What to expect from Sarah Palin’s speech tonight

Alaskan Governor Sarah Palin will address delegates tonight at the RNC at the Xcel Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. Here’s what to expect from her speech.

Expect Palin to introduce herself to the American people and give a deep auto-biographical account of herself.

Expect Palin to also address the deeply personal attacks from the left-wing blogosphere on pregnancy rumours and attacks on her daughter. Strong messages of the family value of support and a call for american empathetic reflection is what we will probably see.

Expect Palin to address her special experience as the Governor of Alaska and what this means for energy independence in America. Palin and McCain will address drilling ANWAR as gas prices are on the rise for families and business.

Expect Palin to address her unique position as a woman on the VP side of a presidential ticket this year. Expect Palin to make direct reference to Hillary Clinton and thank her for putting 18 million cracks in the glass ceiling. Expect Palin to appeal to Clinton supporters, independents, Republicans and Democrats to break that glass ceiling together and move America forward with the GOP.

I’m going to the Republican National Convention

I’ve been enjoying this week’s coverage of the Democratic National Convention on CNN (the only network anchoring coverage from the floor). Whether you agree with Democrats or not, you must admit that they’re putting on a great show and the stars of the party have woven some fantastic speeches together.

Therefore, I’m very excited to be headed to Minneapolis St. Paul on Sunday to attend the full week of the Republican National Convention.

I’m intending to blog the convention top-to-bottom and to bring you guys the behind-the-camera perspective of the greatest political stage show on Earth (a label that could apply to the RNC or DNC though Obama’s address in Mile-High Stadium to about 80,000 might raise the bar well above terra firma (or at least mare supra)for the GOP. Wi-fi has been intermittant to non-existant at the Pepsi Center according to some reports, so hopefully the RNC will have it humming along through the convention.

If any other folks (observers or reporters) are heading down to the RNC from Canada or if you’re a delegate/blogger from the US, I’d love to hear from you. I’ll be available via Blackberry during the convention and even if you aren’t able to make it, I’d be happy to share my thoughts about the goings-on and nomination of John McCain as the Republican nominee for President of the US.

McCain’s strategy is the wedge

As the Democrats assemble in Denver this week and kick off their National Convention today, the campaign of the presidential campaign of Republican John McCain is to capitalize on Barack Obama’s decision to tap senior senator Joe Biden as hiss running mate.

Biden’s selection as the bottom half of the Dem ticket this cycle for President is sure to anger some former supporters of former Democrat front-runner Hillary Clinton.

McCain is releasing an ad titled “Debra” which features one such angered supporter, a former delegate for Ms. Clinton. The ad presumes that there is division among Democrats moving into the week-long party in Colorado.

The convention is to feature a speech by Clinton’s husband, former President Bill Clinton titled “securing America’s Future” where the former President will speak about the economic records of his administration versus that of the current Commander in Chief. While it is unexpected that the former President will take an open shot at his wife’s former rival, Republicans will be looking for any hint of dissention to show that Obama is not ready to lead as support isn’t solid even among left-wing partisans.

Therefore, as McCain is expected to name his choice for VP just after the Democratic Convention to change the channel as GOP activists assemble in Minneapolis-St. Paul for their convention, look for McCain to name a conservative Republican such as Romney or Huckabee to emphasize unity in his own party.

Like Obama, McCain not only has a challenge capturing independents but he faces a battle in invigoriting his own base to get out the vote in November. Obama’s choice of Biden and the added foreign policy experience that the Dem ticket sorely needed will reassure independents but will sour part of his base, especially the working class and women that supported Clinton. McCain’s challenge lies in invigorating his base. He is already stronger among independents than Obama (being a centrist Republican vs. liberal Democrat Obama) but in this, he faces a challenge exciting the GOP base, much of which consists of evangelicals which turned out for Bush/Cheney in 2000 and 2004. Look for McCain to make a nod towards the base by selecting a conservative’s Republican such as Romney or Huckabee. McCain is messaging on Democrat division with Obama’s passing on Clinton, therefore the Republican ticket will likely show McCain emphasizing his party’s unity by looking towards the right rather than the centre.

Campaign wildcards

GOP Presumptive nominee for President John McCain has caused quite a stir with his latest set of ads attacking his Democrat counterpart Barack Obama. In the first ad titled “Celeb” McCain compares Obama to Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and makes the point that while Barack Obama is incredibly popular but has little leadership experience at McCain’s level and that celebrity can’t sustain a commander in chief alone. The ad does well do underscore this point however it fails because it concedes another: Barack Obama is incredibly popular. By the technical definition of popular vote (a good measure of how elections are won — electoral colleges being another story), McCain concedes that Obama may not be ready to lead the country but that McCain isn’t ready to win the presidential election. The ad, by including Spears and Hilton to make a comparison to Obama was successful in getting a lot of intention for its at-first-glance superficial character and belittling tone.

In the second ad named “The One”, McCain’s campaign compares Obama to a messianic character that can do no wrong. The ad is mocking in tone and is good red meat for the base, perhaps the other front besides the swing vote that McCain needs to convince to give him a shot at 1600 Pennsylvania avenue.

The “Celeb” ad is rumoured to have spoiled a surprise appearance by Obama in Chicago at this past weekend’s Lollapalooza where insiders say he was ready to introduce rapper Kanye West on stage. The Obama campaign is said to have been spooked by the ad and didn’t want to fuel talk around the coming volley from McCain. Given this song by rapper Ludacris endorsing Obama over McCain (a song lighting up the American right-wing blogosphere), Obama likely made a good decision by removing himself as an element of a perfect storm of bad publicity. Obama, celebrity, Kanye and Luda. It would have fit well into McCain’s narrative (and all by chance).

The latest in this entertaining story is an entry by Paris Hilton, the famous-for-being-famous celebrity featured in McCain’s ad. First consider McCain’s ad

and now Paris Hilton’s response

In election campaigns, its impossible to predict the wildcards such as the Ludacris endorsement. Further it’s the nature of the race that Obama would have to respond carefully to McCain “Celeb” ad by allegedly canceling on Kanye. Equally as unpredictable is this response by Hilton, which is more tangential to the core, but more viral among those with a surface view of the presidential race so far. While insiders will dismiss this as fodder for Entertainment Tonight and Jay Leno, though that’s where the populace is watching. And for McCain it’s unfortunate that Obama is popular.

My question for John McCain

Senator McCain initially jokes that he’s non-committal on making Canada his first foreign visit, however, he followed this up with the following,

“Certainly, I think that that [first POTUS foreign trip to Canada] is a precedent that there’s every argument to follow that”

“I think it was very appropriate that both President Reagan and President Clinton took a trip to Canada before they took any foreign travel.”

— Senator John McCain

Senator McCain’s visit to Canada as a presumptive nominee for President is unprecedented in history. Before yesterday, no other such candidate for President, Democrat or Republican, has come to Canada during an election cycle.

I wanted to ask a question that was simple, and had the potential for headlines. I believe that McCain’s answer to my question indicates that he sees no reason not to follow the precedents set by Presidents Clinton and Reagan to make Canada his first foreign visit.

Three reporters focused on NAFTA-related stories even after McCain mentioned that he would not address the red meat of the NAFTA-leak story that many Canadian national reporters were after. I felt that these questions were guaranteed to provide non-answers.

Another question regarding Omar Khadr was important and elicited a somewhat uncomfortable shift of burden upon the Canadian government; McCain had mentioned his policy to shut down Guantanamo Bay as a detention facility but may have put Foreign Affairs on guard when he mentioned that Canada has not actually sought to intervene for Khadr.

I felt that Global reporter Ben O’hara-byrne’s question elicited one of the more interesting exchanges as Senator McCain formulated his own on-the-spot policy regarding the exportation of Canadian water and water-security. McCain indicated that it was not a strategy that he would likely be supporting.

John McCain’s remarks today in Ottawa

Thank you all very much. I appreciate the warm welcome to Ottawa, and the hospitality of the Economic Club of Toronto. The reputation of the Economic Club as a place for serious discussion of policy is well known in America, and I am honored by your invitation. There aren’t any electoral votes to be won up here in the middle of a presidential election. But there are many shared interests that require our attention today, and many Canadians here I am proud to call friends.

If you’ve been following the presidential election, you’ve probably noticed that Canada comes up for discussion quite a bit these days. And this is as it should be — because no other nation shares so many ties with the United States. And today the strength of that partnership is more vital than ever. The economic community we have founded, together with our alliance and the values we hold in common, have served our people for decades, and served us well. It will fall to the next president to strengthen these ties still further, adding to the security and prosperity of all of North America.

We in the United States are very lucky, in a way that’s easy to take for granted. We are surrounded by two great oceans, and by two nations we count as friends. Think of the fate of other nations, and how much of their histories have been shaped by hostile neighbors. Generation after generation, they live in fear, resentment, and competition harmful to the interests of all. Lost in rivalry and distrust are the advantages of regional friendship and stability. What a blessing it is for the United States to have in Canada a neighbor we fear only on ice rinks and baseball diamonds.

The best American statesmen have always understood that Canada is not some adjunct to America. We are firm and fast friends. We are allies, partners in success and adversity alike, and a great deal depends on preserving that unity.

Trade is just a part of what unites us, but a very important part. Last year alone, we exchanged some 560 billion dollars in goods, and Canada is the leading export market for 36 of the 50 United States. This country stands as America’s leading overall export market, and America is Canada’s leading agricultural market. With 60 percent of all direct foreign investment in Canada originating in the United States — some 289 billion dollars in 2007 — our economies draw strength from one another.

A prosperous Canada means a more dynamic and resilient American economy. There are areas where the United States can learn a great deal from your experience. Beginning in 1995, Canada did the hard work to put its fiscal house in order. You reduced spending and brought the budget from deficit to surplus. However, unlike your free-spending neighbor to the south, Canada continued to run budget surpluses even while cutting its corporate and personal tax rates. Lower taxes and spending restraint is a philosophy we should import from Canada.

Our common interests extend to other pursuits as well. The future of our environment, the flows of our energy, and the security of nations — all of these are aided by the close relations forged by our predecessors in Ottawa and Washington. And if I have anything to say about it after January of next year, America is going to expand these ties of friendship and cooperation between our two nations.

At the forefront of our minds, in these years since the Millennium Plot and the events of 9/11, is the security of our citizens. Our governments have made real progress in keeping our borders closed to terrorists and open to trade. Yet this will remain an ongoing challenge and a key issue for the next American administration. Tens of millions of people and vehicles cross the Canadian-American border every year. The two-way trade that crosses the Ambassador Bridge between Detroit and Windsor equals all American exports to Japan. That transit, and all our crossing points, must remain secure. In extending our security partnership, we can ensure continued flows of people and commerce while maintaining security on which these very flows depend. We need to do an even better job of managing the regular traffic across our border.

Already, we cooperate in preparing for emergencies — exchanging information and manpower to coordinate our response to danger. We have agreements in place to work together in detecting radiological and nuclear threats, to improve security at ports, borders, and airports, and to assist first responders. We exchange public health officers and have agreed on principles for screening intercontinental air travelers in the event of a pandemic. In all of this, we are drawing upon the skills and knowledge of one another, and we are joined in the crucial work of protecting our people.

At the same time, Canada and America are joined in other vital causes around the world — from the fight against nuclear proliferation to the fight against global warming, from the fight for justice in Haiti to the fight for democracy in Afghanistan. I, for one, will never forget the response of our Canadian friends to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. It was here in Ottawa, three days later, where tens of thousands of Canadians filled the streets on a National Day of Mourning. The Canadian people even took in Americans who has been left stranded by the shutdown of American air space. We in America have not forgotten your kindness. And we will never forget the solidarity, compassion, and friendship of Canada when it mattered most.

We know as well that Canada, too, has suffered casualties in the years since 9/11, and we honor their memory as we do our own. As always in Canada’s history, this nation has been willing to do hard things, even when the costs run high. Along with our other allies, Canada and America are still fighting in defense of Afghanistan — in the honorable cause of freedom for that long suffering country, and greater security for ourselves. To date, Canada has committed nearly two billion dollars to the rebuilding of Afghanistan, including a recent 50% increase at the Paris Conference. It is a generous investment, and a wise one, and together our countries are going to see this mission through.

Even in Iraq, where Canada has not always agreed with American policies, this nation has done all that those differences would allow to help the Iraqi people. In characteristic form, Canada has given generous humanitarian aid and development assistance. And your government has provided more than 770 million in combined assistance and debt relief to Iraq, helping a struggling young democracy at a critical time.

It’s the mark of good friends that they’re willing to correct you, and to do so without rancor. Many Canadians have objected to the policies of the United States in dealing with terrorists, and with enemy combatants held at the Guantanamo prison. It happens that I also regard the prison at Guantanamo as a liability in the cause against violent radical extremism, and as president I would close it. I intend as well to listen carefully when close allies offer their counsel. And even when they don’t volunteer their advice, I’ll ask for it and seek it out.

We’re going to need that spirit in many efforts. We have a shared destiny, Canada and the United States. We are both continental powers, nations shaped by our diverse heritage and our frontier experience. We are also both Arctic nations. And because of this common geography, we must be acutely aware of the perils posed by global warming and take immediate steps to reverse its effects.

Three years ago, I traveled with some colleagues, including Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Lindsey Graham, to Yukon territory, a front line of global warming. We flew over miles of devastated spruce forests, every tree killed by insects that thrive in warm temperatures. As the trees die, fires multiply, and across the region the waters are vanishing. We heard from men and women near Whitehorse whose traditional way of life had been radically disrupted.

All of this is just a glimpse of the grave environmental dangers that global warming can bring, unless we act to prevent it. I was among the first in Congress to introduce legislation to curb greenhouse gasses. If I am elected president, it will be a top priority to enact an energy policy equal to this challenge. A sensible cap-and-trade emissions system, for instance, is a critical part of such a policy. Under U.S. and Canadian leadership, the Montreal Protocol began the process of phasing out gases that were destroying our planet’s ozone layer. That cap-and-trade system removed the threat of acid rain. I believe we can apply it to great effect against the threat of climate change. And here, too, Canada and America can work in common purpose against common dangers.

We must also work to ensure reliable energy supplies and increase sources of renewable energy. As you all know, Canada is America’s largest energy supplier. Not only does Canada have the second largest proven oil reserves in the world, 60 percent of the energy produced in Canada is hydroelectric, clean energy. We stand much to gain by harmonizing our energy policies, just as have gained by cooperating in trade through NAFTA. Since NAFTA was concluded, it has contributed to strong job growth and flourishing trade. Since the agreement was signed, the United States has added 25 million jobs and Canada more than 4 million. Cross-border trade has more than doubled since NAFTA came into force. We have established North America as the world’s largest economic market and the integration of our economies has led to greater competitiveness of American and Canadian businesses. Because of our common market, our workers are better able to compete, and to find opportunities of their own in the global economy.

There is still more work to do. Complying with NAFTA’s rules of origin can be cumbersome and costly. Border delays can pose a serious impediment to trade, the equivalent of a tariff. And even now, for all the successes of NAFTA, we have to defend it without equivocation in political debate, because it is critical to the future of so many Canadian and American workers and businesses. Demanding unilateral changes and threatening to abrogate an agreement that has increased trade and prosperity is nothing more than retreating behind protectionist walls. If I am elected president, have no doubt that America will honor its international commitments — and we will expect the same of others. We will strengthen and extend the open and rules-based international trading system. I aspire to lead a proud, outward-looking America that deepens its partnerships throughout the hemisphere and the world.

Long before NAFTA, America received one of its most valuable exports from Canada in the form of a great statesman, Dean Acheson. He was descended from a great Canadian distilling family and a man who knew Canada well. As secretary of state, Acheson liked to drop by the home of his great friend Hume Wrong, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, for consultation and advice over a quiet drink. As I said, Acheson came from a distilling family.

The relationship was not always smooth. But it was productive. Canada and the United States together gave generously for the reconstruction of Europe. And together, too, we helped to forge the new trading system that restored the prosperity of the world after a terrible war.

We’ve been through an awful lot together, Canada and America, and together we have achieved great things. We have a long shared history to draw from, and deep reserves of good will and mutual admiration. I thank you for all that you have done to advance one of the finest friendships between any two nations in the world today. I thank you for the conviction and clarity you bring to that work ahead for our two nations. And I thank you all for you kind attention here today.

John McCain will do a media avail this Friday

Some reporter friends of mine have been speculating as to whether presumptive Republican nominee for President John McCain will take questions after his speech on Friday at the Chateau Laurier. I just received this from the McCain campaign:

MEDIA ADVISORY
John McCain Travels to Canada

For Immediate Release

Contact: Press Office

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

703-XXX-XXXX

ARLINGTON, VA — U.S. Senator John McCain’s presidential campaign today announced that John McCain will visit Ottawa, Canada on Friday, June 20th.

Friday, June 20, 2008

OTTAWA, CANADA

WHO: John McCain

WHAT: Speech hosted by the Economic Club of Toronto

WHEN: Friday, June 20, 2008 at 1:00 p.m. EDT

*Please Note This event is not open to the general public.

WHERE: The Chateau Laurier
Grand Ballroom
1 Rideau Street
Ottawa, Canada K1N 8S7

WHO: John McCain

WHAT: Media Availability

WHEN: Friday, June 20, 2008 at 1:40 p.m. EDT

WHERE: The Chateau Laurier
Laurier Room
1 Rideau Street
Ottawa, Canada K1N 8S7

###

On naming and dealing with scandal

As some of the air has been taken out of the so-called “Cadscam”, I thought it might be interesting to take a quick look at which communications goals were achieved by how this “scandal” was named and then let’s investigate how other scandals get their names. Further, I want to take a look at how the Conservatives are dealing with these issues during their minority government.

It seems as though every scandal that emerges in the U.S. gets the -gate suffix after the famous burglary of the DNC headquarters at the hotel which came to provide inspiration for the name. Since Watergate, we’ve seen lexicographic laziness as subsequent scandals relied on the formula by which the subject of the scandal became the root of the scandal name followed by “gate”. Wikipedia has a list of scandals based on this modèle-de-mot.

In Canada, we famously have watched the progression of “Adscam” from start to finish. Andrew Coyne — then a columnist at the National Post and now a senior editor at Maclean’s — gave the moniker to the sponsorship scandal. The scandal coiner (sorry) originally cited that he wanted to avoid the familiar -gate standby and he came to rest on a derivation of Abscam, a decades-old American political scandal that netted the convictions of a number of elected officials. Adscam, however, still registers zero on political prosecutions.

NAFTA-gate is so unfortunately named because the scandal — although up in Canada, we desperately try to claim some outrage too — is rooted in U.S. politics. If the leak was anything beyond tangential, we may have had the right to name it NAFTAscam, or Obamaramascama, but we are only secondary characters in the drama at it now simmers south of our southern border. An enterprising tech entrepreneur should immediately go and register a number of possible iteration of -gate.com and -scam.ca to cash in on the mania. As the official opposition is awol in Canada, there’ll be a scandal every week as Dion and co. focus on character assassination rather than policy opposition. Bring on Harperscam, Senatescam, and Partisanscam! In the U.S., while it is surprising to see a scandal based upon policy rather than sex, we still may see -gates reminiscent of Lewinskygate as ex-lovers and past trysts are brought to the fore (we’ve already seen a McCain sex scandal resurface that was fresh 8 years ago during the 2000 campaign).

It is interesting to note that “Cadscam” originally emerged from the Ottawa press. With Adscam so recent, it’s not entirely surprising to see this name stick. However, it is a double-edged sword for those who would carelessly wield it to damage the Conservatives. The advantage of “Cadscam” for the Liberals is that it diminishes the branding of their own scandal by creating a “politicians are all the same” way of thinking among the general public. However, the very use of the name is a constant reminder of their own scandal which ultimately brought their 13-year reign to an end. Yet, on sum I would say that it is to the Liberals’ net advantage to use the “Cadscam” name for one of the main Conservative advantages has been that they have framed themselves as the team that was elected to ‘clean up Ottawa’ and they told the electorate that ‘a new era of accountability was upon us’.

If accountability represents one pillar of this Conservative administration, this scandal has Conservatives worried because it also strikes at the very base of the other pillar: leadership. As Dona Cadman has cleared Conservative leader Stephen Harper from involvement, we can understand that perception is everything in politics and as the Conservatives clean up this mess, we see that timing and credibility are the primary factors for damage control. Of course, another key element that we have seen is pushback. Harper’s pending lawsuit against Dion is evidence of this.

Some have questioned the Prime Minister’s lack of substantive enunciation on the topic and say that he should have come forward right away to clear the air and answer any questions. Since the allegations were based on old and second-hand information, what the Prime Minister’s strategy continues to be is one that doesn’t give the intense spotlight of his office to a scandal that he cannot begin to define in his own terms. In contrast, on “NAFTA-gate”, the Prime Minister has put the full resources of his government on determining the source of the leak which impaired Obama in the Ohio primary. Some say that the PM has changed the channel on “Cadscam”, and whether or not this was deliberate on the his part, this is indeed what has happened. NAFTA-gate, as far as a news story goes, has much more momentum, involves more players, and does not have any heavy legal consequences for the Prime Minister and his team. It’s an embarrassing scandal to be sure, however, it is not one that is likely to change voter intention in the next Canadian federal election. As Canadians, I think we’re just happy that we heard our names mentioned on American TV.

If we take a substantive look at both “scandals”, the so-called “Cadscam” smells bad, but in the end it hasn’t got any legs: the three people at the centre of the allegations all denied a deal (Cadman included) and anything else is completely speculative. Unless Dion has a smoking gun, the only factor that will continue to define the story is Harper’s libel suit against the oppo leader. The Liberals might continue their pressure in the House’s ethics committee, however, they should be mindful that there is a point to be made, backed up by an easily built narrative, that the Liberals are on a witch-hunt and that they have tried to throw anything at the wall to see what sticks. On “NAFTA-gate”, there are too many speculative details for this to continue beyond the continued policy-bereft warbling of Dion in the House.

If all else fails, the Conservatives should unveil what Dion would gladly term the “hidden agenda” and dare the opposition to debate on real policy rather than trumped-up scandal.

Getting out the vote in the US election

While is was inevitable for some time, Arizona senator John McCain only recently became the official nominee for the Republican Party. Most U.S. observers believe that Chicago junior senator Barack Obama will defeat Hillary Clinton in the Democrat primaries.

Now, the question: in a Obama vs. McCain contest, who is more likely to win? The easy answer for most is Obama. Since McCain has be the de facto nominee for quite some time, the U.S. media has focused primarily on the horserace that is Obama vs. Clinton. In short, the Democrats are getting high profile while McCain’s storyline is wrapped up in the interim. This translates to perceived momentum and this translates well with voters as who is perceived to win will often bring voters on side; people like to pick a winner.

However, Obama has a tough road ahead. He has largely been unvetted by the media and democrats (the internal contest) are reluctant to bring out the heavy ammunition against a potential nominee who may represent the Democrats’ only hope to retaking the White House. If the Dems leave Obama too damaged, he may not stand up well in the main event. However, his kid gloves treatment may in turn be part of his downfall. As we’

Musharraf at 15%, Pakistan’s future on the edge

In early December, I received correspondence from the International Republican Institute in Washington inviting me to participate as a short-term election observer as part of that group’s mission in Pakistan. The NGO is headed by US Senator John McCain and provides democratic infrastructure assistance to emerging democracies. I was to travel to Islamabad via Dubai on January 2nd to connect with the group there to coordinate with them in establishing a legitimate international presence in that country to judge the free and fairness of those elections. While the Canadian government via Elections Canada declined to send observers due to Musharraf’s imposition of what amounted to Martial law, NGO observation was still necessary in order to make the call on the legitimacy of the elections even though most everyone that has been following the situation highly doubted that those elections would be run with any semblance of the democratic ideal. Yet, helping people secure the principles of democracy is a worthwhile cause even if it happens slowly and even if it comes via an international well-document fact-based shaming of any government if and when it holds insincere elections.

During my Christmas break, having my flight itinerary in hand and my letter of offer sent from DC, I trekked out to the Pakistani consulate in northern Toronto to have my visa application processed. Having no family in Pakistan or any education or business interests there, the consular officers were initially skeptical of the papers I was presenting them. One gentlemen who was waiting with his son who was visiting to visit his ancestral home for the first time asked me why I was going to Pakistan. I told him about my plans to help observe the elections there and he seemed sincerely pleased that I was going. Pakistan was recently ejected from the Commonwealth, yet despite this fact it has a close history in the Western democratic tradition. Because of this fact, I have a sincere hope that Pakistan is still fertile soil for a slowly growing democracy, even if there are elements there that are actively salting the earth either for sake of power or for terror.

Needless to say, my trip was canceled by IRI shortly after the assassination of Benazir Bhutto as the election, to take place January 8th was postponed to late February. The group, that has been in Pakistan for years, was recently told to clear out its expat staff by Musharraf’s government. The opinion polling done by IRI in Pakistan are considered to be the most accurate measure of popular opinion there and the government was not probably not pleased that this expression of popular opinion was hurting their electoral prospects. If Musharraf’s government seeks to suppress the publication of popular opinion in this way, I fear how they will act when it is expressed during an election. IRI expats are still packing up their offices in Pakistan and they’ve released a final poll to mark their departure. President Musharraf has 15% popular support in that country and it’s likely to slide further. Musharraf’s power has been sustained by a precarious balance between the military (which has pockets of sympathy for the Taliban and al Queda) and enough of the electorate. The former general gave up his stars to appease popular concern over his position as the top military officer and effective head of state. That said, I was shocked with the offhand ease and ignorance of Stephane Dion’s recent musings about putting NATO troops in Pakistan. Such talk about an intervention would only serve to further destabilize a country that is dangerously pivoting between anarchy and stability.

The people of Pakistan are expected to express their will soon. If Musharraf’s party loses in the upcoming elections (if they are held), the outcome is uncertain. Let’s hope that the government and military respects their decision.