Friday, March 28, 2008

A conquering filibusterer and one of the last muscular Democrats: Howard Metzenbaum, R.I.P.

It’s easy to forget that the Midwest is not the entirely uniformly Red state block that the media and all the redistricting consistently indicate. Lost in the internecine battle between Clinton and Obama was the passing of one of the most courageous Liberals ever to strike out of Cleveland. -No Dennis Kucinich is still very much alive; I’m referring to Howard Metzenbaum, who passed away March 12, 2008 at 90.

He may be only remembered by younger voters for the words: "You've got to get off your butts and go out there and vote!" yelled at the top of his octogenarian lungs at the 2000 Democratic National Convention in support of Al Gore. Yes, they called him a crazy old man, but he’d been even wilder still during most of his on again off again –on again- 19 year career in United States government. His career and legacy carry many lessons for politicians on either side of the aisle, for voters, and for all Americans who care about this country and what it’s supposed to stand for.

Howard Metzenbaum was a pioneer of sorts on issues protecting the American worker, the American consumer, and the environment. He was from Ohio. He won over voters in the cities, but also in rural outlying counties, reaching out across ethnicities, religious creeds and the economic classes to champion what he believed were common human concerns. In his two terms in the House and Senate, he crafted one of the nation's first laws to protect consumers making credit purchases, long before Ralph Nader made his mark on the Washington steps.

But Metzenbaum’s career is also marked by a particular primary defeat that should be taught in schools. It was a political mistake that heralded a then new era in the way politicians marketed themselves to the voting public, and initiated a new campaign dynamic in which any single statement made by political candidates could henceforth be de-contextualized and used by their opponents to shift debates from discussions of policy and instead turn all discourse into a kind of defense. Today it’s an integral part of the “go negative early” strategy that campaign managers sometimes employ; a list of compromising quotes, misstatements etc. are compiled on the opponent and then they are “pamphleted” and “push polled” to the public, and the media, the most comprehensive distribution channel known, does the rest. The result is that the opponent spends most of his/her time defending and/or correcting a statement and not getting his/her message out (Read: the promotion of the “Obama and Reverend Wright” issue of the past weeks by the Clinton campaign). Metzenbaum’s defeat at the hands of John Glenn is one of the first such initiatives in the beginning of the modern televised media era. It happened more or less like this:

Howard Metzenbaum was running against John Glenn, and in an attempt to compare the importance of his own business experience with John Glenn's near non-existent business experience, Howard Metzenbaum uttered the fatefully malleable statement that his opponent had "never worked for a living."

Not exactly a smart thing to say in America against an opponent who; had extensive military credentials, was a former astronaut, and a household name. John Glenn told him to go to a veterans' hospital "look those men with mangled bodies in the eyes and tell them they didn't hold a job.” That was brutal. Before Howard Metzenbaum could point out the fact that he didn’t say “veterans never worked for a living”, that he actually said John Glenn “never worked for a living”, John Glenn delivered the death blow to Metzenbaum’s campaign, he said: “You go with me to any Gold Star mother and you look her in the eye and tell her that her son did not hold a job." That reply came to be known as the "Gold Star Mothers" speech in the press. The public’s fascination with it never allowed Metzenbaum to recover and he lost.

Tell me it doesn’t sound familiar, and I’ll remind you of recent campaign debacles and calculated media implosions: “swiftboat” (I always like to point out none of the swift boat veterans actually served with John Kerry in Vietnam, or even met him); there’s also Al Gore’s claiming he invented the Internet, and my personal favorite, John Kerry’s alleged insult to American forces deployed in Iraq on October 2006: "You know, education, if you make the most of it, you study hard, you do your homework and you make an effort to be smart, you can do well. If you don't, you get stuck in Iraq." Now, as an actual decorated veteran who saw enemy fire first hand, it is unlikely John Kerry thinks active soldiers are stupid and uneducated, but he was never able to stem the tide of all the media parroting of his initial statement. His fellow Democrats, Hillary Clinton included, rushed to get their shots in, taking him down like he was the fat kid in “Lord of the Flies”. All of this has its roots in “Gold Star Mothers”.

Metzenbaum eventually recovered. He even ran successful campaigns for other Democrats. He returned to the Senate, still a dedicated defender of the consumers and workers of America and of the Constitution. The special interests groups in Washington grew to fear him as he made a mission of blocking bills he didn't think served the people. Later in his career, he successfully blocked laws mandating school prayer during the Reagan Administration. He fiercely used the filibuster to delay confirmation of controversial Republican Supreme Court nominees Robert Bork and Clarence Thomas. He also opposed abortion limits. By far one of the most courageous stands I remember Howard Metzenbaum ever took, by virtue of its sheer unpopularity with his immediate constituents and the rest of the country; was his opposition of Orin Hatch’s efforts to outlaw “flag burning” as a form of protest and free expression (Flag burning is actually the military’s prescribed method of disposing of weathered or damaged flags so presumably that was still okay by Mr. Hatch). He offered one of the most well reasoned and eloquent arguments ever brought to the senate floor explaining that it is the Constitution and Republic that the flag represents that must be protected, not its material symbol. He rightly reasoned that legislating and coercing how people may respond to the symbol of liberty and democracy, either by mandating a compulsory pledge or by outlawing its theatrical destruction in protest, was in fact its true destruction…

All this from a Midwesterner born in Cleveland on June 4, 1917, exactly one month before Steve Rogers, AKA Captain America, -by the way that’s one month before the fourth of July, folks.
Now that’s American. Don't let the rightwing fear mongers and neocons tell you otherwise.

Top Secret

There are a growing number of voices in the Democratic party that are calling for Hillary to get out of the race. Senator Leahy from Vermont added his voice to the growing chorus today. I personally have no problem with Hillary staying in the race until the last primary. In fact, I think she owes it to her many supporters to stay in the race as long as there is a chance that she might be able to win. That being said, her path to victory is becoming increasingly narrow.

The Clinton campaign is relying on one of two things to happen, either Obama self destructs before the convention, or the Super Delegates come the realization that she offers the best chance against McCain. They are both really the same thing. For the super delegates to switch en Masse to her side, Obama would have to have something come out that is so destructive that he can no longer be considered a viable candidate for the office of President. It would have to be so destructive that he might have to resign from the senate. I'm talking drugs, hookers, child prostitution, mental illness, beastiality sort of stuff. Barring that kind of catastrophic event, there is no way for her to win the nomination. She and her husband are smart enough to realize this, so their talk of a fight on the convention floor and pledged delegates switching sides, is a lot of nonsense. All of that is just talk to keep the press occupied while they wait for the BIG REVELATION about Barack Obama.

I'm actually starting to wonder myself if they know something that the rest of us don't. It's almost as if they are sitting around and waiting for someone in the press to come out with the story so that they can be the knight in shinning armor that saves the Democratic party from itself. If they are sitting on a story, they of course can't appear to be tied to its release in any way because that would drive her negatives up and would alienate a large chunk of African American voters who have pinned their hopes on Barack Obama. The Clinton campaign would have to bide its time until they could come out and say, "I told you so".

Of course the only reason I believe that this is even a possibility is because of the ease with which they denigrate Obama. I know that the Clinton's are a win at all cost kind of team, but I honestly can't think that they would prefer a Republican administration to a Democratic one. Even if that Democratic administration is led by Barack Obama. They have bent over backwards to praise John McCain to the detriment of Obama. Would they purposefully elevate the Republican nominee over their Democratic challenger if they didn't think that they would eventually win the nomination fairly? I am hoping that the answer to that question is no. I am hoping that the Clinton's are not really willing to sacrifice the party for their own personal gain. That's my hope, although no one has ever claimed that I was particularly perceptive.

I am willing to reserve judgment on the Clinton campaign while we wait for the other shoe to drop on Obama. If it does happen, she'll be able to say that she was aware of it all along, but didn't feel that it had any place in the campaign. She will be able to take the high road, while "saving" the party. She'd be Joan of Arc leading the French out of darkness, she'd be Margaret Thatcher, Indira Gandhi and Golda Meir all rolled into one. Sounds glorious, doesn't it? I'm sure it does to her as well.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Immovable Objects

The supporters of the Democratic candidates for President seem to be engaged in WWI style trench warfare. Both sides are dug in and are lobbing attacks at the other from long distance. The vitriol, anger and bitterness that is on full display every day on the Internet is starting to show up in the most recent poll numbers. A poll that I saw showed that almost 30% of Hillary Clinton supporters said that they would not vote for Obama if he were the nominee and 21% of Obama's supporters said the same thing about Clinton. This election for President should be a slam dunk for the Democrats, but they are in the process of snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

In an article I wrote on 2/18, I outlined the reasons why Clinton's supporters are more likely to swing the election in McCain's favor than Obama's supporters. The current numbers certainly back that up. Does this mean that the Democrats have lost the election before it has even started? Not necessarily, but it's going to take some bold steps in order to ward off a defeat. The first thing that has to be done is that the super delegates need to make a decision before the convention. Open warfare between the two candidates cannot be allowed to continue after the final primary in Puerto Rico. Whomever the candidate is to be, he or she must be chosen in June. That will allow the candidate time to try and salve the deep wounds in the party. Not since the '94 campaign of Gary Hart against Walter Mondale has the Democratic party seen such an upheaval (Mondale went on to lose in a historic landslide against Reagan). The current atmosphere of division cannot be allowed to drag on into the convention in Denver. If it does, the candidate who is eventually chosen will be, for all intents and purposes, beyond repair.

The DNC then has to come to an agreement about how to seat the Michigan and Florida delegates. While both states broke the party rules by moving up the dates for their primaries, the voters in those states must feel like they have a voice in the process of selecting the nominee. Once a candidate is selected, figuring out an answer to the dilemma of these two states must be the top priority of the party. While the Democrats can win a general election without winning Florida, they would be hard pressed to put together a scenario whereby they could win without carrying either. The current Clinton plan of allowing the results to stand as they are in untenable in a race that has yet to be decided, but once a candidate has been named, a resolution should be swift and equitable.

The next bold choice that has to made is that of Vice President. In '94 the Democrats made the bold choice of picking a woman for the slot and at the time it was hailed as a master stroke. Revisionist historians may now try and paint a different picture, but I remember the pundits at the time saying that the move was so strategically sound that the Republicans had all but conceded that they would have to seriously consider adding a woman to the ticket for the next Presidential election. This election has to be about something more than partisan politics. John McCain is seen as someone who has broad appeal to moderates on both sides. In order to be able to compete with him the Democrats need to make a VP choice based not on party affiliation, but on the ideal of non-partisan politics.

There are two people who I think would make ideal choices VP for the Democratic party. the first is Chuck Hagel, who is the senior Republican senator from Nebraska and a decorated Vietnam veteran. He has also been a consistent critic of the Bush policies in Iraq. He was one of the few Republicans who crossed over the isle to vote for the Democratic sponsored bill to bring the troops home from Iraq. He is from a very red state and won his last election with over 80% of the vote. He might be able to change, what is a very safe state for the Republicans, from the Red category into the swing state category. He has already said that he will not run for re-election in Nebraska and therefore is not beholden to constituents or donors. The nomination of a Senator from such a overwhelmingly red state would be a huge signal that the Democrats want to get past the gridlock that has basically stalemated Washington D.C..

Another interesting choice of running mate would be Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of New York. Bloomberg, who was a Democrat but changed to the Republican party when he first ran for mayor, ran for office as an independent during his last campaign. Given the fact that the economy is going to be the biggest issue for voters this fall, having someone with the business acumen of Bloomberg could be a big asset to the ticket. Bloomberg did flirt with the idea of running a third party candidacy for the presidency, but ultimately decided that the couldn't win in that contest. He is considered a moderate by most observers and certainly has the background that would serve him well on the campaign trail.

Those are my recommendations to the Democratic party. Of course they won't listen to me, but in order to compete with John McCain, the Democrats are going to have to think outside the box. Politics as usual will not win the day. And one more thing, to all those supporters of each candidate who say they are going to vote for McCain if their candidate doesn't win, I have only one question. Do you really want a continuation of the policies of the last 7 years? If you agree with the basic ideals of the Democratic party and it's candidates, then there is only one answer to that question.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

White Man's Burden

Barack Obama's speech on race has allowed much more honest commentary from the press. There have been a string of articles either praising or criticizing the speech, but at least there has been a dialogue about the subject. It has allowed a lot of pundits to weigh in with their thoughts about the issues of race in the country, which is definitely a good thing. I believe that Pat Buchanan wrote the definitive article about the subject yesterday and I just wanted to add my comments to highlight that fact. Here are some of the salient passages:

"White America needs to be heard from, not just lectured to"
Pat Buchanan does speak for "White America". He has run for President twice and come within 50,000,000 votes or so of becoming Commander-in-Chief. If that doesn't qualify you to represent the entire White population of America, I don't know what does.

"First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known. Wright ought to go down on his knees and thank God he is an American."
I couldn't agree more. The Africans who signed up for that pleasure cruise across the ocean (during which many died) to have a better life here in America, I'm sure would be very grateful to learn that their offspring have done so well. I know that there is nothing I would like more than to be violently kidnapped and separated from my family and friends and taken half way around the world (if I was fortunate enough to survive the trip) and be forced into slavery so that in 300 years my descendants would be viewed as almost equal by the racial majority. Where do I sign up? I'm pretty sure that I've got some friends who want in this deal as well.

"Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans. Untold trillions have been spent since the ’60s on welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs designed to bring the African-American community into the mainstream."
Damn, Pat. You're right again. Black people are downright ungrateful. Although all the programs that you mention (welfare, food stamps, rent supplements, Section 8 housing, Pell grants, student loans, legal services, Medicaid, Earned Income Tax Credits and poverty programs) have given a lot more money to Whites than Blacks (and those are government programs funded by tax dollars, meaning that people of every race contributed to them, but let's not argue over details), we should be grateful to have been included when the government was giving out those freebies. There is nothing that people love more than being allowed to subsist below the poverty level.

"Governments, businesses and colleges have engaged in discrimination against white folks — with affirmative action, contract set-asides and quotas — to advance black applicants over white applicants.
You know what Pat? You are right on point again. Blacks should have been happy with separate but equal (damn that liberal Supreme Court). I mean forcing people to actually integrate is downright disgusting. I know that there were lots of schools in the South that couldn't wait to let Black people in. In fact they used have huge welcoming committees for them (usually a lot of soldiers and people holding signs and yelling). White America was waiting with open arms to embrace it's long abused brothers. If only the Government hadn't interfered so much, the country would be much better off today. Don't you think? I know Pat and I do.

Churches, foundations, civic groups, schools and individuals all over America have donated time and money to support soup kitchens, adult education, day care, retirement and nursing homes for blacks. We hear the grievances. Where is the gratitude?"
Not enough gratitude, that's the problem with this country today. If we could all just be a little more thankful, then all of our problems would disappear. I'm not talking about the people who actually received help, I'm talking about all the Black people in America. There should be a national "Thank a White Person" day. That way all Black people would be able to properly thank the Whites for all the hard work they have done on their behalf. Oh, let's just make it a month. I'm thinking February. I hear there's nothing going on that month anyway.

"Let him go to Altoona and Johnstown, and ask the white kids in Catholic schools how many were visited lately by Ivy League recruiters handing out scholarships for “deserving” white kids."
Yeah, shouldn't the Ivy league schools be trying harder to get more White kids into their schools?

"As for racism, its ugliest manifestation is in interracial crime, and especially interracial crimes of violence. Is Barack Obama aware that while white criminals choose black victims 3 percent of the time, black criminals choose white victims 45 percent of the time?"
Another example of how lazy Blacks are. Instead of trying to find a rich Black person, Black criminals just pick the most convenient target around.

Pat and I are in total agreement. I can't wait for his next article to show us all the light once again. I'll end my article with this:
To all Black people, it is time to be more grateful to your benefactors. And to all White people I can only apologize for the delay. But I promise that if you just have a little patience, your gratitude is on its way. So don't be surprised if one day a black man, woman or child comes up to you and says thank you. "For what", you'll say. "For just being you", will be the answer. "For just being you".

Thursday, March 20, 2008

The Audacity of Audacity

Dick Cheney sat down for an interview yesterday on the 5th anniversary of the war in Iraq. He of course spoke about the progress that he feels has been made and how important our position in Iraq was for fighting the war on terror. He also had this to say:

Raddatz: Two-thirds of Americans say it’s not worth fighting, and they’re looking at the value gain versus the cost in American lives, certainly, and Iraqi lives.

Cheney: So?

SO. That is Cheney's response to the opinion of the people of the United States of America. I understand that the Bush administration is in its last year of its last term and never have to face the electorate again, but this show of arrogance seems over the top, even for them. But then again aren't these the same people who sold America on a war based on information that they themselves didn't believe. Aren't these the same people who have lined the pockets of their friends at the expense of the lives of American soldiers? Aren't these the same people who have turned the constitution into their only personal plaything? Aren't these the same people who equated opposition to the war to being unpatriotic? Aren't these the same people who have made torture an American tactic? Aren't these the same people who turned a budget surplus into the biggest deficit in the history of the country? Aren't these the same people who turned the international goodwill after 9/11 into scorn, ridicule and hatred? Aren't these the same people who were somehow able to mobilize a relief effort half way around the world in a day and yet let people in New Orleans go without food and water for almost a week?

The Bush administration has raised arrogance to a level as yet unseen in American politics. I guess every administration should have at least one great accomplishment to hang it's hat on. Thanks for the reminder, Mr. Darth Va... oh sorry I meant Mr. Vice President.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Black Again

Barack Obama's sweeping speech about race yesterday has evoked a curious response among some political observers. While some have praised the speech and some have called it the most important speech on race in the last 40 years, others have said that the speech had the effect of making Obama the "black" candidate. I find that last statement quite funny. It's as if those commentators were oblivious to the fact that Barack Obama is black. He is today what he was the day he announced that he was running for President.

The question posed by the commentators yesterday was whether the speech changed anyone's mind about voting for Obama. The truth is that the speech was never going to change anyone's mind. He made that speech in order to try and get the debate back on track. The press are the one's who are focused on the race issue, not Obama or his supporters. His speech yesterday gave the people that were inclined to vote for him exactly what they needed to hear and it also gave those who were not inclined to vote for him exactly what they needed as well. How you interpret the speech is based solely on your view of him going into the speech. If you found him an inspiring figure before the speech, then you felt uplifted by his words and his message. If you found him to be a candidate whose entire campaign was based on race and someone who is unfit for job of President, then you felt that way after the speech as well.

What Obama did yesterday was speak to the American experience. Most, if not all people, have been exposed to racist , sexist , or some form of ignorant speech from people who are close to them. There are still deep divides in this country, some of which will frankly never be healed. What Obama did yesterday was to call America on this. He said there are still a lot of people in this country who have negative deep held beliefs concerning their fellow Americans. That is the simple truth of America. One which almost every American is aware of.

Many commentators somehow seemed to be shocked by this Revelation. They claim that people in middle America were not ready to hear this. And that they will have a negative reaction. The conservative commentators seem to be saying that before yesterday's speech Obama was viewed as "one of the good ones" and now in the aftermath of the speech, it is clear that he is not or at least will no longer be perceived that way. Now he's just another "black" candidate. They can now feel comfortable in lumping him in with Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. They feel that somehow he has pigeon-holed himself into a corner.

For the first and probably the only time, I'm going to quote Jesus who said (allegedly) "Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free". That is what Obama's goal was yesterday. Tell people the truth so that he can now be free to discuss the real issues of the campaign. Obama is a "black" candidate, he has always been a "black" candidate and he will always be a "black" candidate. Yesterday did nothing to change that fact, either in a positive or negative way. Will the speech make flocks of people in from the foothills of Tennessee suddenly see the error of their ways? Will it make millions of college kids suddenly realize that Obama is not white? Will it make people who actually decide their votes on the issues, suddenly change their votes? The answer is no. Will this issue provide fodder for the Republican attack machine in the fall? Will this speech give right wing conservatives what they feel is a semi-legitimate reason for their opposition to Obama? Will this speech be dissected by the right wing press to Obama's detriment? Are the 527's ready to pick apart Obama based on his association with Rev. Wright? The answer is yes.

Has anything thing changed since yesterday? Is Obama still black? The answer is nothing has changed since yesterday. However to some, I guess Obama is blacker than ever.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Give Me A Reason

Barack Obama is giving a speech on race today in Philadelphia. The reason for the speech is because of the uproar that has been created because of the inflammatory language that his former pastor used. The press has labeled this a do or die speech for Obama. Some would say that his entire campaign is resting on his ability to somehow convince America that he should not be associated with the rhetoric of his pastor.

He is being asked to somehow defend himself from the political rantings of his spiritual advisor. I am certain that Barack Obama never asked Rev. Wright for help in crafting his political campaign. I'm am sure that he never asked him for his advice on Iraq. I am sure that he has never asked him about what to do about the economy. I am sure that Rev. Wright is not the architect of his health care plan. I am sure that Rev. Wright is not chief advisor on the educational system. What I am sure of is that in spiritual matters, he has relied on the guidance of Rev. Wright. He has credited Rev. Wright with being the one who brought him to the church (by the way, for all of you who believe that he's a Muslim, the comments of a Christian preacher certainly wouldn't have had any effect on him, so you can't use this as proof of anything). Rev. Wright is the one who baptized him as a Christian. As a member of Rev. Wright's church, he was of course married by him and his children were baptized by him. The church has given Obama a spiritual base from which to operate. That is about the extent of Rev. Wright's influence over Obama.

Rev. Wright (who is an ex-marine, a point which somehow has not made it's way into any press coverage of this topic), has led a church which has helped to uplift his community. Has he gotten overzealous on the pulpit at times? Certainly, as the clips that have been circulated demonstrate. Does that mean that his worthiness as a spiritual advisor is worthless or at worst harmful and negative? It does not. I am fairly sure that every person has ties to multiple people with whom they do not agree with at all times. I know I do. I have lifelong friends whose views on race, or politics or baseball or Duke Vs. North Carolina, do not agree with mine. If your Doctor says something that is racially insensitive, do you then decide that his medical advice is worthless? If your mechanic says something that you perceive as being anti-American is his ability to fix your car compromised in some manner?

Rev. Wright is not now, nor has he ever been a political advisor to Obama. Obama in his manner and in his actions has shown nothing but a willingness to bring people together and be a uniter. His very heritage (being half black and half white), and upbringing are illustrative of the person that he has become. His campaign was born out of the fact that a person should be judged on the content of his character and not the color of his skin. This latest controversy has brought race to the forefront of this campaign. It is not what Barack Obama would have wanted. Did he belong to a "black" church in Chicago? He did, (although the church does have white members) but that does not mean that he practices exclusionary politics anymore than it would if John McCain belonged to a church in Arizona that was mostly white.

This latest controversy is an overblown attempt by his detractors to find a reason that makes them feel comfortable with their opposition to him. The great majority of people who are not voting for Obama have perfectly legitimate reasons for doing so. They support other candidates and feel strongly that they would do a better job of running the country than Obama would. There is a percentage however (perhaps 25%), who would never vote for him for simple reason that he is a black man. For those people, this controversy gives them an easy reason to point to for their opposition. They're not racists, you see, they just oppose him because his "spiritual advisor" is anti-American or a racist. They don't have anything against Obama but his advisor is evil and therefore he can't be trusted to run the country. This, of course, ignores the fact that right-wing preachers have been teaching hate for years. Hatred of minorities, hatred of gays, hatred against other religions, hatred against those who hold opposing opinions, all the while espousing the teachings of Jesus. It would appear that the concept of irony is lost on these people. Oh, one more point, when Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson endorsed George Bush for President, I never heard one peep from anyone, despite both of them having taken stances that could be viewed as anti-Semitic, homophobic and racist. Once again, it just shows how lucky Barack Obama is to be who he is.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Numbers Game

Barack Obama had a particularly bad week with the Rev. Wright problem and the ongoing Rezco trial in Chicago both being given heavy coverage in the press. I happen to think that Obama's continuing relationship with Rev. Wright will be a problem going forward and his line about not having known about the offensive statements just doesn't ring true. It seems that the timing for this particular revelation is particularly interesting coming on the heels of the Ferraro dust up from last week. I'm not suggesting that the story was planted, but given the fact that these clips have been available on youtube for a year, the timing does seem somewhat curious.

Regardless of the how's or whys, the story is now out and the negative attack against Obama is starting to have an effect. For the first time, he is actually behind John McCain in the RCP average (average of a group of polls). The Clinton campaign is going to make one final argument to the super delegates and that is one of electability. Remember that Hillary Clinton's negatives have remained exactly the same throughout the campaign. She is disliked by about half of the country. Obama's negatives were hovering in the 20's before Clinton started the "scorched earth" strategy. In order to present the case that she stands a better chance against McCain in the fall, she has to make sure that there is a torrent of negative press against Obama. She has to bring up issues (real or imagined) every day in order to keep the press in attack mode. And so far, it's working to perfection.

As I said in my last article, you have to almost admire the genius of the Clinton campaign at this point. Despite many missteps in the past, they have their campaign running like a well oiled machine at this point. The string of comments from her campaign team are nothing if not consistent. They attack Obama every day, but scream bloody murder if the Obama camp questions them on any issue. The latest being tax records and earmarks. The Obama camp has asked for transparency from the Clinton camp regarding these issues, but they were met with charges that the Obama campaign is trying to go negative. The Clintons have also not released the records about who donated to Bill Clinton's library, but once again, it is the Obama camp that hasn't been forthcoming with information. The Clinton camp answers every question with an attack that then muddies the waters. It is almost as if Lee Atwater had been resurrected and had taken control of the Clinton campaign.

In the next couple of weeks, the Clinton campaign will continue to tear down Obama as much as possible. It won't help them win the numbers game as far as delegates, but it will help them win the perception campaign. If they can show that Obama is truly unelectable, then the super delegates will have to turn to them as the only alternative. She is also going to get the endorsement of John Edwards before the NC primary. It is hard to believe that someone who complained that Hillary Clinton was the politics of the past will actually endorse her, but that is exactly what John Edwards will do. The endorsement will come after Hillary wins in Pennsylvania, which will allow him to be a surrogate for her for two weeks before the NC primary. I'm not sure what Hillary had to promise him in order to secure his endorsement, but it's really got to be something good (cabinet post, VP, Supreme Court?).

This will end with a badly damaged Obama (albeit still with a significant delegate lead) heading into the convention with Clinton still harping on the electability issue. I predicted a while ago that the convention was shaping up to make '68 look like a day at the beach and there has been nothing to change my mind since then. The Republican party, which has led us into a quagmire in Iraq, overseen record deficits and pushed us to the verge of a possible domestic economic disaster, will somehow come out of the general election with a firm grip on the White House. Only the Democratic party is capable of snatching defeat squarely from the jaws of victory. You can't really blame the Clinton camp for where the Democratic party currently finds itelf. She is only taking advantage of the situation. She is doing everything that she can to win this nomination. The question really becomes is the Democratic party willing to do everything that it can to salvage an opportunity to win in the fall?

Friday, March 14, 2008

Luck Be A Lady Tonight

The race for the Democratic nomination has reached crunch time. I know that we are six weeks away from the Pennsylvania primary, but with no actual voting to distract anyone, the Clinton campaign is headed into to high gear to try and prove that Barack Obama is unfit to serve as President. Hell, by the time they are done with him, they may be saying that he's unfit to be a Senator.

Yesterday, Mark Penn said that Obama was unelectable. The campaign quickly tried to cover its tracks by trying to deny that he ever said that, but the quote had already been sent out over various outlets. Some will say that it was simply a mistake on his part, but I think that every statement that comes out of the campaign is based on pure calculation. They believe that the only way to win the nomination is drive Obama's negatives up. Clearly they have been unsuccessful in bringing hers down, so in order to level the playing field, they have to make sure that Obama is unpopular as her or is seen as unfit for the job. The various fictional "thresholds" that they have now said that he doesn't meet are just part of an overall strategy to convince the super delegates that nominating him would be a mistake. Apparently the only arbiter of whether someone has crossed these "thresholds" is Clinton herself.

She continues to stump for John McCain by saying that clearly he has crossed these "thresholds" as has she. Obama meanwhile is left out of the threshold club because the only thing he has EVER done is give an anti-war speech in 2002. By hammering home this point (which is repeated every day by the press), she give the super delegates cause to doubt Obama. Of course her foreign policy "experience" was mainly accompanying her husband when he was President. She has claimed that she played a "major" part in various international crises, but there is little evidence of that. That has not stopped her from trumpeting that experience as proof of her readiness to be Commander-in-Chief.

The Geraldine Ferraro fiasco is just another example of a calculated attempt to inflame an already delicate situation. Hillary has made various appeals to women voters based solely on her gender. Can you imagine the uproar if Obama made a similar appeal? First off all it would polarize the voters to an even greater extent than they are today and it would diminish his campaign to the point of being a footnote. However Hillary Clinton is allowed to make this appeal because, dare I say, she's "lucky" to be who she is. Geraldine Ferraro made, then repeated, then defended her ridiculous claims without a particularly strong response from the Clinton camp. The reason? They wanted the discussion to take place. They wanted people to ruminate about how exactly it was that Hillary was being beaten by a black man. Now most objective observers would point to the fact that he has run a brilliant campaign, mobilized a new segment of voters and generally had a better ground game than Hillary, but for those who are willing to ignore the facts, here was an argument that they could use. She wasn't losing to a better candidate; she was losing to a candidate who had all the breaks. This was just another chance for the Clinton camp to get out the message that she is a victim. First of the vast right wing conspiracy, then of the press and now she's a victim because she had the unfortunate lot to run against a "lucky" candidate. I am not suggesting that the Clinton campaign instructed Ferraro to make the statement. I'm sure that they had nothing to do with her tirade, but once it was out in the open, they saw how they could use it to their advantage. By not immediately taking a strong stand against it and asking Ferraro to immediately resign her post on the finance committee, (they called the incident "unfortunate"), they allowed the issue to linger much longer than it should have. They took out their calculators and decided that this would be the better (albeit sleazy) way to go.

I am somewhat awed by the genius of the campaign. They have switched tactics in mid stream and have turned their campaign of inevitability into a campaign of pure destruction. They have taken the reigns of the press coverage and now control the tone of the campaign and what is covered is each day (usually Obama reacting to a new attack). Last week Obama's camp put out a statement in which they had legitimate questions about Hillary's claims of foreign policy experience. It laid out point by point her claims and basically refuted her statements of having played an important part in any foreign policy matter during her husbands’ presidency. The press gave it zero coverage. There was nothing. Not a peep. The big story that day was about Hillary saying that she might consider having Obama as her Vice President. Clearly anyone who has been watching the campaign closely knows that Obama is not going to take the #2 spot, especially in a White House where Bill Clinton would be the de facto Vice President. Her remark was designed to get press coverage and get press coverage it did. She accomplished a few things, she got people thinking about Obama as a VP as opposed to President, showed that despite the bitterness of the campaign, she really was all about uniting the party and kept the press from reporting on a story with actual substance.

The stories will continue to come out every day from Camp Clinton and with each passing day they will probably get more and more ridiculous. They will continue to tear down this "lucky" man unless someone can put an end to this (where are you Joe Biden, Nancy Pelosi, Bill Richardson, Al Gore, John Edwards?). We have six more weeks of this to look forward to. I say this to anyone who thinks that Obama is "lucky", you should come to New York and see just how "lucky" he is as he tries to hail a cab.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

"I look at my time as Governor with a sense of what might have been."

Those are the words of the man who will be Governor of New York, only until Monday March 17, 2008 -nearly three years before the actual end of his elected term. Eliot Spitzer announced his resignation, to what seems like the tired relief of the entire state, and in some ways the rest of the nation, due to the potentially negative effect he might have had on the Democratic race for the party nomination that is still without a clear end. It’s been a long two and half days.

It’s ironic that Eliot Spitzer had endorsed Hillary Clinton, a former first lady whose most distinguished accomplishment as a person in public life (aside from galvanizing most of the irrational hatred leveled at the Clinton administration and becoming its new focus and target) was standing by her husband during his own extramarital scandal while in the white house.
Governor Spitzer has been rumored to have been strategizing, consulting with lawyers, weighing his options, possibly angling to use resignation as leverage to avoid indictment.

"There is much more to be done, and I cannot allow my private failings to disrupt the people's work." he said. Too late Mr. Governor, lawmakers are set to vote on New York’s budget bills Wednesday afternoon. Calls for his resignation came Monday from Republicans who were threatening impeachment only a day later.

Eliot Spitzer built a legendary political reputation as the State Attorney General. They called him “Mr. Clean” and they called him the “Sheriff of Wall Street”… Oh, and he also cracked down on prostitution by the way, in a number of well publicized busts, but no nick-name there. He was looking more and more like “Eliot Ness” come to life in 2000 and the years after. He was elected Governor of New York by an overwhelming margin of over 70%, soundly defeating Republican John Faso. Eliot Spitzer promised New Yorkers that he would root out corruption in New York state government in his inaugural speech, only to be caught up months later in a plot by his own aides to smear his Republican nemesis in the legislature, Joe Bruno... And now the allegations of soliciting prostitution and possible financial dissembling, known as “structuring”, going back almost a decade.

This is not a “private matter” as Governor Spitzer put it Monday. A person’s marriage and relations with other persons are private matters (although those are boundaries are rarely respected by the media and public anyway). Breaking laws that you are sworn to uphold (as he has been alleged to have done starting while he was State Attorney General) are not a “private matter”. Eliot Spitzer has sent people to jail for the very thing he is alleged to have done. It is a grievous violation of trust and profoundly disappointing to me as a voter.

As sorry as I am to see a Liberal progressive of this fortitude and this procedural muscularity go in such a disastrous and shameful fall from power, his resignation is ultimately welcome. We already have far too many elected officials and their federal-level appointees choosing which parts of the constitution they consider valid and advantageous, and conversely which passages they may freely interpret and step over. It’s obvious that we cannot have State Attorney Generals and Governors breaking the law, or at least it should be to anyone considering whether Governor Spitzer could have survived this scandal. The point is; he shouldn’t survive it. This is not the fall of Charles Parnell, Gary Hart, Bill Clinton, Jim McGreevey or even Charles Foster Kane. Eliot Spitzer is alleged to have paid ten of thousands of dollars for prostitutes and it is alleged he did this across several years and as recently as last month, all while attempting to hide his transactions. Eliot Spitzer is alleged to have committed a crime. This is a crime and illegal industry that he was charged with prosecuting (and did prosecute). It’s not a scandal; it’s a series of criminal acts.

Now I am forced to wonder; who will pick up where this man left off? Traders cheered on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange upon hearing the news of the allegations. Why wouldn’t they? Eliot Spitzer made a mission of exposing the horrible abuses of trust and predation of analysts and traders on investors. So ends the promising career of Eliot Spitzer, a man once proffered as a future presidential candidate, a man I proudly voted for.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Idle Hands

It seems inevitable that the Democratic voters in Michigan and Florida will get a chance to vote again before the convention. I did a run down of all the remaining scheduled contests last week, but I left out Florida and Michigan. I have no idea when they'll take place, but the Clinton campaign is working feverishly to make sure that both states get a do over.

I know that they are both a long way off, but I just wanted to make sure that I made predictions for them as well.

Florida - Clinton 10 55-45. Florida is full of the type of voters who love Hillary. The panhandle is Hillary country and the retirees are Hillary voters and we already know about the Hispanics. Obama will have to do a lot of work in order to come within 10 points of her here, unless they have a caucus (but the Clinton campaign would never agree to that).

Michigan - Clinton - 51-49. She will win a close victory there, but because of the Obama supporters being concentrated in the big cities, he should come out of there with a win in the delegate count.

So that's about the size of it out of the 13 remaining contests, Hillary should win 7 to Obama's 6 (or 8 to 5 depending on Guam). By the way, I know that the press will make a huge deal out of Pennsylvania, but the last remaining real test on the regular calendar is May 6th. On that day Indiana and North Carolina go to the polls and combined they have more delegates than Pennsylvania. The reason that day is so important is because it is perhaps the last chance for either candidate to pull off a real "upset". Indiana, given it's location and demographic makeup, should be solid Clinton territory and North Carolina, with it's large African American population and highly educated and high income population centers, should be fertile ground for Obama.

If either one can pull off a victory in the others "backyard" (so to speak), then it would signal that one of the campaigns may be in real trouble. Clinton has a real chance to grab the reigns of the campaign with a victory in North Carolina. She will have won Pennsylvania (and potentially Guam) leading up to that vote if she could sweep the primaries on that day, she will essentially deny Obama a victory for two and a half months. West Virgina will go for her by a very large margin (20+ points) and so will Kentucky. That would leave Oregon on May 20th as Obama's firewall (to borrow a phrase).

The next six contests line up very well for Hillary Clinton, and although Obama's delegate lead may not be greatly affected, a win by Clinton in North Carolina would deliver a serious blow to Obama's chances. This is why the forgotten John Edwards can play a huge part in this race. His endorsement, which was so highly sought by both candidates just a month ago, will once again become the 800lb Gorilla in the room. I am sure that both campaigns have started their full court press to try and secure his support. It could mean the difference between Obama stemming the tide or Hillary essentially being able to make a very credible argument to the super delegates at the convention. Edwards' strength with white males is critical to both candidates. Obama has shown that he can carry them (in a state like NC), but an endorsement of Hillary may just swing that vote in her favor.

It is time for Obama to start questioning Hillary's tactics. In the next debate (and there will be at least two before the Pennsylvania primary), he needs to ask her whether she is interested in a Democrat winning the election in November or just interested in beating him. I think her recent comments about her and John McCain crossing the "commander-in-chief threshold" (WTF is that????) are ridiculous and he needs to call her on that. It is something that is much better done in a face to face format. Trading barbs through speeches is not as effective as confronting her in a debate format. He needs to question her 35 years of "experience". He needs to question her claims that she played a major part in brokering peace in Northern Ireland and in Kosovo. He needs to point out that he has been an elected official longer than she has. He needs to ask whether working on the board of Wal-Mart or badgering a 12 year old victim of a sexual assault counts as "experience". She touts the courage in took to fly into Bosnia when it was too dangerous for the President, but apparently Cheryl Crow and Sinbad had the same level of courage, since they were both on that trip. The next debate could be a turning point of his campaign or it could just be another boring recapitulation of their positions. He shouldn't allow that to happen. It is not "going negative" to question statements that the other candidate has made. He feels that he is walking a fine line of being a "new" type of candidate and becoming just another candidate who will use negative tactics to win an election , but when his opponent has based her entire campaign on series of statements that may or may not be true, it is fair game to question her on those.

Six weeks is a long time to go between contests. If you think the campaigns have been silly before, you just wait and see the kind of nonsense that takes place over the next six weeks. You know what they say about idle hands.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Blame Canada!

The recent NAFTA-gate episode, with it's charges and counter charges has been more than a distraction in the Democratic primary. It may have helped Hillary Clinton to a larger than expected (by they press) victory in the Ohio primary. I received this email from a friend in Canada (let's just call her Patty) and thought this was an appropriate place to share it:

"The front section of the NYTimes has an article about the Trade Pact Controversy (by Ian Austen), that begins with 'Canada is in a tizzy.' A what? A tizzy? Haven't we suffered enough humiliation without being referred to as 'tizzyers'. Our tizzyness has been our own private secret for a long time, but now there it is in the NY Times - Canada is a country that tizzies. And let's not overstate this - we aren't in a conniption. Rare is the occasion to cause the kind of countrywide tizzy-frenzydness that would put us out of a state of tizzy and smack in the middle of a conniption. Oh the tizzy. The whipped-up emotional state of the anemic."

"Before this escalates even further, Canada needs to just 'man up' and apologize. We, your neighbours who live above you, are sorry we sprung a leak all over your primaries. 'Someone who shall remain nameless' forgot to put the plug in, and soaked your caucuses. We can't promise it won't happen again. But we can promise that if it does, we will come forward immediately and point a finger at someone else. An 'underling' who works in a Canadian office outside of Canada, so they won't be held to any real public scrutiny. In the meantime, parliament is enacting a bill to build a dam along the Canada/US border, to help stop the leaks from springing up willy nilly. Blast the cost! We must stop leaking all over our good neighbours to the South - if it means that every Canadian woman, man and child must bag sand until the November US election, shoring our great shared lands and waterways against the stream of drips that are finding their way across the border. Cause if it happens again, a Canadian tizzy will most definitely ensue! And nobody wants that."
"Oh Canada."

Canada may just be our last best hope for real political satire.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Press to Play

The political pundits and press continue to amaze me in just how short sighted they are. Last night Hillary Clinton won an easy victory in Ohio and a close victory in the popular vote in Texas (the caucus results are still being tabulated). When her victories were announced the talking heads on TV acted as if they were totally shocked. Their response was basically, "Oh my gosh, how could this possibly have happened. Obama had so much momentum, he spent so much money. He should have wrapped this up tonight". I wrote an article on Feb 13th where I predicted exactly what would happen last night and exactly the reasons why it would happen. Why on earth if I can predict what will happen three weeks before the actual event does the combined political "talent" on CNN, MSNBC and Fox act as if this is a total shock to them. Trust me when I say, I'm not that smart.

I suspect that the storyline of a "comeback" is more entertaining than a storyline about reality. They keep talking about the multiple Clinton "comebacks" as if it were magic. The truth is that there are certain states which just line up better for her (as there are states which line up better for Obama). I will now give you a complete rundown of the remaining primaries/caucuses and who will win each and by what margin:

Wyoming - Obama +10

Mississippi - Obama +10

Guam - Obama -10 (the only one that I'm really unsure about)

Pennsylvania - Clinton -10

Indiana - Clinton -10

North Carolina - Obama -10

West Virginia - Clinton +10

Kentucky - Clinton +10

Oregon - Obama -10

Montana - Obama +10

South Dakota - Obama +10

Puerto Rico - Clinton +10

So in the final analysis, in the final 12 contests we might end up with an even split 6-6 (depending upon Guam). The delegate count will pretty much stand at the same place it is today and as I have said before in politics, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS MOMENTUM. The pundits and press will continue to report on the contests as if they take place in a vacuum. Every result will be treated as a complete and utter surprise. What will the storyline be after next Tuesday when Obama has won both Wyoming and Mississippi? "Obama regains MOMENTUM after two easy victories. That will of course be a lie, but the press insists on perpetuating the myth so that after Hillary wins Pennsylvania they call that another comeback.

The race has taken a nasty turn that will ultimately lead to a John McCain victory in the fall. In fact for the first time I'm suggesting that Barack Obama get out of the race. He is now in a position of not being able to win against McCain in the fall because Hillary Clinton is going to do her best to tear him down until the convention. His best strategy would be to get out of the race, throw all of his support behind Hillary and regroup for another run in 2012. He can say that his decision was based on the fact the party needs to be unified and that he wanted to avoid a blood bath at the convention. He would be seen as a hero by the Democratic party, he would become the de facto nominee for the 2012 election and he would save himself from a defeat at the hands of John McCain. Most times, losers in the general election do not get a second chance to prove themselves (I believe that Richard Nixon was the last person to pull off that trick). By being magnanimous this time around, he preserves his opportunity to become President.

Anyway, that all I have to say about this Democratic race (I suggest reading Chuck Todd's First Read on the MSNBC site or catching him on TV for the best and most unbiased account of the race). I will now return to my sports blog (which I had basically abandoned during the last two month), so if you're looking for some rational analysis of the upcoming baseball season, you will find it there. Thanks to everyone who took time out to browse my nonsensical ramblings. Vaya con dios.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Slash and Burn

Some in the press seem to be echoing the ridiculous talking point that Mark Penn, Clinton's chief strategist, put out on Friday that because Obama has poured more resources into today's races that he has to win all four or be considered a failure. It seems that some in the press have come full circle from fawning over Obama to now towing the Clinton line. Both approaches are wrong and show the lack of actual independent thought and research going on in political coverage today.

The truth is that three weeks ago Barack Obama faced double digit deficits in both Texas and Ohio and has closed that gap considerably. If he were to actually win one of the big states tonight, it should be considered practically a political miracle. Hillary Clinton, after losing 10 straight contests still entered the race for Texas and Ohio as a prohibitive favorite. I predicted on February 13th that Hillary would win comfortably in Ohio and squeak by in Texas. I still stand by that prediction. I do believe that because of the wacky primacaucus in Texas, she may actually lose the delegate race, but winning the popular vote should be more than enough for her to claim victory there. And while the race in Rhode Island has gotten closer, she should still come out with a victory there. That leaves Vermont for Obama to hang his hat on.

The press will once again be falling all over themselves to proclaim that Hillary now has the momentum and that the race is up for grabs. That denies the simple truth that the delegate math simply does not work in her favor. The question that should be asked of the Clinton campaign is how exactly do they expect to win the nomination. Barring a spectacular flameout by Obama, the only real way that she can win is to take the race to the convention and either convince the super delegates to vote for her or somehow get the DNC to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations. So her only real chance of winning at this point is to blow apart the Democratic party at the convention. I'm not really sure why no one has asked this question of the Clinton campaign (considering the MASSIVE media bias against her), but I'm sure the answer would be very interesting.

If the delegate race remains substantially unchanged after tonight's vote, you will begin to see more super delegates start to announce their support for Obama. Bill Richardson said over the weekend that whoever comes out of today's vote with a substantial lead in delegates should be the nominee. Given Obama's lead of 150 delegates, the only way for Hillary to have a substantial lead on Wednesday morning would be if she won every single delegate on Tuesday night. That is clearly not going to happen.

The leaders of the Democratic party are probably now beginning to become alarmed at the negative tone that the Clinton campaign has taken. Hillary has mocked every aspect of Obama's campaign in the past week. From ridiculing his message to ridiculing his experience. In fact she actually said that John McCain would be better prepared to handle an emergency than Obama would. She is now in "no turning back" territory. Two weeks ago she said she was honored to share the stage with Obama, now she says that his biggest accomplishment was a speech he gave in 2002. She has decided that belittling an denigrating her opponent is the best way to win the Democratic nomination. There are two problems with that strategy. First, I don't think that she can win the nomination without some major back room dealing. And secondly she risks polarizing the Democratic base to such a degree that it will be impossible for either her or Obama to win in November. Supporters of Obama will say that his just more of the same Clinton dirty tactics that they always use when they're in trouble. The Clinton supporters will say that Obama isn't ready to be President. That will lead to either massive defection or massive indifference come election day. Do you think that Obama's supporters will look kindly upon a candidate who basically called them idiots for supporting their candidate of choice?

I have no problem with Hillary Clinton continuing her campaign until the convention. It is her right. What I do object to is the manner in which she has now chosen to run her campaign. I can see the delight on the faces of the Republican pundits on television as they revel in the possibility of facing a bloodied and beaten candidate in November. I can come to no other conclusion than that Hillary Clinton has decided that winning this race against Obama is more important than the Democrats winning in November. In the past I have said that I didn't think anything was off the table when it came to the Clinton campaign. However, I really thought that when push came to shove, she wouldn't resort to the scorched earth plan. Clearly I have given her too much credit. If ridiculing your opponent and his supporters is your most effective strategy, then clearly the message of your own campaign isn't compelling enough to win the day.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Hope Floats

During a segment on 60 Minutes a reporter was talking to group of prospective voters in Ohio and one of them expressed some doubts about Barack Obama. When the reporter asked him what those were, he mentioned the fact that Obama has his own belief system, doesn't know the Pledge of Allegience and has Muslim ties. The reporter responded that none of those things are true, but the voter said that that is what he had been told and obviously what he believes.

It pains me to think about the level of ignorance and bigotry that exists in this country when a ridiculous smear campaign can reach that level of "truth" in the minds of some people. That voter probably would never have voted for Obama to begin with and the whisper/smear campaign just allowed him an easy out. Opposing a candidate based on religious beliefs, while equally as bigoted as opposing a candidate because of race, seems much more acceptable, especially when it comes to the Muslim faith. Hillary Clinton faces the same type of bigotry on the trail, but people don't feel the need to sugar coat their opposition to her. Most will just come out and say that they won't vote for a woman for President.

The Democrats face an uphill battle come November, regardless of what the polls say now. There is a significant group of voters who will simply never vote for either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. After all, she's a bitch and he's a nig... oops, sorry, he's a Muslim Manchurian candidate. The Democrats are banking on a flood of new, enthusiastic voters to offset the ingrained and substantial negative attitudes of many in this country. The original meaning of the famous words in the Declaration of Independence, ("All Men are created equal"), meant all white men, and there is still a group that holds that truth still to be very much self evident. Thankfully that group gets smaller every year, but it's not small enough for my taste.

Imagine what it would be like to wake up the day after the general election in November and realize that America had elected it's first non white-male President. It would say so much about how far the country has come. It would be a significant step to showing how far we have come toward fulfilling the ideal of America. We are supposed to be that "shining city on a hill", we are supposed to believe "that there is a placed called hope", we are supposed to think that we are guided by "the better angels of our nature". That is the dream that we have been asked to buy for so long.

I don't know the answer to the question of whether Obama or Clinton would be a better President than McCain, but no one does. If we allow fear and hatred to make that decision for us then we turn our back on everything that this country is supposed to stand for. I am not saying that people should vote for the Democratic candidate to prove a point. What I am saying is that each candidate must be judged on the merits and not pre-judged on their race, religion or gender. That really is all I ask. Is that so much? Judging by what I hear and read every day, apparently it is. I do hope that this election cycle will prove me wrong. I can hope that we have a fair and above board election. I can hope that the majority of Americans stand up and reject the politics of hate and fear. I can hope that this is the year' that we as a country' (as Dr. King so eloquently stated), "rise up and live out the true meaning of our creed".

I can only hope.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Fly in the Ointment

The Democratic party, while hoping for the best, is bracing for the worst from High Noon Tuesday. The best case scenario has Obama winning both Texas and Ohio and for all intents and purposes bringing the campaign to an end. They also wouldn't mind a split decision, with Obama taking either of the big states. The nightmare comes about if Hillary wins both states by very small margins. If this happens then she has the impetus to continue to contest the nomination even with no hope of actually overtaking Obama in the delegate count.

A win by 3-4 points won't make any difference in the overall delegate count, but it will make a difference in the perception of the press and the voters. Even with a win in both states and a win in Rhode Island, early projections have her picking up about 3-5 more delegates than Obama. However, if she does win three out of four, she will be better able to dictate the narrative of the coverage of the race. Currently most of the press is in a "death watch" over her campaign. A lot of the coverage focuses on when she might leave the race and what a potential Obama-McCain race shapes up in the fall. With the momentum of a few victories behind her, she can refocus the debate on her strengths versus Obama. Her campaign will talk about her resilience and the fact that Obama has been unable to close out the race.

Something I said earlier is that perception is reality in a political race. If the press begins to report about the new momentum in the Clinton campaign, then the voters will begin to respond. Just as the positive press coverage has allowed Obama to close 20%+ leads in Ohio and Texas, positive coverage of Clinton will allow her to better maintain her leads or cut into his. With McCain on the verge of wrapping up his nomination, the Democratic party would like nothing better than to have the race effectively come to an end on Tuesday night. No one in the party leadership would say any such thing out loud, but they know that the longer that their candidates fight each other, the less time they have to work against their ultimate foe in the fall.

So what happens on Tuesday night. I'll go this far and say that Clinton will win Rhode Island/Ohio and Obama will win in Vermont. The million dollar question mark for the Democrats is Texas. The polls have been unreliable up this point and while both Clinton and Obama have been shown with leads, the race remains a toss up. The fact that the state has a primary and a caucus complicates matters in even calling a winner. Is the winner the person who wins the popular vote? Or is it the person who ends up with the most delegates? Since 1/3 of the delegates are apportioned via the caucus, it is possible that the winner of the popular vote comes out of the process with less delegates. The Clinton's have already threatened legal action that may postpone the release of the caucus results. This would allow a Clinton win in the popular vote to not be over shadowed by an Obama win in the caucus.

It's amazing that the Democratic race has come down to a state that is solid Republican territory. The fact that the Texas race is an open primary may eventually end up making the difference. The ultimate irony of this Democratic primary season may very well be that Texas Republicans end up deciding who becomes the nominee of the Democratic party.