Tens of thousands of people have again taken to the streets in Iran's capital Tehran in protest at election results. It follows a call by presidential challenger Mir Hossein Mousavi for further peaceful demonstrations.
An even larger protest is expected on Thursday, which Mr Mousavi says should be a day of mourning for the eight people killed after Monday's protest. ...
... Heavy restrictions have been placed on the BBC and other foreign news organisations. Reporters are not allowed to cover unauthorised gatherings or move around freely in Tehran - but there are no controls over what they can write or say. Opposition demonstrations gathered in force in central Tehran on Wednesday afternoon.
The BBC's Jon Leyne in the capital says it is difficult to verify the numbers attending. Some estimates say between 70,000 and 100,000, others up to 500,000.
The march was reported to be in silence to try to avoid provoking the authorities.
Meanwhile the BBC has amazing video of an amazing green wristband protest by members of the Iranian soccer team that in some ways, recalled the protests by Black athletes at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, though clearly, the soccer team members who did this protest are taking considerably greater risk with their lives... Watch:
Al Jazeera reports the Iranian interior ministry is cracking down on bloggers, and preparing to investigate an attack on university students. In fact, bloggers have been ordered to remove any offending posts.
Al Jazeera also plays up President Obama's comments about similarities between Mousavi and Ahmadinejad, which seem to be having the desired effect in Tehran:
The Revolutionary Guard has warned the country's online media it will face legal action if it "creates tensions".
Within the country, mobile phone text services have been down since the election. There is no access to Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.
The interior ministry has ordered an investigation into an attack on university students in which it is claimed four people were killed.
At least seven people have been killed in recent clashes between the authorities and the opposition movement, according to state media reports, while hundreds more are thought to have been injured.
For its part, the foreign ministry summoned the Swiss ambassador, who represents US interests in Tehran, on Wednesday to protest at "interventionist" US statements on Iran's election.
Obama told CNBC there appeared to be little difference in policy between Ahmadinejad and Mousavi.
"Either way we are going to be dealing with an Iranian regime that has historically been hostile to the United States," he said.
So is Mousavi different? Christian Amanpour and Richard Engel, the two best American reporters on the case in my view, both say yes, on domestic issues, and increasingly as the revolution goes on. But his history is one of a hardliner, and an establishment figure. More on Mousavi here and here. One interesting note: Mousavi was prime minister when the current Ayatollah, Mr. Khomeini, was president. Hm... apparently, Khomeini isn't wild about the idea of having an Iranian president who is his peer...
The fate of Iran rested last night in a grubby north Tehran highway interchange called Vanak Square where – after days of violence – supporters of the official President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at last confronted the screaming, angry Iranians who have decided that Mirhossein Mousavi should be the president of their country. Unbelievably – and I am a witness because I stood beside them – just 400 Iranian special forces police were keeping these two armies apart. There were stones and tear gas but for the first time in this epic crisis the cops promised to protect both sides.
"Please, please, keep the Basiji from us," one middle-aged lady pleaded with a special forces officer in flak jacket and helmet as the Islamic Republic's thug-like militia appeared in their camouflage trousers and purity-white shirts only a few metres away. The cop smiled at her. "With God's help," he said. Two other policemen were lifted shoulder-high. "Tashakor, tashakor," – "thank you, thank you" – the crowd roared at them.
This was phenomenal. The armed special forces of the Islamic Republic, hitherto always allies of the Basiji, were prepared for once, it seemed, to protect all Iranians, not just Ahmadinejad's henchmen. The precedent for this sudden neutrality is known to everyone – it was when the Shah's army refused to fire on the millions of demonstrators demanding his overthrow in 1979.
Yet this is not a revolution to overthrow the Islamic Republic. Both sets of demonstrators were shouting "Allahu Akbar" – "God is Great" – at Vanak Square last night. But if the Iranian security forces are now taking the middle ground, then Ahmadinejad is truly in trouble.
"On this issue, I do not believe that the president is taking a leadership that is incumbent upon an American president, which we have throughout modern history, and that is to advocate for human rights and freedom — and free elections are one of those fundamentals," the Arizona Republican told John Roberts on CNN's American Morning.
President Obama Tuesday said that he has deep concerns over the election results in Iran, but stressed that "it's not productive, given the history of U.S.-Iranian relations, to be seen as meddling, the U.S. president meddling in Iranian elections."
McCain disputed that assessment. "We're not meddling in any country's affairs when we call for free and fair elections and the ability of people to exercise their human rights," he said Monday. "And when they disagree with a flawed or corrupt election, as the Iranian people have, [not] to be beaten and even killed in the streets."
To which one astute commentator replied (with link added by me):
Yes, McCain, lets do get more involved. Shall we bomb, bomb, bomb Iran? Shall we tell Ayatolla what we want him to do, and then if he refuses, what, blame President Obama for not being forceful enough? Win win either way, right?
..paradoxically, it seems that from Israel's point of view the victory of incumbent President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is actually preferable. Not only because "better the devil you know," but because the victory of the pro-reform candidate will paste an attractive mask on the face of Iranian nuclear ambitions...
... Ahmadinejad, with his Holocaust denial and his long series of provocations, drew most of the attention, but apparently had less influence on the nuclear program. There are even senior members of the Israeli defense establishment who share the public stance of former Mossad chief Ephraim Halevy, who claimed that the Iranian president's behavior, perceived in the West as quasi-lunatic, advanced Israel's security interests.
In case you missed it: Crist comfortably ahead in Florida, so far
The righties may not like it, but Charlie Crist still looks like a pretty good bet for Florida's GOP Senate nomination. A June 10 Quinnipiac poll finds him way ahead of Marco Rubio, and far ahead of Kendrick Meek in a general election match-up to boot. The same polls show Florida's political Don Quixote, Bill McCollum, surprisingly close of the less well known Alex Sink for governor, but the undecided in that race is a whopping 30 percent, meaning it's probably Sink who has more room to grow. The Qinnipiac poll finds that Crist's popularity is holding up, and even exceeds that of the president:
Gov. Charlie Crist swamps former Florida House speaker Marco Rubio 54 - 23 percent in the 2010 Republican primary for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Mel Martinez, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.
Kendrick Meek, a Congressman from South Florida, leads the field for the Democratic Senate nomination with 18 percent, followed by two other members of Florida's congressional delegation, Corrine Brown with 12 percent and Ron Klein with 8 percent. But 57 percent of voters say they don't yet have a candidate in the race, according to the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University survey.
President Barack Obama remains very popular in the state of Florida with a 58 - 35 percent job approval rating. That compares to the less than 52 percent he received in Florida last November.
Obama's job approval rating, however, trails that of Gov. Crist, whose strength across the political spectrum would make him a difficult candidate to beat in a general election for the U.S. Senate. Crist has a 62 - 28 percent job approval rating overall, including a 59 - 30 percent thumbs-up from Democrats.
"Marco Rubio says there are many Florida Republicans who don't want Charlie Crist in the U.S. Senate. Depending on how you define the word 'many,' he might be correct. Unfortunately for Rubio at this stage, many, many, many more favor Crist," said Peter Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute.
For Meek, the big news is that no one really knows him or his current Democratic opponents (which is why he's doing that statewide petition drive.) Says Qpac:
While Meek is slightly ahead in a Democratic Senate primary, 80 percent of voters statewide, including 74 percent of Democrats, don't know enough about him to form an opinion. Brown and Klein do no better.
Meanwhile Quinnipiac finds Alex Sink slightly ahead of McCollum, 38 to 34 percent:
Sink leads 72-11 among Democrats, while McCollum leads 72-5 among Republicans and 32-27 among independents.
Eleven percent of voters said that the possibility of Sink being Florida's first female governor makes them more likely to vote for her. Eighty-one percent said it didn't matter.
... or did they? ... Much like Bush's court-appointed victory in 2000, and his Ohio-tainted win in 2004, the opposition begs to differ with the result. From the Independent UK:
Supporters of the main election challenger to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad clashed with police and set up barricades of burning tires today as authorities declared the hard-line president was re-elected in a landslide. Opponents responded with the most serious unrest in the capital in a decade and charges that the result was the work of a "dictatorship."
Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, closed the door on any chance he could use his limitless powers to intervene in the disputes from Friday's election. In a message on state TV, he urged the nation to unite behind Ahmadinejad, calling the result a "divine assessment."
But Ahmadinejad's main challenger, Mir Hossein Mousavi, has rejected the result as rigged and urged his supporters to resist a government of "lies and dictatorship."
The clashes in central Tehran were the more serious disturbances in the capital since student-led protests in 1999 and showed the potential for the showdown over the vote to spill over into further violence and challenges to the Islamic establishment.
Several hundred demonstrators — many wearing the trademark green colors of Mousavi's campaign — chanted "the government lied to the people" and gathered near the Interior Ministry as the final count was announced. It gave 62.6 percent of the vote to Ahmadinejad and 33.75 to Mousavi, who served as prime minister in the 1980s and has become the hero of a youth-driven movement seeking greater liberties and a gentler face for Iran abroad.
The turnout was a record 85 percent of Iran's 46.2 million eligible voters. Two other candidates received only a fraction of the vote.
Protesters set fire to tires outside the Interior Ministry and anti-riot police fought back with clubs and smashed cars. An Associated Press photographer saw a plainclothes security official beating a woman with his truncheon.
In another main street of Tehran, some 300 young people blocked the avenue by forming a human chain and chanted "Ahmadi, shame on you. Leave the government alone."
And there are signs that the government is responding to the "Green Movement" in what you might call "the Chinese fashion"...
It was even unclear how many Iranians were even aware of Mousavi's claims of fraud. Communications disruptions began in the later hours of voting Friday — suggesting an information clampdown. State television and radio only broadcast the Interior Ministry's vote count and not Mousavi's midnight press conference.
Nationwide, the text messaging system remained down Saturday and several pro-Mousavi Web sites were blocked or difficult to access. Text messaging is frequently used by many Iranians — especially young Mousavi supporters — to spread election news.
... Mousavi's backers were stunned at the Interior Ministry's results after widespread predictions of a close race — or even a slight edge to Mousavi.
"Many Iranians went to the people because they wanted to bring change. Almost everybody I know voted for Mousavi but Ahmadinejad is being declared the winner. The government announcement is nothing but widespread fraud. It is very, very disappointing. I'll never ever again vote in Iran," said Mousavi supporter Nasser Amiri, a hospital clerk in Tehran.
Bringing any showdown into the streets would certainly face a swift backlash from security forces. The political chief of the powerful Revolutionary Guard cautioned Wednesday it would crush any "revolution" against the Islamic regime by Mousavi's "green movement."
... Historic because Ahmadenijad is getting election results that are just about impossible to believe. I always thought he would probably win -- but nuance and subtlety are not skill sets of the regime's election rigging operation.
To be up front, I never thought that Mousavi's strategic policy course would differ substantively from his now unlikely predecessor Ahmadenijad -- but a change in optics and posture, which Mousavi would have offered, might have yielded significant new opportunities down the road.
Iran will be tied in knots now -- for a long time. What worries me about this is the tendency of Iran's leadership to generate external crises and international focal points to try and distract a frustrated citizenry and unify the nation.
Even before the results were in, Foreign Policy predicted that Iran 2009 could wind up like Florida 2000, and explained how Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is a lot like George W. Bush:
Lastly there is 52-year-old Ahmadinejad himself, who despite his profound mismanagement of the economy and foreign policy adventurism seemingly retains the support of the Supreme Leader. An Iranian Joe Six-pack who intertwines religion and populism and infuriates urban elites -- think Ayatollah Khomeini meets Sarah Palin -- Ahmadinejad's supporters are the Iranian equivalent of American evangelicals: a small percentage of the population with outsize political influence given their high voter turnout.
While his divine inspirations, lack of introspection, and polarizing rhetoric have frequently earned comparisons to George W. Bush, what's unclear is whether Ahmadinejad is the Bush of 2004 (who got the benefit of the doubt) or the Bush of 2008, whose legacy was shunned even by his own party. There are increasing signs of the latter.
Absent credible polling, however, Iran's political landscape is difficult to decipher. In elections past, much has been made of the gap between affluent-middle class North Tehran, and working class South Tehran. The real disparity, however, is between Tehran and a few other urban centers (Iran's blue states) and the rest of the country (Iran's red states). Just as Staten Island residents probably have more in common with Manhattanites than Alabamans, South Tehran residents tend to have more in common with north Tehranis than with their rural compatriots who don't have access to the Internet and satellite TV and rely on state television as their primary source of information. [Note: Think Fox News...]
Because the last two presidents in Iran -- Mohammed Khatami and Ahmadinejad -- were both surprises, seasoned observers are loath to make predictions this time around. Based on media coverage coming mostly out of the capital, Ahmadinejad is looking like Jimmy Carter in 1980. But the vote of the provinces, and the potential for fraud, are impossible to foresee.
Given the depth of polarization in Iran, the final results will likely be hotly contested by the losing side. Florida in 2000 could be most instructive. But while in America the memory of unelected elders in robes deciding the country's outlook was an historical anomaly, for Iranians it has been, and will likely continue to be, a way of life.
A banner ad right atop the Huffpo endorses Dan Gelber as the "progressive choice"(according to the folks at Down With Tyranny, anyway...) for Florida's soon-to-be-open Senate seat:
With all the ugliness and sleaze surrounding the appointments of new senators in Illinois and New York, and, to a somewhat lesser extent, Delaware and Colorado, it's refreshing to see Florida cranking up for a good old fashioned election-- you know, where voters decide who the senator should be. In the afterglow of McCain's loss in the Sunshine State (plus the loss of two GOP congressional incumbents, a state legislature that is turning less and less red every year, and some sketchy-looking polls) conservative Republican incumbent Mel Martinez decided to retire in 2010.
The first choices among party Insiders-- Jeb Bush for Repugs and Alex Sink for Democrats-- have passed on the opportunity. That leaves the race wide open for both party primaries. This morning the hopes of Florida progressives was answered when state Senator Dan Gelber tossed his hat into the ring.
Dan isn't well-known outside of Florida but he is far better known in his state than most local legislators. That's because until November-- when he was elected to the state Senate-- he was the Democratic Minority Leader of the state House. And a very outspoken one at that. Before that he worked as a federal prosecutor, mostly on corruption and civil rights cases. He worked in the U.S. Senate as the staff director of the Senate's Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations under Sam Nunn (D-GA).
It's very true that Gelber isn't that well known, and that Meek will have the advantage of Steve Hildebrand's turnout machine (which he used on behalf of Barack Obama in the recent election.) It remains to be seen if the Meek people can turn the Obama excitement into excitement for them. (Personally, I rather doubt that the Obama phenomenon can be recreated for anybody but Barack, but I'll wait and see how they roll it out. BTW check out the comments at the bottom of the DWT post. Brutal...) As for Gelber, he seems like a longshot to me, but then again, in a wide open race, a progressive candidate will have a shot. Another disadvantage though, he will be up against two major political machines: the Meek machine, and the Clinton machine. The former president was in town last week raising $300k for Kendrick. And the campaign, according to sources, hopes to raise more than $25 million for the run. Can Gelber match that with the help of the left end of the blogosphere? We shall see.
Wanna see something scary (if you're a Republican?) Check out this map (hat tip to Eric J at the Florida Dems.) It shows the 50 states in terms of party identification, including Independent "leaners," breaking the country down into "strong Democrat" -- Dem advantage of 10 points or more, "strong Republican" -- Republican advantage of 10 points or more, and all points in between. The findings are stark:
The small spot of red you see is the last remaining bastion of strong GOP party identification. It consists of just four states: Alaska (you betcha!) Wyoming (home of Dick Cheney's secret lair,) Utah and Idaho (where Larry Craig still "is not gay, never has been gay," and loves his wife.) Even Texas doesn't make the list, as it's becoming more Hispanic and therefore, more competitive. Now, look at the wide swaths of blue: it's clear that at least as of 2008, the country has gone solidly Dem. The Republicans are the kids nobody wants to eat lunch with. From Gallup, the outfit that released the findings:
All told, 29 states and the District of Columbia had Democratic party affiliation advantages of 10 points or greater last year. This includes all of the states in the Northeast, and all but Indiana in the Great Lakes region. There are even several Southern states in this grouping, including Arkansas, North Carolina, and Kentucky.
An additional six states had Democratic advantages ranging between 5 and 9 points.
In contrast, only five states had solid or leaning Republican orientations in 2008, with Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, and Alaska in the former group, and Nebraska in the latter.
The most balanced political states in 2008 were Texas (+2 Democratic), South Dakota (+1), Mississippi (+1), North Dakota (+1), South Carolina (even), Arizona (even), Alabama (+1 Republican), and Kansas (+2 Republican).
(Including Dem and Republican-leaning Indepdendents.) Note again: Texas -- not Reublican -- but rather balanced. Florida, meanwhile, shakes out as a blue state, with a 9% Democratic advantage -- identical to, get this: Virginia and Indiana. Wow. But the map has more to say: Democrats could and should, be winning even bigger:
Virginia, Florida, and Indiana (all with +9 Democratic partisanship advantages) are arguably the most impressive wins for Obama, since they were the least Democratic states he won. McCain managed to win West Virginia, which had a 19-point Democratic advantage, as well as three other solidly Democratic states -- Kentucky (+13), Arkansas (+12), and Missouri (+11). McCain also swept the states that had narrow Democratic advantages of less than five points.
The key factors in the Democratic McCain states, it's arguable, are race and turnout. If Democrats can get access to white Democratic voters in states like West Virginia and Arkansas, where the Democratic voters are probably really "Dixiecrats," they can own elections for a very long time.
Then-Sen. Lyndon Johnson (L) w. Sen. Everett Dirksen listening
intently during Johnson's Senate hearings, November 27, 1957
More proof that Thom Hartmann is running the most valuable show in talk radio. Today he played portions of White House tapes in which then-president Lyndon Johnson accused Richard Nixon, who would become the next president of the United States, of treason regarding the Vietnam war, and an incident eerily similar to an operation George W. Bush's father pulled off on behalf of Republican candidate Ronald Reagan 32 years later...
Just days before the pivotal 1968 presidential election featuring Vice President Hubert Humphrey's bid to succeed him, President Lyndon Baines Johnson suspected Humphrey's Republican opponent, Richard Nixon, of political sabotage that he called treason, according to the final recordings of Johnson's presidency to be publicly released.
As Johnson tried to arrange peace talks between North and South Vietnam on the eve of the election, he and his closest advisers received information indicating that Nixon allies had asked that South Vietnam avoid peace talks until after the election, the tapes show.
Johnson and his advisers, Humphrey included, kept their concerns secret at the time. But given that Nixon defeated Humphrey by just 500,000 votes out of 73 million cast and that Nixon's suspected perfidy involved the unpopular war in Vietnam, there is ample cause to wonder how history might have been changed had the concerns Johnson voiced 40 years ago been made public.
The LBJ Library made those conversations public Thursday with the release of 42 hours of recordings made from May 1968 until the Johnson family left the White House in January 1969. ...
With an election hanging in the balance, however, there is added drama in the flurry of calls in late October and early November concerning Johnson's attempt to bring the North and South Vietnamese governments together for the first time to discuss peace.
On March 31, under heavy pressure from the anti-war wing of his Democratic Party, Johnson shocked the American people by saying he would not run for re-election or accept his party's nomination. Instead, Johnson endorsed Humphrey, who inherited the warmonger label critics had hung on Johnson.
And the crescendo:
To test the good faith of the North Vietnamese, Johnson ordered that all bombing in the north cease on Oct. 31 , six days before voters were to go the polls. The cease-fire gave the Humphrey campaign an immediate jolt — polls showed Nixon's 8-percentage-point lead had shrunk to 2 points.
The precise nature of any communication between Nixon's allies and the South Vietnamese government isn't revealed in the tapes — nor is the way Johnson and his advisers learned of them.
In the tapes, Johnson tells Secretary of State Dean Rusk: "It's pretty obvious to me it's had its effect."
In a segment aired at the news conference, Johnson tells Sen. Everett Dirksen , the Republican minority leader, that it will be Nixon's responsibility if the South Vietnamese don't participate in the peace talks.
"This is treason," LBJ says to Dirksen.
"I know," Dirksen replies, very softly.
Confronting Nixon by telephone on Nov. 3, Johnson outlines what had been alleged and how important it was to the conduct of the war for Nixon's people not to meddle.
"My God," Nixon says to Johnson, "I would never do anything to encourage the South Vietnamese not to come to that conference table." Instead, Nixon pledged to help in any way Johnson or Rusk suggested, "To hell with the political credit, believe me."
For Johnson and his top advisers, it wasn't a matter of whether Nixon was telling the truth but whether accusing Nixon of meddling would give the appearance that Johnson — rather than Nixon — was using the war to influence the election.
In the end, the South Vietnamese stayed away from the proposed peace talks. And Johnson listened to his advisers and suggested to Humphrey that he not use what he had learned.
"For God's sake, you want everybody to know you don't play politics with human lives, that we did what's right," Johnson tells Rusk on one of the recordings.
In several of the recordings, Johnson wonders what will become of a Democratic Party so riven by the war that it would not unite behind Humphrey.
"I'm sorry I let you down a little," Humphrey tells Johnson.
"No, you didn't; no you didn't," Johnson replies. "A lot of other folks (did), not you. You fought well and hard."
The original audio can be found in several parts, dating from October 31, 1968 through the election, here (10/31/68), here (11/2), here, here (11/3)and here. The full lot of LBJ tapes is here. The conversations are mainly with Everett Dirksen, interestingly enough a Republican Senator from Illinois, for whom the Senate's main office building is named (and the man likely responsible for getting John McCain's father his possibly undeserved fourth star...) But there are also conversations with Nixon himself (in which he denies meddling in the peace talks) and one conference call with a reporter from the Christian Science Monitor, who got wind of the story and wondered why LBJ and Humphrey weren't going public with their suspicions.
Fast forward to the 1980 election, and guess what strategy the Republicans are reviving? U.S. hostage were released on the day Reagan took the oath of office, and his CIA director, Mr. Casey, wound up with a piece of his brain missing 48 hours before he was to testify about Iran Contra.
A more concise version of the LBJ Nixon "treason" audio:
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.
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.
Got a bit of the insomnia tonight ... er ... this morning, so here are a couple of things on the radar:
Reaction is beginning to bubble about Congressmen Debbie Wasserman-Shultz and Kendrick Meek refusing to get involved in three crucial Democratic House races this fall, because of their close relationships with the Republican incumbents.
First, congrats to Bret Berlin on winning the Dem chairmanship in Miami-Dade, and on speaking up (ditto NoMi Mayor Kevin Burns on the speaking up thing...) Second, I doubt that much will come of the temporary spurts of outrage, including on the part of the Miamiherald.com commenters. Miami-Dade County is not exactly known for civic upheaval (or for particular political courage.) It's more of a "status quo" kind of town, if you know what I mean ... all of the incumbents on both sides of the aisle will in all likelihood be handily, and lazily reelected, no Democrat will be punished by the voters, and the people will continue to bitch and moan and do absolutely nothing about anything, and when reelection time rolls around again, the whole, dismal cycle will be repeated. Sad to say it, but that's the way we roll down here in Flawrida.
Washington, DC – The Members of Florida’s Democratic Delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives issued the following statement regarding the seating of Florida’s delegates at the DNC National Convention this August.
“We are committed to working with the DNC, the Florida State Democratic party, our Democratic leaders in Florida, and our two candidates to reach an expedited solution that ensures our 210 delegates are seated.
“Our House delegation is opposed to a mail-in campaign or any redo of any kind.”
Now keep in mind that really, all six members of the South Florida delegation are Hillary Clinton supporters (the three Black Democrats are Hillary super delegates and the three Cuban-Americans are Republicans who I'm sure would rather run against La Bruja Clinton). So take their umbrage with a grain of salt. However, the last time I talked with people from the state party, they weren't exactly itching to do a re-vote either, and the folks I talked to were Obama supporters.
Whether there is ultimately a re-vote or not, look for the party, led by the stunningly weak Howard Dean, to work out some way to seat the Florida delegation. They'll have to. After the scorched earth mess the Clinton campaign is making of the primary, Dean can't afford to add a floor fight in Denver to his headaches.
The liaisons between Spitzer and a number of different prostitutes occurred around the country, including in Washington, D.C., and Florida, the sources said. For each encounter, Spitzer paid several thousand dollars, the sources said.
... The high-end service listed three prostitutes in Miami, which employees complained was not enough to guarantee availability for clients, according to snippets of wiretapped conversations filed in court documents.
Two of the women, who used the names Dorine and Michelle, met Feb. 2 in Miami with two men, including a repeat customer identified as "Client-5," according to court records.
Lewis told the client the fee for each woman would be $1,000 per hour or $3,600 for four hours, more if he paid with a credit card, records state.
And last but not least, Florida legislators are invited to win Ben Stein's ... creationism documentary? Only in the Sunshine State.
John McCain may not be a cheater ... on his wife ... but he may be less than pure when it comes to his signature issues: campaign finance reform and Puritan ethics vis a vis Washington lobbyists.
The FEC continues to stand in the way of McCain backing out of the public financing system he is chiding Barack Obama for not wanting to get into in the first place ... an interesting confluence of hypocrisy and irony.
And his campaign is packed with -- hell, it's run by -- none other than Washington lobbyists. ... Lots of them.
Last year, when McCain's campaign was starved for cash, he applied to join the financing system to gain access to millions of dollars in federal matching money. He was also permitted to use his FEC certification to bypass the time-consuming process of gathering signatures to get his name on the ballot in several states, including Ohio.
By signing up for matching money, McCain agreed to adhere to strict state-by-state spending limits and an overall limit on spending of $54 million for the primary season, which lasts until the party's nominating convention in September. The general election has a separate public financing arrangement.
But after McCain won a series of early contests and the campaign found its financial footing, his lawyer wrote to the FEC requesting to back out of the program -- which is permitted for candidates who have not yet received any federal money and who have not used the promise of federal funding as collateral for borrowing money.
Mason's letter raises two issues as the basis for his position. One is that the six-member commission lacks a quorum, with four vacancies because of a Senate deadlock over President Bush's nominees for the seats. Mason said the FEC would need to vote on McCain's request to leave the system, which is not possible without a quorum. Until that can happen, the candidate will have to remain within the system, he said.
The second issue is more complicated. It involves a $1 million loan McCain obtained from a Bethesda bank in January. The bank was worried about his ability to repay the loan if he exited the federal financing program and started to lose in the primary race. McCain promised the bank that, if that happened, he would reapply for matching money and offer those as collateral for the loan. While McCain's aides have argued that the campaign was careful to make sure that they technically complied with the rules, Mason indicated that the question needs further FEC review.
If the FEC refuses McCain's request to leave the system, his campaign could be bound by a potentially debilitating spending limit until he formally accepts his party's nomination. His campaign has already spent $49 million, federal reports show. Knowingly violating the spending limit is a criminal offense that could put McCain at risk of stiff fines and up to five years in prison.
The Mason in question is FEC chairman David Mason, a Republican who has sparred with McCain on many occasions. Analysts are saying, according to the Post, that McCain could wind up in the same spot as his friend Bob Dole, who was stuck in the public finance system in 1992, while Bill Clinton wasn't. And contrary to the signals out of the McCain camp, the campaign can't just ignore Mason.
"This is serious," agreed Republican election lawyer Jan Baran. Ignoring the matter on the grounds that the FEC lacks a quorum, Baran said, "is like saying you're going to break into houses because the sheriff is out of town."
For years, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has railed against lobbyists and the influence of "special interests" in Washington, touting on his campaign Web site his fight against "the 'revolving door' by which lawmakers and other influential officials leave their posts and become lobbyists for the special interests they have aided."
But when McCain huddled with his closest advisers at his rustic Arizona cabin last weekend to map out his presidential campaign, virtually every one was part of the Washington lobbying culture he has long decried. His campaign manager, Rick Davis, co-founded a lobbying firm whose clients have included Verizon and SBC Telecommunications. His chief political adviser, Charles R. Black Jr., is chairman of one of Washington's lobbying powerhouses, BKSH and Associates, which has represented AT&T, Alcoa, JPMorgan and U.S. Airways.
Senior advisers Steve Schmidt and Mark McKinnon work for firms that have lobbied for Land O' Lakes, UST Public Affairs, Dell and Fannie Mae.
McCain's relationship with lobbyists became an issue this week after it was reported that his aides asked Vicki Iseman, a telecom lobbyist, to distance herself from his 2000 presidential campaign because it would threaten McCain's reputation for independence. An angry and defiant McCain denounced the stories yesterday, declaring: "At no time have I ever done anything that would betray the public trust."
Even before McCain finished his news conference, uber-lobbyist Black made the rounds of television networks to defend McCain against charges that he has been tainted by his relationship with a lobbyist. Black's current clients include General Motors, United Technologies, JPMorgan and AT&T. ...
... McCain's reliance on lobbyists for key jobs -- both in the Senate and in his presidential campaign -- extends beyond his inner circle. McCain recently hired Mark Buse to be his Senate chief of staff. Buse led the Commerce Committee staff in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and was until last fall a lobbyist for ML Strategies, representing eBay, Goldman Sachs Group, Cablevision, Tenneco and Novartis Pharmaceuticals.
McCain's top fundraising official is former congressman Tom Loeffler (R-Tex.), who heads a lobbying law firm called the Loeffler Group. He has counseled the Saudis as well as Southwest Airlines, AT&T, Toyota and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.
Public Citizen, a group that monitors campaign fundraising, has found that McCain has more bundlers -- people who gather checks from networks of friends and associates -- from the lobbying community than any other presidential candidate from either party.
By the group's current count, McCain has at least 59 federal lobbyists raising money for his campaign, compared with 33 working for Republican Rudolph W. Giuliani and 19 working for Democrat Clinton.
"The potential harm is that should Senator McCain become elected, those people will have a very close relationship with the McCain White House," Sloan said. "[That] would be very helpful for their clients, and that would give them a leg up on everybody else."
According to NBC News (and its numbers guru Chuck Todd,) Barack Obama now leads Hillary Clinton by every numerical measure: with or without the superdelegates, in the popular vote, and (obviously) in the number of states won. He also cut deep into her democgraphics in the Potomac primaries, beating her among white men, blue collar workers, older voters, and even women, in addition to his base of black voters, the young and the upscale.
How MSNBC scores it:
On pledged delegates:
Obama - 1,078
Clinton - 969
Difference - 109
With the "super delegates" included (approximate and shifting):
In other words, no matter how you slice this thing, Obama is comfortably ahead. Hillary can't change the outcome by somehow convincing Howard Dean to count Michigan and/or Florida. And as Todd has said on MSNBC, she would have to win Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania with more than 60% of the vote in order to catch up to Barack, given that she will probably lose two more primaries next week, in Wisconsin and Hawaii. And as James Carville has said, if she loses either Texas or Ohio, "this thing is done."
And of course, winning those states assumes that voters in those states (and in Pennsylvania) have remained in a state of suspended animation since February 5th, completely unaware of the Obama juggernaut, and oblivious to all the free media he has received with his win after win after win...
So Hillary's game plan is to go negative in her latest TV ad, and to hit Barack for not having specific plans (McCain is trying the same theme, which I hate to tell you, was OUR theme back in 2004 when I was with ACT, trying to prevent the re-election of George W. Bush. It didn't work. Voters don't care about specific plans, no matter what they say. They vote for who they like, and in that rare election (1960, 1980, and possibly 2008) who inspires them.
Watching Sheila Jackson Lee tonight in her role as Hillary flak on MSNBC, and even watching the supposedly "neutral" Al Sharpton (he has never been an Obama fan, I'll just leave it at that...) I can't help feel a bit sorry for the Black Clinton surrogates and supporters. The elected officials and clergy who have backed her, on the basis of Bill, now look short sighted (or like haters). As John Conyers put it in an interview with TNR:
"To me, there's a historical consideration in this as well," Conyers says. "How in the world could I explain to people I fought for civil rights and equality, then we come to the point where an African American of unquestioned capability has a chance to become president and I said, 'No, I have dear old friends I've always supported, who I've always liked.' What do you tell your kids?"
Worse, for the elected officials, their constituents don't appear to be paying much attention to them. Here in Florida, Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton among Black voters 73%-25% according to the exit polls, with Blacks beating their percentage of the population (14%) by making up 19% of the electorate -- this despite the fact that all three Black congressmen from Florida (Alcee Hastings, Kendrick Meek and Corinne Brown) are with Hillary.
It seems unfair to say that Black elected officials and public personalities should feel pressured to support Obama because he is Black. But as Conyers said, it becomes difficult to justify when Obama is, beyond being Black, so inspirational and aspirational a candidate, for so many Americans -- Black and White.
And to add to the irony, the pressure on Black folk to support Obama now stands in stark contrast to a year ago, when I was defending Barack on the air against constant attacks from Black radio listeners (and from my P.D. at the time, Coz Carson) because Barack "wasn't Black enough," has no family history of slavery, and never fought in the trenches of the civil rights movement with Al Sharpton and others. It was that ambivalence, exemplified by Tavis Smiley, and for awhile, by Cornell West (who has since endorsed Barack) -- that represents the other part of the Obama conundrum: Blacks didn't embrace him until he showed them he could win a nearly all-white state (Iowa), and the more Blacks embrace him, the more he risks losing his essential charm for White folk: the fact that he is not a creature of the second generation of the civil rights movement (or as some Whites put it, he doesn't have a chip on his shoulder.) From Salon earlier this month:
As Obama's campaign got started, black media juggernaut Tavis Smiley exemplified the black community's lukewarm response, declaring, "There is not a black groundswell ... saying 'Run, Obama, Run.'" He pinpointed Obama's lack of common history with other black Americans as part of what made people of color skeptical about him, because he did not have a "long-standing relationship with the black community." Around the same time, prominent black intellectual Cornel West criticized Obama for beginning his campaign in Springfield, Ill. (which he implied is a predominantly white community), instead of at Smiley's State of Black America conference. Like Smiley, Debra J. Dickerson, writing in Salon, described Obama as "not black" in part because his biography does not include the legacy of slavery.
On that note, it will be interesting to see if Barack chooses to attend the State of the Black Union conference this year. I hear Tavis had some chilly words for him today on the Tom Joyner show (I didn't hear it), and Roland Martin is advising Barack to skip the conference (again.) If he goes, he takes the risk of stepping closer to the kind of Black issues and identity that turn many Whites off. If he doesn't go, he risks being pushed away again by the Black intelligentsia. But then, who's listening to them (or their counterparts in White, conservative talk radio) these days, anyway?
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...
Barack Obama has been declared the winner of the Louisiana primary and Nebraska and Washington state caucuses. He'll likely win two out of the three delegates from the Virgin Islands, too, according to NBC News. That means Barack wins the headline wars, and he puts himself firmly ahead in pledged delegates, putting all the more pressure on the supers.
Mike Huckabee won Kansas and Louisiana, in what could be a message from red state Republicans to John McCain (or a message from red state evangelicals to Mike Huckabee...) Either way, Huck helped further make the case for himself as John McCain's running mate tonight.
Maine votes tomorrow, followed by Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia on Tuesday.
Mrs. Clinton is losing this thing. It's not one big primary, it's a rolling loss, a daily one, an inch-by-inch deflation. The trends and indices are not in her favor. She is having trouble raising big money, she's funding her campaign with her own wealth, her moral standing within her own party and among her own followers has been dragged down, and the legacy of Clintonism tarnished by what Bill Clinton did in South Carolina. Unfavorable primaries lie ahead. She doesn't have the excitement, the great whoosh of feeling that accompanies a winning campaign. The guy from Chicago who was unknown a year ago continues to gain purchase, to move forward. For a soft little innocent, he's played a tough and knowing inside/outside game. ...
... On the wires Wednesday her staff was all but conceding she is not going to win the next primaries. Her superdelegates are coming under pressure that is about to become unrelenting. It was easy for party hacks to cleave to Mrs Clinton when she was inevitable. Now Mr. Obama's people are reportedly calling them saying, Your state voted for me and so did your congressional district. Are you going to jeopardize your career and buck the wishes of the people back home?
And on the prospect of a Barack general election candidacy, versus the prospect of a Hillary Clinton race?
Mrs. Clinton is stoking the idea that Mr. Obama is too soft to withstand the dread Republican attack machine. (I nod in tribute to all Democrats who have succeeded in removing the phrase "Republican and Democratic attack machines" from the political lexicon. Both parties have them.) But Mr. Obama will not be easy for Republicans to attack. He will be hard to get at, hard to address. There are many reasons, but a primary one is that the fact of his race will freeze them. No one, no candidate, no party, no heavy-breathing consultant, will want to cross any line--lines that have never been drawn, that are sure to be shifting and not always visible--in approaching the first major-party African-American nominee for president of the United States. ...
He is the brilliant young black man as American dream. No consultant, no matter how opportunistic and hungry, will think it easy--or professionally desirable--to take him down in a low manner. If anything, they've learned from the Clintons in South Carolina what that gets you. (I add that yes, there are always freelance mental cases, who exist on both sides and are empowered by modern technology. They'll make their YouTubes. But the mad are ever with us, and this year their work will likely stay subterranean.)
With Mr. Obama the campaign will be about issues. "He'll raise your taxes." He will, and I suspect Americans may vote for him anyway. But the race won't go low.
Mrs. Clinton would be easier for Republicans. With her cavalcade of scandals, they'd be delighted to go at her. They'd get medals for it. Consultants would get rich on it.
The Democrats have it exactly wrong. Hillary is the easier candidate, Mr. Obama the tougher. Hillary brings negative; it's fair to hit her back with negative. Mr. Obama brings hope, and speaks of a better way. He's not Bambi, he's bulletproof.
The biggest problem for the Republicans will be that no matter what they say that is not issue oriented--"He's too young, he's never run anything, he's not fully baked"--the mainstream media will tag them as dealing in racial overtones, or undertones. You can bet on this. Go to the bank on it.
The Democrats continue not to recognize what they have in this guy. Believe me, Republican professionals know. They can tell.
John Zogby has a bunch of numbers out tonight that are sure to be music to the ears of Obama supporters (and yes, that includes me). Zogby has Barack pulling even with Hillary in New Jersey (one of the states I think is most likely for him to steal) and pulling away in Georgia and (shocker) Missouri. If he can hold those leads, he's golden.
And speaking of golden ...
California - Democrats
That's not a typo. Barack is leading among Black voters by 4 to 1, while Hillary is leading with Hispanics 55-36%. The sample isn't tiny -- but it isn't huge, either: 967 respondents, with a 3.2% margin of error and a relatively large undecided vote for two days out. The Clinton camp has to hope that late deciders break for her, which is highly unlikely. Or the Clintons could be banking on a heavy absentee ballot showing by older, white women, like they had in Florida. We shall see.
Another note: California has an open primary, so Independents can vote -- and that definitely helps Barack ... if they show up.
Bottom line, if this poll isn't an outlier (like many people believe the low-scoring Field Poll, which showed the race as 36-34 Clinton, with a whopping 18 percent undecided, is...) it suggests tomorrow night could be a nail biter for Camp Clinton...
One interesting thing about this poll, aside from Barack's lead, is the large undecided vote, which we'll presume for the moment are disaffected John Edwards people plus the truly untethered. With Hillary's tougher stand on immigration, California's large Latino population, and Ted Kennedy's persistent stumping -- combined with Oprah's celebrity and California's penchant for cleaving to celebs at election time, you've got to think that if this poll is accurate, Obama could steal California from Hillary.
The McClatchy-MSNBC poll, which is one day earlier at the start and finish, has it this way:
Which will make the Hillbots much happier ... except that it has an undecided of precisely the same size -- one point larger, in fact. If you believe that both snapshots are about right (and polls are about a week behind current trends anyway, right? then doesn't that mean that Barack is eating up market share at a pretty decent clip? That, or one of these polls is way off track...
RealClearPolitics has a Super Duper Tuesday table too:
The Post says neither Democrat has benefited yet from the departure of John Edwards. And a separate story says blue collar, white voters in both parties are still thoroughly undecided. (Could this be the new swing demographic, akin to the soccer moms and security moms of the past?)
... Three-quarters of voters who prioritize a solid resume said they back Clinton; 70 percent of those seeking a change-oriented candidate said they support Obama.
While Clinton has the edge on the issues voters say are most important to them, and enjoys a wide lead on the question of who is a stronger leader, Obama now holds a seven-percentage-point advantage as the candidate who would do the most to bring needed change to Washington.
And Clinton's once-sizable lead as the Democrat with the best shot at winning the White House has shrunk significantly; in the new poll, 47 percent said she is the most electable, while 42 percent said Obama has the better chance. In hypothetical general-election matchups, both Democrats run neck and neck with McCain, and both lead Romney by double digits.
McCain outperforms Romney in the general-election tests because he picks up significantly more support among independents and political moderates. These groups have been crucial to the senator in early-state caucuses and primaries, and his biggest gains in this poll came among them.
Among GOP voters who are politically moderate and liberal, McCain has a whopping 51-point advantage over Romney in the new poll, while conservatives divide 37 percent for McCain, 29 percent for Romney and 19 percent for Huckabee. Moreover, most of McCain's improvement since mid-January is among moderates and liberals; he is up 28 percentage points in this group, while he and Romney have both climbed 12 points among conservatives.
McCain has taken control of the GOP race by picking up mainline Republican supporters as well. Nearly half of self-identified Republicans now support him, up nearly fourfold from December. He appears to have benefited from the decisions by former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former senator Fred D. Thompson (Tenn.) to quit the race. Both Giuliani, who has endorsed McCain, and Thompson appealed to many of the voters McCain now counts in his camp.
Two-thirds of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents saw McCain as the party's strongest general-election candidate, and about three in five described him as the strongest leader. He also now has a double-digit advantage over Romney on the question of who best represents the core values of the party. On this measure, he is up 14 points from three weeks ago.
While moderates and liberals have coalesced around McCain as the GOP standard-bearer (56 percent said he best reflects party values), conservatives are less than fully convinced. Among those who describe themselves as "very conservative," 34 percent said Romney best embodies GOP values, and 25 percent said McCain.
McCain also leads on all five issue areas tested in the poll, with overwhelming advantages on national security issues (69 percent call him tops on Iraq; 67 percent on terrorism). He has double-digit advantages over Romney on the economy and immigration, and leads both Romney and Huckabee on social issues. About four in 10 Romney supporters said McCain is better on Iraq and terrorism.
For all his advantages, however, McCain does not enjoy the kind of enthusiastic support that Clinton and Obama have among their voters. Thirty-eight percent of his backers said they strongly support him. And among those Republicans who are most closely following the GOP race, he and Romney are running essentially even.
One more piece of data from the poll: it's shaping up to be a Clinton-type election ("it's the economy, stupid,") with 39 percent of voters saying the economy/jobs is the most important issue, followed by the war in Iraq at 19 percent (terrorism & national security has fallen to just 5 percent, with healthcare just ahead of it at 8 percent. ... sorry, John McCain... and illegal immigration is at just 4 percent ... sorry everybody who hates John McCain...)
The economy dominance may not be enough for Hillary to close the deal over Barack, who has tons of money ($30 million raised in January alone) to pour into the Super Tuesday states, and he's already spending money in the states that immediately follow, but it's an advantage nonetheless, because it plays to the strengths of the Clintons... emphasis on the "s"...
I was about to write a pretty nasty tirade about NOW New York's whiney jeremiad against Ted Kennedy for his endorsement of ... someone other than Hillary Clinton ... but as fate would have it, Americablog's John Aravosis tiraded better:
ever have I read a whinier, more sophomoric press release from a national organization, or in this case, their rather important state affiliate. Apparently, anyone who supports any Democrat other than Hillary is a misogynist. So does that also mean that anyone who supports any Democrat other than Obama is a racist? Truly one of the most ridiculous, knee-jerk, stuck-in-the-1960s, and downright offensive things I've ever seen from what I thought was a respectable organization.
In the immortal words of Patrick Swayze as the lead character in "Ghost," and at the risk of being accused by the NOW ladies of abandoning my responsibility as a woman not to let a man speak for me (unless he's Bill Clinton,) let me say, Ditto.
So what did the nattering nelly's of NOW have to say? Here it is:
Senator Kennedy Betrays Women by Not Standing For Hillary Clinton for President January 28, 2008
Women have just experienced the ultimate betrayal. Senator Kennedy’s endorsement of Hillary Clinton’s opponent in the Democratic presidential primary campaign has really hit women hard. Women have forgiven Kennedy, stuck up for him, stood by him, hushed the fact that he was late in his support of Title IX, the ERA, the Family Leave and Medical Act to name a few. Women have buried their anger that his support for the compromises in No Child Left Behind and the Medicare bogus drug benefit brought us the passage of these flawed bills. We have thanked him for his ardent support of many civil rights bills, BUT women are always waiting in the wings.
And now the greatest betrayal! We are repaid with his abandonment! He’s picked the new guy over us. He’s joined the list of progressive white men who can’t or won’t handle the prospect of a woman president who is Hillary Clinton (they will of course say they support a woman president, just not “this” one). “They” are Howard Dean and Jim Dean (Yup! That’s Howard’s brother) who run DFA (that’s the group and list from the Dean campaign that we women helped start and grow). They are Alternet, Progressive Democrats of America, democrats.com, Kucinich lovers and all the other groups that take women's money, say they’ll do feminist and women’s rights issues one of these days, and conveniently forget to mention women and children when they talk about poverty or human needs or America’s future or whatever.
This latest move by Kennedy, is so telling about the status of and respect for women’s rights, women’s voices, women’s equality, women’s authority and our ability – indeed, our obligation - to promote and earn and deserve and elect, unabashedly, a President that is the first woman after centuries of men who “know what’s best for us.”
Blah, blah, blah. The title alone is mind numbing. You mean not supporting Hillary is a betrayal of all women? Well vote me off the island! ... This is why nobody listens to this bunch.
Word to the ladies of NOW New York: Black women are, technically, women too. And many o us -- most by my count having spent the morning talking to people at polls here in South Florida -- happen to love Barack Obama. So where does that leave us? Are we duty bound to vote for Hillary, too, just because we share her chromosomal makeup? I mean for God's sake, if Teddy Kennedy -- a man, no less -- is duty bound to support the women, how can we escape our responsibility?
Perhaps it hasn't occurred to these guys ... I mean ladies ... I mean Women with a capital W ... but ... um ... just as it's not fair to expect every Black person to support Barack, it's not fair to expect everyone who supports equal rights for women to support Hillary (or to expect every woman to do so.) People ... wait for it ... have to make up their own minds, and choose the candidate who most inspires them. In fact, in most years, inspiration isn't even an option. People choose the candidate who will keep them up the least at night worrying about their finger on the button. This year, at last, there are multiple candidates, on the Democratic side at least, who provoke inspiration. Don't hate on Teddy Kennedy if Barack does for him the same thing he does for so many Americans, including a real, live woman-type person named Caroline. Funny your press release finger wasn't trained on her...
NOW New York, thanks for the straight talk. Your statements reveal you to be creatures of the politics of yesterday. The rest of us have happily moved on.
First came Caroline Kennedy Schlossberg's moving New York Times op-ed endorsing Barack Obama as a man who could be the president her father was for so many Americans back in the 1960s. Now, Senator Ted Kennedy, the "lion of the Senate" and a personal friend of the Clintons, will endorse Barack, too.
Right wing bloggers may snicker at Kennedy -- fixated as they are on his most tragic moment -- but for Democrats, this is about as big an endorsement as a candidate can get. For Ted Kennedy, the last surviving son on the tragic Kennedy clan and the family's patriarch, to pass to torch, not to Hillary Clinton, whose husband made the iconic photo of his handshake with JFK on June 6, 1963 (five months before Kennedy's assassination,) into the emblem of his status as the prince of generational change back in 1992, but to Obama, has got to be devastating for the Clintons.
It's also a seminal rebuke of the manner in which Bill Clinton has been fronting his wife's campaign -- the negativity, the bully boy tactics, and the racial tinge.
The endorsement may not change anything -- white women are solidifying behind Hillary, and in states like Florida that have a huge absentee and early vote, she has already banked tens of thousands of votes. On the other hand, the double Kennedy blessing could be a huge boon to Obama as he looks to the Tsunami Tuesday primaries, which include Massachusetts and California, both states where the lore of Camelot could be a touchstone for voters.
The next step for Team Obama will be to have Teddy cut a killer national TV spot for the candidate, along with radio ads that can be strewn across Air America and Jones Radio Network talk shows. Obama has the cash to run a national TV and radio campaign, and Kennedy is the ultimate voice talent. And I would expect that with Kennedy opening the door (and likely pulling off a few stem-winder speeches for his guy as well,) the doors of the church are now open, and more prominent Dems will be falling in line behind Barack before Tuesday.
The media is harping on Barack Obama's rout of Hillary Clinton among Black South Carolina voters (he got 80 percent of them.) But there are other big numbers that Hillary (and Bill) ought to worry about. First, the overall number. Obama is projected to win the state by a huge margin:
Obama - 53% Clinton - 27% Edwards - 19%
Even if those numbers don't hold exactly, Obama is looking at a huge victory.
The other troubling number for the Clintons: the 20 percent of Black voters who said they would be dissatisfied if she ultimately wins the nomination. Picture bridges burning ...
For the Obama campaign, there are minefields in these numbers, too. The Clintons, for better or for worse, were successful in framing the South Carolina contest as one mostly about race, and their strategy of pushing hard against the Black vote in order to turn out the White vote didn't help Hillary win, but it did reframe the overall contest for White voters who care about that sort of thing. This sort of comment on the MSNBC First Read site should be on the radar screen of Camp Obama:
More than 50% of the turnout was African American and ovevr 80% of African Americans voted for Obama. Lets us also remember that Jesse Jackson won South Carolina and a lot of other southern states in 1984 and 1988.
Recall that Barack Obama never intended to fight for the nomination on this ground. Hell, most Black voters didn't even support him until he won the Iowa caucuses. He has fought his entire campaign on the neutral grounds of change and unity, not on the toxic soil of race. The one-two punch of the simplistic media narrative and the take no prisoners tactics of the Clinton campaign, has forced him onto exactly the playing field he did NOT want to be on. Remember Barack's announcement that he would run last February? It was remarkable in that Barack made that announcement surrounded, not by Black people, but by White people. Particularly young White people. Now, as you look at his events, they are becoming more heavily populated by Blacks. Not a bad thing -- but it does set the stage for a contest that is at least in part, a test of racial loyalty -- for boty Blacks and Whites, particularly White men, since White Democratic women are pretty much Hillary's to lose.
That, is a shame.
However, I predict that the Clintons, having made their point in South Carolina, will back off on the racial insurgency. They don't need it anymore. My opinion is that it was very deliberate, and designed to make the expected (even by them) Obama victory in South Carolina seem pyrrhic, setting the stage for them to argue that the REAL contests are the ones ahead.
So what should the Obama campaign do now? Two words: win primaries. They will need a couple of big victories in states that don't have a 45-50% Black Democratic electorate, in order to slow the Clinton machine down.
Update: For what it's worth, Pat Buchanan agrees with me on this. I don't know if I'm comfortable with the consistent level of agreement between us over the last few years...
Update 2: The exit polls should be sobering for the Clintons. Barack won not only Black voters, but also churchgoers, younger voters, and late deciders. And the majority of those who said that Bill Clinton's rhetoric affected their vote said that they voted for Obama.
In a race eerily reminiscent in undertone, if not in intensity, to the Republican race in 2000, the South Carolina primary has ended, but this time, the actor playing the part of John McCain beat the actress playing the part of George W. Bush (and her husband Karl Rove). In other words, Obama wins.
NBC News is projecting Obama the winner "by a wide margin", with Hillary and Edwards fighting it out for second place. Of course, the media is focusing on what differences there were in the vote between Blacks and Whites. One thing Bill Clinton has been right about is that the media has fanned the race flames in this contest. But the Clintons are responsible in large part for the nasty, uncomfortably racial tone the race has taken, as are Black supporters of Obama's who have insisted on pushing his racial identity to the forefront, the better to excite Black voters, but the worse for his universal message of inclusion.
Update: According to exit polls, Barack got 81 percent of the Black vote. Hillary got 17 percent, and John Edwards got just 1 percent. Hot damn. I know the Clintons are seething. Barack got just 24 percent of the White vote, with Hillary getting 36 percent and Edwards pulling 29 percent. Barack did get 49 percent of the under 30 White vote.
After welching on him last week, Sideshow Mel Martinez finally decides to follow through on his promised endorsement of Baghdad John McCain, who is now statistically tied with ... no, Chris, not Rudy ... with Willard Romney in the latest Florida polling.
And where does that leave Sir Rudy of 9/11, the man whose financiers (such as they are) and supporters (such as they are) reportedly were reportedly responsible for turning Melly Mel into a "tower of Jell-o" last week? He's somewhere down in third place in the must-win Sunshine State, tied with Mike Huckabee (who will probably beat him on Tuesday...)
Rudy Giuliani is finding out the hard way that there really is no new way to run a campaign. You just don't skip all of the early contests, get locked out of the news cycle for a month, and then ride in on a white horse in Florida, and expect to blow by the competition after that.
Rudy has several core problems that the mainstream media has missed:
1. His last big news cycle was a disaster. The stories about police shuttling his mistress around before she was his wife weren't helpful for a candidate running on little else besides 9/11. Without some larger narrative, Rudy has always run the risk of getting sucked into the sinkhole of his pretty miserable personal story, once the 9/11 zombie juice wore off and the New York-based press started covering him again.
2. There was no next big news cycle. Just as Judygate was dying down, the news became all about the cat fights between Barack and Hillary, and all about the big wins for ... pick the Republican ... Huckabee! Romney! McCain! Nowhere in this media narrative could one find a guy named Rudolph Giuliani. And in politics, voters forget you faster than they forgive you.
3. While nobody was thinking about Rudy, he was busy burning through his scant campaign stash in the Sunshine State. Rudy spent his money in Florida like a drunken tourist on a cruise ship, and now that he's nearly out of cash, and paying his senior staffers with hugs (does Rudy actually hug, or does he just grimace with that skull face of his and pat repeatedly...?) there's no way he can out-gun his rivals where he has telegraphed to the entire world that he is going to make his stand: Florida. Florida is a pricey media market, and without money, he's becoming more uncompetitive by the day. And Super Tuesday is going to cost the candidates a hell of a lot more than Florida.
4. The media is wrong about Rudy's appeal in Florida. Rudy was popular for a minute down here with about a third of Republican voters, not because they're New Yorkers and they love him, but because they're NOT New Yorkers and he's a Republican who's tough on the so-called "war on terror," and Florida Republicans are conservative GWOT hawks. Truth be told, the New Yorkers who have retired down here are largely to be found in places like Broward County (dubbed the "sixth borough" of Manhattan), Palm Beach and Boca Raton -- and earth to media, they're mostly FDR Democrats, who hate Rudy's guts. In fact, I don't know a single New Yorker down here who likes Rudy. And don't get me started on former N.Y. firefighters... Rudy's support in Florida came not from nostalgic New Yorkers, but from hawkish southerners and anti-Castro Cubans. Now, both are walking away from him in favor of John McCain.
5. Rudy Giuliani is a terrible candidate. He is a one-noter, and with the Republicans mind-numbing the rest of us into believing that the surge has worked, combined with an economy headed to recession, Iraq, and the global war on terror, have suddenly gone off the front pages. Once the election shifted squarely toward "the economy, stupid," Rudy suddenly didn't seem so important. After all, he's known for his one day of glory (like the balding 40 year old who's still prattling on about that big, winning touchdown he made in high school to anyone who'll listen...) not for his economic prowess. And no matter what Chris Matthews tells you, Rudy's just not that likable, nor is he that electable without a major terrorism scare factor (something which also makes no sense, since he didn't stop 9/11, or predict 9/11, he merely survived 9/11 ... )
But will he survive past Tuesday?
As they say in Brooklyn, it don't look good...
New polls have Rudy trailing John McCain in New York (gasp! They can't stand him there, either!), New Jersey (where he's down 29-26) and California (where he's also given up a lead). And a new Florida poll shows Sir Rudy of 9/11 falling into ... wait for it ... third place:
Rudy Giuliani has hit the skids in a Florida freefall that could shatter his presidential campaign and leave a two-man Republican contest in the state between John McCain and Mitt Romney, a Miami Herald poll shows.
Despite hovering over Florida voters for weeks, Giuliani is tied for third place with the scarcely visible Mike Huckabee in a statewide poll of 800 likely voters.
With his poll numbers slipping back home in the Northeast, Giuliani's campaign will implode if he can't turn it around in the six days left before Florida's Jan. 29 vote, the final gateway before a blitz of primaries around the nation that could sew up the race.
''He may be running for president, but with these numbers he wouldn't be elected governor of Florida,'' said Republican pollster Kellyanne Conway, whose firm conducted the survey with Democratic pollsters Schroth, Eldon & Associates for The Herald, The St. Petersburg Times and Bay News 9. Alluding to the timeworn song, Conway added: ``If he can't make it there in Florida, he can't make it anywhere.''
Asked about the 13 percent of the voters who haven't made up their minds, pollster Rob Schroth said he didn't expect them to fuel a Giuliani comeback.
''Giuliani for all intents and purposes has virtually no chance to win in Florida,'' he said.
Well when you've lost Kellyanne Conway... More on the Florida poll:
...the leading Republicans are waging fierce campaigns in Florida, the biggest prize yet of the primary season. McCain is narrowly leading the Republican field with 25 percent of the vote, followed by Romney with 23 percent. The gap is within the poll's margin of error, placing the Arizona senator and the former Massachusetts governor in a statistical tie.
Incidentally, McCain is leading Rudy by 10 points in South Florida, the place where the media would have you believe Rudy is strongest...
Statewide, Giuliani received support from 15 percent, down from 36 percent in a Miami Herald poll in November. The poll was conducted Jan. 20-22, after Fred Thompson came up short in the South Carolina primary but before he quit the race Tuesday afternoon.
Huckabee, a charismatic former Baptist minister, is popular among frequent churchgoers, young voters and residents of the conservative Panhandle of the state, according to the poll. Romney was the second choice for born-again Christians, suggesting that his Mormon religion is not a political liability. His stronghold is the southwest part of the state.
One more quote from Kellyanne Conway deserves mention. It's tucked into this nice little couplet:
''Giuliani has gone from a prohibitive favorite to a second-tier candidate. . . and the drop is traceable to dramatic erosion in South Florida,'' said Tom Eldon, Schroth's pollingpartner.
After retreating from New Hampshire weeks ago, Giuliani's campaign decided to hunker down in Florida and argued that the state would catapult him to the nomination. What the campaign failed to anticipate was that his poll numbers would plunge as rivals picked off smaller states with earlier contests.
''This Giuliani campaign strategy of betting it all on Florida somehow miscalculated how Florida voters would disregard his performance in other states -- it does matter to them if somebody has been a loser,'' Conway said.
''Giuliani's decision to pull out of the early states is going to go down in history,'' Eldon added.
It has finally happened. For the first time in my thirty ... something ... years ... I am sick -- I mean really sick -- of politics.
No, scratch that.
I still love politics -- the sport of it, and the import of it. What I'm sick of is this presidential campaign, at least on the Democratic side. The nasty, no-holds-barred trench warfare between camps Clinton and Obama is wearing me out. Hell, I didn't even blog about the Nevada outcome (Hillary won, did ya hear?) And that's just not like me.
But I didn't, because I'm sick of the both of them. I'm sick of hearing about how one is a liar and a dishonest, racist reprobate (and her husband, too) and how the other is a phony who really wasn't against the war. I'm tired of the back and forth charges, including everything from voter intimidation and suppression to ... oh hell, whatever.
I'm sick of the Congressional Black Caucus fighting with one another over which side of history they ought to be on.
I'm sick of hearing (and saying) how pathological Chris Matthews' hatred of the Clintons appears to be.
I'm really sick of John Edwards. Would someone please yank that son-of-a-mill worker into a back room and billy club him until he agrees to drop out of the race? Dude, you aren't going to be president! Get over it already. Jeez... (Oh, and Politico? How can Edwards be king maker if he has no freaking delegates with which to make a king!!!????) God, just stop giving him attention, it just encourages him!
Damnit, I'm just sick of this primary season.
For god's sakes, can one of the frontrunners win the damn thing already and put the other on the ticket, heal the party, and get on with campaigning against John McCain ... or Mitt Romney ... or whoever...? Just wake me when it's over, will you?
That's how long the MSNBC debate hosts, Tim Russert and Brian Williams, went without asking a single substantive question on policy of any of the three Democratic front runners. Instead, we spent a full half hour on the various and sundry ways the candidates -- by virtue of their opponents' race, gender or likability -- have hurt each other's feelings.
Long after both Obama and Clinton had put to rest the racial dust-up, and declared their candidacies to be moving forward, and after poor John Edwards was forced to suffer the indignity of having to answer a ridiculous question that began with, "what's a white man to do..." Russert and Company were still asking pablum questions about why the candidates and their staffs talk so gosh-darn mean about one another.
I'd like to propose a thought experiment: let's hook up electrodes to Tim Russert's body and deliver a significant electric shock to him each time he uses the phrase "do you regret saying..."
Not that their staffs have gotten the memo, but the Clinton and Obama camps have reportedly called a truce on the race issue, just in time for tonight's Las Vegas debate. Good move, particularly for Barack, who has benefited from finally marshaling the Black vote based on the dust-up (which helps him in South Carolina, big time,) but who doesn't want to fight the entire primary on that ground. For her part, Hillary gets out of hot water, and gets to send her hubby home to Chappaqua.
...if Hillary's win tonight, and the way it slammed the breaks on the euphoria over Obama's big win in Iowa, could be the thing that starts to break the spell the Clintons have over Black voters. Which way will they lean in South Carolina, particularly given some of the more caustic comments that have come from Camp Hillary (not to mention that drug dealing bomblet...) and Hillary's enduring hold over much of the Congressional Black Caucus?
Internal polling within both the Clinton and Obama camps showed Obama winning by 10 plus margins (as did my predictions), and it's causing some analysts to wonder whether the polls were wrong because white respondents weren't being quite honest about the way they would vote (commonly called the "Bradley effect"...) If that perception begins to take hold, will Black voters take their frustrations out on Hillary ... or on the Democratic Party writ large, particularly in November if Hillary is the nominee? I will confess to a feeling of disappointment over Barack's second place finish tonight -- I had begun to imagine him as the nominee, and had begun to shed a bit of my cynicism about the utility of the politics of bi-partisanship (my husband can tell you I generally don't believe it can be done. Barack damned near convinced me...) I imagine that many other Black voters are feeling the same way tonight, even if we rather like the Clintons... How that plays out in the next two primaries is anyone's guess...
And given Hillary's wide victory margin with New Hampshire women (read, white women) ... could we soon see the beginnings of a fracture of the Democratic coalition along the lines of Black voters, young voters and Democratic leaning independents versus white women voters?
And there's yet another variable, with the Nevada primary coming up next Tuesday: Latino voters. Where, oh where, do THEY wind up?
MSNBC is reporting that polling locations in New Hampshire are doing a brisk business today, with record turnout expected, and some places running low on ballots. Also interesting, in the former lone red New England state (Gore lost it, Kerry won it by less than 1.5% in 2004...) is the fact that most of the ballots on request today appear to be Democratic ones. New Hampshire already has a Democratic governor, and I believe the state house is now majority Dem as well. So it could be a safe bet, that particularly if Barack Obama is the nominee, that New Hampshire could be in the Dem column in November.
And now for a bit of a flashback from 2004, on the states won by Bush or Kerry by very slim margins:
Close Bush winners: Iowa, +0.67% New Mexico, +0.79% Ohio, +2.11% Nevada, + 2.59% Colorado, + 4.67%
In the end, Bush won 31 states and 50.7% of the popular vote (about 62 million votes) and Kerry won 19 states plus D.C., and about 59 million votes.
For Obama to win the White House, he would need to not lose any blue states (and I can't think of one that would switch on him because, say, of the race issue -- Wisonson? Minnesota? Oregon? They have negligible Black populations, but that doesn't necessarily carry the day -- look at Iowa...) and he would have to pick up a couple of those close Bush states, with Iowa, Ohio and New Mexico being pretty good prospects.
(Bumped) Tonight's winners are pretty straightforward:
- Barack Obama - big win (8 points), great speech, press corps love, and huge momentum coming out of Iowa. - Mike Huckabee - big win, (9 points), press corps love, and he still manages to get low expectations in New Hampshire, leaving room for this man from Hope to declare himself the "comeback kid" if he comes in a decent second. - Ed Rollins - he finally jumped on a winning campaign (Huckabee's), after that Katherine Harris disaster... - Cornell West (and not just because I absolutely love the guy, for his mind, of course!) - he was an Obama guy before being an Obama guy was cool. - Florida Sen. Fredrica Wilson - for the same reason as Cornell West. Ditto other Black pols who bucked the establishment. ... at least tonight... - Small money - Huckabee spent just $1.4 million, versus $7 million for Mitt. - Big money - Barack out-spent Hillary $9 million to $7 million, although I doubt that's what won it for him. - Evangelicals - they don't rule the GOP, but they rule the Iowa GOP... - The Washington press corps / mainstream media - they hate Hillary with a passion, and set out to take her down, starting with that Philadelphia debate. They succeeded in triggering her self-destruction.) - Chris Matthews - same reason as above) - Positivity - apparently, Iowa voters like it - Democrats - turnout on our side was up a whopping 80 percent. Republicans beware. Who knew that Iowa has more registered Democrats than Republicans, and more Indepedents than the other two? Iowa is officially in play in November... - Young voters - who said they don't show up to caucus? You GO boys and girls! - Race neutrality - Sorry, Chris Matthews, but Obama's appeal to White voters isn't that he represents multiculturalism, so much as the fact that he represents a departure from racial identity politics. - Likeability - it might be the new buzzword for the 2008 campaign. - Michael Eric Dyson - look for his bookings on cable news shows to skyrocket. - Change - generational, policy and otherwise
And the losers?
- Hillary Clinton - for obvious reasons, although her concession speech was very gracious. - Bill Clinton - I love the guy, but he didn't make the difference for his wife in the end, and the same generational, sweeping change that he and Al Gore represented in 1992 may be coming back to bite the missus in the unmentionables. That and there's a new Man from Hope. - Mitt Romney - equally obvious, and he now MUST win New Hampshire to remain viable, since South Carolina and Florida are not in his bailiwick, shall we say... - John Edwards - He needed to win tonight and didn't, and the union vote didn't hook him up. Also, his speech included an attack on not just Mitt Romney, but also his fellow Dem, Hillary Clinton ("two candidates in this race thought their money could buy them victory...") meaning he still thinks negative campaigning and fratricide is the key to victory. Not a good look. And he failed to congratulate Barack during his "concession speech." I guess you can give a guy a $400 haircut but you can't buy him class. - Ed Rollins - he apparently let loose at a restaurant and was overheard by a Townhall blogger trashing the competition. For some reason he strikes me as a guy who drinks a lot ... - Huckabee hating RedStaters, and the "FisCons" and "DefCons" (fiscal and defense conservatives) who love them. - The Congressional Black Caucus, which has mostly gone into the tank for Hillary, and whose members will now face the uncomfortable prospect of heading to South Carolina to campaign for Mrs. Clinton, even as the Obama juggernaut steams toward the 30-40% Black southern primary. - The civil rights establishment, which has dissed Barack to the point of hateration (that includes Revs Sharpton and Jackson, Andrew Young, and others who have been dissing Barack from day one.) - Black self-doubt Why do we need to wait for White voters to endorse Barack before we feel comfortable supporting him? - Pat Robertson, who is totally discredited as a Christian "leader," having missed the Huckabee bandwagon as it passed him by, instead endorsing the most irreligious, amoral candidate in the pack... (and he's a nut.) - Rudy - good luck getting any headlines between now and California, sport. And you might want to check the latest polling out of Florida... - George W. Bush - Huckabee has been the most critical of his policies with the exception of Ron Paul, and he won in a state where Republicans still give Dubya high approval ratings. - Mrs. Michael Eric Dyson (she has to hear her husband gloat -- a lot -- tonight) - The Washington press corps / mainstream media - they called Hillary inevitable - Unions - they failed to make the difference for Edwards tonight, and exit polls show John-boy didn't even get a majority of union members who did caucus. - Lefty bloggers,lefty journos, and both real, and fake ... lefty radio hosts (... Ed Schultz) - they worship John Edwards because of his real? hard left rhetoric, and while their nemesis, Hillary stumbled tonight, their Johnny is finished, whether he has accepted it yet or not. - Experience - apparently, it doesn't always count for everything... - Conventional wisdom. Throw it out. Obama could win this thing.
is that nothing is predictable. I won't even attempt to call the Democratic caucus results in Iowa. If it snows really badly, I'd put my money on Edwards' union supporters being the most likely to show up. If it's great weather, I'd bet Hillary's middle aged and older women will show. If Obama gets those young Starbucks sippers to actually caucus, his superiority in terms of supporter enthusiasm will carry the day. Oh, and everybody likes Joe Biden. (The New York Times today describes the state of the Democratic race in Iowa as one of "happy paralysis.")
Obama, for his part, seems to be benefiting from better relations with the second tier -- Kucinich is already telling his supporters to caucus for Obama (not that there are many of them) and the WaPo is reporting today about a possible Biden-Obama deal to help Biden best Bill Richardson. It goes something like this:
A source close to the Biden campaign described a possible arrangement, now under discussion between the two camps, that could apply to certain precincts where Biden can't meet the 15 percent viability threshold, but where he is backed by local officials with the clout to move Biden supporters to Obama. In return, Biden could capture some of Obama's overflow in precincts where the Illinois senator has more than enough support to win.
Of course the details are secret, but team Biden knows exactly how much support it needs, and where, for the Delaware senator to finish fourth, ideally in double digits. Biden's poor showing in one public poll after another has confounded many Hawkeye political observers, given the large and enthusiastic crowds he draws, along with his impressive foreign policy resume. But while Biden was unable to raise the money needed to build the statewide ground organization needed to contend here, he did cultivate key relationships across rural Iowa. And some of these state and local officials have informed the campaign that they are backing Obama as their second choice.
A fourth place finish would not turn Biden into a favorite for the nomination, but it would allow him to participate in the Democratic debate on Saturday in New Hamsphire, one last chance for the political veteran to make his mark.
Who knows. But if he wins Iowa, I'd bet that he either wins or comes very close to winning in Independent-rich New Hampshire and then that means he probably wins South Carolina, too. Hillary would then have to pull a Rudy Giuliani, winning Michigan (where Edwards is strong, and the vote is early) and Florida.
The biggest pressure today has to be on Camp Hillary. If Senator Clinton loses big in Iowa, her road to the nomination becomes a marathon, and her inevitability is shattered. She must win or come very close today. Period.
On the GOP side (which I'm much less sick of at this point,) the nomination has become an all-out cat fight.
Romney must do well enough in Iowa and win New Hampshire, or he cannot buy the nomination.
Huckabee will probably win Iowa (that's my only prediction today) but probably cannot win New Hampshire. But he could take South Carolina, and maybe even Florida.
Rudy ... why even talk about him until Florida?
Ron Paul rocks, but once the voting starts, he stops being interesting (not to me, but to the press)...
Post-election violence is spinning out of control in Kenya.
(BBC) Thirty Kenyans including many children have been burned to death in a church, after seeking refuge from the mounting violence over last week's elections. A mob set fire to the church in Eldoret where many people from President Mwai Kibaki's Kikuyu tribe were sheltering.
A Kenyan government spokesperson has accused supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga of carrying out "ethnic cleansing" against the Kikuyu.
Both President Kibaki and Mr Odinga have called for the killing to stop.
President Kibaki, who was sworn in on Sunday following an election that opponents claim was rigged, said political parties should meet immediately and publicly called for calm.
But Mr Odinga said he would only hold talks once the re-installed president "publicly owns up that he was not elected".
Pressure is growing on the Kenyan government both inside and outside the country to accept an international review of the election.
EU observers said the poll "fell short of international standards", and four Kenyan election commissioners have joined calls for an independent judicial body to re-examine the process. ...
Happy New Year. As to the church burning, the BBC reports:
About 400 people were said to be taking refuge in the Kenya Assemblies of God church when the attack took place at about 1000 (0700 GMT).
A pastor from the church, Jackson Nyanga told the BBC that many of the people were beaten before the building was set on fire.
"After torching the church, children died - around 25 in number - four elderly people. And our men and our people who tried to confront them were injured," he said.
Eldoret, in the Rift Valley, has witnessed some of the worst violence since last Sunday's controversial poll and has a history of inter-ethnic tension.
Correspondents say that over the past few days hundreds of Kikuyus in the Eldoret area have been taking shelter in churches and around the town's police station.
Eldoret resident Bernard Magamu told the BBC News website that many houses and businesses have been torched, and that roads in and around the town have been closed.
And TIME reports that the inter-ethnic tensions in Kenya could lead to tribal war:
Tribal violence erupted across Kenya Monday, claiming the lives of at least 124 people, after widespread accusations that President Mwai Kibaki rigged an election to defeat opposition candidate Raili Odinga.
... While both sides pleaded for calm, there were fears the violence could aggravate an enduring national tribal split between Luos, who support Odinga, and Kikuyus, who back Kibaki. The two groups co-exist in an uneasy rivalry in Kenya. On Monday, crowds of Kikuyus in the west of the country were reported to be fleeing across the border to Uganda, while six Kikuyus were hacked to death in the popular tourist port city of Mombasa. Police, given orders to shoot rioters on sight, imposed a curfew at locations across the country and barred people from leaving the slums, a tactic which may have contained the violence but also kept innocent people from fleeing. KTN, the national broadcaster, said 124 people had been killed, but other media tallies put the death toll closer to 150. ...
The rift is not atypical for Africa, unfortunately:
The chaos represents Kenya's biggest domestic political crisis since independence from Britain in 1963. It was also a major disappointment for a country that had been considered a bright spot in the troubled region of East Africa. The economy, particularly tourism, is booming and Kibaki was considered to be an improvement over his predecessor, Daniel arap Moi, whose Kanu party regime was seen as autocratic and corrupt. Five years ago when Kibaki won election as head of the Democratic Party on promises to clean up the massive corruption of the Moi era, crowds of close to 1 million cheered at his swearing-in ceremony. Since then his image has slipped from that of a capable reformer to an aging and fragile stereotypical African "big man." The 76-year-old was sworn in Sunday in a hasty ceremony attended by party loyalists, less than an hour after the Electoral Commission of Kenya pronounced he had beaten Odinga, 62, by just 230,000 votes. (Odinga had led most pre-election polls in the weeks leading up to the election.) Kibaki banned live television and radio broadcasts Sunday, and on Monday afternoon, at the height of the crisis, KTN aired children's shows in which smiling children sang "Paddycake, Paddycake." Political activist and anti-corruption campaigner Mwalimu Mati said: "It was really one man swearing in himself and using his presidential appointees to do it. That's the scary bit — our institutions have failed us."
Even though I think many of his policies (abolishing the income tax, pulling U.S. troops out of every base around the world and ending federal support for public schools) would be radically ... um ... transformative (in a disruptive, market crashing sense), I love his plucky determination to defend the Constitution from those within his own party who have developed a very unhealthy taste for interventionism and authoritarianism (the link is to Paul's now famous "Neoconned" speech on the floor of the House,) and even "soft fascism."
What a performance on "Meet the Press" yesterday! His stuttery, nutty professor persona is absolutely endearing, even when he's saying the 1964 Civil Rights Act was a bad idea for the country (he says it was an unconstitutional means of making the federal government regulate private property) or when he's talking about phasing out Social Security (but taking care of those who are already dependent on it.)
Paul is a Constitutional purist, and I even accept his argument that while he's for shrinking government into the size of a split pea (with only a Pentagon inside it), he pushed for earmarks for his own Texas district. Hell, he's a Congressman, delivering for his district is what he's supposed to do.
REP. PAUL: I put it in because I represent people who are asking for some of their money back. But it doesn't cut any spending to vote against an earmark. And the Congress has the responsibility to spend the money. Why leave the money in the executive branch and let them spend the money?
Paul was especially compelling when parrying with Russert over U.S. foreign policy, which he says accounts for the bulk of our trillion-plus dollar overspending. He says we should cut off aid to Israel, and to the Arab countries as well, and "give them their sovereignty back." When Russert demanded to know what he would then do if Iran "invaded Israel," Paul responded by giving the question the seriousness it deserved:
MR. RUSSERT: So if Iran invaded Israel, what do we do?
REP. PAUL: Well, they're not going to. That is like saying "Iran is about to invade Mars." I mean, they have nothing. They don't have an army or navy or air force. And Israelis have 300 nuclear weapons. Nobody would touch them. But, no, if, if it were in our national security interests and Congress says, "You know, this is very, very important, we have to declare war." But presidents don't have the authority to go to war.
Bravo. And when Russert continued to push the issue, which for some reason is a pet issue among American journalists, Paul continued to make perfect sense:
MR. RUSSERT: This is what you said about Israel. "Israel's dependent on us, you know, for economic means. We send them" "billions of dollars and they," then they "depend on us. They say, `Well, you know, we don't like Iran. You go fight our battles. You bomb Iran for us.' And they become dependent on us."
Who in Israel is saying "Go bomb Iran for us"?
REP. PAUL: Well, I don't know the individuals, but we know that their leaderships--you read it in the papers on a daily--a daily, you know, about Israel, the government of Israel encourages Americans to go into Iran, and the people--I don't think that's a--I don't think that's top secret that the government of Israel...
MR. RUSSERT: That the government of Israel wants us to bomb Iran?
REP. PAUL: I, I don't think there's a doubt about that, that they've encouraged us to do that. And of course the neoconservatives have been anxious to do that for a long time.
MR. RUSSERT: Would you cut off all foreign aid to Israel?
REP. PAUL: Absolutely. But remember, the Arabs would get cut off, too, and the Arabs get three times as much aid altogether than Israel. But why, why make Israel so dependent? Why do we--they give up their sovereignty. They can't defend their borders without coming to us. If they want a peace treaty, they have to ask us permission. They can't--we interfere when the Arab leagues make overtures to them. So I would say that we've made them second class citizens. I, I think they would take much better care of themselves. They would have their national sovereignty back, and I think they would be required then to have a stronger economy because they would have to pay their own bills.
I can just hear the sound of the neoconservatives' heads exploding...
Russert tried to draw Paul into the "Patriot trap" by questioning his fealty to the notion that the Islamofascists hate us for our freedoms and are waging global jihad against, us, therefore we must support the president (ahem):
MR. RUSSERT: You mentioned September 11th, a former aide of yours, Eric Dondero said this. "When September 11th happened, he just completely changed," talking about you. "One of the first things he said was not how awful the tragedy was, it was, `Now we're going to get big government.'" Was that your reaction?
REP. PAUL: Well, I'm, I'm surprised somebody like that who's a disgruntled former employee who literally was put out. But, yes, thought...
MR. RUSSERT: He said he quit because he disagreed with you.
REP. PAUL: Yeah, no. The point is, Randolph Bourne says war is a helpless state. I believe that statement. When you have war, whether it's a war against drugs, war against terrorism, war, war overseas, war--the mentality of the people change and they're more willing to sacrifice their liberties in order to be safe and secure. So, yes, right after 9/11 my reaction was, you know, it's going to be a lot tougher selling liberty. But I'm pleasantly surprised that I'm still in the business of selling liberty and the Constitution and there's still a lot of enthusiasm for it. So all the American people don't agree that we have to have the nanny state and have the government taking care of us. So I have been encouraged. I might have been too pessimistic immediately after 9/11 because, in a way, it has caused this reaction and this uprising in this country to say, "Enough is enough. We don't need more Patriot Acts, we don't need more surveillance of our people. We don't need national ID cards. We don't need the suspension of habeas corpus. What we need is more freedom." So in one way I was pessimistic, but in another way, now, I'm more encouraged with the reception I'm getting with this message.
MR. RUSSERT: And you actually go further. You said this. "Abolish the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Central Intelligence Agency and dismantle every other agency except the Justice and Defense Departments." And then you went on. "If elected president, Paul says he would abolish public schools, welfare, Social Security and farm subsidies."
REP. PAUL: OK, you may have picked that up 20 or 30 years ago, it's not part of my platform. As a matter of fact, I'm the only one that really has an interim program. Technically, a lot of those functions aren't constitutional. But the point is I'm not against the FBI investigation in doing a proper role, but I'm against the FBI spying on people like Martin Luther King. I'm against the CIA fighting secret wars and overthrowing government and interfering...
MR. RUSSERT: Would you abolish them?
REP. PAUL: I would, I would not abolish all their functions, but I--the, the, the...
MR. RUSSERT: What about public schools? Are you still...
REP. PAUL: OK, but let's go, let's go with the CIA. They're, they're involved in, in, in torture. I would abolish that, yes. But I wouldn't abolish their right and our, our requirement to accumulate intelligence for national defense purposes.
MR. RUSSERT: But if you...
REP. PAUL: That's quite different.
Score another one for Ron Paul. Whatever your views on his radical libertarianism, you can't argue that he doesn't know the Constitution, and unlike the present occupant of the White House, he actually respects it.
And he made Russert look really quite silly on the question of amendments:
MR. RUSSERT: You say you're a strict constructionist of the Constitution, and yet you want to amend the Constitution to say that children born here should not automatically be U.S. citizens.
REP. PAUL: Well, amending the Constitution is constitutional. What's a--what's the contradiction there?
You can argue with Paul on the substance, but uh, Tim ... the Constitution can be amended ... it's kind of written in there... Being a strict constructionist doesn't mean you don't believe in amending the Constitution, it means believing that judges and legislators cannot act in contravention to the Constitution without amending it... Anyhoo...
Paul also had great answers on the "war on drugs," the civil war and slavery (he makes the point that every other country in the West got rid of slavery without a war), but his best answer was on the question of fascism, as mentioned earlier. On that, he is in agreement with Constitutional experts like fellow libertarian Jonathan Turley and former Nixon counsel John Dean, as well as with people of the left like Randi Rhodes. Here's the back and forth:
MR. RUSSERT: ... Before you go, Mike Huckabee, Republican candidate for president, ran this commercial for Christmas and many thought that the shelf in the back looked like a cross. You were asked about it on CNN and this is what you said.
REP. PAUL: It reminds me of what Sinclair Lewis once says. He said when fascism comes to this country, it will be wrapped in the flag, carrying a cross.
MR. RUSSERT: What does that mean?
REP. PAUL: What? Fascism or the definition of fascism?
MR. RUSSERT: Do you believe that Mike Huckabee is...
REP. PAUL: Oh, I didn't say that. I said it reminded me--as a matter of fact they caught me completely cold on that. I had not seen the ad, and they just said there was a cross there. And, you know, it was an instantaneous reflex because I knew of Sinclair Lewis about being cautious, because, you know, I--what prompts this is things like the Patriot Act. You know...
MR. RUSSERT: Let me go back...
REP. PAUL: No, no. If you're not a patriot...
MR. RUSSERT: But let me go back to this ad. You do not believe that Mike Huckabee, that ad commercial represents the potential of fascism in the form of a cross.
REP. PAUL: No. But I think this country, a movement in the last 100 years, is moving toward fascism. Fascism today, the softer term, because people have different definition of fascism, is corporatism when the military industrial complex runs the show, when the--in the name of security pay--pass the Patriot Act. You don't vote for it, you know, you're not patriotic America. If you don't support the troops and you don't support--if you don't support the war you don't support the troops. It's that kind of antagonism. But we have more corporatism and more abuse of our civil liberties, more loss of our privacy, national ID cards, all this stuff coming has a fascist tone to it. And the country's moving in that direction. That's what I'm thinking about. This was not personalized. I never even used my opponents names if you, if you notice.
MR. RUSSERT: So you think we're close to fascism?
REP. PAUL: I think we're approaching it very close. One--there's one, there's one documentary that's been put out recently that has generated a lot of interest called "Freedom to Fascism." And we're moving in that direction. Were not moving toward Hitler-type fascism, but we're moving toward a softer fascism. Loss of civil liberties, corporations running the show, big government in bed with big business. So you have the military industrial complex, you have the medical industrial complex, you have the financial industry, you have the communications industry. They go to Washington and spend hundreds of millions of dollars. That's where the control is. I call that a soft form of fascism, something that is very dangerous.
MR. RUSSERT: For the record, the Sinclair Lewis Society said that Mr. Lewis never uttered that quote.
REP. PAUL: But others refuted that and put them down and said that--and they found the exact quote where it came from.
More on Sinclair Lewis and his apocryphal novel, "It Can't Happen Here," here.
CBS News' ratings also-ran Katie Couric apparently lightly grills the presidential contenders on whether an unfaithful spouse can make a faithful POTUS. Drudge has the alleged transcript. Best answer: Huckabee. Worst: Rudy. I mean, what's he gonna say...?
Rudy Giuliani is a very bad man. I think we've more than established that. He's also a charlaitan who has enriched himself on the graves of nearly 3,000 people who died in the World Trade Center towers (the two that stood alongside his apparent Judy love-nest inside WTC 7, where he also, I'm sure quite coincidentally, housed his city's emergency response center...) And he has a list of clients for his various consulting interests that read from ironic (Hugo Chavez' state-run Citgo) to bad (Cintra, the folks behind that very real, thank you Jeffrey Toobin, NAFTA superhighway), to worse, according to Wayne Barrett of the Village Voice:
Three weeks after 9/11, when the roar of fighter jets still haunted the city's skyline, the emir of gas-rich Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifah al-Thani, toured Ground Zero. Although a member of the emir's own royal family had harbored the man who would later be identified as the mastermind of the attack—a man named Khalid Sheikh Muhammad, often referred to in intelligence circles by his initials, KSM—al-Thani rushed to New York in its aftermath, offering to make a $3 million donation, principally to the families of its victims. Rudy Giuliani, apparently unaware of what the FBI and CIA had long known about Qatari links to Al Qaeda, appeared on CNN with al-Thani that night and vouched for the emir when Larry King asked the mayor: "You are a friend of his, are you not?"
"We had a very good meeting yesterday. Very good," said Giuliani, adding that he was "very, very grateful" for al-Thani's generosity. It was no cinch, of course, that Giuliani would take the money: A week later, he famously rejected a $10 million donation from a Saudi prince who advised America that it should "adopt a more balanced stand toward the Palestinian cause." (Giuliani continues to congratulate himself for that snub on the campaign trail.) Al-Thani waited a month before expressing essentially the same feelings when he returned to New York for a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly and stressed how important it was to "distinguish" between the "phenomenon" of 9/11 and "the legitimate struggles" of the Palestinians "to get rid of the yoke of illegitimate occupation and subjugation." Al-Thani then accused Israel of "state terrorism" against the Palestinians.
But there was another reason to think twice about accepting al-Thani's generosity that Giuliani had to have been aware of, even as he heaped praise on the emir. Al Jazeera, the Arabic news network based in Qatar (pronounced "Cutter"), had been all but created by al-Thani, who was its largest shareholder. The Bush administration was so upset with the coverage of Osama bin Laden's pronouncements and the U.S. threats to bomb Afghanistan that Secretary of State Colin Powell met the emir just hours before Giuliani's on-air endorsement and asked him to tone down the state-subsidized channel's Islamist footage and rhetoric. The six-foot-eight, 350-pound al-Thani, who was pumping about $30 million a year into Al Jazeera at the time, refused Powell's request, citing the need for "a free and credible media." The administration's burgeoning distaste for what it would later brand "Terror TV" was already so palpable that King—hardly a newsman—asked the emir if he would help "spread the word" that the U.S. was "not targeting the average Afghan citizen." Al-Thani ignored the question—right before Giuliani rushed in to praise him again.
In retrospect, Giuliani's embrace of the emir appears peculiar. But it was only a sign of bigger things to come: the launching of a cozy business relationship with terrorist-tolerant Qatar that is inconsistent with the core message of Giuliani's current presidential campaign, namely that his experience and toughness uniquely equip him to protect America from what he tauntingly calls "Islamic terrorists"—an enemy that he always portrays himself as ready to confront, and the Democrats as ready to accommodate.
The contradictory and stunning reality is that Giuliani Partners, the consulting company that has made Giuliani rich, feasts at the Qatar trough, doing business with the ministry run by the very member of the royal family identified in news and government reports as having concealed KSM—the terrorist mastermind who wired funds from Qatar to his nephew Ramzi Yousef prior to the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and who also sold the idea of a plane attack on the towers to Osama bin Laden—on his Qatar farm in the mid-1990s. ...
There's much more in the article. It's long and detailed, and worth the read. The only remaining question is just how much conservatives are willing to tolerate. They've looked past Rudy's womanizing, his dumping his wife, his pimping 9/11 for personal financial gain, his lapsed morality on issues like abortion, and his partisans are even shrugging off his use of the NYPD as his mistress' personal taxi service, at taxpayer expense. Are the moralistic hypocrites like Glenn Beck (Mr. "I like Rudy because he'll shoot Muslims in the head") and Pat (The Nutjob) Robertson willing to even overlook Rudy's ties to terrorism?
I await the RedState walkback.
Back to the love-nest for a sec. The link in the first paragaph is to a post yesterday by Joshua Micah Marshall. It's worth giving you a taste:
Before 9/11, the city of New York set up an emergency command center in the World Trade Center complex, actually in building 7. After 9/11 this was a matter of some controversy since it obviously wasn't usable on the day of the attacks. (Building 7 eventually collapsed late in the day on 9/11.) And while no one could have predicted 9/11 precisely, there was a certain gap in logic in building the command center in what had already proven to be a top terrorist target.
However that might be, earlier this year it emerged that Rudy actually spent a lot of time in his personal quarters in the command center pre-9/11 because that's where he took Judi for their snogfests while their relationship was still a secret.
In fact, it gets better. While it's difficult to prove, there was a decent amount of circumstantial evidence -- and some city officials believed -- that Rudy's reason for wanting the center in building 7 was so that he could walk there easily from city hall for his trysts with Judy.
So just how do we judge the price NYC paid for the Judi affair?
The Rudy and Judy Show! Sponsored by, the Taxpayers of New York City
File this one under, "I could have told you that..."
The mainstream media finally catches up with a seedy story New Yorkers have known about for years: that Bernie Kerik wasn't the only sleazebag using public resources for his private sexual affairs. Here's the headline from today's NY Post:
REPORT: GIULIANI USED CITY CASH FOR JUDY RENDEZ-VOUS
November 28, 2007 -- America's mayor reportedly dipped into various city agencies' budgets to pay for extra security while kicking off his extramarital affair with now-wife Judy Nathan, a political blog reported today.
The Post reported more than six years ago that the trips were costing New York taxpayers $3,000 a day.
Rudy Giuliani, previously undisclosed government documents show, used funds from small government agencies to pay his tab, Politico.com alleged in a report.
It has previously been reported that Giuliani would sneak off to Hamptons to rendez-vous with then-girlfriend Nathan, and these trips incurred extra costs for the police officers assigned to protect the former mayor.
When the large expenses were found by the city comptroller months after Giuliani left office -- such as $34,000 of travel expenses billed to the New York City Loft Board's account -- the mayor's office simply cited "security," Jeff Simmons, spokesman for the city comptroller, told Politico.com.
The Post indeed did break the story years ago, when Bushie was running for Senator, that he used taxpayer funded security details to protect his then mistress, Judith Nathan, who is now his wife (until he finds something better, of course ... paging the Special Dispensation Cardinal!...) Perhaps the Post could look into who footed the bill for Rudy's rent when his then wife Donna Hanover kicked him out of Gracie Mansion for cheating, and he went to live with those gay guys and their dog...
Oh, sorry, I forgot ... the media doesn't talk about Rudy's private life. It's not relevant...
Anyway, here's the full report from Politico, including these juicy tidbits about the agencies that were paying for Rudy's Hamptons booty calls:
The documents, obtained by Politico under New York’s Freedom of Information Law, show that the mayoral costs had nothing to do with the functions of the little-known city offices that defrayed his tabs, including agencies responsible for regulating loft apartments, aiding the disabled and providing lawyers for indigent defendants.
In other words, Rudy screwed crippled people and indigent folk accused of crimes, in order to get his groove on. Now, here's Rudy acting like George W. Bush:
The expenses first surfaced as Giuliani's two terms as mayor of New York drew to a close in 2001, when a city auditor stumbled across something unusual: $34,000 worth of travel expenses buried in the accounts of the New York City Loft Board.
When the city's fiscal monitor asked for an explanation, Giuliani's aides refused, citing "security," said Jeff Simmons, a spokesman for the city comptroller.
And here's Rudy playing Tax Mooch Cassanova:
But American Express bills and travel documents obtained by Politico suggest another reason City Hall may have considered the documents sensitive: They detail three summers of visits to Southampton, the Long Island town where Nathan had an apartment.
Auditors "were unable to verify that these expenses were for legitimate or necessary purposes," City Comptroller William Thompson wrote of the expenses from fiscal year 2000, which covers parts of 1999 and 2000. ...
... The receipts tally the costs of hotel and gas bills for the police detectives who traveled everywhere with the mayor, according to cover sheets that label them “PD expenses” and travel authorizations that describe the trips. ...
... Many of the receipts are from hotels and gas stations on Long Island, where Giuliani reportedly began visiting Nathan’s Southampton condominium in the summer of 1999, though Giuliani and Nathan have never discussed the beginning of their relationship.
Nathan would go on to become Giuliani’s third wife, but his second marriage was officially intact until the spring of 2000, and City Hall officials at the time responded to questions about his absences by saying he was spending time with his son and playing golf.
So Rudy wasn't above using his son as an excuse to see his girlfriend ... sounds very presidential. For those on the right, including kooks like Pat Robertson and self-riteous airheads like Glenn Beck, to justify their support for Giuliani by calling his libidinous behavior "irrelevant", I would ask the following question: how can you say that Rudy's affair isn't relevant when it involved the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for security? Just sayin' ... and I don't want to hear the words "Bill Clinton." Clinton never used the Secret Service to shuttle Monica around, and his fooling around had absolutely no connection to his public office. Not so in the case of Rudy, who conducted his affair with the help of New York City taxpayers -- some of the most heavily taxed people in the country.
Even after his term as mayor ended, Rudy continued to receive taxpayer funded security to the tune of $1 million per year, with more than a dozen cops protecting him, his former wife, and his kids (and probably his mistress, too.) The New York press has covered Rudy's marital soap opera for years, and this story is NOT news to those of us who have lived in NYC.
We remember, for example, back in the spring of 2001 when Rudy, in his move to push Donna Hanover out the door, cut her security detail. Note the interesting detail about Judy in this humdinger from the NYT's Elizabeth Bumiller:
Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani cut in half the office staff of his estranged wife, Donna Hanover, yesterday as police officials announced separately that they had reassigned three members of Ms. Hanover's security detail to other jobs.
Mr. Giuliani's actions made it clear that he would continue to use the powers of his office to sever his wife from her public role as the city's first lady and to isolate her as much as possible during his final months in office.
A police official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said three police detectives assigned to Ms. Hanover to make security arrangements in advance of her public appearances had been reassigned on Friday. Ms. Hanover will still be protected, the official said, by an undisclosed number of detectives traveling with her. ''She has an adequate security detail,'' the official said.
Helene Brezinsky, Ms. Hanover's divorce lawyer, said she had no comment. ...
... Last week, aides to Mr. Giuliani said he was stripping Ms. Hanover of her public duties and giving the role of his hostess to Irene R. Halligan, the commissioner of the New York City Commission for the United Nations, Consular Corps and Protocol. Mr. Giuliani filed for divorce from his wife last fall.
... ''To the extent that Donna is no longer performing a function derived from the mayor, she doesn't need a public relations person,'' said a senior City Hall aide.
... The police official added that Judith Nathan, Mr. Giuliani's friend, was no longer receiving security protection. In January, police officials disclosed that Ms. Nathan had been receiving police protection since she was threatened a few days after Christmas, when a man confronted her on the street not far from her Upper East Side apartment. Officials said at the time that it was probable that the man had approached her because of her relationship with the mayor. Ms. Nathan's security protection, the official said, ended a few weeks later.
Mr. Giuliani announced last May that he was seeking a separation from Ms. Hanover and that Ms. Nathan had become increasingly important to him. Ms. Hanover and the couple's two children continue to live at Gracie Mansion, and Mr. Giuliani uses a guest room there. Earlier this month he had his divorce lawyers argue that he should be allowed to bring Ms. Nathan there. A judge disagreed and barred Ms. Nathan from Gracie Mansion. Mr. Giuliani is appealing.
Mr. Giuliani has grown increasingly angry that Ms. Hanover continues to play a first lady role as their marriage has crumbled and he has chosen Ms. Nathan as his public companion.
Update: Wolf Blitzer actually covered the story. Just teased it on CNN. Wow. Next thing you know Chris Matthews will be paying attention...
Feb. 12: District of Columbia primary, Maryland primary, Virginia primary
Feb. 19: Hawaii Democratic caucuses, Washington primary, Wisconsin primary (Hawaii Republicans will have no primary or caucus.)
March 4: Massachusetts primary, Ohio primary, Rhode Island primary, Texas primary, Vermont primary
March 8: Wyoming Democratic caucuses
March 11: Mississippi primary
April 22: Pennsylvania primary
May 6: Indiana primary, North Carolina primary
May 13: Nebraska primary, West Virginia primary
May 20: Kentucky primary, Oregon primary
May 27: Idaho Republican primary
June 3: Montana primary, New Mexico GOP caucuses, South Dakota primary
Thanks to the machinations, mainly of the DNC, Iowa and New Hampshire, two of the least diverse, least representative states in the Union, have an even more outsized influence on who the next president will be. This thing is over after February 5th.
The WaPo offers a handy map, complete with clickable state delegate counts.
The latest skirmish between the Democratic front-runners, who are apparently determined to immolate each other so thoroughly that it won't matter which one of their charred corpses emerges as the nominee, because his or her fellow Democrats will have already written that candidate's obituary in Primary blood, has me believing that the Democratic Party might just be terminal.
The latest proof that Democrats are more interested in winning primaries than general elections: Barack Obama is now attacking Hillary Clinton, in person and by name, using material gleaned from one Robert David Sanders Novak.
...the same Robert Novak who knowingly outed covert CIA operative Valerie Plame...
It all started when Novak penned a gossip column entry so thin and nebulous that it almost has to have come, not from secret sources within the Clinton campaign, but from Novak's scumbag Republican friends. Get a load of this idiotic piece of gossip:
Agents of Sen. Hillary Clinton are spreading the word in Democratic circles that she has scandalous information about her principal opponent for the party's presidential nomination, Sen. Barack Obama, but has decided not to use it. The nature of the alleged scandal was not disclosed.
Did I mention that Novak, who is in close running with Rudy's pal Pat Robertson for Most Likely to Actually Be The Devil... had the temerity to do his publishing on a Sunday? Oh, irony...
Anyway, the key line in this waste of words is the following: "The nature of the alleged scandal was not disclosed." And the purpose of the blind item would be ...??? Exactly.
The Novak column did contain one piece of wisdom that even the Dems should be able to figure out:
Experienced Democratic political operatives believe Clinton wants to avoid a repetition of 2004, when attacks on each other by presidential candidates Howard Dean and Richard Gephardt were mutually destructive and facilitated John Kerry's nomination.
Indeed, which I suppose is the last, best hope of John Edwards.
This entire "scandal" is pathetic, but it does prove something I've believed for some time, which is that Democrats are good at only three things:
1. Capitulating to Republican presidents 2. Capitulating to Republican members of Congress; and 3. Decimating each other in primaries in order to ensure a Democrat can't win the White House
Enter Barack obama, who incredibly, not only apparently believes what he reads in a freaking Robert Novak column, but who appears more than willing to act on it, John Edwards style, to the detriment of a political rival who ... and this is the important part ... is a member of the same party he is, and who could eventually become the nominee, as could he. Meaning that if he destroys said political rival, the results in the general election will be predictable, and most helpful to the GOP.
Said Obama at a presser responding to the unsourced rumor:
"We don't want anybody to have any doubts that when it comes to these kinds of practices, I won't tolerate it," Obama said, responding to reporters' questions on the controversy. "In the era of the blogosphere…if you don't get on this stuff quick, then it starts drifting around."
“I am prepared to stand up to that kind of politics, whether it's deployed by candidates in our party, in the other party or by any third party,” Obama said. “The cause of change in this country will not be deterred or sidetracked by the old ‘Swift boat’ politics. The cause of moving America forward demands that we defeat it.”
Nice flourish, but one has to wonder whether the appearance of toughness on Obama's part is somewhat misdirected.
If the ongoing Democratic fratricide had some purpose, other than to satiate a media elite that has been virtually demanding internecine war between the Dems in order to satiate their Clinton fetish without actually appearing to slime the Hated Couple THEMSELVES, then I could understand it. But alas, there is no point to it. John Edwards is on a search and destroy mission against those he sees as standing between him and a White House he will never occupy...
Barack is caving to the media demands that he destroy Hillary for them, only to find himself in the position of being the one Democrat who still reads Novak's column (maybe it's a Chicago thing...) and doing the bidding of Clinton jihadists like Chris Matthews.
And after all the dirt has been thrown, what will we be left with besides a series of neatly produced GOP attack ads for the general election, written not by Karl Rove, but by other Democrats.
To quote Bill Cosby, "come on, people!"
To paraphrase Ronald Reagan, the 11th Commandment states that "thou shalt not speak ill of a fellow Democrat." Recall that of all the nasty things that were said about Reagan, the one that has really stuck: the notion of "voodoo economics," came from one of his own: his future vice president, George Herbert Walker Bush.
I find it stunning that the Dems who are running for president are getting busy attacking one another, while virtually ignoring the big, fat elephants in the room, starting with the president and working your way down through the his sycophant courtiers in Congress, and those crackpot geezers running for the nomination of the GOP. Ya think the Dem first tier guys could find SOMETHING about any of those clowns to attack?
Earth to Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and Barack Obama: one of you will be the Democratic nominee for president. And before you take on the job of "uniting the county" -- an idea that assumes that most Republicans want to unite with you ... you will have to start by uniting your party, and consolidating the support ... and this is the big one ... of your present rivals. If you make it your business to destroy those Democratic rivals, then good luck doing THAT.
Figure out who the enemy is, fellas. Hint: it's not Hillary and Bill Clinton.
That said, there is a reason why candidates fall into the negative campaign trap: it works. At least in primaries. The latest Iowa polling bears that out, showing Barack Obama pulling every so slightly ahead of Hillary (though still within the margin of error. Still, perception is important.)
The new polling doesn't take the Novak nastiness into account, but it does reflect at least three weeks of continual Hillary pounding. Bottom line, the poll does suggest that the negativity against Clinton is working, not for the main peddler of it, John Edwards, but for Barack:
At the heart of the Democratic race has been the dichotomy between strength and experience (qualities emphasized by Clinton, Richardson, and Sens. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware and Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut in their appeals) and the ability to introduce a new approach to governing (as Obama and Edwards have promised to do).
Iowa Democrats are tilting toward change, and Obama appears to be benefiting from it.
Fifty-five percent of those surveyed reported that a "new direction and new ideas" are their top priority, compared with 33 percent who favored "strength and experience." That is a shift from July, when 49 percent sought change and 39 percent experience.
Nationally, Clinton is viewed as a candidate of change, with support from 41 percent of Democrats seeking a new direction in a recent Post-ABC poll. But in Iowa, Obama dominates the "change" vote, winning 43 percent of that group, compared with 25 percent for Edwards and 17 percent for Clinton.
Still, Clinton retains a comfortable lead among Iowa voters who consider strength and experience more important, with 38 percent compared with 19 percent for Edwards, 18 percent for Richardson and 12 percent for Obama, according to the new survey.
She appears more vulnerable on questions of character. Thirty-one percent found Obama to be the most honest and trustworthy, about double the percentage who said the same of Clinton. While about three-quarters credited both Obama and Edwards with speaking their minds on issues, only 50 percent said Clinton is willing enough to say what she really thinks. Forty-five percent said she is not sufficiently candid.
Overall, the poll points to some strategic gains for Obama. His support is up eight percentage points since July among voters 45 and older -- who accounted for two-thirds of Iowa caucus-goers in 2004. He also runs evenly with Clinton among women in Iowa, drawing 32 percent to her 31 percent, despite the fact that her campaign has built its effort around attracting female voters.
In the end, the personal attacks may bring down Hillary. Democrats who want to win next November ought to hope that if the attacks continue, that they DO take her down. Otherwise, Mrs. Clinton will limp into the general thoroughly decimated by members of her own party, and possibly fatally so. If she does go down hard, Obama (most likely the beneficiary) will have a hell of a time bringing her supporters into the fold. And he will foreclose the possibility of utilizing the major campaign asset called William Jefferson Clinton. (though clearly, given his message, Obama wouldn't want to have Clinton campaign for him.)
It's a major gamble on the part of Edwards and Obama. A desperate gamble that can only hurt their party's chances in the general.
Camp McCain tries to get all Bill O'Reilly on CNN, and raise a little dough in the process. Check out the email McCain campaign manager Rick Davis sent to supporters today (courtesy of The Hill). As you read it, remember, Rick Davis is the campaign BOSS, second only to the candidate himself:
“The CNN Network, affectionately known as the Clinton News Network, has stooped to an all-time low and is gratuitously attacking John McCain for not sufficiently defending Hillary Clinton enough when a South Carolina voter used the 'B' word to describe her when John McCain stopped into a luncheon yesterday at the Trinity restaurant in Hilton Head, S.C. ...
... The liberal media has figured out that John McCain is the only thing that stands between a Hillary Clinton presidency, and they are therefore trying to stop the McCain comeback,” Davis said. “Simply put, CNN is scared that John McCain will beat Hillary Clinton. They are right to be scared.”
Oh where to begin...
First off, Ricky darling, "not sufficiently defending Hillary enough" is redundant. You could have left off either "not sufficiently defending" or "enough" and your statement would have been much more fitting for a man of your station.
Second, the idea that the media is "scared" of John McCain because they fear he "stands in the way of a Hillary Clinton presidency" creates two problems for you. First, you appear to have capitulated to the notion of Hillary's inevitability as president, which should come as a pleasant surprise to her. Second ... um ... the only thing about Senator McCain that scares members of the public AND the media is this:
The mainstream media (of which I have been a part for many years) has some bad habits, but among the worst, is a herd mentality that coincides with a tendency to create what you might call an "internal conventional wisdom." To explain, remember after 9/11, when George W. Bush became "an enormously popular president?" You couldn't listen to a newscast about the POTUS without hearing that phrase -- it was literally written into the anchors scripts, and into nearly every newspaper article. That narrative by the members of the elite media persisted, for years, even as Bush's poll numbers began to come down. It persisted even after he dipped below 50% approval ratings in most polls. I can still hear Chris Matthews braying about how much the American people "like this guy," even when they stopped liking the war, the economy, his cabinet, his vice president and his policies.
The trouble was, the polling didn't support the narrative. It doesn't have to. The Washington reporting set are a tight clique who reinforce each other, and the narrative, at all costs. It's why you hear the phrase "you're absolutely right" so much on your favorite news chat shows.
Okay, fast forward to today. I was watching MSNBC this morning as Chuck Todd was chatting with one of MSNBC's morning spokesmodels about the latest presidential polling. The poll of the day, as it should be on MSNBC, is the NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll that shows Hillary Clinton with a 22-point lead over Barack Obama on the Dem side (nasty old John Edwards has dropped 5 points to 11 percent on the strength of his desperation attacks on the front-runner...) and Rudy Giuliani ticking up 3 points to a 33-16 lead over surprise second place finisher John McCain, with sleepy Fred Thompson cratering from 23 points in September to 15 now. The Mittster is down to 11 points.
And now for the narrative. The poll also shows that a generic Democrat leads a generic Republican in the head-to-head match-up by a whopping 50 percent to 35 percent, while a Hillary-Rudy race is a dead heat (she leads by a single percentage point.) MSNBC writes it up thusly:
Yet given those advantages, Clinton — as well as the other top Democrats in the race — finds herself in a dead heat in a general election match-up against Rudy Giuliani, who leads the GOP presidential field in the poll.
Sounds OK so far. The writer acknowledges that Hillary is just one of the Dems who hold a slim lead over the potential GOP nominee, Giuliani. It's all Hillary -- and all downhill -- from there:
“Her primary numbers are certainly strong, and that is where the game is being played [right now],” says Democratic pollster Peter D. Hart, who conducted this survey with Republican pollster Bill McInturff. But in a general election, Hart adds, Clinton “obviously has a lot of troubles and challenges ahead.”
“She has a lot to do to win the presidency.” ...
Okay, so Hillary has a lot to do to win the general? Let's compare how her rivals do against the same challenger, Rudy, and against the other GOPers. From PollingReport.com:
Hillary - 46 Rudy - 45
Barack - 44 Rudy - 42
Hang on ... the media's argument is that Barack is sooooo much more likable, lovable, and by inference, has less headwind against a Rudy candidacy than Hil, right? MSNBC sez:
One of the reasons, it seems, why Clinton commands this lead over Obama is the perception of experience. Seventy-six percent of Democrats surveyed in the poll give Clinton high marks for being knowledgeable and experienced enough to handle the presidency. By comparison, just 41 percent of Democrats say the same about Obama.
Similarly, 63 percent give Clinton high marks for her ability to be a good commander-in-chief. That’s compared with 43 percent who give Obama high marks on this question.
On the flip side, however, Obama is seen as more likeable than Clinton (72 percent of Democrats give him high marks here versus 49 percent for Clinton), as well as more honest and straightforward (65 percent versus 53 percent).
And yet, Barack statistically does no better against Giuliani than Hillary does... could it be that a generic Democrat beats a generic Republican, but ANY specific Dem varies the outcome depending on which Republican they face? Hm. More numbers:
Hillary blows out Mitt Romney, 50-39 She tanks Fred Thompson 51-37 She edges John McCain 47-43 (also within the margin of error, meaning McCain is just a strong a candidate as Rudy is...)
But wait ...
Barack also beats up on the Mittster, 48-36 And John Edwards does just as well against Rudy as the others, 45-44 In fact, the only Democrat Rudy can beat is one who isn't running, and he only beats Al Gore by one point, 47-46
What is clear in the poll is that Americans are disgruntled, unsatisfied with the way things are going (67 percent say the country is on the wrong track and 57 percent say the country is in a "state of decline) and they're not happy with either the president or the Congress. They want change, but they're not sure what kind of change that should be.
If they were sure, neither Rudy nor Hillary would be front runners.
Why do I say that? Because Hillary essentially represents a return to the good old economic times and international support of the 1990s ... and Rudy represents no change at all, particularly on foreign policy, domestic spying, the war in Iraq, a war in Iran, torture, etc., etc. ... even on the domestic side, Rudy agrees with VIRTUALLY EVERY POSITION HELD BY GEORGE W. BUSH. If voters are telling pollsters the truth about wanting change, then why are either of these candidates in the lead?
And speaking of Rudy, his "lead" is rather meager, in that it has yet -- in any poll -- to get out of the 30s. That isn't what you call solid support.
At the end of the day, all that you can say about the mood of the electorate is that it's bad. The American people say they want change, but history suggests that what most Americans prefer is "change with safety" -- predictable, marginal change, rather than major, radical change -- EVEN ON IRAQ (otherwise, the frontrunners should be Dennis Kucinich and Ron Paul.)
My read: Hillary and Rudy are out front because for Democrats, Hillary represents a "change back" to the time when things were good in the country and for the Democratic Party. For Republicans, who operate from a "fear base," if you will, Rudy probably represents change in terms of competency (hell, he ran big old New York ... that's hard, right??? ... but the status quo in terms of America's radical war footing against "the terrorists." That, and he's not Hillary Clinton -- something that only matters to the GOP base, which has been fed a steady diet of Hillary as boogeyman melodrama, by the party, and by the press.
Pat Robertson loves politics more than he loves The Lord... (I mean, how many divorces does a guy get a pass on just because he's leading in the GOP polls, anyway? And if God was going to strike Florida with a tsunami over Gay Days at Disneyworld, won't the fact that Rudy was roommates with a couple of gay dudes bring on the Armageddon? ... oh ... that's what Pat wants to happen... ooohhhh......)
Pat Robertson hates Muslims more than he loves the Lord ... The only sane (and I use that world loosely, given who we're talking about here) explanation for Robertson's break from his evangelical brethren to support the pro-abortion, pro-gay rights former mayor of Sodom and Gamorrah is that he believes that if elected president, Rudy will continue, or even escalate, George W. Bush's war on the Islamic foes of Israel -- a place Pat wants to conquer for Christendom and build a theme park ... where he can ride the Til-o-Whirl and await the Armageddon. Oh, there we go with that Armageddon thing again... The two weirdos apparently got to know each other on a flight back from Israel, a place they both cleve to like Likudniks on steroids. And in his endorsement speech, Robertson left little doubt which he cared about more, between loving the unborn and hating the Ay-rabs: "To me, the overriding issue before the American people is the defense of our population from the bloodlust of Islamic terrorists..." lest they try to blow up Disneyworld AFTER gay days...
Pat Robertson is insane ... goes without saying.
This of course, does beg the question, which even Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council is asking, of whether Rudy now believes, as Robertson does, that America had 9/11 coming because of the gays and the abortionists, and ... well ... everybody Rudy supports ... OR ... has Pat Robertson flip-flopped, Rudy style, on issues like gay rights, abortion, cousin marrying, philandering, divorce and all the other stuff Rudy can't get communion in his own church because of ... OR ... does Rudy's new anointing mean he'll never wear that dress again...
The world waits.
Update: The reviews are in! The religious right, and other parts of the GOP hothouse, are officially flummoxed by the Pat Robertson-Rudy Giuliani axis of weird...
Gary Bauer (himself the Earl of Odd) says it's all about Hillzilla:
“I did have some sense it was going to happen, so I wasn’t completely surprised,” Bauer said. “Those leaders who are endorsing are going through the same thought process that a lot of conservatives around the country are wrestling with, which is that whatever one thinks about the field, it’s clear to everybody that a Hillary Clinton presidency with Democratic control of the House and Senate would be a disaster no matter what kind of conservative you are.”
The Huffpo's Michael Roston made the rounds of other evangelical operatives of the GOP:
A spokeswoman at the Christian Coalition said that Robertson had made the endorsement "in his personal capacity" and so the group wasn't commenting. A spokesman at Focus On The Family similarly told us, "Anything about Pat Robertson we're not talking about." The group's leader, Rev. James Dobson, had warned last month that Christian groups might pick a third party candidate to represent social conservatives if Giuliani was nominated to head the Republican ticket.
Similarly, OneNewsNow, a news website linked to the Christian Coalition of America, published an article headlined "Pro-Family leaders mum on Robertson's endorsement of Rudy." It noted, "OneNewsNow contacted several pro-family leaders to get their reaction to the Robertson endorsement. Some did not return calls, while others said they did not want to comment."
Still, OneNewsNow's Jim Brown was able to find "a close personal friend of Robertson" who "believes the endorsement is "tragic," and that if Giuliani wins the nomination, it "will destroy the Republican Party." So you have to imagine they'll be speaking out in some way soon.
Meanwhile, John McCain, who himself picked up an endorsement from Sam Brownback today and who probably was referring to Robertson when he talked about the looney toons on the right back when he was a maverick in 2000, declared himself "speechless" regarding the endorsement.
"I thought it was important for me to make it clear that Rudy Giuliani is more than acceptable to people of faith," said Robertson. "Given the fractured nature of the process, I thought it was time to solidify around one candidate."
Okay not that part, THIS part:
[Robertson] insisted that while some on the "fringe" of the social conservative movement may see Giuliani as an unacceptable nominee, the "core know better."
How can you tell who's on the fringe when you're insane...?
Earth to 27 percent of Republicans: Rudy Giuliani is lying to you. And I mean, like, daily...
He wants you to believe that he was the REAL hero of 9/11 ... single-handedly doing what no other mayor could: talking to the press! Walking around with a mask on! Brushing dust off his suit shoulders, and uniting a city ... and a nation... ! Cue the angelic choir...!!!
Aside from a belabored p.r. strategy, and continual boasts about his supposed sage foreknowledge of 9/11 (knowledge he apparently didn't feel compelled to share with anyone who could have done anything about it, including the Clinton administration with whom he was working so closely (and exchanging mushy-gushy letters) on things like the assault weapons ban and the COPS program ...) boasts that are at this stage, even more irritating than John Edwards' "son of a millworker" schtick, what is Rudy Giuliani, really? Who is he, to those of us who know him best -- namely, New Yorkers?
He's not the crime-fighting super sleuth whom the Gotti boys targeted for a rub-out. That's only interesting to Rudy's high-fiving, snarky little press aides. For the rest of us, it's "talk to me when you get something more interesting than Rudy nearly getting whacked. Hell, Curtis Sliwa got shot in the butt by a made guy. Want him to be your president, too?"
He's not the beloved mayor of Gotham City. New Yorkers hate his guts (and not just the firefighters. We civilians despise him, too.) Remember when he floated the idea of staying on past his lawful mayoral term in the wake of 9/11 to ... um ... keep the leadership coming ... possibly in a Hugo Chavez-like version of forever? Not! He got shot down like ... well ... Curtis Sliwa's butt... Ouch!
He's not the only man with the foresight to see 9/11 coming, as he likes to tell Republican voter-bots during his incipid "love me, I'm 9/11" speeches. In fact, sealed testimony to the 9/11 Commission -- an entity Rudy quit after just a few months because attending the meetings was cutting into his 9/11 profiteering time -- which wasn't supposed to see the light of day until after the 2008 election, but obtained by the Village Voice's Wayne Barrett reveals the following:
A 15-page "memorandum for the record," prepared by a commission counsel and dated April 20, 2004, quotes Giuliani conceding that it wasn't until "after 9/11" that "we brought in people to brief us on al Qaeda." According to the memorandum, Giuliani told two commission members and five staffers: "But we had nothing like this pre 9/11, which was a mistake, because if experts share a lot of info," there would be a "better chance of someone making heads and tails" of the "situation." (Such memoranda are not verbatim transcripts of the confidential commission interviews, but are described on the cover page as "100 percent accurate" notes taken by staffers, stamped "commission sensitive/unclassified" on the top of each page.)
Asked about the “flow of information about al Qaeda threats from 1998-2001,” Giuliani said: “At the time, I wasn’t told it was al Qaeda, but now that I look back at it, I think it was al Qaeda.” He also said that as part of one of his post-9/11 briefings, “we had in Bodansky, who had written a book on bin Laden.” Giuliani was referring to Yossef Bodanksy, the author of Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America, which was published in 1999 and predicted “spectacular terrorist strikes in Washington and/or New York.” Giuliani wrote in his own book, Leadership, that Judi Nathan got him a copy of Bodansky’s prophetic work “shortly after 9/11,” and that he covered it in “highlighter and notes,” citing his study of it as an example of how he “mastered a subject.” Apparently, he also invited Bodansky to address key members of his staff.
Giuliani attributed his pre-9/11 shortcomings in part to the FBI, which was run by his close friend (and current endorser) Louis Freeh, and to the Joint Terrorism Task Force, an FBI-directed partnership with the NYPD. "We already had JTTF, and got flow information no one else got," he explained. "But did we get the flow of information we wanted? No. We would be told about a threat, but not about the underlying nature of the threat. I wanted all the same information the FBI had, and we didn't get that until after 9/11. Immediately after 9/11, we were made a complete partner." He added: "Without 9/11, I never would have been able to send an adviser to FBI briefings."
Oh, and did I mention that he's a foreign policy novice under the sway of a claque of neoconservative advisors who are itching to go to war in the Middle East near the Tigris and Euphrates rivers? Sound familiar, guys? Huh???
In fact, the only good thing about Rudy is his original position on gun control, which is amply documented here. Of course, the new, flip-flopping Rudy is totally, and I mean totally, against gun control ... sort of ... depending on who he's talking to ... Bo-Sox, Yankees, my God, so much to decide...!
Anyhoo, I guess the bottom line is that Rudy Giuliani is whoever he thinks he has to be that day, in order to get to be your president. Here's hoping he's doing all that huffing and puffing in vain. At least some conservatives are finally growing suspicious of the slippery character who changes positions faster than he changes wives ... and dresses.
Wake up, the rest of you Rudyphiles. The last thing you want in the White House is somebody about whom the one true thing you can say, is that you're certain that you really don't know who he is. When that happens, you have two choices: lift up his skirt and see if there are any jumblies under there, or ask those of us who do.
The other Man from Hope says his fellow GOP presidential candidates might need a Prozac ... or an ambulance:
LITTLE ROCK (AP) - Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee joked Tuesday that other candidates might be considering suicide because their level of support doesn't match their fundraising. The former Arkansas governor, exaggerating, said other GOP presidential hopefuls were raising $100 for every nickel he had raised. "If I were some of these guys, I'd have to be sitting in a warm tub of water with razor blades," Huckabee said on MSNBC-TV.
The ratio is closer to $10 for every $1 raised by Huckabee.
A poll released Sunday by The Des Moines Register showed Huckabee and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani fighting for third place in Iowa, behind former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney and former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson. Romney and Giuliani lead GOP candidates in fundraising.
All jokes aside, watching Mike Huckabee tonight, I have to say that he is perhaps the most dangerous of the Republican candidate. Even though I disagree with his views, his folksly delivery, affable demeanor, and incredibly un-scary delivery makes him someone American voters could get comfortable with. He's not bug-eyed crazy like Rudy, or used care salesman-y like the Mittster. And he's not an all-out nut like Tancredo ... hell, why am I mentioning him? Other than Ron Paul, who is the only one of these vanilla beans whose policy positions I actually find coherent, I'm now starting to think that Huckabee is the best that the GOP has got. Oh, and he doesn't put me to sleep, like Fred Thomps...zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.....
Hillary Clinton is kicking ass in the latest Washington Post poll. In every conceivable way... Even her husband is polling out of control (two thirds of Americans are bullish on his presidency, including a third of Republicans.) Witness:
Former President Bill Clinton has emerged as a clear asset in his wife's campaign for the White House, with Americans offering high ratings to his eight years in office and a solid majority saying they would be comfortable with him as first spouse, according to a new Washington Post-ABC News poll.
But Americans said they would not regard the election of New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as simply the resumption of her husband's presidency. Instead, two-thirds said she would take her presidency in a different direction and half of all Americans said they believed that would be a good development. And about half of those who said it would be a resumption described that as positive.
Now tot he meat of the matter. Hillary is beating Rudy Giuliani, the likely Republican nominee, 51 to 43 in this poll, taking 88 percent of Dems, 48 percent of Independents (Rudy gets 44) and even 10 percent of Republicans (more than Bushie got of Dems in 2000). But is she polarizing (I argue who cares, but let's pretend that it matters):
Many Republicans have said they are eager to run a general election campaign against Hillary Clinton, describing her as a highly polarizing candidate who would unite and energize the opposition. But as of now Clinton appears to to be no more polarizing than other leading Democratic candidates. Nor is there a potential Republican nominee who appears significantly less polarizing.
Forty-one percent of those surveyed said they definitely would not vote for Clinton in the general election if she were the Democratic nominee, one of the lowest "reject rates" of any of the leading candidates in either of the two major parties. Illinois Sen. Barack Obama registers the lowest definite opposition, at 39 percent.
...in the South, Edwards's home turf, the three leading Democrats all have been ruled out by nearly identical percentages; Edwards by 47 percent, Clinton by 46 percent and Obama by 45 percent.
Americans currently view the top four Republican candidates in equally or even more negative terms. Forty-four percent said they definitely would not vote for former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, while 45 percent said the same of Arizona Sen. John McCain. More than half of all Americans said they definitely would not vote for former Tennessee senator Fred Thompson (54 percent) or former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney (57 percent).
On the other side of the ledger, more Americans, three in 10, said they definitely would support Clinton than any other of the leading candidates of either party. In contrast, just 17 percent said they definitely would support Giuliani.
So who's polarizing, again? Chris Matthews, present yourself!
Two more items from the poll:
First, the word from those who are paying attention...
...among those following the election very closely at this point, Clinton enjoys a sizeable lead -- 58 percent to 40 percent.
And next, Hillary's real mojo factor: women...
A Clinton-Giuliani race could produce a big gender gap. Men now split about evenly between the two, but the New York senator's potentially groundbreaking candidacy draws heavily among women, 57 percent to 39 percent.
Note again, that Hil is not losing men -- she's polling equally with Rudy there.
Florida's Democratic Party isn't backing down in the battle over our primary date, which the GOP-led state legislature has set for January 29. The DNC -- led by the thoroughly misguided Dr. Dean (and Donna Brazille, surprisingly) -- has seen fit to punish Florida by threatening to disenfranchise 4.2 million Democratic voters, by taking away 100 percent of our delegates to the Denver convention. (The RNC is threatening to take away half of the GOP delegates as punishment.)
The issue here is whether Iowa and New Hampshire have some God-given right to decide who the Democratic and Republican nominees for president. Where this right comes from, and why it was afforded to two of the least diverse states in the country, I'll never know.
But I do know this. The Democratic Party had better pray that this doesn't come down to a showdown. They will lose.
For now, it appears the Florida Democratic Party will sue the DNC over the disenfranchisement threats.
PEMBROKE PINES - Florida Democratic party leaders on Sunday dared their national party to disenfranchise millions of voters next summer when their delegates meet in Denver to nominate their candidate for president.
Their dare, they added, might be bolstered by a lawsuit contending that "four rogue states" are conspiring to violate the civil rights of minorities in Florida by getting the Democratic National Committee to ignore the results of Florida's Jan. 29 party primary.
"For God's sake, this is the state where the election was stolen from in 2000," state party Vice Chairman Luis Garcia said at a news conference held in Broward because it is the most heavily Democratic county in the state.
At stake are the 210 delegates that Florida Democrats plan to send to the Democratic National Convention in Colorado. The national party in August threatened not to seat those delegates unless Florida delays its primary at least a week so New Hampshire, Iowa, Nevada and South Carolina can pick their nominees for president.
"Four rogue states took action against the state of Florida," said Sen. Steve Geller of Cooper City, the Senate's Democratic leader.
Florida Democrats said it wasn't their fault the date was set for Jan. 29; the Republican-controlled Legislature did it. But Democratic leaders said they ruled out other options, such as holding a Democratic-only primary, a caucus or a mail-in vote.
"We looked at other alternatives and some looked serious and some not so serious, but at the end of the day we came down to the primary on Jan. 29 as the only way to have a fair and independent election," said party Chairwoman Karen Thurman.
The problem, she said, is that municipalities throughout Florida moved their elections to Jan. 29 and the state set the same date for Floridians to vote on a constitutional amendment for a "super" homestead exemption. This was done because presidential primaries attract people to the polls and without Democratic candidates on the ballot, Democratic voters might not show up to vote on the other issues.
"So there are a lot of reasons we stand together today to say to voters of the state to vote on Jan. 29 and to be assured their vote will count," she said.
Thurman said the national party isn't likely to carry out its threat to ignore the delegates selected by Florida Democrats.
"I believe they have to seat Florida's delegates," she said. "Florida is part of the United States."
Added Geller: "There is no question that in Denver our delegates will be seated, no question about it." ...
Get 'em, Florida.
... Geller said it might take a lawsuit to force the party to seat Florida delegates. He predicted one will be filed contending that the national party, by ordering Florida to move the date, is violating the federal Voting Rights Act of 1965
The suit will be brought, he said, by a minority resident of Collier, Hardee, Hendry, Hillsborough or Monroe County and contend that the four early voting states are "conspiring amongst each other to intimidate the presidential candidates, telling them that if they come down to Florida, they will be blackballed in the state."
According to Geller, the civil rights violation is that moving the primary date would force minority voters in the five counties to pay to see presidential candidates in person, something they could do for free if the candidates stumped in Florida for the scheduled Jan. 29 primary.
Because candidates would fear being blackballed, he said, their only appearances in Florida would be at fund-raisers open to those who pay. Without the fear of being blackballed, they would come to Florida and make traditional, free campaign appearances.
The suit would have to come from one of the five counties because they are being monitored by the U.S. Department of Justice for violations of minority voting rights.
Go ahead and try and disenfranchise Florida, Dems. I double, triple dare you.
Rudy Giuliani is slowly, but surely, beginning to show himself. From the Guardian UK:
LONDON (AP) - Rudy Giuliani was on the trans-Atlantic campaign trail Wednesday, schmoozing with conservative idol Margaret Thatcher and bragging about his international credentials.
``I'm probably one of the four or five best known Americans in the world,'' Giuliani told a small group of reporters at a posh London hotel as onlookers gathered in the lobby to gawk at actor Dustin Hoffman, who was on a separate visit.
The former New York mayor is the latest GOP presidential candidate to travel to Britain, meeting the country's new political guard and rubbing elbows with Thatcher, an icon for American conservatives.
He also was asked to deliver a special lecture at the Atlantic Bridge, a group that promotes ties between British and American conservatives.
Giuliani told reporters he has made 91 trips to 35 countries in five years and many governments seek him out for advice on security. He was given an honorary knighthood in 2002 by Queen Elizabeth II for his leadership after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
But who are the four other best-known Americans?
``Bill Clinton ... Hilary,'' he said, but he was whisked away for another engagement before he could throw out any other names. ...
What a shit. Why would anyone want this 9/11 pimping nut-ball for a president? Republican Rudy supporters, please take your temperature and "just say no."
The DNC has dropped the hammer on Florida, threatening to deny the state its 210 delegates to the party's convention if the Sunshine State goes ahead with its plans to hold a primary election on January 29. Here's how Nedra Pickler at the AP reports it:
Florida Democrats would forfeit their votes in selecting a presidential nominee unless they delay their state election by at least a week, the national party said in a stern action Saturday meant to discourage others from leapfrogging ahead to earlier dates.
The Florida party has 30 days to submit an alternative to its planned Jan. 29 primary or lose its 210 delegates to the nominating convention in Denver next summer.
The state party chairwoman, Karen Thurman, said she would confer with state officials about the ultimatum. "It's going to be a difficult discussion," she said, because Floridians are wary of having their votes taken away.
Elected officials in Florida have said they would consider legal action and a protest at the convention if the national party barred the state's delegates.
Florida's vote change was pushed by the GOP in order to enhance the state's stature by making it one of the early primary states, along with South Carolina, Nevada, and the whitest states in the union, Iowa and New Hampshire. The logic is that with Florida's diversity, it is more representative of the country writ large, and should have a louder voice (I suspect that the GOP also sees Florida as a state more amenable to a more moderate, non-evangelical candidate like Rudy Giuliani, who leads the state in the polls and in terms of elected leadership support, as opopsed to a North Carolina, or a Nevada, where anti-immigration forces could hurt Rudy pretty badly...)
Either way, the Democrats are now committed to the primary date, and the Republican-led legislature has no real incentive to help the Dems out, unless of course the RNC decides to go the same route. More from the AP:
There is general agreement that the eventual nominee will seat Florida's delegates rather than allow a fight at a convention intended to show party unity. But the decision by the Democratic National Committee's rules panel could reduce Florida's influence because candidates may want to campaign in states where the votes are counted.
In other words, the DNC's action could cost this state -- and particularly our media outlets, like the one I work for, a shitload of cash. More on what we know, and check out hard-ass Donna Brazille!
The calendar was designed to preserve the traditional role that Iowa and New Hampshire have played in selecting the nominee, while adding two states with more racial and geographic diversity to influential early slots.
Several DNC officials said before the vote that they wanted to take the strong action against Florida to discourage Michigan, New Hampshire and other states that were considering advancing their contests in violation of party rules.
Garry Shay, a rules committee member from California, said allowing Florida to move forward "would open the door to chaos."
DNC committee member Donna Brazile also argued for a strong penalty, saying, "I hesitate to see what happens if we show somehow some wiggle room in our process."
The party argues that Florida's early primary could cause a headlong rush by other states, including Michigan, to move their primaries up, too. Now, to Ms. Brazille, as reported by The Politico:
During the debate, Donna Brazile, a DNC member from D.C. who was campaign manager for Gore-Lieberman in 2000, said: “I understand how states crave to be first. I understand that they’re envious of the role that Iowa and New Hampshire have traditionally played. And I understand that they would like to see if they can get the candidates to come down and … spend all of their time and the resources and fill their bars — oh, sorry, not the bars! — fill their farms and their barns up with people. But the truth is is that we had a process. … That vote will stand … and send a signal to the people of Florida – which includes my sister, who had to show not one, not two, but three forms of ID in 2000.”
And as regards "funny hats", the Politico's Ben Smith continues;
As the meeting broke up and all the cameras and reporters (and there are a bunch of both) lunged for the Florida folks, I walked up to the dais and asked Mr. Roosevelt and his co-chair, Alexis M. Herman, the practical consequences for Florida if the sanctions remain in place.
Roosevelt: “The event on Jan. 29 would be purely a beauty contest — equivalent, as somebody said, to the Iowa straw poll.”
Herman: “But voters WOULD get to register their preference. I think that’s important to point out.”
Roosevelt: “There would be a state-run poll or beauty contest, as has happened before. But there would NOT be a selection of delegates for the national convention in that process.”
What will happen at the national convention, in Denver a year from now (Aug. 25 to 28, 2008)? Will Florida have a section with a "Sunshine State" sign and the funny hats?
Herman: “This would then come under the purview of the credentials committee of the convention. And the convention credentials committee would then have to make a determination as to how they would interpret whatever activities would have occurred in Florida — be it the 29th process, or any subsequent activities, if it were not party approved.”
So is it disenfranchisement, as the state party is claiming, or just strict adherance to the rules? Hm...
As for the Republicans, they stand to lose up to half of their delegates when the powers that be over there decide September 5th. But the state GOP chair is vowing to fight the power. We shall see...
Mitt Romney buys himself an Iowa straw poll! The Mittster took a resounding 32% of the vote, at a bargain price of around $3,000,000 (divided by the 4,505 or so folks who voted for him works out to ... ah! About $666 per voter! ...COINCIDENCE...!!!??? ) Ahem... Mike Huckabee finished second with 18%, followed by Sam Brownback of Kansas. Rudy didn't bother to compete, and I think "Baghdad John" got, like, some old lady from Deluth to show up for him... Interestingly enough, Ron Paul finished fifth, which for him, is pretty freaking fabulous. Of course, Romney's win in a contest in which only around 14,000 people voted, does give rise to certain, less than exuberant headlines. Here's one from the AP:
(CNN) – At a campaign stop in Bettendorf, Iowa Wednesday, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney was asked whether any of his sons were enlisted in the military and what they were doing to “support the war on terror.”
“The good news is, we have a volunteer army, and we’re going to keep it that way,” the former Massachusetts governor responded. “My sons are all adults…. They’ve made their decisions about their careers and chosen not to serve in the military and I respect that decision.”
The question came from a reputed war protestor while Romney was discussing Iraq. The presidential hopeful continued his answer by calling for a “surge of support” for those enlisted and their families.
Can't you jusr hear the patriotic marching band? I think it's playing the old timey tune, "Summer of the Blue Blood Chickenhawks." Watch Romney take it to the streets here.
Quinnipiac is out with three new swing state polls that offer still more good news for "your girl," Hillary Clinton. She's leading the front-runner among the GOP Geriatric Drill Team, Rudolph "The Inbreeder" Giuliani in three key states:
New York Sen. Hillary Clinton has inched ahead of her top Republican foe, former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in Florida and Pennsylvania, and ties Giuliani in Ohio, her best showing so far in the three states as many voters re-evaluate their previous negative impression of her, according to Quinnipiac University's Swing State Poll, three simultaneous surveys of voters in states that have been pivotal in presidential elections since 1964.
Sen. Clinton has increased her substantial Democratic primary lead over Illinois Sen. Barack Obama to 25 points in Ohio, 16 points in Pennsylvania and 30 points in Florida, the first big state to hold a primary, scheduled for January 29, 2008, the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. Giuliani is treading water in the Republican primary, holding leads over Arizona Sen. John McCain or former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson of seven points in Florida, 18 points in Ohio and 13 points in Pennsylvania.
Head to head matchups show:
Florida - Clinton tops Giuliani 46 - 44 percent, flipping a 46 - 44 percent Giuliani lead July 23; Ohio - Clinton ties Giuliani 43 - 43 percent, compared to a 44 - 42 percent Clinton lead July 12; Pennsylvania - Clinton edges Giuliani 45 - 44 percent, compared to a 45 - 45 percent tie June 27.
Another important factor for Hillary is that her negatives are declining, particularly among independent voters, as many are apparently taking a second look at her, proving again that as I've said frequently on this blog, Hil has won every single one of the debates, and come out of the snipe fights with Barack as the heavyweight, because she's proved her toughness and foreign policy credentials, even when taking positions unpopular with the viewing or attending audience on debate night. It sounds middling, But Hil raising her favorables to 50 percent in this poll is significant for her.
On the GOP side, Q-pac finds that:
"Mayor Giuliani's lead remains solid among Republicans. Former Tennessee Sen. Fred Thompson's surge in the polls has stalled, perhaps because he has yet to announce. Meanwhile, Arizona Sen. John McCain, whose numbers have been going down in most recent polls, is showing new signs of life in Pennsylvania and Ohio. Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney remains largely unknown."
And that despite all the cash Romney is spending on ads in key states, including here in Florida.
The poll isn't all good news for the front running Dem:
On the eve of the first debate for the Democratic candidates before homosexual rights activists, the poll shows backing from gay rights groups has no effect on most voters. But among the roughly 40 percent who say it might have an impact on their decision, support of a gay rights group, depending on the state, turns off from two to almost four times as many voters as it attracts. On a net basis it makes more independents less likely to vote for such a candidate.
Endorsements from business groups and abortion rights groups also make voters less likely than more likely to back a candidate. The backing of labor groups is a big plus for candidates.
In other words, Thompson, at least pre-announcement, is a bit of a slow barge. Giuliani I think has peaked. Let's see if he can restart his cousin-marrying, wife dumping, fascistic, illegal immigrant haven, switch-hitting, flip flopish, sadistic engine. Ahem...
The Democratic debate tonight on MSNBC, sponsored by the AFL-CIO, is a wrap. It was by far the most contentious, combative debate so far, and the leading candidates ripped into each other in a way that was almost uncomfortable to watch. Barack took incoming fire from Chris Dodd, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden on his comments about invading Pakistan. Hillary took flak from Edwards about being on the cover of Forbes Magazine as the candidate that corporate America is betting on, but she gave it right back, declaring herself the candidate who can win, and who has a history of taking on the wingers. In a nutshell, here's my quick assessment, in order of how well I think they did:
Hillary Clinton - I think she won it again, even though she lost the battle for the crowd with Barack, who had home field advantage. Hillary came off as strong, and as the one on the receiving end, rather than the battering end, of Dem on Dem attacks. Hil needs to watch her upper register when she gets loud to shout over the crowd, but overall, this tiny lady again distinguished herself as the most succinct, the most savvy, the most competent, and the most prepared to be president on the day she enters office.
Joe Biden - Another strong performance. This guy has knowledge to spare, particularly on matters of foreign policy. He did well tonight, even infusing some humor into the debate, i.e., his one word answer to the question of whether he would end no-bid contracts ("Yes.") ... and when he showed a softer side by sympathizing with a woman who lost her husband in the Sago mine, by referring to his own loss of a spouse. This guy would make a hell of a secretary of state.
Barack Obama - I thought he came off as strident, almost to the point of nasty tonight, and far too prone to Democratic fratricide in his quest to topple Hillary Clinton. His constant slaps at Hillary, Dodd and other "Washington insiders" who voted for the war is what he has to do (though they might remind him that since taking office, he has repeatedly voted for the funding of the war,) and he had the hometown crowd in the palm of his hand. But at the end of the day, Chris Dodd was right when he said that Barack was in the wrong for telegraphing his Pakistan policy to the world. Hillary is right on substance, but Barack won the crowd. At the end of the day, when the glow wears off, Hillary will be seen as the more presidential on foreign policy.
Chris Dodd - He's a bit dull, but was good on substance tonight. He still has an image problem, and no shot at being president, but he did well. One caveat: he was one of the worst at not directly answering the questions.
Bill Richardson - Richardson is as dull as dishwater, and he failed to distinguish himself in any way tonight. This guy's timer should have long since run out, but he's still in play, frankly, because Democrats still believe they may have to play the Latino card to win out West.
John Edwards - Edwards probably had the worst performance of the night. He is coming off as increasingly desperate in these contests, flailing out at Hillary's corporate ties (despite being a rich trial lawyer himself), trying to sting his opponents on the war, as if he never voted for it, and pushing his one liner about not taking lobbyist money even when the question was about healthcare. Not a good show, John.
Dennis Kucinich - This guy is a Socialist, pure and simple. He wants to put us all on Medicare, which is insane, he wants to turn the White House into the "workers White House," which sounds suspiciously like "Socialist paradise," and he claims he'd cancel NAFTA and the WTO agreement immediately upon entering office. He sure is animated, though, and I'd have rated him higher than Edwards had he not sounded so insane.
At the end of the day, Barack will probably win the Internet polls, but Hillary will be ahead by another 2 points by week's end.
Much to the chagrin of people like John Edwards (and Newt Gingrich, from the sound of his increasingly histrionic tone) there really are only three people in the race for president: Hillary Clinton, who now holds a commanding 22 point lead over her nearest Democratic contender for the nomination, according the the latest USAT/Gallup poll; the aforementioned nearest competitor, Barack Obama, and Rudy Giuliani, the nightmare candidate from the left-right, who would have us mow down every Arab and Muslim from here to Timbuktu were he to ever darken the door of the White House.
The latest news on the triad:
Hillary and Barack enter a Cold War phase -- I'd guess Hillary was pissed when he screwed around with her inevitability by running.
Still, many are predicting that eventually, they'll have to unite under one banner, given his hugh fundraising and continued popularity -- oddly formed plans to bomb the bejeezus out of Pakistan, notwithstanding...
Rudy predicts as much, too, even as the smart observers predict that he would make an absolutely awful president, and a dangerous one too, given that he fuels his neoconservatism with ignorant bluster and constant threats of terrorism and war. Not what the thinking American voter is looking for, but unfortunately, there still are some cowardly Americans out there who cleave to Rudy's brand of scare 'em from the rafters phony conservatism.
Meanwhile, out there in the hinterlands, John Edwards has gone from sniping at his betters for fighting each other, to sniping at Bill Clinton -- not so smart, J.E., I mean you do want to win the Democratic nomination, right...?
Dennis Kucinich has gone straight up Socialist -- still whinging for "not-for-profit" healthcare -- read Medicare for all, and a "Department of Peace." What is this guy smoking, anyway? Survey says: his camp thinks he's winning this thing...
I'd go on, but as I said at the start, there really are only three people in this thing. Four if you count the current iteration of Mitt Romney (or more to the point, Mitt Romney's money...) or the ghost of Fred Thompson...
During this week's CNN/Youtube debate, the candidates were asked whether they'd commit to meeting with America's foes, including such leaders as Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran, Kim Jong Il of North Korea and Fidel Castro of Cuba. Obama said absolutely yes -- we have to change the paradigm that has isolated this country over the past seven years ... Clinton said she wouldn't make such a commitment in her first year, but would use potential meetings as a bargaining chip in her larger bag of aggressive diplomacy. Natch.
What escalated the drama:
After the debate, Hillary gave a newspaper an interview to the Quad City Times of crucial Iowa, n which she called Obama's position "naive." In a separate interview with the paper, Barack shot back that what was naive, was "giving George W. Bush authorization to invade Iraq without a plan to get out." Ouch! After that, Obama laid it on even thicker, telling supporters at a campaign rally that what we don't need in the White House is "Bush lite." Double ouch!
Where it stands now:
Hillary is attacking Barack for attacking her, saying "what ever happened to the politics of hope?" She appears to now want to simmer down the fight she started, lest it boost Barack's profile even more. Barack's camp seems to be enjoying the fight, which raises his stature and most certainly increasing the devotion of his supporters. I think Hillary wins the argument on substance, and she looks more experienced and presidential than Barack based on her answer, but he probably made himself look highly desirable by the world (though as Chris Matthews said yesterday, we don't have a "world election.")
Where it will end:
Both camps will likely let it die a natural death, the better to preserve their potential coming together as running-mates.
In the meantime, it's kind of nice to see the Dems mix it up for a change.
WASHINGTON -- Sen. John McCain's media team has resigned, an indication that a campaign shake-up two weeks ago is continuing to backfire and further imperil the Arizona Republican's presidential candidacy.
Political ad-makers Russ Schriefer and Stuart Stevens, veterans of President Bush's 2000 and 2004 campaigns, on Monday emailed the new campaign manager -- lobbyist and longtime McCain adviser Rick Davis -- to say that they were quitting. The two men told friends they had considered leaving for days, as they hadn't been paid and the campaign's financial straits raised questions of when and how much they would be.
Their resignations followed a story in The Wall Street Journal Monday about Mr. Davis's business and lobbying activities. Current and former McCain campaign advisers say those activities -- which involved a business he started and another launched by an acquaintance of his -- amounted to profiteering at the campaign's expense and risked embarrassing the senator.
Since Mr. McCain accepted the resignations of former campaign manager Terry Nelson and chief strategist John Weaver two weeks ago, and put Mr. Davis in charge, more than a dozen senior staffers have left from the headquarters in northern Virginia as well as state offices in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina -- all states with early nominating contests. Several fund-raisers have cut their ties to the campaign, which reported a debt at the end of the second quarter.
Now the loss of the Schriefer-Stevens media team is considered a new blow, Republican strategists say. The McCain campaign had long planned to begin running ads this fall in early contest states; those plans are at risk given Mr. McCain's debt, compounded now by the difficulty of getting donors to invest in a troubled campaign. ...
It's stunning how fast this man is falling. It's hard to believe he ever was the front runner...
CNN did a nice job with the Youtube debate last night. No major news, nothing to really shake up the race. I still think Joe Biden is freaking hilarious, John Edwards looks rather desperate (and there was something strange going on with his hair ... kind of an airplane hangar effect in the front...) Bill Richardson looks like a bullfrog, Dennis Kucinich fades into the background and Mike Gravel is nuts ... with moments of lucid truthtelling, if in a bug-eyed crazy kind of way. Hillary and Barack did well and they remain the leaders.
The Pentagon's Eric Edelman, one of those notorious neoocn undersecretaries, tossed Hillary a big, juicy softball with his ridiculous "aiding the enemy" letter in response to her letter, via the Senate Arms Services Committee, on which she serves to oversee the Pentagon ... duh ... and in which she asked for any Pentagon plans for an orderly eventual withdrawal from Iraq. Here's the background, in case you missed it:
On May 23, Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-NY) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Robert Gates urging him to “prepare plans for the phased redeployment of U.S. forces.”
Given the express will of the Congress to implement a phased eplroyment of United States forces from Iraq and the importance of proper contingency planning to achieve that goal, I write to request that you provide the appropriate oversight committees in Congress - including the Senate Armed Services Committee - with briefings on what current contingency plans exist for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. Alternatively, if no such plans exist, please provide an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning.
Clinton said she conveyed similar concerns in a private meeting with Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace, and has publicly warned the administration that redeployment is “complicated” and “If they’re not planning for it, it will be difficult to execute it in a safe and efficacious way.”
Premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda that the United States will abandon its allies in Iraq, much as we are perceived to have done in Vietnam, Lebanon and Somalia. … [S]uch talk understandably unnerves the very same Iraqi allies we are asking to assume enormous personal risks.
Tough talk, and I'm sure Mr. Edelman thought that as in the past, such talk would shut down any talk about withdrawal, timetables, or opposition to the president's policy in Iraq. But this is not 2004, and Hillary Clinton is not John Kerry. In fact, as The Politico's Ben Smith points out, Edelman's broadside was probably the best thing to happen to Hillary all week:
Defense Undersecretary Eric Edelman, a former Cheney aide, really handed Hillary an enormous gift with his letter warning that "premature and public discussion of the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq reinforces enemy propaganda."
That may have worked in 2004. Now it's just a gift to Hillary. Her staff would not, of course, say whether they knew how the AP had "obtained" Edelman's letter. But it was an incredible gift to her, and her aides promptly hit it out of the park, right there in the first version of the story.
Her Senate spokesman, Philippe Reines, demanded that the administration provide a withdrawal plan rather than "a political plan to attack those who question them."
He also called the comments "outrageous and dangerous" and, to boot, warned against "redeploying out of Iraq with the same combination of arrogance and incompetence with which the Bush administration deployed our young men and women into Iraq."
Is there still any danger here for Clinton, any chance that voters — Democratic primary voters?! — consider criticism of the war effort and discussion of withdrawal disloyal? Edelman seems to have thought so -- that excerpt reads as a shot across the bows. But it's a bit too late in the day for that, isn't it? When you've everyone from Richard Lugar to a front-page blogger on Kos getting your back, it's a pretty good day.
Indeed. Hillary, who is clearly thinking about her administration, rather than her nomination, is simply smoking the Bush administration out on its continued lack of planning in Iraq. The fact that the undersecretary would throw elbows in such a retro, 2004 manner might leave one to conclude that, just as they failed to plan properly for the occupation of Iraq, the Pentagon has made no plans for withdrawal from Iraq. And Hillary is on firm ground in asking the questions, first, since its her job as a member of the Armed Services Committee, and because the American people are demanding withdrawal by 70 percent majorities, and it would help to know if the civilian morons running the Pentagon have any clue how to get it done.
Hillary gets to try out her Dojo Bill immediate slap-back style, plus she gets some love from the left end of the base, and she plumps up her credentials as a pragrmatic, thorough and forward thinking commander in chief. Nice work if you can get it. More on Clinton's response, including her letter to Edelman's boss:
Saying that other members of the Bush administration had not resorted to political attacks when asked about contingency plans or the possibility of a phased withdrawal, Senator Clinton, a member of the Armed Services Committee wrote:
Rather than offer to brief the congressional oversight committees on this critical issue, Under Secretary Edelman – writing on your behalf – instead claims that congressional oversight emboldens our enemies. Under Secretary Edelman has his priorities backward. Open and honest debate and congressional oversight strengthens our nation and supports our military.
His suggestion to the contrary is outrageous and dangerous. Indeed, you acknowledged the importance of Congress in our Iraq policy at a hearing before the House Armed Services Committee in March, when you stated, “I believe that the debate here on the Hill and the issues that have been raised have been helpful in bringing pressure to bear on the Maliki government and on the Iraqis in knowing that there is a very real limit to American patience in this entire enterprise.”
I renew my request for a briefing, classified if necessary, on current plans for the future withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq or an explanation for the decision not to engage in such planning. I also renew my concern that our troops will be placed in unnecessary danger if the Bush Administration fails to plan for the withdrawal of U.S. Forces. Finally, I request that you describe whether Under Secretary Edelman’s letter accurately characterizes your views as Secretary of Defense.
I would appreciate the courtesy of a prompt response directly from you.
Take that in our backside. (Full letter via ThinkP here)
Meanwhile, the headline I get out of the New York Times/CBS poll is that Americans of both sexes are united in finding Hil to be a credible CIC, and that she's holding all the cards when it comes to the women's vote, with the exception of the throwback '50s housefrau vote. ...
Update: Bob Gates apparently is saying he will get back to Mrs. Clinton shortly. Meanwhile, the headlines have been gonzo for her:
New reporting on the caging of Florida voters, not in 2000, but in 2004, and without due credit to Greg Palast in the story. Not to worry, Greg, we feel ya. Here's the story from the Florida Times Union:
TALLAHASSEE - Internal city memos show the issue of Republican "vote caging" efforts in Jacksonville's African-American neighborhoods was discussed in the weeks before the 2004 election, contradicting recent claims by former Duval County Republican leader Mike Hightower - the Bush-Cheney campaign's local chairman at the time.
"Caging" is a longtime voter suppression practice by which political parties collect undeliverable or unreturned mail and use it to develop "challenge lists" on Election Day.
The contradiction comes to light as the U.S. Justice Department continues to consider a June 18 request from two U.S. senators for an investigation into potential illegal voter suppression tactics in Duval County three years ago. A department spokeswoman said last week that the request is still being reviewed.
Hightower, in a Times-Union interview last month, said the controversial voter suppression tactic of "caging" was never raised in daily meetings hosted by former Duval County Supervisor of Elections Bill Scheu, and he had never heard "of that expression or that practice." Hightower said last week he stands by those recollections.
City officials have disputed that, saying Scheu's daily pre-election meetings with local Republicans, Democrats and African-American community leaders repeatedly included the topic. The city also released attendance records showing Hightower was present.
"This issue was raised during the 2004 election; the supervisor of elections and his counsel were aware of the allegations, discussed them at times during daily meetings with both political parties, and did not have any instances of challenges based on caging," Cindy Laquidara, chief deputy general counsel for Jacksonville, said in a June 20 e-mail to Duval County elections officials. The elections office was responding to a Times-Union public record request; the e-mail was obtained through a similar request.
Scheu told the Times-Union last week the caging issue "probably" came up during repeated discussions over vote challenges.
Hightower, however, stuck by his denial.
"I've never heard the phrase or the practice. I don't care what anybody says," he said. "That's their opinion. Mike Hightower doesn't remember that. Call it a senior moment."
"Vote caging" has a long history in politics. In one such procedure, a campaign will send out postcards to a particular group of addresses with instructions to return the mail. The campaign then creates a database of addresses that did not return the postcards and challenges the right of anyone registered at those addresses who attempts to vote on Election Day. The effect often dissuades turnout. The tactic is legal, but not if voters are targeted by race.
The 3-year-old allegation of caging in Jacksonville gained new life last month, when the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee received testimony indicating the GOP may have used the tactic in 2004.
Ann Farra, a former chairwoman of voter registration and education for the Duval County Democratic Party, said the fact no challenges occurred in 2004 is irrelevant, and Hightower was aware of the Bush-Cheney campaign tactics.
"This is like Bill Clinton saying he didn't have sex with Monica Lewinsky," Farra said. "Word had gotten out into the communities and caused people to stay away from the polls. Suppression was going on left and right."
WASHINGTON -- The day before Senate Watergate Committee minority counsel Fred Thompson made the inquiry that launched him into the national spotlight -- asking an aide to President Nixon whether there was a White House taping system -- he telephoned Nixon's lawyer.
Thompson tipped off the White House that the committee knew about the taping system and would be making the information public. In his all-but-forgotten Watergate memoir, "At That Point in Time," Thompson said he acted with "no authority" in divulging the committee's knowledge of the tapes, which provided the evidence that led to Nixon's resignation. It was one of many Thompson leaks to the Nixon team, according to a former investigator for Democrats on the committee, Scott Armstrong , who remains upset at Thompson's actions.
"Thompson was a mole for the White House," Armstrong said in an interview. "Fred was working hammer and tong to defeat the investigation of finding out what happened to authorize Watergate and find out what the role of the president was."
Asked about the matter this week, Thompson -- who is preparing to run for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination -- responded via e-mail without addressing the specific charge of being a Nixon mole: "I'm glad all of this has finally caused someone to read my Watergate book, even though it's taken them over thirty years."
The view of Thompson as a Nixon mole is strikingly at odds with the former Tennessee senator's longtime image as an independent-minded prosecutor who helped bring down the president he admired. Indeed, the website of Thompson's presidential exploratory committee boasts that he "gained national attention for leading the line of inquiry that revealed the audio-taping system in the White House Oval Office." It is an image that has been solidified by Thompson's portrayal of a tough-talking prosecutor in the television series "Law and Order."
But the story of his role in the Nixon case helps put in perspective Thompson's recent stance as one of the most outspoken proponents of pardoning I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney. Just as Thompson once staunchly defended Nixon, Thompson urged a pardon for Libby, who was convicted in March of obstructing justice in the investigation into who leaked a CIA operative's name.
Thompson declared in a June 6 radio commentary that Libby's conviction was a "shocking injustice . . . created and enabled by federal officials." Bush on Monday commuted Libby's 30-month sentence, stopping short of a pardon.
The intensity of Thompson's remarks about Libby is reminiscent of how he initially felt about Nixon. Few Republicans were stronger believers in Nixon during the early days of Watergate. ...
Thompson, in his 1975 memoir, wrote that he believed "there would be nothing incriminating" about Nixon on the tapes, a theory he said "proved totally wrong."
“A New Mexico lawyer who pushed to oust U.S. Attorney David Iglesias was an officer of a nonprofit group that aided Republican candidates in 2006 by pressing for tougher voter identification laws…
“That strategy, which presidential advisor Karl Rove alluded to in an April 2006 speech to the Republican National Lawyers Association, sought to scrutinize voter registration records, win passage of tougher ID laws and challenge the legitimacy of voters considered likely to vote Democratic.
“Public records show that the two nonprofits were active in at least nine states. They hired high-priced lawyers to write court briefs, issued news releases declaring key cities 'hot spots' for voter fraud and hired lobbyists in Missouri and Pennsylvania to win support for photo ID laws. In each of those states, the center released polls that it claimed found that minorities prefer tougher ID laws. With $1.5 million in combined funding, the two nonprofits attracted some powerful volunteers and a cadre of GOP-allied attorneys. Of the 15 individuals affiliated with the two groups, at least seven are members of the Republican National Lawyers Association, and half a dozen have worked for either one Bush election campaign or for the Republican National Committee…”
I attended a Women for Hillary event in Miami over the weekend, at which more than 1,200 people crammed into the former Parrot Jungle ballroom to hear Ms. Hillary make her case for the presidency before a very receptive crowd of mostly women, including a number of local pols (Rep. Kendrick Meek and his wife were among the hosts). Hillary clearly has the chops to be president -- she presents herself well, and "sounds like a president," meaning she is commanding, concise, and has a thorough command of the issues. Hillary drew several standing ovations, including when she said that she was recently told that after eight years of George W. Bush, we're going to need a woman in the White House to do some serious house cleaning. "Get out your mops and your brooms," Hillary added, prompting a few chuckles in the room from the pretties (and their little dogs, too...)
Hillary may have it over the other candidates in terms of her presentation and debate skills (she has clearly won all three of the Democratic debates, including the most recent one at Howard University), but there's one place she has fallen somewhat behind -- and it's a surprising one: money.
The reason? It starts with Barack and ends with Obama.
Presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama reported today that he raised at least $32.5 million during the second quarter of the year, enough to likely make him the top money raiser among Democrats during the latest quarter and for the year so far. The second-quarter figure showed Obama's fundraising pace is accelerating even from the staggering $25.7 million he raised during the first quarter. His campaign said that about $31 million of the second-quarter total were dollars that can be used for the primary campaign.
"Together, we have built the largest grassroots campaign in history for this stage of a presidential race," Obama said in a statement. "We now have hundreds of thousands of Americans who are ready to demand health care for all, energy independence, and an end to this war in Iraq. That’s the kind of movement that can change the special interest-driven politics in Washington and transform our country. And it’s just the beginning."
Obama's campaign Web site on Sunday morning reported nearly 258,000 overall donors for the first six months of the year, meaning about 154,000 new donors gave him money during the second quarter.
"Every day over the past three months, over 1,500 Americans have made clear to Barack Obama that they believe in his vision for our country by contributing to his campaign," Chicagoan Penny Pritzker, Obama's national finance chair, said in a statement.
Barack's incredible take stands in contrast to Hillary's approximate $27 million for the second quarter -- no slouch figure, but still less than Barack's. As for the also-rans, John Edwards is expected to raise about $9 million and Bill Richardson about $7 million. South of them, I doubt any of the third tier guys will raise enough to stay in it through the end of the year.
The Repubs report their totals tomorrow.
Update: Site to watch -- Hillaryis44.com ... posted by a mystery Beltway insider whom some GOPers suspect of being inside the Clinton campain.
I think that one of the most fascinating things to watch is white politicians attempting to communicate to a room full of black people. At tonight's PBS debate between the Democratic presidential candidates at Howard University, hosted by Tavis Smiley, the performances by the white candidates ranged from full-on pander (John Edwards -- using 2004 "two Americas" rhetoric for God's sakes...) to really loud, churchy sounding semi-pander (Biden) to wrong audience pander (Richardson -- the "I'm the first Latino to run for president" deal works a lot better in front of a Latino audience, pal, especially since many Blacks feel they are being displaced as the Dems' minority of choice...) to surprisingly smooth and stealthy (Hillary Clinton).
It will come as a surprise to the MSM that Barack Obama -- the only Black candidate, as you know -- did not get the loudest applause during the walk in -- that went to Hillary. And she delivered the line of the night when she noted that "if AIDS was the leading cause of death among white women in their 20s and 30s we'd be well on the way to a cure." I won't go through the littany of responses by each candidate, but each gave the star-studden audience (Marian Wright Edelman, Cornel West, Tom Joyner, Harry Belafonte, Al Sharpton, etc., etc., etc.,) some permutation of "the war on drugs is hurting Black people", "racism is still a problem," and "tax cuts for the rich suck."
Maybe I'm being a bit cynical, but I guess I was looking for more questions about Iraq.
OK, here's the rundown:
Hillary Clinton -- she's your winner tonight. She came off as the most commanding, the most prepared, and the most thorough in her responses. She constantly reminded the audience of the contrast between the current administration and her husband's without naming him (he's now known as "the 90s" ... and she managed to stop shouting ... eventually.
Barack Obama -- a close second to Hillary. He exploited his ease with the audience for all it was worth, but as has become the norm with Barack, as much as I like him, he was short on specifics. Barack has a natural, conversational style that is very seductive in a political sense (and he had a great comeback when Biden talked about himself and Barack getting tested for AIDS while in Africa. Barack clarified that he was tested along with his wife, in public...)
John Edwards -- this guy is the ultimate pander bear. He opened by casually name dropping the Howard mascot, and reminding the audience that he's from the Sizzouth. Then he got going with the "talking about poverty is my life's work" spiel. This guy has really got to update his message, and put 2004 behind him. Had he reminded us that he was the son of a mill worker, I would have been forced to jab a fork in my eye.
Bill Richardson -- I can't remember a single thing he said, sadly. Not a single, solitary thing.
Chris Dodd -- zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.......
Joe Biden -- he came off as a little bit too forceful for my taste. He came off like an angry father ... either that or a guy just two seconds from using the phrase "you people."
Dennis Kucinich -- still trying to take the profit out of healthcare. Don't tell those med students still paying off their student loans and looking for good paying jobs.
Mike Gravel -- he steals the crazy right out from under Kucinich's nose. I half expected him to leap from the stage, whip off his shirt and trousers and scream like a warewolf. Actually, I wish he'd done that. It would have livened things up. Gravel did make the comment that this debate was the fairest thus far. In other words, it was the only debate that gave the candidates with absolutely no shot at the nomination, much more airtime than they deserved.
Update: it's just after 10:30, and John Edwards just mentioned that goddamned mill. Where's my fork...?
Update 2: Hillary just called for shooting down the planes of those attacking civilians in Darfur. Now Biden is yelling about no-fly zones to try and match her Margaret Thatcher with his Winston Churchill. Bill Richardson's answer on Darfur was both long and boring. Heavy on resume, light on charisma. Oh god, now John Edwards is answering ... here comes the two Americas writ large ... two worlds, perhaps? Obama on Darfur: "no fly zones are important, but we have to look at Africa before the crises begin ... on trade and investment." Good answer, but he failed to get to the passion of the audience. Kucinich is getting some audience love right now by saying that "let's face it, if Darfur had a large supply of oil, the administration would be occupying it right now." Um ... Congressman... there's oil under them there Janjaweed...
With Al Gore counted out of the race (he says he's not running, so why count him in? Ditto Thompson and Gingrich, although at least Thompson is a likely entrant, probably sometime soon...) Hillary expands her lead over Barack Obama in the Sunshine States by five additional points.
On the GOP side, the big story is the continued insurgency of Fred Thompson, which does not appear to be anywhere near its last throes. Thompson has shaved Rudy Giuliani's lead in the state down to a nub, and if and when he enters, he apparently has the effect of bisecting the religious white male vote, giving abortion-averse but terrorism-fearing Republican men someplace else to go.
This morning, Phil Hendry, the right wing self-described Democrat who inexplicably has been added to the early morning lineup of the Clear Channel station that runs Air America and Jones Radio Networks programming here in South Florida, predicted that Clinton and Giuliani would ultimately be the nominees, and that despite his preference for Rudy, Hillary would likely win the White House because she represents "just enough change" to move us away from George W. Bush's problems, but not so much that it makes people uncomfortable.
Ralph Nader has a need ... or rather, he has two needs. The first is a need for attention. Specifically, he needs the kind of attention that you can only get from running for president. After receiving that kind of gaze, it's hard to go back to being a mere columnist. The second need that Ralph Nader appears to have, is for there to be the kind of president in office in Washington -- since he, of course, cannot win the presidency, he can only prevent some other candidate from winning -- whom he can rail against and blame for the ills he will one day run for president to reverse.
Given that, it is highly likely that Ralph Nader will attempt to feed his twin needs again in 2008 -- running for president in order to rev up his ego, and in order to prevent a Democrat from assuming office, if he can, the better to maintain his relevancy. That's because if a Republican wins, Ralph Nader can continue to rail against -- and to raise money on -- the evils of war, pollution and corporate greed. Those have become the hallmarks of the Republican Party, and at the end of the day, the best friend the Republican Party has, is Ralph Nader.
And then there are Nader's more prurient interests. Back in 2000, Salon.com described Nader's financial holdings this way:
Lefties like to bash Gore for being a tool of corporate America. More specifically, Gore incurs their wrath because the trust of his mother, Pauline, owns stock in Occidental Petroleum which, according to Nader running mate Winona LaDuke, "is working to exploit oil reserves under U'wa land in Colombia." The U'wa are an indigenous tribe in Colombia, and became the champions of an anti-Gore rally at the Democratic National Convention.
"As I listen to the vice president espouse his views on campaign finance reform, I look at his investment portfolio and have to ask how that might influence public policy," LaDuke has said, slamming Gore erroneously for "own[ing] substantial stock in Occidental Oil Co."
"The Occidental projects are so beyond the pale about what's reasonable and moral in this modern era," says Patrick Reinsborough, grass-roots coordinator for the Rainforest Action Network. Reinsborough says that his group has been primarily targeting Gore and Fidelity Investments in general, Fidelity Magellan being part of the Fidelity Investments mutual funds network, as well as the one with the largest quantity of Occidental stock. "We have called upon Ralph Nader -- as we would call upon any citizen -- to either divest from Fidelity or to participate in shareholder activism," Reinsborough says. "Gore has much more long-standing links to Occidental Petroleum."
But even if Fidelity were to divest its holdings in Occidental, it holds shares in so many companies Nader has crusaded against, it's hard to escape the conclusion that Nader's participation in the fund is supremely hypocritical. The fund, for example, owns stock in the Halliburton Company, where George W. Bush's running mate, Dick Cheney, recently worked as president and COO. The fund has investments in supremely un-p.c. clothiers the Gap and the Limited, both of which have been the target of rocks by World Trade Organization protesters, as well as Wal-Mart, the slayer of mom-and-pop stores from coast to coast.
Nader spokeswoman Laura Jones says that only the candidate himself can answer questions about his personal investments. Nader could not be reached for comment.
In a June interview with the Washington Post about his millionaire earnings -- much of which he has donated to his public interest groups -- Nader said the stocks he chose were "the most neutral-type companies ... No. 1, they're not monopolists and No. 2, they don't produce land mines, napalm, weapons."
But this is not true. The Fidelity Magellan fund owns 777,080 shares of Raytheon, a major missile manufacturer. And this isn't the only example of his rhetoric not matching up with his financial investments.
"I'm quite aware of how the arms race is driven by corporate demands for contracts, whether it's General Dynamics or Lockheed Martin," Nader told the Progressive in April. "They drive it through Congress. They drive it by hiring Pentagon officials in the Washington military industrial complex, as Eisenhower phrased it." The Fidelity Magellan fund owns 2,041,800 shares of General Dynamics.
Nader's holdings also include "2,908,600 shares of Boeing, 24,753,870 shares of British Petroleum-Amoco and 28,751,268 shares of Exxon-Mobil [through the Magellan fund]. The fund also owns stock in Shell, Sunoco, Texaco and Chevron -- on whose board Bush advisor Condoleezza Rice serves" as well as "15,266,900 shares of Bristol-Myers Squibb," which Nader has slammed for charging 20 times the manufacturing costs for its drugs. Nice portfolio if you can get it.
So if -- or when -- Nader runs, from whom can he expect support? Only the farthest extreme of the left, which detests Hillary Clinton and considers her to be just another corporate sycophant who refuses to apologize for her vote to authorize force against Iraq. But I suspect that even on the left, the pragmatists will far out-number the Nader nihilists, especially if a particularly authoritarian Republican candidate makes the finals (Rudy Giuliani comes to mind, but then again, these days, so does Fred Thompson...)
Nader can have very little impact nationally, and he will likely continue to decline in terms of electoral support, from his 2.7% in 2000 to the 1 percent or so he pulled four years later. But even if he gets a few tenths of a percent, the question isn't how much he gets, it's where he gets it. If it's in key swing states like Pennsylvania or Florida (though the latter is less relevant this year, in my opinion, given the primacy of the Western states) he could do just enough damage to give himself a fresh Republican president to rail against, and a few million more pennies in his stock portfolio.
Michael Bloomberg, former Democrat, today became a former Republican. In other words, he's running for president. From the competition, a back and forth over who a Bloomberg (with Chuck Hagel?) candidacy would hurt:
"If he runs, this guarantees a Republican will be the next president of the United States. The Democrats have to be shaking in their boots," said Greg Strimple, a Republican strategist in New York who is unaligned in the race.
The belief among some operatives is that Bloomberg's moderate positions would siphon votes from the Democratic nominee. Others say it's not clear and his impact would depend on the nominees.
Former Democratic Party Chairman Donald Fowler said Bloomberg would be "a disturbing factor to both parties," but the mayor would probably draw more Republican votes simply because "Republicans are more disenchanted than Democrats."
"Democrats are pretty happy with their candidates," Fowler said. "The Republicans are absolutely in disarray."
He called Bloomberg "an exceptionally capable guy" who is "hard-nosed and accomplished," but argued that the obstacles for a third-party candidate are so daunting that it would be nearly impossible for Bloomberg to win.
Will the MSM ever examine "Mr 9/11" Rudy Giuliani's actual record as mayor of New York (and his pimping of 9/11), his ties to the nefarious plan to build a NAFTA superhighway, his ties to Venezuela's Citgo and Mexico's Cintra, or his dirty dealings with Bernie Kerik? Only time will tell. One thing's for sure, it's not likely that one network in particular will bother:
Fox News' Pro-Giuliani Conflict of Interest By Cliff Kincaid May 22, 2007
Rudy Giuliani's much-publicized but misleading put-down of Ron Paul during the Republican presidential debate should have been tempered by a report that Saudi Arabia, the country that spawned most of the 9/11 hijackers, has been one of Giuliani's lucrative foreign clients. However, Fox News questioners Chris Wallace and Wendell Goler did not bring it up.
Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that the same Associated Press story that named Saudi Arabia as a Giuliani client listed News Corporation, the parent company of Fox News, as another Giuliani client. This AP story, which was not disputed by Giuliani or News Corporation, was carried on the Fox News website.
Giuliani's law and lobbying clients have included Saudi Arabia, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., and chewing tobacco maker UST Inc.
Hm.... which leaves the Post-Chronicle's Kincaid to conclude:
This writer had raised questions about Fox News' co-sponsorship of the debate, based on the fact that the company had a relationship with Giuliani when he was mayor of New York City. But now we know that the relationship has continued into the period of time that Giuliani has been planning a presidential run. It is an obvious conflict of interest.
The conflicts continued after the S.C. debate:
Giuliani was the first Republican candidate to come on Fox News after the debate and talk about his performance. Co-host Sean Hannity wanted to focus on Giuliani's comments on 9/11 and his attack on Paul. Later, Michael Steele, Maryland's former Lieutenant Governor, was on Fox News, declaring that Giuliani had destroyed Ron Paul. "It's done," Steele said of Paul's campaign. It wasn't mentioned that Giuliani had campaigned for Steele when he ran for a Maryland Senate seat.
New polling numbers are out! Yes, for me that's akin to Christmas ... I've got issues... and here's how we're looking:
In New Hampshire, it looks like Guy Smiley has flip flopped into voters hearts, following the latest presidential debate. He's now ahead of the pack, with 27 percent in a new Franklin Pierce/WBZ poll, to Rudy Giuliani's 18 and Baghdad John's 17 percent.
A new Mason-Dixon poll concurs, showing Romney ahead for the GOP and Hillary continuing to rule the Democratic primary, with 27 percent and 26 percent respectively. In that poll, the GOP field is equally shaken up:
I think Pat Buchanan is right to peg Romney as the man most likely to win the New Hampshire primary.
The Fred Thompson factor...
New polls on the GOP side find one clear trend: Thompson is rising. He's tied with Giuliani in the latest Rasmussen poll, and just six points behind Rudy in a new LAT poll -- almost a statistical tie. Polls aside, Thompson is sucking the air out of many of his officially running rivals, particularly Rudy, who is slowly sinking like a leaky balloon, into the twenties, though still in the lead.
Meanwhile, on the Dem side, Hillary continues to maintain her lead, and surprise surprise, it's because of her strong support from women. No news there.
He's not yet running, officially, but the actor playing the part of Ronald Reagan in the GOP primary is already making waves in the polls.
...that Chris Matthews would criticize Rudy Giuliani. He just did so on "Hardball," saying, during a back and forth with actor/political junkie Ben Affleck about the politican candidates:
"I agree with what Fareed Zakaria wrote in Newsweekthis week, which is that terrorism isn't bombs and explosions and death... terrorism is when you change your society because of those explosions... and you become fearful to the point that you shut out immigration, you shut out student exchanges, you keep people out of buildings ... and begin to act in an almost fascist manner because you're afraid of what might happen to you, and that's when terrorism becomes real, and frighteningly succesful. That's what I believe, and that's why I question the way Giuliani has raised this issue. He raises it as a specter, and in a wierd way, he helps the bad guys."
Wow. That's a switch, Chris. I honestly didn't think this guy was capable of doing anything besides fawning over Rudy. Of course, he did get in a swipe at Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinsky during the segment, just to make the point that he's still Chris "the Clinton obsessor".
But a stunning development nonetheless. I get the feeling Matthews is disappointed that his Big City Mayor hero has turned out to be nothing but a fear mongering neocon -- liberal on social issues, crazy for war in the Middle East, and authoritarian in the extreme.
Courtesy of Wolf Blitzer this afternoon on CNN, and the Politico blog, check out this Giuliani smackdown from the Catholic Bishop of Rhode Island, writing in the diocese newspaper, in reaction to receiving an invite to a $500 a plate Rudy fundraiser:
Rudy’s public proclamations on abortion are pathetic and confusing. Even worse, they’re hypocritical. ...
...“I’m personally opposed to but don’t want to impose my views on other people.” The incongruity of that position has been exposed many times now. As I’ve asked previously, would we let any politician get away with the same pathetic cop-out on other issues: “I’m personally opposed to . . . racial discrimination, sexual abuse, prostitution, drug abuse, polygamy, incest . . . but don’t want to impose my beliefs on others?”
Why is it that when I hear someone explaining this position, I think of the sad figure of Pontius Pilate in the Gospels, who personally found no guilt in Jesus, but for fear of the crowd, washed his hands of the whole affair and handed Jesus over to be crucified. I can just hear Pilate saying, “You know, I’m personally opposed to crucifixion but I don’t want to impose my belief on others.” ...
Ouch. After also calling out Democratic Catholics like Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Joe Biden (he's non-partisan) Bishop Thomas Tobin concludes as follows:
Oh well, as you can see by now, I won’t be attending the fundraiser for Rudy Giuliani. If Rudy wants to see me, he’ll have to arrange an appointment at my office. We’ll talk about his position on abortion. And if he wants a photo, it will cost him $1,500 as a donation for the pro-life work of the Church.
I suppose a Rudy 2008 yard sign wouldn't be welcome...?
The new ABC News/WaPo poll is out, and it has good news for Hillary, bad news for pretty much everybody else. From ABC:
A softening of underlying confidence in Rudolph W. Giuliani, including some damage on the abortion issue, could hearten his current -- and future -- opponents for the Republican presidential nomination.
Giuliani's hardly in trouble; he maintains large leads over his opponents on key personal attributes including leadership and electability. But he's lost ground on empathy, honesty and inspiration; his support is not strong -- and a third of Republicans now flatly rule him out because of his position on abortion, up from just under a quarter earlier this year.
Giuliani remains the Republican frontrunner, with overall candidate preferences stable compared with an ABC News/Washington Post poll in mid-April. But just 36 percent of his supporters are "strongly" for him, and his backing is notably lower among conservatives -- a core Republican group -- than among moderates. Indeed, it's moderate Republicans (and the party's relatively few liberals) who propel Giuliani to a clear lead.
On the Democratic side of the 2008 contest, Hillary Clinton continues to lead on most personal attributes and in voter preferences alike, with no significant changes in her or Barack Obama's positions. Support has slipped slightly for John Edwards.
Clinton owes her frontrunner status to women; they're much more apt than men to favor her for the nomination, and significantly more likely to pick her from among the leading candidates as the best on a range of personal attributes. Democratic women, for example, are 16 points more likely than men to pick Clinton over Obama as the "most inspiring" candidate. (Men are nine points more likely than women to pick Obama as inspirational.)
And 53 percent of Clinton's supporters are "strongly" for her, substantially higher, for example, than Giuliani's strong support.
A potential concern for Clinton is that she does best with less-educated Democrats, whose turnout is less assured; another is that Obama leads her on honesty and trustworthiness. Still, experience is her trump card, she remains competitive with Obama among African-Americans, does best with committed Democrats (as opposed to Democratic-leaning independents) and stands the most to gain if Al Gore stays away.
More details on the poll from PollingReport.com (Dems here, GOPers here), show that with the undeclared candidates, Gingrich and Fred Thompson are taking support from basically all of the frontrunners, Romney is stagnant, and on the Dem side, Edwards is slipping. None of the second tier candidates is moving, even a little. It's still the same seven: Hillary, Barack, Edwards (fading), Giuliani (fading), McCain (fading), Romney (fading) and the actor playing the part of Ronald Reagan, fred Thompson.
Digging deeper into the poll, we find that the "rejection rate" for John McCain is spiking, with roughly half of voters ruling him out as a presidential candidate. More on the rejection rates (the percentage saying they definitely wouldn't vote for a given candidate):
Romney - 54 percent (includes a third of Republicans)
McCain - 47 percent (up from 28 percent)
Cllnton - 45 percent (unchanged from a year ago and includes just 15 percent of Dems, and she has the highest locked in vote of any candidate of either party at 27 percent)
Giuliani - 40 percent
There's much more polling goodness. Read the full questionnaire here.
Florida becomes even more significant with an early primary on the same day as South Carolina. Non-candidates Fred Thompson and Newt Gingrich pull out front in the Georgia state GOP straw poll. Thompson doesn't just win the poll, he dominates it, with a decidedly un-Giulianiesque 44 percent (Rudy tends to win his polls with numbers in the thirties, or more recently, the twenties...) Here's the breakdown:
The poll was jointly conducted by the Young Republicans and the Republican Liberty Caucus of Georgia.
The results were as follows:
Fred Thompson — 188 votes, or 44 percent Newt Gingrich — 77, or 18 percent Rudy Giuliani — 64, or 15 percent Mitt Romney — 40, or 9 percent Mike Huckabee — 18, or 4 percent Duncan Hunter — 10, or 2.3 percent John McCain — 10, or 2.3 percent Ron Paul — 8, or 1.9 percent Tommy Thompson — 6, or 1.4 percent Tom Tancredo — 4, or .9 percent Sam Brownback — 2, or .5 percent John Cox — 2, or .5 percent Jim Gilmore — 0, or 0 percent
The Des Moines Register poll shows Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, is the top choice of 30 percent of those who say they definitely or probably will attend the leadoff Iowa caucuses in January.
McCain, a U.S. senator from Arizona, nips former New York Mayor Giuliani for second place — 18 percent to 17 percent.
The breakdown here is as follows:
Mitt Romney - 30% John McCain - 18% Rudy Giuliani - 17% Tommy Thompson - 7% Sam Brownback - 5% Mike Huckabee - 4% Tom Tancredo - 4% John Cox - 1% Jim Gilmore - 1% Duncan Hunter - 1% Ron Paul - -- Not sure/uncommitted - 12%
Three big trends I'm seeing here: Romney's advertising push, his debate performances and his overall Guy Smileyness are starting to resonate outside of Utah. Second, McCain is showing surprising staying power (though these polls were taken pre-immigration "reform" debacle. Third: Giuliani -- balloon -- leaky.
James Dobson, head of the sprawling evangelical group Focus on the Family, has joined fellow evanglical leader Richard Land in saying there's no way he'd vote for Rudy Giuliani for president. Rather, he said if faced with the Hobsons/Dobson's choice of Rudy v. Hillary or Barack Obama, he would "vote for an also ran" or for no one at all, failing to cast a ballot for president for the first time in his adult life. Dobson's key complaints about Rudy?
How could Giuliani say with a straight face that he "hates" abortion," while also seeking public funding for it? How can he hate abortion and contribute to Planned Parenthood in 1993, 1994, 1998 and 1999? And how was he able for many years to defend the horrible procedure by which the brains are sucked from the heads of viable, late-term, un-anesthetized babies? Those beliefs are philosophically and morally incompatible. What kind of man would even try to reconcile them?
This self-styled defender of marriage says he is "proud" of having submitted, as New York's mayor, a bill creating "domestic partnerships" for homosexual couples. Admittedly, many liberal Americans will agree with the social positions espoused by Giuliani. However, I don't believe conservative voters whose support he seeks will be impressed. Presidential elections are won or lost by slim margins. Rudy has an uphill slog ahead of him, even though he is the darling of the media.
There are other moral concerns about Giuliani's candidacy that conservatives should find troubling. He has been married three times, and his second wife was forced to go to court to keep his mistress out of the mayoral mansion while the Giuliani family still lived there. Talk about tap dancing. Also during that time, the mayor used public funds to provide security services for his girlfriend. The second Mrs. Giuliani finally had enough of his philandering and, as the story goes, forced him to move out. He lived with friends for a while and then married his mistress. Unlike some other Republican presidential candidates, Giuliani appears not to have remorse for cheating on his wife.
Harry Truman asked, "How can I trust a man if his wife can't?" It is a very good question. Here's another one: Is Rudy Giuliani presidential timber? I think not. Can we really trust a chief executive who waffles and feigns support for policies that run contrary to his alleged beliefs? Of greater concern is how he would function in office. Will we learn after it is too late just what the former mayor really thinks? What we know about him already is troubling enough.
Cross-dressing (the real kind, not the political kind, like what he initially did on the subject of abortion):
One more question: Shouldn't the American people be able to expect a certain decorum and dignity from the man who occupies the White House? On this measure, as well, Giuliani fails miserably. Much has been written in the blogosphere about his three public appearances in drag. In each instance, he tried to be funny by dressing like a woman. Can you imagine Ronald Reagan, who loved a good joke, doing something so ignoble in pursuit of a cheap guffaw? Not on your life.
That about sums it up for Dobson. (Read Dobson's full column here.) According to John King of CNN, evangelical leaders like Dobson and Land are "working behind the scenes, not in an organized fashion ... yet ... but definitely working ... to derail Giuliani as a presidential nominee. King also reported that many of these leaders are quietly coalescing around a Fred Thompson candidacy. (I can't see them going for cheatin' Newt.) Pat Buchanan on MSNBC this afternoon said that if Giuliani were to be elected president, he would "move to that country Alec Baldwin said he would move to" if George W. Bush got elected in 2004.
With Jerry Falwell gone, and Pat Robertson certifiably insane, Dobson now moves to the front of the queue as the pied piper of evangelical voters seeking direction on what Jesus would do come election time. That is, unless his theological and economic rival, the relatively tolerant Rick Warren (whose philosphy is more about giving back than handing out chastity belts and damning people to hell) gets political first, on the side of "moderate" Republicanism. (I can't see that happening, though. Warren is an expert marketer. Like an NBA player, he'll probably keep his politics to himself so as not to turn off any potential fans.)
Oh, and that Ohio poll showing Rudy leading John McCain 23% to 17%, that's less than a quarter of the total vote take, and a far cry from the high thirties and low forties Giuliani was commanding just months ago. I'd guess that 20 points of Rudy's total is based on name recognition and 9/11 nostalgia among the Islamophobic right wing wackjob, "24" obsessed set.
The biggest problem for the evangelicals is, who else have they got? Thompson is pretty good for the GOPers, though apparently he's not much of a speech giver.
For Giulini's part, his camp isn't commenting on Dobson. But they're likely doing some quick math on whether, given Rudy's pro-amnesty stance on immigration, they might be able to gain in Hispanic votes what they could lose in evangelicals (angry white males aren't exactly at a premium, I think the GOP has maxed out on them.) So who's party is it, anyway?
It stays interesting...
Update: Witness what happens when this Red Stater attempts to stump for Rudy (scroll down to the comments section. Kapow!)
Update 2: You might want to add welfare reform and illegal immigration to Rudy's list of conservative wrongs. A couple of things I grabbed from the aforementined RedState comments section: On September 11, 1996 (ironic, no?) Giuliani delivered a speech giving rather tepid support to the vaunted welfare reform bill signed by then President Bill Clinton. Besides not really being strongly for it, despite his current claims to welfare cutting fame, Giuliani also delivered this interesting aside:
... there is one aspect of the bill that has immediate application, and one that I believe raises serious constitutional and legal questions. And it is part of the Bill people pay very little attention to, and I'm not certain many knew it was in the bill when they passed it. It's a provision that attempts to reverse an executive order that New York City has had in existence since 1988 which basically says that New York City will create a zone of protection for illegal and undocumented immigrants who are seeking the protection of the police or seeking medical services because they are sick or attempting to or actually putting their children in public schools so they can be educated.
New York City's Executive Order 124, signed by Mayor Koch in 1988 protected people in that endeavor by instructing employees of New York City that they are not to turn in those names into the Immigration and Naturalization Service. That has been the source of great debate from the time Mayor Koch signed it until now. There has been at least three or four attempts by Congress to reverse that executive order.
I'm sure many of you may not remember this, but because I was intimately involved with it I remember it very well. In one of the late versions of the crime bill there was an amendment and the purpose of this amendment was to say that if any city wanted to benefit from the proceeds of the crime bill or money coming from the crime bill, they could not have an executive order like Executive Order 124; they would have to reverse it.
In fact, that same year, as part of an education bill in which education funds were being distributed to the various states throughout the country there was a provision included in it that said if you did anything like Executive Order 124 and give this kind of protection you would be deprived of funds for education and, due to very strong lobbying efforts, I'm delighted to say these provisions were defeated in the past. ...
Hm... so the crime bill that Bill Clinton signed prohibited giving special 'zones of protection' to illegal immigrants, but Giuliani opposed it? And he was advocating such zones of protection, giving illegal migrants access to police, medical and educational services, five years to the day, before 9/11, yet now, he says the Fort Dix Three are a reason to secure the borders... are you GOPers sure this guy is a conservative?
By the way, Giuliani's camp has issued a statement on today's "path to citizenship" compromise that's as ambiguous as Rudy's MSNBC debate answers about abortion.
Questions are being raised over Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani's policy on terrorism, after a report revealed he has strong ties to two foreign investment consortia working to own or lease U.S. toll roads, including the Trans-Texas Corridor 35, which is identified as part of the I-35 "NAFTA Superhighway."
Although he opposed NAFTA in 1993, Giuliani recently declined to call for building a fence on the United States border with Mexico, and he has supported a guest-worker program.
Now comes a new report about Giuliani's involvement with public-private-partnership projects that include NAFTA Superhighway funding and his open borders record on immigration questions, all of which could undermine his otherwise tough policy on terrorism that has resulted from the 9/11 role Giuliani played in managing New York City's response to the attacks on the World Trade Center.
Giuliani's Houston-based law firm, Bracewell & Giuliani, is identified by the Texas Department of Transportation as the sole law firm representing Cintra Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte, S.A., the Spanish investment consortium that has joined with Zachry Construction Company in San Antonio on the TTC project. WND previously reported that TTC-35 is the new four-football-fields-wide car-truck-train-pipeline corridor to be built parallel to the existing I-35 as the Texas segment of the emerging Mexico-to-Canada I-35 NAFTA Superhighway.
And is Rudy lying to try and evade responsibility for the single dumbest decision made in the wake of the first World Trade Center bombings in 1993, shortly after he was elected mayor?
Joseph J. Lhota, who was a deputy mayor and top aide during Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s two terms, said this afternoon that it was preposterous for Jerome M. Hauer to deny responsibility for the recommendation to place the city’s emergency operations center in 7 World Trade Center, which was destroyed on Sept. 11, 2001.
The controversy has exposed the bitter rift between Mr. Hauer and Mr. Giuliani, who hired Mr. Hauer to be the first director of the city’s Office of Emergency Management, from 1996 to 2000. The two men eventually had a public falling-out, and in 2001, Mr. Hauer endorsed Mark Green, a Democrat, in Mr. Green’s unsuccessful bid to succeed Mr. Giuliani, a Republican.
On Sunday, Mr. Giuliani told Fox News Channel that the decision to house the Office of Emergency Management’s command center at 7 World Trade Center was based largely on the recommendation of Mr. Hauer.
Today, Lloyd Grove of Daily Intelligencer reported that Mr. Hauer had written a memo in February 1996 to Peter J. Powers, then the first deputy mayor, recommending the MetroTech Center in Downtown Brooklyn as the best site for the command center. Mr. Hauer said that he had been told by Dennison Young Jr., a top aide to Mr. Giuliani, that the mayor would not accept a Brooklyn location.
A copy of the Feb. 14, 1996, memo [pdf] obtained by The Times lists 8 “pros” and 6 “cons” for the MetroTech Center. No. 3 on the list of pros is: “The building is secure and not as visible a target as buildings in Lower Manhattan.”
You'll want to read that there memo. It shows that Hauer clearly favored the Metrotech site, which I know well, having lived not too far from it. It's within eyeshot of the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges, near downtown Brooklyn. But again, Rudy didn't have much fondness for going to Brooklyn. And Rudy's current attempt to blame Hauer for his own poor decisions is as gutless as it is slimey -- classic Rudy. As Hauer told Lloyd Grove:
"Rudy's getting a lot of heat for the decision," Hauer said. "He's trying to run on his homeland-security and national-security background, and if you start peeling back the skin on the errors he made when he was mayor, you take away a lot of the basis for his candidacy." Hauer added: "I feel sad that he would betray somebody that had served him loyally in the past, and I'm angry, too. But when you get to know Rudy, you know that this is the kind of thing he does. That's just his personality."
Amen. Think Hauer will cut a commercial for one of Rudy's opponents? Count on it.
The Washington Times says evangelicals are coalescing around Fred Thompson. Says one unnamed leader:
"It's the moment of truth for conservatives ... Either social conservatives rally to stop a Giuliani nomination and victory for him in November 2008 or our issues -- abortion, same-sex marriage, the preservation of the family -- are permanently off the Republican Party agenda."
That about sums it up. And besides, do you really want the guy who allowed firefighters and other workers to breathe the polluted air post-9/11 to run our country? Signs among New Yorkers point to "no."
Rudy Giuliani and Bernard Kerik, crimeys to the end
What do you do with the good will of the world, after you've done your duty as mayor of New York City, comforting a shaken public after the terror attacks of September 11, 2001? If you're Rudy Giuliani, you use your newfound fame to make yourself rich:
In Private Sector, Giuliani Parlayed Fame Into Wealth Candidate's Firm Has Taken On Controversial Executives, Clients
By John Solomon and Matthew Mosk Washington Post Staff Writers Sunday, May 13, 2007; Page A01
On Dec. 7, 2001, nearly three months after the terrorist attack that had made him a national hero and a little over three weeks before he would leave office, New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani took the first official step toward making himself rich.
The letter he dispatched to the city Conflicts of Interest Board that day asked permission to begin forming a consulting firm with three members of his outgoing administration. The company, Giuliani said, would provide "management consulting service to governments and business" and would seek out partners for a "wide-range of possible business, management and financial services" projects.
Over the next five years, Giuliani Partners earned more than $100 million, according to a knowledgeable source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the firm's financial information is private. And that success helped transform the Republican considered the front-runner for his party's 2008 presidential nomination from a moderately well-off public servant into a globe-trotting consultant whose net worth is estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars. ...
Rudy soon hired his pal Bernie Kerik, who would later be convicted on corruption charges, along with two other friends: Pasquale J. D'Amuro, a former high ranking FBI executive and counterterrorism expert, who would later "retire" after it was disclosed that he looted "mementos" from Ground Zero, and then there's this guy:
... Alan Placa, an old friend who resigned as vice chancellor of the Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island a week after being confronted by Newsday with allegations that former parishioners had been abused. The newspaper published portions of a 2003 Suffolk County grand jury report in which accusers said he used his position to stifle complaints of abuse by clergy.
And who were some of Rudy's secret clients? Why, they included:
Giuliani Partners was hired in December 2002 by Florida-based Seisint, Inc. to help market its data-mining product called Matrix. The product got a high-level airing in the White House in January 2003 at a meeting attended by Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, FBI Director Robert Mueller and Vice President Dick Cheney. At that meeting, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, the president's brother, gave a presentation in favor of the product. But by late 2003, reports surfaced that Seisint chief Hank Asher, a Giuliani friend, had smuggled cocaine into the United States earlier in his life. The Matrix project eventually fizzled and questions were then raised inside Seisint about the size of the firm's compensation.
Connecticut drug manufacturer Purdue Pharma hired Giuliani Partners in May 2002 as the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Food and Drug Administration began investigating a wave of overdose deaths attributed to the firm's powerful and lucrative painkiller, OxyContin. The agencies had started looking into the pain product's illicit use as a recreational drug, and probing lax security at the company's manufacturing plants in New Jersey and North Carolina. A week before the first anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, the former mayor joined then-DEA Administrator Asa Hutchinson and then-Attorney General John Ashcroft for the opening of new exhibit at the DEA's traveling museum and lent his star power to luncheon that day that raised about $20,000 for the DEA Foundation. In June 2004 U.S. prosecutors announced that the Purdue Pharma affiliate that ran the Totowa, New Jersey plant would pay $2 million to settle the investigation and the drugmaker would not have to admit wrongdoing or take its product off the shelf.
In January 2003, Giuliani Partners landed a $4.3 million contract to tackle Mexico City's vexing crime problems. His firm delivered a 146-point plan that the city's public security secretary, Marcelo Ebrard, trumpeted as an antidote to the city's longstanding crime scourge. Ebrard, now the city's mayor, said in a recent local television interview that many of the recommendations have in fact been implemented. Other Mexican leaders have described the contract with Giuliani as a "$4 million publicity stunt."
Sounds like a nice way to make a living, if you can get away with it.
Rudolph Giuliani and his consulting company, Giuliani Partners, have served as key advisors for the last five years to the pharmaceutical company that pled guilty today to charges it misled doctors and patients about the addiction risks of the powerful narcotic painkiller OxyContin.
Federal officials say the company, Purdue Frederick, helped to trigger a nationwide epidemic of addiction to the time-release painkiller by failing to give early warnings that it could be abused.
Prosecutors say "in the process scores died."
Drug Enforcement Administration officials tell the Blotter on ABCNews.com Giuliani personally met with the head of the DEA when the DEA's drug diversion office began a criminal investigation into the company.
According to the book "Painkiller," by New York Times reporter Barry Meier, both Giuliani and his then-partner Bernard Kerik "were in direct contact with Asa Hutchinson, the administrator of DEA."
And then, according to ABC News' "The Blotter", led by the exceptional Brian Ross, it gets worse:
Hutchinson told the Blotter on ABCNews.com today that Giuliani asked for a meeting, "and we gave him a meeting." Hutchinson says he was aware the company was under investigation at the time, and "any time a company is under investigation I like to give them a chance to make their case."
Kerik told New York Magazine at the time that Giuliani had raised $15,000 in donations for a "traveling museum operated by the DEA."
Some officials told ABC News there were questions inside the agency of whether the donations were an attempt to influence the DEA.
Meier wrote that "with Giuliani now in the mix, the pace of DEA's investigation into Purdue's OxyContin plant in New Jersey slowed as Hutchinson repeatedly summoned division officials to his office to explain themselves and their reasons for continuing the inquiry."
Giuliani publicly praised the company, Purdue Frederick, when it hired him in May 2002 for an undisclosed amount. "Purdue has demonstrated its commitment to fighting this problem," he said, referring to the issue of drug addiction.
According to Giuliani Partners, Kerik, a New York City police commissioner under Giuliani, was in charge of helping Purdue improve security at the New Jersey plant.
Nice. Just the kind of guy you want in the White House.
Sarkozy wins on a pro-American, pro-reform mantle, but his ascendancy could spell trouble for the 35 hour work week, the power of labor unions, and the French tradition of working only when absolutely necessary. Sarkozy has promised a crackdown on illegal immigration, and an end to "thuggery" in the streets. I guess the French can no longer look down on the English and the Americans as Bush-backing fools, non? The right of center Times of London celebrates Sarkozy, reminding readers of the famous Charles de Gaulle saying that it's impossible to govern a country with so many different cheeses. So true.
With the dawning of another day, the completeness of Rudy Giuliani's screw-up in last night's debate becomes more and more clear. Giuliani, asked a round robin question about whether the overturning of Roe v. Wade would be a good day for America, chose to elaborate on his flippant answer of "it would by okay..." and then did so to disastrous effect. Said Giuliani, who was ninth in line to answer the question, and preceded by a string of "yesses" (meaning it would be a great day), told his red meat craving Republican audience of Reaganites:
"It would be OK to repeal it. It would be OK also if a strict constructionist viewed it as precedent."
He then went on to publicly support public funding of abortions, but only in New York, and despite the fact that he "hates" them (abortions). Well, as a pro-life Democrat, I suppose that's just fine, if a bit all over the place. But, and here's the key part: I'M NOT RUNNING FOR THE REPUBLICAN NOMINATION FOR PRESIDENT WITH A BASE OF RIGHT WING CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES.
Reactions from the wingersphere?
Redstate ponders the vicissitudes of Rudy's thoughts on abortion.
Wizbang has a decent roundup of winger reax, and Auntie Kim has not a word about Rudy therein. Here's something on which Kim and I actually agree
I was amazed at how inane the questions were. What's with "do you believe in evolution?" With all the turmoil going on in the world, that's a question Matthews chose to use? Or "would it be good for America for Bill Clinton to be back in the White House?" What kinds of question is that? Although I loved Romney's reaction: "You've got to be kidding."
As to the scoring, I think it was a clear win for Romney, with the only possible dent being his rather egregious flip floppery on abortion. I'm told righties really liked Mike Huckabee, too. However, it appears the punditocracy is congealing around my conventional wisdom.
According to our poll, Drudge’s poll, and many bloggers, Romney won the debate. I’ve got to say, I’m not a Romney guy, but he came off as the winner to me. However, he also won the “invoke Reagan as much as you can” award. It would be interesting to see Fred Thompson debate this “incomplete crowd.”
What's interesting is that Rudy's performance last night has actually earned him some stripes with Democrat and probably with Independent political watchers. Maybe that's his strategy -- catapult over the GOP primary and into the general election debate. Maybe he was running for California. The problem, though, is that in order to get to California you have to go through South Carolina first. Perhaps Rudy is figuring that he can afford to lose the early contests, with a look toward winning the more moderate Super Duper Tuesday States on February 5th, including Nevada and California. We'll see...
Meanwhile, Ms. Malkin has a good roundup of conservablog reax. Best line so far:
A HA commenter on Rudy's NYC talking points: "I love you Rudy and I want to vote for you, but if I hear you rewind that 'Rudy Crime Statistics' tape one more time I’m going to go hang myself."
As Chris "Clinton Obsessive" Mathews would say, Ha!
Rudy Giuliani dropped the ball on abortion on at least three occasions, but on one of his answers, he also raised a question. Giuliani said that regarding public funding of abortion, he supports the Hyde Amendment, and that the states should make the decision on public funding. He also said he supported public funding of abortion in New York (after a few "ums" and "uhs") but that other states "can come to a different conclusion." So what is the Hyde Amendment? Let's ask the ACLU:
Passed by Congress in 1976, the Hyde Amendment excludes abortion from the comprehensive health care services provided to low-income people by the federal government through Medicaid. Congress has made some exceptions to the funding ban, which have varied over the years. At present, the federal Medicaid program mandates abortion funding in cases of rape or incest, as well as when a pregnant woman's life is endangered by a physical disorder, illness, or injury.
Most states have followed the federal government's lead in restricting public funding for abortion. Currently only seventeen states fund abortions for low-income women on the same or similar terms as other pregnancy-related and general health services. (See map.) Four of these states provide funding voluntarily (HI, MD, NY,1 and WA); in thirteen, courts interpreting their state constitutions have declared broad and independent protection for reproductive choice and have ordered nondiscriminatory public funding of abortion (AK, AZ, CA, CT, IL, MA, MN, MT, NJ, NM, OR, VT, and WV).2 Thirty-two of the remaining states pay for abortions for low-income women in cases of life-endangering circumstances, rape, or incest, as mandated by federal Medicaid law.3 (A handful of these states pay as well in cases of fetal impairment or when the pregnancy threatens "severe" health problems, but none provides reimbursement for all medically necessary abortions for low-income women.) Finally, one state (SD) fails even to comply with the Hyde Amendment, instead providing coverage only for lifesaving abortions.
So Rudy supports the idea of restricting government funding of abortions for low income women through Medicaid, except in New York? Color me confused.
And here are Rudy's headlines for tomorrow, which I'm sure his campaign won't enjoy:
You get the picture. The trouble for Rudy is that by tomorrow, that soundbite -- that it would be "just ok for him" to use a Randy Jacksonism, if Roe v. Wade was overturned, will be a Youtube video, then an anti-Rudy campaign commercial in the Bible Belt (Romney has the cash to do it) and a soundbite heard round the religious right world. In other words: it was a major mistake on the part of the purported frontrunner. He's been Youtubed on this before, and to his credit, he has never run from his position (I suppose the campaign has decided its better to be principled than a Romneyesque flip flopper.) But I'd guess that in the case of abortion, Romney is the one who has made the right moves. His only test will be to convince the righties that his conversion is sincere. Giuliani must convince them to accept a man who will not convert at all. Much higher bar.
Florida takes a giant step away from the bad old days of the Bush election fix, scrapping Jeb's Old World Order along with those touch screen, no paper trail voting machines that have been in use in 15 of our 67 counties, including Miami-Dade and Broward, in favor of optical scan machines. And while they're at it, Florida lawmakers move the state's primary way up, from March to January 29, mugging the "super duper Tuesday" of February 5, where California and Nevada have moved up to, and putting the Sunshine State's primary election right behind the Iowa and New Hampshire pony shows, and on the same day as South Carolina. I'm loving it. This time, Florida counts for more than fundraising. I'm loving it!
What's interesting is how much Republican support there is for both these measures (the House approved the primary move 118 to 0), but the killing of the ATM style machines in particular. That has the strong support of our Republican governor, Charlie Crist, who at this point is looking like the Anti-Bush. Republican House Speaker Marco Rubio had championed the primary move in what he called his "100 innovative ideas for Florida's future" -- a book and website that I believe was published last fall.
Rubio is said to be training to succeed Crist as governor. I wouldn't doubt it. He has the profile that former Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas once had, before he torpedoed his political future by going Bull Connor on the Elian Gonzales saga, and leaving the country rather than support Al Gore during the 2000 recount.) Rubio is on the political flip side, but that profile -- young, good looking, charismatic, Hispanic ... is one the Republican and Democratic parties are very much enticed by. And since the current governor is earning chips across the aisle every day -- (hell, I was dead set against the guy and I like him -- and I'm what you call a "yellow dog Democrat") Rubio stands a more than decent chance of getting into the governor's mansion, provided he doesn't do anything really, really stupid over the next seven years.
The adventures of Baghdad John, continued ... when a stroll isn't exactly a stroll
Okay, so maybe it wasn't exactly a pleasant stroll through that Baghdad market ... Baghdad John McCain "clarifies" his remarks about just how safe it is in Iraq:
(CBS) Presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., says he misspoke in comments he made about security in Baghdad and acknowledged that heavily armed troops and helicopter gunships accompanied him when he visited a market there. ...
Apparently, McCain took his stroll along with that heavy guard, and a crew from 60 Minutes. Apprently it was meant to be the centerpiece of a free media coup for the McCain presidential campaign, the way that horrid Katie Couric interrogation of the Edwardses boosted John Edwards' prospects for the Democratic nomination. It didn't quite work out that way, which McCain acknowledge in an interview to be aired on 60 Minutes tomorrow:
... "Of course I am going to misspeak and I've done it on numerous occasions and I probably will do it in the future," says McCain. "I regret that when I divert attention to something I said from my message, but you know, that's just life," he tells Pelley, adding, "I'm happy, frankly, with the way I operate, otherwise it would be a lot less fun."
Well isn't that nice...
He continues to maintain that the president's surge policy has improved safety in Baghdad. "I can understand why [the Army] would provide me with that security, but I can tell you that if it had been two months ago and I'd asked to do it, they would have said, 'Under no circumstances whatsoever.' I view that as a sign of progress," says McCain.
You can watch the full interview for yourself tomorrow, including full video of the now infamous "stroll..."
I took a couple days off blogging to deal with "other issues" (you just ponder that one for a minute... cause I'm not giving details...) Strangely enough, the political universe didn't shift that much since Wednesday :)
So what's new in the world as of today?
Fred Thompson is getting serious about maybe, possibly running for president, while Rudy Giuliani is still catching softballs, even from the blog press... (Roger Simon of Politico apparently didn't find the time to ask the former New York mayor about his caustic relatioonship with firefighters, his cozy relationship with probable felon Bernie Kerik, his problems with "the race issue" in New York City, or his poor decisionmaking on security prior to 9/11 (who moved the logistics and communication nerve centers of the city into the WTC before the attacks? Why Rudy, of course! But don't hold your breath waiting for the media to ask him about it. They're too busy chasing stories about his Cruella de Ville wife and his bad management of his marriage to Donna Hanover ... SIDEBAR: I got it on good authority from a prominent person who knows Rudy very well that Donna doesn't just resent Rudy, she HATES him, and so does his son. The person I spoke with talked to Donna recently and got it straight from the jilted spouse's mouth. ... but I digress...)
John Edwards has pulled out of the Fox News debate to be put on by the Congressional Black Caucus. And now many are wondering, what the hell is the CBC doing partnering with the Faux News network anyway?
Clinton-hating TIME columnist Joe Klein calls Bush "unfit to lead" and the head of "one of this nation's worst administrations" but says talk of impeaching him is "a bit nutso..."
An Iranian diplomat freed -- quite coincidentally, I'm sure -- around the same time the Iranians freed 15 British military personnel is now claiming torture at the hands of the CIA...
Meanwhile, the now freed Royal Naval and Marine personnel are talking about their ordeal, including being blindfolded, tied up, and threatened with execution. The group explained that in their determination, "fighting back was not an option." Seems like a reasonable enough explanation to me, but then again, I've never worn the uniform.
And now for a completely different view, from Col. Jack Jacobs, who slams the Britons for clearly making their top priority "going home," rather than preserving their honor as military men and women... Whatever your opinion of the Royal Navy/Marines, I think it's clear that in the propaganda war between Iran and Great Britain, Iran won this one, just as Hezbollah beat Israel over their captured soldiers, and Hamas did the same (neither group has returned the Israelis, despite a reign of military horror by the Israeli military...) I feel badly for the Brits, they are young, and clearly they weren't in this for an ideological fight. I tend to wince at chickenhawk winger slaps at them, and brash statements about what the Limbaughs, Hannities and Savages of the world claim they would have done in their place (cower and beg are my best guesses). These guys did what they had to do to get home. But I can understand why a guy like Jack Jacobs -- a hero and Medal of Honor winner -- would feel the way he does.
Final note, it must really cheese off the Brits to recall stories such as this one:
June 13, 2004 - ... Last week, a U.S.-led coalition in Iraq rescued three Italian hostages - Salvatore Stefio, Umberto Cupertino and Maurizio Agliana - who since April 12 had been held captive by terrorists calling themselves the Green Brigade. When the Italians returned home, they said they had joked with one another to ease the tension and quell their fears. Although they told reporters they had not been physically abused, their lives were constantly threatened. Only after the rescue did the former hostages discover that their captors had murdered their friend, a fourth hostage Fabrizio Quattrocchi. Just before the terrorists shot and killed Quattrocchi, he tried to pull off his hood and yelled, "This is how an Italian dies." He was buried in his home city of Genoa on May 29. Dying with dignity - and honor - is brave.
But that said, if you were in the place of the 15, what would YOU have done? In all honesty??? And before you wingers get too giddy, let's also recall that there have been Americans in this situation, too, both military and civilian. And in some cases, they too have chosen to comply... It is a basic human instinct to want to live. When one can force oneself to deny that basic instinct, we either call it bravery, or stupidity (recall that suicide bombers also deny that instinct.) I don't personally fault these guys, because in their shoes, I really don't know what I would do.
Here's one I completely missed: Geraldo vs. O'Reilly, the grudge match... Scroll down and watch the video ... the REAL comedy here is the segway that the ladies of Good Morning America manage to makde after the Fox News scream-fest was over. Trust me, it's worth listening until the end...
Unemployed former U.N. Ambassador (sans Senate confirmation) John Bolton snaps at the Saudi King for criticizing his pet project in Iraq.
Bafflingly still employed U.S. vice president Dick Cheney continues to take up residence in LaLa Land over the issue of the late Saddam Hussein's supposed ties to al-Qaida, despite the rheems of evidence, from the intelligence services of his own government, that there were no such links. Of course, you can say just about anything to Rush Limbaugh ... what the hell does he know...
Don Imus has apologized for his "nappy headed hos" remark about the Rutgers women's basketball team. On his April 4 program, Imus, his executive producer Bernard McGuirk and sportscaster Sid Rosenberg got into a stupid discussion about the teams that delved into the supposed manishness of the Rutgers girls (apparently Rosenberg feels they favor the Toronto Raptors). It quickly devolved from there. Imus did not, however, take back the comments on the same program which called the Tennessee women "cute..."
Sen. Barack Obama raised at least $25 million dollars during the first quarter for his presidential campaign, a total surprisingly close to the $26 million collected by his chief rival for the Democratic nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Obama actually may have raised more for the primary campaign than the former first lady, but that cannot be definitively known because the Clinton campaign has refused to say how much of its total is designated for the primary election versus the general election. ...
It was a given that Hillary was going to raise more money than God ... but who knew Mitt Romney was such a pistol? Romney didn't just win the GOP money primary, he whipped its tail, raising a surprise $23 million -- just $3 million shy of Hillary's mark -- to demolish the Republican field. Rudy "Third Time's the Charm" Giuliani took in around $15 million (he's out there boasting that he can raise $100 million -- and he's telling the media to "lay off his third / hussy/dog-harming wife!", and poor, addled John McCain, who has self-immolated over Iraq, took in just $12.5 million. Meanwhile, a new poll shows that a non-candidate/television actor/former Senator, Fred Thompson, goes from zero to third place among Republican voters, sucking most of his 12% polling numbers from Rudy, who's now down in the 30s, after hovering around 44 percent in USAT/Gallup. The caveat with Romney is that he was an investment banker at one point in his life, and made a lot of big money contacts as head of the U.S. Olympic Committee, and as Chris Matthews just pointed out on Hardball, when you marry Romney's fundraising to his low poll numbers, you get one hell of a high per capita rate (meaning Romney is the candidate of the very rich, and not much more...)
There clearly is no Republican front runner right now, and a lot of dissatisfaction is in evidence on the right side of the dial. That leads me to believe that Thompson, despite a stunning lack of substance that even some RedStaters have noticed, as evidenced in this surprisingly lucid post (once you look past the strained attempt not to call Dubya a failed president), could still emerge as a front runner in this rather pitiable field.
On the Dem side, Bill Richardson did better than expected at $6 million, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden should just hang it up, and Edwards did pretty well. The big question is how much did Barack Obama raise, which we'll find out probably tomorrow. The Hillary people are already trying to raise expectations, putting out the buzz that Barack's haul could be as much as $21 million. We'll see.
Meanwhile, here are the latest poll numbers from Florida:
THE NUMBERS - DEMOCRATS
Hillary Clinton 36 percent Al Gore, 16 percent Barack Obama 13 percent John Edwards 11 percent (all other candidates below 5 percent)
Hillary and Giuliani are in roughly the same position, while poor Baghdad John is in the shitter, with Newt Gingrich, of all people, trailing him by just 4 percentage points. The Al Gore number is interesting, as Dems still haven't let go of their Gore nostalgia. I maintain that if he ran, he couldn't win, but that's just me. Once Dem voters finally get over it (rent his climate change movie and call it a day, folks...) I think Hillary will put some distance between herself and her competitors, with Obama ticking up a little, too.
America's Authoritarian Mayor, Rudy "Third Time's The Charm" Giuliani tells a softball tossing Barbwa Walters that if he's president, his husband stealing, three man marrying whore wife will make a darned fine advisor, who'll even be welcome at cabinet meetings! Maybe she could hire Angelina Jolie as her chief of staff...!
Rudy Giuliani -- thrice married (to a thrice married, man stealing hussy who, if God truly hates America and he is elected persident, could be running policy from an office in the West Wing), liberal on issues dear to the religious right and GOP gun nuts, and running on 9/11. But here's the problem: firefighters hate him, and the real story of his incompetence before and his callousness after the terror attacks on the Twin Towers is now coming to light, anecdotally today, in "Swift Boat" style TV and radio ads, inevitably. From this week's TIME:
"If Rudolph Giuliani was running on anything but 9/11, I would not speak out," said Sally Regenhard, whose firefighter son was among the 343 FDNY members killed in the terrorist attack. "If he ran on cleaning up Times Square, getting rid of squeegee men, lowering crime — that's indisputable.
"But when he runs on 9/11, I want the American people to know he was part of the problem."
Such comments contradict Giuliani's post-Sept. 11 profile as a hero and symbol of the city's resilience — the steadfast leader who calmed the nerves of a rattled nation. But as the presidential campaign intensifies, criticisms of his 2001 performance are resurfacing.
Giuliani, the leader in polls of Republican voters for his party's nomination, has been faulted on two major issues:
— His administration's failure to provide the World Trade Center's first responders with adequate radios, a long-standing complaint from relatives of the firefighters killed when the twin towers collapsed. The Sept. 11 Commission noted the firefighters at the World Trade Center were using the same ineffective radios employed by the first responders to the 1993 terrorist attack on the trade center.
Regenhard, at a 2004 commission hearing in Manhattan, screamed at Giuliani, "My son was murdered because of your incompetence!" The hearing was a perfect example of the 9/11 duality: Commission members universally praised Giuliani at the same event.
— A November 2001 decision to step up removal of the massive rubble pile at ground zero. The firefighters were angered when the then-mayor reduced their numbers among the group searching for remains of their lost "brothers," focusing instead on what they derided as a "scoop and dump" approach. Giuliani agreed to increase the number of firefighters at ground zero just days after ordering the cutback.
More than 5 1/2 years later, body parts are still turning up in the World Trade Center site.
"We want America to know what this guy meant to New York City firefighters," said Peter Gorman, head of the Uniformed Fire Officers Association. "In our experiences with this man, he disrespected us in the most horrific way."
The two-term mayor, in his appearance before the Sept. 11 Commission, said the blame for the death and destruction of Sept. 11 belonged solely with the terrorists. "There was not a problem of coordination on Sept. 11," he testified. ...
Sounds a bit like Baghdad Bob.
Newt Gingrich -- dumped his wife while she was in a hospital bed recovering from cancer, so he could marry his mistress, left Congress in disgrace, but hey, he's conservative!
And then there are the wee also-rans, Mike Huckabee, Duncan Hunter, Tom Tancredo, libertarian Ron Paul and such-like, but really, is it worth the blogspace to do more than mention their names?
So at this point, I'm thinking the GOPers had better lean hard on Fred Thompson to run. He may not have the "fire in the belly," but damnit, at least he's a celebrity. And to my knowledge, he never egregiously left a wife, botched the response to a terror attack, or pissed off the Cubans in Miami.