When I went to the Clinton fundraiser last week, I found myself wondering why presidential election campaigns have to raise quite so much money? $100m is thought to be the target figure for the Clinton and Obama campaigns. After chatting with some "campaign insiders" (to use a horrid cliche), I think I have an answer of sorts.
Part of the answer is that a sort of "arms race" is going on – in which campaigns try to intimidate each other out of the race, by the sheer vastness of their accumulated financial resources.
But there is also a specific reason to do with the 2008 presidential election.
I was sitting in a café in Washington, DC, last week, reading the papers, when I came across an article that almost made me choke on my blueberry muffin. The gist of the story was that the American military “surge” in Iraq is working. Baghdad is more secure; there are fewer sectarian killings; the number of bombings is down; the policy of “clear and hold” is proving effective.
My reaction had nothing to do with incredulity – although that might well have been in order, given last week’s rash of fatal explosions and mortar attacks in the Iraqi capital. No, I am ashamed to say that I caught myself thinking: “Oh no! I wrote that the surge was a bad idea. If it works, I might look silly.” Unfortunately, I think that kind of reaction is hardly unique in Washington these days. As Congress battles over a new Iraq policy, there are two Iraq wars going on. There is the real war, thousands of miles away, in which people are dying. And there is the domestic political war in Washington, where “Iraq” is above all a means to wrong-foot your political opponents.