fault.” (Now he tells us. That’s not what he told us three years ago. While testifying on Capitol Hill in 2004, Tenet insisted that he was a backstage watchdog: “You have to have the confidence to know that when I believed that somebody was misconstruing intelligence, I said something about it.”)

Some watchdog. After Bush claimed in his 2003 State of the Union speech that Hussein was on the hunt for nuclear material (“The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium in Africa”), the CIA director – who knew at the time that the claim was false, having excised it from a previous Bush speech – again uttered nothing in protest.

Yesterday, here’s how Tenet sought to defend his silence: “I didn’t watch the speech that night. I didn’t go back and read the speech carefully.” What was he doing that night, watching ESPN? One might assume that the nation’s top intelligence official would have wanted to monitor every word that Bush was uttering about Iraq – given the fact that war seemed imminent – and perhaps express his opinion soon thereafter. He didn’t.

Nor did he utter a peep when Cheney kept insisting publicly that Hussein had been in close cahoots with the 9/11 plotters. Tenet said yesterday that he knew at the time that Cheney’s claim was a crock: “There was a deep, deep disagreement between us,” because he and his CIA colleagues “could see no complicity, no operational relationship, no command and control between Iraq and al Qaeda.” But he did not protest at the time.

His current defense, however, is that he just wasn’t paying much attention to what Bush and Cheney were saying: “Did I monitor the press every day to see what everybody was saying? No….Does every (administration) statement absolutely comport with the intelligence? Probably not.”

Now there's a ringing endorsement for the Bush administration’s credibility.

In the broader sense, you get the impression that Cheney in particular was walking all over this guy, yet Tenet kept his lip zipped and kept coming back for more. That’s what Washington weasels do: they put their honor in blind trust and serve their betters…until they are safely outside the loop and decide, for reasons of self-interest, to see the light.

Tenet is clearly incensed that his old colleagues have tried to hang the whole war around his neck, by invoking his December ’02 claim to Bush that selling the WMD intelligence to the public would be a “slam dunk.” He’s ticked about being scapegoated (which perhaps he should be, given the fact that the scapegoaters are arguably more culpable than he is), but, like many Washington weasels, he is a tad self-absorbed. For instance, he writes in his book that the scapegoating campaign against him “is about the most despicable thing I have ever seen in my life.”

That’s quite a superlative. But I would argue that the families of the 12 American soldiers killed in Iraq yesterday might think there are many things far more despicable than the image travails of George Tenet.


And here’s one thing that’s arguably more despicable: The Iraq war is stressing our soldiers in ways that are more severe than the privations inflicted on the troops in World War II. Two psychologists have authored a new report, on behalf of the military’s Mental Health Advisory Team, which says that “a considerable number of Soldiers and Marines are conducting combat operations every day of the week, 10-12 hours per day seven days a week for months on end. At no time in our military history have Soldiers or Marines been required to serve on the front line in any war for a period of 6-7 months."

Result: the extended deployments are straining military families and the mental health of the soldiers; the military shrinks discovered that 27 percent of troops serving multiple tours in Iraq screened positive for a mental illness, as opposed to 17 percent among the soldiers deployed for the first time. Both shares were up significantly from the previous year. The shrinks urged that the soldiers be given a lot more down time, especially between tours, for the sake of their mental equilibrium – but, as we well know, the Bush war team has decreed the opposite.

And this is the same administration which still insists it has a monopoly on "supporting the troops."


Following up on the GOP presidential candidate debate, which I wrote about on Friday:

I would not presume to accuse the ’08 Republican field of lacking diversity – after all, seven of the white men believe in evolution, while three of the white men do not – and that particular issue did surface the day after the debate.

Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, the most credentialed candidate in the science-challenged trio, was asked on Friday to explain his stance further. He replied, magnanimously, “If you want to believe that you and your family came from apes, I’ll accept that,” and furthermore, he said that he does not object to the idea of teaching evolution as a theory in public schools. That’s big of him.

And leave it to the captain of the Double Talk Express to play it both ways. John McCain declined to raise his hand, thereby indicating that he doesn’t believe man was fashioned by the hand of God. However, apparently fearing he had alienated the religious right voters whom he has so assiduously courted, he quickly added a caveat: “But I also believe, when I hike the Grand Canyon and see it at sunset, that the hand of God is there.” (Hence McCain’s nuanced position: He did the rocks, then He rested.)


It’s sacrilege, in certain American circles, to suggest that we would ever be wise to emulate the French. Granted, they love Jerry Lewis, they bring their dogs into five-star restaurants, they enact non-smoking laws that are universally ignored, and the staffers at Air France are infamous for their rude hauteur. But, hey, let’s give the French a shout-out for this number:


That’s the percentage of French people who turned out to vote in this weekend’s presidential election. And they didn’t even need a war to motivate them.

One would think that we Americans, saddled next year with the ruinous war that France opposed, should be capable of posting a 60 percent turnout. But, given the fact that we haven’t hit that percentage since the 1968, I would not want to borrow from George Tenet and predict that it’s a slam dunk for 2008.