Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Monday, March 31, 2008
There will be bribes
What would it take to get Hillary Clinton to drop her bid for the White House? Endless stories about back room strategies, desperate e-mails, and superdelegate push-plays are all over the Internet today. Newsweek's Jonathan Alter even has New York Dems bribing Hillary Clinton with the governor's mansion if she would just step aside and let Barack Obama have the nomination he's earned by the delegate count. I suspect that none of that will work, and that Hillary Clinton will not drop out, even if she wins not another contest between now and June 4. I just don't see her doing it. Why? Page two of the Politico's Hillary story today had a hint:

Describing the mood in Washington, a top Democratic strategist who supports Clinton said: “There’s a little bit of a deathwatch going on. Instead of, ‘Who’s going to win?’ the chatter is, ‘How’s it going to unfold?’”

The strategist added: “There is general panic among Democrats. The big question is: Does she walk to the door, or is she shown to the door?”

The reason some Democrats believe Clinton needs to be escorted from the race is not that they dispute her claims that the race is agonizingly close. It is that they see few scenarios in which she can finish the primary calendar ahead in elected delegates or the popular vote. By this logic, denying the favored candidate of African-Americans — the party’s most loyal constituency — if Obama is ahead could rupture the party.

Clinton is not moved by these claims. Close advisers to her emphasized over the weekend that she is going nowhere — not simply as a matter of politics but of personal temperament. Like her husband, she is constitutionally averse to quitting.

What’s more, her public argument that she is the more electable candidate is only a pale version of her private thoughts and those of Bill Clinton. They firmly believe that Obama is unready to face a general election or, if he wins, a presidency that would follow.

Hillary, who probably should have run in 2004 but blinked, doesn't believe that Barack can win the general, and she knows full well that this is the Dems' best shot since 1992. (In their arrogance, they also believe that a sitting Senator with just two years less time in the Senate and more legislative experience in total would fare worse in the White House than small state governor Bill Clinton did at around Barack's age in 1992...)

It's like the year the New York Knicks almost won a ring the year Michael Jordan was "retired" and playing baseball, but Patrick Ewing blew it with that damned finger roll. HRC and Co. think Barack is Patrick Ewing. That, or they hope he is...

I think the Clintons have it wrong, but that thinking does explain their desperation to get the nomination (or, I believe, to get on the ticket.) Because besides what they believe about November, Hillary can count the years, and she knows that she has very little time left to run for president. 2008, maybe 2012, and then that's it. Her window closes. John McCain will have a hard enough time running for president as the geezer candidate. Imagine how much harder it would be to run as Geezer Girl...

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posted by JReid @ 5:01 PM  
Obama-Hagel?


I've long blogged about how much I like Chuck Hagel, the Nebraska Republican Senator and iconoclast on Iraq. Many liberals are skeptical of him because, after all, he is a Republican. But I'm so over that. Hagel is a war hero, with similar credentials to the media's darling, John McCain. He's also, frankly, a white male from a red state, who could bring multiple layers of credibility to a presidential ticket -- that's why Mike Bloomberg flirted with him (in a totally platonic way) when he was thinking about running as an Independent.

Hagel has been cagey about whether he would endorse his party's nominee, fellow Vietnam vet McCain. And he has been increasingly vocal over the years about his opposition to Bush's arrogant, worthless policy in Iraq.

So the question is, would a fusion ticket -- something on the order of what McCain would probably like to do with Joe Lieberman (but he can't -- Lieberman brings no crossover, since Democrats hate his guts) and what John Kerry tried to pull off with none other than John McCain -- be just the ticket for Barack Obama? Some observers, like TIME's sometimey Joe Klein (who I have to say annoys the living crap out of me for some reason) are hoping for just such a thing. Blogcritics' Doug DeLong even gamed it out in February:
He's a decorated Vietnam veteran and an articulate, thoughtful man who last year considered jumping into the race himself, and has been talked about as a possible running mate for Mike Bloomberg, should he decide to run. Although a social conservative, he's been a thorn in the side of the Bush/Cheney administration with his criticism of their Iraq policy, and is basically on the same page as the Democrats on the issue.

Obama is an attractive candidate for so many people because of his desire to end the partisan bickering that has resulted in gridlock in Washington on so many fronts. What better way to demonstrate that "we are not red states and blue states, but the United States of America" than to put a Republican on the ticket? Hagel would undoubtedly help in winning over more Republicans and Independents and should help to turn some red states a bright shade of blue. His prominent membership on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee would also help to fortify Obama, who some perceive as lacking foreign policy expertise.

Would Hagel accept such an invitation? Appearing on CNN's Late Edition over the weekend, he gave this curious response when asked if he would support John McCain for president: "Well, I've not been involved in the primary and I am still not involved in any of that. At the appropriate time, then I'll have something to say about it." Earlier this month he was quoted as saying, "I like Barack Obama a lot. He's smart. He listens. He learns. He's a worthy candidate for president."

He also appeared to line up with Obama's views when, in the CNN interview, he talked about how we should approach dealing with rogue nations. "Great powers engage. Great powers are not afraid. Great powers trade," Hagel said. "If we're going to see any improvement in the Middle East, in Central Asia, the two wars that we're bogged down in right now, we're going to have to engage Iran."

Historically, it makes sense. The framers of the U.S. constitution never envisioned elections to be winner take all for one party. In fact, the notion of a president from one party and a vice president from an opposing one fits neatly into the American narrative, wherein the vice presidency was originally meant to go to the candidate who failed to win the most electoral votes -- in short, the guy who came in second (which is how Thomas Jefferson ended up as John Adams' veep.) It just hasn't been done in awhile (and no, the 12th Amendment doesn't prohibit it.)

I, for one, hope that Obama considers such a move, even though Hagel has one downside: he's a Senator like Obama, and two Senators on one ticket does not often spell a winning combination. (And of course there will be left wingers, and Hillary Campers, who will hit the freaking roof if he chooses a Republican.) And all things being equal, he'd probably just as soon have a governor, or a retired general. But Hagel remains an attractive possibility. There are, after all, many issues that could drive soft Republicans across the aisle, starting with the Iraq war. Obama and Hagel agree on that, and Hagel's hintings about impeachment make him more and more acceptable to even the bluest Dems (though it makes hardcore Republicans -- who would never vote for Obama anyway, hate the guy.) He voted for the war, but turned on it so completely he won't carry too much baggage. And demographically, he's a can't miss.

There's also every reason to believe that Hagel would accept the nod if asked. The two men get along, and have passed legislation together. Hagel recently proclaimed Barack to be the best candidate to unite the country, and has been tough on his friend McCain for his continued determination to through billions of tax dollars into George W. Bushs' Iraq money pit. He's not running for re-election, but the last time he did, he got 83 percent of the vote. And there's the not-small matter of his having flirted with running for the presidency himself.

Of course, nothing is certain in politics, and perhaps Hagel would do little more than fuel pro-war Republicans' rage against Hagel, and against the Democratic Party. But given Obama's message of uniting the country, it's worth considering.

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posted by JReid @ 11:48 AM  
The contract game
There will be no more warm rubs on the head from the Prez for Alphonso.

Alphonso Jackson, President Bush's HUD secretary, announced his resignation today, effective April 18. (I guess he won't be around to help implement Paulson's Miracle, after all ... )

The resignation is not all that surprising, given that Mr. Jackson is under investigation by a federal grand jury, and after the scandal touched off when it was discovered that he was vetting potential HUD contractees for their affection for George W. Bush. But something else Jackson told the group of minority contractors in Dallas is less surprising if you're familiar with contracting, and the politics and favoritism that goes into it, or if you're familiar with the way government contracting is seen as a path to wealth for many businessmen, minority and otherwise:
The secretary told the group he had canceled a contract after the contractor said he had a problem with President Bush: "Why should I reward someone who doesn't like the president, so they can use the funds to try to campaign against the president?" Jackson said. "Logic says they don't get the contract. That's the way I believe."

The secretary also told the audience "how government works. Once you get the contract," he said, "they just keep giving you tax dollars. ... The most amazing thing I've ever seen is the amount of contracts we give out every day. One contract can make you wealthy."

Again, it's not just Black contractors who operate this way. Come to Miami and observe how Cuban-Americans work the system, or toddle up to Washington and take a gander at the Iraq contracting and trace the tentacles back to relationships within the White House (particularly the vice president's office) and you'll see that the federal government has become not only the employer of last resort for an economy that produces little, but also the banker, and the contractor to a growing proportion of small businesses. George Will on "This Week" on Sunday proposed that left and right agree that if government is going to give corporate welfare, there should also be a cap on CEO earnings to match it. That will never happen of course, but the point Will was making is true: the U.S. economy is so thoroughly planned and centralized in Washington, no wonder it doesn't grow much anymore.

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posted by JReid @ 11:02 AM  
Obama rising
Barack Obama is pouring on the charm in Pennsylvania's blue collar districts. With some help from his new pal, Bob Casey, he's showing his every-guy side, hanging out in diners and even bowling (note to the lades, he wears size 13 1.2 shoes...) It's the kind of thing he needs to do to close the gap in that state before the upcoming primary. And speaking of primaries, the schedule has reached the final ten:

Tuesday, April 22 - Pennsylvania (188 delegates)
Saturday, May 3 - Guam (9)
Tuesday, May 6 - Indiana (84), North Carolina (134)
Tuesday, May 13 - West Virginia (39)
Tuesday, May 20 - Kentucky (60), Oregon (65)
Sunday, June 1 - Puerto Rico (63)
Tuesday, June 3 - Montana (24), South Dakota (23)

Obama is picking up more support following the Bill Richardson and Casey endorsements, as an exhausted party appears poised to push for an end to this interminable campaign. Apparently, the entire Democratic congressional delegation from North Carolina will endorse Obama soon, as will Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar today.

Barack has opened up a 10-point lead over Hillary in the Gallup Daily Tracking Poll, though both he and HRC are losing to McCain in the poll's head-to-head matchups (within 3 points apiece -- margin of error.)

We get from the WaPo a treatise on just what Barack did to anger His Holiness, John McCain (a crime in the media lexicon), particularly since at first, Obama apparently collaborated with St. John of Earmarkia on ethics reform. The collabo apparently deteriorated into an exchange of nasty letters, McCain's likely proving testier, and more boring...

Meanwhile, anti-war Republicans are giving Obama a good, hard look. Who knows, he may even get Chuck Hagel. Actually, I think he will. And Collin Powell, too, I'd guess. Question: would Obama consider Hagel on the ticket? More on that later.

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posted by JReid @ 10:20 AM  
The money primary
Indications that the HRC campaign is running low on funds are everywhere, including embarrassing stories about the campaign not paying some of its bills and leaving trashed offices in its wake (I smell a rerun...!) So its not surprising the following email is hitting the email inboxes this morning, signed by Big Bill:
Dear XXXXXX,

Here's the most important thing you need to know about this race: it's neck-and-neck.

Only 130 delegates separate Hillary from Senator Obama -- and that's not counting Florida and Michigan. The difference in popular vote is less than 1 percent, and millions of voters have yet to make their voices heard. This election should be about their choice.

But now we're hearing people -- elected officials, party members, and Obama campaign surrogates -- call for Hillary to pull out.

With the race this close, it sure doesn't make sense to me that she'd leave now -- does it make sense to you?

There's no better way to tell Hillary that you support her staying in than to make a contribution to her campaign -- and no better time to contribute than right now. If you've never donated online before, now is the time to do it. Even as little as $5 can make a difference.

We're facing a big deadline on Monday. Our opponents and the media will scrutinize our fundraising reports and look for any sign of weakness. By making a contribution today, you can help make sure we show nothing but strength.

Contribute $5 by our midnight Monday deadline to help us show our strength.

I know that Hillary never forgets exactly why she is running. Her commitment to the people of this country never wavers.

At this critical moment, all of us supporting Hillary must make sure we are just as focused as she is. With all the talk of the state of the race, all the people telling her she should just give up, you and I must make sure she has everything she needs to stay in this race.

With our big fundraising deadline coming up midnight Monday, we need to show the critics and the doubters that this campaign is running full steam ahead with the determination to win.

Contribute $5 now to help us reach our $3 million goal by midnight Monday.

My family isn't big on quitting. Hillary's in this race to win, and she's in it thanks to you.

Sincerely,

Bill Clinton
If things get quite tight, perhaps the old girl could turn to her cousin Camilla...

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posted by JReid @ 10:04 AM  
R.I.P. Matt Maupin
U.S. Army Sgt. Keith Matthew Maupin ("Matt" Maupin,) the first American to be listed as MIA in Iraq, has been found. He was captured by Iraqi insurgents on April 9, 2004 and was then seen on a videotape released by a militant group and broadcast on Al Jazeera on April 16 of that year. As we appeared unhurt in that video, he was clearly killed by his captors, as was alleged in a second videotape showing the execution of what appeared to be a U.S. soldier some time later. Maupin was promoted twice in absentia, from Private First Class to Specialist and ultimately to Seargent in April 2005.) His family was told that his remains were identified via DNA.

May God bless and comfort his family in Batavia, Ohio. Two other U.S. troops are currently listed as missing/captured in Iraq:

Ahmed Qusai al-Taayie, a 41-year-old Iraqi-born reserve soldier from Ann Arbor, Mich., was abducted while visiting his Iraqi wife on Oct. 23, 2006, in Baghdad. Capt. Michael Speicher, a Navy pilot, has been missing since the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

They, and the other troops serving in that country and in Afghanistan, should be in everyone's thoughts and prayers.

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posted by JReid @ 9:52 AM  
Sunday, March 30, 2008
In case you missed it: Lamb ... slaughter
Did you catch the disastrous debut of BET J's "My Two Cents" host Crystal McCreary Anthony on "Hardball" this week? The poor dear had apparently been deployed by the House of Bob (Johnson) and was dutifully trotting out some pro-Hillary talking points (although she did have to admit that the threatening letter from Clinton donors, including her boss, to try and bully Nancy Pelosi into backing down on her delegates rule statements "didn't look good,") when she caught a left to the jaw from Matthews over her unsourced comments about Barack Obama's "Jewish problem."



Meanwhile, The HuffPo defends Ms. McCreary Anthony. and offers her some help on sourcing. The moral of the story: Bob should have his staffers read the Huffington Post prior to all Hardball appearances...

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posted by JReid @ 8:02 PM  
Til the last dog dies
Not surprisingly, Hillary Clinton tells the WaPo she's in it to the convention (and beyobnd...? Oh, right, there is no beyond...)
"I know there are some people who want to shut this down and I think they are wrong," Clinton said in an interview during a campaign stop here Saturday. "I have no intention of stopping until we finish what we started and until we see what happens in the next 10 contests and until we resolve Florida and Michigan. And if we don't resolve it, we'll resolve it at the convention -- that's what credentials committees are for.

"We cannot go forward until Florida and Michigan are taken care of, otherwise the eventual nominee will not have the legitimacy that I think will haunt us," said the senator from New York. "I can imagine the ads the Republican Party and John McCain will run if we don't figure out how we can count the votes in Michigan and Florida."

Asked if there was a scenario in which she would drop out before the last primaries on June 3, Clinton said no. "I am committed to competing everywhere that there is an election," she said.

The Clinton campaign requested the interview Saturday to talk about how she could win and to emphasize her focus on Michigan and Florida.

Meanwhile, over in Hell, Karl Rove (taking a break from his official duties skewering the damned with a pitchfork, and encouraging corrupt federal prosecutors to indict Democrats) has some advice for Barack Obama:
VAN SUSTEREN: What would be the most effective strategy for Senator Clinton and Senator Obama in dealing with Dean since he obviously -- you know, he holds the money on this?

ROVE: Well, for Senator Clinton, it is to say every state needs to be included and every state's vote needs to be respected. I actually think Senator Obama has the capacity to resolve this situation in a way that gives him a big advantage, but it would have to be a gutsy call.

And that is, at some point, probably in June, after the delegates have all been elected, we have our final caucus -- I mean our final primary in Puerto Rico, it would be a gutsy call if Senator Obama stepped forward and said, I want to seat Florida and I want to seat Michigan. I know they did the wrong thing, but we did the wrong -- but we should not compound our error by not seating them. Seat the entire delegations.

Now, if he is ahead by 100 to 150 votes at that point, by my calculations, she picks up 54 delegates on him if these two delegations are seated, and it -- but it is a gutsy call. And he -- you know, if he is 150 ahead, he suddenly becomes 100 ahead. If he is 100 ahead, he suddenly becomes 50 ahead.

But I think it gives him -- it makes him look like a leader. It resolves the situation. It helps him in the fall in these two states. And it probably gets a lot of the superdelegates to step forward and say, that was a courageous move, and I am going to support him as a result of him doing this.

VAN SUSTEREN: One -- yes or no, do you expect him to do that?

ROVE: No, I do not, but it is a gutsy call.
I'd like to see him say that to the credentials' committee's face. Still, there is some kernel of sanity in Rove's ployo idea. Barack can and should push for the Florida and Michigan delegations to be seated, and guess what? Howard Dean will push for the same thing. At this very moment, Dean is pacing back and forth in his wee little room sweating like a field hand wondering how to undo the unadulterated mess he and his little coven of "deciders" made when they made the boneheaded decision to strip two of the most important swing states in Christendom of ALL their delegates just to appease snotty little New Hampshire and Iowa. How dead does your brain have to be to even attempt such a thing, when you know in the end you will have to find a way to seat these delegations, or risk the WORST, MOST HUMILIATING CONVENTION EVER???

(exhale)

Meanwhile, over at the Times, Maureen Dowd ruminates on the Democratic hostage crisis:
Despite Bill Clinton’s saying it was “a bunch of bull” that his wife should drop out, Democrats are trying to sneak up on Hillary, throw a burlap sack over her head, carry her off the field and stick her in a Saddam spider hole until after the Denver convention.

One Obama adviser moaned that the race was “beginning to feel like a hostage crisis” and would probably go on for another month to six weeks. And Obama said that the “God, when will this be over?” primary season was like “a good movie that lasted about a half an hour too long.”

Hillary sunnily riposted that she likes long movies. Her favorite as a girl was “The Wizard of Oz,” so surely she spots the “Surrender Dorothy” sign in the sky and the bad portent of the ladies of “The View” burbling to Obama about how sexy he is.
...yeah, and his little dog, too.

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posted by JReid @ 7:43 PM  
The education of Barack Obama
The WaPo digs into the story of Barack Obama Sr.'s education as part of a student airlift from Kenya in the late 1950s, and uncovers discrepancies in Barack's stump speech, but overall, a story of great expectations realized, if in ways too complex to be captured in a brief chat with supporters.

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posted by JReid @ 7:38 PM  
Friday, March 28, 2008
Freed Alabama governor sees Rove in the rear view mirror
From today's New York Times:

Freed Alabama Ex-Governor Sees Politics in His Case

By ADAM NOSSITER

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — Former Governor Don Siegelman of Alabama, released from prison today on bond in a bribery case, said he was as convinced as ever that politics played a leading role in his prosecution.

In a telephone interview shortly after he walked out of a federal prison in Oakdale, La., Mr. Siegelman said there had been “abuse of power” in his case, and repeatedly cited the influence of Karl Rove, the former White House political director.

“His fingerprints are smeared all over the case,” Mr. Siegelman said, a day after a federal appeals court ordered him released on bond and said there were legitimate questions about his case.

Mr. Rove has strenuously denied any involvement in the conviction of the former governor, who was sentenced to serve seven years last June after being convicted in 2006. He could not immediately be reached for comment today.

Mr. Siegelman served nine months while his lawyers appealed a federal judge’s refusal to release him on bond, pending the ex-governor’s appeal of his conviction. That refusal was overturned by the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit on Thursday.

The former governor, a Democrat, said he would “press” to have Mr. Rove answer questions about his possible involvement in the case before Congress, which has already held a hearing on Mr. Siegelman. On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee signaled its intention to have Mr. Siegelman testify about the nature of his prosecution.

In June of 2006 he was convicted by a federal jury here of taking $500,000 from Richard M. Scrushy, the former chief executive of the HealthSouth corporation, in exchange for an appointment to the state hospital licensing board. The money was to retire a debt from Mr. Siegelman’s campaign for a state lottery to pay for schools, and the ex-governor’s lawyers have insisted that it was no more than a routine political contribution.

On the telephone outside the prison today, Mr. Siegelman said he had confidence that the federal appeals court, which will now consider his larger appeal, would agree with his view of the case — that he was convicted for a transaction that regularly takes place in American politics.

Otherwise, Mr. Siegelman said, “every governor and every president and every contributor might as well turn themselves in, because it’s going to be open season on them.” ...

Yeah, and next, they'll have to investigate that CBS station that blacked out '60 Minutes' at a most inopportune moment...

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posted by JReid @ 8:01 PM  
Even the aides are stealing
Apparently, the Bush administration's "take it all, leave nothing but the drapes" approach to governing even extends to their junior members:

An aide to President Bush has resigned in the midst of an investigation by the Justice Department over allegations he misused an unspecified amount of U.S. grant money intended to promote democracy in Cuba, the White House said Friday.

Felipe Sixto, a Cuban American from Miami, was the special assistant to the president on inter-governmental affairs, dealing with Cuba, Native American issues, state legislators, Latino elected officials and Puerto Rico.

Sixto was until last summer the chief of staff of Frank Calzón, the head of the Washington-based Center for a Free Cuba. Sixto did not respond to emails and calls to his home Friday.

Calzón said he welcomed the investigation by the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development, which had provided the grants.

Neither Calzón nor the White House revealed how much money was involved. White House spokesman Blair Jones said the White House learned of the allegations from Sixto himself as he resigned from his post on March 20.

''Our understanding is that Mr. Sixto allegedly had a conflict of interest with the use of USAID funds in his former employment,'' Jones said. White House lawyers investigated and referred the matter to the Department of Justice.

Miami Republican Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Mario and Lincoln Diaz-Balart said in a joint statement they were ''deeply disturbed by any allegation of misuse of taxpayer funds'' and urged the Department of Justice and the Inspector General of the USAID ``to move thoroughly and swiftly in investigating all the facts in this matter.''

''The transparency and accountability of U.S. taxpayer funds require nothing less,'' they said.


Uh-huh...
Joe Garcia, the Democratic candidate to the House seat held by by Republican Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, said the resignation underscored ``the fundamental flaws of a policy designed to win votes in Miami and patronize partisan supporters -- not bring freedom to Cuba.''

In 2006, the Government Accountability Office pointed out most bids for Cuba grants were awarded without competitive bids and found some instances of abuse, like the purchase of cashmere sweaters with U.S. taxpayer money.

But the report also found that the grant money also led to large amounts of equipment and literature getting distributed to Cuban democracy activists.

The Center works with foreign governments and activists in Cuba to raise awareness on human rights abuses and distribute literature and other materials on the island. Calzón said it was the Center that initiated an investigation in mid-January when ''an allegation'' of the misuse of funds emerged.

''As weeks went by and some substance came up on the charges, a letter went to the inspector general of USAID,'' he said. ``We expect all the money to be returned.'' ...

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posted by JReid @ 7:48 PM  
Pat Leahy gets on bad
The Vermont Senator and Judiciary Committee chair says Hillary should drop out of the race. And then, asked to reconsider his remarks, he said it again:
"Senator Clinton has every right, but not a very good reason, to remain a candidate for as long as she wants to. As far as the delegate count and the interests of a Democratic victory in November go, there is not a very good reason for drawing this out. But as I have said before, that is a decision that only she can make," Leahy said.

No mistaking that.

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posted by JReid @ 7:04 PM  
John McCain doesn't get it
McCain, who has nothing better to do at the moment, is releasing a new television ad. Hell, at least it should get him some cable news chat show time, right? But his new ad feels ... well ... old. It's the kind of ad I could have understood running for Wes Clark -- a four star general most Americans knew nothing about when he ran for president briefly in 2004 (truth in lending: I supported him.) But McCain isn't an unknown. Everyone who hasn't been living under a rock knows that he was a prisoner of war during Vietnam, that he is a war hero, and that he's hellafied old. Is it really necessary to remind us of that in a freaking TV ad? HMM??? Anyhoo, here's the ad. Try not to fall asleep:



Hello... John? Got anything for us on the ECONOMY? You know, the thing most Americans are freaking out about daily while you're offering 100 years of war in Iraq? Maybe John-boy really should pick his arch nemesis Mitt Romney as a running mate. Then at least one member of the McCain team would be doing something other than talking about war. Otherwise, McCain is looking more and more like Bob Dole every day.

I hate to say it, but being president is 40 percent competency and 60 percent charisma. The presidents who are considered "great" or "near great" by most Americans are heavy on the latter, and in many cases, got damned lucky on the outcomes of their policies because they had at least a core competency and common sense. Think Teddy Roosevelt, FDR, JFK, even Reagan or Bill Clinton. They were larger than life figures who captured America's imagination, even as their policies appeared to make America better (emphasis on "appeared" in the case of Reagan...) And then contrast that with the also-rans -- people like Jimmy Carter, LBJ, or George H.W. Bush. They lacked charisma, and so their personal lack of appeal dragged their policies into the dungeon, even when, objectively, they may not have been all bad. (Of course, there is the strange case of George W. Bush, a man of questionable charisma and total incompetency, who nonetheless captured the presidency at a time when apparently, America wanted a president who made THEM feel smarter... ahem...)

That being the case, I reiterate that John McCain can at best ... at BEST ... hope to be a competent but uninspiring president -- in other words, a mediocre one. I just don't see greatness in him. And his lack of understanding of the economy guarantees that he won't even be a popular one. And so, devoid of charisma, and relying on old fashioned "Reaganomics" and Bush's foreign policy, McCain cannot hope to lead this country to greatness. His advertising campaign needs to disabuse me of that notion. It needs to jar me out of my long ... looooooong ... sense of memory about McCain, his biography, and my sense of his being a Johnny One Note -- war, war, and more war. It needs to refresh his image somehow, not solidify it.

That said, McCain's new ad is a total flop. And a crushing bore. (Oh, and he recycles Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani's tired line, "ready on day one."

As Simon Cowell would say, "not good enough!"

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posted by JReid @ 6:40 PM  
Barack back on track
The latest Pew and Gallup daily tracking polls indicate that Barack Obama has weathered the Jeremiah Wright storm, and is now comfortably ahead of Hillary Clinton with Democrats again. He also got a key endorsement in Pennsylvania today, from a fellow U.S. Senator and the son of the former, and very popular governor of the state.

The Pew poll finds Barack up 49%-39% over Hillary Clinton among Democrats. And Obama has lost just one point from a month ago against John McCain -- he beats him 49%-43% versus 50%-43% in the February poll. Hillary is also static versus McCain, beating him 49%-44% versus 50%-45% a month ago.


Over at Gallup, Barack is widening his lead over Hillary tracking upward every day since he lost his lead to John McCain on March 21st. He now leads McCain 50% to 42%, despite having a rather negative news cycle compared to McCain's typically glowing one.

Meanwhile, Hillary has seen her negatives climb significantly over the last two weeks, as her negative campaign appears to be bruising her own knee caps, rather than Barack's.


Now on to the endorsement:

In a surprise move, Senator Bob Casey of Pennsylvania has endorsed Senator Barack Obama in advance of the April 22 Democratic primary. Mr. Casey had said he would remain neutral in the race in part because he wanted to help broker a reconciliation between Mr. Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton afterward.

“I believe in my heart that there is one person who’s uniquely qualified to lead us in that new direction and that is Barack Obama.” Mr. Casey said during a rally in Pittsburgh Friday. “I really believe that in a time of danger around the world and
in division here at home, Barack Obama can lead us, he can heal us, he can help rebuild America,” he said. Mr. Casey is going against the grain in his state, where polls show Mrs. Clinton ahead by at least 12 percentage points and where she has the endorsement of most of the state’s major Democratic figures. But a person close to Mr. Casey said that the Senator had traveled to Florida over Easter and that rain had forced him to stay inside and he began to think more seriously about an endorsement. “He spent a lot of time thinking about it,” this person said, and he came to the conclusion that the race was “too important” to remain on the sidelines.

“He was asking himself, what’s more important than this?” the person said. “He was also just terribly frustrated with where Bush is going on Iraq and the economy and he felt he had to jump into the fray.”Mr. Casey said that he called Mrs. Clinton last night to tell her of his decision. “She was very gracious. We know that she’s a great senator, she’s a great leader,” he said, Friday. He is joining Mr. Obama today as he
begins a six-day bus trip across Pennsylvania and plans to be with him for about three days as Mr. Obama meets up with just the kind of blue collar, Catholic men
who have eluded Mr. Obama.

Mr. Casey won the state in 2006 with 59 percent of the vote. The fact that he is a strong opponent of abortion rights may give these voters cover to back Mr. Obama both now and in the fall against Senator John McCain, the putative Republican nominee, who also opposes abortion rights.


There are, of course, tales of potential family drama and payback afoot:
Mr. Casey’s father, the state’s former governor, had a chilly relationship with Mrs. Clinton’s husband dating from Mr. Clinton’s first campaign for president in 1992. The elder Mr. Casey was strongly against abortion rights and did not approve of Mr. Clinton, who in turn shut Mr. Casey out of the Democratic convention. Another long-time Casey ally said that during the 1992 campaign, Mr. Casey refused to attend a dinner in his home county, Lackawanna, where Mrs. Clinton was campaigning for her husband. On election night in 1992, Mrs. Clinton closely tracked the results in Lackawanna, which her husband won.

Still, it appears the endorsement isn't about that sort of George Bush poppy complex. Casey clearly saw an opportunity to make an impact, and he took it.

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posted by JReid @ 6:15 PM  
For the first time, Condi speaks on race
I've never heard Condi Rice comment this extensively on the issue of race. Her comments came during an interview with the Moonie Ed Board ... sorry, I mean the Washington Times editorial board:
"Black Americans were a founding population," she said. "Africans and Europeans came here and founded this country together — Europeans by choice and Africans in chains. That's not a very pretty reality of our founding."

As a result, Miss Rice told editors and reporters at The Washington Times, "descendants of slaves did not get much of a head start, and I think you continue to see some of the effects of that."

"That particular birth defect makes it hard for us to confront it, hard for us to talk about it, and hard for us to realize that it has continuing relevance for who we are today," she said.

Race has become an issue in this year's presidential campaign, which prompted a much-discussed speech last week by Sen. Barack Obama, one of the two remaining contenders for the Democratic nomination.

Miss Rice declined to comment on the campaign, saying only that it was "important" that Mr. Obama "gave it for a whole host of reasons."

But she spoke forcefully on the subject, citing personal and family experience to illustrate "a paradox and contradiction in this country," which "we still haven't resolved."

On the one hand, she said, race in the U.S. "continues to have effects" on public discussions and "the deepest thoughts that people hold." On the other, "enormous progress" has been made, which allowed her to become the nation's chief diplomat.

"America doesn't have an easy time dealing with race," Miss Rice said, adding that members of her family have "endured terrible humiliations."

"What I would like understood as a black American is that black Americans loved and had faith in this country even when this country didn't love and have faith in them — and that's our legacy," she said.

Miss Rice also said that what "attracted" her to candidate George W. Bush during the 2000 presidential campaign was not foreign policy, but his "no child left behind" initiative, which she said gave equal opportunities to black and white students.
What's interesting about Condi Rice is how slippery her actual beliefs are. I've talked to people in Washington who are sharp critics of Bush but who claim that she is reasonable and quite a lovely person -- hardly the hard line "Vulcan" she is portrayed as on the left.
I've talked to people who knew her back when she was a Democrat, a Gary Hart fan and a liberal, and who claim that she is essentially a mercenary, throwing aside her real views in order to accrue power with the Republican Party. I know people who despise her as a traitor to Black America -- an embarrassment, as the Boondocks famously labeled her, and an Aunt Tom.

At the end of the day, Condi Rice is, fundamentally, an enigma. She's the woman who shopped for Ferragamos and slipped off to watch "Spamalot" while New Orleans' Ninth Word washed into oblivion. But she also has a family history steeped in the struggle for equality and dignity for Black Americans. She has ties to Denver University, where my mother taught for a time, and she and I both play classical piano. And she was taught by Madeleine Albright's father, Josef Korbel, who was a Democrat, though his views on "freedom on the march" are subject to interpretation. She was a terrible National Security Adviser, and seemed clearly outmatched by the vice president, Rumsfeld and the other uberhawks. She has been a middling secretary of state, with few real accomplishments to show for her sojourn with George W. Bush (then again, nobody who's hung around that clod has much to show for it after nearly two terms.) We don't know much more about her than that (unless you believe the stuff about her being Dubya's girlfriend ... she'd have to have pretty poor taste in men...)

Condi's comments on race offer one of the few insights into her mind. Emphasis on "few." But interesting nonetheless.

BTW, why is Condi suddenly so available? And why did she meet with the Club for Growth? Don't think GWB hasn't ruled out pushing her as a running mate for John McCain, who may want to run away from the Bush legacy, but who also may have already made his deal with the devil...

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posted by JReid @ 12:01 PM  
Thursday, March 27, 2008
Obama works his plan
While the media remains determined to dredge up more Rev. Wright schlock to pin on Barack Obama (what is he, the Reverend's personal secretary???) the candidate is actually talking about something Americans care about: the economy. Barack gave a speech on the subject that got pretty good coverage today, including from the WaPo:
Sen. Barack Obama, tackling the fallout from the collapse of the subprime housing market, today outlined major changes in the way the federal government regulates financial institutions and called for a second stimulus package to boost the economy.

The stimulus package would cost about $30 billion would include assistance to individuals and areas hard hit by the housing crisis and an extension of unemployment insurance for those who have lost their jobs. "If we can extend a hand to banks on Wall Street, we can extend a hand to Americans who are struggling," he said.

Speaking at historic Cooper Union in New York, Obama was sharply critical of the mindset that led to the subprime mortgage crisis. "Our free market was never meant to be a free license to take whatever you can get, however you can get it," he said. "That is why we have put in place rules of the road to make competition fair, and open, and honest."

The Democratic presidential candidate used the speech to criticize President Bush for contributing to economy's decline. The administration, he argued, instituted policies, including a costly war in Iraq and huge tax cuts, that "threw the economy further out of balance and has been slow to move aggressively enough to cushion the impact of the softening economy on ordinary Americans.

But he was equally critical of Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. On Tuesday, McCain said the subprime mortgage crisis should not result in major government intervention to bail out individuals or institutions who acted irresponsibly.

McCain's plan, Obama said, amounts to "little more than watching the crisis happen. While this is consistent with Senator McCain's determination to run for George Bush's third term, it won't help families who are suffering and it won't lift our economy out of recession."

While Obama was speaking, McCain's campaign issued a statement from the Republican candidate in which he emphasized that he is prepared to provide assistance to roughly four million homeowners who are facing foreclosure and the loss of their homes because of the housing industry crisis. "I am committed to considering any and all proposals to do so," he said in the statement. ...

That was from WaPo's Dan Balz ... how much does it suck to be named Dan Balz... sorry, juvenile moment...

Meanwhile, did you catch the McCainiack reaction? He's willing to look at proposals? Well gee, thanks Mr. Mideast Bomber in Chief ... Mr. War Guy. We'll be sure to get you some proposals, since I take it you weren't planning on having any of your own!!!... geez...

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posted by JReid @ 2:29 PM  
Meanwhile, over in Basra
Iraq is still a hot mess (with another American killed in the "safe" Green Zone today.) Did you get the memo? Apparently John McCain and his good friend George W. Bush did not. And yet, Iraq is a mess, starting with Basra, and moving on to the mess being whipped up by the still strong Moqtada al-Sadr, whose general strike is making Baghdad John's perky pronouncements on Iraq look stupid ... again... Four More Years!!!

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posted by JReid @ 2:18 PM  
Don't mess with Mother
Nancy Pelosi stands her ground in the face of attempted threats by Clinton donors who want her to back down on pledged vs. super delegates:
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) has reaffirmed her position that superdelegates should not “overturn the will of the voters” in the face of criticism from top donors to Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.).

“The Speaker believes it would do great harm to the Democratic Party if superdelegates are perceived to overturn the will of the voters,” Pelosi spokesman Brendan Daly said in a statement late Wednesday.

“This has been her position throughout this primary season, regardless of who was ahead at any particular point in delegates or votes.”

In a letter first reported Wednesday on talkingpointsmemo.com, 20 top Hillary fundraisers and donors blasted Pelosi for saying that when the presidential nominating contest nears its conclusion, superdelegates should support whoever leads in pledged delegates.

They cited remarks she made to ABC’s “This Week” with George Stephanopoulos on March 16.

“We respect those voters and believe that they, like the voters in the states that have already participated, have a right to be heard. None of us should make declarative statements that diminish the importance of their voices and their votes,” the letter said.

... The letter says that its signers “have been strong supporters of the DCCC,” or the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, which is in charge of electing Democratic House members.

It concludes by saying they “hope you will be responsive to some of your major enthusiastic supporters.”
Memo to Clintonistas: one doesn't get to be speaker of the House by being a punk. And a majority of Democratic voters ... dare I say ... agree with Nancy.

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posted by JReid @ 2:10 PM  
Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Obama inching up in PA
The new Rasmussen tracking poll has Obama up slightly and Hillary falling below 51 percent in the Keystone State. And Barack maintains a strong lead in North Carolina, according to a new Public Policy poll. So much for the Wright effect (although I'm sure Wright will be resuscitated in the fall campaign.)

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posted by JReid @ 10:15 PM  
The Tonya Harding option
Note to the media: the Obama campaign is well aware that Hillary Clinton's only route to the nomination is to knee-cap Barack Obama, rendering him un-nominatable, or unelectable in the general. They know that. His campaign manager has said as much. The news isn't so much that Hillary's own people know that she has to go Tonya Harding on Barack in order to win. The news is that the media is surprised.

But one thing to remember about Ms. Harding: in the end, her knee-capping operation hurt her reputation more than it hurt her then opponent, Nancy Kerrigan. Harding became a punch line, a loser making a living doing amateur, B-list celebrity boxing. And for Mrs. Clinton, the kitchen sink strategy appears to be soaking her, and her husband's legacy, in much the same way.

The latest NBC News/WSJ poll finds that among voters surveyed, Hillary Clinton's negatives have risen more than Obama's, and her positive ratings have shrunk more. Moreover, Hillary Clinton is viewed negatively by more Obama voters than the reverse.

Democratic pollster Peter Hart, who conducts the Journal/NBC polls with Republican pollster Bill McInturff, called the latest poll a "myth-buster" that showed the pastor controversy is "not the beginning of the end for the Obama campaign."

But both Democrats, and especially New York's Sen. Clinton, are showing wounds from their prolonged and increasingly bitter nomination contest, which could weaken the ultimate nominee for the general-election showdown against Sen. McCain of Arizona. Even among women, who are the base of Sen. Clinton's support, she now is viewed negatively by more voters than positively for the first time in a Journal/NBC poll.

The latest survey has the Democratic rivals in a dead heat, each with 45% support from registered Democratic voters. That is a slight improvement for Sen. Obama, though a statistically insignificant one, from the last Journal/NBC poll two weeks ago, which had Sen. Clinton leading among Democratic voters, 47% to 43%.

While Sen. Clinton still leads among white Democrats, her edge shrank to eight points (49% to 41%) from 12 points in early March (51% to 39%). That seems to refute widespread speculation -- and fears among Sen. Obama's backers -- that he would lose white support for his bid to be the nation's first African-American president over the controversy surrounding his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. of Chicago.

Had that erosion happened, party leaders' reassessment of Sen. Obama's electability could have tipped the race to Sen. Clinton's favor. Weathering the episode could strengthen his standing among the party leaders nationwide -- the superdelegates -- whose votes are likely to break the impasse.

Beyond the nomination race, in hypothetical matchups for November's election Sen. Obama still edges Sen. McCain 44% to 42%. That is nearly the same result as in the early March poll, before videos of Mr. Wright's most fiery sermons spread over the Internet. But Sen. Clinton, who likewise had a narrow advantage over Sen. McCain in the earlier survey, trails in this one by two points, 44% to his 46%.

The poll was conducted Monday and Tuesday, a week after Sen. Obama delivered a generally well-received address on race.
And ...

The negativity of the Obama-Clinton contest seems to be hurting Sen. Clinton more, the poll shows. A 52% majority of all voters says she doesn't have the background or values they identify with. But 50% say Sen. Obama does share their values, and 57% agree that Sen. McCain does.

Also, fewer voters hold positive views of Sen. Clinton than did so just two weeks ago in the Journal/NBC poll. Among all voters, 48% have negative feelings toward her and 37% positive, a decline from a net positive 45% to 43% rating in early March. While 51% of African-American voters have positive views, that is down 12 points from earlier this month, before the Wright controversy.

More ominous for Sen. Clinton is the net-negative rating she drew for the first time from women, one of the groups where she has drawn most support. In this latest poll, voters with negative views narrowly outstrip those with positive ones, 44% to 42%. That compares with her positive rating from 51% of women in the earlier March poll.

Both she and Sen. Obama showed five-point declines in positive ratings from white voters. But where she is viewed mostly negatively, by 51% to 34% of whites, Sen. Obama's gets a net positive rating, by 42% to 37%. Among all voters, he maintained a significant positive-to-negative score of 49% to 32%—similar to Sen. McCain's 45% to 25%.

The toll on both Democrats from their rhetorical brawling is evident in these poll findings: About a fifth of Clinton voters say they would support Sen. McCain if she isn't the Democratic nominee, and likewise a fifth of Obama voters say they would do the same if he isn't the party standard-bearer.

In other words, negative campaigning may work, but it can sometimes do more damage to your own knees than on your opponent's.

Meanwhile, back at the kitchen sink, Clinton's donors (who are far outnumbered by Barack's donors...) issue oblique threats to Nancy Pelosi (who appears to be an Obama Girl) ... but will they also threaten the Democratic governor of Tennessee over his idea for a superdelgate primary?

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posted by JReid @ 9:48 PM  
Did I mention...
That Hillary (and apparently Bill's) new friend Richard Mellon Scaife is a complete cretin? He did, however, cut a big check to the Clinton Global Initiative, after making peace with the former president over dinner. Now, his wife is finding refuge in the family paper in Pittsburgh. Wow.

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posted by JReid @ 9:23 PM  
How to demostrate support for democracy
I haven't been a big fan of French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Something about him just seems a bit ... well ... never mind (he does have a Jackie O wife (when she's dressed, of course...) a jilted ex a-la Ronald Reagan. (Seulement en France...) But has taken a strong, and I believe, correct stand on Chinese-hosted Summer Olympic Games, which may be well in need of an international boycott, even if just of the opening ceremonies.

Without a boycott by leaders of "A list" countries like France, the U.K., and, if we had a real leader with the slightest international stature, the United States, the world must just admit it fears Beijing, and cannot influence its horrific mistreatment of Tibet. Sarkozy can send such signals, because France, having sat out the Iraq fiasco, retains its stature in the international community. (Belgium's leaders have indicated they might boycott the opening ceremonies, too.)

Unfortunately, I'm not surprised that President Bush has already ceded the boycott trump card in his supposed "pressuring" of the Chinese government over Tibet, given the corporate nature of his presidency, and the utter dependence of the U.S. on our Chinese bankers. Oh, and Bush says he's a sports fan, so he's goin'! Well yee-haw. Our bumpkin president strikes again.

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posted by JReid @ 12:14 AM  
Tuesday, March 25, 2008
Barack and Brad and Ange and Hil

No, they will very likely never be running mates, but Barack and Hillary ARE Brangelina ... (ewww...) which of course means that she's a ruthless, man-stealing wench / orphaned, foreign child collector, and he's a dope who still talks to his ex and is far too easily roped into syrupy, pretentious humanitarian-chic photo-ops that he hopes will buy his wife's affection for their actual children. In fact, Barack would be just up Angelina's adoption alley, were he considerably younger and actually IN Kenya! ... but I digress...

The New England Historic Genealogical Society reported that Mr Obama is a distant cousin of actor Brad Pitt, while Mrs Clinton is related to Pitt's girlfriend, Angelina Jolie.

Releasing the findings of a three-year-long study, the society issued a bizarre - if intriguing - array of blood ties between the presidential candidates and the great and the good on both sides of the Atlantic.

Among them, Mr Obama is said to be distantly related to Sir Winston Churchill, while his rival Mrs Clinton is reportedly a cousin, far removed, of the Duchess of Cornwall.

Researchers at America's oldest genealogical groups also said that Mrs Clinton, who is of French-Canadian descent on her mother's side, has familial ties to the singers Madonna, Celine Dion and Alanis Morissette, as well as the author Jack Kerouac.

They claimed that Mr Obama, whose white mother was from Kansas and black father from Kenya, is linked to six US presidents - both Democratic and Republican - including George W Bush, who is said to be a 10th cousin. ...
She's related to Madonna???!!! ... (ahem) So how DID the researhers forget Dick Cheney? Is Obama not related to him anymore? And if he still is, does that mean that Dick and Dubya are somehow distant cousins, too? One shudders to even think about it.

As for John McCain, apparently the thought of tracing his ancestry bored the crap out of the research team, so they didn't bother. No, actuallly his records just aren't that complete ... darn that Panamanian systema de recordes!

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posted by JReid @ 11:57 PM  
Hillary's OTHER big lie
The flap over Hillary's "faulty memory" of having dashed from a military aircraft under sniper fire in Bosnia back when she was first lady -- something I would guess is kind of hard to get wrong, since such things happen so infrequently -- is embarrassing for Team Clinton, to be sure. But it's nothing compared to the other whopper that Hillary has been telling ... and even slapping Barack Obama around over: her untruth about her past opinions about NAFTA.

I was working for a consulting firm in New York City when NAFTA past, as a senior analyst covering the beverage industry. I remember NAFTA, and the bailout of Mexixo, as key Clinton administrative initiatives designed to boost U.S. exports to Mexico and Canada, stabilize oLinkur southern neighbor's economy so that Mexicans could afford to buy more American goods, and create an economic "surge" in the U.S. What I don't recall, are news stories about the first lady's opposition to NAFTA, or to the U.S. entry into the World Trade Organization. ... or to the conferral of Most Favored Nation status on China ... hell, I don't remember much about the then first lady other than her ever changing (and usually rather bad) hairstyles, her constant pissing off of conservative women with her "I ain't baking cookies" bravado (something I really liked about her) and her standing by the president when that whole Monica thing broke out. (Okay, I also remember the stuff about the Rose Law Firm, the Vince Foster suicide, the "vast right wing conspiracy" funded by the same Richard Mellon Scaife whose Pittsburgh newspaper Hillary ran to the other day to smear Barack Obama on Rev. Wright -- I guess they're no longer accusing her and her husband of murdering Vince Foster, this week -- plus travelgate, filegate and the way Big Bill 86'd Hillary's good friend Lani Guinier... but I digress...)

As it turns out, my memory of the 1990s (a very good period for me and for the country, by the way -- have to say that...) is much better than Hillary's.
What is the proper word for the claim by Hillary Clinton and the more factually disinclined supporters of her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination - made in speeches, briefings and interviews (including one by this reporter with the candidate) - that she has always been a critic of the North American Free Trade Agreement?

Now that we know from the 11,000 pages of Clinton White House documents released this week that former First Lady was an ardent advocate for NAFTA; now that we know she held at least five meetings to strategize about how to win congressional approval of the deal; now that we know she was in the thick of the manuevering to block the efforts of labor, farm, environmental and human rights groups to get a better agreement. Now that we know all of this, how should we assess the claim that Hillary's heart has always beaten to a fair-trade rhythm?

Now that we know from official records of her time as First Lady that Clinton was the featured speaker at a closed-door session where 120 women opinion leaders were hectored to pressure their congressional representatives to approve NAFTA; now that we know from ABC News reporting on the session that "her remarks were totally pro-NAFTA" and that "there was no equivocation for her support for NAFTA at the time;" now that we have these details confirmed, what should we make of Clinton's campaign claim that she was never comfortable with the militant free-trade agenda that has cost the United States hundreds of thousands of union jobs, that has idled entire industries, that has saddled this country with record trade deficits, undermined the security of working families in the US and abroad, and has forced Mexican farmers off their land into an economic refugee status that ultimately forces them to cross the Rio Grande River in search of work?

As she campaigns now, Clinton says, "I have been a critic of NAFTA from the very beginning."

But the White House records confirm that this is not true.

Her statement is, to be precise, a lie. ...
That was John Nichols, writing for The Nation. If Team Obama is smart, it will also be the substance of their strategy in Pennsylvania, a state that has suffered mightily over the last two decades as its economy, particularly in industrial Pittsburgh, has shrunk. From a Public Citizen report back in August 2002:

How trade policy affects U.S. workers and industries has become a very heated political and policy issue.Ahistoric U.S. trade deficit, which Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan calls “unsustainable,” is causingthe value of the dollar to be dragged down. The trade deals of the 1990s, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have resulted in massive U.S. manufacturing job losses. Eight years of NAFTA has cost 766,000 U.S. jobs with 35,262 job losses in Pennsylvania. For those who have found1new employment, it is often service sector jobs at lower wages and without benefits. The government’sanswer to trade job losses is too little too late: a meager program of retraining and extended unemploymentcompensation for which only a fraction of the workers hurt by trade can qualify. The program, called “Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA),” became a major issue in the extended battle over so-called FastTrack tradeauthority. Fast Track is the name for a procedure which delegates a wide swath of Congress’exclusive constitutional trade powers to the president. Proponents of expanding NAFTA and other tradedeals, which have caused large job loss and other problems, sought the extraordinary process because itwas the only means to overcome public opposition to the current model of special interest trade deals.

After an intense 18-month campaign, on July 26, 2002, President George W. Bush personally trolled thehalls of Congress for support in the House of Representatives for a delegation to him of Congress’ exclusiveArticle I, Section 8 Constitutional authority to set terms for international commerce. This extraordinarydelegation of Congress’ trade authority — Fast Track — was opposed in 1994. This procedure was available for twenty years starting in 1974, but was only ever actually used five times during that period.Congress refused to grant this authority to then-President Clinton eight years ago.

Razor-thin passage of the legislation at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 27, 2002 after an array of proceduralshenanigans secured Fast Track for President Bush, but both a consensus on the direction of trade policyand political momentum on Bush’s trade agenda are absent.

The Fast Track legislation President Bush signed on August 6, 2002 explicitly extends Fast Track treatmentto a 31-nationNAFTA expansion, called the Free Trade Area of the Americas and to an expansion of the World Trade Organization to cover more service sectors of the economy. Passage of Fast Track means new threats of more U.S. job loss, including in the high-tech and service sectors, and damage to U.S. farmers is added to the already significant concerns about how Fast Track undermines the Constitution’schecks and balances. Instead of adjusting the underlying trade rules to suit more Americans, the response by the White House and Republican congressional leaders to growing skepticism about NAFTA expansion and Fast Track wasto launch an attack at efforts by Democrats to reform the TAA program.

And jumping forward to specific effects on Pennsylvania:
Pennsylvania’s NAFTA Job Losses Significantly Higher than National AverageUnder just the NAFTA-TAA program, Pennsylvania has been certified to have lost 30, 226 jobs at 274 facilities as a result of NAFTA, according to an analysis of the Department of Labor records. The share of Pennsylvania jobs certified as NAFTA losses under NAFTA-TAA certifications is significantly greater than Pennsylvania’s share of the national workforce. Pennsylvania had 60% more NAFTA-TAA certifications than its share of the national workforce since NAFTA went into effect. If NAFTA’s job13losses were distributed evenly across the country, each state would lose roughly the same percentage of jobs. According to analysis of Department of Labor figures, Pennsylvania had 11,851 more certified NAFTA job losses to NAFTA than it would if distribution were equal throughout the national workforce.

NAFTA Job Losses Occurred Throughout Pennsylvania

NAFTA layoffs have happened throughout Pennsylvania, from Philadelphia to Erie and White Mills to Masontown. The largest NAFTA layoff concentration of NAFTA-TAA certified job losses was in the14Philadelphia area, which suffered 17% of the NAFTA job casualties listed under the NAFTA-TAA program. The Reading area suffered the second highest concentration of NAFTA-TAA certifications inthe state, with one out of every ten NAFTA-TAA certifications in Pennsylvania.
Those job-loss numbers have since balloned, according to anti-NAFTA groups, to upwards of 78,000 jobs in Pennsylvania from 2001 to 2006, and 1.8 million jobs nationwide.

The right wing noise machine, and the Clinton campaign, will surely try to use NAFTA against Barack in Pennsylvania, as they did in Ohio. Trouble is, now, NAFTA doesn't work so well for Hillary, and Team Obama should not be shy about using it, and her White House records, to hit Hillary hard on her then advocacy of NAFTA, her hard work getting it passed, and her major flip-flop on the subject now. ,

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posted by JReid @ 11:08 PM  
Hillary under fire
... but apparently, not in Bosnia (although that little girl with the poem looked awfully suspicious...)



Yes, it turns out that back in the day when Hillary had her "old hair," she landed in Bosnia without a hitch, and sans sniper fire, despite her prior, vainglorious statements. Oops! (Next, she'll have to admit that first ladies really do mostly do teas, not diplomacy...) So what does Her Hilliness say now? She tries the old, "hey, media! Look over there at Reverend Wright!" gambit ... pretty sneaky, sis...

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posted by JReid @ 6:41 PM  
Monday, March 24, 2008
Kwame indicted

Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick has been indicted on various charges (13 in all, I think,) including conspiracy to obstruct justice, obstruction of justice, misconduct in office and perjury. His former aide, Christine Beatty, with whom he allegedly had an affair, has been indicted too. The Freep isn't updated yet, but I'm sure soon will be. Kilpatrick will respond at noon.

The story includes lurid tales of clandestine (well, not so clandestine) text messages, destroyed documents, and lies about the alleged relationship to federal prosecutors. More on the back story:

The announcement follows an eight-week investigation that was prompted by a Jan. 23-24 Free Press story that revealed the existence of text messages showing that the mayor and his then-Chief of Staff Christine Beatty lied at last year’s police whistle-blower trial when they denied having an extramarital affair.

The messages also showed that they provided misleading testimony about firing former Deputy Police Chief Gary Brown in 2003 after he and former mayoral bodyguard Harold Nelthrope began asking questions about a rumored wild party at the mayoral Manoogian mantion and alleged misconduct involving the mayor’s security team – questions that threatened to expose the sexual affair.

Despite the false testimony, a Wayne County Circuit Court jury last September awarded Brown and Nelthrope $6.5 million in damages. Kilpatrick vowed to appeal, but on Oct. 17, abruptly decided to settle the case and a second police whistle-blower suit involving former mayoral bodyguard Walt Harris for $8.4 million – $9 million with legal costs.

Kilpatrick settled after the cops’ lawyer, Mike Stefani, informed the mayor’s lawyer that he had the incriminating text messages and would reveal them in court papers he planned to file to justify his request for legal fees in the whistle-blower case.

Although Kilpatrick apologized for his conduct in a televised appearance with his wife, Carlita, in late January, he has blamed the media for his troubles and rejected calls from the City Council, Attorney General Mike Cox and city union locals to resign.
The big question now is whether Kilpatrick will resign. You'd think he has too, now, though we are talking about black politics, where almost anything is possible... He could face up to 15 years in prison on the multi-count indictment.

Update: The AP story hits the bricks.
DETROIT - Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, a one-time rising star and Detroit's youngest elected leader, was charged Monday with perjury and other counts after sexually explicit text messages surfaced that appear to contradict his sworn denials of an affair with a top aide.

Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy also charged the popular yet polarizing 37-year-old mayor with obstruction of justice and misconduct in office.

Former Chief of Staff Christine Beatty, 37, who also denied under oath that she and Kilpatrick shared a romantic relationship in 2002 and 2003, was charged with perjury and obstruction of justice.

In all, Worthy authorized a 12-count criminal information.

"This case was about as far from being a private matter as one can get. Honesty and integrity in the justice system is everything. That is what this case is about," Worthy said at a news conference.

"Just when did honesty and integrity, truth and honor become traits to be mocked, downplayed, ignored, laughed at or excuses made for them? When did telling the truth become a supporting player to everything else?"

The charges could signal the end of Kilpatrick's six-year career as mayor of one of America's largest cities.

Perjury is a felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. But for Kilpatrick, a conviction also would mean his immediate expulsion from office. The Detroit City Charter calls for any elected official convicted of a felony while in office to be removed.

Kilpatrick has said he would not resign and last week said he expects to be vindicated when all aspects of the scandal are made public.

The mayor was expected to hold a news conference at noon.

Worthy said she expected the mayor and Beatty to turn themselves in by 7 a.m. Tuesday.

There ya go.

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posted by JReid @ 11:28 AM  
The three probabilities
Watching the ongoing, erratic gyrations of Hurricane Hillary, and talking with friends over the weekend (in addition to attending an event Friday with Obama supporters and a senior campaign official here in Florida), I have come to a conclusion: Hillary Clinton can only be continuing in the race for one of three reasons. (Bear with me, this will take a bit of explanation.)

Hillary Clinton can count just as well as I can, and that means she must know that mathematically, as The Politico analysts Jim Vandehei and Mike Allen, and others have stated, she cannot win the Democratic nomination for president. Even if you count Florida and Michigan's outlaw primaries, she won't catch up in the popular vote. Even if she wins every remaining contest (unless she does so by an improbable 70-30 blowout,) she won't catch up to Barack Obama in pledged delegates. And since Super Tuesday, she has given back a half dozen superdelegates, while Barack has gained more than 40. So why is Hillary Clinton still running for president (and while we're at it, why is the media continue to pretend that she's not Mike Huckabee, pre-Texas, or Ron Paul now?) There can, in my estimation, be only three possibilities:

1. Hillary Clinton is insane. She has had a complete psychotic break due to the stresses of watching her presidential dream slip away, and has lost touch with reality. In her mind, she will be president, somehow, and her aides (and her husband) are afraid to confront her with the truth, lest she lose whatever's left of her mind.

2. Hillary Clinton knows that she won't get the nomination, so she is determined to make sure Barack Obama doesn't get the White House. Having failed to convince the villagers to make her their queen, this version has Hillary burning the Democratic village to the ground, not to save it, but just for the sheer joy of watching it burn. (Stupid villagers.) For this to be true, Hillary Clinton has to believe, as I do, that John McCain would be at best, a mediocre president, incapable of Eisenhowerian or even Reagensque greatness, and that through a combination of his total lack of charisma, his determination to plow ahead in Iraq, LBJ style, and his age, he will surely be a one-term president. And so she and her closest allies are already printing up the "Hillary in 2012" bumper stickers.

3. Hillary Clinton is pushing for the vice presidency. Seriously. In the Dick Cheney era, the veep job has become much more powerful than the warm bucket of shizznit at a foreign dictator's funeral that it used to be (a trend that the Dark Lord accelerated from Bill Clinton's time, when Al Gore wielded greater than usual power to push policy.) Hillary obviously would know that, and having anointed herself as the candidate more versed in foreign policy, more capable of dealing with Congress, more prepared to answer the red phone at 3 a.m. and so well traveled in her 35 years of "experience," she could easily see herself in the role of Barack's Dick Cheney, right down to selecting herself for the job.

Hillary and her team claim she has passed the amorphous "commander in chief test," which coincidentally, is also the lone test for the vice presidency outside of meeting the age requirement (she's 60, so "check.") So maybe her continued war games are aimed at putting the super delegates -- the really big ones like Gore, Howard Dean and Jimmy Carter, in a box wherein they would have little choice but to go to the convention and broker a deal that puts Hillary on the ticket as Barack's VP. It may sound crazy, but Hillary also has got to know that Barack wouldn't willingly draft her as vice president, so forcing him to do so might be her only hope of gaining power -- not the power originally sought -- but something damned near close to it. In that light, all of the talk of a "dream ticket" out of Camp Hillary is counter-intuitive, but real.

Besides, I'm sure Hillary has figured out that it's Cheney who really runs the government, and that would surely be alright by her.

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posted by JReid @ 10:15 AM  
4,000
The Iraq war reaches a grim milestone for American troops, courtesy of a roadside bomb in Baghdad. An other 29,000 U.S. troops have been injured in the folly to find Saddam Hussein's non-existent weapons of mass destruction. More on the progression of the dead:

The 1,000th US soldier to die was in September 2004, in the midst of a presidential election that returned Mr Bush to office for a second term.

The toll climbed to 2,000 in October 2005 as Sunni Arab insurgents battled to oust the Iraqi Government, and 3,000 in December 2006, before the US President unveiled a plan to send 30,000 more troops to Iraq to quell violence that has killed tens of thousands of Iraqis and displaced millions more.

And we rarely know their names. The most recent death, so far unofficially reported, was 27 year old David Stelmat, who was in the Army, and who was somebody's beloved son, probably someone's brother, possibly the love of someone's life... He died on March 22nd. His and the other fallen troops are listed here.

Meanwhile, in the even more forgotten war, 488 U.S. troops and 296 coalition troops have been killed in Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan.

And the question of who was killed in the war (or wars) and who was not remains open for some families, who are having to fight the military just to get their loved ones counted. From the Army Times:

WAUSAU, Wis. — Joan McDonald believes her son was a casualty of the war in Iraq, but the Army says that while he did suffer a severe head wound in a bomb blast, the cause of his death is undetermined, keeping him off the casualty list.

She and her family are demanding more answers in the death of Sgt. James W. McDonald.

“I don’t want it to be an undetermined cause of death,” said Joan McDonald. “That is ridiculous.”

McDonald, 26, was injured in a roadside bomb blast in Iraq last May. He was assigned to the 1st Battalion, 5th Cavalry Regiment based at Fort Hood, Texas. After treatment in Germany, McDonald returned to Fort Hood and underwent extensive facial surgery in August.

His body was found in his barracks apartment Nov. 12, a Monday. He was last seen alive the previous Friday.

The Army ruled out suicide and accidental factors, but an autopsy could not determine the exact cause of death, in part because of the decomposition of the body, said Col. Diane Battaglia, a base spokeswoman.

As a result, McDonald’s death is considered noncombat-related, with the caveat that medical experts couldn’t rule out that “traumatic brain injury” may have been a factor, Battaglia said.

Joan McDonald, of Neenah, has no doubts about her son’s death.

“If my son was not at the war, he would not be dead, plain and simple,” she said. “He was a strong healthy boy. ... Don’t tell me it was unrelated to the war. I will never accept that.”

Tom Wilborn, a spokesman for Disabled American Veterans in Washington, said the question of whether McDonald was a war casualty is the first that he was aware of from the Iraq war.

“But it happened a lot during Vietnam,” he said. “There’s a long history where guys would be wounded in the jungle and they might live long enough to come home. And then they would pass away and were not counted as a combat casualty.”

According to an Army study in 2007, 1.4 million people in the U.S. suffer traumatic brain injuries each year. Of those, 50,000 die, 235,000 are hospitalized and 1.1 million are evaluated, treated at a hospital emergency department and released.

A Government Accountability Office study found that of soldiers who required a medical evacuation for battle-related injuries in Iraq or Afghanistan, 30 percent suffered a traumatic brain injury. But it was unknown how many soldiers suffered more mild forms of brain injury. ...

The family has turned to Russ Feingold for help. And how do members of the armed services measure the time, and the loss? In friends and marriages lost, and in time, that at times, seems wasted. A couple of posts from the Military Times website:
Robert Delgado, March 21 -

It’s a media hype(The Annivesary), we as soldiers don’t care about the 5 year time span. I served with the 4th Infantry Division Artillery from 2001 till 2004 and recieved the Purple Heart wounds recieved in combat. Most soldiers have done at least two tours in iraq and some more than 4. But what sticks out more than anything is that we are still there. The insurgency is not going anywhere and we have become the police force for the Iraqi nation. As you read this wewill have lost over 4000 soldiers.What were our goverments plans for this war? We know now that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Forget 5 and down let’s bring our men and women home.

Warrior, March 23 -

5 years, I agree, it is merely a number…I’ve just begun reading the book, ‘The Final Move Beyond Iraq,’ by Mike Evans. I’m so proud of each and every Service Member that is courageously sacrificing their life for the freedom we call home here in America. It’s not about being a republican or democrat, not about the right or the left wing, not about pro or anti-war…but what it is about is taking the enemy down with a unified Army. However, it is maddening and saddening about all the families that have been split up, loves ones lost, and the health affects the war is having on so many troops…one thing to keep in mind is that war has been a part of history before any of us were a mere thought…
Whether you love the war or hate the war, how can you help but love the warriors? God bless each and every one.

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posted by JReid @ 9:32 AM  
Sunday, March 23, 2008
Unfriendlies
Camp Clinton is clearly pissed off at Bill Richardson for endorsing Barack Obama (that phone call to Hillary must have been a doosy...) but comparing him to Judas? That's harsh, James Carville... even the MyDD crew thinks it's too much.

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posted by JReid @ 4:17 PM  
Euro John
John McCain tells Europe: "don't worry, if I'm president, I'll only bomb Iran..." okay, maybe not literally.

And he's not quite a neocon, but he did support bombing Iraq ten years ago...

And what's with the "Three Amigos" routine with Joe Lieberman and Lindsey Graham? Do these guys go to the bathroom together, too? And is America ready for a Secretary of Defense with "Joementum?" I think not (and neither are the Iraqis, I suspect, who would see a truly endless war in a McCain-Lieberman presidential partnership...)

By the way, McCain still leads (slightly) in the Gallup daily tracking poll, where Barack and Hillary have traded leads again, although his two-point leads over both Dems falls within the margin of error and is thus a statistical tie... still, a tie for McCain, who professes ignorance on the economy (and then demonstrates it by choosing L'Airbus over Boeing for a U.S. defense contract ... how many states does Boeing have plants in again?) is almost like Christmas (or Easter, given the day...)

Oh, and speaking of those Boeing locations, the company's website lists the following (I've helpfully highlighted the swing states...):

Alabama
Arizona
California
Florida
Illinois (where the company’s corporate headquarters is located)
Kansas
Missouri
Pennsylvania
Texas
Washington State
Washington D.C.

And don't think Kansas can't make it to the bolded list this year. The governor, Kathleen Sebelius, is with Barack (and as a Democrat, the fact that she's even the governor is telling...) and Barack's mother was born there.

And back to Airbus: it's now the subject of the campaign season's first anti-McCain commercial to preview what should be the Democratic argument in the fall: John McCain could give a crap about the economy and he has no clue how to rescue American jobs. His cause is war, war, and more treasury-draining, gas price-hiking, U.S. economy-crushing, crony contract-generating, "creating jobs over there so we don't have to create them over here," war.

I'm Joy Reid, and I approved this message.

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posted by JReid @ 3:34 PM  
Signs of the veepocalypse
When gay men get married, to women, I mean ... it's usually an indication that they are looking for something personal, emotional or professional that society does not readily offer to openly homosexual men. It can also be a sign that they either have a truly good female friend who is willing to give up the possibility of a satisfying sexual an demotion life in order to be married, and participate in life's relationship super bowl, or they are willing to lie to a really naive or clueless woman.

When a gay politician gets married, it usually indicates that he is highly ambitious and desires to put himself in a position to move up the power ladder, say ... by making himself a more appealing choice for vice president, for instance, since America requires only two things of their presidents (or vice presidents): that they be really visible Christians, and that they be married (to a woman). Everything else (a brain, for instance,) is clearly optional (oh, and a third thing, we want them to be the kind of guy we'd have a beer with, assuming we have the remotest possibility of having a beer with a multi-millionaire...)
http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif
Oh, and Charlie Crist has a girlfriend who sources say might be "the one!"

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posted by JReid @ 2:32 PM  
Wright on (and on)
The Sunday talk shows focused, not surprisingly, on Barack Obama's "rough week," and the two things that made it less rough: his phenomenal speech on race, and the endorsement he received from Bill Richardson.

On the race issue, an interesting discussion took place on CNN's "Reliable Sources," where finally, someone addressed the issue of the media's sound bite mentality, and general ignorance on the issues of race and Black churches. The latter point was made by CBS reporter Byron Pitts, who is black, and whom Kurtz introduced at the top of the show, remarkably as having just come from church... don't believe me, believe the transcript:
KURTZ: Joining us now to talk about race, the media and the campaign, in New York, Byron Pitt, national correspondent for CBS News. In Tampa, Eric Deggans, media critic for "The St. Petersburg Times." And in Seattle, Michael Medved, host of "The Michael Medved Show" on the Salem Radio Network.

Byron Pitts, as a black journalist who just came from church this Easter morning, do you look at this furor over Jeremiah Wright's remarks differently than white journalists? Are you less offended, perhaps?
And he speaks so well, too! (eyes rolling...)
BYRON PITTS, CBS NEWS: Oh, I think so. I mean, I've been black for 47 years, I was baptized in the Baptist Church when I was 12 years old. And so Reverend Wright said why -- much of why it was offensive, those are comments I've heard in church before, and I'm mindful of the context, that I think many of my colleagues who are white, they don't have that context.

Like, I was just looking at the clip you showed. All those commentators, all those reporters, were white. They have a different life experience. They have a different context. And I think this story speaks to the lack of diversity in major news organizations, that you have people speaking from a position of ignorance, because they don't understand the black church, that can't bring the context that we as journalists are supposed to bring to a news event.

KURTZ: A good point about diversity, but in one of your reports this week, you said that critics have called Reverend Wright's sermons anti-American. That critics have called them. I mean, this is a guy who said...

PITTS: Sure.

KURTZ: ... "The government lied about inventing the HIV virus as a means of genociding (ph) his people of color," who said, "God damn America," who said, "U.S. of KKKA."

Why push it off on critics?

PITTS: Well, I think there's some people -- I mean, I think there's some people who have the position that they disagree with much of what Reverend Wright said, but for some people, there is some basis of truth. I mean, I'm mindful of, you know, during Hurricane Katrina, there were people initially in that community who thought maybe the government had blown up the levee there, because, in fact, in New Orleans history, that in fact had happened.

For many people in black America, they remember how there's a time when our government injected black men with syphilis, I believe, that those kinds of thing occur. So, one of the things I thought that Barack -- a point that he made in his speech is how you have in the church, in the black church, there's this wealth of love, compassion, and truth, and some ignorance. And it's a world that if you're a pastor, that you have to navigate that world.
After that, the St. Pete Times' media critic, Eric Deggans (whom we used to book frequently on the morning show,) helpfully pointed out that the media coverage of Jeremiah Wright's now infamous speech clips, excluded the context in which the remarks were made -- context which could easily have been provided by playing longer sections of the 20-minute sermons, or by posting the transcripts. Deggans provides the former on his blog, and as it turns out, during the most "shocking" statement -- "God damn America," Wright was actually quoting someone else. Whoops...!
ERIC DEGGANS, "ST. PETERSBURG TIMES": Well, I think the biggest problem that we have here is that people haven't actually looked at what Reverend Wright said. On my blog, the feed for "The St. Petersburg Times," I've actually put up longer clips of the two controversial speeches, the 9/11 speech, and the speech in which he said, you know, an expletive, "America."

And when you see the actual sermons, you see that he's trying to make some very explosive points about America, but he's leading up to them in a way where those statements make a little more sense. And in fact, the "chickens coming home to roost" comments he made about 9/11, he was quoting someone else. And the ABC News report that initially revealed this made it seem as if those were his words.

And you know, as much as I like Byron, you know, the reference to black men being injected with syphilis, what actually happened is that they had syphilis and they weren't treated for it by a government program. And I think one of the problems we have in this debate is that journalists are not getting to the heart of what's actually going on here, taking a step back and really explaining these issues to the American people.

KURTZ: All right.

DEGGANS: What we're doing is taking the emotional part of it and constantly putting it before people in order to gin up a conversation that may be based on false assumptions.
One of the other guests, reporter Byron Pitts, even caught useless talker Michael Medved trotting out the old "Barack is so articulate" meme, making the point that what white people fear about Rev. Jeremiah Wright is his tone of voice -- while Barack rather soothes them because he plays against type -- you know, black Americans, though born and raised here, only speak proper English as some sort of parlor trick...

Back to Eric's blog. A portion of it bears reprinting:

Because Rev. Wright deserved a better defender than I -- or, frankly Barack Obama -- have been during this nonsense. A look at these clips, which present much larger excerpts of Wright's speeches, shows that his seemingly damning statements came during passionate speeches about America's history of racial oppression and America's history of killing innocents while exacting military revenge against enemies.

One of Rev. Wright's most controversial comments -- the statements about "chickens coming home to roost" after 9/11 -- was his quote of a white ambassador speaking on Fox News Channel. Why didn't the TV news reporters tell us this?

...including the so-called "investigative reporters" among them, who claim to have easily obtained tapes of the sermons, but who couldn't be bothered to watch the entire tapes? Did they just scan forward to the offending remarks? Or did they just go by the Youtube? Either way, you'd think a "responsible" news outfit or two would see fit to make the whole sermons available, or at least the transcripts, on their websites, no? Or to seek that context themselves, rather than simply absorbing the Wright story for its horse race value? Oh wait, we're talking about the American media... Here's one of the clips (Eric posts two of them). The theme, interestingly enough, given even Barack's formulation that Wright is mired in the past, is "governments change, but God does not":



More on that white ambassador from Sam Stein at the Huffpo:

Meet the man who inspired Reverend Jeremiah Wright's now famous tirade about America's foreign policy inciting the terrorist attacks of September 11.

His name is Ambassador Edward Peck. And he is a retired, white, career U.S. diplomat who served 32-years in the U.S. Foreign Service and was chief of the U.S. mission to Iraq under Jimmy Carter -- hardly the black-rage image with which Wright has been stigmatized.

In fact, when Wright took the pulpit to give his post-9/11 address -- which has since become boiled down to a five second sound bite about "America's chickens coming home to roost" -- he prefaced his remarks as a "faith footnote," an indication that he was deviating from his sermon.

"I heard Ambassador Peck on an interview yesterday," Wright declared. "He was on Fox News. This is a white man and he was upsetting the Fox News commentators to no end. He pointed out, a white man, an ambassador, that what Malcolm X said when he got silenced by Elijah Muhammad was in fact true: America's chickens are coming home to roost."

Wright then went on to list more than a few U.S. foreign policy endeavors that, by the tone of his voice and manner of his expression, he viewed as more or less deplorable. This included, as has been demonstrated in the endless loop of clips from his sermon, bombing Hiroshima and Nagasaki and nuking "far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon and we never batted an eye."

"Violence begets violence," Wright said, "hatred begets hatred, and terrorism begets terrorism."

And then he concluded by putting the comments on Peck's shoulders: "A white ambassador said that yall, not a black militant, not a reverend who preaches about racism, an ambassador whose eyes are wide open and is trying to get us to wake up and move away from this dangerous precipice... the ambassador said that the people we have wounded don't have the military capability we have, but they do have individuals who are willing to die and take thousands with them... let me stop my faith footnote right there."

And yet, this contextualization of the Wright quotes will itself remain a footnote of this story, because the media, having issued a soundbite meme, rarely takes it back. So where does Rev. Wright go to get his reputation back?

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posted by JReid @ 1:34 PM  
Saturday, March 22, 2008
Outbreaks of conscience at Fox News
I never thought I'd see the day. Two whole on-air personalities: sports guy Brian Kilmeade, and ... wait for it ... Chris Wallace, the lesser progeny of Mike, who did Rupe Murdoch's dirty work on Bill Clinton and got man-handled by the former Prez, finally had enough after two hours of Obama race baiting by FNC's idiotic morning show duo. The Huffpo pairs the clips. Next thing you know, the elixir will wear off on Bill Hemmer and he'll discover he's actually a news man trapped in a traveling circus ...

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posted by JReid @ 12:44 AM  
14 cuts
TIME's Mark Halperin lists 14 hard truths Hillary Clinton knows, or should. The only question is, who in her circle has the cojones to sit her down and make her see that it's over. Perhaps it won't be Bill, who's out doing hugely unfortunate things like this these days...

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posted by JReid @ 12:37 AM  
There will be polygraphs
... in the Passport snooping scandal (which Gloria Borger over at CNN has declared a mere case of snoopery, per the government memo. Well, memo to Gloria, the Watergate break-in started out as a second-rate burglary...)

The State Department is scrambling to appear to be on top of the matter, even as new details have begun to emerge:
Bush administration officials struggled yesterday to explain why repeated attempts to look at the files were not known by senior officials until they received a reporter's inquiry Thursday. The incident jarred the race for the Democratic nomination and brought back memories of a passport scandal during the 1992 race between President Bush's father and Clinton's husband, when senior State Department officials examined Bill Clinton's passport files, resulting in a two-year probe by an independent prosecutor.

"We do feel like the system worked," McCormack said, noting that the unauthorized searches were quickly identified to supervisors. "But the system isn't perfect." The employees were caught because of a computer monitoring system that is triggered when the passport file of a "high-profile person" is accessed, the State Department said.

Before entering a person's passport file, employees must answer "yes" or "no" in a screen that warns them: "You are permitted access to passport and consular personal records on a need to know basis" and "These are privileged records and are subject to the provisions of the Privacy Act of 1974." Entry into the system does not give users access to other government records, officials said.

The two employees fired for examining Obama's file worked for Stanley Inc., an Arlington-based company that has handled passport processing for 15 years and just this week won a five-year, $570 million contract. Stanley's chairman, Philip Nolan of McLean, contributed $1,000 to Clinton's campaign on Feb. 20, federal election records show. He has also contributed to moderate Republicans.

"We regret the unauthorized access of any individual's private information," the firm said in a statement. "In each of these instances the employee was terminated the day the unauthorized search occurred."

A third contract employee, who looked at Obama's file on March 14, was discovered to have also examined McCain's file, McCormack said. That employee, who worked for Analysis Corp. of McLean, has been denied access to passport applications, and his or her employment status is under review, McCormack said.

John Brennan, chief executive of Analysis, gave $2,300 to Obama on Jan. 28, records show. "We deeply regret that the incident occurred and believe it is an isolated incident," the company said in an e-mail statement. It noted that at the request of the State Department, it has delayed taking action against its employee until the IG's office completes its investigation. Brennan had a 25-year career with the CIA and served as interim director of the National Counterterrorism Center.

A fourth worker, who accessed Clinton's file, is not a contractor but a State Department employee. The employee looked up Clinton's file during a training exercise last summer -- trainees had been told to look up a parent's application -- and was "admonished" but not fired, McCormack said.

Though Rice has ordered a probe by State's inspector general, the two fired employees no longer fall under the department's jurisdiction and could refuse to answer questions. McCormack said the department hopes the former employees will cooperate with the inquiry. State has also asked the Justice Department to help monitor the IG's probe, McCormack said.

David H. Laufman, associate independent counsel in the earlier passport scandal and now a partner at Kelley Drye Collier Shannon in Washington, said that a violation of the Privacy Act would occur if the person who accessed the information also disclosed it to someone unauthorized to received it. Even then, he said, violating the act is only a misdemeanor.
Ah, outsourcing!
McCormack said State's passport services directorate includes 1,800 employees and 2,600 contractors. The contractors perform data entry and customer service tasks.

The State Department recently expanded the access that various government agencies and even foreign law enforcement agencies can have into the passport system, according to a notice in the Federal Register earlier this year. The notice said the action was being taken "for counter-terrorism and other purposes such as border security and fraud prevention."
I know I feel safer.

And there's more information regarding the two outsourced firms. The Moonies say one of them has ties to Obama himself:
TAC [The Analysis Corp.] is a McLean-based information firm that has helped the State Department automate the Terrorist Watchlist over the last several years, the company’s Web site said.

TAC’s Chief Executive Officer John O. Brennan is a former CIA agent who is an adviser to Mr. Obama’s presidential campaign.

One of the same contract employees who pulled Mr. Obama’s information earlier this year was found to have gone into Mr. McCain’s file.
More on Stanley, Inc. here and here. More on both firms from NBC's new "Deep Background" blog here.

Another interesting note is that this scandal came to light because apparently, a State Department employee went to the Washington Times, perhaps because they didn't feel that enough action was being taken internally.

Last but not least, Newsweek has more on the passport/privacy probe from Mark Hosenball.

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posted by JReid @ 12:11 AM  
E.J. Dionne says it all
Today's column by E.J. Dionne Jr. contains a bit of protein wisdom:
...One of the least remarked upon passages in Obama's speech is also one of the most important -- and the part most relevant to the Wright controversy. There is, Obama said, a powerful anger in the black community rooted in "memories of humiliation and doubt" that "may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends" but "does find voice in the barbershop or the beauty shop or around the kitchen table. . . . And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews."

Yes, black people say things about our country and its injustices to each other that they don't say to those of us who are white. Whites also say things about blacks privately that they don't say in front of their black friends and associates.

One black leader who was capable of getting very angry indeed is the one now being invoked against Wright. His name was Martin Luther King Jr.

An important book on King's rhetoric by Barnard College professor Jonathan Rieder, due out next month, offers a more complex view of King than the sanitized version that is so popular, especially among conservative commentators. In "The Word of the Lord Is Upon Me," Rieder -- an admirer of King -- notes that the civil rights icon was "not just a crossover artist but a code switcher who switched in and out of idioms as he moved between black and white audiences."

Listen to what King said about the Vietnam War at his own Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Feb. 4, 1968: "God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war. . . . And we are criminals in that war. We've committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I'm going to continue to say it. And we won't stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation. But God has a way of even putting nations in their place." King then predicted this response from the Almighty: "And if you don't stop your reckless course, I'll rise up and break the backbone of your power."

If today's technology had existed then, I would imagine the media playing quotations of that sort over and over. Right-wing commentators would use the material to argue that King was anti-American and to discredit his call for racial and class justice. King certainly angered a lot of people at the time.

Read the whole column here.

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posted by JReid @ 12:07 AM  
Spitzer's Miami vice?
Could Eliot Spitzer have been the victim of a political vendetta? Could the FBI have been tipped off about his penchant for prostitutes by a political enemy, months before he was busted through a "routine" bank and IRS probe? Maybe... From the Miami Herald:
Spitzer Miami tryst alleged
By AMY DRISCOLL
Almost four months before Gov. Eliot Spitzer resigned in a sex scandal, a lawyer for Republican political operative Roger Stone sent a letter to the FBI alleging that Spitzer ''used the services of high-priced call girls'' while in Florida.

The letter, dated Nov. 19, said Miami Beach resident Stone learned the information from ''a social contact in an adult-themed club.'' It offered one potentially identifying detail: The man in question hadn't taken off his calf-length black socks ``during the sex act.''

Stone, known for shutting down the 2000 presidential election recount effort in Miami-Dade County, is a longtime Spitzer nemesis whose political experience ranges from the Nixon White House to Al Sharpton's presidential campaign. His lawyer wrote the letter containing the call-girl allegations after FBI agents had asked to speak to Stone, though he says the FBI did not specify why he was contacted.

''Mr. Stone respectfully declines to meet with you at this time,'' the letter states, before going on to offer ''certain information'' about Spitzer.

''The governor has paid literally tens of thousands of dollars for these services. It is Mr. Stone's understanding that the governor paid not with credit cards or cash but through some pre-arranged transfer,'' the letter said.

''It is also my client's understanding from the same source that Gov. Spitzer did not remove his mid-calf length black socks during the sex act. Perhaps you can use this detail to corroborate Mr. Stone's information,'' the letter said. It was signed by attorney Paul Rolf Jensen of Costa Mesa, Calif.

The letter also notes that while Stone believes the information is true, he ''cannot swear to its accuracy'' because it is second-hand.

James Margolin, a spokesman for the FBI's New York office, would not say whether the bureau had received the letter. A spokeswoman for Spitzer also had no comment.

The letter was written several months after allegations were leveled at Stone that he had left a threatening phone message at the office of Bernard Spitzer, the ex-governor's father, regarding ''phony'' campaign loans involving his son's unsuccessful 1994 bid for attorney general. Stone denied making the call but resigned as a consultant for state Senate Republicans in Albany.

Stone's lawyer says they're releasing the letter to quell Internet "conspiracy theories" about his role in Spitzer's fall. Whatever gets you through the night...

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posted by JReid @ 12:01 AM  
Friday, March 21, 2008
The passport access scandal widens
AP and NBC News are breaking the story that not only was Barack Obama's passport file accessed by State Department contract employees, but apparently, the files of all three remaining major candidates have had their files breached, too.

According to AP:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has told Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton that her passport file was breached in 2007.

In a statement from her Senate office, Clinton said she had been contacted by Rice. The State Department plans to brief Clinton's staff Friday about the unauthorized breach.

The development came just hours after the State Department fired two contract employees and disciplined a third for inappropriately examining the passport file of Clinton's Democratic rival, Sen. Barack Obama.

And while we don't have ink on the McCain breach, too, NBC News is reporting that his records were looked at, too.

The NBC anchors, led by the inimitable (and I don't mean that kindly,) Contessa Brewer, are blowing off the development as some sort of indication that this was just nosy pranksterism. But there are serious questions that should be raised about whether or not there really is a legitimate expectation of privacy to be had in the United States anymore.

If this did somehow emanate from the Bush administration, it should lead to the appointment of a special prosecutor, something I wouldn't count on the Bush Justice Department to do. But even if it isn't, it calls into serious question the administration's stewardship of the nation's security, and the peoples' rights and interests.

Update: The State Department is now calling the Clinton breach a "training mistake" this past summer, while the person in question was asked to enter a random name to learn the program and entered Clinton's name. The department spokesman says the person was immediately admonished for the incident and not fired. The Obama pilfering was a firing offense, and according to the State Department, which is holding a news conference now, in one incident, the same person accessed both Barack Obama's and John McCain's records. The acting inspector general at State will be overseeing the departmental investigation, apparently.

The oddest thing about this scandal so far is that the State Department is actually alleging that "the system worked." Look for that to be the talking point on right wing talk radio today... "the system worked..." "the system worked..." "the system worked..."

This one is definitely developing...

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posted by JReid @ 12:05 PM  
Cinderfella?
ABC News' Rick Klein and Mike Elmore say that despite it all, most things are going Barack Obama's way...

He even got an apology from Condi regarding the breach of his passport records, not that that closes the matter...

I'm not so sure I'd be as rosy as the ABC duo, but Obama does have certain pluses going into the weekend:

First, its Easter weekend, so many voters will be focused elsewhere, putting more distance between him and the toughest story for him in the latest news cycle: the Wright debacle.

Second, Bill Richardson's endorsement does help bolster his arguments on "readiness" and foreign policy acumen. And as I said in the previous post, it will help him out west, and with Hispanics. And it gives him a good story going into the weekend. That and the passport breach should blot out any remaining Wright residue in the mainstream media coverage for now. That doesn't mean the mad bloggers, right wing talk radio and Fox News won't continue to beat the dead horse, but then, they aren't exactly Obamicans, are they...

And, as the ABCers say, (and as a very senior member of the campaign said to a group of us who gathered this morning to discuss the race,) by the math, barring some catastrophic disclosure that dooms his candidacy, Barack Obama is going to be the nominee. He just has to run out the clock.

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posted by JReid @ 11:35 AM  
Maybe he can hook Barack up with some of those hilarious commercials...
Bill Richardson, of the best political commercials in the wild west, endorses Barack Obama today ... nice, but probably would have been more helpful before the Texas primary, given that Pennsylvania, the next big contest, has a Latino population of 4.2%, the last time the Census Bureau ran the numbers. Anyhoo, I'm sure Barack will take it, especially given Richardson's extensive foreign policy experience and previous fealty to the Clinton campaign -- he was the guy who very chivalrously defended Mrs. Clinton from John Edwards in that now infamous October 30 debate in Philadelphia. Hell, he even watched the Super Bowl with Bill (that won't be happening next year...) As to why Richardson chose Obama over Hil after so long, I would suspect the meanness of the Clinton campaign has at least something to do with it...

Richardson will help Barack in the general not only in his state, but also in Colorado and Nevada, given that he understands the western U.S., and will resonate with Mexican-Americans. (He probably won't be much help here in Florida, where so few Hispanics are of Mexican ancestry, something my 527, ACT, and groups like the New Democratic Network found out in 2004.) But all in all, a good thing for Barack, and another bellweather for the superdelegates.

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posted by JReid @ 11:11 AM  
Oy, vey! ... I mean NOT oy, vey!
The mainstream media has fallen for the simplistic narrative, now suggesting that merely being photographed with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, as, AHA! ... Bill Clinton was back in the Monica mess days of 1998, is akin to sending your pre-teen son to Michael Jackson's house to play. Even the Huffpo has gone in for the simple-minded victimology and oversensitivity which has apparently become the province of white people, who seem to see anti-white racism everywhere they turn. In this case, pro-Hillary blogger Taylor Marsh gotchas Barack over using the incendiary! phrase, "typical white person" ... as IF!!!

And this as MSNBC reports on the critical story of John McCain's wing-man, Joe Lieberman, taking a dive over his pal's confusion of the Jewish holiday of Purim with ... wait for it ... Halloween! I feel a rental of "Cocoon" coming on...!


Still from the 1985 film "Coccon"

Still from the 2008 film, "Hey you kids, get off OUR lawn...!"

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posted by JReid @ 12:53 AM  
He said it! Zbigniew Brezhinski
On "Morning Joe" this morning, Mika's dad weighed in on Barack Obama, Iraq, and why Mamie Eisenhower wouldn't have made a credible candidate for president, and neither would his travel agent...



Here's the transcript:

TUCKER CARLSON:
Dr. Brzezinski, it's Tucker Carlson ... I wonder what you make of Hillary Clinton's point, made over and over again that Barack Obama just has no experience, and we've taken this flier on a president eight years ago who had no international experience, no foreign policy experience, and that's been a disaster, and we can't afford to do that again.


DR. BRZEZINSKI:
Well I sort of don't take that very seriously. She says she has been to 80 countries on trips. Well, my travel agent has been to over 150 countries on trips. That doesn't qualify her to be president. (laughter) She says she spent 35 years working for the public. Well when you look very closely, that's 35 years she left law school. She spent a lot of time essentially lobbying, dealing, enrich-ming (sic) and public service, it's a combination of all of these, but there's certainly not one that stands out that's decisive. Look; if John Kennedy, who was running for the presidency in 1960 when Eisenhower couldn't run again... if he had been running, not against Nixon, but against Mamie Eisenhower, would someone say that Mamie Eisenhower is better prepared to be president than John Kennedy? I mean, being the wife of a president does not make you ready to be president.

TUCKER: I stand back in awe ... I stand back in awe .. You have just ... you know I wish we had a Clinton surrogate on so we could see the shade of that person's face, it would probably be crimson... that's devastating... (laughter)

JOE SCARBOROUGH: ... travel agents and Mamie Eisenhower .. somewhere Jamie Rubin is in a fetal position...

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posted by JReid @ 12:28 AM  
Thursday, March 20, 2008
Imprudent curiosity...
Barack Obama pictured with his mother, step-father and younger sister in undated photo.

Barack Obama, his Senate staff and his campaign learned just tonight that his passport records had been accessed improperly not once, not twice, but three times over the last three months, on January 9th, February 21st and March 14th, by three different people who have been identified only as State Department contractors. The story broke tonight on MSNBC just before 8 p.m., and it's a bombshell.

[Just as a point of reference, the Iowa caucuses took place January 3rd, and marked Obama's emergence as the man who could beat Hillary, "Super Duper Tuesday" in which Barack fought Mrs. Clinton to a draw, was February 5th, the "Potomac Primary" was February 12th, the Ohio-Texas-Rhode Island-Vermont primary was March 4 and Barack won Mississippi on March 11th.]

The State Department is claiming that the snoopers were simply nosy employees, two of whom were fired, one suspended, and none of whom were brought up on criminal charges, including charges of violating the Privacy Act, which would require that they shared information they learned in Barack's passport records with others. The State Department claims that didn't happen, and that far from being an act of political dirty tricks, the snooping was merely a case of "imprudent curiosity" exhibited three times, by three different people, in three months. How they determined that no one shared whatever they knew we'll never know. Nor will we know what was done about the breaches (and why no one bothered to tell Obama until tonight) by the State Department's Office of Inspector General -- that post being vacant at the moment, as Keith Olbermann reported tonight (William Todd is the deputy in charge.)

Meanwhile, the undersecretary of state who oversees the office in question had a slightly different version:

Undersecretary of State Patrick F. Kennedy, in a hastily arranged conference call with reporters, said he asked the State Department inspector general to open an inquiry into the matter and acknowledged that it might need to be expanded.

He also said he would brief Obama, who is locked in a tight race for the Democratic presidential nomination with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, today on the matter.

Kennedy said that he did not know yet whether any laws were broken or whether the employees shared the information with others. He said that the incidents, which occurred at three offices, on Jan. 9, Feb. 21 and March 14, should have been "passed up the line" much sooner and that officials were seeking to determine why they had not been disclosed earlier.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who was briefed yesterday afternoon, requested a "full investigation," department spokesman Sean McCormack said.

So we don't know if it was just "imprudent curiosity" after all? But we do know that Condi is either willfully ignorant, woefully uninformed, or a liar.

Now for the irony part ... there's always an irony part...

The employees were each caught because of a computer-monitoring system that is triggered when the passport account of a "high-profile person" is accessed, department spokesman Tom Casey said. The system, which focuses on politicians and celebrities, was put in place in recent years, after the State Department was embroiled in a scandal involving the access of the passport records of then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton in 1992.

That would be by the Bush I administration ... how deliciously coincidental!

In that case, a special prosecutor determined that officials at senior levels were knowledgeable about the passport breaches. That investigation cost $2.2 million, but no one was charged.

Said prosecutor being the vile Joe DiGenova.

The department declined to release the names of the employees or the two companies for which they worked.

Kennedy said the contract employees -- who helped process some of the 18 million passport applications the department handles every year -- had access to personal records as part of their jobs in data entry, customer service and other administrative tasks. He said that contract employees undergo "public integrity checks," such as a review of police records, but that the department does not examine political affiliation. "That would be inappropriate," he said.

Yes. ... inappropriate ... like when Karl Rove and Harriet Miers and their little poorly educated henchmen "vetted" U.S. attorneys for political usefulness...

What is clear, according to all of the reporters (Howard Fineman, Andre Mitchell and Davod Shuster in particular) is that it strains credulity to think that violations of this import, given the high profile of the victim, were not reported up the chain of command, to Secretary of State Rice, or to the president himself. If true, it raises questions about Condi's competence (again ... remember that Augusst 6, 2001 PDB that didn't raise her hackles?) or it begs the question, who in the White House may have wanted this to happen, the better to help find something that could help John McCain to gain the White House in November, and thus keep the money ... I mean the war going.

So what could the snoopers be looking for ... theoretically? Well, Barack Obama has had a passport probably since he was two years old, and his mother took him to live in Indonesia when he was 7. He is a well-traveled man, and you can imagine the Little Green Footballer type searching for oppo research material that could be useful to a Karl Rove type... just sayin'...

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posted by JReid @ 11:53 PM  
A mean bounce for Hillary
The latest Gallup Daily Tracking poll has bad news for Barack Obama, and bad news for the Democratic Party. The poll shows John McCain moving into the lead against either Democrat. Meanwhile, polls show Hillary taking advantage of Barack's bad couple of weeks publicity-wise. She's now leading him in the daily preference horserace, 49% to 42%.

On the cross-party horserace, Obama has been trailing McCain since March 15 in the poll, and he now trails him 47% to 43% (the results do not take into account the reaction to Obama's big speech, however, and it will be interesting to see whether the polls tighten up again over the next several days...)

For Hillary, she has being tying McCain since March 13 in the poll, and now trails him 48% to 45%.

I hate to be cruel, but I'm a little dubious about the latest Zogby poll. He has been way off lately (including calling California for Barack back in February...) Zogby has McCain crushing Hillary 45% to 39% and doing similar damage to Obama, 44% to 39%.

What is interesting about these polls, is that voters are stating a preference for McCain -- his lead change is due almost entirely to a switch among Independents -- irrespective of his policy positions. That tells me that all the squabbling and chaos on the Democratic side is making both candidates less likable, and less "stable seeming" for nervous Indies.

Still waiting on something new out of PA from ARG.

Overall, the polls show voters tiring of the Democratic primary, I would say, with many viewing McCain as a safer choice, at least for now. Can the Dems turn it around? Yes. But probably not before they suffer some more pain in the polls, as their ugly race drags on.

Update 3:32 p.m.: A new CBS/NYT poll shows both Dems still ahead of McCain in the horse race match-ups, but by a much narrower margin. Obama leads McCain 48% to 43%, down slightly from 50%-38% in February. Hillary edges McCain 46% to 44%, within the margin of error. Other important findings:
In a turnaround from last month, McCain now leads both Obama and Clinton among independent voters. Obama led McCain by 10 points among this group last month, but he now trails by 8 points. Clinton trails McCain by 11 points among independents.

Obama has the highest favorable rating of the three candidates - 44 percent - followed by Clinton at 39 percent and McCain at 38 percent. Clinton, meanwhile, has the highest unfavorable rating at 41 percent, followed by McCain at 31 percent and Obama at 28 percent.

Among Democratic primary voters, Obama is only slightly preferred over Clinton, 46 percent to 43 percent. Last month Obama led Clinton by a wider margin, 54 percent to 38 percent.

Since last month, Obama's national support among male Democratic primary voters has slipped considerably, though he still retains a 53 percent to 36 percent lead over Clinton among the group. Clinton has gained ground among female Democratic primary voters, and now leads Obama among that group 48 percent to 40 percent.
The complete poll is accessible here. On the satisfaction meter, 76% of Dems said they would be satisfied with Barack and 70% said the same about Hillary. The poll was taken March 15-18, so it really doesn't reflect the full impact of the Rev. Wright scandal and the subsequent Big Speech. The Gallup daily tracking poll is from yesterday (March 19).

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posted by JReid @ 11:06 AM  
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Things best not relived
The Hillary Clinton campaign for president offers monumental excitement for many American women. But it also offers endless fodder for opposition researchers, for the more prurient interests of the right wing lunocracy, and of the media. To whit: the Clinton document dump regarding Hillary's schedule has revealed a few things she probably would rather not have brought up: like her 1993 "drop in" in support of NAFTA ... or a blow by blow (sorry, you know what I mean) accounting of what she was doing on the days Big Bill was getting his groove on with Monica Lewinsky:

_March 31, 1996: Mrs. Clinton toured an archaeological site and museum in Delphi, Greece, and watched a folk dance performance. That day, Lewinsky said she and the president resumed their sexual contact.

_April 7, 1996, Easter Sunday. Mrs. Clinton had no public schedule. Lewinsky said that, at the president's suggestion, she performed oral sex while he was on the telephone in his office.

_Feb. 28, 1997: The schedule shows Mrs. Clinton was in the White House at least part of the day, when President Clinton and Lewinsky had oral sex near the Oval Office, leaving stains on her dress. There were no public events, but the schedule shows Mrs. Clinton had "drop by" events or meetings in the Map Room and Diplomatic Reception Room between 11 a.m. and 12:30 p.m. The schedule also lists plays and a concert that night, but it is not clear whether Mrs. Clinton attended.

Some of the details bump up dangerously close to items Mrs. Clinton might otherwise want to put on her "commander in chief resume," like the time she met with that foreign head of state, while Monica was making time with her husband:

_March 29, 1997: On the day when Lewinsky later told independent counsel Kenneth Starr that she had her final sexual encounter with the president, Mrs. Clinton was thousands of miles away in Eritrea. In his grand jury testimony, the president denied this encounter. The first lady that day toured the Martyrs' Cemetery in Eritrea, where she participated in a wreath-laying ceremony and a tree planting. She also visited a health care clinic, spoke to villagers, and toured a polio vaccination room. She visited a woodworking center, held a round-table discussion with the National Union of Eritrean Women and met the country's president.

Now, is it fair that this kind of stuff could be fodder in a potential Hillary-McCain match-up? No. But it would. Just as Barack will be Husseined like crazy if ... okay let's get real, when ... he is the nominee. It's called hardball, and the Clintons know very well how it's played.

Update: But if you absolutely MUST dwell on it, the Times of London does one hell of a "where are they now..."

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posted by JReid @ 11:19 PM  
More crazy James David Manning (or, will someone rid Hillary of this meddlesome nut?)
This guy is truly insane! Will Hillary distance herself from this weirdo? He even made up the name of his church: ATLAH ... says God told it to him in the middle of the night ... Here he is explaining himself in detail, including why you can't call him a racist (at the end of the video, if you can stand it all the way to the end, a woman comes on and invites you to a seminar to learn how to sell. I swear to you, it's there. Check it out:



Just to review: He doesn't think Frederick Douglas is "anything so great" ... he thinks Black people owe their eternal allegiance to the Clintons because of all the things those good white folks done for us (apparently one of those good things not being Bill opening an office in Harlem, since the Right Rev wants black Harlemites to boycott the white businesses to drive them out and to have a massive rent strike so that the city will be destroyed and ultimately abandoned to its "rightful black owners" ... he believes that blacks are weak and misguided, but that we will soon regain our "greatness!" primarily by following him ... he appears to despise white women, and yet worships one in particular (Hillary Clinton) ... and he is absolutely wild-eyed at the thought of interracial marriage ... he likes calling Barack "Barack Hussein Obama," but he gets an even bigger kick out of calling him "white trash" ... he thinks Barack has been "sent by the devil to derail you" (by "you" I mean black folk. ... I mean "negroes...") ... and he hates the bloggers and TV folk playing snippets of his Youtube without inviting him on their shows. He calls Roland Martin, publisher of the Chicago Defender and CNN contributor, a "copperhead," and he thinks that people are afraid of his intellect... actually, he kind of sounds like someone I used to work with... (ahem)

And most important of all, he wants you to send him some money.

Want to be even more frightened? Check out his bio, from the ATLAH website:

James David Manning is the energetic and visionary pastor of the ATLAH World Missionary Church located in ATLAH, New York. He has founded three schools and developed a national church ministry. He holds a PhD in philosopy, the author of The Oblation Hour book, a former Marketing Executive with Proctor and Gamble and the Ford Motor Company.


Hey, I thought Procter and Gamble was The Devil's company! (But it does kind of explain why my late Ford Expedition was such a piece of crap...)

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posted by JReid @ 10:47 PM  
Huckabee to the rescue
Just when I thought I'd get no more Mike Huckabee, he shows up on Morning Joe and makes some good bloody sense on the issue of Rev. Wright:

MIKE HUCKABEE: ... Sermons, after all, are rarely written word-for-word by pastors like Rev. Wright, who are delivering them extemporaneously, and caught up in the emotion of the moment. There are things that sometimes get said, that if you put them on paper and looked at them in print, you'd say, "Well, I didn't mean to say it quite like that."

MSNBC HOST JOE SCARBOROUGH: But, but you never came close to saying five days after September 11 that America deserved what it got -- or that the American government invented AIDS...

HUCKABEE: Not defending his statements.

SCARBOROUGH: Oh, I know you're not. I know you're not. I'm just wondering though: For a lot of people ... would you not guess that there are a lot of independent voters in Arkansas that vote for Democrats sometimes, and vote for Republicans sometimes, that are sitting here wondering how Barack Obama's spiritual mentor would call the United States the US-KKK?

HUCKABEE: I mean, those were outrageous statements, and nobody can defend the content of them.

SCARBOROUGH: But what's the impact on voters in Arkansas? Swing voters.

HUCKABEE: I don't think we know. If this were October, I think it would have a dramatic impact. But it's not October. It's March. And I don't believe that by the time we get to October this is going to be the defining issue of the campaign and the reason that people vote.

And one other thing I think we've got to remember: As easy as it is for those of us who are white to look back and say, "That's a terrible statement," I grew up in a very segregated South, and I think that you have to cut some slack. And I'm going to be probably the only conservative in America who's going to say something like this, but I'm just telling you: We've got to cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told, "You have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie. You have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant. And you can't sit out there with everyone else. There's a separate waiting room in the doctor's office. Here's where you sit on the bus." And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment. And you have to just say, I probably would too. I probably would too. In fact, I may have had a more, more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me.

Spoken like a man with sense, and sensitivity (which is why so many Republicans dislike him.)

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posted by JReid @ 10:42 PM  
SO???
We all knew that Dick Cheney is an arrogant S.O.B. who waved off military service for himself, while relishing sending other people's sons and daughters into war. But how much of an ass do you have to be to respond to the question of most Americans' opinions on the war with "so?" ... "SO???" ThinkP has the video.

Well we know that Cheney doesn't care, but perhaps you do, about what your fellow Americans think...

  • Only 31 percent approve of President Bush's job performance, which includes his stewardship of Iraq and Afghanistan...

  • The war is stressing out our young people, many of whom, unlike Dick, actually know someone in combat ...

  • Not to mention the senseless loss of American, "coalition" and Iraqi lives...
  • Anyone with half a clue can see that Iraq, like the U.S., is worse off for having had its brush with the Bush II administration...
... and yet Dick considers Iraq a "major success." Well, I suppose that's because he still stands to make so much war profiteering money from Halliburton.

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posted by JReid @ 5:50 PM  
Ummmm....
Okay, so I'll confess that I was listening in to Rush Limbaugh today ... I do that from time to time for as long as I can stand it, just to see what the enemy camp is up to (trashing Barack, still harping on the pastor, and Rush's self-involved ego trip, bolstered by the lackey mainstream media, causing him to believe that he's actually single-handedly confounding the Democratic primary... and not much else)... and I caught this absolutely stunning piece of audio, courtesy of El Rushbo. The speaker is The Rev. Dr. James David Manning (somebody gave this guy a doctorate???) who leads a church in Harlem called ATLAH Worldwide, and who apparently believes that he is the only hope for the masses. (Watch him explain his dislike for Obama and his "jealousy over Black people."

He's actually a perfect foil for Rush, saying, with classic EIB hyperbole, that his flock's "salvation" is in his mouth..." He actually says during the sermon, "If I don't preach, you don't eat!" Seriously. Listen for yourself ... and dispair... (or click this link.)



Now this is NOT, and I repeat NOT, a Dave Chappelle parody. This is a real guy, calling Barack a "pimp who pimps white women and black women" and "trash," because he has a white mother. And the best part is, he's a Clinton supporter. He also told his parishioners, who have to be on mind altering drugs, that they are fools and ingrates for turning on the massa ... I mean the man ... who "gave them everything they have," including their houses and their jobs. Seriously. (Check out where he says "now this is not racist, y'all...") Watch for yourself:



Now I can actually understand a guy like Jeremiah Wright, living with the pain of segregation and denial all his growing up life, coming away with a cynical view of America. And while his comments -- which represented a very limited snippet of his actual sermons, of which we know absolutely NOTHING -- this Harlem guy sounds like an absolute kook, or a cult leader. We need to check his parishioners for Kool-Aid poisoning, stat.

Update: spoof alert!

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posted by JReid @ 4:42 PM  
Five years on
I was sitting in the newsroom at the local NBC affiliate on March 19, 2003, the day that "shock and awe" began in the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Like many newsrooms, the cynicism was such that the affiliates of the online news operation ran a pool to see who could come closest to guessing when the bombing would begin. I nearly won -- I guessed the night of March 18, because there was to be a full moon that night, and that presented the U.S. military with the best strategic chance to visualize the targets. I was the second closest guesser.

I found the atmosphere in the newsroom on the day the bombing actually began to be ... well ... disturbing. Some people actually cheered. I had a couple of reporter friends who were (and still are) hardline, pro-Bush Republicans. We had a lot of debates about the war over the next several days. I nearly got fired for an op-ed I wrote for the Miami Herald which the editors titled: "Against a Senseless War" (I had a less controversial title in mind...) I'll never forget Ike Seamans, the elder statesman in the newsroom and a veteran reporter who also wrote a column for the Herald, telling me not to back down; that I had every right to utilize my First Amendment privilege, news job or not. I didn't get fired.

Five years later, I still don't see how the war in Iraq was worth it. Saddam Hussein posed no military threat to the United States. He was contained. Iran was less bold. Al-Qaida was nowhere near Iraq. And Iraq was stable, and producing enough oil to keep price spikes at bay. Now, we have lost 3,990 U.S. troops, and the coalition has lost 4,298 in total. The war hasn't made us any safer. Iran is bolder. Terrorism has seeped into Iraq. The region is more unstable than it has been in my lifetime. And oil is at $108 a barrel (and nearly $5 at the pump.)

There have been winners. The Big Oil companies have reaped record profits, as have crony firms of the vice president, who have gorged themselves on our tax dollars, even as they short change and even poison our troops.

President Bush will give a speech today to argue that the war was not only worth it, it should go on, and on, and on.

I will mark the anniversary by not bothering to listen.

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posted by JReid @ 9:21 AM  
Tuesday, March 18, 2008
Why do we care about this stuff?
So the new, legally blind governor of New York, David Patterson, and his wife cheated on each other? Do tell. No, on second thought, don't. The fact that the couple had to put this out before the media sniffed it out says something pretty sad about American politics.
posted by JReid @ 9:53 PM  
Mr. Presidunce
Proof positive that "Baghdad John" McCain really is running to give George W. Bush a third term (link):



When you've gotta be bailed out by Joe Lieberman...

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posted by JReid @ 9:42 PM  
The Obama Lexicon, Vol. 1
'O-gasm' - \OH-gaz-em\, noun:
The rapturous reaction one has to hearing a Barack Obama speech. Ex: Much of the nation experienced a collective O-gasm as presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama delivered the speech of his life... except the wingers... the wingers were not amused... (for a much more interesting and grown-up Red take, click here.)

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posted by JReid @ 4:40 PM  
Observations
After Barack's historic speech on race and historic change in America, Hillary Clinton is going to have to mug somebody to get on TV today...

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posted by JReid @ 12:47 PM  
Video of Barack's 'More Perfect Union' speech
Fast work by the campaign.



For those not getting the embed, here's the link. H/T to Russell Coker.

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posted by JReid @ 12:44 PM  
Transcript of Barack Obama's speech
Here it is. I'm posting it all because I don't want any of to be lost in a link. It's a must-read.
“We the people, in order to form a more perfect union.”

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America’s improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation’s original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution – a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part – through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign – to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together – unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction – towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton’s Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I’ve gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world’s poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners – an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It’s a story that hasn’t made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts – that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either “too black” or “not black enough.” We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we’ve heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it’s based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we’ve heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely – just as I’m sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren’t simply controversial. They weren’t simply a religious leader’s effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country – a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright’s comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems – two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn’t all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God’s work here on Earth – by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

“People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend’s voice up into the rafters….And in that single note – hope! – I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion’s den, Ezekiel’s field of dry bones. Those stories – of survival, and freedom, and hope – became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn’t need to feel shame about…memories that all people might study and cherish – and with which we could start to rebuild.”

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety – the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity’s services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions – the good and the bad – of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother – a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America – to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we’ve never really worked through – a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, “The past isn’t dead and buried. In fact, it isn’t even past.” We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven’t fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today’s black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments – meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today’s urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family, contributed to the erosion of black families – a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods – parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement – all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What’s remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn’t make it – those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations – those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright’s generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician’s own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright’s sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don’t feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience – as far as they’re concerned, no one’s handed them anything, they’ve built it from scratch. They’ve worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they’re told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren’t always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze – a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It’s a racial stalemate we’ve been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy – particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction – a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people – that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances – for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives – by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American – and yes, conservative – notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright’s sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright’s sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country – a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen – is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope – the audacity to hope – for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds – by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world’s great religions demand – that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother’s keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister’s keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle – as we did in the OJ trial – or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.” This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can’t learn; that those kids who don’t look like us are somebody else’s problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don’t have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn’t look like you might take your job; it’s that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should’ve been authorized and never should’ve been waged, and we want to talk about how we’ll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn’t believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation – the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today – a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

“I’m here because of Ashley.” By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

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posted by JReid @ 12:00 PM  
Barack's speech
Barack Obama spoke for about an hour this morning from Philadelphia, in a sweeping address that began with an exegesis on slavery, Jim Crow and discrimination, and how it shaped the thinking of men like Jeremiah Wright. He condemned Wright's words anew, but also said that he could no longer disown him than he could disown the black community, or any more than he could disown his white grandmother, who loves him dearly, but who has also uttered racial stereotypes that "made him cringe."

He explained his own story, and the panoramic nature of his own upbringing and experience. And he painted a colorful and stark picture of what it is like to be black -- and even, what it is like for struggling whites -- in America.

He touched on the pain of blacks who have faced discrimination first hand, but also on the pain that white working class people feel at watching their jobs disappear overseas. He said the talk radio and the Reagan coalition was in part about exploiting the fears and anger of those whites. And he nailed the point on white resentment at blacks seeming to get special treatment on such things as affirmative action.

He called for an end to the racial stalemate, and said that while we can continue to discuss Wright's statements ad infinitum, or we can pull together to continue this country's path of change.

He was careful to weave throughout the speech his message of change, and the need to solve the big problems this country faces on the economy, on healthcare, on the war. And he clearly delineated his view that the country, even if not perfect, can and must be perfected in every way that we can, and that the only way to do that, is to move beyond the divisiveness of the moment.

The speech was uplifting and intelligent, unifying and on the money and I think it will do him a lot of good, with all but the most paranoid and embittered of observers.

Toe the MSNBC panel:

Pat Buchanan, of course, is not assuaged. But I wouldn't go by him (see embittered observers, above.)

Sally Quinn called the speech "extraordinary" and said she has never heard anything like it. She called it "particularly courageous of him not to totally disown his friend Jeremiah Wright," a point to which I agree, and she noted that what's best about him is that he appears to be so authentic.

Joe Scarborough was struck by Barack's understanding of white resentment at such things as busing and affirmative action, that you don't hear in polite society.

Nancy Giles, who is very good by the way, was struck by the points Barack made that so many of us can relate to, having been told as young black children that if we try to get good grades or speak well, we're "acting white."

Jonathan Capeheart called it a speech "that only Obama could give" and added that it was a speech "about things that needed to be said, about things that go to the core of the country." The same Capeheart who said he put the DOA sticker on Obama's campaign after the Wright tapes came out and who assented to Pat Buchanan's comparison of Wright and Klansman David Duke, called the speech a "truth telling moment."

I think Buchanan is on his own on this one. Barack's speech was moving. It was unprecedented, and it was exceptional, as is the candidate.

If Barack goes down now, he has gone down as a gentleman, and after having given one of the most important speeches of my lifetime.

Update: Wow, Sally Quinn just called it the "most important speech on race since Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream speech.'

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posted by JReid @ 11:33 AM  
Hell no, we won't (re)vote
It's official. There will be no Florida re-do. The Florida Democratic Party made the announcement yesterday. Here's most of the letter. It includes a link to audio of the floor statements by State Rep. Dan Gelber (Dem) trying to push the Florida vote back to Feb. 5 (the person you'll hear first is Republican State Rep. David Rivera, a guy with a pleasant enough smile, but who was also one of the forces behind gambling expansion here in South Florida, among other things...) 
Dear Florida Democrats,

For a year now, the Florida Democratic Party has tried to comply with the Delegate Selection Rules of the Democratic National Committee.

We researched every potential alternative process - from caucuses to county conventions to mail-in elections - but no plan could come anywhere close to being viable in Florida.

We made a detailed case to the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee, but we were denied.

Our Democratic legislators in Tallahassee tried to set the Florida primary on Feb. 5, instead of Jan. 29, but of course, their proposed amendment to House Bill 537 was greeted with laughter and derision from the Republicans who control the state government.

Does '537' ring a bell? It should. It's the number of votes that separated Texas Gov. George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore in Florida in 2000.

It's the number that sent this country and this world in a terrible direction.

We can't let 537 - or the Republicans - determine our future again.

President Bush plans to stop in Florida tomorrow to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Republican National Committee's efforts to elect his successor in November.

The last thing America needs is a third Bush term. Despite the widespread anxiety that working families feel, not to mention the broad agreement among economists that we are in a recession, President Bush and John McCain blindly believe that the economy is strong.

And let me remind you that John McCain endorsed President Bush's decision to deny health care to thousands of Florida children by vetoing an expansion of the successful SCHIP program. McCain also promises to jeopardize the financial security of Florida seniors by privatizing Social Security. He continually threatens to push Florida's military families to the brink by keeping American troops in Iraq for "100 years" or more.

This is why we are Democrats, and this is why we must stick together, no matter where this ongoing delegate debate takes us.

Last week, the Florida Democratic Party laid out the only existing way that we can comply with DNC Rules - a statewide revote run by the Party - and asked for input.

Thousands of people responded. We spent the weekend reviewing your messages, and while your reasons vary widely, the consensus is clear: Florida doesn't want to vote again.

So we won't.

A party-run primary or caucus has been ruled out, and it's simply not possible for the state to hold another election, even if the Party were to pay for it. Republican Speaker of the Florida House Marco Rubio refuses to even consider that option. Florida is finally moving to paper ballots, which is a good thing, but it means that at least 15 counties do not have the capacity to handle a major election before the June 10th DNC primary deadline.

This doesn't mean that Democrats are giving up on Florida voters. It means that a solution will have to come from the DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee, which is scheduled to meet again in April.

When this committee stripped us of 100% of our delegates last year, some members summed up their reasoning by saying, "The rules are the rules." Unfortunately, the rules did not apply to Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina when they, too, violated the DNC calendar by moving from their assigned dates.

As the late great Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt once said, "We must adjust our ideas to the facts of today... Rules are not necessarily sacred, principles are."

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posted by JReid @ 9:49 AM  
Obama will give his speech
I hate to say I told you so. But I told you so. The speech begins less than an hour from now. I'm assuming at 10 or 10:30 EST.

Previous:

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posted by JReid @ 9:38 AM  
The brittleness of white
I'm listening to MSNBC's coverage in advance of Barack Obama's speech, and it's absolutely stunning. Pat Buchanan has repeatedly compared Rev. Jeremiah Wright to David Duke -- the Klan leader -- and has decried him as an America hater and worse -- an "afro-centrist" ... come on, Pat.
posted by JReid @ 9:30 AM  
Monday, March 17, 2008
Down market Monday

While Hillary Clinton joins her Republican friends, Dick Cheney and John McCain, (the latter two from Baghdad where both met with P.M. Maliki,) in focusing on Iraq (she gave what her campaign called a "major speech" on the subject this morning,) most of the country is focused elsewhere: like on the economy (stupid.)

[Sidebar: Ice cream now costs nearly $6. A gallon of milk is nearly $5. Gas? it's ridiculous. How do the Clinton and McCain campaigns think that focusing on Iraq today, the day of highest economic anxiety for any family, makes sense?]

The pain started late last week, following one big rally (with the market climbing about 400 points) and a subsequent nosedive. The diving continued with the near death of Bear Stearns (acquired by JP Morgan in a fire sale on Sunday), a rescue operation by the Federal Reserve, and a global market and dollar plunge. (Did you see Larry Kudlow making an ass of himself this morning on "Morning Joe?" His answer to the mortgage crisis: "these things happen. It's capitalism!" What an ass.) Oh, and another big financial house, Lehman Bros. is looking shaky, too...

Did I mention that stocks opened in the basement?

Meanwhile, the nation's retailers are waiting anxiously for consumers to get those vaunted tax rebates, which retailers hope we'll be dumb enough to spend on non-necessity crap. (Sorry guys, that money's going in the gas tank, or to the utility company. Bank on it.) When the retail boom that President Bush is promising us post-rebate doesn't materialize, look for more layoffs in the retail world, and an economy that will continue to head into the ditch as summer approaches.

So President Bush held an emergency meeting with his economic advisers -- complete with video feed for the media -- this morning, to reassure the nervous nation that he and his crack (...ahem...) team of economic geniuses are "on top of it." Well that's reassuring...

About the only good economic news I've heard so far today is for Heather Mills: she's $50 million richer for her gold-diggery marriage to Paul McCartney. Word to Heather: Don't let Kudlow invest your money. He still thinks the markets are sound...

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posted by JReid @ 9:48 AM  
The oil war
The WaPo posts an article by energy writer Steven Mufson that takes a fresh look at whether the Iraq war, whose fifth anniversary is approaching, was waged primarily to secure U.S. access to oil:
Instead of making Iraq an open economy fueled by a thriving oil sector, the war has failed to boost the flow of oil from Iraq's giant well-mapped reservoirs, which oil experts say could rival Saudi Arabia's and produce 6 million barrels a day, if not more. Thanks to insurgents' sabotage of pipelines and pumping stations, and foreign companies' fears about safety and contract risks in Iraq, the country is still struggling in vain to raise oil output to its prewar levels of about 2.5 million barrels a day.

As it turns out, that has kept oil off the international market at just the moment when the world desperately needs a cushion of supplies to keep prices down. Demand from China is booming, and political strife has limited oil production in Nigeria and Venezuela.

In the absence of Iraqi supplies, prices have soared three-and-a-half-fold since the U.S. invasion on March 20, 2003. (Last week, they shattered all previous records, even after adjusting for inflation.) The profits of the five biggest Western oil companies have jumped from $40 billion to $121 billion over the same period. While the United States has rid itself of Saddam Hussein and whatever threat he might have posed, oil revenues have filled the treasuries of petro-autocrats in Iran, Venezuela and Russia, emboldening those regimes and complicating U.S. diplomacy in new ways.

American consumers are paying for this turmoil at the pump. If the overthrow of Hussein was supposed to be a silver bullet for the American consumer, it turned out to be one that ricocheted and tore a hole through his wallet.

"If we went to war for oil, we did it as clumsily as anyone could do. And we spent more on the war than we could ever conceivably have gotten out of Iraq's oil fields even if we had particular control over them," says Anthony Cordesman, an expert on U.S. strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies who rejects the idea that the war was designed on behalf of oil companies.

But that doesn't mean that oil had nothing to do with the invasion. Says Cordesman: "To say that we would have taken the same steps against a dictator in Africa or Burma as we took in Iraq is to ignore the strategic realities that drove American behavior."
Read the entire article here.

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posted by JReid @ 9:36 AM  
You're the one!
Every election year, the press anoints a new, hot swing constituency: the "soccer mom," the "security mom," the "NASCAR dad..." Well this year's belle of the political ball has been chosen, and it's white men. Enjoy your time in the spotlight guys!

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posted by JReid @ 9:30 AM  
George W. Bush: brand killer
The GOP is feeling a bit down these days, particularly regarding their congressional election prospects in November. I don't think they're in as bad shape as they seem to -- Americans are notorious for saying they want change and then voting for more of the same -- but they are probably looking at losing seats in both the House and Senate. (As for the White House, I think the Democrats are doing a good job of keeping John McCain competitive ...) Anyway, the best line in this WaPo story about the GOP doldrums comes from Virginia Congressman Thomas Davis, with a nice assist by analyst Stu Rothenberg:

"It's no mystery," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.). "You have a very unhappy electorate, which is no surprise, with oil at $108 a barrel, stocks down a few thousand points, a war in Iraq with no end in sight and a president who is still very, very unpopular. He's just killed the Republican brand."

Stuart Rothenberg, a nonpartisan analyst of congressional politics, said: "The math is against them. The environment is against them. The money is against them. This is one of those cycles that if you're a Republican strategist, you just want to go into the bomb shelter."

A dead brand and the bomb shelter? All in one story? Damn.

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posted by JReid @ 9:17 AM  
Obama on race, divisiveness, and moving on
Sen. Barack Obama delivered the following remarks at a high school town hall meeting in Plainfield, Indiana on Saturday (h/t to TIME's Mark Halperin):
Let me just close my initial remarks by talking about bringing this country together. You know, Bobby Kennedy gave one of his most — gave one of his most famous speeches on a dark night in Indianapolis. Right after Dr. King was shot. Some of you remember reading about this speech. Some of you were alive when this speech was given. He stood on top of a car. He was in a crowd mostly of African Americans. And he delivered the news that Dr. King had been shot and killed. And he said, at that moment of anguish, he said, we’ve got a choice. He said, we’ve got a choice in taking the rage and bitterness and disappointment and letting it fester and dividing us further so that we no longer see each other as Americans but we see each other as separate and apart and at odds with each other. Or we can take a different path that says we have different stories, but we have common dreams and common hopes. And we can decide to walk down this road together. And remake America once again. ...

... we’ve got a tragic history when it comes to race in this country. We’ve got a lot of pent-up anger and bitterness and misunderstanding. But what I continue to believe in is that this country wants to move beyond these kinds of divisions. That this country wants something different.

I just want to say to everybody here that as somebody who was born into a diverse family, as somebody who has little pieces of America all in me, I will not allow us to lose this moment, where we cannot forget about our past and not ignore the very real forces of racial inequality and gender inequality and the other things that divide us. I don’t want us to forget them. We have to acknowledge them and lift them up and when people say things like my former pastor said, you know, you have to speak out forcefully against them. But what you also have to do is remember what Bobby Kennedy said. That it is within our power to join together to truly make a United States of America. And that we have to do not just so that our children live in a more peaceful country and a more peaceful world, but that is the only way that we are going to deliver on the big issues that we’re facing in this country.

Well said. Read the full remarks here.

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posted by JReid @ 12:19 AM  
Sunday, March 16, 2008
The church fights back (or, why are white people so squeamish?)
I have been thinking that the United Church of Christ, to which Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago belongs, ought to be offended at the mainstream media's demonization -- as if the church were some sort of radical sect akin to Wahabism. To the main UCC body's credit, they are not taking the demonization lying down -- and they shouldn't. The right has a tradition of overreacting to what they see as a war on Christianity everywhere they turn. Well, what we have going at present is a kind of war on this denomination, along with a bludgeoning of a man widely considered to be a top Biblical scholar, and the basis of selected portions of selected sermons. On Stephanopoulos' show this morning, George Will smugly declared it a certainty that Barack Obama was in the pews when some horrid racist bromide was uttered by Wright, and the other talking heads on the panel -- with the exception of Donna Brazille -- bobbleheaded in assent.

The plain fact is, that if Rev. Jeremiah Wright had said precisely the same things -- that the United States has routinely bombed other countries, looked the other way at the killing of Palestinians and that we supported the Apartheid regime in South Africa -- all true statements -- but had said them without the trademark volume and drama of a preacher, his statements would have been almost unremarkable:
"We bombed Hiroshima, we bombed Nagasaki, and we nuked far more than the thousands in New York and the Pentagon, and we never batted an eye...We have supported state terrorism against the Palestinians and black South Africans, and now we are indignant because the stuff we have done overseas is now brought right back to our own front yards. America's chickens are coming home to roost."
What am I missing? Is it offensive to say that we bombed two Japanese cities? I mean, we did do that, didn't we? As for the Palestinians, this is something you can hear said on any street corner in Europe, or from your average UK back bencher. And hell, our sitting vice president opposed sanctioning South Africa and pushed to have the African National Congress -- that's Nelson Mandela's African National Congress -- designated a terrorist organization. Are these things not true? And are blacks only allowed to bring them up if we do so in a pleasant tone of voice?

Wright also said some other things being characterized as shockingly racist by white observers:
“Barack knows what it means living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people,” Wright said. “Hillary would never know that. “Hillary ain’t never been called a nigger. Hillary has never had a people defined as a non-person.”
Forgive me for the insensitivity, but precisely what is racist about that statement? To say that the above statement is racist, you'd have to believe that either 1) the U.S. is not primarily run by rich white people, and that it is instead a coincidence that historically, the president, vice president, most of the Congress and the heads of most major corporations have, in fact, been rich and white. 2) Hillary HAS been called a nigger, and 3) Hillary IS a member of a group that was been defined by the United States as a non-person.

Another "racist" statement from Wright:
“Hillary is married to Bill, and Bill has been good to us. No he ain’t! Bill did us, just like he did Monica Lewinsky. He was riding dirty.”
I've heard worse things about Bill Clinton out of the mouths of Fox News anchors. Are they racist, too?

As for the "God damn America" comment, which has so appalled our friends in the press, how is that statement any different from this one by the late Jerry Falwell, during an interview on Pat Robertson's show just two days after 9/11:
And, I know that I'll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way - all of them who have tried to secularize America - I point the finger in their face and say "you helped this happen."
For his part, Robertson put out a press release just after 9/11 making it even plainer:
We have allowed rampant pornography on the Internet, and rampant secularism and the occult, etc. to be broadcast on television. We have permitted somewhere in the neighborhood of 35-40 million unborn babies to be slaughtered by our society. We have a court that has essentially stuck its finger in God's eye and said, "We are going to legislate You out of the schools and take Your commandments from the courthouses in various states. We are not going to let little children read the commandments of God. We are not going to allow the Bible or prayer in our schools." We have insulted God at the highest level of our government. Then, we say, "Why does this happen?" It is happening because God Almighty is lifting His protection from us. Once that protection is gone, we are vulnerable because we are a free society.
Translation: God has damned America. [Hat tip to Too Sense]

And then there's presidential candidate and fundraising rock star Ron Paul, who has said something on this order repeatedly, and on television:

Ron Paul: To me, if you overthrow a regime it’s an act of war, and it backfires on us. It has never served us well over the last 100 years. It’s sort of like what we did with 1953 by installing the Shah. We worked with the regime, we worked the British then, and we’re still suffering the consequences…

You’re saying overthrowing Mossadegh in 1953 and putting in the Shah led to the hostage-taking and 9/11?

Ron Paul: Absolutely.

That's from an interview last August with the magazine Human Events. And we all remember this moment from one of those infernal debates last fall:
Ron Paul: Have you ever read about the reasons they attacked us? They attack us because we've been over there- we've been bombing Iraq for 10 years. We've been in the Middle East - I think Reagan was right. We don't understand the irrationality of Middle Eastern politics. So right now we're building an embassy in Iraq that's bigger than the Vatican. We're building 14 permanent bases. What would we say here if China was doing this in our country or in the Gulf of Mexico? We would be objecting. We need to look at what we do from the perspective of what would happen if somebody else did it to us.

Goler: Are you suggesting we invited the 9/11 attack, sir?

Ron Paul: I'm suggesting that we listen to the people who attacked us and the reason they did it, and they are delighted that we're over there because Osama bin Laden has said, 'I am glad you're over on our sand because we can target you so much easier." They have already now since that time have killed 3,400 of our men, and I don't think it was necessary.
[Hat tip to mohammadmossadegh.com] And yet, Ron Paul has not been castigated as a hate-mongering racist. What gives?

The problem is, frankly, the clips of Rev. Wright frighten white people in America because of his tone of voice. There's a reason why white folks like Al Roker and dislike Al Sharpton. One is soothing and friendly seeming, the other seems like he might hit you back.

I wrote in this post that politically, Barack would have to distance himself from Wright, just as he did. But every black person in this country has heard, or has said, or thought, something on the order of what Wright said in those controversial clips. It's just that white people are so oversensitive on the subjects of race and American history, they can't stand to even hear the words "we bombed Hiroshima," let alone hearing them in a tone of voice that they find somehow frightening (too loud, too hot, too angry seeming... makes them nervous.) And let's not even get started on the Palestinian issue, which has become so lobbied to death, one is not even permitted to mention the suffering of the Arabs on the West Bank or Gaza or to breathe a word of criticism of Israel's policy in that regard, lest you be condemned as anti-Semitic. This despite the fact that such criticism has often come from black South Africans like Desmond Tutu, a leading voice in favor or divesting from Israel, and a man who knows a thing or two about apartheid.

That's why Barack can't win. He has to be Al Roker enough for white people, and yet Al Sharpton enough for brothas, a feat which can't really be accomplished without a core diagnosis of schizophrenia.

I really have come to the conclusion that what white Americans want, and perhaps need, is absolution. They want a collective amnesia to wash over the country, so that they never have to hear about such troubling things as racism again -- even if it remains in practice throughout much of the country (don't believe me? Just check the message boards beneath almost any story involving a black person accused of a crime. You'll have to wash your ears out afterward. And if that's not enough, process for a moment the fact that for many white Americans, the mere fact that 90 percent of blacks support Obama is enough to make them NOT support him. Explain that, would you?) White people want to be reassured that we're not mad at them anymore. That we're "over it" and will allow them to proceed apace without, as Barbara Bush put it, troubling their beautiful minds with such things.

Unfortunately for white America, that's not so easy for most black folk to do.

Anyhow, back to the church: Trinity's new pastor, Rev. Otis Moss II, vigorously defended Rev. Wright in this morning's service, with lots of reporters in the pews, and the church put out a strongly worded statement:

Chicago, Ill. (March 15, 2008) — Nearly three weeks before the 40th commemorative anniversary of the murder of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Reverend Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr.’s character is being assassinated in the public sphere because he has preached a social gospel on behalf of oppressed women, children and men in America and around the globe.

“Dr. Wright has preached 207,792 minutes on Sunday for the past 36 years at Trinity United Church of Christ. This does not include weekday worship services, revivals and preaching engagements across America and around the globe, to ecumenical and interfaith communities. It is an indictment on Dr. Wright’s ministerial legacy to present his global ministry within a 15- or 30-second sound bite,” said the Reverend Otis Moss III, pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ.

During the 36-year pastorate of Dr. Wright, Trinity United Church of Christ has grown from 87 to 8,000 members. It is the largest congregation in the United Church of Christ (UCC) denomination.

“It saddens me to see news stories reporting such a caricature of a congregation that has been such a blessing to the UCC’s Wider Church mission,” said the Rev. John H. Thomas, UCC general minister and president, in a released statement. “ … It’s time for us to say ‘No’ to these attacks and declare that we will not allow anyone to undermine or destroy the ministries of any of our congregations in order to serve their own narrow political or ideological ends.”

Trinity United Church of Christ’s ministry is inclusive and global. The following ministries have been developed under Dr. Wright’s ministerial tutelage for social justice: assisted living facilities for senior citizens, day care for children, pastoral care and counseling, health care, ministries for persons living with HIV/AIDS, hospice training, prison ministry, scholarships for thousands of students to attend historically black colleges, youth ministries, tutorial and computer programs, a church library, domestic violence programs and scholarships and fellowships for women and men attending seminary.

Moss added, “The African American Church was born out of the crucible of slavery and the legacy of prophetic African American preachers since slavery has been and continues to heal broken marginalized victims of social and economic injustices. This is an attack on the legacy of the African American Church which led and continues to lead the fight for human rights in America and around the world.”
With all that's happened, good for them. I think both Obama and the church are doing what they need to do, however out of concert they appear to be for now.

By the way, it should be pointed out, and it's no small thing, that the majority of UCC churches ... are majority white.

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posted by JReid @ 5:27 PM  
Appointment radio: Tavis on Tom Joyner's show Tuesday
I don't normally listen to the Tom Joyner Morning Show -- just not my cup of tea. But I will be listening this Tuesday, for Tavis' commentary. (When I did used to listen to the TJMF, it was only for Tavis' bit, and then I'd turn to the talk stations...)

Reason for change? I was reporting at an event tonight (yeesh, it's late ... revise that to Saturday night...) where Tavis was receiving an honorary doctorate from Florida Memorial Univesity, a South Florida HBCU. Well... let's just say Tavis went off on Barack Obama for, in his words, "throwing Rev. Jeremiah Wright under the bus."

He had a lot to say, but you'll have to wait for my South Florida Times article to get the full skinny.

Until then, set your car radio for Tom Joyner's show on Tuesday...

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posted by JReid @ 1:56 AM  
Friday, March 14, 2008
Burning questions: S-C.H.I.P.S.
Will Hillary Clinton's claims on being the catalyst for starting the children's health program, SCHIP become the "I invented the Internet" of 2008? From the Boston Globe:
In campaign speeches, Clinton describes the State Children's Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, as an initiative "I helped to start." Addressing Iowa voters in November, Clinton said, "in 1997, I joined forces with members of Congress and we passed the State Children's Health Insurance Program." Clinton regularly cites the number of children in each state who are covered by the program, and mothers of sick children have appeared at Clinton campaign rallies to thank her.

But the Clinton White House, while supportive of the idea of expanding children's health, fought the first SCHIP effort, spearheaded by Senators Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah, because of fears that it would derail a bigger budget bill. And several current and former lawmakers and staff said Hillary Clinton had no role in helping to write the congressional legislation, which grew out of a similar program approved in Massachusetts in 1996.

"The White House wasn't for it. We really roughed them up" in trying to get it approved over the Clinton administration's objections, Hatch said in an interview. "She may have done some advocacy [privately] over at the White House, but I'm not aware of it."

"I do like her," Hatch said of Hillary Clinton. "We all care about children. But does she deserve credit for SCHIP? No - Teddy does, but she doesn't." ...

... Kennedy said he patterned the SCHIP plan on a similar program Massachusetts had approved in 1996. Kennedy's account was backed up by two Bay State healthcare advocates who met with Kennedy in Boston to discuss the possibility of taking the idea nationwide: Dr. Barry Zuckerman, director of pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, and John McDonough, then a Democratic state legislator and now the executive director of Health Care for All, a healthcare advocacy group.

Kennedy, Zuckerman said in an interview, was intrigued by the idea of using a cigarette tax to pay for children's health, but worried he would not be able to get it through Congress. "I said, 'Times have changed,' and he ran with it," Zuckerman said.

McDonough, a Democrat who has not endorsed a presidential candidate, also said it was Kennedy who developed the SCHIP idea after that meeting. "I don't recall any signs of Mrs. Clinton's engagement," McDonough said. "I'm sure she was behind the scenes, engaged in lobbying, but it is demonstrably not the case" that she was driving the effort, he said.

After meeting Zuckerman and McDonough, Kennedy sought out Hatch, and the two worked on the bill together, offering it as an amendment to a budget resolution. But President Clinton - much to the surprise and anger of Kennedy - lobbied Democratic lawmakers to oppose the Hatch-Kennedy amendment, the lawmakers and staff members said.

Soon, Hillary's "experience" will be down to her having teas with other first ladies and rearranging the White House china...

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posted by JReid @ 8:37 PM  
Two more from the Huffpo
While we're on a Huffpo linking binge, why not go for two more! First up, former Florida Senator Bob Graham -- a man who knows a thing or two about national security -- says that sorry, Hillary, but the 2002 Iraq war vote WAS the commander-in-chief test ...
"If there had been a little more curiosity in the fall 2002 -- if the questions had been asked -- [it] would have raised a lot of suspicions," he said, referencing the Iraq war authorization vote. "I think you have to look to see whether those qualities exist. And if they do, you have reason to believe that the person who has those qualities would become an effective commander-in-chief."
And another thing:
"If you look at recent presidents, certainly George W. Bush didn't have any commander-in-chief experience, neither had Bill Clinton," he said. "George H. W. Bush had served in the military. Reagan didn't serve in the military. Carter was an Annapolis graduate. He was probably as close to what you would consider prepared to be commander-in-chief of the recent presidents."
Meanwhile, the Huffpo turns us on to a National Journal interview in which Bill Clinton's former White House special counsel and adviser on foreign policy, Greg Craig, says that the Clinton camp is misleading the American people about Mrs. Clinton's so-called "experience." To whit:
Q: But was that experience, do you think, that is -- having a lot of influence with advisers, giving private advice to her husband -- was that experience that has helped prepare her to be commander in chief?

Craig: Oh, I don't doubt that. The point that I am making is that her claims of the nature of that experience are overstated. The fact is she did not sit in on national security meetings. She did not have a security clearance. She did not attend meetings in the situation room. She conducted no negotiations. She did not manage any part of the national security bureaucracy. She did not have her own national security staff. That's the fact. Now the experience that she did have -- watching and sometimes sitting in the room where discussions were going on and also meeting heads of state and foreign ministers -- that is good experience, and it's invaluable to understanding how the world works when it comes to international organizations as well as international negotiations.
And here's the hat tip. Cheers, daahling.

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posted by JReid @ 6:53 PM  
The great train robbery
More scandal in the GOP:
The former treasurer for the National Republican Congressional Committee diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars -- and possibly as much as $1 million -- of the organization's funds into his personal accounts, GOP officials said yesterday, describing an alleged scheme that could become one of the largest political frauds in recent history.

For at least four years, Christopher J. Ward, who is under investigation by the FBI, allegedly used wire transfers to funnel money out of NRCC coffers and into other political committee accounts he controlled as treasurer, NRCC leaders and lawyers said in their first public statement since they turned the matter over to the FBI six weeks ago.

"The evidence we have today indicated we have been deceived and betrayed for a number of years by a highly respected and trusted individual," said Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), the NRCC chairman.

The committee also announced that it has submitted to banks five years' worth of audits and financial documents allegedly faked by Ward, some of which were used to secure multimillion-dollar loans. It is a violation of federal laws to obtain loans through false statements; the crime is punishable by up to $1 million in fines and 30 years in prison.

Before yesterday, the committee, which raised $49 million in 2007, had not acknowledged that any money was missing. It announced on Feb. 1 that it had discovered "irregularities" that might involve fraud, dismissed Ward and called in federal investigators. ...

...The Washington Post reported Thursday that Ward had served as treasurer for 83 GOP committees this decade. In the past five years, the committees took in more than $400 million in contributions.
The forensic audit could take 6-8 weeks. According to the Times, the GOP is bracing for the loss figure to climb.

Oh, and did I mention Ward worked for the Swift Boat hacks? RawStory has more on that, and a compilation of other posts on the thievery.

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posted by JReid @ 4:46 PM  
Barack's cross to bear
Do a Youtube search of "Jeremiah Wright" and up pops a raft of more than 100 uploaded files, with warm, fuzzy titles like "Barack Obama's racist pastor" and "Jeremiah Wright promoting the hate." You've no doubt heard the snippets of sermons by now -- Wright saying, on the Sunday after 9/11 that America has "not batted an eye" when dropping bombs on Hiroshima, or "looked the other way" whilst genocide was committed against the Palestinian people ... it's all very shocking to white people (Joe Scarborough proclaimed himself positively fearful this morning on MSNBC -- fake fear alert, by the way... I doubt that Joe is actually afraid of either man) ... and even though Wright's words are not Barack's, and Barack has never expressed such sentiments himself, he has written in his autobiography about his ambivalent feelings on the subject of race -- something that just about every black person (mixed or not) can relate to, but which white folk cannot (the crazies have already seized on his memoir and his ties to Wright as proof that deep inside, Barack really does hate white people.) Barack has tried to walk a very fine line on race -- something again, blacks can relate to and whites cannot. Nonetheless, Barack is now lashed to Wright, and Wright to him, and therein lies the dilemma for Barack.

Because Wright is not just some religious leader glomming onto Obama (as was the case with Louis Farrakhan) -- in Wright's case, he apparently married the Obamas, baptised their children, and was the inspiration for the title of Barack's book, "The Audacity of Hope" -- the usual statement "distancing himself" from the statements, or the John McCain gambit of delcaring the statements "out of context" won't do. And because he has struggled so hard to keep his race from becoming the central "organizing principal" of his campaign, to paraphrase his recent comments about the history of race and politics in America, Barack will no doubt be required to do much more, and it will be painful.

I have no doubt that the Clinton campaign is the source of the sudden rehash of the Wright issue, which bubbled up about a year ago when Barack was merely an also-ran to the inevitable nominee, Mrs. Clinton. The Clintons have to do whatever it takes to render Barack un-nominatable, and totally unacceptable to the party leadership that will ultimately decide the primary election. To do that, she can't just out-debate him. She can't out-do him on healthcare. She can't out-spend him, for god's sake. So what's left is to utterly destroy his character -- define him down to a gnat, as was done to her fellow Democrat, John Kerry in 2004, so that when her campaign is finished with him, he probably couldn't win back his Senate seat, let alone the White House. Once that becomes clear to the remaining 313 or so superdelegates, they will bow their heads and cast their votes for Hillary, pledged delegates be damned.

And how better to do that than by seizing on the one thing about Barack that makes him potentially unacceptable to a certain kind of white voter -- the kind who maybe doesn't earn as much money; who maybe doesn't have it so good; who maybe would resent a slick looking black guy worth a million bucks who thinks that he can just waltz into the White House without paying his dues ... the kind of white person who resents the idea of "affirmative action" anything. Never mind that Barack accomplished all that he has through hard work and raw talent. He's not the artful speech-maker; the elegant, Kennedyesque figure who by his very background can unite the country. He's a black guy -- the kind of guy who probably took your job. Welcome to the Clinton end-game.

And so, Barack finds himself in the position of having to push away anything that speaks too strongly of him as a black man -- particularly as an aggrieved black man. (There's a clear double standard at work, since no one appears to hold it against Billy Graham that he tet-tetted with Richard Nixon in the White House about the insidiousness of media control by "the Jews." And the late Jerry Falwell and the crazed Pat Robertson are just two of the right wing loons who have blamed 9/11 not only on America but also on God himself (along with the ACLU). Still, like so many black men, Barack has to do twice as much, twice as well, just to stay in the game.

That should be simple Barack, after all, is half white. He was raised by a white woman (his mother.) He went to white schools, including two Ivy League institutions: Columbia University and Harvard Law School. And because he has no history of slavery in his family -- his black parent is African, and thus his DNA fell into the escape hatch of America's original sin -- he has no chip on his shoulder. Al and Jesse and other black leaders at first couldn't relate. Now that they can, they have to stand a healthy distance away from him, so as not to pass along "the taint."

Enter Rev. Jeremiah Wright; one of those artifacts of America's checkered racial history -- the light-skinned black guy who's angrier at the white man than the blackest black man. Select his most fiery speeches -- the one where he essentially says what Ron Paul says (that "blowback" produced 9/11) -- but who says it with that fire and brimstone syncopation that terrifies white folk. Barack has a Jeremiah Wright problem. And to solve it, he will have to dis his "spiritual mentor," and dis him good.

How can he do it and not hate himself in the morning? He can give a speech. That is not to be facetious. I really mean it. Barack gives a speech better than any politician in public life today, and his speeches have the power to move people in a profound way. He will look presidential, standing before the American people and sharing his views, and it will get such wide media coverage, he will guarantee himself an uninterrupted hour or so to make his case for president. In that speech, Barack should do four things:

1) He can talk frankly about his religious faith and beliefs. I know it makes most of us queasy, because there is supposed to be no religious test for the presidency, but in Barack's case, with 13 percent of respondents in the most recent NBC News/WSJ poll believing that he's a Muslim, the time has come.

2) He can put forth, and hopeful put to bed, his views on race, patriotism, and 9/11. In that speech, he can, in the elegant way Barack does, that while many blacks carry heavy burdens of grievance and anger against the United States because of the history of slavery and segregation, that he does not -- and he believes that it is time for the nation to heal.

3) He should talk about his mother. Barack's late mother can and should be a bridge between him and nervous white folks, who relate more to half-white Bob Marley than to Peter Tosh, and who feel more comfortable with Barack than they did with Jesse Jackson when he ran for president. It makes me ill to even talk about this, but white people are incredibly insecure when it comes to race. They need constant reassurance that we aren't mad at them. It seems rather silly, but Barack will have to talk about his mixed heritage. By doing so, he'll turn off the hard-bitten racists who rage at the thought of "race mixing" but then again, he never would have had them anyway (they vote Republican, if at all.)

4) Finally, Barack must denounce any rhetoric in the public discourse, whether in church or on talk radio or in a presidential campaign -- that divides America by race, including those by Rev. Wright. He can do so making clear that he continues to love Rev. Wright, but that it must be clear that some of the views Wright has expressed contradict his own.

That's the only course. Otherwise, he will walk right into the bear trap that the Clinton campaign has set for him. He will go down in flames with working class white voters. He will hand Rush Limbaugh a daily talking point to bludgeon him with should he become the nominee. Brace yourself for the right wing comparisons between Wright's sermons and those of militant Islamic clerics, because it's coming. And that treasure trove of Wright sermons will just keep coming, too. Barack will become the "black candidate" -- worse, the "angry black candidate." And once you go black, you never go back.

Update: Barack responds ... on the Huffpo??? The bottom line:
The statements that Rev. Wright made that are the cause of this controversy were not statements I personally heard him preach while I sat in the pews of Trinity or heard him utter in private conversation. When these statements first came to my attention, it was at the beginning of my presidential campaign. I made it clear at the time that I strongly condemned his comments. But because Rev. Wright was on the verge of retirement, and because of my strong links to the Trinity faith community, where I married my wife and where my daughters were baptized, I did not think it appropriate to leave the church.

Let me repeat what I've said earlier. All of the statements that have been the subject of controversy are ones that I vehemently condemn. They in no way reflect my attitudes and directly contradict my profound love for this country.

With Rev. Wright's retirement and the ascension of my new pastor, Rev. Otis Moss, III, Michelle and I look forward to continuing a relationship with a church that has done so much good. And while Rev. Wright's statements have pained and angered me, I believe that Americans will judge me not on the basis of what someone else said, but on the basis of who I am and what I believe in; on my values, judgment and experience to be President of the United States.
It's unfortunate that Barack's statement, as good as it is, will not likely close this issue. In any event, he'll be on with Anderson Cooper tonight on CNN.

Update: Obama did Olbermann's show first. He said that he repudiated the comments, but would not repudiate the man. Phrase of the day: "guilt by association." Also, the campaign quickly reversed itself tonight, and Wright has been dismissed from a religious advisory committee he had served on for the Obama campaign.

Meanwhile, National Review offers some campaign advice to Hillary Clinton ... as if her team hasn't already plumbed the depths... and The Atlantic's Marc Ambinder offers some words of caution to John McCain ... as if HIS campaign hasn't been doing some plumbing of its own...

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posted by JReid @ 3:10 PM  
Thursday, March 13, 2008
Tell us how you REALLY feel
Clinton strategist Mark Penn gets caught trying to shove words back into his mouth while committing a political faux pas of the first order: saying that a candidate from one's own political party can't beat the other side.

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posted by JReid @ 10:26 PM  
No deal
Florida Democratic Party leaders are scrambling to come up with a deal for a "mulligan" in the stat's early primary fiasco. Today, state party chair Karen Thurman unveiled a plan, which is being pushed by Sen. Minority Leader Steve Gellar (who represents a wealthy part of South Florida) but which is opposed by the state's congressional delegation, to hold a "do-over" vote, mostly by mail. The prospect seemed relatively bright yesterday, but today, it looked like the effort is hitting the skids. From the Tallahassee Democrat (no relation):
State chairwoman Karen Thurman said the plan she distributed to party leaders and posted on the party Web site is "not a done deal." But she said a combination of a mailed balloting and some in-person assistance for those who need it is the best way for complying with Democratic National Committee rules. That, in turn, could get all or most of Florida's 211-vote delegation seated in Denver next summer.

Gov. Charlie Crist told Senate Minority Leader Steve Geller, D-Cooper City, the state could help with some logistics of certifying voter rolls and other details. But no taxpayer money will be used, so the party will have to raise between $10 million and $12 million for the re-vote.

Asked how likely that is, Thurman said at a news conference, "I don't know. I have a feeling it's getting closer to not than yes."
The DNC would have to approve the deal, as would both presidential campaigns (not to mention the $10-12 million cost, for which the DNC has so far offered just a fraction - $850,000, and Gov. Crist has already said don't look at him, Florida's in the red.) In other words, a deal is not likely, especially with the Obama camp (and the members of Congress) expressing concern that not everybody would get their mailed ballot, that some minorities may be left out due to outdated voter rolls, or that the hodgepodge of mailed ballots and "walk-in centers" where people could vote in person would be too much for Florida's always questionable election infrastructure to handle. Even the notion of hiring one of those crack accounting firms that tally the votes for Miss America and such won't mollify nervous Floridians, who, frankly, barely trust the system we have now. (I'm not one of the skeptics. I think that if the federal government can trust us to mail in or e-file our taxes, for god's sake, we should be able thttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifo handle voting by mail. But there you go...)

Anyhoo, I've spoken with a couple of people "in the know" today, and none sounded persuaded that a re-vote is going to happen.

That leaves two options: leave things as they are, and make Florida (and Michigan) live with the choice they made to break party rules (stupid rules, by the way, but rules nonethless...) or work out some mathematical formula that allows the Florida and Michigan delegates to be seated in Denver, but not to change the outcome of the race.

Option two sounds like the winner, since its just not going to happen that Florida's delegates would be locked out of the convention. Howard Dean may be a weak chairman, and he may be wimping out on solving this mess from the top, but he's not insane.

Previous:

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posted by JReid @ 3:59 PM  
Move over Monica: this hooker SINGS!
Just call Monica Lewinsky America's biggest fellatio underachiever.

She failed to bring down her Mr. Wrong -- then-President Bill Clinton having survived the politicized impeachment by Republicans who were probably getting THEIR action from an escort service, rather than an intern ... and speaking of escort services...

Here's Kristin! (real name Ashley Alexandra Dupre, real name Ashley R. Youmans ... real name Ashley Rae Maika DiPietro...) she brought HER commander in chief down! (He resigned, and could yet be indicted.) And she's got a Myspace page ... with MUSIC on it ... HER music!

Sure, Monica did handbags. But Ashley is surely headed for Playboy ... or at least for a reality show on VH1. She's famous ... like ... Paris Hilton famous... and she could remain famous for months...!

Try and top that, dirty dress keeper!

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posted by JReid @ 11:30 AM  
Woes, and rumors of woes
http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifThe latest NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll has its ups and downs for Republicans and Democrats. First, the downs:

Americans aren't happy with the state of the country or of the economy:
Forty-three percent say that they and their families are worse off, compared with 34 percent who say they’re better off; 21 percent respond that their status is the same. By contrast, strong pluralities or majorities answered that they were better off before entering the general elections in 1996, 2000 and 2004 — when, with the exception of the extremely close 2000 race, the incumbent party held onto the presidency.

Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with GOP pollster Bill McInturff, suggests that these new numbers are more good news for a Democratic Party trying to take back the White House. “The compass points due north for the party of change.”

But which party would that be?

In 1980, Americans voted to get out of the Carter doldroms by "changing" to a Hollywood actor who made them feel better about themselves. In 1992, they voted to change the generational makeup at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, in some ways to punish George H.W. Bush for going back on his tax pledge, and to signal dissatisfaction with the economy. But in 2000, given the opportunity to put a familiar name, a Bush, back into the White House, half of American voters took the bait, only to be bitching about another miserable Bush economy now. In other words, Americans say they want change, but often what they want is familiarity, and a comfort level with the person their assigning to bring them that so-called change.

So could it be that in 2008, given the opportunity to turn the page from the Bush era, or to extend it for four more years with John McCain, a man who gives off the perception of change, while promising to keep nearly every policy of the present administration going -- in perpetuity -- will Americans fall for it again?

I suspect they might. Because at the end of the day, voters -- and lets be specific here -- lower middle class white voters, who still form a majority of the electorate -- may feel more comfortable with the familiarity of McCain, than with either change agent on the Democratic side.

And so, back to the NBC/WSJ poll:
"The compass points due north for the Democrats as the party of change," said Peter Hart, the Democratic pollster who, with Republican Bill McInturff, conducts the Journal/NBC surveys. "But for each of the three presidential hopefuls, the compass settings are much less definitive."

A couple findings in the new poll capture how conflicted Americans are. By a 13-point margin, 50% to 37%, registered voters say they would prefer a Democrat to be elected president. When asked to choose specifically between Arizona Sen. McCain and either Democrat, the results in each case are a statistical tie. (Poll results)

Illinois Sen. Obama edges Sen. McCain by 47% to 44%, while Sen. Clinton, of New York, beats the Republican by a near-identical 47% to 45%. The poll, which surveyed 1,012 registered voters March 7-10, has a margin of error of 3.1 percentage points.

Chief among the strengths of the Republican nominee-in-waiting is his experience with national-security issues, as a naval aviator and longtime senator. "Americans can visualize John McCain behind the desk in the Oval Office," said Mr. Hart. "The difficulty is where his policies are, and is he going to take the country where it wants to head."

Of 10 attributes measured in the poll, Sen. McCain scored highest for "being knowledgeable and experienced enough to handle the presidency." Nearly two-thirds of voters agreed -- up 12 points from December, when both parties' nominating races were getting under way. His next-highest ratings, from 61%, were for strong leadership and for readiness to be commander in chief.

Voters gave Sen. McCain the lowest marks on whether he shared their positions on issues (31% said he does), for being inspirational (22%) and for being likely to produce change in Washington (20%). Yet Sen. McCain evokes positive responses among voters generally -- by 47% to 27% they say they have a favorable view of him, with the rest mostly neutral. Those with positive feelings include seven out of 10 conservative voters who otherwise say they are unhappy with Sen. McCain as the nominee. Fewer than half of Democrats have unfavorable views.

In other words, McCain wins the "red phone" contest, even though he loses with voters on the issues (and despite the fact that 52% of Republicans surveyed said they would have preferred another nominee.)

And now, the upside for Democrats:
By 56% to 30%, voters say the economy and health-care issues -- where they favor Democrats -- are more important in deciding who should be president than terrorism and social issues -- areas where Republicans are stronger. That is roughly the reverse of voters' priorities right before Mr. Bush's 2004 re-election.

At the five-year anniversary of the Iraq war, the conflict remains as unpopular as ever, despite the military progress of Mr. Bush's troop buildup of the past year -- of which Sen. McCain was the chief promoter. A majority still wants to start withdrawing troops in 2009 rather than stay indefinitely until Iraq is stable, as Sen. McCain suggests.

The toll on Republicans is reflected in voters' party identification. By 12 points, 47% to 35%, more voters say they are Democrats or lean that way; four years ago, the parties were roughly even. Republicans' slippage is mostly among those 18 to 34 years old. While strategists typically give short shrift to younger Americans because many don't vote, Mr. McInturff says their excitement this year, especially on the Democrats' side, could make 2008 "one of the first general-election cycles where they become a very important subgroup." That could hurt 71-year-old Sen. McCain.

And yet, while a generic D beats a generic R by a 50 to 37 margin, McCain remains in striking distance of either -- now heavily primary damaged -- Democrat.

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posted by JReid @ 10:34 AM  
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
The reckoning
Hillary Clinton's increasingly ugly campaign for the White House has lost her the support of many people who have admired her over the years -- myself included. Tonight, Keith Olbermann gave voice to our frustration. The last straw for Keith: Hillary's tepid rejection of Geraldine Ferarro's stupid, racist assertion that Barack's race -- and not his abilities -- got him where he is in the presidential race. Here's Keith:



Bravo.

Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton, speaking before the National Newspaper Publishers Association (an association of black newspapers) did something I don't think I've ever heard of her doing: she apologized.

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posted by JReid @ 11:50 PM  
Ferraro shoots the shark
After a day and a half of fighting the future, and even insisting that Barack Obama and his campaign should thank her ... yes, THANK her... for her comments ... Miss Bitter (a/k/a Geraldine Ferraro) finally quits the Clinton campaign. Rule number one of public relations: resign quickly and get the issue behind you. Note to Gerri, this really doesn't count as quickly...

Gerri is saying she is stepping aside, not because of her regrettable comments, but because the Obama campaign is "spinning her as racist." Really? What if I told you she's said it before...
The cite is an April 15, 1988 Washington Post story (byline: Howard Kurtz), available only on Nexis.

Here's the full context:
Placid of demeanor but pointed in his rhetoric, Jackson struck out repeatedly today against those who suggest his race has been an asset in the campaign. President Reagan suggested Tuesday that people don't ask Jackson tough questions because of his race. And former representative Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that because of his "radical" views, "if Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race." 
Note how Reagan and Ferraro ran a parallel attack campaign against Jackson back in 1988, note the whining that the press wasn't been as tough on him because he's black ... well I'll be damned! Clinton was right! For the Clintons, this IS just like Jesse Jackson in 1988! Ladies and gentlemen, the shark is dead. Good night, you've been a wonderful audience...

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posted by JReid @ 5:51 PM  
Spitzer ... out!
New York Governor Eliot Spitzer took his medicine like a man this morning, announcing that, having failed to live up to the high standards he set for others, he could do nothing other than hold himself to account, and resign, effective Monday, paving the way for the state's first black governor (and only the country's second,) David Paterson. WCBS in New York has the story and the video

The New York Times examines the career highs and lows of a brilliant but clearly flawed man, plus a cautionary tale for anyone who does business with a bank. Short version: the feds are watching your accounts. 

The New York Post tabloids it up, calling the soon-to-be ex-guv a "sex addict" who blew $80 Gs on paid-for sex over the years. 
The millionaire, married politician has been hopping into bed with harlots for as long as a decade and traveled as far as Florida for steamy trysts, sources said.

One of them, a 22-year-old call girl who goes by the name "Sienna" on her Web site, told ABC News that Spitzer paid her for sex two years ago when he was still attorney general.

He tipped big and "didn't do anything that wasn't clean," she added.

Her voice quavering, the curvy blonde told The Post last night she'd been flooded with calls after her revelation - and, "Yeah, it's a little scary."

She said she did not know "Kristen," the hooker who brought the governor down, and referred further questions to her lawyer.
Oh, and he didn't like to use condoms ... Yeesh!

The post also reports that Spitzer wasn't just a last minute target of opportunity for the federales:
In another development, The Post has learned that the FBI staked out Spitzer at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC, earlier this year - tipped by a wiretap that he intended to meet up with a hooker there. The Washington Post reported the surveillance took place on Jan. 26.

A source also said the FBI has been investigating Spitzer for six months.
And of course, the Post reveals that "traveling tarts" put Spitzer "in infamous company":
An old federal statute that has ensnared a number of celebrities over the years - including Charlie Chaplin, boxing champ Jack Johnson and murderous cult leader Charles Manson - could possibly be used to prosecute Gov. Spitzer.

Monday's disclosure that Spitzer had a prostitute sent from New York to his Washington hotel last month led to speculation he would be prosecuted under the Mann Act.
Although the thinking is that won't happen, since the Mann Act is now mostly used to target traffickers in underaged prostitutes.

Ugh, you need a shower just talking about it!
One thing is for certain -- Spitzer wasn't the only high profile customer of the Emerald VIP Club. Expect other big name New Yorkers to be scurrying under various rocks over the near term.


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posted by JReid @ 2:57 PM  
Waiting for ...
2 p.m. announcement from the Florida Democratic Party, which is expected to announce a paper ballot re-vote for the state's previously set-aside voters. I guess they're not listening to the Congresspeople. The big question is going to be: who would pay the $10 million cost of such a ballot.

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posted by JReid @ 8:24 AM  
12 a.m. Florida report
Got a bit of the insomnia tonight ... er ... this morning, so here are a couple of things on the radar:

Reaction is beginning to bubble about Congressmen Debbie Wasserman-Shultz and Kendrick Meek refusing to get involved in three crucial Democratic House races this fall, because of their close relationships with the Republican incumbents. 

First, congrats to Bret Berlin on winning the Dem chairmanship in Miami-Dade, and on speaking up (ditto NoMi Mayor Kevin Burns on the speaking up thing...) Second, I doubt that much will come of the temporary spurts of outrage, including on the part of the Miamiherald.com commenters. Miami-Dade County is not exactly known for civic upheaval (or for particular political courage.) It's more of a "status quo" kind of town, if you know what I mean ... all of the incumbents on both sides of the aisle will in all likelihood be handily, and lazily reelected, no Democrat will be punished by the voters, and the people will continue to bitch and moan and do absolutely nothing about anything, and when reelection time rolls around again, the whole, dismal cycle will be repeated. Sad to say it, but that's the way we roll down here in Flawrida.

Meanwhile, it appears Florida's lovingly bipartisan Congressional delegation does have at least one thing to say:
Washington, DC – The Members of Florida’s Democratic Delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives issued the following statement regarding the seating of Florida’s delegates at the DNC National Convention this August.

“We are committed to working with the DNC, the Florida State Democratic party, our Democratic leaders in Florida, and our two candidates to reach an expedited solution that ensures our 210 delegates are seated.

“Our House delegation is opposed to a mail-in campaign or any redo of any kind.”
Now keep in mind that really, all six members of the South Florida delegation are Hillary Clinton supporters (the three Black Democrats are Hillary super delegates and the three Cuban-Americans are Republicans who I'm sure would rather run against La Bruja Clinton). So take their umbrage with a grain of salt. However, the last time I talked with people from the state party, they weren't exactly itching to do a re-vote either, and the folks I talked to were Obama supporters.

Whether there is ultimately a re-vote or not, look for the party, led by the stunningly weak Howard Dean, to work out some way to seat the Florida delegation. They'll have to. After the scorched earth mess the Clinton campaign is making of the primary, Dean can't afford to add a floor fight in Denver to his headaches. 

The inevitable Florida ties to the Eliot Spitzer mess are uncovered by the SF Sun Sentinel:


The liaisons between Spitzer and a number of different prostitutes occurred around the country, including in Washington, D.C., and Florida, the sources said. For each encounter, Spitzer paid several thousand dollars, the sources said.

... The high-end service listed three prostitutes in Miami, which employees complained was not enough to guarantee availability for clients, according to snippets of wiretapped conversations filed in court documents.

Two of the women, who used the names Dorine and Michelle, met Feb. 2 in Miami with two men, including a repeat customer identified as "Client-5," according to court records.

Lewis told the client the fee for each woman would be $1,000 per hour or $3,600 for four hours, more if he paid with a credit card, records state.

And last but not least, Florida legislators are invited to win Ben Stein's ... creationism documentary? Only in the Sunshine State.

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posted by JReid @ 12:32 AM  
Tuesday, March 11, 2008
Mississippi by the numbers
There's lots of talk about Barack Obama's racially polarized victory in Mississippi tonight (90 percent of the black vote, 24 percent of the white...) but there is more to the victory than that:

Barack padded his popular vote margin by some 80,000 votes -- important, because taking the lead in the popular vote is a lynchpin of Camp Clinton's comeback strategy.

The tally (with 91 percent of precincts reporting):

Obama - 223,041 (60%)
Clinton - 143,643 (38%)

He pads his delegate lead, too, netting 7-8 more delegates than Hillary will by night's end.

And he gets another psychological victory, allowing his campaign to reclaim the momentum that was muddled by the Texas and Ohio results (though he did get more delegates out of Texas than Hillary.)

The punditocracy is pouring over the exit polls as we speak, though I didn't hear Norah O'Donnell talk about these:

  • Voters who had a "strongly favorable" view of John McCain went for Clinton 70% to 25%, as did 50% of voters who had a somewhat favorable view. Meanwhile 78% of voters who had a "strongly unfavorable" view of McCain went for Barack -- a testament to how much good Hillary's "kitchen sink" campaign has done for the Republican nominee.
  • Onlly 7% of voters said the gender of the candidates was most important to them, but those who did say that went for Barack 64% to 36%
  • Majorities of both Clinton and Obama supporters said that the other candidate is not "honest and trustworthy. Hillary actually lost the "honest and trustworthy" vote overall, 49% no to 50% yes, while Obama overwhelmingly won the question, 70% to 29%.
In other words, the negative tone of the campaign is sinking in among voters, who are becoming more and more polarized between the two contenders. Some of the numbers seized upon by the cable folks:

  • Clinton won white Democrats 70% to 23$, white Independents 55% to 40%, and interestingly, Republicans, 76% to 24%, suggesting there was some mischief-making afoot (Republicans made up just 13% of the total vote.)
  • Obama won 68% of liberals, 61% of moderates, and lost 53% of conservatives.
  • Hillary won voters for whom electability was the most important attribute, by a slim 52% to 48%.
  • White men went for Hillary 68% to 30%, while white women split 71% to 23% for Hillary.
  • Obama won every age group except those 60 years of age and older, but only because of the black vote. Hillary won every white age group from 30 to 60. (There was no data on the split among the 6% of Mississippi voters who were under 30.)
  • Voters by 61% to 36% said that Clinton attacked Obama unfairly. Only 39% said Obama attacked unfairly.
The race numbers stand out most tonight, particularly as the campaign heads to Pennsylvania -- dubbed "Pittsburgh and Philly with Alabama in the middle" by none other than James Carville -- in just six weeks. The Clintons are poisoning the well all the way to PA, whipping their white, female supporters into an anti-Obama frenzy and blatantly seeking to create a white firewall against the upstart candidate who is "stealing" Hillary's birthright. That means Barack will have to wage a strong, smart campaign in the Philadelphia suburbs, and among young, college aged voters, to offset what will surely be a certain amount of retrenched anti-Black voting by older, white Pennsylvanians.

Here we go...

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posted by JReid @ 11:16 PM  
Case closed (again)
The case is closed, the clowns have left the big-top, and an exhaustive review of 600,000 documents has proven, once and for all, that there was no connection between Saddam Hussein's Iraq and al-Qaida. Can we stop debating this now?

Rather silent out there in Red Blogland, although this poor dear seems to have gotten confused about the second-tier Al Qaida in Mesopotamia, thinking gosh, they must be the same crew run by Osama bin Laden ... and missing the very salient point that, um, THEY WEREN'T THERE BEFORE THE WAR WE STARTED in 2003...

One shudders to think what Stephen Hayes is thinking tonight...

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posted by JReid @ 10:07 PM  
The good soldier
The U.S. commander in charge of the Middle East, Admiral William Fallon, "retired" today, following the publication of an important piece in Esquire magazine that cast him as the lone voice of reason, and the man standing between the U.S. (and its Nero-like president) and war with Iran. One of the fatal clips:
while Admiral Fallon's boss, President George W. Bush, regularly trash-talks his way to World War III and his administration casually casts Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as this century's Hitler (a crown it has awarded once before, to deadly effect), it's left to Fallon--and apparently Fallon alone--to argue that, as he told Al Jazeera last fall: "This constant drumbeat of conflict . . . is not helpful and not useful. I expect that there will be no war, and that is what we ought to be working for. We ought to try to do our utmost to create different conditions."

What America needs, Fallon says, is a "combination of strength and willingness to engage."

Those are fighting words to your average neocon--not to mention your average supporter of Israel, a good many of whom in Washington seem never to have served a minute in uniform. But utter those words for print and you can easily find yourself defending your indifference to "nuclear holocaust."

How does Fallon get away with so brazenly challenging his commander in chief?

The answer is that he might not get away with it for much longer. President Bush is not accustomed to a subordinate who speaks his mind as freely as Fallon does, and the president may have had enough.
Prophetic work. And farewell to a good soldier, and a good man. Here's the story as told by CNN, complete with the appropriate spin (no, Admiral Fallon is NOT at odds with the president. Nah...)

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posted by JReid @ 9:54 PM  
In case you missed it: Mama says it all
Nancy Pelosi on the possibility of a Clinton-Obama or Obama-Clinton "dream ticket": fuhgedddaboudit...

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posted by JReid @ 9:49 PM  
Obama wins Mississippi
He'll get another delegate haul in the Palmetto State, winning 91 percent of the black vote but just 27 percent of the white vote. Not surprising, but not a pattern to be repeated.

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posted by JReid @ 9:39 PM  
When you've lost Sinbad...
Hillary Clinton's foreign policy experience includes traveling to dangerous parts of the world like Bosnia ... with Cheryl Crow and comedian Sinbad in tow. Now, Sinbad is speaking out:
Harrowing? Not that Sinbad recalls. He just remembers it being a USO tour to buck up the troops amid a much worse situation than he had imagined between the Bosnians and Serbs.

In an interview with the Sleuth Monday, he said the "scariest" part of the trip was wondering where he'd eat next. "I think the only 'red-phone' moment was: 'Do we eat here or at the next place.'"

Clinton, during a late December campaign appearance in Iowa, described a hair-raising corkscrew landing in war-torn Bosnia, a trip she took with her then-teenage daughter, Chelsea. "They said there might be sniper fire," Clinton said.

Threat of bullets? Sinbad doesn't remember that, either.

"I never felt that I was in a dangerous position. I never felt being in a sense of peril, or 'Oh, God, I hope I'm going to be OK when I get out of this helicopter or when I get out of his tank.'"

In her Iowa stump speech, Clinton also said, "We used to say in the White House that if a place is too dangerous, too small or too poor, send the First Lady."

Say what? As Sinbad put it: "What kind of president would say, 'Hey, man, I can't go 'cause I might get shot so I'm going to send my wife...oh, and take a guitar player and a comedian with you.'"

As you may have guessed by now, Sinbad isn't supporting Clinton for president. He's an Obama guy. All because of Clinton.

"What got me about Hillary was her attitude of entitlement, like he messed up her plan, like he had no reason to be there," Sinbad said. "I got angry. I actually got angry! I said, 'I will be for Obama like never before.'"

To which a Clinton spokesman responded with an ode to the pathetic, with a ringer of a cheap shot at the close:
Defending Clinton's characterization of her Bosnia mission, campaign spokesman Phil Singer kindly provided experts from news stories written about the trip at the time, including a Washington Post story from May 26, 1996, that said, "This trip to Bosnia marks the first time since Roosevelt that a first lady has voyaged to a potential combat zone."

Singer also cited a Kansas City Star article from September 2000 that quoted Sinbad as describing the situation in Bosnia as "so tense. It was Crips and Bloods." (And that's how Sinbad continued to characterize the situation in our interview Monday. He said, "At the time, we didn't realize how crazy it was between the Bosnians and the Serbs. I didn't realize how much hate was going on.")

Still, defending Clinton against Sinbad the refuter, Singer said, "The sad reality of what was going on in Bosnia at the time Senator Clinton traveled there as first lady has been well documented. It appears that Sinbad's experience in Bosnia goes back further than Senator Obama's does. In fact, has Senator Obama ever been to Bosnia?"
No, sorry Singer. Barack has never done the first lady tea tour. But is Senator Clinton prepared to offer the vice presidency to Sinbad?

Meanwhile, a perhaps more credible voice offers an interesting insight into Hillary's "experience":
To: Interested Parties

From: Greg Craig, former director, Policy Planning Office, U.S. State Department

RE: Senator Clinton's claim to be experienced in foreign policy: Just words?

DA: March 11, 2008

When your entire campaign is based upon a claim of experience, it is important that you have evidence to support that claim. Hillary Clinton's argument that she has passed "the Commander- in-Chief test" is simply not supported by her record.

There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton played an important domestic policy role when she was First Lady. It is well known, for example, that she led the failed effort to pass universal health insurance. There is no reason to believe, however, that she was a key player in foreign policy at any time during the Clinton Administration. She did not sit in on National Security Council meetings. She did not have a security clearance. She did not attend meetings in the Situation Room. She did not manage any part of the national security bureaucracy, nor did she have her own national security staff. She did not do any heavy-lifting with foreign governments, whether they were friendly or not. She never managed a foreign policy crisis, and there is no evidence to suggest that she participated in the decision-making that occurred in connection with any such crisis. As far as the record shows, Senator Clinton never answered the phone either to make a decision on any pressing national security issue - not at 3 AM or at any other time of day.

When asked to describe her experience, Senator Clinton has cited a handful of international incidents where she says she played a central role. But any fair-minded and objective judge of these claims - i.e., by someone not affiliated with the Clinton campaign - would conclude that Senator Clinton's claims of foreign policy experience are exaggerated.
h/t Real Clear Politics.

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posted by JReid @ 7:26 PM  
1984
If you thought Geraldine Ferraro was going to back down and slink off into the distance following her nasty remarks about Barack Obama's supposed racial advantage (cue the sound of Black men laughing all over the U.S., and cue the video of Her Bitterness here...) in the campaign, think again:

"I have to tell you that what I find is offensive is that everytime somebody says something about the campaign, you're accused of being racist," Ferraro told Fox News Channel.

" 'Any time anybody does anything that in any way pulls this campaign down and says let's address reality and the problems we're facing in this world, you're accused of being racist, so you have to shut up. Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?' "

Yes, how IS that? And what's with the Clinton campaign's love affair with Fox News? Watch Bitter Betty do her Fox thang with Greta Van Susteren here:



(The wildest part is that bit at the end where the old gal threatens that Obama "had better be careful about alienating people like her," whom he will want to raise money for him if he's the nominee. As if ... Barack ... needs ... her help ... with money...)

Ferraro did at least have the sense to admit that had SHE been a white man, she would have never made Walter Mondale's ticket in 1984. Mm-hm. And then, came the unkindest cut of all: the Clinton campaign pushed its Black campaign manager out front to actually defend Ferraro's remarks, which, to be clear, were essentially that Barack Obama is an affirmative action hire for the Democratic Party, unqualified in every other way to be the nominee, save the color of his skin. He's not beating Hillary because he's getting more votes or because he's raising more money, or because he's a more interesting, more compelling candidate than Hillary. He's beating her because he's a Black man, (and because the patrimonious media hates women.) It's the Rush Limbaugh argument shaken up and shoved into the mouths of a white woman; the feminist's revenge against the notion of A MAN "taking" the White House run away from them. On to Ms. Williams. Her statement today read as follows:
"In January, NBC’s Tim Russert confronted Senator Barack Obama with a four page memo from his campaign characterizing statements they claimed the Clinton Campaign had made about race. Asked in hindsight whether he regretted pushing this story, Senator Obama said:

'Well, not only in hindsight, but going forward. I think that, as Hillary said, our supporters, our staff, get overzealous. They start saying things that I would not say. And it is my responsibility to make sure that we’re setting a clear tone in our campaign, and I take that responsibility very seriously, which is why I spoke yesterday and sent a message in case people were not clear that what we want to do is make sure that we focus on the issues.'

We agreed then. We agree today. Supporters from both campaigns will get overzealous. Senator Clinton today reiterated that when asked about Geraldine Ferraro’s recent comments: “I do not agree with that and you know it’s regrettable that any of our supporters on both sides say things that veer off into the personal. We ought to keep this focused on the issues. That’s what this campaign should be about. http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gif

Senator Obama’s campaign staff seems to have forgotten his pledge. We have not. And, we reject these false, personal and politically calculated attacks on the eve of a primary. This campaign should be about the leadership we need for a better future and these attacks serve only to divide the Democratic Party and the American people."
Wow. The Clinton campaign is blaming the Obama campaign for making this about race? They are either that good, or pristinely evil.

As for Hillary, she's mildly unamused by Ms. Ferraro's fulminations. Emphasis on the "mild."

If I'm Barack Obama, I'm re-hiring Samantha Power.

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posted by JReid @ 2:41 PM  
Failed candidate to succeeding candidate: screw you!
Think Geraldine Ferraro might be a little bitter over her experience as a ground-breaking female candidate? Either that or she's just dumb:

Clinton campaign finance committee member, former vice presidential candidate, and former Rep. Geraldine Ferraro, D-NY, told the Daily Breeze of Torrance, Ca., that, "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

Of Clinton, Ferraro said that the press "has been uniquely hard on her. It's been a very sexist media. Some just don't like her. The others have gotten caught up in the Obama campaign."

Mmmm.... Haterade....

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posted by JReid @ 9:42 AM  
The doctrine of incumbency protection
The Miami Herald ran a story this Sunday that illustrates either the positive power of bi-partisanship or the malignancy of back-scratching cronyism that protects incumbents, even at the cost of sacrificing party goals.
Democrats torn between party, GOP allegiances
BY LESLEY CLARK
Party leaders have tapped Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to raise money and coach candidates in a high-stakes, aggressive bid to expand the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.

But as three Miami Democrats look to unseat three of her South Florida Republican colleagues, Wasserman Schultz is staying on the sidelines. So is Rep. Kendrick Meek, a Miami Democrat and loyal ally to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

That wasn't the case just two years ago when the pair flouted a long-standing Florida delegation agreement to not campaign against colleagues and vigorously backed Ron Klein in his winning bid to oust veteran Republican Rep. Clay Shaw.

This time around, Wasserman Schultz and Meek say their relationships with the Republican incumbents, Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and his brother Mario, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, leave them little choice but to sit out the three races.

''At the end of the day, we need a member who isn't going to pull any punches, who isn't going to be hesitant,'' Wasserman Schultz said.

The decision comes as Democrats believe they have their best shot in years to defeat at least one of the Cuban-American incumbents with a roster of Democrats that include former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, opposing Lincoln Diaz-Balart; outgoing Miami-Dade Democratic party chair Joe Garcia, opposing Mario Diaz-Balart; and businesswoman Annette Taddeo, opposing Ros-Lehtinen.

But Wasserman Schultz and Meek say their ties to the three Republicans are personal as well as professional: Both served in the state Legislature with Mario Diaz-Balart and say they work in concert with all three on South Florida issues.

Wasserman Schultz has also played a leading role in persuading the new Democratic majority to sustain the economic embargo against Cuba and has established close ties to the staunchly pro-embargo U.S.-Cuba Democracy political action committee, which has contributed thousands to Wasserman Schultz and Meek's campaigns.

Bi-partisanship or back-scratching cronyism? You be the judge.

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posted by JReid @ 9:38 AM  
The unexamined possibility
Hillary's fighting till the last dog dies ... but could the dog be a wanna-be vice president?

The media, the blogs, and well, everybody, have been pounding Hillary Clinton for her patronizing references to a joint ticket, presumably with herself at the top and Barack Obama at the bottom. Barack rightly lampooned such a notion, coming from the number two person in the standings, yesterday, and I'd be shocked if SNL didn't hit Hil hard on the tactic this Saturday night.

But ...

What if the Clintons are pushing for a joint ticket, not with the notion of stealing the top of the ticket from the front-runner, but as a way to guarantee herself a spot as number two?

It's a notion I heard seriously debated for the first time this morning on "Morning Joe," and it does have some basis in reality: Hillary Clinton is mathematically locked out of the nomination, in the sense that it would be very difficult for her to pass Barack in the delegate count. She could theoretically catch up in the popular vote, but only if a re-vote in Florida and Michigan produced huge landslides for -- something that's highly unlikely because Barack would undoubtedly do better in both states the next time around (and without Edwards in the race, one could imagine him actually beating her in Michigan.)

So why keep fighting? Why stay in the race? Maybe, just maybe, Bill and Hill have concluded that making her the first First Lady to become vice president would be almost as good as making her president. Read that way, Hillary's constant downgrading of Barack's readiness to be commander in chief could be cast as her pitch to become Dick Cheney to his George W. Bush. Could Hillary be making a case that he does need her after all -- despite her inability to fulfill his mission of "turning the page," and despite the fact that she represents the very "politics of the past" that he's decrying -- because only she can make him credible on foreign policy and defense? It's an interesting notion, but one that I doubt the Obama campaign has an interest in.

Unless ... unless she so bloodies him on the foreign policy and defense issue, and so hobblees his general election chances that her side can make the argument that since she can carry the "big, swing states," and since she has rendered him unelectable without her, he has to put aside his distaste for her campaign tactics and choose her as his v.p. anyway.

Now this could be all hogwash, since Hillary's team appears almost desperate to assure her the presidency, not the vice presidency, but it's an interesting twist on her tactical appraoch.

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posted by JReid @ 9:18 AM  
Monday, March 10, 2008
The blarney stone
First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, with ethnic Albanian refugee children
at the Stenkovec refugee camp near Skopje, Macedonia in May 14, 1999.


Hillary Clinton's foreign policy experience stemming from her years as first lady is officially fair game, thanks to her campaign's insistence on running Mrs. Clinton as John McCain' surrogate on the "commander in chief threshold" question. So let's have it. What exactly did Hillary do as first lady that the American people were unaware that the unelected president's wife was up to?

To hear Hillary tell it, she was negotiating peace between the warring factions in Northern Ireland. Really? And we thought that chestnut went to old Bill. ... Now, folks across the pond are examining Hillary's claims, with a fine toothed comb. The conclusion? Me lady might be a bit off her tether:
Hillary Clinton had no direct role in bringing peace to Northern Ireland and is a "wee bit silly" for exaggerating the part she played, according to Lord Trimble of Lisnagarvey, the Nobel Peace Prize winner and former First Minister of the province.

"I don’t know there was much she did apart from accompanying Bill [Clinton] going around," he said. Her recent statements about being deeply involved were merely "the sort of thing people put in their canvassing leaflets" during elections. "She visited when things were happening, saw what was going on, she can certainly say it was part of her experience. I don’t want to rain on the thing for her but being a cheerleader for something is slightly different from being a principal player."

Mrs Clinton has made Northern Ireland key to her claims of having extensive foreign policy experience, which helped her defeat Barack Obama in Ohio and Texas on Tuesday after she presented herself as being ready to tackle foreign policy crises at 3am.

"I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland," she told CNN on Wednesday. But negotiators from the parties that helped broker the Good Friday Agreement in 1998 told The Daily Telegraph that her role was peripheral and that she played no part in the gruelling political talks over the years.

Lord Trimble shared the Nobel Peace Prize with John Hume, leader of the nationalist Social Democratic and Labour Party, in 1998. Conall McDevitt, an SDLP negotiator and aide to Mr Hume during the talks, said: "There would have been no contact with her either in person or on the phone. I was with Hume regularly during calls in the months leading up to the Good Friday Agreement when he was taking calls from the White House and they were invariably coming from the president."

Central to Mrs Clinton’s claim of an important Northern Ireland role is a meeting she attended in Belfast in with a group of women from cross-community groups. "I actually went to Northern Ireland more than my husband did," she said in Nashua, New Hampshire on January 6th.

"I remember a meeting that I pulled together in Belfast, in the town hall there, bringing together for the first time Catholics and Protestants from both traditions, having them sitting a room where they had never been before with each other because they don’t go to school together, they don’t live together and it was only in large measure because I really asked them to come that they were there.

"And I wasn’t sure it was going to be very successful and finally a Catholic woman on one side of the table said, ’You know, every time my husband leaves for work in the morning I worry he won’t come home at night.

"And then a Protestant woman on the other side said, ’Every time my son tries to go out at night I worry he won’t come home again’. And suddenly instead of seeing each other as caricatures and stereotypes they saw each other as human beings and the slow, hard work of peace-making could move forward."

There is no record of a meeting at Belfast City Hall, though Mrs Clinton attended a ceremony there when her husband turned on the Christmas tree lights in November 1995. The former First Lady appears to be referring a 50-minute event the same day, arranged by the US Consulate, the same day at the Lamp Lighter Café on the city’s Ormeau Road.

The "Belfast Telegraph" reported the next day that the café meeting was crammed with reporters, cameramen and Secret Service agents. Conversation "seemed a little bit stilted, a little prepared at times" and Mrs Clinton admired a stainless steel tea pot, which was duly given to her, for keeping the brew "so nice and hot".

Among those attending were women from groups representing single parents, relationship counsellors, youth workers and a cultural society. In her 2003 autobiography "Living History", Mrs Clinton wrote about http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifthe meeting in some detail but made no claim that it was significant. ...

The piece goes on to say that Hil was always on the ready to offer a nice pat on the back to women politicians, and to make them feel welcome when they visited Washington. Well ... sounds like commander in chief training to me.

More examination from the Boston Globe:
There is little doubt that Clinton was an exceptionally activist first lady. She was the first to set up shop in a West Wing office alongside other White House policymakers, and immediately was in the thick of domestic policy deliberations, most notably her long and unsuccessful fight for health care reform.

Clinton also took a keen interest in foreign policy, traveling to more than 80 countries, with her husband and alone, to promote U.S. policy and the cause of women and children.

But Clinton is taking credit for accomplishing more than some of those who were active in foreign policy during the Clinton years recall.

To whit:
--NORTHERN IRELAND: "I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland."

Clinton traveled to Northern Ireland five times as first lady, and was a tireless advocate for the peace process. But she was not directly involved in negotiating the Good Friday peace accord.

She did encourage Irish women on both sides of the conflict to come together and get involved in a process that was dominated by men. ...

KOSOVO: "I negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo."

At the urging of the Macedonian government, Clinton in May 1999 traveled to Macedonia, which was being inundated with Albanian refugees from Kosovo. She visited a huge refugee camp, held hands with children, told their parents they would go home and announced business loans for the country to help its laggard economy cope with the refugee influx.

On May 5, Macedonian officials had shut the border to refugees, blaming the West for allowing more than a quarter-million people to overwhelm the country. Despite later government insistence that the border was open again, Serb soldiers appeared to be blocking refugees' exit, and only a trickle passed through on May 13, the day before Clinton arrived, according to an AP story written at the time. Refugees were reported to be afraid even to attempt the crossing.

Melanne Verveer, a Clinton aide who accompanied the first lady on the trip to Macedonia, said that only a small section of the border was open when she arrived, and that there was no guarantee it wouldn't close again at any time.

Verveer, who sat in on May 14 meetings between the first lady and Macedonia's president and prime minister, said Clinton was forceful in urging the leaders to keep the border open, and in assuring the Macedonians that the U.S. would support them in coping with the influx of refugees.

"What she did there I don't think can be underestimated in terms of the positive impact that it had," said Verveer, who is active in Clinton's campaign.

Robert Gelbard, who was presidential envoy to the Balkans at the time and now serves as an adviser to the Obama campaign, offers an opposing view.

"I cannot recall any involvement by Senator Clinton in this issue," he said. "The person who was able to get the border opened was Mrs. Sadako Ogata," the U.N. high commissioner for refugees. Gelbard said he had questioned other U.S. officials directly involved and none remembered involvement by Clinton. ...

There were no public reports at the time of Clinton negotiating to keep the border open.
more stories like this

Overall, said Gelbard, "She had more of a role on some foreign policy issues than a lot of other first ladies, including, for example, the current one. My own firsthand experience, though, is that her role was limited and I've been surprised at the claims that she had a much greater role than certainly I'm aware of on the issues I was working on."

Some of Hillary's claims have the effect of emasculating her husband, portraying him as a henpecked president being pushed to act by his wife:
ERBIA: "I urged him to bomb."

Clinton doesn't bring this one up now, but in a 1999 interview published in Talk magazine, the first lady was quoted as saying that she had urged her husband to recommend a NATO bombing campaign on Serb targets to halt ethnic cleansing in Kosovo. According to the story, Clinton called the president on March 21, 1999, from her travels in North Africa. "I urged him to bomb," she was quoted as saying. "You cannot let this go on at the end of a century that has seen the major holocaust of our time. What do we have NATO for if not to defend our way of life?" NATO airstrikes began March 24.
I think I remember Laura Bush saying she told "Bushie" to stop saying "dead or alive..."

None of this is to diminish the powerful partnership of Bill and Hillary Clinton throughout their lives together. But facts are facts. The first lady is in no position to run foreign policy, and if she is, then the president is incompetent and should be impeached, because it is his job to conduct America's foreign policy, and his alone.

At the heart of Hillary's "experience" argument are two equally bad options. Either she was Bill Clinton's puppet master, and thus was serving as the unelected co-regent of the United States during the 1990s, or she is simply making it up -- inflating her resume to get more votes.

Either option is troubling.

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posted by JReid @ 11:02 PM  
Not anymore...
Scratch Elliot Spitzer off Hillary Clinton's short list ... (and Barack, too.)

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posted by JReid @ 6:13 PM  
Spitzer on the spit
Elliot Spitzer and his wife at today's press conference ... I see a big, purple diamond
ring in her immediate future ... !


Crime-fighter extraordinaire ... Wall Street's gumshoe nemesis ... Hillary Clinton super-delegate ... and the sitting governor of New York ... Elliot Spitzer ...

... just loves them hoes.
ALBANY - Gov. Eliot Spitzer has been caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet with a high-priced prostitute at a Washington hotel last month, according to a person briefed on the federal investigation.

An affidavit in the federal investigation into a prostitution ring said that a wiretap recording captured a man identified as Client 9 on a telephone call confirming plans to have a woman travel from New York to Washington, where he had reserved a hotel room. The person briefed on the case identified Mr. Spitzer as Client 9.

Mr. Spitzer today made a brief public appearance during which he apologized for his behavior, and described it as a “private matter.”

“I have acted in a way that violates my obligation to my family and violates my or any sense of right or wrong,” said Mr. Spitzer, who appeared with his wife Silda at his Manhattan office. “I apologize first and most importantly to my family. I apologize to the public to whom I promised better.”

“I have disappointed and failed to live up to the standard I expected of myself. I must now dedicate some time to regain the trust of my family.”

Before speaking, Mr. Spitzer stood with his arm around his wife; the two nodded and then strode forward together to face more than 100 reporters. Both had glassy, tear-filled eyes, but they did not cry.

The governor spoke for perhaps a minute and did not address his political future.

He declined to take questions and promised to report back soon. As he went to leave, three reporters screamed out, "Are you resigning? Are you resigning?", and Mr. Spitzer charged out of the room, slamming the door.

The governor learned that he had been implicated in the prostitution inquiry when a federal official contacted his staff last Friday, according to the person briefed on the case.

The governor informed his top aides Sunday night and this morning of his involvement. He canceled his public events today and scheduled the announcement for this afternoon after inquiries from The Times.

The governor’s aides appeared shaken before he spoke, and one of them began to weep as they waited for him to make his statement at his Manhattan office.

The man described as Client 9 in court papers arranged to meet with a prostitute who was part of the ring, Emperors Club VIP, on the night of Feb. 13. Mr. Spitzer traveled to Washington that evening, according to a person told of his travel arrangements.

The affidavit says that Client 9 met with the woman in hotel room 871 but does not identify the hotel. Mr. Spitzer stayed at the Mayflower Hotel in Washington on Feb. 13, according to a source who was told of his travel arrangements. Room 871 at the Mayflower Hotel that evening was registered under another name.

Federal prosecutors rarely charge clients in prostitution cases, which are generally seen as state crimes. But the Mann Act, passed by Congress in 1910 to address prostitution, human trafficking and what was viewed at the time as immorality in general, makes it a crime to transport someone between states for the purpose of prostitution. The four defendants charged in the case unsealed last week were all charged with that crime, along with several others.
So can Spitzer survive? Republicans are circling him like vultures, reveling in the come-down of New York's biggest Do Gooder. But in the wake of Monica, it is entirely possible that he can go on.

And hey, David Vitter is still in Congress...

Meanwhile, a cheer goes up on Wall Street, and it's got nothing to do with stock prices...

Double meanwhile, move over Heidi Fleiss, make way for Tanya Hollander.

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posted by JReid @ 4:28 PM  
Bingo
Barack, having won the little Wyoming caucus that could, nails the response to Hillary's chutzpah: the correct response, is ridicule.
"I don't understand," Obama said, playing the moment as the crowd cheered, "if I'm not ready, how is it you think I would be such a great vice president?"

Obama pointed to a CBS News interview in May 1992, when candidate Bill Clinton said his most important criterion in choosing a vice president was "someone who would be a good president if, God forbid, something happened to me a week after I took office."

"You all know the okey-dokey, when someone's trying to bamboozle you, when they're trying to hoodwink you?" Obama said to the crowd at the Mississippi University for Women. "You can't say that, 'He's not ready on day one unless he's willing to be your vice president, then he's ready on day one.'"

He went on, to growing crescendos of cheers, "I want everybody to be absolutely clear. I'm not running for vice president. I'm running for president of the United States of America! I'm running to be commander in chief."

Less than two hours earlier, Clinton campaign spokesman Howard Wolfson found himself in the position of saying that Obama has not proven his ability to be president, but could be on the Democratic ticket if http://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifClinton overtakes him and wins the nomination in Denver in August.

"Senator Obama has not passed the commander in chief test," Wolfson said before adding that an invitation to become vice president "is not something that she would rule out at this point."

Asked what Obama could do to prove his worth by August, Wolfson avoided the question.
... ridicule works on remarks like these, too...

On to Mississippi!

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posted by JReid @ 2:59 PM  
Into the sunset
MSNBC is canceling Tucker Carlson show and trading the snarky conservative in for David Gregory. I guess losing the bow tie wasn't enough. TV is a cruel mistress...Link

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posted by JReid @ 1:35 PM  
Who's the most cynical of them all?
On "Meet the Press" today, Tom Daschle finally gave voice to what the Obama campaign should have been arguing all along, that while Hillary Clinton was a "great first lady," being first lady, in and of itself, does not qualify one to be commander in chief. Nor does having one term in the Senate, two more years than Barack Obama, and less total legislative experience than the man you're deriding as "not ready to answer the 3 a.m. call."

And speaking of derision and 3 a.m., the Clintons (plural) have proven, without a doubt, that the old politics is still in play, because the old politics (going nuclear negative on your opponent, even if your opponent is a member of the same party, bullying and manipulating the press so as to control the narrative, and spinning defeat as victory, down as up, etc.) works. It is, then, a rather brilliant strategy -- beat the hell out of Barack Obama with one hand, and curry favor with his supporters with the other. Thus is born the "Barack is not ready to be president, but I, in my benevolence, will make him my vice president" gambit. Reuters explains:
In talking up a joint ticket, the Clintons may be seeking the upper hand, attempting to put her in consideration for the top of the ticket when she so far has failed to win the votes necessary to assure that she would face Republican presidential candidate John McCain in the November election.

The maneuver may also be aimed at countering an image in voters' minds of Obama as presidential material and at helping restore an aura of inevitability as the party's nominee that Clinton had early in the campaign but lost.

"The Clintons are in a difficult position," said Dennis Goldford, a political science professor at Drake University in Iowa, who has tracked the presidential race.

"If she wins the Democratic presidential nomination, she would need Obama's supporters. But she needs to be careful. If this talk of him on the ticket is seen as a cynical maneuver, it could backfire and hurt her," Goldford said.

Former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, an Obama backer, mocked the idea.

"It may be the first time in history that the person who is running number two would offer the person running number one the number two position," Daschle told "Meet the Press."
The idea is maddening to Obama supporters, who seem baffled by the Clinton cheek. Apparently, they don't know their Clintons.

The strategy is indeed cynical -- so cynical, it has worked on the press corps, who unsurprisingly have seized on the notion just as quickly as they have lapped up every other scene setter narrative put forth by Howard Wolfson (ONLY THE BIG STATES COUNT ... LOSING 13 STRAIGHT MEANS OUR CANDIDATE HAS TIED THE RACE ... DELEGATE DEFICITS DON'T MATTER...) George Stephanopoulos was downright giddy over the prospect this morning, even insisting that it might be inevitable (in the face of skepticism by Cokie Roberts).

My guess is that the Obama people are too smart to fall for the Clinton's velvet boxing glove. Surely, they see the ticket melding, "buy me, get him free" strategem for what it is: a dual attempt to diminish Barack, and to cull potential supporters who are on the fence about him, because while they like him better than her, they have bought into the 3 a.m. narrative, and are therefore iffy about him.

Besides, Hillary, if she gets the nomination, would do so only be utterly destroying Barack Obama, or by seizing the nomination by less than democratic means. After that, her prospects of winning in November would be immediately diminished by the proportion of Obama supporters who refuse to vote for her in the general. Her hope is that dangling the prospect of taking him to Pennsylvania Avenue with her will get most of the Obama voters in line.

Personally, I don't think he'd take the bait. There's nothing about being Hillary's second that benefits Barack politically. And then there's the nauseating prospect of her learning to love his speeches, because suddenly, they're not about change, they're about HER, and about how great the '90s were. In short, Barack doesn't need Hillary, but Hillary needs Barack. In that equation, as in the delegate math, he has the decided upper hand.

... no matter what a Clinton tells you.

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posted by JReid @ 12:43 AM  
Saturday, March 08, 2008
John McCain's other problem
Forget eyeballing that female lobbyist or getting hated on by Rush Limbaugh. John McCain's real problem was encapsulated in a statement he made not too long ago about not knowing much about economics.

McCain would much rather fight the upcoming election on the basis of national security -- and win in a replay of 2004's "scare the vote" campaign by his new friend George W. Bush. But John McCain doesn't get to decide whether this election will be fought on the basis of national security, or Iraq (his other signature issue, which cuts both ways for him) or on the economy. Circumstances will largely dictate that. And right now, the circumstances are these:

The U.S. economy lost 63,000 jobs last month, the worst performance in five years, (it would have been 100,000 in the red were it not for government employment,) and even the Bush administration, led by a president who isn't even cognizant of where gas prices are, is revising its economic forecasts in a negative direction.

American economic insecurity IS the story of the current campaign, if not the future one, although as the onetime Man from Hope said (or as his campaign strategist James Carville did, back in 1992, it's the economy, stupid.)

That's why NAFTA is such a thorny issue (and if Team Obama is smart, they'll really begin sticking it to Hillary on that one...) And that's why a little story about Boeing will be the next shoe to drop on John McCain. From the AP this morning:
WASHINGTON (AP) — Angry Boeing supporters are vowing revenge against Republican presidential candidate John McCain over Chicago-based Boeing's loss of a $35 billion Air Force tanker contract to the parent company of European plane maker Airbus.

There are other targets for their ire — the Air Force, the defense secretary and even the entire Bush administration.

But Boeing supporters in Congress are directing their wrath at McCain, the Arizona senator and nominee in waiting, for scuttling an earlier deal that would have let Boeing build the next generation of Air Force refueling tankers. Boeing now will miss out on a deal that it says would have supported 44,000 new and existing jobs at the company and suppliers in 40 states.

"I hope the voters of this state remember what John McCain has done to them and their jobs," said Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., whose state would have been home to the tanker program and gained about 9,000 jobs.

"Having made sure that Iraq gets new schools, roads, bridges and dams that we deny America, now we are making sure that France gets the jobs that Americans used to have," said Rep. Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill. "We are sending the jobs overseas, all because John McCain demanded it."

The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co. and its U.S. partner, Los Angeles-based Northrop Grumman, won a competition with Boeing Feb. 29 to build the refueling planes in one of the biggest Pentagon contracts in decades. The unexpected decision has sparked outrage from union halls to the halls of Congress over the impact on U.S. jobs, prestige and national security. EADS and Northrop say about 60 percent of their tanker will be built in the U.S.

The trouble for McCain is that he has in the very recent past boasted about killing the Boeing deal, based on his never-ending crusade to battle Washington "pork." To be fair, people went to jail over a scandal involving a too-close-for-comfort relationship between Boeing officials and Air Force insiders in a position to place the construction deal. But McCain's holier-than-thou stance on his fellow Washingtonians' way of doing business could very soon come back to bite him in the electoral ass:
Rep. Todd Tiahrt, a Kansas Republican whose district includes a Boeing plant that could have gained hundreds of new jobs from the tanker program, said McCain's role in killing the earlier deal is likely to become an election issue. Both of the leading Democratic candidates for president, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, have criticized the Air Force decision.

"I think we absolutely will hear more about it," Tiahrt said. "We'll hear it mostly from the Democrats and they have every right to be concerned."

McCain called such criticism off base.

"In all due respect to the Washington delegation, they vigorously defended the process before — which turned out to be corrupt — which would have cost the taxpayers more than $6 billion and ended up with people in federal prison," he said. "I'm the one that fought against that ... for years and brought down a corrupt contract."

Keith Ashdown, with the watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense, said Boeing executives who broke the law were to blame for the demise of the tanker contract — not McCain.

"This was theirs from day one," he said. "This idea that any lawmaker is to blame is a joke."

Still, Todd Donovan, a political science professor at Western Washington University, said McCain's opposition to Boeing could hurt him with voters in Washington and other states affected by the tanker program. Boeing would have performed much of the work in Everett, Wash., and Wichita, Kan., and used Pratt & Whitney engines built in Connecticut. Significant work also was slated for Texas.

"If he can be painted as somehow being associated with job losses ... it could hurt him on the margins," Donovan said.
Ya think?

The Boeing dust-up has been burning up talk radio, including the Ed Schultz show this week, and it won't stop there. Mixed up in this issue are a toxic brew of job losses, outsourcing (to France, no less) and the outsourcing of America's defenses abroad. McCain is going to have to choose between pushing his cost-cutting rep, or finally learning something about the economy.

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posted by JReid @ 2:13 PM  
Friday, March 07, 2008
What's new, Mr. Magoo
TNR's Jonathan Chait delivered the line of the night tonight on "Tucker" -- so funny Tucker could barely recover. Paraphrasing, as he described his insightfully hilarious article enjoining Hillary to just "go already" (from the campaign,) Chait said that the Dems are poised to lose the most winnable election in our lifetimes, even facing John McCain, who, "like Mr. Magoo, stumbled through all sorts of mine fields and somehow emerged on the other side." Great line. And here's the TNR piece.
The morning after Tuesday's primaries, Hillary Clinton's campaign released a memo titled "The Path to the Presidency." I eagerly dug into the paper, figuring it would explain how Clinton would obtain the Democratic nomination despite an enormous deficit in delegates. Instead, the memo offered a series of arguments as to why Clinton should run against John McCain--i.e., "Hillary is seen as the one who can get the job done"--but nothing about how she actually could. Is she planning a third-party run? Does she think Obama is going to die? The memo does not say.

The reason it doesn't say is that Clinton's path to the nomination is pretty repulsive. She isn't going to win at the polls. Barack Obama has a lead of 144 pledged delegates. That may not sound like a lot in a 4,000-delegate race, but it is. Clinton's Ohio win reduced that total by only nine. She would need 15 more Ohios to pull even with Obama. She isn't going to do much to dent, let alone eliminate, his lead.

That means, as we all have grown tired of hearing, that she would need to win with superdelegates. But, with most superdelegates already committed, Clinton would need to capture the remaining ones by a margin of better than two to one. And superdelegates are going to be extremely reluctant to overturn an elected delegate lead the size of Obama's. The only way to lessen that reluctance would be to destroy Obama's general election viability, so that superdelegates had no choice but to hand the nomination to her. Hence her flurry of attacks, her oddly qualified response as to whether Obama is a Muslim ("not as far as I know"), her repeated suggestions that John McCain is more qualified.

Clinton's justification for this strategy is that she needs to toughen up Obama for the general election-if he can't handle her attacks, he'll never stand up to the vast right-wing conspiracy. Without her hazing, warns the Clinton memo, "Democrats may have a nominee who will be a lightening rod of controversy." So Clinton's offensive against the likely nominee is really an act of selflessness. And here I was thinking she was maniacally pursuing her slim thread of a chance, not caring--or possibly even hoping, with an eye toward 2012-that she would destroy Obama's chances of defeating McCain in the process. I feel ashamed for having suspected her motives. ...

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posted by JReid @ 11:28 PM  
John McCain scares me (and some generals, too)
On the same day he went off on a New York Times reporter, we are reminded that John McCain isn't just scary to errant members of the Fourth Estate, or to his fellow Senators, who wince at the thought of his angry, erratic finger on the button ... No, my friends, John McCain even scares generals:
...while the consensus is that the 3 a.m. ad helped Clinton, it has also drawn criticism as a tactic that ultimately benefits John McCain, particularly if he is to face Obama in the general election. In essence, Clinton has now turned the debate about commander-in-chief readiness into a contest of résumés. And the conventional wisdom is that John McCain -- ex-fighter pilot, former POW and war hero -- wins.

But that's not necessarily the case, say senior military officials and political analysts. In interviews with Salon this week, several experienced military officers said McCain draws mixed reviews among military leaders, and they expressed serious doubts about whether McCain has the right temperament to be the next president and commander in chief. Some expressed more confidence in Obama, citing his temperament as an asset.

It is not difficult in Washington to find high-level military officials who have had close encounters with John McCain's temper, and who find it worrisome. Politicians sometimes scream for effect, but the concern is that McCain has, at times, come across as out of control. It is difficult to find current or former officers willing to describe those encounters in detail on the record. That's because, by and large, those officers admire McCain. But that doesn't mean they want his finger on the proverbial button, and they are supporting Clinton or Obama instead.

"I like McCain. I respect McCain. But I am a little worried by his knee-jerk response factor," said retired Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton, who was in charge of training the Iraqi military from 2003 to 2004 and is now campaigning for Clinton. "I think it is a little scary. I think this guy's first reactions are not necessarily the best reactions. I believe that he acts on impulse."

"I studied leadership for a long time during 32 years in the military," said retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Scott Gration, a one-time Republican who is supporting Obama. "It is all about character. Who can motivate willing followers? Who has the vision? Who can inspire people?" Gration asked. "I have tremendous respect for John McCain, but I would not follow him."

"One of the things the senior military would like to see when they go visit the president is a kind of consistency, a kind of reliability," explained retired Gen. Merrill McPeak, a former Republican, former chief of staff of the Air Force and former fighter pilot who flew 285 combat missions. McPeak said his perception is that Obama is "not that up when he is up and not that down when he is down. He is kind of a steady Eddie. This is a very important feature," McPeak said. On the other hand, he said, "McCain has got a reputation for being a little volatile." McPeak is campaigning for Obama.

Stephen Wayne, a political science professor at Georgetown who is studying the personalities of the presidential candidates, agrees McCain's temperament is of real concern. "The anger is there," Wayne said. If McCain is the one to answer the phone at 3 a.m., he said, "you worry about an initial emotive, less rational response."

Most recently, Wayne has been studying Clinton's personality. "I just gave a presentation on Hillary's temperament for the presidency. I came to the conclusion that it is not really a good presidential temperament, with one caveat -- if you compare it with McCain's."

That Johnny Mack has an anger management problem is nothing new, not even to his adoring press groupies in the mainstream media. But with McCain growing more and more likely to enter the Oval Office with every Hillary broadside at her fellow Democrat (and every insinuation by her that she'd rather see McCain answering that red phone than Obama, if it can't be her...) it's time for that press corps to begin seriously examining the issue of McCain's temperament. Because clearly, McCain is trying to choke down his temper, and present a more even keeled face to the American people. If he's holding back the real him -- and the real him is a nut-job, well then that would be something a bit more than inconvenient in a president, no?

Still not worried? Try this: the neocons LIKE the fact that he's scary. They think it will spook Israel's our enemies...

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posted by JReid @ 11:14 PM  
Samantha Power: the rest of the story
So Samantha Power resigned from the Barack Obama campaign today, reportedly over her comments to a UK reporter that Mrs. Clinton is "a monster" ... but here's what else Ms. Power said that might have speeded her exit from the campaign:
In an interview yesterday with the BBC, Power said that Obama's plan to get combat troops out of Iraq in 16 months is a "best case scenario."

"It would be the height of ideology, you know, to sort of say, well I said it therefore I'm going to impose it on whatever reality entreats me," Power told the BBC.

Obama campaign manager David Plouffe disagreed Friday with the suggestion that it would be responsible to leave "a little wiggle room" when establishing the date by which all U.S. combat troops should be out of Iraq.

"He has been and will continue to be crystal clear with the American people that if and when he is elected president, we will be out of Iraq in - as he said, the time frame would be about 16 months at the most where you withdraw troops. There should be no confusion about that with absolute clarity," said Plouffe.

The Clinton campaign of course jumped on those remarks, accusing Obama of campaign double-speak, "just like NAFTA" (sure you want to bring that up, Canada callers?) But then there's this bit, which suggests that, just like NAFTA, Camp Hillary's criticisms ought to start with the man in the mirror:
The reporter's question was also prompted by Gen. Jack Keane (Ret.), an ABC News consultant and one-time Clinton adviser, telling the New York Sun "he is convinced Mrs. Clinton would hold off on authorizing a wide-scale immediate withdrawal of American soldiers from Iraq."

Clinton today distanced herself from Keane's remark.

"He is doesn't work for my campaign he is not an adviser, he is one of the many military veterans whom I respected whom I am very pleased to have offer advice from time to time. He is not within the campaign," Clinton told reporters Friday.
Of course, the Obama camp's response to all of this was weakened by the fact that they went into defense mode, forgetting to throw in a little anti-monster offense. Not the difference in tone in these two broadsides, and the stature gap, as Hillary did her own hatchet swinging while Team Obama relies on the campaign manager:
"While Senator Obama campaigns on his plan to end the war, his top advisors tell people abroad that he will not rely on his own plan should he become president. This is the latest example of promising the American people one thing on the campaign trail and telling people in other countries another. We saw this with NAFTA as well," Clinton said.

"He has attacked me continuously for having no hard exit date and now we learn that he doesn't have one -– in fact he doesn't have a plan at all according to his top foreign policy adviser," she said. "He keeps telling people one thing while his campaign tells people abroad something else I'm not sure what the American people should believe but I would refer you to the BBC interview in which the top foreign policy adviser is speaking about senator Obama and Iraq," Clinton said.

Plouffe responded in a conference call with reporters Friday: "Sen. Obama has said that one of his first, you know, sort of moments upon entering the Oval Office would be to sit down with his Joint Chiefs of Staff and make it very clear that a withdrawal is going to begin, and it needs to be done rapidly," he said.

"We need to quickly move to withdraw troops so that we can more effectively focus on some of the threats we're facing in Afghanistan and other parts of the world."
Unfortunately, that's not the way to beat a Clinton. If you're fighting this particular monster, you need to bring an anvil to the ring, and leave the whiffle bat at home.

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posted by JReid @ 4:01 PM  
Testy John McCain
Maybe it's because he doesn't want to remind Limbaugh... but John McCain sure did get salty with NYT reporter Elizabeth Bumiller over an apparent contradiction in memory over his 2004 flirtation with being Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry's running-mate... Video here. Best line from Bumiller: "Can I ask ... why are you so angry?"

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posted by JReid @ 3:55 PM  
Monster's Ball
A key adviser to Barack Obama says what probably many inside the campaign are thinking. The trouble is, she says it to a reporter:
n an unguarded moment during an interview with The Scotsman, Samantha Power, his key foreign policy aide, let slip the camp's true feelings about the former First Lady. ...

... Ms Power told The Scotsman Mrs Clinton was stopping at nothing to try to seize the lead from Mr Obama.

"We f***** up in Ohio," she admitted. "In Ohio, they are obsessed and Hillary is going to town on it, because she knows Ohio's the only place they can win.

"She is a monster, too – that is off the record – she is stooping to anything," Ms Power said, hastily trying to withdraw her remark.

"Interestingly, the people in her innermost circle seem to not mind her; I think they really love her."

But she added: "There is this middle circle – they are really on the warpath. But the truth is she has proved herself really willing to stoop."

Oh but wait, there's more...
"You just look at her and think: ergh. But if you are poor and she is telling you some story about how Obama is going to take your job away, maybe it will be more effective. The amount of deceit she has put forward is really unattractive."

The NY Daily News is having a little fun with the comment (for which Ms. Burton has apologized) this morning:



Meanwhile, Camp Clinton goes semi-nuclear on Obama, responding to his camp's demands that she release her tax returns by scaring up the ghosts of impeachments past:
Earlier in the day, Howard Wolfson, Clinton's communications director, sparked controversy when he compared Obama to Starr.

"I for one do not believe that imitating Ken Starr is the way to win a Democratic primary election for President," Wolfson said.
As they say in court, Hillary's team has opened the door. The question is, will Team Obama walk through it?

Update: Quick, fast and in a hurry ... Samantha Power has resigned from her unpaid role in the Obama campaign.

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posted by JReid @ 8:09 AM  
Thursday, March 06, 2008
The money man
Hillary Clinton had barely gotten out her email blast about raising $4 million since Tuesday's wins when the Obama camp stepped all over her mojo with the news that they raised $55 million in February. I wonder how much Obama will raise if he finally takes the gloves off on Madame C...?

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posted by JReid @ 8:39 PM  
The truth behind NAFTA-gate
What if someone from a U.S. presidential campaign did reassure Canadian officials that their candidate's apparent bashing of the North American Free Trade Agreement was more show than substance. ... and what if, contrary to the spin that probably helped Hillary Clinton seal Ohio in her column, the campaign that did such a thing was hers, rather than Barack Obama's?

What if?

From today's Toronto Globe and Mail:
OTTAWA — The leak of a confidential diplomatic discussion that rocked the U.S. presidential campaign began with an offhand remark to journalists from the Prime Minister's chief of staff, Ian Brodie.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper vowed yesterday to use whatever investigative means necessary to find the source of leaks that, he said, were "unfair" to U.S. Democratic candidate Barack Obama and may have been illegal — although opposition leaders insisted the Conservatives cannot be trusted to investigate political players on their own team.

But the story that reverberated through the U.S. presidential campaign began as a terse, almost throwaway remark that Mr. Brodie made to journalists from CTV, according to people familiar with the events.

Mr. Brodie, during the media lockup for the Feb. 26 budget, stopped to chat with several journalists, and was surrounded by a group from CTV.

The conversation turned to the pledges to renegotiate the North American free-trade agreement made by the two Democratic contenders, Mr. Obama and New York Senator Hillary Clinton.

Mr. Brodie, apparently seeking to play down the potential impact on Canada, told the reporters the threat was not serious, and that someone from Ms. Clinton's campaign had even contacted Canadian diplomats to tell them not to worry because the NAFTA threats were mostly political posturing.

The Canadian Press cited an unnamed source last night as saying that several people overheard the remark.

The news agency quoted that source as saying that Mr. Brodie said that someone from Ms. Clinton's campaign called and was "telling the embassy to take it with a grain of salt."

The story was followed by CTV's Washington bureau chief, Tom Clark, who reported that the Obama campaign, not the Clinton's, had reassured Canadian diplomats.

Mr. Clark cited unnamed Canadian sources in his initial report.

There was no explanation last night for why Mr. Brodie was said to have referred to the Clinton campaign but the news report was about the Obama campaign. Robert Hurst, president of CTV News, declined to comment.
So did CTV just get the attribution wrong? As if ...

Larkin from the spiffy new Wizbang Politics site asks the pertinent questions:
Who in the Clinton campaign contacted the Canadians? When was the contact made? Did Hillary know about this contact and approve the content of the message? As the NAFTA-gate scandal erupted why didn't she come forth and explain to the voters of Ohio and Texas that her staff had contacted the Canadians? Is her rhetoric about NAFTA genuine and does she in fact intend to renegotiate key aspects of the agreement?
This one isn't going away. Meanwhile, the Canadian government has already defended Barack on this, and now the investigation is under way, reaching inside the prime minister's office.

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posted by JReid @ 8:17 PM  
Let's do it again? (or, Cheeky Charlie)
There's a cheeky girl, Miss Charlie... cheeky indeed...

Florida Governor Charlie Crist (who backed John McCain in the Florida primary) and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (a Hillary Clinton supporter) released a joint statement today, calling on officials in the Democratic and Republican parties to count their respective primaries -- the Florida no-ad folly of January 29, and the Cuban-style Michigan race in which Hillary Clinton played the part of Fidel Castro.

Well isn't that convenient?

Now I like Charlie Crist (whose name occasionally makes the papers in its ecclesiastical misprint: "Christ...") He's been a good governor so far -- much better than I expected when i didn't vote for him in 2006. But I think "the people's governor," as he styles himself, is making a bit of mischief. Like any good Republican (and he is that, despite his quite liberal record so far in Florida, and his curious habit of appointing Democrats to key positions and keeping campaign promises to re-enfranchise felons and such...) Crist would probably like to see Hillary become the Democratic nominee, the better to unite his party in the service of Crist's pal McCain (who would have thought Crist and Mother Rushbo would be playing on the same team ... hm... note to self, say nothing more about that...) Anyhoo, for Granholm's part, she is in line with Clinton partisans, and Florida Democratic Party officials, who would like to see the two illegal elections counted anyway.

I have interviewed Florida Congressman Alcee Hastings on this matter, and have been in touch with members of the Florida Democratic leadership, and I got two things from those discussions:

1. I can think of no scenario when the delegates from Florida will simply be rejected in Denver. Hastings all but guaran-damn-teed it, despite his and Sen. Bill Nelson's failed lawsuit to force the vote to count. And if Florida gets seated, Michigan will too. Despite Howard Dean's rather lame punt on the matter today, I see no way around that fact.

2. The Florida party wants no part of a re-vote, especially since there's no one willing to pay for it. Howard Dean has offered a measly $850,000 or so, for an election that will cost somewhere around $24 million. And Crist, in his press conference today, didn't indicate that he'd push Florida's Republican-run legislature -- the same one that moved the primary up in defiance of party rules in the first place -- to pony up the dough, either. Florida is staring down the barrel of $500 million in budget cuts, that are expected to hit schools, fire, police -- everything but the kitchen sink, to coin a Clintonian turn of phrase. So there's no money to ante up, anyway. And the GOP is letting Florida keep half of its delegates, so what 'dem worry? What

So what are we left with?

Camp Clinton wants a new primary, not an easier, cheaper caucus, because she thinks she'll win a primary here (though this time, she won't have the advantages of early and absentee voting that stretched back into December, before the Obama boom began...)

Team Obama is more elusive on the matter, although I wouldn't be surprised if their internals make them feel rather confident that he would at least improve his performance, even in a primary, if Florida were done again.

As to the Soviet-inspired Michigan primary, which gave voters a choice between Hillary and bust, it can't be counted as-is, and the tea leaves say that state would be more ripe pickings for a new race, again, most likely a caucus. And that too, could serve Obama well.

Til then, we'll try to forget that our naughty governor is the one who signed that push-up primary into existence in the first place.

Oh, and how's this for irony: had Florida not had its primary moved into the ether, guess when we would have voted? (Or on February 5th, had a much contested Democratic amendment succeeded...) Stings, doesn't it?

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posted by JReid @ 2:23 PM  
Wednesday, March 05, 2008
Tested ... ready ... wrong? What the media isn't asking about Hillary
Hillary Clinton was successful in derailing Barack Obama's attempts to take Ohio and Texas from her last night (she had been up by 20 points in both states, won Ohio by 10 and squeaked by in Texas, though she lost the caucuses there.) Exit polls suggest she essentially did so by raising doubts about Barack's experience in the minds of blue collar white men, and late deciding Dems.

OK.

But the media has been awfully quick to accept the fundamental premise of the Clinton campaign: that she is the more experienced person on matters of foreign policy and national security, and as such, is the person you'd want answering that phone at 3 a.m. in a crisis.

Really?

Well since we're now in a "real contest about the differences between Hillary and her opponent," to paraphrase her, isn't it time for the media to stop handing Hillary a pillow and ask tough questions about precisely what her experience is? After all:

Hillary has never been a commander in chief -- not even of a state's National Guard.

She has no management experience, beyond the management of her political campaigns.

She has no direct military experience, beyond her service on the Senate Arms Services Committee -- a feat that gives her information, to be sure, and relationships for certain, but no leadership experience. She doesn't chair the committee, and the committee does not set policy for the United States military.

She has only been a Senator two years longer than Barack Obama, who sits on the Senate's foreign relations committee -- arguably giving him about the same level of access to information about U.S. policy (and the same dearth of managerial responsibility...)

She has no management experience, and thus cannot present a single example of organizational leadership.

The one example of policy leadership Hillary can present was her stint as chair of the president's commission on health care -- a stint that ended in failure.

She often touts her eight years in the White House as "experience," but the only such experience Hillary has was as first lady -- not as a cabinet member. That means she has precisely the level of White House experience that Laura Bush, Nancy Reagan, or Betty Ford had. And not to denigrate the role of first lady, but this is a position which has no leadership function whatsoever. The first lady's most senior advisor is her social secretary. She is dispatched around the world to put a pleasant face on America, and occasionally to put a face on a president's policies or policy goals, but no serious person would suggest that any of the aforementioned ladies was qualified to be president based on their proximity to the men who were.

If Hillary expects us to count her time in the White House as part of her "35 years of experience," she needs to explain why. Otherwise, we're left with her time as an attorney, her stints on corporate boards, and other real life experiences that are no more predictive eof presidential acumen than Barack Obama's roles as a civil rights attorney and community organizer. In fact, if Hillary isn't telling us that being first lady qualifies her to be president, then she is saying that being a lawyer and advocate for children is what does the trick. Well how is that better than Barack's experience, which includes more years as a legislator (in Illinois) than she has?

The plain truth is that Hillary's claims to international experience ARE based on her time as first lady, and the media's ready acceptance of those claims presents a dangerous proposition: that as first lady, Hillary was making foreign policy decisions, and weighing in on matters of national security, rendering her more ready to respond to a crisis from inside the White House going forward. If that was true duing the Bill Clinton administration, then the then-president placed an unelected family member -- his wife -- in charge of this nation's security, without letting the American people in on that fact. I thought the impeachment of Bill Clinton was one of the greatest constitutional outrages in modern history, but if he was giving Hillary that red phone to answer during his presidency, I would have definitely favored impeachment for that.

Imagine, for a moment, Nancy Reagan running for president in 1992 on the claim that she and her psychics were working hand in hand with Ronald Reagan to respond to Cold War crisis. The shudder you feel is the first gasp of the reality that when it comes to Hillary and her national security experience, you've been had.

If on the other hand, Hillary was not making foreign policy or national security decisions during her husband's presidency, and was instead performing the normal duties of a first lady, then her claim to international stature and experience is based mostly on her meetings and liaisons with the wives of foreign leaders, and her activism on behalf of issues proscribed for her by the president (such as her trip to China for that international women's conference.) In that case, Hillary can claim no greater level of foreign policy expertise than, say, Angelina Jolie, who as a goodwill ambassador for the U.N. travels to foreign capitols to lobby on behalf of worthy causes. In fact, Jolie recently felt empowered enough as a foreign policy advocate to pen an op-ed piece on what the U.S. should do about Iraq. Based on HER foreign policy experience, would anyone in their right mind suggest that Angelina is qualified to pick up that phone at 3 a.m.?

I think not.

These are arguments I'm not gleeful about making. I have been a supporter of the Clintons since 1992, and I would have supported Hillary for president had Barack not been in the race and impressed me so thoroughly last year. But even I am questioning the basis for what would have been my pro-Hillary stance. Even as someone who thought that she rightly ran as Margaret Thatcher, on closer inspection, I have to admit that my admiration for her is based mostly on the successes of her husband's administration. Many voters, if they are honest with themselves, must admit the same thing. The idea of Hillary as better qualified is based, at least in part, on the promise that if she becomes president, Bill will be there to advise her on what to do after she picks up that phone. That's reality. Hillary's claim to decades of international experience is a media-enabled fantasy.

Barack has begun to make precisely this point -- one he has been too polite to bring up before. It's high time the media began to scrutinize Hillary's lofty claim, given that it forms the basis of her candidacy for president, and her claims to greater gravitas than her opponent.

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posted by JReid @ 10:55 AM  
No you can't
A presumptuous Hillary Clinton wins three primaries (after losing 12 straight) and practically declares herself the nominee, even throwing out a veep nod to the guy she says isn't ready to answer the phone at 3 a.m. ... you know, the guy with more delegates?

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posted by JReid @ 10:08 AM  
Tuesday, March 04, 2008
Winners and losers ... Texas two-step edition
Well, it's that time. (sigh). So here we go:

Winners:

Hillary Clinton - Her scorched earth campaign against Barack Obama had the desired effect, and she could go three for four if her new lead in Texas holds.

Howard Wolfson - He has thoroughly punked the Washington press corps, which now dutifully follows up on every storyline he launches in a conference call.

Saturday Night Live - They played Ponch to Wolfson's John, mocking the media into getting tough with Obama, and probably helping Hillary to bring home late deciding voters.

Stephanie Tubbs Jones - She always appears to be a little drunk to me in her press avails for Hillary, but tonight, her state went HRC's way, and she got the biggest thank you at Hillary's rally. ... bigger than Bill and Chelsea's...

Fear - The Clinton campaign used it very effectively, both in their "3 a.m." argument, and in the campaign's very careful insinuations that (wink wink) Barack Obama just might be, maybe, sort of ... a Muslim. That likely had an impact on white voters in Texas and Ohio, and helped her bring her base vote home.

John McCain - he gets the nomination, gets rid of Mike Huckabee, and gets his photo op with President Bush over with early enough in the campaign for it to hopefully be forgotten in the general.

Conventional politics - Sometimes it works.

Negative campaigning - It almost always works. Look for Hillary to continue throwing the "kitchen sink" at Obama, so long as he remains ahead of her in the delegate count ... and that means through Puerto Rico.

Bill Clinton - He has been quiet on the campaign trail, but his most visible moment turned out to be just the ticket for Hillary, when he told Texas voters that if they and voters in Ohio didn't deliver for his girl, she was probably finished.

Mike Huckabee - He went out with class, and is still viable as a possible McCain running mate (though he'll probably lose out to a more doctrinaire conservative.)

Rush Limbaugh - He gets seven more weeks of Hillary (at least!) And all of winger talk radio rejoiceth...

White women - Their candidate lives to fight another day, and she's finally talking about little girls' dreams again.

Late primaries - They matter.

Pennsylvania - It's the new Florida. ... and the new Ohio...

and now for the ...

Losers:

The mainstream media - They've been pushed around and played like a fiddle by the HRC campaign. Now they're left with a withering narrative about why Hillary still may want to bow out, based on the delegate math.

The punditocracy - Once again, they had to tear up their obituary for the junior Senator from New York.

Team Obama - They'll have a hard time winning the spin cycle tomorrow, even if they come away with more delegates than Hillary tonight. And they appear to be losing Texas.

Caucuses - They're complicated, rather undemocratic, and they were the source of Texas' woes tonight.

Democrats - While the GOP is solidifying its general election strategy, the donkey party will be committing long-term fratricide, making it harder to win in November.

Chuck Todd (and The Math) - He's a delegate math wiz, but Hillary's wins tonight pushed him right off the air on election night. He's also right about the intractability of Obama's numerical advantage over Hillary, but for the time being, no one cares.

Canada - There'll be no living with Hillary now.

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posted by JReid @ 11:53 PM  
She's a winner
Hillary just gave a feisty speech following her come from ahead (ahem) victory in Ohio. The speech was notable in a few ways: first, it wasn't at all gentle. She continued to slam Barack without using his name, saying "the American people deserve a president who is tested and ready on day one," making allusions to the White House being no place for "on the job training," and deriding the notion of "change" without works.

You could see the Harold Ickes camp rebound in the latter part of the speech, in which Hillary attempted to coopt both the change message, and the historical/inspirational campaign theme that have been so successful for Barack. She talked about a mother of two little girls who told her that she wants her daughters to believe that they can "be anything." She mused that the question facing the country is not "whether we can make changes, it's whether we will," and she completely ripped off Barack's signature line, enjoining the crowd to call out the answer: "yes we will!" (The crowd contributed liberal chants of "yes SHE will!" throughout...)

Hillary may have a new campaign theme going forward, and its an amoebic send-up of Barack Obama's campaign: "together we will promises into actions, words into solutions and hope into reality."

This is no doubt a big night for Hillary, who won by a significant margin in Ohio (though again, not the 60 percent plus that she needed.) And she has pulled ahead in Texas, making an Obama victory there increasingly doubtful as the night drags on.

Howard Fineman claimed earlier tonight on MSNBC to have found "no joy" in the Clinton inner circle, and a sinking feeling that without Texas, some in the sanctum would want her to drop out. Well there will be no dropping out, clearly, and what Hillary displayed on the stump tonight was, if not joy, a certain smug satisfaction. This is clearly a woman who wants not just to beat Barack Obama, but to crush him under her stilettos.

It's strange for me, as someone who, seemingly ages ago, was a fan of Hillary's. But the manner in which she and her bully boys, Howard Wolfson and Mark Penn, have run this campaign has left me cold. She clearly is very much in this race, and could very well strong-arm the super delegates still undeclared into giving her the nomination. But I predict that if she does win it this way -- by scorching the earth with Barack Obama, belittling his campaign and declaring him more unfit to be president than her GOP opponent, many Democrats, particularly younger folks, Black voters and those new to the process -- and I'm shocked that I'm even saying this because I am a super-voter in every sense of the word -- myself included, will feel rather disinclined to stand in line on Mrs. Clinton's behalf in November. This campaign has become, not about putting a Democrat back in the White House, but about putting Hillary (back?) in the White House, all else be damned.

We've seen this movie before. Bill Clinton won back to back presidential campaigns, and the Democratic party was not left the better for it, particularly in Congress, which they lost. Now, Hillary Clinton appears poised to break the party if she has to, in order to get what she wants. During the last few weeks she has fed the innuendos about Barack's faith, (as far as she knows...) declared him unfit to be commander in chief, and accused him of nefarious associations with indicted folk (pot ... kettle...) all while he stands closer to becoming the nominee of her party than she does. It's not an attractive quality, and it's not mitigated, for me, by her feel good appearances on the comedy show circuit. My only hope now, is that Harold Ickes' wing really does wrest control of the campaign from the Wolfson gang, so we don't spend the next seven weeks being fear mongered, bullied and bludgeoned into a new Clinton era.

Update: Barack is speaking now, and he has finally begun to tie Hillary and McCain together, and to defend himself against their tag team campaigns.

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posted by JReid @ 11:32 PM  
Texas is tightening
Things are getting dicey in the Lone Star State...

Texas is tightening, and not in a way Barack Obama would like. According to NBC, exit polls show HRC winning white women by nearly 20 percentage points, but splitting white men with Barack. Hillary is winning Hispanics 2 to 1, but the question is whether more Blacks or more Latinos go to the polls. Hillary is also winning late deciders, and apparently, she's doing well in the late breaking western part of the state. With 19 percent reporting, here's what we've got:

Obama - 695,932 (47.6%)
Clinton - 688,473 (47.1%)

Meanwhile, Camp Clinton goes back to bitching about the caucus process and gets a surprise on their reporter conference call.

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posted by JReid @ 10:45 PM  
John McCain puts his friends to sleep
My friends ... official Republican presumptive nominee John McCain is giving another of his snoozer victory speeches. It's not a good look for your campaign when your best argument for your election is not that you can unite the country, or bring about change, or lead the nation to a better place, but that "given the alternative, my election as president is in the best interests of the country." In other words, hey, the other guy's even worse!

My friends ... Johnny Mack's biggest applause line so far is when he told the crowd of indeterminate size (clever boy, not putting any of the bored and the aged behind him where the cameras can see them...) that he will "defend the decision to remove Saddam Hussein." Great, so John McCain is the candidate of the 25 percenters who still think invading Iraq was a swell idea.

My friends, if I were working on the McCain campaign, I would be slitting my wrists in abject boredom advising that he do much less public speaking. John McCain is one of those candidates who is best seen (in gauzy biographies that are mostly in black and white) and not heard. He always sounds like a guy fighting to stay awake on the late shift. That and the creepy smile are a little too horror movie/night watchman for me, man.

On to tomorrow, where hopefully, an endorsy George W. Bush will manage to keep his fast little hands off the candidate...

Oh, behave...!

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posted by JReid @ 9:53 PM  
Hillary wins Rhode Island, winning Ohio
Hillary has ended her 12-race losing streak by taking Rhode Island. Not sure why the nets don't call Texas for Obama already. Unless there are more than 200,000 votes out there in West Texas for Hillary, she's losing that one. Ohio, on the other hand, appears to be Hillary's, too, and handily. She's winning all of the counties that are currently reporting, and she's got the edge in the exit polls. Tonight looks to be a 50-50 split on states, and who knows on delegates (going by the Chuck Todd math, Barack will probably walk away from tonight with more delegates no matter what happens from here...)

Update: Back in Ohio, it appears that the delay is coming because the biggest cities in the state haven't reported much of their vote yet. Hillary has a big lead thus far, but I suppose that will tighten a bit too.

Update 2 (10:53) - MSNBC has called Ohio for Hillary. She gets a healthy margin (over 50 percent) but not the 60 percent plus that she would need to really close the delegate gap. That said, a win is a win, and tonight's victory probably vindicates, in the campaign's thinking, the rather nasty, negative campaign they have been waging against Barack Obama. Again, negative campaigning is done because it works. Barack had better brace himself for more of the same, coming at him on three fronts: from the McCain campaign and the Republicans, from Hillary's campaign, and from the media, which appears to be in a mood to do as they are told by Howard Wolfson, and go negative on the hope guy... (Jim Vandehei explains it all here)
1. The "SNL" Factor. Just when you thought no one watched "Saturday Night Live" anymore, the show made a star cameo on this year’s trail. The Not Ready for Prime Time Players were brutally effective in exposing the fawning coverage of Obama. Never underestimate the power of shame in journalism. "SNL’s" mockery went straight to reporters’ insecurities. Being accused of falling “in the tank” for a candidate is the journalistic equivalent of a nerdish high school freshman getting a wedgie from the jocks.

It is no coincidence that the past few days have seen reporters acting tough with stories about Obama’s relationship with a Chicago influence-peddler, his sincerity in opposing NAFTA and his stiff-arming of questions from the press.

2. Wolfson Barks. Howard Wolfson is Clinton’s hired thug, also known as campaign communications director. He holds a conference call every day to tell reporters they are worthless and weak (not to mention fat, lazy and stupid — no way to go through life) because of their soft Obama coverage. Again, reporters’ self-justifying mechanism kicks in when someone says they are being too tough. But their self-loathing mechanism kicks in when someone says they are being too weak. Read Dana Milbank’s account of Monday's Obama press conference to see if Wolfson’s hectoring is working.

The answer: Damn straight.

3. Burying Bill. The Clinton campaign badly miscalculated how much reporters would jump on any reason to return to one of their all-time favorite subjects: the adventures and misadventures of Bill Clinton. There was simply no way that the 42nd president could play a prominent role in Hillary’s campaign and not have reporters cover it as if he were the star and she were supporting actress. But where has Bill Clinton been lately? It is as if he was sent to Afghanistan on a secret mission with Prince Harry.

4. Sister Sledge. Reporters roll their eyes when Clinton or surrogates start suggesting she is the victim of sexist assumptions in political and media cultures. But the press this year may be underestimating how much those complaints ring true to many women. It could be that we are on the brink of another New Hampshire, where anecdotal evidence suggested that many women were self-consciously voting against a pundit-class story line that said the race was over and the smooth-talking man had won out over the hard-working woman.

5. Timing. Politics is all about the moment, defining it, capturing it, profiting from it. The Tony Rezko trial was a godsend. It started on Monday, which prompted The New York Times and scores of columnists to write about it over the weekend. The perfect hook for Clinton forces to raise questions about his judgment — only days after airing the infamous 3 a.m. scare ad that also questions his judgment. Coincidence? They don’t happen in politics.
Natch.

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posted by JReid @ 9:32 PM  
It's so hard to say goodbuye to Huckabee
I'm gonna miss you, Huck. Sure, he doesn't believe in evolution, but he is the only Republican in public life that I know of (unless Rick Warren is a Republican...) who actually lives out Jesus' call to care for the poor, who talks about real compassion, not fake electoral compassion and corporate welfare (a la GWB) and who can deliver a deadpan straight line with perfect comedic timing. The now former Republican candidate for president is giving a most gracious concession speech now. Godspeed Huckabee. See you tomorrow on "Morning Joe."

Update: MSNBC has the story on Huck's ride into the sunset.

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posted by JReid @ 9:24 PM  
Keeping an eye on...
The Houston Chronicle

the Cincinnati Enquirer

Secret Obama superdelegates

Tony Rezko (it's all the media's got, and they're going to use it)

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posted by JReid @ 9:08 PM  
V.O.Te.R.ation
The night of the V.O.Te.R (Vermont, Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island) is upon us.

So far, it's one down: Obama wins Vermont. Ohio for the Dems is too close to call. According to NBC News, the Ohio Secretary of State has asked a judge to hold polls open until 9 p.m. in Sandusky County, due to an unknown problem.

Watch the votes roll in in Ohio here.

Get the Texas vote hot off the Secretary of State's presses here.

Rhode Island numbers from the Sec'y of State here.

And here's MSNBC's election thingy. Muy handy!

Update: The Texas secretary of state's site has some interesting results rolling in, even though the polls haven't closed. The early vote that's been counted so far breaks down thusly:

Early vote:
Obama -
131,607 (58.26%)
Clinton -
90,903 (40.24%)

Total vote:
Obama -
145,592 (58.39%)
Clinton - 100,216 (40.19%)

Polls still haven't closed in West Texas, so we'll see how things go from here.

Update 2: Because the judge has ruled that the polls will indeed stay open late in Sandusky County, Ohio, there won't be any numbers on the Ohio elections website until after 9 p.m.

Update 3: The race question in Ohio...
According to NBC News, of the voters in Ohio who answered exit polls and said that race was a factor in their decision, 8 out of 10 voted for Hillary Clinton. And Hillary Clinton is winning both white women (by around 60-40) and white men (about 55-35) in Ohio.

I'm not surprised. Ohio is one of the those states... it's something the Obama campaign will have to contend with if he is the nominee. For every other reason: economics, NAFTA ... Ohio should be winnable for the Dems in November. But if Barack is the nominee, this is one state where I think race will be a factor.

Exit polls are also showing weakness for Obama in Ohio among voters over age 45, and particularly among seniors.

Update 4: Better numbers than the Texas secretary's site coming out of USA Today:

DemocratsVote%Del
Obama520,50754-
Clinton432,23245-
Edwards6,7081-
Richardson2,6910-
  • 2% of precincts

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posted by JReid @ 5:51 PM  
Hillary Clinton's by any means necessary campaign
Here we go...

They're voting in Ohio, Texas, Vermont and Rhode Island today (well, they have been early voting for awhile, but there you go...) and the Obama and Clinton camps are spinning the possible scenarios. For Camp Hillary, it's all about winning, well, anything. One state, and the Penn-Wolfson axis says she's in it through Pennsylvania. Team Obama is saying the race is over according to the pledged delegate count (they're right), and they're looking to run out the clock, hold onto at least two states tonight, and possibly pinch Texas.

Reality: If Hillary doesn't win both Texas and Ohio convincingly tonight, she will begin to appear to be placing her own ambition ahead of what's good for the party. Hell, she's even willing to start a political war in Canada to get the nomination. That will cost her super delegates. On the other hand, if she wins both, but not convincingly, her team will begin placing enormous pressure on super delegates to stand pat and wait for PA...

On the GOP side, John McCain should win enough delegates tonight to clinch his party's nomination. I'm gonna miss you Huckabee.

The polls have it close. USAElectionPolls has compiles the latest surveys, which are, sadly, already out of date. Still, they show a tight race with Hillary appearing to slow Obama's mo, at least a little bit, in Ohio particularly. (Note to giddy journos, negative campaigning ALWAYS works, even on the margins.) The polls:

Latest Ohio Polls for Each Pollster
Pollster Date Updated Clinton Obama
AVERAGE

50.0% 42.4%
Zogby 3/1-3 3/4 44 44
ARG 3/2-3 3/4 56 42
IPR-UC 2/28-3/2 3/3 51 42
Rass 3/2 3/3 50 44
PPP 3/1-2 3/3 51 42
SUSA 3/1-2 3/3 54 44
Qpac 2/27-3/2 3/3 49 45
Suffolk 3/2 3/3 52 40

3/2
Latest Texas Polls for Each Pollster
Pollster Date Updated Clinton Obama
AVERAGE

47.6% 46.1%
IVR 2/28&3/2 3/4 49 46
Belo 2/29-3/2 3/4 46 45
IADV 3/2 3/4 49 44
Zogby 3/1-3 3/4 47 44
ARG 3/2-3 3/4 50 47
Rass 3/2 3/3 47 48
PPP 3/1-2 3/3 50 44
SUSA3/3
48
49

Note that today is March 4, and much of the above poll calling was a wrap before March 1st...

Meanwhile, Howard Wolfson is playing Clinton hatchet man this morning. He's all over MSNBC playing that phony NAFTA-Canada story and using the words "Tony Rezko" as many times as he can cram into a sentence. He even threw in a "NAFTA-gate" for good measure.

By any means necessary, I suppose...

I guess he has a point -- you wouldn't want to run a general election candidate who can be tarred by the other side for their relationships with indicted, possibly corrupt figures and shady land ... deals ... ooohhhhh.... meanwhile, Camp Clinton's demands that the press pound the hell out of Obama have a predictable effect.

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posted by JReid @ 10:05 AM  
Monday, March 03, 2008
As far as she knows...
Hillary's answer on "60 Minutes" as to whether Barack Obama is a Muslim was less than definitive...



what's that all about? And didn't that Ohio guy just make you cringe, with sympathy? So many people are feeding themselves disinformation rather than news, and talk radio rumors rather than facts. Wake up, people!

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posted by JReid @ 5:24 PM  
ReidBlog: The Obama Interview
Listen now:


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