Barack Obama spoke for about an hour this morning from Philadelphia, in a sweeping address that began with an exegesis on slavery, Jim Crow and discrimination, and how it shaped the thinking of men like Jeremiah Wright. He condemned Wright's words anew, but also said that he could no longer disown him than he could disown the black community, or any more than he could disown his white grandmother, who loves him dearly, but who has also uttered racial stereotypes that "made him cringe."
He explained his own story, and the panoramic nature of his own upbringing and experience. And he painted a colorful and stark picture of what it is like to be black -- and even, what it is like for struggling whites -- in America.
He touched on the pain of blacks who have faced discrimination first hand, but also on the pain that white working class people feel at watching their jobs disappear overseas. He said the talk radio and the Reagan coalition was in part about exploiting the fears and anger of those whites. And he nailed the point on white resentment at blacks seeming to get special treatment on such things as affirmative action.
He called for an end to the racial stalemate, and said that while we can continue to discuss Wright's statements ad infinitum, or we can pull together to continue this country's path of change.
He was careful to weave throughout the speech his message of change, and the need to solve the big problems this country faces on the economy, on healthcare, on the war. And he clearly delineated his view that the country, even if not perfect, can and must be perfected in every way that we can, and that the only way to do that, is to move beyond the divisiveness of the moment.
The speech was uplifting and intelligent, unifying and on the money and I think it will do him a lot of good, with all but the most paranoid and embittered of observers.
Toe the MSNBC panel:
Pat Buchanan, of course, is not assuaged. But I wouldn't go by him (see embittered observers, above.)
Sally Quinn called the speech "extraordinary" and said she has never heard anything like it. She called it "particularly courageous of him not to totally disown his friend Jeremiah Wright," a point to which I agree, and she noted that what's best about him is that he appears to be so authentic.
Joe Scarborough was struck by Barack's understanding of white resentment at such things as busing and affirmative action, that you don't hear in polite society.
Nancy Giles, who is very good by the way, was struck by the points Barack made that so many of us can relate to, having been told as young black children that if we try to get good grades or speak well, we're "acting white."
Jonathan Capeheart called it a speech "that only Obama could give" and added that it was a speech "about things that needed to be said, about things that go to the core of the country." The same Capeheart who said he put the DOA sticker on Obama's campaign after the Wright tapes came out and who assented to Pat Buchanan's comparison of Wright and Klansman David Duke, called the speech a "truth telling moment."
I think Buchanan is on his own on this one. Barack's speech was moving. It was unprecedented, and it was exceptional, as is the candidate.
If Barack goes down now, he has gone down as a gentleman, and after having given one of the most important speeches of my lifetime.
Update: Wow, Sally Quinn just called it the "most important speech on race since Martin Luther King's 'I have a dream speech.'
They're voting in Ohio, Texas, Vermont and Rhode Island today (well, they have been early voting for awhile, but there you go...) and the Obama and Clinton camps are spinning the possible scenarios. For Camp Hillary, it's all about winning, well, anything. One state, and the Penn-Wolfson axis says she's in it through Pennsylvania. Team Obama is saying the race is over according to the pledged delegate count (they're right), and they're looking to run out the clock, hold onto at least two states tonight, and possibly pinch Texas.
Reality: If Hillary doesn't win both Texas and Ohio convincingly tonight, she will begin to appear to be placing her own ambition ahead of what's good for the party. Hell, she's even willing to start a political war in Canada to get the nomination. That will cost her super delegates. On the other hand, if she wins both, but not convincingly, her team will begin placing enormous pressure on super delegates to stand pat and wait for PA...
On the GOP side, John McCain should win enough delegates tonight to clinch his party's nomination. I'm gonna miss you Huckabee.
The polls have it close. USAElectionPolls has compiles the latest surveys, which are, sadly, already out of date. Still, they show a tight race with Hillary appearing to slow Obama's mo, at least a little bit, in Ohio particularly. (Note to giddy journos, negative campaigning ALWAYS works, even on the margins.) The polls:
Latest Ohio Polls for Each Pollster
Latest Texas Polls for Each Pollster
Note that today is March 4, and much of the above poll calling was a wrap before March 1st...
Meanwhile, Howard Wolfson is playing Clinton hatchet man this morning. He's all over MSNBC playing that phony NAFTA-Canada story and using the words "Tony Rezko" as many times as he can cram into a sentence. He even threw in a "NAFTA-gate" for good measure.
By any means necessary, I suppose...
I guess he has a point -- you wouldn't want to run a general election candidate who can be tarred by the other side for their relationships with indicted, possibly corrupt figures and shady land ... deals ... ooohhhhh.... meanwhile, Camp Clinton's demands that the press pound the hell out of Obama have a predictable effect.
John McCain is supposed to be basking tonight. He came back from the political dead to storm to the front of the pack, leaving his supposed betters in Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney behind. He cut a field of eight men down to three (including Ron Paul) and he did it all without the help of right wing talk radio, the right wing blogs, and right wing intellectuals. In fact, all three groups hate his guts. (Unless you believe Rush Limbaugh's feint, that he's really helping McCain ...)
And yet, despite having come so close to wrestling the presidential primary prize out of the hands of the George W. Bush wing of the Republican Party (and even coming away with Bush's endorsement -- and his brother's,) McCain, tonight, looks like a loser. He's going to beat Mike Huckabee in Virginia. (Update: he's winning by 9 points.) But exit polls show he has done so largely without the votes of conservatives -- particularly evangelicals, but also tax cut zealots and immigration jihadist conservatives, all of whom appear not ready to accept him as their nominee. He's also won Maryland and Virginia, although the press corps, in the wake of twin three-fold victories, only has eyes for Barack. In fact, when you compare Obama's 18,000 supporters crammed into a college auditorium in Wisconsin, McCain spoke to a smallish gathering of what looked for all the world like a cigar club consisting of geriatric white men and their wives...
In fact, one almost suspects that the vaunted "base" -- Bush and Rush Limbaugh's "qaida" in Virginia (where nearly half of the voters classified themselves as "conservatives" -- have been going out of their way to try and rob McCain of the joy of victory -- even to humiliate the war hero -- the man who survived the Bush onslaught in 2000, only to become Bush's bunker buddy on the war -- this year's version of Bob Dole (Dole likes him, too...) They know McCain has strength with just two groups: moderate Republicans and Republican leaning Independents -- both constituencies he could well lose to Barack Obama, should Obama be the Democratic nominee. So McCain gets another joyless win, gives a thoroughly joyless speech (it's not about hope, it's about serving a cause greater than you -- like tax cuts and the 100 year war in Iraq...) and despite all his travails, he can't begin basking, at least not yet.
Thompson is out of the presidential race. No shocker, there. He has done his job, and now will wait the opportunity to form the oldest, dullest presidential ticket in history, with his friend John McCain...
OK, a girl's got to have a day ... or ten ... off.
So what's been going on while I've been on birthday break?
The Republican race for president has actually become more interesting, while the Democratic race is becoming a bore. Yeah, yeah, there's Oprah and all, but since I don't watch Oprah, and I'm not in Iowa, or South Carolina (and thus didn't have one of those 18-zillion tickets to the O&O Show) I'd rather have a free basket of the grand lady's favorite things (without the taxes to pay, please.)
Meanwhile, a new CBS/NYT poll finds GOP voters even less excited by their race than I am about ours.
Democratic voters, on the whole, view their candidates considerably more favorably than Republican voters do, and are much more optimistic about their prospects next November. Mrs. Clinton is viewed favorably by 68 percent of Democrats, followed by Mr. Obama who is viewed favorably by 54 percent. Mr. Edwards is viewed favorably by just 36 percent.
By contrast, on the Republican side, Mr. Giuliani is viewed the most favorably by members of his party — and that is by only 41 percent. Mr. McCain is viewed favorably by 37 percent and Mr. Romney is viewed favorably by 36 percent. Mr. Huckabee is viewed favorably by 30 percent, but 42 percent said they didn’t know enough about him to say whether to offer a view of him, suggesting that he might be vulnerable to the kind of attacks that his opponents have already been raising against them.
Among Republicans, 76 percent of respondents said that they could still change their mind about who to support, compared with 23 percent who said their decision was firm. Among Democrats, 59 percent said they might change their mind.
Libby Bass, 67, a Republican poll respondent from Woodbine, Georgia, said in a follow-up interview that she was weary of hearing the Republicans argue with one another, and that she was not ready to make a decision. “They’re not telling us what their plans or goals are; they’re just mimicking each other,” she said. “I’m waiting to see if someone comes up with something that will change my mind.
And there is no clear leader among Republicans: Mr. Giuliani was the choice of 22 percent of respondents, Mr. Huckabee with 21 percent and Mr. Romney with 16 percent. Senator John McCain of Arizona and Fred Thompson of Tennessee each had 7 percent.
On the Democratic side, the leader, Mrs. Clinton, has the support of 44 percent of respondents, compared with 27 percent for Mr. Obama and just 11 percent for Mr. Edwards. The rest of the Democratic candidates drew 2 percent or lower.
A CBS News poll conducted in mid-October — which offered voters a choice only of Mrs. Clinton, Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards — found Mrs. Clinton with 51 percent, Mr. Obama with 23 percent and Mr. Edwards with 13 percent.
He's facing new scrutiny of his controversial push to pardon a rapist whose victim was Bill Clinton's second cousin ... mainly because he appears to have pandered to the worst elements inside Arkansas, who couldn't accept the word of anyone related to Bill Clinton that she was victimized, even when a jury did accept her word, and that of the police, and the forensics people ... you know, the people who investigate such things...
So much for Huck being the "nice" candidate.
Other excitement on the GOP side:
Apparently Mitt Romney is a super duper Christian ... who knew? And he'll work hard as president to root out the evils of secularism, wherever it rears its ugly head. He will not, however, and did not in his big speech last week, explain the magical underpants. Perhaps fellow Mormon Glenn Beck will step up to the plate on that one.
Tim Russert finally asked a lethal question of a Republican, on this Sunday's Meet the Press, after Sir Rudy of 9/11 attempted to blame the NYPD for Judy's official, taxpayer dog walking security force, saying it was they, and not he, who demanded that Rudy's gal pal get protection, and that poor Judy didn't even want it (the poor dear). To that, Russert asked this:
MR. RUSSERT: Using that reasoning, would it be appropriate for a president to provide Secret Service protection for his mistress?
Bingo. And here's Rudy's waaaaay too long answer:
MR. GIULIANI: It would not be appropriate to, to do it for that reason, Tim, and that isn’t, that, that isn’t the right way to—you know, that isn’t the right way to, to analyze it or to say this. The reason it’s done is because somebody threatens to do harm, and the people who assess it come to the conclusion that it is necessary to do this. The reality is that it all came about because of my public position, because of the fact that when people are public or celebrities these kinds of threats take place. And the New York City Police Department has rules; they applied the rules, they applied them in exactly the same way as they always apply them. I did not make the judgment. I didn’t ask for it. Judith didn’t particularly want it, but it was done because they took the view that it was serious and it had to be done this way. And it was done the way they wanted to do it.
In fact, when you get security like this—and many people think, you know, this is a great convenience. And, and this is not at all to suggest that I don’t have great respect for the processionals who do this. Honestly, Tim, I know how it gets played in the media. This is not something you would want. You would not want to have this security, because it is coming about because somebody has threatened to do terrible things to you or your family and professionals have evaluated it that way and feel you need the security. And you say to them, “Can I do this? Can I do that? Can I go here? Can I go there?” And they tell you, “No, you can’t.” So this is not something—I know how it gets played, but this is not something that anybody ever desires. I remember the first time it happened with me. I mean, the things that I liked to do, I couldn’t, I couldn’t do any more, because they would tell me “You can’t do it this way. You have to do it another way.”
Uh-huh... Here's the take from Tom DeFrank of the NYDN:
His explanation of Nathan's police car service doesn't square with Friday's Daily News exclusive report, citing multiple witnesses and a law enforcement source, that she was being protected by city taxpayers months before the affair was revealed in May 2000.
"The threats were after" their romance became known, Giuliani maintained Sunday. The only guest on Russert's "Meet the Press," Giuliani endured a withering examination of his personal character and business dealings.
To the glee of fellow presidential contenders, the Republican front-runner spent nearly an hour playing defense, attempting to deflect a flurry of questions about his relationship with indicted pal Bernard Kerik and Kerik's mistress Judith Regan, controversial corporate clients and his own tangled personal life.
"The baggage is finally starting to catch up with him," a neutral GOP consultant said.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side of the aisle, the news is all ...
In all serioiusness, if Barack Obama's team can figure out a way to translate his pop culture wave into real votes, he has a damned good chance of getting the nomination. Hillary still has the machine, and the strongest ground team on the Democratic side, and honestly, new, "hype" voters are serially unreliable on election day, but if Barack can do what Howie Dean could not in 2004, he could pull off wins in Iowa and South Carolina, and seriously shake Hill's inevitability.
OK, the Dem race isn't all that boring. But its much more fun to watch the GOPers flail around, I must say.
Obama is not only getting a boost in the Iowa polls, he's also getting ... "A BASKET OF ALL MY FAVORITE DESIGNER THINGS!!!!" ... no, actually Oprah's just campaigning for him. Not a bad deal, for the Barackster, though...
Tom Kean, former governor of New Jersey, and former chair of the 9/11 Commission -- you know, the commission charged with getting to the bottom of the intelligence failures that allowed the worst terror attack on this country, which happened to take place in the city where Giuliani was mayor, thus becoming the entire raison d'etre for his presidential campaign, and a nice little money maker for the Rudester to boot -- THAT Tom Kean has endorsed for president, the man he believes can best keep this country safe:
Whether Kean's nod will help McCain remains to be seen, but it sure doesn't help Rudy to continue peddling his 9/11 wares, a hawk job so tacky even the New York Post is picking up on it.
Meanwhile, a group of 9/11 families and New York firefighters are saying, "not so fast, Rudy."
A group of 9/11 families and firefighters who oppose Giuliani's candidacy were outraged.
"Giuliani is running on 9/11 and portraying himself as a hero. It's disgusting. It's horrible," FDNY Deputy Fire Chief Jim Riches said.
"This guy will do anything to get elected."
"He's misleading voters and distorting the truth. He didn't prepare the first responders for a terrorist attack. The Office of Emergency Management was a joke that day. There was a lack of communication. People died unnecessarily."
The mailing also says Giuliani "refused to raise taxes after the attacks - refuting calls from Democrats to do so."
The group of 9/11 families and firefighters will be in New Hampshire today to argue that he failed to adequately prepare for a terrorist attack.
The group has also questioned Giuliani's management of the cleanup effort, claiming thousands of Ground Zero workers got sick because they weren't given protective masks.
"I understand the emotions surrounding Sept. 11, but we cannot lose sight of the fact that it was the terrorists who attacked New York City," said firefighter and Giuliani campaign adviser Lee Ielpi, whose son, Jonathan, died on 9/11.
Giuliani has repeatedly challenged accusations that his candidacy is based solely on the attacks, saying during a recent debate, "The reality is that I'm not running on what I did on Sept. 11."
To quote Chris Matthews: "Ha!!"
So, will Rudy's News Corp coziness convince the media to give up its public relations flacking for "America's Mayor?" (a fact very well documented here...) After all, this is a guy running on his supposed "leadership" after the 9/11 attacks, but who spent more time at baseball games than he did at Ground Zero ... (you won't here that on Fox News Channel...) whose only religious endorsement is from a nut-job who spends time predicting the end of "Its a Small World" at Disney World... and whose last remaining Catholic pall is an alleged pedophile priest, and whose top priority after 9/11 was making money, off 9/11 ... an endeavor so important to him he quit the Iraq Study Group in order to pursue it full time.
The cable chat media, led by Chris Matthews of MSNBC (backed by his seconds, Chuck Todd and Howard Fineman), and their friends in the print press, have a message for the non-Clinton Democratic candidates: "Bring me the head of that Clinton woman!"
Matthews and company are desperately casting around, offering beligerent free advice to Barack Obama: ATTACK HILLARY NOW! Why are they so certain that Barack must quit to professorial schtick and lop off Hil's head? Becauase John Edwards, for all his shrillness, isn't getting the job done. And for the mainstream media hit squad that tried with all its might, but failed to take down President Bill Clinton over that phony scandal with a chubby, horny intern, the job must get done.
Matthews in particular seems bent on justifying his near decade of obsession with the Clintons' sex life, and his spittle-mouthed, high horsed jihad against the former president back in the bad old days of 1998, when the right wing Congress and their bounty hunter, Ken "show me the panties" Starr, sought to undo the results of two elections by hounding a sitting president out of office for doing what just about every president before him has done: cheat on his wife. (Just a guess, they probably all lied about it, too.)
And now that Hillary Clinton seems to be running away with the Democratic nomination for president, she... must ... be ... stopped. And if the media can't do it themselves (too obvious) then Barack had damned well better start the shelling.
If he doesn't, the media bete noires say, he's toast. He can't beat her if he doesn't beat her. The desperation to see a bar room brawl is so thick that yesterday on "Hardball," Pat Buchanan, who usually holds it together a lot better on "the race thing," at least on TV, actually mused that Obama "sure doesn't come off like a Black guy from the south side of Chicago." Huh? What's he supposed to do to Mrs. Clinton? Smack that ass and call her a "ho?"
Meanwhile, on the other side of the political aisle, there's no competing narrative demanding why Mitt Romney doesn't mount a real, full throated attack against Rudy Giuliani, the front runner for the GOP nod. The assumption is that there is so much to attack with Hillary, but with Rudy? Not so much. I mean, he's "America's mayor" after all -- what's there to attack? The media insists that the only thing worth attacking Rudy for is his apostasy on social values issues -- gay marriage and abortion. Beyond that, Matthews and Co. can't imagine anything, by golly by gosh, that Mitt or Huck or Fred could possibly want to bash Mr. 9/11 for...
Honestly, with the exception of David Shuster and of course, Keith Olbermann, it's almost as if the powdered men of the MSM have formed a Jim Jones-like cult whose ritual chant is an incantation to burn Hillary in the fires of hell. ... and her cheating but still getting love from his wife, still more popular than any of the TV talking heads, and more manly to boot hubby, too. (Haters.)
Anyhoo, the Dems will attempt to live up to the Mathews brawl-o-meter tonight, if Barack and his team are that easily hypnotized (earth to Barack, look how well nasty attacks have worked for John Edwards!) The debate will be moderated by the almost rhythmically bland Brian Williams and the Roger Ailes golf buddy posing as an objective journalist, Tim Russert.
Camp Clinton managed to rake in $22 million for the Democratic primary battle and another $5 million for the general election. Obama, the Illinois senator, raised $19 million for the primary, plus a bit over $1 million for the later contest.
Clinton's $22 million primary haul marked her best fundraising quarter yet.
"Wow. It's like they're always holding the trump card - they are good, and that's why they pulled out the stops this quarter," said Baruch College political scientist Doug Muzzio of the Clinton money machine.
Clinton's cranking ATM helped narrow the gap with Obama, giving her about $73 million to fight for the nomination to his $75 million.
When general election numbers are added in, the pair are neck and neck in buck-raking, at about $80 million each since January. Clinton started off with a $10 million advantage, funneling leftover campaign cash from her successful Senate bid into her presidential account. Observers say the money is important and the timing of the announcement helps Clinton because she can trumpet momentum while Obama has flatlined - at the polls and on the fundraising circuit.
Looks like the Republican National Committee will follow the DNC's lead, by punishing states that choose to push up their primaries in defiance of the Iowa-New Hampshire hegemony, and that could put a crimp into the plans of one Rudolph "I married my cousin" Giuliani.
The Giuliani campaign has reportedly set up a "firewall" in the state of Florida, according to campaign materials obtained by Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post and discussed on his blog, The Fix. Says said Fix:
Florida is the "firewall" in former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's presidential bid, according to a Powerpoint presentation made to volunteers of his campaign in the Sunshine State and obtained by The Fix.
"Florida is the firewall" proclaims the second slide of the presentation which, by in large, is aimed at outlining the goals of Giuliani's effort in the state -- which is slated to hold a primary on Jan. 29. The slide goes on to highlight two press reports: the first, from the Associated Press, notes that Giuliani has "adopted an unorthodox campaign itinerary....lavishing attention on Florida."; the second, from the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, points out that "Giuliani's strategy is to win delegate rich Florida to catapult him." The next slide notes that Giuliani's average lead in national polling is seven points but his average lead in Florida is 14 points.
Tony Carbonetti, a senior adviser to the campaign, dismissed the idea that Giuliani viewed Florida as a make or break moment for his bid. "Florida's the firewall, New Jersey's the firewall, Connecticut's the firewall, New York's the firewall," said Carbonetti. He added that the document was put together by state staff, not national staff, in order to "motivate our volunteers."
Although Giuliani's campaign has made clear that the states set to vote on Feb. 5, 2008, which include New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, California and Illinois, are likely to strongly favor their candidate, they insist that the former Mayor is also running hard in traditional early voting states like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.
Nonetheless, the slide show does suggest that the Giuliani campaign believes Florida will play a central role in determining the identity of the Republican nominee.
And, while most of the rest of the document is rah-rah sort of stuff, there are some glimpses into Giuliani's broader Florida strategy in the document.
In a slide entitled "Opportunities to get involved", a list of "key coalitions" is provided that includes: "former Yankees" (we assume that means ex-northerners, not the actual Pinstripers), first responders, volunteer firefighters and, The Fix's personal favorite, Italian Americans.
On a slide titled "Our Plan for Victory" there are handwritten notes that read "go after congressional districts" and "Miami -- key city". As we noted in a story for washingtonpost.com's "Fast Track Campaign" series, Florida is one of several large states that splits its delegate apportionment between the winners of each congressional district and the winner of the statewide vote. Win the entire state of Florida and you get 39 total delegates. But, 75 delegates are up for grabs in the congressional districts -- three for each of the 25 seats. ...
The Republican National Committee plans to penalize at least four states holding early primaries, including New Hampshire and Florida, by refusing to seat at least half their delegates at the party’s national convention in 2008, a party official said Tuesday.
Much of the focus in the primary scheduling fight up to now has been on the Democratic National Committee’s moves to penalize Florida by not seating its convention delegates because of the state’s decision to move up its primary. But the Republican rules are even more stringent, and the national party said today that it would not hesitate enforcing them.
The actions by Republicans and Democrats to move against states holding early contests is a rare instance of the two parties moving in concert, in this case to regain control over a rapidly evolving primary calendar that has thrust the nominating system into deep uncertainty just months before it is to begin.
“The rules are clear,” said Tracey Schmitt, a spokeswoman for the Republican National Committee. “Any state that holds their primary outside of the window shall be penalized delegates.”
In addition to Florida and New Hampshire, Michigan and South Carolina also face sanctions for moving their contests before Feb. 5. Two other early nominating states, Iowa and Nevada, will escape Republican sanctions because they hold nonbinding caucuses, not primaries.
Republican Party officials in both Florida and Michigan said yesterday they still believed it unlikely that they will face penalties — despite being told exactly the opposite by national party officials — and are crafting a plan to make their voice heard during the convention.
“I am confident that all 114 delegates from Florida will be seated,” said Jim Greer, the chairman of the Florida Republican Party.
Mr. Greer argued that Florida technically does not select its delegates on the date of the primary, but rather, the leaders in each of its 25 Congressional districts choose delegates starting Feb. 6, so it is not breaking the rules.
“I am confident that the Republican National Committee or any eventual nominee will not allow the voices of Florida voters not to be heard,” he said. “Florida is too important a state as it relates electing to the next president.”
Banning half a state’s delegation would be an extraordinary move. While state party officials have played down the impact, noting that presidential candidates are often selected before the convention, there is the chance that the parties could have brokered conventions in which each delegate’s vote would be prized. ...
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...
So, if launching blistering attacks on Hillary Clinton isn't working for John Edwards, why would Barack Obama try the strategy on for size? And is the Obama camp preparing to go all netroots nuclear on Hillary? From the WaPo this morning:
"I think it is fair to say that I believe I can bring the country together more effectively than she can," Obama said. "I will add, by the way, that is not entirely a problem of her making. Some of those battles in the '90s that she went through were the result of some pretty unfair attacks on the Clintons. But that history exists, and so, yes, I believe I can bring the country together in a way she cannot do. If I didn't believe that, I wouldn't be running." ...
... "Her argument is going to be that 'I'm the experienced Washington hand,' and my argument is going to be that we need to change the ways of Washington," he said. "That's going to be a good choice for the American people."
Saying that Bill Clinton's presidency was good for America, he added: "The question is, moving forward, looking towards the future, is it sufficient just to change political parties, or do we need a more fundamental change in how business is done in Washington . . .? Do we need to break out of some of the ideological battles that we fought during the '90s that were really extensions of battles we fought since the '60s?"
Obama never used the term "polarizing" to describe Clinton but made it clear he has studied polls that show that many people have an unfavorable opinion of her. "I don't think there is anybody in this race who's able to bring new people into the process and break out of some of the ideological gridlock that we have as effectively as I can," he said.
Okay, but the problem for Barack is that Bill Clinton won the ideological war he fought with bloodthirsty Republicans in the 1990s - he won it on the economy, on competency and on "peace and prosperity." And he won it on impeachment. Democrats aren't shrinking from an ideological war with the new iteration of the GOP -- the neocon war party, bathed in corruption and incompetence -- most are relishing it.
I also think Barack risks becoming shrill, at at time when Democrats need to be united to win. Not a good look for the candidate of hope.
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.
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.
Rudy Giuliani says George W. Bush will go down in history as a great president. Unfortunately, Rudy is very much alone in that belief. But for a few stalwarts, most Americans believe Mr. Bush to be an abject failure. In fact, only 28 percent of Americans int he latest Newsweek poll approve of the job Bush is doing as president. In the same poll, any of the top Democratic contenders would beat any of the Republicans, Rudy included, if the presidential election were held today. No surprise there. (One possible surprise, Barack Obama, who is becoming the darling not only of the media, but also of some prominent former Bush Republicans, does the best of the top tier Dems against the GOP's top guns.)
The Reidblog handy dandy guide to the first GOP presidential debate
The GOPers debate tonight, (and in so doing, they attempt to find their souls...) so in case you're not in the know, let's handicap the ten declared candidates, shall we? Here we go:
1. Rudy Giuliani Best known for saying, after 9/11, that the first thing he did after the attacks leveled the buildings where he had moved the command centers for the police and fire departments right after the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, was to turn to his crimie Bernard Kerik and say, "thank God George Bush and Dick Cheney are in the White House." Likes: gun control, wearing frilly dresses, gay civil unions (unless he's campaigning in the South) and public funding for abortion (see previous "like"). Dislikes: wives (once he finds a better one). Southern strategy: publicize the fact that he was once married to his cousin.
2. John McCain Also known as "Baghdad Johnnie". Best known for taking a stroll through an Iraqi market with 100 of his closest military friends, 2 Apache helicopters, 2 Blackhawk helicopters
3. Mitt Romney Best known for: Running the U.S. Olympic Committee, being a Mormon, and yet, having only one wife, and for looking exactly like Guy Smiley...
4. Sam Brownback Dubbed “God’s Senator” by Rolling Stone Magazine. Voted NO on $100M to reduce teen pregnancy by education & contraceptives. Voted NO on repealing tax subsidy for companies which move US jobs offshore. Voted NO on $1.15 billion per year to continue the COPS program to put more police officers on the street. And says Stare decisis would have upheld separate-but-equal! What would Jesus do, indeed.
5. Mike Huckabee Former governor of Arkansas. Most famous for: losing a busload of weight (over 110 pounds). Biggest problem for the GOP: as governor, he raised taxes, a big no-no.
6. Duncan Hunter Most famous for: promoting the Gitmo diet, and saying that the food at the Guantanamo detention facility is to die for! Perhaps no one briefed the California congressman about the suicides...
7. Tom Tancredo Most famous for: calling Miami a Third World country. Southern strategy: don't campaign in Miami.
8. Tommy Thompson Former governor of Wisconsin and Bush's onetime Health and Human Services secretary. As secretary, he helped create Bush's stem cell research compromise, which legalized federal funding for the use of ... well ... compromised, old and mainly useless stem cell lines for research. Researchers, were mostly not interested.
9. Jim Gilmore Former governor of Virginia during the Clinton era, and was governor during the 9/11 attack on the Pentagon. Stole Howard Dean's line by saying he represents "the Republican wing of the Republican Party." Negatives: not many. Biggest problem: no one outside of Virginia knows who he is.
10. Ron Paul 10-term Congressman, medical doctor (M.D.) and two-time and current presidential candidate from the U.S. state of Texas. Wants to abolish both Social Security and the Federal Reserve. Chances of becoming president: 0. Look for him to be the Mike Gravel of tonight's debates.
Evaluating the Democratic debate tonight, overall, I think Hillary Clinton was the best on stage tonight, scoring with her answer on the response to a terror attack, and being straightforward and succinct regarding the war.
Barack did quite well, too, though I don't think he did nearly as well as Chris Matthews thinks he did on the foreign policy questions.
It strikes me that were it not for his position on cutting off funding and ending U.S. involvement in the Iraq war this year, Bill Richardson, because of his views on guns and national security overall, could almost run as a moderate Republican, which makes him all the more attractive as a vice presidential candidate. One big miss for Richardson tonight: saying that he hesitated on Alberto Gonzales because he's Hispanic. That won't play in Peoria.
Dodd was a non-entity. Except for the one good line on speaking economically, Biden was, too.
I was disappointed in Edwards, who didn't really raise his game from the 2004 race.
Kucinich had his crazy guy routine stolen by Mike Gravel, who is truly out there. As I said in the previous thread, Kucinich should thank Gravel for making him look fairly normal tonight. Either that or he should hate him for stealing his lines...
There were no serious discussions on racial issues, nothing much for other minority groups to seize on (gays won't like Dodd's answer on civil unions), and not much fire overall. The debate was genial and mostly headline free. I'm looking for the Miami machine to start cranking on Richardson's Cuba answer, and I suspect the Iraq portion of the debate will make the most headlines.
Overall, if I had to guess, I'd say this debate will move the needle up slightly for Hillary and Obama, might make some GOPers take a look at Richardson (the NRA thing stands out) and also will make him the primo vice presidential candidate down the stretch.
So far, Obama is winning the post-debate online poll over at MSNBC, and Hillary is getting the highest negatives. I think that's just built in for her, because I don't think an honest reading of the debate supports that Barack won it, or that Hillary came off as less than credible. I really like Barack, but off all the eight standing up there tonight, Hillary was the one I could picture actually taking office as president.
So far, Edwards and Obama are neck and neck in the Kos Kids' poll, but commenters are lauding Mr. Gravel ... no, seriously they are ... which tends to take away from the lucidity of the poll.
Next week, it's the Republicans' turn. That one won't be as nicey-nicey.
Pre-game show: For the Dem debate on MSNBC tonight, each of the 8 candidates has a slightly different mission.
For Hillary ... it's sound presidential
Barack ... live up to the charisma hype (and sound mature enough to be president)
Edwards ... get back the charisma hype
Richardson ... tuck in that neck...
All others ... say something memorable so as not to be blanked out of tomorrow's news cycle
7:00 - Okay, now to the substance. Brian Williams went straight to the war questions, starting with Barack and Hillary.
Barack reiterated that he is proud to have opposed the war from the get-go.
Hillary says as forthrightly as I've heard her that if she knew in 2002 what she knows today she would not have cast her Iraq vote the way she did.
Kucinich says you can't be against the war and continue to fund it.
Richardson says not only would he not vote to continue funding the war in Iraq were he in Congress, but that if he were president, he would push to withdraw all U.S. forces by the end of this calendar year, and use that leverage to push the Iraqis to come to a political settlement.
Chris Dodd talked about his legislation with Russ Feingold that would set a firm deadline to end the war.
Former Senator Mike Gravel of Alaska, who played a role in cutting off funds for the Vietnam war back in the day, got a shot in and called what the Congress is doing "embarassing." He said Congress should pass a law making it "a felony" for the president to remain in Iraq. Gravel, in very animated fashion for an old dude, laid out a tactic he said would force the president's hand: let the Senate Republicans fillibuster and call for a daily cloture vote at high noon to make clear who is keeping us in the war.
Next round, Obama is asked a question by a citizen who has a 19-year-old loved one deployed to Iraq. Obama is asked, what would he consider to be a "mission complete" status in Iraq. Obama so far isn't answering the question, but he did get his "we are one signature away from ending this war" line. He talked about needing 16 votes to override the veto. Short answer: Obama didn't answer the question.
Clinton's turn: Barack is right -- we have to put together the political support within the GOP to join with Dems to bring an end to the war. Easier said than done, and she adds that Bush seems determined not to change course despite the fact that we are losing ground. She ends by saying we need Republican support to finish the job.
Next round: "elephants in the room." This should be good!
Obama first -- "you promised a new kind of politics, so what about questionable ties to a Chicago donor tied to a kickback scheme." Obama: we have thousands of donors, this one engaged in bad behavior and I've denounced it.
Edwards -- "what about those $400 haircuts, paid for out of campaign funds?" -- Paying for the cuts out of campaign funds was a mistake. I'm privileged, yes, but that's not what I come from (cue the "son of a mill worker" shtick.) Actually, I'm being facetious, but Edwards handled it well, telling a good story, and ending that he's running to give others the same chance he's had. He's asked about repping hedge funds, and deftly parried it into a rundown of the lack of healthcare coverage.
In her response, Hillary bigs up the entrepreneurial economy and says that's what makes the country great. She also added a nice kicker that she's proud to represent the New York capital markets, and what we need to do is get back to a Democratic president who can undo the damage done by this president and the prior Republican congress.
Bill Richardson just got called on the carpet for being last in line to call for Alberto Gonzales' resignation. He admitted that he hesitated because Gonzales is Hispanic. Not a good move on the larger stage, hermano. But at least he was being honest.
Chris Dodd (I still can't figure out why this guy is running...) was asked about taking money from big money men. Honestly, he just said it and I've already forgotten what point he made...
Kucinich is doing his anti-war spiel now. He got in a pop culture reference by noting that this is not American Idol. I predict Kucinich will move up in the Moveon poll, but he still needs a pressed suit and a new life goal -- president really isn't on the table.
Joe Biden just got off a good one, giving a one word answer to Brian Williams' question about whether he can control his verbosity: "yes." Williams didn't seem to really believe he wasn't going to say anything else. Clearly, those stints on the Daily Show have helped.
Gravel is on a tear, saying some of the people on stage scare him. This guy is replacing Dennis Kucinich as the crazy uncle on the dais. So who scares you, Senator Gravel? He says the "top tier ones," and he says Biden "has a certain arrogance" and wants to tell the Iraqis what to do. He's now saying "we need to get out." "The entire deaths of Vietnam died in vain, and they're dying in vain this second. You know what's worse than a soldier dying in vain? More soldiers dying in vain..."
Hillary on her unfavorables, and the question of why Republicans are so looking forward to running against her. Hillary says you'd have to ask them. She says she takes it as a perverse form of flattery -- if they weren't worried, they wouldn't be so vitriolic. Hil reminded the audience that she tried for universal healthcare back in the day, and now the country is ready for change. This exchange will make the clips. Good job, Hil.
Next stop: abortion. Williams points out that most Americans polled approved of the SUPCO ruling on partial birth abortion. The question to Edwards: is there a disconnect between the candidates (all of whom are pro-life except Kucinich) and the public. Edwards says no disconnect. The question is whether women's health decisions will be made by women, or by a "bunch of men on the Supreme Court." He says the abortion issue is "extraordinarily difficult" for many people and "we have to show respect for people who have different views on this issue."
Obama, same issue: reiterates the difficulty of the decision, and says "I trust women to make these decisions with their doctors and their family and their clergy." Broader issue: can we move past the things upon which we disagree toward areas of agreement, such as reducing teen pregnancies. Nice parry.
Biden: would you have a Roe litmus test? Biden says he wouldn' t, but he would make sure his nominees shared his values re a right to privacy. Danger zone: Biden said he led the fight to dump Robert Bork. That will be looked up, dude. Also reminds that he opposed Clarence Thomas, Roberts and Scalito. He says the discussion is intellectually dishonest in that the procedure is so rare, but the legal maneuver is a first step toward ending Roe.
Kucinich says he wants to get America together in support of a "culture of life" including prenatal care, universal healthcare, etc., and listen carefully to those who are opposed to abortion. I'm now wondering if Kucinich has changed his mind on abortion (he used to oppose it) or if he's just being deft for the primaries.
Dodd is asked whether he regrets his vote for Roberts on the SUPCO (he's the only one on the dais who voted in favor of him.) Dodd says he's disappointed in Roberts, then he quickly moves on to Alito, and his history of voting pro-life.
Each candidate is asked to pick a model SUPCO justice:
Richardson - Windsor White (dead), among the living? Ruth Bader GinsbergDodd -- Brennan (dead), GinsbergEdwards -- Ginsberg or Breyer
Clinton, did the government fail those students at VA tech. Yes. She throws in a "Bill" reference, talking about accompanying the then president to Columbine. We need to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the mentally unstable. During the Clinton administration, that was a goal -- not to curtail gun ownershiprights. The background checks clearly didn't work.
Bill Richardson -- you are currently the NRA's favorite candidate in either party. Did anything about the massacre make you rethink your position on guns? Richardson smartly starts with condolences. He says he's a westerner and a hunter and the Second Amendment is precious in the west. Two big problems here are mental illness, and instant background checks should be properlyfunded at the state and local level. Richardson parries quickly to mental health parity. That NRA thing makes Richardson an even more attractive veep, I think.
Show of hands: how many of you have had a gun in the house: Gravel, Biden, Dodd, Richardson and Kucinich.
Biden: what could the feds have done? Biden's bragging again, saying he was the guy who put 100,000 cops on the street "that the Clinton administration made work so well." Aye, yay, yay! He then says close the gun show loophole, etc. says schools should be able to remove a student deemed dangerous.
Next up, taxes: Edwards is asked which taxes he'd raise. He says he'd get rid of the Bush tax cuts for those making $200K a year or more. Then he does the big dodge. Require employers to coverall employees with healthcare. But what about those tax cuts, dude?
Obama -- have a national pool people can buy into if they don't have health coverage, similar to what members of Congress enjoy. Second, control costs. Obama has statistics, which is good, includingthe rise in Black infant mortality. But weren't we talking about taxes?
Hillary says she tried to put forth a universal healthcare plan and people got scared. She says she's ready to try again. She says save money within the existing system first, before spending new money on new programs.
Richardson called the most strident in opposing tax increases to pay for healthcare. Richardson reminds the room that as a governor, he deals with these issues daily. His healthcare plan: no new bureaucracy, every American shares the costs, focus on prevention, cut out inefficiencies and bureaucracies, better information sharing to save cash, cut out middle men like HMOs between docs and patients. Richardson has clearly carved out the position as the most centrist or conservative guy in the race.
Q from the viewers: Re the ban on SC from the NAACP over the Confederate flag. Why are you guys here?
Biden answers that we're here because we were asked by James Clyburn, and it's better to show off this historically Black college than to walk away from this opportunity.
Barack says the Confederate flag should be put in a museum, that's where it belongs. But we've got really big problems, such as Black infant mortality. Parries to "people are hungry for change." Deft dodge.
Another Q from viewers: biggest professional or personal mistake? Gravel gets it. This should be good. Says he's the senior statesman up there and was beginning to feel like a potted plant. Then he tries to use Ronald Reagan's "youth and inexperience" line to no effect. Kucinich says his biggie was firing the police chief on the 6:00 news when he was mayor of Cleveland. Hillary says not enough time to list all of hers, but ends with "believing the president when he said he'd go to the U.N. on Iraq." Barack says he shouldn't have left the Senate in advance of the Terri Schiavo vote. Biden: overestimating the competence and underestimating the arrogance of the Bush administration. Edwards: voting for the Iraq war. "Unfortunately I'll have to live with that forever. The lesson I learned is to listen to my own judgment". Dodd: voting for the war. Richardson: being too impatient and aggressive, including a push to increase the minimum wage, and instead of pursuing diplomacy, tried to ram it through the legislature. Strange one to choose in a Democratic primary.
Next Q: would you defy the American people if you were president by offering amesty to illegal immigrants? Hillary: says she's for comprehensive reform, letting illegal migrants pay a fine, get in line and become citizens. Nobody else got socked with this one.
To Biden, how can we reverse the American brain drain? Raise teacher pay to get the best teachers in the world.
To Dodd: shouldn't welfare recipients have to pass a drug test? Dodd says we're an overtested society. Let's try a little tenderness.
To Edwards: with oil co profits so high, why is gas so expensive? Edward says we need to address climate change and dependence on foreign oil, focus on new technologies. Edwards isn't really giving me charisma, I have to say.
The candidates are fielding more questions from viewers. I won't recount them all. Kucinich is talking now, about healthcare and his universal plan, no profits for anybody, blah blah blah.
For all comers, one sentence please: "while sitting in the Oval Office on day one of your administration, what's the first thing you want to accomplish?"
Richardson -- get us out of Iraq, day two: Apollo program on energy independence, day three: climate change, day four: day off. That wasn't one sentence, so nobody else got a shot.
Next section will be non-Iraq foreign policy.
Obama is asked who are America's three most important allies. He says EU is most important, and we've made new allies via NATO. He's veered off into Afghanistan now, and I'm not quite sure why... looking east, the center of gravity is shifting to Asia. Japan has been a great ally, but China is rising, though they're not an enemy or a friend. I count two so far. In a follow up, Brian Williams notes that Obama didn't mention Israel. He calls him out on saying "nobody has suffered as much as the Palestinian people." Obama points out that the rest of that sentence was "because of failed Palestinian leadership." He'll get slammed tomorrow by the AIPAC lobby.
Biden? Biggest threats besides Iraq? North Korea, Iran and Putin's tendency to move in a totalitarian direction in Russia. Biden adds that we have to jettison the ideas of preemption and regime change in favor of "prevention" and "conduct change." This administration "is saying give up the weapons that are the only things keeping us from attacking you, and once you do that, we're gonna take you out."
Gravel says we have no enemies. We must start treating other countries as equals. Kucinich should fall on his knees tonight and thank God that this guy was on the dais...
Edwards is asked whether Russia is a friend or foe. He says the government has moved away from democracy under Putin, but we need to ask "how to make America a force for good again." He's having a Princess Di moment, talking about showing U.S. commitment to good things.
Richardson, the only diplomat in the house is asked how he would do things differently with Russia. The governor says he wants to see control of loose nukes, a new policy on Chechnya, stable energy supplies and more democracy. "Being stubborn isn't a foreign policy, and power without focus is blind." He says he would focus on terrorism and nuke proliferation. Richardson sounds great on these issues. Very coherent.
Next, Hil is asked about the Giuliani "vote for me or die" quote, and is asked how Republicans got that "protector" vibe going? She's pointing out the disconnect between rhetoric and reality on port and homeland security, and says the administration hypes the fear, but doesn't deliver. And its foreign policy "has made the world less stable, which ... has a ripple effect on what we're going to face in the future." Hil didn't take the opportunity to attack Rudy directly, interestingly. Maybe she's keeping her eye on New Jersey, the only contestible Blue state, or New York itself? Dodd is basically reiterating Hillary. No news here.
Show of hands: is there a global war on terror? All hands went up except Edwards, Kucinich and Gravel. But no hands were held very high... Kucinich says that the GWOT has been a pre-text for aggressive war. He says he wants to stop using war as a foreign policy instrument and get rid of all U.S. nukes. Right. Gravel: please save this guy...
Obama: how would you change the U.S. military stance overseas if two U.S. cities were hit by al-Qaida (why two, Brian?) Obama says we need to change our domestic response capabilities, get good intelligence on who carried it out (Williams just said it was al-Qaida...) He's off on not using faulty intel and bluster, and talking to the international community. This was Barack's weakest answer of the night.
Edwards, same Q: Edwards says he'd make sure it was al-Qaida and try to figure out how they got passed us. So far, two answers, no winners. On GWOT, we have more tools than bombs.
Hil: starts her answer "Having been a Senator on 9/11..." nice. Says "a president must move swiftly to retaliate." ... If there were nations who gave aid or assisted the attack, we respond swiftly. Says she supported hitting the Taliban. Says we haven't found Bin Laden. Says "let's focus on who attacked us and let's get 'em." FINALLY, the right answer! Geez...
Impeach Cheney? No hands supporting Kucinich. So is it an appropriate use of time and energy? Kucinich has whipped out his pocket constitution, a la Senator Byrd.
Dodd: for civil unions, not for gay marriage.
Biden: time to get serious on climate change.
Richardson just threw in that he'd have a swift military response to a terror attack. Now on to Castro, Richardson we need to "find ways to deal with a post-democratic Cuba" -- I think he meant a post-Castro Cuba. He said he's opposed to the family visit ban by the Bushies, and says we should reevaluate the embargo. Miami's old school won't like that one...
Senator Mike Gravel is talking again ... he's really nutty...
Kucinich is calling out Barack on saying "all options are on the table" when it comes to Iran. He's saying we have to change energy policies and stop using war as a strategic tactic. Obama responds that it would be a mistake to go to war with Iran, but Iran having nukes would be a threat to us, and they are a major sponsor of terror. We just got our first "let me finish..." Obama is trying to buck up his foreign policy strength quotient. Now Gravel is jumping in ... oh, lord. He says we need to stop "scaring the bejeezus out of" Iran. Okay, he just declared the U.S. the biggest violator of the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Yep. Great way to be a credible candidate.
Now, on to who is your moral leader? Edwards is pausing a long time, but says he couldn't identify a single person. He then says he goes to the Lord for counsel, and now mentions his wife as a source of great conscience, his father too is cited as an influence.
Hillary is asked if Wal Mart is a good thing or bad thing overall for America. She says it's a "mixed blessing" -- allows people to stretch their dollars further, but they've raised issues of corporate responsibility re providing healthcare for employees, non-discrimination, etc. She says that the administration and corporate America "don't see middle class Americans." Another winner for Hil.
Biden is asked if the Dems lose a third time, it will be "modern day extinction" for the party, so is there a winner on this stage, putting himself aside? Biden says he sees winners, and says anyone who is "wishing for Hillary is making a mistake ... on the Republican side." Good that he added that last bit.
Well now, we've got ourselves a presidential race.
John McCain is taking off the gloves, dinging Giuliani, distancing himself ever so gently from the president and the war, and even calling for the head of Alberto Gonzales (guaranteeing that he stays in the first tier of the news cycle going into the Sunday Shows. Smart.) As badly as McCain is doing right now in the polls and the "money primary," don't count this guy out just yet. Baghdad John wants to be president probably more than anyone in this race on either side, and he has surrounded himself with the worst attack dogs from Bush-Cheney 2000 and the Swiftboat cause. He will scratch out the eyes of every other Republican and crawl through broken glass before he gives up the ghost. Hell, he has to fight. He's as old as sin, and this is his last shot.
By the way, the new NBC/WSJ poll is out of doors, and get a load of Fred Thompson! He's not even running and he's already within 5 points of McCain...
Meanwhile, on the other side of the ledger, Hils and Barack are squeezing closer together in the same poll, but Obama continues to have the big mo. His newest devotees? Bush pioneers.
Back to that poll for a minute. It shows just 22 percent of Americans believing the country is headed in the right direction, and a clear majority (nearly 6 in 10) wanting the Dems to set a timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq.
Oh, you little surrender monkeys, you American people...
The Dems debate tonight in South Carolina. It's their first go, and hopefully won't be too deadly boring.
"Rudy's arrogance has gotten the best of him," said Karen Finney, communications director for the Democratic National Committee.
"How can the man who failed to prepare NYC for a second attack after the first one, quit the 9/11 commission because he was too busy raking in money from sketchy business deals, can't assess if the surge is working or if Iran and North Korea have nuclear weapons claim that he will keep America safe?"
Dusting off his best FReeper imitation, Giuliani told an enthralled crowd of fear-addled, rage addicted New Hampshire GOPers:
"This war ends when they stop coming here to kill us!" Giuliani said in his speech. "Never, ever again will this country ever be on defense waiting for (terrorists) to attack us if I have anything to say about it. And make no mistake, the Democrats want to put us back on defense!"
Is this a political campaign, or an audition to be a fill in host for Michael Savage? Moving right along:
"Rudy Giuliani today has taken the politics of fear to a new low and I believe Americans are ready to reject those kind of politics," said Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) "America's mayor should know that when it comes to 9/11 and fighting terrorists, America is united."
"There are people right now in the world, not just wishing us harm but actively planning and plotting to cause us harm," said New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton.
"If the last six years of the Bush Administration have taught us anything, it's that political rhetoric won't do anything to quell those threats. And that America is ready for a change."
I give Barack a B+ for his response. Hillary's, with the me-too-FReeper opening? I give a C, with the caveat that she has to play Margaret Thatcher in this movie in order for it to get green lighted.
"Rudy Giuliani's suggestion that there is some superior 'Republican' way to fight terrorism is both divisive and plain wrong. He knows better. That's not the kind of leadership he offered in the days immediately after 9/11, and it's not the kind of leadership any American should be offering now.
"As far as the facts are concerned, the current Republican administration led us into a war in Iraq that has made us less safe and undermined the fight against al Qaeda. If that's the 'Republican' way to fight terror, Giuliani should know that the American people are looking for a better plan. That's just one more reason why this election is so important; we need to elect a Democratic president who will end the disastrous diversion of the war in Iraq."
Meanwhile, John McCain did his big announce today, complete with a nice little dig at Rudy:
[The American people] ...won't accept that firemen and policemen are unable to communicate with each other in an emergency because they don't have the same radio frequency.
And the latest NBC News poll reads as follows:
Just before Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate in South Carolina, a new poll by NBC affiliate WIS-TV shows Clinton and Obama virtually tied (24%-23%), with Edwards (who won the state in 2004) in third at 16%. On the GOP side, meanwhile, a new Zogby poll has McCain leading Giuliani in South Carolina (22%-19%), with Fred Thompson in third and Romney in fourth.
There's also an NBC News poll that comes out this evening that will show Giuliani losing support, down from 38% to 33%, McCain losing two points, down frmo 24% a month ago to 22% and Fred Thompson going to zero to 17%.
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...!
The media is focusing on the thing that, at the end of the day, matters most to them: the media ... when it comes to the scoop that wasn't re John Edwards future plans as a presidential candidate. But more important than Politico's dropped ball (relying on a single source? Journalism 101: don't do it, but then again, it's not as if this is the first time a journo has gotten something wrong...) is the question of whether Edwards can go the distance, given his wife's condition, and whether soldiering on makes him more noble and presidential, or less. That, and the utterly cynical basic tendencies of what passes for the right these days...
John McCain will be there, as will Hillary Rodham Clinton, John Edwards and half a dozen other presidential candidates. But when firefighters hold a candidates' forum today in Washington, Rudolph W. Giuliani, the contender most closely identified with their profession, will not attend.
In the past several days, a private tussle over Giuliani's participation — he was out, then in, then out again — has turned into a public spat with the International Association of Fire Fighters. That, in turn, has highlighted an uncomfortable paradox of Giuliani's campaign.
Since the Sept. 11 attacks, when he was mayor of New York City, he has been linked in the public mind to firefighters and police officers, whom he regularly hails as heroes as he campaigns around the country.
Yet the firefighters and police officers who know Giuliani best, those in New York City, have mixed views of him, ranging from admiration to outright hostility.
That has filtered through to leaders of their national associations accusing Giuliani of trying to cut short the effort to find victims' remains in the trade center wreckage.
They also contend that his administration mishandled the development of a radio system that could have saved lives on 9/11, and that he blundered in putting the city's emergency command center in the trade center.
Update: Fox out of the henhouse and into the doghouse
The John Edwards campaign has done themselves proud in Nevada, and has finally forced the issue of Fox News Channel's Republican bias back into the mainstream. Kudos to them and to the members of the blogosphere who successfully yanked FNC out of the Democratic debate this August in Nevada. Here's the email sent to supporters from Team Edwards (specifically from deputy campaign manager Jonathan Prince):
You may have heard by now that John Edwards was the first candidate to officially say no to the Fox News debate in Nevada -- and because of the hard work of so many grassroots and netroots Democrats, news is breaking tonight that Fox is out.
Fox has already started striking backat John for saying no. (There's a surprise - Fox attacking a Democrat.) Last night, Roger Ailes - the life-long Republican operative who is now Chairman of Fox News Channel - said that any candidate "who believes he can blacklist any news organization is making a terrible mistake" and "is impeding freedom of speech and free press."
And John's not their only target. Tonight Fox News Vice President David Rhodes is telling news organizations not to get involved in the Nevada Democratic Caucus because of "radical fringe" groups - meaning grassroots Democrats (that would be you) - who objected to Fox's long history of spreading Republican propaganda at the expense of Democratic leaders.
The whole right-wing is getting in on the attack; the Drudge Report is blaring the headline: "War! Dems Pull Out of Fox News Debate."
Enough is enough. It's time to send a clear message to Fox News and their allies that their right-wing talking points and temper tantrums won't go unchallenged anymore - when it comes to what Democrats should do in the Democratic primary, we'll decide - no matter what they report:
Fox News has already proven they have no intention of providing "fair and balanced" coverage of any Democrat in this election. [Emphasis added]
In recent weeks they have run blatant lies about Senator Obama's background. And Fox was only too happy to give Ann Coulter a platform to spew more hate a few days after her bigoted attack on Senator Edwards and the gay community.
Now it's time for Democrats to stand together and send a clear message to Roger Ailes, Fox News and all the rest of them: bias isn't balance, but turning tables is fair.
The truth is, Fox News can "report" whatever they want. And when it works for us, we'll deal with them on our terms. But this campaign is about responsibility and accountability, and we need to send the message to Fox that if they want to be the corporate mouthpiece of the Republican Party more than they want to be an impartial news outlet, they shouldn't expect Democrats to play along.
Good for you, Team Edwards.
Meanwhile, the right wing Las Vegas Review Journal blows the whistle on their own brethren, by labeling Fox News Channel, in relation to Democrats, as "their rivals' messenger." So it's okay if we "socialists" characterize Fox as the GOP's messenger from now on? I'm not sure Roger Ailes would appreciate your candor, Vegas. ... Man, these right wingers are stupid... Previous:
After Giuliani pulled out of a planned appearance at an International Association of Firefighters presidential forum next week, the group released a stinging draft letter indicating that it almost didn't invite him at all because of continuing anger at his "despicable" role in pulling firefighters off the Twin Towers' debris pile in 2001 before all hope of finding their dead comrades' remains was exhausted.
"The disrespect that he exhibited to our 343 fallen FDNY brothers, their families, and our New York leadership in the wake of that tragic day has not been forgiven or forgotten," said the three-page letter, drafted by union leaders in late February and first disclosed on Newsday's Web site Thursday.
The union eventually decided to invite Giuliani because the forum is supposed to be open to all candidates. But, said IAFF spokesman Jeff Zack, "To the extent firefighters know or learn about that story, the letter will absolutely represent the view of firefighters across this country."
In a letter to its members Friday, the International Association of Fire Fighters, excoriated Giuliani for his November 2001 decision to cut back the number of firefighters searching the rubble of Ground Zero for the remains of some 300 fallen comrades.
The 280,000-member union accused him of carelessly expediting the cleanup process with a "scoop-and-dump" operation after the recovery of millions of dollars in gold, silver and other assets from the Bank of Nova Scotia that had been buried. ...
... The union's latest broadside initially was included in a scathing letter dated Feb. 28. Union officials say that letter was drafted as leaders were weighing whether to invite Giuliani to a presidential candidate forum but never was distributed to members because the union ultimately invited Giuliani. Giuliani, however, declined the invitation to next week's forum, citing scheduling conflicts.
"We decided to fall on the side of taking the high road and extend an invitation to him," said Harold Schaitberger, the union's general president. "That letter was never intended to be released."
Nevertheless, the letter showed up on Web sites this week. After it surfaced, the union decided to send a revised letter with the same criticisms to its members on Friday and posted it on the union's Web site.
"Mayor Giuliani's actions meant that firefighters and citizens who perished would either remain buried at Ground Zero forever, with no closure for families, or be removed like so much garbage and deposited at the Fresh Kills landfill," the letter said, adding: "Hundreds remained entombed in Ground Zero when Giuliani gave up on them."
"What Giuliani showed is a disgraceful lack of respect for the fallen and those brothers still searching for them," it added.
Well, I guess there's always the possibility of getting endorsements from the women in your life, eh Rudy ... perhaps not...
Hey, I'm sure you can count on your kids, right? Not so much...
Rudy Giuliani dumped his second wife, Donna Hanover, via press conference. Before that, he cheated on her brazenly with Judy Nathan, the woman who would become his third wife (after Donna and Rudy's second cousin, who was also his first wife) -- even getting taxpayer-funded security for Judy when he wasn't whisking her around town to fetes and Broadway shows while Donna sat home and stewed. All of this took place as Rudy's then- 12-year-old son was forced to watch the spectacle from inside Gracie Mansion, where Rudy would bring Judy -- in full view of his little boy.
Is this the hero conservatives and Chris Matthews have been pining away for? Hm?
Campaigning in Southern California, Giuliani faced questions about his family after his son, Andrew, publicly said their relationship had become distant after Giuliani's messy divorce from Andrew's mother, Donna Hanover, and his later marriage to Judith Nathan.
"My wife Judith is a very loving and caring … mother and stepmother. She has done everything she can. The responsibility is mine," the former New York mayor told reporters gathered outside the Los Angeles County Sheriff's headquarters.
"I believe that these problems with blended families, you know, are challenges sometimes they are," he said. "The more privacy I can have for my family, the better we are going to be able to deal with all these difficulties."
The New York Times reported Saturday that Andrew Giuliani and his father have recently tried to reconcile after not speaking "for a decent amount of time." In the Times article, Andrew said, "There's obviously a little problem that exists between me and his wife."
He told the newspaper he would not participate in his father's campaign, saying he intended to concentrate on becoming a professional golfer. The 21-year-old Duke University student told ABC News' "Good Morning America," "I got my values from my mother. She's a strong influence in my life. She's a strong woman. I have problems with my father, but that doesn't mean he won't make a good president."
On to that NYT Saturday article... in it, we learned that Rudy isn't exactly chummy with his daughter Caroline, either.