Hillary Clinton, faltering in her march toward the nomination after 13 straight primary losses, has turned to the tactics of Walter Mondale (with a little LBJ and Georgw W thrown in,) to try and turn things around (the tactics of Richard Nixon [experience matters! ... ignore the whelp!!!...] Bush I [smearing one's opponent ... prudent at this juncture...] and Mommie Dearest [one moment, kind and maternal, next moment ... horrible and cruel!!!] having failed her.)
Mrs. Clinton is apparently spending that $35 mil of hers (Barack has more than that, apparently...) finding new ways to eviscerate her opponent, and, it seems, to render him unelectable in the primary, unelectable in the general, and unelectable for all time. Clinton's new TV ad is a doosy (the NYT blog The Caucus analyzes it here):
In other words, vote for Hillary ... if you want your children to live...
To be fair, Camp Clinton isn't whipping up anything the McCain camp wouldn't have thought of on their own, and it's a near certainty that no matter how mean Hillary gets during the primary, the GOP and McCain will make her look like a masseuse by the fall. But ... there's something to be said for grace, and for putting the war ahead of the battle. It's getting to the point where I, at least, am wondering whether it's more important for Mrs. Clinton to be the nominee, in her camp's thinking, than for the Democrats to win in the fall.
I have had such great respect for the Clintons, especially Bill, over the years, and have been sufficiently supportive of them to consider myself a "Clinton Democrat." And while I am supporting, and voted for, Barack Obama this cycle, had he not been in, Hillary would have been my girl.
That said ... I would have much preferred to see Hillary run on her own merits, her vision for America, and the attributes that make her a good potential president, not on her team's perception of the demerits of Barack Obama. Ultimately, the goal is to win the White House in the fall. Becoming the echo chamber of the Republican Party doesn't strike me as the best way to get that accomplished.
Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) campaign manager said Friday morning that a new ad on national security from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) will backfire as it will only remind voters that Clinton voted for the Iraq war.
Entitled “Children,” the spot features sleeping children and says: “It's 3 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep. But there’s a phone in the White House, and it's ringing. Something’s happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call.”
The ad, which is already being compared to the famous “Daisy” ad of the 1964 campaign, is the same strategy that Clinton has been using since losing the Iowa caucuses and has been “rejected by voters,” said David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, on a conference call with reporters Friday.
“Sen. Clinton already had her red phone moment,” Plouffe said. “She had it in 2002. It was on the Iraq war.”
He added: “This is about what you say when you answer that phone.”
Slate has dismissed the John McCain is from Panama! story with the back of its Slatey hand, so who am I to call it a story? Still, the New York Times did go to the trouble to write the story, so why not post just a little bit:
Mr. McCain’s likely nomination as the Republican candidate for president and the happenstance of his birth in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 are reviving a musty debate that has surfaced periodically since the founders first set quill to parchment and declared that only a “natural-born citizen” can hold the nation’s highest office.
Almost since those words were written in 1787 with scant explanation, their precise meaning has been the stuff of confusion, law school review articles, whisper campaigns and civics class debates over whether only those delivered on American soil can be truly natural born. To date, no American to take the presidential oath has had an official birthplace outside the 50 states.
Of course, it should be noted that the first president to be born in the United States when it was the United States (rather than a territory that would later become part of the United States) was Martin Van Buren (1837-1841). More presidential firsts here. Back to the story:
“There are powerful arguments that Senator McCain or anyone else in this position is constitutionally qualified, but there is certainly no precedent,” said Sarah H. Duggin, an associate professor of law at Catholic University who has studied the issue extensively. “It is not a slam-dunk situation.”
Mr. McCain was born on a military installation in the Canal Zone, where his mother and father, a Navy officer, were stationed. His campaign advisers say they are comfortable that Mr. McCain meets the requirement and note that the question was researched for his first presidential bid in 1999 and reviewed again this time around.
But given mounting interest, the campaign recently asked Theodore B. Olson, a former solicitor general now advising Mr. McCain, to prepare a detailed legal analysis. “I don’t have much doubt about it,” said Mr. Olson, who added, though, that he still needed to finish his research.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and one of Mr. McCain’s closest allies, said it would be incomprehensible to him if the son of a military member born in a military station could not run for president.
“He was posted there on orders from the United States government,” Mr. Graham said of Mr. McCain’s father. “If that becomes a problem, we need to tell every military family that your kid can’t be president if they take an overseas assignment.”
The phrase “natural born” was in early drafts of the Constitution. Scholars say notes of the Constitutional Convention give away little of the intent of the framers. Its origin may be traced to a letter from John Jay to George Washington, with Jay suggesting that to prevent foreigners from becoming commander in chief, the Constitution needed to “declare expressly” that only a natural-born citizen could be president.
Ms. Duggin and others who have explored the arcane subject in depth say legal argument and basic fairness may indeed be on the side of Mr. McCain, a longtime member of Congress from Arizona. But multiple experts and scholarly reviews say the issue has never been definitively resolved by either Congress or the Supreme Court.
And now, for the history geek bit:
Mr. McCain is not the first person to find himself in these circumstances. The last Arizona Republican to be a presidential nominee, Barry Goldwater, faced the issue. He was born in the Arizona territory in 1909, three years before it became a state. But Goldwater did not win, and the view at the time was that since he was born in a continental territory that later became a state, he probably met the standard.
It also surfaced in the 1968 candidacy of George Romney, who was born in Mexico, but again was not tested. The former Connecticut politician Lowell P. Weicker Jr., born in Paris, sought a legal analysis when considering the presidency, an aide said, and was assured he was eligible. Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. was once viewed as a potential successor to his father, but was seen by some as ineligible since he had been born on Campobello Island in Canada. The 21st president, Chester A. Arthur, whose birthplace is Vermont, was rumored to have actually been born in Canada, prompting some to question his eligibility.
Quickly recognizing confusion over the evolving nature of citizenship, the First Congress in 1790 passed a measure that did define children of citizens “born beyond the sea, or out of the limits of the United States to be natural born.” But that law is still seen as potentially unconstitutional and was overtaken by subsequent legislation that omitted the “natural-born” phrase. Oooh, Lou Dobbs is gonna have a fieeld day with this one...
Oh, and George Will basically called John McCain a holier than thou hypocrite on campaign finance today, it turns out Johnny Mack not only met that Cunningham jerk (more than once) but that his campaign, via Ohio's Mike Dewine, hired the guy on purpose ... meanwhile, the media speculates on what damage McCain's tap dancing act with the winger faithful could mean to his campaign...
Had a busy day today, so I missed a few posts. Here's my attempt at catch-up, before Lost comes on and I say damn this blog altogether...
One in every 100 Americans is behind bars, according to a new report. That should come as welcome news to the Republican Party, who can both wallow in the negativity and get more tax breaks for big, privately-run corporate-owned prisons...
George W. Bush continues to whinge about telecom immunity and demand (!) that the Congress send him a bill ... I guess nobody has informed the POTUS that no one is listening anymore.
Meanwhile on Capitol Hill, Republicans can't understand why all their hard work on behalf of immunity from 'spensive lawsuits hasn't loosened up the purse strings of the telecoms, who are still giving most of their cash to the party in power. And after all that hard work saving those telco's asses the American people from terrorists!
How come Congress can find time to demand a perjury probe of Roger Clemons, but they can't manage to enforce their own subpoenas against Karl Rove and Harriet Miers? And doesn't the FBI have anything better to do?
I am clearly not a conservative (at this stage, I consider myself a center-left libertarian ... sort of...) but ever since I was a nerdy, news junkie kid in the 1980s, I have always been fascinated by William F. Buckley. The way he talked, with the eye-bulging, hyper-upscale dialect (like a male Peggy Noonan ... "eh-yeeahhhz..." were fun to listen to, and his powerful intellect was impressive, whether you agreed with him or not. My mom and I used to watch every news show we could get our hands on, and he was on more than his share. Fascinating guy. And in the end, I completely agreed with him on the war. He had the courage to turn against the policy from inside the conservative journal, National Review, which he founded, and I give him great credit for that. William F. Buckley has died at the age of 82. May he rest in peace. He had a great run.
This man claims to be a legendary basketball player... but is he a REAL American...?
So Republicans have finally chosen to fight Barack Obama on the basis of his policiesmiddle name. Good for them! So now, I think it is the patriotic duty of every REAL American to name and denounce the other subversives with curious, foreign-sounding names who continue to infiltrate our venerable American institutions, sowing the seeds of enemy infiltration and ... foreign sounding-ness... Here's a short list for Rush, Bill Cunningham and the folks in the Tennessee Republican Party to get started with (Up with America! Down with Hope!):
Kareen Abdul-Jabbar ... posing as a "basketball legend," but what's his REAL agenda...?
Mohammed Ali ... claims to be a legendary boxer ... but hello??? His name is "Mohammed..."
Rasheed Wallace ... He has infiltrated the Detroit Pistons ...what will he infiltrate next?
Hakeem Olajuwon ... suspiciously African NBA player. I'm thinking background check...
Mike Huckabee ... sure, he looks white, but what kind of name is "Huckabee"...?
Jordin Sparks ... sparks of WHAT??? Dirty bombs, maybe???
Shaquille O'Neal ... when have you EVER met a red-blooded American man named "Shaquille?"
Charles Krauthammer ... way too many syllables in that last name to be American...
Arnold Schwarzenegger ... Austrian ... need I say more?
Chaka Khan ... just to be safe, better send her to Gitmo, too...
Ashford and Simpson ... okay, they're names sound fine. They just creep me out. Deport!
Najee ... all terrorists go by one name: "Osama" ... okay, he goes by three names ... Saddam ... okay he had a last name, but you get the friggin point! His last name was HUSSEIN! HUSSEIN, get it? Just like Barack HUSSEIN Obama!!! and King HUSSEIN of Jordan ... okay he's our ally, but so WHAT! And stop playing that damned elevator music!!
Listen to John McCain. The al-Qaida in Iraq who weren't there before we invaded Iraq but who will follow us home if we leave Iraq and move to Detroit, where they will take THE JOBS AMERICANS AREN'T WILLING TO DO, are trying to kill us...!!! We need a president in the White House who the TERRORISTS won't mistake for a family member, or for a guy from some other foreign, un-American place ... like Hawaii.
Life sucks, and you're gonna get blown up. Vote Republican!
Blowback (n); an unintended adverse reaction or effect from an action or cause, especially political [Webster's New Millennium™ Dictionary of English]
Blowback normally refers to consequences that are unintended, but in the case of the Clinton campaign, one has to wonder whether the consequences of their tactics are very much intended.
Already, the repercussions from the release of that now infamous photo (which the Clinton campaign still sort of denies destributing to the Drudge Report) are being felt around the country, with the Tennessee Republican Party seeking to scare voters in that state into thinking Obama is some sort of Muslim plant.
And Hillary's needling of Obama last night on the issue of Louis Farrakhan, who praised Obama at the annual Savior's Day event in Chicago over the weekend, is bearing fruit: questions are now being raised on the radical right about the ties, not of the candidate himself, but of his pastor, Jeremiah Wright, to the controversial Nation of Islam leader.
You had to know this was coming. Luckily for Barack, it's coming now, early in the campaign, when he can get a handle on it, and be all the more prepared for the full onslaught of foolishness that's coming his way during the general, no matter how many members of the press corps John McCain charms with his "I'll be so respectful" routine...
Perhaps the most effective attack leveled by the Clinton campaign at Barack Obama, which the campaign continued today, is that as chairman of a subcommittee of the Senate Foreign Relations committee, he has failed to hold a single hearing on Afghanistan, even though his subcommittee includes oversight over U.S. policy in Europe, and our participation in NATO, the main fighting force in Afghanistan. That's a substantive charge, and one that the right has already picked up on, along with the media (Lou Dobbs hit Obama on that tonight.) This is one weakness for Barack that the GOP will definitely exploit this fall, although it remains to be seen whether voters not already disinclined to vote for Obama will care more about hearings than about the overall policy in Iraq and Afghanistan.
For Hillary, though, the danger is that her attacks on Obama, and her campaign itself, could begin to be seen by Democrats as a service, not to the Democratic party or to women seeking political lift, or to history, but to Republican opposition researchers. If Hillary appears to be trying to torch Barack Obama's campaign in order to preserve her opportunity to run again in four years, she can kiss that opportunity good-bye. The same voters and superdelegates she's hoping will rescue her this summer will have a say in her future, too, say, as Senate Majority Leader, or as a future candidate for any office who needs friends (and that, by the way, is every candidate...)
Yesterday, Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder of SCLC (and a great speaker, as I got to see recently at the rededication of Virginia Key Beach in Miami) put Rep. John Lewis on the spot, saying he would switch his vote as a superdelegate to Barack Obama. Today, Lewis made good:
Hoping to put an end to a month of confusion and dismay, Rep. John Lewis on Wednesday said he's switching his support from Sen. Hillary Clinton to Sen. Barack Obama in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Lewis cited the overwhelming preference for Obama in his district as a reason for his change of heart, but he also talked about Obama's campaign as transformational for the nation.
"Something's happening in America, something some of us did not see coming," Lewis said. "Barack Obama has tapped into something that is extraordinary.
... Can't have anything to do with that Lewis opponent Obama's candidacy tapped into, could it...?
Best line of tonight's debate according to the collected punditry of MSNBC: Obama responding to the Hillary point that since his 2002 speech he has voted on Iraq exactly as she has by saying that once you've driven into a ditch, there are only so many ways to get out, and accusing her of voting to drive the U.S. into the Iraq ditch. It was a good line, and the Iraq/foreign policy section was one of his strongest sets.
Another good line from Barack: "I think Senator Clinton equates experience with longevity in Washington."
And I like this one: "... the insurance companies actually are happy to have a mandate. The insurance companies don't mind making sure that everybody has to purchase their product. That's not something they're objecting to. The question is, are we going to make sure that it is affordable for everybody? And that's my goal when I'm president of the United States."
Hillary's best line tonight was about the sea change that a woman president would represent. She should have used that tack more during the campaign...
Her worst line, by far, was this one:
SEN. CLINTON: Well, can I just point out that in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time. And I don't mind. I -- you know, I'll be happy to field them, but I do find it curious, and if anybody saw "Saturday Night Live," you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow. (Laughter, boos.) I just find it kind of curious that I keep getting the first question on all of these issues. But I'm happy to answer it.
Bad form, Senator.
I do think its funny that Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews didn't enjoy the debate, with Maddow calling it the "Democratic Voter Enthusiasm Suppression Act of 2008" while Olbermann and Pat Buchanan found a lot to love about the debate, as did Jason and I. I think the better term for tonight is the "Feminists Disappointed by Lack of Hillary Slam Dunk Act of 2008." I guess Rachel and Chris wanted a smack-down rumble, and instead they got a sober, serious debate.
Oh god ... Stephanie Tubbs Jones is back on TV ... damn, she can't even admit that Barack's run fulfills Martin Luther King's dream ... oh, good, she's gone. Whew!
I notice that MSNBC promptly benched Maddow after her sourpuss reaction to the debate.
The NBC News post-debate love-fest is in full swing, with Chris Matthews smooching Tim Russert on "reeling in his marlin" on Hillary's answer regretting her vote on Iraq (I think the mutual admiration and agreement society is almost irresistible for journalists.) But a few minutes ago, Keith Olbermann was the one playing the part of the fisherman, and Russert was playing the fish.
Olbermann nailed Russert on the phony issue about Obama's supposed pledge to take public financing in the general election, a pledge that, as Olbermann has pointed out on "Countdown" and as he pointed out again tonight, Obama didn't really make. Russert didn't concede the point, but Olbermann won the exchange. Barack answered a questionnaire in which he said he would pursue and agreement with the Republican nominee to attempt to get a public financing deal if he became the nominee. That's a promise to negotiate, not a promise to unilaterally disarm his campaign against the GOP. I know Russert would like to see the fight between Obama and McCain pulled even for the general via the money if necessary (and the commentraitor agrees, based on last Sunday's "This Week" ...) but it ain't gonna happen.
More importantly, this is a false media story promulgated by MSM types who, like Russert, want to see a horserace this fall. And none of them are pointing out the very important point that John McCain has already made it clear that he has no intention of accepting public financing for the general election campaign, and is in fact trying to wriggle out of it in the primary.
(sigh) Anyhow, for once and for all (and then I never intend to blog about this again) here is the question asked of the candidates by the Midwest Democracy Network (only Obama and John Edwards responded):
Question I-B: If you are nominated for President in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system?
Yes ___ No ___
And here is Barack Obama's answer:
OBAMA: Yes. I have been a long-time advocate for public financing of campaigns combined with free television and radio time as a way to reduce the influence of moneyed special interests. I introduced public financing legislation in the Illinois State Senate, and am the only 2008 candidate to have sponsored Senator Russ Feingold’s (D-WI) bill to reform the presidential public financing system. In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election. My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the general election. My proposal followed announcements by some presidential candidates that they would forgo public financing so they could raise unlimited funds in the general election. The Federal Election Commission ruled the proposal legal, and Senator John McCain (r-AZ) has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge. If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.
Is that a pledge to take public financing come what may? You be the judge.
The Rumble in Cleveland is under way, and the candidates just did a 16 minute back and forth on universal health insurance coverage (horridly misnamed "universal healthcare" by many Dems on the left. Hillary filibustered most of the discussion, and looked a bit like she was trying to prolong it. Barack finally made the point that my husband and I have been screaming at the television hoping he'd hit in the last few debates, in response to Hillary's claim that his fliers on the issue read like they were written by the big insurance companies. Obama pointed out that "the insurance companies aren't unhappy about a plan mandating that everyone in America buy their product." Bingo.
Hillary just made her first big mistake. Taking the second issue question, on NAFTA, Hillary bitched about always being given the first question in the debates, and adding that "anybody who saw Saturday Night Live" would see her situation, and notice that she isn't the one being offered a fluffed pillow by the moderators (paraphrasing). Way too early to use your "hit the moderators" schtick, Hillary. It looked petty.
Update: I think Obama got the better of Hillary over the entire NAFTA exchange. He was able to get to his prescriptions for job creation before she did, while she wasted her first answer mired in criticisms of the way he and the press have characterized her support (or lack of it) for NAFTA during her husband's term. I will give Hillary points for superior fact control. When she is taking criticism, she puts a game face on while Barack tends to pout.
Update 9:40: Barack just delivered a facial to Hillary on Iraq. She tried the "he gave a speech in 2002 but his judgment since then has been the same as mine and I would look more credible standing next to John McCain" angle, and he responded with this:
"Hillary has said during this campaign that she is ready on day one, but she was ready to give in to George Bush on day one on this critical issue. the same person she criticizes for having terrible judgment, and we can't have another one of those, she facilitated him."
He also successfully rebutted her claim that he "threatened to bomb Pakistan."
Update 10:06: Hillary got Tim Russert on a question regarding Iraq in which he threw out a hypothetical dire outcome of the U.S. pulling out of Iraq (straight out of Fox Noise, Tim...) Hillary called it out as such, and won that exchange with Tim. Unfortunately, she went right back to criticizing Barack rather than making an affirmative case for herself after that. She did score points on Barack's failure to hold any hearings in his subcommittee on European affairs, which includes NATO. Barack's answer that he was appointed to the chairmanship at the start of the campaign wasn't his best moment.
The candidates then reacted to video clips of them criticizing each other. Both did fine.
Now, Tim Russsert is trying to push the issue of Farrakhan endorsing Barack. Barack already denounced Farrakhan's past statements, and Russert won't let it go. Now, he's trying the angle of making Barack answer for his pastor, Jeremiah Wright's past praise of Farrakhan. How in the hell Barack is supposed to answer for someone else's statements you couldn't tell me. Russert is reaching for ways to prove he doesn't have a crush on Obama, and it doesn't make him look good. Obama's line: "I live in Chicago, he lives in Chicago. I can't tell him he can't say I'm a good guy." He kept the answer on himself.
Now, Hillary is trying to turn it around by pointing to her past rejection of the support of people deemed anti-Semitic, when she was running her Senate campaign in 2000. Hillary just tried to say "there's a difference between 'denouncing' and 'rejecting'" -- okay... Obama's response: "I have to say I don't see the difference between denouncing and rejecting ... but if Senator Clinton feels that the word 'reject' is stronger than 'denounce', I will concede the point, and I'll reject and denounce." Set point: Obama.
I hope I'm still somewhat objective on this, but I have to say that so far, Barack is drinking Hillary's milkshake. He's drinking it up...
The TiVo's caught up now. More after the commercial break.
10:20 update: Obama just answered the "National Journal calls you the most liberal Senator" question by pointing out the two issues that placed him to the left of Ted Kennedy in the conservative mag's rankings: revolving guest worker status that includes a year of illegality if the worker doesn't go home, and the idea of having an independent ethics investigator overseeing Senate ethics probes. He turned it around by saying that the American people don't care about the labels, they care about results.
10:23: does it matter that Hillary couldn't quite name the likely next president of Russia? She was very artful in talking about Putin's hand picked successor without using his name, and you knew it was coming that Russert would try to pin her down on the name. Unfortunately for Hillary, she had a semi-Bushian moment, garbling out "Medeveduh ... whatever..." (For those of you writing this down, his name is Dmitry Medvedev, and yes, I had to look that up...)
10:26: Hillary just answered the "is there any word or vote you'd like to take back" question by naming her vote on Iraq, saying "I would never have taken this country to war as president." It's about as close as she's come to apologizing for the decision. Now she's pivoting to a "what we will inherit from George Bush" soliloqy, which was well done. Obama is taking the question now, saying that during the Schiavo dust-up, he is saying he didn't stand on the floor and stop the Congress from voting to intervene. He is rejecting his inaction, rather than an affirmative vote, saying "sometimes inaction can be as costly as action."
Now, Obama is saying that "there's still a lot of fight left in this contest, but one thing I'm clear about is that Hillary has been campaigning magnificently, she's an outstanding public servant, and I'm honored to be running with her. What's important is that these campaigns deliver for the American people." Damn. this guy just stole Hillary's swan song from the last debate, only when he does it, it doesn't look like the ned, it looks like the beginning. He added that both of them are "running to restore the sense of public service." Well done.
Final question, from Brian Williams:
What question does Hillary need to answer for the voters?
Paraphrasing Barack's answer: "there's no doubt that Hillary is qualified and capable and would be a much better president than McCain, who has tethered himself to the policies of GWB... I don't think she has to answer a question of whether she's capable, but here's why I'm better: I think I can bring this country together in a unique way, across race, religion and other divisions..." Well done.
Hillary's turn: what questions does Barack need to answer:
"Both of us feel strongly about our country and bring enormous energy and commitment to this race and would bring that to the White House." She reprised that it's been an honor to run, and added that it's history making. She finally threw in the fact that she's running to be the first woman president, eliciting the first applause for her of the night. "Either one of us will make history, but the question I have been posing is, who can actually change the country?" Also well done, although her answer was more somber sounding and less genuine sounding than last time (besides, he stole her lines moments before... I guess she's not complaining about having to go first this time. Going last against Barack is no great shakes, either...)
Hillary is reracking her line about the wealthy having had a president, and saying its time the working people had one, too, but her final answer lacked the punch and exuberance that it needed to be effective.
Overall, I think Barack one this debate hands down. Not only did Hillary not knock him out, she really didn't lay a glove on him, and I think her demeanor at the end proves that she knows that.
Waiting for the Youtube on ... Stephanie Tubbs Jones
Is Stephanie Tubbs Jones drinking? First, she referred to Barack Obama "in his native clothing" regarding that Kenya photo circulated by the Clinton campaign on MSNBC this morning. Then, the Ohio congresswoman who sat through the humiliation of that poor Texas state senator (Kirk Watson and acts like she did the humiliating (kind of the way Rudy Giuliani survived 9/11 and acted like he thwarted it) ... turned in a very odd performance on "Hardball" tonight. She seemed way too giddy, constantly interrupting Bill Clinton's former campaign manager, David Wilhelm, who is now supporting Barack, and generally stepping all over the proceedings. This lady has either completely fallen in love with the notion of herself on television or she's fallen off the wagon.
Update: here's the video of Tubbs ... in her native clothing...
Still waiting for the Youtube on Tubbs Jones in her falling down drunk performance on Hardball...
...to help Hillary sort out her persona for tonight's debate on MSNBC (which Howard Fineman has helpfully dubbed "Hillary's last stand"...) Will we see ... Nice, honored to be on the stage with Barack Hillary...?
Or angry, yelling, pointing, "shame on you" Hillary?
Only her psychic knows for sure...
Meanwhile, add a Rasmussen poll to Hillary's headaches. The latest Rasmussen survey shows Hillary nursing only a five point lead in Ohio, holding steady at 48%, while Barack has climbed from 38% to 40% to 43% in three weeks.
And on a truly serious note, the candidates have different requirements tonight.
Barack: freeze the ball. Barack needs to look calm and presidential, no matter what Hillary throws at him. And he might try using her "what Democrat would attack another Democrat in such Rovian fashion" line on HER, regarding the photo flap, as long as he does it in a very grown-up, measured tone.
Hillary: clean it up. Hillary has got to get back to the steady, presidential demeanor she displayed after the tragic death of Benazir Bhutto. That day, Hillary looked regal, serious, and rather elegant, as she took charge of the news cycle. She also needs to learn to speak in her lower register. It's a sad truth about women in broadcasting that I had to be reminded of myself by my PD at 1080. Women tend to sound tinny in the upper register, whether we like it or not. If she wants to sound like a president, drop that register, stay away from the pointing and attacking, and make her points firmly, but with grace. She also needs a big moment tonight -- something she can either stick Barack with (and leave questions about his ability to lead in the minds of Ohio and Texas voters) or she needs to draw him into a mistake, preferably on foreign policy. If she can't do that, it's game over for her.
Had John McCain's advance team taken a few minutes to Google Bill Cunningham, the Cincinnati right wing talk show host chosen to introduce him at a rally today, he would have discovered that Cunningham has a habit of referring to Barack Obama with an emphasis on his middle name ... and he's even been known to throw in a stray Mohammed into Obama's name, where it most decidedly doesn't belong.
In 2001, shortly after race-related riots over the police killing of an African-American teenager who was fleeing their pursuit, Federal Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals Judge Nathaniel Jones blasted Cunningham in a speech at a local YMCA, calling the show “trash, and filth and profanity.” (Jones is a former civil rights lawyer who worked for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Cunningham has been a frequent critic of the organization and civil rights activists in general, particularly Rev. Jesse Jackson, who Cunningham nicknames the "Rhyming Reverend.")
In December 2003, Cunningham drew more fire for making fun of Nathaniel Jones (no relation to the federal judge), an African-American resident of Cincinnati who died after violently resisting police outside a White Castle restaurant; video of the incident again inflamed the local African-American community. Jones, who weighed more than 350 lb. (159 kg), was found to have died of an enlarged heart, and various narcotics were found to be present in his body while violently resisting arrest at the time of his death, which may have contributed to his reaction to police efforts to subdue him. Cunningham made fun of Jones' obesity and apparent drug use in a skit on his show, which prompted various local civil rights groups to call for his resignation or firing.
They would have known that Cunningham's station, WLW, puts straight-up racists like this guy on the air, and that at the least, Cunningham would not be a man in keeping with the image John McCain claims he wants to portray on the campaign trail.
And had the advance team done this simple bit of homework, their candidate wouldn't now have to denounce Cunningham's remarks, and reassert how respectful his campaign will be toward his Democratic "friends" -- probably alienating Cunningham's cohort of right wing radio wackjob fellow travelers in the process, just when they had begun to get used to defending McCain against the evil New York Times.
Related: What's the difference between a Democrat and a Republican? According to Cunningham, it's R-E-S-P-E-C-T ... no, seriously...
Care to email Bill, and ask him what HIS middle name is? Here ya go: firstname.lastname@example.org Update: Here's the video of Cunningham's rant. The part AFTER he riffs on Barack's middle name is even worth, with the Cincinnati nitwit projecting Barack as the lunchtime pal of dictators and terrorists. Watch for yourself:
Update 2: Cunningham reacted to McCain's denunciation of his remarks by carping that the Senator "threw me under the bus" and whining that now he's going to endorse Hillary.
The normally right-leaning New York Post hits Camp Hillary on the Barack in Africa photo flap (hereby dubbed "turbangate", while the New York Daily News plays it down the middle. (Drudge provides the front page montage)
A raft of fresh, new polls hit the streets this morning, and there's nothing nice in them for Senator Clinton.
USAT/Gallup (Feb. 21-24 poll of 829 Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents and 1,009 Democrats and Democrat leaners) starts us off with head-to-head match-ups that show Barack Obama as more electable than Hillary Clinton versus John McCain:
Among likely voters:
McCain - 50% Clinton - 46 Other/Neither/No opinion - 4
The Illinois senator leads Clinton by 23 percentage points among white men and by 17 points among liberals -- groups that were evenly divided between the two in early February. He has a similar advantage among people earning $50,000 to $100,000 annually -- whom she led earlier by 13 points.
Clinton maintains robust leads among some groups that have been cornerstones of her candidacy, including those age 65 and up, white women and people earning under $50,000 annually.
Overall, Obama has 46 percent to Clinton's 43 percent, a virtual tie. Clinton had a slight 5 point lead nationally in early February.
Although the AP/I poll shows both Dems beating John McCain, which is good news for Hillary, Barack wins by bigger margins:
Clinton - 48% McCain - 43 Neither/Not sure - 9
Obama - 51% McCain - 41 Neither/Not sure - 8
And the internals, particularly on white men, are more important than the national horse race, because they speak to a trend against Hillary that could carry over into a general election.
The Hillary Clinton campaign appears to be running off the rails. Hillary is down to Sybill-like changes of character, from conciliatory to sarcastic to downright deranged, all in 24 hours. According to the New York Times on Tuesday, her campaign is preparing to throw everything but the "kitchen sink" at Obama and hope something sticks. At this stage, the campaign has to ask itself some serious questions, starting with this one:
What is the goal?
If the goal is to win this primary at any cost, and then hope that you can bring the Obama voters home after the convention, that strategy will fail. Hillary has crossed the nastiness rubicon, I think, and she will have a tough time getting strong turnout beyond her base of white women, even if she could win mathematically -- which, by the way, she really can't.
If the goal is to scorch the earth under Barack Obama, in order to render him unelectable in November, and preserving Hillary's option to run again in four years, that's a strategy too risky to be worthwhile. Democratic voters have long memories, and don't like second-run candidacies (just ask John Edwards) -- especially second-run candidacies by candidates who appear to have put personal glory ahead of their country's fate (see Ralph Nader...)
They must also ask another question, before changing directions yet again, in terms of Hillary's public demeanor. And this one is particularly important given that there's a debate tomorrow, and considerable confusion out there about which Hillary will show up to it. The question is this:
Is it presidential?
Is what Hillary is doing and saying -- and is the manner in which she is saying it -- likely to be interpreted by the public as conduct befitting a future president of the United States? Barack has had to answer this question in the public's mind, too, because he is so new to the Washington game, and polls show he has largely answered it for Democratic voters. Like Hillary, he has had to overcome a certain resistance to the notion of him as commander in chief -- the guy with his finger on the button -- and that is even more true because of his youth than his race. But Hillary has had to answer it too -- as a woman, which she largely took care of early in the campaign -- but now, as a person -- as a character. So Hillary, dig deep, and ask yourself...
Is this presidential?
Is this presidential?
And while I understand Hillary's frustration -- she's right that the media loves Obama and despises her and her campaign (in part because of Howard Wolfson and company's bully-boy tactics) and it's true that as the known quantity in the race, she has a less exciting story to tell. But this is an important question of presentation, because temperament is one of the elusive factors that voters consider when they are choosing a president. Hillary's demeanor has been all over the place in the last few days. She and her handlers need to regain control of her imaging, because right now, it's not looking ... well ... presidential.
A new New York Times/CBS News poll shows Barack Obama's support continuing to ascend the celestial plain (sorry, Hillary...) and it reveals some troubling trends for Hillary...
Her support among men has cratered, according to this poll, dropping from 42% in December to 28% at the end of February. Barack's, meanwhile, has climbed from 26% to 67%.
Hillary is holding steady with women - 46% then and now, but Barack has caught up to her, climbing from 27% of Democratic women to 45% from December to February.
Barack is preferred by Democratic voters overall, and by a wide margin (54% to 38%). In December, Hillary led that question 44% to 27%).
And the poll shows his support climbing among blue collar voters ($50K and under households) and self-described moderates.
Meanwhile, a new set of polls shows Hillary hanging onto a shrinking lead in Ohio but appearing to lose her lead in Texas. Not a good sign for a campaign that needs to win both states handily. Worse, the polls closed on February 24th (Sunday) -- before news of her rather shrieky weekend rants and Obama in Muslim garb gambit sunk into the public zeitgeist. I would guess those antics will cut against Hillary, at the same time Barack's NAFTA flyers will begin having an impact in Ohio.
The ARG polls (first and last columns) which are looking better and better after they nailed Wisconsin, show Barack pulling ahead in Texas, and Hillary maintaining about a 10 point edge in Ohio (again, pre-rant):
A new Pew Poll has bad news for organized religion. Americans are becoming, shall we say, more European in our outlook on organized religion. Spirituality without religion -- faith without structure (and bully-boy tactics on "tithes") ... may be the new "black."
I think I fall into that category. As I get older, I grow more disillusioned with "the church," more cynical about religious leaders and less inclined to seek, or to need, organized religion. It's a source of guilt for me because I think that organized religion provides a good, moralizing structure for kids, of which I have three. But I just find it hard to drink the Kool-Aid with all that I've seen, particularly in Miami, where some preachers are literally for sale (as I saw during the fight on gambling in Miami,) others are unbelievably timid when it comes to standing up for (or against) Big Things, and still others seem to be mostly in it for the bling. There are very few who truly work for social change or who openly confront the serious issues facing the communities they pastor. That's a shame, but not an unchangeable one.
Did you catch the scathing "60 Minutes" piece this week about the Bush-Rove Justice Department's political hit job on the Democratic governor of Alabama? It was a dramatic illustration of what the U.S. attorneys firing scandal was all about -- the complete politicization of the justice system, and the firing of any U.S. attorney who wouldn't go along with Karl Rove's strategy of using the criminal courts for "politics by other means." So did you catch it?
Governments that try to keep a firm grip on information flow in their countries, like the Kremlin, have used “technical problems” as an excuse to shut out unwelcome content on the Web and television. But could it have happened in the United States?
A controversy has been brewing on the Web since a “60 Minutes” segment failed to appear on a CBS affiliated TV station in Alabama last night. The report covered a bitter flashpoint between Democrats and the Bush administration: the case of Don Siegelman, a former Democratic governor of Alabama who was jailed for corruption last June.
So hot was the anticipation of the segment in left-leaning circles that one political site published an article, “Bama TIVOs at the ready for ‘60 Minutes’.” But many Alabamans did not see initial broadcast of the report, which included new allegations that Karl Rove, President Bush’s former top adviser, waged a campaign against Mr. Siegelman.
Instead, just before the segment was to start, people in the northern part of the state who were tuned in to WHNT-TV, Channel 19 in Huntsville, found this on their screen instead:
We apologize that you missed the first segment of 60 Minutes tonight featuring ‘The Prosecution of Don Siegelman.’ It was a technical problem with CBS out of New York.
So what gives? More from Nizza:
Upon hearing reports of the missed segment from readers, Scott Horton, a writer blogging at Harper’s, phoned CBS headquarters in New York, which offered him a startling contradiction:
“There is no delicate way to put this: the WHNT claim is not true. There were no transmission difficulties. The problems were peculiar to Channel 19, which had the signal and had functioning transmitters.” I was told that the decision to blacken screens across Northern Alabama “could only have been an editorial call.”
The station later denied that it was an editorial decision, but it also changed its explanation. It was the receiver of the signal in Alabama, not the feed from CBS, that caused the blackout, the network said in a statement.
“We can assure you there was no intent whatsoever to keep anyone from seeing the broadcast,” Stan Pylant, WHNT’s president, told The Huntsville Times.
But the assurance alone seemed unlikely to appease all of his viewers. According to Mr. Pylant, the problem was fixed quickly, resulting in only 12 minutes of down time. But that mostly covered the controversial segment, which lasted about 13 minutes. (”Strange coincidence,” one viewer called it.)
Long story short, the "60 Minutes" piece makes it clear that the Republican White House and its Justice Department pursued and jailed Siegelman because they couldn't defeat him at the ballot box, a view endorsed by more than 50 prosecutors of both parties around the country (those quoted in the CBS piece were Republicans.) Karl Rove should be jailed if he refuses to answer Congressional subpoenas on this issues, and at minimum, the U.S. attorney scandal -- and this prosecution -- should be reviewed by a special prosecutor.
As for the folks running that "news" station in Alabama, I'm sure Vladimir Putin and his successor would have great use for them in Mother Russia.
Barack Obama greeting crowds in Kenya in August 2006. You won't see this photo circulated by the Clinton campaign...
So Hillary is pissed that Barack Obama's campaign circulated mailers that pointed out that she's prepared to garnish wages to achieve mandated, universal health care coverage (something she admits) and that she praised NAFTA during her husband's administration (something that's fairly obvious, since there are no public records suggesting otherwise...) and she calls his tactics -- pointing out POLICY differences -- "Rovian" ... but we're supposed to believe that the Clinton camp's decision to circulate a photo of Barack Obama dressed in what looks like traditional Muslim garb during a 2006 trip to Kenya, forwarding it to Matt Drudge, and implying that he is a Muslim, when Hillary knows damned well that he is a Christian, is not Rovian? My head hurts...
Obama's response is sufficiently stinging, with campaign manager David Plouffe calling it "divisive" and "fear mongering."
New campaign manager Maggie Williams' response is clever, but actually makes matters worse, in that it implies that Camp Clinton is indeed behind the photo flap. And she gets the country wrong:
If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed. Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely.
WRONG! It was Kenya, dear. Nothing more to see, here...
WASHINGTON—Retired Air Force Gen. Scott Gration, who accompanied Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on his trip to Kenya in 2006, on Monday defended Obama’s trying on local garb over his clothes during a visit to the rural Wajir region in the country, a picture of which is at the top right now of the Drudge Report. ...
... Gration was with Obama on every leg of the African visit, including Wajir, an area that often does not get the attention of foreign visitors. Obama, whose father was Kenyan, was treated as a head-of-state during the visit, part of a multi-nation trip of which Kenya was the highlight. Obama, his wife Michelle, their two daughters and friends accompanied them on the Kenya leg of the trip.
Gration is a Swahili-speaking retired Air Force major general, a native of St. Charles, Ill., who spent much of his youth in Africa. I asked him about the circumstances surrounding the photo during a conference call the Obama campaign organized as a prebuttal to a major foreign policy speech Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) will deliver today in Washington. The just completed call featured Obama foreign policy advisors Susan Rice, Gration and former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig.
“I was along on that picture,” Gration said. They were seeing a “community mobilization” in Wajir and witnessed the “live auction” of camels and other livestock..
During the course of this, Obama was given an outfit, and “as a great guest,” he tried it on, much in the way, Gration said, people “try on Christmas gifts” they may not want to keep.
Obama did “what any leader should do…accept the gift, accept the hospitality,” said Gration. Obama was “accepting a gift of friendship in a way we expect,” he said.
Rice, who served as an African expert in President Clinton’s White House, said release of the photo was designed “to be divisive.’’ But she also noted that President Clinton had himself dressed in kinte cloth as part of respecting local customs and cultures.
It's not unusual for members of Congress to travel to African nations -- a House delegation was in Kenya last week, led by House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.). Dreier was in Kenya to observe the work of the U.S. House Democracy Assistance Commission, which helps new democracies establish government services.
But Obama's unique situation -- the only African American in the Senate -- a son of an African with family in Kenya whose popularity in the United States is soaring to the point where he is being talked about as a presidential candidate -- makes this journey special, a trip of symbolism as well as substance.
Obama is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee panel on African Affairs. Obama, sworn into office in January 2005, in his freshman year visited Russia and other former Soviet states; Iraq, Kuwait, Israel and the West Bank.
In other words, it was not unusual to take the trip, or wear the outfit. But for Barack, the reception WAS unusual. He was greeted in a manner we're accustomed to only seeing with Bill Clinton (or Will Smith, or a generation ago, for Mohammed Ali) -- only with Barack, it was far more personal. CNN covered the euphoria with which he was greeted:
KISUMU, Kenya (CNN) -- Tens of thousands of Kenyans lined the streets of Kisumu on Saturday, giving U.S. Sen. Barack Obama a hero's welcome as he arrived to visit the nearby village where his late father and grandfather lived.
Massive crowds screamed "Obama, Obama" and waved flags emblazoned with his name and face, as the 45-year-old junior senator from Illinois rode through the streets in a truck flanked by a lengthy convoy.
"I greet you all," he shouted in the local language, Luo, waving.
Many people wore T-shirts dedicated to the Democratic Party's rising star, who was received like a head of state, if not a rock star.
Frankly, as one who also visited hundreds of countries as first lady and as a Senator, taking care to respect the culture of each one as she traveled, Hillary Clinton should know better.
Mrs. Clinton, with all do respect, raise your game. If you're going to stay in this thing, then have a little class. This kind of campaigning is beneath you, and yes, it's very Rovian, too. Leave this kind of crap to the folks at Fox Noise, and get Maggie Williams a world map.
See what happens when you do things you don't normally do?
I happened to catch a bit of the "Tom Joyner Morning Show" while driving my kids to school earlier than usual this morning, and Jackie Reed, formerly of BET, now with real news outlet (okay, that was mean, but BET really is that bad...) was interviewing a young preacher from Georgia named Rev. Markel Hutchins. Well, guess what he's doing?
ATLANTA, GA (2008-02-22) The fallout over the Presidential endorsement made by Georgia Congressman John Lewis continues.
The civil rights veteran was criticized for supporting Hillary Clinton instead of Barack Obama. Now, Lewis is denying a New York Times article saying he'll cast his super delegate vote for Obama.
And this week, a new civil rights leader, hoping to capitalize on the controversy, announced he's running against Lewis in the July Democratic primary.
You may remember Rev Markel Hutchins as a spokesman for Kathyrn Johnston's family. The 92 year old woman was killed by Atlanta police in a botched drug raid. Moving into politics, Hutchins says John Lewis should have been on the Barack Obama bandwagon a long time ago.
HUTCHINS: I think the winds of change are blowing in America and they have turned into a whirlwind in the 5th Congressional district.
It all started in October when Lewis gave his long sought after endorsement to the Senator from New York.
LEWIS: Hilary Clinton will be a strong leader. She will fight for what is fair, for what is right and for what is just.
Apparently, Lewis' metro Atlanta district disagreed. On Super Tuesday, about 80 thousand district voters chose Obama; almost 53 thousand more than Clinton.
Evidence, according to Hutchins', that Lewis is out of touch.
HUTCHINS: I don't think that Congressman Lewis had the right as an elected representative to throw the support of the 5th Congressional district behind a candidate that the people in this district clearly were not favorable to.
Lewis is a Super Delegate whose vote at the party's convention this summer is not tied to his constituents. That concerns Hutchins.
HUTCHINS: in some sense there is a potential for our Congress person to cancel out the votes of the overwhelming majority of people that live in the district that he's elected to represent. [From Public Broadcasting Atlanta]
Hutchins gave many of the same quotes to Ms. Reed, after which Tom Joyner asked Reed whether this phenomenon might strike other Black members of Congress who failed to go the way of their districts. He fished for some names, and came up with Stephanie Tubbs-Jones of Ohio, Maxine Waters of California and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, who made a grand "I'm still Black" apologia for herself at this weekend's "Come to Tavis" conference. He didn't come up with any Florida names...
I'm not sure that some Black leaders understand how unhelpful they can be to Barack Obama's campaign. Or maybe they do, and they just don't care.
Perhaps Louis Farrakhan thinks that singing Obama's praises is a good thing -- for him. It gets him publicity, keeps his name in the news, and allows him to associate himself with a popular political leader. But, and this is the big "but" ... Farrakhan has GOT to know that his pronouncements of favor are the opposite of helpful for Barack, who is already fighting ignorant drifters who insist he's a Muslim even though he's a Christian (and who don't know the difference between a Muslim and a member of the Nation of Islam, anyway...) and who can't seem to grasp that he's running a campaign that is not centered on race.
Farrakhan's "endorsement" is made all the more suspect because as a rule, members of the Nation don't participate in the political process -- in other words, they don't vote ... on purpose ... so his support is meaningless to Barack as a method of getting more votes, which at the end of the day is the only thing that counts.
Given that, Farrakhan's remarks can only be interpreted as either self-serving, or spontaneously thoughtless, because they can only attract the knee-jerk, negative reaction that the media always gives to anything the Minister has to say. (sigh)
This is of a piece with members of the Black intelligentsia who for a long time derided Barack for not clinging to them, not going to them for anointment. Tavis Smiley is still nursing a grudge, because Barack was not willing to marginalize his candidacy by announcing it at last year's "State of the Black Union" conference, and because he refused to go back to Louisiana, a state he had won weeks earlier, neglecting Ohio and Texas, which he is trying to win next week, to be at the conference this year.
It's as if some Black folk insist that in order to get our support, Barack must steep himself in the kind of racial politics that would guarantee he won't succeed. But if he does that and fails, as he surely would, then what's the point. Mercifully, most African-Americans have grown beyond this over the months of Barack's campaign, realizing that he has to run for the presidency of the entire United States, without the burden of having to prove something to Black folk, and that if he truly doesn't have a racial chip on his shoulder, which anyone who has observed him can see he does not (his family's lack of a slavery narrative still bothers some Black Americans) then he should be himself, and leave the identity politics to others.
That's what he's doing, and that's why he's winning. Black people are rightly proud of Barack Obama. But at a certain point, we need to stand down and let him win, for the entire country's sake, not just our own.
So Ralph "Halliburton Stock" Nader is running for president again. Yep, he announced it on "Meet the Press." ... Could somebody phone this guy up and tell him he's about nine months late for the revolution? Only the truly crazed with vote for Ralphie Boy this time around, and they number maybe in the hundreds. No Michael Moore, no Smarter than You comedians. None of that. This time he'll be running completely alone. Ralph's umpteenth run for the ... oh, why call it that, it's really just a very public cry for attention, isn't it? ... will be about as impactful for Democrats as Allen Keys' endless White House windmill tilt is for Republicans.
Okay, yes, I know it's obsessive and a bit lame, but I was just perusing the Lost site, and reading some of the theories about who is in that coffin that Jack alone visited. All we know is that it's a man with a teenaged son, whom the Oceanic Six know, but don't care to visit in at his final hour. My theory: it's Michael. He escaped from the island without the other castaways, betraying them, and he's the only character with a son who would be a teenager by then (Walt.)
Update: This person agrees with me. And if you scroll down in comments, someone called U2FL speculates that Michael is also the "spy" that Ben has on the "rescuers'" boat.
Hillary Clinton rips into Barack Obama for mailings in Ohio that she says lie about her stance on NAFTA ... the trade deal her husband signed into law... and she's pissed about his healthcare mailers, too. The Houston Chronicle has the angry video.
Did John McCain talk to the head of Paxson Communications before writing a "highly unusal" letter to the FCC in 1999 to ask the body to speed up deliberations on a pending Paxson deal in Pittsburgh? And did Paxson's chief lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, whose firm had given lots of money to McCain's presidential campaign and flown him on their private jets and ferried them on their yachts ... attend such a meeting?
Jason and I are watching the State of the Black Union conference (otherwise known as "Come to Tavis"...) No, Barack isn't there. (More on that another time...) And 75-year-old comedian Dick Gregory just delivered the line of the day:
"You know when I learned about the power of the Black woman? During the Kobe Bryant situation. He was accused of raping a white woman. And when he gave his wife that $4 million ring? I knew the Black woman was powerful. Because if I was accused of raping a white woman, and I gave my wife a $4 million ring...? She would have gone out and gotten two more white women ... because she would have had the good sense to know that wherever that $4 million ring came from, there's a necklace and a bracelet to go with it."
One of the reason right wingers hate John McCain is because the dreaded mainstream media, which they loathe (because they are not part of the "club" and never will be ...) love and cuddle him. (Eventually, they would have come to hate Rudy Giuliani for the same reason.)
While Johnny Mack spent the day trying to explain to credulous reporters how he can be so cozy with lobbyists, and yet so impervious to them, Newsweek's blue dress sniffing pain in the backside, Michael Issikoff, began what could be the long, slow dissection of his way to emphatic claims at that "I did not have sex with that lobbyist woman" press conference yesterday. Issy's title: "A hole in McCain's defense?" -- gotta love the question mark. The story:
A sworn deposition that Sen. John McCain gave in a lawsuit more than five years ago appears to contradict one part of a sweeping denial that his campaign issued this week to rebut a New York Times story about his ties to a Washington lobbyist.
On Wednesday night the Times published a story suggesting that McCain might have done legislative favors for the clients of the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, who worked for the firm of Alcalde & Fay. One example it cited were two letters McCain wrote in late 1999 demanding that the Federal Communications Commission act on a long-stalled bid by one of Iseman's clients, Florida-based Paxson Communications, to purchase a Pittsburgh television station.
Just hours after the Times's story was posted, the McCain campaign issued a point-by-point response that depicted the letters as routine correspondence handled by his staff—and insisted that McCain had never even spoken with anybody from Paxson or Alcalde & Fay about the matter. "No representative of Paxson or Alcalde & Fay personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the FCC," the campaign said in a statement e-mailed to reporters.
But that flat claim seems to be contradicted by an impeccable source: McCain himself. "I was contacted by Mr. Paxson on this issue," McCain said in the Sept. 25, 2002, deposition obtained by NEWSWEEK. "He wanted their approval very bad for purposes of his business. I believe that Mr. Paxson had a legitimate complaint."
While McCain said "I don't recall" if he ever directly spoke to the firm's lobbyist about the issue—an apparent reference to Iseman, though she is not named—"I'm sure I spoke to [Paxson]." McCain agreed that his letters on behalf of Paxson, a campaign contributor, could "possibly be an appearance of corruption"—even though McCain denied doing anything improper.
McCain's subsequent letters to the FCC—coming around the same time that Paxson's firm was flying the senator to campaign events aboard its corporate jet and contributing $20,000 to his campaign—first surfaced as an issue during his unsuccessful 2000 presidential bid. William Kennard, the FCC chair at the time, described the sharply worded letters from McCain, then chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, as "highly unusual."
And "unusual" is not good when you're a so-called "maverick" running for president as Mr. Clean.
Meanwhile, Fox News dutifully takes up the Get the Times! banner, like the good Republican propagandists they are.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s latest campaign finance report, published Wednesday night, appeared even to her most stalwart supporters and donors to be a road map of her political and management failings. Several of them, echoing political analysts, expressed concerns that Mrs. Clinton’s spending priorities amounted to costly errors in judgment that have hamstrung her competitiveness against Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.
“We didn’t raise all of this money to keep paying consultants who have pursued basically the wrong strategy for a year now,” said a prominent New York donor. “So much about her campaign needs to change — but it may be too late.”
And it's not a good look when you're looking to move up from managing a campaign to managing the country. ...
So where did all the dough go?
Mark Penn (pollster/strategist) - More than $10 million to his firm
Howard Wolfson (communications director) - More than $730,000, including money still owed
Mandy Grunwals (media consultant) - More than $2.3 million to her firm, and the campaign owes her $240,000 more
Overall spending: More than $1 million per day
Joe Trippi, who knows a little something about raising lots of money and then blowing it in a losing effort, explains the core problem:
And second, Mr. Trippi said, the Clinton campaign spent money as though the race were going to be over after a handful of states had voted and was not prepared for a contest that would stretch for months.
“The problem is she ran a campaign like they were staying at the Ritz-Carlton,” Mr. Trippi said. “Everything was the best. The most expensive draping at events. The biggest charter. It was like, ‘We’re going to show you how presidential we are by making our events look presidential.’ ”
For instance, during the week before the Jan. 19 caucuses in Nevada, the Clinton campaign spent more than $25,000 for rooms at the Bellagio in Las Vegas; nearly $5,000 was spent at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas that week. Some staff members also stayed at Planet Hollywood nearby.
From the start of the campaign, some donors had concerns about the Clinton team’s ability to manage money.
Patti Solis Doyle, Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign manager until she was replaced on Feb. 10, also ran her Senate re-election bid in 2006. That campaign spent about $30 million even though Mrs. Clinton faced only token Democratic and Republican opposition.
“The Senate race spending in 2006 was an omen for a lot of us inside the campaign, but Hillary assured us that her presidential bid would be the best run in history,” said one major Clinton fund-raiser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations within the campaign.
John McCain may not be a cheater ... on his wife ... but he may be less than pure when it comes to his signature issues: campaign finance reform and Puritan ethics vis a vis Washington lobbyists.
The FEC continues to stand in the way of McCain backing out of the public financing system he is chiding Barack Obama for not wanting to get into in the first place ... an interesting confluence of hypocrisy and irony.
And his campaign is packed with -- hell, it's run by -- none other than Washington lobbyists. ... Lots of them.
Last year, when McCain's campaign was starved for cash, he applied to join the financing system to gain access to millions of dollars in federal matching money. He was also permitted to use his FEC certification to bypass the time-consuming process of gathering signatures to get his name on the ballot in several states, including Ohio.
By signing up for matching money, McCain agreed to adhere to strict state-by-state spending limits and an overall limit on spending of $54 million for the primary season, which lasts until the party's nominating convention in September. The general election has a separate public financing arrangement.
But after McCain won a series of early contests and the campaign found its financial footing, his lawyer wrote to the FEC requesting to back out of the program -- which is permitted for candidates who have not yet received any federal money and who have not used the promise of federal funding as collateral for borrowing money.
Mason's letter raises two issues as the basis for his position. One is that the six-member commission lacks a quorum, with four vacancies because of a Senate deadlock over President Bush's nominees for the seats. Mason said the FEC would need to vote on McCain's request to leave the system, which is not possible without a quorum. Until that can happen, the candidate will have to remain within the system, he said.
The second issue is more complicated. It involves a $1 million loan McCain obtained from a Bethesda bank in January. The bank was worried about his ability to repay the loan if he exited the federal financing program and started to lose in the primary race. McCain promised the bank that, if that happened, he would reapply for matching money and offer those as collateral for the loan. While McCain's aides have argued that the campaign was careful to make sure that they technically complied with the rules, Mason indicated that the question needs further FEC review.
If the FEC refuses McCain's request to leave the system, his campaign could be bound by a potentially debilitating spending limit until he formally accepts his party's nomination. His campaign has already spent $49 million, federal reports show. Knowingly violating the spending limit is a criminal offense that could put McCain at risk of stiff fines and up to five years in prison.
The Mason in question is FEC chairman David Mason, a Republican who has sparred with McCain on many occasions. Analysts are saying, according to the Post, that McCain could wind up in the same spot as his friend Bob Dole, who was stuck in the public finance system in 1992, while Bill Clinton wasn't. And contrary to the signals out of the McCain camp, the campaign can't just ignore Mason.
"This is serious," agreed Republican election lawyer Jan Baran. Ignoring the matter on the grounds that the FEC lacks a quorum, Baran said, "is like saying you're going to break into houses because the sheriff is out of town."
For years, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has railed against lobbyists and the influence of "special interests" in Washington, touting on his campaign Web site his fight against "the 'revolving door' by which lawmakers and other influential officials leave their posts and become lobbyists for the special interests they have aided."
But when McCain huddled with his closest advisers at his rustic Arizona cabin last weekend to map out his presidential campaign, virtually every one was part of the Washington lobbying culture he has long decried. His campaign manager, Rick Davis, co-founded a lobbying firm whose clients have included Verizon and SBC Telecommunications. His chief political adviser, Charles R. Black Jr., is chairman of one of Washington's lobbying powerhouses, BKSH and Associates, which has represented AT&T, Alcoa, JPMorgan and U.S. Airways.
Senior advisers Steve Schmidt and Mark McKinnon work for firms that have lobbied for Land O' Lakes, UST Public Affairs, Dell and Fannie Mae.
McCain's relationship with lobbyists became an issue this week after it was reported that his aides asked Vicki Iseman, a telecom lobbyist, to distance herself from his 2000 presidential campaign because it would threaten McCain's reputation for independence. An angry and defiant McCain denounced the stories yesterday, declaring: "At no time have I ever done anything that would betray the public trust."
Even before McCain finished his news conference, uber-lobbyist Black made the rounds of television networks to defend McCain against charges that he has been tainted by his relationship with a lobbyist. Black's current clients include General Motors, United Technologies, JPMorgan and AT&T. ...
... McCain's reliance on lobbyists for key jobs -- both in the Senate and in his presidential campaign -- extends beyond his inner circle. McCain recently hired Mark Buse to be his Senate chief of staff. Buse led the Commerce Committee staff in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and was until last fall a lobbyist for ML Strategies, representing eBay, Goldman Sachs Group, Cablevision, Tenneco and Novartis Pharmaceuticals.
McCain's top fundraising official is former congressman Tom Loeffler (R-Tex.), who heads a lobbying law firm called the Loeffler Group. He has counseled the Saudis as well as Southwest Airlines, AT&T, Toyota and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
Public Citizen, a group that monitors campaign fundraising, has found that McCain has more bundlers -- people who gather checks from networks of friends and associates -- from the lobbying community than any other presidential candidate from either party.
By the group's current count, McCain has at least 59 federal lobbyists raising money for his campaign, compared with 33 working for Republican Rudolph W. Giuliani and 19 working for Democrat Clinton.
"The potential harm is that should Senator McCain become elected, those people will have a very close relationship with the McCain White House," Sloan said. "[That] would be very helpful for their clients, and that would give them a leg up on everybody else."
The US and Britain are pressing Pervez Musharraf’s victorious opponents to drop their demands that he resign as president and that the country’s independent judiciary be restored before forming a government.
In a strategy some Western diplomats admit could badly backfire, the Bush administration has made clear it wishes to continue to support Mr Musharraf even after Monday’s election in which the Pakistani public delivered a resounding rejection of his policies. “[The US] does not want some people pushed out because it would lead to instability. In this case that means Musharraf,” said one Western diplomat.
Officials say the policy is driven by concern about possible instability in the aftermath of the election in which the president’s parliamentary allies were soundly beaten. In such circumstances US and its Western allies are urging the election’s winners - the late Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N)- to quickly move forward and form a coalition that includes all “moderate” elements.
But along with Mr Musharraf’s future, the reinstatement of sacked Chief Justice Iftikar Chaudhry and other Supreme Court justices - sacked by the president when they refused to ratify his imposition of a State of Emergency last November - has rapidly emerged as the most contentious issues in the aftermath of Monday’s vote, as the PPP and PML-N negotiate to form a coalition government. Mr Sharif, whose party secured the second most number of seats, built his campaign around the reinstatement of Mr Chaudhry and has repeatedly insisted Mr Musharraf should stand down.
Last night an aide to Mr Sharif, who is due to meet today (THURS) with PPP leader, Asif Ali Zardari, confirmed there had been pressure to drop its demand for Mr Chaudhry’s return. “The suggestion has been there from Western countries for some time. In fact it was raised by [a senior British official] when he met Mr Sharif in London. [But] we are not willing to compromise on our stance. We feel it would be against the interest of the Pakistani people.”
This week senior US officials have already met with Mr Sharif and the other leading players in Pakistan’s unfolding political drama, urging an inclusive transition towards democracy. Yesterday morning, a US diplomat based in Lahore spent two hours with Aitzaz Ahsan, leader of the lawyers movement, laying out the US position.
Mr Ahsan, who has been under house arrest for three months, declined to detail the contents of his conversation with the diplomat, but he said: “There is no way other than to reinstate the judges…We are not going to let this pass. We will not let it be accepted as a norm.”
Since the aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration has pursued a controversial policy in which it has given billions of dollars and considerable political support to Mr Musharraf, who is considered a vital ally in the so-called war on terror. The policy has been pursued despite criticism of Mr Musharraf’s human rights record and amid claims of hypocrisy over the US’s backing for a military dictator who seized power in a military coup while purportedly promoting democracy.
Officials admit that in the aftermath of such a decisive election its decision to stick by Mr Musharraf and its urging of his opponents to work with him - even with him serving in a reduced role - could be seen as interference and carried with it high risks.
Yet they say the threat of instability and the over-present threat of violence in Pakistan requires the various groups to form a coalition of moderate parties rather than becoming “fixated” on Mr Musharraf’s immediate future or the restoration of the judiciary. Another Western diplomat said: “The important thing is that a stable government can be formed.”
Huge crowds (hundreds of thousands of people) are protest-rioting in Belgrade, Serbia, reacting to Kosovo declaring independence. The protests are being stoked by Servian political leaders, and much of the ire is directed against the U.S:
PM Vojislav Kostunica told the crowds that Kosovo would belong to the Serbian people "as long as we live".
One protester is reported to have climbed onto the first floor and ripped the US flag from its pole. The building is currently closed.
Gen. Wesley Clark was just on MSNBC explaining some of the history that preceded today's violence (Col. Jack Jacobs went all the way back to World War I, which started because of Serbia, too,) and both analysts see major Russian fingerprints on the conflagration in the last vestige of Yugoslavia. Ethnic Serbs comprise about 10 percent of the Kosovar population, with the vast majority being Albanian (and Muslim.)
John Weaver, the former McCain aide at the center of the war between the Senator and the New York Times, called in to MSNBC to deny that he was one of the Times' anonymous sources, and saying flatly that everything he told the paper, he told them on the record, adding that after he spoke to the reporters, he told the McCain campaign what he had said.
Interesting development, given Weaver's statements that he intervened to separate McCain from the lobbyist Vicki Iseman, and McCain's insistence that no one intervened with him:
Asked if he ever had a romantic relationship with the woman, Vicki Iseman, 40, Mr. McCain, 71, responded, “No.” He described his relationship with Ms. Iseman as “friends” and said he had last seen her “several months ago” at an event.
Mr. McCain said he knew nothing about an account in The Times from John Weaver, a former top strategist and now an informal campaign adviser, who told the newspaper that he met with Ms. Iseman at Union Station and told her to stay away from the senator. “I don’t know anything about it,” Mr. McCain said. “Since it was in The New York Times, I don’t take it at face value.”
Mr. McCain also said he knew nothing about confrontations the newspaper described between Mr. McCain and staff members who were worried that the senator’s relationship with Ms. Iseman would jeopardize his career. “I don’t know if it happened at their level, it certainly didn’t happen to me,” Mr. McCain said.
Those McCain denials will now become the subject of furious reporting over at Bill Keller's shop, to be sure. It's not just John McCain's reputation that's at stake...
The Times is hitting back this morning, telling NBC News that no one has challenged their facts thus far, and reinforcing that their policy on anonymous sources is to only give them anonymity if they have direct, verifiable information.
More news that will be overwhelmed by John McCain's scandal story
The Navy reports a direct hit on that wayward satellite. Hellooooo, Star Wars missile defense! CNN has the Pentagon video.
Great Britain admits that it participated in the secret "rendition" of terror suspects, with the current foreign secretary, David Milliband, correcting the lies misstatements of his predecessor, future Dubya vacation buddy Jack Straw.
The Guardian has two other stories on the Bushification of Britain: one on the government bugging its own MPs, and another on how Tony Blair's Labour Party scrubbed any mention of Israel's open secret of a nuclear arsenal, or criticisms of that country's security policies, from a now discredited 2002 dossier on Iraq's supposed WMD.
The WaPo reports on U.S. payments to Pakistan -- about $6 billion worth over the last six years -- that have apparently gone down the Dubya hole.
Over to the Times (it's not just about John McCain's love life anymore...) the word for the day is: stagflation.
And yet, a red state is still a red state: Most Texans would still prefer John McCain to Barack Obama ... even though most of those polled by CNN oppose the very war Mack would extend for 100 years ... unless of course, someone even more conservative, and even more likely to give them more Bush policies (which they also disfavor) runs as a third party candidate. What's wrong with these people?
Finally, in a very sad story, the sister of the late, great boxing legend Joe Louis is found frozen to death after apparently wandering away from her assisted living center near Detroit.
During his "I did not have sexual or financial relations with that woman" press conference this morning, John McCain fielded what seemed like a side question about his campaign's apparent push to drop out of the public financing system.
McCain has been ripping Barack Obama for supposedly backing out of a pledge to accept public financing (Obama would be a fool to do so, clearly, and as my friend Tameka put it recently, he should just say "my bad," and move on. The public won't even remember) and now is apparently trying to back out himself. Hm. Well, Houston, we have a wee problem, and it plays into a narrative that's building about Mr. McCain, given the New York Times contretemps, and it's one that's familiar to McCain haters in the GOP: John McCain as tisking campaign finance hypocrite.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The government's top campaign finance regulator says John McCain can't drop out of the primary election's public financing system until he answers questions about a loan he obtained to kickstart his once faltering presidential campaign.
Federal Election Commission Chairman David Mason, in a letter to McCain this week, said the all-but-certain Republican nominee needs to assure the commission that he did not use the promise of public money to help secure a $4 million line of credit he obtained in November.
McCain's lawyer, Trevor Potter, said Wednesday evening that McCain has withdrawn from the system and that the FEC can't stop him. Potter said the campaign did not encumber the public funds in any way.
McCain, a longtime advocate of stricter limits on money in politics, was one of the few leading presidential candidates to seek FEC certification for public money during the primaries. The FEC determined that he was entitled to at least $5.8 million. But McCain did not obtain the money, and he notified the FEC earlier this month that he would bypass the system, freeing him from its spending limits.
But just as McCain was beginning to turn his attention to a likely Democratic opponent, Mason, a Republican appointee to the commission, essentially said, "Not so fast." ...
... At issue is the fine print in the loan agreement between McCain and Fidelity Bank & Trust. McCain secured the loan using his list of contributors, his promise to use that list to raise money to pay off the loan and by taking out a life insurance policy.
But the agreement also said that if McCain were to withdraw from the public financing system before the end of 2007 and then were to lose the New Hampshire primary by more than 10 percentage points, he would have had to reapply to the FEC for public matching funds and provide the bank additional collateral for the loan.
In his letter to McCain, Mason said the commission would allow a candidate to withdraw from the public finance system as long as he had not received any public funds and had not pledged the certification of such funds "as security for private financing."
Citing the loan agreement, Mason wrote: "We note that in your letter, you state that neither you nor your (presidential campaign) committee has pledged the certification of matching payment funds as security for private financing. In preparation for commission consideration of your request upon establishment of a quorum, we invite you to expand on the rationale for that conclusion."
McCain has been an outspoken critic of the FEC and he and Mason have had ideological differences over campaign finance law for years. ...
Keith Olbermann reported on the McCain loan on "Countdown" this week, and it's an issue that should be explored, because if John McCain is going to lecture the rest of the political world about earmarks, integrity and campaign finance reform, he ought at minimum to live up to his own standards.
schadenfreude \SHOD-n-froy-duh\, noun: A malicious satisfaction obtained from the misfortunes of others.
You've got to believe that many Republicans on the Hill, and in conservativeland, are secretly enjoying watching "Mr. Campaign Finance Reform" John McCain take incoming on the issue of ethics and cozy lobbyist ties.
You've also got to believe that Mitt Romney is burning this morning, as a truism put forth by Pat Buchanan on MSNBC last night and increasingly borne out by the circumstantial evidence, solidifies: the New York Times may have decided the Republican nomination for president by holding the McCain-Isenberg story until now, rather than running it before the New Hampshire primary.
And you've also got to believe that in a way, this is the best thing that could have happened to John McCain. It will get the right wing of the party, which really hates him, to forget their guile and go after the "liberal" media on his behalf, putting their bloggers, talk radio flaks and Fox News at his service.
That said, McCain will not escape the questions of his personal relationship with Isenberg, like it or not. Stories about sex don't fade away easily, even if the mainstream media won't touch them. Evangelical Christians just got one more reason to hang in there for Huckabee. Even worse for McCain, his press conference this morning (with his rich wife, and her prenuptial agreement, by his side...) makes it clear that he will have an even harder time escaping questions about whether he did favors for his lobbyist friend, and whether there might have been other friends, and other favors. At the least, it paints McCain right into the corner Barack Obama wants him to be in: an old politician practicing old-time politics, complete with cozy ties with lobbyists, romantic or not.
Questions are also being legitimately raised about the Times, and whether they were pushed to release a story they were sitting on because a competitor was about to run with a story of their own, alleging that the Grey Lady was sitting on the scoop. TNR responds here. And as the MSNBC crew are saying this morning, the Times had to know that their story would lead to headlines like this:
Back to the story. The Washington Post advances the NYTimes' story:
McCain's Ties To Lobbyist Worried Aides Before 2000 Campaign, Advisers Tried to Bar Her
By Jeffrey H. Birnbaum and Michael D Shear Washington Post Staff Writers Thursday, February 21, 2008; Page A01
Aides to Sen. John McCain confronted a telecommunications lobbyist in late 1999 and asked her to distance herself from the senator during the presidential campaign he was about to launch, according to one of McCain's longest-serving political strategists.
John Weaver, who was McCain's closest confidant until leaving his current campaign last year, said he met with Vicki Iseman at the Center Cafe at Union Station and urged her to stay away from McCain. Association with a lobbyist would undermine his image as an opponent of special interests, aides had concluded.
Members of the senator's small circle of advisers also confronted McCain directly, according to sources, warning him that his continued ties to a lobbyist who had business before the powerful commerce committee he chaired threatened to derail his presidential ambitions. ...
Stop right there for a second. In his presser this morning, McCain twice denied not only that he had an untoward relationship with Iseman, but also that he was ever confronted by aides, and he referred to "more than 150" staffers reporting to him on Capitol Hill, and "anonymous" sources claiming they spoke with him. Someone is lying. If it's McCain, and it is somehow proved that he WAS confronted by aides about Ms. Isenberg, than he's got a problem. Onward, to the part of the WaPo story that to my reading, contains data that's even more harmful than the entire Times article:
... Three telecom lobbyists and a former McCain aide, all of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that Iseman spoke up regularly at meetings of telecom lobbyists in Washington, extolling her connections to McCain and his office. She would regularly volunteer at those meetings to be the point person for the telecom industry in dealing with McCain's office.
Concern about Iseman's presence around McCain at one point led to her being banned from his Senate office, according to sources close to McCain. Senior McCain aide Mark Salter, in an e-mail, denied that Iseman was ever barred from the office or was even a frequent presence there.
Iseman's bio on her lobbying firm's Web site notes, "She has extensive experience in telecommunications, representing corporations before the House and Senate Commerce Committees."
Her partners at Alcalde & Fay include L.A. "Skip" Bafalis, a former five-term Republican congressman from Florida, and Michael A. Brown, the son of former commerce secretary Ronald H. Brown and a former Democratic candidate for mayor of the District.
Its client list is heavy with municipalities and local government entities, which suggests that its major emphasis is on the controversial business of winning narrowly targeted, or "earmarked," appropriations. [There go those nasty earmarks...]
In the years that McCain chaired the commerce committee, Iseman lobbied for Lowell W. "Bud" Paxson, the head of what used to be Paxson Communications, now Ion Media Networks, and was involved in a successful lobbying campaign to persuade McCain and other members of Congress to send letters to the Federal Communications Commission on behalf of Paxson.
In late 1999, McCain wrote two letters to the FCC urging a vote on the sale to Paxson of a Pittsburgh television station. The sale had been highly contentious in Pittsburgh and involved a multipronged lobbying effort among the parties to the deal.
At the time he sent the first letter, McCain had flown on Paxson's corporate jet four times to appear at campaign events and had received $20,000 in campaign donations from Paxson and its law firm. The second letter came on Dec. 10, a day after the company's jet ferried him to a Florida fundraiser that was held aboard a yacht in West Palm Beach.
McCain has argued that the letters merely urged a decision and did not call for action on Paxson's behalf. But when the letters became public, William E. Kennard, chairman of the FCC at the time, denounced them as "highly unusual" coming from McCain, whose committee chairmanship gave him oversight of the agency.
McCain's campaign denied that Iseman or anyone else from her firm or from Paxson "discussed with Senator McCain" the FCC's consideration of the station deal. "Neither Ms. Iseman, nor any representative of Paxson and Alcalde and Fay, personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the FCC regarding this proceeding," the campaign said.
Iseman and her firm, which includes high-profile Republicans and Democrats, have also represented a number of other companies that have had issues before McCain and the commerce committee, including Univision, a Spanish-language television network. Iseman clients have given nearly $85,000 to McCain campaigns since 2000, according to records at the Federal Election Commission.
Bill O'Reilly doesn't want to lead a "lynching party" against Michelle Obama ... unless...
Meanwhile, the Factor man's producer defends O'Reilly's commentary, and gets a sympathetic hearing from this guy at Conde Nast. Question: if David Shuster had to apologize and take a two-week suspension for using the words "pimped out" to describe a Senator's daughter, why, pray tell, is it a.o.k. for O'Reilly to go up the offensiveness Richter scale about 400 times with this remark about a Senator's wife? And while I was not a member of the "fire Imus" club, the overwrought reaction to his remarks, versus those of a fellow radio / cable TV personality, looks even more absurd now.
I guess the moral of the story is, right wingers can get away with saying justaboutanything.
The New York Times produces a John McCain bimbo eruption (who woulda thunk it?):
For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk By JIM RUTENBERG, MARILYN W. THOMPSON, DAVID D. KIRKPATRICK and STEPHEN LABATON
WASHINGTON — Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.
A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.
When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.
Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.
It had been just a decade since an official favor for a friend with regulatory problems had nearly ended Mr. McCain’s political career by ensnaring him in the Keating Five scandal. In the years that followed, he reinvented himself as the scourge of special interests, a crusader for stricter ethics and campaign finance rules, a man of honor chastened by a brush with shame.
But the concerns about Mr. McCain’s relationship with Ms. Iseman underscored an enduring paradox of his post-Keating career. Even as he has vowed to hold himself to the highest ethical standards, his confidence in his own integrity has sometimes seemed to blind him to potentially embarrassing conflicts of interest.
Mr. McCain promised, for example, never to fly directly from Washington to Phoenix, his hometown, to avoid the impression of self-interest because he sponsored a law that opened the route nearly a decade ago. But like other lawmakers, he often flew on the corporate jets of business executives seeking his support, including the media moguls Rupert Murdoch, Michael R. Bloomberg and Lowell W. Paxson, Ms. Iseman’s client. (Last year he voted to end the practice.)
Mr. McCain helped found a nonprofit group to promote his personal battle for tighter campaign finance rules. But he later resigned as its chairman after news reports disclosed that the group was tapping the same kinds of unlimited corporate contributions he opposed, including those from companies seeking his favor. He has criticized the cozy ties between lawmakers and lobbyists, but is relying on corporate lobbyists to donate their time running his presidential race and recently hired a lobbyist to run his Senate office.
“He is essentially an honorable person,” said William P. Cheshire, a friend of Mr. McCain who as editorial page editor of The Arizona Republic defended him during the Keating Five scandal. “But he can be imprudent.”
Mr. Cheshire added, “That imprudence or recklessness may be part of why he was not more astute about the risks he was running with this shady operator,” Charles Keating, whose ties to Mr. McCain and four other lawmakers tainted their reputations in the savings and loan debacle.
I'm sorry to get distracted (it happens to me a lot these days,) but did you catch the photo that the Times ran above this story?
Sorry, but why is it that people who stand behind John McCain always look so ... miserable? ... sorry, back to the story! This bit was interesting:
One of his efforts, though, seemed self-contradictory. In 2001, he helped found the nonprofit Reform Institute to promote his cause and, in the process, his career. It collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in unlimited donations from companies that lobbied the Senate commerce committee. Mr. McCain initially said he saw no problems with the financing, but he severed his ties to the institute in 2005, complaining of “bad publicity” after news reports of the arrangement.
Like other presidential candidates, he has relied on lobbyists to run his campaigns. Since a cash crunch last summer, several of them — including his campaign manager, Rick Davis, who represented companies before Mr. McCain’s Senate panel — have been working without pay, a gift that could be worth tens of thousands of dollars.
In recent weeks, Mr. McCain has hired another lobbyist, Mark Buse, to run his Senate office. In his case, it was a round trip through the revolving door: Mr. Buse had directed Mr. McCain’s committee staff for seven years before leaving in 2001 to lobby for telecommunications companies.
Mr. McCain’s friends dismiss questions about his ties to lobbyists, arguing that he has too much integrity to let such personal connections influence him.
“Unless he gives you special treatment or takes legislative action against his own views, I don’t think his personal and social relationships matter,” said Charles Black, a friend and campaign adviser who has previously lobbied the senator for aviation, broadcasting and tobacco concerns.
And therein lies the potential hazard for John-boy. I don't think too much will be made in the mainstream media about the possible paramour, unless more develops. I mean, who wants to picture John McCain's 900-year-old behind having sex ... with ANYBODY? But if this story opens the door to more reporting on his potential hypocrisy on issues involving lobbyists, conflicts of interests and campaign finance, it could stick to him like glue.
I await the judgment of the RedBloggers and talk radio wingnuts who detest McCain, to see if they rally ... or pile on. Right now, I'd guess they'll rally. They want to keep the White House more than they want to hate John McCain, I suspect.
And now for the meaty bit of the story, the part the MSM is disgorging with abandon tonight:
Mr. McCain’s confidence in his ability to distinguish personal friendships from compromising connections was at the center of questions advisers raised about Ms. Iseman.
The lobbyist, a partner at the firm Alcalde & Fay, represented telecommunications companies for whom Mr. McCain’s commerce committee was pivotal. Her clients contributed tens of thousands of dollars to his campaigns.
Mr. Black said Mr. McCain and Ms. Iseman were friends and nothing more. But in 1999 she began showing up so frequently in his offices and at campaign events that staff members took notice. One recalled asking, “Why is she always around?”
That February, Mr. McCain and Ms. Iseman attended a small fund-raising dinner with several clients at the Miami-area home of a cruise-line executive and then flew back to Washington along with a campaign aide on the corporate jet of one of her clients, Paxson Communications. By then, according to two former McCain associates, some of the senator’s advisers had grown so concerned that the relationship had become romantic that they took steps to intervene.
A former campaign adviser described being instructed to keep Ms. Iseman away from the senator at public events, while a Senate aide recalled plans to limit Ms. Iseman’s access to his offices.
In interviews, the two former associates said they joined in a series of confrontations with Mr. McCain, warning him that he was risking his campaign and career. Both said Mr. McCain acknowledged behaving inappropriately and pledged to keep his distance from Ms. Iseman. The two associates, who said they had become disillusioned with the senator, spoke independently of each other and provided details that were corroborated by others.
Separately, a top McCain aide met with Ms. Iseman at Union Station in Washington to ask her to stay away from the senator. John Weaver, a former top strategist and now an informal campaign adviser, said in an e-mail message that he arranged the meeting after “a discussion among the campaign leadership” about her.
"It is a shame that the New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit and run smear campaign," said communications director Jill Hazelbaker, in a prepared statement sent about an hour after the Times posted their story online. "John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.
"Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career."
The sexiest story probably ever to include the words "John McCain" makes its way across the pond (courtesy of Rupert Murdoch...)
Meanwhile, Ms. Iseman's lobbying firm, Alcalde & Fay has dropped her from their "Meet the Firm" page. Now that's confidence! Her picture is still online, though... and their client list is still up, and it includes a heap of South Florida cities:
City of Deerfield Beach, FL City of Delray Beach, FL City of Hampton, VA City of Hialeah, FL City of Hobbs, NM City of Homestead, FL City of Key West, FL City of Lake Mary, FL City of Lauderdale Lakes, FL City of Lauderhill, FL City of Maitland, FL City of Melbourne, FL City of Miami, FL City of North Miami Beach, FL City of Oldsmar, FL City of Oviedo, FL City of Pembroke Pines, FL City of Petaluma, CA City of Plantation, FL
Hey, I live in Pembroke Pines! Thanks, Alcalde & Fay!
Desperate times, part 2 (or, 'Damn you, reasonable Obama!')
The Righties are already arming themselves for the fight against Barack Obama, as evidenced by odd posts like this one, which I think is attempting to scare you AWAY from Barack:
Obama and Gun Control:
His record isn't likely to win back the rural "pro-gun" voters who've fled to the Republicans in recent years, likely costing Gore the election in 2000. From the Chicago Defender, Dec. 13, 1999:
Sweeping federal gun control legislation proposed by Sen. Barack Obama (D-13th) would increase the penalties on gun runners who are flooding Chicago's streets with illegal weapons.
At an anti-gun rally held at the Park Manor Christian Church, 600 E. 73rd St., headed by the Rev. James Demus, Obama also said he's backing a resolution being introduced into the City Council by Alds. Toni Preckwinkle (4th), Ted Thomas (15th), Leslie Hairston (5th) to call for a "shot-free" millennium celebration.
Obama outlined his anti-gun plan that includes increased penalties for the interstate transportation of firearms. The maximum penalty now for bringing a gun across the border is 10 years in prison. Obama is proposing to make it a felony for a gun owner whose firearm was stolen from his residence which causes harm to another person if that weapon was not securely stored in that home. [!!!]
He's proposing restricting gun purchases to one weapon a month and banning the sale of firearms at gun shows except for "antique" weapons. Obama is also proposing increasing the licensing fee to obtain a federal firearms license.
He's also seeking a ban on police agencies from reselling their used weapons even if those funds are used to buy more state-of-the-art weapons for their agencies. Obama wants only those over 21 who've passed a basic course to be able to buy or own a firearm.
He's proposing that all federally licensed gun dealers sell firearms in a storefront and not from their homes while banning their business from being within five miles of a school or a park. He's also banning the sale of 'junk" handguns like the popular Saturday Night Specials.
Obama is requiring that all people working at a gun dealer undergo a criminal background check. He's also asking that gun manufacturers be required to develop safety measures that permit only the original owner of the firearm to operate the weapon purchased.
Additionally, he wants an increase of the funds for schools to teach anger management skills for youth between the ages of 5-13. Obama is also seeking to increase the federal taxes by 500 percent on the sale of firearm, ammunition [sic] -- weapons he says are most commonly used in firearm deaths.
Well we wouldn't want to piss off the Saturday Night Special, bulk automatic weapon-buying campus shooter, flood the streets with former police weaponry for the gangs to purchase, selling sawed offs next to the school building electorate... (gulp)
That pearl of wisdom came from the good folks at RedState, in a post that led with this:
Now that more attention is being paid to the possibility of Obama as the nominee, perhaps we could also pay attention to radical proposals that have been part and parcel of his political positions.
"In an environment of scarcity, where the cost of living is rising, folks begin to get angry and bitter and look for scapegoats. Historically, instead of looking at the top 5% of this country that controls all the wealth, we turn towards each other, and the Republicans have added to the fire." [Hyde Park Citizen, 1995]
Oh yeah, he's stark raving mad, all right! No NORMAL person could possibly believe that in bad economic times people tend to look for scapegoats among other people who don't have anything. I mean COME ON!
Good thing we have John McCain to straighten us out. What we need in these times of scarcity -- ahem -- are big corporate tax cuts, even BIGGER tax cuts for high net worth individuals, looser gun laws and same year depreciation... oh and 100 years of WAR, WAR, GLORIOUS WAR!!!!!
It's way too late in the game to make mistakes, and I'd say the Obama campaign made a small one tonight, sending a Texas state senator into the MSNBC lion's den to be shelacked by Chris Matthews, who zinged him with a "gotcha" question about Obama's accomplishments in the Senate, as Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, flacking for Hillary, smirked on. The State Senator couldn't name said accomplishments, although afterward, Keith Olbermann reminded Matthews that no one could likely name an accomplishment by the entire congress at this stage.
"That's why it's called Hardball," retorted Chris, after demanding that the Senator name an accomplishment, "NOW!"
Bottom line, the clip will be Youtubed something awful by Camp Clinton tonight, and served to the Wolfson-cowed (still lying about the horse race) mainstream media, and to the right wing hit machine, tomorrow.
Update: The Texas State Senator in question, Kirk Watson, crawls out from under a rock to tell his constituents that yes, he lost his game of "stump the chump" with Christopher Matthews.
Update 2: Here, go ahead. Relive Kirk Watson's shame...
A quick (okay, maybe not that quick...) note about the Wisconsin primary -- have you noticed the huge differential between the number of Republicans who voted and the number of Democrats? I know the GOP race is supposed to be over, but DAMN, it's more than 2 to 1! Anyhoo, to the exit polls!
On these Barack Obama ran the demographic table tonight, winning the race by about 55 percent to Hillary's 43 percent, and carrying every major demographic, including women. Here's the way CNN calls it:
Voters who cared most about the economy (43% of respondents): Obama - 55% Clinton - 43%
Voters who said U.S. trade creates a loss of American jobs (70%) Obama - 54% Clinton - 43%
Barack fought Hillary to a draw on one her core constituencies:
Union households - Clinton - 50% Obama - 49%
and, not good for Hil, he beat her with women: Obama - 51% Clinton - 49%
Obama apparently won the overall white vote by a slim margin, (51-53% of the vote if I'm not mistaken) and he clobbered Hillary with a constituency she has never done too well with:
White men Obama - 62% Clinton - 36%
Hillary did manage to hold two of her core constituencies, but barely:
White women Clilnton - 53% Obama 45%
White voters with incomes uner $50K Clinton - 51% Obama - 48%
While Barack held his core income group:
White voters with incomes over $50K Obama - 56% Clinton - 48%
Barack cleaned Hillary's clock with younger voters (49 and under): Obama - 64% Clinton - 39%http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif
The exit poll included a high college educated voter roll of 72% Obama - 59% Clinton - 39%
Apparently, Obama and Hillary split less educated whites about evenly, and they also split voters with household incomes under $50,000. Not good for Hil.
Self-identified Democrats were basically a draw Obama - 50% Clinton - 49%
But with Independents (27% of those polled), it wasn't even close: Obama - 63% Clinton - 36%
The exit polls showed that more voters thought Hillary had unfairly attacked Obama than thought the reverse, and according to NBC, some two-thirds of voters for whom negative campaigning was an important factor voted for Barack.
Wisconsin voters thought him to be the most electable, too, 63% to 37%.
According to NBC News, Obama also beat Hillary on the three key issues in the race, Iraq, healthcare (Hillary's signature issue) and the economy.
Hillary did hold senior voters and Catholics, but there just weren't enough of them to help her win, especially given reports of record turnout by young voters.
//Hillary trouble alert! The question for Hillary is, what message can she use to get her three cores (as weak as she's holding them): seniors, catholics and white women, in Texas and Ohio (Ohio being the more possible. Not sure she can do it with the crushing loss of momentum coming out of tonight.//
Two very uplifting notes that cause me to echo Michelle Obama's renewed -- and yes, that's what she meant -- pride in this country:
Eighty-two percent of respondents said the candidate's gender was not important to them and 86 percent said race was not important. advertisement
About 88 percent of the poll's respondents were white, 57 percent were female and 43 percent were male.
You've gotta love it (unless you're a throwback.) As ABC News notes: And yet, Obama won it. Handily.
As if anybody in the mainstream media really believed it was still a horse race there, Barack Obama beats Mother Hillary in Wisconsin. MSNBC called it about 15 minutes ago.
Oh, and Grumpy Old John McCain just gave another snoozer of a speech after his win in Wis., including the zinger! (not) line about "eloquent but empty calls for change" and a "holiday from history", and some other crap about cutting corporate income tax rates and hiding under the bed from al-Qaida.
9:30 - Hillary is about to speak from Ohio.
9:40 - Oh no he di'ent! Barack just stepped all OVER Hillary Clinton's speech! Cut her off in mid-substance over speeches-sentence! Damn! As Olbermann said, the civility of this campaign has officially ended.
9:45 - Exit polls courtesy of CNN show that the number one thing on voters minds, Howard Wolfson, was plagiarismexperiencecommander-in-chiefing oh, right, change.
Pervez Musharraf hears the voice of the Pakistani people ... and the voice is not friendly:
With counting from Monday's election nearly complete, the two main opposition parties won a total of 154 of the 268 contested seats, according to the Election Commission.
The pro-Musharraf party trailed with 39 seats, and the group's leader acknowledged the loss.
"We accept the election results, and will sit on opposition benches," Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, chairman of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, told AP Television News. "We are accepting the results with grace and open heart."
"All the King's men, gone!" proclaimed the headline in the Daily Times as jubilant voters danced in the streets, sang and fired celebratory bursts of gunfire into the air.
"It turned out to be a referendum on Musharraf," said analyst Irfan Husain. "I don't give him more than a few months, unless there is pressure from the US."
The main winner was the Pakistan People's party (PPP) of murdered opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, which polled the most seats. But the surprise performance came from Sharif, a former prime minister, whose party finished a close second.
Neither party has an outright majority. Bhutto's husband, Asif Zardari, and Sharif arrived in Islamabad for power-sharing talks last night. The horse-trading was widely welcomed as dire predictions of vote rigging and violence failed to materialise. Although there were localised complaints of irregularities they were not enough to halt the opposition surge.
Sharif, ousted by Musharraf in a 1999 coup, ran a campaign dominated by one unflinching demand: the removal of "dictator" Musharraf. Now he has his chance.
Ecstatic loyalists chanted "The lion is coming again!" outside Sharif's Lahore home, where the bullish opposition leader recalled an old Musharraf promise. "He would say 'when people want, I will go'. Now the people have given their verdict," he said, vowing to work out a plan to "say goodbye to dictatorship forever".
In a striking sign of the retired general's faltering authority, lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan, who has been under house arrest for over three months, welcomed the media to his home. Ahsan said his phone was re-connected as the results streamed in on Monday. Yesterday, jail officials assigned to guard him failed to show up for work.
Change: it isn't just for American elections anymore. What will Dubya do now that his man is in trouble ...?
Having survived nearly 50 years in power, and 9 U.S. presidents who failed to do so, Fidel Castro takes himself out of the picture. He's stepped aside as Cuba's president (for life) leaving his Brother Raoul and five other men in charge. The U.S. embargo just became even more pointless.
The conventional wisdom is that Raul will move to make changes in the island's way of doing business -- even if not on the social repression his brother became infamous for (at least not right away,) but it's hard to imaging Cuba not changing rather thoroughly in the years to come, as European and Latin American friends begin to open up http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifthe country in the way Cuba's closest neighbor, and worst enemy, could not.
Meanwhile, GWB makes some comment or other about democracy or whatever, that nobody really cares about...
Europe reacts, too, with Gordon Brown pretty much going a "what he said," with Bush:
We can only hope that a new path will open up after this withdrawal and that there will be more democracy in that country.
More about Fidel "the great survivor," from the BBC here.
Voting is under way in Wisconsin and Hawaii (and in Washington State for the Republicans). The Clinton camp is lowering expectations for Wisconsin, but truth be told, they'd really like to have a win there. Anything to give Howard Wolfson something to talk about other than Barack's supposed pilfering of some of the most famous phrases in American history ... (somebody alert David Letterman -- that skit he does with Bush quotes begins with some of the same clips Barack borrowed. Better start crediting Deval Patrick...)
Also today, Texas begins early voting. And that's important, because it means the results from tonight will begin reverberating in that crucial state immediately. Keep an eye on Houston and Dallas, where large concentrations of African-Americans could weigh heavily on the outcome on March 4th.
Now to the polls:
Here's how it's looking for Hillary and Barack today:
In Wisconsin, throwing out the Valentine's Day and earlier polls:
Public Policy Polling (2/16-17) Obama - 53% Clinton 40 Undecided 7
ARG has un updated poll that shows definite movement toward Obama:
On the GOP side, ARG shows Romney's support going almost wholesale to McCain:
...which should be music to the ears of the Senator from Angryville Arizona.
On to Texas: the latest CNN poll has some troubling news for Camp Clinton: there's movement in the Longhorn State, and it's in Barack Obama's direction:
CNN / Opinion Research Corporation Date: 2/15-17 Texas Added: 2/18/08 Est. MoE = 4.3% [?]
MSNBC owes Barack Obama an apology. On "Hardball" just a few minutes ago, Chris Matthews went through his set-up, talking about the Clinton campaign ginned-up "controversy" over Barack Obama's alleged borrowing of Deval Patrick's rhetoric, and with an interesting image appearing over his left shoulder.
No, not this one...
What gives, MSNBC? Did some junior associate producer grab the wrong picture filed starting with an "O" or have you guys been watching too much Fox Noise...?
It's reminiscent of another interesting moment on MSNBC, a couple of years ago when Niger Innes, that's N-I-G-E-R ... appeared on a morning news program ... to interesting chyron results.
Video to come shortly.
Update 5:30 - Apology issued on-air. video still to come shortly.
Okay, so the Clinton campaign is really headed off the rails. Now, they're accusing Barack Obama of plagiarism ... yes, plagiarism, for grouping a series of famous quotes in a similar manner to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick -- a friend of Barack's who has already laughed off the charges. Come on, people (the preceding is hereby attributed to Dr. Bill Cosby, who has a book out now, entitled "Come on, People: On the Path from Victims to Victors," so as to avoid any charges of plagiarism or the associated taint of said charges...) As one commenter on JSOnline put it:
So who is Obama supposedly plaigarizing? Kennedy or Patrick? King? Roosevelt?
OK, he grouped them similarly to Patrick . . . what would Obama's appropriate attribution be? "These statements have been previously grouped by Patrick"
No one will think about this in August or November. Pretty lightweight.
Lightweight isn't the half of it. This is pure desperation, flailing, and a clear sign that Camp Clinton had no game plan for a close race that lasted longer than February 5th. I really like ... getting toward liked ... the Clintons, and have supported them through thick and thin. If Barack wasn't in the race, I'd be a Hillary voter. But damn, girl, get a grip! This is almost as weak as Tavis Smiley continuing to whinge about Barack not going to his State of the Black Union event in Louisiana ... after Barack has already won Louisiana and with Texas and Ohio looming so large in his electoral game plan!
Jeez. Talk about a country in need of change. If we can just rise above the pettiness of this campaign, that would be change enough for me.
Meanwhile, the other desperados on the wide open plain -- the Republicans -- have finally begun to map out a strategy for how to get their broken down old geezer ... I mean their candidate ... John McCain, over the hills of Zion to beat the Democratic Messiah. Their masterful plan has five points:
The first called for pointing out what the GOP views as a seeming incongruity between Obama and the mantle of commander in chief. The second point harkened back to Obama’s days in the Illinois state Senate, noting how his “pattern of voting ‘present’ offers many openings to question his candidacy.” The third offered hope to the GOP faithful that “we can be confident in a campaign about issues.” A fourth bullet point relayed how “undisciplined messaging carries great risk,” while the fifth and final attack point stressed, “His greatest weakness is inexperience. He is not ready to be commander in chief. He is not ready to be president.”
In other words, they'll do the same thing Hillary Clinton is doing only with an old white dude ... and plus it'll actually work ... (ahem)
You know, all these Obama haters are beginning to bore me. I think I'll go back to worshipping my Obama poster now.
If you haven't seen the Will.I.Am video for Barack Obama yet, here it is. It's an inspiring piece derived from one of the best political speeches I've heard in my lifetime, Barack's post-New Hampshire primary address, from January 8th. Here it is, courtesy of YouTube.
I almost feel sorry for the Clintons, who essentially are down to running against hope.
And here's the original speech. He lost that night, but he clearly won the speech war.
The Hill reports Congressional Black Caucus members are getting pressure from within their ranks to switch their allegiance from Hillary Clinton to Barack Obama, with John Conyers among the heavyweight lobbyists.
Here in Florida, the Miami Herald's Lesley Clark blogs that the three Black members of Congress -- all Hillary supporters -- are staying put.
"There's a chorus of folks saying 'Oh well, saying let's end this right now,' " said Rep. Kendrick Meek, D-Miami. "But we're Democrats, not Republicans. We believe in Democratic primaries playing themselves out.
"I'm supporting Hillary until Hillary says she's out of the race," Meek said.
Obama did best in Rep. Corrine Brown's Jacksonville district, topping Clinton nearly two to one. But Brown traveled to Wisconsin Friday to campaign for Clinton, the Washington Post noted.
"I have no stress whatsoever," Brown told the newspaper. She said that other colleagues "want to support the person because he's African American. But as Martin Luther King Jr., said 'Judge me by the content of my character, not the color of my skin.' " And she told the Post, she's not worried her constituents will be angry. "People know I'm going to do what I think is right," she said.
Obama won Meek's district 55 percent to Clinton's 40 percent; and Miramar Democrat Rep. Alcee Hastings' district 52 percent to Clinton's 41 percent.
Okay, but the comments beneath Lesley's blog post are telling, if you know what I'm saying. Black Floridians are moving rapidly in Barack's direction, while our three elected Congressmen are not. What that means politically is anyone's guess. We're not exactly known for our stellar Black turnout down here, particularly in South Florida (northern Florida is actually picking up in terms of Black turnout. The get out the vote operations by the DNC up north are yielding much stronger results...) But the Obama issue could be a factor in upcoming elections, at least in the near term. And yes, our reps are up for reelection in November. If Obama is the nominee, his coat tails will be up for grabs. Previous:
George W. Bush may want to pass on being Keith Olbermann's valentine. The MSNBC host (who today admitted a "deep and abiding affection for the Clintons" -- the right wing will have a field day with that one ...) called George W. Bush a liar, a fascist and a terrorist, all in one Special Comment -- and he called the Republicans in Congress crash test dummies. In short: I heart Olbermann. Enjoy.
Charles Barkley's "fake Christians" rant in support of Barack Obama (doh!) on CNN.
The Round Mound of Rebound told Wolf Blitzer he's pro gay marriage ("why do I care if they get married?"), pro abortion rights, and "sick of the fake Christians" of the conservative movement who "always judge other people." He says when he hears the term "conservative" he gets "sick," and says that while he wants Barack to be president, he plans to "vote Democrat no matter what," because he's "tired of what Republicans have done to this country."
He also says he bought a house in Alabama last year and will have met the residency requirement to run for governor of that state by 2012.
Wolf of course had to ask about the "dream ticket" with Barack demoted to veep, as Magic Johnson has apparently been promoting (all the better to cover up his Bob Johnsonyness... and the better to give Cookie a first lady to commiserate with...) Barkley said that would be fine, as long as Hillary takes the second chair.
It was a pretty raw interview, although much of it was probably not music to the ears of the Obama campaign. With endorsers this brash, who needs Hillary? Update! Big ups to Jeff P for the video link. And heeeere's the video:
Is it just me, or does Barkley talk exactly like the guy from City Slickers when he used to imitate Muhammad Ali on SNL? Update 2: Billy Crystal. Had a brain freeze there for a second...
Question: how is Mike Huckabee in such high double digits long after this race is supposedly other? And shouldn't John-boy be cracking 50 percent in any poll, in any state, at this stage? Sounds like some little party doesn't dig it's nominee...
A bit more on that ARG poll:
Hillary Clinton leads Barack Obama among self-described Democrats 47% to 42%. Obama leads Clinton among self-described independents and Republicans 24% to 71%. Obama leads among men 55% to 29% (47% of likely Democratic primary voters) and Clinton leads among women 54% to 42%. Clinton leads Obama among white voters 51% to 40% (53% of likely Democratic primary voters), Obama leads Clinton among African American voters 76% to 17% (22% of likely Democratic primary voters), and Clinton leads Obama among Latino voters 44% to 42%.
22% of likely Democratic primary voters say they would never vote for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary and 20% of likely Democratic primary voters say they would never vote for Barack Obama in the primary. 30% of men say they would never vote for Clinton in the primary.
Those internals look about right, although I wouldn't bet money on that large Obama lead...
Superdelegates.org is keeping tabs on the oft mentioned superdelegates. But who are these people? In Florida, as everywhere, they are politicians and party activists who may wind up bearing an awful burden in Denver (although I find it increasingly unlikely that they will be a factor -- not only because they don't appear to want to be, but also because I think the Democrats will have a free and clear nominee going into the convention...)
Anyhoo, here's the Florida list.
Superdelegates pledged to Hillary Clinton:
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL) Rep. Alcee Hastings (FL) Rep. Corrine Brown (FL) Rep. Kendrick Meek (FL) DNC Raul Martinez (FL) - candidate for Congress against Lincoln Diaz Balart Hillary's full list
Pledged to Barack Obama:
Rep. Robert Wexler (Barack's Florida co-chair) Barack's full list
Still unpledged from Florida:
Sen. Bill Nelson Rep. Allen Boyd Rep. Kathy Castor Rep. Ron Klein Rep. Tim Mahoney DNC Karen Thurman - FL Chair (FL) DNC Rudolph Parker - (FL) DNC Terrie Brady (FL) DNC Mitchell Ceasar (FL) DNC Hon. Joyce Cusack (FL) DNC Diane Glasser (FL) DNC Chuck Mohlke (FL) DNC Janee Murphy (FL) DNC Jon Ausman (FL)
By the way, there's lots of talk in the Black community about how Meek and Hastings' constituents voted in the January 29 primary. Here's the breakdown, courtesy of the Sun-Sentinel:
Hastings' district (23rd Congressional) Obama - 51.7% Clinton - 41.9 Others - 6.4
Meek's district (17th Congressional) Obama - 55.1% Clinton - 39.9 Others - 5.0
How Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties voted overall: Clinton - 56.2 Obama - 33.4 Others - 10.4
I caught Chris Matthews typically blunt performance on Morning Joe this morning, and thought that, this time, the all-time number one Clinton Hater had it about right. In the wake of the Get Shuster campaign (otherwise known as Pimpgate,) the Clintons showed a disturbing tendency to try and intimidate the press, something we've come to expect from George W. Bush, but which looks really bad on a Democrat. The Huffpo's Sam Stein caught it too:
"What she has to do is get rid of the kneecapers that work for her, these press people whose main job seems to be punishing Obama or going after the press, to building a positive case for her," said Matthews. "Her campaign slogan right now is don't get your hopes up. That won't work in America. You can't diminish Obama and hope that you will rise from the ashes."
Asked why he believed Clinton had gone negative, Matthews again struck an antagonistic chord about the campaign's media operation.
"The kneecapping hasn't worked. Her press relations are lousy," he said. "If all you do is intimidate and punish and claim you'll get even relentlessly, people of all kinds of politicians -- and in all fairness, the press -- human reaction to intimidation is screw you. That's the human reaction. Don't tell me what to say, and that has been their whole policy. We're going to win this thing. Get out of the way."
During the same segment, my man Pat Buchanan counseled Hillary to "go negative or go home," to which Matthews countered, people don't vote for negative; they don't vote against optimism. He's right. Hillary's campaign has to strike a more positive, uplifting tone if she hopes to dig her way out of the hole. That said, I'm not sure she can dig her way out of the hole, and if the buzz that her camp is willing to screw the popular vote AND the pledged delegate count and try to win it in the brokerage rooms at the convention, then she has a very rude awakening coming. If she wins this thing in any way other than by getting more votes, she will lose sufficient support to guarantee the presidency to John McCain.
By the way, David Shuster's return now has a date attached: February 22nd, at which time he will have served a suspension of two weeks.
Obama on Illinois campus shooting: nix violence, not guns
Barack Obama may have found the sweet spot today in commenting both on gun violence (in a statement on the tragic campus shooting in Illinois) and individual gun rights. From AP:
Obama said he spoke to Northern Illinois University's president Friday morning by phone and offered whatever help his Senate office could provide in the investigation and improving campus security. The Democratic presidential candidate spoke about the Illinois shooting to reporters while campaigning in neighboring Wisconsin.
The senator, a former constitutional law instructor, said some scholars argue the Second Amendment to the Constitution guarantees gun ownerships only to militias, but he believes it grants individual gun rights.
"I think there is an individual right to bear arms, but it's subject to commonsense regulation" like background checks, he said during a news conference.
He said he would support federal legislation based on a California law that would facilitate immediate tracing of bullets used in a crime. He said even though the California law was passed over the strong objection of the National Rifle Association, he thinks it's the type of law that gun owners and crime victims can get behind.
The candidate issued the following statement today:
"Michelle and I were heartbroken to learn about the terrible tragedy that occurred in DeKalb today, and our thoughts and our prayers are with the victims and their families. While the full details are still unclear, what is clear is that this kind of senseless violence must stop, and all of us have a responsibility to do what we can to stop it."
A good look for the Obama campaign, particularly since the union has loads of Hispanic members. I wonder what our local SEIU (healthcare workers local 1199) will do here in Miami-Dade, since the union is closely tied to Rep. Kendrick Meek, who is a Hillary Clinton supporter...
Hillary Clinton's campaign now hangs by a thread -- or maybe three: Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania. The first two hold primaries on March 4th, along with Vermont and Rhode Island. PA voters go to the polls on April 22nd, by which time the Clinton campaign could well be on fumes. Here's the entire calendar:
Feb 19 Hawaii (Dems only) Wisconsin
March 4 Texas Ohio Rhode Island Vermont
March 9 Wyoming (Dems only)
March 11 Mississippi
April 22 Pennsylvania
Another twist: February 19 is also the day early voting begins in Texas, so if Barack Obama does well -- or if Hillary does -- it could influence those voters as they start to cast their ballots.
Signs of Clinton panic? She's sending her "stopper" -- a feared opposition research guy nicknamed "Doctor Death" -- into Texas.
As to the latest pollilng: an IVR poll showed Hillary leading Barack 48 percent to 38 percent with 10 percent undecided as of January 31st. I would guess that gap has narrowed since then.
Meanwhile, over at the WaPo, Michael Gerson gets downright ugly-truthful:
Though it is increasingly unlikely, Clinton may still have a path to the nomination -- and what a path it is. She merely has to puncture the balloon of Democratic idealism; sully the character of a good man; feed racial tensions within her party; then eke out a win with the support of unelected superdelegates, thwarting the hopes of millions of new voters who would see an inspiring young man defeated by backroom arm-twisting and arcane party rules.
I had a front row seat to the late adoption of Barack Obama's candidacy by Black folk. I can still remember having to defend Barack against streams of angry callers -- all of them Black -- and from my own program director at the time (at Radio One Miami), who were calling him a phony, not really Black, and accusing him of never having fought for civil rights "the way Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson have." Black folk were supremely skeptical of Obama. I can recall conversations with two very prominent African-Americans, one in the clergy, one in the media -- neither of whom I'll name -- who expressed sentiments about Obama that were so negative, no downright nasty, that I was frankly shocked. One of the two has taken to doing gauzy interviews with the candidate ... the other has conspicuously warmed to his candidacy...
To be honest, in was those on-air (and in studio) battles in large part that turned me from a long time, and I do mean long time Clinton supporter (I loved the 90s, thought Bill Clinton was a great president, particularly on the economy, and wanted Hillary to run in 2004) to an Obama supporter. I had known of Barack since Harvard (he's a bit of a legendary figure there among Black students) and have met him on a few occasions, including in 2004 when I was working for Harold Ickes 527 (America Coming Together.) I always figured he'd eventually run for president, though no one could have imagined it would be this soon, or this strong a run. Perhaps because of that familiarity, in the beginning, the charm he held for the media, and particularly for young white folks, was largely lost on me. Besides, I, like many political watchers, thought the Clinton machine was unbeatable.
But there came a time -- around mid-year last year -- when I realized that I couldn't remain on the fence. There was no way I could side with Hillary against him -- choose a white woman over a Black man -- and while I'm usually not that strictly racial, I thought I had to make that decision, and declared on the air last summer that I would vote for him, not her (and I did vote for him on January 29th.) I'll never forget a conversation I had with State Senator Fredrica Wilson after an Obama speech at the Miami Auditorium (a damned good speech, by the way) on August 25th of last year. I caught up with the Senator afterward to get an interview for the next morning's show, and she surprised me by being exceptionally blunt, saying in plain terms that after all we've fought for, and after all we tell your young Black boys about what they can become if they just work hard, how can anyone -- including any Black elected official -- not support this young man, who has done all that we tell our sons to do? That was game over for me.
Here in South Florida, it has been bizarre, watching the Black electorate swing broadly in Barack's direction, including on Primary Day, even as all three Black Congresspeople from Florida support Hillary (Kendrick Meek has even been traveling with former President Clinton, including during the South Carolina contretemps...) And a couple of weeks ago, Bishop Victor Curry, probably the most prominent Black religious leader in South Florida, went off on Meek for going in the opposite direction of his constituents. (The dust-up didn't last long...)
So imagine my surprise (or not) at reading that more than a few Black electeds are having second thoughts about their early endorsement of Hillary Clinton... From the Associated Press:
In a fresh sign of trouble for Hillary Rodham Clinton, one of the former first lady's congressional black supporters intends to vote for Barack Obama at the Democratic National Convention, and a second, more prominent lawmaker is openly discussing a possible switch.
Rep. David Scott's defection and Rep. John Lewis' remarks highlight one of the challenges confronting Clinton in a campaign that pits a black man against a woman for a nomination that historically has been the exclusive property of white men.
"You've got to represent the wishes of your constituency," Scott said in an interview Wednesday in the Capitol. "My proper position would be to vote the wishes of my constituents." The third-term lawmaker represents a district that gave more than 80 percent of its vote to Obama in the Feb. 5 Georgia primary.
Lewis, whose Atlanta-area district voted 3-to-1 for Obama, said he is not ready to abandon his backing for the former first lady. But several associates said the nationally known civil rights figure has become increasingly torn about his early endorsement of Clinton. They spoke on condition of anonymity, citing private conversations.
In an interview, Lewis likened Obama to Robert F. Kennedy in his ability to generate campaign excitement, and left open the possibility he might swing behind the Illinois senator. "It could (happen). There's no question about it. It could happen with a lot of people ... we can count and we see the clock," he said.
Clinton's recent string of eight primary and caucus defeats coincides with an evident shift in momentum in the contest for support from party officials who will attend the convention. The former first lady still holds a sizable lead among the roughly 800 so-called superdelegates, who are chosen outside the primary and caucus system.
But Christine Samuels, until this week a Clinton superdelegate from New Jersey, said during the day she is now supporting Obama.
Two other superdelegates, Sophie Masloff of Pennsylvania and Nancy Larson of Minnesota, are uncommitted, having dropped their earlier endorsements of Clinton.
On Wednesday, David Wilhelm, a longtime ally of the Clintons who had been neutral in the presidential race, endorsed Obama.
The comments by Scott and Lewis reflect pressure on Clinton's black supporters, particularly elected officials, not to stand in the way of what is plainly the best chance in history to have an African-American president.
"Nobody could see this" in advance, Rep. Jim Clyburn of South Carolina, the highest-ranking black in Congress, said of Obama's emergence. He is officially neutral in the race, but expressed his irritation earlier in the year with remarks that Clinton and her husband the former president had made about civil rights history.
I've always wondered what kind of pressure Mr. Lewis -- the second most prominent speaker at the 1963 March on Washington after Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., and a man considered far more militant than King when it came to civil rights -- must be under, having fought so hard for civil rights, only to wind up siding against the Black man with the best chance ever, of becoming president ... apparently, he is wavering so much he could soon switch sides. The pressure on Lewis and other Black lawmakers is unfair -- but it's real.
And then there's this:
One black supporter of Clinton, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri, said he remains committed to her. "There's nothing going on right now that would cause me to" change, he said.
He said any suggestion that elected leaders should follow their voters "raises the age old political question. Are we elected to monitor where our constituents are ... or are we to use our best judgment to do what's in the best interests of our constituents."
In an interview, Cleaver offered a glimpse of private conversations.
He said Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. of Illinois had recently asked him "if it comes down to the last day and you're the only superdelegate? ... Do you want to go down in history as the one to prevent a black from winning the White House?
"I told him I'd think about it," Cleaver concluded.
Jackson, an Obama supporter, confirmed the conversation, and said the dilemma may pose a career risk for some black politicians. "Many of these guys have offered their support to Mrs. Clinton, but Obama has won their districts. So you wake up without the carpet under your feet. You might find some young primary challenger placing you in a difficult position" in the future, he added. ...
I go back to that John Conyers quote I posted here:
"To me, there's a historical consideration in this as well," Conyers says. "How in the world could I explain to people I fought for civil rights and equality, then we come to the point where an African American of unquestioned capability has a chance to become president and I said, 'No, I have dear old friends I've always supported, who I've always liked.' What do you tell your kids?"
What do you tell them, indeed.
Whom you support in a presidential contest is a deeply personal decision, and not one that should be subjected to external scrutiny. That said, the Obama candidacy is a gut check moment for most Black Americans, whether we want it to be or not. It's a bit of a shame that it's that way, and I'm very heartened by the fact that in so many ways, Barack's candidacy is race neutral. That's part of the reason it's been so successful. But while his run transcends race for white people, it carries the banner of race for black folk, if that makes any sense, and many of us are struggling with it (just as I'm sure Irish Catholics did with JFK and Jewish people did with Joe Lieberman, etc., etc., etc...)
I for one am proud to have voted for, and in my limited capacity, endorsed, the man who could be America's first black president. I'm proud of my country for rendering that fact somewhat less remarkable today than it would have been, even ten years ago. And I wouldn't want to be a Congressional Black Caucus member for Hillary today, for all the money in the world.
House Democrats find former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and former Chief of Staff Josh Bolten in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify on the firing of U.S. attorneys for political reasons. But since the attorney general is refusing to enforce the subpoenas or investigate the matter, and it's unlikely the House will exercise it's power to send sergeants at arms to arrest the pair, the contempt finding will have no practical effect.
All the more reason to do it! Action without consequence -- it's the Democratic way!
Okay, now I've got a few, and none of them are in the Senate.
President Bush says he will veto any FISA reform bill that doesn't give immunity from lawsuits to the telecom companies who helped his administration illegally spy on Americans. (Placing the government's national security aparatus in the service of big business: priceless... using fearmongering to do it? Bush.) Well, go ahead, Dubya, delay that trip to Africa, veto the bill, see if anybody who matters cares.
On Thursday, February 14th, Valentine's Day 2008, finally someone had the balls to stand up to this maniac. From Wired News:
House Democrats Stand Up To Bush, Refuse to Rubber Stamp Domestic Spying
The Protect America Act, a temporary but expansive warrantless spying bill passed by Congress last summer, will likely expire Saturday at midnight, a casualty of a battle between President Bush and House Democrats over amnesty for phone companies that aided his secret, warrantless spying program and how much of that program should be legalized. The House leadership announced there will be no more votes before the long President's Day legislative break.
The bill's expiration is largely symbolic, but demonstrates that House Democrats are willing to fight Bush on anti-terrorism policies, where fear-mongering rhetoric had previously cowed their opposition.
Though Republicans charge that the expiration will endanger national security, no wiretaps or dragnets will be forced to stop and the government will retain longstanding surveillance powers.
Additionally, any broad domestic surveillance of emails and phone calls started under the expiring act can continue for another year, and new targets can be added such programs without getting a court order.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) laid the blame for expiration at the White House's door and said the House wanted extra time to protect Americans' rights.
"We are committed to protecting the American people and protecting the constitution," Pelosi said. "We will continue to work with the Senate to produce a [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] bill that does both."
The Protect America Act, passed in August last year, was a temporary measure enacted after a secret spying court ruled that the president's spying was illegal. That secret ruling came just months after Bush bowed to political pressure and submitted the program to the court more than a year after the New York Times exposed its existence.
On Wednesday, House Democrats attempted to pass a three-week extension to give it time to work out a compromise bill with the Senate. The Senate bill, passed by a wide, bi-partisan margin on Tuesday, is far more Administration- and telecom-friendly than the House's bill.
But Bush threatened to veto any extension to the temporary measure, a move clearly intended to push the House to adopt the Senate version verbatim. House Republicans, joined by conservative Democrats and a handful of anti-warrantless wiretapping liberal, voted down that extension Wednesday. ...
This comes after the Senate capitulated to the president, voting down Chris Dodd's attempt to strip telco immunity from its bill, and then approving a monstrosity of a FISA reform act that essentially gives this weakest of presidents -- this total lame duck -- everything he wants. How this guy can continue to run over Senate Democrats at this stage of his undress is beyond me. I'm starting to wonder if his domestic spying started, and perhaps ended, with Senate Democrats...
But the biggest theatrics of the day came from House Republicans, who threw a tantrum after their colleagues refused to kiss the backside of the president one more 'gain and walked out of the chamber (to waiting microphones, of course...) Someone get John Boehner a tissue...
(sigh) What does it profit a man to gain the whole world (or at least to gain the miserable acquiescence of a party who really doesn't want you) and lose your soul? ... and your integrity? Somebody oughta ask "my friend" from AZ...
Meanwhile, don't look for the winger faithful to throw John-boy any bouquets for his newfound respect for the Law of "24"... these are the same guys who on background, really think he gave in to the Viet Cong...
The most recent Quinnipiac poll has good news for Hillary Clinton ... sort of ...
She leads Barack Obama in the must-win (for her) states of Ohio and Pennsylvania:
Ohio: Clinton - 55% Obama - 34
PA: Clinton - 52% Obama - 36
One caveat: the poll was taken between February 4 and 12, which means it preceded and immediately followed Super Tuesday, when Hillary did well, and ended on the day of Barack's Potomac sweep. That means the poll doesn't take into account Barack's post-Potomac momentum, so I suspect those numbers are quite a bit tighter in reality (polls tend to lag popular opinion by up to a week anyway...)
Bottom line for Hillary - Barack has plenty of time before the next round of voting on February 19 (Wisconsin and Hawaii) and March 4 (Ohio and Texas) to close the gap. And she needs to win those states, not with 52 or 55 percent of the vote, but with more than 60, and the First Law of Clinton Saturation suggests that, with 99% name recognition and 15 years of voter familiarity, Hillary is not likely to add 5 to 10 points to her numbers in short order (although you should never count a Clinton out.)
Some detail from the poll:
Among Ohio Democrats, women back Clinton 56 - 30 percent while men back her 52 - 42 percent. Clinton leads 64 - 28 percent among white Democrats, while Obama leads 64 - 17 percent among black voters.
Among Pennsylvania Democrats, Clinton leads 54 - 34 percent with women, 49 - 39 percent with men and 58 - 31 percent among whites. Obama leads 71 - 10 percent among black Democrats.
"With Sen. Obama closing the gap, the winner in Pennsylvania probably will depend on whether blacks, young people and college graduates in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh can turn out in sufficient strength to overcome Sen. Clinton's strong lead among blue collar voters and women," said Clay F. Richards, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
And the match-ups with John McCain slightly favor Hillary in this poll, which her team will probably circulate widely today:
... Arizona Sen. John McCain, the Republican front-runner, is running neck and neck with either Sen. Clinton or Sen. Obama. Results are:
Although again, these numbers seem to reflect Super Tuesday more than the post-Tsunami period, and though she didn't win as many states, Hillary's team managed the expectations game better than Team Barack did on that day, and she managed to come out relatively unscathed. Since then, she's been "scathed" plenty.
On to Texas, where there hasn't been much polling since January. But Pollster.com has an interesting graph showing the Clinton-Obama trend lines:
Finally, some cojones on the part of GE-NBC. They will not bow to the nattering nellies of NOW, nor to the intimidation tactics of Camp Clinton (who WILL attend that debate on Feb 26 thank you ... Hil needs the free media...) by firing David Shuster.
NBC insiders have told Greg Sergent of TPM that he will be back in short order (if by short order you mean after the debate) ... and I'm sure, he will be chastened...
According to NBC News (and its numbers guru Chuck Todd,) Barack Obama now leads Hillary Clinton by every numerical measure: with or without the superdelegates, in the popular vote, and (obviously) in the number of states won. He also cut deep into her democgraphics in the Potomac primaries, beating her among white men, blue collar workers, older voters, and even women, in addition to his base of black voters, the young and the upscale.
How MSNBC scores it:
On pledged delegates:
Obama - 1,078
Clinton - 969
Difference - 109
With the "super delegates" included (approximate and shifting):
In other words, no matter how you slice this thing, Obama is comfortably ahead. Hillary can't change the outcome by somehow convincing Howard Dean to count Michigan and/or Florida. And as Todd has said on MSNBC, she would have to win Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania with more than 60% of the vote in order to catch up to Barack, given that she will probably lose two more primaries next week, in Wisconsin and Hawaii. And as James Carville has said, if she loses either Texas or Ohio, "this thing is done."
And of course, winning those states assumes that voters in those states (and in Pennsylvania) have remained in a state of suspended animation since February 5th, completely unaware of the Obama juggernaut, and oblivious to all the free media he has received with his win after win after win...
So Hillary's game plan is to go negative in her latest TV ad, and to hit Barack for not having specific plans (McCain is trying the same theme, which I hate to tell you, was OUR theme back in 2004 when I was with ACT, trying to prevent the re-election of George W. Bush. It didn't work. Voters don't care about specific plans, no matter what they say. They vote for who they like, and in that rare election (1960, 1980, and possibly 2008) who inspires them.
18 Senate Democrats were caving on telecom wiretap immunity. Barack Obama voted with the 30 Democrats who don't think telecom companies should be shielded from lawsuits stemming from their collusion in government spying on its own citizens. Hillary missed the vote. Now the Senate must reconcile its bill with the House bill that contains no immunity. Harry Reid isn't making me feel any better:
"Holding all the Democrats together on this, we've learned a long time ago, is not something that's doable," the party's Senate leader, Harry Reid, told reporters today.
Neither is Russ Feingold:
"The Senate has buckled," Democratic senator Russ Feingold said. "We are left with a very dangerous piece of legislation."
Okay, let's try this guy:
"It's time for Speaker Pelosi to draw a line the sand and make clear to the president that this House of Representatives is never going to pass any bill that includes immunity for lawbreaking telecoms," Bankston said in a statement.
The EFF is representing a group of Americans who are suing AT&T in a California federal court, alleging mass interception of their private communications without a warrant. Granting immunity to AT&T would almost certainly halt that lawsuit.
Watching Sheila Jackson Lee tonight in her role as Hillary flak on MSNBC, and even watching the supposedly "neutral" Al Sharpton (he has never been an Obama fan, I'll just leave it at that...) I can't help feel a bit sorry for the Black Clinton surrogates and supporters. The elected officials and clergy who have backed her, on the basis of Bill, now look short sighted (or like haters). As John Conyers put it in an interview with TNR:
"To me, there's a historical consideration in this as well," Conyers says. "How in the world could I explain to people I fought for civil rights and equality, then we come to the point where an African American of unquestioned capability has a chance to become president and I said, 'No, I have dear old friends I've always supported, who I've always liked.' What do you tell your kids?"
Worse, for the elected officials, their constituents don't appear to be paying much attention to them. Here in Florida, Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton among Black voters 73%-25% according to the exit polls, with Blacks beating their percentage of the population (14%) by making up 19% of the electorate -- this despite the fact that all three Black congressmen from Florida (Alcee Hastings, Kendrick Meek and Corinne Brown) are with Hillary.
It seems unfair to say that Black elected officials and public personalities should feel pressured to support Obama because he is Black. But as Conyers said, it becomes difficult to justify when Obama is, beyond being Black, so inspirational and aspirational a candidate, for so many Americans -- Black and White.
And to add to the irony, the pressure on Black folk to support Obama now stands in stark contrast to a year ago, when I was defending Barack on the air against constant attacks from Black radio listeners (and from my P.D. at the time, Coz Carson) because Barack "wasn't Black enough," has no family history of slavery, and never fought in the trenches of the civil rights movement with Al Sharpton and others. It was that ambivalence, exemplified by Tavis Smiley, and for awhile, by Cornell West (who has since endorsed Barack) -- that represents the other part of the Obama conundrum: Blacks didn't embrace him until he showed them he could win a nearly all-white state (Iowa), and the more Blacks embrace him, the more he risks losing his essential charm for White folk: the fact that he is not a creature of the second generation of the civil rights movement (or as some Whites put it, he doesn't have a chip on his shoulder.) From Salon earlier this month:
As Obama's campaign got started, black media juggernaut Tavis Smiley exemplified the black community's lukewarm response, declaring, "There is not a black groundswell ... saying 'Run, Obama, Run.'" He pinpointed Obama's lack of common history with other black Americans as part of what made people of color skeptical about him, because he did not have a "long-standing relationship with the black community." Around the same time, prominent black intellectual Cornel West criticized Obama for beginning his campaign in Springfield, Ill. (which he implied is a predominantly white community), instead of at Smiley's State of Black America conference. Like Smiley, Debra J. Dickerson, writing in Salon, described Obama as "not black" in part because his biography does not include the legacy of slavery.
On that note, it will be interesting to see if Barack chooses to attend the State of the Black Union conference this year. I hear Tavis had some chilly words for him today on the Tom Joyner show (I didn't hear it), and Roland Martin is advising Barack to skip the conference (again.) If he goes, he takes the risk of stepping closer to the kind of Black issues and identity that turn many Whites off. If he doesn't go, he risks being pushed away again by the Black intelligentsia. But then, who's listening to them (or their counterparts in White, conservative talk radio) these days, anyway?
Barack has been declared the winner of all three primaries tonight (Maryland, D.C. and Virginia.) NBC is projecting he'll pick up 41 delegates to Hillary's 21 in Virginia alone. He should be ahead in pledged delegates by about 105. We await the Chuck Todd math...
McCain has won D.C. (did I just hear Keith Olbermann say that only 4,000 people voted in the GOP primary in Washington? Damn...) And his margin in Virginia has broadened a bit, to 49-42.
Update: the numbers are ...
Virginia (99% reporting): Obama - 64% Clinton - 35
Maryland (37% reporting): Obama - 59% Clinton - 37
(CNN) — Virginia Democratic primary voters who were not registered in the party were more likely to back Barack Obama, according to exit polls.
One out of every five Democratic primary voters were independent — and those voters chose Barack Obama over Hillary Clinton, 67 to 32 percent. Seven percent of the voters in that contest were Republican voters who decided not to vote in their own party’s primary – they chose Obama by an even larger margin, 71 to 25 percent over Clinton. Registered Democrats also chose Obama, 59 to 20 percent.
Roughly one out of every five voters in the GOP primary were independent as well – but those voters did not vote for the party’s likely nominee, John McCain, who had been expected to benefit from their support. Instead, independent voters backed Mike Huckabee over McCain, 43 to 34 percent, with Ron Paul pulling in 19 percent. Republicans also broke for Huckabee, but by a much narrower margin, 47 to 45 percent. Virtually no Democrats participated in the Republican contest.
John McCain is supposed to be basking tonight. He came back from the political dead to storm to the front of the pack, leaving his supposed betters in Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney behind. He cut a field of eight men down to three (including Ron Paul) and he did it all without the help of right wing talk radio, the right wing blogs, and right wing intellectuals. In fact, all three groups hate his guts. (Unless you believe Rush Limbaugh's feint, that he's really helping McCain ...)
And yet, despite having come so close to wrestling the presidential primary prize out of the hands of the George W. Bush wing of the Republican Party (and even coming away with Bush's endorsement -- and his brother's,) McCain, tonight, looks like a loser. He's going to beat Mike Huckabee in Virginia. (Update: he's winning by 9 points.) But exit polls show he has done so largely without the votes of conservatives -- particularly evangelicals, but also tax cut zealots and immigration jihadist conservatives, all of whom appear not ready to accept him as their nominee. He's also won Maryland and Virginia, although the press corps, in the wake of twin three-fold victories, only has eyes for Barack. In fact, when you compare Obama's 18,000 supporters crammed into a college auditorium in Wisconsin, McCain spoke to a smallish gathering of what looked for all the world like a cigar club consisting of geriatric white men and their wives...
In fact, one almost suspects that the vaunted "base" -- Bush and Rush Limbaugh's "qaida" in Virginia (where nearly half of the voters classified themselves as "conservatives" -- have been going out of their way to try and rob McCain of the joy of victory -- even to humiliate the war hero -- the man who survived the Bush onslaught in 2000, only to become Bush's bunker buddy on the war -- this year's version of Bob Dole (Dole likes him, too...) They know McCain has strength with just two groups: moderate Republicans and Republican leaning Independents -- both constituencies he could well lose to Barack Obama, should Obama be the Democratic nominee. So McCain gets another joyless win, gives a thoroughly joyless speech (it's not about hope, it's about serving a cause greater than you -- like tax cuts and the 100 year war in Iraq...) and despite all his travails, he can't begin basking, at least not yet.
I've often wanted to ask a white person if it bothers them when this sort of thing occurs, or is it a blunt statement of truth that should be unremarkable, even in 2008... from Tony Norman of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette (with a hat tip to the CarpetBagger Report):
Gov. Ed “Don’t Call Me ‘Fast Eddie’ ” Rendell met with the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week to talk about his latest budget. But before turning the meeting over to his number-crunchers, our voluble governor weighed in on the primary fight between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama and what the Illinois senator could expect from the good people of Pennsylvania at the polls:
“You’ve got conservative whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate,” he said bluntly. Our eyes only met briefly, perhaps because the governor wanted to spare the only black guy in the room from feeling self-conscious for backing an obvious loser. “I believe, looking at the returns in my election, that had Lynn Swann [2006 Republican gubernatorial candidate] been the identical candidate that he was — well-spoken [note: Mr. Rendell did not call the brother “articulate”], charismatic, good-looking — but white instead of black, instead of winning by 22 points, I would have won by 17 or so.”
I know I have a habit of sometimes zoning out in these meetings, but it sounded to me like Mr. Rendell had unilaterally declared Pennsylvania to be Alabama circa 1963. Was he suggesting that Pennsylvanians are uniquely racist in ways that folks in the states Mr. Obama has won so far aren’t?
Similar things are said by Black people, oh, like every day (along with the statement "I hope Barack doesn't win because somebody's gonna kill him.") When I hear it, I usually dismiss it as the old fashioned thinking of someone who doesn't know anyone from the MTV generation. But of course, I could be wrong. Hell, a year ago, I thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable...
The point, however, is that this race is shifting, and in some ways tossing out, all of the old paradigms. Exit polls suggest that Barack Obama may be taking about 48 percent of the White vote, a plurality of the blue collar vote, plus 70 percent of Independents and almost all of the Republicans who crossed over. If Barack CAN win so-called "downscale whites" after all, then the Rendell statement may be true, but it may be less true today than it was, say, ten or twenty or thirty years ago.
If it is less true, I think part of the reason may be that white men in particular, especially those in the cities and suburbs, have acclimatized themselves to Black men -- on the job, in the gym, on ESPN, on the athletic field, and in other facets of every day life. In fact, in some ways, a Black man like Barack, who is accessible and not overtly "racial," is probably more acceptable in some blue collar white households than a feminist woman (especially one who is running a more and more explicitly "female" campaign.) From ABC News:
In the Democratic contest in Virginia, preliminary exit poll results indicated that Obama not only won 9 in 10 African-Americans, but split white voters with Hillary Clinton. That came on the strength of his support from white men, who favored him by more than a 10-point margin. Obama has won or tied Clinton among white men in 12 previous contests for which we have exit poll results, and in seven of them, won the race. (The four he lost include California and Arizona, where Hispanics made the difference for Clinton. In Virginia, Hispanic voters were far fewer in number.)
Why has Shuster become the target of so much acrimony? Isn't this the guy who famously quit Fox News and then told the world exactly who they are?
The feminist brigade can't seriously believe that David Shuster is the worst of the worst -- on some Don Imus level of daily cruelty and abuse (and the former was doing it to be funny ...) What they clearly believe is that this story is helping Hillary among her base -- white women -- and that they will respond to it in such a way as to get her back in contention at the polls.
That calculation is cynical, highly political, and about as disengenuous as it is savvy. At the end of the day, Shustergate will probably help Hillary get her vote out, but it won't win her friends in the centrist end of the blogosphere...
It's Potomac / Chesapeake primary day! Voters in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. are doing the voting thing, and with Barack Obama having swept the last five contests (including Maine on Sunday,) the Hillary crowd is in "lowered expectations mode" for today. They're telling nervous donors and superdelegates, just hang in there until Texas, Ohio and PA: that's when we're really gonna start winning!
By then (then being March 4th,) Barack Obama will have had probably seven straight wins, a full month to himself, all the ink, and will probably have raised more money. The Clinton strategy, unfortunately, relies on the unrealistic hope that people in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas don't watch TV, read newspapers or use the Internet... (sounds a little bit like Rudy Giuliani's firewall strategy ... and with the "tested, ready, now" message to boot... not a good sign for Camp Clinton.)
Of course, there are hurdles for Barack to leap, too, as this article points out, and one of them, sadly, begins with an "r"...
Why do Democrats divide up their delegates proportionally, rather than awarding them in "winner take all" fashion, like the Republicans? I heard this one tonight on "The Tim Russert Show" so I can't take credit (the reporter was ... damn, can't remember ... not Roger Simon, not Dan Balz, not David Brooks ... the other guy who was on with them...) but The Explainer can:
Today's system for picking delegates didn't emerge until the last few decades. For much of the 20th century, delegates were selected through a mix of state primaries, caucuses, and internal party decisions. Then, in 1968, Hubert Humphrey won the presidential nomination over Eugene McCarthy even though McCarthy had received the largest share of votes in the primaries.* A huge outcry followed, and eventually a commission led by George McGovern established rules calling for Democratic delegates to be selected in open primaries. The Republican Party later adopted similar rules.
The rules changed again after Jesse Jackson charged in 1988 that he would have won more delegates if the party had divvied up delegates in proportion to the votes he received. In 1992, the Democratic Party instituted rules for proportional distribution of delegates in all states.
Thanks, Jesse... No, actually it's a fascinating history that speaks to the party's ongoing struggle with how to pick a candidate without back room engineering by the bosses, and it presages what could be our generation's version of the convention floor fight. Let's enter the wayback machine, and go back to the New York Times, circa May, 1988:
In a move that sets the stage for a potential fight over delegates at the Democratic National Convention, the Rev. Jesse Jackson's campaign plans to send a letter to Gov. Michael S. Dukakis charging that the nomination process is ''inequitable,'' ''demonstrably unfair'' and ''distorted by rules that favor insider politics.''
The letter, which is to be released Wednesday, is the first detailed account by the Jackson campaign about what it considers unfair party rules. A copy of a report to be attached to the letter was made available today to The New York Times.
The letter, which will also be sent to Paul G. Kirk Jr., the Democratic national chairman, was signed by Willie Brown, the California Assembly leader who is chairman of the Jackson campaign, Walter Fauntroy, the nonvoting Congressional delegate from the District of Columbia who is co-chairman of the campaign's delegate effort, and Steve Cobble, who runs the day-to-day delegate operations.
Calling the Massachusetts Governor's delegate lead over Mr. Jackson ''unproportional'' to their popular vote, the report says Mr. Dukakis has 61 percent more delegates than Mr. Jackson but only 27 percent more popular votes. CBS Delegate Count Cited
By removing party ''inequities,'' the Jackson campaign document says, ''over half of Michael Dukakis's delegate lead disappears.'' The campaign's frame of reference is a delegate count by CBS News on May 6 in which Mr. Dukakis had 1,485 delegates and Mr. Jackson 923. The number of Democratic delegates needed for nomination is 2,081.
Today, while campaigning in San Diego, Mr. Jackson disclosed that he was planning to visit Mexico sometime before the California primary on June 7 to discuss the narcotics and debt issues and United States-Mexico relations.
Aides to Mr. Jackson said the Presidential candidate had made no decision yet on whether he would formally challenge the party's rules and practices at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta on July 18-21.
Today, we're actually looking at a situation where a floor fight could still occur -- a situation where Barack Obama could go into the convention with more pledged delegates and still lose the nomination, or he could have more, but Hillary could push for the seating of Michigan and Florida -- in which case, do Black voters in those states want the delegates seated or unseated ...??? The possibilities are endlessly fascinating.
Oh, and one more piece of history: about that Jesse Jackson speech in '88 (the first presidential election I was able to vote in...) The prime time address, along with the proportional voting rules, were part of the price of keeping Jackson in the fold for the election, in which Michael Dukakis faced George Herbert Walker Bush. Here's a clip:
The only time that we win is when we come together. In 1960, John Kennedy, the late John Kennedy, beat Richard Nixon by only a hundred and twelve thousand votes - less than one vote per precinct. He won by the margin of our hope. He brought us together. He reached out. He had the courage to defy his advisors and inquire about Dr. King's jailing in Albany, Georgia. We won by the margin of our hope, inspired by courageous leadership. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson brought both wings together - the thesis, the antithesis, and the creative synthesis - and together we won. In 1976, Jimmy Carter unified us again, and we won. When we do not come together, we never win. In 1968, the vision and despair in July led to our defeat in November. In 1980, rancor in the spring and the summer led to Reagan in the fall. When we divide, we cannot win. We must find common ground as the basis for survival and development and change and growth.
Update 2: What is the message in John McCain's 1) failure to see major turnout for what was supposed to be his victory march to the nomination in tonight's caucuses and primaries... and 2) big losses to Mike Huckabee in Louisiana and especially in Kansas, where he blew Baghdad John out? (Not to mention his failure to do better than a quarter of the Republican vote in Washington state, where he marched to a three-way tie with Huckabee and Ron Paul???) Is it GOP buyers remorse? The natural effect of the absense of Mitt, and proof that his voters will not go McCain's way? Revenge of the Dittoheads? (Oh yeah, wingers don't like Huckabee, either... but perhaps any port in a storm...?) Or is it that McCain inspires nothing so much as total ambivalence or apathy from voters in his own party? Damn, John, man does not win the White House with Independents alone. You've got to turn out some Republicans somewhere along the line...
Emily's List, the powerful womens' political group headed by Ellen Malcolm (co-founder of the 527 I used to work for, America Coming Together, and who I have said is in large part responsible for Hillary Clintons victories in New Hampshire and Florida,) has waded into what can now official be called Chelseagate (or Shustergate ... or maybe pimpgate...) demanding that MSNBC take unspecified, but immediate "action" to rectify their "misogynistic" attitudes toward women. MSNBC's David Shuster has already apologized ... twice, and been temporarily suspended. MSNBC has apologized, too... Apparently, that's not enough for Emily 'n dem.
[Sidebar: At least, not while there's still a chance Hil can win Maine with a little help from the woman vote...]
Now, let me just say that MSNBC is hardly Fox News (where Hillary Clinton may, ironically be more willing to attend a debate than NBC, considered by the right to be a bastion of liberal propaganda...) and the attempts by some bloggers to characterize Shuster as some sort of shill for the right are evidence only of the fact that those folks clearly don't watch the network.
Having worked for NBC News, I can tell you they are as PC as it gets. Sure, they make mistakes (I attended a meeting of Black employees while I worked at the local station in Miami, where we discussed with the then general manager what we saw as a pattern of racially stereotypical depictions of Blacks in the newscasts, and the lack of representation of African-Americans in the decision-making functions in the newsroom...) but to try and depict MSNBC as to women what Fox is to Democrats is a stretch, to say the least. Worse, the idea that David Shuster is some sort of Bill O'Reillyesque figure because he made one slangish comment about Chelsea Clinton (who is 27 by the way, not 12, as she was when Rush Limbaugh and company lampooned her looks...) is ... well ... kind of stupid, and femist reactionary ... which is why I don't listen to feminists ... at all.
My advice to the ladies of NOW and Emily's List, and Hillary's other supporters of the female and/or liberal persuasion is this: get your panties out of a twist. David Shuster is a fine reporter, a smart guy, and sorry, Ellen, but also one of the good guys, fighting the good fight against the unexpurgated crap coming out of the White House. To try and run a Don Imus on him -- if in fact the "strong action" Emily's List wants is for him to be fired -- is a scorched earth response worthy of, well, the Clintons. And that's the problem. The Clintons are always at war. They seem to be more comfortable when in combat with some political or media enemy. But war is clearly not what a sizable portion of the electorate wants.
A lot of folks, including those of us who have been Clinton Democrats since 1992, want something different.
So stop pimping the Chelsea Clinton story for political gain and free media coverage and tell your candidate to go do that debate. Um ... you're not gonna demand swift action against me for that ... are ya...?
Update: Politico has more background on Camp Hillary's attack on bunker MSNBC, including David Shuster's initial self-defense (by email -- hot copy alert!!!) And at least some people inside NBC News are calling the network cowardly for caving to the Hillbots. Didn't I tell you earlier that NBC folks are PC and risk averse to a fault? Look how quickly they caved on Imus?
...one high-level NBC source told Politico that apologizing was an act of cowardice on behalf of the network.
"This is at least the second time they've caved to the Hillary Clinton campaign," a source told Politico, referring to Chris Matthews' recent apology over remarks he recently made about Clinton that were widely denounced as sexist. "What does this do to journalism?"
Next they'll be sending Russert over to Chappaqua with a fruit basket...
Barack Obama has been declared the winner of the Louisiana primary and Nebraska and Washington state caucuses. He'll likely win two out of the three delegates from the Virgin Islands, too, according to NBC News. That means Barack wins the headline wars, and he puts himself firmly ahead in pledged delegates, putting all the more pressure on the supers.
Mike Huckabee won Kansas and Louisiana, in what could be a message from red state Republicans to John McCain (or a message from red state evangelicals to Mike Huckabee...) Either way, Huck helped further make the case for himself as John McCain's running mate tonight.
Maine votes tomorrow, followed by Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia on Tuesday.
Today's action for the Democratic Duo are in Washington state, Louisiana, Kansas, Nebraska and the Virgin Islands, where my friends Ludlow and Colleen will be casting ballots.
Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee tries to hang on (to his media coverage...) and John McCain faces a new problem: if the conservatives give up on fighting him, and Huckabee finally goes off the TV chat shows, how does he keep the Republican electorate from completely checking out in the long months to come before the convention (while Democrats remain engaged due to the drawn out Hil-Obama brawl.)
Steve Doocy: Do you think it's interesting that the president will not mention John McCain by name today?
Mark Halperin: Mike Huckabee http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifis still formally in the race. The President behind the scenes has told people for months that he thought McCain would be the nominee. Even during some of those dark periods he still thought he could win. And also that McCain would be the best to carry forth his agenda. I've got news for you before the president starts, Karl Rove, a friend of Fox, Fox Contributor, yesterday delivered a check for $2,300 to John McCain." [Fox News, Fox and Friends, 2/8/2008]
Mrs. Clinton is losing this thing. It's not one big primary, it's a rolling loss, a daily one, an inch-by-inch deflation. The trends and indices are not in her favor. She is having trouble raising big money, she's funding her campaign with her own wealth, her moral standing within her own party and among her own followers has been dragged down, and the legacy of Clintonism tarnished by what Bill Clinton did in South Carolina. Unfavorable primaries lie ahead. She doesn't have the excitement, the great whoosh of feeling that accompanies a winning campaign. The guy from Chicago who was unknown a year ago continues to gain purchase, to move forward. For a soft little innocent, he's played a tough and knowing inside/outside game. ...
... On the wires Wednesday her staff was all but conceding she is not going to win the next primaries. Her superdelegates are coming under pressure that is about to become unrelenting. It was easy for party hacks to cleave to Mrs Clinton when she was inevitable. Now Mr. Obama's people are reportedly calling them saying, Your state voted for me and so did your congressional district. Are you going to jeopardize your career and buck the wishes of the people back home?
And on the prospect of a Barack general election candidacy, versus the prospect of a Hillary Clinton race?
Mrs. Clinton is stoking the idea that Mr. Obama is too soft to withstand the dread Republican attack machine. (I nod in tribute to all Democrats who have succeeded in removing the phrase "Republican and Democratic attack machines" from the political lexicon. Both parties have them.) But Mr. Obama will not be easy for Republicans to attack. He will be hard to get at, hard to address. There are many reasons, but a primary one is that the fact of his race will freeze them. No one, no candidate, no party, no heavy-breathing consultant, will want to cross any line--lines that have never been drawn, that are sure to be shifting and not always visible--in approaching the first major-party African-American nominee for president of the United States. ...
He is the brilliant young black man as American dream. No consultant, no matter how opportunistic and hungry, will think it easy--or professionally desirable--to take him down in a low manner. If anything, they've learned from the Clintons in South Carolina what that gets you. (I add that yes, there are always freelance mental cases, who exist on both sides and are empowered by modern technology. They'll make their YouTubes. But the mad are ever with us, and this year their work will likely stay subterranean.)
With Mr. Obama the campaign will be about issues. "He'll raise your taxes." He will, and I suspect Americans may vote for him anyway. But the race won't go low.
Mrs. Clinton would be easier for Republicans. With her cavalcade of scandals, they'd be delighted to go at her. They'd get medals for it. Consultants would get rich on it.
The Democrats have it exactly wrong. Hillary is the easier candidate, Mr. Obama the tougher. Hillary brings negative; it's fair to hit her back with negative. Mr. Obama brings hope, and speaks of a better way. He's not Bambi, he's bulletproof.
The biggest problem for the Republicans will be that no matter what they say that is not issue oriented--"He's too young, he's never run anything, he's not fully baked"--the mainstream media will tag them as dealing in racial overtones, or undertones. You can bet on this. Go to the bank on it.
The Democrats continue not to recognize what they have in this guy. Believe me, Republican professionals know. They can tell.
Five caucuses and primaries on tap for this weekend, including Louisiana and Washington State (more detail here). Meanwhile, DNC committee member (and chair of its Voting Rights Institute) Donna Brazille says she'll quit the party if the super delegates (she's one, too, btw...) decide the nomination. Funny, she didn't have a problem disenfrancising Florida ... that said, I agree with her on the quitting thing. If the super D's hand it to Hillary after Barack fights her to a draw, I'll quit the party, too...
Meanwhile, most DUers say, go, Donna ... no I really mean go...
Camp Hillary erupts over MSNBC's David Shuster's comment that the campaign was "pimping out" lil' Chelsea by having her call celebs, including the ladies of "The View" -- and hit the trail on behalf of her mom.
Now, Shuster has been suspended over the incident, after Camp Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson threatened during a conference call with reporters today, to boycott future debates on NBC, including one scheduled on February 26th. NBC, which also fired Don Imus (because they're actually very wimpy and P.C. reactionary ... trust me ...) issued the following Very Stern Statement:
On Thursday's "Tucker" on MSNBC, David Shuster, who was serving as guest-host of the program, made a comment about Chelsea Clinton and the Clinton campaign that was irresponsible and inappropriate. Shuster, who apologized this morning on MSNBC and will again this evening, has been suspended from appearing on all NBC News broadcasts, other than to make his apology. He has also extended an apology to the Clinton family. NBC News takes these matters seriously, and offers our sincere regrets to the Clintons for the remarks.
Both the Clinton and Obama campaigns accepted invitations from us on Thursday evening to participate in a February 26th debate. Our conversations with the Clinton campaign about their participation continue today, and we are hopeful that the event will take place as planned.
TVNewser's insiders say the suspension is temporary -- probably at least until Hil wins another primary somewhere...
Damn, the Clintons are more lethal than the Bushies when it comes to punishing reporters for having a stray thought that's displeasing to "the family"! Break some legs, why don't ya???
BREAKING NEWS: Apparently, there will be no boycott of the ladies of "The View" for allegedly mocking Chelsea's high voice, with the lifting of the boycott immediately benefiting guaranteed Republican voter Elizabeth Hasselbeck...
Rush Limbaugh has a thought! He'll become a Hillary Pioneer to ensure she's the nominee ... otherwise ... DOOM!!! DOOOM, I saaaaayyyy..... Here 'tis:
After the withdrawal of Mitt Romney from the GOP race, Limbaugh said to his listeners, "might it be required (she's having to loan herself money), do you think I should conduct a fundraiser for Mrs. Clinton? Mitt did his part today. He got out so as not to fracture the party any further and not to harm the effort to win the war in Iraq. Should I do my part, not by joining my liberal friends in the Republican Party, but actually raising money for Mrs. Clinton, and asking you to join me, so that she would have a chance here to once again have a good shot at getting a Democrat nomination so that we win the White House?"
Limbaugh underlines that "the reason for raising money for Hillary is because that apparently my party is relying on fear and loathing of Hillary to get the nomination, to unite Republicans, who are, some of them, off the reservation. The Republicans do not seem to be relying on leadership in their party to unite the party. They seem to be relying on all these external things, nobody is going to vote for Hillary, negative turnout factor. What if she's not the nominee? We've got make sure she's the nominee if the Republican Party is to be unified. What more loyal thing could I do than to run a fundraiser for Mrs. Clinton? You watch, though, you watch how that will be questioned."
On Wednesday, Limbaugh said of Clinton, "she just polarizes people. I think she's going to gin up enough anti-Hillary turnout out there to perhaps be a boon to whoever the Republican nominee is. ...Now, if Obama is the nominee, we are doomed, and you should get ready and prepared for it now."
Meanwhile, over at RedState, one of the grown-ups tries to take the reigns...
When did victim culture become part of the conservative identity? If you disagree with Rush Limbaugh, then you are attacking talk radio? If you don't have a conservative candidate as the nominee, then you are marginalizing conservatives? ...
... If we try hard enough to convince people we're marginalized, then it will be so. The worst is that it is just not true.
Rush and the chorus of conservative voices are far from being marginalized; they are being courted. They are being given platforms, their input is being sought. Rush and Hannity, they have real impact on elections, as do their vast listener base. From Karl Rove talking about them to Brit Hume, to the girls on the View gossiping about them, the conservative media figures are anything but marginalized.
Vilified by the press, sure; But vilified by the Republican party? Absurd.
When Al Gore was not elected President, the wailing masses suggesting their voice didn't matter anymore in America were a spectacle of angst. I mocked them for sore losers and, when given the opportunity, lectured them about democracy. I am wondering who needs a lecture at this moment.
Rush, the people are the party. That we haven't established one of our own in the leadership is our own fault. I suspect we the people have lazily grown accustomed to you speaking for us, and so have failed to speak for ourselves. That is not a betrayal by the party, that is a betrayal of the party.
The Republican Party wouldn't try to marginalize conservatives any more than they would try to marginalize Floridians. The party produces candidates for office from among available candidates, and when the time comes to stop Hillary, they grow up and do so. ...
Uh-oh, I sure hope the wingnuts don't start listening to that guy...
The difference in both polls, is that Obama does better with Independents (Pew gives him a 62 percent approval rating with them, higher than any candidate including McCain) -- takes them from McCain along with soft Republicans (now called Obamacans by the punditocracy,) whereas Hillary will have to rely on the Democratic base, mainly white women and Hispanics, to win the election.
TIME's Michael Duffy lays out the reasons why Hillary and Obama could run together -- and, perhaps more compellingly -- the reasons why they won't:
...as long as Obama has a real shot at the top spot, there's no need to entertain the Veep talk. As a top Obama aide said, "That's not where this campaign's head is at." Instead, the Obama camp had been expecting the Veep proffer for weeks, just as it had expected the Clinton campaign to play the race card after New Hampshire. Obama headquarters was fully aware that the Clintons had badly overplayed their hand in the days leading up to South Carolina--so badly that Bill or Hillary would have to make some peace offering to Obama's supporters, if not to Obama himself, to heal the breach. But forgiveness, while long a staple of the Clinton narrative, isn't something the Obama team is ready to embrace. An Obama adviser put it this way: "One could argue that the Senator should not even agree to discuss an offer of the vice presidency until Senator Clinton agrees to bar her husband from the West Wing for the duration of the first term. And then once she agrees to that, he should turn it down."
More to the point, is the job of Vice President to a Clinton worth having? Al Gore learned that being No. 2 to Bill was really more like being No. 3 after you factored in Hillary, who had an office in the West Wing and a larger suite of rooms down the hall from the Veep in the Old Executive Office Building. Gore watched his priorities often take a backseat to hers in the first term--and his future run aground as they fought successfully to avoid impeachment and conviction. While she joked with David Letterman on his show that there is no doubt "who wears the pantsuits" in her house, there is little doubt that the Clintons intend to work as a team if Hillary is elected. "I'll be there, talking her through everything," Bill said in Napa Valley, Calif., last month, "like she did with me." One unaligned party wise man said, "Obama may look at the Clintons, at both of them--at that whole thing they have--and say, 'Jeez, that's just way too [messed] up to be a part of. That's just no place I want to be.'"
If Obama becomes the nominee, the arguments against teaming with the Clintons might be even stronger.Obama's defining issue in the race is not health care or the economy or even the war, where he is most distinct from his rival. It's about being new and different and not from the past; in short, about not being a Clinton. For months he has attacked Clinton for taking money from lobbyists, for flimflamming voters on her war votes and for playing race and gender cards when she fell behind. To reverse all that and join forces with the Clintons would be seen as a huge betrayal of his most galvanizing argument--as well as his character--by many of his followers. The numbers back this up. In TIME's poll, 58% of Clinton backers favor bringing Obama onto the ticket; nearly the same percentage (56%) of Obama supporters favor choosing someone else.
I have said for nearly a year that there's no reason why a Clinton-Obama ticket couldn't win the White House. I never bought the argument, made by many African-Americans, that the country wouldn't stand for a ticket containing both a woman and a Black man. I think the electorate -- most of it, anyway -- has gotten past that.
But now, I'm thinking that even if they could, Barack shouldn't entertain it. The funadmental logic of his campaign argues against teaming with the Clintons, whom he has defined during the race as representing the "old politics." If he joins her ticket, he is capitulating to that politics, and he loses his basic appeal. Whatever Clinton supporters may want, or need, after the primary, Barack would do better to walk away, Reagan in 1976 style, and try again in 2012 (particularly since Hillary might very well lose to John McCain). Or, he could run as an In...
I've been saying for some time, and interviewed Rep. Alcee Hastings on the subject, and he agreed, that even Howard Dean wouldn't be crazy enough to deny the delegation from Florida seats at this summer's Democratic convention. The ensuing floor fight would make "Burn, Hollywood, Burn" sound like the booty dance ... okay that didn't make sense...
But now, HoDo is floating another possibility to get himself out of this mess he's gotten himself into with dissing freaking FLORIDA...
Let us (and Michigan) do it again. Explanation below:
The states have two options. They can petition a party committee to reinstate the delegates, a decision that would go also before all of the delegates at the Democratic convention in August. Or the two states can, in essence, vote anew, by holding caucuses this spring and assigning the delegates to the winner.
Mrs. Clinton won the Florida and Michigan primaries, though she and her rivals did not actively campaign in either. Her camp is eager to hold onto the victories and fight for the delegates to be seated. What is more, Mrs. Clinton’s track record with caucuses is poor. Of the nine held so far, she has won one (Nevada) and Mr. Obama has won eight.
Some Democrats in Michigan have begun saying that the national party is pressuring them to hold a caucus, but party officials deny that.
Dean isn't commenting, and at first blush, you wouldn't think Team Obama would want to give it a go. But consider this: if Florida were to hold a caucus, it would be a contest in which Mrs. Clinton would no long have the advantage of all those absentee ballots and early votes. And in the match-up on January 29, that's where she clobbered Barack. On the day of the election, as in many other states, he was mad competitive...
For example, take Miami-Dade County -- here are the percentages:
Early Vote %
Election Day %
As you can see, Hillary's advantage was decided in the absentee and early vote -- nearly two to one, but on election day ... Barack came within 5 points of her.
That's why Barack's people should support a re-do...
The longtime GOP consultant (and former Reagan chief of staff) had some words of wisdom for John McCain in today's Politico:
“McCain is already starting to pull the Republican Party together, with the exception of the radio talk-show wing,” Duberstein said.
“And sometimes that wing uses controversy to build listenership. The fact is that John McCain is uniting the Republican Party.”
Duberstein went on: “People seem to be looking for candidates who can govern. We are through with simply appealing to the base. McCain is trying to reach out to independents, weak Republicans, weak Democrats and conservative Democrats to put together a new governing coalition that is less confrontational.”
Duberstein believes McCain’s success thus far is a good sign for Republican chances in November.
“People are saying that Washington doesn’t work, we have to fix it somehow, and they are looking for people to get the job done,” Duberstein said.
“McCain has shown the ability to reach across the aisle and get things done.”
Democrats had better look alive. The McCain candidacy may seem like a walk -- he's elderly, he's dull, and he's a one-note Johnny (War ... on terror ...) but because McCain is perceived as a "maverick" -- despite being in the Senate for an eternity -- he's perceived as "anti-Washington," bi-partisan, and different from GWB. All he has to do is hold the 31 states Bush won in 2004. That's it, and he wins. The GOP looked at its rather pitiable field and actually picked the strongest candidate they have. Unless he makes the mistake of tacking all the way to the right to pander to Limbaugh and the chattering classes, he has a shot at gaining the White House.
Pay attention, Dems ... this won't be a cakewalk. The Democratic Party -- and by this I mean the super delegates -- had better think long and hard about which candidate they put up against this guy.
I was thinking tonight, while watching bits of John McCain's CPAC speech on "Countdown" tonight ... what if John McCain were to actually pull it off?
What I mean is, John McCain seems to have been pursuing a single goal for at least the last decade, and very likely many, many more, and what if the only way for him to achieve his dream of being president of the United States, is to give the "base" what they want? (I say "base" lightly, because it's becoming increasingly clear that what we call the base is actually just the last, sputtering remnants of a dying chattering class that backed George W. Bush in 2000, only to find out that he wasn't competent to carry out their agenda even if he wasn't faking his way through it... the loud mouths who have granted themselves the authority to choose the Republican Party's leaders ... forgetting that in the end, actual voters get to decide, and don't have to follow blindly behind them ...)
Anyway, what if John McCain decides that the only way to win the White House is to promise to give the Limbaugh-Ingram-Gingrich axis everything they want -- permanent, deep personal and corporate tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans (in other words, them...) an end to talk of global warming, clearing the way for Big Oil to drill into every square inch of undeveloped soil across this country, consequences be damned ... the abandonment of government regulation of coal mining, foresting and anything else that rapes the natural landscape while sapping the health of the human beings who labor to extract the resources ... and the simultaneous ramping up of government regulation and monitoring of the speech, movement and personal habits of every Americans, from emails to phone calls, marriage to child birth ... the abolition of all gun laws, opening the door to a Baghdad-style arming of the American public, with Uzis and bazookas and Tommy Guns brandished openly in every car, on every street and in every home or business ... sealed southern borders and mass deportation of Mexicans ... and the legalization of torture, secret detention and whatever degradations the CIA can cook up ...
Because frankly, that -- in short -- is the "conservative agenda"...
Lets say John McCain promises all of that, satiates the chattering classes of the conservative movement, and with their help and zeal ... he wins the presidency.
And what if he then keeps his word to his newfound base?
He will have gone through all that he has gone through, from Vietnam to South Carolina in 2000 to his acrimonious climb to the nomination, only to become precisely the opposite of the president he seems to have wanted to be. He will have gone through it all ... gaining the nomination of a party that in some measure, doesn't want him ... only to become George W. Bush.
How depressing is that?
... and how fitting ... John McCain feuded with George W. Bush in 2000, was bested by him in the nastiest way, and then, strangely, embraced him (literally). McCain became Bush's best friend on Iraq (even when dissing his Secretary of Defense, Baron von Rumsfeld -- convenient, actually, because it meant he wasn't dissing the president) ... and even though the punditocracy keeps insisting that he can't stand the man ...
McCain bore the brunt of Bush's desire to open the Southern border to Mexican indentured servants by pushing what's now derided as the McCain amnesty bill. He took the incoming for Bush on both of these issues, and never -- and I mean never -- complained, even when Dubya signed his and Russ Feingold's campaign finance bill into law (funny, you don't hear conservatives braying about Bush's part in that...) and didn't even invite him to the signing ceremony.
And what did John McCain get for his teeth-gritting fealty to his commander in chief?
He got Bush's advisors -- the same ones who did him in in 2000 -- they work for Johnny Mack, now...
He got Bush's top fundraisers ... they suddenly decided the so-called "maverick" was A.O.K. with them...
And, it seems, he became Bush's choice to be the next president (you didn't think it was Rudy, did you? Not after that Bernie Kerik mess...) From a prescient column by E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post back in 2005:
Times change and politicians do what they have to do. For years, McCain and the president couldn't stand each other. The surest way not to get a job in the early Bush administration was to have supported McCain over Bush in the 2000 primaries.
But McCain made a crucial decision to alter the relationship in 2004. Courted hard by John Kerry as a potential running mate, McCain said no. He decided he wanted to be president and that it was unlikely he would ever get a Democratic nomination -- and implausible that he could win as an independent. His one shot was as a Republican.
Once this choice was made, everything else fell into place. McCain joined the Bush crowd. He gave a powerful speech endorsing the president at last year's Republican National Convention in New York. The address was perfect for both McCain and Bush. Unlike the speeches bashing Kerry and the Democrats by Zell Miller, Arnold Schwarzenegger and Rudy Giuliani, McCain's stuck to policy and praised Bush for his decision to go to war in Iraq.
This allowed McCain to keep his reputation for clinging to the high ground, but it was also important for Bush, whose central policy legacy, for better or worse, will be Iraq.
The standard view of McCain's choice, especially among Democrats, is that he sold out to Bush for nothing. This assumes that McCain can't win the 2008 Republican nomination because of the intense opposition he will face from the Republican right, especially from Christian conservatives. It also assumes that Bush will never lift a finger to help McCain.
In Bush's ideal world, that would probably be true. But the current moment is not ideal for Bush, and the economy, Iraq and the political situation may be even less ideal two and three years from now. ...
Natch! A bit more:
The situation in Iraq shows no sign of turning around quickly. Who would be willing to stick with Bush's adventure? Bush would like to hand over power to a president committed to his Iraq policy. McCain -- who is close to the party's neoconservative wing -- has been steadfast in defending the president's decision to go to war, despite doubts about prewar planning and mistakes early in the occupation.
And if middle-class income growth is sluggish, bread-and-butter discontent will benefit any Democrat running on a throw-the-bums-out platform. McCain could promise just enough change to win the election. He voted against Bush's tax policies, yet he is also among the most fiscally conservative members of the Senate.
For all these reasons, Bush and McCain could end up as each other's best friends. Bush has been battling, with Rove's help, for a long-term political realignment in favor of the Republicans. The president could well come to see McCain as the only Republican with a chance to push a Republican era forward. McCain, in turn, knows that his only way around the Republican right is to run with Bush's open blessing, if not his outright endorsement. ...
The rest of the column is Dionne's explanation of why Jeb Bush might be the ideal running mate for Baghdad John. I rather doubt that -- the Bush name is pretty badly tarnished thanks to his brother, although stranger things have happened.
But there is another Bushie whom McCain could put on the ticket who might well satisfy the loudmouths, blunt the Democrats' chances of stealing away Republican women and wavering Black GOPers and draw him even closer to Dubya (and his fundraising Pioneers...)
Oh no, wait, that's Reagan with George Romney, Mitt's dad... let's try again here...
Oh God no, that's Reagan with Teddy Kennedy ... how'd that get in there...!?
No... that's Ronald Reagan with Bonzo, the chimp ...! definitely not John McCain ... hm... let's see what I can come up with here...
Oh, lord, that's Reagan making a silly face. Darnit all to hell, I give up! Let's just get to the post...
Poor John McCain...
He finally beats out a clear path to the Republican nomination for president (after that nasty business in 2000 over his "nigger child" ... damn you, George w. B... ahem... I mean God BLESS you George W. "war president" Bush!) and the chattering classes from his own side are shooting at him. Limbaugh hates him. Hannity won't lick his boots (hell, he licks every other Republican's, so what gives ...!) and no wing of the conservative movement will have him (except the neocons ... ooooh ... nice neocons... and that gambling junkie Bill Bennett...) The Washington Post loves him more than the Washington Times does ... his only friends in the Senate are Joe Lieberman and that drama queen, Lindsey Graham, and he had a better chance of being on John Kerry's ticket than getting a warm greeting at CPAC today. And yet, he waded into the jungle anyway.
Or perhaps he could whisper: "Psst! Wack jobs...! You don't control the Republican Party anymore!"
RealClearPolitics has John McCain's real speech. Not far into it, he launched into his Reagan allegory:
I attended my first CPAC conference as the invited guest of Ronald Reagan, not long after I had returned from overseas, when I heard him deliver his "shining city upon a hill" speech. I was still a naval officer then, but his words inspired and helped form my own political views, just as Ronald Reagan's defense of America's cause in Vietnam and his evident concern for American prisoners of war in that conflict inspired and were a great comfort to those of us who, in my friend Jerry Denton's words, had the honor of serving "our country under difficult circumstances." I am proud, very proud, to have come to public office as a foot soldier in the Reagan Revolution. And if a few of my positions have raised your concern that I have forgotten my political heritage, I want to assure you that I have not, and I am as proud of that association today as I was then. My record in public office taken as a whole is the record of a mainstr eam conservative. I believe today, as I believed twenty-five years ago, in small government; fiscal discipline; low taxes; a strong defense, judges who enforce, and not make, our laws; the social values that are the true source of our strength; and, generally, the steadfast defense of our rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, which I have defended my entire career as God-given to the born and unborn.
He then launched into a retrospective on his "core beliefs" that should give pause to any Lieberman Democrat whose thinking that he wouldn't be so bad in the White House:
Those are my beliefs, and you need not examine only my past votes and speeches to assure yourselves that they are my genuine convictions. You can take added confidence from the positions I have defended during this campaign. I campaigned in Iowa in opposition to agriculture subsidies. I campaigned in New Hampshire against big government mandated health care and for a free market solution to the problem of unavailable and unaffordable health care. I campaigned in Michigan for the tax incentives and trade policies that will create new and better jobs in that economically troubled state. I campaigned in Florida against the national catastrophic insurance fund bill that passed the House of Representatives and defended my opposition to the prescription drug benefit bill that saddled Americans with yet another hugely expensive entitlement program. I have argued to make the Bush tax cuts permanent, to reduce the corporate tax rate and abolish the AMT. I have defended my position on protecting our Second Amendment rights, including my votes against waiting periods, bans on the so-called "assault weapons," and illegitimate lawsuits targeting gun manufacturers. I have proudly defended my twenty-four year pro-life record. Throughout this campaign, I have defended the President's brave decision to increase troop levels in Iraq to execute a long overdue counterinsurgency that has spared us the terrible calamity of losing that war. I held these positions because I believed they were in the best interests of my party and country."
And then, of course, he gets to the meat of the matter:
Surely, I have held other positions that have not met with widespread agreement from conservatives. I won't pretend otherwise nor would you permit me to forget it. On the issue of illegal immigration, a position which provoked the outspoken opposition of many conservatives, I stood my ground aware that my position would imperil my campaign. I respect your opposition for I know that the vast majority of critics to the bill based their opposition in a principled defense of the rule of law. And while I and other Republican supporters of the bill were genuine in our intention to restore control of our borders, we failed, for various and understandable reasons, to convince Americans that we were. I accept that, and have pledged that it would be among my highest priorities to secure our borders first, and only after we achieved widespread consensus that our borders are secure, would we address other aspects of the problem in a wa y that defends the rule of law and does not encourage another wave of illegal immigration.
After that, Mac got back to what he knows best (besides war, war, BEAUTIFUL WAR!!!!) ... the broad, indistinct appeal:
All I ask of any American, conservative, moderate, independent, or enlightened Democrat, is to judge my record as a whole, and accept that I am not in the habit of making promises to my country that I do not intend to keep. I hope I have proven that in my life even to my critics. Then vote for or against me based on that record, my qualifications for the office, and the direction where I plainly state I intend to lead our country.
Maybe he should have left that last bit out... the only person whose gonna wet his panties for that is Rudy Giuliani... who, by the way, appears to be stalking Senator McCain...
Maybe he should have a talk with this guy... (or the commenter on the same thread who said "I'd rather lose with Romney than win with McCain" -- sorry, won't happen... you'll just have to lose with McCain.)
Michelle Malkin advises her minions to bump McCain and look down ticket (the better to stave off those swarthy hoardes!!!) Another Malkin note: she liveblogged the CPAC confab and says Dick Armey called Ann Coulter's vow to campaign for Hillary if McCain is the nominee "the dumbest thing I've ever heard." Ouch! Hit the Coulter-man right in his considerable jaw!
Here's Malkin's account of McCain's opening salvo:
3:25pm Eastern. John McCain introduced. 50/50 cheers and boos.
I’s been along while…we should do this more often.
Pardon my absence last year…I was merely preoccupied.
Maybe i should just sit down.
You were addressed by a great governor, governor romney. had a phone conversation, congratulated. we agreed to sit down together and unite the party.
To Romney camp: I congratulate you, you did a fine job, you are welcome to join my campaign.
WaPo's Chris Cillizza has excerpts from the Mittster's outro, during a speech today at CPAC:
"I must now stand aside, for our party and our country," Romney said. "If I fight on in my campaign, all the way to the convention, I would forestall the launch of a national campaign and make it more likely that Senator Clinton or Obama would win."
"And in this time of war, I simply cannot let my campaign be a part of aiding a surrender to terror," he said.
"This is not an easy decision for me," Romney added. " I hate to lose. My family, my friends and our supporters... many of you right here in this room... have given a great deal to get me where I have a shot at becoming President. If this were only about me, I would go on. But I entered this race because I love America."
Touching ... that, or he just got tired of spending his dough:
Romney called his finance committee just before addressing the conservative gathering.
Hillary Clinton announces she's loaned herself $5 million of "her money" (what, not hers and Bills...???) a-la John Kerry back in 2004, and her senior staff forgoes their paychecks (a-la Rudy) ... then she promptly raises $3 million from online sympathizers (a-la ... Howard Dean...?) Team Obama, meanwhile, does what it does best -- raising more money than Hillary does, ($7.2 million and counting...) which in political terms, is akin to raising more money than God (assuming that God has 50% maxed-out contributors...)
Why it's important:
February is looking to be a good month for Barack Obama, with primaries tailor made for his new kind of politics: in Louisiana, where the Black vote is large and Hurricane Katrina chased away all but the well heeled (both of which form the Obama base,) in the D.C. area primaries (D.C., Maryland and Virginia,) where again, it's heavy on Black voters and upscale voters, including Capitol Hill denizens who likely still hate the Clintons from back in the day, and smaller primaries in Hawaii (Obama's birthplace) and Wisconsin, and caucuses (i.e, in Washington State) that have become Obama's specialty. (Howard Fineman offers more explication here. And I know I keep doing this, but here's the Democratic calendar again, just so you don't have to scroll...):
February 9: Louisiana, Washington (caucus)
February 10: Maine (caucus)
February 12: District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia
February 19: Hawaii, Wisconsin
March 4: Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont
March 8: Wyoming
March 11: Mississippi
April 22: Pennsylvania
May 6: Indiana, North Carolina
May 13: Nebraska, West Virginia
May 20: Kentucky, Oregon
May 27: Idaho
June 3: Montana, South Dakota
What Hillary needs is to fundraise like hell, so that she'll be ready to fire when the primaries that favor her come back around: Ohio and Texas in March, and the big one: Philadelphia (with the Rendel machine that's ready to work for her) in April. Like Rudy Giuliani, Hillary will have to withstand nearly a month of "Obama wins!" headlines, if the tea leaves are to be believed (this time) before she gets another Romneyesque "gold." She can't afford to let the money flush Obama campaign run away with all the TV and radio time, AND all the free media, too.
Look for your celeb-laden fundraising emails to about triple over the next 30 days...
Well, it's that time again. With only New Mexico outstanding on the Dem side, it's time to play tonight's Winners and Losers.
First, the winners -
Democratic voters - they turned out in record numbers across the country
Mike Huckabee - two man race? Wing man? How about future running mate?
Future primary states - States like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, D.C., Virginia, Louisiana and even Hawaii still matter, and their media outlets are about to get crazy paid by Team Obama...
Hispanic voters - they were the talk of the town tonight, particularly in California, where they and a 55 percent proportion of women voters in the electorate made the difference for Hillary
Barack Obama - he won more states than Hillary (13 versus 9) and may have edged her out in delegates. He didn't grab California or New Jersey, and he didn't run Hillary out of town, so the media is calling it a letdown, but a letdown opens the door for a comeback. Plus, he's got more money than Hillary going into the next round of primaries.
Camp Hillary - they got to stick it to the Kennedys and to the media on the same night, surviving the Obama phenomenon and oddly -- winning fewer states than Barack (including the two states she was supposed to win anyway ... New York and California and doing so mainly on the basis of absentee ballots and early votes she banked well before Obama's media surge began...) but probably winning the news cycle anyway.
John McCain - he survived the barrage of hateration from the conservative movement to emerge as the clear Republican front runner. Now, the bastards have to deal with him ... and his friend Bob Dole, too...
Caucuses - they did quite nicely tonight, without the nasty computer glitches.
White voters - they're in style again, with the pundit class closely watching how many of them Barack Obama can win.
California - it actually got media attention this year.
Neocons - John McCain solidifies their hold on the Republican Party, keeps their dream of perpetual war in Iraq alive, and helps them shake off those pesky social, fiscal and other actual conservatives once and for all...
Race neutrality - Barack carried states that are whiter than white, like Missouri, North Dakota and Utah, and it appears that many white voters have grown beyond the politics of race.
Change - everybody's talking about it now, even John McCain, who has built his campaign around the idea of continuing George W. Bush's disastrous foreign policy.
Political junkies (like me) - this thing keeps rolling on.
And the losers -
Pollsters. Jeez, people, just give it up. John Zogby has got to be stone drunk tonight...
Electronic voting machines - Again, can we just give them up and go back to paper ballots?
Rush Limbaugh - (and his coterie of copycat broadcasters.) All their braying couldn't save Mitt Romney or stop John McCain.
Mitt Romney - he won 6 states and still looks like a loser. Now the pundit class is looking for him to hang up his medals and drop out of the race.
Black voters - they're now the red headed step child of this election. Obama gets 80 percent of them, it hurts his credibility as a cross-over candidate. Clinton gets 13 percent of them, down in Jeb Bush territory, and it doesn't really matter. Many of their own elected officials have thrown their candidate of choice under the bus. And they've officially been replaced by Hispanic voters as the "must have" constituency for Democrats.
The Kennedys - Suddenly, they don't seem so clout-filled anymore, particularly with Hillary losing them, but winning Massachusetts and California anyway.
Endorsements - they didn't seem to matter this cycle, particularly those of senators and governors.
Conservatives - they've lost their party to the neocons (who don't really care about social issues, illegal immigration or tax cuts), their pundit class has pinned its hopes on a guy who was a liberal Republican living in Massachusetts up until about five minutes ago, and their other candidate, Mike Huckabee, is hated by the Club for Growth and only appeals to those among them who don't believe in evolution. Many hours of therapy and gallons of alcoholic beverages may be needed to get this crowd through this election season.
That's all for now, folks. Good night ... and good luck!
Meanwhile, MSNBC has your opportunity to pick your own winners and losers. Click here to vote.
That's another takeaway (Connecticut is the other). Claire McCaskill just told Chris Matthews a pretty basic truth: the fact that Hillary won on the East Coast and in California is hardly news. Barack taking away Missouri is.
Update: NBC just called Alaska for Barack as well.
Ben Smith at Politico has a pretty good analysis of the results for Obama v. Clinton tonight (which sounds kind of like it came from the Dave Plouffe spin room, but I agree with it so there you go...) His bottom line: Obama did surprisingly well in Hillary's backyard, pulled a better spread in his home state than she did in hers, and won more red states. Overall, a good night for him.
NBC calling Arizona for Hillary ... Missouri razor thin
...but I think Hillary will squeak it out, by one percentage point. That means she and Barack will split those delegates. Not a bad look for Obama.
California is still too close to call on both sides. Mitt must win the state to stay viable. If he doesn't, I don't see how he justifies staying in the race. Anyhoo, looks like he will also come out of the night with Minnesota (already called for him,) Colorado and Montana.
Or do so-called "conservatives" of the Rush Limbaugh variety consistently despise people who have served in the military...? Just wondering while reading this WaPo article on Rush Limbaugh and company's jihad against John McCain... perhaps a nice tour of the Lincoln bedroom would soften El Rushbo up...?
That Rush Limbaugh and his talk radio friends discover that they're not as influential as they think. Apparently, voters aren't listening to Rush, or Hannity, or Fox News, or Laura Ingram, or James Carville's wispy wife. They're going their own way. How ironic that the candidates all hate Mitt Romney, while Mitt Romney's supporters in the right wing chattering classes hate the two men holding Romney at bay: John McCain and Mike Huckabee. I suppose you could say that the problem for the "conservative movement" is that it's not very responsive to actual politics, which in a primary -- even a Republican one -- takes place not just in Rush's universe, but also in blue states, where they grow the Republicans a lot more moderate than El Rushbo would like.
And while we're at it, how odd that so-called "real conservatives" would cling to a man as patently phony a conservative as Romney -- a man who literally became a conservative overnight, after governing one of the most liberal states in the union (and whose father was a liberal, pro civil rights Republican in yet another blue state, Michigan.) For these clods to demand that their followers join this pompadoured phony in some mad quest to save the conservative movement is actually pretty funny, as is the spectacle of the Gang of 15 set literally pulling off a mutiny inside the GOP.
One upset that didn't happen for Barack, unfortunately... But math-wise, the delegate split over all won't be a landslide for Hillary by any means. NBC's Chuck Todd has the delegate count so far at 315 - 228 Clinton (not including NY, CT or NJ).
I commented earlier that Chris Matthews made a great point early on -- that John McCain is winning regional victories in states the GOP can't win in November. A bit more on this take from CNN's Bill Schneider:
Why is the Georgia Republican race so tight? Because, as they are elsewhere tonight, conservative voters are splitting between Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney.
McCain is winning easily there among Republicans who identified themselves as moderates or liberals — 40 percent of them are voting for the Arizona senator. But those voters only make up about a third of primary voters there.
The 67 percent of Georgia voters who say they are conservative may be less inclined to support McCain — but they are splitting between Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney, who are each drawing roughly 40 percent of the conservative vote.
If all that conservative vote went to one candidate, McCain would likely get blown out there.
Another surprising finding in the national exit polls: John McCain — who has made the war in Iraq and the need for continued U.S. involvement there a centerpiece of his campaign — is actually winning among Republicans who are against the war. Among those Republicans who disapprove of the war, nearly half voted for McCain, while only a quarter voted for Mitt Romney — even though McCain spent the past few weeks trying to portray Romney as more liberal on the war.
Moderates — those most likely to disapprove of Iraq – seem to simply prefer McCain, even when they don't square on the issues.
Hm ... maybe Mack should run with Mike Bloomberg as an Independent...
"One of the biggest surprises of the night is Massachusetts," her campaign said in a statement. "Despite the fact that Senators Ted Kennedy and John Kerry were actively supporting and campaigning for Obama, Hillary Clinton won the state. Despite the fact that the Governor of Massachusetts endorsed Obama, Hillary Clinton won the state. Despite the fact that Obama visited Massachusetts just last night, Hillary Clinton won the state. This is a strong victory and shows that Hillary Clinton has strength in places where Barack Obama was expected to win."
Early information from exit polls of voters in 16 states showed Clinton winning only a slight edge among women and white voters, both groups that she has won handily in earlier contests. Obama was collecting the overwhelming majority of votes cast by blacks, and Clinton was gaining the votes of roughly six in 10 Hispanics.
Apparently Obama is going to do well among white male voters. We await the data... Update: Obama got 43% of the white vote, doing better, not surprisingly, among younger whites.
As balloting progressed, political maneuvering came into play. John McCain's campaign conceded and asked its supporters to join Huckabee's, giving the former Arkansas governor a majority of the convention ballots. On Politics has more. Stay tuned there for full Super Tuesday coverage.
And you didn't believe that Huck and Mack are playing tag team...
The polls are open in 17 states as of 9:38 a.m., and the first closing will be just after noon in West Virginia (caucuses).
Predictions for today?
Clinton will win New York Arkansas Arizona Utah Connecticut
Barack will win Illinois Georgia Missouri New Jersey (big upset) Delaware
and he might ... just might ... grab Massachusetts or California by a nose, with the latter being made possible by the open primary -- it's all about whether there are more Independent crossovers than there were absentee ballot voters (who will probably break for Hillary)
This will also be a big night for John McCain, although California might be closer than you think for the Mittster. Let's see if there's a Limbaugh revolution nationwide (although I sincerely doubt it...)
Caveat: predictions are meaningless. The polls are nearly so. It's all completely unpredictable...
John Zogby has a bunch of numbers out tonight that are sure to be music to the ears of Obama supporters (and yes, that includes me). Zogby has Barack pulling even with Hillary in New Jersey (one of the states I think is most likely for him to steal) and pulling away in Georgia and (shocker) Missouri. If he can hold those leads, he's golden.
And speaking of golden ...
California - Democrats
That's not a typo. Barack is leading among Black voters by 4 to 1, while Hillary is leading with Hispanics 55-36%. The sample isn't tiny -- but it isn't huge, either: 967 respondents, with a 3.2% margin of error and a relatively large undecided vote for two days out. The Clinton camp has to hope that late deciders break for her, which is highly unlikely. Or the Clintons could be banking on a heavy absentee ballot showing by older, white women, like they had in Florida. We shall see.
Another note: California has an open primary, so Independents can vote -- and that definitely helps Barack ... if they show up.
Bottom line, if this poll isn't an outlier (like many people believe the low-scoring Field Poll, which showed the race as 36-34 Clinton, with a whopping 18 percent undecided, is...) it suggests tomorrow night could be a nail biter for Camp Clinton...
William Kristol, one of the few remaining dregs of the neoconservative flotsam, issues a plea to actual conservatives, radio flunkie conservatives, "brown scare" conservatives (a/k/a "deportistas,") social conservatives (a/k/a non-believers in "eevolootion"), GWOT jihadi conservatives (a/k/a "light brown scare" conservatives) and tax cut junkies (a/k/a "actual conservatives"): Don't turn your back on John McCain, or the terrorists win in Iraq... again ...
Total sidebar: (... and no, I'm not happy that this helps Dophans ... except that maybe now they'll admit that their greatest QB was named Griese, not Marino...) Way to go Giants! Big ups, Eli Manning! (And hey, with a guy named Plaxico on your team, how can you lose?)
Rev. Gaston Smith gets lots of support at "Save Our Pastor Day."
I asked a pretty well known preacher here in town this morning, why pastors only seem to come together and bring out the community to save the prominent and the powerful -- or to save each other -- but not so often for one of us regular schmoes. He admitted that pastoring these days is kind of a ballers club, and the rest of us are just not in the league. From today's Herald:
Inside a modest Baptist church -- beige with brown trim -- nestled amid dilapidated corner stores and low-rises at the corner of Northwest 58th Street and Seventh Avenue, a preacher known for his fiery oratory cracked a joke Sunday.
Noting the crowd that had packed into Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, the Rev. Gaston Smith said:
``Maybe I should get locked up more often so we can always get a turnout like this!'' ...
...Smith, who has led a neighborhood revival of sorts aimed at economic growth and whose sermons are often tailored toward fighting injustice, has his own trouble with the justice system.
Smith was arrested Thursday evening and charged with misspending a $25,000 county grant to a nonprofit he ran. The arrest is part of a continuing investigation into the financial dealings of Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones.
Police say two checks given to a company owned by Spence-Jones' family from the minister's charity, Friends of MLK, were among several payments under investigation. Spence-Jones was among the more than 1,000 parishioners, civic leaders and black clergy who attended Sunday's rally.
''My prayers go out to him and his family,'' she said. ``Smith and Friendship have been a beacon in this community for many years and this will pass.''
Shaken by the thunderous applause, Smith thanked his friends for gathering on the communion Sunday.
''The support is overwhelming,'' he said. ...
And next, cue the "internal investigation" -- not of the wrongdoing, but of the investigation into the wrongdoing. Herald, take it away:
The fact that the city's sole black commissioner and now one of its most influential black ministers is under fire has stirred concern in Miami's black community.
... Bishop Victor T. Curry, head of the Miami-Dade NAACP, said the group is launching an investigation into Smith's arrest.
So what happens next? We get the Black community all riled up to "fight the power" that's trying to take down yet another one of our leaders, we scream bloody murder and perhaps the authorities back down ... and there's still nothing being built in the empty lots that $25,000 was supposed to help fill, no children who are going hungry or desperately in need of tutoring get it, and the money's long gone. Nothing changes, except that we've saved another one member of the club from going down. To what end? Will anything change?
I just finished working on a campaign in which I learned, first hand, that much of my community is for sale to the highest bidder -- including many of the pastors. How did we go from our clergy leading a mass movement for non-violent change, to our clergy hawking prosperity ministries and sticking up poor people for tithes that ultimately go into the pockets of the pastor, rather than into building the community outside and adjacent to the church's four walls?
This isn't just an issue in the Black community -- it's a very American cancer, and its rotting us away at the core. And yet, the rot is much more lethal in the Black community, because our position is so much more precarious to begin with.
There's something wrong with the way we're doing things in the Black community. Something very fundamentally wrong, and unfortunately, it just might start in our churches. ...
One interesting thing about this poll, aside from Barack's lead, is the large undecided vote, which we'll presume for the moment are disaffected John Edwards people plus the truly untethered. With Hillary's tougher stand on immigration, California's large Latino population, and Ted Kennedy's persistent stumping -- combined with Oprah's celebrity and California's penchant for cleaving to celebs at election time, you've got to think that if this poll is accurate, Obama could steal California from Hillary.
The McClatchy-MSNBC poll, which is one day earlier at the start and finish, has it this way:
Which will make the Hillbots much happier ... except that it has an undecided of precisely the same size -- one point larger, in fact. If you believe that both snapshots are about right (and polls are about a week behind current trends anyway, right? then doesn't that mean that Barack is eating up market share at a pretty decent clip? That, or one of these polls is way off track...
RealClearPolitics has a Super Duper Tuesday table too:
The Post says neither Democrat has benefited yet from the departure of John Edwards. And a separate story says blue collar, white voters in both parties are still thoroughly undecided. (Could this be the new swing demographic, akin to the soccer moms and security moms of the past?)
... Three-quarters of voters who prioritize a solid resume said they back Clinton; 70 percent of those seeking a change-oriented candidate said they support Obama.
While Clinton has the edge on the issues voters say are most important to them, and enjoys a wide lead on the question of who is a stronger leader, Obama now holds a seven-percentage-point advantage as the candidate who would do the most to bring needed change to Washington.
And Clinton's once-sizable lead as the Democrat with the best shot at winning the White House has shrunk significantly; in the new poll, 47 percent said she is the most electable, while 42 percent said Obama has the better chance. In hypothetical general-election matchups, both Democrats run neck and neck with McCain, and both lead Romney by double digits.
McCain outperforms Romney in the general-election tests because he picks up significantly more support among independents and political moderates. These groups have been crucial to the senator in early-state caucuses and primaries, and his biggest gains in this poll came among them.
Among GOP voters who are politically moderate and liberal, McCain has a whopping 51-point advantage over Romney in the new poll, while conservatives divide 37 percent for McCain, 29 percent for Romney and 19 percent for Huckabee. Moreover, most of McCain's improvement since mid-January is among moderates and liberals; he is up 28 percentage points in this group, while he and Romney have both climbed 12 points among conservatives.
McCain has taken control of the GOP race by picking up mainline Republican supporters as well. Nearly half of self-identified Republicans now support him, up nearly fourfold from December. He appears to have benefited from the decisions by former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former senator Fred D. Thompson (Tenn.) to quit the race. Both Giuliani, who has endorsed McCain, and Thompson appealed to many of the voters McCain now counts in his camp.
Two-thirds of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents saw McCain as the party's strongest general-election candidate, and about three in five described him as the strongest leader. He also now has a double-digit advantage over Romney on the question of who best represents the core values of the party. On this measure, he is up 14 points from three weeks ago.
While moderates and liberals have coalesced around McCain as the GOP standard-bearer (56 percent said he best reflects party values), conservatives are less than fully convinced. Among those who describe themselves as "very conservative," 34 percent said Romney best embodies GOP values, and 25 percent said McCain.
McCain also leads on all five issue areas tested in the poll, with overwhelming advantages on national security issues (69 percent call him tops on Iraq; 67 percent on terrorism). He has double-digit advantages over Romney on the economy and immigration, and leads both Romney and Huckabee on social issues. About four in 10 Romney supporters said McCain is better on Iraq and terrorism.
For all his advantages, however, McCain does not enjoy the kind of enthusiastic support that Clinton and Obama have among their voters. Thirty-eight percent of his backers said they strongly support him. And among those Republicans who are most closely following the GOP race, he and Romney are running essentially even.
One more piece of data from the poll: it's shaping up to be a Clinton-type election ("it's the economy, stupid,") with 39 percent of voters saying the economy/jobs is the most important issue, followed by the war in Iraq at 19 percent (terrorism & national security has fallen to just 5 percent, with healthcare just ahead of it at 8 percent. ... sorry, John McCain... and illegal immigration is at just 4 percent ... sorry everybody who hates John McCain...)
The economy dominance may not be enough for Hillary to close the deal over Barack, who has tons of money ($30 million raised in January alone) to pour into the Super Tuesday states, and he's already spending money in the states that immediately follow, but it's an advantage nonetheless, because it plays to the strengths of the Clintons... emphasis on the "s"...
Rev. Gaston's Smiths problems are tied to City of Miami Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones (who actually refers to herself simply as "Spence Jones"...) Cue the Miami Herald:
Pastor's arrest, payouts linked BY SCOTT HIAASEN AND MICHAEL VASQUEZ The arrest of a prominent Liberty City minister on theft charges Thursday was part of a continuing investigation into the financial dealings of Miami City Commissioner Michelle Spence-Jones.
The Rev. Gaston Smith, who was charged with misspending a $25,000 county grant to a nonprofit he ran, passed along $4,000 from that grant to a company owned by Spence-Jones' family, records show.
The checks are among a series of questionable payments to the first-term commissioner from public dollars set aside for urban redevelopment that police say began before she won her seat in November 2005.
During a press conference Friday announcing Smith's arrest, Miami-Dade Police said the two checks to Spence-Jones' company from the minister's charity, Friends of MLK, were among several payments under investigation. But police would not discuss these checks.
Smith's attorney, Michael Tein, said Spence-Jones received a total of $8,000 from Smith -- with half coming from his church -- as a consultant to help raise money for the charity.
Spence-Jones received at least one check while working on Mayor Manny Diaz's staff before she was elected to the commission.
Spence-Jones stressed late Friday that she had not been charged with any wrongdoing. ''Yes, they did go over there investigating me, but they found no illegal activities on my part -- and that's why nothing happened to me,'' she said.
Spence-Jones' attorney Richard Alayon said she had ''verbal permission'' to work for Smith's organization while on the city payroll. Suzanna Valdez, the mayor's chief of staff, said Spence-Jones' supervisor at the time ``did not authorize her to do outside work.''
Spence-Jones insisted Friday that she did obtain written approval from the mayor's office and filed the document with the city clerk. The city could not immediately provide that document Friday, but Spence-Jones noted that it was filed during a time when the clerk's office was relocating -- complicating its retrieval.
While on the commission, Spence-Jones has backed housing deals transferring city land to another nonprofit run by Smith, senior pastor at Friendship Missionary Baptist Church. Tein said the payments to Spence-Jones were unrelated to the land deals, and the city attorney found Spence-Jones had no conflict of interest. ...
... Detectives are chasing allegations that Spence-Jones asked a condo developer to pay $100,000 in consulting fees to two allies -- former County Commissioner Barbara Carey-Shuler and campaign advisor Barbara Hardemon -- to win her support. Hardemon and Carey-Shuler say they did nothing wrong.
Investigators are also examining $100,000 in county grants to Karym Ventures, a business owned by Spence-Jones' family.
The grants to both Karym Ventures and Friends of MLK were approved by Carey-Shuler in 2004 and funneled through the Metro Miami Action Plan Trust, a county-affiliated anti-poverty agency.
Friends of MLK was supposed to use its grant to help revitalize Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard in Liberty City, county records show. But the contract also allowed for vague expenses including fundraising, community outreach and administrative costs. County officials say they never received receipts from Friends of MLK.
Miami-Dade Police Director Robert Parker said Smith used the money for ''his own personal gain,'' including hotel bills and plane tickets. More than $10,000 was taken out in ATM withdrawals over three months -- including a $500 withdrawal at a martini bar at the MGM Grand hotel in Las Vegas.
''Nothing shows any work done so far,'' Parker said.
Tein said Smith used the $25,000 as seed money to promote and expand the organization, in part by traveling to religious conferences. He said most of the cash withdrawals were used to pay an employee of Friends of MLK. Another $1,000 paid for a scholarship for a student at a train-conductor course in Jacksonville.
Tein said Smith mixed the funds of his nonprofit agencies and his church, but that Smith has repaid Friends of MLK for much of the money.
''The pastor viewed the business of MLK as virtually the same business as the church,'' Tein said. ``They will never be able to show that Pastor Smith stole from MLK or anybody else.''
Tein said he met with State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle less than two weeks ago in an effort to convince her Smith committed no crime. He believes detectives ''leapfrogged'' the prosecutor to make an arrest.
Oh there will be more ... it's only a matter of time before the probe begins to dig into other political figures. What are you doing these days, Dorrin Rolle...?
Miami's ongoing saga of corruption, including the corruption of pastors (I have finally seen this one first hand, while working on an anti-gambling expansion effort. The other side had no shame, and no problem, buying pastors' silence... it's a cancer on Miami's Black community...) continues, only now, there's a new sheriff in town: Miami-Dade's "strong mayor," Carlos Alvarez. Alvarez isn't a politician, he's a cop. And he was elected to clean up this town. Backed by a, shall we say, vigorous, prosecutor, he's going after the smaller fish, with an aim toward reeling in some marlins.
Today's contestant is Rev. Gaston Smith, pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, chaplain to the Miami Police Department, and president of the Baptist Ministers Council of Greater Miami-Dade and Vicinity. The Miami Herald picks it up from there:
A well-respected Liberty City pastor was arrested late Thursday and charged with stealing $10,000 earmarked for the low-income area, according to WFOR-CBS4.
The Rev. Gaston Smith, senior pastor of Friendship Missionary Baptist Church, faces second-degree grand theft charges.
Smith, 41, had been under investigation for several weeks by the public corruption unit of the Miami-Dade state attorney's office, sources told The Miami Herald. They were tracing money as part of a larger investigation on public corruption in the city of Miami.
The state attorney's office has been investigating controversial loans made by the Metro Miami Action Plan Trust. Two years ago, the trust presented Smith with a check at his church to be used for his congregation's financial needs.
According to WFOR-CBS4, Smith took a $25,000 county grant that was supposed to go to his nonprofit group Friends of MLK. The money was to be used to buy fliers and posters for community outreach, to help start an Internet website to promote local efforts, for an MLK fundraiser and to coordinate a senior citizens community garden.
Instead, Smith is accused of pocketing most of the money.
So what did he do with the money? We'll get to that in the next post. For now, here's more on the Set man of the House:
Smith has received honors from the U.S. Congress, Miami-Dade County, the city of Miami and the Congressional Black Caucus.
In 2007, Smith was honored with a Pillar award by the Black Heritage Planning Committee of Miami-Dade County's Black Affairs Advisory Board, for his contributions to the South Florida community.
BTW a "save our pastor" rally is planned at Friendship tomorrow. Feel free to be there, and wear pretty colors for the investigators' long-lens cameras...
The pundits are wrong when they say that John McCain's victory in Florida proves he can win the Republican base, without the help of Independents. They're wrong, because Florida is not a bellweather of the conservative movement -- it's a state full of Republican "pieces" -- Cuban-Americans who are Republican because they believe JFK betrayed them on Castro; "redneck" Republicans who were former Dixiecrats, social conservatives who can't stop themselves from putting up successive gay marriage amendments in a state where gay marriage is already illegal, and cloth coat Republicans who run the state and wield power through corporate tax cuts and privatizations schemes a-la Jeb Bush. [Photo at left from the New Republican Party blog]
McCain won this state by consolidating the Hispanic vote -- and because this is one of the few states where his immigration stand is popular (Cubans don't have an immigration problem, thanks, ironically, to Bill Clinton). The endorsement from his immigration ally Mel Martinez, plus nods from the elected "Cuban mafia" (the Diaz Balart brothers and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen) helped him crush Mitt Romney and Rudy in Miami-Dade.
He won by capturing the majority of moderate Republicans, some of whom may have been influenced by our super-moderate governor, Charlie Crist, who at this stage is probably more popular with Democrats than he is with members of his own party.
What McCain did not win, is the vote of a majority of conservatives, particularly social conservatives. Those, he lost to the combination of Mitt Romney (who is becoming surprisingly acceptable to SoCons, though he is a Mormon, whom they don't consider Christian...) and Mike Huckabee. And he lost "very conservative" or "movement" conservative voters, also to Romney.
When McCain is tested on Super Tuesday, it won't be so much about his appeal to conservatives, as it will be a test of whether the GOP will continue its tradition of capitulating to the front runner, as happened when McCain lost South Carolina, and then the entire primary race to George W. Bush.
Is John McCain a conservative? Sort of. He's certainly more conservative than your average Democrat. But look at the company he keeps: people like Rudy and Arnold and even Charlie Crist -- hardly conservative icons. And look at who he rejects: up until last year, he had no use for people like the late Jerry Falwell. If you think of conservatism as the ideological mantra of low taxes, deregulation and crimped spending, McCain fits the bill. But if you judge conservatism by what it has become: an amalgam of religious zealotry, pro-life activism and war fever, with a fascination for torture and a paranoia about Arabs and Mexicans thrown in for good measure, then McCain only fits into the war fever part. In other words, McCain is not a conservative, he's a neoconservative, which I define as a non-ideological political actor who cares nothing about social issues or the economy, and only about war in the Middle East, and who is only a Republican for bookkeeping purposes.
So how did he get to be the Republican front runner at a time when neoconservatism has seemed to fall out of favor with the party of Reagan? Well, what if it hasn't?
McCain made his comeback by making a deal with the Devil -- becoming fellow neocon GWB's BFF for seven years and swallowing his contempt for him, in order to garner the most important support of all: the support of the Republican establishment -- which favors neoconservatism because you make more money with war than you do stopping abortions -- and which Vin Weber helpfully pointed out this week in a great column by E. J. Dionne, is not the same as the conservative movement (last paragraph in the clip below):
If John McCain secures the Republican presidential nomination, his victory would signal a revolution in American politics — a divorce, after a 28-year marriage, between the Republican and conservative establishments.
McCain would be the first Republican nominee since Gerald Ford in 1976 to win despite opposition from organized conservatism, and also the first whose base in Republican primaries rested on the party's center and its dwindling left. McCain is winning despite conservatives, not because of them.
Those who built the American right, from Barry Goldwater in 1964 through the Reagan and Gingrich revolutions, are intensely aware of the dangers a McCain victory portends. Some on the right feel it would be less damaging to their cause to lose the 2008 election with the Republican-conservative alliance intact than to win with John McCain.
For those outside the conservative movement, such anxiety seems strange. McCain's voting record in the House and Senate has typically won high ratings from conservative groups. His positions on key issues (support for the Iraq War, opposition to abortion, his long-standing criticism of government spending) are those of an orthodox, conservative loyalist.
If McCain is the nominee, Democrats will have plenty of ammunition to persuade middle-of-the-road voters that he is not a moderate. And in Wednesday's California debate, McCain repeated his oft-declared claim that he had been a "foot soldier" in Ronald Reagan's army.
But staunch conservatives see things differently. They know that in primary after primary, McCain's base has been formed by moderates, liberals, independents, supporters of abortion rights and critics of President Bush. Conservatives — who mistrust McCain because of his history on taxes, immigration, global warming and campaign finance reform — were not his coalition's driving force. And Republicans who describe themselves as "very conservative" have consistently rejected McCain. In this week's Florida primary, such voters backed Mitt Romney over McCain by more than 2-to-1.
Vin Weber, a former member of Congress, who backed McCain in 2000 but supports Romney this year, said the confusion outside Republican ranks is not surprising. "People usually think that the conservative leadership and the Republican leadership are one and the same, but they're not," Weber said. ...
You hear that sound? It's the sound of the Republican coalition cracking... neocons and their corporate backers no longer need the social conservatives, who many of them see as kooky pain in the necks. They no longer need loudmouth media conservatives like Limbaugh and Ann Coulter, who let's face it, are embarrassing. They are betting on being able to put another war president into the White House with the help of moderate Republicans who are hawks on the GWOT and Iraq, conservative Democrats (read Democrats who have a paranoid fear of Muslims and think water boarding isn't such a bad idea), and hawkish Independents who sill think America likes Joe Lieberman.
The neocons, having wrecked the Republican Party, are forming a new coalition, bankrolled by the defense industry (Eisenhower's "military industrial complex.") Having lost Rudy to the ages, they now see John McCain as the man who can help them hold onto the White House.
The question is, will movement conservatives, who agree with neocons on the war but hate McCain, stop him?
You've got to get a load of this exchange on Fox Noise between Sean Hannity, Ann Coulter and that other guy who sits next to Sean and shines his shoes. Check it out:
SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: And Senator John McCain is gaining momentum, but not all conservatives are jumping for joy. Senator McCain is a polarizing candidate for many. And critics point to his stance on immigration, his work with Russ Feingold. But with a potential Hillary Clinton candidacy on the Democratic side of the aisle, will true conservatives eventually fall in line and support the Arizona senator?
Joining us now, author of the "New York Times" best seller, "If Democrats Had Any Brains, They'd be Republicans," our friend Ann Coulter. How are you?
ANN COULTER, AUTHOR, "IF DEMOCRATS HAD ANY BRAINS": Fine, thank you.
HANNITY: I'm standing on substance here.
HANNITY: It's immigration. It's limits on free speech. It's not supporting tax cuts.
COULTER: It's Anwar. It's torture at Guantanamo.
HANNITY: Class warfare rhetoric. It's interrogations. It's Guantanamo. It's Anwar. These are not small issues to conservatives.
COULTER: No, and if you're looking at substance rather than whether it's an R or D after his name, manifestly, if our's candidate than Hillary's going to be our girl, Sean, because she's more conservative than he is. I think she would be stronger on the war on terrorism. I absolutely believe that.
HANNITY: That's the one area I disagree with you.
COULTER: No, yes, we're going to sign up together. Let me explain that point on terrorism.
HANNITY: You'd vote for Hillary —
COULTER: I will campaign for her if it's McCain.
HANNITY: If Hillary is watching tonight, you just got an endorsement —
COLMES: I just heard the word no.
COULTER: I was touched when she cried. That part isn't true. But the rest of it is true. He has led the fight against — well, as you say, interrogations. I say torture at Guantanamo. She hasn't done that. She hasn't taken a position in front.
HANNITY: Without interrupting you, let me give you one distinction — that's what liberals do to you. Let me give you one distinction, he did support the war —
COULTER: So did Hillary.
HANNITY: But he stayed with it. He supported the surge. I didn't like his criticisms of Rumsfeld, but he was right —
COULTER: OK, let's get to him supporting the surge. He keeps going on and on about how he was the only Republican who supported the surge and other Republicans attacked him. It was so awful how he was attacked. It was worse than being held in a tiger cage.
I looked up the record. Republicans all supported the surge. He's not only not the only one who supported the surge, I promise you no Republican attacked him for this. And you know why he's saying that, Sean, because he keeps saying it at every debate, I'm the only one. I was attacked by Republicans. He's confusing Republicans with his liberal friends. They're the ones who attacked him for it, his real friends.
HANNITY: Hillary Clinton, if she gets her way, will nationalize health care. She's going to pull the troops out of Iraq.
COULTER: I don't think she will.
HANNITY: That's what she's saying she's going to do. She says in a hundred days she's immediately going to begin to pull out.
COULTER: She's running in a Democratic primary. He's running in the Republican primary, and their positions are about that far apart. When George Bush said at the State of the Union Address that the surge is working in Iraq, Obama sat on his hands, Kennedy sat on his hands, Hillary leapt up and applauded that we are winning in the surge and that the surge is working in Iraq.
She gave much better answers in those debates when Democrats like Obama and Biden were saying what do we do? What do we do if three cities are attacked. She said, I will find who did it and I will go after them.
HANNITY: You want to sit back.
ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Can I just say something — Ann -
COULTER: Hillary is absolutely more conservative.
COLMES: My work is done. My work is done.
COULTER: Moreover, she lies less than John McCain. I'm a Hillary girl now. She lies less than John McCain. She's smarter than John McCain, so that when she's caught shamelessly lying, at least the Clintons know they've been caught lying. McCain is so stupid, he doesn't even know he's been caught.
COLMES: Go. In fact, could you fill in for me next week? Let me get this straight, would you vote for Hillary Clinton?
COLMES: You would actually go in a voting booth —
COULTER: If it's close and the candidate is John McCain, because John McCain is not only bad for Republicanism, which he definitely is. He is bad for —
COLMES: Can I tell you the last thing that Hillary Clinton wants? Ann Coulter's endorsement.
COULTER: Even now he's running as a Republican, he won't give up on amnesty. At that debate the other not —
COULTER: I'm serious. ...
Now I'm not one to listen to Ann Coulter. He is, after all, a very, very bad man. But ... Coulter's sentiment is an indication of something serious going on within what's rather laughably called the conservative movement. "Movement" conservatives are being set aside by moderate Republican voters -- excised, as it were, whether it's the neocons or the social conservatives or the Dittoheads. They are being pushed aside by pragmatic, moderate Republicans who want to win the White House more than they want to overturn Roe v. Wade or torture some "Ay-rabs" for sport.
The pragmatists like John McCain. The wingers absolutely hate him (and his friend Huckabee, too...)
The Obama-Hillary one-on-one debate last night in Hollywood wasn't exactly Kennedy-Nixon 1960. It was remarkable mostly for its civility and lack of controversy. While not boring, it certainly lacked the fireworks of the several months build-up to the campaign getting down to the final two. Barack pulled out Clinton's chair, the two hugged and giggled and generally made nice. Clearly, the theatrics that Camp Clinton pulled for South Carolina are over, (as I figured they would be.)
Last night, the most mentioned names were:
John Edwards (they both want his supporters) and John McCain (they both assume they'll be running against him)
Hillary managed to get in a nod to Maxine Waters, who is supporting her, and Barack managed to get some digs in about integrity and judgment, particularly on the issue of Iraq.
Overall, a draw. Hillary was personable, Barack was reasonable and serious enough to be president. They both fudged on the question of whether they could run together as a ticket, something they gave great visual to last night.
I've been saying for nearly a year that they can, and to be honest, they may have to in order to keep both white women and black voters in the high turnout tent.