Monday, June 30, 2008

Playing It Wrong- McCain

I don't have much patience for the vacillation of Barack Obama at the meeting of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials. But what of the Straight Talk Express, the chosen vehicle of the candidate who was for comprehensive immigration reform before he was against it before he was for it?

John McCain stated "We have to secure our borders ... but we also must proceed with a temporary worker program that is verifiable and truly temporary. We must also understand that 12 million people are here, and they are here illegally, and they are God's children." Gone, for the day, was McCain's assurance that the borders would be secured "first." Instead, we learn that illegal immigrants are God's children, an assertion so banal it would apply also to thiefs, rapists, and murderers.

And those individuals who oppose McCain's prescription for illegal immigrants? Apparently, they fail to recognize them as "God's children" and so, presumably, are not themselves part of that group McCain has claimed on God's behalf.

But McCain's arrogance in presuming to know the mind of the Almighty pales in significance compared to the guest worker scam he is peddling. He argued "we also must proceed with a temporary worker program that is verifiable and truly temporary." Whatever your posion- "amnesty" or instead deporting all illegal immigrants- a guest worker program would be more destructive to American society. In its april 17, 2006 article entitled "That's Hospitality," the editors of The New Republic explained how such programs have backfired in Europe and would do the same in the U.S.A.

But a guest worker and his family have no such opportunity for transcendence. They are slotted into a caste, with no real hope of ever rising above it. Indeed, Bush's guest-worker program would codify a large group of people in the United States as second-class citizens. Although they would enjoy many of the same legal protections as American-born workers, they would never be viewed by Americans as equals. Instead, they would be seen as transient figures here only to make a buck. They would not be immigrants or future Americans. They would merely be janitors, construction workers, and housekeepers.

Indeed, to see the pernicious (and un-American) nature of a guest-worker program, one need only look across the Atlantic at the misery such programs have wrought in Europe. Spurred by extreme labor shortages in the 1950s, a host of European countries--including West Germany, France, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, and the Netherlands--adopted guest-worker programs. Those nations sought temporary immigrants to address their manpower problems, because they believed the labor shortages themselves were temporary and would end once the generation born after World War II entered the workforce. They also hoped that foreign workers would fill low-status jobs while allowing citizens to enjoy better-paying positions.

But the guest-worker programs also reflected European notions of nationhood--attitudes that could not be more different than those of the United States. The guest-worker programs were a way in which these European countries could avoid becoming ethnically plural societies. Of course, those nations became ethnically heterogeneous when the guest workers did not go home. But the workers, while remaining in those European countries, never became of them. Consider Germany, for instance, where more than two million Muslims of Turkish origin--whose families came as guest workers four decades ago--live today. They live in Germany not as Germans, but in a strange sort of nationless limbo--afforded certain benefits of citizenship (such as health care) but denied the privilege of actually being citizens. Which, of course, denies them any incentive to assimilate to their new country. The prospect of such a thing happening in the United States with mexican guest workers is only too real.


We don't know whether John McCain is for or against illegal immigration- it may depend on the day of the week or whether the sun is shining- but we do know that he is in favor of exploitation of foreign-born workers.
Playing It Safe- Obama

Both Barack Obama and John McCain spoke, separately, on Saturday, June 28, 2008 to approximately 700 people attending the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

Obama assured the assemblage "It(i.e., "comprehensive immigration reform") will be one of my priorities on my first day because this is an issue that we have demagogued. There's been a lot of politics around it, but we haven't been serious about solving the problem. And I want to solve the problem."

I'm glad that Senator Obama wants to "solve the problem"of immigration/illegal immigration- as do the National Council of La Raza and Patrick J. Buchanan. And no one can argue that it "is an issue that we have demogogued"- the only "issue" being as to whom the demagogues have been. La Raza's Janet Murguia and Buchanan might differ on that one.

But not to worry. Senator Obama declared also "We can't vacillate. We can't shift." And in the very same speech proclaimed "we must assert our values and reconcile our principles as a nation of immigrants and a nation of laws. That is a priority I will pursue from my very first day." A nation of immigrants and of laws? Boldly, a forthcoming Obama statement on abortion: "We must assert our values as a people committed to the rights of women and the sanctity of life."
Failure In Pakistan

The report in yesterday's (6/30/08) New York Times, "Amid Policy Disputes, Qaeda Grows in Pakistan," reveals much about the Bush policy in the Persian Gulf.

We read of the plan devised by administration officials in late 2007 to enable American commando forces to operate more smoothly in the tribal areas of northwestern Pakistan, headquarters of al Qaeda, where peace agreements brokered by President Pervez Musharaff have allowed militants to operate increasingly freely. The plan, however, has stalled amidst bureaucratic in-fighting, a risk-averse attitude in Washington, and excessive concern about imperiling Musharraf's standing among Pakistanis.

The Times reports "it is increasingly clear that the Bush administration will leave office with Al Qaeda having successfully relocated its base from Afghanistan to Pakistan’s tribal areas, where it has rebuilt much of its ability to attack from the region and broadcast its messages to militants across the world." In fact, Pentagon consultant and RAND Corporation terrorism expert Seth Jones explains "the United States faces a threat from Al Qaeda today that is comparable to what it faced on Sept. 11, 2001.”

Those who imply that diminished American casualties in Iraq during the "surge" justify continuation, or even launch, of the war should heed this important observation by The Times reporters: "current and former military and intelligence officials said that the war in Iraq consistently diverted resources and high-level attention from the tribal areas." Consequently, according to the Times, "leading terrorism experts have warned that it is only a matter of time before a major terrorist attack planned in the mountains of Pakistan is carried out on American soil." Yet another unintended consequence of Bush's folly.
A Trip Abroad

On Saturday, June 28, Barack Obama's campaign announced that its candidate plans later this summer a trip to Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and Britain. The trip to Jordan, Israel, Germany, France and Britain will take place separately from a trip planned by the candidate to Iraq and Afghanistan. Of the visit to Europe and the Middle East, the Illinois Senator declared "This trip will be an important opportunity for me to assess the situation in countries that are critical to American national security and to consult with some of our closest friends and allies about the common challenges we face.”

This is a smart move by Obama because:

1- It allows the candidate to appear presidential, an improvement in stature for one whose foreign policy credentials have been questioned.

2- It will blunt the charge of inexperience leveled by Senator McCain, who on 5/28/08 charged of his rival "It’s been 871 days since he was there. And I’m confident that when he goes he will then change his position on the conflict in Iraq because he will see the success that has been achieved on the ground.”

3- It will give Obama more credibility to attack the Bush/McCain policy in Iraq, enabling him in debates and other appearances to fall back on "my experience in Iraq...." or "what I've learned...."

4- If played right, it gives the presumptive Democratic nominee an opportunity to emphasize the drop in standing of the U.S.A. abroad during the eight years of Republican reign and his own capacity to lift the prestige of the nation. (He must, however, avoid imparting the sense that foreign nations are trying to affect our election, a perception particularly dangerous for an individual who may be tagged by the opposition as somehow foreign or insufficiently American.)

And of course, it wouldn't hurt for a prospective President to be well-versed in some of the international issues which would confront him as Commander-in-Chief.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Bolton Foolishness

If John Bolton was right, as I think he was, when on 6/26/08 on GOP TV's "Hannity and Colmes" he criticized the Bush Administration on North Korea, he was wrong when in the same appearance he rapped International Atomic Energy Administrator Mohamed ElBaredei. Bolton claimed that ElBaradei is "an apologist for Iran," as he did in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer in November, 2007 (video and partial transcript from Think Progress).

The regime occupying Washington, D.C. the past 7+ years long has considered ElBaradei an enemy, as this excerpt from a Washington Post article of 12/12/04 reveals:

The Bush administration has dozens of intercepts of Mohamed ElBaradei's phone calls with Iranian diplomats and is scrutinizing them in search of ammunition to oust him as director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, according to three U.S. government officials.

When it issued its "(The) Status Of Nuclear Weapons Inspections: An Update on March 7, 2003, the IAEA vowed to continue inspections. However, it had found no attempt by Baghdad to import uranium, nor aluminum tubes for centrifuge enrichment and concluded "after three months of intrusive inspections, we have to date found no evidence or plausible indication of the revival of a nuclear weapons programme in Iraq." No nuclear weapons program- no weapons of mass destruction. Nevertheless, we invaded Iraq with its Baathist regime a sworn enemy of Teheran, and have for our troubles Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a friend of the Iranians. And John Bolton, with no sense of irony, accuses ElBaradei, whose report could have kept us from invading Iraq and strengthening Iran, of being "an apologist for Iran." This could be a parallel universe- or just another day in the Bush Administration.
Another Nation, Another Failure

No liberal in his/her right mind should agree with John Bolton, a conservative (not neo-conservative) and former George W. Bush Undersecretary of State and Ambassador to the United Nations. Apparently, I am not in my right mind.

Bolton appeared on GOP TV's "Hannity and Colmes" on June 26 to discuss, primarily, " what Sean Hannity described in his lead-in as a "clear foreign policy victory" for the Bush Administration. Thanks to Think Progress, we have this video of the interview and a transcript of the beginning of the conversation, in which Hannity does an about-face when he discovers that Bolton does not reflexively defend the object of Sean's affection. The relevant, and humorous exchange follows:

HANNITY: The news today brings a clear foreign policy victory for the Bush administration. But will the press report it that way? Joining us now for analysis, former ambassador to the U.N. and a Fox News contributor, John Bolton. What do you think this means?

BOLTON: I think it’s actually a clear victory for North Korea. They gain enormous political legitimacy…In return, we get precious little. I think this is North Korea demonstrating again that they can out-negotiate the U.S. without raising a sweat.

HANNITY: Boy I tell you they’ve done it time and time again, and I’m sorta perplexed, Mr. Ambassador, to understand why we keep going back to the well knowing that they haven’t kept the agreements in the past. Whatever happened to Reagan’s “trust but verify”?


In May, 2003 Mr. Bush boasted "we will not tolerate nuclear weapons in North Korea... we will not settle for anything less than the complete, verifiable, and irreversible elimination of North Korea's nuclear weapons program." The Clinton Administration had established direct dialogue with Pyongyang, which had one or two nuclear weapons when Bush, who ended the talks, took over. Five years later, North Korea has ten nuclear weapons, according to Jon Wolfsthal, described here as a monitor at North Korea's nuclear complex at Yongbyon and now a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The North finally has produced a record of how much plutionium was produced at its main reactor facility but no accounting of its nuclear bombs, its attempts to enrich uranium, or how it helped Syria build a suspected nuclear plant. Wolfsthal explains "there's no way the verification process will be even running by the time the Bush administration leaves office."

In the end, it is doing a disservice to George Walker Bush to view his legacy merely in terms of the damage the war in Iraq has done to the fight against terrorism, our standing abroad, and the families of soldiers killed in that Gulf nation, and its impact on strengthening the Iranian regime. No, his foolish machismo amid dangerous miscalculation have demonstrated yet again that his failure of leadership extends far beyond Iraq.
Watch Out For "Them"

In the interests of fairness to our presumptive candidate, following is what appears to have been his complete comment to approximately 600 guests at a fundraising reception in Jacksonville, Florida on June 20, 2008. (The video and and remarks in italics are from a Fox News blog):


Most of all we can choose between hope and fear. And we know what this election is going to be about. Look, let's be honest. It is going to be very difficult for the Republicans to run on their stewardship of the economy or their outstanding foreign policy. It's hard to run on the issues when 82 per cent of the country thinks we're on the wrong track. So we know what kind of campaign they’re going to run. They’re going to try to make you afraid. They’re going to try to make you afraid of me. They're going to say he’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black? He’s got a feisty wife.
We know the strategy because they’ve already shown their cards. You've already seen it. But ultimately I think the American people recognize that old stuff hasn’t moved us forward. That old stuff just divides us.

This is excellent politics with Obama implying:

- he's going to be sincere- "let's be honest" has a little bit of the same appeal as the "Straight Talk Express"

- the GOP won't deal with the issues- makes it easier for him to skate over them;
- the other guys are being racist, thereby dismissing preemptively almost any criticism they might level against their Democratic opponent;

- by criticizing- no, even questioning- Obama, the opposition is trying to "divide us" (unlike himself).


But who is "they?" Obama suggests it is "the Republicans." Is that John McCain, McCain's top advisers, GOP surrogates, or Republican pundits, bloggers, and/or news outlets (such as Fox)? Several years ago in America, we all knew people who referred in quasi-political discussions to "they." These were white people referring to black people and the assumption was they were inartfully trying to hide their bigotry, what we now typically refer to as racism.

On display in downtown Jacksonville: Impressive political acumen. Atrocious character.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The Right To Bear Arms

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."

On Wednesday, June 26, 2008, five Justices of the United States Supreme Court chose to confirm the Second Amendment's subordinate clause- "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed"- and to ignore the independent clause- "a well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free State."

There is simply no constitutional right to bear arms. None. As written, the right of individuals to keep and bear arms is dependent on a well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state. According to answers.com, the U.S. History Encyclopedia describes a "militia" as

a form of citizen-based defense that shaped early American history and created an American tradition of citizen soldiery. Early American colonies faced dangers from Native American and European foes. Colonial governments quickly established universal military obligation for white males. At its simplest, men were armed or ordered to arm themselves, organized into units, and trained.

Now, of course we have not had such a militia in the U.S.A. in quite some time. Nevertheless, pledging loyalty to the Second Amendment has become a ritual in presidential politics, with the Repub nominee currying favor with the NRA and its followers and the Democratic nominee frightened of a backlash if he should question the relevance of the Amendment in modern America. So if the Second Amendment is sacrosanct, perhaps the right also will demand fealty to the Third Amendment of the United States Constitution:

"No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law."

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Legislating Policy From The Court

Right wing pundits, bloggers, and talk show hosts, aghast at Tuesday's (6/24/08) ruling invalidating the death penalty as punishment for child rape, were exultant on Wednesday news came of the United States Supreme Court's ruling in District of Columbia v. Heller striking down the District's gun ban. After raging against what they perceived as judicial activism in Kennedy v. Louisiana, conservatives little noticed the Court majority's splendid imitation of a legislative body in the gun decision.

Fortunately, we have Justice John Paul Stevens, joined in dissent by Justices Breyer, Ginsburg, and Souter, getting it right. He explained the ruling

will surely give rise to a far more active judicial role in making vitally important national policy decisions than was envisioned at any time in the 18th, 19th, or 20th centuries. The Court properly disclaims any interest in evaluating the wisdom of the specific policy choice challenged in this case, but it fails topay heed to a far more important policy choice—the choice made by the Framers themselves. The Court would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons, and to authorize this Court to use the common-law process of case-by-case judicial lawmaking to define the contours of acceptable gun control policy.


Frustrated lawmakers, Justice Scalia and his band of judicial activists on the Court gleefully make social policy while ignoring the U.S. Constitution.
Quote Of The Week

"The 300 million dollars is more like a game show."

-Talk show host Ed Schultz on 6/26/08 on MSNBC's "Race For The White House," commenting about John McCain's 300 million dollar offer to anyone who develops an automobile battery "to leapfrog the commercially available plug-in hybrids or electric cars"
A Cryptic Statement From A Cryptic Politician

According to The Huffington Post, Barack Obama had this to say about the United States Supreme Court ruling today, June 26, 2008, striking down the District of Columbia's law on handgun possession:


I have always believed that the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to bear arms, but I also identify with the need for crime-ravaged communities to save their children from the violence that plagues our streets through common-sense, effective safety measures. The Supreme Court has now endorsed that view, and while it ruled that the D.C. gun ban went too far, Justice Scalia himself acknowledged that this right is not absolute and subject to reasonable regulations enacted by local communities to keep their streets safe. Today's ruling, the first clear statement on this issue in 127 years, will provide much-needed guidance to local jurisdictions across the country.


As President, I will uphold the constitutional rights of law-abiding gun-owners, hunters, and sportsmen. I know that what works in Chicago may not work in Cheyenne. We can work together to enact common-sense laws, like closing the gun show loophole and improving our background check system, so that guns do not fall into the hands of terrorists or criminals. Today's decision reinforces that if we act responsibly, we can both protect the constitutional right to bear arms and keep our communities and our children safe.

At first glance, this is a sensible position advocating the kind of gun control favored by most Americans- a statement supporting reasonable restrictions which are politically acceptable.

But look again- "I know that what works in Chicago may not work in Cheyenne." Mr. Obama is not running for mayor of Chicago or even governor of Illinois. He is running for President of the United States. He will be responsible, among other things, for consideration of the advisability of gun control in the United States of America. And the remark about Chicago/Cheyenne suggests, in the unlikely event that Obama is being sincere, that he would not favor restrictions unrealistic in Wyoming or other rural states.... which suggests that he is not in favor of federal gun control at all. Fortunately for all of us Americans, he probably doesn't mean it.
Obama On Target

In consideration of a law in the state of Louisiana which extended the death penalty to the rape of children under 12 years of age, the United States Supreme Court ruled on June 25 that execution for any individual crime (as contrasted to "offenses against the state" such as treason or espionage) is prohibited if "the victim's life was not taken." Writing for the 5-4 majority, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy in Kennedy (no relation( v. Louisiana contended that the death penalty was so disproportionate to the offense as to constitute "cruel and unusual punishment," a violation of the Eighth Amendment.

After the Louisiana law was enacted in 1995, Georgia, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Texas enacted laws which- unlike that in Louisiana- authorized the death penalty for the rape of a child only if there is an aggravating factor, such as a previous rape conviction. However, no one has been sentenced to death under those laws and the last execution for rape of a child occurred in the U.S.A. 44 years ago- hence, unusual.

Predictably, presumptive Repub presidential nominee John McCain assailed the ruling. Less predictably, Barack Obama also dissented from the decision, stating

I think that the rape of a small child, 6 or 8 years old, is a heinous crime, and if a state makes a decision that under narrow, limited, well-defined circumstances, the death penalty is at least potentially applicable, that does not violate our Constitution.

This might, unfortunately, be an example of Obama splitting the difference, rendering an opinion he knows is uncontroversial. Nevertheless, requiring aggravating factors should satisfy the Court, which interprets the Eighth Amendment according to "the evolving standards of decency that mark the progress of a maturing society." And there is nothing in the constitution that expressly precludes application of the death penalty upon commission of an offense which does not involve death. Here Obama, the liberal, is a strict constructionist, unlike the Court majority, which, only a few hours ago demonstrated ignorance of the concept in ruling on the D.C. gun ban. More on that coming up.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

No Principle Here

In the wake of Barack Obama's decision on June 19, 2008 to channel Richard Nixon- er, to be the first major party presidential candidate to refuse public financing since the Watergate-era reform- there has been on the left both criticism and support of the senator's coldly calculated decision. Daily Kos and some others have argued that, well, the importance of electing Obama trumps any other principle or consideration.

But before we give any credence to that line of reasoning, hear the defense of Obama's move by conservative Repub Britt Hume of GOP TV. On Fox News Sunday on 6/22/08, Hume said

It’s a flip-flop. It’s worth it. And I say by and large good for him for a couple of reasons. One is that Obama really has proved that the limits necessary, because of public financing, if you take it, do not merely screen out the evil influence of all the rich people in America, but they also make it impossible for a great many individual donors to make their voices heard through their contributions.

So there you have it: forego public financing and "hear the voices" of powerful individuals tied to the pharmaceutical, energy, telecommunicationsand other special interests; or accept public financing and allow 150 million or so American taxpayers have their say. Britt Hume has made his choice- and likes Barack Obama's choice, too.
Saint McCain

"He's very similar to his candidate. He shoots straight with you."

-NBC Political Director Chuck Todd, commenting on 6/24/04 about Charlie Black, chief strategist for John McCain

Sunday, June 22, 2008

McCain Happy For The Canadians

"Let them come to Berlin."

And what would John McCain have in common with these words from John F. Kennedy in West Berlin, Germany on June 26, 1963?

Really, nothing, but that's the problem. Senator McCain recently traveled to Ottawa to deliver to a receptive audience at The Economic Club of Canada a paean to the (1994) North American Free Trade Agreement and unfair trade. But instead of fleeing to another (albeit friendly) country, perhaps McCain should have brought his ironically named Straight Talk Express to the midwestern U.S.A.

The Ohio News Network, which bills itself as "Ohio's 24-Hour News Channel," reported in 2004 of a report issued by the nonpartisan think tank, Policy Matters Ohio. Evaluating job dislocation reports filed the the federal Trade Adjustment Assistance Program, the study found that 15,000-16,000 manufacturing jobs were lost in Ohio from 1995 to October 2003 due to the NAFTA. For just the first seven years of NAFTA, according to the Economic Policy Institue, net job losses in the Midwest in the electronic equipment and automotive sectors were severe: nearly 12,000 in Illinois; nearly 17,000 in Indiana; and nearly 25,000 in Michigan in the automotive sector alone.

If John McCain were to bring his Express south from Canada to the states, he would find the engine of economic progress has stalled, due in no small part to the failed promises of trade which is neither free, nor fair, to middle-class Americans.
A McCain Fantasy

Speaking on June 20 before The Economic Club of Canada, John McCain claimed of the euphemistically-named North American Free Trade Agreement:

Since the agreement was signed, the United States has added 25 million jobs and Canada more than 4 million. Cross-border trade has more than doubled since NAFTA came into force. We have established North America as the world's largest economic market and the integration of our economies has led to greater competitiveness of American and Canadian businesses. Because of our common market, our workers are better able to compete, and to find opportunities of their own in the global economy.

After extensive study, Public Citizen in 1997 reported

If the U.S. trade deficit is plugged into the job creation formulas created by NAFTA advocates, approximately half a million U.S. jobs have been lost under NAFTA. Most of the U.S. jobs lost are high paying jobs in automobiles, trucks and auto parts. The Washington D.C. based think tank found that the U.S. trade deficit with Mexico in these areas has quadrupled since 1993.

And in December, 2003 The Economic Policy Institute concluded that the combined effect of changes in imports and exports as a result of NAFTA was a loss of 879,280 U.S. jobs. (Check out their graph here.) Further, according to the American Manufacturing Trade Action Coalition in June, 2007, "the U.S. textile and apparel manufacturing sector now has lost 1,001,100 jobs – a 65 percent loss of employment in the industry – since the implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in January 1994."

Yet McCain- apparently scolding Barack Obama- blustered in his statement "demanding unilateral changes and threatening to abrogate an agreement that has increased trade and prosperity is nothing more than retreating behind protectionist walls." Given that the presumptive Democratic nominee has not demanded unilateral changes but merely said that he wants to renegotiate the NAFTA, Senator McCain is fast establishing himself on trade as a dangerous extremist.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Not A Profile In Courage


The hills, or at least the liberal blogs, are alive with criticism of Senator Barack Obama for his position on the "compromise" bill updating the 30-year-old Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Act, which would extend the government's power to eavesdrop without a warrant and pave the way for retroactive immunity for telecom giants. Obama's statement read (courtesy of tpmelectioncentral) in full:

Under this compromise legislation, an important tool in the fight against terrorism will continue, but the President's illegal program of warrantless surveillance will be over. It restores FISA and existing criminal wiretap statutes as the exclusive means to conduct surveillance -- making it clear that the President cannot circumvent the law and disregard the civil liberties of the American people. It also firmly re-establishes basic judicial oversight over all domestic surveillance in the future. It does, however, grant retroactive immunity, and I will work in the Senate to remove this provision so that we can seek full accountability for past offenses. But this compromise guarantees a thorough review by the Inspectors General of our national security agencies to determine what took place in the past, and ensures that there will be accountability going forward. By demanding oversight and accountability, a grassroots movement of Americans has helped yield a bill that is far better than the Protect America Act.
It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives -- and the liberty -- of the American people.


So Senator Obama, after going through the motions of trying to remove retroactive immunity, will be voting for the bill. Perhaps, expecting to be the next President of the United States, he wants to accrue as much power to himself as possible. Perhaps he wants to curry favor with the telecommunication industry. More likely, however, it's a calculated, cynical, characteristic move on the part of a politician who has found in avoidance of casting a vote his own immunity against attack. Whether as an Illinois State Senator voting "present" on 136 bills, or ducking a vote in the U.S. Senate to condemn MoveOn.org's "General Betray Us" ad, or dodging the vote in the upper chamber on designating Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, it's all pretty much the same.

Change? Probably. Leadership? Hardly.
Illegal, Now Legal

The House of Representatives on Thursday, 6/19/08, approved a bill, pushed by the White House, which would grant the federal government sweeping new powers to spy on espionage and terrorism suspects under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. If approved (as expected) by the Senate, it also will enable telecommunications giants such as AT&T Communications and Verizon to gain retroactive immunity for the illegal spying it conducted between 2001 and 2005 (inclusive) in concert with the National Security Agency. Currently, there are multiple suits consolidated in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals against the telecom giants.

On alternet.com, there is a comprehensive article by The Nation's Aziz Huq explaining that the bill is no compromise, as its supporters characterize it, but rather "contains just enough of a pretense of accountability to allow the legislators to claim a victory for civil liberties, as it sells out core principles of accountability and privacy." He notes

pending lawsuits against the telecoms are the best opportunity for the American public to learn what kind of illegal surveillance occurred under Bush's watch, and how existing law against warrantless wiretapping was circumvented. As bad as the telecoms will look, the Administration will look worse as more of its cynical and results-oriented reasoning and contempt for constitutional rights is fully aired.

There is another reason that George W. Bush, the wholly owned subsidiary of the corporate class, lobbied for this bill. Yet again, the interests of the American as a citizen in a free state becomes subservient to the behemoths who have directed foreign policy and controlled economic policy in this Administration.
"Only In America"

In order to provide some context and not to be unfair to Michelle Obama, I give the entire quote from Senator Obama's wife on Thursday's (6/19/08) edition of ABC's The View:

Of course I am proud of my country. Nowhere in America could my story be possible. I'm a girl who grew up on the South Side of Chicago, my father was a working class guy who worked his shift all his life, and because of his hard work he sent not just me but my brother to Princeton... I am proud of my country without a doubt. I think when I talked about it during my speech, what I was talking about was having a part in the political process. People are just engaged in this election in a way that I haven't seen in a long time and I think everybody has agreed with that that people are focused, they're coming out.

Exactly why is it that "nowhere in America could (Michelle Obama's) story be possible?" And why is it that an extremely well educated and intelligent individual periodically expresses herself inaccurately? Or does she?
Image Makeover

Mark Halperin of Time reports on Barack Obama speaking to approximately 600 paying guests at a reception at the Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center in downtown Jacksonville. The candidate warned

The choice is clear. Most of all we can choose between hope and fear. It is going to be very difficult for Republicans to run on their stewardship of the economy or their outstanding foreign policy. We know what kind of campaign they’re going to run. They’re going to try to make you afraid. They’re going to try to make you afraid of me. He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?

He’s got a feisty wife.


You may have noticed the pre-emptive play of the race card. But I found even more interesting,though less significant, the juxtaposition between the charge that Obama's opponents will claim "he's got a feisty wife" and this (apparently accurate) description of Michelle Obama's appearance on ABC's "The View" on June 19:

she played up traditional first lady attributes such as graciousness, comportment, good grooming and style.

No one (except Taylor Marsh) doubts that softening Mrs. Obama's image is wise, but how does one go about confronting opponents for complaining that Michelle is "feisty" and then go about trying to change her into the traditional first lady- in fact, the stereotypical traditional wife?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

It's Big Oil- no. 4

The New York Times reported on 6/18/08 two responses by prominent Democrats to the insistence of Repubs to encourage the oil companies to drill on domestic lands and offshore. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid argued:

So all that Cheney can talk about, the Oil Man Cheney can talk about, is drilling, drilling drilling. But there is not enough oil in America to make that the salvation to our problems.

And after the President urged an end to the moratorium on offshore drilling, Reid responded

The Energy Information Administration says that even if we open the coasts to oil drilling that won’t have a significant impact on prices.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, taking a different tack, argued:

The president’s proposal sounds like another page from the administration’s energy policy that was literally written by the oil industry: give away more public resources to the very same oil companies that are sitting on 68 million acres of federal lands they’ve already leased.

Both on policy and politics, I think, Pelosi's approach is sounder for the Democratic Party. There is enough oil and gas accessible to energy companies to drive up the supply and drive down the price- if it doesn't happen, it's because those companies have decided that plunging American families into bankruptcy is a small price to pay to get the price of a gallon of unleaded to $5.00. Take the populist approach now, Senator Obama- it will save time when in October you need to address the concerns of voters in the likes of Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
It's Big Oil- no. 3

The majority staff of the United States House Committee on Natural Resources, chaired by Nick Rahall (D.-W. Va.), issued in June, 2008 a report entitled "The Truth About America's Energy: Big Oil Stockpiles Supplies and Pockets Profits." Here is a summary of the committee's summary:

The federal government has dramatically increased drilling permits for oil and gas development on public lands since 1999. But many permits haven't been used, leaving nearly 10,000 permits stockpiled by oil and gas companies. If there were drilling on the 68 million acres of land currently currently under lease but not in production, U.S. oil production would nearly double and natural gas production increase by 75%, thereby cutting our importation of oil by one-third.

Oil is demand-inelastic; as its price increases, demand drops only minimally because it's an essential good. As the price of oil rises, demand for gasoline at the pump drops less than the price has increased, increasing profits of the industry. Can we escape the conclusion that oilmen may be holding down supply until the price increases drastically? And, with the President and the Vice-President of Big Oil running Washington, will the Democratic Congress acquiesce or fight back? And will its presumptive presidential nominee find his voice?
It's Big Oil- part 2

The New York Times reported on 6/18/08 that White House Press Secretary Dana Perino stated that her boss would urge Congress to “pass legislation lifting the Congressional ban on safe, environmentally friendly offshore oil drilling.... the president believes Congress shouldn’t waste any more time.”

The Times explains that a congressional moratorium was enacted in 1982 and renewed annually. In 1990 it was suppplemented by an executive order signed by President George Herbert Walker Bush and in 1998 extended to 2012 by President Clinton. The executive order could be lifted by President George W. Bush, whose "top aides" have recommended the action.

But the President has instead called on the legislative branch to lift the moratorium. This is a clever move by a president whose shrewdness always has exceeded his courage. Calling for Congressional action serves these political purposes in that it:

- allows a state to act as it sees fit, thus putting the onus of action on its chief executive (rather than the President);

- enables the President to blame Congress, if convenient, thus focusing the ire of environmentalists on the legislative branceh;

-demonstrates Bush's commitment to "change," to doing something, even if ineffectual;

-gives GWB license to blame Congressional Democrats for standing in the way of energy independence- and for pursuing a "partisan" agenda which, in part due to the (mostly early) rhetoric of the Obama campaign, is nothing public officials want to be associated with.

And, of course, it diverts attention from the oil industry with which this failed president is so cozy.
It's Big Oil- part 1

Sean Hannity: It's the government at fault: "Why don't you look after yourself and the government that taxes us? You don't explore. You don't extract crude. You don't refine it. And you don't deliver a product." Rush Limbaugh: It's the Democrats and the "environmental extremists" at fault: (They) "prevent exploration, prevent oil drilling, and stop block new refineries." George W. Bush: It's Congress at fault: "Congress must face a hard reality. Unless members are willing to accept gas prices at today's painful levels or even higher, our nation must produce more oil." John McCain: It's the federal government at fault: "I believe it is time for the federal government to lift these restrictions (on exploration and production) and to put our own reserves to use."

And the truth, from a 6/18/08 story in the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail:

A report by the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources.... states that oil and gas companies hold leases to 68 million acres of federal land and waters, spread out all across the country, that are not producing anything. An additional 4.8 million barrels of oil could be produced daily if the land was utilized.

Hannity, Limbaugh, Bush, McCain, and others will keep shilling for the oil industry. It's up to Congressional Democrats to stand up for consumers.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Huckabee On Obama

CNNpolitics.com on 6/18/08 notes that, according to a report by Agence France-Presse, Mike Huckabee has stated "Republicans will make a fundamental if not fatal mistake if they seek to win the election by demonizing Barack Obama" and that the nation "did not see his color but we truly saw his charisma, his message and what he brought to the campaign trail." Still, the reporters in Tokyo, to whom the former Arkansas governor spoke, asked the former presidential candidate the obligatory question about his vice-presidential prospects, to which he replied "you can't accept an invitation to the prom until the football captain asks you. So I'm not going to go out and buy the outfit just yet."

Good thinking. If, prior to this interview, Mike Huckabee had roughly the same chance of being on the ticket as I (a Democrat) had, he now has less. Implying that criticism of Obama by the GOP could be seen as playing the racial card is not going to enhance Huckabee's reputation with party regulars. And auditioning for a V.P. nod by vigorously commending the opposing party's presidential nominee is never wise strategy. (Consider the shameless Mitt Romney, so lusting for the nod that he can't apply lips to John McCain's backside fast enough.)

And by the way, Governor, if the Repub Party does not demonize Barack Obama, it has roughly the same chance of winning the election as you do of being the Vice-Presidential nominee.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Sean Hannity, Making No Sense

Syndicated talk show host and GOP TV talk host Sean Hannity interviewed on radio former U.S.Representative J.C. Watts (R.- OK), a conservative black who served in the House after he wisely chose not even to attempt an NFL career as a quarterback. Sean clearly was surprised that Watts was considering voting for Barack Obama in November (apparently for racial reasons), and ticked off the (conservative) positions on which he believed they agreed. One of these was "we want to secure the borders for safety reasons, not for any other reasons." If this is in fact Hannity's only reason for a strict anti-illegal immigration policy, given that we know that our northern border is less scrutinized than our southern border, can a proposal by Sean Hannity for securing the U.S.A.-Canadian border be far behind?

Sean never misses a chance to assure us that domestic oil companies are selflessly pursuing increased supplies of oil to serve the American consumer with little interest in their own profit. Thus, during his interview with Watts he breathlessly asserted to his audience "fifteen percent of what we pay at the pump is taxes, it's unbelievable."

When George W. Bush assumed office in January, 2001, the nationwide price of a gallon of unleaded gasoline was approximately $1.43. Now it is approximately $4.00, a rise of approximately 280%. Subtract that 10% for taxes, and it still is $3.60 (and taxes were included in that 1/01 price of $1.43). Yes, Sean, the price at the pump and the pain caused the American consumer must be government's fault. Here is something Hannity would find really unbelievable if he did a little research: As of October, 2005, when the maximum gasoline tax rate in the United States was 17%, in France taxes composed approximately 70% of the purchase price. In April, 2006, when the U.S.A. had roughly a 15% tax on gasoline, the Netherlands had a 158% tax on gas. The U.S. had the lowest tax on gasoline of any industrialized country; compared to similar countries, governments in the U.S. take less; the oil companies take more. An inconvenient truth for conservatives and Republicans, but a truth nevertheless.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bigoted- And Dishonest

In her 6/12/08 post on salon.com, Joan Walsh refers to a post on the same site by Alex Koppelman, who in turn reported on a tip given him by a reader, noting FOX News featured a headline entitled "Outraged Liberals: Stop Picking on Obama's Baby Mama!" below a discussion with syndicated rightie columnist Michelle Malkin and host Megyn Kelly.

The bigotry is obvious. But.... what is this trying to blame it on "outraged liberals?" Beware the upcoming election campaign: GOP TV, Repub 527 groups, Repub strategists repeating ad hominem attacks against Barack Obama- and blaming it on "liberals" or Democrats. But then, it already has begun.
The Senate GOP Makes Its Stand

As of June 10, 2008 we now know a little more about where the Repub Party (at least in the United States Senate) stands on the issue of the American consumer.

On that day, Senate Republicans blocked two measures proposed by Democrats. One, reports the San Francisco Chronicle, would have "impose(d) a windfall profits tax of 25 percent on the major oil companies, the proceeds going to subsidize new renewable energy." According to Raymond J. Learsy on yahoo.com, "it would have given government the leeway to address oil market speculation, opened the way for antitrust actions against the OPEC oil cartel (the forever oil lobby and administration stymied NOPEC legislation) and made energy price gouging a federal crime." It fell nine votes short (51 to 43) of the 60 votes which would have been needed to break a GOP filibuster.

The other bill failed on a 50-44 vote and would have extended tax credits for wind, solar, and other renewable energy sources. The tax credits would have been paid for by increased taxes on hedge-fund managers, and so offended Repub lawmakers.

We have, clearly, a Repub Party opposed to the American consumer and alternative energy. But the GOP, never a party to "gloom and doom" politics, is maintaining a positive outloook: it stands foursquare in favor of OPEC, high energy prices, and white collar crime.
Getting It Right (Left)

Now that he has become the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama is learning fast. Campaigning in Raleigh, North Carolina on June 9, 2008, Obama declared "I'll make oil companies like Exxon pay a tax on their windfall profits, and we'll use the money to help families pay for their skyrocketing energy costs and other bills." That brings to mind a remark from The New York Times of 4/29/08:

Mrs. Clinton said at a rally on Monday morning in Graham, N.C., that she would introduce legislation to impose a windfall-profits tax on oil companies and use the revenue to suspend the gasoline tax temporarily.

And in Ohio on June 13, Obama proposed that the payroll tax, 6.2 percent split between employee and employer be applied also to all wages above $250,000. (Annually adjusted for inflation, it now applies only to the first $102,000 of wages.) This "doughnut" concept was advocated by then-Presidential candidate John Edwards, who at the presidential debate of 9/26/07 at Dartmouth College in New Hamsphire, asserted a little over halway through the debate:

....what I would do as president is I would create a protective zone between $97,000 up to around $200,000, because there are a lot of firefighter couples, for example, that make $100,000, $115,000 a year. We don’t want to raise taxes on them.
But I do believe that people who make $50, $75, $100 million a year ought to be paying Social Security taxes on that income
.

A secular Sunday prayer: may the new, populist Barack Obama perservere, thrive, and apply these concepts to his presidency.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Bush Fib- no. 6

In a new book entitled "The Looting of Social Security: How the Government is Draining America's Retirement Account," author Allen W. Smith notes that on March 3, 2001 President George W. Bush stated in a speech:

We’re going to keep the promise of Social Security and keep the government from raiding the Social Security surplus.

But, as indicated, in a press release for the book, Smith points out that Mr. Bush reneged on his promise not to raid the Social Security trust fund to pay for his big government schemes and tax cuts for the wealthy:

Bush never rescinded that pledge to the American people but he has consciously and systematically used the Social Security surplus as a giant slush fund to help pay for his huge tax cuts for the rich and the war in Iraq, among other things. By early 2007, the amount of money looted from the Social Security trust fund by the Bush administration had surpassed the $1 trillion mark, and Bush continued to loot, and spend, Social Security money at the rate of $500 million per day.

At least in a nationally televised news conference on 4/28/05, Bush came clean, sort of, on his lie. He actually admitted:

Our system is called pay as you go. You pay into the system through your payroll taxes and the government spends it. It spends the money on current retirees and with the money left over, it funds other programs. And all that’s left behind is file cabinets full of IOUs.

So there you have it. As a candidate and then once elected, pledge to save Social Security; then steal from it to destroy it; then claim the system is going broke and can be saved only with private accounts. A Bush lie, and an example of why government is too important to be left to the party which hates it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Michelle Obama and Rush Limbaugh: Perfect Together

Michelle Obama (2/19/08): "People in this country are ready for change and hungry for a different kind of politics and … for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback."

Rush Limbaugh (6/10/08): "The purpose for doing something like this would not be just to embarrass and harm Bush. This would be a direct assault on the United States and its government."

Perhaps at first read, these comments seem totally dissimilar. But they are not.

America's favorite (recovering?) drug addict, Rush Limbaugh, was referring to a 4/14/08 blog posting by Will Bunch of the Philadelphia Daily News in which he asks Barack Obama "whether an Obama administration would seek to prosecute officials of a former Bush administration on the revelations that they greenlighted torture, or for other potential crimes that took place in the White House." Bunch summarized Obama's lengthy response as "he is at the least open to the possibility of investigating potential high crimes in the Bush White House."

That set Limbaugh off and he compared this approach to that of both the Soviets and the Nazis, although omitting the Khmer Rouge, whom Dittoheads may never have heard of. He concluded by conflating George W. Bush ("just to embarrass and harm Bush") with our country ("a direct assault on the United States and its government"). Ironically, this is not unlike a certain potential First Lady whose pride in her country is directly correlated with the political atmosphere.

Even if one has the mistaken notion that the course of domestic politics ought to determine the level of patriotic fervor, presidential politics cannot be the sole criterion. The Democratic Party took control of Congress in 2006-2007; and there are thousands of local and state races throughout the nation which attest to the vibrancy of the American republic. And let's not forget: leaving aside the issue of Florida, the American people were sufficiently aware and sophisticated in 2000 that Mr. Bush failed to carry a majority of the two-party popular vote. The failure there was not with "this country" but with the men and women of the Supreme Court.

The ever-elitist Rush Limbaugh never will concede that the people of this nation are far more, and far better, than George W. Bush. And Michelle O. has a hard time understanding the same- that the test of the greatness of this populace, or even of their government, does not lie in their willingness to make "the change we have been waiting for."

Monday, June 09, 2008

Quote Of The Week

"He doesn't know who he is."

-Chris Kofinis, communications director of the John Edwards' presidential campain, speaking on MSNBC on 6/7/08 of John McCain, he of the constantly shifting positions on major issues
Figuring It Out

Also on yesterday's (6/8/08) episode of Meet The Press, NBC Political Director Chuck Todd spoke of the influence of the economy on the upcoming presidential election:

You know, it's funny. Now that the--next week, Obama's starting this economic tour. Next week, John McCain is going to focus on the economy. Both of them got their nominations because of their stances in national security. OK, Barack Obama would be nothing without Iraq. He would not be the nominee of the Democratic Party. John McCain would not be the nominee of the Republican Party without Iraq. And now these two guys want to--both of them want to have this national security debate, and the country's begging them to have a debate about the economy.

And what I'm wondering is, we're seeing--and look, you see John McCain trying very much to keep this about national security, because he believes that's his trump card. He believes that's the one time where age matters and experience matters. But the first candidate that figures out how to talk to working class voters about the economy and feel their pain is going to be the one that eventually wins this election. And neither one of them are good at it yet. Barack Obama's not good at this yet, and neither is John McCain.... And, and, you know, the funny thing is, if we thought this was going to be an economy election 18 months ago, there'd be different nominees today.


Todd is largely correct that the two candidates procured the nomination because of national security- though in Obama's case, because of Iraq rather than national security generally. He is arguing, as everyone (prematurely) is doing now, that the economy will be the main issue this fall. But I can tell him that some of us always suspected that it would be the main issue, that assurances by Joe Scarborough and other professional Repubs as late as last fall that the economy was doing better than people thought were foolish. Todd's insight that these two candidates are uncomfortable with, and weak on, economic issues is a welcome insight that I haven't heard elsewhere. And eventually the punditocracy will figure out what a few of us have believed all along- the two major political parties have managed to put up nearly the weakest candidates they could have.
Chuck Todd, Genius

I don't mean "genius" sarcastically, only a little tongue-in-cheek because NBC News' Political Director Chuck Todd made remarks on the 6/8/08 edition of Meet The Press which I wish I had made, reflecting ideas I have had. Here is an example:

You know, the biggest myth of this campaign was that somehow the Clintons controlled the apparatus. They didn't. And, and, you know, I look back and I think that the, the two moments before the campaign even started were clues as to how difficult this was going to be for them. One was the election of Howard Dean as DNC chair, and the other was Democrats winning control of Congress in 2006 and the ascension of Nancy Pelosi as one of the leaders. Here they had two of the sort of three cogs of the Democratic leadership, in Nancy Pelosi and Howard Dean, who were waiting for there to be a crack in this inevitability armor of, of the Clintons. And once there was, it's as if they were just waiting. And it wouldn't have mattered if it was Barack Obama, Mark Warner, had he run, or John Edwards. Whoever ended up filling the vacuum of the anti-Clinton, they were going to rush to them. And I think that that's something the Clinton campaign never appreciated. I think they thought that it was sheer will they would get those superdelegates with them. They would get whatever rulings they needed, whatever primary calendar they wanted. But every step of the way, nothing went their way on process in the inside, and I think that shocks a lot of us today that they lost the inside game. It's one thing to lose the outside game, votes and all that stuff, but they lost the inside game.

To summarize: when Democrats won Congress in 2006, the locus of power in the party switched from the Clintons to Congress and the Democratic National Comittee. Once Mrs. Clinton lost somewhere- anywhere (in this case, Iowa)- she no longer was seen as inevitable and the hostility of the party establishment toward this couple began to bloom. The beneficiary would be the candidate who was not named "Clinton" and that happened to be Barack Obama, whom superdelegates then embraced as the individual who could rid them of the Clintons.

The final irony is that establishment's candidate was the individual running as the "change" candidate.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Another Thought on Obama/Wright

Sometimes I read a blog posting and know there is something I like about it but can't quite focus on what it is. And so it was that this evening I happened to reread an item posted by the usually insightful and always objective Joan Walsh on the salon.com site. Though generally, and in this case, reasonably favorable to Barack Obama, Walsh on June 1 noted:

But Obama's decision to leave his church of 20 years just two months after his Philadelphia speech on race, in which he said he wouldn't, was a little confusing. Has Trinity changed? Obama doesn't say that. Either he attended the church for 20 years and knew that gratuitous anti-white rhetoric was accepted there, and didn't care until he was running for president, or his church affiliation was mainly a political one and he wasn't paying much attention.

Barack Obama throughout his campaign has touted his commitment to Jesus Christ. Either he was in church enough to know what Jeremiah Wright was all about, or he wasn't there, in which case his personal relationship with his Savior did not extend to making an effort on Sunday mornings.

Pundits have self-righteously opined for several years that the Democratic Party must begin to express the language of faith. Barack Obama already has found that this approach is fraught with its own perils.
The Speech- no. 9


It was once said that the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.


The children. The elderly. The sick, the needy and the handicapped.

Those were the passions of the individual, Hubert H. Humphrey, who spoke those words. Hillary Clinton is no Hubert Humphrey (thank you, Lloyd Bentsen) but consider that Mrs. Clinton was an intern for the famous childrens' advocate, Marian Wright Edelman, and advised the Childrens Defense Fund. And in her concession speech yesterday, 6/7/08, Mrs. Clinton highlighted the concern for both the elderly and the ill which arguably characterized her pursuit of the presidential nomination. Not a bad epitaph for a speech, and a campaign.
The Speech- no. 8

When the starters for the home team of the Chicago Bulls, during the Michael Jordan era, were announced at the United Center, the lights would be dramatically turned off. Soon, other teams in the NBA turned copycat and did the same, to considerably less effect.

And so it was that Hillary Clinton in her concession speech of Saturday, June 7 stated

So today, I am standing with Senator Obama to say: Yes we can.

Call it nitpicking but I would have preferred "Yes, he will." That would have been consistent with the chant of "yes, she will" heard at one or more Clinton rallies. And I'm more interested in "will" than "can." Further, it would have subtly and inoffensively highlighted a difference between the Obama approach, one naively implying change from below, while the other implies acceptance of responsibility and accountability on the part of the public official herself.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

The Speech- no. 7

Two good points in one passage in Hillary Clinton's concession speech today, though perhaps in an unintended sense. Toward the end of her statement, the senator remarked

Because of them and because of you, children today will grow up taking for granted that an African-American or a woman can, yes, become the president of the United States. And so … when that day arrives, and a woman takes the oath of office as our president, we will all stand taller, proud of the values of our nation, proud that every little girl can dream big and that her dreams can come true in America.

I cannot help but credit Mrs. Clinton with an important thought as she uttered, amidst considerable applause, "when that day arrives." That day, it now appears, will not arrive soon, notwithstanding the faith of those children growing up today that a woman can become president of the United States of America. A belief so taken "for granted" that millions of women, especially young women, came to the conclusion that it was unnecessary to vote this year for this woman- it'll come soon enough, anyway. Only I credit Hillary Clinton for knowing better.
The Speech- no. 6

Not for the first time, Hillary Clinton today equated her struggle with women's suffrage with the civil rights movement, in this case abolitionism. In her concession speech, she argued

Think of the suffragists who gathered at Seneca Falls in 1848 and those who kept fighting until women could cast their votes.

Think of the abolitionists who struggled and died to see the end of slavery. Think of the civil rights heroes and foot soldiers who marched, protested, and risked their lives to bring about the end of segregation and Jim Crow.

Because of them, I grew up taking for granted that women could vote and, because of them, my daughter grew up taking for granted that children of all colors could go to school together.

Because of them, Barack Obama and I could wage a hard-fought campaign for the Democratic nomination.


I'm not sure I understand why "the abolitionists who struggled and died to see the end of slavery" resulted in Hillary Clinton growing "up and taking for granted that women could vote." But the tortured explanation did allow her to suggest that Barack Obama's victory was hers, also, which allowed her simultaneously to save face, imply that she is partly, indirectly responsible for a black person standing on the precipice of election to the highest office of the land, and claim a kind of kinship with Obama supporters. My explanation may be a stretch but Clinton's reasoning otherwise defies logic.
The Speech- no. 5

In her long-awaited (by the media, which couldn't get her to do this fast enough) concession speech today, June 7, 2008, Senator Clinton addressed the "historic" issue:

Now, think how much progress we’ve already made. When we first started, people everywhere asked the same questions. Could a woman really serve as commander-in-chief? Well, I think we answered that one.

Could an African-American really be our president? And Senator Obama has answered that one.

Mrs. Clinton is half-right. Although we have not determined whether a woman can, or will, be elected president, we have answered the question as to whether a woman can serve as commander-in-chief.

Probably several things contributed to this perception of strength including, but not limited, to: the criticism of Obama over negotiations with Iran; Clinton's vile comment about the "lifetime of experience" she and McCain bring while Obama brings "a speech;" her willingness to "totally obliterate Iran" if it attacks Israel with nuclear weapons; the 3:00 a.m. spot; even her unwillingness to express regret (pp. 16-17 of MSNBC transcript), until the 2/26/08 debate in Cleveland, Ohio, for her vote in 2002 authorizing military action against iraq. But clearly she did answer the question about a woman as commander-in-chief- though, notably, not as president (she isn't being nominated, after all), which she pointedly did not claim.

But has Senator Obama answered the question whether an African-American can become president? Not unless (sarcasm alert) this is November 5, John McCain has fallen short of 270 delegates, and we finally have put aside eight years of inept Repub rule.
The Speech- no. 4

In her speech of 6/7/08 at the National Building Museum in Washington, D.C., Senator Clinton referred not once, not twice, but three times to health care:

We fought for the woman who grabbed my hand and asked me, “What are you going to do to make sure I have health care?” and began to cry, because even though she works three jobs, she can’t afford insurance.

We fought for the young man in the Marine Corps T-shirt who waited months for medical care and said, “Take care of my buddies over there, and then will you please take care of me?”

We fought for all those who’ve lost jobs and health care....


Then,

We all want a health care system that is universal, high-quality and affordable … so that parents don’t have to choose between care for themselves or their children or be stuck in dead-end jobs simply to keep their insurance.

This isn’t just an issue for me. It is a passion and a cause, and it is a fight I will continue until every single American is insured, no exceptions and no excuses.


And finally,

And that together we will work — we’ll have to work hard to achieve universal health care. But on the day we live in an America where no child, no man, and no woman is without health insurance, we will live in a stronger America. That’s why we need to help elect Barack Obama our president.

I like this emphasis personally but on a cautionary note: Clinton likely will be able to use the inadequacy of our health care system in a second run (should she attempt it) for the presidency, because we probably will not have solved this problem in either four, or eight, years- especially, but not only, if John McCain is elected president.
The Speech- no. 3

In her concession speech delivered to supporters today in Washington, D.C., Senator Hillary Clinton gave a (almost unavoidable) nod to young people and veterans, "the childhood friends, the New Yorkers and Arkansans." Then she more than gestured:

And to all of those women in their 80s and their 90s … born before women could vote, who cast their votes for our campaign. I’ve told you before about Florence Stein of South Dakota who was 88 years old and insisted that her daughter bring an absentee ballot to her hospice bedside. Her daughter and a friend put an American flag behind her bed and helped her fill out the ballot.

She passed away soon after and, under state law, her ballot didn’t count, but her daughter later told a reporter, “My dad’s an ornery, old cowboy, and he didn’t like it when he heard mom’s vote wouldn’t be counted. I don’t think he had voted in 20 years, but he voted in place of my mom.”


And isn't that what Mrs. Clinton's campaign became? Starting as an attempt to "make history" for women, it ended as a vehicle for middle-aged and elderly women to realize their dreams of a better America as young women joined young men in flocking to Barack Obama. Although I didn't see that coming, it probably was predictable: young people of both sexes inspired by a "change we've been waiting for" campaign, too young in some instances to appreciate the welcome change that another Clinton, after twelve years of Repub occupation (eight of which Barack Obama celebrated), had brought to the White House.
The Speech- no. 2

Before I parse, in later posts, Hillary Clinton's concession speech of this date, I'll refer to the main theme of her statement, as she proclaimed of Barack Obama:

I congratulate him on the victory he has won and the extraordinary race he has run. I endorse him and throw my full support behind him.
And I ask all of you to join me in working as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me.


A refrain always works for me and Mrs. Clinton did not disappoint:

And that together we will work — we’ll have to work hard to achieve universal health care. But on the day we live in an America where no child, no man, and no woman is without health insurance, we will live in a stronger America. That’s why we need to help elect Barack Obama our president.

We’ll have to work hard to get back to fiscal responsibility and a strong middle class. But on the day we live in an America whose middle class is thriving and growing again, where all Americans, no matter where they live or where their ancestors came from, can earn a decent living, we will live in a stronger America. And that is why we must help elect Barack Obama our president.

We’ll have to work hard to foster the innovation that will make us energy independent and lift the threat of global warming from our children’s future. But on the day we live in an America fueled by renewable energy, we will live in a stronger America. And that is why we have to help elect Barack Obama our president.

We’ll have to work hard to bring our troops home from Iraq and get them the support they’ve earned by their service. But on the day we live in an America that’s as loyal to our troops as they have been to us, we will live in a stronger America. And that is why we must help elect Barack Obama our president.


It took Hillary Clinton, the devil-woman of much of the media, the (sarcasm alert) interminable period of four(4) days following the close of the primary election season to endorse the presumptive nominee of the party. Wise or unwise, this was magnanimous- and unusual.
The Speech- no. 1

Senator Clinton's concession speech given today is worthy of analysis for two reasons. First, it can be said to mark the end of the race for the nomination,. There it joins, among other milestones:

a)the declaration of Obama on June 10, 2008 that he will be the Democratic nominee, having amassed the pledges of a majority of delegates;

b)the close of the polls on 6/10/08 in Montana, the last of the states to vote (followed instantly by the projection that Obama had won the state);

c)the rendering of a decision- any decision- by the Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic National Committee on apportionment of delegates from the Florida and Michigan primaries, which eliminated a potential rallying point for the Clinton forces at the upcoming convention in Denver (and, additionally, deciding Michigan, with the help of Clinton backers, favorably toward Obama)

c)the continued leeching of superdelegates from Clinton following the huge win first in Kentucky (on a night in which she lost in Oregon), then in West Virginia, confirming the insurmountable sentiment to block her nomination;

d)Obama's decisive victory in North Carolina (while he was narrowly losing Indiana), a state in which polls had indicated Clinton was closing and which would have become the first state (which became South Dakota, too late) Clinton would have won in which she was expected to lose.

The other reason the speech was so significant is that it will form the foundation of an effort by Mrs. Clinton, aggressively if Obama wins in 11/08 and passively if he does not, to capture the Democratic presidential nomination in 2012.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Not So Easy

And so it was that Barack Obama recounted to reporters what he had earlier told a group of Clinton supporters on June 3, 2008 in St. Paul, Minnesota: "I understood that they were as inspired by her candidacy as some of my supporters are inspired by mine. They're not alone in drawing inspiration from her campaign. My own daughters now take the possibility of a woman being president for granted."

These are words taken to be generous, gracious, and "healing." And words we all wish were true.

"My own daughters now take the possibility of a woman being president for granted." She was a respected, hard-working, United States Senator from a huge state; the spouse of a former president enormously popular in the party; possessor of a vast network of donors and experienced political operatives eager to work on her campaign. And she lost; lost in part because we cannot "take the possibility of a woman being president for granted."

I'm not speaking here of the latent sexism of male politicians and members of the media which reared its ugly head during the campaign. It is not clear that Mrs. Clinton's gender had a net negative effect on her bid for the nomination. But it is clear that the New York senator ran much weaker among young female voters than among those older. And part of the reason is this: young women, growing up in a society which has afforded women much more opportunity than previously, really could not imagine that it was necessary for Hillary Rodham Clinton, this year, to be the first female president. A female president, they believe, is only a matter of time, a naive view born of the increasing prominence of powerful women through all sectors of society. And so it was that the candidacy of this impressive woman, ironically, was harmed by the misplaced confidence that a woman has as clear of a path to the presidency as does a man.

But give Barack Obama credit. In one statement, he managed, presumably, to mollify some Clinton supporters; remind voters that he is a caring family man (takes note of the feelings of "my own daughters"); and cleverly imply that his success in 2008 is not only no setback, but actually an advance, for women. That is no mean accomplishment.
Naive, Thy Name Is Hilary

Blogging today (6/4/08) on The Huffington Post, Hillary Clinton supporter/pundit Hilary Rosen takes issue with with the tone and sentiments of the candidate's speech last (Tuesday) night:

So, I am also so very disappointed at how she has handled this last week. I know she is exhausted and she had pledged to finish the primaries and let every state vote before any final action. But by the time she got on that podium last night, she knew it was over and that she had lost. I am sure I was not alone in privately urging the campaign over the last two weeks to use the moment to take her due, pass the torch and cement her grace. She had an opportunity to soar and unite. She had a chance to surprise her party and the nation after the day-long denials about expecting any concession and send Obama off on the campaign trail of the general election with the best possible platform. I wrote before how she had a chance for her "Al Gore moment." And if she had done so, the whole country ALL would be talking today about how great she is and give her her due.

We all should applaud Rosen's concluding declaration "I will enthusiastically support Barack Obama's campaign. Because I am not a bargaining chip. I am a Democrat." As a Democrat, voter, and American, she is dead right.

But what kind of political strategist would she be? An "Al Gore moment." Yes, Gore gave a great speech when he conceded the presidency to George W. Bush, who had almost won the election. He remarked that evening, including self-deprecating irony:

I personally will be at his disposal, and I call on all Americans--I particularly urge all who stood with us--to unite behind our next president. This is America. Just as we fight hard when the stakes are high, we close ranks and come together when the contest is done....Now the political struggle is over and we turn again to the unending struggle for the common good of all Americans and for those multitudes around the world who look to us for leadership in the cause of freedom.

In the words of our great hymn, "America, America": "Let us crown thy good with brotherhood, from sea to shining sea."

And now, my friends, in a phrase I once addressed to others, it's time for me to go.


All of America saluted Gore's comments, and respect and admiration for the Vice-President accordingly shot up. Six months later? Attitudes and opinions, postive and negative, about Mr. Gore returned to pre-election levels. And of course, 7-8 years later, the view of the Democrats' 2000 presidential nominee hinges mostly on partisanship and one's perception of Gore's environmental activism. And The Speech? Virtually irrelevant in calculating Gore's political prospects or his impact (past and present) on environmental and climatic policy.

So, if Hillary Clinton did not go out- or stay in- graciously last night, fret not. Her speech served mainly to preserve her options, which no doubt she will discuss with the presumptive nominee of the party.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Vice-Presidential Consideration

In an article on salon.com on 6/6/08, Walter Shapiro argues that Barack Obama is unlikely to select as his running mate any of the usual suspects. Shapiro notes that the practice of the nominee choosing the V.P.-designate began only in 1960 and frequently has produced "a national embarassment- or worse." Think Agnew, Eagleton (a little unfair- but it was an embarrassment), Ferraro, Quayle, Lieberman, Cheney.

By contrast, through 1956 the convention iself selected the head guy's running mate. And in 1960, that process led to a fight among four giants: John F. Kennedy, Estes Kefauver, Al Gore Sr., and Hubert H. Humphrey.

Think about that a moment. We all remember John Kennedy. Then there was Albert Arnold Gore, whose son became Vice-President before being elected President in 2000, of whom it was said "never ran a negative campaign." The Tennessee senator who helped create the Interstate Highway System, was dedicated to fighting poverty, opposed the Vietnam War, and was one of only three southern Senators who refused to sign the segregationist Southern Manifesto. He supported the Voting Rights Act of 1965 after he had opposed the Civil Rights Act of 1964- but later wrote in his memoirs of his regret over his position.

The other two senators opposing the Southern Manifesto? Lyndon B. Johnson and Estes Kefauver. That was Estes Kefauver, a supporter of antitrust activity and opponent of "the concentration of U.S. economic and political power under the control of a wealthy, exclusive elite." He served as chairman of the Special Committee on Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce (Eighty-first and Eighty-second Congresses), whose televised hearings in 1950-1951 threw light on the danger of organized crime before American society, a la The Sopranos, began to glorify La Cosa Nostra.

And then there was Minnesota Senator, and Vice-President, Hubert Humphrey, who tirelesly fought for justice for the less fortunate in American society. At the Democratic Presidential Convention on July 14, 1948, Humphrey helped spark the walkout of Strom Thurmon's Dixicrats with a speech in which he declared

To those who say -- My friends, to those who say that we are rushing this issue of civil rights, I say to them we are 172 years late. To those who say -- To those who say that this civil-rights program is an infringement on states’ rights, I say this: The time has arrived in America for the Democratic party to get out of the shadow of states' rights and to walk forthrightly into the bright sunshine of human rights.

Years later, we have a presumptive nominee whose slogan is "we are the ones we've been waiting for" and little experience by which to judge him; and a vanquished candidate, the spouse of a former president, who during the campaign compared her opponent unfavorably to the presumptive Republican nominee. The decline in the caliber of the national candidates of our party is disturbing. And stunning.
Obama And Race

The May 28, 2008 edition of The New Republic carries an article by television writer Cinque Henderson, who describes himself as "par to an internet group of black people who yammer on about politics." He makes an eloquent case as to why he (alone among his "yammering" colleagues) is highly skeptical of Barack Obama and is an HRC supporter. Here is one of Henderson's insights:

Why do black people love Obama? In large part, it's because of the dark-skinned woman on his arm. Black people (especially black women) are nuts for Michelle. Had Barack married a white woman, his candidacy would've never gotten off the ground with black people. And would whites really be so into him if he hadn't had a white mother? Based on U.S. political history, you would have to conclude: not a chance. My suspicion is that people are ultimately comfortable with Obama because a member of his family looks like them--and, if you think about it, that's not terribly transcendent.

Although Henderson's point is that Obama's circumstances suggest "his so-called racial transcendence... is mostly hokum," the writer inadvertently exposes one of the most controversial questions of the campaign- whether a black "can be elected" president of the U.S.A.

We'll never know, of course, because Obama is, in fact, biracial. And early in his campaign, his appeal to white people owed in part to the hope that he could "transcend" race, though that dream has been largely extinguished with the escapades of Reverend Jeremiah Wright. Much of Obama's support in the white community resulted from the perception that the Illinois senator, born in Hawaii, fairly light-skinned, and dressed oh, so professionally, was not the typical black male; that he had largely escaped the African-American experience and was free of the grievances whites perceive blacks as holding.

Whether being black has helped, or harmed, the candidate is unknowable. But it is barely arguable that without his particular ethnic heritage, Barack Obama would not now be on the verge of securing the Democratic nomination for President.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Her Only Chance

And this is the only way to the nomination for Hillary Clinton. Scandal, either by way of Trinity United Church of Christ (which, Obama announced on 6/1/08, he now has left)- or not.

When we last heard of Jeremiah Wright, following Senator Obama's denunciation of the minister's remarks made at the National Press Club, the punditocracy, not averse to picturing Obama as the victim, argued that Wright was out to harm the Illinois senator's candidacy. The Wright uproar thus far has come in two parts: following release of his two incendiary sermons and upon his appearance at the National Press Club. Support for the leading Democratic candidate, given his unique ability to appeal to our need as Americans for change, declined in the wake of the first event insufficiently to threaten seriously his candidacy. Following the second event, support declined further. I was never convinced that Wright was committed to harming Obama (as against merely wanting to further his own interests) but, if most of the media and other analysts were right, the former pastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ is coming back. Maybe soon, maybe between the convention and the election, but sometime before November. And the third event likely would be fatal to Obama's chances.

There is another possibility, however remote, of a scandal related to Mr. Obama's famous church. Larry Johnson, the former CIA agent and Clinton partisan with a website whose vituperative postings make for entertaining, if less than edifying, reading, claims the existence of what he characteristically refers to as a "whitey" tape. This alleged tape pictures Michelle Obama making incendiary, race-based comments while on a panel with Nation of Islam minister Louis Farrakhan at Trinity United Church of Christ. I suspect the tape either a)has been doctored by Roger Stone or some other slimey Repub operative; b)is not as explosive as claimed by Johnson; c)will not seem the light of day; or d)will for some other reason not prove very significant. If, however, it is as Johnson is arguing, and hoping, it is, Barack Obama will not become the 44th president of the United States of America. We need to hope that such an event never occurred- or that if it did,any tape depicting it is released soon, giving Hillary Clinton a serious chance to be nominated. If such a tape is released after the nomination is formally granted Barack Obama, it would be devastating- not only to us as Democrats and progressives, but especially to America.
No Way By The Numbers

The analyses of the past two days explaining how the math is impossible for Hillary Clinton and nearly assures an Obama nomination is accurate, and completely misleading. The Illinois senator is now only 40+ delegates away from gaining a majority of delegates and, hence, the nomination.

But it has been that way for weeks. If not, surely Senator Clinton's recent lopsided victories in West Virginia, Kentucky, and Puerto Rico (as expected, Obama won Oregon easily) would have posed a serious obstacle to Obama's jog across the finish line.

The numbers haven't been there for awhile for Mrs. Clinton. That was again made obvious when, as MSNBC noted this morning, two more superdelegates have declared for Mr. Obama. Here are the circumstances in which Obama has picked up superdelegates the past few months: 1) when he has a good day on a primary/caucus date; and 2) when he has a bad day on a primary/caucus date.

Counter-intuitive? Yes. Illogical? No. Obviously, when a candidate does well in a primary, he's going to pick up support. And this candidate, understandably, picks up support when he does poorly. When Hillary Clinton smashes Barack Obama in a primary, superdelegates notice. And shudder. Numbers rise nationally for the individual once the candidate of the Democratic party establishment and now a detested outsider, while electoral college math suggests that Barack Obama may snatch defeat from the jaws of Democratic victory in November. Stop her now- or else at the convention decide between a)potentially the first black president of the United States (whose nomination and election they will have shared in) and b)an individual they truly don't like, whose ascension to the presidency would, they fear, leave most of the Democratic establishment outside while ushering inside the Clinton establishment.

So there is only one way to the nomination for Hillary Clinton, and it's not pretty.

Presidential Failure

Asked on the Overtime segment on Bill Maher's Real Time, "so, Van, Steve, do you think the media should change the way it co...