Saturday, May 31, 2008

RBC Ends HRC Campaign

This Telegraph piece reports that Hillary Clinton could be a potential secretary of health and human services in an Obama Administration. Umm...I said the same thing three weeks ago. Well, I said HHS plus a SCOTUS opening when it happens (presumably after healthcare is passed), which seems like a pretty sweet deal from where I'm sitting.

I think that today's meeting pretty much ended Clinton's (admittedly remote) chances of winning the nomination. I expected a 69-59 Michigan Split and a halving of Florida's delegates. She didn't even get that. Substantively, it does not change the outcome of the race.

However, psychologically, the last of her trump cards is gone. Harold Ickes says that she reserves the right to take this to the convention, but under what logic? The full delegations from the states have been seated. They have been penalized as is fair--it's equivalent to what the Republicans did. They get half votes instead of full votes. Somehow, the Jim Crow argument just doesn't hold anymore. Perhaps she will transition into an argument against a slave-like 3/5 representation. That would be distasteful, but I think that the power of Clinton's "the votes must be counted" argument is more persuasive than "all the votes must be counted for more." It exposes that this "principle" is merely self-serving, as it always was.

So, basically, the last strategic tool on Clinton's behalf is gone. All she can hope for is a superdelegate stampede along the lines of 200+, which is a bit unlikely.

Friday, May 30, 2008


Steve Benen on Geraldine Ferraro:
Over the course of the last year, some political figures have seen their stature and reputation rise, and others have seen the opposite. I feel confident that no one has done more to ruin their standing and eminence than Geraldine Ferraro. She’s just completely fallen apart, and has fallen so far from her role as a respected party leader. How sad.
It's sad. But Clinton supporters who feel that they've gotten a bum deal need to take a reality check. Ferraro's remarks were at least tacitly backed by the Clinton campaign for a time, and I find it difficult to think of an analogous supporter of Obama who said the equivalent things about Clinton's gender, let alone one that stuck around until the heat got too bad.

John Cole's response to the latest round of Ferrtardation is a bit more pungent:
I was only 14 at the time when she ran in 84- was she always this damned stupid?
I couldn't say, but I'm guessing yes.


It does seem true: the right welcomes converts and the left is suspicious. I'm not so sure that this is Webb's problem. I think it's fundamentally that he's said some pretty abhorrent things during his lifetime that he's never apologized for or explained. Were he able to mount a plausible argument for what changed between the time that he believed that women shouldn't join the army in the late 1970s and now. It's not like Reagan's situation: Reagan was able to give an accounting for how he switched from a liberal Democrat to a conservative, so there wasn't much question about whether Reagan might have been a closet liberal. If Webb were to do this, he might be in a better chance to get the nomination. If he wants it. And I'm not entirely sure he does.

Clinton/Obama contrast

While I still identify myself as a feminist, I have been disappointed with institutional feminism during this election cycle. Clearly, there's still much sexism in American culture. Clearly, there's more educating to do about this fact. But I do not think that the feminist movement has done a good job calling attention to such things--I do not begrudge them for supporting a woman for president (though I would appreciate some acknowledgment that this symbolism is not the only women's issue out there), but I don't really think it's helpful to say that declaring that not voting for Hillary means you're sexist. I don't think it's helpful to reopen old wounds and turn this contest into Hillary vs. the mean old men on the teevee. Clearly, there's been some sexism there, but I have yet to be convinced that this factor is dispositive. And Clinton herself has run a divisive, Nixonian silent majority-style campaign in the Democratic primary, with no shortage of divisiveness along the way. But we can't talk about that.

Still, the victimhood and self-pity among some of Clinton's supporters is staggering. Dahlia Lithwick has an excellent piece on why this campaign isn't the end of the idea of a woman president. Personally, I think Kathleen Sebelius is a very promising prospect, and I think she'd make a worthwhile addition to Obama's ticket. I do worry about the consequences of placing two relative unknowns on the same ticket, and someone like Biden might reassure some voters. Then again, Sebelius does reinforce Obama's core message. Change and post-partisanship are, well, not bad assets to hold. And, plus, it puts a woman as the designated successor, so women who are heartbroken now will know that a woman will have another shot in eight years.

Madame Speaker

I'm a Nancy boy. Well, at least in the sense that I'm a big fan of Nancy Pelosi, a woman whose power and influence are at a zenith in America right now. This profile gives some of the reasons why. She's been quite effective at getting things done, even if all that has gone on to die in the Senate or by Bush's veto pen.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Huckabee says something intelligent

I have, at times, kinda liked Mike Huckabee. I liked him before he was a serious contender--I preferred his interpretation of Christianity--i.e. one that included positive responsibilities to the environment and the poor, among other things--to, say, George W. Bush's, which seems to mostly involve paying lip service to the family and doing nothing, plus a little gay bashing. Not that Huck's opposed to gay bashing per se, but at least his Christianity, like, involves a few things Christ actually said.

But this makes me like him all the more. His takedown of libertarianism is pretty shrewd positioning if he wants to run as a "Sam's Club" Republican in 2012, though perhaps not if he actually wants to run on McCain's ticket this year. Huckabee basically says that libertarianism is a soulless form of economic conservatism--and he's right. But having (briefly) been a libertarian myself (I think I've been, at various points, pretty much everywhere on the political spectrum, from socialism to hard-core Christian conservatism) I can say that this critique, while true, is a bit beside the point.

The main problem with libertarianism is that it is too inflexible. When one believes philosophically that government is always bad, one is invariably constrained in one's ability to respond to issues. Libertarians will invariably say that the private sector is a superior way of providing services than government, and there is a kernel of truth to this. However, one cannot, for example, respond to natural disasters by taking bids for response crews. Some libertarians might say that the government needs to run some things, like police, fire, etc., but this merely disproves their central thesis, and they're here arguing with the rest of us about when the government ought to intervene in our lives.

Herb Simon compared libertarianism to anarchy, which it sorta is. This is because the libertarians believe that humans can survive without governments, without hierarchy, without those structures and institutions that run our lives. At the bottom of this philosophy is a belief that humans are smart enough to get along for ourselves. It's based on the rational economic actor theory, which I find to be a bit problematic. People don't always make decisions based on their own best interest. People don't always make right decisions. Sometimes they screw up. Now, libertarians might say that we need to allow people to make mistakes so that they can learn lessons themselves, and that government interference keeps them from learning such lessons. I actually agree, but when such mistakes--like, for example, not getting health insurance--put themselves in grave risk and, even more importantly, cause huge problems for the community in general, I think it is fair to say that the government has a compelling interest to step in and take some steps to insure safety. It's a social utility argument, basically. This is why, for example, we require people to wear seatbelts in 49 states (New Hampshire, that redoubtable redoubt of libertarian sentiment, is the holdout). Sure, getting in an accident without a seatbelt will probably teach a lesson to the victim, but that victim will probably be dead and thus unable to process the lesson.

Now, one might say that liberalism is too eager to impose such constraints upon people, and it's probably a fair critique--well, maybe it was at some point in history. I don't really think it is now. But, regardless, the reason why I'm a liberal as opposed to a libertarian (or a conservative) is that liberalism isn't afraid of using government to solve problems while acknowledging that some problems cannot be solved by government. Liberalism is often critiqued as not being a uniform, easily encapsulatable concept. This may be, but I think it's actually a strength: liberalism has a large toolbox to solve problems, something that anti-government philosophies like libertarianism (and, to a lesser degree, conservatism) have to offer. Liberals can take things by a case-by-case basis, the others can't. And when a problem does require the sort of authority that only government can provide, liberals are willing to use that authority. This is not to state that liberals love government action. Indeed, on social issues, liberals tend not to like the government involved much at all, and though there is more diversity on economic issues, there are plenty of liberals (like me) who support deregulating things like professional requirements and zoning laws, as well as free trade. But, basically, there is a line drawn for where we accept government involvement--we believe in the free market, though we believe it has some defects. Conservatives also draw a line which sorta mirrors our own--they're more comfortable dictating social policy and hard-line militarism. But, ultimately, both liberals and conservatives are willing to draw a line as to where government involvement is acceptable and where it isn't. I personally think that conservatism has gone too far in drawing theirs, but time will tell.

Libertarians, though, think we can avoid drawing a line altogether. The impracticability of this viewpoint, as well as the lack of public appeal for these positions, is probably why libertarianism is a boutique phenomenon, and likely long will be. So, I'm really looking forward to 2012: Huckabee vs. Romney ought to be interesting.

Obama will make health care his #1 priority if elected

Eat your heart out, Paul Krugman.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Are Democrats that stupid?

Hillary Clinton's final pitch is pretty much all about electability. It does seem to be borne out by the evidence that she's better positioned in the key swing states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania (though Obama narrowly edges McCain in Ohio and beats him soundly in PA). In any event, the contest certainly looks winnable for either candidate.

Still, I don't find Clinton's arguments all that persuasive. For one thing, she is more popular with the more culturally conservative working class voters in red-leaning states like Ohio, but that has largely got to be because Fox News and the right wing media has been going very easy on her while making a fuss about Barack Obama misremembering which Nazi concentration camp his great uncle liberated. Fox News desperately wants Clinton to win the nomination, and basically parrots her talking points. Why, because they think she'd be easier to beat?

No. Because Clinton's new working class support will splinter pretty quickly if she actually gets the nomination. Because then Fox will start talking about Whitewater and impeachment around the clock. Because then the right wing will try to tear her down again. They've been trying their damnedest to do it to Obama. Clinton's potemkin electability will evaporate in short order if she gets the nomination, and she'll still likely lose Iowa, Colorado and New Mexico--states Obama is poised to win, which in conjunction with the Kerry states will win Obama the White House. And which of the two candidates is more likely to change the way people think about them, Clinton or Obama? The immensely talented, charismatic upstart or the polarizing old battle horse? This is not to diminish Clinton's intelligence or her other gifts, but she was born to be a behind-the-scenes type, and she's gotten as far as she's gotten by basically adopting blunt identity politics and Nixon's silent majority approach within the Democratic primaries to mask her own lack of charisma.

To answer my initial question: I really hope not.

Monday, May 26, 2008

VP Hagel is a bad idea

Isn't it? It's too clever by half. Hagel and Obama don't agree on too much aside from the war (and possibly immigration) so what exactly is Hagel going to stump for Obama on...aside from the war? And the war is a good issue, I think, but putting all the eggs in one basket is not a good idea. I suspect that the economy will also be a good issue, for example. Hagel can't back up Obama on that.

I actually think that Obama/Hagel is a worse idea than McCain/Lieberman for several reasons: first, Lieberman is a well-known public figure and a celebrity and Hagel isn't. Second, Lieberman has cultivated a moderate image and had plenty of stances that the right liked even before he began his metamorphosis into a pro-choice version of Bush/McCain. Hagel is ultraconservative. Lieberman agreeing to be on a ticket headed by a Republican would strike a huge blow against the Democrats, since most folks still think Lieberman is a moderate. Hardly anyone knows who Chuck Hagel actually is. Now, Hagel endorsing Obama and stumping for him would certainly be helpful--maybe he'd be able to help Obama's odds in Nebraska, for example--but I think he adds in a whole host of new variables (like abortion rights) that are easily avoidable with another running mate, while there is really no proof that he'll bring tons of new Republicans into Obama's camp.

So, this is a pretty bad idea from where I sit.

Biden =/= Kennedy

This is the most bizarre sentence I've ever read in an American periodical:
Now Biden, who has been to foreign policy in the Senate what Ted Kennedy has been to domestic policy (almost anyway!)...
Wait. Ted Kennedy was a stalwart supporter of liberalism for his whole career. When it was cool, when it wasn't, he was there, getting stuff done, making progress.

Joe Biden is not that. He is a prominent liberal hawk who enthusiastically backed Bush's war, and then tried to escape from it by criticizing the execution of the war. Admittedly, in the past year, he's made some impressive strides and doesn't even seem to much support the Iraq War anymore, although he's a tick or two to the right of, say, Barack Obama. I've actually kinda come to like Biden, truth be told, but he isn't exactly synonymous with keeping the faith. In terms of sheer knowledge, perhaps the comparison is more appropriate, but it's kind of a stretch.

Of course, considering that most media types supported the war, perhaps Biden is seen as a keeper of the faith, as his evolution has been similar to the conventional wisdom of Washington at every step of the way.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

He's evil

Any doubts as to Terry McAuliffe's evilness ought to be put to rest by this:
"The Obama campaign ... tried to take these words out of context," Clinton campaign chairman Terence R. McAuliffe said on "Fox News Sunday." "She was making a point merely about the time line."
So much to unpack here--the venue (yeah, go on Fox News to slime another Democrat), the outright bullshit becaues Obama himself refused to make an issue of this (more than can be said when Obama made a similarly embarrassing remark before Pennsylvania). What is the point of remarks like this, other than to fan the flames of Clinton's supporters in order to make them more reticent to support the eventual nominee? To make it seem like it was Obama's shop, rather than the media in general, that amplified these remarks?

I'll be glad to see the Clintons gone in a few weeks, but I'll be even more happy to see the terrible, terrible staffers she's surrounded herself with gone.

Oh, noooooooo! It's President Bill!

This election has lowered my opinion of Hillary Clinton (just a little bit!) but it has been even worse for Bill Clinton. Put simply, I hate him. He has been a force for evil throughout this election, whether it be for making borderline racist comments after South Carolina, exploding in California after Bill Richardson endorsed Barack Obama, or any number of ultraemotional/cranky outbursts that give the unmistakable impression that, while Hillary might actually want to govern well, Bill just only cares about maintaining his alpha-dog status. And this makes me far less sympathetic to Hillary's campaign (as though any help were needed for that!).

Still, I find it hard to believe that Bill Clinton, who was once our leader, would spout such insane utterances as these. Sullivan's analysis is just right: it's purely paranoid. It's almost as if they believe that they are the victims of some sort of vast...conspiracy. But that can't be right.

Poor Bill. Heavy lies the head get the crown...for someone else, all the while torpedoing her chances. Hell, were it not for Bill's dumbass comments after South Carolina, she might have done better with Blacks and won the nomination. I get the feeling that the Clintons' breakfast conversations are going to get a bit more chilly in about two weeks. I'm guessing they're not exactly cozy under the best circumstances.

VP thoughts

John McCain seems to have gotten the impression (that he himself planted) that people like someone who will follow their own integrity, no matter the cost to himself or his political well-being. It's all very noble, but doesn't G. W. Bush kinda disprove this theory?

People liked John McCain because he was moderate. Many still think he is, and on some issues he kinda is. But the whole John Wayne theory of leadership doesn't seem to be in vogue. People like leaders that, you know, listen to them and agree with them. Fighting like hell for the people, instead of for some abstract principle, is what Americans value. John McCain seems to have learned all the wrong lessons from Bush and seems perfectly willing to self-immolate for some of his principles. This is probably why Republicans are reportedly so worried about him.

So, I wonder if he would be more likely to pick someone like Mitt Romney as VP if he thought Romney would be best qualified. Romney would be an election-killer, since just about everyone hates him. I wonder if that couldn't be one of John McCain's "transcendent challenges" that Matt Welch talks about. Okay, this is wishful thinking, I suppose. I don't really know what to expect from John McCain with respect to a running mate. Tommy Franks, perhaps? Joe Lieberman also seems plausible to me. The war is McCain's bag, picking someone who's ultrahawkish seems a given.

With Obama, I think he really needs to pick someone established. I like Jim Webb a lot, and it's a pick that makes a whole ton of sense, but Obama's still a pretty new figure on the stage, and having an old hand on board would be reassuring to some folks. Biden makes sense to me from this angle.

The Thorny Immigration Issue

John McCain clearly has a problem. He's changed his tune on immigration so much that it greatly resembles the "Bohemian Rhapsody" of McCain's platform. Clearly he believes in comprehensive reform, and he's clearly trying to dupe anti-immigration voters into thinking that maybe/sorta/kinda he might toss them some red meat. If elected, McCain will have to deal with a heavily Democratic congress that is going to want immigration reform, and he's clearly sympathetic to this. So how does a Democrat exploit this intra-Republican cleavage?

Answer: very carefully. Democrats clearly want to establish themselves as the Hispanic-friendly party, and Obama is doing much better with Hispanics than he once was. I think the best thing to do is to highlight McCain's contradictory stance on this issue. Try to tell Hispanics that they can't trust McCain to be humane on this issue. But keep it alive and at the forefront of peoples' minds.

Why? Because if people start talking about McCain's flip-flopping on immigration, they'll be more receptive to a broader argument later down the line that McCain has ceased being a Maverick® and has shifted his positions and pandered. This has the added (Nixonian) benefit of causing a split in the GOP that McCain will not have enough trust to mend. Possibly.

I'm trying to think of a way to move rhetorically to McCain's right on immigration that won't piss off Latinos. I wish I were more of an immigration wonk! Didn't the McCain-Kennedy-Bush bill not have a back taxes provision for illegal immigrants? Why not push that, or something like it?

Could Obama wrap things up by winning Puerto Rico?

A victory in everyone's favorite protectorate would probably be a shot through the heart for the Clinton campaign, which has repeatedly insisted upon its strength with Latino voters. But Obama has been gaining with that group in a big way. Even a squeaker win would likely be seen as a huge upset, and would be treated as evidence that Clinton's coalition is crumbling. Follow that up with expected Obama wins in Montana and South Dakota, and the popular vote argument is severely diminished.

I don't think it's an understatement to say that Puerto Rico will probably be the deathknell of Clinton's campaign if Obama manages to pull out a victory.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Memo to the sociocons

As much as you would like to believe you control the GOP, you are wrong. The moneycons have always run and will always run your party, and in any conflict between the two of you, you will always lose.

Exhibit A: John McCain is now telling business leaders that he supports comprehensive immigration reform. I actually agree with the right wing's response to this flip-flop: it is pretty craven. I disagree about the underlying policy issue, though. Immigration is good for the economy: more immigrants = more consumers = a better economy, which may be why the West (and especially the Southwest) is booming economically.

This is neither here nor there. The moneycons want lax immigration, most other Republicans don't. As Jon Chait noted in The Big Con--extensively--Republican politicians are most afraid of running afoul of the Norquist/business wing of the party, and it's not hard to see why: they're the ones with the money! There's no Obama money machine equivalent on the GOP's side--well, maybe Ron Paul, but he's not going to win. McCain, in particular, is hard up for cash. So he dumps this with the rest of the trash on Friday, but I hope the media doesn't let him get away with it. I hope that Obama doesn't, either.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

McCain: Obama will like him when he's angry

A pretty brilliant insight by Kevin Drum.

The Sad Demise of Hillary Clinton

Steve Benen worked in the Bill Clinton White House, and still speaks very favorably about the Clintons. He tentatively backed Obama, but he's hardly been anti-Clinton. Now he's pretty much broken with HRC as a result of her efforts to delegitimize Barack Obama's nomination. So has Governor Paterson of New York (sorta). I can't say I'm surprised.

Look, Hillary Clinton isn't an evil woman. But she's complicated and driven by negative energy in a way that no public figure has since Richard Nixon. I think there's a part of her that wants to be the gracious statesman and bow out. We've seen that on occasion, like when she defended Barack Obama on the negotiating with Iran front. I believe that was sincere, and there have been times (like that debate right before the Texas and Ohio primaries) when she's been charming, gracious, and likable, and has appeared to accept Obama's inevitability and her responsibility to the Democratic Party. This is the Clinton who has shown admirable grit in the face of adversity, who has been able to laugh off insults, who has shined at debates and on television for months. This is the Clinton that her supporters see, and love, and want to be president.

That Clinton exists, but there's another Hillary Clinton. The one who tried to suppress voter turnout in Nevada in Obama-friendly areas. The one whose top aides actively distributed nasty smears about Barack Obama's "Muslimness." This Clinton reopened old wounds by having Gloria Steinem and Robin Morgan exploit age-old gender disputes at her request. This Clinton declined to disown unquestionably racist comments from her husband and Geraldine Ferraro and qualified her answer to a question about whether Obama was a Muslim to say that he wasn't, but only to the best of her knowledge. The Clinton whose official campaign said that John Kerry was "dead to her" for supporting Barack Obama, and said that Bill Richardson was a "Judas" for not following the unwritten eternal debt he had to the Clintons. This is the Clinton who has advanced gas-tax hooey, who changed her metrics for the nomination several dozen times and, to top it off, has gone about trying to say that she deserves the nomination, even though she lost fair and square, because the rules didn't favor her. This is not the act of an historic statesman (stateswoman?) but the act of a petulant child whining over losing a little league game because the other team cheated. They must have. She was better, she should have won, therefore the other team must have cheated. She simply cannot accept that she was outplayed. This is the Clinton that her opponents (myself included) see when we look at her.

So, which one is true? Well, they both are. Kinda. I think Clinton has a Jekyll-and-Hyde thing going on, in some respects. Mickey Kaus has proposed his theory of "mutnemom" which speculates that Clinton is endearing as an underdog (i.e., she adopts personality A) but after a big win she becomes insufferably cocky once again, which leads to personality B. I think it's more sophisticated than that, though Clinton's wins in West Virginia and Kentucky could account for personality B resurfacing, so Kaus's theory seems still valid. I think that there is a battle going on within her soul. I think that she consciously wants to do the right thing by the party--that's personality A. But I think she's fighting her nature, which is very much convinced of the righteousness of her cause and has no need to justify anything in the pursuit of power and (in her mind) greatly deserved adulation. I see it as being like trying to walk an out-of-control dog. She might be able to restrain the dog for a while, pull on its leash, shout at it to stop, and it will, for a while. Then it will start going again and it will pull her along as it bounds ahead, out of control. I just knew, after she lost NC and almost lost Indiana, when all the pundits said that she was going to launch a positive, Huckabee-like campaign, that it wasn't going to happen. For a while, maybe, but it's just not her nature to take defeats like this. She had to endure one humiliation after another for decades at the hands of her Caligula-like husband (and I think it an apt comparison, although minus the disembowelings). How many times did she have to play the doting wife when another bimbo came forward to accuse Bill of adultery? How many times did she have to sign off on sliming those "other women?" She put up with all that shit only to lose the reward, the one thing she'd been waiting for, to some freshman senator from Illinois? I understand that. Hell, I'd be pretty pissed off, too. And I understand why her supporters back her--all of this is an unstated but central premise of her campaign.

But the presidency is not a therapy session, and putting dysfunctional people in the White House is just not a very good idea. We tried it with Nixon, and he imposed his own sense of class resentment, anti-authoritarian rage, and utter lack of character upon the nation. Do we really want an America that comes to reflect Clinton's own particular resentments? There's already evidence that she views this contest as equivalent to Bill's impeachment. If she somehow wins she's going to extract payback, you better believe it. Just ask Bill Richardson if the Clintons forgive and forget if they think they've been crossed. And now they're trying to grab the nomination from Barack Obama--the greatest natural politician since, well, her husband--and they're willing to exacerbate the already existing wounds in the Democratic Party to do so. It doesn't seem like the side effect of this--Obama losing to McCain in November--is a bug in this plan, but rather a feature. Why else would you compare Barack Obama to Robert Mugabe, unless you think that there's something there? This, truly, is pathetic, and enough is enough. It is no longer sufficient for the party to just "let this thing play out." They need to start to actively push Senator Clinton out of the contest. Such an action will be divisive. It will engender bitterness in some quarters. But a critical point has been reached and the costs of leaving her in the race to continue to pummel Barack Obama are too great. Clinton cannot be trusted to just step aside of her own volition. Even if she wants to on a conscious level she will not be able to overcome this dark, dare I say Nixonian, energy. Nixon never could. Despite all her candidacy has meant for so many people, it has long since ceased to be constructive and its purpose seems now to be as a stalking horse for John McCain's fall campaign, creating and reinforcing narratives and preconceptions that will hurt Obama's chances in the fall. She has chosen to do this rather than exit after Wisconsin, or after North Carolina and Indiana, or after Oregon. If she stays, she will only hurt the Democrats' chances in November, which is exactly why her biggest boosters these days are Fox News and the rest of the right wing "press." They're not going easy on Clinton because they think she's easier to beat, regardless of what Karl Rove says. I often operate according to the assumption of counter-Rove opinion, anyway.

The day is done, and Clinton's supporters can take from the experience what they want. But it is her conduct for the duration of this campaign that has been disgraceful, and anyone who would dismiss these comments is delusional. It was often said, with respect to communism, that out of intelligence, personal honesty, and loyalty to the regime, one could only possess two of the three qualities. At this point, I'd settle for a Clinton campaign that permitted just one.


The Senate overwhelmingly passes the veteran legislation that President Bush opposes. It's veto-proof. I must confess I find this entire episode utterly baffling. We all know that George W. Bush doesn't much give a shit about what the public thinks of him and wants to "stick to his guns", but since when has shafting the people actually using his guns become such a deeply-held conviction? He can't be opposing this because of the cost--it's a bit late to start caring about such things. And the cockamamie shit he's selling about "retention" is weak tea. Really weak. Does he really want the Democrats to become the party pushing deserved veterans' benefits? No wonder he's losing popularity even in his own party.

But John McCain's stance is even more befuddling. He's backing up Bush on this, despite it being unpopular. Presumably he's interested in being popular. Presumably he's interested in preserving his party's reputation among vets. Presumably he's interested in winning. And yet he's dead-set against this, using the same obscure retention logic as Bush.

Sid Blumenthal tells us that attacking McCain as being the same as Bush isn't going to work politically. Sure?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Bush III

Why people continue to take Sid Blumenthal seriously is mysterious to me. He basically says here that attacking McCain as being a Bush clone will fail because "the public doesn't see Bush that way." Well, McCain does support Bush's policies in almost every area. He likes war, he likes big tax cuts for the rich, and he's got a bunch of lobbyists running the show. This sounds a lot like George Bush. What's the matter with saying so? If you make a compelling argument, people might even agree.

Substantively, maybe he's not exactly like Bush, but he supports most of Bush's most unpopular policies. Maybe tagging McCain as Bush III isn't going to work, but if it did it would be pretty shattering: McCain's a "maverick" after all, and the assertion that he takes his marching orders from Dubya would destroy his public image (and probably his self-conceit). Of course, McCain could avoid being tarred in this fashion by breaking with said unpopular Bush policies, but this does not really seem likely.

Blumenthal is one of the endless Democratic elites whose sole purpose seems to be to keep the Democratic Party from doing anything aside from mildly arguing against the Republicans on domestic policy grounds. Forget foreign policy--the GOP will win there. Forget taxes--the GOP will crush us. Just talk about how the Republicans want to gut Social Security. In other words, Blumenthal wants us to respond to the politics of fear with...the politics of fear. But then the Repubs really win if you try that--they're way better at fearmongering. You must counter fear with hope.

Boy, am I glad that Obama will win the nomination. At least Sid will have to find honest work.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Why Clinton fights on

Wrong, Richard Cohen:
In the end, no one begrudges a bitter-ender. Robert E. Lee is not vilified because he fought on too long, wasting lives and all of it, mind you, in the cause of slavery. In Israel, Masada is venerated because the zealots held out and killed themselves rather than surrender. Thermopylae is not considered a defeat but a lesson to us all: Never give up! This is precisely what Hillary Clinton is doing.
She will be vilified if Obama loses in a close race that is defined by the smear attacks that the Clinton camp advanced. Let's not forget, for example, the involvement of Sid Blumenthal in the "Obama's a Muslim" emails, among many other examples. If he loses, she will be the most hated person in the Democratic Party. Zell Miller would be able to primary her for the NY Senate nomination in 2010. Hell, even Joe Lieberman would be able to beat her. Well, maybe not. But Zell? Perhaps.

I think this has finally sunk in with Clinton. She knows she can't win now, so she's going to stay in, like Huckabee did in his race, until Obama clinches it. That's why the voices have been lowered. And that's why I believe her when she says she'll work hard for Obama in the fall. Because doing that might set her up for a 2012 run if Obama loses. Nothing else will.

McCain and Same-sex marriage

I get the point--conservatives want John McCain to make a big deal out of gay marriage. But what's he going to do? You can only ban gay marriage once. It's already banned in Ohio and Pennsylvania. The "Obama judges are going to impose gay marriage upon the country" is probably the most promising angle to exploit this issue, but isn't McCain already hard right on "activist" judges anyway?

The reason why McCain hasn't exploited this issue seems simple to me: there's no easy way to exploit it, as far as I can see. The article seems to proceed from the assumption that there's some way for McCain to exploit the issue to his advantage and that he's just gun-shy over the whole thing. I don't think so. He probably figures that getting young people and gay folks pissed at him in order to fire up the base probably isn't going to help his unifier cred, and there just isn't a percentage in it for him. Might as well leave it the hell alone. I sure as hell know it's not out of some high-minded principle that he's laying low on marriage, considering his boostering for the (failed) 2006 same-sex marriage ban.


I think this is a particularly savvy take on movement politics:

The great liberal wave that lasted from the 30s through the 70s was fundamentally based on three things: middle class wage growth, the construction of a social safety net, and the individual rights revolution. Its other pathologies aside, liberalism's big problem by the end of the 70s was that it had essentially won most of these battles. Not all of them. No movement ever wins all its battles. But once you win two-thirds of them, it's hard to sustain the kind of momentum it takes to win the rest.

Conservatives are in the same boat today, except worse. Modern movement conservatism was also fundamentally based on three things: low taxes, anti-communism, and social traditionalism. ("Small government" was never more than a fig leaf.) Today communism is gone (and Islamofascism has failed to rally the troops in the same way), taxes literally can't be lowered any more, and sex-and-gender fundamentalism has become an albatross that's rapidly producing a generation of young voters more repelled by conservatism than any generation since World War II. Even in the late 70s, there were plenty of traditionally liberal goals still to be fought for. Not enough to build a winning coalition around, but still something. Modern conservatives don't even have that. The culture war is pretty much all they have left, and its clock has run out.

Political movements do not last forever. They end for one of two reasons: either they achieve their goals, or they don't. This is why I support Barack Obama: his willingness to take on the Republicans on their perceived strengths--like foreign policy--will make it all the much harder for the GOP to try to survive in its current incarnation if Obama wins. And I'm interested in winning this war (of ideas).

Sunday, May 18, 2008

An observation

I've always found it ironic how the conservative movement--a movement that ascended to power largely on a message of "law and order"--has long been so dismissive of actual lawlessness perpetrated in pursuit of its own goals. Do I really have to back up this assertion? Al Gonzales, secret tribunals, torture, Bush v. Gore, impeachment--and that's just from the past 10 years. We could go further back to Oliver North, but it really isn't necessary.

I've often wondered about this contradiction--hypocrisy, really--but I've been reading Rick Perlstein's Nixonland and he mentions the phenomenon off-handedly by suggesting that such things are laudable if one believes the barbarians are at the gates. And that's true of conservatism, isn't it? It just so happens that Americans are susceptible to paranoia over existential threats--from terrorism to kidnapping--that are worrisome but far less dire than one would think from watching the news. Kidnapping is a really difficult one to understand--kids are actually less likely to be kidnapped by a stranger today than they were forty years ago. Most kidnappings that do take place (and I believe it's about 100 a year nationally) are perpetrated by family members--i.e. the child's father takes the child from the mother who has custody. It just doesn't happen.

All of this is by way of saying that Americans are susceptible to fearmongering in a way that other groups aren't. Perhaps that's not an original observation--I think Bowling for Columbine made a similar point--but that's what I've been thinking about.

Something to make The Office look entirely comfortable by comparison...

I am, to put it mildly, not a fan of Hillary Clinton. But this made me feel sympathetic toward her:
Hillary Rodham Clinton spent a second straight day in Kentucky, where she is favored to win when its voters head to the polls the same day.

She attended worship services at a Methodist church in Bowling Green, and happily sang hymns and joined in Bible readings. But her smile faded when the pastor launched into a sermon about adultery, asking his congregants whether the devil had ever whispered over their shoulders in their marriages.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

The most repellent column ever?

I'm hard-pressed to disagree with that categorization (via Steve Benen). This country is growing more multicultural, to be sure, and the thought of an emerging cultural divide between "full-blooded" and, I suppose, not-full-blooded (i.e. nonwhite) Americans is a depressing idea for many of us. I suppose that Karl Rove and his ilk probably like that idea, though.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Revisionist Bush Greatness?

Ross Douthat lays out a possible scenario in which George W. Bush manages to get some revisionist cred if the economy fixes itself and the Middle East becomes reasonably stable. Those are, to my way of thinking, pretty big ifs. But I think the flaw in the argument rests in one of George W. Bush's least heralded achievements--his creation of an entire generation of Democrats--Dems who came of age during the Bush years. Dems whose baseline for conservative arrogance and incompetence will always be George W. Bush. One never forgets how to speak in one's native language, even if one lives in another nation for a great length of time, and the next generation of liberal and moderate historians and political leaders--the ones who are among the 58% who now identify themselves as Democrats and loathe George W. Bush--are unlikely to forget that in my mind.

Then again, I have a nagging suspicion that Ross might just be right. Not much of one, though. I'll put the odds of a Bush revival at about 15%. I do agree that such a prospect is not a good thing, and largely for the reasons that Ross lays out in his article: celebrating activism for the sake of activism is silly. This is why I am such a huge fan of Ross's co-partisan Dwight Eisenhower--some might look at Ike's record and ask, why's this guy so special, what'd he do? I look at it and think, my God, look at all the potentially disastrous things he didn't do!

Florida, Michigan, Superdelegates

Is this right? Is Clinton only likely to pick up about thirty delegates total from Florida and Michigan? This is supposed to be the magic salve that catapaults Mrs. Clinton to the White House?

It seems to me that the best way of punishing those responsible for this mess is to restore the pledged delegates according to how the article proposes--69-59 in Michigan, and halving the Florida delegation--while stripping both states of superdelegates. Those superdelegates would be the people responsible for causing the mess to begin with, so targeting them in particular seems fair.

In any event, I highly doubt that the committee would just go in for the Clinton position. Obama's the nominee, after all, and I doubt they'll embarrass him. Give Clinton the 30 so that she can save face and drop out, I say.

Obama would not have been possible without Clinton

I rather liked this Peter Beinart piece. As someone who has often made exactly the critiques of Clinton that this article pushes back upon--that the Clintons caved in too often to the right, basically--I think this article does a good job of defending its thesis. It doesn't really convince me to change my mind too much, because while Clinton's centrist moves on welfare reform and crime helped to take those issues off the table, they weren't the only issues upon which Clinton triangulated. I actually tend to let him off the hook for the big things. It was the little things--signing DOMA, Telecom Deregulation, the DMCA, all terrible legislation that Clinton decided wasn't worth spending political capital to oppose. And then there were the slights against his own allies. Sister Souljah is just as much a part of the Clinton legacy as welfare reform. Maybe it was politically necessary to do this at the time, but it's much less defensible than welfare reform in my book. And then there's stuff like the anti-gay ads that Clinton ran in 1996 in red states. Andrew Sullivan mentioned it here. This was when they were running against Bob Dole, who was crippled right out of the gate. Why run such ads? There was no real political necessity to do so, unless one believes that Bill Clinton felt the need to constantly stick his finger in the eye of his ostensible friends. As I do.

And this was perhaps the greatest negative legacy of Clinton's Democratic party--an abiding belief that you had to join the Republicans on things like Telecom Deregulation, on DOMA, and eventually on the Iraq War because the public just wasn't going to accept forthright progressivism. Bill Clinton internalized this, even though six years of appeasing Republicans earned him a jerry-rigged impeachment proceeding and little else to show for it. I think that his wife internalized it as well, and maybe it was true at the time, but Barack Obama came of age politically during the 1990s instead of the 1960s and thus he doesn't reflexively feel the need to sell out his friends when it's politically convenient. I think that that's the single biggest difference between the two candidates, and I think part of the hangup about Obama in elite circles is that he doesn't triangulate, and these folks probably wonder if it's no longer necessary. But in a funny way that proves Beinart's thesis--it was Clintonian triangulation that was emulated by many members of the Democratic party in the leadup to Iraq, including Clinton's own wife, and the eventual grassroots revolt against said elites that has been going on ever since. Clintonism, in essence, prompted Democrats not to want to break ranks with Republicans on Iraq, which ultimately paved the way for Barack Obama. Ironic, but in hindsight it seems obvious.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

California Supreme Court Legalizes Gay Marriage

The California Supreme Court legalizes gay marriage. I endorse this, of course. Republicans are, no doubt, going to raise (once again) the specter of activist courts and "the gay agenda" as a campaign issue. I don't think it will work, and here's why:
  1. It didn't work last time. Congressional Republicans tried this tactic in 2006, after its putative success in 2004. It failed to stop the big Democratic wave then, and it was even voted down in Arizona, which is not exactly a left-wing state. Even in South Dakota it only carried by about 10%. Perhaps it's changing attitudes to homosexuality, perhaps the issue has merely run its course, perhaps people realize we've got bigger fish to fry. There was an equivalent potential catalyst in 2006, too, when the New Jersey Supreme Court mandated civil unions. It might turn out more ultraconservatives to the polls, but they'll probably vote for McCain anyway.
  2. McCain's issue ain't exactly right-wing orthodox on gays. He might move to the right, but John McCain was (and possibly still is) against an amendment banning gay marriage, supposedly on federalist grounds. He won't be able to do the Dobson-Rove smearing because of his own centrism on the issue, and it's unclear to me that he wants to. Maybe he'll break with one of the Republican party's most despicable uses of identity politics? At the very least, Democrats ought to be able to muddy the waters a little bit and say McCain's been in the middle on the issue and turn it into a character/flip-flopping question.
  3. The sky hasn't fallen yet. Gay marriage has been legal in Massachusetts for four years, and yet society still stands.
This is an important moment, and I'm glad my state is going to stop denying an entirely reasonable right to people just because some other people don't like it. Homosexuality is neither immoral nor objectionable, nor unnatural--hundreds of different animal species exhibit homosexual behavior to varying extents, including man. This belies the idea that it's a "choice". That Republicans have decided to demonize gay people for the past decade as a political strategy is one of the most despicable chapters in the history of that party, and the willingness to invade states' rights and individual liberties, not to mention the whole idea that there's some sort of gay agenda to destroy our society in order to crack down on gay rights as a path to electoral success belies the reality of the Republican party: they don't care a whit about any of these principles, or justice, or fairness, or kindness, or even love of fellow human beings. It's just about winning. This merely underscores the importance of removing this group from power. It's why I'm no longer a Republican. Well, partially. But it was a big part.


I've always found it a bit ironic that conservatives are always raising the specter of 1939 and appeasement to anyone that doesn't believe in an ultrahawkish approach to foreign policy when one considers that it was conservatives who were so adamant at keeping us from getting involved in the war earlier than we did. But the hackiness of bringing up Hitler in front of the Israeli Knesset is astounding, and it merely reinforces all the things America has come to dislike about George W. Bush: the tarring of anyone who disagrees with him as either having nefarious anti-American motives or just being sadly misguided; positions that are based largely on his juvenile macho psychology of making America "seem tough" while destroying our military and treasury and perceived power in Iraq; and, of course, his unwavering belief in the ultimate moral correctness of his views, which seems to derive solely from his holding them. Just seven months and five days. It can't come soon enough.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Things to which we bid adieu...and hello to

  • Adieu: West Virginia's historic reputation for tolerance. Recall that the state got started as a result of West Virginians not wanting to fight for the side of slaveowners with the rest of the Virginians. And they managed to give John Kennedy an (admittedly suspect) win over Hubert Humphrey in the 1960 Democratic race. And now they're voting 2/3 against the overwhelming favorite for the nomination and saying stuff like this. I suppose it's not fair to say that West Virginia has really changed--surely, West Virginia still had an aversion to interracial marriage back in 1960. Wait, doesn't that kinda prove my original point?

  • Hello: Travis Childers, Congressman-elect from the First District of Mississippi. He's a Democrat who won in a, shall we say, Republican-leaning district (it's Mississippi, for cryin' out loud!) and generally agreed with his Republican opponent on most issues. So this might not really be notable, except for the fact that one of the issues with which he differed with his opponent was the Iraq War. Childers ran hard against the Iraq War and talked about the need for a swift withdrawal. And he won. In Mississippi. I think that sound you hear now is the collective hearts of the congressional Republican caucus stopping.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Rendell for VP

I wrote on this a little bit ago, but I found this article to be persuasive in many ways. I can see at least one drawback to this choice.
This is bizarre (from an NYT piece on the upcoming general election):
“In 1984, Ronald Reagan said, ‘I’m not going to exploit for political purposes my opponent’s youth and inexperience,’ ” said Frank Donatelli, the deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee. “Well, we are going to exploit Obama’s youth and inexperience.”
Well, at least the GOP is done trying to be like Reagan in every way. But isn't this kind of a terrible idea? Pointing out how young Obama is will just make people realize how old McCain is, and considering this pissy letter from McCain's campaign when Obama kinda sorta (not really) said something that might have pointed out that McCain's a really old man, one would figure they'd think a bit harder about this course of action. It seems like McCain's best bet would be to downplay the age stuff, but what do I know?

VP Conundrum

So, Obama is probably going to need to pick someone from the moderate, DLC, Clinton wing of the party for the sake of party unity. That person, in my opinion, ought not to be Clinton herself.

There is another factor, though. Obama has to pick a running mate that was, like him, initially opposed to the Iraq War. He's not argued that Clinton's war support completely disqualifies her from the office of the presidency, but he has responded to her "experience" arguments with "judgment" arguments. I get the sense that picking a prominent Iraq hawk like Joe Biden might raise some eyebrows.

So, I was wondering what we had to work with in Congress when it comes to Iraq War opponents. Turns out there was quite a few of them in the House, but picking a sitting representative seems like a bad idea. Obama's lack of experience will come into play, and having someone on the ticket who has never even run statewide seems like a real liability. Now, picking Nancy Pelosi would be one thing, but there's that balance thing again.

Here's Wikipedia's list of opponents of the Iraq War in the Senate:

21 (42%) of 50 Democratic Senators voted against the resolution: Sens. Akaka (D-HI), Bingaman (D-NM), Boxer (D-CA), Byrd (D-WV), Conrad (D-ND), Corzine (D-NJ), Dayton (D-MN), Durbin (D-IL), Feingold (D-WI), Graham (D-FL), Inouye (D-HI), Kennedy (D-MA), Leahy (D-VT), Levin (D-MI), Mikulski (D-MD), Murray (D-WA), Reed (D-RI), Sarbanes (D-MD), Stabenow (D-MI), Wellstone (D-MN), Wyden (D-OR).

And here's a list of Clinton endorsers in the Senate:

Sen. Evan Bayh (Ind.)
Sen. Maria Cantwell (Wash.)
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.)
Sen. Daniel Inouye (Hawaii)
Sen. Blanche Lincoln (Ark.)
Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.)
Sen. Barbara Mikulski (Md.)
Sen. Patty Murray (Wash.)
Sen. Bill Nelson (Fla.)
Sen. Mark Pryor (Ark.)
Sen. Charles Schumer (N.Y.)
Sen. Debbie Stabenow (Mich.)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (R.I.)

Overlapping the two lists: Inouye, Mikulski, Murray, Stabenow. Not exactly household names. Dan Inouye is over 80 years old. None are spring chickens, and none are really notable. I suppose the main problem here is that trying to find Iraq War opponents among DLC types is difficult because the DLC made support for the Iraq War its raison d'etre.

So, who does that leave us? Who is a notable figure with ties to Clinton that opposed the Iraq War? I'm beginning to think that we're left with more or less one person: Wes Clark. Not an ideal candidate, to be sure, and I get the feeling that his past statements on abortion would come around to bite us in the ass if he got the VP nomination. Nevertheless, he does meet the pertinent criteria. He lacks political experience, though he does have executive and military experience. Ted Strickland is another possibility: he opposed the Iraq War and supported Clinton. He's a rookie too, which could be good or bad. He's got a lot of promise, to be sure. I sort of wish that Jim Webb would cynically endorse Clinton now so that he could fit these considerations as well. Then again, he might get it anyway, since Obama might decide that he can reach out to the Clinton wing by other means than a VP selection. If he does, though, I'd expect it to be Wes Clark.

What I would offer Clinton

Obama might need to cut a deal with Hillary Clinton to get her out of the race. Making her VP would be a terrible idea. But why not Secretary of Health and Human Services? She's definitely got an interest in healthcare, and if promised a great deal of prerogative and influence (maybe even the ability to take another whack at healthcare) she might be inclined to say yes. Toss in a promise of the next SCOTUS seat after healthcare is enacted, and it's a great deal all around.

Why is Hillary staying in?

Here are a few theories:
  1. She wants something. Maybe a spot on the ticket, maybe an appointment, but she definitely wants something, according to this theory. Why else remain in when it appears highly unlikely that she will wind up winning the nomination? She's trying to maximize her leverage to make a deal. Then again, if her rationale for continuing her campaign is so cynical, why is she still holding out? This is a stock whose best time to sell was a while ago...actually, had she bowed out after Wisconsin she would have been able to write her own ticket (so to speak) and Obama would have been invincible going forward. If her understanding of the situation is so clear-eyed then what is the benefit to continuing along this course?
  2. She's in denial. This has been my theory for some time. Clinton seems like the sort of person who mapped out her destiny some time ago. She can't accept that the dream is dead, so she's stubbornly persisting on this course in hopes that a miracle will become manifest. There is some synchronicity here with some other things--her personal life, obviously, reeks of denial, and there was that Bosnia flap, among other things.
  3. She's trying to kneecap Obama. Proponents of this theory argue that Clinton is trying to add legitimacy to right-wing attacks (Bill Ayres, por ejemplo) in order to make sure that McCain wins so that Clinton can run again in 2012. I doubt that she has consciously decided to follow along this path, and if this is the goal of the Clinton campaign at this point she's not been very artful about it. As I see it, her political career is pretty much over--she's made too many enemies with her rough-and-tumble tactics, she's proven she's not a team player, and she's proven a prisoner of the conventional wisdom. She's unlikely to ascend any higher than she is now. If she somehow won the nomination, the party might just rally around her because they want to win, but if she doesn't get the nomination, goes scorched earth and Obama loses she's going to be getting much of the blame, and she'd probably be primaried in 2012. She has to be smart enough to know that, though there is some evidence that she's willing to turn off the reasonable part of her brain under some circumstances.
That's all I've got. Still think it's option two. I suppose she still honestly thinks there's a way for her to win this thing, but at this point that's indistinguishable from #2.

Boy, the conservative movement is pretty bankrupt, isn't it...

Everyone seems to agree: the conservatives are running as the party of no ideas. But not if Bill Kristol has anything to say about it. He's recommending that John McCain apply the surge idea (i.e. the one GOP policy in the last decade or so that hasn't become a colossal boondoggle of a failure) to everything else in the public policy arena. God knows it ought to be successful, because if there's anything we could use to improve our healthcare, for example, it's a temporary increase in soldiers at hospitals nationwide. But wait, I thought conservatives wanted people to use less healthcare?

It's actually pretty easy to explain why John McCain doesn't have a domestic policy agenda: because he's holding a crumbling Republican party together, and he can't afford to piss off even a single party faction. If McCain's history in the past two decades were different, if he were more charismatic, if he actually had a base within the GOP--well, if those circumstances were true, he might have enough leverage to get some GOP grumblers to hold their tongues while he trotted out an ambitious agenda. But none of that stuff is true--Republican elites just don't trust McCain (aside from, perhaps, the neocon wing). So, best to try to paper over those differences (as well as the GOP's unpopularity) and focus on scaring the hell out of people on the national security stuff.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008


Did she really say this? Boy, the Clintons have sure proven themselves to be pretty tone deaf when it comes to race relations in this election. Considering how aptly they handled themselves in this area in earlier campaigns, one can only come to the conclusion that it's all intentional. I'm more willing to believe Hillary Clinton thinks I'm stupid than to believe that she's stupid.

The quote aside, I can't help but notice that when people ask her if she's dropping out of the race, she says no, and that she'd be a stronger candidate against John McCain. In the words of the Vietnamese general, that may be true but it is also irrelevant. These things are decided based on delegates, Hillary. Not because you feel in your heart that you would be a better candidate. Sure, superdelegates will consider electability, but in and of itself it ain't enough to overturn the will of the people. I'm really getting tired of this woman. When's the general election again?


I must confess I don't really understand the thinking behind this new "indispensability" theory. So, Clinton wins in Kentucky and West Virginia are supposed to prove that she is An electoral scenario (on Obama's part) which requires Democratic wins in KY and WV is probably ill-conceived. Putting Clinton on the ticket isn't going to move these states into the Dem column, so what point is she trying to make? Is she trying to go out on a high note?

I'm trying to think of an established Democratic leader who would be able to hold on to these working class voters. I doubt women will really bolt to McCain--mentioning "McCain Judges" ought to do the trick. Some old folks might bolt--especially the ones with race issues--but most ought to stay once they get a load of McCain's ideas about entitlements. Low-information voters worry me to some degree, but there's got to be an established Dem who can get them back on board. Under different circumstances Jim Webb might be such a person, but he's pretty new as well, and doesn't have much of a base. If there isn't anyone who can appeal to Clinton voters aside from Clinton--and reassuring them about Obama would be of paramount importance--then maybe it does make sense to put her on the ticket.

It ends on the 20th...

The way I figure it, May 20 is when it goes from being virtually impossible for Clinton to win among pledged delegates to it being mathematically impossible. After that, winning 100% in the remaining states won't allow Clinton to catch up with pledged delegates. And the odds that the superdelegates will actually overturn Obama's nomination are about as close to nil as one can get. We hear a lot about Obama's supposed weakness among working-class whites, but that's nothing compared to Clinton's corresponding weakness among Black voters. She can only manage single digits among the most reliably Democratic group there is, while Obama managed about 40% of the White working-class vote in Indiana today. Republicans usually win the latter bloc anyway, while Democrats cannot afford to lose the former.

Now, of course, the logic is flawed: just because Blacks support Obama doesn't mean they wouldn't vote for Clinton in the general. Why shouldn't the reciprocal argument hold true for Obama and the working class? It seems like he's off to a better start, and he will be facing J. McCain in November, whose platform can aptly be summarized as "please, various warring Republican factions, don't hit me!" Now, if McCain were more charismatic, more trusted by GOP elites, more loved by the base than tolerated, and more, well, interested in charting a new course for the Republican party things would be different. But, of course, in that case things would be different. In any event, this is beside the point...

I'm definitely looking forward to this being over, and the end is closer now than ever before. I'm excited!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


So, Obama managed to beat expectations, and he managed to do it when it counted. Big win in NC, IN looks like a loss, but heavily-Black Gary could make things interesting when it finally reports in. In any event, the media and the blogosphere are sounding like this is game over, including this entreaty by Kos for Clinton to stay in the race--at least until West Virginia, so as to spare Obama an embarrassing loss after having clenched the nomination. Shows you, well, something. Here's hoping it's not misplaced bravado.

Oh, and this is pretty hilarious as well. Clinton 2008: All we've got is this gas tax thing.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Out leapt the tiger...

Yeah, Clinton is destroying her cred among the well-informed among us with her stupid gas tax holiday idea. Unfortunately, Obama dominates high-information voters already, so this episode isn't exactly likely to turn the tide against her. I, for one, am not particularly surprised that Clinton's campaign has descended into outright demagogery--it's essentially a combination of the gas tax idiocy, Annie Oakley idiocy, and revisionist NAFTA history idiocy. What does surprise me is that it's taken so long for the progressive community to realize that, behind all the admittedly impressive policy proposals, this woman is fundamentally an unserious person who will do or say anything, regardless of how ridiculous it may be, to gain power. Then again, a cursory look at, say, her history of positions with respect to the Iraq War ought to be enough to convince one of this fact: at every stage she has hewed closely to the conventional wisdom on Iraq. Right now the public is moving a bit to the left on healthcare, but does anyone really expect her to continue to push this in the event that the public reconsiders?

Friday, May 2, 2008

I like this. It makes sense to me. The Reagan worship has hit a fever pitch this election cycle, and it makes sense that it might be a realization, conscious or not, that George W. Bush is sort of a disaster, and one who has tarnished the Republican brand pretty badly.

McCain's souljah

What Ross said, to some degree. McCain's attempts to appeal both to the public and to movement conservatives have led to things like an absolute focus on porkbusting, largely because conservatives don't much like pork, the public doesn't much like pork, and he's a deficit hawk (in theory). But pork is not a salient issue in today's world. The economy, healthcare, Iraq--these are the biggest issues out there. Campaigns don't get to unilaterally decide which issues are in play. So McCain, if he were to follow Bush's example (as Ross said) would have to flip on one of those issues. The problem is that it's harder to imagine three issues upon which the GOP is more dogmatic than those three: how long have we heard Republicans inveigh about the horrors of socialized medicine? McCain appears to be a true dead-ender in Iraq, so nothing doing there. And I suppose he could try to maneuver with respect to the economy, but he's come out hard right on his economic plan, and anything less than huge tax cuts are going to leave the Norquist gang unhappy. This is where McCain's porkbusting emphasis comes in, but he's been basically trying to argue that pork is responsible for the recession, which is stupid and unconvincing. Then again, that's all he can do--one senses McCain desperately trying to hold the GOP coalition together with both hands, not wanting to piss anyone off. I wonder if he'll actually manage to keep it together.

So, what major issue could McCain use to Souljah his way to the top? Actually, the economy would probably be the easiest way. What if McCain were to abandon his economic plan in the general election, say he's reconsidered, and that he's going to try to balance the budget before talking about any tax cuts? The Wall Street Journal editorial board would go batshit, but I suspect that most actual conservatives would support this, and it would actually give him an issue upon which to go after Obama on the right (I often sense that Norquist's power is largely illusory anyway. If the Republican nominee told him that there wouldn't be any tax cuts and that he should suck it up, I suspect he would do so). Plus, this would be a rare opportunity for McCain, as he'd be able to break with Bush and still be conservative. As it stands, Obama is proposing an expensive (~$50 bil) healthcare plan that will largely be financed when Bush's tax cuts expire in 2010. So is Clinton. McCain is proposing a huge (over $1 tril) series of tax cuts that will not be offset by anything, save some 20-30 billion from tax cuts. He is, definitionally, the least fiscally conservative candidate in the race. I suspect that his heart is with the balanced budget stuff, so he should follow his instincts, I think.

Is John McCain insane?

Enough with the goddamn earmarks, already! We know you don't like them, and we also know that you don't seem to have any idea what they are or what they are used for. Just get it on the record and move on, senator.

It's the McCain process in microcosm--there's always one transcendent issue that he takes a "principled" stand on because it's a great generational issue, or something. Former entries on the list: campaign finance reform, climate change, immigration, Iraq, and steroids in baseball. Now it's earmarks. He gets in a pique about these things, talks incessantly about how important they are, how important it is that we confront them, etc., and three months later he's on to something new. Now, some of those issues are pretty damn important (namely, Iraq and climate change) and he's right on a few of them. Still, it's easy to forget how annoying McCain can be, which derives largely from the man's colossal sense of self-righteousness and superior morality.

Then again, when you're a Coolidge balanced-budgets conservative deep down in a party that demands huge tax cuts ad infinitum, this is the sort of line that you have to take. I'm sure that the average American taxpayer is really going to appreciate the $300 they'll get back from earmarks, though Israel might not appreciate not getting new fighter planes. But, hey, they're building bridges to nowhere in Alaska! That's the real travesty here. Actually, if he's really, really angry about wasteful spending, McCain ought to endorse Mark Begich and Ethan Berkowitz for, respectively, U.S. Senator and U.S. Representative from Alaska. They're Democrats taking on Ted Stevens and Don Young, two of the most corrupt (and hated) members of congress. Once he does that I'll start to think he's tough on wasteful spending. I'm not holding my breath.

I'm beginning to think that John McCain is either not really that bright or not especially courageous.


I'm struck by how meta the whole patriotism thing has become, especially among the more right-leaning among us. How does one display their patriotism? Well, by waving the flag and so on--in other words, patriotism is displayed by displays of patriotism. Well, at least it's symmetrical. And evidently the right's version of patriotism means not talking shit about the government, and especially the president (except, I suppose, when a Democrat is in office, in which case having prominent citizens publicly wish for high-profile assassinations or natural disasters is just dandy). I find the right's version of patriotism to be interesting in its shallowness and in how self-serving it is, especially when one actually listens to the "most patriotic" of all citizens, the religious right (of course). They do nothing but bitch about this country. Seriously, I've spent a lot of time around such people, and they're always complaining about our laws (too lenient on criminals, too lenient on abortion, etc.), our institutions (liberal courts, for one), and our society (moving away from God). These folks are unpatriotic by their own standards, but I don't think they're unpatriotic. They have specific complaints about where this country is headed--complaints that I think are wrong-headed, irresponsible and half-baked, in many cases--but they want to address these issues because they want America to be a better place. As do I. As do all liberals.

This is one area where the right should just let the left shed the baggage of the 60's- and 70's-era left. Now those folks were unpatriotic, outwardly, and there was talk about revolution among those people in that time and place. I'm willing to concede that. But that's not the whole story. The modern-day left is not the old "New Left." We don't give a damn about socialist ideology or anything like that. A lot of conservatives just refuse to take liberals at their word when they say they love America, and construe all manner of nefarious motives to even the most innocent of liberal ideas. That might work for the more addled senior citizens who still believe that the left consists of bra-burning, draft-dodging radicals (i.e. people living in the past) but the up-and-coming generation will not identify with that aggrievement that has been one of the GOP's biggest weapons for decades. They already have their work cut out for them with the next generation. To us, hippies are something we only saw in films, the radical left something of which most of us have no awareness. So, when Republicans say that the Democrats want to withdraw from Iraq because they want to see America humiliated, we just think they're insane. Which they are if they actually believe what they're saying. But there are still plenty of old people around, flags still burning in their minds. They won't, however, be around for long.

In essence, the whole point of patriotism is a love of one's country. Uncontroversial. And the main idea is that the love of one's country ought to prompt individuals to make sacrifices on behalf of one's country, to support her when she's right and criticize her when she's wrong, the latter being necessary on the occasions when the patria veers off course (as does happen). I get the sense that, deep down, we all agree about this. Why not just trust each other?

McCain's 100 Years comment

It's actually very easy to explain. McCain wants troops to stay in Iraq, regardless of whether there's violence or not or whether they're needed or not, because he wants to continue his policy of rogue-state rollback. He wants America to have more power and leverage in the region, he wants us to be a player over there, perhaps because of oil and terrorism but certainly because of his Hemingway-imbibed love of war and empire. That's why his reasons for why he wants troops in Iraq forever aren't compelling--there really isn't a reason, he just wants 'em there, and he's trying to find a politic way of rationalizing it. He'd better come up with one pretty damn soon, and it had better be damn good. It's not like McCain's got a lot of slack to work with on the Iraq question.

Echoes of Quayle...

John McCain will be selecting his running mate on his own.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A sign that Clinton knows it's over

Mrs. Clinton made the comments in an interview on ABC last week. “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran...” (emphasis mine)
Not "when I'm president," which she's said many, many times. She knows it's over, deep down. (From Ambinder.)

Wow (Parte Deux)

That old canard about Republicans not having a sense of humor does not appear to be in any danger of becoming extinct...

Why I'm Supporting Obama

I often wonder if we in the Democratic Party understand the big picture. There is, after all, a war of ideas going on between the GOP and the Democrats, between the right and left, and it's a battle that I (and many others) want to win. And there are Democratic leaders, like Howard Dean, Nancy Pelosi, and Barack Obama, who seem to be interested in winning. And then there's Hillary Clinton, who seems not to want to win so much as keep the war going. Why is this? Is it because she is a closet conservative? Perhaps, but I suspect that ideology moves her less than power. Does she want to keep the culture wars, such as they are, going because she is evil? No, not unless you define evil as doing what is in your best interest, everyone else be damned, which actually might not be a bad definition.

No, the real reason why Clinton is enamored with refighting the same goddamned boomer battles is because if they went away it would be easy enough to see that she's not much of a liberal, not much of a Democrat, and really not much of a leader. When she's being attacked by Fox News, she can pretend to be a liberal since the right-wing conspiracy attacks her. She has the right enemies, which does matter a lot in politics. Unfortunately, this impression is belied every time Terry McAuliffe or Ed Rendell or some other jackass waxes rhapsodic about Fox's "even-handed" coverage of the nominating process. There's an alliance there, an alliance that can also be seen when Clinton's press release in the aftermath of "bittergate" was cosmetically identical to that of John McCain's. She's still playing by the Reagan-era rules of the game, where assertive liberalism just can't win. Even though she is promoting a liberal agenda, her instincts are anything but liberal. And this worries me.

Ultimately, I'm not interested in just winning one election. Well, I am, but I think there's more at stake here. We in the Democratic Party have the opportunity to nominate someone who is not only able but willing to forcefully articulate an alternative to the GOP line on war and security. These areas have typically been strengths for the Republicans, at least since Nixon. Now, with the failure of the Bush Administration, these issues are up for grabs, and I want them to become Democratic strengths. I want the Democrats to own them. With no domestic policy to speak of, and without security to fall back upon, the GOP will be back to the drawing board for a decade at least. Barack Obama is poised not just to be an historic candidate, but also to break the back of the conservative movement once and for all. No wonder they're scared to death of him, literally.

Clinton, for all her strengths on domestic policy, has never really given me reason to believe that she really cares about foreign policy. Her campaign is reminiscent of nothing more than John Kerry's, which basically was premised on "taking the war off the table." Clinton now opposes the war, but she's hewed extremely close to the line of public opinion every step of the way, and she rarely talks about the war these days, preferring instead to focus on domestic policy. Ultimately, though, I just don't think her heart is in leading a revolt against the neocon worldview, and I don't think she wants to fundamentally remake the landscape of the American political scene. She doesn't want to end the polarization--that's how she got where she is, and she's even doing it in microcosm in the Dem nominating contest. Quod erat demonstrandum.

All I know is that the gods have presented us with a singular opportunity in this election cycle, and Barack Obama might just be able to end this war by winning it. Maybe the task isn't possible, but it is too compelling an idea for me to not support Obama.


Maybe this "principled gas tax opposition thing" might just work out (via TNR):

Meanwhile, Obama once again stated his opposition to such a holiday while also campaigning in Indiana. "This isn’t a real solution. This is a gimmick," he said. "And this is what Washington does whenever there’s a big problem. They pretend that they’re solving it to try to get though a political season but they don’t really solve it. And unfortunately, after John McCain made the proposal, I guess Sen. Clinton thought it was gonna poll well, so she said, 'Me too, I’ll do the same thing.’ and so now it’s the McCain-Clinton proposal to suspend the gas tax.

He then said, "You know people are more concerned about looking good for the cameras and for politics than they are at actually solving problems. You remember when George Bush five years ago put up a big sign in front of an aircraft carrier saying ‘Mission accomplished’ in Iraq. I’m sure they thought that was good politics. Except five years later we’re still in this war in Iraq."

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.