Election 2008 McCain Politics The Clintons

Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?

[Image by oxmour licensed under Creative Commons.]

Why is Chelsea Clinton so ugly?
Because her father is Janet Reno.

I just wanted to point out this McCain joke (told around the time of Chelsea’s 18th birthday) to all the PUMAs out there who have made a big deal about Obama’s disrespect of the Clintons.

Election 2008 Obama Politics The Clintons

Reconciling With Hillary

Just wanted to get on record before Obama announces his pick – my money is on Hillary Clinton, although the smart money would be on Joe Biden, and the real dark horse being Al Gore ((Because Tim Kaine, Jack Reed, Evan Bayh, Kathleen Sebelious, Chet Atkins, and the rest of the lesser lights being too boring to speculate on.) – that despite my initial strong opposition to a Vice President Hillary Clinton (as demonstrated by this and this), I’ve reconciled myself to the idea recently. If it helps Obama win, I’m certainly for it – and as Obama clearly told the Clintons, “No.” initially, I don’t think giving her the nomination now shows weakness. Rather, by including such a prominent and powerful former opponent, it demonstrates strength.

So, now I’m on record – if Obama thinks Hillary Clinton will help him win more than the other candidates, then choose Hillary.

Yes, her connections to the past may muddy his “Change” message and Bill’s sordid connections may prove to be a distraction – but overall, she has demonstrated a political strength that could help unify the party and allow her to speak to groups that Obama has not been able to effectively reach out to yet.

And she’s a fighter. We need someone to take on this new Rovian McCain.

Election 2008 McCain Obama Politics Scandal-mongering The Clintons The Opinionsphere

The PUMAs and Jerome Corsi

To those Hillary supporters in the PUMA Movement who are crowing over this book, over how well-documented it is, and over how Hillary wouldn’t be susceptible to these charges, Corsi has a significant history of Hillary-bashing and raising baseless allegations about her.  To those other PUMAs who are echoing the questions based on Corsi’s loony allegations without citing the author – as he clearly is a nutcase – shame on you.

While any individual has any right to question and investigate any other individual’s life – by demanding that Obama disprove all the ridiculous allegations Corsi makes, you give more weight to Corsi’s work than it deserves. More important, the Obama campaign already released a 40 page rebuttal to various claims made in Corsi’s book – which I doubt any of the PUMAs who are echoing these claims have closely analyzed.

And if we are going to start investigating all of Corsi’s claims about significant public officials, Corsi accuses Hillary of running over people:

Hellary should resign and go away. What ever happened to the people she ran over with her car at Westchester Airport? Can’t anybody sue this b*tch?

Corsi also asks:

Anybody ask why HELLary couldn’t keep BJ Bill satisfied? Not lesbo or anything, is she?

Given Corsi’s history, I’m sure there are quite a few other ridiculous and baseless claims he has made about Hillary as well as any other Democrat.

Election 2008 McCain Obama Politics The Clintons

Larry Johnson’s Hit Job on Hillary Clinton

In a recent post that is supposed to detail how Barack Obama is an empty suit, Charles Lemos of NoQuarterUSA attacks Barack Obama’s policies and character in such a way that makes it hard to see how he ever supported Hillary Clinton in the first place. Lemos’s argument is confused and incoherent. The fact that this piece is headed with a picture of Barack Obama in an oversized suit, and entitled “Empty Suit” strikes just the right note of incoherent blathering that the article itself indulges in.

Along the way, Lemos manages to indulge in such right-wing agitprop as attacking war hero John Kerry as an “out-of-touch effete liberal”, while mentioning John Edwards’s “$400 dollar haircuts”, and to paint the Democratic nominee as a student of Lenin. There are few right-wing smears that the No Quarter blog does not indulge in.

Except those about the Clintons. No Quarter blog doesn’t traffic in these, as they would offend his PUMA audience. They also ignore the right-wing smears against McCain, Larry Johnson’s new best friend.

One of the arguments Lemos makes uses the existence of every smear against Obama and other prominent Demcrats as proof-positive that they cannot win a national election. Yet oddly, the same reasoning does not apply to the woman who has been the victim of more smears than any other: Hillary Clinton.

Lemos demonstrates the willful blindness of partisans that is destroying our politics – as he focuses on irrelevancies to make his confused case against Barack Obama. He smears Obama as a friend to “an unapologetic terrorist” – William Ayers. He doesn’t mention Hillary Clinton’s work defending radicals like Ayers in law school; or Bill Clinton’s pardoning of Puerto Rican terrorists and members of Ayers’ own organization. Lemos attacks Obama’s comments about Jersusalem – saying they would have set off riots in the Middle East if he were president. Yet he ignores the real diplomatic fallout from Clinton’s promise to “obliterate Iran”. He touts Clinton’s endorsements by members of the military – as if Obama did not have more endorsements from the military.

A mental gymnast, a skilled mental contortionist, No Quarter blog attacks Barack Obama’s health care plan as entirely inadequate – a mere sop to the insurance industry. Yet Lemos fails to mention that Hillary Clinton’s plan would have to be described in the same way. He attacks Obama for his connections to lobbyists, yet Hillary Clinton’s were far greater and more pervasive. Most of the rest of Lemos’s piece is a compendium of attacks that directly and explicitly parallel those that stuck to Hillary Clinton:

  • He has no conviction other than his own political welfare.
  • He is the candidate of corporate interests…
  • [H]e is one of those clown punch bags. He may come back up but he just gets walloped down again.
  • He is unelectable even before the 527s get started.
  • But Obama is such a panderer…

Within the entire piece, Lemos keeps making the same incoherent argument holding the PUMAs together:

  • Barack Obama cannot win.
  • We need to stop him before he wins!

But the key passage is this one:

But how can I trust that shiftless soulless hypocrite who with each passing day changes yet another of his positions? It’s backtracking with Barack. So far he’s trampled on the Fourth Amendment, a women’s right to choose, the health care of all Americans and now the cornerstone of what brung him to the dance in the first place, that magical speech in 2002 that had to be re-recorded so it could be replayed again and again and use your opposition to a fruitless war as his springboard to power.

It is the fact that comments like this get traction outside of the PUMA movement that gets me frustrated with generally astute bloggers like Kate Stone who should – and in fact do – know better than to equate John McCain’s policies with Barack Obama’s. But when bloggers like Kate Stone post about the extreme changes Obama is making to his policies rather than portraying them as the out-of-context remarks, minor changes, and the one reversal that they are – they help create the atmosphere that PUMAs like Larry Johnson are trying to exploit to elect John McCain president. I remember when Maureen Dowd kept attacking Al Gore as a serial exaggerator in 2000 – misrepresenting his mis-statements and awkward comments for humorous effect. But her portrayal of him stuck – even though it was inaccurate. Such is the power of the media.

I’ve often found it is easy to get caught up in the moment and react (and overreact) to the news spin of the day (generally as set by The Drudge Report). That’s how I see the reactions to Obama’s supposed move to the center. I don’t doubt that Obama is trying to move to the center – but aside from the FISA turnaround and the adjustments to his view on timetables for Iraq withdrawl – I don’t see any policy changes. Instead, what seems to be outraging some progressive critics, is that Obama is reaching out culturally to different groups of conservatives – and demonstrating that he respects their concerns even if he disagrees with their policy prescriptions. That’s what I see.

Of course, Lemos, subtle and nuanced thinker that he is sees it differently:

Anyone who supported Obama after March 2008 is clearly either a delusional Obama cultist or a head in the sand idiot…

Ah, if only this were comedy. I hope that Jon Stewart or Stephen Colbert can get Larry Johnson on one of their shows soon. What better way to discredit someone than to let them make a fool of themselves while they try to be serious.

Election 2008 McCain Obama Politics The Clintons

The Last Hillary 2008 Supporters: A Journey Into the Surreal World of the PUMAs

[digg-reddit-me]A puma, like the PUMAs
[Photo by victor+.]
Every once in a while, I try to check out that hidden corner of the blogosphere where Hillary Clinton supporters still live.

Over the course of the Democratic nomination, most of the online energy went to Barack Obama, Ron Paul, John Edwards, Dennis Kucinich, and Mike Gravel. The conservative opinionsphere jumped from Giuliani to Romney to, finally, reluctactly, McCain. The liberal opionsphere seemed to weigh the pros and cons of Edwards and Obama for some time, finally coming down decisively with Obama after Iowa. Hillary Clinton, in all of this, had few web proxies.

There were some – like MyDD and Taylor Marsh – but eventually, after the stalemate of February 5th and the string of twelve consecutive wins by Obama, a new mini-opinionsphere grew out of Hillary Clinton’s campaign. Mainly, they were women who had taken every slight against Hillary as a personal insult; some just had a deep and abiding distrust of Barack Obama, for whatever reason. What was most perplexing to me is that this movement finally bloomed the moment Obama had taken an insurmountable lead. Despite the win in Ohio and half of the Texas two-step, and the win later in Pennsylvania, Obama never fell behind after his string of victories in February, and never even came close. And any clear-eyed analyst could see from that point that the nomination was Obama’s to lose.

But a certain segment of Hillary supporters found strength and popularity in denying the inevitable, in railing against reality.

Given the way this movement was born, it is unsurprising that small things – like Barack Obama’s mathematical clinching of the nomination or Hillary Clinton’s concession endorsement of Obama (a commentor pointed out that Hillary has yet to use the word “concede”) – would stop it. These PUMAs (Party Unity, My Ass) – as the acronym-prone, former Hillary supporter, and now die-hard anti-Obama activists now call themselves – continue to this day. Some of them, like Larry Johnson, play on fears, racial stereotypes and resentments and do their best Sean Hannity impressions. Others seem to be working full-time creating new acronyms, groups, and catchphrases. The newest and coolest catchphrase is “NObama, NOvember.”

Oddly, the arguments that are made tend to go like this:

  • Obama cannot win in November, which is why we need Hillary to be the nominee;
  • Let’s work hard to make sure Obama doesn’t win in November.

I have yet to see any acknowledgment from the PUMAs that Obama has won the Democratic nomination – and Hillary conceded it – unless you count the continuous references to stolen elections and the end of democracy as we know it. The closest I saw to an acknowledgment of Obama’s historic victory was at HillBuzz where – after suggesting that “we” would have to vote for Newt Gingrich over Obama – she wrote:

So, in the fall, barring a surprise Clinton re-entry into the race, it’s McCain over Obama for us.

In this world, there still is a chance for a surprise Hillary re-entry! Befitting the surreal world in which these blogs exist, many are still convinced that Hillary Clinton will be the Democratic nominee, if only she is given a chance.

A group called The Denver Group has been formed to take action regarding the Democratic Convention in Denver with two of it’s primary goals listed as:

  • Speeches allowed by supporters of Senator Clinton on behalf of her candidacy.
  • A genuine roll call vote with Senator Clinton as a legitimate candidate. [Emphasis aded.]

In her personal blog, Heidi Li, one of the founders of The Denver Group writes, speculates on recent news:

As Senator Obama looses support, he may well be more and more afraid that if Senator Clinton’s name is put in nomination at the Democratic Party’s convention, then Senator Clinton might actually win the nomination.

It is unclear what Ms. Li means by Obama’s loss of support – as most recent polls show him leading John McCain by significant margins. But items like these aren’t acknowledged in PUMA-land.

HillBuzz tries to explain how her fellow Hillary devotees are feeling, and what is motivating them to oppose Obama so strongly:

Our loyalty is to Hillary Clinton, personally, because we believe in her and her goals. We are no longer to the Democratic Party, because we stopped believing in it on May 31st. Whoever came up with the idea to steal 4 of Clinton’s delegates in Michigan and give them to Obama is responsible for this – you can thank that person in November…

We’re hard pressed to think of anyone Obama could run against that would force us to choose him over the opponent. At this point, after the way Obama’s campaign has treated us, and continues to treat us, we’d vote for Gingrich over Obama. And he divorced his wife while she was dying of cancer. But, we trust Gingrich to protect this country and respect its values and traditions…

So, in the fall, barring a surprise Clinton re-entry into the race, it’s McCain over Obama for us. [My emphasis added.]

It’s worth pointing out that the writer of this piece only refers to two non-self-referencing facts: Newt Gingrich’s tawdry personal life and the May 31 compromise that split the Michigan vote. There is no talk of policy; there is no discussion of what an Obama or McCain administration would look like. Instead, the writer is trying to make two points:

  • Obama didn’t treat “us” well – a highly dubious point on it’s own;
  • And “we” will vote for anyone except Obama to punish him.

An ancillary reason to trust Gingrich and to not trust Obama is that we need a president who will “protect this country and respect its values and traditions.” I’m sure elsewhere in the PUMA opinionsphere someone has listed the reasons why Obama doesn’t want to protect his country and doesn’t respect it’s values and traditions.

Balancing out this vision of Hillary as messiah is a visceral hatred of Barack Obama, as demonstrated in this oft-repeated phrase:

Obama simply cannot be trusted. Obama cannot be trusted on any issue. Obama cannot be trusted by his friends. Obama cannot be trusted by his enemies. Obama cannot be trusted.

This Hillaryis44 post repeats this same phrase three times and Larry Johnson and many other PUMAs have taken it us as a slogan to go alongside NObama, NOvember.

PUMAs and Projections

The John Birch Society so feared the efficacy of Communist subversives, that they created a secret society that mimicked the imagined Communist subversive threat. Republicans believed that CNN was a far left organization pushing the Democratic agenda under the guise of objectivity – so they created Fox News to take on the same role for the Republican party. American history is replete with examples of groups who deliberately mimic their enemy’s imagined tactics.

The movement that grew out of Hillary Clinton’s losses proves to be yet another example of this trend in American history. The PUMAs (Party Unity, My Ass) seem to have embraced the (real and imagined) aspects of the Obama campaign that led them to reject Obama’s candidacy:

  • They explicitly see Hillary Clinton as a messianic figure, the only one who can save the Democratic party. (See above.)
  • They deliberately disrespect and attack those demographic groups that did not support Hillary in the primaries. (Remember when Hillary was introduced by a man attacking “the latte-drinking, Prius- driving, Birkenstock-wearing, trust fund babies crowding in to hear [Obama] speak!”)
  • They have adopted the right wing talking points used to attack Obama. (This might be unfair, as it could have been Hillary surrogates themselves who gave the right wingers like Sean Hannity these talking points – so while Obama supporters did adopt certain right-wing talking points about Hillary to use against her, Hillary supporters may have invented the talking points against Obama and given them to the right-wing.)
  • Although they started out defending the role of superdelegates as those people who have the best interests of the Democratic party at heart, they now attack them for being un-democratic (and un-Democratic) – which is something Obama surrogates never came close to doing, but Clinton supporters constantly accused them of doing.
  • Many – though not all PUMAs – have resorted to race-baiting and gender-card-playing, at least on occasion. (The constant rumors of a Michelle Obama ‘Whitey’ video come from one of the founding PUMAs.)
  • They take umbrage at the smallest slight and impute near evil motives on every move that Barack Obama takes. (Which to be fair, is something some of Obama’s supporters did do – Andrew Sullivan for example.)

The key lesson I take away from this journey into the alternate reality that the PUMAs live in is this: they are a force to be reckoned with and a force that will remain in politics for some years – at least as long as Barack Obama is in the national political arena. To paraphrase Michelle Goldberg’s excellent piece in The New Republic exploring the crisis in the women’s movement that Hillary’s campaign created, the psychic wound irritated in this hard-fought primary is not Obama’s fault, but it is his problem.

Obama has already taken steps to woo Hillary Clinton’s supporters – and he will win most of the 18 million over to his side. Within those big Democratic states that Hillary Clinton won in the primary, Obama now has a sizeable lead over McCain (and in many, he also had a large lead over Hillary before the primaries ended). But there are some – and they are organized, they are angry, and they are wealthy – who will continue to fight until past the end. And there are many others who will be sympathetic – remembering how Hillary’s campaign made them feel.

If Barack Obama is elected in 2008, expect to see a PUMA or two sneak into Congress. And expect a few Congresswomen and Senators to ally with them. Hillary herself will keep her distance.

Unless Obama is able to somehow heal this particular psychic wound, the PUMAs will continue to cause him problems. It’s hard to say what impact these PUMAs will have. But if it is true that all it takes to change the world is a small group of dedicated people, then the PUMAs will be able to have an impact – as they are small in number and large in dedication.

Domestic issues Election 2008 History Liberalism Obama The Clintons

Krugman throws a tantrum

Paul Krugman, after defending the Clinton legacy for many long months, and trashing Obama for criticizing it, finally decides it is time to agree with Obama’s critique of Clintonism.  Of course, Krugman only does so in order to taunt Obama as Krugman demonstrates an incredibly shallow grasp of politics and recent history.

The problem with Krugman’s little tantrum here is that he confuses politics itself, especially in a two party system, with Clintonism.  It’s not as if Bill Clinton himself invented compromise.  That was invented some time before Pericles.

The problem with Clintonism was not in the fact that the Clintons compromised in order to gain power – it was that they believed the only thing needed to change America was for one of them to be in charge of the system as it was.  So they played the game, campaigned on trivialities and money, and took over, only to realize with the health care debacle and Somalia that they couldn’t force their way.

Obama’s approach is clearly different.  His campaign is less about himself, and more about a movement.  His policies are less about top-down government demands and more about adjustments that will gradually change the way the system works.

Krugman doesn’t see it. Instead, he projects from the mild events of the past week an abrupt turnaround on Obama’s part to embrace the Clintonism he rejected.  The blindness is glaring.

Election 2008 McCain Obama Politics The Clintons

Re-Introducing and Debating “Fast Eddie Obama”

[Photo by the inimitable Joe Crimmings.]

[digg-reddit-me]My name is Joe Campbell.  I am a graduate of Holy Cross, a former partner in the now defunct RichDJ Web Services, a law clerk at a small firm in the Chrysler Building, and a supporter of Barack Obama since last summer. ((Okay – the linked-to-post is from September, but that’s roughly when I started this blog – go ahead and ask my friends.  I’ve been supporting Obama since May/June/July of 2007.  I specifically remember talking about Obama at my friend’s bachelor party back in July or so.))  After taking a break from posting – for about 4 days, I wanted to re-launch 2parse – with more focus now that the primary is over, and that that thing I believed was so essential last summer is finally within sight.

To explain how I came to support Obama, to start this blog, and to achieve some measure of success – some 250,000 hits since it’s inception, most of them between November 2007 and February 2008 – here is my story of how I came to support Senator Obama in his campaign to become the next president of the United States of America – and why I am not in the slightest disturbed by this week’s “conventional wisdom” about Obama tacking to the center.

Here is my story:

The race begins

It was this piece in the New York Observer last March that began my several month-long conversion to Obama-dom.

When Obama first announced, my first thought was that he was too young and lacked the gravitas he needed. I had hopes for John Edwards – who I had supported in the 2004 campaign – but watching Tim Russert grill Edwards on Meet the Press about national security issues in February of 2007 left me questioning whether Edwards could speak convincingly on the subject. I didn’t think any Democrat could win unless he or she could convey the difficulty and gravity of the situation we were in there – and John Edwards’s answers were too slippery, too easy, too poll-tested.

So, I reluctantly supported Hillary Clinton – with a few concerns about whether or not she would over-compensate for her perceived weakness as a Democrat and a female by running to the right in the campaign and governing from the right as president on national security and Iraq specifically. But – I told myself – she will do what she needs to do to win, and it is essential that a Democrat (or possibly John McCain) win the White House in 2008.

McCain & me

In 2007, I struggled over whether I thought a McCain presidency would be better or worse than another Clinton presidency – at a time when it seemed certain that McCain would be the Republican nominee and Clinton the Democratic.  I had been a big supporter of McCain in the 2000 campaign and had been hopeful watching him oppose Bush’s irresponsible tax cuts, torture, some elements of executive overreach, and try to achieve a reasonable positions on immigration and climate change.

I thought a Democratic Congress might be too deferential to a Clinton presidency – and Clinton had made clear that her views on presidential power were only slightly less extreme than Dick Cheney’s. I could sense a progressive movement growing in power and influence – and I thought it might actually have more influence under a McCain presidency – as a strong Democratic Congress dominated the policy agenda – than under a Clinton presidency, in which Clinton would seek centralized control over the entire policy agenda. Abroad, I was fearful that Clinton would feel forced to be aggressive in order to deflect concerns about her gender and her liberalism while I was hopeful that McCain, winning the Republican nomination by running against George W. Bush, would be able to move the our foreign policy in a more realistic direction.

I was still undecided between what I saw then as the probable match-up, but I acknowledged to myself that I would probably still have to support Clinton over McCain with domestic issues – health care and the Supreme Court – as the tiebreakers. ((Since then, McCain has decided not to run against George W. Bush and to muddy the differences between the two. If he wins, he will not have the clout within his own party to take on even the worst aspects of Bush Republicanism. For me, this is a deal-breaker.))  But I wasn’t decided.

Either way, I would be glad to trade George Dubya Bush for either John McCain or Hillary Clinton – and given the rough stasis of the past four elections – the only ones which I was conscious of – it was hard to imagine any other candidates getting through, except Giuliani, who I was frightened was a closet fascist.

Politics as a contact sport

When I read that article in the Observer, two things made Obama a much more attractive candidate than he at first appeared to me at his announcement:

  1. An acquaintance of mine from college was his chief campaign speech-writer;
  2. And even as Obama talked about a new politics, he acknowledged that politics was “a contact sport.”

    “As Barack says, Chicago politics is a contact sport, and he understands how to play that,” said Robert Gibbs, the campaign’s communications director, who recently mixed it up with his Clinton counterpart, Howard Wolfson, in a very public spat. “It’s incumbent on us to demonstrate an ability to tangle.”

    This deflected a fear based on the history of Democratic Party that Obama would be a reformist candidate in the tradition of Adlai Stevenson or Jimmy Carter who disdained politics.

This acknowledgment of the reality of politics allowed me to begin to look at Obama again, to see if he could manage to balance his post-partisan campaign with the realities of hardball.  Clearly the Obama campaign wanted to convey that even as they sought to elevate the debate, they understood how the game was played.

And so, by the summer, taking into consideration the long-term problems America faced, I had become a Barack Obama supporter – and events since then have only strengthened my commitment.

The key moment that convinced me occurred as I walked home from the train station at the end of a long day at work thinking, as I often do, about politics.  I tried to imagine under which candidate America might finally begin to confront our long-festering problems.  Under both McCain and Clinton, I could only see these problems tackled as short-term issues.  The election of either would mean a continuation of the corrupt politics as usual with the real issues punted to the future.  This was my subjective sense – based on my individual projection of what each might do, on how history had worked, on how presidents and leaders could direct but not change history, on what a candidate might mean in his or her self.  It was only a quasi-rational decision.  But as I examined it after the fact, the decision came to seem more certain, as all the pieces fell into place.  It was as if in trying to put together a puzzle without any guide, and looking at each piece carefully, I had found one piece that, if it fit where I thought, the rest of the puzzle began to make sense.  For me – observing America for these past dozen years – Obama was the piece of the puzzle that made sense of the rest.

I believe it is this hope that animates his campaign – a hope that the promise of America is real and can be restored again.  America has gone astray before – again and again.  America is far from perfect.  But the wonder, the hope, the idealism, the perfection of America lies not in the fact that we do not make mistakes – but that we can – and do – reinvent ourselves to come closer to the vision of the Founding Fathers – of a democratic republic, a beacon of liberty, a nation that is a force for good in the world.  Obama will not force America to take this course.  But his election is a symbol – more, a sign – that America is ready again to reinvent itself.  And that is something we desperately need.


Watching the campaign unfold, a few things became apparent:

  • Neither John McCain nor Hillary Clinton were good at running or planning a campaign.
  • Barack Obama was exceptionally good at running and planning a campaign.
  • John McCain has decided to blur his differences with George W. Bush – on torture, energy policy, taxes, and Iraq.
  • Barack Obama was not afraid to fight back against Republican talking points by standing his ground.
  • America is clearly on the wrong track – and most Americans can see that.
  • Barack Obama’s message and campaign have become the zeitgeist pushing America forward.

All of this brings me to the meme about Obama that keeps getting repeated – despite it’s contrived nature: that Obama’s new politics, his “Change You Can Believe In” and/or his post-partisan image are not compatible with the realities of politics. I remember reading columns by John Dickerson in Slate magazine in which he explained how Obama’s supporters would be turned off as they realized Obama’s “politics” were not squeaky-clean – and how Obama had raised expectations and promised a politics that didn’t exist. The New Republic had a piece on how Obama’s campaign had failed to catch fire because of the inherent tension between getting beyond polarizing politics and politics itself which is polarizing. Many said that Obama could not be post-partisan because he hadn’t taken stands against his party very often. These “inherent contradictions” was endlessly discussed among the opinion-expounders.

Every time I heard it – I thought to myself – “These people just don’t get it.”

Obama’s message was that the process (the game) of our politics was corrupt – that our decision-making process as a democracy wasn’t working; that we were avoiding dealing with the long-term problems we faced in order to focus on expensive haircuts and daily scandals; that politics had become a game in which the American people were divided into two teams of roughly equal size – and that many team members defended their team’s positions reflexively rather than reflectively; that many, many people were disengaged from politics and power because they didn’t have enough money to buy access to a candidate, because our political conversations were dominated by irrelevancies, and because they didn’t know the ins-and-outs of our closed system. The solution – as Obama saw it – was to play the game when necessary while trying to encourage processes that would reform it – to reform the system with his campaign rather than campaign to pass laws to reform the system.

Clintonism was about co-opting the power structure (which was tilted toward the monied interests and the status quo) to achieve progressive ends (or at least making the goals somewhat more progressive than they would be otherwise) and taking advantage of our debased politics to get into power. What they missed was that by leaving the power structure intact, they couldn’t achieve lasting change; and that by playing into the politics of the daily scandal, they couldn’t convince the people to back their policies. They could win, but without a real mandate; they could affect policy, but only to a degree. The Clintons thought that once they won, they could reform everything from this seat of power – but they were stymied again and again.  They attributed their losses to a “vast right wing conspiracy” but what they failed to realize was that the failure was primarily about the limitations of how they achieved power.

For Obama, his campaign is about process. If the goal of campaign finance reform is to prevent our politics from being dominated by the rich and the few, then his campaign – with it’s base of millions of small donors – has done more than any legislation passed so far to achieve this goal. Obama encouraged local activists to take ownership of his campaign – with only light supervision from campaign central. Obama spoke about issues but was not afriad to play hard ball.

That’s why the David Brooks and the other opinion-expounders never got – that the “partisanship” that was so debilitating was not based on the disagreements people had – but on the “teams” they were divided into.


This election is about big issues – and the election should be rough and both sides should play hard.  Because there is so much at stake.

The problem with the politics of haircuts and temper tantrums is that it distracts the public from the choices it faces and denies them the opportunity to have a true referendum on what’s next.  Obama spurned the public financing system because he needed to in order to win – and he knows the stakes.  At the same time, he sees that he will not be indebted to the powerful and monied interests in the same way the Reagans, the Bushes, and the Clintons were because his base of support is far wider – comprimising millions of people determined to take their country back.

Somehow McCain’s supporters are trying to paint Obama as “just another politician” because he is willing to take an advantage without compromising his core principles in order to win this election that will determine our country’s course.  Obama is a politician.  There is no shame in that.  If he wasn’t, he wouldn’t be able to accomplish much in Washington in the first place.

The key question is: Has he compromised his core principles?  The answer, still, is “No.”  As McCain has caved on torture, on fiscal responsibility, and on immigration he has only one core principle left: the transcendent, never-ending, war on terrorism and in Iraq.  On that, he doesn’t seem to have studied the issues – as he still confuses the two competing groups of extremists – but he does know we must “stay on the offensive” no matter the cost of the shallow-ness of the policy.

We need a president who understands the roots of terrorism, who can see the evil-doers for who they are, and who can set America on a path that might actually make us safer.  John McCain is not that man.  Barack Obama could be.

I’ll be making and expanding these points as the summer goes on.  My brother will be producing videos for me.  We’ll be doing what we can to keep America safe, to elect Barack Obama the next president of the United States of America.

Election 2008 Politics The Clintons

Don’t Hold the Democratic Party Hostage!

[digg-reddit-me]”Eventually, the hard feelings will die down,” the pundits say. And I think they are mainly right.

I don’t want to make a big deal of the still raw feelings on display by Clinton supporters – after all, we all should be on the same side come November. But the overheated rhetoric, the deliberate attempts to undermine the legitimacy of Obama’s nomination, and the incredible sense of entitlement on display among some of these Clinton supporters inspires some raw feelings in me as well. RiverDaughter writes of those “Democrats in Exile“:

Any day now, Obama supporters will be knocking at my door and ask me to get a membership in their exclusive club. I will be treated like a queen once they scan the voter’s rolls in NJ and see my name. It will be like, “Oooo, Riverdaughter is a “creative class” unaffiliated. Well, we must really ask her to do a round of golf with us or share a latte.” I will be pampered and courted and made to feel better than all of you losers who comment on this blog.

In another example, a Heidi Li (seconded by RiverDaughter) has written a very popular blogpost that asks her readers to “slap the face of the DNC” by donating to Hillary Clinton’s campaign, instead of the cash-strapped DNC, which – through some form of black magic – is supposed to lead to Hillary becoming the nominee or regaining control over the Democratic party:

My view is that if the D.N.C. wants one lick of help from any supporter of Senator Clinton the first thing it should do is boot Howard Dean and make it clear that the new chair is somebody who Senator Clinton wants in that position.

In the meantime, we can help Senator Clinton AND tick off the D.N.C. at the same time (smile a slightly naughty smile here). If we very quickly raise a ton ‘o money to rid Senator Clinton of her debt, believe me, the D.N.C. will understand where the true power lies. After we raise that money, we hold on to every penny we have unless and until Senator Clinton becomes the nominee for President or clearly takes control of the D.N.C.

It’s unclear if Ms. Li is expecting that The Angry Clinton Supporters Brigade will outraise the legions of Obama supporters who have consistently been more generous. And the idea that Clinton deserves to
control the DNC is ludicrous. Just because the Clintons controlled the DNC from 1992 until when Howard Dean was selected doesn’t mean that they should continue to control it. Especially given Dean’s role in paving the way for the 2006 Democratic takeover of Congress and Obama’s 50-state plan for the general election.

The Democratic Party is not a Clinton family property. The Clintons have contributed and continue to contribute greatly to progressive causes and the Democratic party ((Even if their overall legacy – both within the Democratic Party and outside it – is mixed.)) . But it is not healthy for them to have a stranglehold on the organization because they alone are not the Democratic Party. We are.

We Are the Democratic Party: We activists, we progressives, we liberals, we feminists, we wary libertarians, we blue-collar and white-collar workers, we blacks and Hispanics and whites and Asians and Native Americans, we students and professors, we union-workers and hedge fund managers, we who drink lattes and we who drink coffee (black, no-sugar), we who down Manhattans and we who drink beer, we who bowl and we who do not, but most of all…we unlucky few who saw our nation going down the wrong path for all these years, yet were unable to stop it and we who only gradually realized the incredible cynicism that has taken over the Republican Party as it exploited and fanned our basest fears to win elections while pursuing policies which made our nation less safe.

The Democratic National Committee is struggling – and we Democrats, we Obama supporters, we Clinton supporters – will need a strong majority in Congress, in the Senate, and throughout the country if we are to achieve what we set out to do.

We must win this election. And we can.

We need everyone to donate time – at your local DNC office, at the local Obama campaign office, with any get-out-the-vote operations. We need everyone to think about the issues and the course that needs to be taken. We need people to make sure the Democratic Party stays a party of ideas by voicing their individual opinions – on the web and elsewhere.

And we need money. If you can, donate today to the “We Are the Democratic Party” at the Democratic National Committee. And if you are a Hillary supporter who wants to show appreciation for her ground-breaking campaign, then certainly donate to help her retire her debt. Donating to Hillary won’t be sticking a finger in anyone’s eye or slapping anyone’s face.

We who know how important this coming election is – as a choice between a neo-empire and a true democracy, a choice between a government that benefits the few and a government that helps the many, a choice between an aggressively conservative Court and a more moderate one, a choice between a health care system that is broken and attempting to fix it, a choice between staying in Iraq for 100 years or leaving as soon as possible – we who know how important this election is are the Democratic Party.

And that’s why we all need to support the Democratic National Party as it prepares for this momentous election, perhaps the most important of our lifetime:

America, this is our moment. This is our time. Our time to turn the page on the policies of the past. Our time to bring new energy and new ideas to the challenges we face. Our time to offer a new direction for the country we love.

Election 2008 Obama Politics The Clintons

The Spectacular Failure of Hillary Clinton

No – I’m not talking about her campaign – although the tag could just as easily apply to her mismanaged attempted coronation.  From Daniel Koffler of Jewcy:

On Tuesday night, Hillary Clinton gathered her supporters in a literal concrete bunker several stories beneath the surface of the earth, with walls thick enough to block out all cellular reception and no TV monitors or any other medium of communication with the outside world. There, amid cheers of “Denver! Denver!” she congratulated her friend Senator Obama for having run a sporting race, proclaimed herself the rightful victor, and appealed to Americans young and old to pawn their video games and withdraw from their pension accounts (respectively) in order to keep her historic campaign squarely on track to the White House. Yet by the following evening, her aides announced the suspension of her campaign and her endorsement of Barack Obama.

What transpired in those fewer-than-24 hours? Only the most audacious squeeze play of Bill and Hillary Clinton’s political careers, and – because of its spectacular failure – the last.

The rest here.  I think the Clintons may have a few more power plays left in them.  But their latest failure is yet another sign that we are entering a new post-Clinton era.

Election 2008 Obama Prose The Clintons

The Message from Hillary

Clinton’s campaign had leaked to the press word that she was going to suspend her campaign and endorse Obama early yesterday afternoon after Clinton received strong push-back in her meetings around Washington to the idea of staying in the race a bit longer. The Obama campaign first learned of this development from the press.

Early this morning, Hillary’s campaign made an official announcement via an email to her supporters at 1:53 am entitled, “I want you to know.” The full text:

Hillary for President

Dear Joseph,

I wanted you to be one of the first to know: on Saturday, I will hold an event in Washington D.C. to thank everyone who has supported my campaign. Over the course of the last 16 months, I have been privileged and touched to witness the incredible dedication and sacrifice of so many people working for our campaign. Every minute you put into helping us win, every dollar you gave to keep up the fight meant more to me than I can ever possibly tell you.

On Saturday, I will extend my congratulations to Senator Obama and my support for his candidacy. This has been a long and hard-fought campaign, but as I have always said, my differences with Senator Obama are small compared to the differences we have with Senator McCain and the Republicans.

I have said throughout the campaign that I would strongly support Senator Obama if he were the Democratic Party’s nominee, and I intend to deliver on that promise.

When I decided to run for president, I knew exactly why I was getting into this race: to work hard every day for the millions of Americans who need a voice in the White House.

I made you — and everyone who supported me — a promise: to stand up for our shared values and to never back down. I’m going to keep that promise today, tomorrow, and for the rest of my life.

I will be speaking on Saturday about how together we can rally the party behind Senator Obama. The stakes are too high and the task before us too important to do otherwise.

I know as I continue my lifelong work for a stronger America and a better world, I will turn to you for the support, the strength, and the commitment that you have shown me in the past 16 months. And I will always keep faith with the issues and causes that are important to you.

In the past few days, you have shown that support once again with hundreds of thousands of messages to the campaign, and again, I am touched by your thoughtfulness and kindness.

I can never possibly express my gratitude, so let me say simply, thank you.

Hillary Rodham Clinton


There’s still asking their supporters to Contribute which is interesting – understandable too, as her campaign is in quite a bit of debt.