Thursday, March 27, 2008

How Hillary Wins

In David Brooks’ column in the NY Times this week (where he used the wonderful phrase “the audacity of hopelessness” to describe HRC’s campaign) he said she has about a 5% chance of getting the nomination. I’m not sure we can measure it quite so precisely. I do believe there are a number of hoops she needs to jump through and more important, I don’t think she has any control of the situation at any point. In other words, I don’t believe she can win the nomination, she has to hope Obama loses it – a possibility, which, based on the Wright insanity, does exist.
The path is somewhat simple – first, win Pennsylvania big. By big, I mean over 15%. If she wins by less than ten, it will impress no one. If she wins by 12 or 13, it’s a solid win, but no indication of underlying trouble for Obama and it will look like the Rendell machine just did its job well. But if she wins by 17 or 18%, then Obama’s numbers among white voters will look like they did in Mississippi and that will be all the media will talk about for the next two weeks. The question, asked constantly, will be “is Obama’s campaign collapsing”? The next step would be winning North Carolina and Indiana, leaving the impression that Obama is done. Then she wins almost all the remaining primaries and although she doesn’t catch him in pledged delegates, she can go to the super delegates and say “this is why you were created – we have a candidate who won early but who is collapsing late, based on information early voters didn’t have; now for the sake of the party, you have to pick the only candidate with a chance of winning, which is me.”
It all sounds possible and logical. Unfortunately, there are a few little problems. First, the most recent polling data seems to indicate that Obama has weathered the storm of Rev. Wright – although the Clintons are going to keep seeding those clouds. Then the NBC/WSJ poll had ominous news for Hillary, as her negatives are climbing along with his and her positives are dropping sharply; nearly 18% of her own voters don’t view her favorably. But for the sake of argument, let’s assume that the electoral results are exactly what Hillary needs them to be. Then she gets to try and convinces the SDs that they should join up with her to overturn the delegate vote – which is where the real problem for her shows up. You see, back in 2007, the Clinton campaign was pushing the inevitability of Hillary’s nomination to super delegates, basically telling them to get on the bandwagon before it leaves town and they will remember who was with them and who wasn’t. There’s nothing very unusual about this, although it did rub a number of people the wrong way. Many joined up, others resisted. We are now left with those who resisted, which may not be the audience the Clinton campaign wishes to deal with again. The other reason super delegates exist is to have office holders and politicians help make the decision from a political point of view; that is, who would be best for the ticket (or more specifically, for me)? That is where Hillary runs into big trouble. You see, back in the 90’s, Bill was useless to the party. He raised money, but he had no coattails at all, and everything he did, every stance he took, every person he consulted (Dick Morris, most notably) was about his own future. He left the party in shambles, losing both houses of Congress, and destroying many careers. These pols don’t forget that and see Hillary – especially given her scorched-earth campaign – as the same. Then there’s the supporter problem. In the NBC/WSJ poll, 28% of Clinton supporters said they would vote for McCain over Obama, while 19% of Obama supporters returned the favor. This might look like an advantage for Hillary, but many Obama supporters aren’t going to vote for McCain, because they aren’t going to vote at all. Let’s face it, the SDs overturning the pledged delegates would arouse a fury among the hard-core Obamaites, mostly black and young – two groups notorious for not voting. The Clintonites who desert Obama, mostly older, but many blue-collar types as well, will still vote – they may vote McCain, but they will then vote for other Democrats. So if you’re a super delegate, who would you rather have, a candidate with a slightly better chance of winning the White House, or one who makes it more likely that you and your colleagues win? If you don’t know the answer to that question, you are not a politician.
All in all, things do not look good for Hillary. I think Obama’s collapse (which doesn’t seem to be happening) would have to be so complete that it would seem like an obvious decision to go with her. Where there’s life there’s hope, and the Clintons don’t go quietly, so we can look forward to months of nastiness.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Many Lies of Hillary Clinton

Time and time again during this long and divisive campaign, Hillary Clinton has made many claims about her positions and activities, mostly as First Lady, as well as Senator, most of which are somewhere between exaggeration and outright lies. Herewith a sample of her current collection of baggage:

1) “I was opposed to NAFTA” – When Obama pointed out that she actually worked for its passage, Hillary went ballistic, calling it a lie. The release of her White House schedules demonstrates the depth of her involvement in getting NAFTA passed. Holding meeting with recalcitrant Democrats in Congree, badgering labor leaders, doing everything she could to get it passed. As Hillary is fond of saying, it’s easy to make speeches, actually working to get something done is what matters. Hillary worked hard to get NAFTA passed, then claimed it proudly as an accomplishment of the Clinton Administration. Maybe she wasn’t enthusiastic about it – but her fingerprints are all over it.
2) She only voted for the Iraq War resolution in order to get inspectors back into Iraq and never intended it to be a vote for an attack -- Oh, please. The record shows that she supported the war, saying that there could be no doubt that Saddam had WMD. She also voted against the Levin Amendment, which specifically would have authorized military action only if Saddam defied the UN on the return of inspectors – which he had already signed an agreement to do. Then there’s Bill Clinton, who wrote an op-ed piece in the Times of London agreeing with Tony Blair’s position and was clearly in favor of the war. She only opposed the war when it was time to run for President, knowing she had to be opposed to it to get the nomination.
3) “I was in Bosnia and had to duck sniper fire at the airport” – This was clearly designed to show her experience as a world leader, that she had been under fire – literally- when Obama hadn’t. This now turns out to be a complete lie. She also said she was sent there because it was too dangerous for the President to go. That’s right, it was too dangerous for Bill, so he sent Hillary (understandable) and Chelsea??? Yes, it was so dangerous he sent his teenaged daughter. We now have video of the ceremony on the tarmac and there were no snipers, no ducking and running, just dignitaries and little girls with flowers. When confronted with the truth, Hillary claimed to have “misremembered” and said she “misspoke” – and, my favorite part, said it showed she was human and laughingly said that humanity would surprise some people. No, Senator, it didn’t show you were human, it showed you were a Clinton, that you treat the truth as an inconvenience, just like the former Whoremaster-In-Chief does. She didn’t just tell this creative anecdote, filled as it was with vivid images of a courageous First Lady ducking incoming fire, she told it multiple times. She has no integrity and no shame either. She is morally unfit to be President, and all her time as First Enabler doesn’t make her any more qualified to take the reins of this country. It is time to drive Clintonism, with all its lies and corruption from the party and country once and for all.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Downed Cows

The president of the California packing company which was subjected to the largest beef recall in history testified before Congress today. His previous story was that they didn’t knowingly put any downed cattle (those to sick to walk) in the mix. Unfortunately, there was secret tape that showed him downed cattle being forced into the slaughtering pen. At that point he admitted that they had indeed done exactly what they were accused of and denied.
This is a shocking display of honesty – albeit after the point where he might have gotten credit for it – probably brought on by the company already being in ruins and visual evidence. On the other hand, if this guy had ever run a tobacco company, he would have been a lot better at responding to it. A tobacco company exec would have tried something like this: “Congressman, cattle are a lot smarter than you think. Every once in awhile one realizes what is about to happen and fakes an injury to avoid slaughter. We have expert and experienced people on the line who can tell when cattle are faking it, which, if you were a trained observer, would probably be obvious to you.”

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Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Well, we now know who won’t be the first Jewish President. Mr. Rectitude, Elliot Spitzer, has fallen off his high horse with quite a thud. It is a classic tragedy, with the mighty brought low by human flaws. The assorted miscreants of Wall Street who Spitzer targeted so effectively over the years get the last laugh, while the rest of us can lament over what might have been. His Governorship had gotten off to a rocky start, yet he was back on the upswing in the polls when this happened.
As for the crime itself – frankly, it doesn’t matter to me who he has sex with, although I assume his wife will have a different opinion. There does seem to be an element of recklessness here which is dangerous in a political leader, although hardly uncommon, as sexual dalliances seem commonplace among Presidents of the last half century. Unfortunately, he didn’t just have sex with an intern, or some lobbyist, he broke the law, and that is a bad thing. Whether this kind of prostitution should be illegal is debatable, as it seems, considering the rates, to be the ultimate victimless crime. It is still illegal and there may well be organized crime links involved with the service itself, so Spitzer can hardly get a pass on this one.
Assuming Spitzer resigns, his political future is over – not that it wouldn’t be effectively over if he tried to tough it out. At 48, he would have to find something else to do, probably involving TV, so we can look forward to seeing him on MSNBC next year. After his resignation, NY would inaugurate Lt. Gov. David Patterson, a legally blind African-American as Governor. Blind David Patterson sounds more like a blues singer from the Delta than a Governor of NY, but it would be cool if he was referred to that way.
Meanwhile, here on the left coast, Arnold Schwarzenegger can only be glad that Heidi Fleiss wasn’t being wiretapped and that her “little black book” never became public. Maybe he would have gotten a pass on using hookers since he was an actor, not a straight-laced pol, but he can still pose as a wonderful family man, which is more than Spitzer can do this morning.

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Wednesday, March 05, 2008

What Obama Must Do

Last night’s victories by Clinton should scare the Obama camp, especially combined with dramatic shift over the last three days in Presidential tracking polls, where Clinton has regained the lead. Her attacks on him have worked, especially combined with her all out “soft” campaign on late night shows, morning shows, and her constant whining about how she’s being picked on.
It is time for Obama to take action on two fronts.

1) Attack her at the heart of her argument – she is not ready to be commander-in-chief. It’s simple really, and he has started it.
“Hillary Clinton claims that her experience makes her the one you want in the White House when a crisis comes up. But that moment will require decisions to be made, and for all her alleged experience, she has been terrible at making decisions on issues of war and peace. In 2002, she voted with John McCain and George Bush to authorize the war in Iraq – she had a decision to make and made the wrong one. In 2007, she voted for Iran an resolution backed by George Bush and John McCain, a vote Joe Biden described as ‘stupid’ – she had a decision to make and made the wrong one. Like John McCain, Hillary Clinton has experience, but like McCain, her lack of judgment makes her a dangerous choice for commander-in-chief.”

2) Clinton has been making the rounds of the morning shows talking up the possibility of a Clinton-Obama ticket. This will be a key part of her strategy, since she know that a brokered convention, which she will need to get the nomination, will need to get Obama and Obama’s supporters on board before they can give Clinton the nomination. It is imperative that Obama eliminates that possibility and makes it an either-or choice. Here is what he should say to his supporters:
“Hillary Clinton has been going around talking about the possibility of a Clinton-Obama ticket. Let me be absolutely clear about this – I will not accept the vice presidential nomination under any conditions. To do so would betray the principles of change this campaign has been built on. I have no intention of being the third wheel on Bill and Hillary Clinton ticket. We – you and I – have come too far in this journey to end up in the back of the Clinton bus”

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Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Pointless Predictions

Today is not-quite-super Tuesday and my junior pundit’s license demands that I make some kind of prediction about the results. This is something resembling a guess, educated only by polling data, which has been, to put it kindly, less than reliable. The problem with polling in primaries has always been about predicting turnout. In most cases, the likelihood of getting an accurate sample in an extremely low-turnout election is small. In this case, there is a whole new wrinkle, polls have to try and guess not only the turnout, but the very composition of the turnout, since that seems to be key to the results. Historical turnout numbers and demographic composition has been blown away in this election, leaving pollsters with numbers that are next to useless. Once in a while someone gets it right. This is probably sheer luck, rather than a superior methodology. Survey USA has had the best luck so far – in particular, getting Wisconsin sort of right. But there is no guarantee that they will be more accurate tonight than anyone else.
Having said all that, all I have to judge is polling data and I will fire a few bullets in the general direction of the moving target. I figure VT goes to Obama and RI to Hillary, ending the streak. Which brings us to the big two – OH and TX. A clue about the results can be found in where the candidates are going to be tonight – HRC is in OH, Obama in TX. This tells me that both camps expect her to win OH – if Obama thought he was about to win it, or even had a 50-50 chance, he would be there, since it is a more valuable place to be for the fall campaign. The polls seem to have turned around late for Clinton there, possibly based on health care, possibly on the Canadian NAFTA nonsense. Or maybe it’s just a parallel to the other big states, where Obama closes in the polls, then falls short in the end, as Hillary voters return to the fold. In any case, I expect a Clinton win there, maybe by a sizable margin.
A quick comment on the Canada story: is it unreasonable for Obama’s economic advisor to say to the Canadians “look, for the campaign, we have to be evenhanded about this, but there are no extra standards we will propose that you guys don’t already meet, so clearly you have nothing to worry about”? Of course, no one can say that publicly, since Mexico and folks in border states (like Texas) will get very nervous. It’s all silliness, but then, so is much of what we hear these days. Anyone who trusts Clinton more than Obama on changing trade deals is a fool – the Clinton Administration’s biggest accomplishments were trade deals and it’s hard to believe she is that far from the economic policy of the administration she is so proud of.
As for Texas, who knows? One thing is almost certain: Obama will win more delegates there. The system and the allotment of delegates by district will help him. Given the way this campaign has gone, a Clinton primary win there (as opposed to caucuses) wouldn’t surprise me. Her final numbers in most of the big states have exceeded her polling numbers and it may go that way again.
If Hillary wins OH and TX, it will be a big night for her, with much celebrating and a story line of “she wins the big states where more people get to vote, therefore she is the better candidate”. (This story will last about 48 hours, which is when Obama wins North Carolina and everyone realizes that despite Hillary’s two big wins, Obama actually widened his delegate lead this week. At that point, look for a number of notable names (Bill Richardson among them) to move to Obama.)
Edit: I misread the electoral map, NC is on May 6th, not March 6th. Mississippi and Wyoming are coming up in the next week and Obama can recover with those.

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Monday, March 03, 2008

It's Not TV, It's Nonsense

I will freely admit to not having seen 60 Minutes last night, just the moment in which Hillary Clinton was asked by Steve Kroft whether she thinks Barack Obama was a Muslim. When she said, basically, no, Kroft asked her again. This is a disgraceful attempt at journalism, by someone who, in a better world, would have been fired this morning, along with the producer who actually put that crap on the air. This isn’t just a stupid question, it’s a repeat of a rumor on the internet which has no credibility whatsoever. Yet Kroft, lacking in all journalistic integrity, decided to ask it, in an attempt to create news. Clinton, gave a reasonable answer, although could have been more definitive in her ultimate denial. Today, we can only assume Kroft and his CBS whore masters got their wish – free publicity, as news programs decided it was worth talking about. It seemed like a harmless enough moment to me, considering the basic inanity of the question, but MSNBC apparently made the decision that it was interesting. Chris Matthews showed the clip, then pretty much denied that there was any point in showing it. Clinton was asked about it on the campaign trail and got to go into her “Hillary as victim” routine, talking about all the “scurrilous rumors” which have dogged her through the years. Obama addressed it by talking about how much he loved Jesus, how he prays to Him nightly, when not too busy, and is absolutely not a Muslim.
Every American should be sickened by the whole episode. Sickened by a news media which is about its own promotion rather than illumination of ideas and facts. Sickened by the description of someone’s possible religion as a “scurrilous rumor.” Sickened by the need, in America, to pass some kind of religious test for office – not just saying you’re a Christian, but giving the details of your devotion, so people know you are really, really Christian, not some closet Muslim or, maybe worse, non-believer. Unfortunately, in Bush’s America, the religious fundamentalists must be placated, no matter how repulsed and frightened the founding fathers would have been by the complete denial of all they believed in.
Speaking of NBC, Hillary Clinton was on Saturday Night Live this weekend. For the second week in a row, the erratic comedy show decided to crap on Obama and genuflect before St. Hillary in their opening segment. Last week, in their return from the strike, they showed their version of CNN’s debate, where the anchors and questioners, led by Campbell Brown (played by Kristen Wiig), admitted their clear preference, even adoration, for Obama, and asked him nothing but fluff questions while basically ignoring Hillary. This is, of course, ironic, as in an earlier CNN debate, Brown ended the proceedings by asking Hillary the probative question “Diamonds or pearls?”
This time around, it was MSNBC’s turn, with Brian Williams and Tim Russert being lampooned, asking Hillary the tough questions and Obama the easy ones. That’s right, the same Tim Russert who asked the real Obama the fluff question about Louis Farrakhan and in the middle of Obama’s answer, added Obama’s pastor to the mix with statements he made about Obama and the Jewish vote following his trip to Libya with Farrakhan. So their take on him was pure slander, but they had established their pro-Clinton position the week before (a position bizarrely quoted by Hillary in a debate) and weren’t easing up. The week before, Tina Fey and Amy Poehler effectively endorsed Hillary on the show. This time around, the sketch was followed by Hillary herself, pointing out that they weren’t endorsing her formally, but that she liked what they were doing and then she had a lovely comedic moment with Poehler (as her) and altogether came across as charming and funny – something the Clintons are great at, by the way.
Now you may say, so what, it’s only SNL, no one cares what they say about politics. The problem is that’s not how they think. After the 2000 election, Tina Fey posited that their selection of the appealing Will Ferrell to play Bush and the unappealing Darrell Hammond to play Gore (in spite of their heights being reversed with the actual candidates) might have unintentionally cost Gore the election. If you remember, the SNL debate piece, mocking Gore’s Social Security lock box, was widely shown, with Gore even using it as a “what not to do” for future efforts. So here we have a pleasant, vivacious Hillary contrasted with a wooden, charmless, and dull Obama, played by the charmless Fred Armisen in blackface. You know, you can do anything you want in the name of satire and they have a right to pimp for Clinton all they want, but I think they really need to try and be a little fair to Obama, if for no other reason than much of their audience supports him. Of course, maybe there’s something else at work here involving Lorne Michaels. I thought the portrayal of Obama I saw was mighty close to racist. Having him played by a stiff and boring white guy was an intentional choice by Michaels. Maybe it’s time for Lorne to hang up his comedy holster and go back to hanging out with his rich friends.

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