Friday, May 23, 2008

Don't Fall for the New Sideshow

Today, Hillary Clinton referred to the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy during the Democratic campaign in June 1968 while speaking about her reasons for staying in the race, according to this report from the Associated Press. The video:

Later, she offered a botched apology, seemingly more to the Kennedys than anyone else:

There's a choice here for Obama supporters to make something more of this than it is - a mistake - as unfortunate as the statement and apology are. It's very unlikely that Clinton is hanging on to the hopes of Obama being assassinated. She was probably talking about things in a timeline context. Also, it's not a good idea to further cleave the party this late in the campaign, as if enough damage hasn't been done already. David Axelrod, Obama's chief strategist, played it like this:

Probably the best strategy. Remember how Michelle Obama's comment, "For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country..." was made into such a big campaign issue, when it was just a case of misspeaking. The less brouhaha there is over this new issue, the better.

Besides, Clinton's not in very good shape as it is. Attacking her when she's down may cost Obama a significant chunk of Clinton-supporting Democrats.

Though there is one constituency that Obama clearly has over her:

Sunday, May 18, 2008

All Democrats - Including Obama Supporters - Need Hillary Clinton to Stay in the Race

On Thursday, May 15, the newly formed WomenCount PAC took out a full page ad in USA Today in response to NARAL Pro Choice's endorsement of Barack Obama, titled Not So Fast... Hillary's Voice is OUR Voice, and She's Speaking for All of Us, some of which is excerpted below:

"We are the women of this nation. We are rich and poor, young and old, married with kids, married without kids, single moms, gay, straight, and widowed. We are every color. We are of every religion. We are from all political parties...

...As Senator Clinton campaigns, she speaks with our voice. She carries our hopes, dreams and aspirations with her and transforms them into policies that can make our nation great again...

...Women risked all they held dear to make this country great. They put their lives on the line in all our quests for justice – from Abigail Adams to Sojourner Truth to Susan B. Anthony to Eleanor Roosevelt to Fannie Lou Hamer to Barbara Jordan to Dolores Huerta to Hillary herself...

...We want Hillary to stay in this race until every vote is cast, every vote is counted, and we are convinced our voices are heard."

The primary election process between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton has been tense, divisive, and fiercely contested - and there is almost unanimous agreement now that Obama will be the Democratic nominee. Still, approximately 50% of Clinton supporters have declared that they will either vote for John McCain or not vote at all if she is not the nominee. Meanwhile, supporters of Obama, who has virtually won, continue to bash Hillary Clinton and retain their animosity towards her.

When faced with Clinton supporters - most of whom are women - who swear they will not vote for Obama in the fall, it's easy to wonder how someone who supported Clinton based on her anti-war, pro-universal health care stance, and her positions on the economy and foreign policy would now switch their support not to Obama, whose positions are virtually identical, but to McCain - who stands diametrically opposed to them.

Isn't this election about the issues?

Well, yes. But it's clear that it's about much more than that.

This election has been not just about policy, issues, and values - but about how far America has come as a nation in its two hundred-plus years. Many of the women represented in the WomenCount PAC ad - and their ancestors - have a deep emotional and historical investment in Hillary Clinton's candidacy that runs, legitimately or not, much deeper than this year's issues; just as blacks, with a centuries-old history of struggle and oppression, have a a similar investment in Obama's.

Here's another line from the ad: "We cannot stand by as a cacophony of voices demand that she step aside to smooth the road for another."

Democratic National Committee officials feared a massive backlash from American blacks at one point if Obama's pledged delegate-based nomination was overturned by superdelegates for a host of reasons - the popular vote, reversing the rules on Michigan and Florida, and so on. So the similar deep disappointment and hurt that Clinton supporters will feel at her loss - when she had come so close - shouldn't be surprising to Obama supporters.

It should be understandable, and relatable.

Now that Obama is all but the confirmed Democratic nominee, his supporters not only need to reach out to Clinton supporters, but also to begin - themselves - to look at Clinton's positives. And she does have them. The 70% of Obama supporters who said they'd vote for Clinton if Obama lost the nomination understand that. The other 30% need to understand that too if they want Obama to win in November.

Hillary Clinton staying in the race until the last vote is cast - as stated in the ad - is important for her supporters. She shouldn't appear to be "pushed" out of the race. At the end of the primaries, when the winner of the nomination is apparent to everyone, her choosing to withdraw of her own volition will let her supporters down easier, and make their transition to supporting Obama smoother. They will feel like they saw the race to its end; that there was closure.

Although Clinton's candidacy wasn't derailed entirely by sexism, it has had an undeniable presence throughout its course - just as racism has in Obama's candidacy, and ageism will likely have in McCain's. Rebecca Traister covered this really well in this Salon piece. Proper closure to the race will also help alleviate - at least partially - the concerns many Clinton supporters have had related to much of the sexist comments and remarks that have been directed against her.

To defeat John McCain in the fall, Barack Obama needs all of the Democratic party - including Hillary Clinton supporters - to stand behind him. It's up to the Obama supporters to welcome them back in - and that is not going to happen unless the Clinton-bashing lets up.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Bush Pulls a Jeremiah - and Unites the Democrats

It's pretty obvious that Karl Rove has left the White House.

John McCain's association with George W. Bush is more of a concern to voters than Barack Obama's association with Jeremiah Wright: A Gallup poll conducted on May 1-3, 2008 shows that 33% of voters are less likely to vote for Obama because of the Wright association; however, more - 38% - are less likely to vote for McCain because of his Bush association. On top of that, 64% say that the Obama-Wright association won't affect their vote at all - significantly more than the 54% who say that the McCain-Bush association will not affect their vote.

Today, the reason for those dynamics is a little clearer.

Speaking to the Knesset (the legislature of Israel) in Jerusalem the morning after Israel's 60th anniversary of independence, Bush casually compared the intentions of Democrats, particularly Barack Obama - who support exercising diplomacy with the governments of countries like Iran and Venezuela - to those who wanted to "appease" the Nazis over sixty years ago.

The extremism of this allegation and its evident hypocrisy is reminiscent of the extremism and hypocrisy of Obama's former pastor Jeremiah Wright: Bush implied that Democrats will somehow be complicit in the imminent destruction of the United States or Israel because of their foreign policy strategy, just as Wright implied that America was complicit in the 9/11 attacks on its soil because of its foreign policy strategy.

The difference is, Bush said these words himself, in a foreign country, as the President of the United States, not the pastor of some church in Chicago. He has virtually handed the Democrats a loaded gun, with enough ammunition to last well into November.

Bush's comments have reportedly sent a wave of excitement through the Democratic party, particularly within the Obama campaign. He has not only managed to unite Democrats (many of whom didn't even agree with Obama's proposal to talk to Iran in the first place) and given them a platform to justifiably voice their outrage - including Joseph Biden calling the remarks "bullshit" - but also handed the Democrats an advantage in a debate in which most analysts felt they, especially Obama, were disadvantaged: foreign policy.

Here are the problems with what Bush said:

1. George W. Bush himself has not only held talks with, but openly negotiated with Libya's Muammar Gaddafi, who is alleged to have sponsored the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland in 1988. This diplomacy led to the successful end of hostilities between the two countries over Libya's nuclear program, which Gaddafi agreed to discontinue.

Also, among the three "Axis of Evil" countries Bush named in his State of the Union speech in 2002, North Korea is the only one that has openly conducted nuclear tests and possesses confirmed nuclear weapons. Again, the Bush administration has not only held talks with, but openly negotiated with Kim Jong Il, attaining reasonable success in the partial curtailment of the country's weapons proliferation program.

2. Speaking of the Axis of Evil, Iran is stronger now than it was before the Iraq war.

To go into Iraq - the only Axis of Evil member that actually did not have a declared nuclear program, not to mention a single nuclear weapon - all it took was a little unsubstantiated suspicion and a few convenience-based, selective intelligence reports. But despite several years of Iran's Ahmedinejad shooting off at the mouth about wiping Israel off the map, holding Holocaust denial conferences, directly threatening America, speaking at both the United Nations and Columbia University in New York, and most notably, adamantly continuing to pursue his country's nuclear program, America has barely taken any action.


Because the Bush administration has stretched the country's economic and military sources too thinly across the world, funding (on borrowed money, the majority from China) and fighting two wars, at least one of which can arguably be called a quagmire.

Ahmedinejad knows that no matter what he says or does, the United States is not in a position to do much more than slap sanctions on him, even that with restrictions, considering Iran's a pretty big oil producer. (By the way, China and Iran are strong allies - funding an intervention here won't exactly be a breeze.) So Ahmedinejad, Jong Il, and Hugo Chavez - also the head of a prominent oil-producing country just miles from the U.S. - can say all they want, as loudly as they want, and do all they want, because they know America can't come and get 'em. This has strengthened countries like Iran - and weakened the United States - probably indicating the need for a significant policy change.

3. Ronald Reagan, the darling of all of the Republican candidates this campaign season, helped bring the Cold War to an end through intelligent, tough diplomacy, not a stubborn refusal to speak to the USSR government.

4. Bringing up the Nazis wasn't a good idea on the part of Bush. Here's why:

The business dealings of Prescott Bush, W.'s grandfather, and father of George H. W. Bush, were the subject of a lawsuit brought forth against the Bush family a few years ago by two former Auschwitz slave laborers, alleging that Grandpa Prescott Bush, former Connecticut Senator and director of the Union Banking Corporation - whose assets were seized by the U.S. government during World War II - helped finance Adolf Hitler himself, aiding his rise to power.

This lawsuit from these two Holocaust survivors led to the unveiling of previously secret documents that shed light on the issue a short while before W. was up for re-election. Fortunately for W., the Dems didn't find it within themselves to Swift-Boat him at the time.

By the way - for those who are suspicious of this being left-wing propaganda, the network that was instrumental in digging out these documents, as evidenced on their own website, was Fox News: Click here.

Apparently, Senator Prescott Bush, founding officer, vice president, and director of the United Banking Corporation (UBC), was also managing partner for Brown Brothers Harriman (BBH), a firm led by E. Roland Harriman - heavily invested in UBC, owning the majority of its shares - and his brother Averell, a former New York Governor.

BBH dealt closely with Fritz Thyssen, a German industrialist who significantly helped to finance Adolf Hitler in the 1930s, though he severed his relationship with him in the later part of the decade. The UBC was the primary hub for the US-based part of Thyssen's business, which is what led to the government's seizure of its assets during the war. Prescott Bush continued to work for the bank for long after America entered the war.

There is no more evidence that Prescott Bush was sympathetic to the Nazis than there is evidence that Barack Obama is sympathetic to Ahmedinejad or Hamas. But the Bush family's association - by money and just one degree of separation, to Adolf Hitler, with an ensuing multibillion dollar lawsuit from two Holocaust survivors - probably appears significantly stronger than some Hamas leader saying Obama would be a good leader for America.

The Democrats couldn't have dug a deeper hole for John McCain than George W. Bush has.

5. Finally, William E. Borah, the Idaho senator that Bush quoted in his speech as saying, "Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided..." and credited with harboring a "foolish delusion" - was known to be a progressive politician; a maverick so known for his independent thinking that President Calvin Coolidge once remarked about his horseback riding, "It's hard to imagine Senator Borah going in the same direction as the horse."

Borah was renowned and often fiercely criticized for occasionally deviating from the party that he belonged to: The Republican Party. Good luck, John McCain.

George W. Bush has singlehandedly thrust himself ass-first into the 2008 campaign season and, in collaboration with some very amateur speechwriter(s), done the Democrats a huge favor.

It's pretty obvious that Karl Rove has left the White House.