A Vietnam flashback from Kabul; and Republicans roll the dice in Pa.

    When I heard of the insurgent attacks in Afghanistan that reached the U.S. embassy  in Kabul, I couldn’t help but think of the 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam. Despite the presence of 500,000 American troops in the country, the Viet Cong were able to stage ferocious attacks throughout South Vietnam, including an assault on the U.S. embassy in Saigon.

    You can make too much of historic parallels, but it seems these events do share this in common: after years of intensive American military operations, we couldn’t even keep the capitals we’d been defending safe from insurgent forces.

    The Tet offensive was a turning point in U.S. public opinion about American involvement in Vietnam. Time will tell what happens in Afghanistan, but just about every independent report you read or hear from the country points toward a lost cause.

    I recommend my recent interview on Fresh Air with New York Times reporter Alissa J. Rubin. She doesn’t say it’s hopeless, but what she does say is disturbing.

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    Closer to home, we have the prospect of Pennsylvania Republicans changing the way the state’s electoral votes are cast, and maybe in the process making us all a little smarter.

    GOP legislative leaders are floating the idea of doing away with the winner-take-all system of apportioning the state’s electoral votes, and awarding all but two of the 20 Pennsylvania will have in 2012 to the winners of Congressional districts.

    This of course strikes Democrats as a highly partisan move to benefit the next Republican presidential candidate. No GOP presidential candidate has won Pennsylvania since 1988, and under this proposal the Republicans could lose the state in 2012 and still bag some electoral votes, while Democrats get none from big states they lose. Advantage GOP.

    But our friend John Micek of the Allentown Morning Call points out that some Republican Congressional reps aren’t so crazy about the idea, for political reasons of their own. John Baer of the Philadelphia Daily News also has a column on the proposal today.

    I haven’t studied the latest academic literature on the fairness of the electoral college, but it seems to me that if we’re going to do away with winner-take-all electoral tallies, we should do it as a nation, and not leave it up to 50 state legislatures.

    Why do I say the Republicans would make us a little smarter if they pull this off? Because if they do, there would less incentive for the national parties to compete so intensely in Pennsylvania, and we wouldn’t be flooded with moronic 30-second ads that can’t help but make us dumber.

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