Saturday, March 15, 2008

Democrats, 1968: Debating An Analogy

The Democratic primary race between Clinton and Obama has gotten so heated that it's got a lot of people worried-- including myself at times, admittedly-- that the party will tear itself by the convention and the Republican hold on the White House will remain. In a sentiment shared by many, a commenter at Paul Krugman's blog says: "I know of no better way to ensure these [new voters] walk away from the Democratic party for a lifetime then to make sure the Democratic party overlooks their vote in some sort of backroom deal."

That has all the pundits-- like '60s fetishist Tom Brokaw-- reminiscing about 1968, the year that Richard Nixon won the presidency amidst a divided and bitter Democratic party base. This analogy only goes so far, though.

Kevin Drum has a good reality check on all the 1968 analogies-
"The Democratic incumbent president was forced to withdraw after a primary debacle in New Hampshire. The Vietnam War had split liberals into warring factions and urban riots had shattered the LBJ's Great Society legacy. A frenzied primary season reached all the way to California in June, culminating in the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. The Democratic Convention in Chicago was a nationally televised battle zone. Hubert Humphrey, the party's eventual nominee, had never won a primary and was loathed by a significant chunk of the liberal community. New Left radicals hated mainstream Democrats more than they hated Republicans.

In other words, this was the mother of all ugly, party-destroying campaigns. No other primary campaign in recent memory from either party has come within a million light years of being as fratricidal and ruinous. But what happened? In the end, Humphrey lost the popular vote to Nixon by less than 1%. A swing of about a hundred thousand votes in California would have thrown the election into the House of Representatives.

If long, bitter, primary campaigns really destroy parties, then Humphrey should have lost the 1968 election by about 50 points. "Bitter" isn't even within an order of magnitude of describing what happened that year. And yet, even against that blood-soaked background, Humphrey barely lost. This suggests that if primary divisiveness has any effect at all, it must be pretty small."

Bingo. As an article in Slate reminds us, long primary battles are the norm in recent American history. 2004 was an anomaly that made us forget that. So unless angry Obama or Clinton supporters end up having a bloody battle with the Denver police outside the convention, these fears are just signs of primary fatigue.

I would also add several points that make 2008 very unlike 1968... a) the economy was in a generally strong state at that point (the post-war boom wouldn't really collapse until the mid-70s) with the GOP not yet joining the Goldwater brigade in opposing the New Deal legacy, and thus wasn't an issue, and b) Nixon ran-- falsely, in hindsight-- as the "peace" candidate, pledging to bring an end to the Democrats' reckless Vietnam policy (and that was at a time when the war was still relatively popular). This time around, we have an economy that's in the worst state it's been in decades, with the Republican candidate pledging to continue the economic policies that got us here. And said Republican is also running as a war candidate, a man who seeks to escalate our reckless-- and largely unpopular-- Iraq policy. Big difference, no?

(There's also the wild card affect George Wallace's candidacy had on both parties that year.)

Some caveats, of course. The Democrats were the dominant political party of that post-war era (the New Deal and WWII brought several decades of goodwill), having won the previous presidential election by the largest margins in recorded history to date. So to lose, however slightly, was still a crushing blow to the party. They went into that election with the advantage.

Today, the Republicans are the dominant, status-quo party, having won 5 of the 7 presidential elections in the past 30 years (I know, I know, 2000 gets an asterick there). And the Republican candidate has managed to convince many, many independent voters (falsely) that he is a harmless, amiable centrist. So the Democrats only come into this election with... the advantage of having popular candidates, and an incumbent opposition party that has reigned over some of the biggest domestic and foreign failures in American history.

In conclusion, while it is deeply upsetting to be having such a divisive primary battle in a year seemingly gift-wrapped for Democrats-- and my differing feelings on our two candidates are clear-- I don't believe the doom-and-gloom scenarios being feared for the general election. I believe that our party still goes into this election strong. We shall see by the convention whether or not I am wrong.

Democratic Primary: So Are The Days of our Lives...

There was a lot of back-and-forth insanity in the campaign this week, and I want to try and assess it all, as best I can. I think I may make this a weekly feature.

I still have friends and coworkers come up to me with the sentiment that they like Sen. Obama enough, but they feel they haven't gotten anything substantive from him. Part of this is a double-standard... when Gore ran a substantive campaign in 2000, everyone demanded more charisma instead. Now, they have a charismatic candidate, and they insist they want substance instead. I would urge them-- and you all-- to check out this site, which has done a better job of compiling Obama's substantive record than even his own website (itself no blank slate). And when he does discuss substance, the media is nowhere to be found.

An addendum on the issue of whether Geraldine Ferraro's comments were racist... whether she is racist or not, I am doubtful, but it was unquestionably an attempt to use racial wedge politics (it's the Lee Atwater take on the Southern Strategy all over again... you can't say "n***er" anymore, so you speak abstractly while getting the same message across to working-class white voters). It's not a coincidence this happened now. I believe it's all part a conscious strategy to discredit Obama and to marginalize his candidacy.

It's understandable. They're losing by every measure. Ugly as it is, it's effective politically.

The bad good news? The two of them will get to hash all of this out at the umpteenth debate in Philadelphia on April 16th (on ABC). Obama has requested also another debate, in North Carolina on April 19th (on CBS); no word from the Clinton camp on that one.

And it appears now that Michigan is settling on a plan to have a do-over primary on June 3 (tentative). As for Florida, one idea being floated around has their delegates being seated, but only getting half a vote each. Probably the best that can be hoped for at this point.

Finally, Sen. Obama got to ride the controversy train this week too, thanks to remarks made by Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a retiring pastor at the megachurch that Obama attends (which has Hannity and the Fox gang in full hypocrisy mode... Hannity being a big defender of the late Jerry Falwell). Obama has responded with the media, and insists in a statement that what Wright says "in no way reflects my attitudes and directly contradicts my profound love for this country" (note: the new pastor seems saner). Personally, I'd ditch the church all together, but I'm an atheist, so what do I know? But you know what, America? This is what you get when you demand that Democratic politicians try and out-Christ their opponents.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Democrats Stand Their Ground on FISA

Congress is recessing at the end of the day for two weeks (through the Easter holiday). They were under a lot of pressure from the President to finalize the FISA legislation before they left, and they acted accordingly. Unfortunately for him, it is a better bill than the sham he was demanding-
The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives defied President George W. Bush on Friday and passed an anti-terrorism spy bill that permits lawsuits against phone companies.

But the 213-197 vote was far short of the two-thirds majority needed to override a promised veto by Bush. He has demanded that any telecommunication company that participated in his warrantless domestic spying program secretly begun after the September 11 attacks receive retroactive immunity.

The battle over whether to shield companies has been a key reason why the House and Senate have been unable to agree on a bill to replace a law that expired last month that expanded U.S. authority to track enemy targets without a court order...

Just to clarify... this bill gives the government full authority to wiretap suspected terrorists under the law. It just also, you know, insists on oversight and some checks and balances, and a lot of stuff like that which this President cannot abide by. His rhetoric about this bill's passage will be characteristically hyperbolic (I fact-checked one of his recent press conferences on this- here).

Already, the verbal diarrhea is starting. House minority leader John Boehner said this afternoon that "The fact that Congress is going on spring break, at a time when Al-Qaeda and other terrorist enemies continue plotting against us, is both irresponsible and dangerous." You heard him, Congress! No vacation! No warrants! Baton down the hatches, men!

The President's latest talking point-- his previous ones have been destroyed-- is that these telecom companies (the ones that, unlike Qwest and others, went along with the administration's illegal demands after-- before?-- 9/11) deserve amnesty because they "should be thanked for their patriotic service" (just pay your bills on time, Uncle Sam) and "not subjected to billion-dollar lawsuits" (you know, because groups like the ACLU file suits for money). Seriously, this is what he keeps threatening to veto this-- super vital!-- surveillance legislation over.

Glenn Greenwald posted yesterday on the frightening implication of such an assertion.

Kudos to the House leadership for continuing to stand up for the rule of law on this issue, and for not letting the Republicans bully them again with scary rhetoric. The Senate leadership long ago caved on this issue, and hasn't looked back since. So that battle still lies ahead. But for now, this is encouraging to see.

Weekend Odds and Ends

I can't believe how lucky my new Governor is to be black and blind. Here's the news...

Merrill Lynch economist David Rosenberg says this recession will be worse than the 1970s. And the White House wants you to know... no comment. Press Secretary Dana Perino says "I’m under strict instructions, and have been from the beginning, to not talk about the dollar."

The EPA takes the super bold stance that smog is bad for the environment.

President Bush weighs in on high oil prices: "You know, I don’t know. You’re going to have to ask the experts that. I’m just a simple president." He then chewed on a tall piece of grass and dusted off his overalls.

House Democrats this week "pushed through a measure Tuesday to create an outside panel to review possible ethical lapses by its members." Members of this new panel "could not be current members, federal employees or lobbyists. Recommendations of censure or punishment, including expulsion, would still rest with the ethics committee." Strong opposition, not surprisingly, came from congressional Republicans who insist that "lawmakers should be able to police themselves."

Capitol Hill also got a rare treat as all three presidential candidates returned to participate in the debate over important earmarks legislation. For what it's worth, Sen. Obama has now released all his earmarks, the other candidates? Notsomuch.

While the Senate debates a bill to send money to fight AIDS and disease in Africa, Republicans insist on keeping an abstinence requirement in. And, right on time, new studies show that shaming people into not having sex doesn't actually work, and that maybe people should use some contraceptives.

Glenn Greenwald checks in with the truly fascinating discussions at the National Review.

Finally, news from elsewhere in the world. In Iraq, things continue to be bad. In Afghanistan, they're not much better. A little further east, Hamas sets it terms for a cease-fire with Israel. And in Africa, Sudanese and Chadian leaders "signed a peace agreement on Thursday meant to end cross-border rebel attacks."

President George W. Bush: Comedian Extraordinaire

A couple of times a year, the President and the Washington press corps get together for dinner and a circle jerk. Most people are probably only aware of this ritual because of the 2006 White House Correspondents Dinner which Stephen Colbert had to go and ruin with his mean, topical satire. These dinners represent everything wrong with Washington, in particular its spineless journalists.

President Bush got himself into a bit of trouble at the 2004 Radio and Television Correspondents Association Dinner when he aired some photos of himself searching around the White House for non-existent WMDs. "Those weapons of mass destruction have got to be here somewhere," joked the President as he searched behind curtains and under chairs. Oh I get, because the President used those weapons as his rationale to start a war of choice which went on to desolve into chaos and kill tens of thousands of people! Good stuff!

Everyone soon forgot this because, hey, John Kerry was a flip-flopper who looked French.

And this past weekend was the 2008 Gridiron Club dinner in DC. The President donned a cowboy hat and sang an early goodbye to Washington to the tune of the country song "Green Green Grass of Home". In the song, Bush sang about the good ol' times of "Brownie" and the post-Katrina disaster, the prosecution of Scooter Libby, and Dick Cheney talking to him about some oil-rich Saudi and withholding documents from Congress.

I'm obviously not a humorless man, and I am all for self-deprecation and making massively inappropriate jokes. But there is something very disturbing-- and very wrong-- about seeing the President of the United States cracking jokes about the worst sins of his presidency... and the press corps sitting there laughing their asses off and giving him a standing ovation (funny, it sounded like you could hear a pin drop in '06 when Colbert roasted The Decider). It suggests a detachment from reality that is not healthy.

Something tells me you won't find footage of JFK rapping about the Bay of Pigs or Reagan doing an Iran-contra jig.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

What's The Matter With... Oklahoma?

The other day when I heard this homophobic rant from Oklahoma State Rep. Sally Kern (of the usual gays are sinners who are trying to destroy America and apple pie variety), I didn't get worked up, because this was just one state representative rambling to a few dozen idiots at a speech.

But this story, on the other hand, is positively frightening-
The Oklahoma House of Representatives Education Committee has just approved House Bill 2211. The bill is expected to pass the full House, and then to go to the Senate. Its authors describe it as promoting freedom of religion in the public schools. In fact, it does the opposite...

...The bill requires public schools to guarantee students the right to express their religious viewpoints in a public forum, in class, in homework and in other ways without being penalized. If a student’s religious beliefs were in conflict with scientific theory, and the student chose to express those beliefs rather than explain the theory in response to an exam question, the student’s incorrect response would be deemed satisfactory, according to this bill.

The school would be required to reward the student with a good grade, or be considered in violation of the law.

A simple rant here about the separation of church and state would not be sufficient.

What we have here are a bunch of lunatics who believe that their personal beliefs are superior to facts, and that 'science' is some conspiracy that seeks to oppress them. But this is not some cult... it is evangelical Christianity, the biggest and most influential religion in the nation. Everyone in America has-- and rightfully so-- a good chuckle when people like Tom Cruise are going on and on with their crazy religious beliefs (spaceships and volcanoes), and yet this nonsense is treated with reverence to the point that we would allow students to dictate reality in an educational environment out of some crazy religious political correctness.

Freedom of religion is a founding principle in this country, but in the sense that people are free to worship as they choose, without fear of governmental interference. But when the government starts codifying religion in the laws and in the classroom, that violates the Constitution, not to mention the principles of reason the founders adhered to more strongly than their religion.

The move toward the latter is one of the lasting impacts of Bush-era conservatism. One can only hope that saner days are ahead. In the meantime, if you live in Oklahoma, you might want to contact your state representatives.

The Clintons: Ready To Self-Destruct On Day One

Keith Olbermann reserves his greatest fire for the crimes and misdeeds of the Bush administration, so if you're a Democrat and have invoked his wrath, you know you've crossed a line. Here's his special comment from last night on the Clinton campaign, in particular the Ferraro flap and what Will Bunch calls the Archie Bunker strategy-

Now Ms. Ferraro has resigned from a campaign that she was claiming she didn't work for.

In addition to this racial dog-whistle politics-- which, as I noted Tuesday night, will continue through Pennsylvania-- the level of ridiculousness from the Clinton is now becoming a national punchline among political junkies, with her loyal supporters now spinning themselves in circles. Most Democrats had no issues with Sen. Clinton before this primary season; this is a self-inflicted wound.

I want to post an Obama campaign email as it sums up the circles the Clintons are spinning-
When we won Iowa, the Clinton campaign said it's not the number of states you win, it's "a contest for delegates." When we won a significant lead in delegates, they said it's really about which states you win. When we won South Carolina, they discounted the votes of African-Americans. When we won predominantly white, rural states like Idaho, Utah, and Nebraska, they said those didn't count because they won't be competitive in the general election. When we won in Washington State, Wisconsin, and Missouri -- general election battlegrounds where polls show Barack is a stronger candidate against John McCain -- the Clinton campaign attacked those voters as "latte-sipping" elitists. And now that we've won more than twice as many states, the Clinton spin is that only certain states really count.

And let us also not forget the flip-flop/spin on Florida and Michigan. Explaining to an NPR host last Fall why she was keeping her name on the Michigan ballot, Hillary said it's because "It's clear, this election they're having is not going to count for anything." Except, of course, until Hillary "won" those contests she cheated on in her favor, now she is fighting tooth and nail to make them count. As for the earlier reports of a mail-in do-over primary... apparently, that's a bust (or maybe not; who knows). And now the Clintons are insisting that the original contests were "fair" and should be "honored". So we're back to square one there.

Look, I can appreciate what the Clintons did for America in the '90s (with a few too many 'compromises' for my tastes). Which is why it's a shame that this is what they have reduced themselves to. Hillary's attempt to blame everyone else for her failed campaign-- and to burn the Democratic house down on her way out-- keeps her in the media spotlight where she wants to be, but can't change the electoral reality of Obama's path to the nomination.

[UPDATE: Since so many seemingly reasonable folks insist there's validity in Ferraro's original point-- that Obama's lucky to be black; that he only got this far because of that 'novelty'-- I want to address this. The notion that it's "lucky" to be running for President in America as a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama is a joke. The funny thing is that many of my friends here in NYC think his race could be a detriment to his campaign, not an asset. Obama got where he is by running a solid, inspiring campaign. Race was not an issue in the early part of this campaign (around Iowa) and has only become so due to the increasing efforts of Team Clinton. It must end.

UPDATE #2: Time's Joe Klein says what I was getting at here, but better.]

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Stockholm Syndrome

If John McCain wishes to dispel the fact that he's running for George Bush's third term, he's doing a poor job. Politico reports that he's "getting much more than President Bush's endorsement and fundraising help for his campaign. He’s getting Bush's staff... A top McCain adviser said both [Ken] Mehlman and [Karl] Rove are now informally advising the campaign."

And here, last Friday, was Mr. Rove on Fox News talking up McCain's greatness-
"I don’t think people know a lot about him... Let me give you just one example: I think most of your viewers be shocked to hear the story about Cindy McCain in Bangladesh, visiting an orphanage, and she has a small dying child thrust into her hands and the orphanage... the people in the orphanage say we can’t, we can’t care for her, she’s dying, we don’t know what to do. And Cindy McCain’s impulse was to hold that…hug that child to her chest, get on an airplane and bring her home. When she got off the plane, there was John McCain, and he said, 'What do you got?' and she said 'I’ve got a child who’s dying, we need to get her help…we need to get her care.' And John said, 'Well, who is she going to be staying with?' and Cindy McCain said, 'I was hoping that she could stay with us.' And today, that young child–- who was near death–- is their teenage daughter. I don’t think most people understand the compassion and love that would come from a moment like that."

How repulsive and disgusting for Rove to even dare to bring up John McCain's daughter.

Let's flash back to the GOP South Carolina primary in 2000-
Rove invented a uniquely injurious fiction for his operatives to circulate via a phony poll. Voters were asked, "Would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain...if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?" This was no random slur. McCain was at the time campaigning with his dark-skinned daughter, Bridget, adopted from Bangladesh.

What a difference eight years makes for John McCain and Karl Rove.

I lost all respect I had for Sen. McCain in 2004, when he so vigorously endorsed Bush's reelection... the man who had attacked his family and whose policies he had once abhorred. It was quite revealing about his character, or lack thereof. And now here he is, eight years later, sucking up to agents of intolerance he had pledged to rid from politics.

I don't want him, the Republican base barely does... so who does want this guy to be President? Besides the media, of course. I'm just curious.

Schadenfreude... A Eulogy

With John McCain now the presumptive nominee of the GOP, all those conservatives who swore they'd never support or vote for this horrific monster are suddenly backtracking (such integrity!). Last night, Stephen Colbert said goodbye to hating McCain...

Fun With Fox News

Bill O'Reilly tells those goddamn kids liberals to get off his lawn-

Whenever Bill'O starts ranting about the "SPs" who are running our country, I can't help but picture Tom Cruise's scientology rant. They're both basically real-life cartoon characters, and can be enjoyed if seen in that light.

Governor Spitzer Resigns

As expected, he resigned today. David Paterson will be my new governor, effective Monday.

Mississippi Decides...

Sen. Obama coasted to a solid victory in Mississippi tonight. He will pick up at least 17 of the state's 33 delegates (compared to Clinton's 11-delegate net gain from last week). In the past week, the final counts of the primaries from past states-- ie. California-- netted Obama more delegates, and it seems official now that Obama can be declared the winner in the Texas caucuses. So not a bad week for Team Obama.

Mother Jones' Jonathan Stein looks at where the race stands after tonight-
MSNBC has projected two things: (1) Obama has won tonight's Mississippi primary and (2) Obama's pledged delegate lead will be 160 at the end of the night. Hillary Clinton will have to win 64% of all remaining pledged delegates in order to finish with the pledged delegate lead. That is, shall we say, highly unlikely.

The Clinton campaign plan, best I can see it, is to downplay Mississippi, play up Pennsylvania and win it, and then take the remainder of the states (potentially including do-overs in Michigan and Florida) by severely tarnishing Obama's luster. Narrow the popular vote to almost nothing, then convince superdelegates that are undecided or that support Obama to choose Clinton because she has won the second half of the primary race. Is that a strategy that is likely to win? No, but it's the best they got.

Translation? If Obama asks nicely, maybe he can be Hillary's Vice President. Oh, wait.

Finally, I will acknowledge the elephant in the room... former VP candidate, and Clinton fundraiser, Geraldine Ferraro's comment that "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position... He happens to be very lucky to be who he is." After this was lambasted by, well, everyone, Ferraro decided to dig in deeper. Giving followup interviews with Fox News and elsewhere, she said "Racism works in two different directions. I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?". It's bad, ma'am, please stop. Now obviously, subtle racial digs at Obama are nothing new from the Clinton camp, and will continue through Pennsylvania and beyond. But at some point, the Clinton camp has to understand that their scorched-earth tactics will leave them with no ground left to run on.

As for the validity of Ferraro's original point, I'll let Marc Ambinder take this: "Because running as a black guy named Barack Hussein Obama is soooo easy."

More Odds and Ends

It's gonna be another busy week. Let's check in on some news of note...

Well, this is interesting news: "The top U.S. military commander for the Middle East resigned Tuesday amid speculation about a rift over U.S. policy in Iran. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said that Adm. William J. Fallon, whose area of responsibility includes Iraq, had asked for permission to retire and that Gates agreed... Fallon was the subject of an article published last week in Esquire magazine that portrayed him as opposed to President Bush's Iran policy." More analysis- here.

How did Eliot Spitzer end up under investigation? TPM has a video report.

Julian Sanchez has a great rebuttal to the anti-FISA arguments of the White House.

And it looks like the House is finalizing a bill to resolve this issue soon. As it stands now, the bill has a "provision that would reject giving retroactive immunity to the telecoms. Instead, it would give the courts authorization to hear the classified material at issue in the case," and would require "an audit of the warrantless wiretapping program by the Department of Justice's inspector general." It's expected the tools in the Senate will not not like this.

Tap water... now more frightening than ever. Brita filter, please save us.

With gas prices at all-time highs, more people are using this 'public transportation' thing.

Finally, what does John McCain know? Not much, apparently.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Florida and Michigan Update

While nothing is set in stone yet-- Howard Dean continues to say the ball remains in each state's court (but he will not seat the original delegates)-- we seem closer to working out a resolution for Florida and Michigan. According to the AP, consensus seems to building around the idea of mail-in primaries (basically the absentee ballot process, but for everyone). That's not without its share of potential problems-- how to prevent fraud, etc-- but I suppose it's as good an idea as any at this point.

[PS- MSNBC pundits last night speculates what she's really after in FL is superdelegates.

UPDATE: Or maybe not? New reports indicate this may not happen after all. Yikes.]

It's The You-Know-What, Stupids! (Pt. II)

NY Times columnist Paul Krugman still hasn't responded to the email I sent him last Friday in response to his latest column (unlike me, he has better things to do with his time, I assume). However, he's clearly getting a lot of feedback regarding his anti-Obama hackery, and responded with this on his blog-
One measure of how crazy people on at least one side of the Democratic nomination struggle have become: I’ve gotten a number of complaints that the end of my last — entirely non-political — column, “hope is not a plan,” was a swipe at Obama.

Um, guys, it’s a phrase military types use; I started using it a lot when Iraq went pear-shaped. In fact, if you Google it, the first entry that comes up is a book about the Iraq war.

I’m sorry to say that a large part of the progressive movement seems to have lost its sanity.

Bold added by me... gosh, whichever side could he be referring to?

Let's take a look at some snippets from the column in question-
[P]olls — and Hillary Clinton’s big victory in Ohio — suggest that if the Democrats want to win this year, they have to focus on economic anxiety.

Some people reject that idea. They believe that this election should be another referendum on the war, and, perhaps even more important, about the way America was misled into that war. That belief is one reason many progressives fervently support Barack Obama, an early war opponent, even though his domestic platform is somewhat to the right of Mrs. Clinton’s.


But first, of course, the Democrats have to settle on a nominee. And the shift in electoral focus from Iraq to economic anxiety clearly plays to Mrs. Clinton’s strengths.


Why has Mr. Obama stumbled when it comes to economic issues? Well, on health care — which is closely tied to overall concerns about financial security — there is a clear, substantive difference between the candidates, with the Clinton plan being significantly stronger.

More broadly, I suspect that the Obama mystique — his carefully created image as a transformational, even transcendent figure — has created a backlash among those unconvinced that he’s interested in the nuts-and-bolts work of fixing things.
Ohio voters were more likely to say that Mr. Obama inspires them — but more likely to say that Mrs. Clinton has a clear plan for the country’s problems.

And Mr. Obama’s attempt to win over workers by portraying himself as a fierce critic of Nafta looked, and was, deeply insincere — an appearance particularly costly for a candidate who tries to seem above politics as usual...

Yep, this column was totally non-political. I don't know where anyone would get the impression that Mr. Krugman has been using his totally non-political columns to cheerlead for Sen. Clinton's campaign. I apologize for having asserted any such thing, for I-- like the majority of the progressive movement-- have lost my sanity.

(I'll add that it's BS to assert Clinton is better than Obama on economics as a fact; it's an opinion. They both have similar proposals, with the key differences being on how to implement them. And since a President can't implement anything without broad political appeal, it's blind to dismiss that. Krugman labeling Obama as some economic conservative also misses the memo that the Clintons are trying to portray him as an out-of-control liberal. One could also make the argument that Hillary won Ohio by scamming them on NAFTA, and by lying about what her health-care plan really is. This is not an honest debate.)

In all seriousness, he is right that this lengthy primary season is making people a little crazy. Of course, on that charge, Krugman is a tea kettle calling the pot black here. He's a great economist; he should stick to that.

Headline of the Day

AP: US: recent Iraq attacks not a trend

Translation: 'US: Last 5 years of war in Iraq not a trend'

[UPDATE: Another one... 'Exhaustive review finds no link between Saddam and al Qaida']

Monday, March 10, 2008

Barack Obama: I'm Running For PRESIDENT.

I had two friends separately-- within the last 12 hours-- call me/IM me to complain about the latest insanity from the Clinton campaign... namely, the talk from Sen. Clinton that she would be happy to have Sen. Obama as her Vice President. The two together would be an "unstoppable force", said Bill Clinton the other day. The general sentiment among my friends was that it takes some serious chutzpah for someone who's behind to offer the Vice Presidency to the frontrunner.

Luckily for us frustrated Obama supporters, said frontrunner is on this like white on rice-

Another reason I like Obama... he responds quickly to attacks and knocks them down with an almost casual air.

After noting how he's won twice as many states as her, and is ahead in both the popular vote and the delegate count, he says "I don't know how somebody who's in second place is offering the Vice Presidency to the person who's in first place." Of course, by talking in the way she has been, Clinton is trying to create a narrative/image of herself as the frontrunner (whom Barack could maybe work for if he asks nicely). Kudos to Obama for treating that condescending rhetoric with all the seriousness it deserved.

He also addresses the other ridiculousness of Clinton's rhetoric. As Time's Karen Tumulty noted, this talk "undercuts their argument that Obama is not prepared to be Commander-in-Chief. If they really believe that to be the case, how could they justify putting him in a position where he is one tragedy away from the job?" Karen, please do not ask for consistency from the Clinton campaign at this point.

It's gotten to the point where one cannot even keep up with the Clinton's schemes... in the past few days alone, we have Sen. Clinton raising the possibility of going after Obama's pledged delegates, a hugely anti-democratic suggestion. Then you have Clinton campaign guru Karl Rove Mark Penn trying to scare voters that Obama is "the most liberal Democratic senator" (EEK!) and "not ready to be Commander-in-Chief". And now it turns out that Bill Clinton went on Rush Limbaugh's radio show the day of the Texas primary, presumably because Rush had been urging Texas Republicans to cross over and vote for Hillary.

Now given all that, why wouldn't Obama want to be her Vice President, right?

Sen. Clinton and Sinbad: Foreign Policy Experts

Sen. Clinton has been going around and telling everyone that she's passed the "Commander-in-Chief test" (does Kaplan have a review course for that?) and Obama has not... a move that, while silly and short-sighted on the surface, has helped keep her at the top of the media spotlight.

Bill Maher confronted Clinton campaign chair, and former DNC chairman, Terry McAuliffe on this issue this past Friday, and McAuliffe wasn't able to really to honestly defend the assertion... instead devolving into Bush-esque '9/11 changed everything' tropes. Maher was not shying about calling his answer "bullshit".

Well live by the experience sword, die by the experience sword, because the Chicago Tribune decided to fact-check the claims that Clinton used to bolster her foreign policy cred. They concluded that "while Hillary Clinton represented the U.S. on the world stage at important moments while she was first lady, there is scant evidence that she played a pivotal role in major foreign policy decisions or in managing global crises." For example, they note that Clinton claimed that she "negotiated with Macedonia to open up its border to refugees from Kosovo," but its turns out that "She was, in fact, leading a goodwill entourage that included baggy-pants funnyman Sinbad, singer Sheryl Crow and Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, then 15."

Now, personally, experience is less important to me than judgment and leadership ability. But Clinton wanted to make this the centerpiece of her campaign at this point, and it just doesn't hold up.

The media at large hasn't been as critical of her claims, but it's amazing to me how short-sighted the Clintons' desperation has made them. Best case scenario for her, and she becomes the nominee... she did so by crafting talking points and narratives that the GOP will happily co-opt and turn against her. This needs to stop.

Eliot Spitzer, We Hardly Knew Ye

So, this is the big news today-
Gov. Eliot Spitzer has been caught on a federal wiretap arranging to meet with a high-priced prostitute at a Washington hotel last month, according to a person briefed on the federal investigation...

The news was big enough for Drudge to whip out the siren! I would've saved it unless he'd been outed as the pimp.

He hasn't resigned, but obviously this does not bode well for his political career. So far, he has merely read a statement apologizing to his family and the public. Likely, he will try and ride this out.

I would say that this news disappoints me had his first two years in office not been a huge disaster already. Spitzer rode into Albany on a landslide victory as a reformer, with tons of bold promises (legalizing gay marriage!), but soon found himself sucked into the same dirty Albany games he pledged to fight. It would appear that Albany is a political sewer that can give Washington DC a serious run for its money.

Feeling good today, though? Crack dealers, who no longer have to worry about being taxed.

[UPDATE: Meet David Patterson... the next Governor of New York?]

Odds and Ends

Why am I at work when I have 'Battlestar Galactica' DVDs to watch? Here's some news...

Former Pentagon policy chief Doug Feith-- one of the war's chief architects-- has written the latest in a series "whoa, don't blame me for all this shit, it was everyone else's fault!" books from disgraced Bushies. This one throws a dart at the wall and decides the blame lies with Colin Powell, the CIA, and Paul Bremer.

And apparently, some people in the Senate want an investigation "to determine what Iraq is doing with the billions of dollars in oil revenue it generates." What? Did they forget to give it all to us or something?

Speaking of oil, as if $100+ a barrel oil isn't bad enough, now Goldman Sachs is raising the possibility of $200 oil?! Don't worry, though, some folks at MIT have a brilliant plan to have all of us drive around in shopping carts.

Tony Blair to teach faith and globalization at Yale? What, Oxford didn't want him?

Here's news from Washington: "The House Judiciary Committee filed suit Monday to force former White House Counsel Harriet Miers and White House chief of staff Joshua Bolten to provide information about the firing of U.S. attorneys." Eh, by the time this thing is actually settled, Bush's reign of terror will be over anyway.

And here's some fun news: "Anti-immigrant sentiment is fueling nationwide increases in the number of hate groups and the number of hate crimes targeting Latinos, a watchdog group said Monday."

Finally, some news from around the world... the Serbian government appears to have collapsed as part of the fallout from Kosovo's declaration of independence. Israel announces new West Bank construction. And tensions in Latin America between Colombia, Ecuador, and Venezuela seem to have cooled down.

Fiscal Conservatism

As if this whole stimulus check scam wasn't insulting enough, now we learn that that the IRS is spending $42 million "on letters to alert taxpayers to expect rebate checks as part of the economic stimulus plan."

Defending this waste is Keith Hennessey, director of the president's National Economic Council, who said "if you're going to have tens of millions of taxpayers getting checks, you want to get the information out so that you have as few people as possible confused about what's happening, they understand what's coming." Riiiggghht... because you certainly couldn't have included such a letter with the checks.

Expect a second round of letters late summer asking us if we feel properly bought off yet.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Weekend Video Theatre: Can You Bug Me Now?

Stephen warns Demoncraps they better pass the President's wiretapping bill or we'll die-

[More vids... on The Daily Show, Jon Stewart looks at how our good friend oil is doing. Bill Maher confronts Clinton campaign chair Terry McAuliffe on his candidate's tactics. And he focuses his New Rules on the stupidity of the average voter. Hillary Clinton channels her inner Tracy Flick. Finally, Bill Moyers discusses John McCain and the state of the GOP.]

$3 Trillion... And Counting

Bill Moyers filed this report on PBS on the costs of the war last May-

Since then, things have gotten worse. The U.S. has bought up or bribed both sides of the insurgency-- funding both sides of a war being a American tradition-- just so that U.S. politicians can brag about figleaf security gains in an election season. No political progress has been made in Iraq, according to our own government's set benchmarks, and they just gave a rhetorical "fuck you" to our President by rolling out the red carpet for the man Bush calls the greatest threat to world peace. It seems that there will 8,000 more troops in Iraq after the surge than there were before it. And the administration is quietly laying the groundwork for a permanent U.S. presence (without the authorization of Congress).

But on top of all that is the news that the true costs of this will be... $3 trillion dollars. This estimate may end up looking conservative. After all, it was less than a year ago that a $1.4 trillion price tag was feared as the worst-case scenario.

The article on all this reminds readers of the lies of a cheap and quick war that the Bush administration used to sell all of this to begin with. After all, they ask, would Americans be willing to support wars so easily if they knew in advance the long costs ahead... in dollars, years, and lives?

As is standard when looking over this hefty bill, they look at what that $$ could've gone to-
For example, the state I live in, California, is suffering a serious budget crisis that has resulted in major cuts in education and other areas. California has a vast economy, and the shortfall is massive: $3.3 billion. That's a lot of money -- but just reallocating about one week's worth of Iraq funding would wipe it out.

Domestically, the authors note that a trillion dollars could have fixed the Social Security crisis for 50 years, built 8 million housing units, or hired 15 million public schoolteachers for a year.

Abroad, "[t]wo trillion dollars would enable us to meet our commitments to the poorest countries for the next third of a century." For a "mere" $8 billion, the cost of two weeks of the war, we could have fully funded the world campaign to eradicate illiteracy. And imagine the benefits if we had used some of that money for a Marshall Plan for the Middle East that "might actually have succeeded in winning the hearts and minds of the people there."

And here's the thing... any time a politician proposes some new domestic initiative-- health-care, Social Security solvency, alternative energy, infrastructure repair-- the proposal is nickel-and-dimed to death, and deemed too expensive and rash. Such scrutiny is never applied to war spending, which exceeds all of those. Dare to question our endless funneling of trillions down the Iraq sinkhole, and you are accused by the Republicans of wanting our troops to die. Don't worry about the cost of freedom, we are told, our grandkids and/or China will pay the bill.

In a recent campaign roundup video, TPM featured a reader feedback, who said: "The way I see it, we have three alternatives. One, we can leave now and things will completely blow up over there. Two, we can leave in a few years, and things will completely blow up over there. Or three, we can stay, and things will completely blow up over here, as our infrastructure collapses." I agree. And a big part of this election will be voters deciding which of those three (shitty) options they prefer.

As Moyers says, we're nowhere near finished with the costs of this war.

[Related reading: McCain's Consistent Folly on Iraq-- Wrong in 2003, wrong now, and still getting praised for it (Reason magazine)]