Monday, March 31, 2008

NYT Squeals Then Reveals Obama's Consistency On Wright

Richard Stevenson, the New York Times political editor, wrote to The Page to defend Jodi Kantor.
But in this case, I’d like to add some facts to ensure that Mr. Wright’s complaints are placed in their proper context and that the dissemination of his letter now does not unfairly impugn Ms. Kantor’s work or undermine public confidence in our standards and practices.
He did so because a letter from Wright to Ms. Kantor has been circulating on the web (thanks partly to The Page). Wright essentially complained, loudly and colorfully, that Kantor has misled her about her intentions and the purpose of her interview with him. Stevenson notes that the full article that she had told Wright she was investigating did appear belatedly, but in the meantime that she properly brought the news and words and views of Wright regarding Obama decision to have him not do the invocation at the announcement of his candidacy. And that short piece was written first, which is what led Wright to feel he was sandbagged by her and the Times.

I found that last bit pretty funny as the Times standards are not what they should be. (Judy Miller?) Wright mentions Judy Miller in his letter, actually. I canceled my subscription because of my lack of faith in their standards. Newsweek too and now Newsweek is laying off 100s of reporters and losing much of its institutional history (not Evan Thomas, Jon Alter or Howard Fineman).

But my sense of fairness prompted me to read the story that Stevenson said was the full story A Candidate, His Minister and the Search for Faith that Kantor had been working on, which appeared in April 2007.

Check this quote out from Obama in Kantor's April piece:
“Reverend Wright is a child of the 60s, and he often expresses himself in that language of concern with institutional racism and the struggles the African-American community has gone through,” Mr. Obama said. “He analyzes public events in the context of race. I tend to look at them through the context of social justice and inequality.”
I'm struck by his consistency. This explanation of Wright's anger and where he and Wright diverge and why they diverge is exactly the same as he offered in his speech two weeks ago.

On Obama's reason for dropping Wright from his announcement ceremony sounds exactly like the reason he's been offering these past weeks:
Mr. Obama, a Democratic presidential candidate who says he was only shielding his pastor from the spotlight, said he respected Mr. Wright’s work for the poor and his fight against injustice. But “we don’t agree on everything,” Mr. Obama said. “I’ve never had a thorough conversation with him about all aspects of politics.”
Which seems to have been a proper caution given what has bourne out, even in April 2007:
Since Mr. Obama announced his candidacy, the church has received threatening phone calls. On blogs and cable news shows, conservative critics have called it separatist and antiwhite.
Rev. Wright, over the last few weeks, has had to cancel several public appearances.

I personally loved this bit:
He tends to turn to his minister at moments of frustration, Mr. Wright said, such as when Mr. Obama felt a Congressional Black Caucus meeting was heavier on entertainment than substance.
I used to work down the hall from the Congressional Black Caucus when I worked for the Congressional Arts Caucus. The executive directors were friends. I had the exact same frustration working in my office and came to the conclusion, rather quickly, that the Arts Caucus was simply an excuse for congress people (my boss especially) to meet famous movie stars. I did meet Sarah Jessica Parker, Robert Downey Jr, Alex Baldwin and Ron Silver. The year I was there was the year of Mapplethrope and Piss Christ - importance matters at the crossroads of arts and government. So I did get to work on some substance, but only because it was too big to ignore. I left after 13 months and openly and totally agreed with Gingrich when he eliminated such legislative "service" organizations after the Republicans took over. The place I worked was a waste of taxpayer money and my boss the wife, and a despicable person, of a Democratic congressman who wanted a job. The Black Caucus survived that slashing, but gosh reading of Obama's frustration seemed like yet another bit of affinity in my perspectives with his.

Then this bit:

But he also talks of building a consensus among secular liberal and conservative Christian voters. Mr. Wallis, the antipoverty advocate who calls himself a “progressive evangelical,” first met Mr. Obama 10 years ago when both participated in traveling seminars on American civic life. On bus rides, Mr. Wallis and Mr. Obama would huddle, away from company like George Stephanopoulos and Ralph Reed, to plot building a coalition of progressive and religious voters.

“The problems of poverty and racism, the uninsured and the unemployed, are not simply technical problems in search of the perfect 10 point plan,” Mr. Obama says in one of his standard campaign lines. “They are rooted in both societal indifference and individual callousness — in the imperfections of man.”

He often makes reference to the civil rights movement, when liberals used Christian rhetoric to win change.

I knew Obama and Wallis were close. Wallis is thanked in Obama's acknowledgments in The Audactiy of Hope, which I noted when I wrote of Obama's entourage. 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. But I had no idea their friendship went 10 years. I love the image of them huddling in the back plotting how to reconnect progressive, liberal voters to those who consider themselves religious.

Well, I suggest reading the whole April piece, but I have to say I don't blame Wright for feeling misled by the New York Times. Don't we all?

Sunday, March 30, 2008

On Obama's Mother-In-Law

Here's a nice piece from The Boston Globe about Michelle Obama's mother, Marian Robinson, "Holding Down the Fort."

Saturday, March 29, 2008

TPM Cafe Posts Perspective on Krugman & Obama

Jared Bernstein posts a little brief over at Talking Points Memo Cafe on Obama's economic speech and Paul Krugman's bias. He starts with:

Just about everything Paul Krugman says resonates deeply with me, so I was surprised by his less than positive take on Barack Obama’s recent speech wherein the candidate laid out his plans for dealing with both the mortgage meltdown and the ensuing financial mess. I thought the speech laid out some great policy ideas.

This isn’t a “Barack’s better than Hillary” argument. She too has lots of good stuff to say in this area. But I don’t think Paul gave Obama a fair shake.
and this:

Krugman praised Hillary’s endorsement of the type of plans being put forward by Congressman Barney Frank and Senator Chris Dodd. Under these plans, in exchange for a significant write down of the principal, the government provides lenders with insurance against default on the new mortgage.

But Obama endorses the same plan!
There's more good stuff. Check it out.

"Historical" Dramas - Tudors, Rome, Adams - Good Fiction?

The Tudors starts again tomorrow night and so NPR did a segment on the historical liberties of some of the recent popular historical dramas - Tudors, John Adams, Rome. You can test your historical knowledge with a quiz at the link above, in addition to listening to the story. It's a delightful little piece, with a funny twist at the end regarding HBO's upcoming dramatization of the 2000 election called Recount (with a star cast - Kevin Spacey, Laura Dern, John Hurt, Tom Wilkinson, Denis Leary, Ed Begley Jr.)

I was bothered by some of the changes made in The Tudors and the excuse for melding Henry VIII's sisters - Princess Margaret and Princess Mary, seemed woefully implausible. Basically because there is another Princess Mary (Henry's daughter with Katherine of Aragon, later Queen Bloody Mary), the writer deemed 2 Marys would be too confusing on the call sheets. That's a feeble excuse. And when you know the history and know that it's dramatic enough with out the alterations, it's not clear to me what the cost benefit analysis is. If you don't gain drama, but you misinform people, isn't the cost not worth it?

Sure, some do go to Google and find out what really happened. I did that when I read historical fiction as a kid, but does everyone? Most people believe JFK was killed in a conspiracy because of Olivier Stone's movie. I don't think that's a good thing. I don't think a lack of knowledge and facts is a good thing, and I generally don't like casual relationships with the truth. (such as the Clintons enjoy)

These stories are good enough, in truth, as they are. I couldn't put down Isaac Asimov's non-fiction history of early Rome. His well-written narrative grabbed me. My interest in history began in the pages of historical dramas. The first two books that initiated me were Anya Seton's Katherine (about Katherine Sywnford, 3rd wife of John of Gaunt) and The Sunne in Splendour (about the end of the War of Roses and Richard III) by Sharon Kay Penman, recently reissued in paperback. And if the author's note didn't tell me enough of what I wanted to know I would bury myself in non-fiction - Thomas Costain's from my mother's shelves.

I like historical novels, historical dramas, historical films because they can pique interest. But the more afield they go from the truth, the more troublesome they become for me. I hate the Cate Blanchett movies about Elizabeth for that reason. And I don't like Shakespeare's Richard III for that reason (Shakespeare's source was Thomas More, a Tudor propagandist). I walked out of the Lansburgh last year because I couldn't stand the production or the a-historicism.

The rules for memoirs should be the guiding principle for historical fiction or drama. You make a pact with the reader and if you breach that pack, you have an affirmative duty to let the viewer or reader know where the writer deviated from the truth. Then I'd be satisfied.

Well, you can see what the Massachusetts Historical Society has to say about the HBO series. At their site you can even read the relevant letters as the episodes unfold. It's really cool. The New Republic has also been printing a pretty interesting debate between historians and the writer of that series, you can read here.

UPDATE: Just learned that Michael Hirst who writes The Tudors (he is also the creator and an executive producer) also wrote Elizabeth. Figures. "It may be dry in a history book, but if you think about it, it involves people's beliefs and passions and their whole way of life being destroyed and challenged." He's reading the wrong history books.

Obama's Speech Engages Gingrich, A Sea Change?

Sometimes I encounter news that, to me, represents a sea change. And it gives me hope. And it's because of Obama. Newt Gingrich delivered a response to Obama's speech on race ot the American Enterprise Institute. Gingrich's words show that Obama's words matter and can alter the political landscape if not policy. It fascinates because it seems almost unbelievable. Remember Gingrich is the guy Bill Clinton always blames for the partisan bickering. So the fact that Gingrich is responding so differently to Obama seems to indicate that words do matter.

Now I saw this at Marc Ambinder's political blog over at The Atlantic. It's one of my daily reads because his sum up of the day -"The Daily Five" - often contains bits I'd not seen any where else. He's expressed envy about Politico's traffic and readership (yeah, I'm there at Ben Smith's blog every day, several times a day), but Marc's is well worth a stop too.

Back to Gingrich - here's a part of what he said:
Let me suggest to all of you that if you set aside the normal partisanship and cynicism of politics, that that’s a very powerful paragraph and a paragraph worthy of response at the same level, that in fact we should set aside the cynicism, and I am giving this speech today to take up this opportunity, both to reject cynicism, but also to suggest that we find real solutions. But to find real solutions, I would argue, we have to have real honesty and a serious dialogue in which unpleasant facts are put on the table and bold proposals are discussed.
Okay, just that first sentence alone shocks me.

Gingrich goes on to talk about the anger Obama spoke of, and how anger can be used for good as well. I've not yet read the whole transcript, but Gingrich talks of the problem both of bad culture and bad government.

Later he expresses skepticism that Obama would take on the National Education Association (NEA) to fix our schools, but I don't think that Gingrich's skepticism is well founded. Obama has a sister who is a teacher and has stated that teachers want to be held accountable. Here is Obama's stated policy on education. Here's a speech Obama gave to the NEA last July.

But Gingrich also responds to the points that Obama conceded to conservative thinkers - about welfare causing shame for black men. To me, such remarks were just as unique as Obama's statements about race, and proves the point that Obama is willing and able to speak the truth, even when unpleasant or unacceptable in some quarters. Obama has stated he will listen to a good idea from where ever it comes.

Here's Gingrich, again quoting Obama:
I agree with Senator Obama. He said:

A lack of economic opportunity among black men and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one’s family contributed to the erosion of black families, a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened.

You would be shocked to discover that he just paraphrased Charles Murray’s Losing Ground.
And then Gingrich elaborates on Faulkner:
We need bold, courageous solutions that dare to be politically incorrect.

Senator Obama quoted Faulkner, but he would have done well to have quoted more from Faulkner, especially Faulkner’s 1950 Nobel Prize acceptance speech. Faulkner at that point describes the importance of faith and the importance of optimism. He says:

The poet’s, the writer’s duty, is to write about these things. It is his privilege to help man endure, by lifting his heart, by reminding him of the courage and honor and hope and pride and compassion and pity and sacrifice which have been the glory of his past. The poet’s voice need not merely be the record of man, it can be one of the props, the pillars to helping him endure and prevail.

So how do we endure and prevail?
Gingrich sets forth 7 areas to be addressed. What I've read so far of Gingrich's words strikes me as thoughtful. Apparently C-Span recorded it and maybe it'll be on at some point. You can watch it here.

If nothing else, such a full and measured response to Obama from someone like Gingrich does indicate that Gingrich recognized that Obama is a train that is going somewhere. Further, that Obama is someone whose ideas and words are worthy of engagement and dialogue. I think response to Obama's trans-partisanship is irresistible, even to a fierce partisan like Gingrich. Wow. My Lord, is there a dawn?

Contractors Profiting In Iraq

I've not watched all of Real Time with Bill Mahrer from last night, but I watch the beginning. In the interview with John Cusak mentioned this piece from Harpers: Baghdad Year Zero: Pillaging Iraq in Pursuit of Neocon Utopia. I've not had a chance to read yet, but wanted to post the link in case others were interested.

Nader's Wake Up Call to Hillary?

Well, if anything could pierce the myopia of Hillary Clinton, perhaps this letter from Nader would and could shake her and help her realize what's she's doing to the Democratic Party's goals:

Listen to your own inner citizen First Amendment voice. This is America. Just like every other citizen, you have a right to run. Whenever you like. For as long as you like.
Thank you, Nader.

Btw, Nicholas Kristof hinted at this in a column earlier this week, called Obama, Clinton - and Echoes of Nader, which after laying out all the hurdles Hillary faces and what she would have to do to win - the Tonya Harding option - finishes with this:

If Mrs. Clinton can run a high-minded, civil campaign and rein in her proxies, then she has every right to continue through the next few primaries, and the Democrats might even benefit from the bolstered attention and turnout. But if the brawl continues, then she and her husband may be remembered by many people who long admired them as having the same effect on Mr. Obama this November that Ralph Nader had on Al Gore in 2000.

Do the Clintons really want to risk becoming the Naders of 2008?

The Tonya Harding option is what a DNC official anonymously called what Clinton was doing. First reported on Tuesday at ABC News' Political Punch, Jake Tapper properly notes:

(In this metaphor, presumably, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., would be Oksana Baiul. Does that make former President Bill Clinton Jeff Gillooly?)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Obama & The Constitution

The New Republic published a short commentary on the constitutional aspects of Obama's speech last week on race. Doug Kendell basically picks a bone that isn't there. He criticizes Obama for saying that equality was embedded in the US Constitution in 1787 and that he doesn't credit the Civil War amendments or note that the starting point for true equality started with the 14th amendment. But I don't think that's what Obama said. Even in the Kendell piece, Obama is quoted as saying the ideal of equality was embedded, not equality itself. And Obama rightly notes that it took subsequent generations to remove the "original sin" of slavery.

That said, as a legal history buff Kendell does include some good bits, including this:
Not one lawyer in 100 can identify Ohio congressman John Bingham as the main drafter of the 14th Amendment. Yet Bingham is a fascinating historical figure: he served in Congress in the 1850s as the country was torn apart and in the 1860s as it was stitched back together. He was a federal judge and the nation's minister to Japan. As a prosecutor, he convicted John Wilkes Booth's co-conspirators, and as a member of Congress he gave closing arguments in President Andrew Johnson impeachment trial. All that, plus he drafted Section 1 of the 14th Amendment, which is perhaps the single most important paragraph of our Constitution.
Now there's a book to be written. Here's the Wikipedia site on Bingham.

On a related note, I'd been long wondering why Obama was not stressing his constitutional cred. It turns out he was enough that the Clinton campaign took him on and criticize Obama for claiming he was a constitutional law professor when he was just an senior lecturer. Well, like a few other things this week (letter to Pelosi), that back fired. Check out this statement from the University of Chicago (where Obama teaches) :
Senior Lecturers are considered to be members of the Law School faculty and are regarded as professors, although not full-time or tenure-track. The title of Senior Lecturer is distinct from the title of Lecturer, which signifies adjunct status. Like Obama, each of the Law School's Senior Lecturers have high-demand careers in politics or public service, which prevent full-time teaching. Several times during his 12 years as a professor in the Law School, Obama was invited to join the faculty in a full-time tenure-track position, but he declined.
In other words, Obama has taught for 12 years and at any time could have gotten the semantic title Hillary's quibbling over.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

On Obama's Economic Speech

Here's a good, brief assessment of Obama's Economic Speech from The Atlantic. The deregulation of the telecommunications industry always bothered me.

UPDATE: Matthew Yglesias, again, over at The Atlantic offers some interesting perspectives and a response to Krugman's mental gymnastics.

Close Gitmo, Say 5 Former State Secretaries

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported an astonishing development (I guess I'm astonished more by Kissinger and Baker than I am of Powell).

Five former U.S. secretaries of State said Thursday the next president should move quickly to close the military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

That single act would improve America's dismal reputation in the world immediately, agreed Henry Kissinger, James Baker, Warren Christopher, Madeleine Albright and Colin Powell.

Like the nomination of McCain by the Republicans - which to me signaled a strong rejection of much of Bush's policies - this provides some solace that no matter what - the worst is almost over (see ticker counting down to January 20th to right)

On New Ways of Getting the News

Well, since I do send out emails to friends with links about what's going on in the news, this article, "Finding Political News Online, the Young Pass It On," from today's New York Times interested me. I'm not young, but it was neat to read. I had stopped my missives for a bit there last month, when I was feeling unwell and I heard from about 6 people, hey where have you been? Only then did I realize people actually read and valued my heads up. Which I appreciated.

Al Gore Tease

Al Gore will be on 60 Minutes on Sunday, which is interesting considering Huffington Post's report on a Time story to be issued next week entitled tantalizingly “How Al Gore Could Save the Democrats

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Frontline Surveys Bush's War(s)

I just watched last night's Frontline. And it's worth the investment of time. It deepened my understanding. No. I felt no better about any of it, especially in light of the resurging violence today in Iraq. I did at times scream at the television.

And I disagreed with yesterday's New York Times review which dismissed this series as "palace intrigues" conveyed by underlings. It's the underlings that really understand how things run (or malfunction), one and two, if palace intrigues led (can lead) us into war, they are essential to understand. The review yesterday was brief and stupid (in my humble view).

There are some new interviews - most dirturbing is the one with the British Ambassador to the United States at the time of the 9/11 attacks, Sir Christopher Myers. I also had to look up one word that Richard Armitage used - FUBAR. (That'll come in handy)

  1. Part One dealt with how we got in. I'm relatively well informed, and I learned some new things. Covers how the turf wars within the Bush administration started pre-9/11.
  2. The legal memo and legal frameworks for all sorts of actions and behavior (Yoo vs. Goldsmith) The screw ups and end runs that Cheney pulled around the State department.
  3. The profound ignorance (Rice sounds like she didn't know where Afghanistan was before 9/11 - I still find that hard to believe).
  4. And it very much relates the war in Afghanistan and the war in Iraq and how the latter adversely affected the former.
The program should be titled Bush's Wars - not War. Interviews with Jane Mayer of The New Yorker, Evan Thomas of Newsweek, Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, among others, are included.

Part two, airing tonight, is about the mishandling after the invasion, which in context seems inevitable.

At the program related web site you can watch the whole thing. You can listen to an interview with the producer, which includes some new information, here.

One last related point: Diane Rehm interviewed Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Nebraska) this morning about his new book and touched on my of the same topics and events. You can listen here.
  1. Regarding the Veterans of Foreign Wars speech Cheney gave in August 2002, Hagel called it a "clear war speech," and called up Powell to find out what was gong on (this is about 10 minutes into the interview).
  2. Rehm and Hagel quibble about whether the administration misrepresented or lied (a viewer later jumps in on this).
  3. Finally of interest, Hagel discusses what effect a Powell resignation would have had (about 24 minutes in). Hagel said that would have had "significant consequences."
  4. At the end of the hour, their discussion does look forward in a way that the Frontline has not (yet). Hagel predicts a "massive correction" in this upcoming election.
Politico posted a story yesterday entitled, Tsunami Turnout. In 2004, turn out was 61%, the highest since 1968. 2008 is estimated to be 80% based on primary turn out and registrations. That would be unbelievable.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hillary's Church Problem?

The Nation did a short piece last week on Hillary's strange religious association. A group that is cult-like and has a fascist history. I'm not kidding, and I had heard of this before, about the strange prayer book, back in the 90s. Completely forgot about it.

And The Nation notes that a new book is coming out in May that should shed more light. It's not long and worth the full read (good links too). Here are three separate paragraph picks:

You can find all about it in a widely under-read article in the September 2007 issue of Mother Jones, in which Kathryn Joyce and Jeff Sharlet reported that "through all of her years in Washington, Clinton has been an active participant in conservative Bible study and prayer circles that are part of a secretive Capitol Hill group known as "The "Fellowship," also known as The Family. But it won't be a secret much longer. Jeff Sharlet's shocking exposé The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power will be published in May.

This has not been a casual connection for Clinton. She has written of Doug Coe, The Family's publicity-averse leader, that he is "a unique presence in Washington: a genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide to anyone, regardless of party or faith, who wants to deepen his or her relationship with God."

Sharlet generously attributes Clinton's involvement to the under-appreciated depth of her religiosity, but he himself struggles to define The Family's theological underpinnings. The Family avoids the word Christian but worships Jesus, though not the Jesus who promised the earth to the "meek." They believe that, in mass societies, it's only the elites who matter, the political leaders who can build God's "dominion" on earth. Insofar as The Family has a consistent philosophy, it's all about power--cultivating it, building it and networking it together into ever-stronger units, or "cells." "We work with power where we can," Doug Coe has said, and "build new power where we can't."

Sunday, March 23, 2008

US Press Corp Is A Door Mat, Unwilling to Use Judgment

Tom Edsall over at The Huffington Post does a terrific interview with Walter Pincus, a reporter who has written for the Washington Post for nearly 40 years (he is 75). The discussion focus on how the press has changed since the 1960s and how in false value of "fairness" has been used by the press to relay all statements equally, even when not supported by the facts.

I wrote elsewhere about why I cancelled my New York Times subscription. I felt (mostly from the editorials over at the Post) that my home town paper was not much better. Pincus' description of his editors is down right heart-rending: Pincus had to cope with attempts by editors at the Post to downgrade his articles. His stories were described as too "incremental," or "difficult to edit." He was criticized as a "crusader." Editors claimed his stories were hard to "verify."

Here's more context:

While seeking to "be neutral, unbiased and objective, presenting both or all sides as if they were on the sidelines refereeing a game," the print and electronic media have relegated themselves to the role of "common carriers, transmitters of other people's ideas and thoughts, irrespective of import, relevance and at times even accuracy," Pincus contends.

At this stage, Pincus suggests, a relatively simple courageous act for the media would be to stop printing non-news:

"A new element of courage in journalism would be for editors and reporters to decide not to cover the president's statements when he or she--or any public figure--repeats essentially what he or she has said before. Journalistic courage should also include the decision not to publish in a newspaper or carry on a television or radio news show any statements made by government officials that are designed solely as a public relations tool, offering no new or valuable information to the public."

And this is just from the background set up for the interview Edsall conducts, which I highly recommend. I hope that it opens a bigger discussion, especially given how the press' treatment of Hillary's "viability" is still affecting the campaign.

Easter Poem

I was too unwell to make it to church today, Easter. But I'm watching the webcast from the National Cathedral. I was there on Friday for a bit of the three hour service in the afternoon, for the last bit. I planned to write about that, but haven't been up for doing so, but I hope to soon.

Webcast viewing is not the same as being there, I know (intellectually and otherwise). I will not commune. But it's something. Great music, some of my favorite hymns. They are talking about how to be Easter people. And the sermon was good, and quoted part of this poem:

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front
(1973) From The Country of Marriage by Wendell Berry

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more
of everything ready-made. Be afraid
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know.

So, friends, every day do something
that won't compute. Love the Lord.
Love the world. Work for nothing.
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it.
Denounce the government and embrace
the flag. Hope to live in that free
republic for which it stands.
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers.
Invest in the millenium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.
Say that the leaves are harvested
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion - put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come.
Expect the end of the world. Laugh.
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts.
So long as women do not go cheap
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep
of a woman near to giving birth?

Go with your love to the fields.
Lie down in the shade. Rest your head
in her lap. Swear allegiance
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos
can predict the motions of your mind,
lose it. Leave it as a sign
to mark the false trail, the way
you didn't go. Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Milions of Adults Watch & Listen To Obama's Speech

I meant to post this earlier in the week, but Frank Rich's column,

what impressed me most was not Mr. Obama’s rhetorical elegance or his nuanced view of both America’s undeniable racial divide and equally undeniable racial progress. The real novelty was to find a politician who didn’t talk down to his audience but instead trusted it to listen to complete, paragraph-long thoughts that couldn’t be reduced to sound bites
reminded me.

Check out how many people viewed Obama's speech on Tuesday and how many have watched it since online. Answer: an awful lot.

Fox News Argues Within

Wonkette has got a full report on the Fox implosions this week. You can even watch the video. In case you've not heard, one host walked off and then Chris Wallace criticized his colleagues for harping on Obama's "typical white person."

If any thing is a sign that Obama's words have changed anything, I think these incidents do.

Bush Bullies Personally

This should not surprise, but somehow it still does. From today's Washington Post, US Pushed Allies on Iraq, Diplomat Writes.

Some quotes:
In the months leading up to the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration threatened trade reprisals against friendly countries who withheld their support, spied on its allies, and pressed for the recall of U.N. envoys that resisted U.S. pressure to endorse the war, according to an upcoming book by a top Chilean diplomat.

The rough-and-tumble diplomatic strategy has generated lasting "bitterness" and "deep mistrust" in Washington's relations with allies in Europe, Latin America and elsewhere, Heraldo Mu¿oz, Chile's ambassador to the United Nations, writes in his book "A Solitary War: A Diplomat's Chronicle of the Iraq War and Its Lessons," set for publication next month.

The book portrays Bush personally prodding the leaders of those six governments -- Angola, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea, Mexico and Pakistan -- to support the war resolution, a strategy aimed at demonstrating broad support for U.S. military plans, despite the French threat to veto the resolution.

In the weeks preceding the war, Bush made several appeals to Chilean President Ricardo Lagos and Mexican President Vicente Fox to rein in their diplomats and support U.S. war aims. "We have problems with your ambassador at the U.N.," Bush told Fox at a summit of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation in Los Cabos, Mexico, in late 2002.

Mu¿oz said relations remained tense at the United Nations, where the United States sought support for resolutions authorizing the occupation of Iraq. He said that small countries met privately in a secure room at the German mission that was impervious to suspected U.S. eavesdropping. "It reminded me of a submarine or a giant safe," Mu¿oz said in an interview.

The United States, he added, expressed "its displeasure" to the German government every time they held a meeting in the secure room. "They couldn't listen to what was going on."

Sharp Bits From Andrew Sullivan

I read Sullivan every day during the last presidential campaign. He was the only conservative I could bear to read and before 2004 I still cared about hearing the other side. He was not a Bush supporter then - mostly appalled by the fiscal diarrheas and the war - but he usually offered smart insights. He was also an openly religious gay man and I liked what he had to say about religion and politics. (He observation that new mega-churches resemble malls for the same reason medieval churches resemble castles was dead on, that reason being that's what the times valued - shopping in our own, political strength 600 years ago. )

Now over the last few days he's offered two sharp bits I have to share.

First on Carville's remark that Richardson's endorsement of Obama, on Friday, was ironic because it was just like Judas on Good Friday betraying Jesus (which actually is remembered in the Christian church on Thursday - but whatever!) , Sullivan wrote this:

it's good to see the mindset of an unreconstructed Clintonite partisan like Carville: the Clintons are Jesus and all disagreement is treason. Sound like the Bush administration to me. Which is why a third Clnton term, while marginally different in policy, would be very similar on issues of transparency, paranoia, entitlement, secrecy and vindictiveness.
I noted that similarity between Bush and the Clinton's behavioral tendencies as well.

And then regarding Bill Clinton astonishing remark about his wife and McCain being two people who love their country, Sullivan wrote this (which had me laughing out loud):

I think the statement just speaks to Clinton's staggering sense of ownership of the Democratic party and the unconcious assumption that his wife deserves to be the nominee. I still think the Clintons cannot believe the gall of anyone daring to challenge their power or their specious self-regard. I've said it before, but imagine if Clinton had won over a dozen primaries in a row, was ahead in the delegate count, ahead in the popular vote, and way ahead in the number of states won. Don't you think the pressure on Obama to pull out would be enormous? And wouldn't Clinton regard his persistence as treachery? And yet Clinton in the exact same situation carries on, with a minimal chance of victory,and actually had the gall to offer Obama a veep slot. Who on earth does she think she is? At best it's pure Clinton entitlement. At worst it's white entitlement.

Oh, well, I tried to defend the Clintons and look where I ended up. Better luck next time.

Later, he quoted a reader who noted, accurately to me, that
I felt the same way as you about B. Clinton's "love America" remarks, until I saw the whole thing: he ended with the words (as I recall them) "That's my argument for Hillary." In saying that, he, in fact, made it particular and implied that the same would not apply to Sen. Obama. As you have noted many times, there's not much they say that's not carefully calibrated. So whereas I agree with the core of his sentiments -- that it would be nice to have a campaign strictly about issues -- he actually made a differentiation between Hillary and Barack. I'm a strong Democrat, and a (former) admirer of both Bill and Hillary. I heard her talk a year or two ago in Seattle and was highly impressed. Now, I find myself wanting to switch channels when I see her; as I do when I see Bush.
I too want to change the channel whenever I see her. I stopped being an admirer of Bill and Hillary in 1992.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

The Clinton Myth: That She Can Win

This piece, The Story Behind the Story: The Clinton Myth, from Politico yesterday caused quite a stir. And it's right. It also echoes one from The New Republic last week.

One big fact has largely been lost in the recent coverage of the Democratic presidential race: Hillary Rodham Clinton has virtually no chance of winning.

Her own campaign acknowledges there is no way that she will finish ahead in pledged delegates. That means the only way she wins is if Democratic superdelegates are ready to risk a backlash of historic proportions from the party’s most reliable constituency.

Unless Clinton is able to at least win the primary popular vote — which also would take nothing less than an electoral miracle — and use that achievement to pressure superdelegates, she has only one scenario for victory. An African-American opponent and his backers would be told that, even though he won the contest with voters, the prize is going to someone else.

People who think that scenario is even remotely likely are living on another planet.

But even some of Clinton’s own advisers now concede that she cannot win unless Obama is hit by a political meteor. Something that merely undermines him won't be enough. It would have to be some development that essentially disqualifies him.
And so, all she is accomplishing is lowering both her and Obama's polls numbers against McCain, as she and Bill Clinton work hard to disqualify him openly and secretively. Shame on them.

The piece also examines the press' role (and interest) in keeping this "race" going.

Olympic Fall Out From Chinese Clash w Tibet

March 10th was when the protests started and now the Olympics have been affected. The AP reports (via MSNBC) that there may be no live shots from Tiananmen Square.

The communist government’s resorting to heavy-handed measures runs the risk of undermining Beijing’s pledge to the International Olympic Committee that the games would promote greater openness in what a generation ago was still an isolated China. If still in place by the games, they could alienate the half-million foreigners expected at the games.

Like the Olympics, live broadcasts from Tiananmen Square were meant to showcase a friendly, confident China — one that had put behind it the deadly 1989 military assault on democracy demonstrators in the vast plaza that remains a defining image for many foreigners.

Not good. And this is beside the pollution and food pumped up with steroids and the arresting of dissenters.

And here is Time Magazine's cover article on the Dalai Lama called A Monk's Struggle.

A Smile in the Sky

A picture, appropriate for the start of spring (yesterday) from my friend, Cecilia. Thanks, girl!

MUST READ:Obama's Whole Bird Christianity (Left & Right Wing)

At The New Republic web site E.J. Dionne offers another lengthier MUST READ essay, Full Faith: Despite Jeremiah Wright, Obama Gets Religion. Note that Dionne just published a book, Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith and Politics After the Religious Right. (You can hear Dionne's interview from February 12th about the ideas in his book, with Diane Rehm, here). So he brings perspective and familiarity with the religion and politics to Obama's dilemma.

Please read the whole piece found at the link above. The ability to bridge this gap, not the one on race, is the one that attracts me so deeply to Obama. For years, I've been deeply disturbed at the lack of social justice in those who seem to speak of religion so openly in the public square, because my religious faith is so central to my politics. I started studying the Bible again a few years ago just so that I could better quote chapter and verse back at my political adversaries in discussions and debates. I'm a Democrat because of my beliefs, beliefs informed by my religion. And yet over my lifetime, those who spoke in the religious square were speaking of a faith completely alien and foreign to me - dogmatic, mean, preoccupied with narrowness and rightness, anti-intellectual, and completely lacking in humility - as well as devoid of the golden rule from Luke 6:31 "Do to others as you would have them do to you." Every major religion - Islam, Buddhism, Judiasm, Hinduism as well - has a version of the Golden Rule in their sacred texts.

And all of this was all the more disturbing to me because I felt such talk was a perversion of a part of me I held sacred.

I worried. Would my secular friends who knew me to be a church goer assume I agreed with Jim Dobson? Or if not, would they believe I'd done some strange mental gymnastics to make Christianity acceptable to me? Well, actually no to both of those. It's the likes of Dobson who've done the theological contortions to Christianity in the public square until it has become unrecognizable. This has been the central problem with recent books discredited religions - such as Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins. They argue against religion as if it's monolithic and mostly like those anti-intellectuals. Well, against intellects the like of those, yes, a caricature of Christianity would crumble.

Cartoons are empty drawings and don't show the depths of color that is integral to a deep faith. (I would respectfully suggest that our President's faith is cartoonish. See this Slate piece on Bush's conversion.) Hitchens and Dawkins argued against the easy targets.

Separation of church and state was to protect the church from the state as it was to protect the state from the church. And in the Episcopalian church, a deep and serious rift has occurred over the treatment of homosexuality. It's no accident that at a time when gay marriage is debated in the public square that Gene Robinson's, a openly gay man, ordination as a bishop has torn my church apart. This is because of the destruction of that firewall between church and state, a firewall decimated by Republicans who used the "religious" right, and certain "social value" issues to expand their power. And because that wall is down, my beloved church is suffering.

Obama wants to re-erect that wall and doing that will help the healing. He will also bridge that increasing gap between my faith values and my political values. The former have seen no expression in the public square and I yearn deeply for that.

It's been said that Obama is uniquely qualified - because of his mixed race, because of his age - to heal the racial divide. He can heal the religious divide too. Dionne posits Obama can do so because he came to his faith as an adult. I agree.

But I also think that his age and his intelligence helps a lot too. He is my age. And I feel that people of my generation who are religious are perhaps more able to find new ways of using language (including religious language) which does not push certain buttons and cause knee-jerk dogmatic reactions to pop up as walls. His intelligence too - his knowledge of philosophy and religious intellectuals - aids him in seeing a mile off the incoming arguments and to ward them off.

And Obama is poised, uniquely poised, to stop that alienation. This is just one reason why I fervently support him. That's why for me, he is a once-in-a-lifetime leader.

Some pull out quotes to entice (again please read the whole piece):
On the few occasions I have spoken with Obama about his faith, he has evinced an understanding of the spiritual lives of Americans and familiarity with Reinhold Niebuhr's theology of skepticism and humility. When I interviewed him about his relationship with Wright last week, he told me, "Churches are institutions of men, and, as a result, they are flawed." As I paused to marvel at how this remark could have been plucked from one of Niebuhr's essays, Obama seemed to have the same realization. He quipped, "And that's as Niebuhrian as you can get."
If you don't know who Reinhold Niebuhr is (I didn't), here's a pretty good biography from the Encyclopedia of Western Theology hosted at the Boston College web site. See particularly the section on Niebuhr's book, An Interpretation of Christian Ethics.

More quotes from Dionne:
And, if he can move past the Wright controversy, his (Obama's) gospel holds enormous electoral potential. Like the civil rights preachers of old, he has found a religious language that expresses a civic faith sought by secular voters no less than by the religiously inclined-a language that could ease the Democrats' estrangement from theologically conservative Christians. In Obama's signature slogan, "Change We Can Believe In," the most important word may not be "change" but "believe."

The current fluidity in the evangelical world gives Obama his chance of supplying an alternative that would appeal to some of these (Rick) Warren-style Christians...His oft-repeated argument that social improvement requires not only "changes in government policy" but also "changes in hearts and a change in minds" appeals to the conversion impulse so integral to the evangelical spirit.

The purpose-driven pastor himself seemed eager to break old molds when he invited Obama in 2006 to join Senator Sam Brownback at Saddleback to discuss the global aids problem, an issue on which both politicians had worked. Right-wingers said Obama's support for abortion rights obligated the pastor to withdraw the invitation. Warren wouldn't budge. "People ask me, 'Rick, are you right-wing or are you left-wing?' " Warren told ABC News. "I'm for the whole bird."

Obama has been preparing many years for Whole Bird Christianity.

Obama told me "the essential failure" of Wright's words "is that they lacked the sense of redemption which is the essence of the Christian faith."
I agree with this and is generally the key aspect of Obama's speech - when he noted that Wright failed to see dynamic change. It was, for me, the key Christian aspect of the speech and probably why Andrew Sullivan, a gay Catholic conservative who supports Obama, called Obama's speech deeply, deeply Christian. "This is a candidate who does not merely speak as a Christian. He acts like a Christian," wrote Sullivan. And I would submit the possibility that that sense of redemption is something that Obama picked up from Wright, in another sermon, in other teaching.
Civil Rights Christian language has many political advantages; most notably, it is resolutely centered not on the defeat of adversaries, but on their conversion. The conversion theme, and Civil Rights Christianity's notion of building a cross-racial "beloved community," fit almost perfectly with Obama's core message of political and racial reconciliation. "We need to take faith seriously," Obama writes in his book, "not simply to block the religious right but to engage all persons of faith in the larger project of American renewal."

Obama's recipe has two main ingredients: In the Call to Renewal speech, he asserted that "secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square." You could almost hear the cheers at Rick Warren's church and others like it. At the same time, he argued that religious Americans needed to remember "the critical role that the separation of church and state has played in preserving not only our democracy, but the robustness of our religious practice." There could be no talk of ours as "a Christian nation" since "we are also a Jewish nation, a Muslim nation, a Buddhist nation, a Hindu nation, and a nation of nonbelievers. . . . Democracy demands that the religiously motivated translate their concerns into universal, rather than religion specific, values."

Isn't that amazing? Hallelujah!

EJ Dionne on MLK's Anger

In two pieces, EJ Dionne has made some interesting points and provided some very helpful context, particularly on Obama's faith.

First (I'll get to the "whole bird" momentarily) in a Washington Post op-ed yesterday, Another Angry Black Preacher, Dionne points out Martin Luther King's anger from the pulpit.

Listen to what King said about the Vietnam War at his own Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta on Feb. 4, 1968: "God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war. . . . And we are criminals in that war. We've committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I'm going to continue to say it. And we won't stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation. But God has a way of even putting nations in their place." King then predicted this response from the Almighty: "And if you don't stop your reckless course, I'll rise up and break the backbone of your power."

If today's technology had existed then, I would imagine the media playing quotations of that sort over and over.

Obama understands the anger of whites as well as the anger of blacks, but he's placed a bet on the other side of King's legacy that converted rage into the search for a beloved community.

Obama's Speech on Race from Tuesday

Just so I have easy access to it, I've decided to post Obama's speech.

Here's the video:

Here's the transcript

Friday, March 21, 2008

Girl From 3 AM Ad Does Ad For Obama

It's a good ad. I just wish it could have been done before March 5th.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama's Patriotism

Obama was on ABC's Nightline last night and elucidated further.

He was asked if black patriotism and white patriotism was different and if so how and he used music as a metaphor. That perhaps white patriotism was like a John Philip Sousa while black patriotism was more like a jazz tune and some blue notes. You can watch here. And read more of Obama's interview with ABC news here.

He brought to mind another thing I read he said (I can't find where, having spent about 15 minutes trying). Speaking of the march in Selma to Montegomery march and Bloody Sunday, some one said to Obama that that event was a great moment in African-American history and Obama said no, it was a great moment in American history.

More Reaction To Obama's Speech

More reaction on Obama's speech:
Noam Scheiber at The New Republic noted Obama's affinity for the conservative critique of welfare and then notes re the choice Obama put before us at the end (with a lengthy quote), concluding:

There are clearly lots of people still weirded out by those Wright videos. There aren't many people who, when told you believe they're open-minded and reasonable and big-hearted, will respond by thinking, "You're wrong. I'm actually a petty and cynical SOB."
Andrew Sullivan posts a fascinating bit of background on the quote from Faulkner about "The past isn't dead. It isn't even past," provides contexts and unfolds what Obama was saying:
"That's what Obama was doing. His speech was accepts Faulkner's opinion of the past -- that it is a part of us, and we must live with it -- but rejects the fear most of his characters have of confronting it."
(Thanks to Libby who brought this jewel to my attention)

Maureen Dowd:

In many ways, Barack Obama’s speech on race was momentous and edifying.

You could tell it was personal, that he had worked hard on it, all weekend and into the wee hours Tuesday. Overriding aides who objected to putting race center stage, he addressed a painful, difficult subject straightforwardly with a subtlety and decency rare in American politics.

Hendrik Hertzberg, of The New Yorker, from Thomas Hardy land observes -
The speech has the intellectual and emotional acuity which readers of “Dreams from My Father” are already familiar. Ditto the honesty, straightforwardness, and empathy.

Especially impressive here is his treatment of two kinds of volatile parochialism, black anger and white-working-class resentment: he explains their origins without making excuses for their destructive forms, and he hints at the positive potential of their commonalities.

If you've not yet, read Obama's books!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Arthur C. Clark, too, R.I.P.

I read Arthur C. Clark's book "Childhood's End" written in 1953 when I was a teenager, and it changed the way I thought.

I became a fan of Isaac Asimov (whom I got to see speak at Vassar before he died; and who also wrote very readable, terrific histories of ancient Rome) and Ursula Le Guin.

He died today, too, at the age of 90. Here's the Washington Post on Clark.

A Unique Slant from Slate

Timothy Noah has an interesting slant and context. These quotes don't do the piece justice, so read the whole thing here.

The degeneration of the Democratic nomination campaign into identity politics has had (to borrow a term from civil rights law) a "disparate impact" on the candidates. It's helped Hillary Clinton and hurt Obama.
This isn't about taking sides, Obama said. (By noting his mixed parentage, Obama pointed out that he couldn't take sides even if he wanted to without denying a part of himself.)
It's about rejecting identity politics while honoring the nobler aspirations of the identity politicians. And it's about feeling confident that positive social change can be achieved, because it's been achieved in this country in the past. That Obama managed to say all this without displaying an ounce of false piety, or bitterness, or sentimentality, or denial, or self-righteousness, makes his speech a milestone in American political rhetoric.

Reaction To Obama's Speech

Richard Wolfe, of Newsweek and Countdown, on Obama's speech.

Andrew Sullivan, The Atlantic, "searing, nuanced, gut-wrenching, loyal, and deeply, deeply Christian speech is the most honest speech on race in America in my adult lifetime" "This is what my faith is about. It is what the Gospels are about. This is a candidate who does not merely speak as a Christian. He acts like a Christian."

Roger Simon, who has a major fact wrong. He said that Obama here for the first time admits that he was in the pew when controversial statements were made. In fact, Obama admitted this last Friday night on Countdown with Keith Olberman (at 1.42 minutes in)

Anthony Minghella, R.I.P.

Sad and surprising news today from London. Anthony Minghella, 54, died today after a fatal hemmorage following surgery to remove cancer to his tonsils.

The New York Times report here.

He won an Oscar for his direction of The English Patient. He also directed Cold Mountain and The Talented Mr. Ripley. Here's an interview from with Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient, from 1996 about working with Minghella.

Can I also be grateful to him for convincing Jude Law to be a leading man. Several of the actors who worked with Minghella are interviewed here. Ralph Fiennes, of course, said it best:
"His films deal with extreme aloneness and the redemptive power of love, even at the moment of death. I will remember him as a man who always wanted to get to the heart of the matter."
A romantic in an unromantic age, one who believed there was a heart in the matter. A true artist, the talented Mr. Minghella will be sorely missed.

Obama's Ipod Government

Cass Sunstein is a collegue of Obama's and also a regular writer for The New Republic, and the other day he wrote a commentary piece for the Chicago Tribune on "The Obama I Know: Terrific Listener Goes Wherever Reason Takes Him." He's also someone who he consulted and acknowledged as a sounding board for his book, The Audacity of Hope. See this blog entry from early February on Obama's entourage.

The article opens with this:
Not so long ago, the phone rang in my office. It was Barack Obama. For more than a decade, Obama was my colleague at the University of Chicago Law School.

He is also a friend. But since his election to the U.S. Senate, he does not exactly call every day.

On this occasion, he had an important topic to discuss: the controversy over President Bush's warrantless surveillance of international telephone calls between Americans and suspected terrorists. I had written a short essay suggesting that the surveillance might be lawful. Before taking a public position, Obama wanted to talk the problem through.

In about 20 minutes, he and I investigated the legal details. He asked me to explore all sorts of issues: the president's power as commander in chief, the Constitution's protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, the Authorization for Use of Military Force and more.

Obama wanted to consider the best possible defense of what Bush had done. To every argument I made, he listened and offered a counterargument. After the issue had been exhausted, Obama said he thought the program was illegal, but now had a better understanding of both sides. He thanked me for my time.

This was a pretty amazing conversation, not only because of Obama's mastery of the legal details, but also because many prominent Democratic leaders had already blasted the Bush initiative as blatantly illegal. He did not want to take a public position until he had listened to, and explored, what might be said on the other side.

This is the Barack Obama I have known for nearly 15 years -- a careful and evenhanded analyst of law and policy, unusually attentive to multiple points of view.
Other highlights:
  • The Obama we know is no rhetorician; he shines not because he can move people, but because of his problem-solving abilities, creativity and attention to detail.
  • Expect transparency to be a central theme in any Obama administration, as a check on government and the private sector alike. It is highly revealing that Obama worked with Republican (and arch-conservative) Tom Coburn of Oklahoma to produce legislation creating a publicly searchable database of all federal spending.
  • His campaign has spoken of moving toward "iPod government" an effort to rethink public services and national regulations in ways that would make things far simpler and more user-friendly.
  • These are points about policies and substance. As president, Obama would set a new tone in U.S. politics. He refuses to demonize his political opponents; deep in his heart, I believe, he doesn't think of them as opponents. It would not be surprising to find Republicans and independents prominent in his administration.
Check out the full article here.

HBOs John Adams Series Stresses Power of the Letter

I saw the first episode on Sunday night (and still have to watch the second episode). I found the series interesting, but not riveting. And, in my view, it should be. Important legal arguments, war, complex characters. Yet the only thing that impressed me was the reality of the darkness before electric light. Imagine Seasonal Affective Disorder in New England before electric light. That's what I kept thinking of.

Well, but on the upside HBO is hooked up with the United States Postal Service to stress The Power of the Letter.

It's a good effort, with a recognition of how the John Adams' correspondence with his wife and political colleagues informed history. It's something I've been mindful of, as a history major. The other day I found a pack of letters saved from college. Letters from boys in my past, but more intriguing letters, long letters, from each of my sisters. Their personalities shine through and they were a delight to read twenty years later.

I wrote 15 letters yesterday. Write a letter today.

"Civil War" Over at Daily Kos

Well, there's been a bit of an explosion in the blog word. The three best known are Huffington Post, Talking Points Memo, and Daily Kos (Daily Kos is the one that holds the conference). Well, over at Daily Kos, writers supporting Clinton have gone on strike. And the founder of Daily Kos, Markos Moulitsas, has struck back hard:
this site has also been hostile to the corrosive consultant class that gave us our timid and weak party until Howard Dean shook it up in 2004.

Now I'm willing to stipulate that on the consultant front, there's likely not much difference between the Obama and Clinton campaigns (I don't know if it's true, but I assume it is). But on everything else, Clinton fails the test of the guiding principles of this site, and of my first book, Crashing the Gate.

Clinton isn't just a member of the DLC, she's in their leadership. Obama, by the way, repudiated the organization three times (it's a great story, which I tell in my forthcoming book).

Clinton hasn't just rejected a 50-state strategy, she has openly attacked it. CTG has a great quote from former Virginia Governor and future senator Mark Warner on this very topic:

The Democratic Party is in the upswing in the Mountain West and the South, in places like Montana and Virginia, because Democrats there have made a serious effort to compete for votes everywhere, rather than make a nominal effort to be an "also-ran" outside the Democratic-density areas. As [former Virginia Gov. Mark] Warner asks, how many more times will the Democrats run presidential campaigns where they abandon thirty-three southern and western states and "launch a national campaign that goes after sixteen states and then hope that we can hit a triple bank shot to get to that seventeenth state?"

Well, given Obama's map-changing 50-state mindset, it's clear that the answer to Warner's question is "one more time" if Clinton is the nominee, and "never again" if Obama is the nominee.

Clinton didn't just vote for the Iraq war and refuse to apologize for it, she voted to give Bush the same authority on Iran.

And if we want to talk about which party is the most grassroots-oriented, it's no contest. We've seen it in the caucuses, we've seen it in the netroots, and we saw it in the Iowa county convention this Saturday. The party's activists are busting their butts for Obama, while Clinton's campaign is counting on low-information Democratic voters selecting Clinton based on little more than name ID.

And leads to a finish with this:
Clinton knows this, it's her only path to victory, and she doesn't care. She is willing -- nay, eager to split the party apart in her mad pursuit of power.

If the situations were reversed, and Obama was lagging in the delegates, popular vote, states won, money raised, and every other reasonable measure, then I'd feel the same way about Obama. (I pulled the plug early on Dean in 2004.) But that's not the case.

It is Clinton, with no reasonable chance of victory, who is fomenting civil war in order to overturn the will of the Democratic electorate. As such, as far as I'm concerned, she doesn't deserve "fairness" on this site. All sexist attacks will be dealt with -- those will never be acceptable. But otherwise, Clinton has set an inevitably divisive course and must be dealt with appropriately.

To reiterate, she cannot win without overturning the will of the national Democratic electorate and fomenting civil war, and she doesn't care.

Clinton's Iraq Defense is Strong Offense

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton delivered a speech on Iraq. Rather than put forth her ideas and policies and perspectives, she spent much of the speech attacking Obama. It was Chris Matthew's big number last night - 11 times she attacked Obama.

Here's the Obama camp's response (it's good)

Monday, March 17, 2008

Fun Political Sex Scandal Quiz

Okay, I'm a bit chagrin to have only missed 6 of these.

Take the scandal test that The New Yorker put together and let me know how you do. I'm disappointed that they didn't include either of my two favorites - Rep. John Jenrette who had sex with his wife Rita on the Capitol Steps in 1981 (and gave birth to the name of a political satire comedy group) or Rep. Wilbur Mills in 1974 who got pulled over with a prostitute in his car, and the prostitute dived into the Tidal Basin.

For the Map of Shame - complete with a Google Map - that Slate put together, click here.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Clinton Hedges on Her Big State Argument

From the Huffington Post:
Hillary Clinton on Saturday reinforced her campaign's talking point that she was a stronger candidate because she had won Ohio and Florida, crucial "anchors of the electoral map" in the general election, in her words. But she hedged when a reporter asked her to explain why her primary victories would preclude an Obama victory in those same states in the fall. (Bold added)
Video at the link.

Clinton's Repulsive Path - GO ALREADY!

This essay, Go Already!, is a must read and a must read for right now. Jonathan Chait is a senior editor at the New Republic and this essay appeared in the print edition. And he lays out what Hillary needs to do to win and how her "kamikaze mission is likely to be unusually damaging," and how her "path to the nomination is pretty repulsive."

Two other quotes:
with most superdelegates already committed, Clinton would need to capture the remaining ones by a margin of better than two to one. And superdelegates are going to be extremely reluctant to overturn an elected delegate lead the size of Obama's. The only way to lessen that reluctance would be to destroy Obama's general election viability, so that superdelegates had no choice but to hand the nomination to her. Hence her flurry of attacks, her oddly qualified response as to whether Obama is a Muslim ("not as far as I know"), her repeated suggestions that John McCain is more qualified.
Clinton's path to the nomination, then, involves the following steps: kneecap an eloquent, inspiring, reform-minded young leader who happens to be the first serious African American presidential candidate (meanwhile cementing her own reputation for Nixonian ruthlessness) and then win a contested convention by persuading party elites to override the results at the polls. The plan may also involve trying to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations, after having explicitly agreed that the results would not count toward delegate totals. Oh, and her campaign has periodically hinted that some of Obama's elected delegates might break off and support her. I don't think she'd be in a position to defeat Hitler's dog in November, let alone a popular war hero.
It's worth a full read and is not long.

Listen to the Clinton Press Conference Calls

Politico has done a story about those now rather infamous Clinton campaign conference calls. The piece includes a survey of greatest hits (my favorite: a silence long enough to "knit a sweater" according to Time's Mark Halperin when Slate's John Dickerson asked exactly what foreign policy experience Hillary Clinton had that made her qualified to answer that 3 am call). And gives a general overview of how they evolved and how they are used.

And if you want to listen to the calls yourself, here's a site that posts them for the public.

I love the internet.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Obama Shames Republican on Senate Floor

This is why I love Obama. He takes Republican ridiculousness and shoots it right back at 'em. Check out what he yelled at a Republican on the Senate floor.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Olbermann To Do Special Comment Criticizing Hillary

Well, now it's official. Hillary Clinton is just like the other. I wrote before how Hillary resembles George Bush in eerie ways. And now Kieth Olbermann is to issue a Special Comment on Hillary. His ire has in the past been reserved for the likes of Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld. This evening will mark the first time for a Democrat. Tune in on MSNBC at 8 pm.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Hillary and her Foreign Policy "Experience"

A few surveys have come out about this over the last few days since the March 4th primaries.

The latest is from McClatchy which surveys former White House.

The funniest is from the Washington Post which quotes Sinbad as saying "I think the only 'red-phone' moment was: 'Do we eat here or at the next place.'"

The most comprehensive is from the Chicago Tribune from a few days ago.

The most political (and awfully fun to read) is this from the Obama campaign entitled - Re: Senator Clinton’s claim to be experienced in foreign policy: Just words

Hillary is Not THE Manager. Or A Manager?

This piece from yesterday's New York Times should give pause to any one who thinks Hillary would be a good president.

Two parts stood out. I don't think Hickes meant this statement to be a negative, but...

A senior adviser, Harold Ickes, joined the campaign full-time in January as Mrs. Clinton’s aides began to realize that the contest was not going the way they had planned. Mr. Ickes cautioned about drawing firm conclusions about her from this period, when she faced the demands of being a candidate.

“It’s hard to draw conclusions about her management style,” he said, “because she is, in fact, not the manager of her campaign.” (emphasis added)

Sort of brings to mind the hands off management style of Bush, doesn't it?

Second damaging aspect:
she described herself as stunned to learn the campaign was nearly broke — notwithstanding financial reports sent to her every week by e-mail — and was all but conceding the 11 contests that were to come over the next month.
Doesn't sound like someone who knows how to get things done or who is "experienced," does it?

Politics and Branding and Why Obama's Works

This piece is fascinating and sent to me by my friend Libby.

It's about branding in political campaigns and how Obama has raised the bar.
What does that say about his campaign?
My feeling, in my own narrow sphere as a professional graphic designer, echoes a little bit what Frank Rich wrote in his column on Sunday, where he was talking about Hillary Clinton's argument that Obama doesn't have the experience to run the country properly, and how you only needed to look at how her own campaign has been managed to see the flaw in that argument. I sort of see the same thing. I'm not sure that the commander-in-chief proves his mettle by getting everyone at his rallies to set their signs in the same typeface, but as someone who knows how hard that is, I'm very impressed.
Check out the full piece, with a very interesting discussion on fonts, here.

A Filabuster Proof Senate Is Within Reach?

Many understand that the reason the Iraq war has not ended is because the Senate is so closely decided and the minority party - the Republicans - have prevented items from coming to the floor for a vote with the power of the filibuster. In this unique political year, Democrats actually have a chance of gaining 9 seats - to the magic number of 60. And it won't happen with Hillary Clinton at the top of the ticket. This is what matters to getting this done in Washington. Fighting won't matter if the Senate has the power to block. Being able to persuade does. Even easier persuading members of your own party.

Cokie Roberts spoke idiocy on Sunday in the discussion on This Week. She took a skeptical tone and disparages Obama for thinking he could work with the like of Sen. Stevens. (He would be the Alaskan Senator responsible for the infamous "bridge to nowhere" and who is under investigation for bribery by the FBI, which raided his house). He is running against the popular Anchorage mayor and he may actually lose. And the Republicans don't have the money.

Clinton is willing to kill the party rather than step out or down. And she will kill it, her chances and her own, as well as our best chance of not only winning the presidency but also to get a filibuster proof majority in the Senate in order to make real change.

See this from Saturday’s New York Times…
Senate Democrats Hope for a Majority Not Seen in 30 Years: 60 Seats

“Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, in particular, has shown the capacity to ignite turnout among younger voters and blacks, and Democratic strategists believe he could have longer coattails than Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York in states like Minnesota and Oregon, where Democrats hope to gain seats held by Republicans.”