Thursday, February 28, 2008

Obama the Pragmatist

My friend Libby brought this one to my attention and it's a goodie -

The Audicity of Data by Noam Barack Obama's surprisingly non-ideological policy shop"

He outlines both the economic advisers (who study behavior) as well as foreign advisors (mostly proteges of Lee Hamilton). It's a very exciting piece.

Here's a little taste:
For their part, the Obama wonks tend to be inductive--working piecemeal from a series of real-world observations. One typical Goolsbee brainchild is something called an automatic tax return. The idea is that, if you had no tax deductions or freelance income the previous year, the IRS would send you a tax return that was already filled out. As long as you accepted the government's accounting, you could just sign it and mail it back. Goolsbee estimates this small innovation could save hundreds of millions of man-hours spent filling out tax forms, and billions of dollars in tax-preparation fees.
It's not long and worth the full read and further elaborates on Obama's advisers.

Why I Canceled My New York Times Subscription

Four reasons -
1. hiring of Bill Kristol
2. sloppy editorial standards as evidenced by that January front page piece on my disease, Fibromyalgia (and reinforced by the McCain lobbyist/affair story, the PBS piece in the A&L section a week and a half ago).
3. the elimination of local television listings
4. the endorsement of Hillary Clinton

Well, and the disenchantment that began with Judy Miller. A friend's brother, who is a political cartoonist, did a drawing I keep on my refrigerator that depicted the upper left hand corner box with the Times' motto, with a modification: "All the news that's fit to print and stories by Judy Miller."

It was the last that broke the camel's back. Now Gabriel Sherman reports on that decision to endorse Hillary Clinton and apparently, yet again, the culprit is Judy Miller's champion, Pinch (Arthur Sulzberger Jr.). The more I read of him the more I sense he is a dufus. Sherman reveals a lot, but confirms what came through reading that endorsement. It was long and contorted and insecure.

And it was after reading that, that I decided, that's it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Is Hillary One of Penn's Derided Impressionable Elite?

I do think these are premature but today I read and saw two items that were informative to me.

The first was this piece from The New York Observer on Mark Penn.

He said that the emerging story line—that his poll-obsessed, microtargeting approach had produced a plodding, uninspiring campaign—was a bum rap. “The campaign has been about big goals, health care, ending the Iraq war, new energy, the future,” he said. “There was a misunderstanding that this campaign was about small things. It never was. If anything, the Obama campaign has microtargeted constituencies.”
And then this:
He reserves a special disdain for a group he identifies as the “impressionable elites”: people who can afford to pick candidates based on fuzzy feelings rather than on the impact the candidates’ policies will have on their lives. At a recent discussion of the book at the Strand bookstore in Manhattan, during which Mr. Penn said, “The theory of the book is that the era of big trends is over,” one audience member asked if Mr. Obama was not a “macrotrend.” (Barack Obama’s chief strategist, David Axelrod, had made a similar gibe earlier this year.)
Over the weekend, I saw the Book TV episode of Mark Penn's talk at The Strand on Monday, February 11th, the day before the Potomac primary. (He admitted he'd scheduled the talk months before which betrayed the conclusion that the campaign wrongly assumed the nominating process would be over by February 5th).

In his discussion of the "Impressionable elites," one of the qualities he described was that they don't dig down into the facts, that they all read the same articles and listen to the same pundits and become susceptable to "group think." And as I was describing this, I recognized it as a Washington phenomemon. I used to joke that you could go to a party or dinner and recognize which article the person had read - in The New Yorker or Vanity Fair or The New York Review of Books or The Atlantic Monthly or The New Republic, etc - by the ideas or arguments they were articulated. I even mocked it in my novella.

But here's the thing - arguably, his own candidate was one of those "impressionable elites" and it was the very phenomenon he was describing that led her to make the error in judgement in her vote for authorizing war in Irag.
  • She did not dig into the facts - according to Bernstein she did not go read the NIE,
  • she read the same stories - by Judy Miller, and
  • she became wrapped up in the pervasive group think of Washington DC in the fall of 2002 - that Iraq was a threat to our national security.

Carter's Campaign Manager Offers Obama Advice

I found this Newsweek piece fascinating. Hamilton Jordon served as Carter's campaign manager in 1976 and spoke of that campaign's error of not focusing properly or early enough on the general election. And he lays out some pretty specific advice for Obama including what role Mayor Mike Bloomberg, former Senator Sam Nunn and Senater Chuck Hagel should play in an Obama presidency.

It's worth a read.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Clinton Campaign in Altered Reality

Apparently, this press avail was to allow super delegates guru Harold Ickes talk through the intracacies of how the Clinton campaign sees the railway tracks to bring home the station of the nomination.

But the anger of Phil Singer apparently derailed the effort. Dana Milbank of the Washington Post reports on the meeting and moments -
The brief moment explained everything about the bitter relations between Clinton's campaign and the media: Singer taunting the likes of Broder, who began covering presidential politics two decades before Singer was born, with a comedy sketch that showed debate moderators fawning over Obama.
And then this, which had me laughing aloud:
The Monitor's Dave Cook mused about the consequences of Clinton "battling after there's not much chance."

"For the love of God, we can't say there's not much chance here," Ickes maintained.

David Chalian of ABC News reminded Ickes that Obama's lead in delegates is now of the size Ickes had said would be "significant."

"As we all know in this city, I have a very short memory," Ickes answered.

Read it all here, including who exactly was in attendance (Dowd was there).

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Creator of Yes We Can Video Interviewed

John Harwood of the New York Times and CNBC spoke of an interview he did with and I just found it online. You've got to go to the link to view, sorry. No embed code was available.

Not here, but when he spoke of the interview, Harwood mentioned that was working on a second Obama video, to a Queen song, We Will, We Will Rock You. I was looking for that, which was supposed to be up yesterday, when I found this interview. I keep looking.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Obama's Poetry Evaluated in UK

It's sometimes interesting to check out the coverage abroad of our political campaign, and I came across this piece on Obama's poetry, calling it "actually surprisingly good."
OK, it is not exactly Walt Whitman, but it reveals a lyrical sensibility and a refreshing awareness of the power of words.
Yeah. And he's used that power in the service of politics, making politics and governing cool.

Obama Sings About McCain

If you want some amusement check out Obama's Gridiron dinner speech from 2006, which offers some good lines, and during which he sung about McCain:

As I said, it's great to be here speaking opposite Lynne Cheney. As you may know, Mrs. Cheney was a late substitution for Senator John McCain. And speaking of Senator McCain.

This whole ethics thing has been an adventure. I was really excited when they asked me to be the lead Democratic spokesman. But I don't know. Turns out, it's a little like being given the Kryptonite concession at a Superman convention. I mean, how did I know it was a freshman hazing? It gets a little depressing. So as I sometimes do when I get a little down, I wrote a song. Maestro?

(To the tune of “If I Only Had a Brain)
I'm aspiring to greatness, but somehow I feel weightless
A freshman's sad refrain
I could be a great uniter, making ethics rules much tighter
If I only had McCain
I could bring us all together, no storm we couldn't weather,
We'd feel each other's pain
Red and blue wouldn't matter, party differences would shatter
If I only had McCain
Oh why is it so hard, for honest men of good will to agree,
If we ever found a way to strike a deal, would we survive… politically?
When a wide-eyed young idealist, confronts a seasoned realist
There's bound to be some strain
With the game barely started, I'd be feeling less downhearted
If I only had McCain
Still I hope for the better, though I may rewrite my letter
Cause I gotta have McCain

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Best Primer on Super Delegates

If you want to read a good analysis of the numerous nuances of the super delegate debate, check out this piece: Your Conscience or Your Constituency by Ron Klain from the New Yorks Times (with a great link to Edmund Burke! - I'm not kidding).

He lays out well the permutations and shows that there are nearly as many ways for the super delegates to approach the judgment as there are delegates.

Hopefully, it'll all be moot. As Ben Smith over at Politico points out, few of the super delegates want such responsibility (or take time thinking of Burke). Or as I pointed out to a friend, hopefully it's not this. Yuck.

Friday, February 15, 2008

12 Slogans of Clinton's

With the unveiling of the latest Clinton slogan "We're in the solutions business," ABC's Political Punch assembles the list of Clinton slogans.

And it's a long list.

In a political season where days seems like years, to read them all at once reminds you not only of Clinton's mercurial messaging but of how long this campaign seems compared to reality.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

A Few Political Jokes

Politico's gossip column provided me with some laughs, political jokes from last night's Washington Press Club dinner at which MSNBC's Chris Matthews stepped in at the last minute for former White House Spokesperson Tony Snow, who reportedly had the flu.

Here are a my few favorites:

Sen. Mitch McConnell "recovered with this joke: 'We have a New York senator born in Illinois, and an Illinois senator who was apparently born in a manger.' That received a hearty 10-second laugh. Even McConnell quipped 'You liked that one, eh?'

Rep. Rahm Emmanuel, D-IL, who used to work in the Clinton White House and is now the chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee quipped "Of the Clinton Days: 'Back then, stimulus and package had a whole different meaning.'”

Emmanuel is the 4th highest ranking Democrat in the House. Lately, he gained infamy for advising Democratic Congresspeople not to appear on The Colbert Report for Colbert's segment, Better Know a District

T the dinner last night, in self deprecation, Emmanuel "went on a campaign for 'Rahm for Vice President' complete with a video montage which included Pelosi, Steny Hoyer, Ray LaHood and James Carville. It ended with: 'Rahm for vice president — Just a heartbeat away from having a heart.' A roar of laughter there followed."

Hope you enjoyed.

Earthquake?? Yeaaaah, Just Maybe This Means Clinton is Doomed

Time's The Page reports an earthquake: Rep. John Lewis who endorsed Hillary Clinton back in October 2007 HAS CHANGED HIS MIND! He is now officially - uncommitted.
“I’ve been very impressed with the campaign of Senator Obama,” Mr. Lewis said. “He’s getting better and better every single day.”

Though Mr. Lewis had praise for Mrs. Clinton and for her historic candidacy, he said he would decide within days whether to formally endorse Mr. Obama.
Not only is Rep. John Lewis a super delegate, he is a prominent, if not the most prominent, civil rights leader in Congress.

Mark Halperin's (the author of The Page) take on the ramifications of Lewis' defection is blunt:
Take whatever you thought Clinton’s chances of winning the nomination before Lewis’ decision and divide that number by as much as two — those are the odds of her winning now.
At the time Lewis endorsed Clinton:
Bill Burton, Obama spokesman says, "Barack Obama has great admiration for John Lewis and understands his long relationship with Bill Clinton. He looks forward to his support when Barack Obama is the nominee."
Obama features a speech he gave at Rep. Lewis' 65th birthday party back in 2005. Just two days ago, the New York Times, in a piece about how, Seeking Unity, Obama Feels Pull of Racial Divide, provided an overview of how Obama navigated that divide and at times built bridges (with the likes of Princeton scholar Cornel West, with a tale of a 2 hour phone call I'd already read of)

By the fall, however, while Mr. Obama’s campaign was still trailing Mrs. Clinton among white voters in Iowa, the loss of the endorsement by Mr. Lewis, the Georgia representative, made clear that he faced troubles among black voters as well.

“He told John that that he felt like a father was stabbing him in the back,” an aide to Mr. Obama said. “Barack sees himself as an extension of the civil rights movement, and so it hurt him deeply when a leader of that movement told him he wasn’t ready.”

I had gotten wind in rumors on the net of Lewis' wavering, but honestly I did not believe it.

In related bad news for Hillary Clinton and defecting super delegates, see this Associated Press piece.

Confirmation: Hillary Will Fight to Death

The Wall Street Journal on the front page featured a piece about the inner turmoil in the Clinton campaign:

But the campaign has something of a shellshocked feel, as staffers privately chew over a blowup last week where internal frictions flared into the open. Clinton campaign operatives say it happened as top Clinton advisers gathered in Arlington, Va., campaign headquarters to preview a TV commercial. "Your ad doesn't work," strategist Mark Penn yelled at ad-maker Mandy Grunwald. "The execution is all wrong," he said, according to the operatives.

"Oh, it's always the ad, never the message," Ms. Grunwald fired back, say the operatives. The clash got so heated that political director Guy Cecil left the room, saying, "I'm out of here."

Meanwhile, the Boston Globe and the New York Times report that Hillary will fight to the death.

The Globe:
Clinton will not concede the race to Obama if he wins a greater number of pledged delegates by the end of the primary season, and will count on the 796 elected officials and party bigwigs to put her over the top, if necessary, said Clinton's communications director, Howard Wolfson.
The New York Times:
With every delegate precious, Mrs. Clinton’s advisers also made it clear that they were prepared to take a number of potentially incendiary steps to build up Mrs. Clinton’s count. Top among these, her aides said, is pressing for Democrats to seat the disputed delegations from Florida and Michigan, who held their primaries in January in defiance of Democratic Party rules.
As I wrote yesterday, this fight to the death may be the result of her generation, her experiences a young person, the turmoil of the 60s, etc.

May God save the Democratic Party - or the Ohio or Texas voters.

A Valentine Gift

Here's a gift to you on Valentine's Day (with thanks and acknowledgment to Cecilia, who first shared this amazing video with me)

To see more sand paintings by artist Ilana Yahav, check out her web site.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Why Krugman Hates Obama

This piece postulates an explanation, and it's intriguing. I like even that someone tried to answer the question, which is one I've wondered about.

Why Is Paul Krugman So Hostile To Barack Obama? was posted on February 11th and written by Cass Sunstein. What is not noted (and that I did here) is that
Cass Sunstein is an advisor as well as a colleague who also teaches law at the University of Chicago Law School.

Tucker Interviews Reporter on Clinton Campaign Implosion

Tonight, Tucker Carlson on MSNBC interviews Josh Green whose piece on the Clinton campaign I wrote about earlier today. It's not in depth - only about 4 minutes, but you can watch here.

Interestingly, he highlighted the Bush analogy too and then the second most appalling report:

She was infamous among her colleagues for referring to herself as “the queen bee” and for her habit of watching daytime soap operas in her office. One frequent complaint among donors and outside advisers was that Solis Doyle often did not return calls or demonstrate the attention required in her position.
Gosh, that IS frighteningly familiar - again, just like my old boss. If this is the type of person Hillary thinks should run her campaign (and our country), I will move if she wins!

Hillary Will "Fight to the Death" Because She's a Boomer

A 25 year old Newsweek reporter has a piece in the current print edition, which I read at a doctor's office this afternoon. The title: He's One of Us Now (subtitle: Obama embodies my generation's attitudes and aspirations, for better and for worse.). He describes the term "millennials" for those like him who were born in the 1980 and compares them to the boomer generation.

Well, he forgot about the generation in between - called alternatively generation x or 13th generation (because we're the 13th generation since 1776). Yeah, I'm part of that generation and ever since William Strauss and Niel Howe published their book Generations in 1991, I've been waiting for the one in my generation that would fix the disarray that baby boomers have made. Obama is it. I've been waiting for this time since 1991 (when a G.I. generationer was still in the White House).

And it's a generational divide that makes me have a visceral reaction to the Clintons - the lying, the self indulgence, the self-victimization. "As the moralistic, uncompromising crusaders of an awakening, the Prophet-Boomers are most likely to provoke a new crisis when they grow to control the nation's institutions." Yep, and we're in the midst of it and that boomer can not fix it. Clinton, probably because of her generation, can't even see the problem accurately.

Let me make clear: obviously these qualities are generalizations. I know many a selfless boomer and many 13ers who are not in the least pragmatic. Still, this background provides helpful understanding and context for why younger people are so adamantly rejecting Hillary Clinton.

So, according to Strauss and Howe -
  • Boomers are "values-obsessed," read unwilling to compromise.
  • 13ers are "pragmatic,"
  • and millennials are the "new coming-of-age generation of powerful, proactive" people.
They are pushing Obama over the top.

Also related, cack in October 2006, Tim Russert asked Obama about this passage from his book,
MR. RUSSERT: You do write this, and it’s a very interesting observation, “When you watch Clinton vs. Gingrich or Gore vs. Bush or Kerry vs. Bush”—so that’s ‘98, 2000, 2004--“you feel like these are fights that were taking place back in dorm rooms in the sixties. Vietnam, civil rights, the sexual revolution, the role of government - all that stuff has just been playing itself out, and I think people sort of feel like, Okay, let’s not re-litigate the sixties 40 years later.”
Obama answered,
I think, I think the categories we’ve been using were forged in the ‘60s. You know, I think the arguments about big government vs. small government, the arguments about, you know, the sexual revolution, military vs. nonmilitary solutions to problems. I think, in each and every instance, a lot of what we think about is shaped by the ‘60s, and partly, you know, the baby boomers is—are a big demographic. I write about the fact that, whether it’s the market for Viagra or how many cup holders are going to be in, in a car, a lot of it’s determined by what the baby boomers want. Our politics isn’t that different, and my suggestion is that—take the example of big government vs. small government. My instinct is is that the current generation is more interested in smart government. Let’s have enough government to get the job done. If, if we’re looking at problems, if the market solution works, let’s go with the market solution. If a solution requires government intervention, let’s do that. But let’s look at what are the practical outcomes. And I think that kind of politics is what the country’s hungry for right now.
See full transcript here.

For more on the generational evolution as described - to me very accurately - the Wikapedia entry is pretty good. Read here.
  • Generation X (and the Lost Generation - think Hemingway) - are Nomads - and "become the pragmatic, midlife leaders of a Crisis." That would be Obama.
  • Millennials, the generation of the Newsweek author and all those young people coming out and voting for Obama, are "conventional, powerful, and institutionally driven, with a profound trust in authority."
  • Boomers, a Prophet generation, are "values-driven, moralistic, focused on self, and willing to fight to the death for what they believe in."
Bottom line: Don't look for Hillary to give up before the convention in Denver. She is willing to fight to the death, even the death of the Democratic Party.

It's why I've not breathed a sigh of relief yet.

Inside Clinton's Campaign Shake Up

In the weeks after Obama's New Hamsphire loss, I read an article on line about Clinton's campaign manager. I remembered two facts - that she often got caught up in the weeds, deciding things like whether bagels should be served at an event or not. But more damaging, this:
No one denies that Solis Doyle's authority stems less from her expertise or political savvy (though defenders insist she has an abundance of both) than from her bond with Hillary. The result, say critics, is a toxic blend of insecurity (about her abilities) and arrogance (about her proximity to the boss). As they tell it, an overwhelmed Solis Doyle has become increasingly temperamental--playing favorites and abusing her relationship with Hillary to control information flow and enhance her own power.
Lord! That sounded exactly like my first boss - on Capital Hill, the wife of a congressman, who I eventually determined was crazy.

And in the days since Doyle was fired, I'd tried to no avail to remember where I'd read that. Well, with the help of a similarly fascinating piece about Clinton's campaign difficulties, I found Putsch in Hillaryland: Inside the silent shake up. It was in The New Republic and appeared on January 24th.

Inside the Clinton Shake Up - the public edition - is even better and written by Joshua Green over at The Atlantic Monthly. The author also wrote the GQ piece that was to appear last December but didn't because the Clinton campaign strong-armed the publishers with threats. So he's been following the inner machinations of the Clinton campaign for some time and he provides interesting context - including fascinating quotes about how Bill would affect her campaign. And according to Green, The New Republic piece was widely read inside her campaign "because it’s so accurate." and a "the best blow by blow."

Here's my highlight:
Rather than punish Solis Doyle or raise questions about her fitness to lead, Clinton chose her to manage the presidential campaign for reasons that should now be obvious: above all, Clinton prizes loyalty and discipline, and Solis Doyle demonstrated both traits, if little else. This suggests to me that for all the emphasis Clinton has placed on executive leadership in this campaign, her own approach is a lot closer to the current president’s than her supporters might like to admit.
Back in September 2007 I highlighted the similarities between Hillary Clinton and George W. Bush, which echoes the above.

Both are worth a read, provide unique insights and are not long.

On Why So Many In DC Dislike the Clintons

Ron Fournier pretty well sums it up in On Deadline - Chickens Come Home to Roost. (Well, I could probably come up with more).

He notes that many of the super delegates are super fans of the Clintons.

Their loyalty to the first couple is built on shaky ground.

"If (Barack) Obama continues to win .... the whole raison d'etre for her campaign falls apart and we'll see people running from her campaign like rats on a ship," said Democratic strategist Jim Duffy, who is not aligned with either campaign.

And then he goes through all the different reasons exactly why DC Democrats are jumping at joy at the prospect of a restoration.

Put succinctly - a friend who came and watched the Super Tuesday results with me - said simply, "I don't want the circus back in town. "

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Are You a Secret Hater?

This interesting Newsweek piece highlights a test developed at Harvard that supposedly can tell if you're a secret racist or a misogynist.

You can try the test for yourself here.

Apparently I respect (in this order) - African Americans, Women, Christian Evangelical and Military White Men.

The test took about 10 minutes to complete, the results diverting, but it took me a bit to understand the instructions, though that may have been more my brain fog's doing today than any lack of clarity in the instructions.

A Look at Wisconsin

Not to count chickens before...and all - I'm still nervous about all of this.

But I was curious how things looked in Wisconsin where the Clinton campaign feels she's competitive. And I found this analysis just posted at Bloomberg News.

A few points -
1. Obama has had offices for sometime in Madison and Milwaukee, unlike Clinton
2. NAFTA is an issue in Wisconsin
3. Edwards backers seem to be drifting to Obama
4. Governor Jim Doyle endorsed Obama

It's not all rosy. But Obama's team (according to that email attachment to a Bloomberg reporter on Super Tuesday) estimates a win by 7 percentage points.

Okay, I feel a bit better. Just a bit.

UPDATE: Literally 15 minutes after I posted this, Talking Points Memo posted survey results for Wisconsin. Looks okay for Obama.

In Honor of the Potomac Primary

I'm still recovering from yesterday but in honor of primary here in the area, I just had to post this:

As a sign yesterday said, "Barack the Vote"

Monday, February 11, 2008

Obama in College Park, MD

I will write more tomorrow, after I recover, but here's the Washington Post report on the rally at the University of Maryland in College Park that I attended today.

Very Clever, Very Amusing Satire

Okay, here's a great twist on the Yes We Can video recapitulated as a political ad for Senator McCain. It's VERY funny.

16 Underappreciated Obama Advantages

Mark Halperin over at Time magazine (he does the daily must-read The Page blog and also comments on CNN) has put together a list of Obama's 16 under-appreciated advantages.

Some of them are clear digs at Clinton (appreciated for Obama because they are lacking with Clinton). Such as (also see no. 8) -
7. No single, dominant strategic thinker who sets the campaign agenda, inspires eye-rolling and resentment among colleagues, and whose decisions are second-guessed.
Uhmmm - Mark Penn?

I saw this 'underappreciate advantage" in evidence today at the University of Maryland -
9. A candidate with an uncanny natural sense — rare in someone so new to national politics — of timing, pacing, rhythm, and tone.
And my favorite (mostly because it echoes and twists a Clintonian phrase
2. A strategic vision of how to win that hasn’t changed since day one – almost exactly a year ago.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Frida Kahlo and Fibromyalgia

A good friend sent me this image and notes last night, and I have to say I now view Frida Kahlo's work in a new light. I've seen the painting. I've seen Selma Hayek's movie Frida. This portrait well portrays the anguish and pain.

Here's what my friend sent me:

The great Mexican painter Frida Kahlo suffered chronic widespread pain and exhaustion after a terrible accident. Our research suggests that FM was the cause of Frida's chronic illness.

Many of Frida's portraits, for example in Kahlo Columna Rota (The Broken Column) communicate pain and anguish with the emotional overtones that FM patients frequently use to describe their illness. In her diary, Frida draws herself in pain and eleven arrows point to specific anatomical sites. Many years later, the majority of these sites were found to be the typical fibromyalgia tender points.

In my own research, and as I remember from the film, Frida Kahlo was in a car accident in late adult hood. Car accidents are a documented cause for the onset of FM.

Analysis on Hillary's 5 Weaknesses

Interesting analysis from Jim VandeHei and Mike Allen at Politico. They point out 5 Reasons Hillary Should Be Worried.

They are:
  1. She lost the delegate derby
  2. She essentially tied Obama in the popular vote
  3. She lost more states
  4. She lost the January cash war (and the cash war since, see this below, plus Obama is up to 7 million (Hillary is at 4M) but Obama's amount does not include fundraising that MoveOn is doing for Obama, which should be released later today.)
  5. The calendar is her enemy

To see why these facts could cause her concern check out the piece. It's not too long, but informative.

Hillary in Synch with Giuliani on which Book is Essential

The Evening News With Katie Couric did an interesting thing. They asked each of the candidates "If you were elected president, what is the one book other than the bible you would think is essential to have along?"

Here's a summary of what they said. Note not only did Giuliani throw in the bible anyway and otherwise not follow instructions by naming several, his answer is the same as Clinton's.

And consider her answer. If the constitution is so important to understand, maybe a 10 year constitutional law professor would be the best candidate. See this post (reason number 10).

I think both Clinton's and Giuliani's answers are cop outs.

John McCain - Adam Smith "Wealth of Nations"
Barack Obama - Doris Kearns Goodwin's "Team of Rivals"
Mitt Romney - David McCullough's "John Adams"
Mike Huckabee - Francis Schafer's "Whatever Happened to the Human Race"
John Edwards - I.F. Stones's "The Trial of Socrates"
Hillary Clinton - US Constitution, "Federalist Papers"
Rudy Giuliani - Bible, "Federalist Papers," US Constitution and Declaration of Independence

You can watch here:

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

What Hillary Didn't Learn From Her Health Care Debacle

In case you missed this column in all the Super Tuesday hoopla, don't miss this column of David Brooks.

I remember Rep. Jim Cooper from my days in the 89-91 working on the Hill. He is a smart, nice man.

I'd forgotten about this, but as soon as I started to read it all came flooding back.

I had heard of it and read of it at the time. And these kind of tactics and approach are exactly how she alienated Sens. Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Bill Bradley. Moynihan pointedly reminded Hillary Clinton that she couldn’t INTRODUCE legislation, because she was acting as if she didn’t need them.

It’s exactly that kind of behavior that makes me a. loath her and b. believe she can’t bring about the change she’s promising. It doesn’t seem to me that she’s learned the right lessons from her mistakes then. She has asserted that it was a communication problem - that they were too secretive (which they were) rather that a problem with her framework and how she approached the issue. Basically, Hillary co-opted the job of Congress, doing their work for them and the reform was so complicate they couldn't explain it in words to rally up public support.

Not that words matter!

Sum up on Money, Delegates, States and Popular Vote

MONEY = Okay – beside the amounts Obama is raising – and it’s just astonishing that after raising 3x as much money as Hillary the Clintons in January – that since Obama has raised 4,253,799 – in less than 24 hours (the polls closed at 12:30 am in Alaska)! Note that in the graphic below the Obama campaign is lumping Bill in with Hillary. And much of Hillary’s staff is working without pay, including her campaign manager.

DELEGATES = Obama won the delegates (by four – and really they’re still figuring it out, but the parts of the country that are up in the air are in states where Obama won). To find out more about the very varying reports from various news sources on the delegate count, you can check out this (as of 6 pm tonight).

STATES = number of states 13-9 (New Mexico is still being counted, difference in the 100s).

POPULAR VOTE = popular vote was – I’m not kidding a difference of about 50,000. Approximately15,000,000 people voted. Clinton = 7,347,971 Obama = 7,294,851 (that would be less that 4/10TH of 1%). That’s as unbelievable as Obama raising over 4 million online in less than a day.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Democratic Delegate Allocation Tutorial

Thank you David Schuster of Countdown with Kieth Olbermann

About That Isreali Attack Last Fall on Syria

There IS some other news this week besides the primary today. And this one is worthwhile.

The New Yorker investigative reporter Seymour Hersh writes "A Strike in the Dark" about the September 2007 air strike by Israel on a Syrian "nuclear" facility. The U.S.'s involvement is clear but no government is talking - not Isreal, not Syria and not the US. Hersch, using his Pentagon sources tries to get to the bottom of it. He also puts it all in the context of the heated up tension last fall with Iran.
The N.I.E. was published in November, after a yearlong standoff involving Cheney’s office, which resisted the report’s findings. At the time of the raid (on Syria), reports about the forthcoming N.I.E. and its general conclusion had already appeared.
Hersh illuminates more in this NPR's Talk of the Nation interview yesterday.

About Obama's Speech Writer

And if you want to know a bit about Jon Favreau, age 26, and how he worked on that speech, drinking Coke at the Radisson Hotel in Nashua, New Hampshire, click to read a New York Times Style section piece from January 20th called, What Would Obama Say?

Apparently, being Obama's speech writer is not a great pick line 'cause girls don't believe him.
The campaign staff has started teasing Mr. Favreau about his newfound celebrity. Not that it’s any great pickup line. Mr. Favreau, who said he doesn’t have a girlfriend, observed somewhat dryly that “the rigors of this campaign have prevented any sort of serious relationship.”

“There’s been a few times when people have said, ‘I don’t believe you, that you’re Barack Obama’s speechwriter,’ ” he went on. “To which I reply, ‘If I really wanted to hit on you, don’t you think I’d make up something more outlandish?’ ”

And back on January 6th, Newsweek's Richard Wolfe recounted how Favreau got the job.
Favreau met with Obama and Gibbs in the Senate cafeteria in the Dirksen office building on Capitol Hill on the senator's first day in his new job. Obama didn't want to know about Favreau's résumé, but he did want to know about his motivation.

"What got you into politics, what got you interested?" he asked.

Favreau told him about the social service project he started in Worcester, defending the legal rights of welfare recipients as the state tried to move people off the rolls and into work.

"What is your theory of speechwriting?" Obama asked.

"I have no theory," admitted Favreau. "But when I saw you at the convention, you basically told a story about your life from beginning to end, and it was a story that fit with the larger American narrative. People applauded not because you wrote an applause line but because you touched something in the party and the country that people had not touched before. Democrats haven't had that in a long time."

The pitch worked. Favreau and Obama rapidly found a relatively direct way to work with each other. "What I do is to sit with him for half an hour," Favreau explains. "He talks and I type everything he says. I reshape it, I write. He writes, he reshapes it. That's how we get a finished product.

The Speech That Inspired the Video

When I heard that speech, deep in disappointment, I still felt hopeful. And I thought what a speech for a loser to make. If you want to hear again the speech that Obama gave after narrowly losing New Hampshire that inspired the awesome Yes We Can song, here it is. (The material pulled for the song is about 10 minutes in).

Interview with Makers of Yes We Can Song

Here's an interview with and Jesse Dylan about the music and video they put together called Yes We Can. (the interview includes a showing of the video).

Monday, February 04, 2008

Vanity Fair Profiles Obama in March Issue

But you can read it online here.

More Outrageous Outstanding Obama Numbers

The Washington Post reports in it's campaign blog on Obama's the number of attendees at his rallys in the last week:

20,000 in Wilmington
18,000 in Denver
20,000 in St. Louis
13,000 in Boise

These numbers are unbelievable and unheard of in politics! And 6,000 showed up at an Obama rally, and he wasn't even there.

I moved to DC because I love politics, and it is as if everyone else has finally started to drink my elixir and are getting excited about governing, civics, voting. God bless Obama!

I stood in line for over 2 hours last Monday, with a ticket to the rally at American University (which I signed up for before word of the Kennedys' endorsements). I did not get in. The line was immense and word on the line was that the arena, which was the same place I graduated from law school, held 5,500. The fire marshals wouldn't even let Chris Matthews in. There had to have been 10,000 on line there last Monday, with only about half getting in.

One woman, walking toward the end of the line while we were - finally - moving forward, saw that it turned a corner and kept going, muttered, "Holy sh*t!!" I advised her that was only the first of many times she'd think that. Everyone around laughed because we'd all had gone through that same thought process (about 90 minutes earlier).

With this news, along with the shocking fund raising of 32 million dollars in January, and the closing of the polls - wow - maybe it can happen.

More on Obama's Inner Circle

The Chicago Tribune ran an interesting piece over a year ago - January 14th, 2007, entitled Inside Obama's inner circle: Ahead of a likely presidential campaign, senator relies on core of trusted advisers.

One intriguing quote - on that moment Axelrod, now Obama's campaign manager, realized Obama a different kind of candidate:
Gibbs and Axelrod were standing together on the floor of the Democratic National Convention in Boston in 2004 for the speech that would propel Obama onto the national stage.

The two had emerged from backstage to stand amid the crowd for the speech they’d heard Obama, then the Democratic nominee for the Senate, practice several times. As enthusiasm engulfed the convention delegates, both men say, they knew they were working for something more than the average Senate campaign. People around them were crying.

"Are you seeing what I'm seeing?" Gibbs recalls saying to Axelrod.

Neither man is prone to swooning over candidates.

It's an in depth piece from his home town paper and worth a read.

Public Radio Star Endorses Obama

Garrison Keillor, host of public radio's "A Prairie Home Companion," and "The Writer's Almanac," endorses Obama.
"I'm happy to support your candidacy, which is so full of promise for our country," the best-selling author and humorist wrote in a letter declaring his support. "Seven years of a failed presidency is a depressing thing, and the country is pressing for a change and looking for someone with clear vision who is determined to break through the rhetorical logjam and find sensible ways to move our country forward. That's you, friend."

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Round Up of Obama's Endorsements From Women

Elizabeth Moynihan, the widow of Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whose Senate seat Hillary now occupies. Neither of them ever liked Hillary, despite Moynihan's public support (Hillary announced her run for his seat on his farm). That support took some behind the scenes doing between Clinton advisor Mandy Grunwald and Moynihan's daughter, Maura, who were Harvard College roommates, according to New York Times Magazine reporter, Edward Klein.

Alma Rangel, wife of Congressman Charles Rangel. He's the one who suggested Hillary run for the Senate after she campaigned for Senator Charles Schumer in

Ethel Skakel Kennedy, the widow of Robert Kennedy, writes of why she parted ways with three of her offspring (who have endorsed Hillary) in a Huffington Post blog here.

Maria Shriver, wife of Arnold, niece of JFK & RFK, spontaneously decided to make her support public at the Obama rally today in California (yeah, the one with Oprah and Caroline Kennedy and Stevie Wonder). Probably the most exciting moment ever on CSPAN (and I watch a lot of CSPAN).

Unique Obama Political Ad & Music Video

I first saw this political ad for Obama this morning while watching the morning news programs (with a tag for the DC, VA & MD primaries on February 12th - a.k.a the Chesapeake Primary). And I gather tonight it ran during the Superbowl. I had tears in my eyes by the end. It's only 30 seconds.

Joe Scarbourgh broadcast this ad on Morning Joe and remarked with chagrin and astonishment, "Well, that beats I'll cut your taxes." You BET it does!

And then I found out this music video which was released last Friday. More info on artists can be found here. Obama speaks poetry, so I guess it was only a matter of time before someone puts his cadences to music. (In the music video credits Obama is called the CEO of Inspiration).

Its unique, its outstanding, its cool. It's worth every second.

ABC News did a report on it, you can read here. (songwriter, founding member and front man for the Black Eyed Peas) produced the music and video, inspired by Obama’s speech after his loss in NH. Director and filmmaker Jesse Dylan, son of another socially active musician, Bob Dylan, did the video.

It's going viral. Send it to every one you know. Yes you can. Yes we can.

What do you think of these? Have you ever seen anything like this in politics? Please comment!

Sitting Behind Paul Wolfowitz

Last night a friend invited me to a classical concert that was part of the Embassy Series. Schubert filled the program in honor of his birthday (which was on January 31st 1797). I was on the fence about going, as I'd been unwell, but with a guarantee we could bail at intermission if I was in too much pain, I ventured out to the Austrian Embassy, with thoughts of Salzberg and The Sound of Music.

Wow! The first part of the program were Lieders (German meaning song). A baritone and a pianist. The singer I confess resembled Daffney's boyfriend in that great Billy Wilder film, Some Like It Hot. (That would be Joe E. Brown on the left and Jack Lemmon in drag on the right).

The Austrian Embassy sits on International Court, which is a collection of Embassies, newly built not far from where I used to live in Cleveland Park. The area included embassies for the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Egypt, Israel, Ethiopia and the Austria. Modern and sleek and not very inviting, the large atrium inside was simple but elegant. The ceiling's height afforded space for 5 panels of paintings, related yet distinct. A ribbon of the Austrian flag, red and white, waved and wrinkled and created a sense of wind in bright blue skies and then snowy skies. White foregrounds evoked snow which clearly capped a single Alp on a left side panel, while subtly, over two paintings on the right, appeared a music staff with a treble clef.

As I took in the setting and music and the crowd, the memory of a dream I had had as a girl came to me - an imagined evening such as this, or pretty close to this.

According to the notes, Schubert composed over 600 songs in his 31 years of life. We heard about 10 sung. The program helpfully provided the German lyrics along with the English translations. And the words reminded me of the height of the Romantic movement. (Technically, Schubert bridges the classical period and the romantic period. I thanked my high school, my mother for choosing that high school, for my music history class).

I recognized the melody of Standchen/Serenade and the program noted that this is the best-known serenade in music. But I never knew the words, from a poem by Ludwig Rellstab:

My songs beckon softly
through the night to you;
below in the quiet grove,
Come to me, beloved!

The rustle of slender leaf tips whispers
in the moonlight;
Do not fear the evil spying
of the betrayer, my dear.

Do you hear the nightingales call?
Ah, they beckon to you,
With the sweet sound of their singing
they beckon to you for me.

They understand the heart's longing,
know the pain of love,
They calm each tender heart
with their silver tones.

Let them also stir within your breast,
beloved, hear me!
Trembling I wait for you,
Come, please me!

Reith, a librarian from Georgetown University, quotes Schubert critic and biographer John Reed: "The way the lover's passion swells up at the end of a phrase which echoes teh concluding bars of the strophe, and then declines to a whisper of desire, is as purely sensuous a moment as can be found in all Schubert." Yeah, I liked it.

Another tune I recognized was The Trout, which is actually the 4th movement of a quintet. As the presentation was part of the encore, we were told that the story was of a happy trout, swimming safely and that the waters were deliberately muddied and that in the stir up, the fish was caught. And with that narrative in mind, we listened. Very effective.

The music was very moving, but for me the notes really enriched the evening. Other lyrics that captured my attention, including this: "The only things that change are will and delusion," as I've been discussing with some one I respect whether or not people change.

A rarely performed Octet (in F Major, D803) comprised the second part of the performance and lasted about an hour. In six movements, the strains and phrases lifted and lulled. The time flew as the sounds moved.

I knew the etiquette of refraining from applause between movements, but was unsure of the appropriate response betweens songs. Sometimes the response seemed more informed by the notes than by the musical performance.

I sat right behind Paul Wolfowitz, his head broad and his ears jutted. As I sat there I thought of numerous movies set in the 1940s. Scenes of ladies in forced civility as they socialized with Nazis at concerts of Wagner or other German composers. Nazis, who felt that doing so made them estimable and cultured and refined, while they carried out their crimes. I felt such antipathy toward him, and at times, during break in the music, sometimes even during, his presence distracted me or perhaps my hatred of what he had done distracted me.

During the intermission and after, a group of us speculated if his date was THE girlfriend or not. I noted if it wasn't, he got, as Obama would say, a poor return for investment. But another noted, what relationship could withstand that pressure? The consensus was that his date was not the woman whose appointment he'd made during his tenure at the World Bank partly cost him job (as it was deemed inappropriate).

Gruppe aus der Tartarus/Group from Tararus engaged me. The melancholy melody and the lyrics speaking of pain reverberated with my illness and the despair that sometimes haunts me:

Hark - like the murmuring of the angry sea, like a brook weeping through hallow, rocky gullies,
you can hear over there, deeply muffled, a heavy, toneless groan, extracted with torment!
Pain contorts their faces, despair opens their jaw with curses.
Hallow are their eyes: their gaze rests anxiously on Cocytus' bridge
and they follow Cocytus' sad course with tears.
They ask one another softly with fear whether the end has not yet come!
Eternity whirls above them in circles, breaking Saturn's scythe in two.

I was startled at the conclusion when someone initiated applause. Wolfowitz started it. I read the lyrics in a new light. The notes added, "This is a gloomy hell-like piece of music, reminding one of Michelangelo's 'Last Judgment.' Souls writhing in hell, despairing of ever leaving their terrible fate, is the final answer: eternity!" Later, I looked up Cocytus - it's a Greek word meaning "the river of wailing" and is a river in the mythic underworld. And Saturn's scythe is said to help liberate those suffering in lifeless relationships, which is to say, in hell you're stuck in lifeless relationships.

I found myself contemplating the soul of the man in front of me, the possibility of guilt or remorse. And I thought again of The Sound of Music and of how the family escaped at the end during a Salzberg concert while the Nazi's listened, engaged in the melodies.

10 Reasons Why I Am For Obama (now 11)

A girlfriend picked me up at the airport, who is a Hillary supporter, and asked me to state 5 reasons why I'm for Obama.

HERE ARE 10! Nope 11!

1. Obama is post-identity politics. You will never hear him say, and he has never said - vote for me because I'm a black man. He doesn't say he represents change because he is black. Or even because he's young. When he says race and gender should not be an issue in this campaign, he doesn't contradict that view with assertions that his immutable qualities represent change. (As Hillary did in the New Hampshire debate. She said, "But I think I am an agent of change. I embody change. I think having the first woman president is a huge change -- (applause) -- with consequences across our country and the world." She reiterated this sentiment in the California debate.)

2. Lawrence Tribe, whom I greatly respect, said Obama was one of the two smartest students he ever taught at Harvard Law School.
Lawrence Tribe - who would argue Al Gore's case against George W. Bush before the Supreme Court during the disputed election of 2000 - chose him as his research assistant and later called Obama "one of the two most talented students I've had in thirty-seven years in teaching."
p. 77-79 Hopes and Dreams: The Story of Barack Obama by Steve Dougherty
3. Obama's appeal among Independents and even Republicans means that he has a better shot at getter a working majority (veto-proof and filibuster-proof) in Congress. He does this in a several ways: a. with McCain as the nominee, many in the Republican base will stay home (listen to Limbaugh) - only Hillary as the nominee could motivate the base to the polls. b. Obama appeals to moderates and independents. See polls and endorsements, especially these from purple states - This assessment is born out by the endorsements of many Senators from purple or red states such as Sen. McCaskill (Missouri) and Gov. Kathleen Sebelius (Kansas).

This article from Congressional Quarterly provides a succinct overview of what's at stake in the House and Senate races. In the Senate there are 35 races (usually there's 33, but a few retirements have upped the number). 23 are Republican. 12 are Democrats. All 12 are incumbents. All of the five open races (with no incumbent) are the result of Republicans who have decided not to run for re-election.

The 2006 mid-term election has been a hard lesson in what it means if we don't have the votes in Congress (particularly in the Senate). Obama both brings Independents and Republicans to our side (and down Obama's coattails) and at the same time his candidacy will not rouse the Republican base to unite behind McCain (depressing McCain's coattails). In other words, Hillary will improve McCain's ability to increase voting for Republicans lower down on the ticket because she will motivate the base to get to the polls. Obama not only will not have this effect, he will increase the down draft of the ticket, raising all Democrats at all levels of election up.

This is a unique chance for transformation, not just of the White House but of the Congress as well. And, as is often said, much is at stake. All the determination in the world won't matter if you don't have the votes. Period.

4. Obama's rhetorical skills are immense and not incidental. He understands the need, in a democracy, to use the bully pulpit to move people. He believes words are important. My jaw dropped during the New Hampshire debate on January 5th 2008 as I realized he and Hillary were arguing over the value of words! He argued:
And, you know, so the truth is actually words do inspire. Words do help people get involved. Words do help members of Congress get into power so that they can be part of a coalition to deliver health care reform, to deliver a bold energy policy. Don't discount that power, because when the American people are determined that something is going to happen, then it happens. And if they are disaffected and cynical and fearful and told that it can't be done, then it doesn't. I'm running for president because I want to tell them, yes, we can. And that's why I think they're responding in such large numbers.
He also wrote: "Of course, there are limits to the power of the bully pulpit. Sometimes only the law can fully vindicate our values, particularly when the rights and opportunities of the powerless in our society are at stake." p. 62 The Audacity of Hope.

5. Obama approaches the issues in a collective, productive manner - not us against them. He does not use the Rovean mode of politics of divide and conquer. George Lakoff has a terrific essay I highly recommend at The Huffington Post that frames the differences between Obama and Hillary Clinton. (And it's not policy). One example he highlights: "Hillary talks about "I," I," "I" (the crafter of the policy) and Obama talks about "you" and "we" (the people who demand it and who jointly carry it out)."

6. Obama would increase our soft power in the world, which is what the current Sec. of Defense urges we need more. I've written about how our current Secretary of Defense Gates believes soft power is important here. Andrew Sullivan wrote a cover piece for The Atlantic Monthly in December that I highlighted here, called "Goodbye to All That: Is Iraq Vietnam? Who really won in 2000? Which side are you on in the culture wars? These questions have divided the Baby Boomers and distorted our politics. One candidate could transcend them." I recommend Sullivan's piece. Here's an excerpt:
What does he offer? First and foremost: his face. Think of it as the most effective potential re-branding of the United States since Reagan. Such a re-branding is not trivial—it’s central to an effective war strategy. The war on Islamist terror, after all, is two-pronged: a function of both hard power and soft power. We have seen the potential of hard power in removing the Taliban and Saddam Hussein. We have also seen its inherent weaknesses in Iraq, and its profound limitations in winning a long war against radical Islam. The next president has to create a sophisticated and supple blend of soft and hard power to isolate the enemy, to fight where necessary, but also to create an ideological template that works to the West’s advantage over the long haul. There is simply no other candidate with the potential of Obama to do this. Which is where his face comes in.
7. Obama does not view facts and truth as relative. For me, this aspect is a generational difference. It encompasses statements from both our baby-boomer presidents ("It depends on what the meaning of is, is" and "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.") It's facile to dismiss one being a lie about sex and another a lie about a war. Regardless of the context, they both betray a casual relationship with objective fact. If one doesn't enable the other, it certainly makes indignation at untruths more difficult to defend.

David Brooks had a great piece that captured another aspect of that generational divide (about how and why Ted Kennedy would be able to speak to young peopletoday :
And he could do it because culture really does have rhythms. The respect for institutions that was prevalent during the early ’60s is prevalent with the young again today. The earnest industriousness that was common then is back today.
For me, Obama represent that return to order, industriousness, objective truth and respect - not just for institutions but government. Remember, it was Bill Clintonwho subscribed to the Reagan's government reduction plan when he uttered, "The era of big government is over." I hated that in 1992 - not just because it was a sell out, but because it subscribed to the idea that government is bad, not worthy of respect.

Why does that matter? Well, if you deride a thing or a person, then you get what you expect. The lack of respect of and value for government has borne out in the incompetent governing that afflicts us all. Including in the use of our taxes. Consider this - tax reduction has only enriched private companies doing work formerly done by employees of our government, including enlisted men. And this companies are not accountable to us, the tax payers. Exhibit A: Jeff Prince, CEO of Blackwater. And don't think that it's only private contractors in Iraq that has cost of us more. It's across the board in all government agencies that are supposed to protect us - whether from poisonous spinach or Chinese toys or collapsing bridges or close calls on runways or drug companies selling untested drugs. On so many fronts, government is so broken because we've bought into the notion that it's big and bad and ugly. Well, it's also necessary.

You get what you expect. And if civil servants don't do it, private companies will do it, for more money and for less accountability.

Obama is changing that view.

8. Obama inspires new people to civic involvement and voting. This is the result of his rhetorical skills but also is exactly what makes him a "game changer." His nomination could change the political landscape. There's even talk of running a Democratic Southern strategy for the first time in decades. Check out this analysis from liberal blog The Daily Kos entitled Super Tuesday: Clinton, Obama and the 50 state strategy. Obama's got field offices in every state going to the polls on Tuesday. That tells people in those states they matter.

9. His last name is not Clinton or Bush. I've voted 5 times in a presidential election and I have never voted in a presidential election when a Bush or Clinton wasn't on the ballot.

Nicholas Kristoff had a good column on this factor "The Dynastic Question" this past week.

And the Washington Post today offers an in depth look at Relative Power, the history of political families in Congress and at the state level. One historian is quoted as follows: "The founders were united in their attitude that political office should not be transmitted from one family or passed down through the generations."

10. Obama was a Constitutional Law professor. Given how the Constitution has been perverted over the last 7 years, the skill, knowledge and acuity of Obama, honed over 10 years on his feet in front of cadre of bright students at the University of Chicago Law School, affords him a necessary perception and understanding of what needs to be fixed and how to cut through opposition.

He understands strict construction, judicial activism, original intent, the 14th and 2nd amendment, all the amendments, all of the articles. He knows the phrases ("unreasonable searches," "checks and balances," "separation of powers" "war powers") deep in context - of the document itself and/or in the case law over two centuries. He knows the sides and arguments up and down and side to side.

That's the guy I want to fix the damage done to our Constitution and appoint jurists to the federal courts, including the Supreme.

11. Obama is able to speak in religious terms and is not afraid of the religious right. See this from Marc Ambinder's piece in the Atlantic Monthly called Teacher and Apprentice (a fascinating piece from the December 2007 issue about Clinton and Obama)

Many Obama friends and advisers believe that the realization he actually could be president first hit Obama on December 1, 2006, which happened to be World AIDS Day. Obama appeared at the megachurch in Orange County, California, run by Rick Warren, the best-selling author of The Purpose Driven Life and an emerging force in national politics. Sam Brownback, the Republican senator from Kansas, spoke first. “Welcome to my house,” he said to Obama, as the crowd laughed. When Obama rose to speak, he replied, “There is one thing I’ve got to say, Sam: This is my house, too. This is God’s house.” Before an audience of socially conservative evangelical Christians, Obama then called for “realism” and advocated the use of condoms to control the spread of AIDS. As the next day’s Orange County Register described it, Obama received a “hearty standing ovation.” Could any other Democrat, Obama wondered, talk to evangelicals about condoms in Africa?
And then this appeared in the Election Central area of the liberal blog, Talking Points Memo, a posting called Obama Cranks Up Appeal to Religious Voters. After quoting extensively from an email sent by Obama to folks who do religious outreach and charity, Greg Sargent notes
"This sort of stuff does give Obama another argument in the primary -- that as a general election candidate he could conceivably do a lot to counter the right-wing smear that the Dems are the "Godless" party."

As someone long disturbed by the coopting and belittling of religious language by the Republican party, I LOVE that Obama is taking the fight to them and raising the level of dialogue. He not only speaks their language; he's not afraid to take it to them and challenge them directly.

So what are your reasons for supporting Obama? (or not?)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Two Big Endorsements for Obama

Today, the LA Times and the Chicago Sun Times both have endorsed Obama.

The former is interesting because the LA Times got out of the business of endorsing Presidents back when the Chandler family still controlled the paper. (see David Haberstam's terrific book, The Powers That Be). On the 20th of January, the paper revealed that they would break their 35 year abstention when they endorsed Richard Nixon in 1972 and told the sordid story that caused their arrest. It concludes with this:
Clinton would be a valuable and competent executive, but Obama matches her in substance and adds something that the nation has been missing far too long -- a sense of aspiration.

The latter is interesting because its one of Obama's home papers and the one that has been riding him the most on his Resko connections. Yet they highlight Obama's judgement in the 1980s when he was quoted in their paper calling on then Mayor Harold Washington about asbestos in public housing, commends his ability to speak to religious people without alienating secularists, and what an Obama presidency could mean to the world.

Hillary got the Denver Post today which matters only because Denver is hosting the Democratic convention.

Who is in Obama's Entourage?

My aunt asked me if I knew who and what Obama would bring with him, if elected. She made the valid point that everyone knows Hillary's advisers - but who exactly is advising Obama?

UPDATE: I found an instructive and informative Chicago Tribune piece highlighted here.

Well, I'm reading his second book - The Audacity of Hope. And with her question in mind, I turned to the acknowledgments. And it's a pretty impressive list - I recognized three right off the bat.

Here's the run down -

Cassandra Butts - met Obama at Harvard Law in the financial aid office. She was a senior advisor to Dick Gephardt where she worked on the 1998 Impeachment as well as the response to the 9/11 attacks while he was Minority Leader. She also formulated Gephardt's universal health care plan for his presidential campaign. She is now a SVP for domestic policy at the liberal think tank group, The Center for American Progress.

Forrest Claypool - is a Cook County Commissioner for the 12th District. In the late 1980s he was Chicago Mayor Daley's chief of staff (Michelle Obama also worked for Daley).

Julius Genachowski - Current CBO of a company, IAC/InterActiveCorp, which owns a bunch of interactive web site including,, (Barry Diller is CEO). He serves on the board of a group called "Common Sense Media." Was a former staffer for FCC Commissioner Reed Hundt, a law clerk to both David Souter and William Brennan, an executive with USA Networks. Worked for Charles Schumer (when in the House) on investigating Iran-Contra. Met Obama while on the staff of the Harvard Law Review (Obama was president).

General Scott Gration - This general voted for Bush in 2000 and is now a friend and active support of Obama's. Is the son of missionaries and raised in the Congo, he is fluent in Swahili. He is 32 year veteran of the Air Force and served in many of the hot spots in the Middle East. I highly recommend this Newsweek piece from August 2007.
Those who fall in with the Barack Obama campaign tend to fall hard for the man himself, and none more than Jonathan Scott Gration. A recently retired Air Force major general who voted for George W. Bush in 2000, Gration accompanied Obama on a 15-day tour of Africa last August and was, he says, simply bowled over. When the two traveled to Kenya, the homeland of Obama’s father, the U.S. presidential candidate directly confronted President Mwai Kibaki over corruption.
Newsweek notes that the other two military advisors to Obama are along with Richard Danzig, the former secretary of the Navy during the Clinton administration, and Gen. Merrill McPeak, former Air Force chief of staff.

Robert Fisher - ? (probably not the chess player bobby fisher)

Michael Froman - another Harvard Law classmate and former chief of staff to Treasury Secretary Bob Rubin.

Donald Gips - ?

John Kupper - a partner in David Axelrod and David Plouffe's political public relations firm, AKP&D. He worked for Rep. Lane Evans (D-IL) and Rep. Henry R. Reuss (D-Wis).

Anthony Lake - Probably the best know, Lake was President Bill Clinton's National Security Adviser from 1993-1997. Was nominated to be C.I.A. director in 1997, but nomination was withdrawn due to Republican opposition (The possibilities boggles the mind - if the post had not gone to George Tenet....). He did the first - and most honest - mea culpa on Rwanda (read here).

Susan Rice - A familiar face, she's been on MSNBC a lot advocating for the Obama campaign. She is on leave as a Senior Fellow of Foreign Policy at the Brookings Institution, a liberal think tank. She is a former assistant secretary of state for African Affairs under Clinton (1997-2001). You can read some of her commentary and research on Africa, poverty as a transnational threat and human right here at the Brookings web site. She is also a Rhodes Scholar.

Gene Sperling - Currently the Senior Fellow for Economic Policy and Director of the Center for Universal Education at the Council for Foreign Relations. He was also a former economic advisor to the Kerry campaign and under the Clinton Administration he was a National Economic Adviser and Head of the National Economic Council. See full bio at the Council for Foreign Relations.

Cass Sunstein - His was a name I recognized, probably because he is a contributer editor to The New Republic. Like Obama Sunstein is a Harvard Law School grad who teaches at University of Chicago Law School (he was born in 1954, Obama in 1961). Clerked for Thurgood Marshall. Author of several books including, most interestingly, he Second Bill of Rights: FDR's Unfinished Revolution and Why We Need It More than Ever (2004).

Jim Wallis - He's another name I knew. In 2005, he gained notoriety for his book, God's Politics: Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn't Get It. You've probably seen him on Meet the Press and other news programs. PBS's Frontline interviewed him for their program The Jesus Factor which you can read here.

Can any one fill in the blanks? Have any other background to add?