Comparing Scenarios for 2008

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Here's my U.S. News column this week. It's an exercise in concision: Others used whole columns to make some of the points I got into a paragraph or two: Politico's article on a possible Republican meltdown (the Blair scenario), Jay Carney's and Ron Brownstein's articles on how Giuliani and, to a lesser extent, McCain run ahead of the leading Democrats despite the Republicans' problems (the Ike scenario), and the Washington Post story on the possibility of a Michael Bloomberg candidacy. As an exercise, I annotated the column with comments I might have expanded on if I had had (as I do on baroneblog) unlimited space.

Were Hugo Chávez's Election Victories Based on Fraud?

In August 2004, I wrote a column casting doubt on the validity of the results of a referendum in Venezuela on the recall of President Hugo Chávez. I noted that an exit poll by U.S. pollster Doug Schoen showed the recall winning by a significant margin while the official results saw it losing. In a conversation last year, the late dean of exit pollsters, Warren Mitofsky, told me that he doubted the validity of Schoen's poll on the grounds that most of the people conducting it were opponents of Chávez. Now I've been alerted to a study conducted by two academics and published in the International Statistical Review. It analyzes the election returns and distinguishes between recently registered voters and those who had been registered for some time, and comes to the conclusion that recall proponents probably actually won–and that the Chávez regime was guilty of massive electoral fraud. Jimmy Carter and bien-pensant opinion was inclined to accept the results of this election and of the 2006 election in which Chávez was declared the victor for reelection. This study, I think, raises serious questions about Chávez's legitimacy. We do know that he is not as popular in other parts of Latin America as some Americans are inclined to think: Chávez-backed candidates did win in Bolivia and Ecuador in 2006, but Mexico's Felipe Calderón went ahead in the polls in Mexico after he ran ads linking his opponent Andrés Manuel López Obrador to Chavez.

Sandy Berger

A few weeks past, I ran a column contrasting the treatment of Scooter Libby and Sandy Berger, the Clinton national security adviser who pleaded guilty to charges of removing documents from the National Archives. I raised the question of whether Bill Clinton ordered or asked him to destroy documents. A few days after the column appeared, Berger, whom I have known for many years, E-mailed me a response denying that that had happened. With his permission, I posted the response without comment on baroneblog. I did this in the spirit of the late Mary McGrory, columnist for the Washington Star and then the Washington Post. When I was on the editorial page staff of the Post, I was told that many reporters objected vigorously to the printing of letters criticizing or attempting to refute their articles. But McGrory never had any objections. Her attitude was, "I've had my say; let them have their say."

Now, Fox News has run a piece on the Berger case, including charges by Rep. Tom Davis that Berger may have destroyed documents. Davis is a Republican partisan, but he's also a very smart and serious guy. He was willing as chairman of the House Governmental Affairs Committee to criticize the Bush administration sharply, and as ranking minority member, he's a worthy match to the highly able Chairman Henry Waxman. Read for yourself and see where you come out.

Civilian Casualties in Iraq

Here's an interesting analysis of civilian casualties in Iraq, from blogger Engram, via Instapundit. Bottom line: Casualties are down in Baghdad, where the surge is going on but up in some provinces where it isn't.