Thursday, May 29, 2008

Re: Letter to the Vote Nazis

Question: A quick question about the Democratic delegate process: my understanding is that in Michigan, all of the candidates except Hillary pulled their names off the ballot at the behest of the DNC. If Barack and the others weren’t even on the ballot, doesn’t that make her argument about heeding the voice of the people rather hollow regarding the MI vote? (I know, that sounds like a push-poll question, but I really am curious. The news articles mostly seem to gloss right over that point.)

Reponse: Here’s the way I answered that when I wrote my Letter to the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee:

“I am also aware that one of the remaining candidates was not on the Michigan ballot. But I understand that he withdrew his name voluntarily. Skipping particular primaries or caucuses for tactical reasons has a long tradition. This cannot be regarded as a valid reason not to count the results of the Michigan primary.

“Not counting the Michigan and Florida primaries gives one candidate an unfair double benefit. Not only is his opponent deprived of delegates fairly won, but the number of delegates he needs for nomination has presumptively been lowered to 2025.”
I don’t particularly care as much about the tactical advantages or disadvantages to a particular candidate as the democratic principles at stake - whether voters or party insiders get to pick the candidates we vote on. The fact is that the political parties have never liked primaries. They were introduced as a reform and the political parties have resisted at every turn. If this was done “at the behest of the DNC” in concert with other candidates it is no less an affront to the voters of Michigan.

Re: Memorial Day Weekend

Reply: Hey, we love that Cambridge Memorial Day parade! You forgot to mention the legions of Cambridge Little Baseball League marchers (NOT "Little League" in Cambridge - that has too many official rules and regulations that Cambridge is unable to follow)

Response: You are right, I did forget them! There is something very Cantabrigian when some kids are wearing typical baseball shirts that say “So-And-So Pizza” on the back and others have shirts that say “MIT”.

Memorial Day Weekend

It has been an eventful Memorial Day Weekend 2008. At the start of the weekend, my Jeep Cherokee got hit by a taxi cab (nobody injured, able to drive away). So rather than getting out of town as planned, I stayed around the Left Bank of the Charles. Cambridge becomes a small town on long weekends in the summer.

My Jeep suffered a side hit to the right front bumper, which also messed up the fender, popped out the front grill, and broke the body section that holds the grill in place. But the lights and turn signals still work. True, the right headlight is positioned a bit cock-eyed and the right turn single is missing most of the reflector.

The accident was on top of managing to break a piece off the blade on my lawnmower. It turns out that throws off the balance of the spinning blade and renders your lawnmower inoperable. I ultimately got myself to a Sears store and bought a replacement mower blade, a pair of pinchers (“fence tool” in the catalog), and a spool of 22 gauge wire (similar to baling wire). Always reliable Sears has undergone some changes in the last few years, but Craftsman is still made in the USA.

My 1993 Jeep has only 42,000 miles on it, but I’m worried that it may be “totaled” in the eyes of the insurance company. No one wins an accident with a taxi cab, although I did drive away and he didn’t. At least it wasn’t a bus. Anyway, I got my lawn mowed. And I wired the lose grill frame so that it wouldn’t fall off and now I’m driving around town in a Jeep held together with baling wire. My grandfather the Iowa farmer would be proud.

In the course of hunting up the baling wire I made a useless trip to Home Depot in Watertown. But on the way back I came up Coolidge Avenue past Cambridge Cemetery and noticed that they had set out flags and a review stand. As I continued back into town, I saw a few people gathering along the sidewalk with lawn chairs and American flags. A parade! I was not aware that Cambridge has a Memorial Day Parade, so I pulled into my office parking lot on Mount Auburn Street and found a spot in front of Darwin’s to watch.

Even though the scattered spectators in this city of 100,000 were no match in numbers to what you would get in, say, the 1600 person town of Bedford, Iowa, it was a very respectful showing. Of course, Bedford has horses, tractors, pickup trucks, and olds cars in its parade. There was none of that in Cambridge and no candy for the spectators.

There were fire trucks, several bands, and a boy scout troop. A squad of Cambridge police in full dress uniform marched, with a short, stocky Irish-American police sergeant calling the cadence. And there were a number of military re-enactors. Some minutemen in Revolutionary War period costume reveled in firing off their black powder muskets. There was a color guard in Civil War costume for the all-black 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry Regiment, and also for the 5th Massachusetts Battery.

The flag at Cambridge Cemetery was flown in memory of 2nd Lieutenant Ronald Ward, a World War II U.S. Army Air Corp serviceman who went missing in action over New Guinea on December 3, 1943. The wreckage of his Liberator bomber was discovered in 2004 and the remains of the 11 man crew were recently identified. The keynote speaker was Captain Eric Dinoto, whose unit, Charlie Company, 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry, Massachusetts National Guard, is back from Iraq after an eight month deployment. The 181st Infantry traces its lineage to minutemen who fought at Lexington and Concord and has its battalion headquarters at the Cambridge Armory on Concord Avenue near Fresh Pond.

Between the bands and the scouts and the military, and the flags passed out to spectators and random marchers, there were a lot of flags and flag waving, which is not something you see every day in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And it turns out that if you stand on the street, and put your hand on your heart every time a color guard passes, the people standing next to you will eventually join in. There was one young man, probably no more than 25, who followed the Marine Corps color guard up the street shouting. And while I could not hear what he was saying, I’m sure he was shouting thanks and encouragement, and commending them on their service.

I also spent an evening hanging out with a product manager of one of the big name tech companies, who spends a lot of time in Silicon Valley and gets sent on trips around the world. He’s a big Obama supporter. Maxed out on his contributions, he told us, which is a liberal’s way of saying he’s done all he can do. Got most of his knowledge about the “red states” from the book What’s the Matter with Kansas? (Nothing, by the way, is the matter with Kansas.) He is thinking about moving to New Zealand, as the country he has identified as having the most appropriate socialist political tradition to his personal philosophy.

I tried to explain to him that middle America is not as he has been told stupidly voting against its own self-interest. Here’s the red state equation: “I know if I vote Republican I will get a tax cut; I know if I vote Democrat I will NOT get universal health care. The Republicans will defend my cherished social institutions; the Democrats seem ready to throw the baby out with the bath water. The Republicans will go to work for what they believe in; the Democrats won’t.” If the Democratic Party gets its act together and reverses that equation, it could change the country and the world.

Meanwhile, the Democratic nomination fight is gearing up for a spectacular finish over the next several days. Barack Obama needs just 48 more delegates to clinch, and 112 more beyond that to settle all delegate arguments. Hillary Clinton, by contrast would need 230 delegates more, on top of getting her disputed Michigan and Florida delegates counted.

On Saturday, May 31, the DNC rules committee meets to decide what to do about Michigan and Florida. Word on the web is that the Vote Nazis (“no vote for you”) who don’t want to count the votes in those two states will not be appeased, and Michigan and Florida delegates will count for half, a result that has already been assessed here as tough but fair. There are 366 disputed delegates.

On Sunday, June 1, a primary is being held in Puerto Rico. Puerto Ricans do not get to vote in the November Presidential election, but do get to send delegates to the party conventions. That gives them a voice in the candidate selection, but not in the outcome. There are 55 delegates at stake.

On Tuesday, June 3, South Dakota and Montana hold the last two primaries. There are 31 delegates at stake. I stand by my prediction that if come next Tuesday Barack is buying rounds to celebrate his victory at Stockman’s Bar and Lunch in Missoula, Montana, he’ll be the next President of the United States. We’ll wait to hear from our Montana correspondents.

There are 199 super delegates who have yet to declare and many of those will vote for the winner (that is, Barack), just as soon as they get the signal that the outcome is absolutely clear.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

No VP slot for Huckabee

Mike Huckabee, speaking at a National Rifle Association convention in Louisville, Kentucky on May 16, was interrupted by a loud noise. Huckabee joked, "That was Barack Obama. He just tripped off a chair. He's getting ready to speak and somebody aimed a gun at him and he -- he dove for the floor."

That night he apologized on his blog: "During my speech at the NRA a loud noise backstage, that sounded like a chair falling, distracted the crowd and interrupted my speech. I made an off hand remark that was in no way intended to offend or disparage Sen. Obama. I apologize that my comments were offensive, that was never my intention."

No VP Slot for Hillary

Speaking to the Argus Leader in Sioux Falls, South Dakota on Friday, May 23, Hillary was asked why she doesn't drop out of the race. Her reply has ignited a firestorm: “My husband did not wrap up the nomination in 1992 until he won the California primary somewhere in the middle of June, right? We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California. I don't understand it."

Here’s the full context of this section of the interview:

For some in the Obama camp, this was taken as meaning that Hillary wants to stay in the race in case Barack Obama gets assassinated. Keith Olbermann, the Obama shill on MSNBC, made a dramatic denunciation of Hillary. Here's the full 10 minutes of bile:

This is a mantra that I’ve heard repeated by a number of Obama supporters over the last 2 months, “Put Hillary in the VP slot on the Obama ticket, and something will happen to Obama so that Hillary becomes President.” I personally find this to be the worst sort of political slander and character assassination. And it’s curious that the outrage about bringing the word “assassination” into the discussion hasn’t come earlier.

Barack Obama, to his credit, has not read any dark meaning into this saying, “Sen. Clinton says that she did not intend any offense by it, and I will take her at her word on that." But earlier his campaign had issued a statement "Sen. Clinton's statement before the Argus Leader editorial board was unfortunate and has no place in this campaign."

I have to side with Hillary on this one. First, she is the hero in her own story. And in her story, the reference to Robert F. Kennedy is to Hillary and not to Barack Obama. He is the heroic figure who got a late start in the 1968 primaries, battled to push ahead of Eugene McCarthy, and was closing in on frontrunner Hubert Humphrey at the time of his assassination. She is saying that no one would have told RFK to get out after he won California in 1968, even though he was in second place. RFK was winning primaries while Humphrey was racking up caucus states, much like Hillary has done against Barack. I'm sure she identifies very closely with RFK. She, like RFK, is trying to fight the perception that she wants to establish a family dynasty. She holds the U.S. Senate seat in New York that RFK held when he ran for President in 1968. She has the endorsement of RFK’s children.

And frankly, if Barack gets death threats, Hillary gets them to. And I suspect a fair number of them take the form, “If anything happens to Barack Obama, you’re a dead woman.” So I think I’m going to require an apology from Barack Obama before I let this go. Or at least I’m going to require Barack to disavow Keith Olbermann on this issue. Barack better seat Michigan and Florida too.

Nonetheless, I do think this gaffe disqualifies Hillary from the VP slot on Obama’s ticket. We can’t have a VP who has been publicly thinking about assassination. And if Hillary were the VP and something unthinkable were to happen, she would be in an untenable position. That just won’t do. She can have a job in the Obama administration, just not VP.

Friday, May 23, 2008

SNL on Hillary Clinton

Clinton / Obama Ad:

Hillary sums up:

I am a sore loser
My supporters are racists
I have no ethical standards

3AM Phone Call:

Democratic Debate #2:

Response from Hillary Clinton:

Democratic Debate:

John McCain on SNL

McCain in One:

McCain on Update:

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Basic Geography

We were referred to an article in the National Review Online that listed a number of supposed Barack Obama gaffes including the following:

“Explaining last week why he was trailing Hillary Clinton in Kentucky, Obama again botched basic geography: “Sen. Clinton, I think, is much better known, coming from a nearby state of Arkansas. So it’s not surprising that she would have an advantage in some of those states in the middle.” On what map is Arkansas closer to Kentucky than Illinois?”

I have to argue with author Michelle Malkin, who describes herself on her web site as Philly-born, South Jersey-raised and living near Washington DC. In my experience, people with that resume shouldn’t presume to lecture others on geography. Some facts about the proximity of Kentucky to Arkansas and Illinois:

It’s 72 miles from Piggott, Arkansas to Hickman, Kentucky.

It’s 298 miles from Chicago, Illinois to Louisville, Kentucky.

Yes, it’s true that that Kentucky and Illinois share a short border across the Ohio River on the Northwest corner of Kentucky and the southeastern tip of Illinois. But you will also find that Hillary Clinton won that part of Illinois too. That’s not Barack Obama’s Illinois.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

On to Stockman’s

OK, all you Obama supporters who’ve turned blue holding your breath, you can exhale. Barack lost big in Kentucky (35 point loss) but won handily in Oregon (16 point win).

All that’s left is to close the deal in South Dakota and Montana on June 3, with a little civics lesson in Puerto Rico on June 1. My prediction: If in two weeks Barack is buying rounds to celebrate his victory at Stockman’s Bar and Lunch in Missoula, Montana, he’ll be the next President of the United States.

Q: What does Barack mean saying tonight that he has “won an absolute majority of all the delegates chosen by the people?”

A: Not to accuse Barack of becoming an ordinary politician but there are a couple of half-truths built into that statement.

First, the number of delegates to be chosen by the people is still very much in doubt pending resolution of the Michigan and Florida controversies. So his majority is not yet “absolute.” Barack must be very careful not to let the Vote Nazis on the DNC play their “No Vote for You” policy into the hands of the Republicans who are looking to win Michigan and Florida in November.

Second, should delegates selected by caucuses rather than primary election be considered “chosen by the people?” It’s a telling fact that states that run caucuses only report the results; they don’t report the number of citizens who actually participated in the process, because the number of people who participate is usually so small as to be embarrassing as representative of the will of the people. Barack split the primary states with Hillary and won all the caucus states – that’s the secret to his victory.

Q: Can Hillary still come back to win?

A: No, not if her goal is to get elected President. Enough Obama supporters, both black voters and left-wing middle and upper middle class white voters, would sit home in November if he were denied the nomination to deny her the Presidency.

Q: Would Hillary have been a stronger candidate against John McCain?

A: Maybe. She got the most primary votes. The states she won have more electoral votes in November than the states Barack won. One web site shows her beating McCain 284 electoral votes to 237, but Obama losing to McCain 242 to 285. But there’s no requirement for political parties to put forward their strongest candidate; indeed, the Democrats rarely do.

Q: Does Barack need Hillary?

A: No, he doesn’t need her or her fundraising ability or her organization. But he does need her working class white voters to beat John McCain. Hillary got over 17,000,000 votes in the primaries and that’s a big number. Bush beat Kerry in 2004 by just 3,000,000 votes. Gore and Bush were separated by fewer than 550,000 votes (fewer than that in Florida). Carter beat Ford by 1,700,000 votes in 1976. Nixon beat Humphrey by just over 500,000 votes in 1968. Kennedy edged Nixon by just over 100,000 votes in 1960. Just 5% of Hillary voters could easily swing a close election. Come June, expect Barack to make nice with Hillary and with Hillary voters.

Q: Does Barack have to offer Hillary the VP slot?

A: No. There are plenty of other jobs he could offer her:

Governor of New York
Majority Leader of the Senate
Secretary of Education
Secretary of Labor
Attorney General
Secretary of State
Ambassador to the United Nations
Special Envoy to Iran

Q: Is this going to go on all summer?

A: No. The Olympics start August 8 in Beijing, China. The U.S Olympic team track and field trials begin June 27 in Eugene, Oregon. All the black athletes winning medals for the United States will remind America that our race relations are about more than Fox News prattling on and on about Michelle Obama and Jeremiah Wright.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Letter to Obama on Closing the Deal

Here’s some advice to the Obama campaign on closing the deal:

You aren’t going to close the deal by arguing over superdelegates, popular vote, or counting Michigan and Florida. These only matter if you haven’t won. If you have won, they are unimportant. Letting DNC Chairman Howard Dean broker a resolution between the two remaining campaigns is also a loser strategy. If you have won, it’s your right and responsibility to broker the deal yourself. Face facts, beating Hillary Clinton is the biggest thing on your resume. You need to do it well, and you need to take all the credit. You cant let someone else do it for you.

It's time to claim your victory. You do not need Hillary Clinton to concede defeat. Understand that she can't quit until the final primary is held and the Michigan and Florida situations are resolved. You do need to claim your victory. Just be a gentleman and congratulate her on giving you a run for your money.

Next, send your top people to meet with her top people at the staff level in the first or second week of June. Then you should offer to meet with Hillary yourself. Here are the five key points for your people to make in those meetings:

(1) We’ve won both more total delegates and more pledged delegates than you. You have to know that we will get the nomination at the convention, even if you aren't quite ready to publicly acknowledge it. You also have to know that there is no way we can step aside and let you be the nominee. Our voters would never accept that.

(2) Do you want to be considered for the VP slot? We need someone for that job who can unite the party around our agenda and help us win electoral votes in November. You’re one of several people who could help us do that, and we do want to look at everyone. Obviously your primary showing will factor high. But to be considered first you are going to have to drop out by officially suspending your campaign. We’re going to need to make a decision on this soon, and as long as you’re still an active candidate we just can’t consider you for VP.

(3) Do you want the Michigan and Florida delegates to be counted? If you do suspend you campaign, we can assure you that we will drop our objections to seating those delegates.

(4) We can’t cover your campaign debts, but can offer you a fair sum for your mailing lists and other campaign assets that could help us win in November.

(5) What else can we do to work together? We’ve noticed that your daughter Chelsea is a fine public speaker who relates well to people her age and speaks passionately on the issues that concern Democrats. We could find a place for her to speak in favor of Obama at the convention.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Letter to the Vote Nazis

Letter to the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Committee, which is meeting on May 31:

I was born in Michigan, so even though I don't live there now the disenfranchisement of Michigan and Florida is rather personal.

I am aware that the legislatures of these two states scheduled these two primaries out of turn. But what is the appropriate punishment for jumping ahead in line. Is it to give no service at all like the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld? The appropriate punishment is to send these two states to the end of the line, and serve them after all the other states have voted. Your meeting on May 31 would be the appropriate time to do this, and any delay beyond the last set of primaries on June 3 would be unconscionable.

I am also aware that one of the remaining candidates was not on the Michigan ballot. But I understand that he withdrew his name voluntarily. Skipping particular primaries or caucuses for tactical reasons has a long tradition. This cannot be regarded as a valid reason not to count the results of the Michigan primary.

Not counting the Michigan and Florida primaries gives one candidate an unfair double benefit. Not only is his opponent deprived of delegates fairly won, but the number of delegates he needs for nomination has presumptively been lowered to 2025.

If you can’t bring yourselves to do the right thing and just seat these delegations in accord with the primary results, I suggest the following compromise: seat the Michigan and Florida delegations but require them to vote “present” on the first ballot. If one candidate can get 2210 votes on the first ballot, that is a fair result. If not, subsequent ballots should count Michigan and Florida.

I’m sure that when the candidates agreed last fall not to campaign in Michigan and Florida, their intent was not to disenfranchise Michigan and Florida but to encourage those states to move their primaries into the DNC approved order. There are serious questions raised as to whether the DNC made a good faith effort in accord with that intent to get those two states to move their primaries. For the DNC to use that agreement now to disenfranchise these two states is not unlike what President Bush did in the fall of 2002, getting Democrats who only wanted UN weapons inspectors readmitted to Iraq to vote for an ultimatum to be used for the purpose of authorizing a war those Democrats did not support.

I know the long history of the primary election in American politics. While you had your reasons to set the rules on scheduling these primaries, these two legislatures had their reasons too, and that is to allow ordinary citizens to participate in the candidate selection process at a point where their participation matters. The political parties have always resisted this participation and that aspect of enforcing the “integrity” of the rules would do you no credit. It is not fair to punish the voters for the “mistake” of these two legislatures.

Don’t be Vote Nazis. Count the results of the Michigan and Florida primaries.

Friday, May 16, 2008

John McCain's Fourteen Point Plan

What John McCain hopes to have achieved by January 2013, at the end of his first term as president:

1. America has welcomed home the servicemen and women who have sacrificed terribly so that America might be secure in her freedom.
2. The Iraq War has been won and Iraq is a functioning democracy.
3. The threat from a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan has been greatly reduced if not eliminated.
4. There has not been a major terrorist attack in America since September 11, 2001.
5. America has experienced several years of robust economic growth and Americans again have confidence in their economic future.
6. Congress has lowered taxes and passed fundamental tax reform offering a choice in how taxes are filed.
7. Americans who lost jobs in the global economy are assisted by reformed unemployment insurance and worker retraining programs.
8. Public education in America is much improved and test scores and graduation rates are rising everywhere in the country.
9. Health care has become more accessible to more Americans than at any other time in history.
10. America is well on the way to independence from foreign sources of oil, alleviating the environmental threat posed from climate change and greatly improving our security as well.
11. Scores of judges have been confirmed to the federal district and appellate courts who understand that they were not sent there to write our laws but to enforce them.
12. Voluntary national service has grown in popularity, with educational benefits used as incentives and frequent appeals for service from the White House.
13. Young Americans understand that true happiness is much greater than the pursuit of pleasure, and can only be found by serving causes greater than self-interest.
14. America is safer, freer, and wealthier.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Hold on one second 'sweetie'

How to lose an election: Go to a state whose delegates you don't want to count and call one its local newswomen 'sweetie':

Then leave an overly long apology on her cell phone voice mail:

Reminds me of that awkward scene with Jon Favreau in Swingers:

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Now Oregon is the End of the Trail

The Hatfields and McCoys in West Virginia came out to vote today in big numbers for Hillary Clinton over the presumptive nominee Barack Obama. Hillary is winning a stunning 67% for Hillary to 26% for Barack, a landslide 40 point margin of victory. If that weren’t embarrassing enough, I’d say Barack owes Hillary a big thank you for staying in the race, as it would have been even more embarrassing if he had lost big to a candidate who had just dropped out (Edwards is winning 7% in West Virginia, and he dropped out months ago). The Hatfields and McCoys will vote again in Kentucky on May 20 and we should expect a similar result. If Hillary keeps this up, she could still overtake the presumptive nominee. But first she has to get past the storied Oregon primary, also on May 20.

Oregon was the first state to establish a presidential primary in 1910. A reform movement led by Teddy Roosevelt established 12 primaries for the 1912 election. Before these first primaries, nominations were decided at national party conventions with delegates picked at the state level by party insiders. Teddy had been President from 1901-1909 and was succeeded by fellow Republican William Howard Taft. But Teddy quickly grew disaffected with Taft and hoped to buck his support among Republican Party insiders by appealing directly to the people. Teddy won many of these primaries but failed to stop Taft for the Republican nomination, so he formed an independent third party, the Progressive “Bull Moose” Party. Taft finished third in the 1912 general election, Roosevelt finished second, and that split made Democrat Woodrow Wilson the winner.

The Oregon primary became a key battleground in 1968, by voters who wanted to stop the nomination of Robert Kennedy. In those days, voters were allowed to vote in either primary, without regard to their party registration. My family lived in Oregon in 1968 and my father, a lifelong Republican, has often spoken in family circles of taking the Democratic ballot in 1968 to stop Kennedy (my mother keeps her own counsel on her own vote). It was a dilemma for Republicans in Oregon, as there was also a movement to stop the Nixon nomination on the Republican side by voting for Nelson Rockefeller. Robert Kennedy lost the Oregon primary, and it was the first election loss for a Kennedy. But much of the glee of stopping the Kennedy machine in Oregon was taken away when Robert Kennedy was assassinated one week later in California. I have often wondered who my father voted “for” in order to vote “against” Kennedy - that part of the story was always a little vague. I see from looking up the results that the man who beat Kennedy in Oregon was anti-Vietnam War candidate Eugene McCarthy. My father voted for Clean Gene.

What will happen in Oregon on May 20? Obama is leading in the polls and should win given the progressive politics of the state. And these days only registered Democrats can vote in the Oregon primary. But there have been a large number of re-registrations leading up to the April 29 registration deadline, so there may be a stop Barack movement afoot. If Hillary unexpectedly wins in Oregon, that could change everything. If she loses big, that’s the end of the trail.

Delegate watch: Barack needs just 144 more delegates to clinch the nomination (328 delegates to shut Hillary up about Michigan and Florida). The first number is probably in the bag with superdelegates who haven’t announced yet and a minimum showing in the remaining states.

Clinton watch: Could Hillary follow Teddy’s Bull Moose lead and form a Mad Cow Party? Or is perhaps her plan just to spend all her husband’s money on these last primaries to get even for his past transgressions? Connect the dots: She didn’t really start smiling until February when she starting dipping into the Clinton piggyback to loan her campaign money, estimated to be $12 million so far with doubtful prospects for getting paid back if she loses. Last week she rebuffed an overture to have Obama cover her campaign debt if she would drop out. And her husband has done his best to scuttle her ability to go forward at key moments.

Obama watch: Barack really needs to hire some people who can relate to middle America. One ad in West Virginia featured Barack standing in front of a backdrop showing multiple logos for “The Chicago Council on Global Affairs” speaking about restoring America’s place in the eyes of the world (how about restoring West Virginia’s place in the eyes of San Francisco?) and another with talking about Barack being a god-fearing church-going Christian (and who would be giving the sermon in that church?). His Oregon ads look good, though.

Bush watch: First daughter Jenna Bush was married this past weekend to Henry Hager by Reverend Kirbyjon Caldwell, a United Methodist minister from Houston who is black. (Apparently not every minister in the black church is a Reverend Wright.) Kirbyjon publicly endorsed Barack Obama in January. Jenna pointedly declined to endorse John McCain during a recent appearance on Larry King Live. Could Jenna be a secret Obama supporter?

Inconvenient Truths?

Hillary Clinton to USA Today on 5/7/2008:

"There was just an AP article posted that found how Sen. Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me, and in independents I was running even with him and doing even better with independent-leaning independents. I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on."

Barack Obama interview for The Atlantic published on 5/12/2008:

The Atlantic: "Do you think that Israel is a drag on America’s reputation overseas?"

Obama: "No, no, no. But what I think is that this constant wound, that this constant sore, does infect all of our foreign policy. The lack of a resolution to this problem provides an excuse for anti-American militant jihadists to engage in inexcusable actions, and so we have a national-security interest in solving this, and I also believe that Israel has a security interest in solving this because I believe that the status quo is unsustainable. I am absolutely convinced of that, and some of the tensions that might arise between me and some of the more hawkish elements in the Jewish community in the United States might stem from the fact that I’m not going to blindly adhere to whatever the most hawkish position is just because that’s the safest ground politically."

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Mother's Day

With Mother’s Day weekend upon us, these videos are must watch:

John McCain: (27 bottles of scotch?):

Hillary Clinton: (second woman President?):

Barack Obama (touching tribute):

Hi mom. Happy Mother’s Day.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Rush Limbaugh "endorses" Obama

Conservatiove talk show radio host Rush Limbaugh has "endorsed" Barack Obama. Speaking on his radio show on 5/7/2008

"I now believe he would be the weakest of the Democrat nominees. I now urge the Democrat superdelegates to make your mind up and publicly go for Obama. Barack Obama has shown he cannot get the votes Democrats need to win -- blue-collar, working-class people. He can get effete snobs, he can get wealthy academics, he can get the young, and he can get the black vote, but Democrats do not win with that."

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Near-tie in the Indiana Tiebreaker

Barack Obama is now cruising towards clinching the nomination, with a big win over Hillary Clinton in North Carolina (62% to 46%) and a near-tie in Indiana (49.4% to 50.6%), which he had called the tiebreaker state. In total delegates, Barack is leading by 159 delegates 1,845 to 1,686. Hillary now needs to win over 66% of the remaining uncommitted delegates and superdelegates, and that number gets higher with every primary that falls short of that very high margin of victory. There are just 4 weeks left until the last two states, Montana and South Dakota, vote on Tuesday, June 3.

Hillary shows no signs of dropping out, and why should she?

(1) She keeps winning primaries, and she is expected to win West Virginia on May 13 and Kentucky on May 20.

(2) Hillary trails by only by 30 delegates if the disputed Michigan and Florida delegates are counted in the manner most favorable to her. By that unlikely to be adopted measure, Hillary needs only 53% of the remaining uncommitted delegates and superdelegates.

(3) She has an outside chance to win if she runs the board - wins West Virginia and Kentucky as expected, scores a surprise victory over Barack in Oregon on May 20, mops up Puerto Rico on June 1, sweeps South Dakota and Montana on June 3, and scoops up the uncommitted superdelegates. (The Democrats have quietly and wisely moved the Puerto Rico primary up from June 7 to June 1, saving the embarrassment of this being the last contest that decides the race.)

(4) She also has a chance to score a tie. Barack still needs 180 delegates to clinch the nomination. Only 164 delegates are up for grabs in the next 2 weeks. That gets her to June 1. Superdelegates can always change their minds.

(5) Rush Limbaugh just endorsed Barack Obama. Don’t want to be a dittohead.

(6) Trial of Chicago fixer Tony Rezko goes to the jury on Monday.

(7) The Republicans can’t use their best dirt on Barack until Hillary drops out. For example, in his 1995 memoir Barack admits to smoking marijuana and doing cocaine when he was younger (“pot had helped, and booze; maybe a little blow when you could afford it”). But maybe they won’t go there. John McCain’s wife Cindy has admitted to stealing drugs from the pharmacy of one of her own charities to feed a percocet and vicodin addiction.

(8) If Hillary gets through the next 3 or 4 weeks, her campaign can go into quiet mode. Hillary keeps control of her delegates at the convention if she stays in the race.

(9) Hillary can wait all summer for Barack to offer her the VP slot. (If Barack is smart, he will offer the VP job to Evan Bayh, Indiana Senator and former Governor.)

(10) Daughter Chelsea is getting a great learning experience and introduction to the public. If Hillary stayed married for the kid, she can certainly keep campaigning for another 4 weeks. Under the Constitution, Chelsea will be eligible to run for Senate in 2010 (when Barack’s U.S. Senate seat in Illinois will be available) and to run for President in 2016. (The Bush twins, Jenna and Barbara, are also eligible in 2016. This coming weekend, Jenna is marrying the scion of a Virginia political family who is also a former aide to Bush strategist Karl Rove.)

Still, one must congratulate Barack Obama; he has pretty much wrapped it up.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Throw the Weatherman from The Train

Barack Obama spokesman Bill Burton on 5/6/2008, responding about picture of William Ayers, Barack acquaintance and onetime member of 60s terrorist group the Weathermen, stomping on an American flag:

“Senator Obama is appalled by this disrespect of a flag we love and that so many have fought and died for. There is no excuse for anyone to treat that which we hold so dear with so little regard. But the politics of association required to link Obama to this picture in any way is ridiculous and a silly distraction from the important challenges facing the American people.”

You don't need a weather man to know which way the wind blows.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Re: The Chickens Come Home to Roost

Thomas Sowell in National Review Online on May 6, 2008:

The difference between Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright is that they are addressing different audiences, using different styles adapted to those audiences.

It is a difference between upscale demagoguery and ghetto demagoguery, playing the audience for suckers in both cases.
In the real world, a sense of grievance or entitlement, as a result of the mistreatment of your ancestors, is not likely to get you very far with people who are too busy dealing with current economic realities to spend much time thinking about their own ancestors, much less other people’s ancestors.

Monday, May 5, 2008

All about the Horse Race

The throwdown this past week between Barack Obama and Jeremiah Wright saw the televised spectacle of two men fighting for their personal honor, “playing the dozens” in Wright’s words. Reverend Wright lashed out to prevent his life’s work preaching black liberation theology from being written off to history as crackpot lunacy, while Obama finally and definitively put down the once honored mentor from whom he had not received the respect he felt due. If you care to read it, there is an intriguing backstory.

Barack frankly appeared somewhat defeated in his appearance on Meet The Press this morning. He was forced to back pedal on a statement he made three or four weeks back that "Indiana may end up being the tiebreaker." Back then it looked like might overtake Hillary in Indiana, which she had been expected to win, but now it looks like she may pull out the victory after all. So Barack is now saying that all he meant was that Indiana was a “toss-up” and “hardest to gauge in terms of where the voters might go.” Barack has got be waking up to the fact that if he lets this go to tiebreakers, Hillary wins.

Is it all about the horse race? Maybe that’s all there is in a contest where one candidate is trying to create a cult of personality, and the other is running in the shadow of her husband’s cult of personality. If so, the news from today’s running of the Kentucky Derby cannot be welcome in the two campaigns. The favorite, Big Brown, won the race. The second place finisher, Eight Belles, broke two ankles after finishing and had to be euthanatized on the track.

The Chickens Come Home to Roost

"America's chickens are coming home to roost" from Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s September 16, 2001 sermon following the 9/11 attacks is probably his most controversial remark. His National Press Club speech on April 28, 2008 suggested that the source for that sermon was an interview Ambassador Edward Peck, former emissary to Iraq, had given Fox News after the attacks. Peck questioned the legality of the no-fly zones then being enforced over Iraq and suggested other countries and peoples could equate the 9/11 attacks with American actions in places like Panama, Haiti, Cambodia, as well as Iraq. But Peck never used the phrase "chickens are coming home to roost." If you watch the whole sermon, as Wright invited people do to before passing judgment on what he said, Wright himself clearly attributes that phrase to Malcolm X.

Malcolm X was taking questions after a speech in New York City on December 4, 1963 and was asked about the assassination of President John Kennedy 12 days earlier. He pointed to the killings of President Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother Ngo Dinh Nhu in South Vietnam, Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba in the Republic of the Congo, civil rights activist Medgar Evers in Mississippi, and the four girls killed in a church bombing in Birmingham, Alabama. He responded:

“I never foresaw that the chickens would come home to roost so soon. … Being an old farm boy myself, chickens coming home to roost never did make me sad. They always made me glad."
One can certainly see an eerie parallelism between the remarks of Ambassador Peck and the remarks of Malcolm X and also between the two tragedies that occasioned both. It is not surprising that a man such as Reverend Wright who had lived through this period of our history would draw the connection.

Malcolm X’s remarks had some profoundly ironic results. He had been under strict orders from Elijah Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam for whom he was spokesman, not to make any comment on the assassination of President Kennedy. Elijah Muhammad suspended Malcolm X and silenced him from making any public statements for 90 days. Three months later in March 1964, Malcolm X broke with Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam and formed his own Muslim church. Less than a year later, in February 1965, Malcolm X was himself assassinated. Members of the Nation of Islam were convicted in his death, although that has been the subject of some controversy and conspiracy theories. Speaking at an event later that month, Elijah Muhammad said, “Malcolm X got just what he preached.”

The address Malcolm X gave that day in December 1963 has become known as the “Chickens Come Home to Roost” speech (orginally titled “God's Judgment of White America”). It is not as famous as Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech from the March on Washington earlier that year, but in many ways its themes have been more influential. In some of these themes, one sees how much times have changed and how much they stay the same:

“Let us examine briefly some of the tricky strategy used by white liberals to harness and exploit the political energies of the Negro. The crooked politicians in Washington, D.C., purposely make a big noise over the proposed civil rights legislation. By blowing up the civil rights issue they skillfully add false importance to the Negro civil rights ‘leaders.’ Once the image of these Negro civil rights ‘leaders’ has been blown up way beyond its proper proportion, these same Negro civil rights ‘leaders’ are then used by white liberals to influence and control the Negro voters, all for the benefit of the white politicians who pose as liberals, who pose as friends of the Negro.

“The white conservatives aren't friends of the Negro either, but they at least don't try to hide it. They are like wolves; they show their teeth in a snarl that keeps the
Negro always aware of where he stands with them. But the white liberals are foxes, who also show their teeth to the Negro but pretend that they are smiling. The white liberals are more dangerous than the conservatives; they lure the Negro, and as the Negro runs from the growling wolf, he flees into the open jaws of the ‘smiling’ fox.

“The job of the Negro civil rights leader is to make the Negro forget that the wolf and the fox both belong to the (same) family. Both are canines; and no matter which one of them the Negro places his trust in, he never ends up in the White House, but always in the dog house.”
So now it is 45 years later and we come around to whether Barack Obama, a leader who is black but not necessarily a black leader, will end up in the White House.

For any student of Malcolm X, as both Wright and Obama are, the first question raised by Barack Obama’s candidacy is whether he is authentic or just another in a line of black leaders picked out of obscurity and put into a false prominence. And a subsidiary question is whether Obama fits into what Malcolm X spoke of in that speech as the “black bourgeoisie" and described as “the brainwashed, whiteminded, middle-class minority who are ashamed of black, and don't want to be identified with the black masses, and are therefore seeking to lose their ‘black identity’ by mixing, mingling, intermarrying, and integrating with the white man.”

Racial identity is the fundamental story of Barack’s first book, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance, that he published in 1995. He was born in Hawaii in 1961. His father was from Kenya, but left when he was two. His white mother took him with her second husband to Indonesia when he was six, but sent him back to live in Hawaii with his white grandparents when he was ten. Essentially, he was raised in a white family and sent to a white prep school. It was The Jerk, in reverse. He went to Occidental College in Los Angeles, and then transferred to and graduated from Columbia University in New York City.

Two years later Barack arrived in Chicago. He was recruited there by Gerald Kellman, a community organizer. Kellman was Jewish but working for a Catholic-affiliated group that was organizing black churches and churchgoers on Chicago’s South Side. But the feeling that he was brought in by the white guy to be the black face, could never be far from mind.

In fact, that type of community organizing had been pioneered by another Jewish community organizer from Chicago, Saul Alinsky, with the purpose of promoting leftist political ideas. Alinsky was the subject of Hillary Clinton’s senior thesis at Wellesley College. Hillary had grown up in the Chicago suburbs. She met Alinsky and he offered her a job as a community organizer in Chicago. She turned him down to go to Yale Law School. So the path that Barack took was one Hillary could have taken but chose not to some 16 years earlier.

At her 1969 Wellesley College graduation, Hillary was chosen to speak in response to Senator Edward Brooke, a Republican and the first black Senator since the Reconstruction era immediately after the Civil War. (ABC celebrity newswoman Barbara Walters just recently revealed she had an affair with Senator Brooke in the 1970s.). Hillary’s commencement speech was quoted in an article in Life Magazine:
“Every protest, every dissent ... is unabashedly an attempt to forge an identity
in this particular age.”
At Yale, she organized protests at the trial of the New Haven Nine, Black Panther Party members charged with torturing and killing a man they believed to be a police informant.

In 1985 Chicago, Barack was organizing churches with no church home of his own. And that caused grumbling among some of members of his community groups. Eventually he settled on Trinity United Church of Christ, where Reverend Jeremiah Wright was pastor. Part of the appeal was that it wasn’t one of the churches affiliated with his community groups:
"If I joined one of the churches I was already organizing, that might have caused some tensions. And part of it was there was an explicitly political aspect to the mission and message of Trinity at that time that I found appealing."
That mission was a church “unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian.” Its black liberation theology was based on the teachings of James H. Cone, now a 69 year old Professor at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. Cone grew up in Arkansas, came to Chicago for seminary and got his PHD there from Northwestern. Chicago was also home to Elijah Muhammad and the Nation of Islam. One can see the efforts of Cone, Wright, and others as reclaiming the legacy of Malcolm X and the message of black liberation that was so appealing to young urban blacks for the Protestant Christian religion. At the same time, Louis Farrakhan carried on the Nation of Islam.

Then Barack went to Harvard Law School and came back to Chicago. At Harvard he had been elected the first black president of the Harvard Law Review, and got a write up in the New York Times. Barack was actively recruited to come back to work for Tony Rezko, the Chicago real estate developer and political fixer who is now on trial. But he chose instead to go into public interest law, working as law firm associate and University of Chicago Law School lecturer. His 1995 book Dreams from My Father where he tracks down his father’s family in Kenya could be regarded as a continuation of the old Chicago Irish tradition of political campaigning by making a trip to Ireland. In October 1995, he attended the Million Man March in Washington, DC, which was organized by Louis Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam. No doubt he did that to establish his authenticity for his 1996 run Illinois State Senate, which he won.

Next, Barack’s story takes a quintessentially Chicago loop. In 1999, Mayor Richard Daley was challenged in the primary by Congressman Bobby Rush. Daly won the primary and was re-elected. But when Bobby Rush’s seat in Congress for a South Side district came up in 2000, Barack Obama was recruited to challenge Rush. Longtime Daly strategist David Axelrod was dispatched to help Obama. Bobby Rush had co-founded the Illinois Black Panther Party in 1968 and the district was one-third white and two-thirds back. President Clinton endorsed Rush and recorded a commercial for him. Barack was tied to the liberal Hyde Park area around the University of Chicago where he lived. Barack won the white vote but lost the black vote to Rush. At the same time, the mayor’s brother William Daly was serving as Al Gore’s campaign chairman. The Gore campaign distanced itself from Bill Clinton, one of the many factors which may have cost Gore the 2000 election. Also in 2000, Hillary Clinton ran for the U.S. Senate in New York and won.

When 2004 rolled around, Barack was recruited to run for U.S. Senate. Axelrod joined him again. This was an easier statewide race, as he could say that he was a black candidate who could appeal to white voters as he had done in his 2000 run. When Barack was chosen to give the keynote speech at the Democratic National Convention that summer, it was clear that he was being groomed for larger things, like a run for the Presidency. The Atlantic magazine asked in September 2004, “Why is Barack Obama generating more excitement among Democrats than John Kerry?” And it was clear that the person he would be groomed to run against was Hillary Clinton.

When Barack announced for the 2008 Presidential run, he again had Axelrod as his chief strategist and Mayor Daly gave him one of his first endorsements. Another Irish-American political clan, the Kennedy family, also came forward to endorse Barack at a crucial moment in early 2008. Barack even got the endorsement of Bobby Rush, despite his long history with the Clintons. Rush said,
“It’s one of the most difficult decisions that I’ve had to make in politics. Bill Clinton and the Clinton family are very close.”
But the question of Obama’s race has continued to dog Barack. In early 2007, black author Debra Dickerson wrote on and then went on the Colbert Report to argue that in the American political context, Obama is not black, calling him instead an African-African-American. Debra worked for Bill Clinton’s 1992 campaign. In March 2007, the L.A. Times published an opinion piece titled “Obama the 'Magic Negro'” concluding:
“Like a comic-book superhero, Obama is there to help, out of the sheer goodness of a heart we need not know or understand. For as with all Magic Negroes, the less real he seems, the more desirable he becomes. If he were real, white America couldn't project all its fantasies of curative black benevolence on him.”
So there seem to be two angles to this. One is the rivalry between the Clinton machine on one side and the old Daly and Kennedy machines on the other, and whether either can deliver the white working class. The second is the split between the black liberationists and the black transcendentalists. In winning the black primary vote so decisively Barack seems finally to have gotten his full acceptance as a black leader, but that is also why he has had to handle Reverend Wright with so much tact and forbearance, and that has hurt him with the white working class. A problem with identity politics is that one candidate cannot authentically identify with all people.

And what about Reverend Wright? I cannot help feeling that on some level what we have seen in the media is another example of what Republican Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas called “high-tech lynching of uppity blacks.” What does it matter what Wright said, if Barack Obama does not believe it too? What does it hurt to have a retired black minister running his mouth about AIDS conspiracies and Louis Farrakhan? And what was the message of that 9/16/2001 sermon? If you listen to the end, he asks what our response should be to the horrific attacks and sums up:
“The Lord showed me this is a time for self-examination, … a time for me to
examine my relationship with God, my own relationship with God, my personal
relationship with God, … not the time to be examining other folks relationship.”
Here’s a quote from the eulogy the actor Ossie Davis delivered at Malcolm X’s funeral:
“They will say that he is of hate — a fanatic, a racist — who can only bring evil to the cause for which you struggle! And we will answer and say to them: Did you ever talk to Brother Malcolm? Did you ever touch him, or have him smile at you? Did you ever really listen to him? Did he ever do a mean thing? Was he ever himself associated with violence or any public disturbance? For if you did you would know him. And if you knew him you would know why we must honor him.”
Have we come a long way in the last 45 years? I walked into a Cambridge, Massachusetts bookstore this afternoon to pick up a copy of The Autobiography of Malcolm X, which I have never read. A young white woman, Hillary Jordan, was getting ready to read from her novel Mudbound. The jacket indicated she had graduated from Wellesley College and then gotten an MFA degree in creative writing from Columbia University. Subsequent research finds that this novel won her the 2006 Bellwether Prize for Fiction with a $25,000 award and a publishing contract. She described the book as about two soldiers, one white and one black, who come back to the Mississippi Delta after service in World War II. Then she dropped into a lazy Southern drawl and began to read. My ears picked up when she got to a passage,
“We may need to learn that n----- he can’t talk that way around here.”
No one else in the bookstore seemed to notice. I paid for my book and left.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Throw the Reverend from the Train Again

Barack Obama on Meet The Press 5/3/2008:

MR. RUSSERT: Why didn't you just say then, "You know, Reverend, we're going on different paths because this country does not believe in white supremacy and black inferiority."

SEN. OBAMA: Right. Well, my commitment, as I said, Tim, is to the church, not to a pastor. And I think that's shared by millions of people who are going to church this morning. You, you join a church community, and Reverend Wright helped build a wonderful church community, one that has been a pillar of good works in Chicago, and, you know, I feel a great loyalty to that church. Reverend Wright was going to be retiring in a year, and I thought it was important for me to maintain my commitment to that church.
MR. RUSSERT: You're done with him? If you're elected president, you won't seek his counsel?

SEN. OBAMA: Absolutely not. Now, I think it's important to keep in mind, Tim, that I never sought his counsel when it came to politics. And I--you know, some, some of the reporting that implies that somehow he's my spiritual advisor or mentor, as he himself said, overstated things. He was my pastor, and he built a terrific church. I'm proud of that church. We've got a wonderful young pastor who's there who's doing--continuing the terrific work that the church does. And that's my commitment. My commitments are to the values of that church, my commitment is to Christ; it's not to Reverend Wright.

I'm not bitter #21 - Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton comments published in the Sunday Los Angeles Times in 1991:

“You know, [Bush] wants to divide us over race. I’m from the South. I understand this. This quota deal they’re gonna pull in the next election is the same old scam they’ve been pulling on us for decade after decade after decade. When their economic policies fail, when the country’s coming apart rather than coming together, what do they do? They find the most economically insecure white men and scare the living daylights out of them. They know if they can keep us looking at each other across a racial divide, if I can look at Bobby Rush and think, Bobby wants my job, my promotion, then neither of us can look at George Bush and say, ‘What happened to everybody’s job? What happened to everybody’s income? What … have … you … done … to … our … country?’”

I'm not bitter #20 - Saul Alinsky

Saul Alinsky, subject of Hillary Clinton's senior thesis at Wellesley, in Rules for Radicals (1971):

"There's another reason for working inside the system. Dostoevsky said that taking a new step is what people fear most. Any revolutionary change must be preceded by a passive, affirmative, non-challenging attitude toward change among the mass of our people. They must feel so frustrated, so defeated, so lost, so futureless in the prevailing system that they are willing to let go of the past and change the future. This acceptance is the reformation essential to any revolution. To bring on this reformation requires that the organizer work inside the system, among not only the middle class but the 40 per cent of American families - more than seventy million people - whose income range from $5,000 to $10,000 a year [in 1971]. They cannot be dismissed by labeling them blue collar or hard hat. They will not continue to be relatively passive and slightly challenging. If we fail to communicate with them, if we don't encourage them to form alliances with us, they will move to the right. Maybe they will anyway, but let's not let it happen by default."

Saturday, May 3, 2008

I'm not bitter #19 - Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton speaking at her Wellesley College graduation on May 31, 1969:

"The question about possible and impossible was one that we brought with us to Wellesley four years ago. We arrived not yet knowing what was not possible. Consequently, we expected a lot. Our attitudes are easily understood having grown up, having come to consciousness in the first five years of this decade -- years dominated by men with dreams, men in the civil rights movement, the Peace Corps, the space program -- so we arrived at Wellesley and we found, as all of us have found, that there was a gap between expectation and realities. But it wasn't a discouraging gap and it didn't turn us into cynical, bitter old women at the age of 18. It just inspired us to do something about that gap. "