Michael Steele whines: he didn't even call me! ... and the now two-time loser RNC chair (after his Limbaugh agonistes and that NY-20 debacle) adds that Specter's mama didn't raise him right... (note to Steele: it's not that Specter doesn't respect you, it's that ... well ... no one does.)
The Club For Greed Growth, whose out-going president Pat Toomey is in large part responsible for this mess, is at first speechless, then downright miserable:
“Senator Specter has confirmed what we already knew – he’s a liberal devoted to more spending, more bailouts, and less economic freedom. Thanks to him, Democrats will now be able to steamroll their big government agenda through the Senate. ..."
If the Democrats do succeed in pushing through national health insurance, they really should set aside a little extra money to erect a statue to Pat Toomey. They couldn’t have done it without him!
Pat Toomey is of course the former president of the Club for Growth who planned to challenge Arlen Specter in the 2010 Pennsylvania Republican primary. Polls showed Toomey well ahead – not because he is so hugely popular in the state, but because the Pennsylvania GOP has shriveled to a small, ideologically intense core. Toomey now looks likely to gain the nomination he has sought – and then to be crushed by Specter or some other Democrat next November.
The Specter defection is too severe a catastrophe to qualify as a “wake-up call.” His defection is the thing we needed the wake-up call to warn us against! For a long time, the loudest and most powerful voices in the conservative world have told us that people like Specter aren’t real Republicans – that they don’t belong in the party. Now he’s gone, and with him the last Republican leverage within any of the elected branches of government.
For years, many in the conservative world have wished for an ideologically purer GOP. Their wish has been granted. Happy?
Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) a fellow moderate, didn’t seem surprised. On the national level, she says, “you haven’t certainly heard warm encouraging words of how they [Republicans] view moderates. Either you are with us or against us.”
“Ultimately we’re heading to having the smallest political tent in history they way things are unfolding,” Snowe said. “We should have learned from the 2006 election, which I was a party of. I happened to win with 74% of the vote in a blue collar state but no one asked me how did you do it. Seems to me that would have been the first question that would have come from the Republican party to find out so we could avoid further losses.”
“I don’t want to be a member of the Club for Growth,” said Graham. “I want to be a member of a vibrant national Republican party that can attract people from all corners of the country — and we can govern the country from a center-right perspective.”
“As Republicans, we got a problem,” he said.
Look, of course Specter made the switch to save his political hide. What 79-year-old do YOU know who'd want to wade back into this particular job market? Politicians exist for one reason only: re-election. And they'll do just about anything to see it done. Specter played realpolitik, and so did the Dems who wooed him. Get over it, GOPers. You've got Specter, we're still stuck with Lieberman.
Meanwhile, the WaPo's Dan Balz is among the many members of the press who are still trying to shake the GOP awake (and put an end to all that useless "RINO hunting...") Good luck with that. As former New York Gov. Pataki intimated to CQPolitics, with a few rolls of the eyeballs, you can't help a party that doesn't WANT to be helped. Case in point: RedStaters are already warning the Republican Senate Campaign Committee not to even THINK about backing the most viable GOPer probably in PA: Tom Ridge. It's purify all the way, baby. All the way to oblivion.
The WaPo culls more GOPer reaction here, including a Newt missive and a full statement from Sen. Snowe.
Housekeeping: BTW, kudos to The Fix's Chris Cillizza for breaking the story. I linked originally to a different iteration of the story, but the scoop was his.
McCain started with grand ideas about breaking the mold of modern politics. He and Obama would tour the country together doing joint town meetings. He would pick a postpartisan running mate, like Joe Lieberman. He would make a dramatic promise, like vowing to serve for only one totally nonpolitical term. So far it hasn’t worked. Obama vetoed the town meeting idea. The issue is not closed, but G.O.P. leaders are resisting a cross-party pick like Lieberman.
McCain and his advisers have been compelled to adjust to the hostile environment around them. They have been compelled, at least in their telling, to abandon the campaign they had hoped to run. Now they are running a much more conventional race, the kind McCain himself used to ridicule.
The man who lampooned the Message of the Week is now relentlessly on message (as observers of his fine performance at Saddleback Church can attest). The man who hopes to inspire a new generation of Americans now attacks Obama daily. It is the only way he can get the networks to pay attention.
Some old McCain hands are dismayed. John Weaver, the former staff member who helped run the old McCain operation, argues that this campaign does not do justice to the man. The current advisers say they have no choice. They didn’t choose the circumstances of this race. Their job is to cope with them.
And the inescapable fact is: It is working. Everyone said McCain would be down by double digits at this point. He’s nearly even. Everyone said he’d be vastly outspent. That hasn’t happened. A long-shot candidacy now seems entirely plausible.
As the McCain’s campaign has become more conventional, his political prospects have soared. Both he and Obama had visions of upending the system. Maybe in office, one of them will still be able to do that. But at least on the campaign trail, the system is winning.
Wholesale prices jumped in July at the fastest rate in more than a quarter century, furthering concern about a continued increase in inflation at a time when economic activity has ebbed.
New federal government data showed that the cost of materials used by businesses increased 1.2 percent in July and have risen 9.8 percent during the past 12 months. It was the largest yearly increase since 1981, as businesses absorbed sharp increases in energy and other commodity costs.
Today's report follows recent news that consumer prices are also rising faster than expected -- and faster than the Federal Reserve's generally accepted target rate of around 2 percent. Although wholesale inflation does not necessarily translate into higher consumer prices, it can be evidence of things to come.
BAMIYAN, Afghanistan — Taliban insurgents mounted their most serious attacks in six years of fighting in Afghanistan over the last two days, including a coordinated assault by at least 10 suicide bombers against one of the largest American military bases in the country, and another by about 100 insurgents who killed 10 elite French paratroopers.
The attack on the French, in a district near Kabul, added to the sense of siege around the capital and was the deadliest single loss for foreign troops in a ground battle since the United States-led invasion chased the Taliban from power in 2001.
Taken together, the attacks were part of a sharp escalation in fighting as insurgents have seized a window of opportunity to press their campaign this summer — taking advantage of a wavering NATO commitment, an outgoing American administration, a flailing Afghan government and a Pakistani government in deep disarray that has given the militants freer rein across the border.
As a result, this year is on pace to be the deadliest in the Afghan war so far, as the insurgent attacks show rising zeal and sophistication. The insurgents are employing not only a growing number of suicide and roadside bombs, but are also waging increasingly well-organized and complex operations using multiple attackers with different types of weapons, NATO officials say. ...
Russia has dismissed a warning by Nato that normal relations are impossible while its troops remain inside Georgia.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused Nato of bias and of trying to save the "criminal regime" in Tbilisi. He insisted Moscow was not occupying Georgia and had no plans to annex the separatist region of South Ossetia.
Earlier, Nato demanded that Russia pull out its troops from Georgia as agreed in an EU-brokered ceasefire plan signed by both parties at the weekend.
Russian President Dmitri Medvedev told his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy in a phone call that the pull-out would be complete by 21-22 August, with the exception of some 500 troops, who will be installed in peacekeeping posts on either side of South Ossetia's border.
France later tabled a US-backed draft resolution at the UN Security Council, demanding full compliance with the ceasefire and calling on Moscow to withdraw its forces to the positions held before the conflict.
Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, rejected the text. He objected to language on Georgia's territorial integrity, saying South Ossetia and Abkhazia did not want to be part of Georgia.
Some Russian troops have been seen leaving Gori, the largest Georgian town close to the South Ossetia border. But BBC correspondents on the ground say there are still Russian artillery positions in place. In addition, there are Russian checkpoints close to the Georgian capital, Tbilisi.
As for the POWs:
In an apparent goodwill gesture Russia exchanged 15 Georgian prisoners for five of its own troops at a Russian checkpoint in Igoeti, about 30km (18 miles) from Georgia's capital.
Georgian officials told the BBC's Helen Fawkes, who was at the scene, that two of the Russian prisoners were airmen who had been shot down by Georgian forces about two weeks ago.
Senator Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign in gracious fashion earlier this afternoon, with a speech that was about as good an exegesis about the consequences of politics as I've heard this campaign season. I just watched it on the TiVo, since I was at a community forum in Liberty City with Hot 105 and the Metro Miami Action Plan Trust for most of the morning and afternoon. As to grades, I'd give the speech an "A." Like Al Gore, Hillary gave her best speech at the end.
Hillary declared that though the race had been tough, "the Democratic party is a family." She fully endorsed Obama, drawing a smattering of boos when she first mentioned his name about 6 minutes into the talk. But by the end, she had captured the crowd with the formulation "when we live in a country when (mentions something that must change, like healthcare for all or proper care for veterans,) we will live in a stronger country. And that's why we have to work hard to elect Barack Obama as president." Then, toward the end, came the part about consequences, with an elegant merger with Obama's major theme added for emphasis:
... You know, I've been involved in politics and public life in one way or another for four decades. And during those ... During those 40 years, our country has voted 10 times for president. Democrats won only three of those times, and the man who won two of those elections is with us today. [Ovation for Bill Clinton]
We made tremendous progress during the '90s under a Democratic president, with a flourishing economy and our leadership for peace and security respected around the world.
Just think how much more progress we could have made over the past 40 years if we'd had a Democratic president. Think about the lost opportunities of these past seven years on the environment and the economy, on health care and civil rights, on education, foreign policy and the Supreme Court.
Imagine how far ... we could have come, how much we could have achieved if we had just had a Democrat in the White House.
We cannot let this moment slip away. We have come too far and accomplished too much.
Now, the journey ahead will not be easy. Some will say we can't do it, that it's too hard, we're just not up to the task. But for as long as America has existed, it has been the American way to reject can't-do claims and to choose instead to stretch the boundaries of the possible through hard work, determination, and a pioneering spirit.
It is this belief, this optimism that Senator Obama and I share and that has inspired so many millions of our supporters to make their voices heard. So today I am standing with Senator Obama to say: Yes, we can!
Hopefully, her die-hard supporters will listen. Two words, sisters: Supreme Court.
I think it's clear that Hillary did everything the Obama team could have wanted her to do today. She offered a sense of triumph and inspiration to her women supporters, particularly those older women who believed this might be their last opportunity to see a woman running the country. To them, she announced that the way had been set for the next woman who runs to go all the way, and for that victory to be rendered unremarkable. She unambiguously declared Obama the winner of a close contest. And she very effectively laid out the consequences of failure. She talked about the challenges of sexism and discrimination, but thankfully, she didn't dwell on it. Instead, she declared that if the highest glass ceiling remains in place in America, "there are 18 million cracks in it" now. By doing so, she secured her place in history as the pace-setter for whoever becomes the first woman president, even if it ultimately is not her.)
In addition, the venue, the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. (which is dedicated to one of my favorite subjects: architecture,) was nothing short of spectacular. (The NBM website's homepage says the venue will be "closed for a special event" on Saturday. Ha!)
I have been a harsh critic of the Clinton campaign, having come into the primary last January as a die-hard Clinton Democrat, who became both incredibly inspired by Barack Obama and sorely disappointed with the negative trajectory of the race, which I feel was driven by the former president and the Senator from New York, as well as by some of her senior advisers. Today, I think Hillary took a step back toward the grace that people like me had long expected of her.
The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it.
Voters are getting tired of it; it is demeaning the political process; and it does not work. It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election.
If nothing else, self interest should push her in that direction. Mrs. Clinton did not get the big win in Pennsylvania that she needed to challenge the calculus of the Democratic race. It is true that Senator Barack Obama outspent her 2-to-1. But Mrs. Clinton and her advisers should mainly blame themselves, because, as the political operatives say, they went heavily negative and ended up squandering a good part of what was once a 20-point lead.
On the eve of this crucial primary, Mrs. Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11. A Clinton television ad — torn right from Karl Rove’s playbook — evoked the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war and the 9/11 attacks, complete with video of Osama bin Laden. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” the narrator intoned.
If that was supposed to bolster Mrs. Clinton’s argument that she is the better prepared to be president in a dangerous world, she sent the opposite message on Tuesday morning by declaring in an interview on ABC News that if Iran attacked Israel while she were president: “We would be able to totally obliterate them.”
By staying on the attack and not engaging Mr. Obama on the substance of issues like terrorism, the economy and how to organize an orderly exit from Iraq, Mrs. Clinton does more than just turn off voters who don’t like negative campaigning. She undercuts the rationale for her candidacy that led this page and others to support her: that she is more qualified, right now, to be president than Mr. Obama.
The Times is advising Hillary to "call off the dogs." The only trouble is, the Times' analysis is wrong. Pennsylvania voters, at least responded to Hillary's negative campaigning by voting in larger numbers for her than for Barack Obama. They were persuaded by her message of fear and loathing, in part because it gave them a justification for the fear, and in some cases loathing, that they may feel toward Obama. At the end of the day, it has to be assumed that older, white voters, particularly women, would prefer to see a candidate like themselves win the race, just as Black voters would prefer to see one of their own win. It's human nature. Not pretty, but real. Hillary has successfully exploited the tribalism of white voters to her advantage. That may be the "old politics," but sometimes the old politics works. I wouldn't hold your breath waiting for Camp Hillary to clean it up. I think it just gets nastier on her part, from here on.
This may sound like the sour grapes of an Obama supporter, and maybe it is. But the bottom line is that the Clinton way of doing politics is mean and nasty. It always has been. That's why those of us who supported Bill Clinton through the 90s liked them. We knew they would throw their mother under a moving train to win an election. That was cool then, when the election was against Republicans. Now that they're training the dogs on one of our own, the Clinton's don't look so clever to us anymore.
There is hope for the Obama faithful, of course. Barack can come roaring back by winning North Carolina (though Camp Clinton will dismiss such a win as yet another Jesse Jackson moment) and by beating her in Indiana -- the combined effect of which would neutralize tonight's win for HRC. But it clearly is time for the Obama camp to regroup, to drill down into his weakness with white, working class voters, and to find a message that blunts the hardball sledge hammer being wielded by Hillary and her team.
The flap over Hillary's "faulty memory" of having dashed from a military aircraft under sniper fire in Bosnia back when she was first lady -- something I would guess is kind of hard to get wrong, since such things happen so infrequently -- is embarrassing for Team Clinton, to be sure. But it's nothing compared to the other whopper that Hillary has been telling ... and even slapping Barack Obama around over: her untruth about her past opinions about NAFTA.
I was working for a consulting firm in New York City when NAFTA past, as a senior analyst covering the beverage industry. I remember NAFTA, and the bailout of Mexixo, as key Clinton administrative initiatives designed to boost U.S. exports to Mexico and Canada, stabilize our southern neighbor's economy so that Mexicans could afford to buy more American goods, and create an economic "surge" in the U.S. What I don't recall, are news stories about the first lady's opposition to NAFTA, or to the U.S. entry into the World Trade Organization. ... or to the conferral of Most Favored Nation status on China ... hell, I don't remember much about the then first lady other than her ever changing (and usually rather bad) hairstyles, her constant pissing off of conservative women with her "I ain't baking cookies" bravado (something I really liked about her) and her standing by the president when that whole Monica thing broke out. (Okay, I also remember the stuff about the Rose Law Firm, the Vince Foster suicide, the "vast right wing conspiracy" funded by the same Richard Mellon Scaife whosePittsburgh newspaper Hillary ran to the other day to smear Barack Obama on Rev. Wright -- I guess they're no longer accusing her and her husband of murdering Vince Foster,this week -- plus travelgate, filegate and the way Big Bill 86'd Hillary's good friend Lani Guinier... but I digress...)
As it turns out, my memory of the 1990s (a very good period for me and for the country, by the way -- have to say that...) is much better than Hillary's.
What is the proper word for the claim by Hillary Clinton and the more factually disinclined supporters of her campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination - made in speeches, briefings and interviews (including one by this reporter with the candidate) - that she has always been a critic of the North American Free Trade Agreement?
Now that we know from the 11,000 pages of Clinton White House documents released this week that former First Lady was an ardent advocate for NAFTA; now that we know she held at least five meetings to strategize about how to win congressional approval of the deal; now that we know she was in the thick of the manuevering to block the efforts of labor, farm, environmental and human rights groups to get a better agreement. Now that we know all of this, how should we assess the claim that Hillary's heart has always beaten to a fair-trade rhythm?
Now that we know from official records of her time as First Lady that Clinton was the featured speaker at a closed-door session where 120 women opinion leaders were hectored to pressure their congressional representatives to approve NAFTA; now that we know from ABC News reporting on the session that "her remarks were totally pro-NAFTA" and that "there was no equivocation for her support for NAFTA at the time;" now that we have these details confirmed, what should we make of Clinton's campaign claim that she was never comfortable with the militant free-trade agenda that has cost the United States hundreds of thousands of union jobs, that has idled entire industries, that has saddled this country with record trade deficits, undermined the security of working families in the US and abroad, and has forced Mexican farmers off their land into an economic refugee status that ultimately forces them to cross the Rio Grande River in search of work?
As she campaigns now, Clinton says, "I have been a critic of NAFTA from the very beginning."
But the White House records confirm that this is not true.
Her statement is, to be precise, a lie. ...
That was John Nichols, writing for The Nation. If Team Obama is smart, it will also be the substance of their strategy in Pennsylvania, a state that has suffered mightily over the last two decades as its economy, particularly in industrial Pittsburgh, has shrunk. From a Public Citizen report back in August 2002:
How trade policy affects U.S. workers and industries has become a very heated political and policy issue.Ahistoric U.S. trade deficit, which Federal Reserve Chair Alan Greenspan calls “unsustainable,” is causingthe value of the dollar to be dragged down. The trade deals of the 1990s, such as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), have resulted in massive U.S. manufacturing job losses. Eight years of NAFTA has cost 766,000 U.S. jobs with 35,262 job losses in Pennsylvania. For those who have found1new employment, it is often service sector jobs at lower wages and without benefits. The government’sanswer to trade job losses is too little too late: a meager program of retraining and extended unemploymentcompensation for which only a fraction of the workers hurt by trade can qualify. The program, called “Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA),” became a major issue in the extended battle over so-called FastTrack tradeauthority. Fast Track is the name for a procedure which delegates a wide swath of Congress’exclusive constitutional trade powers to the president. Proponents of expanding NAFTA and other tradedeals, which have caused large job loss and other problems, sought the extraordinary process because itwas the only means to overcome public opposition to the current model of special interest trade deals.
After an intense 18-month campaign, on July 26, 2002, President George W. Bush personally trolled thehalls of Congress for support in the House of Representatives for a delegation to him of Congress’ exclusiveArticle I, Section 8 Constitutional authority to set terms for international commerce. This extraordinarydelegation of Congress’ trade authority — Fast Track — was opposed in 1994. This procedure was available for twenty years starting in 1974, but was only ever actually used five times during that period.Congress refused to grant this authority to then-President Clinton eight years ago.
Razor-thin passage of the legislation at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday, July 27, 2002 after an array of proceduralshenanigans secured Fast Track for President Bush, but both a consensus on the direction of trade policyand political momentum on Bush’s trade agenda are absent.
The Fast Track legislation President Bush signed on August 6, 2002 explicitly extends Fast Track treatmentto a 31-nationNAFTA expansion, called the Free Trade Area of the Americas and to an expansion of the World Trade Organization to cover more service sectors of the economy. Passage of Fast Track means new threats of more U.S. job loss, including in the high-tech and service sectors, and damage to U.S. farmers is added to the already significant concerns about how Fast Track undermines the Constitution’schecks and balances. Instead of adjusting the underlying trade rules to suit more Americans, the response by the White House and Republican congressional leaders to growing skepticism about NAFTA expansion and Fast Track wasto launch an attack at efforts by Democrats to reform the TAA program.
And jumping forward to specific effects on Pennsylvania:
Pennsylvania’s NAFTA Job Losses Significantly Higher than National AverageUnder just the NAFTA-TAA program, Pennsylvania has been certified to have lost 30, 226 jobs at 274 facilities as a result of NAFTA, according to an analysis of the Department of Labor records. The share of Pennsylvania jobs certified as NAFTA losses under NAFTA-TAA certifications is significantly greater than Pennsylvania’s share of the national workforce. Pennsylvania had 60% more NAFTA-TAA certifications than its share of the national workforce since NAFTA went into effect. If NAFTA’s job13losses were distributed evenly across the country, each state would lose roughly the same percentage of jobs. According to analysis of Department of Labor figures, Pennsylvania had 11,851 more certified NAFTA job losses to NAFTA than it would if distribution were equal throughout the national workforce.
NAFTA Job Losses Occurred Throughout Pennsylvania
NAFTA layoffs have happened throughout Pennsylvania, from Philadelphia to Erie and White Mills to Masontown. The largest NAFTA layoff concentration of NAFTA-TAA certified job losses was in the14Philadelphia area, which suffered 17% of the NAFTA job casualties listed under the NAFTA-TAA program. The Reading area suffered the second highest concentration of NAFTA-TAA certifications inthe state, with one out of every ten NAFTA-TAA certifications in Pennsylvania.
Those job-loss numbers have since balloned, according to anti-NAFTA groups, to upwards of 78,000 jobs in Pennsylvania from 2001 to 2006, and 1.8 million jobs nationwide.
The right wing noise machine, and the Clinton campaign, will surely try to use NAFTA against Barack in Pennsylvania, as they did in Ohio. Trouble is, now, NAFTA doesn't work so well for Hillary, and Team Obama should not be shy about using it, and her White House records, to hit Hillary hard on her then advocacy of NAFTA, her hard work getting it passed, and her major flip-flop on the subject now. ,
Maybe he can hook Barack up with some of those hilarious commercials...
Bill Richardson, of the best political commercials in the wild west, endorses Barack Obama today ... nice, but probably would have been more helpful before the Texas primary, given that Pennsylvania, the next big contest, has a Latino population of 4.2%, the last time the Census Bureau ran the numbers. Anyhoo, I'm sure Barack will take it, especially given Richardson's extensive foreign policy experience and previous fealty to the Clinton campaign -- he was the guy who very chivalrously defended Mrs. Clinton from John Edwards in that now infamous October 30 debate in Philadelphia. Hell, he even watched the Super Bowl with Bill (that won't be happening next year...) As to why Richardson chose Obama over Hil after so long, I would suspect the meanness of the Clinton campaign has at least something to do with it...
Richardson will help Barack in the general not only in his state, but also in Colorado and Nevada, given that he understands the western U.S., and will resonate with Mexican-Americans. (He probably won't be much help here in Florida, where so few Hispanics are of Mexican ancestry, something my 527, ACT, and groups like the New Democratic Network found out in 2004.) But all in all, a good thing for Barack, and another bellweather for the superdelegates.
The latest Gallup Daily Tracking poll has bad news for Barack Obama, and bad news for the Democratic Party. The poll shows John McCain moving into the lead against either Democrat. Meanwhile, polls show Hillary taking advantage of Barack's bad couple of weeks publicity-wise. She's now leading him in the daily preference horserace, 49% to 42%.
On the cross-party horserace, Obama has been trailing McCain since March 15 in the poll, and he now trails him 47% to 43% (the results do not take into account the reaction to Obama's big speech, however, and it will be interesting to see whether the polls tighten up again over the next several days...)
For Hillary, she has being tying McCain since March 13 in the poll, and now trails him 48% to 45%.
I hate to be cruel, but I'm a little dubious about the latest Zogby poll. He has been way off lately (including calling California for Barack back in February...) Zogby has McCain crushing Hillary 45% to 39% and doing similar damage to Obama, 44% to 39%.
What is interesting about these polls, is that voters are stating a preference for McCain -- his lead change is due almost entirely to a switch among Independents -- irrespective of his policy positions. That tells me that all the squabbling and chaos on the Democratic side is making both candidates less likable, and less "stable seeming" for nervous Indies.
Still waiting on something new out of PA from ARG.
Overall, the polls show voters tiring of the Democratic primary, I would say, with many viewing McCain as a safer choice, at least for now. Can the Dems turn it around? Yes. But probably not before they suffer some more pain in the polls, as their ugly race drags on.
Update 3:32 p.m.: A new CBS/NYT poll shows both Dems still ahead of McCain in the horse race match-ups, but by a much narrower margin. Obama leads McCain 48% to 43%, down slightly from 50%-38% in February. Hillary edges McCain 46% to 44%, within the margin of error. Other important findings:
In a turnaround from last month, McCain now leads both Obama and Clinton among independent voters. Obama led McCain by 10 points among this group last month, but he now trails by 8 points. Clinton trails McCain by 11 points among independents.
Obama has the highest favorable rating of the three candidates - 44 percent - followed by Clinton at 39 percent and McCain at 38 percent. Clinton, meanwhile, has the highest unfavorable rating at 41 percent, followed by McCain at 31 percent and Obama at 28 percent.
Among Democratic primary voters, Obama is only slightly preferred over Clinton, 46 percent to 43 percent. Last month Obama led Clinton by a wider margin, 54 percent to 38 percent.
Since last month, Obama's national support among male Democratic primary voters has slipped considerably, though he still retains a 53 percent to 36 percent lead over Clinton among the group. Clinton has gained ground among female Democratic primary voters, and now leads Obama among that group 48 percent to 40 percent.
The complete poll is accessible here. On the satisfaction meter, 76% of Dems said they would be satisfied with Barack and 70% said the same about Hillary. The poll was taken March 15-18, so it really doesn't reflect the full impact of the Rev. Wright scandal and the subsequent Big Speech. The Gallup daily tracking poll is from yesterday (March 19).
The Miami Herald ran a story this Sunday that illustrates either the positive power of bi-partisanship or the malignancy of back-scratching cronyism that protects incumbents, even at the cost of sacrificing party goals.
Democrats torn between party, GOP allegiances BY LESLEY CLARK Party leaders have tapped Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz to raise money and coach candidates in a high-stakes, aggressive bid to expand the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives.
But as three Miami Democrats look to unseat three of her South Florida Republican colleagues, Wasserman Schultz is staying on the sidelines. So is Rep. Kendrick Meek, a Miami Democrat and loyal ally to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
That wasn't the case just two years ago when the pair flouted a long-standing Florida delegation agreement to not campaign against colleagues and vigorously backed Ron Klein in his winning bid to oust veteran Republican Rep. Clay Shaw.
This time around, Wasserman Schultz and Meek say their relationships with the Republican incumbents, Reps. Lincoln Diaz-Balart and his brother Mario, and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, leave them little choice but to sit out the three races.
''At the end of the day, we need a member who isn't going to pull any punches, who isn't going to be hesitant,'' Wasserman Schultz said.
The decision comes as Democrats believe they have their best shot in years to defeat at least one of the Cuban-American incumbents with a roster of Democrats that include former Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez, opposing Lincoln Diaz-Balart; outgoing Miami-Dade Democratic party chair Joe Garcia, opposing Mario Diaz-Balart; and businesswoman Annette Taddeo, opposing Ros-Lehtinen.
But Wasserman Schultz and Meek say their ties to the three Republicans are personal as well as professional: Both served in the state Legislature with Mario Diaz-Balart and say they work in concert with all three on South Florida issues.
Wasserman Schultz has also played a leading role in persuading the new Democratic majority to sustain the economic embargo against Cuba and has established close ties to the staunchly pro-embargo U.S.-Cuba Democracy political action committee, which has contributed thousands to Wasserman Schultz and Meek's campaigns.
Bi-partisanship or back-scratching cronyism? You be the judge.
TNR's Jonathan Chait delivered the line of the night tonight on "Tucker" -- so funny Tucker could barely recover. Paraphrasing, as he described his insightfully hilarious article enjoining Hillary to just "go already" (from the campaign,) Chait said that the Dems are poised to lose the most winnable election in our lifetimes, even facing John McCain, who, "like Mr. Magoo, stumbled through all sorts of mine fields and somehow emerged on the other side." Great line. And here's the TNR piece.
The morning after Tuesday's primaries, Hillary Clinton's campaign released a memo titled "The Path to the Presidency." I eagerly dug into the paper, figuring it would explain how Clinton would obtain the Democratic nomination despite an enormous deficit in delegates. Instead, the memo offered a series of arguments as to why Clinton should run against John McCain--i.e., "Hillary is seen as the one who can get the job done"--but nothing about how she actually could. Is she planning a third-party run? Does she think Obama is going to die? The memo does not say.
The reason it doesn't say is that Clinton's path to the nomination is pretty repulsive. She isn't going to win at the polls. Barack Obama has a lead of 144 pledged delegates. That may not sound like a lot in a 4,000-delegate race, but it is. Clinton's Ohio win reduced that total by only nine. She would need 15 more Ohios to pull even with Obama. She isn't going to do much to dent, let alone eliminate, his lead.
That means, as we all have grown tired of hearing, that she would need to win with superdelegates. But, with most superdelegates already committed, Clinton would need to capture the remaining ones by a margin of better than two to one. And superdelegates are going to be extremely reluctant to overturn an elected delegate lead the size of Obama's. The only way to lessen that reluctance would be to destroy Obama's general election viability, so that superdelegates had no choice but to hand the nomination to her. Hence her flurry of attacks, her oddly qualified response as to whether Obama is a Muslim ("not as far as I know"), her repeated suggestions that John McCain is more qualified.
Clinton's justification for this strategy is that she needs to toughen up Obama for the general election-if he can't handle her attacks, he'll never stand up to the vast right-wing conspiracy. Without her hazing, warns the Clinton memo, "Democrats may have a nominee who will be a lightening rod of controversy." So Clinton's offensive against the likely nominee is really an act of selflessness. And here I was thinking she was maniacally pursuing her slim thread of a chance, not caring--or possibly even hoping, with an eye toward 2012-that she would destroy Obama's chances of defeating McCain in the process. I feel ashamed for having suspected her motives. ...
Hillary just gave a feisty speech following her come from ahead (ahem) victory in Ohio. The speech was notable in a few ways: first, it wasn't at all gentle. She continued to slam Barack without using his name, saying "the American people deserve a president who is tested and ready on day one," making allusions to the White House being no place for "on the job training," and deriding the notion of "change" without works.
You could see the Harold Ickes camp rebound in the latter part of the speech, in which Hillary attempted to coopt both the change message, and the historical/inspirational campaign theme that have been so successful for Barack. She talked about a mother of two little girls who told her that she wants her daughters to believe that they can "be anything." She mused that the question facing the country is not "whether we can make changes, it's whether we will," and she completely ripped off Barack's signature line, enjoining the crowd to call out the answer: "yes we will!" (The crowd contributed liberal chants of "yes SHE will!" throughout...)
Hillary may have a new campaign theme going forward, and its an amoebic send-up of Barack Obama's campaign: "together we will promises into actions, words into solutions and hope into reality."
This is no doubt a big night for Hillary, who won by a significant margin in Ohio (though again, not the 60 percent plus that she needed.) And she has pulled ahead in Texas, making an Obama victory there increasingly doubtful as the night drags on.
Howard Fineman claimed earlier tonight on MSNBC to have found "no joy" in the Clinton inner circle, and a sinking feeling that without Texas, some in the sanctum would want her to drop out. Well there will be no dropping out, clearly, and what Hillary displayed on the stump tonight was, if not joy, a certain smug satisfaction. This is clearly a woman who wants not just to beat Barack Obama, but to crush him under her stilettos.
It's strange for me, as someone who, seemingly ages ago, was a fan of Hillary's. But the manner in which she and her bully boys, Howard Wolfson and Mark Penn, have run this campaign has left me cold. She clearly is very much in this race, and could very well strong-arm the super delegates still undeclared into giving her the nomination. But I predict that if she does win it this way -- by scorching the earth with Barack Obama, belittling his campaign and declaring him more unfit to be president than her GOP opponent, many Democrats, particularly younger folks, Black voters and those new to the process -- and I'm shocked that I'm even saying this because I am a super-voter in every sense of the word -- myself included, will feel rather disinclined to stand in line on Mrs. Clinton's behalf in November. This campaign has become, not about putting a Democrat back in the White House, but about putting Hillary (back?) in the White House, all else be damned.
We've seen this movie before. Bill Clinton won back to back presidential campaigns, and the Democratic party was not left the better for it, particularly in Congress, which they lost. Now, Hillary Clinton appears poised to break the party if she has to, in order to get what she wants. During the last few weeks she has fed the innuendos about Barack's faith, (as far as she knows...) declared him unfit to be commander in chief, and accused him of nefarious associations with indicted folk (pot ... kettle...) all while he stands closer to becoming the nominee of her party than she does. It's not an attractive quality, and it's not mitigated, for me, by her feel good appearances on the comedy show circuit. My only hope now, is that Harold Ickes' wing really does wrest control of the campaign from the Wolfson gang, so we don't spend the next seven weeks being fear mongered, bullied and bludgeoned into a new Clinton era.
Update: Barack is speaking now, and he has finally begun to tie Hillary and McCain together, and to defend himself against their tag team campaigns.
The night of the V.O.Te.R (Vermont, Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island) is upon us.
So far, it's one down: Obama wins Vermont. Ohio for the Dems is too close to call. According to NBC News, the Ohio Secretary of State has asked a judge to hold polls open until 9 p.m. in Sandusky County, due to an unknown problem.
Update: The Texas secretary of state's site has some interesting results rolling in, even though the polls haven't closed. The early vote that's been counted so far breaks down thusly:
Early vote: Obama - 131,607 (58.26%) Clinton - 90,903 (40.24%)
Total vote: Obama - 145,592 (58.39%) Clinton - 100,216 (40.19%)
Polls still haven't closed in West Texas, so we'll see how things go from here.
Update 2: Because the judge has ruled that the polls will indeed stay open late in Sandusky County, Ohio, there won't be any numbers on the Ohio elections website until after 9 p.m. Update 3: The race question in Ohio... According to NBC News, of the voters in Ohio who answered exit polls and said that race was a factor in their decision, 8 out of 10 voted for Hillary Clinton. And Hillary Clinton is winning both white women (by around 60-40) and white men (about 55-35) in Ohio.
I'm not surprised. Ohio is one of the those states... it's something the Obama campaign will have to contend with if he is the nominee. For every other reason: economics, NAFTA ... Ohio should be winnable for the Dems in November. But if Barack is the nominee, this is one state where I think race will be a factor.
Exit polls are also showing weakness for Obama in Ohio among voters over age 45, and particularly among seniors.
Update 4: Better numbers than the Texas secretary's site coming out of USA Today:
what's that all about? And didn't that Ohio guy just make you cringe, with sympathy? So many people are feeding themselves disinformation rather than news, and talk radio rumors rather than facts. Wake up, people!
Hillary Clinton, faltering in her march toward the nomination after 13 straight primary losses, has turned to the tactics of Walter Mondale (with a little LBJ and Georgw W thrown in,) to try and turn things around (the tactics of Richard Nixon [experience matters! ... ignore the whelp!!!...] Bush I [smearing one's opponent ... prudent at this juncture...] and Mommie Dearest [one moment, kind and maternal, next moment ... horrible and cruel!!!] having failed her.)
Mrs. Clinton is apparently spending that $35 mil of hers (Barack has more than that, apparently...) finding new ways to eviscerate her opponent, and, it seems, to render him unelectable in the primary, unelectable in the general, and unelectable for all time. Clinton's new TV ad is a doosy (the NYT blog The Caucus analyzes it here):
In other words, vote for Hillary ... if you want your children to live...
To be fair, Camp Clinton isn't whipping up anything the McCain camp wouldn't have thought of on their own, and it's a near certainty that no matter how mean Hillary gets during the primary, the GOP and McCain will make her look like a masseuse by the fall. But ... there's something to be said for grace, and for putting the war ahead of the battle. It's getting to the point where I, at least, am wondering whether it's more important for Mrs. Clinton to be the nominee, in her camp's thinking, than for the Democrats to win in the fall.
I have had such great respect for the Clintons, especially Bill, over the years, and have been sufficiently supportive of them to consider myself a "Clinton Democrat." And while I am supporting, and voted for, Barack Obama this cycle, had he not been in, Hillary would have been my girl.
That said ... I would have much preferred to see Hillary run on her own merits, her vision for America, and the attributes that make her a good potential president, not on her team's perception of the demerits of Barack Obama. Ultimately, the goal is to win the White House in the fall. Becoming the echo chamber of the Republican Party doesn't strike me as the best way to get that accomplished.
Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) campaign manager said Friday morning that a new ad on national security from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.) will backfire as it will only remind voters that Clinton voted for the Iraq war.
Entitled “Children,” the spot features sleeping children and says: “It's 3 a.m., and your children are safe and asleep. But there’s a phone in the White House, and it's ringing. Something’s happening in the world. Your vote will decide who answers that call.”
The ad, which is already being compared to the famous “Daisy” ad of the 1964 campaign, is the same strategy that Clinton has been using since losing the Iowa caucuses and has been “rejected by voters,” said David Plouffe, Obama's campaign manager, on a conference call with reporters Friday.
“Sen. Clinton already had her red phone moment,” Plouffe said. “She had it in 2002. It was on the Iraq war.”
He added: “This is about what you say when you answer that phone.”
Slate has dismissed the John McCain is from Panama! story with the back of its Slatey hand, so who am I to call it a story? Still, the New York Times did go to the trouble to write the story, so why not post just a little bit:
Mr. McCain’s likely nomination as the Republican candidate for president and the happenstance of his birth in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 are reviving a musty debate that has surfaced periodically since the founders first set quill to parchment and declared that only a “natural-born citizen” can hold the nation’s highest office.
Almost since those words were written in 1787 with scant explanation, their precise meaning has been the stuff of confusion, law school review articles, whisper campaigns and civics class debates over whether only those delivered on American soil can be truly natural born. To date, no American to take the presidential oath has had an official birthplace outside the 50 states.
Of course, it should be noted that the first president to be born in the United States when it was the United States (rather than a territory that would later become part of the United States) was Martin Van Buren (1837-1841). More presidential firsts here. Back to the story:
“There are powerful arguments that Senator McCain or anyone else in this position is constitutionally qualified, but there is certainly no precedent,” said Sarah H. Duggin, an associate professor of law at Catholic University who has studied the issue extensively. “It is not a slam-dunk situation.”
Mr. McCain was born on a military installation in the Canal Zone, where his mother and father, a Navy officer, were stationed. His campaign advisers say they are comfortable that Mr. McCain meets the requirement and note that the question was researched for his first presidential bid in 1999 and reviewed again this time around.
But given mounting interest, the campaign recently asked Theodore B. Olson, a former solicitor general now advising Mr. McCain, to prepare a detailed legal analysis. “I don’t have much doubt about it,” said Mr. Olson, who added, though, that he still needed to finish his research.
Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and one of Mr. McCain’s closest allies, said it would be incomprehensible to him if the son of a military member born in a military station could not run for president.
“He was posted there on orders from the United States government,” Mr. Graham said of Mr. McCain’s father. “If that becomes a problem, we need to tell every military family that your kid can’t be president if they take an overseas assignment.”
The phrase “natural born” was in early drafts of the Constitution. Scholars say notes of the Constitutional Convention give away little of the intent of the framers. Its origin may be traced to a letter from John Jay to George Washington, with Jay suggesting that to prevent foreigners from becoming commander in chief, the Constitution needed to “declare expressly” that only a natural-born citizen could be president.
Ms. Duggin and others who have explored the arcane subject in depth say legal argument and basic fairness may indeed be on the side of Mr. McCain, a longtime member of Congress from Arizona. But multiple experts and scholarly reviews say the issue has never been definitively resolved by either Congress or the Supreme Court.
And now, for the history geek bit:
Mr. McCain is not the first person to find himself in these circumstances. The last Arizona Republican to be a presidential nominee, Barry Goldwater, faced the issue. He was born in the Arizona territory in 1909, three years before it became a state. But Goldwater did not win, and the view at the time was that since he was born in a continental territory that later became a state, he probably met the standard.
It also surfaced in the 1968 candidacy of George Romney, who was born in Mexico, but again was not tested. The former Connecticut politician Lowell P. Weicker Jr., born in Paris, sought a legal analysis when considering the presidency, an aide said, and was assured he was eligible. Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr. was once viewed as a potential successor to his father, but was seen by some as ineligible since he had been born on Campobello Island in Canada. The 21st president, Chester A. Arthur, whose birthplace is Vermont, was rumored to have actually been born in Canada, prompting some to question his eligibility.
Quickly recognizing confusion over the evolving nature of citizenship, the First Congress in 1790 passed a measure that did define children of citizens “born beyond the sea, or out of the limits of the United States to be natural born.” But that law is still seen as potentially unconstitutional and was overtaken by subsequent legislation that omitted the “natural-born” phrase. Oooh, Lou Dobbs is gonna have a fieeld day with this one...
Oh, and George Will basically called John McCain a holier than thou hypocrite on campaign finance today, it turns out Johnny Mack not only met that Cunningham jerk (more than once) but that his campaign, via Ohio's Mike Dewine, hired the guy on purpose ... meanwhile, the media speculates on what damage McCain's tap dancing act with the winger faithful could mean to his campaign...
Yesterday, Rev. Joseph Lowery, co-founder of SCLC (and a great speaker, as I got to see recently at the rededication of Virginia Key Beach in Miami) put Rep. John Lewis on the spot, saying he would switch his vote as a superdelegate to Barack Obama. Today, Lewis made good:
Hoping to put an end to a month of confusion and dismay, Rep. John Lewis on Wednesday said he's switching his support from Sen. Hillary Clinton to Sen. Barack Obama in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Lewis cited the overwhelming preference for Obama in his district as a reason for his change of heart, but he also talked about Obama's campaign as transformational for the nation.
"Something's happening in America, something some of us did not see coming," Lewis said. "Barack Obama has tapped into something that is extraordinary.
... Can't have anything to do with that Lewis opponent Obama's candidacy tapped into, could it...?
Best line of tonight's debate according to the collected punditry of MSNBC: Obama responding to the Hillary point that since his 2002 speech he has voted on Iraq exactly as she has by saying that once you've driven into a ditch, there are only so many ways to get out, and accusing her of voting to drive the U.S. into the Iraq ditch. It was a good line, and the Iraq/foreign policy section was one of his strongest sets.
Another good line from Barack: "I think Senator Clinton equates experience with longevity in Washington."
And I like this one: "... the insurance companies actually are happy to have a mandate. The insurance companies don't mind making sure that everybody has to purchase their product. That's not something they're objecting to. The question is, are we going to make sure that it is affordable for everybody? And that's my goal when I'm president of the United States."
Hillary's best line tonight was about the sea change that a woman president would represent. She should have used that tack more during the campaign...
Her worst line, by far, was this one:
SEN. CLINTON: Well, can I just point out that in the last several debates, I seem to get the first question all the time. And I don't mind. I -- you know, I'll be happy to field them, but I do find it curious, and if anybody saw "Saturday Night Live," you know, maybe we should ask Barack if he's comfortable and needs another pillow. (Laughter, boos.) I just find it kind of curious that I keep getting the first question on all of these issues. But I'm happy to answer it.
Bad form, Senator.
I do think its funny that Rachel Maddow and Chris Matthews didn't enjoy the debate, with Maddow calling it the "Democratic Voter Enthusiasm Suppression Act of 2008" while Olbermann and Pat Buchanan found a lot to love about the debate, as did Jason and I. I think the better term for tonight is the "Feminists Disappointed by Lack of Hillary Slam Dunk Act of 2008." I guess Rachel and Chris wanted a smack-down rumble, and instead they got a sober, serious debate.
Oh god ... Stephanie Tubbs Jones is back on TV ... damn, she can't even admit that Barack's run fulfills Martin Luther King's dream ... oh, good, she's gone. Whew!
I notice that MSNBC promptly benched Maddow after her sourpuss reaction to the debate.
The NBC News post-debate love-fest is in full swing, with Chris Matthews smooching Tim Russert on "reeling in his marlin" on Hillary's answer regretting her vote on Iraq (I think the mutual admiration and agreement society is almost irresistible for journalists.) But a few minutes ago, Keith Olbermann was the one playing the part of the fisherman, and Russert was playing the fish.
Olbermann nailed Russert on the phony issue about Obama's supposed pledge to take public financing in the general election, a pledge that, as Olbermann has pointed out on "Countdown" and as he pointed out again tonight, Obama didn't really make. Russert didn't concede the point, but Olbermann won the exchange. Barack answered a questionnaire in which he said he would pursue and agreement with the Republican nominee to attempt to get a public financing deal if he became the nominee. That's a promise to negotiate, not a promise to unilaterally disarm his campaign against the GOP. I know Russert would like to see the fight between Obama and McCain pulled even for the general via the money if necessary (and the commentraitor agrees, based on last Sunday's "This Week" ...) but it ain't gonna happen.
More importantly, this is a false media story promulgated by MSM types who, like Russert, want to see a horserace this fall. And none of them are pointing out the very important point that John McCain has already made it clear that he has no intention of accepting public financing for the general election campaign, and is in fact trying to wriggle out of it in the primary.
(sigh) Anyhow, for once and for all (and then I never intend to blog about this again) here is the question asked of the candidates by the Midwest Democracy Network (only Obama and John Edwards responded):
Question I-B: If you are nominated for President in 2008 and your major opponents agree to forgo private funding in the general election campaign, will you participate in the presidential public financing system?
Yes ___ No ___
And here is Barack Obama's answer:
OBAMA: Yes. I have been a long-time advocate for public financing of campaigns combined with free television and radio time as a way to reduce the influence of moneyed special interests. I introduced public financing legislation in the Illinois State Senate, and am the only 2008 candidate to have sponsored Senator Russ Feingold’s (D-WI) bill to reform the presidential public financing system. In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public financing system in the 2008 election. My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fundraising truce, return excess money from donors, and stay within the public financing system for the general election. My proposal followed announcements by some presidential candidates that they would forgo public financing so they could raise unlimited funds in the general election. The Federal Election Commission ruled the proposal legal, and Senator John McCain (r-AZ) has already pledged to accept this fundraising pledge. If I am the Democratic nominee, I will aggressively pursue an agreement with the Republican nominee to preserve a publicly financed general election.
Is that a pledge to take public financing come what may? You be the judge.
A raft of fresh, new polls hit the streets this morning, and there's nothing nice in them for Senator Clinton.
USAT/Gallup (Feb. 21-24 poll of 829 Republicans and Republican-leaning Independents and 1,009 Democrats and Democrat leaners) starts us off with head-to-head match-ups that show Barack Obama as more electable than Hillary Clinton versus John McCain:
Among likely voters:
McCain - 50% Clinton - 46 Other/Neither/No opinion - 4
The Illinois senator leads Clinton by 23 percentage points among white men and by 17 points among liberals -- groups that were evenly divided between the two in early February. He has a similar advantage among people earning $50,000 to $100,000 annually -- whom she led earlier by 13 points.
Clinton maintains robust leads among some groups that have been cornerstones of her candidacy, including those age 65 and up, white women and people earning under $50,000 annually.
Overall, Obama has 46 percent to Clinton's 43 percent, a virtual tie. Clinton had a slight 5 point lead nationally in early February.
Although the AP/I poll shows both Dems beating John McCain, which is good news for Hillary, Barack wins by bigger margins:
Clinton - 48% McCain - 43 Neither/Not sure - 9
Obama - 51% McCain - 41 Neither/Not sure - 8
And the internals, particularly on white men, are more important than the national horse race, because they speak to a trend against Hillary that could carry over into a general election.
A new New York Times/CBS News poll shows Barack Obama's support continuing to ascend the celestial plain (sorry, Hillary...) and it reveals some troubling trends for Hillary...
Her support among men has cratered, according to this poll, dropping from 42% in December to 28% at the end of February. Barack's, meanwhile, has climbed from 26% to 67%.
Hillary is holding steady with women - 46% then and now, but Barack has caught up to her, climbing from 27% of Democratic women to 45% from December to February.
Barack is preferred by Democratic voters overall, and by a wide margin (54% to 38%). In December, Hillary led that question 44% to 27%).
And the poll shows his support climbing among blue collar voters ($50K and under households) and self-described moderates.
Meanwhile, a new set of polls shows Hillary hanging onto a shrinking lead in Ohio but appearing to lose her lead in Texas. Not a good sign for a campaign that needs to win both states handily. Worse, the polls closed on February 24th (Sunday) -- before news of her rather shrieky weekend rants and Obama in Muslim garb gambit sunk into the public zeitgeist. I would guess those antics will cut against Hillary, at the same time Barack's NAFTA flyers will begin having an impact in Ohio.
The ARG polls (first and last columns) which are looking better and better after they nailed Wisconsin, show Barack pulling ahead in Texas, and Hillary maintaining about a 10 point edge in Ohio (again, pre-rant):
Barack Obama greeting crowds in Kenya in August 2006. You won't see this photo circulated by the Clinton campaign...
So Hillary is pissed that Barack Obama's campaign circulated mailers that pointed out that she's prepared to garnish wages to achieve mandated, universal health care coverage (something she admits) and that she praised NAFTA during her husband's administration (something that's fairly obvious, since there are no public records suggesting otherwise...) and she calls his tactics -- pointing out POLICY differences -- "Rovian" ... but we're supposed to believe that the Clinton camp's decision to circulate a photo of Barack Obama dressed in what looks like traditional Muslim garb during a 2006 trip to Kenya, forwarding it to Matt Drudge, and implying that he is a Muslim, when Hillary knows damned well that he is a Christian, is not Rovian? My head hurts...
Obama's response is sufficiently stinging, with campaign manager David Plouffe calling it "divisive" and "fear mongering."
New campaign manager Maggie Williams' response is clever, but actually makes matters worse, in that it implies that Camp Clinton is indeed behind the photo flap. And she gets the country wrong:
If Barack Obama's campaign wants to suggest that a photo of him wearing traditional Somali clothing is divisive, they should be ashamed. Hillary Clinton has worn the traditional clothing of countries she has visited and had those photos published widely.
WRONG! It was Kenya, dear. Nothing more to see, here...
WASHINGTON—Retired Air Force Gen. Scott Gration, who accompanied Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) on his trip to Kenya in 2006, on Monday defended Obama’s trying on local garb over his clothes during a visit to the rural Wajir region in the country, a picture of which is at the top right now of the Drudge Report. ...
... Gration was with Obama on every leg of the African visit, including Wajir, an area that often does not get the attention of foreign visitors. Obama, whose father was Kenyan, was treated as a head-of-state during the visit, part of a multi-nation trip of which Kenya was the highlight. Obama, his wife Michelle, their two daughters and friends accompanied them on the Kenya leg of the trip.
Gration is a Swahili-speaking retired Air Force major general, a native of St. Charles, Ill., who spent much of his youth in Africa. I asked him about the circumstances surrounding the photo during a conference call the Obama campaign organized as a prebuttal to a major foreign policy speech Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) will deliver today in Washington. The just completed call featured Obama foreign policy advisors Susan Rice, Gration and former Navy Secretary Richard Danzig.
“I was along on that picture,” Gration said. They were seeing a “community mobilization” in Wajir and witnessed the “live auction” of camels and other livestock..
During the course of this, Obama was given an outfit, and “as a great guest,” he tried it on, much in the way, Gration said, people “try on Christmas gifts” they may not want to keep.
Obama did “what any leader should do…accept the gift, accept the hospitality,” said Gration. Obama was “accepting a gift of friendship in a way we expect,” he said.
Rice, who served as an African expert in President Clinton’s White House, said release of the photo was designed “to be divisive.’’ But she also noted that President Clinton had himself dressed in kinte cloth as part of respecting local customs and cultures.
It's not unusual for members of Congress to travel to African nations -- a House delegation was in Kenya last week, led by House Rules Committee Chairman Rep. David Dreier (R-Calif.). Dreier was in Kenya to observe the work of the U.S. House Democracy Assistance Commission, which helps new democracies establish government services.
But Obama's unique situation -- the only African American in the Senate -- a son of an African with family in Kenya whose popularity in the United States is soaring to the point where he is being talked about as a presidential candidate -- makes this journey special, a trip of symbolism as well as substance.
Obama is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee panel on African Affairs. Obama, sworn into office in January 2005, in his freshman year visited Russia and other former Soviet states; Iraq, Kuwait, Israel and the West Bank.
In other words, it was not unusual to take the trip, or wear the outfit. But for Barack, the reception WAS unusual. He was greeted in a manner we're accustomed to only seeing with Bill Clinton (or Will Smith, or a generation ago, for Mohammed Ali) -- only with Barack, it was far more personal. CNN covered the euphoria with which he was greeted:
KISUMU, Kenya (CNN) -- Tens of thousands of Kenyans lined the streets of Kisumu on Saturday, giving U.S. Sen. Barack Obama a hero's welcome as he arrived to visit the nearby village where his late father and grandfather lived.
Massive crowds screamed "Obama, Obama" and waved flags emblazoned with his name and face, as the 45-year-old junior senator from Illinois rode through the streets in a truck flanked by a lengthy convoy.
"I greet you all," he shouted in the local language, Luo, waving.
Many people wore T-shirts dedicated to the Democratic Party's rising star, who was received like a head of state, if not a rock star.
Frankly, as one who also visited hundreds of countries as first lady and as a Senator, taking care to respect the culture of each one as she traveled, Hillary Clinton should know better.
Mrs. Clinton, with all do respect, raise your game. If you're going to stay in this thing, then have a little class. This kind of campaigning is beneath you, and yes, it's very Rovian, too. Leave this kind of crap to the folks at Fox Noise, and get Maggie Williams a world map.
See what happens when you do things you don't normally do?
I happened to catch a bit of the "Tom Joyner Morning Show" while driving my kids to school earlier than usual this morning, and Jackie Reed, formerly of BET, now with real news outlet (okay, that was mean, but BET really is that bad...) was interviewing a young preacher from Georgia named Rev. Markel Hutchins. Well, guess what he's doing?
ATLANTA, GA (2008-02-22) The fallout over the Presidential endorsement made by Georgia Congressman John Lewis continues.
The civil rights veteran was criticized for supporting Hillary Clinton instead of Barack Obama. Now, Lewis is denying a New York Times article saying he'll cast his super delegate vote for Obama.
And this week, a new civil rights leader, hoping to capitalize on the controversy, announced he's running against Lewis in the July Democratic primary.
You may remember Rev Markel Hutchins as a spokesman for Kathyrn Johnston's family. The 92 year old woman was killed by Atlanta police in a botched drug raid. Moving into politics, Hutchins says John Lewis should have been on the Barack Obama bandwagon a long time ago.
HUTCHINS: I think the winds of change are blowing in America and they have turned into a whirlwind in the 5th Congressional district.
It all started in October when Lewis gave his long sought after endorsement to the Senator from New York.
LEWIS: Hilary Clinton will be a strong leader. She will fight for what is fair, for what is right and for what is just.
Apparently, Lewis' metro Atlanta district disagreed. On Super Tuesday, about 80 thousand district voters chose Obama; almost 53 thousand more than Clinton.
Evidence, according to Hutchins', that Lewis is out of touch.
HUTCHINS: I don't think that Congressman Lewis had the right as an elected representative to throw the support of the 5th Congressional district behind a candidate that the people in this district clearly were not favorable to.
Lewis is a Super Delegate whose vote at the party's convention this summer is not tied to his constituents. That concerns Hutchins.
HUTCHINS: in some sense there is a potential for our Congress person to cancel out the votes of the overwhelming majority of people that live in the district that he's elected to represent. [From Public Broadcasting Atlanta]
Hutchins gave many of the same quotes to Ms. Reed, after which Tom Joyner asked Reed whether this phenomenon might strike other Black members of Congress who failed to go the way of their districts. He fished for some names, and came up with Stephanie Tubbs-Jones of Ohio, Maxine Waters of California and Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, who made a grand "I'm still Black" apologia for herself at this weekend's "Come to Tavis" conference. He didn't come up with any Florida names...
It's Potomac / Chesapeake primary day! Voters in Maryland, Virginia and D.C. are doing the voting thing, and with Barack Obama having swept the last five contests (including Maine on Sunday,) the Hillary crowd is in "lowered expectations mode" for today. They're telling nervous donors and superdelegates, just hang in there until Texas, Ohio and PA: that's when we're really gonna start winning!
By then (then being March 4th,) Barack Obama will have had probably seven straight wins, a full month to himself, all the ink, and will probably have raised more money. The Clinton strategy, unfortunately, relies on the unrealistic hope that people in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas don't watch TV, read newspapers or use the Internet... (sounds a little bit like Rudy Giuliani's firewall strategy ... and with the "tested, ready, now" message to boot... not a good sign for Camp Clinton.)
Of course, there are hurdles for Barack to leap, too, as this article points out, and one of them, sadly, begins with an "r"...
Hillary Clinton may have committed one of the cardinal sins in poliltics -- tearing up on the campaign trail with the cameras rolling. Unfortunately, as a woman candidate, who was running as the American Margaret Thatcher, showing her soft side probably wasn't a good look for Hil. In many ways, I think she was registering some of the personal frustration of watching the Obama train barrel out of the station, passing her by... here's the video:
And here's the analysis from one of the major media outlets that has worked hard over the last 15 years or so to fuel the fall of the house of Clinton: Newsweek.