Monday, March 31, 2008

Bush and Blair garner Nobel nominations

Oh, those jokesters over at The Onion are always amusing, but this one's just a little far-fetched...wait, what?


I find this interesting. Ross Douthat's point is well-taken: it doesn't make a whole lot of sense for Democrats to celebrate the leftward drift our party has taken while excoriating Joe Lieberman for basically saying that. But it's understandable. For one thing, it's Joe Lieberman, one of the most shifty and loathsome pols in our current polity. I suppose that's not fair: Lieberman is an unflinching advocate of war (that's a principle), and he's still generally liberal on social issues, though he's "centrist" on many of them. He's not exactly followed through on his promises of remaining loyal to the Democrats, but the people of Connecticut should have known better in 2006 than to vote for someone who chooses policy positions by pique.

The other factor is that Lieberman's messing with the JFK aura. Usually, that's a no-no. Matt Yglesias, though, tends to take a dim view of John Kennedy, and I think he's about right here. Kennedy was much more of a hawk than some might remember--just look at the provocative military action his team undertook with respect to Cuba, Berlin, and Vietnam. Now, Kennedy wasn't a bad president as Yglesias likes to maintain (though he was hardly a great one, and had he lived he probably would have lost to Barry Goldwater in 1964, as his domestic agenda had stalled in Congress) but at some point I think it would be helpful for Democrats to admit that their admiration for Kennedy isn't really based on Kennedy's policies, which were avowedly centrist for the time, but rather on the entirely manufactured romanticism of Camelot. Now, Bobby Kennedy was a true liberal, but JFK wasn't. It's similar to the right's Reagan worship, but worse in my opinion because Reagan was actually a conservative and he did actually lower taxes and take on the Soviet Union. The JFK love is nothing more than a bit of nostalgia for the Kennedy-era idealism, generally.

Rendell's Fox News Comment

This is a big deal in the blogosphere. The sheer arrogance of the Clinton campaign is startling--their actions recently seem to indicate that they think that they can use what Hillary called the "vast right-wing conspiracy" to their advantage. This is madness, though, since the Clintons are the ones being played overtly for the purpose of weakening the Democratic Party. The Clintons think they've got all the angles figured out, of course, but the strategy eludes me.

Now this truly is laughable...

Evidently, Barack Obama doesn't want Montana to vote. Or so says Hillary Clinton. To be honest, even though I feel she should leave the contest I am not unsympathetic to her position: as long as there's some remote chance, why not remain in the race and see what happens? That's what I'd do. But if she's just going to make stupid-ass remarks like this one (isn't Montana believed to be an Obama state?) instead of holding Obama's feet to the fire on domestic issues there really isn't much of a point to her continued presence, is there?

And does anyone really believe this quote from HRC, with respect to her campaign's lack of success with superdelegates: "I don't even keep track of it, I can't even tell you that figure." I guess it's a forgivable lie, but I'm tempted to read more into it, since her campaign has become rather heavily predicated on denial of the current political situation.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Perhaps another sign of the end

I've been of the belief (since about the time of the Wisconsin primary) that Hillary Clinton would be unable to be elected president. I've been of the belief since about the time of the Texohio primaries that her political career is over. And I've been of the belief that her obsession with achieving her (I'm sure self-styled) destiny of becoming president has kept her from cannily exploiting the situation in the Democratic nomination contest to her advantage. She can't win, but she could have dropped out at a certain time and under certain circumstances to guarantee her more power and influence than she currently has. That she has neglected to do this has reinforced my belief that she is unsuited to the ever-changing reality of the world in which we live. That she's been unwilling to face facts and drop her bid--and doing a lot of smearing of the almost-certain Dem nominee along the way--has caused her disapproval numbers to skyrocket among the public and among Democrats, and especially among the activist class of the Democratic Party. She's creating a lot of new grudges that will prevent her from advancing her political career after the election--the (earned) hatred of all of these new elements toward her will ensure that she never becomes Majority Leader, for example. The Clintons seem to have a hard time seeing the big picture in general. Here, the portrait is in stark relief. For my part I think her campaign has acted unconscionably often during this process, and I particularly find the patented Clinton-playing-the-victim-card and the attendant nursing of ages-old gender grievances to win votes to be rather loathsome, especially in comparison to Barack Obama's opposite, refresing, and direct approach to race relations.

I suppose this is all by way of saying that I don't really have much sympathy for the Clintons now that the big thing seems to be to talk about Clinton's exaggeration proclivities. Steve's prose in the article seems conflicted, as I'm sure he is as well, but I think this is simply earned. She wanted to basically sell herself as a restoration of Clinton I, and that's what the "experience" argument was all about. She didn't have much experience, so she had to play up what she had. I was really angry with the media for buying the Bush line about Gore's exaggerations, largely because they were untrue and I believe in fairness. The media didn't like Gore, for whatever reason, so they allowed themselves to be co-opted by the Bush team to smear Al Gore. This isn't what happened here. These "exaggerations" were calculated distortions of past events for the purpose of selling Clinton's experience. It will probably bring down her campaign. I'm not all that thrilled, honestly, but I'm not all that sad either. I don't think she's been treated unfairly, on the balance. Despite some sexism, the media bent over backward to make her seem a viable contender after Super Tuesday. She's done this to herself.

Cubans can now have cell phones


John McCain's first general election ad

From Ambinder, here's McCain's slogan:
"John McCain: The American President Americans have been waiting for."
Since the mid 1860s, at least. Couldn't they have fit American in there a few more times? Like "American John McCain: The American President Americans have been waiting for: an American."

Is the Democratic contest finally beginning to end?

This is really surprising: freshman Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), a conservative, Reagan Democrat who trounced the odious Rick Santorum last year, has decided to endorse Barack Obama. That's another superdelegate, and someone with some serious credibility among working-class voters. Don't know how much it's going to help, but it certainly can't hurt. One wonders if this has something to do with the shabby treatment the Clintons gave Casey the Elder in 1992: they didn't let the man address the Democratic Convention that year, allegedly because of his pro-life views. Or maybe it's just because Casey, like all Democrats, wants this process to end and figures Obama is going to win anyway, so why not buy himself some added influence along the way? Or maybe he just thinks Obama's the better candidate, I don't know. The point is that this is big.

One of the commenters over at Marc Ambinder's (on the same thread) posits that Obama actually has support from much of the establishment (like Harry Reid, for example) since they never moved to endorse Clinton. Doing so in, say, November when Clinton had a 30-point lead would have been easy. I just think they're playing it safe: Clinton still has a lot of fans, and looking like she's being strong-armed out of the race could cause a schism in the party as well. Whatever happens, it's got to look like it's fair.

Here's another one, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), an Obama supporter, has urged Clinton to end her seemingly hopeless race. Leahy's a senior member of the Senate, so we'll see what comes of this.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Another new hopeless Clinton talking point

From the folks who brought you the "Hillary's won the biggest states" and the "you should only count electoral votes for the primaries" (???) folks comes a new howler. Bill, take it away:
"Right now, among all the primary states, believe it or not, Hillary's only 16 votes behind in pledged delegates," said Bill Clinton, "and she's gonna wind up with the lead in the popular vote in the primary states. She's gonna wind up with the lead in the delegates [from primary states]."
Oh, Bill. If you'd only put one tenth of the energy you put into spinning your wife's desperate campaign into an actual contest into spinning your health care plan, she would be losing the nomination to Vice President Joe Lieberman instead of Barack Obama, which would undoubtedly suit you more since Lieberman loves America so damn much.

Note to Hillary's rapid response team: the eagle has escaped the cage. Shut it down.

This worries me

I'm generally an enthusiastic Obama supporter, but this makes me wonder. Obama has not shied away from saying that he wants to raise taxes on the super-rich to pay for programs for the poor and middle-class, but he misses the opportunity here to confront the media's (and the public's) equation that higher taxes = bad economy. The corollary, of course, is that lower taxes = good economy. This is supply-side calculus, and I would like to hear Democrats make more critiques against it. After all, Bill Clinton hiked taxes in the 1990s and we had a decade of high economic growth, balanced budgets, low inflation, and all the rest. George W. Bush has slashed taxes and we've seen rapid inflation, a widening of the gap between rich and poor, and recently what looks to be a crippling, long-term recession. Sure, the numbers for the Bush economy looked good for most of his time in office, but the traditional metrics missed many of the problems, which is why most people have long believed that their personal finances have not been so great, and the decoupling of upper-crust prosperity from blue-collar economic conditions doesn't much seem to penetrate the minds of well-off media mavens. This is more solipsistic than your typical Charlie Kaufmann film.

I do vaguely seem to recall Clinton I making some critiques of supply-siderism back in the day, certainly Bush I did, and though John McCain acts as though he's found religion in the supply-side camp he doesn't entirely convince because he uses the wrong terminology (silly John, tax cuts are free under supply-side dictates!). This issue cuts close to my heart because supply-side cuts tilted to the wealthy as an economic stimulus have no basis in actual economics--no academic economists, conservative or otherwise, actually believe that. For one thing, giving away huge amounts of money to the wealthy doesn't stimulate anything because the wealthy tend to save more proportionally than, say, poor folks, and they often tend to save in foreign banks instead of domestic ones. It's really just a form of bribery on the part of the GOP to try to get their wealthy supporters (and don't kid yourselves: the wealthy do strongly favor the GOP) a little windfall. In other words, it's just bribery in exchange for votes. It's junk economics. But the media buys into it full-bore, because they're so liberal, right?

Jon Chait's The Big Con is probably the best book to consult on the subject.

Why do political movies suck these days?

This all seems about right, though I would add that the collapse of the studio system in the 1970s and the emergence of the MBA-run Hollywood machine that exists now and wants to avoid alienating anyone isn't helping matters. When one looks at the movies that take on "big issues" one notes that they are almost invariably not being made in the United States but elsewhere (I haven't seen the Romanian film 4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days that deals with abortion yet, but I will). Film is now the domain of the bean counters, and it is therefore unsurprising to see films being made as unwilling to say anything really controversial (and I don't really think that "Get out of Iraq now!" is really that controversial at this point).

It's not like the state of film and television is that desolate, though. The Wire is a towering achievement, as was Zodiac, but neither were huge hits (sadly) and while the former really does what we're talking about here and really illustrates the problems of our present-day society, while the latter wasn't really attuned to the present time--it could easily have been released twenty years ago. And HBO is a bit of a special case, in any event--they actually do produce series, like The Sopranos, Deadwood, and The Wire that certainly qualify as art because they have cultivated an upscale, artsy-kind of image.

I guess I don't really have an overarching point here, just a couple of observations.

VP Bloomberg?

Perhaps. I think Paul Krugman would have a seizure or something. It could work, though, but I still think Biden is a better choice. Obama is an outsider, and pairing him with a consummate reformist insider would make for a better combination. Plus, Biden doesn't have a history of talking about the extraordinary leadership of George W. Bush or the glory of the Iraq War, and Biden has that "straight talk" aura these days. Still, the media loves Bloomberg, maybe even more than they love McCain. I think that Bloomberg would have to formally become a Democrat for it to work (as though he isn't already in all but name).

John McCain's age

I agree that John McCain's age is going to be a huge problem for him in the general election, and that it's going to be virtually impossible for the Democratic nominee to effectively exploit. My (semi-serious) suggestion: plant reporters to ask McCain about cultural events from the 1940s. How did he spend WWII? Did he prefer Betty Grabel to Mae West? What sort of TV (or radio) shows did he enjoy as a kid? And so on. The old war stuff might be best for this, as I'm guessing he'd be more than happy to discuss WWII as part of his lifetime of service.


Preliminary results from Hillary Clinton's "I'm just gonna smear Obama" thrust are in, and things are not looking good for Mrs. Clinton. Clinton only edges McCain by three points in the states of California and Connecticut, blue states that Kerry won handily and that Barack Obama carries handily by margins of nine and seventeen percentage points, respectively. And she claims that Obama is unelectable?

The California thing should be a wakeup call to uncommitted superdelegates. Only about a third of the country likes her at this point, and it would appear that California will be in play in the general election with Hillary at the top of the ticket. Prior to this it made more sense to let the process play out--after all, it seemed as though Clinton and Obama were equally as electable. I think that there are now enough data points to indicate that she has alienated independents, and her ability to carry California as a Democrat seems iffy at this point, which would be fatal in a general election. It's time for the superdelegates to step in--these data provide some decent cover.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The converse of Hillary Clinton's argument...

Here's something for the superdelegates to consider:
Because among Obama voters, Clinton has a net-negative personal rating (35-43) while Clinton voters have a net-positive view of Obama (50-29). Taken together, this appears to be evidence that Obama, intially, should have the easier time uniting the party than Clinton.
This is difficult to fathom. By all accounts, Clinton's strategy is only going to get more nasty and more divisive. Already more of the Obama camp dislikes her than not, and further attacks are only going to hurt her numbers here more. I'm sure that this strategy will work, though. [Insert some swipe at Mark Penn here, I'm too exhausted to come up with one.]

Here's something hilarious, in the way in which a Todd Solondz movie is funny

So, it appears that 22% of Democrats want Hillary Clinton to end her presidential campaign. Rasmussen Reports says that an identical percentage also want Barack Obama to abandon his campaign. So I guess she should keep going?

This is lunacy, though, is it not? If Hillary Clinton had the delegate and popular vote lead that Barack Obama has, I would not say she should withdraw from the contest--indeed, there would be no moral justification for doing so. Obama is winning by every metric, aside from the arbitrary ones that Clinton surrogates come up with to try to cloud the issue. Evidently there are quite a few Democrats out there whose reaction to unjust attacks on Obama by Fox News, the Clintons, and all the rest is to blame the victim. This is not the liberalism that I have embraced. What happened to justice and fairness? The Clintons are more than happy to distort and lie to their own advantage, and this campaign has taught us that. I guess you can chalk it up to Clinton supporters who have believed for so long that the Clintons have been under siege by a right-wing conspiracy that they simply cannot believe they're doing anything wrong. Then again, the motivation for the continuance of the Clinton campaign is made up of about 90% denial, so it fits.

I find this antipathy toward Obama among certain quarters of the Democratic Party to be puzzling, and I think it really speaks to the Clinton campaign's bankruptcy on so many fronts that she's not being responsible in trying to maintain intramural unity in the party. Not only is she nonplussed by the increasing polarization in the party, she is wholly dependent on such polarization to get the superdelegates to overturn Obama's all-but-certain nomination. Obama has, from the beginning, refrained from making nasty attacks on Clinton to make it easy on her supporters to eventually find their way into the fold if/when he won. Little good it seems to have done him. I'm not sure this is going to be a huge problem--how many Deaniacs insisted they wouldn't vote for Kerry if he got the nomination?--but it underscores the danger that this extended primary season affords for us.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Of the many reasons for Democrats (como mi) to support Barack Obama, this is one of the most compelling: he is not going to just try to win the traditionally Democratic states plus rack up enough swing votes to put him over the top. Obama seems to sincerely believe that this country is ready for a change--which of course means a change in a more liberal direction--and he's not going to run another timid, centrist campaign in which he continually attacks his friends to prove he's not one of "those liberals," especially compared to the more cautious campaign that Clinton has run and would run in the general election. I don't care what Paul Krugman says--this is something that hasn't been seen in American politics since, I don't know, Lyndon Johnson, and that was almost a half century ago. Before him, the only ones I can think of are FDR and William Jennings Bryan. Maybe Truman. The point is that Obama could really shift the center of gravity in American politics, and it's too good an opportunity to pass up, in my opinion.

Down with the penny!

Matt Yglesias comes out against our nation's proudest form of currency. It must have something to do with his visceral hatred of our nation's greatest leaders. Does he have a problem with Abraham Lincoln?

Seriously, though, I wonder if there every will be a point when nobody uses paper money and everything financial is done electronically.

Abstinence-only education: the apotheosis of why I'm no longer a Republican

This article on the right's continued devotion to abstinence-only got me thinking: I used to be a Republican when I was growing up, and I identified as such for most of my life, but one of the things that really annoyed me about the party (and was instrumental in why I ended up finally leaving it for good a few years back) was that their ideology did not map onto the real world. They believed in continuing things like the Iraq War and abstinence-only education despite their ineffectiveness not based on a careful inspection of reality but rather because that's what ideology dictates. It's not unlike Czeslaw Milosz's classic The Captive Mind, in which the Soviet Union tells its writers to write according to "socialist realism", which basically means that every character conforms to the New Soviet Man and propounds the lessons of the revolution. Art was not based on a careful inspection of reality but rather on a careful inspection of Soviet dogma. There's a hubris and a sense of infallibility inherent in both faiths, a sense that the human being can be changed with the proper application of determination and regulation. It is incredibly ironic that conservatism has come full circle: where the guiding light of conservatism used to be an opposition to Utopia, it is now a full-throated belief in the idea that a change in one's society, in the rules, customs, regulations, and laws of a nation can lead to freedom and morality and goodness. Just read this post by conservative Republican Daniel Drezner who is evidently a member of the far left because he is not an outspoken supporter of empire.

It is supremely ironic that the GOP, an organization that has accused the Democratic Party of being a quasi-socialist (and often just socialist) organization, actually shares a far similar worldview to the Marxist-Leninist camp than do the Democrats. Both groups believe that you can change people by merely altering their surrounding society, and it was about this time that I got off the boat. You see, I agreed with the old-fashioned conservatives to begin with. Perhaps not as hard-line: I do believe that government can do many things just as well as private industry, for example, but I'm not trying to fundamentally alter human nature by saying that the government should run the health care apparatus. The far right is really unrelated to the Buckley-style conservatism that emerged in the 1960s, and its underlying philosophy bears little resemblance to that of WFB. They've tried to do their business here, and they've tried to do it in Iraq, and it's not working by any standard. The only acceptable critique, though, among conservatives is the critique that a given policy isn't conservative enough. It's okay to criticize George Bush for being insufficiently conservative. It's not okay to say that his imperial dreams are wrong-headed hurting America economically.

It merely underscores why we need to boot these folks out of office. I have nothing against conservatism per se, and I think that it can only be helpful to have a counterbalance to big-government liberalism (though one that is not relentlessly opposed to progress). Maybe, at some point, we'll be able to see a less-ideological, sensible conservative party in America like the David Cameron's U.K. Conservative Party. That is only going to come about if the GOP loses a lot of elections such that it feels its vision has been repudiated and the party is thus forced to move to the center in order to actually win elections. That's what I'm working toward. That's my vision.

No confidence in Reid

Seriously, the man sounds like a poor man's David Brent here. He's proven incapable of shaping public opinion or moving anything through the Senate, as opposed to Nancy Pelosi's excellent job of moving a lot through the House, including some impressive stick-to-it-iveness on ethics reform and telecom immunity. Unfortunately, it all dies in the Senate, and I'm well aware Senate rules make passing real reform difficult. I'd much rather prefer Dodd or any number of other people, and I hope that he's deposed in the event of a Democrat being elected president. He's been a nonentity who has proven completely incapable of the job: he's shown no imagination or creativity to try to capture the public's attention, aside from that lame all-night session of the Senate, and he has hardly been able to create the sort of issue framing and grassroots pressure to shift public opinion onto his side. He's not exactly a winner. Let's try someone else.

Five minutes' hate

People who wonder why the Democratic primary contest has gotten so divisive need look no further than this sort of thing. Clinton wants to talk about flipping pledged delegates now? This is rather tone deaf, and I find it baffling that Clinton insists on dragging out this process endlessly on the principle of "everybody's voice needs to be heard" while effectively asking the representatives of the people to disregard the voices that don't happen to agree with her. Pretty obvious instance of hypocrisy to me (perhaps she misspoke again?), but I'm used to it by now, and I've come to expect the Clinton campaign to spontaneously discover powerful new principles as soon as said principles are in their favor.

I also think it's worth noting that this campaign season wasn't supposed to be divisive. Democrats largely agree on the issues, and we had a rather strong field this year. As the field got pared down to two, the contest has gotten more divisive, and I can't imagine how this can be blamed on Barack Obama (though plenty of Clinton supporters on the web will be more than happy to go to all manner of contortions to try to do so). Clinton has been a uniformly negative element in this campaign for quite some time: from injecting racial politics into the contest, to unashamedly playing the gender card and attacking Obama on all manner of issues (sometimes fairly but often not) to praising John McCain at Obama's expense. And then there have been the procedural tactics: Florida and Michigan, the stuff in Nevada, and now this. Now Clinton is angling to get onto the ticket to try to heal the damage that she herself caused. I sure hope Obama resists the temptation.

Update: I highly recommend David Brooks's column on this subject. And this is distressing as well: evidently Clinton now feels that going off about Jeremiah Wright is, like, a smart thing to do. It's beginning to seem that her campaign is self-destructing in a fiery fit of nihilistic fury, fed by equal parts denial and bitterness. So much the better.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Clinton does not want McCain to win...

I find this to be reasonably in line with what I think, but I'm not exactly sure that Clinton is much of a partisan Democrat. She's a leader of the DLC, after all, and my impression is that she's all too willing to jettison the elements of the Democratic base that are, shall we say, harder to love when such things suit her. Andrew Sullivan reported a while back on the Clinton I-era advertisements bashing gays, and I mentioned his mention here. I do think she thinks that an Obama nomination would be a disaster, but I find it hard to believe that it's more about doing right by the Democratic Party than about the Clintons' seemingly sincere conviction that only Hillary Clinton can be president because her experience being married to Bill Clinton uniquely qualifies her to be president.

I'm not entirely unsympathetic to Hillary Clinton's perspective--this is a woman that had to endure years of humiliation--her health care plan failed, during Bill's presidency she became the key object of right-wing hate and was accused of all manner of heinous offenses, and all those late-night talk show jokes during the early 90s about Bill's philandering had to seem directed at her--she was the one whose being played for a fool moments got continually mocked. And then there was the Lewinsky scandal. Clinton no doubt feels that she's paid her dues and that she's owed this, but she's the one who screwed up health care and nobody forced her to stick with Bill. It's clear that the man has a problem. But when you hear people like James Carville calling Bill Richardson a Judas, well, it's that entitlement factor coming to the top again. How much of Clinton's support comes from women who feel sorry for her? I'd imagine if that chunk were gone, her campaign would be ancient history. It also explains why her campaign just saps one's energy.

Ambinder critiques the notion that Clinton ought to just drop out

here. And it's reasonably compelling. I'm more than ready for this whole thing to be over, and given the circumstances there really doesn't seem to be a point for Clinton's continued presence in the race, but Ambinder makes a few good points. I do think that the Clintons are hoping that Obama trips up somehow, but he's just managed to effectively handle the very dicey crisis with his pastor. Hopefully superdelegates have seen this and are more inclined to bring the process to an end.

One does still wonder where the establishment is in all of this: Ambinder correctly notes that if Pelosi, Reid, et al., broke for Obama Clinton's campaign would be finished.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

What the Wright episode tells us about Obama

It tells us that he is able to overcome the race issue, sure. It tells us that he knows how to fight back against an attack, definitely. But I think there is something deeper here that can be said about Barack Obama at the sunset of the Jeremiah Wright scandal: that he has the ability to shape public opinion, something that the Clintons do not have. The Clintons exploit public opinion, Barack Obama shapes it.

Let me explain my terms. Barack Obama's speech on race relations seems to have been successful. A vast majority of adults not only thought he adequately answered questions about the Wright scandal, but that they agree with his views on race in America. Who knows if there are statistics to tell if this was true beforehand, but Barack Obama has managed to get almost two-thirds of the public to identify with his ideas about race in America. This, to me, is impressive because it reflects Obama's ability to make his views on a particular subject the conventional wisdom on the subject. Perhaps what Obama did with race could be applied to the economy or foreign policy? Maybe, maybe not, but there is an antecedent to suggest that he could do this.

The Clintons, on the other hand, have never shown any capability to actually shape public opinion: they exploit it. If new, big government programs are desired, the Clintons will be there. If balanced budgets and fiscal conservatism are called for, the Clintons will be there. They'll be there in surpluses and recessions, hewing to public opinion. Ultimately, though, Bill Clinton was so inept at shaping public opinion in his first term that he couldn't save his health care plan, and really the only times he's successfully done it is when he's had some really unappealing enemies (Gingrich, Starr) that lent themselves to the treatment quite easily. Hillary Clinton seems to be less apt at the art than her husband was, and John McCain will not easily be turned into a villain. People like him, the press likes him, lots of Democrats like him...he's not an abrasive asshole like Newt Gingrich, or a power-mad crusader like Ken Starr. He's seen, right or wrong, as an honorable man. There is nothing in the histories of either Clinton that suggests a capability to tear down somebody like that, and there is no reason to believe that Hillary Clinton will shape public opinion in the campaign should she get the nomination. Her progressivism is highly correlated with the public opinion of progressivism, and there's every reason to believe that she will become more conservative if the climate becomes more conservative. She will not try to shift public opinion, she will run with it because she has never shown the ability to change it. Barack Obama has demonstrated that ability with the Wright speech. It makes him a far, far more appealing candidate from where I sit.

All in all, the Wright speech feels like a game changer. Bill Richardson endorsed Barack Obama yesterday, and he was probably closer to the Clintons than most. I think that the speech has resolved the fears of many people that Obama would be unable to fight back against this sort of attack, and he handled the race issue quite deftly. There seem to be few question marks left for Hillary to use as leverage to get the superdelegates to hand her the nomination. I'm guessing you'll start to see the establishment fall into line for Obama. My take on the current impasse among the superdelegates is that they don't want to act too hastily to give the impression that they're short-circuiting the election process, but that they're starting to realize that nobody's going to be taking them off the hook for this call. When the dust settles, Obama ought to offer Clinton a big job in his administration in return for her speedy exit from the campaign--maybe Chief of Staff, maybe Secretary of Defense, maybe the Court--and if she doesn't pull out soon she gets nothing. Something is better than nothing, after all.

Clinton and honesty

Hillary Clinton is considered far less trustworthy than Barack Obama or John McCain, and Steve Benen wonders why here. The article hit a chord with me: I got a little self-reflexive for a second and wondered why I had so little trust in Hillary when I couldn't really name too many really big lies that her campaign had disseminated. I was reevaluating things until I scrolled down and saw this comment fragment by commenter "Always hopeful":

You can’t trust someone who “will do anything to win”.

I think this is about right. She's been dishonest about NAFTA, Ireland, and other things, but I think that the "she'll do anything to win" factor that makes people queasy. I think a lot of people figure that will come to mean that as soon as she secures the nomination she'll start talking about fiscal conservatism and balanced budgets again, like she used to. She'll move to the center because that's where she thinks elections are won. How many times in this campaign has she fallen victim to the Beltway consensus? On foreign policy, certainly. She has shown a fundamental inability to see outside the box in this election, a lack of imagination. Perhaps that's why most thinking people support Obama...

Good News

It would appear that Barack Obama's speech generally worked. Hopefully this Wright stuff (sorry) can be put to rest now. It actually might be a benefit to Obama in the general: if Wright comes up again, he could just wave it off and say it's old news.

Plus, you're not hearing about how Obama's full of hot air--his speech was hardly superficial or shallow. And the Muslim rumors seem to be gone for the time being. He's shown that he can weather a crisis without going postal and blindly attacking like Hillary. All in all, I feel much better about Obama's candidacy than I did a week ago.

Once again

I tend to agree with Kevin Drum: the Clinton campaign isn't consciously trying to sabotage Barack Obama's campaign so as to continue to wield power. I don't think there's any sort of long-term strategy at work here, and that's always been the problem. Hillary Clinton could have gotten out while the getting was good and still have had a political future--not as president, probably, but she might have made a creditable chief of staff or cabinet secretary or something of that nature. If she'd dropped out after Wisconsin and Hawaii, nobody would have questioned it and she would have been able to maintain some influence. The fact that she has continued to soldier on, despite the mathematics, despite the potential damage done to the likely nominee, might be admirable in some sort of Hemingwayan sense, but it is simply difficult for Obama supporters who see the damage being done to get a handle on why she's still doing this. This is where Clinton Derangement Syndrome sets in--unless she's a terrible person, why do this except for some sort of twisted, Machiavellian maneuver? Or maybe she's just crazy? And what about that thing about her and McCain having the necessary experience and Obama not? The human mind struggles to find explanations for this behavior that aren't nefarious.

I tend to believe less in the Byzantine stories and more about the craziness: I think she wants to be president and that she is disconnected from the realities of the process. I think she thinks that there's a bunch of superdelegates that's leery of Obama and that's just waiting for a creditable excuse to bolt to her side. I think she thinks that she just needs to induce enough reasonable doubt for the SDs to flock to her. These are assumptions that might be right, but they're highly unlikely to be true, and together it seems pretty flimsy to keep it going. I don't think that the Clinton camp is thinking too much about the fallout of winning the wrong way, and given that Clinton's staff seems to consist of lackeys who are deathly afraid of delivering bad news to the candidate, I doubt she's likely to drop out soon.

In the end, I just think that Clinton is doing what she's doing out of pure denial. She really wants to be president, and that desire has undergirded her entire career. Eventually, she's going to have to come to grips with the reality that it's not going to happen, but it doesn't seem like she's going to spare us the spectacle of her destroying her reputation along the way.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Where's the data?

Part of the reason why I'm such a political junkie is because I'm addicted to data. In another lifetime, I might have been one of those rotisserie baseball guys, like in Knocked Up. I have a constant need for new information, and politics is one hobby where you can have all the information you can handle, like sports, although professional sports are just too cynical an enterprise for me. It's ironic, but at least there are theoretically some politicians who actually want to make the world a better place--hell, the law of large numbers tells us that there have to be some in real life as well. From what I've read by professional athletes, most pros disdain the fans and are just around to collect a paycheck, which would be less objectionable if it didn't cost half a mortgage payment to get a seat.

All of which is to say that I'm still wondering how well Barack Obama's speech was received. He hasn't had a very good week, but it hasn't been campaign-crushing or even close to that. Marc Ambinder discusses how the fundamental dynamic of the race is unchanged here, and Rasmussen seems to indicate that the speech wasn't much of a positive here. Still, it's Rasmussen, which is better than nothing but which has had a tendency to skew a bit conservative in the past. In any event, it is beginning to look like Obama's speech on race wasn't the silver bullet that is going to win the campaign for him, which I suspect was never the point.

Nevertheless, we need more data, people!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Obama's speech

I thought it was quite impressive. I got the feeling from watching it that I've frequently gotten from Obama elsewhere in the campaign: that Barack Obama simply gets it. That he understands the historical moment in which we live, that he knows why we're here and that he has a vision for moving forward. That's why I believe he's got such potential as a transformational leader.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Testing of Obama

I highly recommend this moving post by Andrew Sullivan. I sure hope that Obama is able to put this whole thing to rest tomorrow.

The most interesting thing about the Wright scandal...

is that nobody, outside of the chattering classes, seems to care. Just look at the polls. Obama still leads Hillary for the Democratic Nomination in Rasmussen, and the poll released shows him still beating McCain today. After how much of this Wright nonsense? Okay, so it's not nonsense, it's a perfectly fair inquiry, but that the media seems intent on pushing this stuff nonstop is the very thing that Obama has spoken out against from the start, and the media has chosen, in a rare departure from journalistic integrity, to publish the story that they think "the people" want to hear.

The truth is that, while the Wright stuff is shocking, my sense is that most people simply can't sync that up with Obama. It just doesn't fit with what I know (and what others know) about his character. It has narrowed his poll numbers a bit, and the whole "post-racial" effect of his candidacy has worn off a bit, but that's not the only reason that a lot of us are supporting him, and it never was. His vision is still compelling, far more so than Clinton's, which seems to be a mixture of the 1990s, some errant "respectable beltway establishment" (read: neocon) thinking on national security, and a willingness to say whatever she thinks we Democrats want said. Think about it: didn't Clinton used to be a big-time small-c conservative, talking about balanced budgets and whatnot? Now, she sounds a lot more like FDR. And didn't she used to be a dedicated hawk and Iraq War supporter? Now, she sounds more like Dennis Kucinich. And neither of those are a bad thing, to my way of thinking, but it's this mutability that scares me. Is her progressiveness going to last the general election, should she get the nomination? I wouldn't bet George Bush's Crawford Ranch on it.

One might think that she's "seen the light," but such hackery actually worries me immensely. Someone who will just do what you want them to do to get power will just do what someone else wants them to do later if that someone else offers more power. This would be alleviated if someone could actually inform me what principles Clinton has fought for in her much-touted 35 years of service. A nice, ordered list of five "first principles" would be sufficient. Just don't talk to me about her "courageous" statement in favor of human rights in China. For God's sake, she is a Senator, a political celebrity who is married to a former president. What are they going to do, toss her in jail to sew soccer balls together? Get a grip!

I've been puzzling over Clinton's campaign until I finally realized why it's still around. In retrospect, it's obvious. After decades of marriage to a serial adulterer, denial has got to become almost second nature to a person. Of course, denial can only go so far when the facts on the ground keep getting worse...

Update: Maybe this isn't as big a deal, as I'd thought...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

For a second after reading the headline of this post from Andrew Sullivan, I thought he was referring to the practice undertaken by many churchgoers to ply their profession among their fellows in order to get more business. It wasn't, but there is something about how many yuppie types treat church so cynically that has always kinda bothered me. Perhaps it shouldn't. I really should mind my own business. And yet...

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Hillary Clinton's vanity campaign rolls on despite the head-to-head matchups now falling in McCain's favor against Obama and Clinton. This is only going to get worse. The party leadership needs to step in, soon.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Random Thoughts

Continuing in the vein I started in the last post: why didn't Clinton see the light and get out of the race when the getting was good? I'm afraid I'm going to have to go a little psychoanalytical here, but oh well.

I find it revealing that many Clinton supporters mock Obama as having a messianic cult--which has a kernel of truth to it, but isn't generally true, in my opinion--while Clinton supporters (especially older ones) seem to be far more guilty of this than do Obama supporters. Remember that Hillary "ad" on YouTube about how she would accomplish all of our hopes and all of our dreams, set to some cheesy 80's music that sounded uncannily like Olivia Newton-John's Xanadu? Older women seem to treat Clinton's candidacy with an almost talismanic power to right all the wrongs of our sexist, sexist society. That element is also present in Obama's appeal, but it's not so central to his appeal that it spills over so often, and many people of many different backgrounds find different things to like about the guy. Libertarians, for example, seem to like Obama because he's more of an evidence-based, free-market, free-trade type than Hillary. Some conservatives, like Andrew Sullivan, like him for other reasons as well. You can read his blog to find out why.

In any event, my impression that Hillary is in the race because she's in denial. My sense is that she charted out her destiny long ago, and that destiny culminated in being a popular, historic, two-term president who got her designated successor elected to office. My sense is that this dream is so much a part of who she is and what she's worked for that it cannot simply be discarded. And after having to suffer through the dozens of episodes of whoring that her husband indulged, after the decades of late-night jokes, after all that humiliation, that she is simply owed this for getting through it all. She sees the presidency as her destiny. To be honest, I've had enough of leaders who feel driven by destiny. Isn't that Bush's whole deal? And there is a myopia present to both--neither are imaginative enough to escape the boxes into which their personalities have stuffed them, and both have lost immeasurable clout and power because of it.

I also find it interesting that Clinton's campaign (and Clinton herself) seem so insistent that Obama is just full of hot air. For all the cynicism in their campaign it seems like they really believe this one, despite considerable evidence to the contrary. I tend to see it as related to the cynicism of the Clinton campaign. Obama's talked about high-minded reform, which Clinton seems to scoff at--lest we forget, she defended lobbyists at Yearly Kos a while back. She doesn't think the system can be changed or that politics can be elevated, and considering her experiences this might be understandable. So when Obama starts talking in these high-minded turns of phrase, she naturally assumes he cannot be serious. Nobody can change the system--her husband tried and failed, after all, to change how Washington works. So she sees Obama as, at best, naive. At worst, she sees him as a con man. Maybe Obama is naive, but the idea that people say what they mean is a foreign idea to the Clintons.

Clinton 2012 is not happening

I keep reading, from some people, that the real reason that Hillary Clinton is staying in the race is to kneecap Obama so that he loses to John McCain this year, thus allowing Clinton a shot at the nomination in 2012. I'm not very charitable to Mrs. Clinton, generally, but this seems rather ridiculous on its face. Think about it: if Clinton grinds Obama down to a pulp, and if he loses to McCain, and if that loss is attributed to HRC's activities, then the Clinton name will be like mud in Democratic circles. Now, of course, if she can kneecap Obama without seeming to draw such attention such rumors might be a bit more justified, but regardless of how it turns out it is difficult to argue that the Clinton approach to wrecking Obama's nomination has been subtle. Would such a perception be likely to come to pass? Well, considering that the Clintons' love in the Democratic Party is shrinking, I suspect that they'd be the scapegoats for an Obama loss regardless of circumstance, fair or not.

In any event, I don't think the Clintons are thinking that far ahead. Their mentality seems to be something along the lines of, "We'll win this thing come hell or high water and worry about the fallout afterward." That's not really a long-term mentality, or even a medium-term one. Clinton can't get elected president at this point--she can't win the Dem nomination without doing any number of things that too much of the Democratic base would find distasteful. Dropping out earlier and supporting Obama might have built up some goodwill among Obama supporters, maybe enough to ensure a slot on the ticket, certainly enough to insure serious influence with a prospective Obama Administration. But she didn't do the rational thing--instead, she's acting as though she has to fulfill her own self-mythology and become a shining example to women everywhere, or something. Now Obama is going to win and she's not going to get anything. Game theory does not seem to be her strong point. The one thing I've always said about the Clintons is that they're not big picture types--no grand vision, no bold principles or ideas, just the next election. Clinton's myopia and lack of imagination kept her from heavy influence with Obama--she might have been VP or Chief of Staff or something. Now, she'll be lucky to get a Supreme Court seat. And given how she's conducted herself I'm not a bit sorry for how things have turned out.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Prostitution and Legality

It seems like most liberal bloggers on the web seem to support legalizing prostitution. I do not. The way I see it, institutions that treat people as merely a means to someone else's end--in other words, that turn people into objects--are not institutions that deserve to be venerated. And that is what prostitution is, far more so than capitalism. The current incarnation of capitalism leans toward the treating-people-like-dispensable-objects model, but that wasn't true a generation ago, and there are many exceptions. At the very least, one can say that capitalism doesn't necessarily have to involve such things.

It goes back to Kant's Categorical Imperative. Prostitution occurs largely as a result of poverty. Some people act as though it's a profession that is primarily entered into by people who really like sex, but that runs contrary to what I've read on the topic.

Why do I let myself get surprised at the idiocy of the right wing?

Really? I know that the Wall Street Journal Op-Ed group is what it is, but the idea that Barack Obama has deployed the race card too quickly is silly. Compared to how long it took Clinton's campaign to get Samantha Power fired for her "sexist" remark, I'd say that the Obama campaign acted quite evenhandedly. And there's a willful obtuseness here: Geraldine Ferraro didn't just say that Obama owed his position to his race. She then said that anyone who criticized her was racist against her because she was White. What a hateful broad--she needs to climb back under the rock from whence she crawled. Isn't it enough that she ruined one Democratic presidential campaign that she's then got to ruin another one?

I do find this movement among conservatives in many quarters toward Clinton to be intriguing. It seems entirely cynical--they think she'll be easier to beat than Obama, on one hand. And if she wins, she's less of a rebuke of George Bush--nobody believes she's a sincere war opponent, and she's heavily invested in a Rovian style of politics. She seems highly disinclined to make any bold foreign policy moves, as she's been in the Beltway bubble too long and she's been too corrupted by that consensus. She'd probably be okay on domestic policy, but that isn't enough. I'm amazed by the cynicism--after all the bloviating, by Limbaugh and others, on the evils of the Clintons for decades, to switching to supporting them out of some perceived advantage electorally lays bare the hollowness of the conservative movement today. It's just about winning. That's all. That just doubles my resolve to support Obama.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Keith Olbermann's comment

Olbermann was pretty much dead-on tonight, although I think he was probably being too kind to the Clintons when he said that HRC's campaign more resembles that of a Republican. The Republicans haven't really tried going to the well of Black/White tensions for twenty years, with the old Willie Horton ad. In reality, the Clintons' behavior in this election on racial issues is, in my estimation, far more regressive than that of any Republican national contender for the past twenty years. At least Bush made a show of trying to be conciliatory to Black voters during his two runs, even if it was just a show.

At first I was willing to believe that the Clinton stuff with race had been exaggerated. At first. But you know what our current president might say what happens when he gets fooled twice (he "won't get fooled again" is his answer). It seems like the animating energy of the Clinton campaign seems to be based, in large part, on trying to increase the historical legacy of the Clintons after an admirable (though not spectacular and disappointing in ways both gross and subtle) term in office. It also seems like Clinton, her inner circle, as well as her ardent supporters, seem to have a capacity to embargo so many embarrassing aspects of Clinton I that borders on repression. It reminds me of nothing more than the book The Captive Mind by Czeslaw Milosz, which I have recently been reading. Milosz was a Polish Communist who broke with Marxism and wrote about the effects of communism on intellectuals--which is not to say that Clinton is a communist, though I suspect she'd be one happily if that were what the majority wanted. In any event, there is the idea of these energy-sapping truths of the Clinton past that cannot be mentioned and are probably not even consciously thought of by her followers--analogous to Milosz. Yet, that past is there, and it creates a constant conflict with the beliefs of the present that simply drains the person in question of creative energy. It's all there, right in Chapter 1. This is all just by way of illustration.

Geraldine Ferraro

Boy, New York State Democrats are all over the place with scandals this week! So, basically, as much as I can tell, Geraldine Ferraro gave a muted comment about Barack Obama's race helping his political career in some small newspaper, which was eventually caught by Kos. Then, instead of taking the issue off the table, she intensified her remarks on the topic, which echoed things she said about Jesse Jackson in 1988. My rule about racist-seeming comments is as follows: you get one questionable comment free. If you say something sketchy, but you don't have a track record of saying anything of the sort, I'm willing to grant the benefit of the doubt. Fool me once and all that. The second time I'm just gonna assume you're bigoted. That's why, say, I'm willing to believe that Michael Richards might not be a racist (though it seems like I'm in the minority here), while I'm pretty sure that Mel Gibson really is an anti-Semite. There's just been a few too many questionable instances of conduct with Gibson.

So, Ferraro might have a problem with Black folks is what I'm trying to say. Andrew Sullivan attributes this to a sort of White paternalism, which might very well be true in some cases, and particularly in the case at hand. Clinton kinda rejected these sentiments. But, amazingly, Clinton supporters try to explain how someone affiliated with Clinton's campaign who made some pretty offensive remarks that were rejected lukewarmly by the Clinton campaign is somehow evidence of Obama playing the race card! That makes perfect a universe where people have camels for pets and two and two equal pi! Then again, expecting something other than dishonesty from the Clintons has become quixotic these days.

This is truly becoming despicable. This campaign wasn't supposed to be divisive. The Democrats were together. We had the same policies, basically. Yet this contest has grown far more divisive, and it's loony to say Barack Obama has done this. The Clintons are behind it, not only polarizing the party but poisoning the well for the general election for whoever gets the nod. It was the "McCain would be better than Obama" remark that totally pushed me over the edge, but there's new shit that's even worse every day, seemingly designed to appeal to disgruntled Whites in Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton has so thoroughly disgraced herself in this contest. I can't recall a single Republican (aside from the loony right-wing radio brigade) saying anything even remotely like this stuff. Maybe they're saving it for the general election, but it's just gross. So what if Paul Krugman disagrees. He's beginning to sound more and more like a propagandist these days. My eyes are wide open.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Florida Says No

Now that Florida has ruled out a re-vote, I wonder what Michigan will any event, this is probably good news for Obama. Even if Michigan goes I'm not entirely sure it's in the bag for Clinton--sure, it's like Ohio, but it's got a bunch more Black people in it, and the polls I've seen from the state have been favorable to Obama. He's generally done okay in the Midwest, too, Ohio notwithstanding.

Spitzer is not out

My guess: Spitzer doesn't resign. My guess is that he couches this in some sort of argument along the lines of "being able to fight back" more effectively as governor and that resigning would just seal the verdict. I like this--it used to be when somebody did something unconscionably heinous that dishonored themselves and their family, they'd resign to spare themselves and their family the humiliation. I guess people these days figure that the media cycle is so short that they'll be able to weather scandals like this by waiting for the voters to stop paying attention. Hence, Al Gonzales, Dave Vitter, and Larry Craig. It's called making the Feiler Faster Principle work for you. It might also have something to do with a complete lack of shame in our society. It used to be that taking naked pictures of yourself would end your career--now, they can start it, though probably not in my case.

Update: I could be wrong. Wouldn't Dave Paterson taking over for Spitzer be sort of a boon to Obama? After all, there haven't been too many Black governors in U.S. History, and adding another one might make the whole "Black President" thing a bit less strange-seeming. Maybe he doesn't have to worry about that anyway.
Absolutely extraordinary. I'm too young to remember much politically from the early 1990s, but the history lesson presented by Andrew about the Clintons running anti-gay ads during the 1990s in red states is pretty sickening.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Right on

Rosa Brooks nails Clinton's tortured "feminist" credentials, as evinced in her reaction to the Eliot Spitzer scandal. It is put so well I feel I have nothing to add to it. She has a little too much sympathy for this kind of person.

A Talking Point for Obama

"Hillary's been talking about making me her running mate, even though she says I'm not ready to be president. She says that John McCain would be ready to lead. Maybe she should make John McCain her vice presidential candidate."

Hillary doesn't pass my commander-in-chief test

Isn't the problem with the Clintons that they can't see the big picture? Hasn't it always been that? It's always about surviving, about staying alive, about surmounting obstacles (that they created). This line of attack about Obama "not being ready to be commander-in-chief" is sorta ridiculous, and Steve brings the relevant quote by Bill--“That’s politics”--and he's right.

Still, winning over Obama on this issue means not that hawkish national security might become the big issue in the election, but that it will. I'm not anxious to watch John and Hill out-hawk each other, and it shows that, for all her braggadocio about experience, Hillary Clinton doesn't seem to understand anything about contemporary politics. You can't beat the Republicans at their own game at national security. They made it, they know the rules, and they make the rules. The rules are loaded. Witness how Obama's perfectly reasonable comment on taking action against al-Qaeda without Pakistan's permission rapidly became a point of right-wing hysteria for a while, despite this being the same right wing that wants us to invade Darfur, stay in Iraq for a few millennia and bomb the hell out of Iran just for good measure. It is, in short, a group largely populated by insane paranoiacs who are trying to build some sort of new utopia of American Empire. Never mind that an opposition to the idea of utopia used to be a key conservative principle.

Hillary can't win at this game, and it's a game that we Democrats ought to cash out of while we can. Sure, plotting a new course forward might fail big time, but I sense that most people would be receptive to new ideas at this point. If Hillary is either naive or arrogant enough to believe that she can win this contest--well, that's a disqualifying factor for her nomination, in my opinion.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Political debate

I enjoyed this little article on the seeming end of political debate. I especially found the point about how the Limbaugh/Coulter/O'Reilly complex really hasn't seemed to expand the conservative base to be interesting, but that isn't their goal, of course. A charitable person would say they exist to facilitate base mobilization--keeping reactionaries in a constant state of nervous tension is important when you're depending on them to go to the polls. When given the right stimulation, they will vote reliably. Much harder to convince those moderate Republicans to really get out to vote for the GOP--if such an inducement were easier than convincing the wingnuts to turn out, then the GOP would be as moderate as Richard Nixon today. The calculus might change, of course, if the Democrats manage to capture the center for a decade or so and riling up the base isn't enough to win elections, and I think that's highly likely to happen. After all, the Limbaughs of the right aren't bringing people into the right wing, are they? And you can only lose so many when you try to win 51% victories all the time.

Now, do liberals do this sort of demonization thing as well? Certainly, although there is a significant difference here. Liberals at least are willing to take most conservatives at their word when they are say that they want to improve America. Right-wingers do not do so. They suspect liberals of having all sorts of secret motives and schemes--a sure sign of an extremist group if ever there was one. Sure, you might hear a liberal say that the Iraq War is over oil instead of George Bush's self-stated "freedom agenda" or the nonexistent WMDs, but Bush's freedom agenda does not extend to friendly-but-repressive regimes in Saudi Arabia and Egypt, among others. This is argumentation that comes from, you know, reasoning. Saying that liberals will do anything to destroy America is little more than hysteria. Coulterian books that make such arguments are usually just laundry lists of perceived (and frequently erroneous) slights, designed to deepen readers' existing prejudices.

In a greater sense, though, debate has become scarce because we Americans have convinced ourselves that we can never afford to be wrong about anything, ever. To this end, we have constructed elaborate institutions to shade every event to conform with our own ingrained realities. Conservative talk radio is about confirming an all-encompassing cosmology that simply does not map onto the real world. And it's in demand because certainty is in demand, even if the certainty is illusory.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Iraq Reconstruction

Andrew answers one of his readers' letters here. I agree with the sentiment, though not necessarily the analogy as such. Reconstruction was certainly a bad deal for a lot of people, and corruption certainly was rampant, but it definitely made things better for African-Americans, no? During Reconstruction, the percentage of the nation owned by Blacks went from, well, zero to around two percent. I believe it's three percent now. I've heard the theory that sharecropping was worse than slavery because at least slavery was honest exploitation, but I disagree. Now one can say that Reconstruction was a bad idea from the outset because it fostered racial hostilities that are with us to this day, but at the time there were (and still are) no easy answers to the question of how to enfranchise Blacks. Things are better now, but without Reconstruction, they would undoubtedly have been worse.

I was also under the impression that Jim Crow started up after Reconstruction, but I'm less sure
about that. I need to read more on the aftermath of the Civil War, that's for sure.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Clinton is not the women's rights candidate

Matt nails one of the most irritating aspects on the periphery of the Hillary Clinton campaign: the implication, both spoken and unspoken, that voting against Hillary Clinton is an act of sexism. I think it's pretty much indisputable that Hillary Clinton has played the gender card far more than Barack Obama has played the race card, and I think it's also pretty telling that Obama has played the gender card against Clinton, while the converse is completely untrue. Obama has run his campaign in such a way so as to show his own personal decency, and Clinton has run her campaign in such a way as to show her own venality and lust for power, all the while using feminists like Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan as useful idiots to convince her aged female supporters of the historical importance of her campaign to feminism, when it is difficult to make the case based on the evidence that Clinton cares at all for their cause. That she attacked Barack Obama's record on female issues before New Hampshire is telling--Obama's pro-choice and has supported all of the various anti-discrimination laws and so forth. Were Clinton a true feminist, she would have applauded Obama's commitment to women's issues and found some other grounds upon which to attack him. To Clinton, though, feminism is just another cudgel to be applied in the heat of a campaign. And then there's her husband, a man whose peccadilloes make the insistence, on the part of Steinem and that crowd, that he's so good on women's issues little more than a self-serving and cynical crock.

Are there some people who attack Hillary Clinton because they're afraid of strong women? Certainly. But you can't argue that sexism is worse than racism on one hand as a way of generating empathy for your candidate on one hand while simultaneously arguing that Clinton is more electable because Americans are so damn racist. After all, growing up in a Republican family in Illinois and marrying an ultra-successful politician on your way to becoming a political celebrity and multimillionaire and serious presidential candidate is, well, not exactly a story of The Man (literally) holding you down. The Clinton campaign's argumentation on this subject, as well as most subjects, is quite schizophrenic and is due in no small part to the Clintons' desire to have it every which way in order to score more political points. And I'm having a hard time seeing their core convictions because it seems like the only things they ever really campaign on are those things that happen to be in the Democratic mainstream, or those things that would increase their political power, like NAFTA or Welfare Reform. When viewed through that lens, everything starts to make sense. Why else would Hillary Clinton talk like Joe Lieberman when the war was popular, then start talking like John Edwards when it isn't? Remember when she wouldn't shut up about balanced budgets? Not so much anymore. Hillary Clinton is like John McCain (and most politicians, I suppose) in that they'll not only do anything to gain more power, but they'll say exactly what their base wants them to say in order to get elected. At least Bill Clinton grasped that free trade and welfare reform were necessary (and he was right on both counts, substantively and politically), although he seemed more interested in getting more corporate donors to write checks to the DNC than in, well, any number of other things. Still, he was right about those things and he deserves credit. I'm tired of these people.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Caucuses aren't democratic--got a problem with that?

On the most recent edition of, Mickey Kaus makes the complaint (that the Clinton folks often make) that caucusing isn't lowercase-d democratic. At the risk of quoting the Vietnamese General, I just don't see exactly why this complaint is relevant. The Democratic Party is entitled to choose its own way to select delegates, is it not? It seems to me that caucuses allow the candidate with the best organization and the most enthusiastic popular support to win, and that seems entirely reasonable to me. Picking the candidate who generates the most excitement among grassroots party members seems like a desirable outcome, and is in fact the desired outcome. True, this benefits my guy this time around, but I'm not sure where it's written that there must be some kind of equal voice and participation for every Democrat. In the general election, this sort of thinking is utterly appropriate, but not necessarily in the nominating process.

In fact, it's impossible to say that caucuses are some sort of violation of the Democratic Party's "one person, one vote" philosophy of nomination contests, quite precisely because there is no such philosophy. If you're a Democrat living in Massachusetts, your vote counts a hell of a lot more than if you're a Democrat living in a state with a similar population, like Minnesota. Why is this? Well, because delegates are apportioned according to a number of factors that are designed to give the most influence to the party's base. This is why the party's convention apportionment rules are so complicated--it has been the decision of the party leadership to award more influence to areas that voted for Kerry than to ones that voted for Bush. This is hardly despicable, in my opinion. And this second factor has undoubtedly helped Clinton.

So, if Clinton opposes caucuses in good faith (which she doesn't because she didn't oppose them at all until she started losing all of them by landslide margins) she should naturally support eliminating the differential apportionment that benefits areas of high Democratic concentration--after all, a vote is a vote is a vote, right? She does not, of course. It's not so much the bad faith of it all as that she cloaks the whole package in a rather sickening display of sanctimony. I'm not really sure that this is an effective debating point, though--the differences between the two methods take too long to get across, and it's a bit too technical in general. She'd better stick to scaring the bejeezus out of people, hoping stupidly that she's going to be able to beat John McCain and the Republican Slime Team at that game. You can't beat the Republicans at their game. They made the rules, after all, and the rules are loaded. That's why I like Obama--he's not playing their game, and he won't.

Hillary has reverse momentum

This seems entirely plausible to me (via Ross Douthat). It seems like Clinton is, ironically, a better insurgent who's down for the count and rallying to keep going than she is a solid, professional frontrunner. This is, actually, a very good reason not to give her the nomination in my mind--people who perform better when they're losing and under pressure tend to try to engineer situations in which those circumstances apply, and I don't trust HRC's ability to come from behind against McCain that much.

The way the media has been covering this campaign has been pretty annoying as well. They're acting like it's pretty much tied up post-Texas. It's not. Obama leads in every way, still. They're covering the race like Obama really needs to pick it up in order to win, when it's Clinton that has a lot of ground to cover. I know the euphoria must be running high today among Camp Clinton, but in a few days she might want to consider a graceful exit--it might make sense to drop out on a high note, say something about how the math is too difficult, how she doesn't want to pull the party apart, etc. It would confound those of us whose view of her has become quite unfavorable and it would allow her to make it look like she's exiting on her own terms. I have no expectation that this will happen.

The argument that made me unlikely to vote for Clinton in the general election (if she cheats her way to get there)

It's the "John McCain would be a better president than Barack Obama" argument (roughly paraphrased) that finally pushed me over the edge. Any illusion that Hillary Clinton was a team player disappeared as soon as I heard that one, and I immediately wondered whether or not the conservatives might not have been right about the Clintons all along. I still don't think they had a CIA Wet Team gun down Vince Foster or anything, but when you look at how the Clinton Administration benefited Democrats (aside from Bill, it didn't, and the Dems were the minority party) and liberalism (ha ha! Here's a few letters for you: DOMA and DMCA) it was clear that moving the conversation to the left was less of a priority than getting Bill Clinton high approval marks.

Still, this argument crosses the line by about a mile. Has Clinton ever heard of "nobody hits my brother but me?" I can't believe that this was allowed to stand. I've historically tended to be an apologist for the Clintons, but my eyes are wide open now. And she's still saying this stuff. I can't help but think that I was wrong all these years. What other explanation is there for this, other than that she wants to sufficiently bloody up Barack Obama so that he loses to John McCain? And then she says she wants to be on the same ticket with him. No shame.

I honestly don't know what I'll do if Hillary Clinton gets the nomination. I cannot in good conscience vote for a woman whose actions place little to no import on the state of the Democratic Party and the progressive coalition. This kind of shit is unforgivable--it's not partisanship, it's anti-partisanship, all for the sake of garnering some power for Hillary Clinton. I'm so infuriated by this that I find it difficult to imagine that that anger will ever abate.

"Never, ever under-estimate the ability of the Democratic party to screw it up."

Sullivan is about right here. How did we get to this place?

Rush/Clinton 2008

Here's some confirmation of the claims of Rush's victorious pro-Clinton push in Texas. This seems like a good storyline for Obama to promote: one the one hand, Democrats hate Rush. On the other hand, he did meddle (perhaps decisively) in a Democratic nominating contest. Hammering the Clinton camp for being unable to win without the Rush vote, if it's presented right, seems hardly worse than the Clinton camp's attempts to basically say that only the states they won have Democrats that count, and that those Nebraska Dems can basically get bent.

Of course, there is a danger that Obama might look like a sore loser if he goes this way, but if it sticks I think it might get him some mileage, especially if he weaves it into a bigger narrative about how conservatives like Rush are afraid of him more than Clinton and are trying to sabotage him. If I were Obama I'd pull the trigger here, but quickly.


Clinton wins big by going negative. And rather than looking like desperation, people buy it. C'est la vie. She still can't win very easily with the math of the thing being what it is. Still, it's nice to know that, at least in Ohio, most Democrats are perfectly contented to stay with the status quo of Bush-pioneered politics.

Still, this was a test to see if Obama would be able to respond to this sort of fearmongering, and it turns out he couldn't. So, at least he'll have some time to work on that. I do sorta wish that Obama hadn't slathered on the anti-NAFTA talk in Ohio--it cost him when his advisor blabbed to the Canadians about how he wasn't serious, and had he made a defense of free trade he might have gotten some "straight talk points" from the media. Of course, McCain did exactly that and got killed in Michigan to Mitt Romney, who promised them a bunch of bullshit that he had no intention of delivering on, and most Michiganders probably knew that. The reality is that those old manufacturing jobs just aren't coming back, and folks in those states prefer to be lied to than to be told a truth that they probably know intuitively but don't want to believe. It recalls a line from Gorky Park: it doesn't matter how ridiculous a lie is if the lie is that you'll escape, and it doesn't matter how obvious the truth is if that the truth is that you'll never escape. Sadly, the livelihoods of these folks are just gone, and various politicians have attributed this to free trade, which is true, but not necessarily to NAFTA in particular--more due should be placed to Bush II-era agreements lacking the sorts of environmental and worker rights stipulations that NAFTA contains. And it's not like you can't be liberal and pro-free trade (as I am)--the argument to take then is to say that free trade isn't the problem, but that it introduces some new issues that can only be handled by an augmentation of the welfare state, e.g. more job training programs, universal health care, beefed-up unemployment insurance, and so forth, as well as expanded union power in every sector, all paid for by increased taxes on the wealthy. Some of the programs exist but are anemic. Others need to be created from scratch. But this is how much of Europe has gone about solving the issues attendant to globalization, and with no small amount of success.

I wish Obama would have made an argument like that. In retrospect, Clinton might have looked vulnerable on trade because her husband signed NAFTA but people's finances were good in the 90's and they're not so good now. My light reading of the entire situation is that people associate the positive effects of free trade--cheaper stuff, dynamic economy--with Clinton and the negative stuff with Bush, which, I hate to say, isn't really fair to Bush. The manufacturing industry was dying before Clinton took office, it was dying while Clinton took office, and it's effectively dead after Bush's term, and that's partially because of some bad trade agreements but also because that's just how long it took for manufacturing in the US to reach its end. Obama's arguments in this regard were less than impressive. He's supposedly a free trader and more lower case "p" progressive, but he was off in John Edwards land with this one--which might as well be William Jennings Bryan land as far as I'm concerned. But Democrats feel the need to kiss the ring of old Democrats who want the old days back again. So much the worse for us. I expected more from Obama here. Not so much from Clinton, who seems to be the lefty version of John McCain and is thus willing to say whatever the base wants in order to get the nomination (aside from that she was wrong in Iraq--that would be weak! Evidently saying that you were duped by George Bush, though, doesn't make you look weak)...

Texas is a bit more interesting--and amazingly less racist than Ohio, if you can believe that (see my post a few items before this one). Obama lost a nail-biter here. If I were his team, my spin would be that Obama would have won were it not for conservative Rush Limbaugh fans that voted for Hillary explicitly because they would be easier to beat. Seems like a fair line of attack. "Do you want Rush Limbaugh choosing your nominee?" Could work. Still, I think this whole thing shows that Obama's strategy has some drawbacks. Clinton hit him a bunch of times virtually unanswered last week. I know that he has the general election in mind and he wants to make it easy on Clinton supporters to vote for him in November, but this unwillingness to attack the Clintons needs to give way somewhat. Obviously, you don't really want to alienate Clintonistas or anything like that, but there are ways to do it without aping the right wing, etc. And he needs to have a short, sweet comeback to stuff like Hillary's 3 a.m. ad. I think he needs to go after Hillary's "experience" and show that, when the big moments came, she's not exactly shown herself up to them--healthcare and Iraq come to mind. It's dicey, and it might not be necessary, but you have to strike back when someone hits you. That's the only way to stand up to a bully, be it a member of the Republican attack machine or the Clintons, who most certainly are bullies. That shouldn't be too controversial--after all, that's one of their major selling points, is it not? That they'll give the GOP a dose of their own medicine, right? Obama offers a different prescription altogether--an end to the base-driven Rovian politics in which the worst elements of a party's base tend to be rewarded because they can easily be outraged enough into turning out to vote. Clinton isn't at that level yet but she's in the same ballpark, and her win-at-all-costs, scorched-earth path to the nomination is going to drive away more people than it brings in.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Profound thought of the day

Anti-feminist women are strange...

WTC = Smoking

Seriously? I'm forced to agree with Andrew Sullivan, although this reminds me more of PETA than Giuliani--sick desperation to try to grab attention and then utilizing some existing guilt paradigm to sell your message. Okay, that's fucking Giuliani too, but still. If you're going to draw a parallel to say that smoking is bad, that parallel ought to hold up is all I'm saying.
Boy, those 9/11 truthers keep showing up in the strangest places...

In which I break with Krugman

Most Americans dread Mondays, as do I, because it seems like every Monday we see a new, lightly reasoned and generally unsupported article that criticizes Barack Obama. Enough already.

One of my favorite little bits from this article concerned Krugman's assertion (among Democrats) that there is much disappointment over Obama's impending victory. No names are mentioned, although this is rarely seen on political blogs, nor has it tamped down attendance at Obama's rallies. And the idea that Obama might get "Dukakisized" seems possible, but unlikely and not really a legitimate point against him. Unlike Mike Dukakis, Al Gore, or John Kerry, Barack Obama is a talented speaker and is, well, likeable. All three of those guys were already a bit odd and alienating to begin with--it wasn't like the press had their work cut out for them. In any event, it makes little sense to vote against Barack Obama because he might get some bad press in the future, especially since the Clintons can't seem to stop inflicting damage upon themselves via their surrogates and Bill "Jesse" Clinton. And the idea that Barack Obama is an untalented politician is silly. If he does reasonably well on Tuesday and knocks Clinton out of the race, he will have managed to defeat Hillary Clinton in a Democratic primary--doing that ought to leave little doubt as to his abilities.

This is perhaps the most objectionable article to date, and its egregiousness is breathtaking. The article implies that Obama has been light on criticizing George W. Bush and his policies, when the opposite is true. I've seen many speeches when he slams Bush for the Iraq War, the Bush worldview and the mindset that led to Iraq. Hillary Clinton's argumentation along these lines has been far more muted. He's talked forcefully about the need for a more equitable distribution of wealth, strong unions, a strong welfare state, and gay rights. The article makes him out to be a mushy-mouthed centrist, when he is, in fact, not only undoubtedly more liberal than Hillary Clinton, who seems yet to have met a war she didn't like.

Unlike some of the previous articles in the "Attack Barack" series, this article has to be regarded as intentionally deceptive, or at best merely uninformed. And this line is beyond redemption: "But Mr. Obama, instead of emphasizing the harm done by the other party’s rule, likes to blame both sides for our sorry political state." Not even close, and it is rather bizarre that the worst epithet that Krugman can dream up is to compare Obama to Michael Bloomberg. It is reminiscent of the story I once heard about two hobos fighting in San Francisco, who traded insults between each other like "conformist", "fundamentalist", and "Republican". The insults a person uses tell us a lot about where they are coming from. It is telling that Krugman's ultimate bete noire turns out to be a fairly liberal guy, albeit one who is disenchanted with partisanship. With Krugman, being a liberal is less important than being the object of hatred of conservatives, and in particular conservative Republicans. Why else champion Clinton over Obama, despite the latter being demonstrably more liberal in many ways? Why else champion the rather pathetic John Edwards, a few months ago, who was prone to making statements about eliminating SUVs while owning one himself? I just cannot continue to pretend that this man speaks for me. He has finally lost me. How could this man be so naive? How can he not see the opportunity presented by Obama? He is so blinded by fear and hatred of Republicans that he can't even get his prejudices straight anymore. I'm no fan of the Republicans, but if he's willing to write off a perfectly good liberal just because he doesn't want to engage in the penny ante bullshit that has come to define politics in the past few years, I'm done with him. I've finally had it. I'm through.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Richardson's making sense

I'm not sure what it is--maybe he comes off better in print than in person--but this little bit from Bill Richardson seems eminently sensible to me. Not necessarily a good choice for VP--he's not that impressive on the stump or in debates, and as an envoy to the Latino community he's not quite tested--but he can make sense. And am I the only one that really likes the beard?

Biden, though, would be better. A Democrat with some self-confidence and experience is valuable. Biden has done a pretty good job of reinventing himself this cycle--he's gone from being a pompous, middleweight windbag to being a serious national figure. So long as he can avoid the foot-in-mouth issues that used to plague him he ought to be a solid choice.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

McCain VP Choices

Petraeus makes sense. Tom Ridge, not so much. Doubling down on Iraq seems quite risky, especially when McCain's numbers are strong elsewhere as well. Didn't I see a recent poll showing that John McCain actually does quite well on the issue of the economy, despite his self-admitted (and truthful) lack of knowledge on the topic? Oh, wait, I did...

Then again, it's not as though McCain's a really great politician. He's great at managing the media, and great at making himself appealingly moderate, but in terms of actually getting stuff done he's not quite so impressive. He is unbelievably superficial. I heard someone say he's actually said far less about the issues than any other major candidate, but Obama's the candidate of fluff? I guess having the press corps spinning for you 24/7 is a bit of an advantage. Still, building a campaign on how well the war's been going means you have nothing if it starts going south. McCain ought to have a plan B is all.

Anyway, with respect to a VP choice, Sarah Palin seems like the best choice from where I sit. She's appealing, young, and a reformist. I suppose it would make for an all-Western ticket, which is just fine by me. I think some regions other than the South should have a shot. Does she pass the "plausible as a president test?" I honestly don't know. Not sure just how many women it would win over--after all, compared to a woman in the White House, a woman in the Naval Observatory is, well, not much at all--but it would be historic in a better way than the current most historic element of John McCain's candidacy: as the oldest major party presidential candidate not running for reelection.

The Man, The Myth, The Bio

East Bay, California, United States
Problem: I have lots of opinions on politics and culture that I need to vent. If I do not do this I will wind up muttering to myself, and that's only like one or two steps away from being a hobo. Solution: I write two blogs. A political blog that has some evident sympathies (pro-Obama, mostly liberal though I dissent on some issues, like guns and trade) and a culture blog that does, well, cultural essays in a more long-form manner. My particular thing is taking overrated things (movies, mostly, but other things too) down a peg and putting underrated things up a peg. I'm sort of the court of last resort, and I tend to focus on more obscure cultural phenomena.