Tuesday, November 4, 2008

What to Watch for Tonight

There now seem to be hundreds of articles about what to watch for in the presidential race, state by state, time-zone by time-zone.   This one is as good as any. But I'm always interested in what Nate Silver has to say, so this one's worth a look too.  

And here's the list of states to watch (according to poll closing times, translated to the Pacific time zone):
  • 3pm PST: Indiana (most of the state's polls close at 3pm PST, but not 'til 4pm in some parts of the state)
  • 4pm: Virginia, Georgia, New Hampshire, Florida (Western portion of panhandle closes at 5pm)
  • 4:30: Ohio and North Carolina
  • 5:00: Missouri and Pennsylvania
  • 6:00: Colorado and New Mexico
  • 7pm: Montana
Expect first waves of results to come in anywhere from 15 to 45 minutes after the polls close in that state.  Networks and newspaper websites, if they're at all responsible will not call a state based on exit poll results unless there is at least a 10-point margin between the two major-party candidates.  Again, Nate Silver explains why.  

The best real-time mapping on-line will be on the front-page of the New York Times website. On TV, CNN has the best mapping, by far.  

US Senate
Here are the Senate races to watch, with those at the top of the most likely to go Democratic and the ones at the bottom least likely to turn-over:
  • Virginia: Mark Warner (D) vs. James Gilmore (R) open seat
  • New Mexico: Tom Udall (D) vs. Steve Pearce (R) -open seat
  • Colorado: Mark Udall (D) vs. Bob Schaffer (R) - open seat
  • Alaska: Mark Begich (D) vs. Ted Stevens (R) - Stevens just convicted of concealing gifts
  • New Hampshire: Shaheen (D) vs. John Sununu (incumbent R)
  • Oregon: Jeff Merkley (D) vs. Gordon Smith (incumbent R)
  • North Carolina: Kay Hagan (D) vs. Elizabeth Dole (incumbent R)
  • Minnesota: Al Franken (D) vs. Norm Coleman (incumbent R)
  • Georgia: Martin (D) vs. Chambliss
  • Kentucky: Lunsford (D) vs. McConnell
  • Mississippi: Musgrove (D) vs. Wicker

US House (a few of the more interesting ones, listed by incumbent defending)
  • Don Young - R, At-Large, Alaska (yet another Alaska Republican under investigation)
  • John Shadegg - R, 3rd Dist., Arizona
  • Marilyn Musgrave -R, 4th Dist. Colorado (Congress's most infamous homophobe)
  • Christopher Shays -R, 4th Dist. Connecticut
  • Lincoln Diaz-Balart- R, 21st Dist. Florida
  • Mario Diaz-Balart- R, 25th Dist. Florida
  • Bill Sali - R, 1st Dist. Idaho
  • Don Cazayoux -D, 6th Dist. Louisiana (won special election earlier this year for Bobby Jindal's old seat
  • Wayne Gilchrist-R, 1st Dist, Maryland
  • Michele Bachmann -R, 6th Dist. Minnesota (recently called for investigation of "un-American" members of Congress)
  • Heather Wilson - R, 1st Dist, New Mexico
  • Steve Chabot - R, 1st Dist, Ohio
  • Jack Murtha -D, 12th Dist, Pennsylvania (famously called his constituents racists)
  • Nick Lampson- D, 22d Dist., Texas (Tom Delay's old seat)
  • Virgil Goode- R, 5th Dist., Virginia
  • Dave Reichert - R, 8th Dist. Washington (vs. top Netroots candidate Darcy Burner)
  • Missouri: Jay Nixon (D) vs. Kenny Hulshof (R) (open seat)
  • North Carolina: Beverly Perdue (D) vs. Pat McCrory (R) (open seat)
  • Washington: Chris Gregoire (incumbent D) vs. Dino Rossi (R) 
Ballot Initiatives
  • Abortion: Parental notification in California, near complete ban in South Dakota and life begins at conception in Colorado
  • Affirmative Action bans in Colorado and Nebraska
  • Assisted Suicide: I-1000 in Washington
  • Education: ban on English as a Second Language education in Oregon
  • Elections: Top-two primary in Oregon
  • Gay Rights: Prop  8 in California would overturn right to gay marriage.  Gay marriage bans in Florida and Arizona.  An Arkansas measure would prohibit gay couples from adopting or foster parenting children
  • Transportation: $10 billion for high speed rail in California; Light rail expansion in Seattle area (Prop. 1); and making traffic worse in Washington state (I-985).

Monday, November 3, 2008

Proof that no good deed goes unpunished

Mediocre coffee, but a company with pretty good corporate practices. Starbucks, thought it would do a good deed by giving a free cup of coffee to anyone who came in to a store claiming to have voted.  However, those spoil sports here in Washington state Secretary of State's office have told Starbucks that giving away a free cup of coffee to voters is an illegal inducement.  So, now Starbucks says it'll give a cup of free coffee to anyone that asks.  Sam! Lighten up! A free cup of coffee does not a vote buy.  While we're talking about inducements, here are a few other other ways to buy a vote -not a vote for a particular candidate, just a vote:
  • Free ice-cream:  go to Ben & Jerry's for a free cup or cone
  • Free Doughnuts: a free doughnut for voters at Krispy Kreme (if you're Seattle, you're better off paying for a doughnut at Top Pot!)
  • Free GOTV calls for Credo Mobile members during voting hours
  • Free chicken sandwiches at Chick-fil-A.  (sorry, no Chick-fil-A's in the Northwest)
  • Free sex toys: and last, but certainly not least, Babeland is offering a free Silver Bullet vibrator, or something called a Maverick sleeve to anyone coming in to their New York or Seattle stores with a voter registration card or proof of voting between Nov. 4-11.  Interestingly,  there's no indication that the Washington Secretary of State has contacted Babeland to shut down their vote buying operation.  Sorry Starbucks.  

Experts agree...

...that Obama's gonna win this thing, big. There's been an uptick in both the state and national polls in the last day or so. Nate Silver gives Obama a 98.1% chance of winning the election. This is Karl Rove's electoral prediction map for tomorrow night (click for larger view):

I like it. Except, I think Obama has a real good shot at winning both North Carolina and Indiana. Then there's Montana and Georgia. Not so likely, but a strong possibility, especially Georgia where 1/3 of the registered voters are black. And there's a bunch of young white people who live in the Atlanta area. And there must be a few older white liberals to add to the mix.

A few more endorsements

Better late than never.  It's not like half the people in this state have already voted or something. In any case, here are a few more endorsements to throw your way:

King County judges
Most of these endorsements are based on bar association qualification assessments, combined with endorsements from progressive groups like WA Conservation Voters and NARAL Pro-Choice Washington (not that superior court judges often play a role in big constitutional issues, but it's an endorsement that helps filter out the bat-shit crazy Federalist Society types):

Superior Court #1: Susan Parisien
Superior Court #22: Holly Hill
Superior Court #37: Jean Rietschel

King County Charter Amendments
I really wish these things were not cluttering up the general election ballot, but they are.  So here's some quick recommendations:

Charter Amendment #1: No.  This would make the County Elections Director an elected position.  This is a position that should remain ministerial not political.

Charter Amendments #2-7: Yes  These are all housekeeping measures of various sorts and all pretty self-explanatory (i.e., no hidden agendas).

Charter Amendment #8:  No This measure to make county offices non-partisan is an effort by a small group of businessmen to make it easier for Republicans to sneak into office in a very Democratic county.  Voters have such little information as it is about local offices that they need the kind of shorthand signals party labels provide. It's an imperfect indicator but better than the nothing that many voters get in local elections.  

Pierce County
As someone who spent ten years living in Pierce County, even running for office and sitting on public boards, I still pay a lot of attention to Pierce County politics.  And, with Ranked Choice Voting (also known as Instant Run-off Voting), politics there will only get more interesting starting this year.  But, I haven't had much time to focus on all the candidates there for all the offices.  So, let me highlight just a few of the most interesting races: 

Pierce County Executive
If I still lived there, I'd be having a tough time picking.  On paper, Calvin Goings is the best candidate and that probably means you should vote for him.  But, he sometimes has trouble making the best decision when constituencies he cares about are pulling in different directions. He's one of those stereotypically ambitious politicians who's always focused on the next election.  The other real choice is Pat McCarthy.  I like her a lot, but do worry about how much money is being infused on her behalf by the very, very sleazy builders lobby.  I'd be tempted to rank Pat first and Calvin second.  But with the Builders such a big factor in her campaign, I have to recommend the reverse - Calvin ranked first, Pat second.

Pierce County Council
The only one I'll comment on is the primary Tacoma seat on the Council, now held by Tim Farrell.  Tim has been a fabulous councilmember, quite effective given that he's been in the minority almost the whole time.  His district loves him, so he'll sail to reelection without any trouble.  But, make sure you vote for him early and often to show him the love.  

26th District House
Pat Lantz was a great legislator but, unfortuately, felt the need to move on.  Kim Abel is the Democrat in the race to replace her.  The Republican, Jan Angel, is a shill of the Builders and the very conservative Kitsap County Realtors.  On the Kitsap County commission, she was a disaster on growth management, transportation and other environmental issues.  Vote for Kim Abel.

Friday, October 31, 2008


I'm kind of embarrassed by how little I've posted lately. One of the challenges I have in trying to blog about politics is that I always end up working on at least one campaign every year and just when the politics gets most interesting, I get the most busy. One of the things I'm way, way behind on is posting my local election endorsements. Early and Often started as a regular e-mail I would always send out with suggested election recommendations. Better late than never, right?

Here are my endorsements for this year. I'll start with just a few comments, but up-date with more details over the next couple days.

President - Barack Obama (D)
Barack Obama, of course. I don't think I need to provide any reasoning for this one, but if you need any persuading at all take a look (again) at Colin Powell's more than eloquent endorsement of Obama.

Governor - Chris Gregoire (D)
Chris Gregoire - She hasn't been a perfect governor. Often she's been way too cautious and that overcautiousness, more often than not, comes back to haunt her. This has been especially true with regard to transportation, an issue of critical importance to the Puget Sound voters, yet one she has only just begun to understand. But, I do think she's starting to get it and on almost every other issue, she's been a fabulous governor - on climate change, Puget Sound and water issues, education and children's health. The only reason she's not sailing toward reelection is because she has no charisma and no ability to communicate her long list of accomplishments. However, most people who are watching carefully, know she has been an accomplished governor. That's why even many of the newspapers that endorsed Rossi in 2004 have endorsed Gregoire this time around.

And then there's Dino Rossi. There's no other way to describe Rossi. He's an empty suit, with no real accomplishments in his six years as a state senator (in spite of what he claims, he deserves little credit for his role in the 2003 budget negotiations - then Gov. Gary Locke handed that budget to him on a platter). I used to think that Rossi was most like George W. Bush. Then Sarah Palin came along. Rossi is nothing more than Palin in pants. While Palin might be able to succeed as governor in redneck Alaska, that style of leadership ain't gonna work here. Oh, and Rossi's at least as corrupt as Sarah Palin.

Lt Governor - Rob Johnson (write-in)
The incumbent, Brad Owen, is Washington's answer to a blue dog Southern Democrat. He's anti-environment, spends way too much time fighting the war on drugs and doesn't have such great positions on social issues either. So, I'm recommending you write in my highly talented office-mate, Rob Johnson. Rob is one of the brightest, most good natured and hardest working progressive young politicos I've met. Rob, not Brad Owen, is the kind of person you want to have a heartbeat away from the governor's office.

Secretary of State - Sam Reed (R)
As long as I've lived in Washington, I've only voted Republican for this office.  That's primarily because, with no term-limits for state elective offices, these kind of mostly administrative executive positions see little turn-over.  Unlike governor, the secretary of state does not just serve two-terms and move on.  As long as the incumbent stays above politics, he can keep getting himself reelected.  Former secretary of state, Ralph Munro, worried more about his reputation for integrity than pleasing his party.  And Sam Reed, since first getting elected in 2000, has done the same, most famously in 2004 when he refused to succumb to pressure from Republican activists and defended the integrity of the electoral process thereby preventing the Republicans from stealing the very close election on behalf of Dino Rossi.  When Republicans were arguing before the state supreme court, without valid evidence, that the King County elections office was corrupt, Sam Reed's attorneys stood in the same court room defending the process.  For that, he deserves to be reelected by big margins. Plus, Reed's reelection will annoy Republican blogger and conspiracy theorist, Stefan Sharkansky to no end.  

State Treasurer - Jim McIntire (D)
Jim McIntire is a smart, PhD economist with 10 years of experience in the state House, much of that time as chair of the House Finance Committee.  He can be a bit arrogant and maybe too cautious sometimes, but that's ok when his primary job will be to protect the state's excellent bond rating.  

State Auditor - Brian Sonntag (D, sort of)
Sonntag's been Auditor for, probably, too long.  Or at least it seems like too long.  He's gotten a bit carried away with his new powers to conduct performance audits (as opposed to the financial audits that the office has always been empowered to do).  And, it's been especially annoying that he has not clearly come out in opposition to I-985, which Tim Eyman keeps wrongly claiming is based on Sonntag's audit of WSDOT congestion relief programs.  However, Sonntag is ultimately a good person who I think is just too old school to understand his own limitations and the limitations of his office.  Plus, he has no viable opponent. 

Attorney General - John Ladenburg (D)
I've known John for eight years and I can't imagine anyone better suited to be Attorney General of this state.  Talk about a maverick.  He'll be the kind of activist Attorney General that could appropriately shake things up a bit.  He'll be a zealot on behalf of consumers and consumers are going to need a zealot working on their behalf for the next four years.  The incumbent, Rob McKenna (cited by the Stranger as America's first male-to-female transsexual to hold statewide office) is probably the smartest Republican politician this state has seen since Dan Evans.  McKenna has very smartly focused on non-partisan issues like identity theft, making lots of PSAs along the way to increase his name recognition on the state's dime.  If the voters don't abort his political career right now, we're going to have to really worry about a McKenna governorship four years from now.  As governor, McKennas will surely be much more partisan, just as he was while serving on the King County Council.  

Commissioner of Public Lands - Peter Goldmark (D)
Not only has incumbent Doug Sutherland let Weyerhaeuser and other timber companies get away with harmful logging practices, he's openly and unapologetically a serial sexual harasser.  Why the Goldmark campaign, or WA Conservation Voters won't make an issue of this, I don't know.  With regard to logging practices, Sutherland has let Weyerhaeuser and the others run amok, clear cutting on slopes to the point that these practices are a huge part of the reason why we saw such bad flooding in SW Washington last year.  On the other hand, Goldmark is everything you could want for the job- a rancher, organic farmer, molecular biologist, environmentalist and former state Secretary of Agriculture.  This is exactly the kind of person who should be in charge of state forests and state logging practices.  

Insurance Commissioner - Mike Kreidler (D)
I can't say enough good things about incumbent Mike Kreidler.  In his last eight terms, he's been a strong advocate for consumers, has been a national leader in addressing heightened actuarial risks related to climate change and he's actively working to figure out a way that his office can create universal health care coverage in the absence of leadership on the issue from, well, from anyone else.  

Superintendent of Public Instruction - Randy Dorn
Partly it's an issue of change.  Terry Bergeson is running for a third term.  But, also the era of worshipping the standardized test is nearing its end and there's been no greater proponent for having everything hinge on the WASL than Terry Bergeson.  

Initiative 985 (Make Traffic Worse) - No!!!!
This is the one I'm working on this year.  Another stupid idea from Tim Eyman, this was one actually stupider than most of his other stupid ideas.  I-985 would open carpool lanes to general purpose traffic beyond his own narrow definition of rush hour.  I-985 would also take away all revenue from red-light cameras, which have been proven to reduce pedestrian injuries (and which, by statute, are mostly used in school zones).  It would also make it nearly impossible to use tolling to do anything but build a bridge.  And, worst of all it would steal $600 million over the next five years from the state's general fund, money that now goes mostly to schools and health care, and funnel that money into "reducing traffic congestion," which in Eyman's distorted world means none of that money could be spent on transit, bicycle or pedestrian facilities, or really smart congestion relief programs like commute trip reduction.  Reject this stupid initiative and send a message that Eyman's 15 minutes are way past expired.  

Initiative 1000 (Death with Dignity, or Assisted Suicide)- No Endorsement
This is one of those issues where you just have to go with your gut.  I voted against it when it was last on the ballot, but I'm thinking of voting for it this time.  That's largely because Oregon's similar law has not turned out to be as big a deal as many originally predicted.  

Initiative 1029 (Long-term care worker training & certification)- Yes
The newspaper editorial boards hate this one because it was put on the ballot by home healthcare workers organized under SEIU (the world's most effective labor union).  Without even knowing much about it, I'm inclined to vote for it because it is sponsored by SEIU.  Also, who the hell doesn't think we shouldn't have high standards for the people taking care of the aged and infirm.  

Proposition 1 (Mass Transit Now) - Yes!!!!
It sucks that the only option for building a bunch more light rail, along with adding lots of express bus and commuter rail service, is our already high sales tax.  But, in a state with no income tax, we don't really have any other options.  Next year we'll get 14-miles of light rail, downtown to Sea-Tac and we'll, finally, enter the league of real cities.  Six more miles, from downtown to Capitol Hill and UW.  This measure will keep them going on taking the rail north to Lynwood, east across I-90 to Bellevue and Overlake and south to Federal Way.  It'll also pay for a streetcar from the International District light rail station up to Pill Hill. Projects will start opening in 2016 and all will be completed by 2023. This all should have happened 40 years ago, back in the day when the feds paid most of the bill.  But, all those old Scandinavian loggers and fisherman that used to decide everything in Seattle said no.  Don't let the crazed right-wingers like Kemper Freeman and quaint old-school Seattlelites like Emory Bundy stop rail transit in its track this time.  Vote YES! on Prop 1.  

US House, 8th District (Bellevue, Renton, Auburn, Sumner) - Darcy Burner (D)
When you think about, it's kind of crazy that someone with virtually no relevant experience, like Darcy Burner, might be on the cusp of getting elected to Congress.  But, then again, the incumbent, Dave Reichert, has been so ineffectual, even when his party controlled congress, that 8th District residents have nothing to lose.  Actually, they have everything to gain.  Sarah Palin fanatics keep saying that they like the Alaska governor because she's real and understands their plight.  Well, Darcy Burner is real but, unlike Palin, she's also smart, hard-working, competent and reasonable.  

36th District Open House Seat - Reuven Carlyle (D)
This is kind of a tough one.  Because of the newly implemented top-2 primary, we have two Democrats running in this district.  Both Carlyle and John Burbank are great candidates, but the edge has to go to Carlyle.  I'm kind of tired of urban Democrats who are all about poverty and social service issues, yet leave all the other progressive issues -like transportation and the environment- to suburban Democrats.  We need more smart, well-rounded and progressive urban Democrats to balance out the Eastside Democrats who so often fight our agenda.  Reuven Carlyle more than fits the bill.

46th District Open House Seat - Scott White (D)
This is another Democrat vs. Democrat run-off with two candidates who both have a lot to offer.  However, White gets the edge in this race because, well, he's a lot like Reuven Carlyle in the 36th Dist. race.  Actually, so is Gerry Pollet.  However, Gerry is a bit to much of a one-note song.  He's been forever focused on cleaning up the Hanford nuclear reservation to the exclusion of giving much attention to so many other issues. Plus Pollet is a bit of a bridge burner.  I see him having a much harder time working his agenda through the legislative process.  

King and Pierce County Races coming soon....

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Ragin' McCain

The bizarre, erratic and angry behavior we've seen from John McCain, in the debates, during the bailout negotiations and in interviews is nothing new.  If anything, McCain has done a remarkable job of containing himself over the last several months.  But, now with the stress of a tanking campaign causing the man to come unglued, that rage is reemerging.  Some have speculated that McCain has recurring problems with PTSD.  And with his medical records largely hidden from view, we may never know.  But more Americans are certainly coming to the conclusion that it is McCain, not Obama, who is the risky choice to be the next commander-in-chief.  

Check out this video on the history of McCain's pattern of raging outbursts, including a documented account of McCain backhanding a female constituent who came to him to talk about her MIA father:

Friday, September 26, 2008

A few thoughts on the first debate

If there's any consensus among the pundits about tonight's debate is that it was a tie. McCain and Obama each had their moments and their failings. In some ways that outcome kept McCain's campaign alive, but at the same time it kept Obama in the lead.

I was profoundly disappointed that my prediction below did not turn out to be the case. With such erratic, impetuous, unbalanced behavior this week (not to mention the Veep pick) McCain deserved to have his temperament questioned and Obama could have put him away for good by effectively questioning whether McCain's behavior this week and decisions throughout this campaign underly a kind of instability that makes McCain just to risky to put into a commander-in-chief position. That said, basic game theory says you don't take chances when you're winning and maybe, essentially, questioning McCain's sanity was just too risky. Some things you just let speak for themselves.

As I write this, the insta-polls show that a majority of Americans believe that Obama won this debate :
From CNN/Opinion Research poll of Debate Watchers (1000 surveyed, +/-4.5% MOE):

Who Did the Best Job in the Debate? Obama 51%-McCain 38%
(Men 43-46 for McCain/Women 59-31 for Obama; 50+ years old 48-40 for Obama)
Who Would Better Handle Iraq? Obama 52%-McCain 47%
Who Would Better Handle the Economy? Obama 58%-McCain 37%
(similarly favorable numbers from a CBS of undecided voters here)

The talking heads were calling it a tie and given the state of the contest, a tie means that Obama retains his overall lead as reflected in the tracking and swing state polls. But, if most Americans who watched the debate believe Obama won (and remember, this foreign policy debate was supposed to be the one that McCain would have the upper-hand) it's pretty much over. Initial public impressions can and often do change, and we still have five-and-a-half weeks to the election, but McCain needed a game changer and by all appearances he didn't get one.

Next up, Sarah Palin and Joe Biden, next Thursday, October 2. Can't wait!

PS Fascinating observation from David Gergen on CNN tonight. He compares Obama in tonight's debate to JFK against Nixon in the foreign policy debate in 1960. As Gergen notes, it wasn't that Kennedy won the debate, but the younger challenger, the one voters were unsure of, held his own against the older more experienced candidate and it was that debate that allowed JFK to win the election. Gergen says Obama did the same tonight. Of course, Eisenhower in 1960 was nowhere near as unpopular as W in 2008.

What to expect from tonight's debate

The McCain campaign is already promising victory in tonight's debate, but I think this excerpt from Politico is more likely to be the story of tonight's debate:
...the candidate's penchant for the dramatic has also raised anew potentially damaging questions of his age, executive abilities and, most of all, his temperament.

McCain's attempt to shift the argument from the economy to character has, perversely, given Democrats an opening to question his own fitness to lead. Spur-of-the-moment decisions - from his choice of a running mate he hardly knew to his request that the first debate be delayed - reflect an impetuousness he's tried to associate with Obama's youth, his critics say, while undercutting his argument that he's a cool, tested old hand capable of coping with presidential pressure."

Chris Rock = Genius/Larry King =Idiot (Bill Clinton...don't even get me started)

Chris Rock on Larry King:
KING: You must be ... proud that at this stage in our history a black man is running for president on a major ticket.

ROCK: Um, you know what? I'm proud Barack Obama's running for president. You know? If it was Flavor Flav, would I be proud? No. I don't support Barack Obama because he's black.
Nothing irritates me more than this attitude exhibited by Larry King. Yes, Barack Obama is black and, yes, that's historic and has the potential to go a long way in forever improving the majority culture's views of blacks and minorities generally. And for reasons I'll explain in a subsequent post that we may be on the cusp of electing a black president is something that is personally very important to me. But, Obama, regardless of race, is also the best damn presidential candidate since Bobby Kennedy in 1968. I continue to be amazed at how many people still seem to be determined to reduce Obama's candidacy to something only important because of his race (à la Jesse Jackson's candidacy in 1984).

Speaking of Bill Clinton, watch this video from the other night to view the former president's continued denial of the fact that his team lost. And, to see Chris Rock's beautiful slap down of Clinton:

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Is he fucking crazy?

The most astute observation on John McCain's effort to postpone the debate comes from, of all people, David Letterman:
You don't suspend your campaign. This doesn't smell right. This isn't the way a tested hero behaves. I think someone's putting something in his metamucil."
"He can't run the campaign because the economy is cratering? Fine, put in your second string quarterback, Sara Palin. Where is she?

What are you going to do if you're elected and things get tough? Suspend being president? We've got a guy like that now!
Letterman made the statement after learning, mid-taping, that McCain had canceled his previously scheduled appearance on the show to, according to McCain's people, return to DC to help deal with the financial crisis. However, Letterman was well aware that McCain was at that moment just a few blocks away, being interviewed by Katie Couric.

So, what exactly is the sound made by an imploding presidential campaign? We're about to find out.

Update 7:11pm PDT: Go here for more about the canceled Letterman/McCain interview

Update 2 9:40pm PDT: Here's the video:

Is this the cultural touchstone moment that signifies the "cratering" of the McCain campaign's credibility with the American electorate? Some have already compared it to Cronkite's Tet Offensive editorial questioning the US's continued prosecution of the war in Vietnam.
Letterman, of course, is not the newsman that Cronkite was and TV audiences are segmented in a way that they never were back in 1968. But, somewhere in the neighborhood of four million will view Letterman's observation on TV; millions more are likely to see it on YouTube.

Like Cronkite's 1968 reckoning of the war in Vietnam, Letterman's belittling of the McCain campaign echoes a sentiment that is already growing by the day with the media and in the political zeitgeist as a whole. Examples abound from the media's loss of patience with Sarah Palin's dodging of their questions to conservative intellectual icon George Will's disgusted critique of McCain's erratic and needlessly risky response to the pressures of both real world events and the campaign itself. Short of some gigantic error by Obama in the debates (if those debates happen at all), or some series of events that turns the whole campaign on its head, Peggy Noonan will have nailed when back at the beginning of the Republican convention, she said "it's over!" Sarah Palin may well have turned out to be the beginning of the end.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Barack Obama is no John Kerry

“I think it's pretty clear that Sen. McCain is a little panicked right now. At this point he seems to be willing to say anything or do anything or change any position or violate any principal to try and win this election, and I've got to say it's kind of sad to see. That's not the politics we need.” – Barack Obama speaking in Coral Gables, Florida today.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Why do Republicans Hate Community Organizers?

From the Republican National Convention:

Rudy Giuliani:  
“You have a resume from a gifted man with an Ivy League education. He worked as a — community organizer.”  He paused and then said, “What?” as if to express befuddlement at that job title.

Giuliani had eloquent body language — a dismissive half-shrug — as he said the words, “community organizer.”  Immediately the delegates on the convention floor burst into laughter and guffaws.  (MSNBC)
Sarah Palin:  
"I guess a small-town mayor is sort of like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities."
From a story about local community organizers in the Metro Section of today's New York Times:
Still, it didn’t seem as if the festivities in St. Paul and Minneapolis had a huge impact on what was going on in the office [24 year old Peter] Nagy shares with Ann Sullivan, 51, who has been building up Acorn’s Long Island network since the mid-1990s.

Mr. Nagy began Friday at Hempstead High School, meeting with officials about registering students to vote, then returned to his office with its décor of newspaper clippings taped to walls, posters reading “Fair Housing. It’s not an Option. It’s the Law,” the Acorn newspaper with the front-page headline “Foreclosure Fighters,” and slightly unexpected bumper stickers reading: “God is Good All the Time.”

He and Ms. Sullivan met briefly with a Hempstead resident named Angela Davis, who has cerebral palsy and had worries about safety and services in her building. She lamented how hard it was to get residents to voice their concerns. “People are afraid to come forward,” she said. “They’re afraid they’re going to be evicted.”

Later there were meetings with tenants of a residence for the elderly, and with other residents facing foreclosure, and then time knocking on doors in Westbury to try to make contacts and generate interest in a meeting about foreclosure issues.
This paragraph from the same story may explain why Republicans hate community organizers so much:
“There are different kinds of power,” said Bertha Lewis, executive director of New York Acorn. “There’s electoral power. Movie stars have fame. Billionaires have money. Low- and moderate-income people have their numbers, and every great movement for social justice — Nelson Mandela preaching against apartheid, civil rights — have all been led by community organizers who took action and held their elected officials accountable.”
Oh, and by the way, the morning after Sarah Palin's speech, John McCain cancelled a previously scheduled appearance before a Twin Cities gathering of community organizers from Habitat for Humanity.  

For more on community organizers vs. the GOP go here.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Notes from the Convention

1.  Michelle's speech:  Don't tell my wife, but I think I'm in love with Michelle Obama. Seriously, she gave a phenomenal speech and I think set a new mark for what a First Spouse should be - passionate in her beliefs, compassionate and smart, smart, smart.  Makes me think that maybe she should get a Senate seat in 2016 and then run for president in 2020.  

2. The network television coverage, at least on NBC, revealed a distressing miscomprehension of the full historical meaning of this week's proceedings.  I'm not just talking about the endless riffing on the divided party meme.  While watching Michelle Obama speech, I was shocked to see that easily 3/4 of the reaction shots were of African-American delegates, when only about 24% of the delegates are black.  Why did that bother me?  Because it sent a message that the nomination of Barack Obama is something that's only meaningful to and for black people.  No, it's meaningful to all of us.  That a politically viable African-American is getting nominated to be president is obviously a huge deal, something that should be embraced by everyone (something even McCain acknowledged) But, the thing that's so magical about Obama, given our country's history is Obama's ability to transcend race in inspiring and giving hope to people of all races.  This is one of the reasons why Obama, as I've said before is the kind of once-in-a-lifetime candidate who has the potential and the leadership skills to transform politics and reinvigorate this nation.   It was narrow-minded and just plain wrong for the NBC television director to have chosen a disproportionate number of reaction shots of Africans rather than portraying the full diversity of Democratic delegates who are genuinely excited and inspired by the nomination of Barack Obama

3. Hillary and even Bill have largely redeemed themselves in my view (full redemption will, however, require fundraising and enthusiastic and frequent campaigning on behalf of the Obama/Biden ticket).  And, with the media buying into idea that Sarah Palin will help attract disaffected Hillary voters, it's even more important for Hillary to counter that argument and be the one to call Sarah Palin unqualified and McCain unqualified for exercising the poor judgment to choose her.  

4.  The acceptance speech: not by any means my favorite Obama speech.  I love the soaring and inspiring rhetoric of his early-Primary era stump speech, not to mention the 2004 keynote speech or the Dr. King birthday speech.  But those speeches will be back, starting on Inauguration Day.  For this point in the campaign, with some of McCain's attacks having gained some traction, this was the speech Obama needed to make.  It the was the perfect mix of aspiration, recognition of the historic moment, recitation of policy changes he will make, justification for change and, yes, direct, hard-hitting and well-deserved attacks on McCain.

5.  Two other speeches not shown on the network feeds but worthing watching a first or even second time:  John Kerry's foreign policy speech from Wednesday night and Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer's speech from Tuesday.  I don't like him as much as his friend, Montana Senator Jon Tester, but Schweitzer is quite the populist character.  He wears blue jeans in his day-to-day work as governor and takes his Border Collie everywhere.  I'm not sure exactly what it is yet, but he definitely has a future at the national level.  If you didn't see the speech last week, check it out here.  

6.  All-in-all the week a huge success for Obama.  Everything, including the reconciliation with the Clintons, was executed perfectly.  It's too bad that McCain's cynical VP selection did have the effect of cutting short some of the excitement left by Obama after his speech.  But, that unveiling can't take away the fact that the Democratic Convention saw the highest television ratings of any political convention ever,  22.4 million average viewership, with 38.3 million for the acceptance speech itself.  Even before Gustav started to cut short the Republican Convention (in some ways, to their advantage) it's hard to see how the Republicans come even close to pulling of a show like this.  

Friday, August 29, 2008


No, not me.  But, I guess there are some out there that are more than ok with McCain's choice of Sarah Palin.  If this site had been produced by a Democrat, it'd be crude and tasteless.  But, fortunately, it looks like it was produced by a Republican, so it's funny.  

This new McCain/Palin campaign poster also came from the Slog, via Wonkette...

Well, he's still got racism

All along, with Americans sick of George W. Bush and sick of Republican rule in general, there have always only been two ways McCain could beat Obama in November: (1) Obama's inexperience in government, particularly with regard to national security, and (2) persistent racism that would cause working class voters in swing states like Ohio to vote against Obama.  

Now with McCain's shocking choice of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin,  the inexperience argument is gone.  Palin has been governor of Alaska for less than two years.  Before that she was a city councilmember and mayor in Wasilla, Alaska, population 5400.  I think she was also an Alaska Oil and Gas Commissioner.  

Remember, John McCain turns 72 today.  The would be oldest person ever elected to a first term as a president has now said that someone with only two years experience as governor of one of the smallest states in terms of population and no national political experience is ready to lead on day one.  Surely, McCain cannot with a straight face say Obama is no longer ready to lead.

But, there's still the racism.  

Thursday, August 21, 2008

VP picks

I'm still on vacation for a few more days and I'm looking forward to writing about what, on the surface at least, seems like an eerily close general election contest. But before I return from my summer hiatus, and before that text message comes in from the Obama campaign, I wanted to throw out my top hopes for a Veep pick.

After spending the whole Spring trashing her, you'll be surprised to hear that I'm very much hoping that Obama will pick Hillary as his choice for the second slot.

By the time she pulled out in June, I pretty strongly felt Hillary would be a terrible choice. I agreed with Jimmy Carter's assessment that "...it would be the worst mistake that could be made. That would just accumulate the negative aspects of both candidates." I also worried, and continue to worry, about Bill Clinton being a third wheel in an Obama/Clinton administration. While Hillary has become a constructive part of the team, Bill has only made more of an asshole of himself with his deep resentment of Obama's victory over Hillary (Examples here and here).

But, with recent polls showing that Obama has yet to consolidate the level of support among Democrats that McCain has attained with his party's base, choosing Hillary can only help Obama close the deal with older women and working class Democrats and allow him to more quickly move on to persuading independent voters that he's got what it takes to be an effective leader on both economic and foreign policy issues. And, Hillary will help with that task too as no one ever seemed to doubt her national security acumen or her ability to be a champion for working class voters.

Two other reasons why Hillary is the best choice at this point in time in this campaign - Obama needs to come out the Democratic convention and carry through the Republican convention, the big Mo(mentum). The media can't seem to look at this campaign as anything but a horse race. Bringing Hillary onto the ticket will be hugely popular with Democratic delegates, electrifying the convention hall in Denver with a buzz that will carry forward beyond the acceptance speech and into the big bus tour that will inevitably happen the following week, during the Republican convention.

Finally, choosing Hillary will bring a proven fighter onto the team. Since he's come back from vacation, Obama has been much more aggressive at taking on McCain, but for the remainder of the campaign he'll still be faced with the conundrum of needing to fight back against McCain but succumbing to his own message that by rising above politics as usual, he will more effectively solve people's everyday problems. Hillary never bought into that message so she can take McCain on even more aggressively than she took on Obama while the person at the top of the ticket stays above the fray telling Americans why he's the best choice to lead the nation for the next 4+ years. And, after the race for the Democratic nomination, does anyone doubt that Hillary will be an effective attack dog on the ticket's behalf?

Oh, and all that talk about PUMAs and open rebellion in the convention? Gone- if Hillary's the VP pick.

Are there downsides to picking Hillary? Sure. In some respects (e.g., the experience question) she could overshadow him (or, more likely, the McCain campaign could make sure she overshadows him). And, there are still lots of Hillary haters out there. But, I'm pretty sure most of the Hillary haters are also now Obama haters. And the experience question is going to dog Obama no matter what. I think the excitement a Hillary pick will have in Denver, the momentum in the media that follows, the consolidation of support among Democrats, the effectiveness of Hillary as tough as nails attack dog and the reality that she has been vetted and very likely brings no surprises more than outweighs any of the negatives.

Hillary for VP!

Next best choices?
One of my favorites was Gov. Ted Strickland of Ohio. A win in Ohio pretty much guarantees victory and before Strickland was governor and a congressman, he was a preacher (a progressive-populist preacher) from the Appalachian part of the state. This guy can connect with working class voters like no one else. In helping Hillary win Ohio, Strickland also demonstrated that he has the kind of machine that can win that key state for Obama in November. However, Strickland long ago pulled himself out of contention (Was it just talk? I don't know).

I've also always liked Wesley Clark. Former NATO commander, so he has serious national security cred, and he opposed the Iraq invasion from the beginning. Also, we know he has no problem attacking McCain, but those attacks on McCain are probably the reason he's been out of contention for a while.

Tom Daschle, the former Senate Majority Leader would be a great choice. Daschle was pretty much the first Democratic politician with national name recognition to jump on the Obama bandwagon and he's been national campaign co-chair and a key adviser since the beginning. Of course, he may be too much of an insider, and too low-key in style to be the right person, politically, for the job.

I worry about Joe Biden because of his habit of putting his foot in his mouth. But, I've always been a fan of his - one of the smartest and most plain spoken politicians in DC. Obviously, his credibility on foreign policy (currently chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee) would be a boon to the ticket. And, as Eli Sanders points out, the fact that Biden went directly from being a county council member to a successful Senate career -at the age of 30- provides Obama with a helpful illustration of how little political experience at the federal level can matter in the development of a smart, effective leader. On the downside, Biden is kind of boring and may not be the most effective attack dog that the ticket so desperately needs.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas would also be a great choice, but for a lack of national security experience. I think Obama needs that on his ticket to win in November.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Jesse Helms - His Greatest Hits

In no particular order:
  1. "To rob the Negro of his reputation of thinking through a problem in his own fashion is about the same as trying to pretend that he doesn't have a natural instinct for rhythm and for singing and dancing." — Helms responding in 1956 to criticism that a fictional black character in his newspaper column was offensive.
  2. "The destruction of this country can be pinpointed in terms of its beginnings to the time that our political leadership turned to socialism. They didn't call it socialism, of course. It was given deceptive names and adorned with fancy slogans. We heard about New Deals, and Fair Deals and New Frontiers and the Great Society." — From a Helms editorial at WRAL-TV in Raleigh.
  3. In 1993 sang "Dixie" in an elevator to Carol Moseley-Braun, the first African-American woman elected to the Senate, bragging, "I'm going to make her cry. I'm going to sing Dixie until she cries." (Chicago Sun-Times, 8/5/93)
  4. As an aide to the 1950 Senate campaign of North Carolina Republican candidate Willis Smith, Helms reportedly helped create attack ads against Smith's opponent, including one which read: "White people, wake up before it is too late. Do you want Negroes working beside you, your wife and your daughters, in your mills and factories? Frank Graham favors mingling of the races." Another ad featured photographs Helms himself had doctored to illustrate the allegation that Graham's wife had danced with a black man. (The News and Observer, 8/26/01; The New Republic, 6/19/95; The Observer, 5/5/96; Hard Right: The Rise of Jesse Helms, by Ernest B. Furgurson, Norton, 1986)
  5. "The Negro cannot count forever on the kind of restraint that's thus far left him free to clog the streets, disrupt traffic, and interfere with other men's rights." (WRAL-TV commentary, 1963) He also wrote, "Crime rates and irresponsibility among Negroes are a fact of life which must be faced." (New York Times, 2/8/81)
  6. A year before the election, when public polls showed Helms trailing by 20 points, he launched a Senate filibuster against the bill making the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. a national holiday. (David Broder, Washington Post, Aug, 29, 2001)
  7. Over the years Helms has declared homosexuality "degenerate," and homosexuals "weak, morally sick wretches." (Newsweek, 12/5/94)
  8. Helms lashed out at the Kennedy-Hatch AIDS bill in 1988: "There is not one single case of AIDS in this country that cannot be traced in origin to sodomy." (States News Service, 5/17/88)
  9. "We've got to have some common sense about a disease transmitted by people deliberately engaging in unnatural acts," (New York Times, 7/5/95)
  10. When he made an appearance on CNN’s Larry King Live in Sept. 1995, a caller praised him “for everything you’ve done to help keep down the niggers.”
    Helms looked in the camera and replied, “Well thank you, I think.”
  11. The infamous "Hands" ad against Harvey Gantt in the '92 Senate race:

(Sources: NYT, AP, Americablog, Slog)

Good riddance you racist, hateful piece of shit (to paraphrase Dan Savage).

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Think different.

An amusing, but apt analogy that emerged from the race for the Democratic nomination was that Hillary was like a PC, Obama a Mac (see here and here). To take it a bit further, I've heard someone refer to McCain as a Unix mainframe. I'd say more like an old IBM running MS-DOS (and, as it turns out, maybe more like a dictaphone).

Still, it seemed more likely as a US Senator, that Obama would use some government issue Dell laptop, probably running Windows XP, or even worse, Vista. But, lo and behold, Obama does carry around a Mac. (I'm envisioning one of those snazzy black MacBooks).

A PowerBook, a MacBook, an i-Mac, 2 iPods, and an iPhone populate our home. So, I'm definitely one of these people who believe that creative people who care less about the machine and more about what they can do with it use Macs and other Apple products. And, in government, PCs are pretty ubiquitous, so you kind have to go out of your way to be a Mac user, especially when the technical support people refuse to help you set it up (but, then again, after the initial network set-up, you don't really need technical support with a Mac). So, hearing that Obama is a Mac guy only further completes the picture for me of Obama as something different than the typical politician. Then again, all the credit for Obama being a Mac guy seems to go to Michelle who bought him Mac.

Too little highway... or too few options?

Via Sightline

Thursday, June 19, 2008

An Obama for Washington state governor?

The über-sleazy special interest group, Building Industry Association of Washington (BIAW), is already pumping hundreds of thousands of dollars into an independent expenditure campaign against incumbent Washington Governor Chris Gregoire. Check out this new ad from their "It's Time for a Change" PAC:

The ad, using footage from Obama's Key Arena appearance in Seattle last February, is laughable. Of course, Obama was talking about change from the ways of George W. Bush. However, Dino Rossi is every bit a politician cast from the same mold as George W. Rossi is an affable fellow who seems non-threatening in his ads but in reality is not very smart, would surround himself with right-wing ideologues in his administration and would use the powers of the executive branch to move the state as far to the right as he could get away with. His views on big issues like reproductive rights, environmental protection, transportation policy, and education clash significantly with the majority of Washingtonians. Gregoire may not be Washington's answer to Obama (more like Washington's version of Hillary - super competent and experienced, but not necessarily inspiring), but Dino Rossi would certainly be our state's answer to George W. Bush.

Friday, June 6, 2008

What He Said...

From Kos @ Daily Kos:


Mrs. Feinstein said she did not need to urge Mrs. Clinton to hold a meeting. "I didn’t urge anybody to do anything. I know it’s a natural instinct. People, particularly in this case because Hillary represents a very large block of voters — the largest ever for anybody that has come in No. 2, and has the popular vote. She is I think desirous of protecting the issues that she cares about to the extent she can, seeing that the people are represented in this administration and certainly in the convention. And also to help with the ticket, and I know she feels that way because we have talked about this."

I know that this is all posturing for Clinton's VP hopes, but I wish Clinton surrogates would stop with the dishonest talking points. It really is time to move on.

The ONLY way Clinton can claim a popular vote victory is to 1) count the Soviet-style Michigan election results, 2) give Obama zero votes in the state, and 3) ignore the caucus states.

It was a close count, no doubt. Of course, if popular vote was the measure of victory, Obama would've run a different race. For one, he wouldn't have gone into "general election mode" a month ago, leaving votes on the table in the last few contests. But it wasn't, and Obama's team executed and won by every measure.

So can they please stop it?

Viewed live by over 12 million Americans

Long time, no blog. Barack Obama is now the nominee, undisputed. Obama now gets to reintroduce himself to American voters and to the tens of millions who did not participate int the nomination process but will vote in November. Tuesday night's speech and all the history making that surrounded it was a nice way to launch that general election campaign. At least 12 million Americans watched it live - an astonishing number for a political speech. Obama did not disappoint:

But John McCain sure did:

Saturday, May 31, 2008

5 Days, 5 Contests

Finally! The end is upon us. By the middle of next week, Obama should be able to declare victory in the race for the Democratic nomination (at the site of the Republican Convention - nice move, Obama). Based more than anything on the outcome of the first contest, today's Democratic Party Rules and By-laws Committee meeting, Hillary should be ready to acknowledge that by conceding, hopefully on Tuesday night.

Contest 1: Rules & Bylaws Committee
With DNC lawyers taking Hillary's favored solution off the table, Michigan and Florida delegates will almost certainly be awarded at half value. Since both Obama and Hillary were on the Florida ballot, that means that the pledged delegate split for Florida should break out to 34.5 for Obama, 52.5 for Hillary.

The big question is how the RBC will deal with Michigan since Obama was not on the ballot there. The state party organization proposes splitting the delegates 69-59 in Clinton's favor. This is characterized as a compromise between Hillary's position of seating all the delegates and the initial Obama position of seating the delegates 50-50. Obama has agreed to this compromise, but Hillary is rejecting it, arguing that she should get no fewer pledged delegates than awarded in the tainted primary. She is also arguing that Obama should get no delegates, that the minority batch of delegates should go to the convention "uncommitted" as they were defined in the illegal Jan. 15 primary ballot. However, Poblano, the brilliant and anonymous statistician at FiveThirtyEight.com has shown that in a competitive race, by now with the other candidates dropping out, the primary election and subsequent delegate selection process would have awared Obama a majority of 65 delegates to Hillary's 63. But, even if you simply assume that most of the 40% of the votes for "uncommitted" in Florida were for Obama, with some for Edwards, plus add in the 5% of votes that were write-ins for Obama but never counted, and work that through the Congressional District proportional system by which delegates are awarded, the delegate split would end up close to the 69-59 proposed by the Michigan Democratic Party.

Even if this scenario is adopted by the RBC, it would likely need to be halved according to DNC rules. In other words, a net gain of only 5 full delegates for Hillary. This would be accompanied by an 18 vote margin for Hillary in Florida. That's for pledged delegates, the apportionment of superdelegates in both states is a separate issue. In all likelihood those would also be halved as well, in part to avoid creating two classes of delegate within the same state delegation.

Contest 2: Puerto Rico (Sunday)
It's absurd that a territory that can't even vote for president in November is apportioned significantly more delegates than Montana and South Dakota combined - 55 pledged delegates, plus 7 supers. There's a common misconception that because Hillary has done so well with Hispanic voters in other parts of the country. That's not going to help her in Puerto Rico, where the high mixed-race population feels more affinity with Obama than Hispanics in California or Texas. What does help Hillary is that she's the Senator from New York where most Puerto Ricans in America reside. Bill Clinton was popular in Puerto Rico, and Hillary as First Lady played a major role in helping with a big hurricane recovery effort there in the late 90s. The one recent poll (conducted May 8-20) shows Hillary with a 13-point lead - 51-38. Her winning margin may well fall under 10 points. By the way, Puerto Rico falls into the Eastern time zone at this time of year and polls are open from 8am-3pm. So, we should have results by 1 or 2pm Pacific Time.

Contests 3 and 4: South Dakota and Montana (Tuesday)
The polling in both South Dakota (15 pledged delegates/8 super) and Montana (16 pledged/9 super) is kind of stale (another sure sign that the nomination fight is over). But, all indications are that Obama will win by big margins of 15-20 points in each state. The real importance of these states will come in allowing Obama to finish out the primary season with two big wins in one night as he declares victory in the whole process and then starts rolling out big numbers of superdelegates the next day.

And that brings us to Contest 5, Superdelegates. Hillary may or may not concede on Tuesday night, but even if she doesn't, by Wednesday morning the remaining 190 or so superdelegates will start rolling out en masse for Obama. And our long national nightmare will be over. We can only hope.

Update (7:00Pm Saturday): Contest 1 goes to... Obama! The outcome was pretty much as predicted below. Harold Ickes and other HRC supporters on the committee were gracious on the Florida decision but got all pissy about Michigan. They felt that a 73-56 was more accurate an apportionment than the 69-59 proposed by Michigan Democrats. They reserved the right to appeal the decision to the Credentials Committee meeting in July. The magic number is now 2117 and Obama only needs 64 more to reach that magic number. He should reach it by Tuesday night, Wednesday morning at the latest.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Teddy on Bobby

I have long thought that the assassination of Bobby Kennedy marked the death of the 20th century brand of liberalism. After Vietnam and the loss of America's faith in LBJ, RFK had become the last great hope of a liberalism based on the right of equality for all, communitarian compassion and a foreign policy that was pragmatic yet strongly informed by human rights ideals. And with Bobby, especially the person that Bobby had become by 1968 (transformed to a great degree by the Civil Rights Movement, his brother's death and the horrors of the Vietnam War), that liberalism came from a person of passion, depth, sincerity and conviction, along with charisma and the ability to inspire.

While there are a lot of reasons to be excited about the possibility of an Obama presidency, more than anything I'm excited about his potential to transform our nation and bring a new liberalism to American politics. I believe that Obama has the potential be to this era in American history what Lincoln was to the Antebellum America, Teddy Roosevelt to the Gilded Age and FDR to Great Depression-era America. JFK may have been on his way to being this sort of president, but I think RFK even more so.

In this week of news about the Kennedys, it's really worth taking a listen to Teddy Kennedy's eulogy of his brother, Robert:

Hillary and the Dead Kennedys

I don't know what to say about Hillary's reminder to the Sioux Falls Argus Leader editorial board that it wasn't until June of 1968 that Robert Kennedy was taken out of contention in that's year's nomination fight. In this case, by an assassin's bullet. But, as furious as I've been with the willingness of Hillary's campaign to play the race card, my reaction to this episode has been to give her the benefit of the doubt. Maybe this time, it really it really is the misstatement of an exhausted candidate. But, here are some excerpts from some arguments from around the blogosphere that make me think twice:

From the XX Factor blog at Slate.com, first Rosa Brooks:
I think we know exactly what Hillary meant:
"Nice nominee you got there... sure would be a shame if anything happened to him."
Awfully big-hearted of her to be willing to stick around through August, just in case....
And, Melinda Henneberger:
I'm not saying she literally hopes he dies soon. (Plus, she's apologized, so case closed, right?) But Hillary didn't mean what she said this time just like she wasn't exactly shouting out to hardworking white people, and Bill didn't quite say Jesse equals Barack, and her surrogates never meant to push the whole image of him as a druggie in the 'hood, and she never meant to reanimate the whole highly racial Jeremiah Wright hoo-ha by saying—gosh darn the timing, just as things were dying down—that he woulda never been her pick for pastor. But either Hillary Clinton is one smart, savvy, and occasionally even on-message politician—in which case she is well aware of what it means to reference the possible assassination of a black leader in this country—or she isn't and doesn't. It can't be both.
And this conclusion from Emily Yoffe:

...I don't like the game of gotcha in which every ill-phrased remark is grounds for ending a candidacy. But recently Clinton has been making a string of offensive statements, from saying "hard-working white Americans" support her and not Obama, to comparing her effort to seat delegates from Florida and Michigan to the civil-rights marchers beaten in Selma. But calling forth the forces of madness to give her the presidency - please, let her end the madness of her campaign.
From BarbinMD on Daily Kos:

But this isn’t the first time she has made this same, offensive comparison. In March of this year:

TIME: Can you envision a point at which--if the race stays this close--Democratic Party elders would step in and say, "This is now hurting the party and whoever will be the nominee in the fall"?

CLINTON: No, I really can't. I think people have short memories. Primary contests used to last a lot longer. We all remember the great tragedy of Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June in L.A. My husband didn't wrap up the nomination in 1992 until June. Having a primary contest go through June is nothing particularly unusual.

Once might be a mistake, twice and it’s a tactic. An offensive, ugly tactic from a failed campaign whose only hope is to raise the possibility that something might happen to Obama. The willingness to say such a thing in a cheap effort to sway superdelegates is disgusting.
And, finally from Josh Orton at MyDD:

This must now end.

Over the past weeks, many have called for Clinton to end her campaign based on metrics. But with the infrastructure-building the primary keeps delivering, I've been reasonably comfortable waiting until June for closure.
But this is unacceptable.
The United States has a history of profound political violence - and the use of violence to oppress and coerce. And while I'm not quite willing to accept that Clinton spoke maliciously - it doesn't matter. There is no excuse for flippantly referencing assassination, especially given the historic nature of Obama's campaign and our nation's grim history of racial oppression through violence. When Hillary Clinton speaks of our history, she is not reflecting academically or only in a vacuum - her words and influence are real. To act otherwise is negligent, at best.

No context can save her. She must go.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Kentucky and Oregon

In the next hour, we'll start to see results from Kentucky, with Oregon a bit less than 6 hours away. While it's now clear that Hillary will stay in for the last three primaries ending June 3, and for the DNC Rules Committee meeting on May 31 that will decide the fate of Michigan and Florida delegations, Obama will almost certainly have gained a majority of pledged delegates, whether you count all states excluding MI and FL or, likely, even if you include them. No one from the Obama camp, or from the Democratic powers that be will tell Hillary to step down until after June 3, but Hillary will lose all credibility if she doesn't concede shortly after the last primary.

In Kentucky, don't be fooled by early returns, which will start rolling in around 3:30 Pacific Time. Because of the time zone split in Kentucky, early results will mostly reflect returns from Louisville in the eastern half of the state. Western Kentucky is demographically pretty similar to West Virginia, so when those returns get factored, Obama will be lucky to crack 30%. Kentucky polling has been remarkably consistent at showing Hillary performing in the low-60s. The rest goes to Edwards, who as in WV remains on the ballot, and "Uncommitted," which is actually an option on the Kentucky ballot.

In Oregon's all-mail balloting, ballots have to be turned in by 8pm. Counting actually started this morning. So, we'll know the first results, mostly from the heavily Obama-favored Portland area right at 8pm PDT. Those early results are likely to get watered down a bit (or maybe not), but expect the final results to give Obama somewhere between 54 and 64% of the vote.

If all goes as expected, the meme that will enshroud the airwaves and print media is that it's all over, Obama is the nominee no matter what happens with FL and MI, but the Kentucky results show that Obama continues to have troubles gaining the vote of working-class whites (conveniently ignoring the fact that OR is almost as blue collar as KY and probably whiter). But, if all goes expected tonight, or if it's any better than expected, Obama may well get the superdelegates he needs to declare victory on June 3, or even earlier.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Better late than never

John Edwards will endorse Obama tonight.

Would have been nice if Edwards had come out for Obama at that Charleston rally, but better now late than never. And, now as the NY Times points out, the news of the endorsement will push Hillary's West Virginia win off the lede on tonight's TV news broadcasts.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

John Edwards Endorsement

Clearly John Edwards voted for Barack Obama in past Tuesday's North Carolina Primary. For some reason, maybe it's because his wife supports Hillary, Edwards refuses to endorse in the race. A lot of pundits argue that, with the NC Primary passed, it's irrelevant. But, one way that Edwards could really help his favored candidate is by showing up on stage with Obama at his rally now scheduled for Monday morning in Charleston, WV.

As well as Hillary is doing in Appalachian areas, the results from the South Carolina primary indicate that Edwards has even more appeal with voters in that part of the country. Edwards would help Obama to no end by endorsing him at the rally, with the moment repeated on local news broadcasts in West Virginia throughout the 24 hours before the voters go to the polls. The benefit would be magnified by Edwards campaigning with Obama in Kentucky in advance of the May 20 primary there.

Whadaya say, John?

Monday, May 12, 2008

West Virginia Preview

Obama fans like myself should probably look for something else to do tomorrow night. Watching election results won't be nearly as fun as last week. The only satisfaction we'll have is knowing that after the night is over Obama will still be ahead in pledged delegates, superdelegates, states won and popular votes won.

Not only does West Virginia have exactly the kind of demography that has supported Clinton in Ohio and PA -older voters, working poor whites, Catholics, racist crackers, but there also seems to be a high quotient of West Virginia voters who are absolutely convinced Obama is a foreign national, a Muslim, or even a terrorist. The best explanation for this is a high level of illiteracy, along with lack of Internet access, newspaper distribution or news broadcasts in the state. It makes you wonder if they'll be able to find anyone in the state with the aptitude to count the votes.

All the recent polls show Clinton winning by a more than 2-1 margin, 60-24 according to a Suffolk poll conducted on May 10-11; 56-27 according to a Rasmussen poll conducted May 4. Fortunately, Bill Clinton has done us the favor of establishing the expectation for Hillary's success when he urged West Virginia voters to make sure Hillary wins with 80% of the vote , or even 90% according to one state official.

Polls close at 7:30pm Eastern, so expect the networks to call it for Clinton by about, oh, 4:30 here on the West Coast. There are only 28 delegates at stake, so Hillary should not come away with more than about a 6-7 delegate net gain. Obama will probably pick up at least that many superdelegates in the following day or two.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

More evidence that Clinton's continued candidacy has jumped the shark...

Preachers and Presidents

From the New York Times coverage of Jenna Bush's wedding:
The Rev. Kirbyjon Caldwell of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston officiated at the ceremony. Mr. Caldwell, a longtime religious adviser to [President] Bush, has endorsed Senator Barack Obama.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

John Edwards Endorsement

Clearly John Edwards voted for Barack Obama in past Tuesday's North Carolina Primary. For some reason, maybe it's because his wife supports Hillary, Edwards refuses to endorse in the race. A lot of pundits argue that, with the NC Primary passed, it's irrelevant. But, one way that Edwards could really help his favored candidate is by showing up on stage with Obama at his rally now scheduled for Monday morning in Charleston, WV.

As well as Hillary is doing in Appalachian areas, the results from the South Carolina primary indicate that Edwards has even more appeal with voters in that part of the country. Edwards would help Obama to no end by endorsing him at the rally, with the moment repeated on local news broadcasts in West Virginia throughout the 24 hours before the voters go to the polls. The benefit would be magnified by Edwards campaigning with Obama in Kentucky in advance of the May 20 primary there.

Whadaya say, John?

Thursday, May 8, 2008

It's the racism, stupid

"I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on... Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again... There's a pattern emerging here."

-- Sen. Hillary Clinton, in an interview with USA Today

I have a theory. In mid-January, shortly before the South Carolina primary, when Hillary started alienating black voters with her comments about how Dr. King needed LBJ to effectuate the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts, she and her most Rovian of advisors, Mark Penn and Bill Clinton, discovered that raising race would drive more working class rural voters to rally behind her (while also putting some fear into the minds of superdelegates). South Carolina went from being a state in play for her to a colossal disaster. With half the votes cast by blacks, Hillary lost to Obama by nearly 30 points.

She still had to fight John Edwards for those rural votes, but buried in the national discourse and in the results and exit polls the Clinton campaign could see that by forcing identity politics to the fore they would have an advantage with older white and working-class voters who were not only unfamiliar with Obama, but could actually be manipulated into fearing him.

This strategy, of course, would all have to operate at the most subtle of levels to avoid any chance of causing a backlash among Hillary's base of older women voters, the media and party leaders. Also, there was the risk of permanently alienating black voters who would still be necessary to win in November. So, no Willie Horton or Jesse Helms' white guy ripping up the rejection letter type ads. Only coded signals to provoke fears among white voters, along with taking every opportunity possible to marginalize Obama as "the black candidate."

In South Carolina, it started with Bill Clinton dismissing Obama's South Carolina victory by comparing it with Jesse Jackson's in 1984. And, then as the Obama campaign picked up steam, the race-baiting lost a degree of subtlety. Desperate times called for desperate measures. So, along came Geraldine Ferraro's statements, the darkening of Obama's image in campaign ads, and leaks of pictures of Obama in African garb to Drudge.

All along, Bill Clinton is becoming the rural specialist for the campaign, drumming up Hillary's rural, working class cred with the tobacco chewing set. As Maureen Dowd so wickedly stated it:
Then came the Big Dog, crazy like a fox, for the coup de graceless. Campaigning in Clarksburg, W. Va., he said that his scrappy wife can win working-class voters, as compared with Obama’s Viognier-and-Volvo set.

“The great divide in this country is not by race or even income, it’s by those who think they are better than everyone else and think they should play by a different set of rules,” the former president said. “In West Virginia and Arkansas, we know that when we see it.”

Oh, well, at least Bill didn’t use the word uppity.
The Rev. Wright "Controversy"

And, then came the Rev. Wright controversy. I'm not sure where YouTube videos came from. The Clinton's campaign's fingerprints are not on them in the same way they are with the other tactics mentioned above. But, I have no doubt they were happy to raise them with the press and did what they could to disseminate the videos.

Now, as the power of nearly de-railing the campaign of a leading contender for the presidency has clearly gone to his head, and as he has clearly gone off the rails himself, Obama was right to jettison the Rev. Wright from his life. In any case, the constant throughout this controversy has been the fact that Wright, for many older, especially rural older, whites helps invoke with Obama the same 60s trope of a radical black man associated with Jesse Jackson in the '84 race, or Al Sharpton in 2004.

The Wright issue also had the effect of dragging Obama into still painful debates from that last flared up during the 1990s over what share of responsibility falls on whites versus blacks to help heal the wounds and impacts of our 400-year history of racism in America (a bitter irony is that Bill Clinton earned his popularity within the black community by falling on the right side of this debate). From the awesome black blog, Too Sense:
....What people want is not for Obama to denounce Wright, but to denounce black people everywhere who have the gall to be angry at America for how they are and have been treated. What they wanted Obama to say was that racism is unequivocally a black problem, that white people have moved past it but that black people cling to grievances as an excuse for out of wedlock births, unemployment, or incarceration.

It doesn't matter that rhetorically and policy-wise, Obama has struck the right balance between personal and governmental responsibility. It doesn't matter that he's confronted black anti-Semitism, black homophobia, black apathy. When Obama dared to mention that white people might harbor irrational prejudices of their own--he was pilloried by conservatives and liberals everywhere who don't want to feel guilty suspecting every black teenager of being a drug dealer for "throwing his grandmother under the bus."

They didn't want him to condemn Wright, they wanted him to condemn black people. So of course they're not satisfied. For all the talk of how white people are attracted to Obama and the alleged "absolution" he could offer them, what they really want is for him to publicly shift the blame for the racial divide squarely on the shoulders of the black community, so white people can stop thinking about it.

And he didn't do that, so they're not happy.

Appalachia's Love Affair with Hillary

Racism is a reality in this race- fact is that there is a hard core 10-15% of American voters who would never vote for a black candidate, no matter what. One of the uglier episodes in the Indiana campaign was one white man's refusal to shake Obama's hand. Fortunately, most of those racist voters would not be counted on by any Democratic candidate. But, as George Packer at the New Yorker has pointed out, there are a percentage of Democratic voters, most concentrated in Appalachia, that will never vote for Obama.

This map, assembled by Meng Bomin at Daily Kos, shows how amazingly concentrated in Appalachia the anti-Obama Democratic vote resides (click on map for larger versions):

The purple denotes counties where Hillary won more than 65% of the vote through May 6. As you can see from the map -outside of Michigan where only Hillary was on the ballot, and in Arkansas for obvious reasons- most of the purple is in Appalachia- from Northern Alabama and Georgia, up through Western South Carolina, Eastern Tennessee, Western Virginia, South Eastern Ohio, Western PA and Southwestern NY (Some of the more detailed maps here show that John Edwards also did well in the sliver of South Carolina that falls in Appalachia - makes you wonder whether Edwards staying in the race would have helped Obama, which is inverse of the conventional wisdom).

Most of these Appalachian Democratic racists are in states like Kentucky, Alabama and Georgia that were not likely to go Democratic in the general election, even this year. But, there is also a large enough percentage of voters in Tennessee and West Virginia -states that voted for Bill Clinton- that will be lost to Obama. And then there are concentrations of these voters in key swing states like Pennsylvania and Ohio (seeing a pattern here?), along with Virginia, which could be a Democratic win this year (and voted overwhelmingly for Obama, except in Appalachia). So, no doubt that the loss of these often Democratic voters in Appalachia and their racist ways are a real challenge to Obama putting together a winning coalition of states in November.

Reject and renounce the racism, along with those who would continue to exploit it for their own gain (i.e., Hillary Clinton)

What's scary is that this racist reality continues to fuel talk, even after Tuesday night's results in IN and NC, that it's ok for superdelegates to deliver the nomination to Clinton because, well, we're just not ready to elect a black president (Ed Rendell said this publicly many times). On today's media briefing call, Clinton chief strategist, Geoffrey Garin, raved about Hillary's improved performance with white voters in NC while all but dismissing black voters as a relevant voter class. This was followed by Hillary herself in the USA Today interview. I think this about my 100th FU to Hillary on this short-lived blog, but Hillary, Fuck You!

We, as Democrats, given our country's history, given our party's history, given our aspirations for racial equality should find this kind of race-baiting completely unacceptable. It's really the kind of thing that party leaders (also known as superdelegates) should hold out as a threshhold for determining the legitimacy of a contender for the nomination. If Obama has the most pledged delegates after the last primary (and he absolutely will), the nomination should be his, realities of racism be damned. This is a principle worth losing over, although I don't think that'll be result. In reality, I think it just adds some risk of losing. But, if we're not willing as a country and a party to take that risk this year, when will we be?

We must take on that racism, stare it down and defeat it. And, have we ever been in a better position do that in the realm of national politics than this year. McCain is a deeply flawed candidate (his association with Bush is far more damaging that Obama's association with Rev. Wright). Obama is one of the best candidates this party has ever seen. At the very least, he is our generation's JFK or maybe, better yet, RFK. Obama's message of hope and change, I predict, will be more powerful in the general election race, when that next level of more casual, less partisan voter gets engaged. He will maximize black and young voter turn-out and, I believe, capture the Hispanic and older woman vote that has been, along with the Appalachian racists, key to Hillary's base.

We Democrats might be taking on some incremental measure of additional risk of losing the presidency by nominating Obama because racism will be a real factor to overcome. However, Obama is completely capable of winning in the face of that racism. And, we as a nation will be better off for it.

Update: Meng Bomin has posted updated maps. The high degree of opposition to Obama in Appalachia is even more stark in the map of counties where Hillary won more than 65% of the vote. I've replaced the map in my original posting with this one and also updated my discussion of those maps.