Daily Flog: Russian Bear Goes Bullish; Pakistan Dithers; Obama Strikes Back

(Roy Edroso of Runnin' Scared here. Even gadflies have to rest their wings sometimes, so Ward Harkavy is on vacation and I'm filling in as best I can for a few days. )

Reuters: "Russia says troops to leave Georgia"

Having rejected a U.N. plan that would have evacuated them from a "buffer zone" on Georgia's side of the South Ossetia border, Russia agrees to abide by French President Sarkozy's original plan and withdaw its forces from deeper inside the former Soviet Socialist Republic by Friday.

The West is unmoved. Secretary of State Rice says the Russians "intend to strangle Georgia and its economy" and are "more and more the outlaw in this conflict."

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The Wall Street Journal mocks the warnings NATO ministers gave Russia in Brussels ("not going to permit a new line to be drawn in Europe") as "Empty Words," because "there was no move to fast-track Georgia's bid to join NATO, nor a pledge to help the battered democracy rebuild its defenses."

Meanwhile Georgia accuses Russia of holding Georgia hostages and stealing American Humvees (which Russia admits, or rather boasts) and holds a hard line on total Russian evacuation.

It's hard to judge the level of seriousness with which these sabers are being rattled. Do Putin and Medvedev want Georgia, or just Peace With Honor in South Ossetia? Does the West have the stomach for Cold War II or any other kind of war with Russia? We'll see where the chess pieces lay on Saturday morning.

Bloomberg: "Musharraf Ouster Fails to End Deadlock Over Judges"

You'd think Musharraf's resignation would lead to at least a brief period comity among the members of the Pakistan ruling colation. But they're arguing over the dispenation of the judges Musharref fired and placed under house arrest last year to maintain the strength of his shaky dictatorship. "Sharif [of the Pakistan Muslim League] wants the judges restored through a parliamentary resolution that sends the present judiciary back home," says Bloomberg. "Zardari [of the People's Party, and husband of the late Benazir Bhutto] prefers reinstatement that also retains the current judges appointed by Musharraf on Nov. 3." Pakistan's Geo TV says Zadari also wants "indemnity" for Mushareff before the judges return, lest they wreak vengeance.

"If I were the Bush administration," the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations' Daniel Markey tells Bloomberg, "I'd kiss goodbye the chance of having a workable Pakistani government" this year. That's bad news for the Bush Administration, which has counted on Pakistan to help contain Taliban agents in the region.

Bush's weak response to the Pakistani impeachment crisis and continued support for the departed dictator suggests that he is unsure which new government faction to support -- that is, which will prevail. But with his network of foreign support crumbling worldwide, he may not have time to wait before picking a side.

New York Times: "Obama’s Ads in Key States Go on Attack"

Obama, "whose candidacy has been built in part on a promise to transcend traditional politics," has nonetheless started running "sustained and hard-hitting" negative ads against McCain on local TV, while his national ads retain a sunnier aspect. The new ads contrast what-we-worry McCain stump quotes with the dire state of the nation, and stress the connection between McCain and the unpopular current President.

Evan Tracey of TNS' Campaign Media Analysis Group calls it "go[ing] quietly negative."

The Times questions Obama's use of a clueless McCain quote on the economy that "was from a debate in January, before the economy took several turns for the worse," and says that McCain has seen been properly gloomy on the subject since. FactCheck.org also complains.

Considering that McCain's ads have of late been about how Obama is like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, this is rich and we don't mean Frank. In negative advertising, the Obama campaign is so much more sinned against than sinning -- not to mention damaged by the relentless McCain onslaught -- that they can probably afford to ignore the pearl-clutching of the Times and FactCheck.org.

Refreshingly, Democratic strategist Steve McMahon seems to think so, too. "It’s ‘game on, the money’s in the bank," says McMahon. "Let the McCain campaign chase us around the country, if they can find us."

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