when you want something done right, get Teddy Kennedy to do it. It seems Kennedy has swooped in and delivered a health care planwith a public option that has the support of all 13 Democrats on the relevant Senate committee, called HELP. The cost of the bill is also way down: from $1 trillion for the previous try, to $611 billion, with 97 percent of Americans covered. Nice. It's called the Affordable Health Choices Act. Read it for yourself here. The committee members are as follows. As you'll see, the committee doesn't include any of the Democrat Refusniks. The Republican side: not so much (includes the cranky old man himself, John Sydney McCain.)
Democrats by Rank:
Edward Kennedy (MA) - Chairman Christopher Dodd (CT) Tom Harkin (IA) Barbara A. Mikulski (MD) Jeff Bingaman (NM) Patty Murray (WA) Jack Reed (RI) Bernard Sanders (I) (VT) Sherrod Brown (OH) Robert P. Casey, Jr. (PA) Kay Hagan (NC) Jeff Merkley (OR)
Republicans by Rank:
Michael B. Enzi (WY) - Ranking member Judd Gregg (NH) Lamar Alexander (TN) Richard Burr (NC) Johnny Isakson (GA) John McCain (AZ) Orrin G. Hatch (UT) Lisa Murkowski (AK) Tom Coburn, M.D. (OK) Pat Roberts (KS)
The Orlando Sentinel's Mark Matthews breaks it down. Cheat sheat: The pros: his name is Kendrick Meek. The cons: his name is Kendrick Meek:
His mother's influence — along with a solidly Democratic voting record — has allowed Meek to quickly rise in Democratic ranks. His mother served on the Appropriations Committee with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who called him a "star."
"He has one of the best internal barometers," said U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, a South Florida Democrat who joined Meek on the House floor for late-night ribs at Republicans and has endorsed his Senate bid. "He really has just a good sense of what issues resonate."
An exception, though, was his vote to intervene in the legal battle over Terri Schiavo, the brain-damaged Florida woman caught in the middle of a national right-to-die debate.
"That's a vote I do regret," he said. "It was an intrusion on the Schiavo family."
And on the up- and downsides of name ID:
Lacking Crist's fundraising ability, Meek is crisscrossing the state to gather signatures so he can qualify to run without paying a $10,000 fee. It's also a way for the native Miamian to build name recognition in a state where polls suggest roughly half the electorate doesn't even know his name.
One reason for his anonymity: Meek has rarely faced any serious opposition. His first run for Congress in 2002 was made easy when his mother — whose name helped him easily win his first legislative race in 1994 — resigned just before the qualifying deadline. He has been re-elected easily since then.
"Rarely" is a term of art. The exact word I think the writer was looking for is "never." Which leads me to seriously question why the Democratic Party isn't welcoming the idea of an opponent, if only to give Kendrick the practice.
The retired admiral sounds like he's in against Specter the Seat Saver. If only we had some of that independent spirit down here in Florida, where our primary has already been rendered obsolete by the boys (and girls ... hello, Karen Thurman! ... in the back rooms.) Thanks, Democratic Party. And run, Joe, run!
Footnote: I like to win as much as anybody, and as a Democrat, I'd like to see this state elect more of us. But sometimes, Democracy requires that you have to bother with the actual voters. Had that not been the case, and the voters set aside by Ed Rendell and the other party bosses (who I'm sure warned Barack Obama not to run since it wasn't his "turn,") Hillary Clinton would have been the Democratic nominee. Instead, the majority of Democrats made the decision on our own. So anyway, next August 24th, I guess I'm going fishing. ... and I HATE fishing.
And another thing: the party should be aware that a lot of Democrats I know, who aren't "yellow dog" types like yours truly, only hang on to their voter registration cards in order to vote in primaries. If Florida had open primaries, I suspect it would also have far fewer members of BOTH parties. Just something to think about up there in Tallahassee (and in Washington) while you guys are divvying up the ballot spots and doing away with the one meaningful reason to register with a political party in the first place.
You know that old saying (I think I first heard it from Bill Clinton,) that "Democrats fall in love, Republicans fall in line?" Well... Democrats are starting to fall like Republicans. I didn't make the Jefferson Jackson dinner last night (what can I say, my A/C broke, and in Florida, that takes priority, even over politics. BTW if you need a good air conditioning guy, call me!) but I did get the news, via a text message last night, that Dan Gelber, the favorite of liberals in the U.S. Senate race, is dropping out ... er ... "stepping back" ... from the Senate race. (Alex Sink can't be thrilled that what was supposed to be a love-fest for her gubernatorial run got upstaged by Camp Kendrick...)
I'm not surprised. I've heard rumors that Gelber would probably go for weeks, though I'm not sure if it's a matter of fundraising, or ... um ... pressure (he apparently was getting it, including from the DSCC.) And as a loyal Democrat, he probably wanted to do what the party wants, which is to clear the field so the party can focus on just one candidate. Besides, Gelber was in a no-win situation. He is even less well known statewide than his opponent, and he was up against two formidable and enmeshed political machines: the Meek machine on the local level and the Clinton machine, whose obvious star power and fundraising tentacles reach deep into the Sunshine state. Gelber was struggling to raise money, and Meek has the endorsement of major unions and other prime political sources of cash. the "Kendrick Meek for Florida" campaign raised about $1.5 million through March 31st, according to his federal campaign disclosures, while Gelber had taken in just $363,000. There is a third candidate in the race, North Miami Mayor Kevin Burns. Um ... good luck with that, dude. (He had raised about $17,000 bucks as of March 31st.) Whatever the reason, Gelber is out. Meek's camp has released this statement:
“Dan Gelber is the model public servant guided by a lifelong pursuit of truth. I’d wish Dan luck in any endeavor that he pursues, but he doesn’t need luck. Dan’s intellect, dedication to justice and sense of fairness will serve him and our state well no matter his pursuit. He is a friend who puts party first and his message to Florida Democrats that we must unify around a slate of candidates is a powerful statement that I wholeheartedly embrace. Dan is a natural leader who will continue to serve our state with distinction in any capacity he chooses and our party is better off because of him.“
... which mirrors Gelber's statement that he's tired of the Democratic "circular firing squad" that normally occurs during elections. Since he hasn't been "fired at" as yet, I for one, am wondering what exactly he means. And personally, I think the "circular firing squad" during a certain Democratic presidential primary made our current president a better general election candidate. BTW Gelber even got a tweet-out from former State Senate colleague Marco Rubio.
Welcome to the new Democratic World Order. BTW this comes during the same week when Ed Rendell essentially threatened Joe Sestak that he'd get "killed" (politically, I assume) if he runs against the establishment candidate, Republican ... I mean Democrat... Arlen Specter, in the PA primary. Democracy, you've gotta love it!
I hate to mirror the ravings of RedState, but these days, the Democratic Party feels an awful lot like the GOP, which generally prefers coronations to primaries. That said, clearing the way for politicians to run for office without actually having to RUN, is already the way things often work in Black politics from what I've seen in Florida (if you can find me a Black person within 100 miles of here who would dare to oppose a sitting Black politician in South Florida publicly, I'll give you, and them, $100. $200 if it's a preacher...) Congressman Meek has never had a serious opponent since he won his mother Carrie Meek's House seat in 2002, and he has benefited from the fact that people down here are loathe to oppose Carrie Meek, whom I would have to say is the single most influential Black person in South Florida, even in retirement from politics. So it's little wonder that the rest of the party would catch on.
On a practial level, Meek had about a hundred assets that Gelber didn't. He benefits from his friendship with former president Clinton, whose wife Meek supported in the Democratic primary, even as the vast majority of Black folks, including in his district, backed Barack Obama (he was far from alone in that regard.) The payback for that support is obvious: Bill Clinton is Kendrick's most prolific and high-profile, fundraiser. It's very hard, if not impossible, to beat that. Ironically, when pressed about sticking with Hillary as it became clear she would lose the Democratic nomination, Kendrick said this:
"There's a chorus of folks saying 'Oh well, saying let's end this right now... But we're Democrats, not Republicans. We believe in Democratic primaries playing themselves out."
So far, the reaction to Gelber's exit within the Florida netroots has ranged from pragmatic to harsh, (this diary was apparently harsh too, before it was deleted...) and Gelber will likely be a candidate for attorney general (my guess is that he was told by -- fill in the blanks as you prefer -- that he would do better to withdraw, try for A.G., thereby receive the backing of the right money people, and give the party the time and space to fight the big fish: Charlie Crist, or to drive him out of the race, too... ahem ...) so progressives will still have him to kick around. That is sound political practice from the standpoint of winning elections, and to be honest, I don't relish the idea of Democrats shredding each other during a primary. But you'd think that in a democracy, we could come up with a way to have a spirited debate, and then let rank and file Democrats pick our nominee. Hell, it worked in 2007/2008, and while it got ugly -- mostly because the Clintons made it ugly -- we wound up winning the race with a tough, tested canddate. Just my two cents.
BTW don't get too geeked up out there about the idea of Corinne Brown supposedly exploring her own run for Senate. I seriously doubt the seriousness. She and Kendrick swim in the same Black establishment political waters, and I suspect she will be swiftly talked down from that particular exploration. Besides, what would be her point of difference with Kendrick? She supported Hillary Clinton, too, so she wouldn't have that issue to use against him with Black voters. The only difference would be regional, and from what I hear, Rep. Meek has already sown up the key endorsements and money people in Rep. Brown's neck of the woods.
Meanwhile, as things get easier for Kendrick, they're getting tougher for Charlie. (On Michael Putney's show this morning, Meek mused that Charlie Crist might not even be his opponent in 2010. Not likely, but not impossible either. One can only imagine what the Clinton oppo research veterans have in store for Mr. Crist. Meek's best scenario would be to face what he has faced in the past -- a non-opponent. And I'm assuming his camp believes that non-opponent to be Marco Rubio.
UPDATE: Watch Gelber's "Stepping Back" speech, courtesy of Larry Thorsen:
UPDATE 2: The Orlando Sentinel's Jane Healy speaks my mind, though in her case, about the governor's race:
This may be good from a political fundraising perspective, saving all the money for the 2010 general election. But it hurts the voters. Without a challenge from someone within their own party, candidates get away with taking fewer stands on important issues. Voters ought to rebel and insist that the candidates answer some tough questions.
... This could be where the lack of a primary hurts most. It will be hard to tell whether the candidates have any backbone since they will automatically get money from the traditional interest groups. For Democrats, the unions and the trial lawyers are those key constituencies. For Republicans, it's the business community. At least Crist had to run in a hotly contested primary before being elected, exposing his real differences with the conservative wing of the party.
And with no real primaries, you can forget about debates for a long time. The candidates will probably be able to escape them until after Labor Day 2010, when the general-election season kicks in. Oh, well.
Tomorrow, barring a direct hit lightning strike or some other unforseen event, Charlie Crist will call a press conference and announce that he's running for Senate. That's no big surprise, since polls show he would be the instant favorite in a race that currently features not a single statewide name brand. What will be interesting will be to see if the popular politician with the permanent tan is ready for what comes next: the brutal beating he's going to take from both Marco Rubio on the right (for supporting Barack Obama on the stimulus package) and from the Democratic contenders, who are already slamming him as akin to a father abandoning his family during a hurricane, for quitting his job to run to Washington "when the going gets tough."
Crist has positioned himself perfectly for the win: he's still a popular figure, known statewide by his first name, and he's been ideologically malleable enough that he hasn't generated animosity where it counts: in the middle. I can tell you that among my black Democratic friends, I know several who say they will support Crist, give him money, and vote for him. None of them are Republicans, and ALL of them gave money to, supported, and voted for, Barack Obama. Crist is pals with the state NAACP president, Adora Obi Nwezi, he retains good will among black voters for supporting the right of two wrongfully convicted men, Pitts and Lee, to be compensated for their suffering, and there's that lovefest with President Obama when he thanked the governor lavishly for supporting the stim.
But that won't stop the s---storm that's coming Charlie's way. Including the fact that he's about to be outed, yet again... (wife notwithstanding, and by the way every source I have who works in Tallahassee says he's gay, too...) with the full assent of the political right, putting them, ironically, in the same tent with the Perez Hilton wing of the gay rights movement, which is going to pour money, time and energy into defeating him as payback for his opposition to gay marriage and adoption (which they see as hypocritical...) Throw in Florida resident Rush Limbaugh, who hates Charlie's kind of moderate Republican, Marco Rubio and his band of Elianeers who will torch him on Spanish-language radio to cut into his South Florida numbers, plus the right wing of the GOP, the Club for Growth wierdos and probably Jeb Bush and his "devious planning," and you begin to get the picture.
Charlie's in for a rough ride.
That said, my party would be crazy to believe he can't still win that seat. For one thing, Barack Obama won't be on the ballot this time, though he'll probably be called on to campaign for the Democratic nominee. For another, about four in ten Floridians are unafiliated with any political party, and Charlie has positioned himself as something of an Indie. The wingers may own this state by virtue of the headcount in the legislature, but Florida ain't Alabama... well much of it isn't, anyway... so the fight for the center will be fierce. ... and by fierce, I cast no aspersions on Miss Charlie or her peoples.
Meanwhile, there could be another consequence of Charlie vacating his governor's chair: open seats ... everywhere ... (which is great news for Democrats.)
As Arlen Specter makes the case for his own defeat
in the Democratic primary. Today, on "Meet the Press," a feisty Benedict Arlen stated his case firmly: he is not now, nor has he ever been, a loyal Democrat. Oh, and he absolutely, positively will NOT support a public/single payer health care plan, or, as we already know, the Employee Free Choice Act. Watch:
All I can say is, "Go Sestak!" And as for Harry Reid: you've been suckered again. And your constituents, both at home in Nevada and in the Democratic caucus, deserve to know: just what did you get in exchange for Specter's disloyalty, other than the humiliation of already having promised him a gavel?
It's been more than four decades since Arlen Specter, senator from Pennsylvania, earned the nickname "Specter the Defector." With his decision this week to leave the Republican Party, he confirmed that it is indeed an accurate description of his political character.
I was a kid reporter for the New York Times back in 1965, when Specter's flip-flopping first attracted attention, and the report I filed recounts the circumstances that led to his unflattering nickname.
Specter, then a Democrat, had been an assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, and he harbored an ambition to run against his lackluster boss, James Crumlish. The Democratic bosses of Philadelphia were not encouraging Specter because, as one of them told me, "We don't want another young Tom Dewey," the reform-minded New York prosecutor who launched himself into the governorship and two presidential nominations by sending a string of prominent officeholders of both parties off to jail.
So Specter, with the encouragement of such prominent Pennsylvania Republicans as Sen. Hugh Scott and Gov. William Scranton, said he would run against Crumlish on the GOP ticket. To hedge his bets, and to help himself gain Democratic votes, he waited until he won the race to change his party registration.
Specter is hardly the only politician willing to do anything to stay in, or to accumulate more, power. But as Broder says, it's all good as long as the Dems know what kind of "team player" they're regaining:
But much as Specter's decision reflects an increasingly serious weakness in the Republican Party, there is no escaping the fact that it is also an opportunistic move by one of the most opportunistic politicians of modern times.
The one consistency in the history of Arlen Specter has been his willingness to do whatever will best protect and advance the career of Arlen Specter.
Harry Reid, who's not shown himself to be the strongest cat in the kennel, should be forewarned. Watch this guy. Meanwhile, top Senate Dems, who know him well, tell Specter in advance: hands off our seniority.
The DSCC's heart was in the right place when it produced this "wrecking ball" ad attacking Republican Senators. But note which Senator they highlighted as "voting against a bill to help struggling homeowners..."
"I am unwilling to have my twenty-nine year Senate record judged by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate. I have not represented the Republican Party. I have represented the people of Pennsylvania," Specter said in a statement. "I am ready, willing and anxious to take on all comers and have my candidacy for re-election determined in a general election."
... Specter was being challenged by conservative former Lehigh Valley Congressman Pat Toomey, who seized on that vote and others that favored Obama's spending priorities.
... Toomey came within 17,124 votes -- out of more than 1 million cast -- of defeating Specter in the 2004 primary.
The move couldn't come at a more important time. Including Al Franken, Specter's move gives Dems the magic number in the Senate. Now, let's see if Steele can get a right winger elected in Pennsylv... oh, never mind. Happy 60!
But he also calls for a "revolution" to save the GOP from the right wing kooks who seem bent on "purifying the party" (and losing elections.) BTW, this is the second party switch for Specter, who was a Democrat through the JFK era, before he found it more electorally convenient to become a Republican. Just sayin' ...
With Obama having traveled to Capitol Hill today to try and sell his omnibus budget, we're witnessing a singular spectacle in American politics. Namely, the same legislators who brought you $1.3 trillion in deficits, who greenlighted any and everything George W. Bush asked for, without a whiff of debate, and who raced to bail out the banks to the tune of $700 million last September, when the Bushies were still in charge ... now, these same people, Democrat and Republican, are demanding caution, incrementalism, and only a little bit of change, from the new president.
What's that all about?
Voiced daily by the cast of the increasingly unwatchable "Morning Joe," the new Incrementalism goes something like this: things are so bad, and the last administration blew it so badly, the only prudent course is to do, not nothing, but very, very little. They want President Obama to "just do the economy." But what does that mean? It means just do tax cuts for the well-to-do and leave the nettlesome stuff, like healthcare, energy and climate change, alone. They want him to stop being so flashy -- get off the TV and stop talking so darned much, especially to Jay Leno (too many viewers, who don't understand policy the way a cable chat show host does!) They worry that he's "overexposed," which is another way of saying they envy his popularity, and have therefore become full-time haters. They want him to "slow it down," do less, do it less ambitiously, and for gods sakes do it later. That, they say, is the "fiscally responsible" thing to do. Of course, these are the same people who couldn't invade Iraq fast enough, at any cost, because we "couldn't afford to wait for a smoking gun to become a mushroom cloud..." who never saw a war supplemental they didn't like, and who over the last eight years have happily raked in more pork than a fat guy at a barbecue stand.
Evan Bayh has become the Democratic face of the Incrementalists (while Kent Conrad apparently is the muscle,) and he is certainly congenial enough -- sort of a Mr. Rogers with better hair. But Bayh's approach is to insist that he and his "Moderate Coalition" fully intend to help pass Obama's agenda ... only very, very slowly...
Here's the real deal. Conservative Democrats and frustrated Republicans alike know that the fundamental truth of presidential elections is that the euphoria they create doesnt' last long. The really ambitious presidents, the ones who want to do more than just redecorate the Oval Office, push their biggest agenda items through in the first 8-10 months, while they have maximum "political capital." (Dubya actually trumpeted his supposed "capital" after winning a second term, which is about 3 years and two months longer than 8-10 months... he isn't a very smart man...) Bill Clinton made the mistake of putting less central, more radioactive issues, like gays in the military, up front, draining his election capital almost immediately. Surely Obama, who knows his history, knows that what big things he doesn't get done before October, he probably won't get done at all.
So here's my question: will Obama give in to the Incrementalists and settle for a so-so presidency, or will he go big, as Chris Matthews has been not-so-subtly telegraphing he'd like to see him do?
My vote is go big, Barack. Otherwise, you wind up Millard Filmore.
Schumer to Jindal and Company: take it or leave it
The stimulus package is not an a la carte buffet, Bobby Jindal. Chuck Schumer informs the GOPers that if they don't want all of the money, they needn't take any of the money.
By the way, a Youtube commenter asks a salient question: since when is helping the unemployed "pork?"
Barney Frank added to the hardball tonight ... er ... on "Countdown" by mocking the Republican Naysaying governors by saying "some people define courage as a willingness to endure the suffering of others." He then asks what's with Jindal "denying working people who've lost their jobs through no fault of their own" unemployment benefits. He concludes: "if that's political courage, I hope they have more cowardice."
As you know, Section 1607(a) of the economic recovery legislation provides that the Governor of each state must certify a request for stimulus funds before any money can flow. No language in this provision, however, permits the governor to selectively adopt some components of the bill while rejecting others. To allow such picking and choosing would, in effect, empower the governors with a line-item veto authority that President Obama himself did not possess at the time he signed the legislation. It would also undermine the overall success of the bill, as the components most singled out for criticism by these governors are among the most productive measures in terms of stimulating the economy.
For instance, at least two governors have proposed rejecting a program to expand unemployment insurance for laid-off workers. Economists consistently rank unemployment insurance among the most efficient and cost-effective fiscal stimulus measures; by one frequently cited estimate, it provides an economic return of as high as $1.73 for every dollar invested. Thus, by denying this provision for their residents, these governors are not just depriving some of the neediest Americans of relief in a dire economy; they are undermining the overall stimulative impact of the package.
So go ahead, Bobby. Reject the money. I double dare you...
Apart from spending, the legislation provides Democrats in Congress and Obama an opportunity to reverse Bush-era policy on selected issues.
It loosens restrictions on travel to Cuba, as well as the sale of food and medicine to the communist island-nation.
In another change, the legislation bans Mexican-licensed trucks from operating outside commercial zones along the border with the United States. The Teamsters Union, which supported Obama's election last year, hailed the move.
... after working most of Tuesday night, members and staff were plainly exhausted, and continued disputes over Obama’s school construction initiative delayed a planned meeting of the formal House-Senate conference on the bill.
“Like any negotiation this involved give-and-take, and if you don’t mind my saying so, that’s an understatement,” said Reid. Down to the end, the school modernization funds were a bone of contention for Sen. Susan Collins (R.-Maine), whose vote is pivotal to the president.
Last Friday, she had successfully eliminated all such money from the Senate bill. Wednesday she agreed to allow $10 billion as part of a $54 billion fiscal stabilization fund but argued that the $10 billion should not be confined to this single dedicated purpose.
After Reid’s announcement, an administration official said the issue was resolved, as did Collins. But House leaders, who had grown resentful of the Maine Republican’s veto power over the bill, remained unhappy—forcing the delay.
So what is Collins' problem?
The constructions funds are especially sensitive in poor, often minority school districts less able to finance new schools. Among the many spending cuts made last week in the Senate, the school construction issue was perhaps the most ideological.
For the Obama camp, it brings back New Deal memories of the Public Works Administration creating construction jobs and building schools across the country. But Collins has always resisted arguing that, in today’s world, it represents an expansion of the federal role in state and local affairs.
Uh-huh... yeah, why help those poor minority kids, when you can just move to Maine, where there are no poor minority kids...
BTW it appears that the Senate has also screwed over urban districts, in favor of the rural folk who don't like Barack Obama anyway, and who from what I can tell, don't want an economic stimulus plan... and of course, they've also screwed over the poor.
... House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Henry Waxman (D., Cal.) said the tentative deal calls for 65% of the money to be distributed according to the Senate’s more rural formula; 35% as the more urban House wanted.
In the same talks, the House appears to have preserved its higher 65% subsidy to help laid- off workers meet COBRA payments to maintain employer-provided health insurance; the Senate had proposed 50%. But the House agreed in turn to drop its proposal to increase Medicaid coverage to help lower income individuals face the same insurance dilemma and can’t afford to pay even a subsidized COBRA payment.
One issue is that liberals in the House are objecting to the amount of money in the bill for school construction. Sources say the bill includes $6 billion for school construction. Negotiators worked hard to find a way to put the provisions back in after the Senate eliminated all $16 billion in school construction money. But some key House Democrats say that's not enough.
Another problem, sources say, is that some House Democrats say the bill gives states too much discretion on how to use some of the money intended for education. Some Congressman are concerned that governors will not use the money to help poor school districts.
Some Senate Democrats are unhappy, too. Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, says there is just not enough money in the bill for school construction.
"Every school in America will get 10,000 bucks if they're lucky," Harkin said, guessing that might be enough to buy two energy efficient windows. "And what's that going to do for them?" he asked. "We're trying to add new heating facilities. We're trying to add renovations. And doing it by formula doesn't do it."
Harkin says he'd ultimately vote for it, but he doesn't like the concessions made to get the support of the moderate Republicans.
WASHINGTON - Moving with lightning speed, key lawmakers announced agreement Wednesday on a $789 billion economic stimulus measure designed to create millions of jobs in a nation reeling from recession. President Barack Obama could sign the bill within days.
"The middle ground we've reached creates more jobs than the original Senate bill and costs less than the original House bill," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, one of the participants in an exhausting and frenzied round of bargaining.
The bill includes help for victims of the recession in the form of unemployment benefits, food stamps, health coverage and more, as well as billions for states that face the prospect of making deep cuts in their own programs.
It also preserves Obama's signature tax cut — a break for millions of lower and middle income taxpayers, including those who don't earn enough to pay income taxes.
However, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was conspicuously absent from the news conference in which members of the Senate announced the agreement, and it was not clear whether she stayed away out of unhappiness or a scheduling conflict.
Officials had said previously that one of the final issues to be settled was money for school modernization, a priority of Pelosi as well as Obama and one on which they differed with Collins and other moderates whose votes will be essential for final Senate approval.
The WaPo reports on the new D.C. Don Corleone, Susan Collins' ... take:
"I'm particularly pleased that we have produced an agreement that has the top line of $789 billion," she said. "It is a fiscally responsible number that reflects our efforts to truly focus this bill on programs and policies and tax relief that will help turn our economy around, create jobs and provide relief to the families of our country."
Collins, one of three Republican senators whose votes for the bill yesterday gave it a filibuster-proof majority, also said that in the final version, "we were able to increase the amount of infrastructure spending," which she called "the most powerful component in this bill to create jobs." She said the bill contains about $150 billion for infrastructure including transportation, environmental, broadband and other projects.
More than 35 percent of the funding goes for tax relief, Collins said.
And a bit more on what they were fighting over:
Before the House-Senate conference, Democratic negotiators convened a final meeting with Senate centrists who had forced steep cuts in the spending portion of the stimulus plan -- which at one point last week had grown to almost $940 billion in new tax cuts and domestic spending.
Even after the Senate scaled down its version to $838 billion, approved 61-37 yesterday, the centrists continued to demand more reductions. Senate aides said the targets were reducing Obama's "Make Work Pay" tax cut of $500 a year for most individuals and $1,000 a year for most families, paring it down to $400 and $800, respectively.
Other reductions were likely in a $15,000 tax credit for all home purchases in the next year as well as a tax credit for the purchase of new cars, both of which were added to the Senate bill after little debate.
House Democrats have objected to wholesale deletions from their original bill during the Senate debate, but they appeared likely to see some return of aid to states that totaled $79 billion in their plan. The Senate reduced that figure to $39 billion. Senators also zeroed out a fund that would finance school construction, another priority for which House Democrats are pushing to restore funds.
The wrangling may be the reason that not just Pelosi, but also the White House, have withheld the kudos from what just might be a moderate mish-mash bill:
... in a bewildering _ if temporary _ turn of events, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the White House withheld immediate expressions of support, and the formal meeting of congressional bargainers who will need to ratify the deal was delayed.
At a news conference in the Capitol, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, flanked by moderate senators of both parties, said agreement had been reached on a compromise that "creates more jobs than the original Senate bill and costs less than the original House bill."
“Usually you go to conference and split the difference between the two houses — that may not be the case here,” Pelosi said. “At these conferences, my experience has been that the White House has a seat at the table — that they weigh in.”
Both Obama and Pelosi are hoping to restore significant stimulus spending eliminated by the Senate, especially $21 billion in school construction and technology grants, $10.3 billion in COBRA insurance and $8.6 billion in new Medicaid coverage for the unemployed.
Personally, I blame Harry Reid, who has given virtual veto power over the bill to Susan Collins.
Step one: take out everything House Republicans asked for
The negotiations are moving along on the House-Senate economic revitalization conference bill. Andrea Mitchell just reported that the gist of the changes are to add back in state grants that were stripped in the Senate (and we know the White House wants school construction money restored as well) and cutting back some tax cuts requested by Republican House members who wound up not voting for the bill. As Mitchell put it, the House GOP provisions were "the first to go." After all, Democrats got nothing in exchange for them.
The economic stimulus plan passes with not a single Republican vote
Surprise! Bipartisanship doesn't exactly rule the day... but the package passes anyway:
With no Republican support, the House approved an $819 billion stimulus plan that will serve as the cornerstone of President Obama's efforts to resuscitate the economy, an early victory for the new president but still a disappointment because of the lack of Republican votes.
The measure passed 244 to 188, with 11 Democrats and 177 Republicans voting against it.
The two-year economic package includes $275 billion in tax cuts and more than $550 billion in domestic spending on roads and bridges, alternative-energy development, health-care technology, unemployment assistance, and aid to states and local governments. It would also provide up to $500 per year in tax relief for most workers and more than $300 billion in aid to states for funding to help rebuild schools, provide health-care to the poor and reconstruct highways and bridges.
Despite a last-minute lobbying campaign by Obama -- including coming to the Capitol yesterday for separate closed-door meetings with House and Senate Republicans -- Republicans opposed the measure and argued that it spent hundreds of billions of dollars on Democratic initiatives that would do little to stimulate the economy or create jobs.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) heralded the legislation as the first down payment on Obama's pledge, in his inaugural address, to provide "bold and swift" action to revive an economy that is losing more than 500,000 jobs a month, including 65,000 layoffs announced just this week.
"He said he wanted action, bold and swift, and that is exactly what we are doing," Pelosi told reporters before the vote.
A $475 billion Republican alternative, which focused heavily on reducing individual and business taxes, was rejected largely on party lines. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.), a member of the GOP leadership team, ridiculed the Democratic plan as a "typical bill that is full of wasteful spending." ...
The GOP now has to hope that it doesn't work. Next up: the Senate debates their version (tomorrow) and then it's on to conference committee. What fun!
As expected, the Illinois Senate voted to impeach Rod Blagojevich today, with just one 'no' vote from a retiring State House member.
Rep. Milt Patterson (D-Chicago) was the lone vote against impeaching the governor. Patterson, from Chicago's Southwest Side, said after the roll call that he didn't feel it was his job to vote to impeach the governor. He declined comment on whether he approved of the job Blagojevich is doing.
A Blagojevich spokesman said the governor will not resign.
Meanwhile, in the battle of Roland Burris vs Jesse White, it's Jesse by a vote:
The Illinois Supreme Court today rejected Roland Burris' effort to get the signature he needs to complete his appointment to the U.S. Senate.
Burris was seeking to compel Secretary of State Jesse White to sign the certification of appointment naming Burris to the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama. Gov. Rod Blagojevich named Burris to the Senate seat last week, but White refused to sign the required paperwork because the governor has been charged with crimes including trying to sell the Senate seat.
Democratic leaders in the U.S. Senate have cited the lack of White's signature as a reason not to allow Burris into the Senate.
White has maintained that his signature is purely symbolic, and the high court agreed in its refusal to grant the motion.
"Because the secretary of state had no duty ... to sign and affix the state seal to the document issued by the governor appointing Roland Burris to the United States Senate, petitioners are not entitled to an order from this court requiring the secretary to perform those acts," the high court wrote in its opinion. "Under the secretary of state act, the secretary's sole responsibility was to register the appointment, which he did."
Um... somebody had better call Harry... how does this guy manage to lose even when he's not even playing?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and his sidekick, Dick Durbin would like you to know that Roland Burris doesn't think they're racist. And seeing as how Burris presents himself so well, and really, really loves his family... Harry will do what he always does: capitulate, this time in a self-created mess, and having allowed an embarassing spectacle to take place at what should have been the triumphal opening of the even more Democratic Senate. Just like I told you he would.
By the way, the signature of the Illinois secretary of state is a ceremonial matter and not at all necessary for Burris to be seated. Durbin and Reid's claims to the contrary are a pathetic sideshow, which White, by the way, resents. Oh, and he's black, too, although I'm sure he's extremely proud of his family...
I think I'll score this one, Rod Blagojevich: 2, Harry Reid: 0.
The cracks in Harry Reid's leaky lifeboat begin to show:
WASHINGTON -- Democratic leaders seeking to bar Roland Burris from the Senate suffered an important crack in support as they prepared to meet with him on Wednesday to begin negotiations over whether he will be able to take the seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the outgoing chairwoman of the committee that judges senators' credentials, urged that the Senate seat Burris, arguing that his appointment by Gov. Rod Blagojevich was lawful regardless of the corruption allegations swirling around the Illinois governor. "If you don't seat Mr. Burris, it has ramifications for gubernatorial appointments all over America," Feinstein told reporters in a Capitol hallway Tuesday. "Mr. Burris is a senior, experienced politician. He has been Attorney General, he has been (Comptroller), and he is very well-respected. I am hopeful that this will be settled."
Whoops! BTW that would be the rules committee that Feinstein is moving on from. And doesn't she want to be governor of California someday? (Her and Meg Whitman... wouldn't that be interesting. The layoff queen leading an economy in crisis...)
The pictures that Harry Reid has got to be dreading just shot across the satellites. Roland Burris, surrounded by aides, security and media, attempted to present his credentials to the secretary of the Senate, and was rejected. He was not allowed into the Senate Chamber after leaving the secretary's office. Afterward, he held a brief press conference in which he and his lawyers promised to pursue their legal options. Here we go.
Harry Reid is using the excuse that the Illinois Secretary of State has not certified Burris' nomination, so the Senate doesn't have to seat him. That may work for today, but guess what? Everyone knows that the real reason Reid, Durbin and company won't accept Burris is that they don't happen to like the guy who nominated him ... that, and Harry and Dick had their own nominees in mind...
News reports suggest Reid may be trying to strike a deal with Burris, in which Burris would promise not to run in 2010. That strikes me as incredible hubris, given that every citizen has a right to run for office. Harry Reid doesn't have the God-given right to determine who the next Senator, or even the candidate in 2010, will be. First off, he isn't smart enough, or tough enough. If this goes to the Supreme Court, my money says Burris wins.
The media hacks are declaring Burris an egomaniac ... as if ALL politicians aren't egomaniacs...
Roland Burris is arriving at the United States Senate as we speak ... or type ... you get the picture. The expectation is that he will be prevented, perhaps bodily, from taking the oath of office as the appointed junior Senator from the state of Illinois. Harry Reid's Waterloo approaches...
On December 19, 1998, U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton was impeached by the United States House of Representatives for allegedly committing perjury, obstructing justice and abusing his presidential powers in the Paula Jones sex harassment case (and the icky, irrelevant Monica Lewinsky scandal.) After the prurient Ken Starr, the Republican House leadership (led by confessed wife thief Bob Livingston, who replaced the disgraced, wife dumping fellatophile Newt Gingrich, and then resigned himself,) and the fatuous press corps had put the country through a full year of bawdy, useless sturm und drang (and about $80 million in wasteful spending,) Clinton was acquitted in the Senate, by a vote of 55-45 on the obstruction charge, and a 50-50 deadlock on the perjury charge, on February 12, 1999. [Photo at left from coolstamps.com]
During the time of impeachment, Bill Clinton continued to exercise the full powers of his office, including operating a joint military campaign with Great Britain that was actively bombing Saddam Hussein's Iraq. The Senate did not move to curb his powers. And Clinton felt no burden to stop making appointments during that awful period in his presidency, including the following additions to his State Department:
On December 28, 1998, he appointed Eric James Boswell to a career diplomatic security post in the Office of Foreign Missions.
On December 29, he made a recess appointment of James F. Dobbins to a career post at the Office of European and Canadian Affairs.
And because the impeachment sideshow was just the end of a full year of fruitless investigation by Starr, and sensational media coverage, it's helpful to look at the entire year of 1998, when Clinton managed to make a number of appointments to the federal bench, all of which were acted on by Congress, even as Clinton was "under a cloud." Those included:
*Vote 190+: June 30, 1999 Keith Ellison Southern District of Texas Gary Feess Central District of California Stephen Underhill District of Connecticut W. Allen Pepper Northern District of Mississippi Karen Schreier District of South Dakota
Vote 262: September 8, 1999 Adalberto Jordan Southern District of Florida Vote 263: September 8, 1999 Marsha J. Pechman Western District of Washington
Vote 307: October 5, 1999 Ronnie L. White Eastern District of Missouri
Vote 308: October 5, 1999 Brian T. Stewart District of Utah
Vote 309: October 5, 1999 Raymond C. Fisher 9th Circuit
And Congress didn't even hint at not seating them. In fact, 1998 marked the high water mark for roll call votes on Clinton judicial nominees - there were 13 such votes on lower court picks, more than any year in the Clinton presidency. And by the end of his second term, Clinton had put more judges on the bench than any president before him: fully 47% of those actively serving on the court.
What's the point? Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich is in the midst of a pretty ugly scandal; and he is attracting the gaze of the excitable press corps. But he made his Senate appointment before he has been convicted of anything, and before he has even been impeached. By what grounds, legal or ethical, can Harry Reid (who didn't seem to mind seating Clinton appointees during the president's impeachment, and worse, who had no trouble seating the treacherous Joe Lieberman, gavel and all, deny Blago's appointment of Roland Burris?
The Chicago Sun-Times delivered a swift kick in the giblets to our good friend Harry Reid this past week, reporting that he, like Rahm Emanuel, talked to Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich about a certain vacated Senate seat. However, while Rahm's wish-list was multi-cultural, the one proffered by our friendly neighborhood Mormon from Nevada, was most certainly not, at least according to Blago aides:
Days before Gov. Blagojevich was charged with trying to sell President-elect Barack Obama's U.S. Senate seat to the highest bidder, top Senate Democrat Harry Reid made it clear who he didn’t want in the post: Jesse Jackson, Jr., Danny Davis or Emil Jones.
Rather, Reid called Blagojevich to argue he appoint either state Veterans Affairs chief Tammy Duckworth or Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.
Sources say the Senate majority leader pushed against Jackson and Davis — both democratic congressmen from Illinois — and against Jones — the Illinois Senate president who is the political godfather of President-elect Barack Obama — because he did not believe the three men were electable. He feared losing the seat to a Republican in a future election.
[Links added by me.] If you click them, you'll discover what Jackson, Davis and Jones have in common, and what Duckworth and Madigan do. (Hint: the latter two are both women...) But wait! There's more:
Blagojevich spokesman Lucio Guerrero confirmed that Reid (D-Nev.) and U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) — the new chief of the Senate Democratic political operation — each called Blagojevich’s campaign office separately Dec. 3. Sources believe that at least portions of the phone conversations are on tape.
Before their contacts, Obama’s chief of staff Rahm Emanuel called Blagojevich to tell him to expect to hear from Senate leadership because they were pushing against Jackson and others, according to statements the governor made to others.
The Reid-Menendez calls came a day before a Dec. 4 conversation overheard on government wiretaps where Blagojevich says he “was getting ‘a lot of pressure’ not to appoint Candidate 5.” Candidate 5 is Jackson.
The calls reveal the varying forces directed at Blagojevich as he weighed the appointment.
So it seems that the Blago "Senate seat for sale" controversy is more complicated than first thought. Clearly, the governor was getting pressure from multiple sources, including Harry Reid, to appoint this person and not that one. So now, should we feel comfortable with Reid opposing Attorney General Roland Burris so strenuously, when we now know, or at least we can infer, that he was dead set against the appointment of three African-Americans, on the very Clinton primary-like basis that "they can't win?" Hm. And guess who Dick Durbin, who was on "This Week" this morning spouting off against the Burris appointment, was supporting for the Senate appointment? Duckworth. Go figure. These guys had, shall we say, a preference, which seemed to suggest doubt that a black candidate, or at least that these three black candidates, could win statewide in two years. But guess what? Burris has done just that -- multiple times.
In the end, Harry Reid will likely do what he always does: he will fold, and hinted as much this morning on "Meet the (pliant) Press" with David "Softball" Gregory. He will have to. It will be tough to physically block Burris from entering the vaunted Senate chamber with the likes of David "The John" Vitter swilling around in there, and with that body having brought home the treacherous Joe Lieberman, hoisted on Reid and Durbin's shoulders, and toasted the felonious Ted Stevens on his way out the door. Hell, Burris would probably be the cleanest guy there.
UPDATE: Reid on MTP this morning had the cheek to mention Danny Davis twice, among the list of "fine people," Burris included, who he'd be more than happy to welcome to the Senate, if only Blago would do the right thing and resign. So now, the Senate majority leader has given to himself, and to his partner in this affair, Lisa Madigan supporter Dick Durbin, the power to force a sitting governor to resign, before said governor has been either impeached or convicted of a crime. Really? You might find this clip from Reid's statement in 1998 on the Ken Starr investigation, and the House's impeachment of President Bill Clinton:
No prosecutor of integrity, of principle, of fairness would have tried to bootstrap a sexual affair into something criminal. A truly independent prosecutor would not make deals time after time with organizations established to embarrass the President, cavort with attorneys for Paula Jones, do business with Linda Tripp and others to entrap the President. A fairminded prosecutor would not have leaked salacious details to the press in an effort to force the target to resign from office. And, most fervently, a principled prosecutor would have the common sense and the common decency not to misuse their office to go all out, no holds barred, to `get' that targeted individual out of pride, anger and envy.
Now, it is not Pat Fitzgerald who is trying to force Blago to resign, it's Harry Reid, former trial lawyer. Meanwhile, Reid claimed that Blagojevich's camp is "making it up" and distorting his calls to Blagojevich and his alleged pooh-poohing the three black Illinoisians from the Senate. To defend himself against a Politico article that suggested he didn't want a black replacement for Obama, he pulled out the old "some of my best friends," argument, saying he'd served in the Senate with Carole Mosely Braun and worked hard to get Ron Kirk elected in Texas. Uh-huh...
Democrats poised to commit fundamental error on Burris
It's hard to believe that Rod Blagojevich could be considered a winner, well, ever, after his nasty travails with Patrick Fitzgerald and his handy wiretap, but it appears that Blago has found a way to win one against an admittedly easy target: Harry Reid and the wussified Senate Democrats. Reports that the Dems plan to block Blago's choice to fill Barack Obama's Senate seat, one Roland Burris, by any means necessary, have taken on dramatic proportions:
The Democratic leadership's current contingency plan for next week is reportedly for Burris to be met at the chamber by a doorman telling him he's not allowed inside. If he still tries to go in, armed police officers could intervene to get him away. Burris told the Los Angeles Times that he wants to avoid a scene and have all of this negotiated before he arrives, but it's unlikely that he could negotiate his way towards actually being seated.
And even if Burris does manage to physically enter the chamber, there are still a whole lot of avenues to keep him from being sworn in. The Senate is expected to launch a Rules Committee investigation to determine the legitimacy of his appointment, thus delaying him from being seated. They'll look at everything from the facts of the Blagojevich scandal to Illinois Sec. of State Jesse White's refusal to sign the certificate of appointment. Every undotted "i" and every uncrossed "t" will be scrutinized.
At that point, Burris might just be able to go to court and force the Senate to admit him. Many legal scholars believe he has a genuine case here. But even this could take a while -- which would appear to be the whole point.
Really? Do they really plan to do all of tthat? For real for real??? Because if they do, we will have the intriguing mental picture of the party that used to be the party of segregation sending armed police-like figures to stand at the Senate chamber door, George Wallace-style, to keep a black man from taking up the seat being vacated by the first black president of the United States, who was also the lone black member of the United States Senate, who was nominated to the presidency by the former party of segregation. If the circular irony is killing you, join the club.
UPDATE: Oh my damn, I agree with Pat Buchanan again... except that he completely misses the irony that while the Dems had just one black Senator, the GOP has had none. Nada. And they don't have a single African-American in the House of Representatives, either, and precious few Hispanics. Then again, the GOP isn't on record as being the party of inclusion...
UPDATE 2: A lawyer comments on the almost certain legality of the Burris nomination, as does a professor of election law. The verdict: seat the guy, already. BTW, Burris appeared on PBS' News Hour tonight, and made a very strong case for taking the job. Did I mention that he's the former Illinois attorney general, and ergo, an attorney...?
Barack Obama won 29 states in the November election, but he won something more important: he improved Democrats' performance in all but 22 counties nationwide, among white voters, urban and suburban voters, Catholics, low income and high income voters, and among more educated voters all over the U.S. His remarkable success among a coalition of better educated white voters, Hispanics, African-Americans and young voters not only propelled him to victory, and helped secure 2012 (the demographics are moving even more his way,) his successful campaign marginalized and isolated a region of the country that used to rule it electorally: the American south. The New York Times reports today:
What may have ended on Election Day, though, is the centrality of the South to national politics. By voting so emphatically for Senator John McCain over Mr. Obama — supporting him in some areas in even greater numbers than they did President Bush — voters from Texas to South Carolina and Kentucky may have marginalized their region for some time to come, political experts say.
The region’s absence from Mr. Obama’s winning formula means it “is becoming distinctly less important,” said Wayne Parent, a political scientist at Louisiana State University. “The South has moved from being the center of the political universe to being an outside player in presidential politics.”
Why is that so?
One reason for that is that the South is no longer a solid voting bloc. Along the Atlantic Coast, parts of the “suburban South,” notably Virginia and North Carolina, made history last week in breaking from their Confederate past and supporting Mr. Obama. Those states have experienced an influx of better educated and more prosperous voters in recent years, pointing them in a different political direction than states farther west, like Alabama, Arkansas, Louisiana and Mississippi, and Appalachian sections of Kentucky and Tennessee.
Southern counties that voted more heavily Republican this year than in 2004 tended to be poorer, less educated and whiter, a statistical analysis by The New York Times shows. Mr. Obama won in only 44 counties in the Appalachian belt, a stretch of 410 counties that runs from New York to Mississippi. Many of those counties, rural and isolated, have been less exposed to the diversity, educational achievement and economic progress experienced by more prosperous areas.
Many people in these more rural, less educated and less progressive parts of the South and Appalachia remain deeply suspicious of Obama (they form the core of what I call the Palinites -- anti-Washington, anti-government, anti-big city and anti-intellectual, not to mention anti-not-white...) people like this guy, for instance ... (sorry, Lee County. Just try not to get pulled over if you're a Democrat... or if you have a Middle Eastern sounding name...) But for them, and for the country, that doesn't really matter much anymore, at least not electorally or in terms of the exercise of federal power:
Less than a third of Southern whites voted for Mr. Obama, compared with 43 percent of whites nationally. By leaving the mainstream so decisively, the Deep South and Appalachia will no longer be able to dictate that winning Democrats have Southern accents or adhere to conservative policies on issues like welfare and tax policy, experts say.
That could spell the end of the so-called Southern strategy, the doctrine that took shape under President Richard M. Nixon in which national elections were won by co-opting Southern whites on racial issues. And the Southernization of American politics — which reached its apogee in the 1990s when many Congressional leaders and President Bill Clinton were from the South — appears to have ended.
Florida (along with Virginia and North Carolina, and very nearly Georgia,) managed to escape the hold of the old Confederacy, and emerged as a shaky in parts, but fairly solid, part of the New, Suburban South. That's a good thing for Florida, which along with the North Carolina research triangle, is fighting to be a part of the high tech future, and to gain a foothold as a tech hub for Latin America. It's also good news for moderate Republicans like FL Gov. Charlie Crist, who is no Palinite, and who needs a progressive, moderate coalition to beat back what will surely be an aggressive Democratic challenge for his seat in 2010.
Joe Lieberman stumps for his candidate of choice: John McCain
Jane Hamsher, blogging at at the Daily Beast makes as good a case against Revoltin' Joe as I've read, including his penchant for lying, back-stabbing, race-baiting, and self serving threats to become a Republican. I say, let him. Here's Hamsher:
Where to begin? Well, let’s start in 2000, when Senator Joseph Lieberman, the Democratic candidate for vice president—in response to pressure from the Bush campaign and without checking with his own campaign—conceded hundreds of fraudulent overseas ballots supposedly from military voters that cost Al Gore the election, the notorious "Thanksgiving Stuffing."
Let's skip lightly over Lieberman’s part in the culture wars, his sanctimonious rebuke of President Clinton on the floor of the Senate at the start of the impeachment charade, and his critical role as part of the so-called “Gang of 14” breaking Democratic resistance to putting Samuel Alito on the Supreme Court. Let’s jump straight to Lieberman’s December 6, 2005 speech where he rebuked his party:
It is time for Democrats who distrust President Bush to acknowledge that he will be Commander-in-Chief for three more critical years, and that in matters of war we undermine presidential credibility at our nation's peril.
While Lieberman was quick to denounce Clinton for a private matter he leaped to the defense of Bush as even Republicans realized his strategy in the Iraq War was disastrous. Criticize George W. Bush and his conduct of the war and you're a traitor.
Lieberman subsequently told the New Haven Register that he opposed legislation that would have required all publicly funded hospitals to provide Plan B contraception to rape victims, saying "it shouldn't take more than a short ride to get to another hospital" (for which he earned himself the sobriquet "Short Ride.")
The 2006 Democratic primary campaign in Connecticut was in some respects a warm-up for Lieberman’s negative attacks on Barack Obama, ironic given that Obama endorsed him. Lieberman had been assigned to show the freshman the ropes in the Senate and Obama called him his “mentor.” Obama rushed to the state to deliver a ringing endorsement of Lieberman at the annual party dinner. No good deed goes unpunished.
Lieberman’s opponent, Ned Lamont, was a wealthy banker from Greenwich, an antiwar activist and gentlemanly. Supported by the Democratic establishment, Lieberman claimed he would abide by the results of the primary. But when he lost he ran as a member of a new political party, called the “Connecticut for Lieberman Party.” He blanketed cars in parking lots of African-American churches with flyers suggesting Lamont was racist. (Lamont had resigned from a country club, not because it practiced discrimination but because he felt it was not diverse enough.) Meanwhile, Lieberman stoked racial tensions by telling Jewish groups in Connecticut saying that Lamont had surrounded himself with people like Congresswoman Maxine Waters and Al Sharpton "who are either naïve or are isolationists or, frankly, some more explicitly against Israel."
Lieberman also declared himself a "non combatant" in the 2006 congressional races and refused to say which party should have the majority. The Bush White House and Karl Rove openly lent him support, winning him a vast majority of Republican votes and the election.
I think Reid and the Democrats do want to strip Lieberman of his chairmanship of the Homeland Security committee. That's a powerful and important committee. And remember, committee chairs have subpoena power. If Democrats are less than anxious to hand that power to a guy who supported the GOP nominee and repeatedly said that Obama wasn't qualified to be commander-in-chief and so on, can you blame them? I can't.
At the same time, I can see why Reid wants Lieberman to keep caucusing with the Democrats. First of all, three Senate races are still up in the air. Wins in all of those three could bring them to 59, and Lieberman would then become that precious 60th senator. Of course this doesn't mean that Lieberman would vote with the Democrats all the time, and clearly he would not most measures having to do with Iraq withdrawal. But on many domestic matters I'd assume he would.
Another question: What exactly do the Republicans have to offer Lieberman? They have no power -- no committee chairs, no nothing. If Lieberman jumps, it would be bad for his state and constituents. Also, one could well wonder how Nutmeg Staters (people from Connecticut; as far as I know there is no such word as "Connecticutters" or anything like that) would feel about suddenly having a Republican senator on their hands. Every county in the state went for Obama, by strong margins, too. There's little doubt that a recall petition would be commenced. I don't know how far it would get, but surely someone would try, and it would get lots of attention.
... and he concludes that whatever nice-making he's doing now, Reid has little choice but to show Lieberman the door, as regards his chairmanship. (So get it done already, Harry.)
Meanwhile, Steve Clemons offers more well deserved harsh words, and a possible compromise:
Joe Lieberman wants to keep his status and committees and caucus with the Democrats. He has been a fear-monger and someone who has promoted a dangerous, reckless false choice between American relations with Israel and other parts of the Middle East. He is a devout neoconservative who has been a key enabler of many of the most nefarious groups that promoted the Iraq War and who want a series of new wars in the region.
But more than that, he strongly supported someone a heartbeat away from the presidency who knew virtually nothing about America's place in the world, who knew nothing of American history and its leaders and conventions and founders.
If Dems would like to keep Joe Lieberman in the caucus, give him responsibility for education policy, telecom policy, health care -- but the price for the Dems keeping this fearmonger is that he be removed from any position with key responsibility for national security or domestic security matters.
There is, however, one major problem with the idea. Lieberman, by committee seniority, is not very well poised to take over some of the panels The Note's Steve Clemons recommends giving him. He already has a couple subcommittee chairmanships, one of which would be stripped under this compromise because it's on the Armed Services Committee. Would the chairwoman of the Environment & Public Works Committee step aside to make room for Lieberman, or would the other senator more senior on the panel do so? It's hard to imagine they'd relish the idea of being robbed of authority that would result in anything nice happening to Lieberman. The one committee where Lieberman is best positioned to take over without any intramural fights is the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee -- not the most glamorous assignment, but maybe enough for Lieberman to save face and maintain some power in the Senate.
Or they could just strip him of his chairmanship and let him caucus with the GOP. Be well rid of him. On domestic matters, he'll still vote Democrat, if he wants to keep his Senate seat and not be turned out like a two-dollar whore by the voters of Connecticut.
UPDATE: Obama's vote? Spare the traitor. (I disagree, but I understand why he'd make that gesture.) But if the comments on this Hartford Courant thread are any indication, the voters of Connecticut may not be feeling so generous. Can they wait four years to get rid of Joe Double Cross? They may have to. There are no recalls for U.S. Senators under current law. Impeachment may another matter, though I'm not certain. Could be worth a stroll through the good old Constitution...
Joe Lieberman will meet with Maj. Leader Harry Reid this week to discuss his future in the Senate, and whether his disgraceful performance during the presidential election will cost him his chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Reports CNN:
This aide says that Reid, who is calling the meeting, has not yet decided what to do. The aide admits that the decision will be determined in part by the final election results tonight — and just how close the party is to a filibuster-proof 60-seat majority — but insists that the biggest factor involved is lingering anger among Senate Democrats over Lieberman's Republican convention speech.
This aide also said that Senate Democrats aren't that upset about Lieberman's constant presence and cheerleading on the campaign trail with John McCain — instead, they've been put off by the things he said about Barack Obama at the Republican convention in St. Paul.
Lieberman stuck with McCain through the end, which isn't a bad thing in itself, but as the unnamed aide said, his rhetoric became increasingly abusive toward Obama on the campaign trail (like telling odious Newsmax that he "fears for America" under a filibuster-proof Democratic Senate) and that's why he should lose his chairmanship. Of course, with 56 seats so far, Democrats may need Lieberman's vote to break the odd filibuster, but I somehow doubt that with the ass kicking handed to them yesterday, Republicans will have the stones to try and block every part of Barack Obama's agenda. If they do, Lieberman may have to choose between standing with the losers and definitely losing his Senate seat in two years, or taking his demotion, voting with the winners (whose ideology he mostly still shares) and going back to Connecticut hat in hand in 2010. Not a good set of choices, but they're the choices he created for himself.
During a prime-time address at the Republican National Convention, the Connecticut lawmaker had rapped Obama as an untested candidate beholden to Democratic interest groups.
But a day after Tuesday's election, Lieberman, a fixture alongside McCain on the campaign trail, congratulated Obama for his "historic and impressive victory.
"Now that the election is over, it is time to put partisan considerations aside and come together as a nation to solve the difficult challenges we face and make our blessed land stronger and safer," Lieberman said in a written statement. "I pledge to work with President-elect Obama and his incoming administration in their efforts to reinvigorate our economy and keep our nation secure and free."
After about a five minute ovation, which he practically had to beg to a close, Bill Clinton put on a clinic tonight on how you break down the opposition, and lay out the issues at stake in an election. He went way off the reservation, delivering a "foreign policy" speech that was about two-thirds about the economy. But he did it damned well. Coupled with Hillary's performance yesterday, it's safe to say that the Clintons are in fine political form. Great job. (And did you peep the Kendrick Meek star turn, introducing Big Bill? I see a big job at the Clinton Foundation in somebody's future...)
Meanwhile, I disagree with the pundits who are saying that Joe Biden's less than soaring delivery of a solid speech is a problem. Biden is the regular guy in this equation. He's not supposed to deliver soaring rhetoric. He's supposed to deliver punches.
Other than that, I could have done without the excessive references to what a great guy John McCain is, from many of the speakers last night and tonight (including both Clintons, Biden and John Kerry, who otherwise delivered the reddest meat of the night, complete with calling Republican attacks "desperate" and "pathetic." He also introduced Barack's white uncle. Take it in, Pat Buchanan, it's not too late to get on board...) Apparently, the Obama communications team still believes they can win this election without going nuclear on John McCain. They shouldn't expect the same courtesy next week, when the Republicans hold their Wide Stance convention in Minneapolis.
Also, I get the feeling that Barack Obama will bring change... the talking points were in full effect.
Has anyone checked David Gregory's car for a McCain '08 bumper sticker?
Reinforcing why I would literally quit watching "Meet the Press" if he became the moderator, David "Stretch" Gregory, who has made a faux reputation as a tough Washington reporter while simultaneously serving as Dubya's sweetheart, did an entire segment with surrogates for Barack Obama and John McCain (Tim Kaine, who did very well, by the way, and the very strange Bobby Jindal, who does the creepy eyes, if you know what I mean...) on the subject of Georgia, without once asking Jindal the following question (or something like it):
"Is it appropriate, in your opinion, for John McCain to have as his top foreign policy adviser Randy Scheunemann, who not only lobbied on behalf of the Georgian government, but who also lobbied John McCain?"
Nor did Gregory quiz Jindal on the McCain campaign's crass politicization of the Georgia crisis, After all, his own network has reported on it, and in the previous segment, Gregory had just talked to Condi Rice ... about Georgia... Another issue that went un-asked, and thus un-answered, McCain's newly minted ties to Jack Abramoff scandal-tainted "Christian" lobbyist Ralph Reed, another issue reported by his very own network, NBC.
Instead, Gregory lobbed such softballs at Jindall as, "are you going to be vice president? ... are you sure ...? Is that a Shermanesque 'no' or a fakey-fake one...?"
Just for giggles, let's check out the first question to Kaine and Jindall this morning. First, Kaine. Gregory asked him:
Let's get right to it. We both heard Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice talking about the situation in Georgia, Governor Kaine. Senator Obama was criticized by the McCain campaign this week, particularly for his comments that there should be restraint on both sides after the invasion. Was he too weak in his initial response?
...a fine imitation of Stephen Hayes or Bill Kristol, but trotting out the RedState.com meme of the month is not an auspicious start for a so-called "straight reporter." Now, let's take a look at Jindal's first at-bat, which came moments later:
Governor Jindal, just as Senator Obama's criticized, Senator McCain, too, was criticized by an adviser to Senator Obama, who said that some of his initial tough talk was shot from the hip and was actually belligerent, in the words of one of Obama's advisers.
Okay, not bad, although it was a bit more than just Obama advisers that were having a go at McCain for trying to restart the Cold War ... anyway, now let's look at the next 10 questions Gregory asks the two surrogates, and I'm going to put them in the exact order in which they appeared in the program and transcript, without the responses, for the sake of time. Here we go...
1. MR. GREGORY: Let's turn to domestic matters in this campaign, and The New York Times reporting some criticism of Senator Obama now. And the headline reads like this: "Allies Ask Obama to Make Hope More Specific. [Democratic] party leaders in battleground states say the fight ahead against Senator John McCain looks tougher than they imagined, with Mr. Obama vulnerable on multiple fronts. ...
"These Democrats - 15 governors, members of Congress and state party leaders - say Obama has yet to convert his popularity among many Americans into solutions to crucial electoral challenges: showing ownership of an issue, like economic stewardship of national security; winning over supporters of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton; and minimizing his race and experience level as concerns for voters. ...
(plays some tape)
2. MR. GREGORY: Governor Kaine, has Senator Obama wasted time here?
3. MR. GREGORY: But understands the economy, but has Senator Obama owned this issue?
4. MR. GREGORY: Are some of these criticisms of Obama coming out of the Clinton camp in your judgment?
5. MR. GREGORY: But is unity a problem right now in the party?
6. MR. GREGORY: There may be agreement there, but that doesn't sound like there's unity within the party, to hear some of the criticism about Obama.
(Kaine says you'll see unity in Denver)
7. MR. GREGORY: But it's not there yet.
Okay, now, for question number 8, with the set-up:
MR. GREGORY: Let me turn to Governor Jindal and Senator McCain.
In some of his ads, this is how he's talking about America today, watch.
(Videotape, campaign ad)
Announcer: Washington's broken. John McCain knows it. We're worse off than we were four years ago.
8. MR. GREGORY: That's a pretty direct swipe at President Bush, isn't it, Governor?
Say WHAT??? So Gregory spends about five minutes haranguing Tim Kaine about Democratic disunity, Obama squandering bad economic news and general doom and gloom for November, and then serves up a golden ticket for Bobby Jindal to distance his candidate from President Bush, which just happens to be precisely the McCain campaign strategy??? namely, DISTANCING THE CANDIDATE FROM PRESIDENT BUSH? Gregory, are you serious?
Let's go on:
9. MR. GREGORY: Governor, do you agree with Senator McCain that America's worse off than it was four years ago?
Again, nothing about McCain's comment, just the night before, about $5 million in income being the floor for being rich. Nothing about his 95-100 percent voting record with President Bush, in contrast to the message in the ad Gregory just ran; in short, nothing at all that an actual reporter, and not another campaign surrogate, would ask. Do we dare try question number ten? Oh, why the hell not. It's late and I'm an insomniac...
10. MR. GREGORY: You've talked about the crisis within the Republican Party, that it lost its way, that it used to be the party of big ideas. And now you back Senator McCain. What's the big idea Senator McCain is campaigning on?
Okay, here's where I start poking sharp sticks in my eyes. Why not just ask, "Governor Jindall, what is John McCain's plan to make America a better place for all of us to live?" Jesus, Mary and Joseph! Well, at least there was a follow up:
GOV. JINDAL: Well, I think there's several, but certainly when it comes to domestic issues, he understands the energy crisis is probably the biggest economic obstacle we face and he understands that it's not one silver bullet, that we do need more domestic oil and gas production. We do need nuclear power. We need clean coal. We need conservation. We need renewables.
MR. GREGORY: But those were Bush-Cheney big ideas in 2000. Where are the new big ideas of the Republican Party that John McCain is, is championing?
Wow. Give that man a Pullitzer.
Of course, after that, Gregory went right for the Jindal jugular with his very next question:
MR. GREGORY: Governor Jindal, would you like to be vice president?
Well that's it, folks. David Gregory: crack reporter, killing "Meet the Press" in 11 questions or less.
After forking over $100,000 to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee last year, the Connecticut Democrat-turned-Independent has written a second $100,000 check to DSCC chairman Chuck Schumer in recent days, according to a people familiar with the situation.
“Basically, he doesn’t want everybody to hate him,” one Lieberman-friendly Democrat said. “Plus he wants to keep his committee.”
Lieberman caucuses – awkwardly -- with Democrats at their weekly meetings but is on the outs with many in his longtime party for turning his back on Barack Obama, who refused to campaign against him in 2006 during his bitter re-election contest against Ned Lamont. More than a few have talked about stripping him of his committee post after November.
Lieberman likes to pretend he doesn't care what his former fellow Democrats think of him, and that he's proud of his pro-McCain, anti-Obama stance. In fact, Lieberman has become McCain's lead attack dog against Obama, including in frequent Florida appearances where he goes after Obama's character and insinuates frightening associations when talking about the candidates with Jewish groups.
But at the end of the day, this is a man who was desperate enough to hold onto his Senate seat that he dropped his affiliation to the Democratic Party after Conneecticut Democrats chose someone else as their nominee. He wants to hold that seat, and his chairmanship, in the worst way. But speaking at the GOP convention, trashing Barack Obama and cuddling up to both John McCain and the strategy of endless war in the Mideast aren't a good look for Joe. And he knows it.
My vote? Take his money, and then, when the Dems increase their majority in the Senate, take his chairmanship, too.
If you haven't done so already, sign the petition to boot Joe out of the Democratic Caucus steering committee. He cannot and should not be trusted, and shouldn't be privy to anything the Democrats are planning, especially regarding the campaign. Raise your hand if you think he DOESN'T report anything he knows directly to the McCain campaign. |
Michael Mukasey has proved to be only slightly less detrimental to the Constitution than his idiotic predecessor, Alberto Gonzales. Mukasey's refusal to do his job, when that job would have anything to do with enforcing laws broken by the Bush administration, has so frustrated Congress, that even the Bushwhacked, spineless, impeachment-wary Democrats are ignoring him. I guess they figure that insulating the telcoms and the president from prosecution and impeachment are enough dirty work to keep the anonymous Bush staffers from mailing the contents of the wiretaps on their homes and offices to pre-jail Robert Novak and Matt Drudge...
So what is Mukasey asking for that he ain't getting? Try a declaration of war ... perpetual war ... against al-Qaida ... forever:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Congress should explicitly declare a state of armed conflict with al Qaeda to make clear the United States can detain suspected members as long as the war on terrorism lasts, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said on Monday.
Mukasey urged Congress to make the declaration in a package of legislative proposals to establish a legal process for terrorism suspects held at Guantanamo, in response to a Supreme Court ruling last month that detainees had a constitutional right to challenge their detention.
"Any legislation should acknowledge again and explicitly that this nation remains engaged in an armed conflict with al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated organizations, who have already proclaimed themselves at war with us," Mukasey said in a speech to the American Enterprise Institute.
"Congress should reaffirm that for the duration of the conflict the United States may detain as enemy combatants those who have engaged in hostilities or purposefully supported al Qaeda, the Taliban and associated organizations," he said.
Mukasey was not asking for a formal declaration of war, which would trigger certain emergency powers under the Constitution and international law, a Justice Department spokesman said. U.S. President George W. Bush has on numerous occasions said the United States was "at war" against terrorists and cited that as a basis for his powers.
New legislation should also prohibit courts from ordering a detainee to be released within the United States. It should protect secrets in court hearings, ensure that soldiers are not taken from the battlefield to testify and prevent challenges from delaying detainee trials, he said.
Mukasey's plea for quick passage of a significant new counterterrorism measure essentially fell on deaf ears—at least from the Democrats who control Congress. "Zero," snapped one key lawmaker, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, when asked the likelihood that Congress will rush to pass the kind of law Mukasey and the Bush administration are seeking. "We don't have to pass anything," said Nadler, who chairs the House subcommittee that has primary jurisdiction over the issue, in a brief hallway interview with NEWSWEEK. "Let the courts deal with it."
The derisive comments from the feisty New York liberal—just moments after Mukasey issued his strong appeal in testimony before the House Judiciary Committee—underscores the huge and poisonous gulf that now exists between the White House and Congress on virtually every issue related to the War on Terror. No Democrats on the judiciary panel endorsed Mukasey's call Wednesday for new counterterrorism legislation. None of them even bothered to ask him any questions about it. Instead, they essentially ignored what the attorney general portrayed as the Justice Department's top priority for his final six months in office.
Not that the Democrats really intend to stand up to Bush ... that's simply not done in the House that Nancy built. In fact, fellow House Diva Jane Harman proposed a law, H.R. 1955, the "Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act of 2007," which would open up all of our Internet communications to administration scrutiny, and it sailed through the House, bringing Traitor Joe Lieberman closer to his dream of excising all Muslim traffic from Youtube. It's just that the Dems have finally figured out that it's summer: they don't have to do the White House's bidding until AFTER the Democratic convention, when the RNC ads about them being "soft on terror" start running.
An escalating number of voters registering as Democrats is providing evidence that the 2008 election could produce a wave of support for Barack Obama — and trigger a decades-long shift of party allegiance that could affect elections for a generation.
The numbers are ominous for Republicans: Through May, Democratic voter registration in Broward County was up 6.7 percent. Republican registrations grew just 3 percent while independents rose 2.8 percent.
Democrats have posted even greater gains statewide, up 106,508 voters from January through May, compared with 16,686 for the Republicans.
"It's a huge swing," says Marian Johnson, political director for the Florida Chamber of Commerce. "I looked at that and said, 'Wow.'"
And here's why it matters: party "brand loyalty" tends to be strongest among new voters:
Michael Martinez, an associate professor of political science at the University of Florida, said there aren't many people shifting from the Republicans to the Democrats. But the allegiance of first-time voters is significant.
"New voters tend to identify with the hot party at the time. In the 1980s, a lot of new voters were identifying with Reagan, because he was sort of the hot commodity," Martinez said.
One of the saddest outcomes of the scorched earth Hillary Clinton for President campaign has been the impact it has had on her husband, former President Bill Clinton. For years, Clinton occupied rarefied air inside Democratic circles -- a president who remained popular, even through impeachment, and who became even more so after he left office. Bill Clinton was so beloved by Black Democrats (even was benighted "the first Black president for a time,) he could waltz into any Black church, even into the funeral for the late Coretta Scott King, and chastise the crowd for being discourteous to George Bush.
Clinton's presidency was looked upon, by all but the most liberal Democrats, as a good time in America -- imperfect, and certainly not free of scandal -- but also full of opportunity and possibility, fueled by the explosion of the Internet, a strong and growing economy, and, say it with me, "22 million new jobs." It was good to be Bill.
Now, in part by his own heavy hand (in South Carolina), and as his wife's burning ambition, which failed to make her the Democratic nominee, has nonetheless led the mainstream media to crown her the new "feminist hero" -- Bill Clinton is shrinking. The all-out war to defeat Barack Obama took him from rock star ex-president to red-faced husband almost overnight, and from philanthropic juggernaut to common political attack dog. Worse, his efforts, and those of the team he bequeathed on Hillary (Mark Penn, Terry McAuliffe, Harold Ickes and others,) bloodied Obama but ultimately failed, leaving most of the stains on Bill. Because while all Hillary lost was the nomination, Bill Clinton lost something that it turns out, seems to have meant much more to him -- he lost the love.
The shrinking of the president has been a sad spectacle for those of us who supported him, even during the dark days of impeachment, and who continued to look upon "Big Bill" with favor: he was the white guy with the "Black passport" -- they guy who works in Harlem -- someone so likable, even women would give him a pass to on "the Monica thing."
For black America, the fall has been especially steep. His once bulletproof approval ratings with African-Americans have now dropped so much, they have helped pull his overall approval rating among Democrats into the negative for the first time, according a March NBC/Wall Street Journal poll. Bill's negative rating in the current survey: 45 percent. His positive number: 42.
Clinton's response to the decline has been to get mad. According to press reports, he's mad at Barack Obama, whose campaign he is sure "slimed him," and falsely tagged him and his wife as racists. He's mad at the winning Democratic campaign which he apparently believes, was run largely as a repudiation of his eight years in office. Tom Edsall of the Huffington Post writes:
Some say Bill Clinton not only wants Obama to reach out to him, but to also promise to lift the cloud of alleged racism -- an accusation that continues to eat at the man once dubbed the nation's "first black president." Clinton, these folks suggest, wants Obama to publicly exonerate him of the charge that he played the race card in the primaries.
Beyond that, some associates say, Bill Clinton wants Obama to reach out to him as a mentor, a guide who can lead Obama through the labyrinth of a tough presidential election. "Bill wants to be honored, to return to the role of Democratic elder statesman, and get rid of this image of him as a pol willing to do anything to win," said one associate.
"He is still bruised from the trail, really hurt about the racist charges leveled against him, and convinced the Obama campaign fomented it," said another source familiar with the former president's attitude. "What he would really like is for Obama to apologize, but on one level he knows that is never going to happen," a third source said.
But for all the blame game, the people Bill Clinton may, secretly, be most angry at, should be himself, his wife, and his wife's campaign. After all, it was the former president who so damaged himself by appearing to dismiss Obama's South Carolina primary win with the nonsequitor, "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in '84 and '88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here."
It was Hillary who chose to shade the fact that she knows darned well that Obama, her Senate colleague, is no Muslim, Hillary who declared that the "hard working, white voters" of West Virginia were in her pocket, and Hillary who made that horrifying reference about the assassination of RFK in explaining why she was staying in the race until June.
It was Bill Clinton's political attack dogs, on loan to Hillary, who implemented the now notorious "kitchen sink" strategy against Obama, a man more similar to the Bill Clinton of 1992 ("the man from Hope," no less,) than Bill might want to admit. And it was Howard Wolfson and company's bully-boy tactics with the press that ramped up the adversarial relationship the president and his family remembered all too well from the 90s. And it was Clinton supporters who raised the ugly specter of race as a reason to oppose Obama's candidacy, or to diminish it, from Geraldine Ferraro to the 2 in 10 Democratic voters in some primary states who stated openly that they would not vote for a black candidate, to Harriet Christian, the ignorant woman fron New York who derided Obama as an affirmative action hire, or an "inadequate black man."
It wouldn't be surprising, given all of this, that the Obama camp might be reluctant to give Bill Clinton the public embrace he seems to crave (and I have no reporting to suggest that such reluctance exists.) But the embrace will come anyway, mark my words. There is too much at stake for the Obama team to leave even a single vote on the table, and bringing Clinton supporters into the fold will prove to be a higher priority than nursing resentments against the former first lady, much less the lone two-term Democratic president in many of our lifetimes.
So Bill will get his rehab, probably in the form of a "Clinton night" during the Denver convention, and strategic appearances with Obama, at which the latter pours on the praise for the 1990s, and publicly seeks Clinton's council (maybe even accompanying him to a black church, or to the "Tom Joyner Morning Show," where both men have a friend in the host.) Still, many black voters I've talked to are hard-pressed to forgive, at least for now. And during the campaign, Bill Clinton's role will likely be limited to wooing rural and southern white voters -- the ones he and Hillary bonded with during the campaign. The real turnaround for Bill Clinton will come after the election, when he goes back to the good works that he has been doing through his Clinton Global Initiative; when his focus is off politics, and back on his impressive humanitarian projects and outreach to the world.
The good news for the Clintons is that if Obama wins the White House in November, all will be forgiven (except Bob Johnson -- he's good and done.) Things could get more complicated if Obama falls short in November, and his supporters blame the bruising primary, or some outgrowth of it that McCain or the GOP figure out how to successfully exploit. In that case, we could see a real fracture in the Democratic Party, which unfortunately, will be generational, income based, and and least partly down to race.
The San Francisco Chronicle reports, former Bush spokesguy Scott McClellan is considering jumping off the GOP ship:
Scott McClellan - the longtime supporter of President Bush who served as his White House press secretary for nearly three years - said Tuesday he hasn't ruled out registering as a Democrat or voting Democratic for president this year.
"I haven't made any long-term decisions," McClellan said after an address to the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, where he received a warm reception from an audience numbering in the hundreds at the Fairmont Hotel.
Hey, you go where it's friendly. Meanwhile, Scotty reveals a serious lack of love for Dick Cheney:
McClellan pointedly warned both campaigns to be particularly attuned to a crucial decision, one that had a huge impact in his former boss' administration: picking a vice presidential candidate. Vice President Dick Cheney, he said, "had a terribly negative influence over this president ... and was shown too much deference" on major decisions, including Iraq. ...
... McClellan who is clear that he has no great admiration for Cheney, joked to the audience that his national book tour has given him some ideas for book titles Cheney might consider: "The Lies I Told," or "I Upped Halliburton's Income - So Up Yours." He also said that during his two terms, Cheney has increased the power of the vice presidency, which was "one of the vice president's pet projects."
McClellan painted a painful portrait of Bush, whom it's clear he still has affection for, as a man surrounded by sharks (Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and Condi Rice,) who would have gone into Iraq even knowing what we all know now. The president, he thinks, would not, if he could have foreseen the casualties and calamities (somehow, given his animal- and pledge-torturing history, I doubt that, but Scott's entitled to his affections...)
Why did the Democrats capitulate on FISA? Was it cowardice? Election year politics? Or as Keith Olberman puts it, not FISA but CYSA?
Back in 2001, with 9/11 fresh in the minds of Americans, many Congressional Democrats decided it was better to switch than to fight the administration of George W. Bush. Karl Rove did his job, frightening both the country and the Congress into handing over to Mr. Bush extraordinary powers the likes of which this country hasn't seen since it divorced George III.
Now, seven years later, Democrats control the Congress, even if barely in the Senate. Bush is a lame duck and by almost everyone's calculation, a failure as president. One of his many illegal acts and outrages upon the Constitution -- the warrantless wiretapping of Americans -- comes before the Congress, mainly because they choose to bring it t the floor, and rather than allow the Constitution to prevail, House Democrats cave to a president they no longer have to fear, by retroactively legalizing the wiretapping, and granting immunity to the telecom companies who participated, illegally, in it.
The U.S. House of Representatives has approved legislation that would continue a controversial surveillance program at the U.S. National Security Agency with limited court oversight, while likely ending lawsuits against telecommunications carriers that participated in the program.
The House on Friday voted 293 to 129 to approve a bill that was a compromise between congressional Democrats and U.S. President George Bush.
The bill would extend the NSA surveillance of phone calls and e-mail messages going in and out of the U.S., while giving the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) an opportunity to review Bush administration requests for wide-ranging surveillance powers. The bill, called the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act, allows the NSA to receive blanket surveillance orders covering multiple suspects of terrorism and other crimes.
The compromise also sends the dozens of outstanding lawsuits against telecom carriers for their alleged participation in the NSA program to a district court, which will review whether they should be dismissed. The lawsuits would be thrown out if telecom companies can show that the U.S. government issued them orders for the surveillance that were presented as lawful.
U.S. President George Bush has pushed for the legislation, saying it's needed to protect U.S. residents from terrorism. For nearly a year, the Bush administration has called on Congress to pass long-term changes to the nation's surveillance laws. Congress passed temporary surveillance legislation, called the Protect America Act, in August 2007, but its provisions expired in February.
February ... and what was the urgency of passing hurry-up protection for the administration today? Nancy Pelosi pushed for this bill -- the same Nancy Pelosi who was "read into" the spying program, along with other intelligence chairs and ranking members, including Senator Diane Feinstein. (Pelosi's number two, Steny Hoyer, crafted the compromise bill, and is now being derided as "the new Joe Lieberman.") Could it be that Pelosi and other Dems are exercising the art of self protection?
Senator Russ Feingold called today's vote what it is:
“The proposed FISA deal is not a compromise; it is a capitulation. The House and Senate should not be taking up this bill, which effectively guarantees immunity for telecom companies alleged to have participated in the President’s illegal program, and which fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home. Allowing courts to review the question of immunity is meaningless when the same legislation essentially requires the court to grant immunity. And under this bill, the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power. Instead of cutting bad deals on both FISA and funding for the war in Iraq, Democrats should be standing up to the flawed and dangerous policies of this administration.”
Let's hope he's ready with a Senate fillibuster.
The big loser today was the Fourth Amendment, which is essentially gone now. The winners: the telcos:
"Congress seems to be on the verge of negotiating away our basic constitutional protections," Caroline Fredrickson, director of the American Civil Liberties Union's Washington, D.C., legislative office, said during a press conference on Wednesday.
The compromise will give Bush "pretty much unfettered authority to engage in surveillance of Americans," Fredrickson added. "The bill still allows mass, untargeted surveillance of Americans by permitting the government to gather all calls and e-mails coming into and out of the country."
The compromise provides little additional oversight of the surveillance program, Fredrickson said. If there's any delay in the FISA court's approval of a government surveillance request, the NSA can move ahead of surveillance without court oversight, she said.
There are 47 outstanding lawsuits related to the surveillance program and 35 lawsuits with telecoms including AT&T, Verizon Communications and Sprint Nextel as defendants, Kevin Bankston, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, said at the same press conference.
"Congress appears poised to needlessly toss the rule of law out the window and deprive millions of ordinary Americans their day in court," said Bankston, one of the lead attorneys in a class-action lawsuit against AT&T for its alleged participation in the NSA program.
You can find out how your member of Congress voted by clicking here.
On "Elevating the Dialogue" this morning, Congressman Alcee Hastings (FL) told us that he was leaning toward voting yes because Barack Obama was for the bill, and House Democrats "needed to give him some political cover." I'm not sure that's true. Politico reported today that Harry Reid is looking to strip the telecom immunity out of the bill to give cover to Senators who, like Obama, could support the FISA updates, but "loathe the telecom immunity." That's a bit vague, and its not at all clear that Republicans wouldn't stand squarely in the way of separating the bill in two.
While we were on the air, Hastings voted for the bill, which is unfortunate in my opinion. To their credit, Kendrick Meek, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and Robert Wexler voted no. Maybe Wexler can convince Obama to reject it when it reaches the Senate.
Democrats including Hoyer sought to put the best spin on the vote today, with Hoyer calling it the best bill they could get. What an endorsement. No wonder Americans' confidence in Congress is at an all-time low... Best quote of the day, courtesy of Politico:
“Let me remind you, that July 4, 1776 was pre 9/11,” said Rep Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) who indicated he would not support the bill because it infringed on Americans civil liberties.
“Heaven help us if those values were shucked aside in fear.”
In the last ten election cycles, Democratic presidential candidates have won Florida just twice -- okay, three times if you count Al Gore. In fact, Gore's close call in Florida seems to be the only reason the state is considered "swing," rather than a ruby red part of the solid Republican South.
Whenever I say that Florida is a red state (as I did on Nick Bogert's Sunday political show on NBC this spring,) I get a chorus of "nays." But I'm convinced. And this year, I'm equally convinced that Florida will be tough -- though not impossible -- for Barack Obama to win. More to the point, if he doesn't win it, I think Florida's political operative class can count on less money, the state's media outlets will see fewer buys, and its voters less candidate attention going forward. Once a state ceases to be competitive, it turns into West Virginia, seen?
Why so downer, when your name is Joy? Let's review.
John Kerry lost Florida by more than 380,000 votes in 2004 -- a year in which Bush's approval ratings had already begun to fall to earth, his war in Iraq having proven to be a sham. Bill Clinton won the state by 302,000 in 1996, having lost it by about 100,000 votes four years earlier. But what helped Clinton win was the favor he curried with Miami-Dade's Cuban-American community, and two other factors: he was facing Bob Dole, who lacked the Bush-Nixon connection to Cuban exiles (not to mention being seriously charisma challenged -- and crowded out by Ross Perot...) and he was a southerner, like the last Democrat to win the state: Jimmy Carter in 1976. To find another Democratic presidential candidate who won Florida, you have to go back to yet another southerner: LBJ in 1964.
It's no wonder then, that Gore, a Tennesee native, fared well here, and that Kerry, the ultimate northeasterner, did not.
This cycle, there is no southerner on the ticket to help the Democrats win north of Orlando, or in the party's perennial great white whale, the I4 corridor (that could change -- the veeps have yet to be chosen) but Florida is currently polling more than 6 points in John McCain's favor.
For Democrats, past performance may be an indicator that the state is becoming less central to the Democratic strategy for winning the White House. And as the party begins to look West, to the reliably Democratic, non-Cuban Hispanic vote (which unlike CubAms, trends 70-30 D,) and since Florida's black vote has underperformed in every election since 2000, Florida will have to put up or shut up this time around to remain relevant for the next time.
FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Barack Obama's campaign envisions a path to the presidency that could include Virginia, Georgia and several Rocky Mountain states, but not necessarily the pair of battlegrounds that decided the last two elections — Florida and Ohio.
In a private pitch late last week to donors and former supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe outlined several alternatives to reaching the 270 electoral votes needed to win the White House that runs counter to the conventional wisdom of recent elections.
At a fundraiser held at a Washington brewery Friday, Plouffe told a largely young crowd that the electoral map would be fundamentally different from the one in 2004. Wins in Ohio and Florida would guarantee Obama the presidency if he holds onto the states won by Democrat John Kerry, Plouffe said, but those two battlegrounds aren't required for victory.
The presumed Democratic nominee's electoral math counts on holding onto the states Kerry won, among them Michigan (17 electoral votes), where Obama campaigns on Monday and Tuesday. Plouffe said most of the Kerry states should be reliable for Obama, but three currently look relatively competitive with Republican rival John McCain — Pennsylvania, Michigan and particularly New Hampshire.
Asked about his remarks, Plouffe said Ohio and Florida start out very competitive — but he stressed that they are not tougher than other swing states and said Obama will play "extremely hard" for both. But he said the strategy is not reliant on one or two states.
"You have a lot of ways to get to 270," Plouffe said. "Our goal is not to be reliant on one state on November 4th."
Plouffe has been pitching such a new approach to the electoral map in calls and meetings, according to several people who discussed the conversations on the condition of anonymity because they were meant to be private. Plouffe confirmed the descriptions in the interview.
Plouffe and his aides are weighing where to contest, and where chances are too slim to marshal a large effort. A win in Virginia (13 electoral votes) or Georgia (15 votes) could give Obama a shot if he, like Kerry, loses Ohio or Florida.
The strategy could be risky, unless you consider that Colorado and New Mexico went Bush by a margin of 7 percent or less, and that Virginia is actually trending in Barack's direction. If I'm the candidate, damned if I play the Kerry electoral map and gamble it all on Ohio or Florida (and if I do, Ohio actually looks more possible today.)
I'm not saying that Obama shouldn't contest the Sunshine State. He can, and probably should, win it, based on defections by younger Cuban-Americans who favor his more liberal views on family visits to Cuba, and increased black turnout, particularly in northern Florida (especially Jacksonville,) where black precincts have actually begun to outperform majority black precincts in Broward or Dade. I sat in on a conference call for media last week with the party, in which party leaders made it clear that this year, the emphasis will not be on South Florida alone. The I4, Tampa (the state's largest media market), Tallahassee and Orlando will get just as much, if not more, attention.
So for those of us in the formerly crucial southern part of this southern state, it's put up or shut up time. If we want Florida to count, and we do... if we want to swing this state back into the truly "swing" column, and make Florida relevant to future Democratic candidates, let alone helping to elect Barack Obama, we'd better turn out at the polls like we've never turned out before.
If we don't do it this year, next time it may not matter.
I'll be doing some guest blogging for the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, starting in earnest next week. Feel free to give Larry Thorson and the gang a look-see here (or refer to the blogroll.) I know I live in Broward, but Dade is sort of my home away from home... besides, there's nothing going on up here but foreclosures and the price of gas. Maybe someone will wake Broward from the dead before the election is over...
Then, she and Obama faked out the press corps twice -- once by ditching them on Obama's press plane, and then by forcing all the cable nets to camp outside Hillary's D.C. area home, while the two Senators met privately somewhere else.
Clearly, the adults are back in charge of Hillaryland.
Finally, after months of being mathematically eliminated from the Democratic nomination for president, after race-baiting, fictional sniper fire, hard-working white people, angry white women, big wins in states that couldn't get her closer to the nomination, dubious Osama bin Laden references, the red phone ad, even more dubious assassination references, the Michigan and Florida compromises, Harriet Christian, Barack reaching the magic number plus more than 100 and 24 hours after the worst ... non-concession ... speech ... ever ... Hillary Clinton will finally suspend her wheels-off-the-tracks campaign, mercifully, on Friday. The New York Times reports tonight:
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton will endorse Senator Barack Obama on Friday, bringing a close to her 17-month campaign for the White House, aides said. Her decision came after Democrats urged her on Wednesday to leave the race and allow the party to coalesce around Mr. Obama.
Mrs. Clinton’s aides said she would “express her support for Senator Obama and party unity” at an event in Washington that day. One adviser said that Mrs. Clinton would concede defeat, congratulate Mr. Obama and proclaim him the party’s nominee, while pledging to do what was needed to assure his victory.
Her decision came after a day of conversations with supporters on Capitol Hill about her future now that Mr. Obama had clinched the nomination. Mrs. Clinton had, in a speech after Tuesday night’s primaries, suggested that she wanted to wait before deciding about her future, but in conversations throughout the day on Wednesday, her aides said, she was urged to step aside.
“We pledged to support her to the end,” said Representative Charles B. Rangel, a New York Democrat who has been a patron of Mrs. Clinton since she first ran for the Senate. “Our problem is not being able to determine when the hell the end is.” ...
Rep. Rangel was apparently one of the prime movers in pushing Mrs. Clinton out of the race. He was visibly angry in an interview with NBC News today, and according to Andrea Mitchell, he told Hillary point blank, along with 23 fellow members of Congress, that she had erred last night in not acknowledging that Barack had reached the number of delegates needed to seal the nomination. Mitchell reported that members were approaching Obama repeatedly on Capitol Hill today and telling him they wanted to move over to him (as many undecided supers are rushing to do before the train is so far out of the station it becomes a puff of smoke,) but Hillary wouldn't release them to switch their endorsement. And Howard Fineman reported that there was a subsequent conference call arranged, no less, by senior Clinton advisers, on which eight senior Senators, presumably including Harry Reid, Chuck Schumer, Barbara McCulsky and Diane Feinstein, told Hillary it was time to go.
A bit more from the Times:
The desire of the party for Mrs. Clinton to leave the race was signaled — if politely as four top Democratic leaders issued a statement on Wednesday morning asking all uncommitted delegates to make their decisions by Friday. The statement from the party officials — Howard Dean, the Democratic chairman; Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker; Harry Reid, the Senate majority leader, and Gov. Joe Manchin of West Virginia — stopped short of endorsing Mr. Obama, but aides said they would likely move in that direction if Mrs. Clinton lingered in the race.
“The voters have spoken,” they said in their joint statement released before 7 a.m., purposefully timed to set the tone for the day after the election. “Democrats must now turn our full attention to the general election.”
Representative Rahm Emanuel, the Illinois Democrat with close ties to Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton who had kept studiously neutral throughout the presidential contest, said in an interview that he was “coming out from my desk” to endorse Mr. Obama. “The fact is that he is the nominee,” Mr. Emanuel said
He seemed quizzical at the slowness of Mrs. Clinton’s decision not to acknowledge this. “You don’t answer about whether you want to be about vice president unless there’s no doubt in your mind that he is the nominee,” he said, referring to Mrs. Clinton’s initial reluctance to congratulate Mr. Obama, noting that she told supporters she would be open to be vice president, if Mr. Obama wanted her.
Mrs. Clinton’s initial ambivalence about her future in her speech on Tuesday night stirred concern among some of her top supporters.
“By the time she got on that podium last night, she knew it was over and that she had lost,” Hillary Rosen, one of Mrs. Clinton’s most prominent women supporters, wrote on the Huffington Post Web site. “I am sure I was not alone in privately urging the campaign over the last two weeks to use the moment to take her due, pass the torch and cement her grace.”
Now, Hillary will get a second shot at that moment. Unfortunately, it will have been forced upon her.
UPDATE: Keith Olbermann just reported that Hillary will make some sort of concession-like announcement to her senior staff at her home in D.C. on Friday, followed by a bigger public event on Saturday.
Mark Nicholas picks up on the Chris Matthews reference to Desmond Tutu, and his reaction to the peculiar American drama regarding race. And he links to the Tutu op-ed that says it all:
When I first came to this country in '72, I was quite shaken, actually, by the intensity of feeling that African-Americans had. And I said I couldn't understand: Why are they so bitter, why are they so angry?
There, in South Africa (under apartheid), they told you, "You're nothing, and we're going to treat you like the nothing you are. And don't ever hope to think that you have a chance of being treated differently."
Here, you say to them, "You're equal, and the sky's the limit." And they keep bumping their heads against this thing that's stopping them from reaching out to the stars. And so I understood that it was the illusion of equality -- which is still the case.
You've got all of that going against you, and yet you produce (Obama). Where else in the world would you ever have had anything like that? I mean an African-American being not just a credible candidate but one who has galvanized -- I mean, the number of young people who have come out and said, "Yes, we think it is actually possible to have a different kind of society." Only here.
Watching the DNC Rules Committee's blockbuster meeting, pretty much all morning and afternoon, a few pieces of news have come out of it. (CNN has a breakdown of who's who on the panel here.)
News item #1:
Harold Ickes and the other Hillary supporters on the committee -- about 13 of them -- intend to be very vigorous in pushing the committee to do what's best for HER. That's stunning, considhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifering the responsibility of that committee, ostensibly, to do what's best for the party, and for its voters. It's been rather startling to watch Ickes and other members of the panel, particularly Hartina Fluornoy, a Hillary superdelegate from D.C., advocate essentially as members of her campaign. Ickes, after a particularly contentious exchange with Obama Florida campaign chairman Robert Wexler, even appeared to walk out of the room, although MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell says he actually walked across the room, not all the way out.
News item #2:
Wexler made the most news today, announcing that the Obama campaign would be willing to support the position taken by Florida DNC member Jon Ausman, whose challenge created the core Democratic position of seating all of the state's superdelegates, whose selection depends on their election to Congress or appointment by the local DECs, not upon the date of the primary, and seating half of the pledged delegates. Wexler said the Obama campaign would be willing to allow Hillary to half the maximum number of delegates available to her: 19, as part of a deal, in the interests of party unity.
News item #3:
Michigan Senator Carl Levin made perhaps the most arresting presentation today, walking the panel through the process that he was a part of, going back to the 2004 party convention, to try and change the almost regal status of New Hampshire and Iowa, with their presumed "god-given right" to hold their votes first. Levin was part of a reform panel that included the Rules Committee members, which agreed that at least one caucus would be moved up in the calendar, such that that state -- Nevada -- would caucus after Iowa but before New Hampshire.
New Hampshire, whose secretary of state has the authority to move the state's primary at will, violated that agreement and moved its primary ahead of Nevada's anyway. New Hampshire appealed to the Rules Committee for a waiver, so that it could preserve its status in defiance of an agreed-upon rules change. So Michigan, which has fought, with Levin's leadership, for a more diverse opening to the campaign, decided to apply for a waiver, too, to send a message that if New Hampshire wouldn't comply, somebody had to face down the bully. the committee gave New Hampshire its waiver but denied one to Michigan. In the end, whereas Florida's primary was held at the mercy of the Republican legislature and governor, Michigan's was an act of principled defiance. Given that, Levin said, no further punishment should ensue. To my mind, that was the most compelling argument made today. It certainly moved committee member Donna Brazille.
News item #1:
Howard Wolfson was just on NBC continuing to take pot shots at Barack Obama, and essentially asserting, as did Hillary's advocates before the panel, that they would settle for nothing short of a full seating of both delegations to her advantage, and would concede nothing to the Obama camp in return. They want Obama to get zero delegates out of Michigan, even while they concede that most, if not all, of the 40 percent "uncommitted" vote would favor Obama. And they want the maximum vote in Florida, too (although Bill Clinton may have conceded privately that his wife would wind up with half). So, to quote Pat Buchanan, Hillary wants "the whole hog." Their position is so recalcitrant, and so basically ugly, it makes me wonder if they have any interest whatsoever, in unifying the party, except under Hillary Clinton as nominee (something that would be all-but impossible, since I don't see how she would attract Obama's core supporters, young voters and Black voters, even if she could snatch the nomination away.) Meanwhile, the Obama team seems more reasonable, more willing to compromise and make concessions, and more eager to unify the party. As one reporter put it, the Obama camp is acting "the way a winner acts." That will matter, I think, to uncommitted superdelegates who are observing today's proceedings.
...In many ways, Mr. Obama is wheezing across the finish line after making a strong start: He has won only 6 of the 13 Democratic contests held since March 4, drawing 6.1 million votes, compared with 6.6 million for Mrs. Clinton.
Still, Mrs. Clinton’s associates said she seemed to have come to terms over the last week with the near-certainty that she will not win the nomination, even as she continues to assert, with what one associate described as subdued resignation, that the Democrats are making a mistake in sending Mr. Obama up against Senator John McCain.
One of the last procedural fights took place Saturday in Washington where, with demonstrators supporting Mrs. Clinton marching outside, the Democratic Party’s Rules and Bylaws Committee struggled with the question of whether to seat at the convention members of the disputed delegations from Florida and Michigan. Those states have been sanctioned by the party for holding their contests in January in defiance of the primary calendar laid out by the Democratic National Committee.
Mrs. Clinton has kept her counsel about what she might do to draw her campaign to a close and when she might do it. Her associates said the most likely outcome is that she will end her bid with a speech, probably back home in New York, in which she would endorse Mr. Obama. Mrs. Clinton herself suggested on Friday that the contest will end sometime next week.
Still, she has signaled her ambivalence about the outcome, continuing to urge superdelegates to keep an open mind and consider, for example, the number of popular votes she has won. Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, a superdelegate who has been at the forefront of calling for uncommitted Democrats to make a choice soon after the last vote, said in an interview that Mrs. Clinton called him last week and urged him to “keep an open mind until the convention.”
Assuming Mr. Obama reaches the total number of delegates and superdelegates he needs to secure the nomination in the coming week, Mrs. Clinton will be faced with three options, associates said: to suspend her campaign and endorse Mr. Obama; to suspend her campaign without making an endorsement; or to press the fight through the convention. Several of Mrs. Clinton’s associates said it was unlikely she would fight through the convention, given the potential damage it would do to her standing within the party, which is increasingly eager to unify and turn to the battle against Mr. McCain.
Mrs. Clinton would almost surely face the defection of some of her highest-profile supporters, as well as some members of her staff. She would no doubt also face anger from Democratic leaders as she contemplates a return to the Senate and, potentially, another run for the White House. ...
And as for superdelegates:
... “A number of people have reported that various members intend to endorse AFTER the last primary,” said one e-mail message to wavering delegates from Mr. Obama’s supporters, its warning barely couched. “Those members need to understand that they won’t get any visibility from that.”
Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who endorsed Mr. Obama nearly two months ago and campaigned with him last week, recently called Gov. Bill Ritter Jr. of Colorado, who has yet to endorse. “Hey Ritter!” Mr. Richardson said. “After June 3, it means nothing. Those who take a little bit of a risk, he’ll remember you.”
On the other end of the line, Mr. Ritter demurred, saying he had pledged to remain neutral until the primary seasons ends.
There has been a constant drumbeat of comparisons between Barack Obama and both John and Robert Kennedy, from the family, and from observers who see Obama as a natural bearer of the torch of Camelot.
More darkly, there has been an undercurrent of fear running through the Black community, that Barack Obama, if elected, would not be safe as president. That his communion with the Kennedys might be too close. I know more than a few Black folk, oder mostly, who backed Hillary Clinton because of that fear -- even saying, "I'd rather have him alive than in the White House."
So why ... why in the name of God would Hillary Clinton make a reference to Bobby Kennedy that even subliminally suggested that one reason for her to stay in the race, is that like RFK, Barack Obama might not make it past June? Why would she say anything that could even have been interpreted as such -- whatever she meant -- given the grim news we learned this week about the last remaining brother of the almost royal Kennedy clan? Here, if you can even fathom it, is what Hillary said:
In an interview with the Argus (SD) Leader editorial board today, Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, took the unusual step of invoking the assassination of Sen. Robert Kennedy, D-NY, when discussing reasons why she was staying in the presidential race.
Asked about calls for her to drop out, Clinton said, “This is part of an ongoing effort to end this before it’s over. I sure don’t think it’s over." She mentioned how non-frontrunners took their delegates to the convention in 1980, 1984, 1988, and 1992.
Suggesting that Obama's campaign has been the source of stories about a unity ticket with her as vice president, Clinton said, "people have been trying to push me out of this ever since Iowa."
Clinton was then asked if she doesn't think that those calling for the ticket are actually interested in uniting the party.
"I don’t because I’ve been around long enough," she said. "My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. You know, I don't understand it. And there's lots of speculation about why it is."
Hillary Clinton certainly ended her campaign today. She cannot possibly attract a single new super delegate after what she said in South Dakota. She should pray tonight that she has not also ended her political career.
Hillary has tried to clarify her remarks, insisting she was just referencing her husband's late corralling of the nomination in 1992, and she made a dazed-looking, semi-apology to the Kennedy family, and to anyone "if" she offended them -- though not to Obama -- this afternoon.
That probably won't help.
Because whatever Hillary meant, there simply is no place in politics for associating a candidate with assassination. It simply passes a threshold that Hillary herself lowered when she became the first presidential candidate in modern history to tout white, "hard working white voters" who are voting for her, and not for a black candidate. Hillary has fallen through the floor with this latest comment, and if Rev. Wright is now persona non grata for statements that are arguable, but really not beyond the pale, given what we've subsequently heard from people like John Hagee, how can Hillary continue to campaign after this?
In fact, she had used similar, more carefully phrased language back in March, in a Time magazine interview: "Primary contests used to last a lot longer. We all remember the great tragedy of Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June in L.A. My husband didn't wrap up the nomination in 1992 until June. Having a primary contest go through June is nothing particularly unusual."
The fear of a president or a presidential candidate being shot or assassinated is horrifying precisely because recent history teaches us that it can happen. We don't need anybody to remind us, and we certainly don't need anybody to remind whatever suggestible wackos might be lurking in the shadows.
In the context of Obama, Clinton's words broke a double taboo, because since the beginning of his candidacy, some of Obama's supporters have feared that his race made him more of a target than other presidential hopefuls. Obama was placed under Secret Service protection early, a full year ago. To be unaware that one's words tap into a monumental fear that exists in a portion of the electorate -- a fear that Obama's race could get him killed -- is an unusual mistake for a serious and highly disciplined presidential candidate.
It's surprising, too, because something very similar just happened last week, when Mike Huckabee made a joke at an NRA convention about somebody aiming a gun at Obama. He later apologized and called his remarks "offensive." He also could have called them "instructive" for any politician paying attention.
To translate from Desperate Clinton into English: Senator Obama could be assassinated at any moment, and such an event would represent another -- goddamn, this is awful -- another path to the nomination for her. It's all about her path to the nomination. A possible assassination of Senator Obama. Yep. This is what it's come down to.
Coupled with the well-known, ridiculous and dangerous rumors about Senator Obama, invoking an assassination attempt against him represents a new and ghoulish low for already bottom-feeding campaign.
To date, the Clinton campaign has exploited every despicable tactic and mongered every fear. How much more embarrassment and desperation can she heap upon herself and her party?
Hopefully, not much more.
It's time to go, Hillary. You're losing your bearings, and clearly have begun to fixate on the myriad "bad things" that could theoretically happent to take Obama out of the race. It's becoming obsessive. It's becoming a sad circus act. And it's getting creepy. Stop before you completely destroy yourself.
Good news and bad news for Democrats in Louisiana House race
The good news for Democrats is that yet another Republican House seat changed hands yesterday, as a long-held Louisiana House seat switched to the D column. The bad news, is that to win the seat, the candidate had to put miles of distance between himself and the party's potential standard-bearer:
Don Cazayoux, a state representative, defeated Woody Jenkins, a small-newspaper publisher and former legislator long associated with religious-right causes in Louisiana, by 49 percent to 46 percent, in a tight race for a seat left open by the retirement of Richard Baker, a Republican.
Mr. Cazayoux portrayed himself as little different from Mr. Jenkins on social issues, overcoming the Republicans’ depiction of him as a “liberal” in lock step with figures like the House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, and Senator Barack Obama, who shared billing with him in a barrage of Republican attack advertisements.
...Mr. Cazayoux, a low-key member of the State House and a former prosecutor, fit the conservative model Democrats deployed successfully in the 2006 elections when they took seats from Republicans. He was close to Mr. Jenkins on social issues like abortion and guns; he spoke approvingly of Senator John McCain; he rarely if ever mentioned the Democratic presidential candidates; and he suggested he would buck his party if the district’s interests seemed to call for it.
Mr. Jenkins and the Republicans, on the other hand, sought to tie Mr. Cazayoux to his party’s national standard-bearers at every opportunity, especially Ms. Pelosi. Television advertisements paired Mr. Cazayoux with Mr. Obama, and called him a “liberal” — a description that fit uneasily with Mr. Cazayoux’s voting record in the State House of Representatives. He raised nearly twice as much money as his Republican rival, his fund-raising bolstered by Congressional Democrats eager to take the seat.
Lesson for the Dems: a "50 state strategy" won't work in November. There are clearly places -- mainly in the old, Republican South, where Barack won't be able to help candidates win, and where instead, he (with Rev. Wright and all the other media/talk radio driven drivel) will be used against Democrats. Of course, the Louisiana race proves the tactic won't always work, but Team Obama would be wise to pick a running mate who would be more useful in parts of the country outside the South, where the southern political model will be in play (I'm thinking rural Pennsylvania, Ohio and the like, since the Dems aren't winning back the South -- not this year, and certainly not with a black candidate, though Virginia could be an exception, giving the changing demographics there. Outside of that state, the South isn't THAT evolved...)
With Hillary picking up 82 delegates last night to Barack's 69. (The NYT and AP score it 1,661 to 1,511.) Is that enough for her to win the nomination? No. Is her 200,000 popular vote pick-up enough to overtake Barack there? No. His popvote lead is now down to about 500,000, and with 9 smaller contests left, the math still doesn't work for HRC. Every analyst working right now agrees that Hillary's only shot at the nomination is to draw the calendar out, and hope Barack implodes, either on his own, or by her doing (or because white voters simply stage a rebellion and refuse to move him forward to the nomination, handing her something like 70-30 wins in the next nine contests.)
That's the ballgame, Hillary fans. It's all over but the screaming and dragging out of the room. Still, there are real perils for Barack, who will have to endure more nastiness from Camp Clinton, and more backlash from a press corps desperate to appease her operatives, and to not appear to be favoring him (they have no similar desperation as regards their clear love for John McCain.) And the race has exposed -- or more accurately, ginned up, real racial divisions that could haunt Barack into November, as WaPo's Dan Balz points out:
In Pennsylvania, Clinton won white voters who did not go to college by about 40 points. In Ohio, it was 44 points. Nor did Obama increase his vote among white college graduates, losing them to Clinton in Pennsylvania by six percentage points after losing them in Ohio by seven.
Clinton won the late-deciders in Pennsylvania handily, an apparent sign again that Obama has had trouble closing the most competitive primaries. In Pennsylvania, in contrast to Ohio, Obama threw everything he could into the final days, airing three negative commercials on television, hammering Clinton with a closing argument that cast the choice as one between a practitioner of special-interest politics as usual versus a reformer who would change the way Washington works.
One clear bright spot for Obama was the nearly one in 10 voters in the Democratic primary who had recently registered with the party. Pennsylvania experienced a huge shift in voter registration over the past year, with Democratic registration rising by more than 300,000 and Republican registration shrinking by about 70,000.
Among newly registered Democrats voting yesterday, Obama won them by about 20 percentage points. His advisers will point to that as evidence that he can draw support from former independents or even disaffected Republicans in a general-election race against McCain.
And so we go on, and on, and on ... to the detriment of the Democrats' chances in November.
It's hard to understand where Debbie Wasserman Schultz's head is these days. Lately, she seems determined to position herself at the right-most edge of the party, so much so that one begins to see shades of Joe Lieberman, only without the annoying voice and the major crush on John McCain.
First, it was impeachment. Debbie isn't for it, and that's fair enough. But she chose to vent her opposition in particularly bombastic fashion on the Ed Schultz (no relation) radio show a couple months ago, essentially labeling proponents of the concept of merely researching the possibility of impeaching President Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney, over the innumerable outrages against the civil liberties of Americans and against the prerogatives of Congress, let alone the Constitution, as crackpots who are out of step with both reality, and with the majority of voters. Well count among the crackpots constitutional law professor Jonathan Turley, former Nixon White House counsel John Dean, her own fellow Democratic Congressman, Robert Wexler, and a plurality of Americans, according to the last polls conducted on the subject ...
Then, the congresswoman made it clear, as did her fellow South Florida Democrat, Kendrick Meek, that she had no intention of working to unseat three of the most intrenched and intransigent Republicans elected in Florida, even though she chairs the "Red to Blue" committee of the DCCC. She says she won't work against Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and the Diaz-Balart brothers, because they are her friends, and because she and Ileana trade child rearing tips. All very nice, but not exactly spoken like a Democrat interested in growing the party's majority -- and thus its effectiveness at passing legislation -- in the House. As Steve Clemons points out:
... the Republicans that Debbie Wasserman Schultz is hugging tightly are three Members of Congress who have actually had the power to make the Cold War colder in a small area of the world off of the U.S. border -- Cuba. They have thrived despite the phenomenal failure of the US embargo of Cuba and have succeeded in keeping a more serious interest-driven US foreign policy toward Cuba from ever taking hold.
Two of the Congressman that Debbie Wasserman Schultz wants to protect are brothers -- Lincoln Diaz-Balart (R-FL-21) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL-25). They are nephews by marriage (ended by divorce) of Fidel Castro himself. They are the sons of the former Speaker of the House in Cuba during the tenure of US-friendly dictator Fulgencio Batista. Knowing them and their family history gives one insights into the unique and bizarre family feud that the US-Cuba policy standoff is really about.
Debbie Wasserman Schultz seemingly turns a blind eye to the suspension of justice, the nepotism, and the corruption that have surrounded the Miami side of the US-Cuba policy feud. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL-18) has helped protect and then celebrate the achievements of Cuban-American terrorists -- particularly Orlando Bosch and Luis Posada -- in both Florida and in her Congressional role in Washington. It is truly shocking to read what Members of the US House of Representatives have been complicit in as told in the disturbing chronicle of the underbelly of US-Cuba relations, "Twilight of the Assassins," by Ann Louise Bardach that ran in November 2006 in the Atlantic Monthly.
Either Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz does not read, is ignorant of the background and activities of these three Republican congressman, or she is complicit. Which is it?
Can I go with "B" for $200 please?
Now, Debbie has weighed in on the very tired Rev. Wright dust-up:
Especially in some of the states that have yet to vote, the Wright affair “is a big vulnerability,” said Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, a Clinton superdelegate. And “all of this delegate stuff is artificial,” she added, alongside the reality that the party’s nominee must be able to carry big states like hers, where Mrs. Clinton won a disputed victory; Ohio, where she triumphed last month; and Pennsylvania, where she leads in polls.
Now it's not secret that Barack Obama is having some trouble with Jewish voters, given that he has demonstrated a certain independence on the issue of Palestine. Here in Florida, the problem is even more acute, with an elected official in Broward who I won't name, but who attended a breakfast for Obama supporters recently (which I also attended), literally telling those assembled that some Jewish voters in her district "literally think he is the antichrist," and they don't even believe in Christ! But is it appropriate for Ms. Wasserman Schultz to add herself to the whisperers about Obama's racial/ethnic attitudes? If and when he does become the nominee, what will she say then? One hopes that in private, she is dispelling ridiculous notions about the Senator among her constituents, rather than nursing them.
The entire flap has led some leftward leaning Democrats to ask whether it's time to introduce Ms. Wasserman-Schultz to the business end of democracy:
What gives with Wasserman-Schultz. Does she think that because she has a safe seat she can libel Democrats and kiss up to right-wing Republicans and get away with it? Are we that stupid?
The Koskids even threw a poll, and it came up 96% to 3% in favor of giving Debbie a challenger in the August primary. Maybe it's time she had one.
The trajectory of the Democratic campaign for president is clear, and really hasn't changed since mid-February: Barack Obama is on a clear path to the nomination, while Hillary Clinton is not, only she won't admit it and the press is afraid to tell her (and even more afraid of Howard Wolfson, who must have pictures of a lot of journalists naked...)
And yet, the sputtering of the Clinton campaign continues, Bush in Iraq-like, complete with a rather desperate-seeming new "3 a.m." ad using the same footage, only this time attacking John McCain (on the economy, stupid) and a series of outbursts of almost dizzying rage by top Clinton friends, and by the Big Dog himself. I've been in post lock-down thanks to server issues for the last few days, so forgive me if this is a repetition.
First, James Carville pimp slapped Governor Non Grata Bill Richardson in the pages of the Washington Post, backing up his "Judas" remark and hammering the no-long FOB for not returning Big Bill's phonecalls before he stabbed Hillary in the heart by endorsing The Whelp, and for what he called "disloyalty that merited an insult."
... Earlier this month I decried the political environment in which, by whining about every little barb, candidates seem to be trying to win the election through a war of staff-resignation attrition. Politics is a messy business, but campaigning prepares you for governing. It prepares you to get hit, stand strong and, if necessary, hit back. I've worked on enough campaigns to know that the most aggrieved candidate rarely emerges victorious. And for all of the hypersensitivity we're seeing this cycle, this campaign has not been particularly negative or nasty compared with previous elections.
Fully aware of this supercharged environment in which the slightest slight is elevated to the most egregious insult, I waded in -- okay, dove in -- by demonstrating what constitutes a real insult.
I believe that loyalty is a cardinal virtue. Nowhere in the world is loyalty so little revered and tittle-tattle so greatly venerated as in Washington. I was a little-known political consultant until Bill Clinton made me. When he came upon hard times, I felt it my duty -- whatever my personal misgivings -- to stick by him. At the very least, I would have stayed silent. And maybe that's my problem with what Bill Richardson did. Silence on his part would have spoken loudly enough.
Most of the stuff I've ever said is pretty insignificant and by in large has been said off the cuff and without much thought to the potential consequences. That was not the case in this instance. Bill Richardson's response was that the Clinton people felt they were entitled to the presidency. In my mind, that is a debatable hypothesis. But, even more than that, I know that a former president of the United States who appointed someone to two Senate-confirmed positions is entitled to have his phone calls returned.
... Next came the news that the Big Dog himself got to expurgating his spleen on the other Big Bill, going into full tirade mode (just before his now famous "chill out" speech,) in front of a group of people you probably don't want to go into out of control tirades in front of: superdelegates.
According to those at the meeting, Clinton - who flew in from Chicago with bags under his eyes - was classic old Bill at first, charming and making small talk with the 15 or so delegates who gathered in a room behind the convention stage.
But as the group moved together for the perfunctory photo, Rachel Binah, a former Richardson delegate who now supports Hillary Clinton, told Bill how "sorry" she was to have heard former Clinton campaign manager James Carville call Richardson a "Judas" for backing Obama.
It was as if someone pulled the pin from a grenade.
"Five times to my face (Richardson) said that he would never do that," a red-faced, finger-pointing Clinton erupted.
The former president then went on a tirade that ran from the media's unfair treatment of Hillary to questions about the fairness of the votes in state caucuses that voted for Obama. It ended with him asking delegates to imagine what the reaction would be if Obama was trailing by just 1 percent and people were telling him to drop out.
"It was very, very intense," said one attendee. "Not at all like the Bill of earlier campaigns."
When he finally wound down, Bill was asked what message he wanted the delegates to take away from the meeting.
At that point, a much calmer Clinton outlined his message of party unity.
"It was kind of strange later when he took the stage and told everyone to 'chill out,' " one delegate told us.
"We couldn't help but think he was also talking to himself."
When delegate Binah - still stunned from her encounter with Clinton - got home to Little River (Mendocino County) later in the day - there was a phone message waiting for her from State Party Chairman Art Torres, telling her the former president wanted him to apologize to her on his behalf for what happened.
Okay, other reports, not from Ms. Binah, say it wasn't quite a full-on meltdown, but the narrative is off and running and the story is not helpful, Mr. President.
And to cap it off, along came a series of Big Deal endorsements, and hints of endorsements for Barack. They are, and they are big:
Lee Hamilton- the former co-chair of the 9/11 commission and a former congressman with foreign policy credentials out the ying-yang. Hell, if HE thinks Obama has passed the commander in chief test, who's Bill's old lady to tell him he's wrong?
Jimmy Carter - I'm not sure a nod from the former president, considered the most liberal man in America by the righties, and hated by Likudniks everywhere, would help Obama. But odds are, he'll eventually get it anyway, if Carter's BFH's (big, fat hints) are to be believed:
Carter, who is a Super Delegate from Georgia State, gave this hint at a media interaction after the Carter Center Awards for Guinea Worm Eradication in Abuja yesterday.
Carter, who was accompanied by his wife Rosalynn, did not profess a direct support for Obama but rather choose to make a veiled statement.
“We are very interested in the primaries. Don’t forget that Obama won in my state of Georgia. My town which is home to 625 people is for Obama, my children and their spouses are pro- Obama.
My grandchildren are also pro- Obama. As a Super Delegate, I would not disclose who I am rooting for but I leave you to make that guess," he said.
I'll bet the Clintons are starting to hate that bloody Guinea worm...
And Wyoming Governor Dave Freudenthal - no, he's not a superstar like the previous two, but he is a red-state governor, a white guy, and a guy who appears to be going with his state, which went 60% for Barack. If he's setting, or indicating, a superdelegate trend, that's much better news for one candidate than for the other...
(Yes, I know Jane Fonda endorsed Barack, too, but really, would YOU consider that good news if you were Barack?)
... As for the endorsements Hillary already has, they are starting to seem like the proverbial hole in the head. First, there are the ones who blatantly say that their candidate of choice must have the popular vote or she's toast.
Then there are the ones who reserve the right to switch to Obama .... John Corzine and Maria Cantwell... if Hillary doesn't close this thing out with a lead in the popular vote...
There are a few bright spots on the horizon for the Hillary Faithful. A new Quinnipiac poll shows her beating John McCain handily in Ohio, Florida and Pennsylvania. The only trouble with that is, she'd have to be the nominee in order to do that. And the only trouble with THAT is, she's in no position to be the nominee, based on the math. That poll has Barack losing to McCain in Florida and barely edging him out in the other two states, which would seem to make a strong argument for Hillary's superior electability. The only problem with THAT, is that these polls are being taken in April, well before voters in those states will be faced with two, not three choices: between one Democrat and John McCain. A few months down the road, it's impossible to say how either of the Dems still fighting it out would fare vs. McCain. Time and circumstances, Senator ... time and circumstances...
Today's ocntestant: Kansas City Congressman, and right reverend, Emanual Cleaver. Keep in mind, that he is a Hillary Clinton superdelegate:
"If I had to make a prediction right now, I'd say Barack Obama is going to be the next president...," he said. "I will be stunned if he is not the next president of the United States. Now, when he is sworn in, 99.9 percent of Americans won't know who he is or what he stands for. But it doesn't matter at this point."
That's because, Cleaver says, many white Americans are supporting Obama because "they are looking at Barack Obama and saying this is our chance to demonstrate that we have been able to get this boogeyman called race behind us and so they are going to vote for him."
He says this is causing many African-Americans to "tremble" because they believe white Americans won't want to address issue of race then, saying it's been addressed by Obama's election. ...
That's from the Kansas City Star's Prime Buzz blog. Read the rest of the article, which includes more details on Cleaver' handicapping of the race, and his iteration of what many Blacks in Congress have cited as their personal loyalty to the Clintons (and lack of personal relationship with Barack Obama) here. (They've also got a link to the interview audio.)
Memo to the Clintons: maybe its time to start issuing daily talking points to the supporters, yeah?
There's nothing surprising about the fact that Team Clinton is whispering "Jeremiah Wright" into the ears of superdelegates. At this stage, it's all in. MSNBC reports:
Talking Points Memo reports top Clinton aide Harold Ickes admitted pushing the Rev. Jeremiah Wright issue with superdelegates:
"Look what the Republicans did to a genuine war hero," Ickes said, in a reference to John Kerry.
"Super delegates have to take into account the strengths and weakness of both candidates and decide who would make the strongest candidate against what will undoubtedly be ferocious Republican attacks," Ickes continued. "I've had super delegates tell me that the Wright issue is a real issue for them."
In a reference to Wright's controversial views, Ickes continued: "Nobody thinks that Barack Obama harbors those thoughts. But that's not the issue. The issue is what Republicans [will do with them]...I think they're going to give him a very tough time."
Asked whether he was specifically bringing up Wright to super-delegates, Ickes said: "I've said what I've said...I tell people that they need to look at what they think Republicans may use against him. Wright comes up in the conversations."
What is a surprise is that Ickes sat down for such a candid chat with the blog-reportersphere.
Ickes also told TPM that the nomination fight may not be settled by the time the Democratic convention kicks off in August:
Ickes also said that it was possible that Hillary supporters on the convention credentials committee would bring a minority report to force a floor vote if the committee's solution on Florida and Michigan wasn't to the campaign's liking, but he predicted it likely wouldn't come to that and said Hillary doesn't want that to happen.
"My sense is it'll be resolved before then, but if it goes into the credentials committee we can always bring out a minority report and take it to the floor of the convention. Hillary does not want that. We don't think it's good for the party. We don't think it's good for the nominee."
Ickes pointed out that when he worked for Ted Kennedy's losing presidential primary run against Jimmy Carter in 1980, Kennedy aides brought a minority report calling for delegates to be able to vote their consciences, even though they "knew it was a foreordained conclusion" that it would lose.
"Look, there's always a possibility" that Hillary forces would produce a minority report, Ickes continued, but he added that it was not likely: "You don't do this lightly and only if you feel very very strongly...I think it will be resolved before then."
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???
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.
"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.
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..."
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...
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.
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.
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...
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
--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.
"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.
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.
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:
"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.
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:
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...?
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?
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 ...
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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 ...
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.
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.
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.
Hillary Clinton, faltering in her march toward the nomination after 13 straight primary losses, has turned to the tactics of Walter Mondale (with a little LBJ and Georgw W thrown in,) to try and turn things around (the tactics of Richard Nixon [experience matters! ... ignore the whelp!!!...] Bush I [smearing one's opponent ... prudent at this juncture...] and Mommie Dearest [one moment, kind and maternal, next moment ... horrible and cruel!!!] having failed her.)
Mrs. Clinton is apparently spending that $35 mil of hers (Barack has more than that, apparently...) finding new ways to eviscerate her opponent, and, it seems, to render him unelectable in the primary, unelectable in the general, and unelectable for all time. Clinton's new TV ad is a doosy (the NYT blog The Caucus analyzes it here):
In other words, vote for Hillary ... if you want your children to live...
To be fair, Camp Clinton isn't whipping up anything the McCain camp wouldn't have thought of on their own, and it's a near certainty that no matter how mean Hillary gets during the primary, the GOP and McCain will make her look like a masseuse by the fall. But ... there's something to be said for grace, and for putting the war ahead of the battle. It's getting to the point where I, at least, am wondering whether it's more important for Mrs. Clinton to be the nominee, in her camp's thinking, than for the Democrats to win in the fall.
I have had such great respect for the Clintons, especially Bill, over the years, and have been sufficiently supportive of them to consider myself a "Clinton Democrat." And while I am supporting, and voted for, Barack Obama this cycle, had he not been in, Hillary would have been my girl.
That said ... I would have much preferred to see Hillary run on her own merits, her vision for America, and the attributes that make her a good potential president, not on her team's perception of the demerits of Barack Obama. Ultimately, the goal is to win the White House in the fall. Becoming the echo chamber of the Republican Party doesn't strike me as the best way to get that accomplished.
Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) campaign manager said Friday morning that a new ad on national security from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) will backfire as it will only remind voters that Clinton voted for the Iraq war.
Entitled “Children,” the spot features sleeping children and says: “It's 3 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep. But there’s a phone in the White House, and it's ringing. Something’s happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call.”
The ad, which is already being compared to the famous “Daisy” ad of the 1964 campaign, is the same strategy that Clinton has been using since losing the Iowa caucuses and has been “rejected by voters,” said David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, on a conference call with reporters Friday.
“Sen. Clinton already had her red phone moment,” Plouffe said. “She had it in 2002. It was on the Iraq war.”
He added: “This is about what you say when you answer that phone.”
...to help Hillary sort out her persona for tonight's debate on MSNBC (which Howard Fineman has helpfully dubbed "Hillary's last stand"...) Will we see ... Nice, honored to be on the stage with Barack Hillary...?
Or angry, yelling, pointing, "shame on you" Hillary?
Only her psychic knows for sure...
Meanwhile, add a Rasmussen poll to Hillary's headaches. The latest Rasmussen survey shows Hillary nursing only a five point lead in Ohio, holding steady at 48%, while Barack has climbed from 38% to 40% to 43% in three weeks.
And on a truly serious note, the candidates have different requirements tonight.
Barack: freeze the ball. Barack needs to look calm and presidential, no matter what Hillary throws at him. And he might try using her "what Democrat would attack another Democrat in such Rovian fashion" line on HER, regarding the photo flap, as long as he does it in a very grown-up, measured tone.
Hillary: clean it up. Hillary has got to get back to the steady, presidential demeanor she displayed after the tragic death of Benazir Bhutto. That day, Hillary looked regal, serious, and rather elegant, as she took charge of the news cycle. She also needs to learn to speak in her lower register. It's a sad truth about women in broadcasting that I had to be reminded of myself by my PD at 1080. Women tend to sound tinny in the upper register, whether we like it or not. If she wants to sound like a president, drop that register, stay away from the pointing and attacking, and make her points firmly, but with grace. She also needs a big moment tonight -- something she can either stick Barack with (and leave questions about his ability to lead in the minds of Ohio and Texas voters) or she needs to draw him into a mistake, preferably on foreign policy. If she can't do that, it's game over for her.
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton’s latest campaign finance report, published Wednesday night, appeared even to her most stalwart supporters and donors to be a road map of her political and management failings. Several of them, echoing political analysts, expressed concerns that Mrs. Clinton’s spending priorities amounted to costly errors in judgment that have hamstrung her competitiveness against Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.
“We didn’t raise all of this money to keep paying consultants who have pursued basically the wrong strategy for a year now,” said a prominent New York donor. “So much about her campaign needs to change — but it may be too late.”
And it's not a good look when you're looking to move up from managing a campaign to managing the country. ...
So where did all the dough go?
Mark Penn (pollster/strategist) - More than $10 million to his firm
Howard Wolfson (communications director) - More than $730,000, including money still owed
Mandy Grunwals (media consultant) - More than $2.3 million to her firm, and the campaign owes her $240,000 more
Overall spending: More than $1 million per day
Joe Trippi, who knows a little something about raising lots of money and then blowing it in a losing effort, explains the core problem:
And second, Mr. Trippi said, the Clinton campaign spent money as though the race were going to be over after a handful of states had voted and was not prepared for a contest that would stretch for months.
“The problem is she ran a campaign like they were staying at the Ritz-Carlton,” Mr. Trippi said. “Everything was the best. The most expensive draping at events. The biggest charter. It was like, ‘We’re going to show you how presidential we are by making our events look presidential.’ ”
For instance, during the week before the Jan. 19 caucuses in Nevada, the Clinton campaign spent more than $25,000 for rooms at the Bellagio in Las Vegas; nearly $5,000 was spent at the Four Seasons in Las Vegas that week. Some staff members also stayed at Planet Hollywood nearby.
From the start of the campaign, some donors had concerns about the Clinton team’s ability to manage money.
Patti Solis Doyle, Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign manager until she was replaced on Feb. 10, also ran her Senate re-election bid in 2006. That campaign spent about $30 million even though Mrs. Clinton faced only token Democratic and Republican opposition.
“The Senate race spending in 2006 was an omen for a lot of us inside the campaign, but Hillary assured us that her presidential bid would be the best run in history,” said one major Clinton fund-raiser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations within the campaign.
It's way too late in the game to make mistakes, and I'd say the Obama campaign made a small one tonight, sending a Texas state senator into the MSNBC lion's den to be shelacked by Chris Matthews, who zinged him with a "gotcha" question about Obama's accomplishments in the Senate, as Congresswoman Stephanie Tubbs-Jones, flacking for Hillary, smirked on. The State Senator couldn't name said accomplishments, although afterward, Keith Olbermann reminded Matthews that no one could likely name an accomplishment by the entire congress at this stage.
"That's why it's called Hardball," retorted Chris, after demanding that the Senator name an accomplishment, "NOW!"
Bottom line, the clip will be Youtubed something awful by Camp Clinton tonight, and served to the Wolfson-cowed (still lying about the horse race) mainstream media, and to the right wing hit machine, tomorrow.
Update: The Texas State Senator in question, Kirk Watson, crawls out from under a rock to tell his constituents that yes, he lost his game of "stump the chump" with Christopher Matthews.
Update 2: Here, go ahead. Relive Kirk Watson's shame...
As if anybody in the mainstream media really believed it was still a horse race there, Barack Obama beats Mother Hillary in Wisconsin. MSNBC called it about 15 minutes ago.
Oh, and Grumpy Old John McCain just gave another snoozer of a speech after his win in Wis., including the zinger! (not) line about "eloquent but empty calls for change" and a "holiday from history", and some other crap about cutting corporate income tax rates and hiding under the bed from al-Qaida.
9:30 - Hillary is about to speak from Ohio.
9:40 - Oh no he di'ent! Barack just stepped all OVER Hillary Clinton's speech! Cut her off in mid-substance over speeches-sentence! Damn! As Olbermann said, the civility of this campaign has officially ended.
9:45 - Exit polls courtesy of CNN show that the number one thing on voters minds, Howard Wolfson, was plagiarismexperiencecommander-in-chiefing oh, right, change.
Voting is under way in Wisconsin and Hawaii (and in Washington State for the Republicans). The Clinton camp is lowering expectations for Wisconsin, but truth be told, they'd really like to have a win there. Anything to give Howard Wolfson something to talk about other than Barack's supposed pilfering of some of the most famous phrases in American history ... (somebody alert David Letterman -- that skit he does with Bush quotes begins with some of the same clips Barack borrowed. Better start crediting Deval Patrick...)
Also today, Texas begins early voting. And that's important, because it means the results from tonight will begin reverberating in that crucial state immediately. Keep an eye on Houston and Dallas, where large concentrations of African-Americans could weigh heavily on the outcome on March 4th.
Now to the polls:
Here's how it's looking for Hillary and Barack today:
In Wisconsin, throwing out the Valentine's Day and earlier polls:
Public Policy Polling (2/16-17) Obama - 53% Clinton 40 Undecided 7
ARG has un updated poll that shows definite movement toward Obama:
On the GOP side, ARG shows Romney's support going almost wholesale to McCain:
...which should be music to the ears of the Senator from Angryville Arizona.
On to Texas: the latest CNN poll has some troubling news for Camp Clinton: there's movement in the Longhorn State, and it's in Barack Obama's direction:
CNN / Opinion Research Corporation Date: 2/15-17 Texas Added: 2/18/08 Est. MoE = 4.3% [?]
Okay, so the Clinton campaign is really headed off the rails. Now, they're accusing Barack Obama of plagiarism ... yes, plagiarism, for grouping a series of famous quotes in a similar manner to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick -- a friend of Barack's who has already laughed off the charges. Come on, people (the preceding is hereby attributed to Dr. Bill Cosby, who has a book out now, entitled "Come on, People: On the Path from Victims to Victors," so as to avoid any charges of plagiarism or the associated taint of said charges...) As one commenter on JSOnline put it:
So who is Obama supposedly plaigarizing? Kennedy or Patrick? King? Roosevelt?
OK, he grouped them similarly to Patrick . . . what would Obama's appropriate attribution be? "These statements have been previously grouped by Patrick"
No one will think about this in August or November. Pretty lightweight.
Lightweight isn't the half of it. This is pure desperation, flailing, and a clear sign that Camp Clinton had no game plan for a close race that lasted longer than February 5th. I really like ... getting toward liked ... the Clintons, and have supported them through thick and thin. If Barack wasn't in the race, I'd be a Hillary voter. But damn, girl, get a grip! This is almost as weak as Tavis Smiley continuing to whinge about Barack not going to his State of the Black Union event in Louisiana ... after Barack has already won Louisiana and with Texas and Ohio looming so large in his electoral game plan!
Jeez. Talk about a country in need of change. If we can just rise above the pettiness of this campaign, that would be change enough for me.
Meanwhile, the other desperados on the wide open plain -- the Republicans -- have finally begun to map out a strategy for how to get their broken down old geezer ... I mean their candidate ... John McCain, over the hills of Zion to beat the Democratic Messiah. Their masterful plan has five points:
The first called for pointing out what the GOP views as a seeming incongruity between Obama and the mantle of commander in chief. The second point harkened back to Obama’s days in the Illinois state Senate, noting how his “pattern of voting ‘present’ offers many openings to question his candidacy.” The third offered hope to the GOP faithful that “we can be confident in a campaign about issues.” A fourth bullet point relayed how “undisciplined messaging carries great risk,” while the fifth and final attack point stressed, “His greatest weakness is inexperience. He is not ready to be commander in chief. He is not ready to be president.”
In other words, they'll do the same thing Hillary Clinton is doing only with an old white dude ... and plus it'll actually work ... (ahem)
You know, all these Obama haters are beginning to bore me. I think I'll go back to worshipping my Obama poster now.
I caught Chris Matthews typically blunt performance on Morning Joe this morning, and thought that, this time, the all-time number one Clinton Hater had it about right. In the wake of the Get Shuster campaign (otherwise known as Pimpgate,) the Clintons showed a disturbing tendency to try and intimidate the press, something we've come to expect from George W. Bush, but which looks really bad on a Democrat. The Huffpo's Sam Stein caught it too:
"What she has to do is get rid of the kneecapers that work for her, these press people whose main job seems to be punishing Obama or going after the press, to building a positive case for her," said Matthews. "Her campaign slogan right now is don't get your hopes up. That won't work in America. You can't diminish Obama and hope that you will rise from the ashes."
Asked why he believed Clinton had gone negative, Matthews again struck an antagonistic chord about the campaign's media operation.
"The kneecapping hasn't worked. Her press relations are lousy," he said. "If all you do is intimidate and punish and claim you'll get even relentlessly, people of all kinds of politicians -- and in all fairness, the press -- human reaction to intimidation is screw you. That's the human reaction. Don't tell me what to say, and that has been their whole policy. We're going to win this thing. Get out of the way."
During the same segment, my man Pat Buchanan counseled Hillary to "go negative or go home," to which Matthews countered, people don't vote for negative; they don't vote against optimism. He's right. Hillary's campaign has to strike a more positive, uplifting tone if she hopes to dig her way out of the hole. That said, I'm not sure she can dig her way out of the hole, and if the buzz that her camp is willing to screw the popular vote AND the pledged delegate count and try to win it in the brokerage rooms at the convention, then she has a very rude awakening coming. If she wins this thing in any way other than by getting more votes, she will lose sufficient support to guarantee the presidency to John McCain.
By the way, David Shuster's return now has a date attached: February 22nd, at which time he will have served a suspension of two weeks.
Okay, now I've got a few, and none of them are in the Senate.
President Bush says he will veto any FISA reform bill that doesn't give immunity from lawsuits to the telecom companies who helped his administration illegally spy on Americans. (Placing the government's national security aparatus in the service of big business: priceless... using fearmongering to do it? Bush.) Well, go ahead, Dubya, delay that trip to Africa, veto the bill, see if anybody who matters cares.
On Thursday, February 14th, Valentine's Day 2008, finally someone had the balls to stand up to this maniac. From Wired News:
House Democrats Stand Up To Bush, Refuse to Rubber Stamp Domestic Spying
The Protect America Act, a temporary but expansive warrantless spying bill passed by Congress last summer, will likely expire Saturday at midnight, a casualty of a battle between President Bush and House Democrats over amnesty for phone companies that aided his secret, warrantless spying program and how much of that program should be legalized. The House leadership announced there will be no more votes before the long President's Day legislative break.
The bill's expiration is largely symbolic, but demonstrates that House Democrats are willing to fight Bush on anti-terrorism policies, where fear-mongering rhetoric had previously cowed their opposition.
Though Republicans charge that the expiration will endanger national security, no wiretaps or dragnets will be forced to stop and the government will retain longstanding surveillance powers.
Additionally, any broad domestic surveillance of emails and phone calls started under the expiring act can continue for another year, and new targets can be added such programs without getting a court order.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-California) laid the blame for expiration at the White House's door and said the House wanted extra time to protect Americans' rights.
"We are committed to protecting the American people and protecting the constitution," Pelosi said. "We will continue to work with the Senate to produce a [Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act] bill that does both."
The Protect America Act, passed in August last year, was a temporary measure enacted after a secret spying court ruled that the president's spying was illegal. That secret ruling came just months after Bush bowed to political pressure and submitted the program to the court more than a year after the New York Times exposed its existence.
On Wednesday, House Democrats attempted to pass a three-week extension to give it time to work out a compromise bill with the Senate. The Senate bill, passed by a wide, bi-partisan margin on Tuesday, is far more Administration- and telecom-friendly than the House's bill.
But Bush threatened to veto any extension to the temporary measure, a move clearly intended to push the House to adopt the Senate version verbatim. House Republicans, joined by conservative Democrats and a handful of anti-warrantless wiretapping liberal, voted down that extension Wednesday. ...
This comes after the Senate capitulated to the president, voting down Chris Dodd's attempt to strip telco immunity from its bill, and then approving a monstrosity of a FISA reform act that essentially gives this weakest of presidents -- this total lame duck -- everything he wants. How this guy can continue to run over Senate Democrats at this stage of his undress is beyond me. I'm starting to wonder if his domestic spying started, and perhaps ended, with Senate Democrats...
But the biggest theatrics of the day came from House Republicans, who threw a tantrum after their colleagues refused to kiss the backside of the president one more 'gain and walked out of the chamber (to waiting microphones, of course...) Someone get John Boehner a tissue...
I've often wanted to ask a white person if it bothers them when this sort of thing occurs, or is it a blunt statement of truth that should be unremarkable, even in 2008... from Tony Norman of the Pittsburgh Post Gazette (with a hat tip to the CarpetBagger Report):
Gov. Ed “Don’t Call Me ‘Fast Eddie’ ” Rendell met with the editorial board of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week to talk about his latest budget. But before turning the meeting over to his number-crunchers, our voluble governor weighed in on the primary fight between Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama and what the Illinois senator could expect from the good people of Pennsylvania at the polls:
“You’ve got conservative whites here, and I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate,” he said bluntly. Our eyes only met briefly, perhaps because the governor wanted to spare the only black guy in the room from feeling self-conscious for backing an obvious loser. “I believe, looking at the returns in my election, that had Lynn Swann [2006 Republican gubernatorial candidate] been the identical candidate that he was — well-spoken [note: Mr. Rendell did not call the brother “articulate”], charismatic, good-looking — but white instead of black, instead of winning by 22 points, I would have won by 17 or so.”
I know I have a habit of sometimes zoning out in these meetings, but it sounded to me like Mr. Rendell had unilaterally declared Pennsylvania to be Alabama circa 1963. Was he suggesting that Pennsylvanians are uniquely racist in ways that folks in the states Mr. Obama has won so far aren’t?
Similar things are said by Black people, oh, like every day (along with the statement "I hope Barack doesn't win because somebody's gonna kill him.") When I hear it, I usually dismiss it as the old fashioned thinking of someone who doesn't know anyone from the MTV generation. But of course, I could be wrong. Hell, a year ago, I thought Hillary Clinton was unbeatable...
The point, however, is that this race is shifting, and in some ways tossing out, all of the old paradigms. Exit polls suggest that Barack Obama may be taking about 48 percent of the White vote, a plurality of the blue collar vote, plus 70 percent of Independents and almost all of the Republicans who crossed over. If Barack CAN win so-called "downscale whites" after all, then the Rendell statement may be true, but it may be less true today than it was, say, ten or twenty or thirty years ago.
If it is less true, I think part of the reason may be that white men in particular, especially those in the cities and suburbs, have acclimatized themselves to Black men -- on the job, in the gym, on ESPN, on the athletic field, and in other facets of every day life. In fact, in some ways, a Black man like Barack, who is accessible and not overtly "racial," is probably more acceptable in some blue collar white households than a feminist woman (especially one who is running a more and more explicitly "female" campaign.) From ABC News:
In the Democratic contest in Virginia, preliminary exit poll results indicated that Obama not only won 9 in 10 African-Americans, but split white voters with Hillary Clinton. That came on the strength of his support from white men, who favored him by more than a 10-point margin. Obama has won or tied Clinton among white men in 12 previous contests for which we have exit poll results, and in seven of them, won the race. (The four he lost include California and Arizona, where Hispanics made the difference for Clinton. In Virginia, Hispanic voters were far fewer in number.)
Why do Democrats divide up their delegates proportionally, rather than awarding them in "winner take all" fashion, like the Republicans? I heard this one tonight on "The Tim Russert Show" so I can't take credit (the reporter was ... damn, can't remember ... not Roger Simon, not Dan Balz, not David Brooks ... the other guy who was on with them...) but The Explainer can:
Today's system for picking delegates didn't emerge until the last few decades. For much of the 20th century, delegates were selected through a mix of state primaries, caucuses, and internal party decisions. Then, in 1968, Hubert Humphrey won the presidential nomination over Eugene McCarthy even though McCarthy had received the largest share of votes in the primaries.* A huge outcry followed, and eventually a commission led by George McGovern established rules calling for Democratic delegates to be selected in open primaries. The Republican Party later adopted similar rules.
The rules changed again after Jesse Jackson charged in 1988 that he would have won more delegates if the party had divvied up delegates in proportion to the votes he received. In 1992, the Democratic Party instituted rules for proportional distribution of delegates in all states.
Thanks, Jesse... No, actually it's a fascinating history that speaks to the party's ongoing struggle with how to pick a candidate without back room engineering by the bosses, and it presages what could be our generation's version of the convention floor fight. Let's enter the wayback machine, and go back to the New York Times, circa May, 1988:
In a move that sets the stage for a potential fight over delegates at the Democratic National Convention, the Rev. Jesse Jackson's campaign plans to send a letter to Gov. Michael S. Dukakis charging that the nomination process is ''inequitable,'' ''demonstrably unfair'' and ''distorted by rules that favor insider politics.''
The letter, which is to be released Wednesday, is the first detailed account by the Jackson campaign about what it considers unfair party rules. A copy of a report to be attached to the letter was made available today to The New York Times.
The letter, which will also be sent to Paul G. Kirk Jr., the Democratic national chairman, was signed by Willie Brown, the California Assembly leader who is chairman of the Jackson campaign, Walter Fauntroy, the nonvoting Congressional delegate from the District of Columbia who is co-chairman of the campaign's delegate effort, and Steve Cobble, who runs the day-to-day delegate operations.
Calling the Massachusetts Governor's delegate lead over Mr. Jackson ''unproportional'' to their popular vote, the report says Mr. Dukakis has 61 percent more delegates than Mr. Jackson but only 27 percent more popular votes. CBS Delegate Count Cited
By removing party ''inequities,'' the Jackson campaign document says, ''over half of Michael Dukakis's delegate lead disappears.'' The campaign's frame of reference is a delegate count by CBS News on May 6 in which Mr. Dukakis had 1,485 delegates and Mr. Jackson 923. The number of Democratic delegates needed for nomination is 2,081.
Today, while campaigning in San Diego, Mr. Jackson disclosed that he was planning to visit Mexico sometime before the California primary on June 7 to discuss the narcotics and debt issues and United States-Mexico relations.
Aides to Mr. Jackson said the Presidential candidate had made no decision yet on whether he would formally challenge the party's rules and practices at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta on July 18-21.
Today, we're actually looking at a situation where a floor fight could still occur -- a situation where Barack Obama could go into the convention with more pledged delegates and still lose the nomination, or he could have more, but Hillary could push for the seating of Michigan and Florida -- in which case, do Black voters in those states want the delegates seated or unseated ...??? The possibilities are endlessly fascinating.
Oh, and one more piece of history: about that Jesse Jackson speech in '88 (the first presidential election I was able to vote in...) The prime time address, along with the proportional voting rules, were part of the price of keeping Jackson in the fold for the election, in which Michael Dukakis faced George Herbert Walker Bush. Here's a clip:
The only time that we win is when we come together. In 1960, John Kennedy, the late John Kennedy, beat Richard Nixon by only a hundred and twelve thousand votes - less than one vote per precinct. He won by the margin of our hope. He brought us together. He reached out. He had the courage to defy his advisors and inquire about Dr. King's jailing in Albany, Georgia. We won by the margin of our hope, inspired by courageous leadership. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson brought both wings together - the thesis, the antithesis, and the creative synthesis - and together we won. In 1976, Jimmy Carter unified us again, and we won. When we do not come together, we never win. In 1968, the vision and despair in July led to our defeat in November. In 1980, rancor in the spring and the summer led to Reagan in the fall. When we divide, we cannot win. We must find common ground as the basis for survival and development and change and growth.
Update 2: What is the message in John McCain's 1) failure to see major turnout for what was supposed to be his victory march to the nomination in tonight's caucuses and primaries... and 2) big losses to Mike Huckabee in Louisiana and especially in Kansas, where he blew Baghdad John out? (Not to mention his failure to do better than a quarter of the Republican vote in Washington state, where he marched to a three-way tie with Huckabee and Ron Paul???) Is it GOP buyers remorse? The natural effect of the absense of Mitt, and proof that his voters will not go McCain's way? Revenge of the Dittoheads? (Oh yeah, wingers don't like Huckabee, either... but perhaps any port in a storm...?) Or is it that McCain inspires nothing so much as total ambivalence or apathy from voters in his own party? Damn, John, man does not win the White House with Independents alone. You've got to turn out some Republicans somewhere along the line...
Today's action for the Democratic Duo are in Washington state, Louisiana, Kansas, Nebraska and the Virgin Islands, where my friends Ludlow and Colleen will be casting ballots.
Meanwhile, Mike Huckabee tries to hang on (to his media coverage...) and John McCain faces a new problem: if the conservatives give up on fighting him, and Huckabee finally goes off the TV chat shows, how does he keep the Republican electorate from completely checking out in the long months to come before the convention (while Democrats remain engaged due to the drawn out Hil-Obama brawl.)
Five caucuses and primaries on tap for this weekend, including Louisiana and Washington State (more detail here). Meanwhile, DNC committee member (and chair of its Voting Rights Institute) Donna Brazille says she'll quit the party if the super delegates (she's one, too, btw...) decide the nomination. Funny, she didn't have a problem disenfrancising Florida ... that said, I agree with her on the quitting thing. If the super D's hand it to Hillary after Barack fights her to a draw, I'll quit the party, too...
Meanwhile, most DUers say, go, Donna ... no I really mean go...
TIME's Michael Duffy lays out the reasons why Hillary and Obama could run together -- and, perhaps more compellingly -- the reasons why they won't:
...as long as Obama has a real shot at the top spot, there's no need to entertain the Veep talk. As a top Obama aide said, "That's not where this campaign's head is at." Instead, the Obama camp had been expecting the Veep proffer for weeks, just as it had expected the Clinton campaign to play the race card after New Hampshire. Obama headquarters was fully aware that the Clintons had badly overplayed their hand in the days leading up to South Carolina--so badly that Bill or Hillary would have to make some peace offering to Obama's supporters, if not to Obama himself, to heal the breach. But forgiveness, while long a staple of the Clinton narrative, isn't something the Obama team is ready to embrace. An Obama adviser put it this way: "One could argue that the Senator should not even agree to discuss an offer of the vice presidency until Senator Clinton agrees to bar her husband from the West Wing for the duration of the first term. And then once she agrees to that, he should turn it down."
More to the point, is the job of Vice President to a Clinton worth having? Al Gore learned that being No. 2 to Bill was really more like being No. 3 after you factored in Hillary, who had an office in the West Wing and a larger suite of rooms down the hall from the Veep in the Old Executive Office Building. Gore watched his priorities often take a backseat to hers in the first term--and his future run aground as they fought successfully to avoid impeachment and conviction. While she joked with David Letterman on his show that there is no doubt "who wears the pantsuits" in her house, there is little doubt that the Clintons intend to work as a team if Hillary is elected. "I'll be there, talking her through everything," Bill said in Napa Valley, Calif., last month, "like she did with me." One unaligned party wise man said, "Obama may look at the Clintons, at both of them--at that whole thing they have--and say, 'Jeez, that's just way too [messed] up to be a part of. That's just no place I want to be.'"
If Obama becomes the nominee, the arguments against teaming with the Clintons might be even stronger.Obama's defining issue in the race is not health care or the economy or even the war, where he is most distinct from his rival. It's about being new and different and not from the past; in short, about not being a Clinton. For months he has attacked Clinton for taking money from lobbyists, for flimflamming voters on her war votes and for playing race and gender cards when she fell behind. To reverse all that and join forces with the Clintons would be seen as a huge betrayal of his most galvanizing argument--as well as his character--by many of his followers. The numbers back this up. In TIME's poll, 58% of Clinton backers favor bringing Obama onto the ticket; nearly the same percentage (56%) of Obama supporters favor choosing someone else.
I have said for nearly a year that there's no reason why a Clinton-Obama ticket couldn't win the White House. I never bought the argument, made by many African-Americans, that the country wouldn't stand for a ticket containing both a woman and a Black man. I think the electorate -- most of it, anyway -- has gotten past that.
But now, I'm thinking that even if they could, Barack shouldn't entertain it. The funadmental logic of his campaign argues against teaming with the Clintons, whom he has defined during the race as representing the "old politics." If he joins her ticket, he is capitulating to that politics, and he loses his basic appeal. Whatever Clinton supporters may want, or need, after the primary, Barack would do better to walk away, Reagan in 1976 style, and try again in 2012 (particularly since Hillary might very well lose to John McCain). Or, he could run as an In...
I've been saying for some time, and interviewed Rep. Alcee Hastings on the subject, and he agreed, that even Howard Dean wouldn't be crazy enough to deny the delegation from Florida seats at this summer's Democratic convention. The ensuing floor fight would make "Burn, Hollywood, Burn" sound like the booty dance ... okay that didn't make sense...
But now, HoDo is floating another possibility to get himself out of this mess he's gotten himself into with dissing freaking FLORIDA...
Let us (and Michigan) do it again. Explanation below:
The states have two options. They can petition a party committee to reinstate the delegates, a decision that would go also before all of the delegates at the Democratic convention in August. Or the two states can, in essence, vote anew, by holding caucuses this spring and assigning the delegates to the winner.
Mrs. Clinton won the Florida and Michigan primaries, though she and her rivals did not actively campaign in either. Her camp is eager to hold onto the victories and fight for the delegates to be seated. What is more, Mrs. Clinton’s track record with caucuses is poor. Of the nine held so far, she has won one (Nevada) and Mr. Obama has won eight.
Some Democrats in Michigan have begun saying that the national party is pressuring them to hold a caucus, but party officials deny that.
Dean isn't commenting, and at first blush, you wouldn't think Team Obama would want to give it a go. But consider this: if Florida were to hold a caucus, it would be a contest in which Mrs. Clinton would no long have the advantage of all those absentee ballots and early votes. And in the match-up on January 29, that's where she clobbered Barack. On the day of the election, as in many other states, he was mad competitive...
For example, take Miami-Dade County -- here are the percentages:
Early Vote %
Election Day %
As you can see, Hillary's advantage was decided in the absentee and early vote -- nearly two to one, but on election day ... Barack came within 5 points of her.
That's why Barack's people should support a re-do...
Hillary Clinton announces she's loaned herself $5 million of "her money" (what, not hers and Bills...???) a-la John Kerry back in 2004, and her senior staff forgoes their paychecks (a-la Rudy) ... then she promptly raises $3 million from online sympathizers (a-la ... Howard Dean...?) Team Obama, meanwhile, does what it does best -- raising more money than Hillary does, ($7.2 million and counting...) which in political terms, is akin to raising more money than God (assuming that God has 50% maxed-out contributors...)
Why it's important:
February is looking to be a good month for Barack Obama, with primaries tailor made for his new kind of politics: in Louisiana, where the Black vote is large and Hurricane Katrina chased away all but the well heeled (both of which form the Obama base,) in the D.C. area primaries (D.C., Maryland and Virginia,) where again, it's heavy on Black voters and upscale voters, including Capitol Hill denizens who likely still hate the Clintons from back in the day, and smaller primaries in Hawaii (Obama's birthplace) and Wisconsin, and caucuses (i.e, in Washington State) that have become Obama's specialty. (Howard Fineman offers more explication here. And I know I keep doing this, but here's the Democratic calendar again, just so you don't have to scroll...):
February 9: Louisiana, Washington (caucus)
February 10: Maine (caucus)
February 12: District of Columbia, Maryland, Virginia
February 19: Hawaii, Wisconsin
March 4: Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont
March 8: Wyoming
March 11: Mississippi
April 22: Pennsylvania
May 6: Indiana, North Carolina
May 13: Nebraska, West Virginia
May 20: Kentucky, Oregon
May 27: Idaho
June 3: Montana, South Dakota
What Hillary needs is to fundraise like hell, so that she'll be ready to fire when the primaries that favor her come back around: Ohio and Texas in March, and the big one: Philadelphia (with the Rendel machine that's ready to work for her) in April. Like Rudy Giuliani, Hillary will have to withstand nearly a month of "Obama wins!" headlines, if the tea leaves are to be believed (this time) before she gets another Romneyesque "gold." She can't afford to let the money flush Obama campaign run away with all the TV and radio time, AND all the free media, too.
Look for your celeb-laden fundraising emails to about triple over the next 30 days...
NBC calling Arizona for Hillary ... Missouri razor thin
...but I think Hillary will squeak it out, by one percentage point. That means she and Barack will split those delegates. Not a bad look for Obama.
California is still too close to call on both sides. Mitt must win the state to stay viable. If he doesn't, I don't see how he justifies staying in the race. Anyhoo, looks like he will also come out of the night with Minnesota (already called for him,) Colorado and Montana.