Wednesday, February 27, 2008


I don't have words for this. I'm very flattered and will make my decision in the very near future.

That's President Barack Hussein Obama to You

So apparently the GOP smear dogs are already out in force against Barack Obama. The use of his middle name, Hussein, is being portrayed by the Right Wing hate mongers as fair game. They are using that "wink wink" strategy that on the outside says, "What?! I can't say the man's middle name? What's wrong with that? It's his middle name. So what?" but inside says, "Hey, fellow narrow minded white men unite!"

Yesterday it was Bill Cunningham opening for John McCain at a rally and today it was the Chairman of the Tennessee GOP, Robin Smith, okaying the same strategy while posting an article about Obama being an anti-Semite on their website. I'm now watching CNN and see former Bush Press Secretary Ari Fleischer, a raving neocon if I've ever seen one, playing the same "What wrong with the man's middle name? It's like saying George Herbert Walker Bush! I don't get it."

Even Karl Rove has said in public that this strategy is a bad idea. Well, I say let it go on. I don't think this is going to hurt Obama as much as it will set the GOP back one or two generations. I have a suggestion for a response to this from the Obama campaign...

"That's President Barack Hussein Obama to you."

White Guys with Mics

I hate to title this post "White Guys with Mics" because it serves a dual purpose. First, it's a commentary on the recently passed William F. Buckley and his legacy as a verbose and dedicated voice for conservative America. Second, it's a look at the present state of political voices in America.

William F. Buckley was the son of an oil baron and a true blue Yale man. He served in the US Army and even briefly in the CIA before turning to a career in writing. Buckley was founder of the National Review and is credited with the wave of conservative enthusiasm which swept Ronald Reagan to national prominence. With the mass medium of television exploding throughout America, Buckley found himself a niche as a chat host, generally taking the conservative side against a more left leaning guest. This format is the preferred context for modern media treatments of political and social issues on every major network, although the quality of both host and guest has noticeably deteriorated since the heyday of Buckley and company.

In the following clip, Buckley interviews Gore Vidal and is confronted by Vidal as a crypto-Nazi, to which Buckley responds by calling Vidal a queer and threatening to assault him. I think this represents a low moment in television history and certainly is below both of these men. Notice that this clip comes from ABC.

Another interesting television clip, available via the magic of YouTube, is the now famous conversation between Buckley and Noam Chomsky. Buckley's smug, affected accent intrudes repeatedly on the mathematical and academic tone of Chomsky as he tries to make each point. This technique is now standard practice by the O'reillys and Hannitys of the world, although rather than interjecting rudely with well thought out counterpunches, the new breed simply shout shut up and gesticulate wildly.

The clash of ideologies that Buckley brought to television has continued in its basest form today. Notice in the Chomsky clip that the audience are all young, college-aged people. Can you imagine this type of conversation holding the attention of that age group today? Possibly, but I'm a bit cynical about that prospect. Increasingly, the decline of literacy and the fragmentation of attention spans would preclude a discussion of this kind from capturing a young audience, and certainly wouldn't be made available to a mainstream television audience.

Talking things into the modern media environment, we now see a dumbing down of the national dialog on every network in every time slot across the board. I don't watch Fox, but the Bill O'Reillys and Sean Hannitys of the world live on their air. Anyone's who pays attention to the news is assaulted by their divisive distortions of reality. From "Outfoxed":

This type of behavior is not limited to Fox, however. MSNBC is also a famous stop for the hyperactive punditry. If anyone has ever seen Chris Matthews, his particular brand of veiled misogyny and smirking (spitting) rhetoric is enabled by fellow white guy Tim Russert, who is less excitable but equally in love with his own voice. For the record, I watch MSNBC and I watch both Matthews and Russert every week. They have access to the guests that are important to the national dialog and while I have to hold my nose to watch them, I want to see what these guests have to say. Here's a little snippet of Chris Matthews:

On CNN we have self-proclaimed "independent populist" Lou Dobbs, who has taken on the role of champion of the middle class. His rhetoric is self-indulgent and arrogant. Dobbs typically beings a female correspondent into the studio, sitting her to his left while he stands, towering in front of an American flag video wall, and asks for the woman's opinion. Following her report, Dobbs will ignore everything she has said in favor of spinning the topic into his own diatribe. I can't watch his program for more than the 3 or 4 minutes it takes to witness this phenomenon, but it repeats itself ad nauseum, day in and day out.

In this clip, a personal favorite, Dobbs interviews Candy Crowley about Barack Obama's alleged plagiarism and his response to the charges. The part of this clip you'll want to watch is Dobbs' typically smug assertion that Obama and Deval Patrick were devaluing Martin Luther King, Jr's words. He completely misunderstood that both men saying, "I have a dream....just words?" closes with a rhetorical question mark, rather than a period or exclamation point. The point of their speeches was to point out that words have tremendous significance and serve to inspire us to worthy causes. Dobbs' thick head can't quite get that and he assumes, for some reason, that the speeches were intended to devalue words. He signs off to an incredulous Candy her face at the very end of the clip. She looks like she's thinking, "Wait...wha..?"

So, without getting into the vast landscape of radio white guys out there (often far worse than their TV counterparts) hiding behind their microphones, suffice it to say that while William F. Buckley may have rubbed people the wrong way with his conservative sensibilities, vocal affectations, and holier-than-thou persona, the level of national dialog that we witnessed under his "care" was a far better alternative to the numbskulls that we are faced with today. Buckley will be some way.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Campaign Fonts

Just wanted to tip readers to a good friend of this blog, and outstanding New York-based writer, Nancy Scola's latest post at her site regarding the choice of font in the dueling presidential campaigns. If you aren't hip to the difference that font style makes and the messages they send, you should by all means see the documentary Helvetica. Here's a bonus clip that didn't make the documentary about Obama's font "Gotham":

Support Nancy's work, check out the post in question, and judge for yourself which style speaks to the message.

The Ohio Debate

I like to preface my commentary on these so-called debates by pointing out that there is very little about them that actually resembles a debate. They are made for TV events that generally favor the questioners over the questioned. They are much better vehicles for the networks, reporters, and pundits than they are for the American people or the candidates.

The content of these events is irrelevant. The image that is presented via television is almost all that matters, especially after 20(!) have been conducted. Before I get into the specific of the content (because I am a wonky pundit in the end), I want to comment on the real communication offered during the one and a half hour "debate."

First, without the sound I thought Senator Clinton looked a bit out of control and looked to be shooting daggers at Senator Obama while he was speaking. She is definitely the "hot" candidate in this pairing (see: McLuhan's hot and cold media) while Obama is the "cool" candidate. For the purpose of clarification on this, the swing era of big band jazz was hot, while the Miles Davis "Kind of Blue" era was distinctly cool.

Working to her benefit was the light blue backdrop which was very flattering to her. Obama had a kind of red and blue gradated background, which works in terms of his ability to draw on Independents and Democrats on a highly symbolic level, but was less flattering to him than the light blue for Clinton. Obama, without the sound, looked a but antsy when Clinton was "filibustering" and made me think of the failure of Al Gore in his debate with George W. Bush in 2000. That said, I think without the sound, as the "cool" candidate Obama works much better on television. His expressions are much more controlled and dignified. His gestures are pointed, but always relaxed. Clinton has the problem with her "hot" facial expressions that distract from her notion of experience.

With the sound, Senator Clinton is almost always better in these debates from a control standpoint. She is forceful and isn't afraid to make pointed remarks, remarks with barbs. Obama's "cool" persona is a bit of a snooze in the debate format, but he can afford to be bland in this situation as he's the current frontrunner. Senator Clinton's "hot" facial expressions make a lot better impression when the passion of her voice accompanies them. Senator Obama's smooth voice helps his "cool" image. As McLuhan points out in his 1976 analysis of the Ford/Carter debate, Carter comes from a corporate culture, a Southern culture, and carries a corporate accent that appeals to younger voters. Ford came from a individualist, fragmented culture, which McLuhan attributes to Northern culture.

I think Senator Obama has a corporate quality in his voice that comes from his African-American socialization. There is a quality to the speech patterns and rhythms of African-American linguistics that can be heard in his voice, and that pattern has become familiar to Americans from the era of jazz, rock n' roll, and now hip hop and signals a kind of "with it" authenticity that works to his advantage. Senator Clinton's voice has very much a Northern intellectual pattern, which is very strong for her in communicating policy and providing solid, believable platforms. That works for her in this environment as the "cool" vocal patterns of Obama do in the large, arena environments.

As for the specific of the debate, I think the health care issue was largely a rehashing of prior commentary, and was a lot more interesting for the back and forth about the campaign trail than it was for the policy. In the end, it seemed silly. I would give that point to Obama because I think Senator Clinton looked a bit out of control and adversarial with Tim Russert, justified or not.

On the issue of NAFTA, I think Obama also came out ahead thanks to Tim Russert's grilling of Senator Clinton on her prior support for the trade agreement and his reading of her past remarks on the subject. Obama made a criticism and Russert backed him up, again, fairly or not. I think, however, in the end both candidates said the right thing about how to proceed going forward.

Obama also wins on the Iraq War and Senator Clinton's vote. That's not new. She has to walk very carefully on her criticisms of Obama on this point, and tried to score point by distorting his ideas on Pakistan. Obama did a great job spinning both points back on her and had a good line about her vote for the war as voting to drive a car into a ditch, even if she's voted to get it out since. His answer on Pakistan was also right on the money. The Bush Administration just killed a high level Al Qaeda operative in Pakistan with a precision strike, precisely what he said he's do months ago.

I thought Senator Clinton did a good job of deflecting the tax return issue, while Senator Obama was less successful in his wishy-washy answer on public financing in a general election. I also thought that Obama didn't handle the questions about Louis Farrakhan and the pastor at his church very effectively. I don't think either is an issue, for the record, and I think Tim Russert was trying to balance out his obvious "thing" for Hillary Clinton by sticking it to Obama once. It was weird and essentially beside the point, in my opinion, but Obama could have simply dismissed the whole thing outright by saying, "I don't think Mr. Farrakhan's endorsement is an issue as I reject the divisive things he's said in the past. I value my relationship with the Jewish community and hope as president to repair the relationship between African-Americans and the Jewish community. I will be a bridge between us rather than a barrier. Period." Instead, on his way to saying just that, he talked a bit in circles. The contemptible thing about the question is that the African-American community has struggled to be united for so long that any attempt for the white mainstream establishment to drive a wedge between African-Americans, even those as ideologically different as Obama and Farrakhan, should get a "shame on you."

The Russian/Kosovo discussion was interesting and I think it deserved more attention, but in Ohio I suppose it needed to take a backseat to the domestic issues. I call that a draw for lack of substantial discussion.

The close was telling. You'll decide who you thought won the wrap based on what you want in Washington. Clinton said she'll fight. She believes that a fighter is needed to combat a right wing/big business agenda in Washington. Obama campaigns on a uniter agenda that seeks to draw in people, change politics, and stop all the gridlock fighting that has led to a 25% approval rating for Congress. Everyone is entitled to their opinion on this, and I get the feeling that the vote so far has fallen specifically on this issue, to be honest. I think people are speaking with their votes that the fighting has been exhausting to our national spirit and something different has to be done. Again, you decide. Your vote will tell which idea wins out in the end.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Senator Clinton, Are You Okay?

These are disappointing days in the Democratic Party. For a good deal of our primary season we'd been treated to an inspiring campaign between Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Barack Obama, and former Senator John Edwards. The issues took the forefront. The rhetoric ranged from detailed to inspirational to provocative and it appeared as though the next President of the United States would be elected from the Democratic Party in a swell of enthusiasm unbridled by the contentious and often far too negative tone of recent political battles. That's certainly what we'd all hoped for.

John Edwards, in his inimitable populist way, backed out of the race in front of a rebuilding New Orleans with words of inspiration and hope for the people who were still rebuilding a shattered life in the Crescent City. His courageous participation in the campaign was marked by a remarkable dedication for country and family, as his ailing wife stood by his side as much as she could during the long hard months of rallies and speeches.

The lowlights of the campaign were few and generally unremarkable. Bill Clinton's outbursts and his unseemly characterization of Barack Obama in South Carolina were among the worst offenses, but his wife, not he, is running for the highest office and I suppose we can leave his odd behavior in the wings to focus on the excitement surrounding the remaining two statespeople after all. The tone has been upbeat, but sometimes harsh. The words have been strong and sometimes biting, but the dignity of the race was largely maintained. That is, until the last few days in Texas and Ohio.

Barack Obama isn't the rousing orator he appears to be on all occasions. Certainly, he and his people understand the rough and tumble game of election campaigns as they exist on the ground. Where there are few real differences, one must cherry pick perceived flaws in an opponent and target them as much as possible. This strategy is not without large risks, as one wrong move might provoke a backlash. In a campaign as relatively clean as this Democratic run for the White House has been, the recent appearance by Hillary Clinton in Ohio to decry campaign flyers accusing her of various unpopular things may be well founded. Perhaps the Obama campaign misrepresented her positions in order to pander to an undecided electorate. If so, it's not unprecedented, although we are certainly within our rights to wave a finger at him. Keeping it clean is a commitment we would all like to see as Democrats. The manner in which Senator Clinton decided to voice her displeasure, however, was puzzling. By now you've seen it, I'm sure. "Shame on you Barack Obama!"

The apparent anger is puzzling, given the fact that the flyers had been distributed for quite some time already and certainly her campaign must have known about them prior to that day. It seems as though the stress of an unexpected position in the polls may be getting to her and her campaign. It was barely hours before that she's talked about the honor she felt at sharing the stage with Obama and shook his hand in a show of good sportsmanship. There's something terribly schizophrenic about the juxtaposition of those moments, but it doesn't end there. Clinton seems to have drifted further over the deep end with an odd mockery of Obama in this speech:

I'm just not sure what to make of that clip. Where did the "honor" go, and where did the sentiment of that debate moment in Texas go? I'd said all along that while I supported Obama and hoped he'd secure the nomination that Hillary Clinton would be a wonderful alternative and an inspiring story herself. I looked forward to casting a vote for a candidate that understood what it meant to compete in the most dignified and honorable fashion possible. That's the dream of any American as fed up with the humiliation of being represented by the people in the Bush Administration for 7+ years. I'm questioning those feelings a lot these days. Even if Clinton can stage an astounding comeback in this primary contest, I'm not sure how much I'll be voting FOR her now. I will most certainly be voting against John McCain, but my feeling of excitement about my choice this year is waning. Is Hillary Clinton conducting herself in a presidential manner? Is this how she's going to appear in public if things aren't going her way as president. I just don't know anymore.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Naomi Klein, Order 81, and You

For those of you unfamiliar with Naomi Klein, I suggest you give her work a long look as there may be no better journalist, activist, or public figure as effective at spelling out the problems with free market philosophy and globalization. Her first book, "No Logo", deals with issues surrounding corporate branding, sweatshops, and activism in favor of combatting the negative effects of both. Klein's second book, "Fences and Windows", is a collections of articles and essays dealing with the anti-globalization movement. Her most recent work, "The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism", is a disturbing look at the methods that profiteers have employed over the years to enact favorable legislation and programs to big business during points of historical crisis and upheaval.

The basic premise of "The Shock Doctine" is that people like Milton Friedman have aided governments in pushing through unpopular economic and civil reforms in the wake of disasters, as the general population reels from a kind of collective shock. We might understand this in terms of the Patriot Act and 9/11, or the sell off of coastal property in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. This video was produced as a complimentary piece to the book, part promotion and part stand alone impact item.

One of the most striking examples of The Shock Doctrine is the set of Executive Orders penned by a combination of Bush Administration representatives and corporate lobbyists to slice up profitable portions of Iraq among the mostly American interests. The Coalition Provisional Authority, under the direction of abject failure L. Paul Bremer, provided immunity for all US contractors in Iraq from prosecution in Iraqi courts. It provides for as much as 80% of the Iraqi oil fields to be sold to foreign corporations, and hands over the entire Iraqi agricultural industry to Agribusiness giants like Monsanto.

Iraq has long been known as the heart of the “fertile crescent” of civilization. The intersection of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers provided early civilizations a perfect ecology for the development of agriculture. Iraqi farmers have honed their craft over the millennia providing humanity with the greatest variety of wheat strains possible. Order 81, also known as the ‘Patent, Industrial Design, Undisclosed Information, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety Law’, essentially prohibits Iraqi farmers from using the techniques and resources available to them since the dawn of human civilization in favor of supporting agribusiness ventures favored by the current corporate government coalition. The Plant Variety Protection (PVP) provision states, “Farmers shall be prohibited from re-using seeds of protected varieties or any variety mentioned in items 1 and 2 of paragraph (C) of Article 14 of this Chapter.”

Writing for Current Concerns, Engdahl notes, “The protected plant varieties are Genetically Modified or Gene Manipulated (GM) plants, and an Iraqi farmer who chose to plant such seeds must sign an agreement with the seed company holding the patent that he would pay a ‘technology fee’ and an annual license fee for planting the patented seeds. Any Iraqi farmer seeking to take a portion of those patented seeds to replant in following harvest years would be subject to heavy fines from the seed supplier. Iraqi farmers would become vassals, not of Saddam Hussein, but of multinational GM seed giants.”

This is significant, as the wheat cultivated over the centuries by Iraqi farmers cannot be considered new in any sense, and therefore is disqualified from use in the new Iraqi agricultural ecology. The purpose of this provision is to hand the agribusiness giants proprietary control over the food supply produced in Iraq in the guise of increased efficiency. Somehow the media failed to take note of this important story, and certainly never raised the question of who penned the order in the first place. Engdahl takes a crack at it when he writes, “According to informed Washington reports, the specific details of Order 81 on plants were written for the US Government by Monsanto Corporation, the world’s leading purveyor of GMO seeds and crops.”

Whether or not this proves to be true, there is another concern regarding the restricted seed varieties used in Iraq. They are being used to grow wheat for pasta manufacturing, a food foreign to Iraqi people in every way. Jeremy Smith writes in The Ecologist, “There can be only two reasons why 50 percent of the grains being developed by Iraq by the US are for pasta. One, the US intends to have so many American soldiers and businessmen in Iraq that it is orienting the country’s agriculture around feeding not ‘Starving Iraqis’ but ‘Overfed Americans’. Or, and more likely, because the food was never meant to be eaten inside Iraq at all."

Disturbing, no? That's what Naomi Klein is talking about. That's the way it works in a nutshell. The privatization of Iraq's economy could be assured, and assured for the United States and its interests, in a time of profound chaos. It's imperative that we are all awake enough to ask ourselves important questions on a daily basis, but we also must keep our collective faculties enough during times of chaos and hardship in order to be the vanguards of our own civil liberties.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Weekend Action: Part One

Several random items that are worthy of comment this weekend:

1. The Clinton/Obama Texas Debate

The 20th debate in the Democratic Primary season was really much of the same that we've seen in the last several debates between Clinton and Obama. The policies haven't changed at all since there were 7 or 8 Democrats in the running for the nomination, so the good people at CNN (in their infinite wisdom and love for the American people) have found new and creative ways to generate sparks between the candidates. Both Clinton and Obama appeared to be a bit weary and perhaps under the weather and much of the first half of the "debate" was pedestrian at best. Things heated up between them on a few occasions, but at this point hasn't it all been said? In fact, in my humble opinion, the whole thing is over.

Clinton's message is scattered and undisciplined, her money is waning, her financial records look shabby, her husband has practically thrown in the towel in advance of Texas and Ohio, and Obama is gaining by the day. The Obama campaign is continuing to draw nearly 20,000 people per rally, while Clinton is struggling to draw 7-8,000 according to recent reports. Obama has reportedly raised $50 million this month alone (!) and can afford to outspend her as much as five or six to one in March. I'm not painting this favorably for Obama. The facts are undisputed across all loyalties, including many of Clinton's people who are gravitating toward Obama increasingly as we go on. A Clinton supporter in Texas attended an Obama rally and spoke to the crowd, saying something to the effect that he still supports Clinton, but he sees the way the wind is blowing. Ouch.

Every so often when discussing "debates", I like to go back to an interesting appearance by Marshall McLuhan with Edwin Newman and a very young Tom Brokaw in September of 1976 during the Ford/Carter election race. McLuhan attempts to describe the problems with the format we have come to know and love over the years, and schools the pair of NBC reporters on the finer points of his media theory. I have never liked Tom Brokaw, but this particular clip pushed me further over the edge with respect to the man as he arrogantly challenges McLuhan without understanding a word of what he's saying. Enjoy.

2. John McCain's Lobbyist

The New York Times reports that John McCain's campaign advisers had to ask a female lobbyist to stay away from the candidate during his 2000 run for the presidency because they feared that their relationship had become romantic. The Times has caught a lot of flak for the ambiguous sourcing of the story and have enabled the conservative critics of John McCain to abandon their adversarial stance in favor of circling the wagons around the embattled Senator. The focus of the story from the beginning has been the apparent adultery alleged by some shadowy figures attached to McCain's camp, but the missing element in the controversy is the serious allegation of favors to lobbyists that entangle the young woman, Vicki Iseman, and others in shady backroom dealings with the Senator. Some of those allegations remain unresolved, despite McCain's blanket rejection of the story as a whole. I doubt the romantic angle has legs (no pun intended), but the impropriety, which is the more serious charge anyway, may have more ahead. Newsweek is already on top of some inconsistencies that may come back to haunt McCain before all's said and done. Stay Tuned.

3. Bill Moyers

I'm a big fan of the Bill Moyers program on PBS and had the pleasure to take a little time out from reading to watch his Friday edition this week. Two important stories caught my attention that I wanted to bring to you. The first is a story about an intrepid group of reporters from the Seattle Times who took it upon themselves to investigate earmarking in appropriations bills before Congress. The reporters set up a project to dig into the committee reports, where the earmarks are hidden in fine print and strange code, and the Representatives own press releases and translated the information into a database of earmarks and campaign donations. They are able to cross reference the earmark expenditures and the dates and names associated with big money campaign donations by the people they help with special interest spending. It was remarkable and should be passed along to everyone within eyeshot of a computer screen.

The other story was a Sarah Chayes' tale of her work in Afghanistan and the things she's seen in her time over there. It's a mess and a cash cow for greedy companies, corrupt politicians, and opium businessmen who have set up agriculture, import/export, and even an above board credit system in a country where very few ever had access to credit of any kind. Also a must see.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

"Hoodwinked" in the Boston Globe

Communicative Action was mentioned in the February 10th edition of the Boston Globe thanks to a very interesting e-mail exchange I had with columnist Jan Freeman. Jan is a scholar of language and writes a column called "The Word" for the Globe highlighting the use of language in society and the many interesting twists and turns that our words take us.

Our exchange was related to a post I wrote about Obama's public identity as African-American that denies the more complex makeup of the man. I argue that we default Obama as an African-American when he is bi-racial and was raised by his white mother and grandparents, as well as an Indonesian stepfather. Jan was interested in the section of my post where I question Obama's rhetoric in South Carolina, in front of a largely African-American crowd, which echoed Malcolm X on the stump. He used the terms "okey-doke", "bamboozled", and "hoodwinked" in a not-so-veiled reference to the Bill Clinton commentary downplaying Obama as the second coming of Jesse Jackson (the presidential candidate version, not the civil rights hero). Jan rightly attributes those terms to a historical American tradition that significantly predates Malcolm X, arguing that Obama wasn't necessarily conjuring up a coded message to the African-American crowd. She also rightly corrected me in my own attribution of those comments to Malcolm, as there is no record of that particular phraseology in his speeches.

The determination that we agreed on was that the 1992 Spike Lee portrayal of Malcolm features the language and I argued that consciously or unconsciously I think Obama was using the mythological Malcolm to move a crowd. I argued that the language was coded for an African-American audience who would have a direct attachment to the words of the mythological X, and a very real understanding of the hoodwinking that the power elite have used for years to keep them marginalized and powerless. Jan is skeptical, and writes:

"I put those questions to Mike Plugh, who had highlighted the Obama-Malcolm echo at his thoughtful blog Communicative Action. I pointed out that the Malcolm in question was probably the movie character, since I couldn’t find the real man using bamboozle. (Google’s book search finds Malcolm using “deceived,” “brainwashed,” and “fooled,” but not bamboozled. And his only “hoodwinked” refers to young hustlers tricking older ones.)

After several rounds of correspondence, Plugh summarized his slightly revised view: He still thinks Obama was echoing (consciously or not) the movie speech, to say "They've done this to us for centuries, people, and I'm going to remind you of it by quoting Malcolm X” – the idealized character, not the real man."

I defend my take on this by noting that the words of Obama were organized in the same general arrangement that Denzel Washington's Malcolm X used in the film. Had he used the terms in a less structured fashion, I'd be equally skeptical that the message was coded.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Why Bill Clinton is Killing Hillary

This is going to be short. Bill Clinton is killing Hillary's campaign, slowly but surely. It makes no difference what he says or how he says it. Appearing on the medium of television and losing his temper paints a picture of a campaign out of control.

The medium is the message. Berserk, bombastic, red-faced former presidents are exciting but don't paint the appropriate image in a political campaign. He could have proposed a lengthy, 48 hour, solution to global poverty and it was all lost in a few seconds of enraged confrontation with a heckler. Too bad he doesn't understand McLuhan.

Obama is a Plagiarist?

...and the #1 sign that your campaign is floundering.....accuse your opponent of plagiarism. The Clinton campaign, looking more and more like a train wreck, is now using speeches made by Deval Patrick and Barack Obama, which use the same key phrases, to make Obama out to be a liar and a huckster. It's a desperate grasp at smearing the popular frontrunner, trying to generate media interest in something negative. Deval Patrick and Obama are friends and have been charged with using rhetoric rather than reality to win a campaign. Patrick said, "Hey, this worked for me. Go with it." and Obama did. Should he have attributed the remarks to Patrick when he made them? Probably. It would have voided all this made up bullshit.

Meanwhile, you have Bill Clinton out there on the campaign trail acting like he's on 'roids half the time, and we have to wonder if we're going to deal with this for 4-8 years every time someone publicly criticizes his wife. It seems to me that the Clinton campaign is so desperate at this point it will stoop to anything to distract people from the smoldering pile of steel that was once an unstoppable political behemoth. It's no coincidence that as soon as Obama became better known to the American public that his inspirational message swept him into a competitive situation with her. He passed her like she was standing still and now it looks like he's going to win Wisconsin and Hawaii and will have a very nice chance to take Texas. If that happens, it's over for her. Done.

I have said all along that I would be very happy to vote for Hillary Clinton, but now that she's dragged this campaign into the gutter with typical smear tactics and distortions of the truth, I have more lukewarm feelings. Where there was once a glimmer of hope that Democrats would have an opportunity to choose from one of two dynamic and forward thinking candidates, there is now only disappointment. The civil debate in Hollywood showed a united Democratic Party with a sly glint in its eye that the GOP was going to have a rough go of it come the general election. Now, rather than letting the people choose the message and the style they prefer, this has become a Mike Tyson boxing match of more recent vintage. Hillary is about set to start biting Obama's ear off in order to stem the tide of losing. If she were actually confident in her chance to win the election on real differences and contrasts, she's make them. Instead the Clinton campaign are taking a page out of the Rove/Nixon/Bush playbook and warping reality to suit their own position.

The irony of this situation is clearly lost on the Clinton people, as it will inevitably be lost on the McCain people. America is swept up by Obama because he's brought dignity back to politics, even if only for a moment. He's taken the propaganda, flat out lies, and dirty tricks out of the game in order to deliver a message of hope. Even if you believe he isn't the right man for the job and that he lacks experience, backbone, or the wisdom to handle our toughest issues head on, he has been statesman-like. Even if you think his rhetoric has been empty, he's carried himself with dignity and shown tremendous respect for us as a people. All this while the president enjoys a sub-30 approval rating and Congress a sub-25. Wonder why? Just look at the Clinton campaign and you'll see why. What a waste.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

McCain's Bigotry

I recently posted about the contrast between John McCain and Barack Obama in back to back television appearances made just after the so-called Potomac Primaries. Obama made a rousing speech in front of a diverse group of 17,000 cheering supporters, followed immediately by McCain in a small, intimate setting backed by the old, white, mostly male GOP support that he's counting on. I treated the event as a simple matter of contrasting campaigns, with a juxtaposition of new, fresh, energetic atmosphere to old, stuttering, dusty context.

Frank Rich of the New York Times writes a beautiful piece on the same subject, detailing the racial divide that was symbolically evident on that day. It's a very good read, although Republicans in denial may be upset by the characterization Rich presents. Such is Frank Rich, of course.

I've been saving my thoughts on John McCain and his spotty record on racial issues until we are ready for a general election campaign, but I couldn't seem to hold out any longer because it really bothers me. This is an overall criticism of the GOP, but it must be particularly aimed in the direction of McCain at this point because he is on the stump running for president. I could point, as Rich does, to the fact that there have been more African-American faces on stage during GOP events in the Bush administration than there have been in the crowd. There have been many press events with African-Americans during this administration, deflecting the reality on the ground. The Bush people have always been more in the business of propaganda than governing.

McCain's own history has been shaky on the issue of race. He has been both victim and perpetrator of racial intolerance. In 2000, the unscrupulous Bush campaign used McCain's adopted Bangladeshi daughter to hurt him in South Carolina. During that same campaign, McCain lashed out against "gooks" in front of reporters. In fact, it was at that moment that I recognized McCain so vividly for the first time. Katie Hong, a Korean-American government worker in the state of Washington wrote about the incident for the Seattle Post Intelligencer in March of 2000 saying:

"On his campaign bus recently, Sen. John McCain told reporters, "I hated the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live." Although McCain said he was referring only to his prison guards, there are many reasons why his use of the word "gook" is offensive and alarming.

It is offensive because by using a racial epithet that has historically been used to demean all Asians to describe his captors, McCain failed to make a distinction between his torturers and an entire racial group.

It is alarming because a major candidate for president publicly used a racial epithet, refused to apologize for doing so and remains a legitimate contender."

McCain later apologized publicly for the comments and promised to never use the term "gook" in public again. That's fine, but the cat is out of the bag. We peeked into McCain's psyche and saw the ugly truth. No one will begrudge Senator McCain his ill feelings towards his Vietnamese captors. No one will deny him the pain and torment that he likely has held since his service and that he will likely hold until his last breath. The problem is, John McCain entered public service 18 years prior to these remarks. He had been released from captivity in Vietnam 27 years earlier. How is it that John McCain had not come to terms with the word "gook" in the 27 years that had passed since his release, and the 18 years that he had been representing Americans in public office? Are we to believe that he has privately come to terms with the word, even after his public recognition of its destructive power?

In his post-victory speech following the Potomac Primary, McCain was flanked by several elder statesmen of the Republican Party. It didn't make for an effective image, but more than that it was another hint at the racial intolerance of the GOP in general. With McCain (out of the picture in this clip) was George Allen, who McCain introduces as "former Governor, former Senator from Virginia...a great man".

You'll remember George Allen as the candidate that lost re-election in 2006 as a result of the now famous "macaca" clip of YouTube fame. The moment that made YouTube a political reality in the modern media landscape. What message does his presence with McCain send? His most recent public moment came as a result of racism, yet he is somehow a campaign strength for John McCain? Most people would consider George Allen a campaign liability, especially given the idea that the Democrats have opened this election to a new era of diversity. An era more reflective of the makeup of the United States.

I will write more about this as we move forward. I won't let John McCain dodge this for my part. The mainstream press largely ignored the "gook" comment of 2000, and as a result most people are probably unaware that it ever took place. We'd likely know nothing of the "macaca" incident were it not for YouTube. The most democratic forms of media participation (the internet, blogs, YouTube) have revolutionized our understanding of politics on the ground and make for a more accountable government. Hold the GOP accountable in this case.

UPDATE (2/18): I came across this little YouTube clip that I was unaware of. McCain using the term "tar baby" on the 2008 campaign trail. I'm sure there was no racial intent behind his utterance of that expression, but it is particularly demonstrative of the out of touch GOP and the power of YouTube....

Friday, February 15, 2008

Media Hatchet Job

Now that Barack Obama is the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination the hatchet jobs in the media have started to poke their ugly heads. That's politics. The problem is not that there are stories about Obama out there which portray him negatively from a political standpoint. The problem that I have is that the stories paint him as some sort of huckster. A snake oil salesman or a political version of David Koresh.

"Obamaphilia", "Obamamania", "The Cult of Obama", and so on.....

1. I am a vocal supporter of Barack Obama. I am not a cult member. I am not a blind idealist with stars in my eyes. I resent that representation of my support.

2. Obama is running for president. He is not president. Running for president is largely an exercise of inspiration. In this era of televised public discourse, wonkish policy discussions don't play. His campaign is brilliant. It has excited 100s of thousands of new voters. Isn't that something to be happy about? We've seen an exponential degradation of civic participation with each successive generation. This is different and it should be something we celebrate. If you want to see his detailed policy platform go to his website and read it. If you want Hillary's, go to her website. Reading, exercising your literacy, will give you a far better understanding of the issues than any 5-10 minute segment on television.

3. He doesn't have any substance? Well, he is certainly short on experience. He hasn't been plugged into the federal government for very long. He's young and he's probably untested at this level. Is he alone? No. Will he be left on his own as president? No. That's why you have advisers and cabinet level executives. He knows what his strengths and weaknesses are. He will seek out advice where he needs it, and he will trust his own intelligence and judgment on things he understands very clearly. We elected Bush twice. Do you trust his experience? He ran several oil companies into the ground while high on cocaine and did a mediocre job as governor of Texas. He didn't listen to anyone as president and went against every bit of good advice that was out there. That's why the environment is going to hell, the war has cost us trillions of dollars and thousands of lives, and the economy is in the tank. Obama's style is a big part of his substance.

Get your heads out of your asses people.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Rice for VP?

Loose talk around the pundit circle has hinted at a Condoleeza Rice nomination for McCain's running mate. I've heard this here and there, but never in so much detail as the recent article in the Nation by Nicholas von Hoffman. For the record, I think it could happen although the chances seem slim. I completely disagree with von Hoffman's take that the ticket would be tough with her on board though. His argument is based largely on the idea that voters will be drawn to her as a church going, strong on national security, skilled debater who happens to be both African-American and a woman. He shoves aside the idea that she's a lingering symbol of the failed Iraq policy with TONS of 9/11 baggage on her resume and was shoe-shopping and Broadway show-going during the worst part of the Katrina aftermath. She is attached at the hip to President Bush and alienated virtually every person working for her in the State Department.

Politically she would be a tremendous liability to a GOP ticket trying to rinse away the foul aftertaste of a Presidential administration with a 30% approval rating (less if you factor in Cheney). There will be a line of people who worked under her to stand up in front of cameras and tell of the horror stories of her control-freakish micro-management of the State Department and her cabal of insiders who ripped apart Colin Powell and any dissenters to the wire-tapping, waterboarding, rendition agenda. Nicholas von Hoffman has done fine work for The Nation, but not this time. I think he completely misses the mark. Bring her on.

Never Follow O

Here was Obama last night, speaking in Madison, Wisconsin. I watched this on MSNBC:

John McCain waited to speak until Obama's appearance was finished on television and then stepped up to deliver this speech to the American people:

Sigh. One candidate is speaking in front of 17,000 cheering fanatics, using some of the most inspiring rhetoric we've seen in recent political memory. The other candidate waits for that to finish before following him on television with a rally in front of 250 people, backed by two retiring Congressmen who need help stepping up on stage. Forget political affiliations for a second. Forget your own biases. Tell me, isn't this strategy as stupid as can be? You want to draw a contrast with your opponent that makes you look BETTER in comparison, not old, out of touch, dusty, grouchy, friendless, and basically a product of America past rather than America future. He forgets the names of the primary, some of his guests, and says Disneyland instead of Disney World. At one point, he sticks his finger in his mouth and messes around for a second before continuing. Oh, Lord.

I love Obama so this delights me beyond belief. Keep it up Johnny Boy. Maybe you'll succeed in capturing the popular vote......of 1920.

Clinton Campain Manager for Obama??!!

Yes. Well.....Bill Clinton's campaign manager. The New York Times reports that former Bill Clinton campaign manager David Wilhelm has endorsed Barack Obama in the race for the 2008 Democratic Presidential Nomination. Wilhelm tells the Times:

"He has out-worked her, out-organized her and out-raised her,” Mr. Wilhelm said. “I know organizational excellence when I see it, and the Obama campaign, win or lose, will serve as a model of execution of strategy, message discipline, application of new technology and small-donor fund raising."

He claims that Obama is more electable than Hillary Clinton and has apparently offered to reach out to fellow superdelegates to lobby on his behalf. An interesting development to say the least. According to his bio at Wikipedia, David Wilhelm is a venture capitalist who started operations to fund entrepreneurs in Appalachia via his Adena Ventures partnership, and more recently founded Hopewell Ventures to support the underrepresented regions of the midwest.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Candidates and Net Neutrality

One of the most important issues facing the United States and our 1st Amendment rights is the issue of Net Neutrality. If you aren't familiar with this important campaign, you'll need to take a look at "Save the Internet", a cooperative project of Free Press. Since you've arrived at this blog, I'm betting that most of you are intimately familiar with the Net Neutrality issue and care a great deal about it as well. I thought it would be interesting to see where each of the major candidates stand on this issue, at least according to their campaign websites.

Hillary Clinton doesn't address the issue directly, and I was only able to find the following reference to internet/broadband in her Issues section under the heading "Innovation" (#7):

"Support initiatives to establish leadership in broadband. Under the Bush administration, the country that invented the Internet has slipped to 25th in the global rankings for broadband deployment. In order to accelerate the deployment of sophisticated networks, Hillary Clinton proposes that the federal government provide tax incentives to encourage broadband deployment in underserved areas. She also proposes financial support for state and local broadband initiatives. Various municipal broadband initiatives are underway around the country to accelerate the deployment of high speed networks. The initiatives are useful for education, commerce, technology development, and the efficient provision of municipal services."

That's an admirable plan, if a bit vague. It definitely focuses on the issue from a commercial and economic standpoint, moreso than a 1st Amendment angle. Let's look at Barack Obama. He seems to have a lot more information on Net Neutrality specifically, stating:

"Deploy Next-Generation Broadband: Obama believes we can get broadband to every community in America through a combination of reform of the Universal Service Fund, better use of the nation's wireless spectrum, promotion of next-generation facilities, technologies and applications, and new tax and loan incentives.

Protect the Openness of the Internet:
Obama supports the basic principle that network providers should not be allowed to charge fees to privilege the content or applications of some web sites and Internet applications over others. This principle will ensure that the new competitors, especially small or nonprofit speakers, have the same opportunity as big companies to innovate and reach large audiences.

Invest in Rural Areas:
Obama will invest in rural small businesses and fight to expand high-speed Internet access. He will improve rural schools and attract more doctors to rural areas."

Interesting. He has a more well-rounded approach to this issue, at least out front on his website. I expect that both Clinton and Obama will feel the same way about the issue, but score one for Obama for making it a part of his public stance. Now for John McCain. I question whether he actually knows how to use a computer or access "the internets", but I'm going to give him the benefit of the doubt prior to checking his site. Be right back....

Hmmm......well.....nothing. He actually says nothing about it. I even used the site search engine, using terms like "broadband" and "internet." Nothing. Absolutely zero. So, on one of the most important 1st amendment issues to face the American citizenry, potentially in our history, he says nothing. His "issues" topics are:

Economic Stimulus Plan
McCain Tax Cut Plan
Government Spending, Lower Taxes and Economic Prosperity
Straight Talk on Health System Reform
Strict Constructionist Philosophy
Human Dignity and the Sanctity of Life
Lobbying and Ethics Reform
Strategy for Victory in Iraq
Border Security and Immigration Reform
Commitment to America's Service Members Past and Present
National Security
Stewards of our Nation's Rich Natural Heritage
Protecting Second Amendment Rights
America's Space Program

I list all of those topics because I think they illustrate how much the GOP is living in the past. Some of the issues resonate because they are thrust forcefully into the spotlight by GOP activists, but the general American population have many other things on their minds that this agenda doesn't deal with. Particularly when you consider the youth vote, meaning those voters age 18-25. If those people come out in force for the Democracts this year, I just don't see how the GOP (McCain) can win on those issues alone. The war is unpopular, the economy is awful, and ethics hasn't exactly been a strong point for the GOP in recent years (Jack Abramoff....ahem...).

The issue of Net Neutrality isn't a partisan issue. It's an American issue and it is vital to the continued freedom of expression we enjoy on the internet. If we the people lose out on this issue, our voices will be Balkanized to a kind of Cable Access Television-style corner of the web, while big companies get the benefit of this modern form of expression. If we are truly a democracy, this will be addressed in the general election and the candidates will be forced to explain their positions publicly.

FISA=Free Pass

The Senate votes 69-29-2 to let the Telecom companies off the hook for their role in revealing private consumer information to the intelligence community under the direction of the Bush Administration. Millionaires giving millionaires a Get Out of Jail Free Card and it's disgusting. I know there are some complex legal issues at stake here, but strip away the ambiguity of the law and this is morally wrong.

For the record, here's the vote:

YEAs ---69
Alexander (R-TN)
Allard (R-CO)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Coleman (R-MN)
Collins (R-ME)
Conrad (D-ND)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Dole (R-NC)
Domenici (R-NM)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Hagel (R-NE)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Inouye (D-HI)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johnson (D-SD)
Kohl (D-WI)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Lugar (R-IN)
Martinez (R-FL)
McCain (R-AZ)
McCaskill (D-MO)
McConnell (R-KY)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Nelson (D-FL)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Smith (R-OR)
Snowe (R-ME)
Specter (R-PA)
Stevens (R-AK)
Sununu (R-NH)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Warner (R-VA)
Webb (D-VA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wicker (R-MS)
NAYs ---29
Akaka (D-HI)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Dodd (D-CT)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Harkin (D-IA)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Murray (D-WA)
Obama (D-IL)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Tester (D-MT)
Wyden (D-OR)
Not Voting - 2
Clinton (D-NY)
Graham (R-SC)

Notice that McCain voted "Yea", Obama voted "Nay", and Clinton didn't show up. For what it's worth. Send an e-mail to your senator to complain if they supported this....

UPDATE: Apparently, the list that I cut and paste from the site just after the vote was completed was inaccurate as it now shows that Obama also did not vote. I was watching CNN and MSNBC throughout the morning and both networks reported that Obama was on the Senate floor, while Clinton was not there at all. If that's true and he didn't vote, it seems strange to me. At any rate, the point of this post is not so much the fact that Clinton and Obama didn't vote (as I'm sure both of them would have voted with the Kennedy/Schumer Progressive block). It's the idea that 68 people voted "yea" to a free pass on domestic spying. That needs a response from the American people.

UPDATE UPDATE: This Wall Street Journal Opinion claims Obama voted "nay", although I tend to believe the list at this point.

Monday, February 11, 2008

George Lantos

Many of us don't dive into our political environment with both feet and therefore miss out on a lot of the nuanced aspects of our federal government, both from a policy perspective as well as a personal perspective. The name George Lantos might not mean much to most Americans, save the wonks and the people who elected him as a Representative from northern California.

Lantos passed away early Monday surrounded by family. The New York Times reports that his children, 18 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren were by his side as he lost his battle with cancer. He was 80 years old and served in the U.S. House of Representatives for nearly 28 years, most recently sitting as the Chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. I thought it would be interesting to cut and paste a few paragraphs from the Times article as a tribute to a life of meaningful service.

"Lantos, who referred to himself as ''an American by choice,'' was born to Jewish parents in Budapest, Hungary, and was 16 when Adolf Hitler occupied Hungary in 1944. He survived by escaping twice from a forced labor camp and coming under the protection of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat who used his official status and visa-issuing powers to save thousands of Hungarian Jews. Lantos' mother and much of his family perished in the Holocaust."

This, on its own, is the most remarkable aspect of Lantos' life and service. The only Holocaust survivor to serve in the U.S. Congress, Lantos spent a lifetime working to build after experiencing so much destruction. In the heat of the ugly immigration battle currently being waged from the Right, Lantos' life serves as an example of the fuel that immigrants bring with them from their trying circumstances at home. The debate is about illegal immigration right now, but it only starts there. Emma Lazarus wrote in her poem "The New Colossus," a tribute to the Statue of Liberty,

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

The battle against illegal immigration is simply a gateway to a lockdown on all immigration. Once the battle has been won by the Tancredo crowd, it won't stop there. Immigration to the U.S. will become a quagmire of epic proportions with a wealthy elite determining who can come in and see the light of our lamp beside the golden door. Representative Lantos was one of the huddled masses during the 1940s, when the Greatest Generation was engaged in a war that truly confronted tyranny and genocide. He was, of course, privileged in his acceptance to the United States as he entered via a scholarship to the University of Washington. He understood, however, the greatness of this nation and its generous and compassionate hand for those in desperate need. How likely is it that the humanitarian reach of our nation will extend to those silently dying in the genocide of Darfur, for example? A question that must be asked.

The Times further writes of the Representative, "Lantos, who was elected to the House in 1980, founded the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in 1983. In early 2004 he led the first congressional delegation to Libya in more than 30 years, meeting personally with and urging the Bush administration to show ''good faith'' to the North African leader in his pledge to abandon his nuclear weapons programs. Later that year, President Bush lifted sanctions against Libya."

So much for the notion that speaking with "people we don't like" is the wrong way to conduct foreign affairs. The Clinton camp and the GOP opposition have been waving that stick at Barack Obama as an example of his inexperience and naivete. Sometimes good faith can be rewarded with success, and that success can often spell the difference between protracted violence and the loss of life, treasure, and prestige. Something else to think about.

"''Morally, you are pygmies,'' he berated top executives of Yahoo Inc. at a hearing he called in November 2007 as they defended their company's involvement in the jailing of a Chinese journalist."

We can only hope that our elected officials, and those of us in the private sector, can find this measure of moral fortitude in our daily lives. It's up to us to cry out at injustice when we see it. The guardians at the gate of our national character are the people. We've lost one of the greatest guardians on this day, but we look to his life as an example of the extraordinary possibilities afforded us as the privileged few to be born under the protection of the American flag. Let's not forget that and extend its goodwill and compassion to as many in need around the globe as is humanly possible. Our resources are best spent in this way, rather than for the benefit of a privileged few.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Maine-ly Obama

Another state, another caucus, another win for Barack Obama. The delegate race narrows and the momentum has clearly swung to the Senator from Illinois. It's hard to determine how much pressure the Clinton people are feeling as a result of the tidal wave that Obama is surfing on, but cracks can be seen.

Today the Clinton campaign replaced Patti Solis Doyle with top aide Maggie Williams in the role of campaign manager. The combination of financial difficulties and trouble at the polls has strained the once mighty Clinton machine. Terry MacCauliffe is widely believed to be the greatest political fundraiser in the business but he has been trumped by the people working for Obama. The strategy that had been working for Clinton's people prior to the weeks leading into Super Tuesday appears to need adjustment as Obama gains momentum. It's more than likely Hillary will go 0-fer-February when the month comes to an end, although March 4th could make up for all that if she wins big.

Tough to know what's happening behind the scenes, but it doesn't look good at all for Clinton at the moment and perception is at least half the battle. The press for her lately has been (1) feud with MSNBC, (2) winless in February, (3) loaned her campaign 5 million of her own money, and (4) replaced her campaign manager. Not good.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Obama's Big Night + Colin Powell

Saturday has been a very good night for the Obama campaign. A sweep of the Virgin Islands, Nebraska, Washington, and the state of Louisiana has put this race dead even going into tomorrow's contest in Maine and Tuesday's "Potomac Primary." It's even overall, with Clinton holding the superdelegate trump card, but Obama with a lead in standard delegates. Things look great for Obama at this point thanks to a likely sweep of the Maine, Delaware, D.C., and Virginia. There are few projections our there that would suggest otherwise.

In terms of perception, this bodes well for the Senator from Illinois as the talk of the race for three weeks will be fixed on what he's doing right and how she can make up for her failures in the recent contests. With Ohio and Texas, among other states, looming Obama needs that PR and that perception of momentum to gain ground on the frontrunning Clinton. Ohio and Texas can be won over, but she holds fairly sizable leads at this point.

Both candidates have their eyes turned towards John McCain as the Arizona Senator is playing the role of the official nominee for all it's worth. despite the fact that Mike Huckabee is causing him some embarrassment in the conservative southern and midwestern states, while the lunatic radio talk show hosts eat him alive on the air. The main Clinton talking point in painting a contrast between herself and Obama has been her ability to stand up on the same stage as John McCain and hold her own on national security. Given the idea that McCain's only trump card in a general election against the Democratic nominee is the issue of Iraq and the war on terror, she may have a point.

One interesting idea that popped into my head while watching this unfold is the notion that Colin Powell might just play a role in all of this if he should so choose. In an interview on CNN recently, Powell suggested that he is excited about this election and that he reserves the right, as he has during his adult life, to vote for someone of the other party. He has spoken highly of Barack Obama in the past and it would appear that there is some chance that he may eventually speak on behalf of the Obama campaign. Now, that's tricky. Powell's reasons for speaking out may in the end prove to be some sort of redemption for his role in the deceptive leadup to the invasion of Iraq and a rebuff of the Bush administration that cornered him at every opportunity and eventually forced him out. If McCain is out to play that card against Obama in a general election debate, you may just see Powell stand up to cut it off before it happens by offering his advice and counsel to Barack Obama. With a former General and Secretary of State in his corner, a large part of the Republican attack plan would be blunted. Watch for it.....

Friday, February 8, 2008

To Bill, or not to Bill?

I've been listening to the CNN team talk about the impact of Bill Clinton on the Democratic Primary race, and reading articles in the New York Times dealing with his own analysis of his impact. Clinton acknowledges his role in the loss of South Carolina, although he falls short of owning up to the divisive racial undertones of his rhetoric. His defense of Hillary Clinton operates publicly at the level of former president more than it does as supporting husband, according to him. He can support but not defend. I think that's a cop out but it's almost beside the point.

I like Bill Clinton. His years in office were good years either as a result of his leadership or by blind luck in some cases, but our standing abroad was great and the economy boomed. That said, part of his legacy will always be Whitewater and Monica Lewinsky. Both of those scandals were real, but were largely unimportant to his role as the president of the United States. The impact of those scandals would have been limited to historical footnotes had the Republican machine not latched onto them and run them into the forefront of mass media coverage for years on end. The legacy of the Clinton administration will be remembered as much for the Republican smear campaigns as they will for the successes of our nation under his leadership.

Why is this important now? It's important because this legacy will become the potential undoing of the Democratic Party's run at the presidency if it's not careful. It's inevitable that the GOP will smear Hillary Clinton throughout the general election if she wins the nomination. They will drag out the Whitewater situation, Monica Lewinsky, and anything else they can get their hands on. They want to dredge up the past in order to shape the future. It will work too. The worst thing that the Clinton campaign can do is have Bill out on the ground. Yes, he raises a lot of money. Yes, he's very popular. Yes, he's a popular former president. The problem is, people hate him. People remember the scandals. People remember the embarrassment. It worked to get George W. Bush elected over a standing Vice President in a booming economy.

Already, a number of knuckleheads in the mass media have questioned whether Bill Clinton will be seeking a 3rd term in office as his wife runs for the presidency. That's BS GOP talking point garbage, but it's real. The perception is there. It's easy to pull out that card and have it stick with enough people to make a difference. The more Bill Clinton is on the campaign trail, the more the GOP can help people remember the scandals they helped to create. The more he's out there, the greater the perception that we will be electing a presidential couple, rather than a highly qualified and effective candidate in Hillary Clinton. To that end, I think Bill should go on vacation somewhere outside the United States, stay out of view, and let the campaign take it's shape.

It won't happen. He loves the cameras and the spotlight, and frankly they need the money enough that he's got to be out there drumming up donations. If I were advising that campaign, however, I'd have him out of the camera's view as much as possible. I'll say it again. I like Bill Clinton. I will vote happily for Hillary Clinton if she's nominated, but there is a part of me that feels like we'll be in for another 4-8 years of GOP smear campaigns. The country doesn't need that. I cringe at the thought of it to be honest. If there weren't another viable candidate opposing McCain, I'd do my best to leave those worries in the background and go full speed ahead for Hillary. There is another candidate.....Barack Obama.

This is not a post designed to boost Obama, although you know I'm on his bandwagon. I think we've seen 12 years of Bush, Sr. in the White House as VP and President. We've seen his son for 8 years. We saw 8 years of Bill Clinton and we could potentially see another 4-8. Assuming Hillary wins and is re-elected, we could see the same two families at the reigns of power for 36 years!!!!!!!! America needs a hot shower and a big change. Obama is that clean start and offers a transformative change. That's how I made my decision to support him, beyond the truly uplifting spirit of his movement. That's why I feel that another Clinton administration, while a positive step in the right direction, is actually no better than a lateral move to the recent past.

Thursday, February 7, 2008


It's official. Mitt Romney crunched the numbers and determined that he would need 80% of all remaining states to win the GOP nomination. He is speaking as I type this in front of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC) during their annual conference and will soon announce his suspension of his presidential run. This virtually assures Sen. John McCain the nomination of the Republican Party (as if he would have been in danger had Romney stayed in).

I would like to sit here are type out all the nonsense that Romney is saying in an effort to kowtow to the fringe of the Republican Party, but it would go on forever. This group of people are so in love with their own radical doctrine that they don't even see its own contradictions when stacked up against the vitriol against radicalism on the other side of their fence. If one radicalism is evil, repugnant, and destructive then the mirror radicalism on the other side is equally so. That, in a nutshell, is the current state of the GOP. It's the reason why they hate John McCain and why the Democrats are going to win the 2008 election in a landslide.

If you need more proof of the radical sickness of the GOP and the CPAC base, look at their website and examine the rotating ad at the bottom of the front page. It's an ad for the Conservative Book Club featuring books by Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly, and Laura Ingraham. Are these the voices of a proud and dignified Party? The Party of Lincoln? The Party of Teddy Roosevelt? Are these the people you want as the face of the Conservative movement?

Ann Coulter attacked wives of 9/11 victims, states her desire to have all Muslims killed or coverted to Christianity, called John Edwards a faggot, argued against women voting, and spewed anti-Semitic rhetoric among many other things.

Sean Hannity is less acerbic than Coulter, but equally sensational. He shouts down every guest that isn't on board with his vision of the world and deems to label people on the other end of the ideological spectrum as "Enemies of the State." He loud and obnoxious and dances around the truth in order to perpetuate a particular viewpoint. This is most troublesome because the forum for his brand of rhetoric is a news organization (Fox).

Bill O'Reilly needs no introduction. He is crass and vulgar, but can't see it. He reduces political discussion to shout downs and shut ups. He uses typical propaganda methods to rile up his audience in the "No Spin Zone" and while his trangressions against reason are too numerous to mention, he reportedly denied the existence of homeless veterans recently, only to be confronted at his studio by a group of homeless veterans who were shooed away by producers and shouted down by O'Reilly.

Laura Ingraham gave the introduction to Mitt Romney today at the CPAC conference and lit into John McCain with a rhetorical avalanche of hatred that mocked and discredited the work McCain has been doing recently on the stump. His pleas for civility among conservative radio talk show hosts was a favorite target of Ingraham's mockery. All you need to know about Ingraham, despite the many potential targets here, is that in the mid-1980's while writing for the Dartmouth Review she attended a campus meeting of the Gay and Lesbian organization and then used her powers as a "journalist" to out the people she saw there. Shame on her and the editors of the Review for letting that happen. She has later recanted on her acts, based largely on her gay brother's life with a partner faced with health issues. Recanting past injustices is fine, but it's an issue of character that can't be wallpapered over.

If the CPAC stands by the loudest mouthpieces of uncivil, hateful, acerbic, and combative rhetoric in our mass media as their public champions, why would any reasonable, civil, and compassionate person join their movement? There are plenty of good conservatives out there. Plenty of reasonable, fair, civil, decent, upstanding, intelligent, and flexible conservatives that lean to the Right, but not at the expense of the people. Mitt Romney is a flip-flopper in the same way that John Kerry is a flip-flopper. One is entitled to change their mind, but when running for higher office a long record of doing so will come back to haunt. Romney is no authentic conservative in the Coulter, Hannity, Rush Limbaugh mold. He has been moderate on plenty of issues over the years. He was a target of the conservatives for years. Now, in an effort to find his electoral niche, he's flopped on the conservative brand of politics favored by the pundits at the extreme right of the Party. He's taken the road of political expedience in remaking himself as the civil face of the uncivil barbarians at America's gate. It clearly didn't resonate.

In the end, McCain will be the GOP candidate and the lunatics on the fringe who have moved to the center of the Party's base will continue to deride him and derail him. Great for anyone who supports the Democratic Party and great for our immediate future as a people. Long term we need the real and reasonable conservatives to reclaim their Party from the trolls. America is much better when all angles of the ideological spectrum operate with mutual respect and decency.

Supporting Obama

I intend to use this forum in as balanced a manner as possible for the most part, but I won't disguise my feelings for Barack Obama in the current campaign for the presidency and readers will find, from time to time, items that highlight the best of the man and his vision for America. I believe in it that strongly. On this occasion, I bring you via the magic of embedded video the speech Obama made at the end of the day on Tuesday the 5th of February. Give it a look and take in what he says:

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Super Tuesday Fallout

The potential existed for both parties to lock up a solid nominee on Super Tuesday, although the polls generally showed that things might get close in the Democratic contests. What we saw yesterday was a potential clincher for Sen. John McCain and a near knockout blow to Mitt Romney. Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama used energized voting turnouts around the country to inject an excitement into the Democratic Party that hasn't been seen since Bill Clinton became the "Comeback Kid", and more appropriately, since the Kennedy era.

What does it all mean?

On the GOP side of things, I think the showing in the rural South by Mike Huckabee proved that McCain is vulnerable in that area and that he needs a true social conservative as his running mate to make up for his perceived shortcomings with that base constituency. Huckabee is a virtual lock for that honor, in my opinion, for a few reasons. First, if Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, she figures to show very strong in Arkansas. With a big win in a southern state like Arkansas, others may follow including Missouri and perhaps Tennessee. Those states, in the Democratic column, might just tip the scales toward Clinton and may even portend a landslide. With Huckabee on the ticket, a former governor of Arkansas, that advantage is completely neutralized.

Second, McCain is considered a moderate by the party's ultra-conservative base, which is harmful to him in many circles, but helps him to stay competitive in the more purple states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan. Huckabee would likely attract the South to the GOP column, where the Dems might otherwise strike a few upsets. A combination of McCain/Huckabee might carry the base in all the constituencies that HAVE to be won, while challenging in the contested areas as well. If Huckabee isn't McCain's running mate, there might be some trouble in GOP land. The other potential candidates won't have enough time to energize the crucial regions of the country that Huckabee has already captured with his presidential run. This campaign began 6 months ago in many ways and the groundwork has been laid for the symbolic association required of the presidential candidate that a running mate will only give a marginal boost. The VP candidate is largely a symbol assigned to fill in gaps in the perception of the presidential candidate. With McCain there are so many perceived gaps in his conservative resume that a last minute running mate can't completely cover. Huckabee has been on the scene the whole time and therefore carries a lot of weight as a #2. Stay Tuned.

The final piece of the GOP puzzle to discuss is the fall off of Mitt Romney. He took a lot for granted in his campaign. He assumed that attacking McCain as a "liberal" would ingratiate him to the conservative base. His rhetoric aimed at presenting himself as the conservative alternative to McCain, but the base knows Romney well enough to know that he was a "liberal" Republican during his tenure as governor of Massachusetts. His flip-flopping on core conservative issues left doubt about his credentials and sent most of the Right searching for an alternative to BOTH McCain and Romney. Whoops. Must have forgotten the other half of the equation when attacking McCain, huh Mitt? He is finished. There's no way he can make up for the failures he endured on Super Tuesday, but he'll keep spending his money for a little while trying to score in the next round. If he doesn't nearly sweep the next set of states, he'll drop out. (He might drop out in the next few days if his family wavers....something to watch.)

The Democrats will spin the results of Super Tuesday to suit their agendas, but both Clinton and Obama have plenty to think over. Clinton was winning most of the Super Tuesday states by double digits for months, and in many of those areas she had 20 or 30+ point leads. Obama's political machine has proved that it has energy, momentum, and a solid plan of attack. Clinton's name recognition and superb political skills set her out ahead of the field by 20 lengths as the campaign began. In fact, her New York Senatorial campaigns were largely seen as warm ups to this presidential run. She's been on the radar as a presidential hopeful for so long that the image has already been solidified in the public's mind. Obama is so savvy and so inspirational that he has closed the recognition gap to a dead heat in a matter of two months. Clinton managed to win the big delegate states, and can therefore crow about her Super Tuesday victory, but the fact is she should have won those states. Obama managed to nearly duplicate her delegate total by splitting the contested states, while racking up wins in the lower point locations.

The Democratic primaries are a much different animal that the GOP contests. A candidate may lose a state by 10, 15, or 20 percentage points, but split the delegates evenly if the local victories occur in the right places. In many cases, Obama managed to pull off that strategy. Clinton has to be very worried about the tremendous climb that Obama has made recently both in the polls and in the finance arena. Obama is out-raising her by $3 to $1 at this point and will have a huge war chest to blitz the remaining states with ads and on the ground volunteers. She may be worried about the momentum and the money, but the climb for Obama is still very steep. He will have to win the remaining big delegate states by convincing margins to catch Clinton. She's ahead and she is still the better known candidate. The Superdelegate situation also favors Clinton at this point. The way it works, Party officials and high profile members get a vote at the convention that equals the total of some Congressional districts. Not only do they get their personal vote, but they get a big enchilada 2nd vote as well. This seems hardly legal in a representative democracy, but that's the system until we change it.

Clinton is a Party insider with a lot of favors to cash in. When Bill Clinton was president he MADE a lot of the people in the Party hierarchy and can claim loyalty from them in support of his wife. That's the shady reality of this process. The hope for Obama is to swell the national tide in his favor, win the big states which remain and take the overall lead, and grab as many undecided Superdelegates as he can. It's an uphill battle, but he has a puncher's chance that could become much more than that in the next two to three weeks.

For my part, I will use this forum to officially endorse Barack Obama. You will find a link to his campaign website in the right column, and I encourage everyone to go take a look at his positions on the key issues of this election and watch some video of his inspirational leadership style. I've donated to his campaign and it was money well spent. If you can afford to drop a small amount of cash in his coffers, I guarantee he will use it well and make a run at representing all of us as president in a dignified and responsible manner. Go Obama!!!!

UPDATE: MSNBC is reporting that Barack Obama leads Hillary Clinton in the standard delegate count by a thin margin of 838 to 834 after the Super Tuesday count is finished. Of course, she has a 100 or so point advantage in the Superdelegate race keeping her the frontrunner, but this is meaningful.