Saturday, May 31, 2008

Comtemporary Reports From Michigan Papers

I just want to highlight some posts from January on Michigan:
  • Bad News in Michigan for Hillary highlights a report in the Detroit News that it would look bad if Hillary, being the only major candidate on the ballot got less than 60%. She got 54.4%. Kucinich was the only other candidate.
  • Why Michigan Matters To Democrats which highlights that Clinton feared being beaten in MI by "Uncommitted"
I can also report that there was an effort in the Obama campaign to get people in Michigan to vote for uncommitted at that time. I think it was to embarrass Clinton, not necessarily because they thought the primary would end up counting.

We shall see.

Clinton Protesters Get Rained On, Literally

Thinking of those Clinton protesters, may I suggest the weather today in DC is divine retribution? Not seen a storm like this in a long while and no one could have been outside during it.

See these notices from the National Weather Service:

-----Original Message-----
From: AlertDC []
Sent: Saturday, May 31, 2008 10:57 AM
To: Weather 24-7 Recipients
Subject: Tornado Watch

NWS has issued a Tornado Watch for D.C., effective immediately until 5PM. Severe thunderstorms are also possible during that time. Please take all appropriate precautions.

-----Original Message-----
From: AlertDC []
Sent: Saturday, May 31, 2008 1:06 PM
To: Weather 24-7 Recipients
Subject: Message from Alert DC

NWS has issued a severe thunderstorm warning for D.C., good through 1:30PM. A severe thunderstorm is likely to strike the District shortly. Please take appropriate precautions.

Here's some video from The Washington Post:

Oh well.

UPDATE: Here's is quite a vivid and nauseating report, Scenes From Today's RBC Hillary Protest. As I noted wrote yesterday, how on earth does Hillary put this back in the bottle? How? But she's not thinking of that.

The New Republic reports:
Has it come to this? We tend to assume the Hillary camp's hot rhetoric--that Obama's less ready than McCain to be commander-in-chief, that the DNC in Florida is like Mugabe in Zimbabwe--is studied, purposeful, that they can't really believe it. That may be true at the Lanny Davis level, but by the time it trickles down to Hillary's most grassroots supporters, it becomes deadly serious.
Then this:
It's easy to sink into despair here. Standing and watching all these Democrats chat up Sinclair (a man who claims to have oral sex with Obama)...makes me want to fall to my knees, rend my garments, and start insanely screaming, "Wake up! Wake up! You'll hate a President John McCain!" But the rhetoric from the top has imparted its poison below, and the bitterest criticisms of Obama gain traction as they circulate through the virulently-pro-Hillary echo chamber.
Hillary Clinton is responsible for this atmosphere and talk.

TPM On Disenfranchisement

Josh Marshall makes this excellent point today at his blog, Talking Points Memo:

The Clinton campaign argues that if the delegates from these non-sanctioned primaries are not seated hundreds of thousand of voters in Florida and Michigan will be disenfranchised.

The other side argues that it is wrong to change the rules of the nomination process after the fact in order to advantage one candidate over another. The latter is an argument I agree with -- but there's no question it lacks the emotive impact of the disenfranchisement argument.

What doesn't get mentioned, however, is this: it was widely reported and understood in both Florida and Michigan that the results of these primaries would not be counted. And based on that knowledge, large numbers of voters in both states simply didn't participate.

If the DNC were now to turn around and decide to make these contests count after all, these non-participating voters would be disenfranchised no less than the people who did turn out would be if the DNC sticks to the rules and doesn't seat any of the delegates. The simple fact is that large numbers of people, acting on accurate knowledge and in good faith, decided that there wasn't a real primary being held in their state on the day in question and on that basis decided not to participate.

I've seen that elsewhere, but that summary is as succinct as I've ever seen. And he points to further analysis to one of his other bloggers who wrote Do Florida and Michigan Primaries Really Reflect the Will of the People? Nope.
Bottom line: As these numbers clearly show, if these two states had held recognized contests with turnout in line with the best-fit curve for the other states, it seems likely that many more voters would have turned out -- possibly as many as one million in Florida, and over half a million in Michigan -- and we simply can't know how those people would have voted. These simple facts render both contests, especially Michigan, seriously dubious as actual measurements of the will of each state's electorate.
I did see it mentioned today at the DNC Rules Committee meeting - I don't remember by whom - that FL was the only state in which more Republicans voted than Democrats. In every other state contest, the Democrats total voting numbers have not only exceed Republicans, but often times smashed them. This is one reason Republicans are so uneasy. In my view, this is mostly due to Obama's efforts to register new voters (blacks and young people). And for those who don't know, in 1992 Obama himself worked to register new voters in the South Side of Chicago, so he knows how to get it done and values that effort. He did so for the benefit of Bill Clinton's campaign.

There's the added difficulty that if the Rules committee changes the rules now, it undermines their authority should problems arise with states mucking around with the schedule in 2012. That is surely to weigh on their minds.

Why Obama Wins

Answer - not just his speeches. Look at how he has conducted his campaign.

For those of my friends who say Obama just gives pretty speeches, read this (from AP):

Clinton hinged her whole campaign on an early knockout blow on Super Tuesday, while Obama's staff researched congressional districts in states with primaries that were months away. What they found were opportunities to win delegates, even in states they would eventually lose.

Obama's campaign mastered some of the most arcane rules in politics, and then used them to foil a front-runner who seemed to have every advantage—money, fame and a husband who had essentially run the Democratic Party for eight years as president.

"Without a doubt, their understanding of the nominating process was one of the keys to their success," said Tad Devine, a Democratic strategist not aligned with either candidate. "They understood the nuances of it and approached it at a strategic level that the Clinton campaign did not."

Careful planning is one reason why Obama is emerging as the nominee as the Democratic Party prepares for its final three primaries, Puerto Rico on Sunday and Montana and South Dakota on Tuesday. Attributing his success only to soaring speeches and prodigious fundraising ignores a critical part of contest.

Hat tip Sullivan, who also noted: Imagine if the Iraq war had been planned by Obama's campaign managers. You think we would have had no post-invasion strategy?

The AP pieces goes on to talk about the essential role of Jeffrey Berman for Obama. Berman is Ickes counterpart in the Obama campaign. Politico profiled Berman on May 11th:

“He is the unsung hero of the Obama effort,” said Steve Elmendorf, a Democratic consultant who supports Clinton.

The bearded, no-profile 50-year-old lawyer’s central role in Obama’s likely nomination is emblematic of the depth of Obama’s preparation for the 2008 campaign.

Drama at DNC, Ickes Antagonist


Yeah, I'm a political geek and am home watching the Rules Committee hearing.

Wexler is the grandson of the man who played an instrumental role in 1928 Democratic Convention. (I'm still researching, but I think the chair noted that his grandfather gave a nickname to Al Smith, the nominee who ran against Hoover). Roosevelt is the chair. So there's some old history in that room.

There was just a riveting exchange between Harold Ickes (who is on the committee and is Hillary's delegate guru) and Rep. Robert Wexler who is representing the Obama campaign. Wexler is a FL Congressman, with moral authority - he has found hard for FL votes to count since 2000, in the FL legistlature, FL courts, and before the DNC). Wexler can hardly be accused of disenfranchising FL voters. The man has been a champion. And he's a great lawyer.

In addition to the dramatic concession announcement, there was this exchange - gosh it was fun television -
ICKES: I thought useful to note that 4 years ago when there was a full blown, hotly contested multi-million dollar primary , 750,000 people voted.

My question is as follows, you referred in your remarks in connection to the Ausman petition that it was a concession and you referred to the number 19. And my question of you is what concession is being made and you imply that a different standard perhaps should be used.

WEXLER: First point, Mr. Ickes, and you know as well as I, if you're referring to the presidential primary of 2004 with respect to Senator Kerry, by the time Florida voted in March, Senator Kerry effectively was the presumptive nominee. There was no contest like there has been this year.

With respect to the second part of your question, we could not be clearer, we support the Ausman petition. That is the petition that you have before you.

Also what could not be clearer is that you have the power to partition and determine those delegates. What we are saying is that up to the number of 19 which is the maximum amount allowable under the Ausman petition and under your rules. We, the Obama campaign, will support that effort. And we do so, we do so, in an effort of unity.

Why, Mr. Ickes, is it a significant concession? Because in the state of Ohio and in the state of Pennsylvania together, Sen. Clinton won a total of 19 delegates. And here we are today offering a resolution that brings Florida voters together that actually amounts to both victories in Ohio and Pennsylvania. Let us unify! Let us move on!

ICKES: I gather you do agree with the concept of "fair reflection" under our rules?

WEXLER: The concept of "fair reflection?" Mr. Ickes, you'll have to educate me on what the concept of "fair reflection" is?

CHAIR: We will turn to Ralph Dawson for the next question.

WEXLER: Did Mr. Ickes not respond?

ICKES: He chose not to speak further.
And then Sen. Carl Levin - whom I like, went up for Michigan where 600,000 Democrats voted. He elucidated how and why Michigan went early, talking about the work of the commission that set up the primary schedule, and emphasized the sequence of those first four (New Hampshire was not supposed to go 2nd). Here when he says we, he means the Michigan Democratic Party. Just to be clear Ickes, for the Clinton campaign, is arguing that Obama should get NO delegates out of Michigan.
LEVIN: Let me see if I can remember your 1st, 2nd and 3rd questions, though. You're calling for a fair reflection of a flawed primary. And what we're trying to do is to keep a party together so we can win a critical state in November.

And let me tell you, the precedent that we set, it seems to me, is a good precedent if circumstances like this ever exist again, where you have this kind of a primary, where you've got 2 candidates still standing, one of whom was on the ballot and one of whom wasn't. It's an unusual circumstance. And so, we take everything into consideration.

I mean you can't say that a ballot, where you've one candidate named and the other candidate not on the ballot, should be reflected. That's not, it seems to us, appropriate. And so we look...what we have done, it seems to me, is what all of you would want us to do, which is get Obama supporters and Clinton supporters on the executive committee and say folks, and talk to the campaigns...Now the question is how do you have a fair reflection of a flawed primary. That's the question. We faced it. We faced it. We tried to get another primary. Couldn't get it. You're going to face it. You're going to hear from two representatives in a we tried to take a position which recognizes that there is some validity to both arguments. And there is validity to both arguments. And that's what we tried to do, to unify our party. Don't dis-unify us. Keep us unified!
UPDATE: Real Clear Politics assembled a brief brief on the real meaning (and the Ickes' meaning) of "fair reflection."

Why I Love Obama

Politico called this move mischievous and aggressive:
the choice of venue is a mischievous, aggressive way for Obama to unofficially kick off the general election campaign against Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.)
What is he doing? Get this (reports the Minneapolis Star-Tribute):
Barack Obama has chosen the site of the GOP national convention in St. Paul to celebrate the likely end of the Democratic presidential primary contest on Tuesday night.

The Illinois senator is scheduled to address a huge rally at the Xcel Energy Center, his campaign announced Friday. "As Minnesotans, we're incredibly excited," said Tina Smith, senior adviser to the Obama campaign in Minnesota.

Isn't that cool? It's not subtle. That is the very hall in which John McCain will accept the nomination of the Republican Party.

Boy, this general election is going to be fun. An angressive, nimble, smart Democrat!

Friday, May 30, 2008

I'm Scared: She is Never Going Away

And with that means the drama that was so nauseating and poisons my city in the 1990s is not going to go away either.

First, there was this news yesterday (not withstanding empty buses) from ABC News: Clinton Issues Post-Primary Schedule (Yes, Post-Primary Schedule). And apparently that resulted in "many confused looks passed between reporters on the back of the press bus." That would be the one occupied bus presumably.

Second, she's asking for votes to select her new t-shirt. No kidding. They are ugly too.

Then, earlier this week I got communication from the local Obama campaign about the DNC Rules & By-Laws committee meeting tomorrow. There were a series of emails with instructions on how to gain admittance. One first had to sign up at the DNC web site to be a "party builder." Guess Dean is learning from Obama on how to leverage the web. Only then would you be eligible to secure a ticket which became available at 10 am. I wasn't going to post the email, but Ambinder did over at The Atlantic today.

So, here to me is the pertinent part:

Note: The Obama campaign has asked that its supporters refrain from
protesting/demonstrating/rallying at the meeting, regardless of how
well-intentioned those efforts may be. Instead, they urge those without
tickets to engage in one of the activities listed below.

For those of you without tickets, there are three options for you on
Saturday morning.

1) You can show up early on Saturday and wait in the same-day
registration line in the hopes that someone with a ticket doesn't show
up. Tickets will begin to be given away on a first-come first-served
basis beginning at 9:30 am, which is also when the meeting agenda

2) Stay home and watch the meeting unfold on C-SPAN.

3) Most importantly, you can help move our cause forward in the region
by registering voters in Northern Virginia. We stand a good chance of
turning Virginia blue this year and that work has already begun. While
Clinton supporters are disturbing the peace at the RBC meeting, you can
help move our campaign forward.
I thought then and think even more so in comparison, highly of how the Obama campaign is being conducted. Don't rabble rouse, here's the last way to get a ticket, be informed, get more registered voters. And I thought that Obama instills such loyalty that his followers will do what he says, even if they don't like it.

To wit, this tale from the New Yorker's Talk of the Town, Huddle: Team Obama:

Todd Sutler, a third-grade teacher at the Bank Street School, raised his hand. “Can we talk a little bit about how to lay it on the Clinton people?”

“We don’t want to be dancing in the end zone,” Goldberg said. “Our plan is to sit down and have a drink with them, and, if they tell us they want to take leadership roles in the campaign, that’s great.”

Sutler said, “But they still might be thinking they have a chance.”

Later that day, Wednesday this week, I learned from the Washington Post's political blog, The Trail, about what Hillary's supporters are planning on doing. It made me sick to my stomach. For the fact of it, in itself. Like many in my generation, I look askance at protesters - because it rarely achieves anything.

But also because of the question - how on earth does Hillary put this back in the bottle? How? But she's not thinking of that.

And the premise is false! She's not losing because she is a woman. She is losing because she mismanaged her campaign. Period.

Roger Simon, Politico, titled a piece The Drama of Hillary Clinton and had this to say about the meeting tomorrow:
I have attended meetings of the Rules and Bylaws Committee in past years, and here is my impression of its members: serious. Very serious. So serious, they make members of the Supreme Court look giddy in comparison.

Want a hint as to what the committee cares about? Take a look at its name: Rules and Bylaws.

So what do think? You think its members like unruly crowds? Demonstrations? Tumult? Uproar? Commotion? Attempts to intimidate?

The Obama people — those rank amateurs! — don’t think so.

“We don’t think it’s a helpful dynamic to create chaos,” David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager, said. “In the interest of party unity, we’re encouraging our supporters not to protest.”

The Clinton campaign has a different view.

Terry McAuliffe, the Clinton campaign chairman, Thursday defended the planned demonstration, by saying: “I like excitement! Let’s show passion!”
The Clinton campaign claims they have nothing to do with it. Let's be clear, they are doing nothing to discourage the intimidation of crowds. Now who's evoking echoes of FL?

But they sure sound defensive about it. Apparently in the Clinton campaign call today (via Ben Smith):

At the end of an extremely long Clinton conference call, Clinton backer and DNC rules maven Tina Flournoy responded to David Plouffe's implicit criticism of pro-Clinton protests outside tomorrow's DNC meeting.

"What we are seeing is a constant refrain that this is chaos — I’ve even seen the word circus used, which I must tell you I find particularly offensive," said Flournoy, an official of the American Federation of Teachers.

The protesters are coming "peacefully" to "stand with the people of Michigan and Florida," she said.

"Why that is extraordinary, why that is troubling, why that elicits negative comments I’m not sure, but I find that disturbing," she said.

Well, not withstanding Harold Ickes' prediction that many of Hillary Clinton's supporters will defect from her - not not her, not her 'womanhood' - but her line of thinking and reject her argument (made in a 13 page document this week) - I'm still scared. I hear Ickes and think - he's just managing expectations. There is a movement to protest in front of Ickes Georgetown home.

The Clinton campaign is even arguing over the powers of the DNC Rules Committee. DNC lawyers informed members of the committee that they don't have the authority to re-instate the full delegation at full count. And the Clinton campaign released its own legal opinion, apparently very dense, which maintained that the committee does, in fact have that power.

'til tomorrow

I Love Obama Loving Biden

Obama is reaching out to Joe Biden, whom I love, according to an interview Biden gave to the Washington Times today.

The lead:
"He has asked me to play a more prominent role – not in an administration, in the campaign – meaning would I be more available, would I travel with him occasionally, and I said once he gets the nomination, if he gets the nomination, then I'll do whatever he wants," Mr. Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told The Washington Times yesterday in an interview. "I'll do whatever he asks me to do."
And on the prospect of Biden being VP:

Although Mr. Biden joins several of his colleagues on a Democratic dream "short list" of potential vice presidential picks, he said he doesn't want to be considered.

He has not been asked to submit vetting papers, and added that his work for the Democratic campaign doesn't mean he wants the job.

But Mr. Biden added a big caveat, saying instead of being "considered" he would want a "direct discussion face to face with the nominee" to ask, "Am I likely to be picked" if I "pass all those tests in terms of my not having skeletons."

"If you can't look me in the eye and tell me that then ... don't put me through the audition," he said.

But if that offer is made, "You'd have to say yes. I don't know how the hell you'd say no at this historic moment."

And if case you missed this riveting piece of television, Biden got choked up last Friday morning when he appeared on Morning Joe and criticized his old friend John McCain for his ad homin attack. His effective point was made all the more poignant because of his friendship with McCain.
The moment is about 9 minutes into the interview:

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Intellectual Leaders of Al Qaeda Disavow Violence

A few important must-reads, though lengthy, pieces about some remarkable dissent within Al Qaeda. It makes for fascinating reading. I couldn't put down Wright's piece. I've not yet read Bergen and Cruickshank.

One in The New Yorker by the estimable Lawrence Wright The Rebellion Within . Wright is the author of the Pulitizer prize winning book, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 and which was made into a one man play last year called My Trip to Al-Qaeda. A great NPR interview on the play can be heard here.

Second piece on the exact same topic, this week as well (how do these things happen?) - in The New Republic called The Unraveling by

And an hour long interview on the Diane Rehm show on dissent within Al Qaeda with (the first guest, is very interesting)
  • Michael Scheuer, former CIA analyst who headed the agency's Osama Bin Laden unit from 1996 to 1999; author of the new book "Marching Toward Hell: America and Islam After Iraq"
  • Fawaz Gerges, professor of Middle East and international affairs at Sarah Lawrence College; author of "Journey of the Jihadist: Inside Muslim Militancy"
  • Peter Bergen, CNN national security analyst, Schwartz senior fellow at the New America Foundation; research fellow at New York University's Center on Law and Security; author of "The Osama bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of al Qaeda's Leader"
  • Jarret Brachman, director of research, Combating Terrorism Center at the U.S. Military Academy (West Point)
I will annotate after I finish reading this weekend

Why I Hate Hillary

Andrew Sullivan posted this:

Hilary Rosen explains her continuing support for Clinton:

Hillary's campaign is still going for every woman who has spoken up in a meeting and was greeted with silence only to have a man say the same thing and be praised. It endures for the mothers who are taking care of their children and their parents and their home and has no time to take care of herself. It endures for women who are so scared to see her fail because of what it may say about their chances in life. And yes folks, it resonates for all the women who have seen the younger guy come along and get the promotion even though she has worked in the company loyally for years.

It is also true that every woman who has ever claimed sexual harassment, who has stood up to powerful men who have abused authority and power for sexual gratification has every reason to hope that Hillary Clinton loses. She enabled and allowed every one of her husband's serial acts of abuse against women less powerful than himself. And smeared the victims for good measure.

That is EXACTLY why I loathed Hillary. She smeared the victims of her husband's predatory behavior. Don't call her a feminist icon.

On a related note, Sullivan is exactly right in his commentary to Hendrick Hertzberg fascinating piece at The New Yorker about his friendship with Chris Matthews. Hertzberg was prompted to write because of this great Matthews television moment when Matthews humiliates a Republican moronic talk show host.

He reminences about his long friendship with Matthews from the 70s (along with a great picture). And notes the one time he and Matthews politically disagreed. Guess what it was: Clinton's behavior. Well, I'm with Matthews (and Sullivan).

First here's what Hertzberg wrote:

In my opinion, Chris went kind of haywire during the Clinton years. I have my own theories about why. Theory one: he and Clinton are too much alike. Same age, same size, same crazed gregariousness, same gift of gab, same manic energy, same thirst for attention, roughly similar political views and non-élite backgrounds. (A similar this-town-ain’t-big-enough-for-both-of-us dynamic, this one focussing on rival good-ol’-boy personae, poisoned the relationship between Howell Raines, then the editorial page of the Times, and Clinton. In my opinion.) Civil wars are always the bitterest.

Theory two: it had something to do with the difference between Irish Catholic and Southern Baptist views of sin and forgiveness. As many people noticed at the time, the Lewinsky brouhaha drove not just Chris but also Michael Kelly, Tim Russert, and Maureen Dowd completely round the bend. For the Catholics, sins are to be confessed in the privacy of a closed booth to a priest who is the bottom rung on a ladder of long-established authority that runs upward through the hierarchy, the Pope, the saints, and only then to the Supreme Judge of the Universe. Forgiveness is administered via prescribed rituals sanctified by centuries of uninterrupted use. For low-church Protestants like Clinton (and Jimmy Swaggart and Jim Bakker), confession usually comes after you get caught, is noisily public, and is so bound up with high-profile damage control that its sincerity cannot be assumed. Forgiveness comes from a chaotic combination of constituency politics (be the constituency a congregation or a party) and one’s “personal relationship” with Jesus, a notion Catholics find as creepy as Protestants find Marianism. The sloppy, sappy, self-indulgent theological and personal indiscipline of it all—that’s what R.C.s can’t stand. Anyway, that’s my theory, offered with this caveat: I’m not sure I know what I’m talking about.

Here's Sullivan disagreeing with that:
My one disagreement with Rick: hating the Clintons is not reducible to some strange atheist idea of what a Catholic's idea of forgiveness is. The reason so many people who were brought up in a traditional Catholic household loathe the Clintons - Dowd, Kelly, Russert, Matthews, Sullivan, et al. - is because we were taught the difference between right and wrong, and taught to believe it matters.

That's all.

Well, I'm neither Catholic or Irish, and my hatred for the Clinton is also animated by what my parents taught me was the difference between right and wrong. Turns out my parents are not the purists I am. But then, neither of them were ever hit on by a political pig nor smeared by a resentful woman as a result of some man's behavior.

And I like Matthews - because of his principles, but also and more importantly because he ACTUALLY listens to the answers to the questions he asks and follows up - unlike his boss Russert who is so full of himself he off thinking on the next brillant question he's concocted instead of listening to the bs answer he is getting. For example, in his recent interview with Obama on Meet the Press, Russert never asked the obvious question - why did you join Trinity Church in the first place and what kept you there.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Next Democratic Majority

Actually, it'd be nigh on near the only one in my lifetime. Now The Atlantic offers some interesting analysis of what the Democrats and Obama are doing right this year and what the Republicans have done wrong.

First, the exciting implications:
Though few Democrats will say so out loud, the party could come within striking distance of a filibuster-proof majority this November. In the House, Democrats have won a string of special elections in profoundly hostile territory -- in Denny Hastert's old district, a sprawling mix of Republican-friendly exurbs and rural areas in northern Illinois; in Baton Rouge and its environs; and, perhaps most remarkably, in a deep-red district in Mississippi. Assuming Barack Obama is the Democratic presidential nominee, he will likely endanger literally dozens of Republican seats, as Nicholas Beaudrot has suggested.
Here's what the Democrats are doing well. To me, the analysis strikes me as dead on:
The Democrats, shrewdly, have sworn off ideological coherence in favor of a more decentralized strategy. In the Deep South, they've run as economic nationalists opposed to the Iraq War, mass immigration, and free trade. In affluent suburbia, they've run as pragmatic cultural liberals staunchly opposed to the cruel vagaries of the Alternative Minimum Tax. Obama has managed to bridge this still-emerging divide, by drawing on the language of anti-war Midwestern populists as well as the soothing tones of the foreign policy establishment. This balancing act is what makes Obama a political virtuoso. But these divisions and contradictions, similar in some sense to those that divided the Democrats at their political zenith, will prove difficult to manage once something tangible is at stake. If, as looks increasingly likely, increased minority turnout and youth turnout contribute to a sweeping Democratic win, we will see newer generational and cultural tensions that will undoubtedly shape the future of American involvement in Iraq and the welfare state.
Now to read how the Republicans have mis-stepped read the full comment.

Dem Charged w Winning House Wants More Than Lip Service From HIlary

Chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) Rep. Chris Van Hollen talk with two Washington Post reporters about the races in the House.

Says with Obama at the top of the ticket, Republicans can't count on a conventional turn out (i.e. some districts will be swarmed with new voters).

Also adds Sen. Clinton is going to have to do more than just lip service. She's going to get in there and work hard. Not just give lip service.

Hillary's Funny Popular Vote Math

Another worthy read from this week's New Yorker, Hendrick Hertzberg's Memory Lapse. He links the origins of Memorial Day from shortly after the Civil War and weaves an obvious connection to the 2000 FL recount:
thanks to HBO, the remembrances of the Memorial Day weekend encompassed another American civil war, happily less lethal to its combatants but far from trivial in its consequences...It reminds us of some essential truths about the election and its aborted recount: that more Floridians went to their polling places to vote for Al Gore than for George W. Bush; that a full and fair count would have confirmed the voters’ preference; that the White House was awarded to Bush, the half-million-vote loser across the nation, by a 5-4 Supreme Court diktat. The injustice of Bush v. Gore was obvious at the time; its sequel has proved it to be a tragedy...The wound to the country’s civic health remains fresh, though of course it is active, committed Democrats who feel it most keenly.
That's an understatement and hardly approaches the pain of Bush's re-election. (Ohio 2004)

Then, like many others last week, Hertzberg notes Hillary Clinton's frightening similarity to her husband:
“We’re winning the popular vote,” Hillary Clinton said last week, after prevailing in the Kentucky primary by a margin bigger than that by which she lost in Oregon. “More people have voted for me than for anyone who has ever run for the Democratic nomination.” These statements must be read with the sort of close grammatical and definitional care that used to inform her husband’s descriptions of his personal entanglements. They are not quite true in the normal sense, but if made under oath they would not be prosecutable for perjury, either.
He outlines the problems with her calculation of the majority and notes her frightening lunacy and detachment from reality:
In a nominating process, especially this one, the “popular vote” is an elusive phenomenon., an independent Web site whose numbers political reporters and operatives tend to trust, maintains six separate tallies. At the moment, Obama leads in four of them. With or without participants in the caucus states of Iowa, Nevada, Maine, and Washington (i.e., states where voters’ preferences were expressed by gathering in corners and the like, and whose numbers can be estimated but are not pinpointed), and with the totals for both Florida (whose primary was unsanctioned by the Democratic Party, with the consent of all the candidates, and where no one campaigned) and Michigan (also unsanctioned, and where Obama’s name was not even on the ballot), Clinton’s claim that more people have “voted” for her is factual. But her claim to be “ahead” depends entirely on a tally for the Michigan primary that is distinctly North Korean: Clinton, 328,309; Obama, 0.
There is an important point buried in there. The point is that we can never have an accurate popular vote count because 4 caucus states don't have a count to report. It's MOOT.

And then the escalation of her rhetoric last week that makes me worry this is going all the way to the convention:

Last Wednesday, Clinton described the Democrats’ long-standing reluctance to seat the Florida and Michigan delegations in their entirety, a reluctance that she shared back when she saw her nomination as inevitable, in these words: “We’re seeing that right now in Zimbabwe.” In a speech in Florida, she invoked the Declaration of Independence, “the consent of the governed,” the abolition of slavery, “our most fundamental values,” the 1848 Seneca Falls women’s-suffrage convention, the sacrifice of soldiers, the tear gas at Selma, “equal justice under the law,” and the Voting Rights Act. Worse, she invaded the Democratic sacristy, picked up the chalice, and flourished it like a club, saying that
right here in Florida, you learned the hard way what happens when your votes aren’t counted and the candidate with fewer votes is declared the winner. The lesson of 2000 here in Florida is crystal clear. If any votes aren’t counted, the will of the people is not realized and our democracy is diminished.

I'm scared.

The Ultimate Dirty Trickster (who may have brought down Spitzer)

Toobin pens a brillant profile of Roger Stone in this week's New Yorker, The Dirty Trickster. An engaging profile needs both a riveting subject and an excellent writer. This one has both.

I'd seen Stone's name in the papers as one who passed information to the FBI from a prostitute about Eliot Spitzer, which as instrumental in bringing him down. As Toobin shows Stone's instrumentality is questionable, but in the context of Stone's life of political dirty tricks seems perfectly plausible.

The subtitle of the piece is Campaign tips from the man who has done it all. That seems an understatement by the end of the piece. Stone seems to have his mitts in every dirty trick since 1972.

What's great about the writing is that Toobin throws in "rules" from Stone yet unpublished book:
“Stone’s Rules for War, Politics, Food, Fashion, and Living," to emphasize or highlight or deepen Stone's personal and specific utterances. The effect is a tour de force.

As a personal note, and I didn't put this together until I read this piece but Stone is Stone as in Black, Manafort, Stone & Atwater - which was THE political consulting firm when I came to Washington in '88. It'd been founded in 1980 and by then was in its heyday. I knew and dated a few Republicans who worked there. (One broke up with me telling me I was "too cerebral" for him. I went home and looked the word up just to confirm it meant what I thought it meant).

Toobin notes that the firm, until recently run by McCain top aid Charlie Black, has since been swallowed up by Burson-Marsteller,
whose chief executive is Mark Penn, an adviser to Hillary Clinton’s campaign. “So what that means is that Mark Penn is Charlie Black’s boss,” Stone told me. “And they said I was sleazy.”
Here are some money quotes from the first few pages. But read the whole thing - it's amazing, laugh out loud funny (the rule Stone borrows from Gore Vidal) and revealing.

Stone's inspiration is Nixon (who, it should be noted was called "Tricky Dick"):
Still, it is no coincidence that Stone materialized in the midst of the Spitzer scandal—and that he had memorable cameos in the last two Presidential elections. While the Republican Party usually claims Ronald Reagan as its inspiration, Stone represents the less discussed but still vigorous legacy of Richard Nixon, whose politics reflected a curious admixture of anti-Communism, social moderation, and tactical thuggery. Stone believes that Nixonian hardball, more than sunny Reaganism, is John McCain’s only hope for the Presidency...Like Nixon, Stone is also a great hater—of, among others, the Clintons, Karl Rove, and Spitzer. So what happened at Miami Velvet one night last September, he said, amounted to a gift.
His first dirty trick was in 1972, age 19, for Nixon:
He was just nineteen when he played a bit part in the Watergate scandals. He adopted the pseudonym Jason Rainier and made contributions in the name of the Young Socialist Alliance to the campaign of Pete McCloskey, who was challenging Nixon for the Republican nomination in 1972. Stone then sent a receipt to the Manchester Union Leader, to “prove” that Nixon’s adversary was a left-wing stooge... Stone revels in his Watergate pedigree, noting almost apologetically that he was never accused of breaking any law. “The Democrats were weak, we were strong,” he told me. (Stone’s rules: “Attack, attack, attack—never defend” and “Admit nothing, deny everything, launch counterattack.”)
His mentor was Roy Cohn. ROY COHN!
Stone found a new mentor to help him. “I was invited to a party by a socialite named Sheila Mosler, and Roy Cohn was there,” Stone said, as the captain delivered an order of “21” ’s steak tartare. “Roy was a Democrat, but he was an anti-Communist and a master of public relations, and he wanted to help me with Reagan. He told me to come see him at his town house.
Roy Cohn's been in the news recently because of Barbara Walter's memoir Audition. She was devoted to Cohn, apparently because Cohn saved her father from financial ruin, helped her adopt her daughter, even contemplated marriage to him. The New York Times call Cohn, Walter's "weirdest suitor." Cohn is widely thought to be gay, but there's a funny bit in Toobin's piece about that too.

Then there's Stone's supposedly prescience when it came to the now infamous Willie Horton ad of 1988:
The experience prompts a rare disclaimer from Stone, who is usually eager to claim credit for hardball tactics. “We had an ad running about the furloughs in Massachusetts, with a revolving door, and it was really polling well—a great ad—and none of the prisoners were identifiable,” Stone told me. “But then Atwater came in with this version that had Willie Horton’s picture—and he said they were going to have an independent group put it on the air.” (Horton was a convicted murderer who committed a rape after fleeing while on furlough from prison in Massachusetts while Dukakis was governor.) “I told Atwater that it was a mistake, that we were winning the issue without having to resort to this racist crap. I told Atwater, ‘You are going to get linked to this, and it is gonna follow you and George Bush for the rest of your life.’ It did.”
His personal ad for swinging couples brought his downfall:
Stone served as a senior consultant to Bob Dole’s 1996 campaign for President, but that assignment ended in a characteristic conflagration. The National Enquirer, in a story headlined “Top Dole Aide Caught in Group-Sex Ring,” reported that the Stones had apparently run personal ads in a magazine called Local Swing Fever and on a Web site that had been set up with Nydia’s credit card. “Hot, insatiable lady and her handsome body builder husband, experienced swingers, seek similar couples or exceptional muscular . . . single men,” the ad on the Web site stated. The ads sought athletes and military men, while discouraging overweight candidates, and included photographs of the Stones. At the time, Stone claimed that he had been set up by a “very sick individual,” but he was forced to resign from Dole’s campaign. Stone acknowledged to me that the ads were authentic. “When that whole thing hit the fan in 1996, the reason I gave a blanket denial was that my grandparents were still alive,” he said. “I’m not guilty of hypocrisy. I’m a libertarian and a libertine.”
After 9/11, seeing the smoke billow from the Pentagon, he cut his last ties to DC.
When I asked why he moved to Miami, Stone quoted a Somerset Maugham line: “It’s a sunny place for shady people. I fit right in.”
Ed Rollins calls Stone "a little rat" and "a fringe player around town." Donald Trump: “Roger is a stone-cold loser.” These quotes are from Republicans.

Read the rest - too much good material to highlight. Topic include Stone's alleged role in the Brooks Brother's riot that shut down recounting ballots in Miami-Dade in 2000, his role in the CBS News story in 2004 about Bush ducking Vietnam, how he left a message for Eliot Spitzer’s father Bernard and got fired from the NY Senate Republicans, his 527 to fight Hillary's nomination called Citizen's United Never Timid (think acronym).

As for the current presidential campaign, here's a bit -
Stone detests Hillary Clinton’s politics but admires her pugnacity. He wrote recently on his Web site, an erratically updated collection of observations called, “I must admit she has demonstrated true grit and Nixonian-like tenacity in the face of adversity.” Stone particularly admires Clinton’s attempt to hang the “élitist” tag on Barack Obama. “It’s a good idea,” he said.
But he won't be working with McCain who once uttered to Stone:
"What the fuck are you talking about? Get the fuck out of my office!"
Find out why by reading the whole thing (has to do with Trump).

Monday, May 26, 2008

Treasured Poetry - Burnt Norton by T.S. Eliot

Burnt Norton of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartet's is one of my favorite poems. I have one section painted on the wall of my guest room.

The beginning:
Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
And this section:
At the still point of the turning world. Neither flesh nor fleshless;
Neither from nor towards; at the still point, there the dance is,
But neither arrest nor movement. And do not call it fixity,
Where past and future are gathered. Neither movement from nor towards,
Neither ascent nor decline. Except for the point, the still point,
There would be no dance, and there is only the dance.
I can only say, there we have been: but I cannot say where.
And I cannot say, how long, for that is to place it in time.
The inner freedom from the practical desire,
The release from action and suffering, release from the inner
And the outer compulsion, yet surrounded
By a grace of sense, a white light still and moving,
Erhebung without motion, concentration
Without elimination, both a new world
And the old made explicit, understood
In the completion of its partial ecstasy,
The resolution of its partial horror.
Yet the enchainment of past and future
Woven in the weakness of the changing body,
Protects mankind from heaven and damnation
Which flesh cannot endure.
Time past and time future
Allow but a little consciousness.
To be conscious is not to be in time
But only in time can the moment in the rose-garden,
The moment in the arbour where the rain beat,
The moment in the draughty church at smokefall
Be remembered; involved with past and future.
Only through time time is conquered.

Men and bits of paper, whirled by the cold wind
That blows before and after time,
Wind in and out of unwholesome lungs
Time before and time after.
Eructation of unhealthy souls
Into the faded air, the torpid
Driven on the wind that sweeps the gloomy hills of London,
Hampstead and Clerkenwell, Campden and Putney,
Highgate, Primrose and Ludgate. Not here
Not here the darkness, in this twittering world.
The part painted on my wall:
Words move, music moves
Only in time; but that which is only living
Can only die. Words, after speech, reach
Into the silence. Only by the form, the pattern,
Can words or music reach
The stillness, as a Chinese jar still
Moves perpetually in its stillness.
Not the stillness of the violin, while the note lasts,
Not that only, but the co-existence,
Or say that the end precedes the beginning,
And the end and the beginning were always there
Before the beginning and after the end.
And all is always now. Words strain,
Crack and sometimes break, under the burden,
Under the tension, slip, slide, perish,
Decay with imprecision, will not stay in place,
Will not stay still.
The end:
Desire itself is movement
Not in itself desirable;
Love is itself unmoving,
Only the cause and end of movement,
Timeless, and undesiring
Except in the aspect of time
Caught in the form of limitation
Between un-being and being.
Sudden in a shaft of sunlight
Even while the dust moves
There rises the hidden laughter
Of children in the foliage
Quick now, here, now, always—
Ridiculous the waste sad time
Stretching before and after.
Some explication of the poem can be found here and here. You can hear Eliot read Burnt Norton over at Salon, which is a treat. Poetry is meant to be heard.

Hillary Epitaphs From Around the Internet

John Dickerson (Slate):
The race for the Democratic nomination—"race" is hardly the right word, is it?—now feels like a quantum physics problem: How long can a body exist in a state approximating motionlessness without actually stopping?
Marty Peretz (The New Republic):
This may not be the end of a career. But it is the end of Hillary's special place in American politics, and with her will go her husband, still hustling with even the hustle losing whatever tarnished luster has clung to it up to now.
James Wolcott (Vanity Fair)
I'm still for Hillary, though I recognize that the flag flapping above the fort is tattered and the time is drawing near for the bugler to sound the blue notes of valedictory.
Andrew Sullivan (Atlantic Monthly)
Clinton has no class and no grace and a narcissist's understanding of others' pain... I've been open to an Obama-Clinton ticket; but the more you see of the Clintons, the more you realize that getting rid of them - and the assumptions they represent - is part of what this entire campaign has come to be about.

TNR Editors Slam Hillary, Compare Her to Bush

The editors of The New Republic published a scathing editorial, Recount II: Return to the Swamp on Hillary's speech in FL last week (I summarized that here.)

TNR addresses her fallacious arguments and her questionable character:

It is usually a mistake to read too deeply into the character of a presidential candidate on the basis of some tactical maneuver or grubby compromise. Anybody who was a saint wouldn't be in the position of running for the White House. And yet, Hillary Clinton's speech last week in Florida was so audacious, so divorced from reality, that it begs characterological questions.

In the speech, Clinton--summoning as much passion and moral fervor as she has mustered at any point in the campaign--demanded that the Florida and Michigan delegations be seated at the Democratic National Convention. She compared her cause to abolition and women's suffrage. And--perhaps even more outrageous to those of us who have lived through the last eight years but weren't around for Seneca Falls--she said the Democratic Party and Barack Obama were reenacting the Republican effort to prevent the Florida recount in 2000.

It is a repellent comparison.
The editors go on to point out the fallacy in her analysis and then acknowledge that

her comparison to the 2000 election does resonate in one crucial respect. In 2000, George W. Bush's campaign and its allies invented and discarded principles whenever it suited them. They called hand counts of ballots inherently unreliable. They insisted on following the letter of the law except in cases, like military ballots, where it benefited them. This proved to be a foreboding premonition of how Bush would use power as president.

Then they compare her failures to the 1992 health care debacle (I've disliked her for that long, for these reasons).
Clinton's behavior in this case offers a window into her temperament. She appears to have retreated into a cocoon of self-righteousness and unreality. Her management of this issue--and, in some ways, the whole campaign--echoes her management of health care reform back in her husband's first term.
Specifically they cite
  • her reliance on incompetent advisers
  • an inability to grasp the process,
  • confusing dissent with disloyalty
  • out of touch with political reality.
Then comes the climax, which echoes something I wrote in one of my very first blog Why Obama Must Beat Hillary back last September 2007. There, I outlined all the ways that Hillary Clinton resembled George Bush. I did a follow up Hillary to Promote Bush-isn Fear.

TNR opines here:
When Clinton came to the Senate, she made every effort to show that she had learned from her mistakes. But, in her capacity as candidate, she is an executive again, and it's clear that little has changed. The one positive quality that even her critics concede she has demonstrated is that she's a "fighter." There was a candidate like that during the 2000 Florida recount, too--a fighter who considered victory his birthright and who, unlike his opponent, would not let ethical reservations hold him back. That was George W. Bush.

Why Hillary Failed, Plus More Monty Python

I other day I posted a hilarious, well known Monty Python video, that's been recapitulated with Hillary Clinton's voice.

I missed this one last week, Dana Milbank fo the Washington Post, extends the Monty Python analogy in a new way. In This is an Ex-Candidate, he juxtaposes excerpts from a Monty Python skit with Hillary Clinton's surreal behavoir on the campaign trail (fake waving). It's quite a read.

First sign she is an ex-candidate:
Exhibit A: There are two press buses waiting at the hotel here for Clinton's trip to her victory rally in West Virginia, but the entire press contingent doesn't quite fill one. It isn't until the entourage arrives at Dulles Airport that Clinton aides learn that the second bus is still idling, empty, at the hotel.
Here's the part about the the fake wave:
A steep descent brings Clinton's plane to Charleston's hilltop airport. After an appropriate wait, she steps from the plane and pretends to wave to a crowd of supporters; in fact, she is waving to 10 photographers underneath the airplane's wing. She pretends to spot an old friend in the crowd, points and gives another wave; in fact, she is waving at an aide she had been talking with on the plane minutes earlier.
The whole column is devastating and makes her seem pathetic. Her money haul in April was pretty impressive (22M versus 31.3M for Obama), but, in my mind, given that she had not a mathematical chance after early March, immoral. What is she doing asking people to give her money, when she has not a chance to win AND that she's mismanaged her campaign so monumentally? Should average Americans be sending her two or three hundred dollars to feed her ego?

In a much read compilation of anonymous quotes What Went Wrong? from inside the Clinton campaign, assembled by Michelle Cottle and posted at The New Republic (and referred to by Maureen Dowd yesterday in Meet the Press), one Clinton campaign staffer said this:
"There was financial mismanagement bordering on fraud. A candidate who raised more than a quarter of a billion dollars over the years had to pump in millions more of her own money to stave off bankruptcy."
The other stand out quote was this (emphasis added):
"There was not any plan in place from beginning to end on how to win the nomination. It was, 'Win Iowa.' There was not the experience level, and, frankly, the management ability, to create a whole plan to get to the magical delegate number. That to me is the number one thing. It's starting from that point that every subsequent decision resulted. The decision to spend x amount in Iowa versus be prepared for February 5 and beyond. Or how much money to spend in South Carolina--where it was highly unlikely we were going to win--versus the decision not to fund certain other states. ... It was not as simple as, 'Oh, that's a caucus state, we're not going to play there.' That suggests a more serious thought process. It suggests a meeting where we went through all that."
And this lays it directly on Hillary Clinton herself:
"Hillary assembled a team thin on presidential campaign experience that confused discipline with insularity; they didn't know what they didn't know and were too arrogant to ask at a time early enough in the process when it could have made a difference..."
Read the whole thing. It's intriguing and revealing. Marc Ambinder did an excellent annotation of Cottle's piece in which he added his own insights. He's a political blogger over at The Atlantic. It's worth checking out too.

Last week when Ambinder reported that Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle was in discussions with the Obama campaign, my heart sunk. I thought of Josh Green's piece about her from back in February, which is an eye-opener, and which I wrote about here back in February, too.

Doyle reminded me of my first boss on Capitol Hill, who was a Congressman's wife unqualified for her job. Obama should keep Doyle away, in a galaxy far, far away.

Here are a few money quotes from Green's piece, Inside the Clinton Shake-Up.
As much as Clinton touts her own “executive experience” and judgment, she made Solis Doyle her campaign manager because of Solis Doyle’s loyalty, rather than her skill, despite a trail of available evidence suggesting she was unsuited for the role.
And about Doyle unpopularity among the campaign staff (yeah, my first boss watched soap operas at work too):
Solis Doyle was put in charge of fund-raising and later became campaign manager for Clinton’s Senate reelection bid in 2006. She earned a reputation as a contentious, domineering boss. Along the way, many of the staff members who worked under her left or were forced out, including several high-powered members of Clinton’s inner circle, such as Kelly Craighead and Evelyn Lieberman, the deputy chief of staff to Bill Clinton famous for banishing Monica Lewinsky to the Pentagon. The frequent turnover in the fund-raising shop was a significant measure of Solis Doyle’s unpopularity. Clinton staffers are notably loyal, and turnover among them tends to be much lower than it is among the staffs of other politicians. Fund-raising under Solis Doyle was a glaring exception, chalking up the kind of body count you’d expect from an episode of The Sopranos. 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.
Hillary has no one to blame but herself. Not the press, not misogynists, not the structure of the election (i.e. caucuses). Not even, as her husband claimed as recently as yesterday, disrespect. At the beginning of this process, Clinton's front runner status, poll numbers and money haul were evidence of the respect in which was held. The disrespect she now enjoys is a direct result of her own failures. She alone is responsible for the failure of her campaign.

Clinton's campaign: R.I.P.

Harvard Brain Scientist Explains Bliss

A Superhighway to Bliss is the most read article at the New York Times web site. So I checked it out. It's about how a stroke at the age of 37 led a Harvard brain scientist to experience bliss and come back from that to explain her experience in scientific terms.

The story reports on the Jill Bolte Taylor's stroke:
Within minutes, her left lobe — the source of ego, analysis, judgment and context — began to fail her. Oddly, it felt great.

The incessant chatter that normally filled her mind disappeared. Her everyday worries — about a brother with schizophrenia and her high-powered job — untethered themselves from her and slid away.

Her perceptions changed, too. She could see that the atoms and molecules making up her body blended with the space around her; the whole world and the creatures in it were all part of the same magnificent field of shimmering energy.

And then explains the role of the two sides of the brain:
Today, she says, she is a new person, one who “can step into the consciousness of my right hemisphere” on command and be “one with all that is.”

To her it is not faith, but science. She brings a deep personal understanding to something she long studied: that the two lobes of the brain have very different personalities. Generally, the left brain gives us context, ego, time, logic. The right brain gives us creativity and empathy. For most English-speakers, the left brain, which processes language, is dominant. Dr. Taylor’s insight is that it doesn’t have to be so.

The Times even interviews two religious and spiritual thinkers I've read and respect. First Sharon Salzberg:
“People are so taken with it,” said Sharon Salzberg, a founder of the Insight Mediation Society in Barre, Mass. “I keep getting that video in e-mail. I must have 100 copies.”

She is excited by Dr. Taylor’s speech because it uses the language of science to describe an occurrence that is normally ethereal. Dr. Taylor shows the less mystically inclined, she said, that this experience of deep contentment “is part of the capacity of the human mind.”

And Karen Armstrong:

Karen Armstrong, a religious historian who has written several popular books including one on the Buddha, says there are odd parallels between his story and Dr. Taylor’s.

“Like this lady, he was reluctant to return to this world,” she said. “He wanted to luxuriate in the sense of enlightenment.”

But, she said, “the dynamic of the religious required that he go out into the world and share his sense of compassion.”

This is how the experience affected Dr. Taylor's life:

she has dialed back her once loaded work schedule. Her house is on a leafy cul-de-sac minutes from Indiana University, which she attended as an undergraduate and where she now teaches at the medical school.

Her foyer is painted a vibrant purple. She greets a stranger at the door with a warm hug. When she talks, her pale blue eyes make extended contact.

And regarding organized religion and it's relationship to brain science, in light of her personal experience:
her father is an Episcopal minister and she was raised in his church, she cannot be counted among the traditionally faithful. “Religion is a story that the left brain tells the right brain,” she said.

Still, Dr. Taylor says, “nirvana exists right now.”

Okay, I'm off to my meditation mat to see if my right brain (empathy, creativity) can overflow my left (ego, context, time, logic, stories).

Obama's Fundraising Overwhelms FEC Reporting

This is cool.

This morning, Politico reports FEC Computers Can't Handle Obama's Jackpot. The Politico story on the FEC also reveals other confusion as well, that resulting in false reporting on the extent of Hillary's debt.

This dilemma is the result of what Josh Green reported on in The Atlantic and which I summarized here. An New York Times Op-ed today by Roger Cohen called The Obama Connection, also notes Green's reporting and Obama's 21st century campaign and cites Green: Obama’s claim of 1,276,000 donors is so large that Clinton doesn’t bother to compete.

Data to support that Politico headline:
A milestone of sorts was reached earlier this year, when Obama, the Illinois senator whose revolutionary online fundraising has overwhelmed Clinton, filed an electronic fundraising report so large it could not be processed by popular basic spreadsheet applications like Microsoft Excel 2003 and Lotus 1-2-3.

Those programs can’t download data files with more than 65,536 rows or 256 columns.

Obama’s January fundraising report, detailing the $23 million he raised and $41 million he spent in the last three months of 2007, far exceeded 65,536 rows listing contributions, refunds, expenditures, debts, reimbursements and other details.
Regarding news reports errors on Clinton's debt:
The summaries, which mirror those eventually posted on the FEC’s website, contain only top-line numbers – how much the candidate raised, spent, borrowed and owed at the end of the month.

Many media outlets rely on such summaries and don’t download or delve deeply into the data upon which they are based. The result often is horse-race-style money coverage – who’s raised more, how unprecedented the levels of money are and what it means for the campaigns– which can sometimes create incomplete or inaccurate reporting or cause more important stories to be overlooked. For instance, multiple media outlets relied on the summary entry entitled “Debts and Obligations Owed by the Committee” in reporting that Clinton at the end of March owed $10 million, including $5 million she had loaned her own campaign.

A deeper look into the report would have revealed that she did not report her personal loan to the campaign as debt, meaning that her debt would have actually been $15 million including the loan.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Kipling Poem for Memorial Day

Kipling's poem IF, this Memorial Day, seems so appropriate.

I love its words about resilience,
hold on when there is nothing in you except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!

and virtue amid loss, doubt, exhaustion, hatred.

Yes, it's romantic, and it's that romance that drove his son Jack to enlist to fight in World War I. PBS Masterpiece series just broadcast My Boy Jack, a dramatization of this sad personal story in Kipling's life. Daniel Radcliffe (Harry Potter) and Kim Cattrall (Sex and the City) star.

The death of Kipling's son inspired this poem (and comforts Bill Cosby after the killing of his son, Ennis; Cosby cited the first stanza, If was very calming, very calming. Because there were times when you wanted to yell out and just be a nasty person. Reading that paragraph over and over, I was able to suppress it.)

As we look forward and count down to noon January 20th 2009 (which I have been doing for years - see counter in my blog border to the right), well, if you can wait and not be tired by waiting...well, be comforted and calmed as you remember the war dead - change is 240 days and 12 hours away from now.

Here is the full text:

by Rudyard Kipling

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream - and not make dreams your master;
If you can think - and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: 'Hold on!'

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
' Or walk with Kings - nor lose the common touch,
if neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And - which is more - you'll be a Man, my son!

TPM Also Recommends The Fall of Conservatism

On Friday, I highlighted George Packer's terrific piece in the New Yorker, The Fall of Conservatism. And on Saturday,Josh Marshall, founder of Talking Points Memo,also commented.

As was I, Marshall was struck by the four decades of our lifetime as an era of conservative ascendence:
Nixon's resurgence began in those mid-sixties rumblings which we can now see from the perspective of history were the onset of the era of conservative ascendence that we've been living in now for the last four decades.
Marshall also recommends Nixonland:
Packer's piece is a loosely structured review of Rick Perlstein's new book Nixonland. (I just dipped into it for the first time a few nights ago and it was like eating some incredibly rich food. I can't wait to get back to it.)
Marshall sees the tide turning and concludes:
9/11 juiced President Bush's standing and massively reinforced the advantages Republicans have historically had on national security issues -- at least over the last forty years. And the Bush White House pressed that advantage mightily. But hidden underneath was the same ideological and electoral decay. Perhaps we will see the Republican party in this period as akin to the doped up athlete whose drugs enable him to achieve amazing feats in the short-run but also lead him to gravely exacerbate existing injuries because they inure him to the pain.
We can hope.

McCain No "Maverick", What He'd Do, What Obama'd Do re Supreme Court

This week's New Yorker includes a pieces by Jeffrey Toobin on McCain's May 6th speech on the judiciary and the Supreme Court.

if he hoped to sneak the speech past a distracted public, and have its coded references deciphered only by the activists who were its primary target, its message should not be lost on anyone. McCain plans to continue, and perhaps even accelerate, George W. Bush’s conservative counter-revolution at the Supreme Court.

After unfolding the implications (dog whistles) of McCain's May 6th speech regarding his outlook on constitutional law , specifically regarding execution of juvenile offenders, right to privacy, Toobin concludes:

In just three years the Roberts Court has crippled school-desegregation efforts (and hinted that affirmative action may be next); approved a federal law that bans a form of abortion; limited the reach of job-discrimination laws; and made it more difficult to challenge the mixing of church and state. It’s difficult to quarrel with Justice Stephen Breyer’s assessment of his new colleagues: “It is not often in the law that so few have so quickly changed so much.” And more change is likely to come. John Paul Stevens, the leader of the Court’s four embattled liberals, just celebrated his eighty-eighth birthday; Ruth Bader Ginsburg is seventy-five; David Souter is only sixty-eight but longs for his home in New Hampshire. For all the elisions in John McCain’s speech, one unmistakable truth emerged: that the stakes in the election, for the Supreme Court and all who live by its rulings, are very, very high.
Toobin was on Bill Moyers Friday night and explained why he wrote his piece-

BILL MOYERS: So what surprised you about McCain's speech enough for you to want to write about it this week?

JEFFREY TOOBIN: Well, what surprised me was the degree to which he embraced, in its entirety, the really strong conservative agenda that President Bush has reflected in his appointments to the Court, that this was not the maverick John McCain. This was the John McCain who needs to ingratiate himself with the base. And he did in a big way.


McCain has a problem. His problem is on those issues the public, by and large, is against them. The public doesn't want to see Roe versus Wade overturned, doesn't want to see abortion abandoned, doesn't want to see affirmative action ended, doesn't want to see the death penalty expanded. So what he did was he spoke in code. There were dog whistles in there, words that can be heard and understood by people who are on the inside of the conservative movement - but the way he dealt with the issue was to speak in code but to speak very clearly in code. And that's what I tried to do in my New Yorker story, which was to unravel the code to make it clear what he was saying.

But to me, here was the headline out of Moyers interview with Toobin: what kind of judges would Obama appoint? Here's Toobin's view (emphasis added):

BILL MOYERS: What was the dog whistle Obama was blowing on the campaign trail when he mentioned the late Chief Justice Earl Warren?

JEFFREY TOOBIN: Oh, that's very clear. It is saving Roe versus Wade. It is allowing the consideration of race in college admissions. It is strict limits on the death penalty. It is special regard for the separation of church and state. You know, Obama is a former Constitutional Law Professor. And I've had the opportunity to talk to him about the Constitution. He still follows the Court very, very closely. He mentioned Souter, Ginsburg, and Breyer as Justices he admired. So I don't think there's any doubt what kind of Justices he'll appoint to-

BILL MOYERS: Liberal Justices?

JEFFREY TOOBIN: Liberal Justices but also I think Justices with some real-world experience. You know, this is the first Court in history where all nine Justices are former Federal Appeals Court Judges. I think the Court's missing something. And I think Obama feels that way, too.

BILL MOYERS: Earl Warren had been Governor of California. He was a Republican appointed by Dwight Eisenhower. He became the poster boy, to use that cliché, for the right wing's efforts to impeach him.

JEFFREY TOOBIN: You remember the bumper sticker-

BILL MOYERS: I remember, "Impeach Earl Warren." And that's when this all began because they saw him as a very liberal and activist judge. And I was curious when I saw that speech by Obama as to why he wants to rile the forces against him even further by mentioning perhaps the most hated name in the judiciary as far as conservatives are concerned.

JEFFREY TOOBIN: Well, I think this is something Obama feels strongly about. He has devoted years of his life to studying the Supreme Court. He really knows the subject. And I think the fact that Warren both was a progressive Justice and came from outside the monastery of judges is something that a President Obama, if there is one might well look to in making appointments.

Full transcript here. You can watch online here. The discussion begins with Bush v. Gore, which Toobin wrote about in Too Close to Call, also a good book and which is the subject of tonight's HBO's Recount (and I blogged about here.)

This assessment is in synch with what Obama said yesterday, with respect to who he might pick as his Vice Presidential candidate (emphasis added):
My goal is to have the best possible government. And that means me winning. So, I'm very practical in my thinking. I'm a practical guy. One of my heroes is Abraham Lincoln. Awhile back, there was a wonderful book written by Doris Kearns Goodwin called 'Team of Rivals,' in which she talked about how Lincoln basically pulled all the people he'd been running against into his Cabinet. Because whatever personal feelings there were, the issue was, 'How can we get the country through this time of crisis?' I think that has to be the approach one takes to the vice president and the Cabinet.
Good summary on that front here, from Time's Stumper blog.

This week, Toobin won the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize given by Columbia Journalism school for his book The Nine. (It should be noted that one of the judges is a colleague of his from The New Yorker). The book is really good. Theme of his book is that the Supreme Court is not apart from politics, and it is absolutely fascinating. (That was also the theme of my Vassar undergrad thesis– around one case, which may be why I loved it).