Election 2008 Obama Politics The Clintons

Unproductive, Distasteful Mudslinging

Meanwhile, at another New York City newspaper, the Daily News, no stranger to gutter politics had this to say:

Employing innuendo and half-truths against Sen. Barack Obama, Sen. Hillary Clinton and her husband, the former President, have introduced the politics of personal destruction to the Democratic presidential campaign. They bear responsibility for cheapening the tone of the contest…

[T]he Clintons have crossed the line into attacks that raise questions about how she might campaign were she the Democratic nominee and how she might govern were she elected to the Oval Office…

In one attack in the debate, Sen. Clinton accused Obama of helping a corrupt Chicago businessman with his “slum landlord business.” The truth is that Obama had put in five hours of work as a junior law firm associate helping to represent a community organization that had partnered with the businessman. The truth is also that Obama fought slumlords as a community organizer.

Domestic issues Election 2008 Obama Politics The Clintons

The New York Times Endorses Hillary Clinton

[digg-me]In an article full of hedged opinions and criticisms of Senator Clinton and praise for Obama, the New York Times endorsed Hillary Clinton because she was the safe choice. Their conclusion:

Mrs. Clinton is more qualified, right now, to be president.

The also manage to deceive themselves into thinking that Senator Clinton can be as unifying as Senator Obama – and that she will win over her critics; they paint the differences between Clinton and Obama as marginal – because both Senators propose similar policies. But they ignore the difference in temperament and political approach that Obama would give – and the fact that his focus would be on improving the process rather than on achieving particular ends. Senator Clinton has shown time and time again that she is willing to use any means at her disposal in order to achieve whatever end she believes is necessary. Senator Obama has shown remarkable restraint – and his public record indicates a seriousness about the abuse of government power that Clinton lacks. ((Including especially his work in Illinois to have all capital case interrogations recorded, and his bill that created this site, and in general his focus on transparency in government.))

Especially at a time when the balance of power in Washington has been skewed in favor of the presidency, we need a president who will restrain himself or herself – as the Times acknowledges. The Times makes the perplexing statement that “Mrs. Clinton is equally dedicated to those issues” as Obama while acknowledging that she doesn’t talk about them. The editors also fail to mention that the Bush administration built on many precedents set by the Clinton administration in their quest for further executive power – including one major early victory which was based on assertions of executive privilege by Hillary Clinton’s health care task force.

In the end, I think the New York Times fundamentally mis-interprets the state America is in – and the relative qualifications of Senators Clinton and Obama.

Here’s what I propose

Write a letter to the New York Times expressing your disapproval of their endorsement of Hillary Clinton. Make the next news story that they received more mail disagreeing with this decision than any other in their history. We can do it.

Email @ [email protected]

Fax @ (212) 556-3622

Mail to:

Letters to the Editor
The New York Times
620 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10018

Or even better do all three.

Letters submitted for publication should be 150 words or less, must refer to an article that has appeared within the last seven days, and must include the writer’s address and phone numbers according to the Times Letters to the Editor page.

If you can, let me know you’re sending the letter by emailing [email protected] so I can post updates on how much of a response the Times is getting.

Spread the word! Post this information on your own blog!

We can show the New York Times that we, at least, can see the Great Need of the Hour. And it’s not Hillary Clinton.

Election 2008 Obama Politics

The Paradox of Barack Obama

[digg-me]Barack Obama sees the importance of this moment – as many of us now do – and he sees what our nation needs; in response to this moment, he is trying to conjure the movement, the politics, and the consensus we need to tackle the long-term problems and strategic challenges we face as a nation.

Barack Obama is not the answer to these problems; he cannot overcome the challenges. But the movement he is trying to conjure is and can.

The paradox of Obama’s campaign is that it requires belief – a leap of faith in the possibilities of the American people. The phrase sounds like boilerplate bullshit. It’s not.

What Obama and his supporters are counting on are the choices of many individuals to take a leap of faith – a faith not borne out by recent history, but a faith in a better tomorrow – specifically a better tomorrow founded on the discernment of the American people. This is what Obama means when he speaks of “the audacity of hope”, the “fierce urgency of now”, and “the great need of the hour”. It is what skeptics call “drinking the Kool-Aid“.

What Obama is attempting to do is call on the “better angels of our nature”. The paradox is that he will only succeed if America is transformed through a leap of faith. And a majority of individuals will only take the leap of faith if they first believe he will succeed. Which is why his campaign is a conjuring act. It is also why his campaign – unlike Hillary’s – will require American politics to rise to a different level.

The question now is: can he get Hillary to rise to that level? Can he convince Hillary to trust the American people and say what she means? Can he convince Hillary that the American people will see beyond the gutter politics dominating the campaign? Can he convince Democrats that he can win in a politics dominated by character assassination?

The paradox is in the answer: the only way he can show Hillary or the Democratic party that he can get past the gutter politics is to win. And the only way he can win, is to convince a majority that he not only deserves to succeed, but that he can succeed.

It’s a neat magic trick. I, for one, believe.


Celebrating the glorious moments of human failure

On a less serious note, check out this site a friend of mine is running, Empty Beanie. It just launched a few days ago – and I like the concept.

Domestic issues Election 2008 Obama Politics The Clintons

A Ship In Need of Repairs

[digg-reddit-me]I have heard many times that Barack Obama won’t change anything; that he has the same policies as Hillary Clinton; that he isn’t a radical.  Here’s my response:

There are 5 measures I use to evaluate a candidate:

  1. What they believe is reality, specifically as it affects policy (e.g. Is global climate change substantially effected by human development?)
  2. What changes should be made? (aka, What policies should be adopted in response to the perceived reality?)
  3. How do they want to achieve their changes? (as indicated by their temperament,
    their campaigns, and to some extent, their policies.)
  4. What role do they see for the government?
  5. What is their character? (which can be very subjective – but is still basic to understanding any candidate.)

Obama and Hillary agree to a large extent on the first two questions.  Arguably, they agree on the general role of government as well.  In terms of character there are significant differences, but those are more subjective – and not something I want to delve into at the moment.

The real conflict between Obama and Clinton is on how to achieve change.  And it is why I came to believe in Obama’s approach and to reject Clinton in such strong terms.  The past few weeks have only solidified my position.

Obama believes in change that is gradual, driven by the grassroots, and done through an open and transparent process.  Clinton believes in imposing policies from Washington and using whatever means are necessary to achieve whatever change she can.

Obama and Clinton are both only proposing minor changes in policy so far.  But Obama is proposing major changes in the process, which he has indicated will lead to lasting and substantial changes in policy.  I believe – as does Senator Obama – that America is not on the wrong track because the president has been steering the country wrong – like a captain setting the wrong course on a ship in working order, but because the processes which drive our policy and actions and politics have become distorted – as if the ship, still afloat and strong, needed repairs and maintenance.

Domestic issues Election 2008 History Obama Politics

Only If We Become a Great People

via Flickr

[digg-reddit-me]Grace Lee Boggs, a prominent writer and speaker who has been involved in the civil rights and feminist movements for the past sixty years, wrote in The Nation this past week about Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Legacy of Change”. She writes:

At 92, going on 93, I am fortunate to still be around to rejoice at the new energies being unleashed all across this country by the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. In his person and in his prose, Obama embodies the achievements of the great movements of the twentieth century and the hope that by building on these movements we can become the agents of change that we urgently need in our country and in the world in the twenty-first century.

The challenges before us now are not unlike those King described: ending our catastrophic occupation of Iraq, addressing global warming, rebuilding cities and industries devastated by globalization, reducing the growing gulf between the haves and the have-nots. These demand huge changes, not only in our institutions but in ourselves. To become part of the solution, we, as a people, must recognize that we are a large part of the problem. To change the world, we must practice a much more active and participatory concept of American and global citizenship.

Obama can become a great President only if we become a great people. Though his image inspires us, Obama alone is not the movement for change. We have the right and the duty to create the vision that we want him to represent. Instead of projecting desired outcomes on his redemptive persona, instead of viewing ourselves solely as followers of a charismatic leader, we can and must become the leaders the nation has been looking for. This is the best way to make us less vulnerable to corporate funders and lobbyists who refract our values for private gain.

None of us can step back from the responsibility of becoming part of the solution. Because of the struggles of working people in factories and on farms, African-Americans, women, Chicanos, Native Americans and immigrants, gay people, youth and the disabled, all of us have a new “burden and responsibility.” All of us have the opportunity to create a more human, more socially conscious and more ecologically responsible nation. I cannot imagine a better way to celebrate King’s birthday and to honor his true legacy.

Unstated but implicit in Boggs’s message is that America had great opportunities along with its great challenges at the end of the 1960s – and that we as a nation failed to rise to the occasion. Instead we muddled through – and with every step forward, we took one backwards. By the late sixties, with the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Bobby Kennedy, and growing internal chaos, we had put off the challenges of that time – but not for long: we were forced to reckon with the stagflation of the 1970s and with the simmering “Cold” War until 1989. And today, we now must reckon with the destruction of our environment, with global instability, and with a growing gap between the rich and poor. Today, the problems deferred in the late 1960s have been growing more severe. Globalization, global warming and global instability; executive overreach, civil liberties, and terrorism.

For a brief time during the 1960s, America showed signs of becoming a great people. ((I think that there is much to admire and much to find fault with in the 1960s radical movements. And I believe that America has often shown signs of greatness – and a few times in its history lived up to them.)) We approached some greatness, some moment of reckoning – a grand resolution and revolution in our institutions and our way of life. But, in the end, the sixties radicals devolved into anarchy and violence; and those not consumed by the movement, melted back into society. The 1960s generation failed because they did not follow through – and instead began to war with one another.

Boggs says that: “Obama can become a great President only if we become a great people.” She focuses on Obama – and rightly so. At this moment, he is the candidate who can start a movement and who will focus on the long-term challenges America faces. But her conclusion is too narrow – this is not about Obama very much at all. We will only be challenged by a great president if we become a great people.

As Obama has acknowledged – the movement rising behind him is not about him – it’s about us, and what it says about us to look beyond the stale politics of tears and smears, of Bushes and Clintons, of money and more money; there are many who are cynical – with good reason. There are even many reasons to believe that Obama – for all of his strength of character – may well fall victim to the lure of power.

Truly, Barack Obama can only become a great president if we, the people, force him to be. There is a very specific but difficult to pinpoint relationship between the people and a president. It is almost certainly a sign of America’s descent from its republican ideals that the mood of the country is profoundly shaped by the occupant of the White House.

Election 2008 Obama Politics The Clintons

Is this man telling you the truth?

[digg-reddit-me]I just saw this video on CNN. Bill Clinton speaks very persuasively in this against the candidate of my choice.

But indulge me for a minute and participate in my little experiment. Bill Clinton’s public statements have obviously had a big impact on the primaries so far. So, I think this is important. Because many people – including you possibly – are being affected by what Hillary’s top surrogate is saying. Bill Clinton is shaping the news cycle like the expert spinner he is.

But for a moment, forget what you think of Bill Clinton. Forget Hillary and Obama. For a minute, forget what you know or think you know about the election, and who said what and when.

I believe each person has some level of built-in bullshit detection – that each person can see past the words used, the arguments that are put forth – and see some level of truth. Most of the time, especially in this overloaded age, we are inundated with so many contradictory facts that we end up just tuning out most of them, and examining even less. We end up being influenced by many lies and distortions and half-truths that, if we were paying closer attention, we might have noticed.

So, in the hope of clearing the distractions that prevent each of our natural bullshit detectors from working, clear your mind. (I would even recommend following the link to CNN because you can see the exchange more clearly. )

Just watch this video – watch it very closely; watch the expressions; listen to the tone; don’t let your emotions cloud your judgment – and trust your gut.

Is this man telling you the truth?

Then go ahead and fact check.

I can’t tell you the answer your gut will give you, but I think you know the impression I got. Leave any feedback you desire.

Postscript: Here’s what Jon Stewart thought of one of the claims Mr. Clinton repeated here.

Election 2008 Obama Politics The Clintons

Why Hillary Clinton Should Withdraw From the Race Today


For Part 2 of this two-part case, check out The Case for Barack Obama.

I realize, of course, that Hillary Clinton will not be withdrawing from the race any time soon. And I realize that, from a short-term political perspective, it makes no sense for her to do so. She just won New Hampshire, Michigan, and more overall votes in the caucus in Nevada. But all the same – if Senator Clinton truly believes in the values she claims to, if she would rather liberal values prevail than gain power herself, if she would rather America unite under the next president instead of becoming further divided – she must withdraw her candidacy. Whether she throws her support behind John Edwards or Barack Obama makes no difference. Either individual can unite the country. Hillary Clinton cannot.

Here are 11 reasons Hillary should withdraw now:

  1. Her experience argument is bogus. Even if it were true, historically, experience is a poor predictor of presidential success. Further, anyone who claims to be prepared to be president “from day one” is lying – because no experience can prepare you for the presidency.
  2. Her most successful and most-used tactic against Barack Obama in the primaries and caucuses – suppressing voter turnout – will ensure her loss in the general election as it alienates many of those who she most needs to appeal to – younger voters (under 55), black voters, and swing voters. The Clintons have also introduced identity politics into the primary – and have tried to encourage racial polarization, especially between Latinos and blacks. The Clintons are running a campaign very different from most primary campaigns – they are attacking Obama with a ferocity usually reserved for attacking Republicans in the general election. In an election that splits the country roughly 50/50, Hillary can’t afford to lose anyone. At the rate she is going now, she won’t be able to put together a winning coalition.
  3. Bill Clinton became an admired elder statesmen after retiring from the presidency. The fact that he was still chasing skirt became a quirk rather than a political liability and a possible threat to the Democratic Party. And things like this might be considered charming. Now, he’s become Karl Rove with Secret Service protection, a bigger media presence, and with the same lack of conscience. Even top neutral Democrats are telling Bill to shut up. I’d like the old Bill Clinton back.
  4. If Hillary Clinton wins, her success will become a lesson in how women should achieve power: marry well; put up with any humiliations your husband throws at you, and then, maybe, if you fight dirty, and ask your husband to run your campaign, you might be able to ride his coattails to your “own” political success.
  5. The Clintons are relying on the laziness and stupidity of the American people to attack Barack Obama unfairly: through lies, distortions (eg. regarding Reagan), and other unconscionable means. It just goes to prove the most dangerous place to be in America is between the Clintons and an elected office.
  6. Her three most significant political acts: botching health care reform and setting it back for a generation; deciding to stonewall independent investigators, Congress, and the press on Whitewater, and voting for war with Iraq.
  7. The Democratic Party has a once-in-a-generation opportunity to re-align the country and reinvigorate liberalism and America. Hillary Clinton has shown no interest in seizing this opportunity or any capacity to rally Americans to a broad consensus. She remains a highly polarizing figure. Her winning strategy does not involve winning a significant majority but eking out a 51% win by micro-targeting, niche marketing, and espousing incremental targeted policies – all working off of a broadly Republican status quo.
  8. The Clintons are fundamentally and irredeemably corrupt. And we don’t need to have a Clinton dynstasty to rival the Bush dynasty.
  9. No other candidate can rally the Republican base and right-leaning independents as effectively as Hillary Clinton.
  10. Hillary Clinton use language exactly as George Orwell lamented in “Politics and the English Language” – to hide her true intent and demonize her opponents.
  11. Her breakthrough moment came when she her eyes got misty over how much effort she had put into making the country better.

Bonus reason: George W. Bush, and some number of his supporters, see her as the best candidate to protect the Bush legacy of torture, preemptive war, and executive overreach.

Hillary –

For the good of the Democratic party; for the liberal ideas you have fought for; for the good of the country – drop out of the race today.

We know that Obama is not perfect. But he’s the best chance we have of creating an electoral shift around liberal ideas. If you can take a step back from your campaign – I’m sure you would realize that. You are running against him with a fury Democrats normally reserve for Republicans. You seem to believe that creating a Clinton dynasty is the only chance America has to “not fall backward”. But you’re wrong. Get over yourself.

Please Hillary!


-a committed liberal, Democrat, and Barack Obama supporter

Edit: I am not hiding my name as one of the commenters alleges. My name is Joe Campbell, and I stand behind this post.

Another Edit: Welcome Andrew Sullivan readers!

Updated: The New York Times has endorsed Hillary Clinton. Make your feelings known.

Updated: Responding to some of the comments suggesting that Obama and Hillary are the same.


Born of pain

“Personality is born out of pain.  It is the fire shut up in the flint.”

Jack Butler Yeats, Irish artist and brother of W. B. Yeats.

Domestic issues Election 2008 Politics The Clintons

Be honest.

[digg-reddit-me]The man in question became a lawyer straight out of college, married a law professor and aspiring politician.  He fathered one child. The son of two white Republicans — he became a Democrat and remained married to his wife while she attained higher and higher levels of political success, culminating in her election and re-election as president of the United States of America.

In an unprecedented move, the first spouse was put in charge of one major area of policy – and failed miserably, as a result of his own egregious mistakes, his arrogance, and the powerful forces arrayed against him.  This colossal failure doomed this major policy initiative for a generation despite significant majorities continuing to support it.  After this failure, he maintained a lower profile and surfaced mainly to attack political opponents of his wife.

Be honest: Do you think this is the biography of someone who could be elected to the United States Senate? After one full term there, do you believe he could be a viable candidate to head the most powerful nation on earth?

Contra Gloria Steinem.