After a weekend in which 29 Americans died and the 82nd Airborne deployed in Baghdad, what the Iraq war will mean to the politics of 2008 becomes clear.
Hillary Clinton's early Saturday announcement of her exploratory committee was brilliantly executed and captured front page, cable and network coverage all weekend. But it was a decision forced upon her.
Barack Obama, the "rock star," has been poaching on Hillary's donor lists and offering Democrats, in the style of New York mayoral candidate John V. Lindsay in 1965 ("He is fresh, and they are all tired"), a post-Bush-Clinton-Bush politics that says, "Good-bye to all that."
John Edwards has pitched his tent in the Cindy Sheehan camp. The Sunday preceding Dr. King's birthday, he rose in New York City's Riverside Church, where King had denounced the Vietnam War, to decry President Bush's surge as "the McCain Doctrine," called for immediate withdrawal of 40,000-50,000 U.S. troops and threw down the gauntlet to Hillary, declaring, "Silence is betrayal."
By midweek, Hillary was out with her own plan for redeployment.
The Democratic nominee will likely be one of these three. In every national or Iowa-New Hampshire poll, they are first, second or third. But there is a wild card.
On Feb. 25, America will watch the Academy Awards, where the Oscar for best documentary will likely go to "An Inconvenient Truth." If Al Gore wins the Oscar, addresses the nation for two minutes on global warming and the war, then appears on Oprah, Leno, Letterman, Stewart and Colbert, a subsequent declaration of candidacy would put him in the top tier. And unlike Edwards and Hillary, Gore opposed the war in Iraq.
In the Democratic Party, the Iraq war is a lost cause that ought never to have been begun and any candidate who has not come to that position by February 2007 will not be in the hunt.
In the Republican Party, the war is less likely to bring about the unity Democrats will have achieved by year's end. For by summer's end, the surge will be over. While there may have been a temporary reduction in massacres by then, no one believes an additional 21,500 troops in a Texas-sized nation of 26 million can turn around a war Gen. Colin Powell says we "are losing" and Bush concedes "we are not winning."
Already, near a fifth of the Republicans in the Senate, including Chuck Hagel and presidential candidate Sam Brownback, have come out against the surge. The front-runners, Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt Romney, however, still back the president.