The Bhutto Assassination And The Presidential Race

ITETT* just how the events overseas will focus the minds of Iowa voters, if at all, on what's really important.

But two leading** candidates -- Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani -- are closing the year with arguments that incorporate a perilous world.

Here is how one of Clinton's top aides describes her closing argument:

"After all the rallies, town halls and campaigning the last year, it is time to pick a president. Caucus Goers need to ask themselves who would be the best president? America faces a war abroad and a troubled economy at home – at this critical moment the answer is Hillary Clinton because she is tested, and ready to lead on day 1.”

And Rudy Giuliani, per an equally as a senior aide:

"Over the next few days, you will hear "leadership tested during times of crisis" as an umbrella for two major issues - national security and economic prosperity. In the context of those issues, you'll see Giuliani set himself apart from the others based both on his past performance and his vision for the future."

Mitt Romney, with his "radical Jihad" and John McCain, with his arguments about the linkages between the war in Iraq and Islamic terror, can re-center their stump speeches, too.

In late 2003, the capture of Saddam Hussein by U.S. forces boomeranged on Howard Dean, who (correctly, as it turns out, but clumsily) said that his capture had not made America any safer. The press response was vicious; Dean began to spiral; etc. etc.

Voters tend to process events more quickly these days, so it's unclear how long the topic of conversation will be Pakistan and terrorism.

* -- It's Too Early To Tell
** This is Joe Biden's wheelhouse, of course.

Here is his statement:

“This is a terrible day. My heart goes out to Benazir Bhutto’s family, friends and followers.

“Like her father before her, Benazir Bhutto worked her whole life – and gave her life – to help Pakistan become a democratic, secular and modern Muslim country. She was a woman of extraordinary courage who returned to Pakistan in the face of death threats and even after an assassination attempt the day of her return, she did not flinch. It was a privilege to know her these many years and to call her a friend.

“I am convinced Ms. Bhutto would have won free and fair elections next week. The fact that she was by far Pakistan’s most popular leader underscores the fact that there is a vast, moderate majority in Pakistan that must have a clear voice in the system. Her assassination makes it all the more urgent that Pakistan return to a democratic path.

“This fall, I twice urged President Musharraf to provide better security for Ms. Bhutto and other political leaders – I wrote him before her return and after the first assassination attempt in October. The failure to protect Ms. Bhutto raises a lot of hard questions for the government and security services that must be answered.

“I know that Benazir’s followers will be tempted to lash out in anger and violence. I urge them to remain calm – and not play into the hands of the forces of destruction. I urge Pakistan’s leaders to open a fully accountable and transparent investigation. We must find out who was behind this and bring those responsible to justice. And the United States should offer any assistance necessary, including investigative teams, to get to the bottom of this horror.

“The way to honor Benazir Bhutto is to uphold the values for which she gave her life: democracy, moderation and social justice. I join with the Pakistani people in mourning the loss of a dear friend.”