The Beltway Bandit

An online journal of politics, culture, and sports

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Hold your breath -- It's good news from Florida. A new Rasmussen poll puts Democratic Senator Bill Nelson ahead of GOP challenger Rep. Katherine Harris 54-31 percent. According to Rasmussen,
it appears that Nelson could not have asked for a better challenger. Harris, at this point in time, only earns 59% of the vote from Republicans in Florida. Among unaffiliated voters, she trails 64% to 18%.
It's about time Florida got something right.

The Indispensable Man -- The massive stroke that has sent Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to the hospital in grave condition is a catastrophe. What's remarkable about Mr Sharon is how he has moved from pariah to the indispensable man in just a few short years. Five years ago many people in the U.S. and Israel would have agreed that Ariel Sharon was the one man in Israeli politics who must never come to power. Five years later, he's the one man Israeli politics can't seem to do without. With Yitzhak Rabin dead for more than a decade, only Sharon had the credibility with the voters to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip and prepare for unilateral withdrawal from parts of the West Bank.

Sharon's new centrist Kadima party, which had the potential to exile Likud to the far margins of Israeli politics, is now leaderless. Kadima depended on Sharon not just for leaderrship, direction, and policy, but also for its very existence. He created it, gave it a purpose and, most recently, propelled it to the top of the polls in anticipation of the forthcoming Israeli national elections.

So what now?

Nobody knows, exactly. The machinery of government will go on, of course, as will the scheduled elections. However, Kadima does not have a slate of candidates for the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. One will have to be drawn up, presumably by the cadre of Sharon loyalists who formed his top lieutenants in the new party. The immediate successor to Sharon is Ehud Olmert, but he's not regarded as being in the same class as Sharon and is probably nothing more than a caretaker.

And will the Israeli public, exhausted by Labour's fantasies of peace with terrorists and Likud's fantasies of Jewish empire, support Kadima without Sharon at the top? I swear, compared to the Middle East, Ireland is the luckiest country on Earth. If the Middle East has any luck at all, it's bad luck.

The Last Throes -- 100 Iraqis, 5 Americans dead:
Two new suicide bombings rocked Iraq today, killing at least 100 in attacks at a shrine in the Shiite city of Karbala and a police recruiting station in the Sunni city of Ramadi.

Also today, five American soldiers were killed when their vehicle struck an improvised explosive device while operating in the Baghdad region, the American military said.

Preliminary reports from Iraqi police said that 52 people were killed and 64 were wounded in Karbala, south of Baghdad. In Ramadi, 50 people were killed and 60 were wounded, according Dr. Ammar Al-Rawi from Al-Ramadi Hospital.

The killings come on top of attacks that left more than 50 people dead on Wednesday, as violence was escalating again after a lull around the time of last month's parliamentary elections.
Remember: last throes.

Gillespie to Allen -- Chuck Todd at The Hotline reports that former RNC Chair Ed Gillespie is joining Senator George Allen [R-VA] as treasurer of his political action committee. That's a nice get for Allen, who is thinking about the presidency in 2008 at least as much as the Senate in 2006.

The Power Poll -- If former NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle was still alive he’d be a very happy man today. The mastermind behind the league’s incredibly successful parity program – created to ensure any team not owned by Bill Bidwill has a chance at the playoffs – has succeeded beyond his wildest dreams. The only NFC team to make the playoffs both this year and last is the Seattle Seahawks. In related news, Seattle Head Coach Mike Holmgren should be shot out of a cannon and into the sun if his team doesn’t make the Super Bowl this year. Now, on to The World’s Most Prestigious Power Poll. As always, this will be the most important thing you read all week. Please commit it to memory.

01. Indianapolis Colts [14-2]: AFC teams hoping the Colts will be too distracted to win the conference are about to be very disappointed. [NC]

02. Seattle Seahawks [13-3]: No excuses this year. The best QB in the NFC. The best tailback in the NFC. Home field throughout the NFC. Even the defense is good. [NC]

03. Denver Broncos [13-3]: Looked good all season and should have no trouble in the playoffs…until they play the Colts. [NC]

04. Pittsburgh Steelers [11-5]: Would surprise no one if they went to Cincinnati this week and came out with a win. [+1]

05. Jacksonville Jaguars [12-4]: The best wild card team since the 12-4 Ravens won the Super Bowl in January 2001. [+2]

06. New England Patriots [10-6]: Number of playoff games Tom Brady has lost: Zero. [NC]

07. Chicago Bears [11-5]: Dominant defense gives them a chance to beat anyone anywhere. [+1]

08. Cincinnati Bengals [11-5]: Giving up 37 points to the Bills in week 16 was bad enough. Only scoring 3 points on the Chiefs defense in week 18 is inexcusable. No playoff team looked so bad the last two weeks of the regular season. [-4]

09. Tampa Bay Buccaneers [11-5]: Anyone know where I can find a voodoo Chucky doll? [NC]

10. Washington Redskins [10-6]: Tampa was the site of Washington ’s last Super Bowl loss. Tampa was the site of Washington ’s last playoff loss. Tampa was the site of Washington ’s most heartbreaking loss this season. Time to get some decent mojo going down there. [NC]

11. New York Giants [11-5]: Tailback is the best player in NFL history to be named after a Polynesian torch. [NC]

12. Kansas City Chiefs [10-6]: I can’t help thinking the NFL playoffs were deprived of the league’s most entertaining team. If only this bunch could play a lick of defense. [NC]

13. Carolina Panthers [11-5]: Saved the season with a great finish against the listless Falcons, but that run defense is cause for concern. First up: Tiki Barber and his 1800 rushing yards. [+2]

14. Miami Dolphins [9-7]: Contrary to what you might think, the Redskins were not the hottest team in the NFL at the end of the regular season, the Dolphins – winners of six straight – were. We’ve seen what Nick Saban can do with Gus Frerotte at quarterback and a flaky pothead for a tailback. Just imagine what he will do with a professional passer. [+2]

15. San Diego Chargers [9-7]: Marty has now broken fans’ hearts in three different cities. [-2]

16. Minnesota Vikings [9-7]: Owner lost cred points with his players when he didn’t use a singing stripper-gram to deliver the bad news to Mike Tice. [+2]

17. Dallas Cowboys [9-7]: It’ll take another face lift to get that look of bitter disappointment off Jerry Jones’ face. Fortunately, I taped it. [-3]

18. Atlanta Falcons [8-8]: Choking, gutless worms. [-1]

19. Philadelphia Eagles [6-10]: Never stopped playing hard. [+3]

20. Cleveland Browns [6-10]: As if having to live in Cleveland isn’t bad enough. [+4]

21. Baltimore Ravens [6-10]: The good news for all of us who can’t stand the Ravens: They really think Kyle Boller is the future. Shhhh. Don’t tell ‘em. [-2]

22. Arizona Cardinals [5-11]: They don’t know it yet, but they need to fire Dennis Green. Bill Bidwill is always the last to know. [-1]

23. St. Louis Rams [6-10]: Showed up to play for the first time in weeks and at The World’s Most Prestigious Power Poll, we reward teams that rub salt in Bill Parcells’ wounds. [+8]

24. Detroit Lions [5-11]: Lions fans think their misery is over for another eight months, but watching Matt Millen run their free agency and draft will prove them very, very wrong. [+1]

25. Buffalo Bills [5-11]: Missing only a quarterback, a defense, a general manager, and a sense of direction. [-5]

26. San Francisco 49ers [4-12]: Didn’t intend to keep the #1 pick anyway. [NC]

27. New York Jets [4-12]: Should be fine next year. After all, their quarterback is Chad Pennington. What could go wrong? [+1]

28. Green Bay Packers [4-12]: Turn those cheese heads into fondue. [+1]

29. Tennessee Titans [4-12]: Steve McNair is owed a $50 million bonus if he is still on the team this year. I think I’m about as likely to collect that money as McNair is. [-6]

30. Oakland Raiders [4-12]: The all-powerful Thunder Gods of Fashion continue to punish the Raiders for Al’s track suits. [+2]

31. San Antonio/Oklahoma City/Baton Rouge Saints [3-13]: Who would take this job? I have a one-word answer for you: Norv. [-4]

32. Houston Texans [2-14]: They earned it. [-2]

The Bandit Returns... -- ...but for how long?