Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
The bitter end
Let me start by saying that from my experience, the vast, vast majority of Hillary Clinton supporters are reasonable, intelligent people who understand politics, and have a sense of fair play. They get that elections are won, and elections are lost, and at the end of the day, what matters most is the future of our country, not the future of our favorite political figure. In the past two election cycles, none of my favorite candidates has won. In 2000, I liked Bill Bradley. In 2004, I was Wes Clark all the way, even volunteered for him. I was extremely unhappy with the guy who won the '04 primary, and still went to work for an organization dedicated to getting him elected president. When Kerry lost, it really sucked.

But you move on, and deal with the situation you've got. Most Hillary supporters are doing just that. The candidate is too, and in gracious fashion. If nothing else, the Clintons understand politics.

So what's with some of their supporters? Some of them are downright loony.

There are the "enemies listers," who are taking names, vowing to kick ass later... From the International Herald Tribune:
For proof, look no further than Doug Band, chief gatekeeper to former President Bill Clinton.

Band keeps close track of the past allies and beneficiaries of the Clintons who supported Obama's campaign, three Clinton associates and campaign officials said. Indeed, he is widely known as a member of the Clinton inner circle whose memory is particularly acute on the matter of who has been there for the couple — and who has not.

"The Clintons get hundreds of requests for favors every week," said Terry McAuliffe, the chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. "Clearly, the people you're going to do stuff for in the future are the people who have been there for you."

McAuliffe, who knows of Band's diligent scorekeeping, emphasized that "revenge is not what the Clintons are about." The accounting is more about being practical, he said, adding, "You have to keep track of this."
Ack! Should people be hiding their bunnies? Then, there are the bitter enders of the feminist sort, who demand apologies, from the media, and from the Obama campaign, for the anti-womanism that supposedly brought Hillary down (not the votes, no, not the votes, the misogyny!). From this really angry reporter lady named Erbe:
The Democratic National Committee either doesn't get it or refuses to admit it. Nothing short of a lengthy, detailed mea culpa by the DNC and by Obama himself, directed to Clinton supporters for the sexist name-calling and personal, nasty characterizations Clinton was alone forced to endure, will do. Even that may not persuade these voters to consider supporting the party this fall. The DNC, Democratic Party leaders in Congress, and Obama should have been at her side, calling her treatment by the media (and even by some Obama supporters) unacceptable.

According to most polls, something in the range of 20 to 25 percent of her 18 million supporters say they'll vote for Senator McCain in November. That's 4.5 million votes—too many to take for granted. Yet taking them for granted is just what the party and Obama are doing. When CNN's Candy Crowley asked Obama how he would appeal to disaffected Clinton voters, he missed the mark entirely, giving a standard set of policy proposals.

I appeared on one of the cable news networks over the weekend, paired with a political reporter from a major newspaper. We were asked whether her supporters would kiss and make up with the Obama camp and end up throwing their support to the Illinois senator in the general election. He said, dismissively, "yes." I responded that with all due respect I thought he was quite wrong. But his laissez-faire attitude typifies that of the bulk of the MSM, the Democratic Party, and the Obama campaign.

We won't know how her supporters will vote until after the general election and its exit polls. Those who sit it out won't even be counted in exit polls. My feeling is just as the MSM underestimated the reaction to anti-Clinton remarks would generate, and the DNC overestimated voters' party loyalty, that no one has a clear read on what comes of all this. The party may have created a miniboom in Republican registration—disaffected Democrats who will never vote for a Democratic candidate again.

Never? Never ever ever? Damn.

Then we get into the really wacky weeds. You simply have to read this absolutely insane piece in something called the (San Francisco) City Edition, which was sent to me by Clinton bitter ender Carolyn Kay. It's long, but it's worth a read. To summarize, Barack Obama is a criminal terrorist ally planted by Karl Rove who also reverse engineered the Democratic primaries and caucuses so that Obama would get more pledged delegates out of a system designed by Harold Ickes but really run by Fox News, which the Clinton camp said was their preferred network and which attacks Obama relentlessly but which actually was helping him win bcause Tony Rezko's banker is Obama's banker and his friends are guarded by Blackwater... Seriously. Here's just the log line:
"Strategy involves G.O.P. crossover voting to take out Clinton, marketing newcomer Obama, stripping battleground delegates, inciting violence at the convention, and (if necessary) declaring martial law to prevent November's general election. Meanwhile, revelations about the Illinois senator's ties to Chicago political fixer Tony Rezko and two Iraqi agents are downplayed by the press. For their part, Democratic Party leaders persist in efforts to circumvent the nominating process, even as Karl Rove emerges as a player at Rezko's trial."
Wow. It gets crazier from there...

Evidence of a covert campaign to undermine the presidential primaries is rife, so it's curious that many within both the Democratic and Republican parties have ignored the actual elephant in the room this year. That would be Karl Rove. Long accused of rigging the two previous presidential elections, this master of deceit would have us believe he's gone off to sit in a corner and write op-eds this time around.

Not so. According to an article in Time magazine last November, Republicans have been organized in several states to throw their weight behind Senator Barack Obama, hoping to deprive Senator Hillary Clinton of the Democratic nomination. While Rove's name isn't mentioned in the story, several former fundraisers and strategists for President Bush are identified. Together, these gentlemen helped flush Obama's coffers with cash early on in the race, something the deep pockets had not done for any candidate in their own party. With receipts topping $100 million in 2007, the freshman senator from Illinois achieved a remarkable feat, given that most Americans only first heard of him in 2005.

To expedite the Rove strategy, a website and discussion forum called Republicans for Obama formed in 2006. The executive director of New Hampshire's Republican Party, Stephen DeMaura, later established an even larger cyber enclave on Facebook in 2007 called “Stop Hillary Clinton (One Million Strong AGAINST Hillary)”. At the same time, the Obama camp launched its own initiative targeted at Republican voters. Called "Be a Democrat For a Day", the campaign included a video that was circulated in Florida, Nevada, Vermont and elsewhere explaining the process of re-registering with the local voter registrar's office. In addition, many states nowadays hold open primaries, allowing citizens to vote for any candidate, regardless of their party affiliation. In Nebraska, for instance, the mayor of Omaha publicly rallied Republicans and Independents to caucus for Obama on February 9th. In Pennsylvania, Time reported on March 19th that Obama was running radio ads in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia asking Republicans to register as Democrats and then vote for him in the state's April 22nd primary.

The tactic, called crossover voting, has allowed Obama to open up an unsurmountable lead in pledged delegates. Republicans for Obama was certainly not bashful in making its case in an email appeal linked to its home page before the March 4th contests. "Since Texas has an open primary," the appeal read, "Republicans and Independents should sign in at their polling place and request a Democratic ballot. They should then vote for Barack Obama... Just think, no more Clintons in the White House." Then there was Iowa, which held the nation's first caucus on January 3rd. Here G.O.P. winner Mike Huckabee received just half as many votes as Clinton, who finished third behind Obama and John Edwards. [SIDEBAR: of course, finishing third -- not her fault -- a conspiracy --- read on...]

Of the 17 states holding open primaries, Obama has won 13 of them. And an analysis of the caucus results to date shows that a disproportionate sum of delegates has been awarded to Obama, with red states - which normally vote Republican in the general election - exercising undue influence on the process. For instance, his 13,700 vote margin in the Nebraska caucus netted him 8 pledged delegates, whereas Clinton netted 9 delegates from her 204,000 vote victory in Ohio's primary. In Texas, which holds both a primary and caucus, Obama gained 5 more pledged delegates than Clinton, despite the fact that she won the election by a 100,000 vote margin. And although Clinton won the Nevada caucus, the Obama camp somehow managed to finagle more pledged delegates at the state convention held after the vote.

Never mind that it was Hillary who won Florida, Nevada and Pennsylvania, meaning that if there was a conspiracy afoot, it failed... and the rules under which Obama got more delegates out of his states won were crafted by none other than Harold Ickes, who once managed Jesse Jackson's presidential campaign... There's more:

And so we step through the looking glass into a Rovean wonderland. Last year, at the same time Clinton commanded a huge lead in the national polls, political analysts and professional strategists retained by CNN and other broadcast networks began hammering across the notion that "the voters don't like her". Incorporating the use of psychological branding, adjectives like "divisive", "polarizing", and "untrustworthy" have been repeated over and over in connection to Clinton in the same manner that "biological warfare" and "weapons of mass destruction" were disseminated in the lead-up to the Iraq War. In addition, beginning on the eve of the New Hampshire primary, the senator from New York has been roundly derided in the media as the losing candidate. Before Indiana-North Carolina primaries on May 6th, the term "panderer" was added to list of press buzzwords, ostensibly in response to Clinton's senate bill to transfer the federal gas tax to the oil companies.

Much of this pejorative terminology, by the way, traces back to a cadre of right-wing, neoconservative ideologues who keep the studio seats warm at Fox News Channel. "There is no candidate on record, a front-runner for a party's nomination, who has entered the primary season with negatives as high as she has," Rove told Reuters last August. Joining Fox as a part-time election analyst last February, he forgets to mention each time he dwells on this theme that the conclusion is borne of a tautology.

Until recently, Obama himself invariably recited Rove's "high negatives" comment in press interviews whenever discussing Clinton. His often bitter criticism of her, along with other "Washington insiders", who he says want to "boil and stew all the hope out of him", represents a staple of his core political message. The other half of the stump speech, known as the I'm-a-uniter-not-a-divider pitch, is reminiscent of the Bush 2000 campaign, which Rove managed. Perhaps that's not surprising when you discover that one of Obama's speechwriters is Ben Rhodes, the brother of Fox News VP David Rhodes. (Marisa Guthrie, of BC Beat, reported this connection.) You may recall that on election night in November 2000, it was Fox that called Florida for Bush, even though the other networks declared Gore the winner based on the exit polls. How Fox knew the polls were wrong in advance of the votes being counted has never been explained.

And the G.O.P. links to Obama don't end there. The Times of London reported on March 2nd that Obama had interviewed conservative Republican lawmakers Senators Chuck Hagel and Richard Lugar for key positions in a future cabinet. "Senior advisers confirmed that Hagel, a highly decorated Vietnam war veteran and one of McCain’s closest friends in the Senate, was considered an ideal candidate for defence secretary." the story revealed. "Some regard the outspoken Republican as a possible vice-presidential nominee although that might be regarded as a 'stretch'." Lugar, who placed Obama's name on his nuclear non-proliferation bill two years ago, is being evaluated as a potential secretary of state.

Hang on, wasn't it HILLARY who during the campaign warmed up to Fox News, and even Richard Mellon Scaife? Obama was slammed by FNC by giving them no quarter, while Hillary's team praised them as the only truly fair network. So who's side was whose? It continues:

Although Obama says he has always opposed the Iraq War, he appears to be linked to Bush Administration policy there through his principle political benefactor in Chicago, Tony Rezko. Rezko received a contract to build a power plant in Iraq through a college chum appointed as the new Minister of Electricity in 2003. Like other Iraqi exiles recruited for posts by Coalition Provisional Authority Administrator L. Paul Bremmer, Aiham Alsammarae absconded hundreds of millions of dollars in reconstruction funds as part of a crime spree dubbed "The Mother of all Heists" by 60 Minutes correspondent Steve Kroft. Currently wanted by Interpol (but apparently not the U.S. Government), Alsammarae now lives in Illinois, where he has donated several times to Obama's presidential campaign. ...

... At the time of his U.S. senate run, Obama was a relatively minor player who had lost a congressional race against African American incumbent Bobbie Rush in 2000. Obama's first significant campaign donor in the 1990's was the Chicago power broker and developer Tony Rezko, whom he met while still in law school. On graduating from Harvard, Obama hired on with a community nonprofit agency called Project VOTE, where he organized voter registration drives. He later joined the law firm Miner Barnhill & Galland, whose clients included Rezko, and taught constitutional law part-time at the University of Chicago.

As an attorney, Obama represented a low-income senior housing project that Rezko managed with a partner company owned by Allison Davis, Obama's boss. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, "In addition to the development fees, a separate Davis-owned company stood to make another $900,000 through federal tax credits." The article described slumlike conditions in the apartments that included no heat, leading the City of Chicago to sue the partnership in 1994 for contract violations. Obama defended the landlord in court.

Later, as a state senator, he wrote endorsement letters on behalf of Rezko to government agencies allocating funds to build other housing projects. (Years later, the fact that sued slumlords were still receiving taxpayer funds would raise eyebrows in Chicago, but apparently no one lodged any serious objections at the time.) In fact, a 2007 Chicago Tribune article reported that Rezko's firm got contracts to rehab 30 buildings, including 11 in Obama's state legislative district on the South Side. Edward McClelland, writing for Salon.com, noted that "Rezko, after all, built part of his fortune by exploiting the black community that Obama had served in the state senate, and by milking government programs meant to benefit black-owned businesses."

While it may be unclear why Obama would continue his relationship with Rezko after this point, it's indisputable that he did. In 2005, while Rezko was under investigation by federal authorities for fraud, Obama approached him for help in purchasing a $2 million Georgian-revival home in the historic Kenwood neighborhood of Chicago. The property deal involved splitting the land into two lots, with Rezko buying the large side yard for $625,000. Obama and his wife Michelle then acquired the parcel that included the mansion, paying $300,000 less than the asking price. The Chicago Tribune reported the details of this unusual arrangement in November 2006.

Although no laws were broken in the transaction, the New York Times reported that the Obama property deal may have been an attempt by the developer to shield assets from creditors in several individual lawsuits pending at the time. Even more hair-raising, Rezko - who was in bankruptcy proceedings at the time - received a $3.5 million loan in April, 2005 from a longtime business associate, Nadhmi Auchi. Auchi is a London-based Iraqi exile and one of the world's richest men, according to Forbes. He's also the former moneyman for Saddam Hussein, the Sun-Times reports.



Okay, so after all that, we establish that no laws were broken. Do go on...


According to The Times of London, "Mr. Auchi was convicted of corruption, given a suspended sentence and fined £1.4 million in France in 2003 for his part in the Elf affair, described as the biggest political and corporate scandal in post-war Europe." Rezko and Auchi are current partners in a major 62-acre land development in Riverside Park in Chicago. The Times also reported on February 26th that Auchi lent Rezko additional funds shortly before the purchase of the Obama property. "Under a Loan Forgiveness Agreement described in court, Mr. Auchi lent Mr. Rezko $3.5 million in April 2005 and $11 million in September 2005, as well as the $3.5 million transferred in April 2007."

Interestingly, Obama's unusual mortgage lender visited Chicago in 2004. (The State Dept. has never explained how he got a visa.) A reception in his honor was attended by both Rezko and Emil Jones, president of the Illinois state senate and a key player in Obama's 2004 U.S. senate bid, according to a CNN report. Obama himself attended the Auchi gathering, held at the posh Four Seasons, but says he doesn't recall meeting the man and was at the hotel that day on other business. A prosecution witness at the Rezko trial in Chicago testified on April 14th that Obama met Auchi during a party at Rezko's home April 3, 2004.

And the skeletons continue to pile up in the closet. Another Iraqi ex-patriot connected to Obama, Aiham Alsammarae, posted more than $2.7 million in property as collateral to help spring Tony Rezko from jail in April, according to a story in the Sun-Times. This was an odd development, since Alsammarae is (or was) wanted by Interpol for the theft of $650 million in Iraqi reconstruction funds. Newsweek reported on March 17, 2008 that Alsammarae'a son sent several faxes to Obama's office in Washington in 2006, complaining that his father was being unjustly held in a Baghdad jail in 2006.

In December of that year, Alsammarae escaped. Regarding this incident, the New York Times reported that "Iraqi officials initially blamed the Americans and later claimed that a private security detail used by Mr. Alsammarae when he was a minister was responsible, saying that a fleet of S.U.V.’s filled with “Westerners” pulled up to the jail and spirited him away, perhaps with the complicity of some of his jailers." (The security firm Blackwater guarded Alsammarae during his time in government.)

The Sun-Times has quoted an Obama spokesperson as characterizing the faxes sent to the senator's office as "a routine request from a constituent." Iraq's former Minister of Electricity, however, boasted that he escaped 'the Chicago way'", according to the New York Times. From the luxury of his compound in Illinois, Alsammarae donated online to the candidate in January, February and March of this year. The Sun-Tmes recently verified that a warrant for the fugitive's arrest remains active, but U.S. officials would not disclose what the warrant is for.

A man of multiple talents, Alsammarae also claims to have brokered a peace dialog with two Sunni militant groups in Iraq in 2005. According to the Washington Post, he "said the groups, which he identified as the Islamic Army in Iraq and the Mujaheddin Army, were willing to enter negotiations with U.S. and Iraqi officials." Alsammarae also told the Post that he lead his ownpredominantly Sunni political group called the Iraqi National Council Front. He also claims that his conviction for corruption has been vacated. (CNN interviewed Alsammarae in January 2006. Scroll halfway down the page to read the transcript.)

Not to be left out of the party, Rezko contracted in 2005 to build a power plant in Iraq with his friend's help, but the project was later given to another firm due to an apparent kickback scheme uncovered by U.S. authorities. A private blog called RezkoWatch has also reported that Rezko submitted a second proposal to build a training facility for Iraqi power plant security guards in Illinois.

How such business dealings might impact Obama's position on American troops stationed in Iraq, if he's elected president, is unknown.

But here's the strangest twist of all in the Rezko affair (so far): the federal prosecutor in the Chicago trial is Patrick Fitzgerald, the former special counsel in the Valerie Plame C.I.A. leak case. If you remember, a much anticipated indictment against Karl Rove never materialized in that earlier episode. Instead, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff Scooter Libby was tried and convicted on four counts of lying under oath. (His sentence was later commuted by President Bush.) Whether Fitzgerald is delaying indictments of Chicago Gov. Blagojevich and Sen. Obama on orders from the Bush Administration is a matter of speculation. Curiously, on April 23rd, Rove's name came up when a witness testified that in 2004, G.O.P. heavyweight Robert Kjellander lobbied Rove to replace Fitzgerald in the case because a vigorous prosecution might hurt Republicans, according to a report ABC News posted on its website. The allegation defies logic, however, since Fitzgerald had specifically been tapped by the President to handle the Plame incident.

First of all, how did Rezko's banker magically turn into Obama's banker, without actually lending Barack any money? And if he was being guarded in Iraq, while holding a government position, by U.S. firm Blackwater, doesn't that make him our guy? And what, in the end, is the point being made? Precisely what is it that Patrick Fitzgerald should want to prosecute Barack Obama for? This kind of nuttery is passing for journalism in a real, live newspaper, folks, though obviously not a very good one.

This is sheer lunacy, and it's not coming from the right, but from people supposedly on our side.

Welcome to crazy town.

Now, that's not to say that there are not genuine concerns by serious women about gender bias, and about what they saw as attacks on Hillary that had a nasty, gender twist. But make no mistake, there were plenty of racist bombs thrown during the campaign as well, including some from within Camp Clinton. And with Youtube, and Zazzle, and all the ways to spew out a poorly thought through message, you've just got to cope with a certain amount of ugliness in the zeitgeist. I don't think it helps either black folk or women (of which I'm one of each) to moan about it now. Campaigns get ugly. Hell, Howard Dean was compared to Osama bin Laden by other Democrats when he ran, and then he was derided as a screaming lunatic, based on one unidirectional mic. But when campaigns end, they end, and those who really believe that their party has the best plans for the country unite, suck it up, and work together to win.

It's time to put, not party, but country before the cult of personality. I was very disappointed by the Clintons during this race, and have caught myself saying that if she won, I'd skip the presidential ballot for the first time since I turned 18. But I really didn't mean it. In the end, I'm a voter. I'm a supervoter. And I would have voted for the ticket.

Here's hoping we can put away the conspiracy theories and at least agree on that.

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posted by JReid @ 10:10 AM  
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"I am for enhanced interrogation. I don't believe waterboarding is torture... I'll do it. I'll do it for charity." -- Sean Hannity
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