ALEX CHADWICK, host:
Events in Pakistan over this last week have parallels in history, as I'm reminded again today reading the new Watching Washington column by NPR's senior Washington editor Ron Elving. He's also a frequent guest here on Mondays.
Ron, welcome back. And I really liked your piece and the parallels that you drew. Explain for listeners, will you?
RON ELVING: Alex, in 1914, in the capital of Bosnia, the assassination of the Archduke Ferdinand of Austria and his bride, the Duchess of Hohenberg, led inexorably over the next weeks and months to what became known as the Great War. We now think of it as the First World War, which in a sense created the 20th century, the Cold War, that we knew. It was an enormously significant historical event. But at the time it was just a 20-year-old kid with a pistol who shot two people who were prospective leaders, and in a sense analogous to what happen to Benazir Bhutto in Pakistan last week. She was a contestant to become leader. She's a past leader of Pakistan. But this assassination has paralyzed that country and put a region at risk that is one of the most volatile and one of the most dangerous in the world today.
CHADWICK: All right. Well, let's turn back to politics, where we are with you normally, and Pakistan, because this issue is playing in politics. The Iowa caucuses are Thursday. What is going on?
ELVING: I think it could make quite a difference, Alex. It already has to some degree because in recent weeks and months the campaigns have been largely about domestic agendas and about personal traits of the candidates. This dose of reality has shifted the emphasis for the candidates. And that's not good news for those who had been prospering in the previous environment. That would be Mike Huckabee, Barack Obama, who were rising as people looked at them as people and looked at their domestic credentials and perhaps paid a little bit less attention to the wars on the foreign policy crises that previously had dominated the presidential debate.
CHADWICK: Finally, one more political story that's arousing interest. The Washington Post reported over the weekend, the New York Times followed, that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg is really seriously beginning to staff and pay for what could be a third party candidacy. And there's a meeting next week in Oklahoma with a lot of people who once held power, moderates, centrists, in the Republican and Democratic parties, getting together to talk about what if.
ELVING: What if indeed. Well, Michael Bloomberg says he's not running for president but he has bought ads in Iowa and New Hampshire, just two states he chose, I'm sure, at random. I think Mike Bloomberg is very seriously interested in being president and running for president if he thinks he can win. I don't think he wants to run just as a gesture or just to throw it to one party or the other.
But there is this notion that's growing among many people who do not find themselves well represented that a third party or an independent candidate, elected as president, might actually do better, be able to work with both parties in Congress, be able to bring Washington and the country together.
And that's what's attracting not only Mike Bloomberg, who has the money to run independently, but also a number of former senators who never did have a chance to run for presidents themselves, never did fit into the mechanics of how we elect presidents in the United States. That's former senator Dave Boren of Oklahoma, who's hosting this meeting you referred to a week from today. And it's also other people like Sam Nunn from Georgia, and Chuck Hagel, a Republican from Nebraska, none of whom really were able to fulfill their own presidential ambitions and are attracted to this idea of an independent movement that would be more nonpartisan.
CHADWICK: NPR senior Washington editor Ron Elving. Ron, we'll hear from you again this week, I know. Thanks a lot.
ELVING: Thank you, Alex.
CHADWICK: And an online reminder: Ron's Watching Washington column is at npr.org.
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