Bloggers wonder if it's possible that there's good news from Iraq, following reports that a top Shiite cleric supports a coalition government. They also handicap Rudy Giuliani's chances at the presidency, and pick sides in a nasty spat between Rosie O'Donnell and Donald Trump.
Shifty allegiances: The New York Times reports that top Shiite cleric Ayatollah Sistani has "tentatively approved an American-backed coalition of Shiite, Sunni Arab and Kurdish parties that aims to isolate extremists." This move suggests a desire to isolate Muqtada Sadr, a powerful Shiite militia leader. Bloggers are cautiously optimistic.
Former Marine officer Westhawk notes that Sistani vetoed this same proposal last spring. He hopes that a coalition could shuffle the warring factions: "It would realign it into a moderate versus extremist fight. This would be Iraq's last best hope for political reconciliation, something which still seems to be a long shot. This coalition would also likely be Iraq's last best hope for a unified state."
But Seth Weinberger, a political science professor, believes that this coalition will cause more fighting, not less. "[T]he US leadership must prepare itself and the American public for the inevitable results of this new strategy: increased violence," he writes at Security Dilemmas. "Splitting the Shiite ruling bloc and challenging the militias will lead to much higher and more intense levels of fighting, especially when the US troops take on al-Sadr's Mahdi Brigade directly."
Aaron Banks at the progressive NDN Blog hopes "the President and his advisors are … paying attention to all facets of the Iraqi politicians they are counting on to make up this new, moderate coalition. If the White House is only considering the private comments that Shiite, Sunni and Kurdish leaders make in meetings with the President, then their is a very real chance that the Bush administration will revert to form and wind up completely divorced from reality, yet again."
Read more about shifting alliances in Iraq.
Rudy 4 prez: The Giuliani camp's announcement that the former mayor of New York City will head to New Hampshire at the end of January has stepped up speculation about his odds of winning the Republican nomination. Bloggers know that Rudy's popular, but aren't sure that he's conservative enough to win a Republican primary.
At ElephantBiz, a blog about the business end of the GOP, Bill Hobbs has more faith in a Giuliani machine. "No one doubts Giuliani, a rock-star on the speaking circuit, can pull in the bucks. He's also got a personal connection to Wall Street, which certainly will help him raise serious cash fast," he writes.
But Monday Morning Clacker at Vermont's GreenMountainPolitics1 doubts that Rudy will really make a run for it. "One reason for Giuliani's hesitation might be his love of dressing up in drag, which can be seen here in this YouTube clip: That shit don't play in South Carolina son…. However, if Hiz Honnor was to run, he would need to have a dynamite showing in the New Hampshire Primary. Why? …[M]ostly because New Hampshire favors "maverick/independent" candidates … If Giuliani can't win in New Hampshire he isn't going to win the nomination. And everybody knows it."
And some alert surfers note that the biography on Giuliani's exploratory committee Web site fails to mention his previous marriages and his children. "It looks like he threw his kids overboard to polish up some of rough spots on his family values score card," DM wrote in his tip to lefty hangout TPM Café. "Can't get married in '03 and have teenage to adult children without some 'splainin to do."