Archive for January, 2008

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Question of the day: Can we beat McCain?

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

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John Edwards and the art of losing well

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

With John Edwards withdrawing from the race, I think it’s important to take note of something sort of extraordinary: he’s leaving with his reputation not only intact, but actually enhanced.

When you think about it that almost never happens. Today, we tend to be a one shot society politically — hell, in every respect, really. But sticking with politics, look at the tattered bodies scattered across the field of honor: Rudy Giuliani, Fred Thompson, John Kerry, Bob Dole, Joe Lieberman (please try not to cry for poor Joe), Michael Dukakis and so many more. All were once serious presidential candidates, people given a real chance of winning, and all suffered damage to their public reputations, in some cases severe damage, as a result of running for and losing the presidency.

But not so John Edwards. Edwards leaves the race, if anything, more highly regarded by the Democratic rank and file than he was before. He remains a viable political figure.

Why? It’s about running and also losing with grace, I think. It’s about running on the side of the poor and the working class, instead of just trying to pile up huge mounds of cash from special interests. It’s about running on issues that matter, rather than personalities and negative imagery.

I’m showing my age here, but I remember reading a book (when it was new) written by Alistair Cooke 30 years ago, titled Six Men. It was made up of a series of short biographies of six men Cooke had known in his life who had a great impact on him, one of whom was Adlai Stevenson. He said at the end of the chapter on Stevenson, as I recall — and this isn’t an exact quote — that there are sometimes honorable reasons for someone not becoming the President of the United States.

John Edwards may never be president, but by conducting his campaign with honor he’s left both the Democratic Party and the nation at least a little better off for his having tried.

Thank you, John. We here at The Last Chance Democracy Café wish you and your family the very best.

Episode 71: The Republican Follies, 2008: a musical

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008

The Last Chance Democracy Café, Episode 71
The Republican Follies, 2008: a musical
By Steven C. Day

Because sometimes only a song will do.

Clearly the public is much more interested in the Democratic presidential race this year than the one for . . . well, you know, those other guys. Even hardcore Republicans seem to be having trouble getting very excited about their candidates. And who can blame them?

Still, being the notoriously gracious bunch we are here at The Last Chance Democracy Café, we want to be sure the major GOP candidates receive all of the public attention they so richly deserve. Thus, when we decided to do a musical “theater” production, as a fundraiser for Claire’s charity, we could think of no better topic for the production than the Republican presidential race — as well, of course, as the media’s coverage of it.

So, without further adieu, welcome to our show.

(I’ll leave it to you to guess which café regular is playing each part: although I’ll break the rule once by telling you that Zach is playing Mitt Romney. He’s the only one with nice enough hair to pull it off.)

Act I

As our story begins (stage left), it’s a blustery March 2007 morning in New Hampshire. A small group of reporters and media pundits talk among themselves as they wait impatiently, in the cold, for Mitt Romney to arrive for a campaign speech.

REPORTER ONE: “I just can’t see how Romney can win the nomination, what with his liberal social views.”

REPORTER TWO: “You obviously haven’t heard the news. That’s the old Mitt Romney. The new Mitt Romney . . . Well, let me tell it to you this way.

(Reporter Two moves to the front of the stage and begins to sing.)

The Ballad of Mitt Romney
(To the music of “The Ballad of Jed Clampett”)

Come and listen to a story ‘bout a man named Mitt
A rich governor, as liberal as they git,
Then one day he said “I’m a’shooting for the top”
And out of his mouth came a flood of flip-flop.

Mealy-mouthed that is, two-faced, the twostep.

Well, the next thing you know Mitt’s hat is in the ring
His advisors said, “Mitt, dump that liberal thing,”
Said “far right is the place you ought to be”
So he reinvented himself quite conservatively.

Guns that is, Scalia love, antiabortion

But although Mitt’s close connection to New Hampshire (he is, after all, the former governor of the state next door) makes him an early favorite in the state, Rudy Giuliani looks formidable nationally.

The reporters and pundits reassemble (stage right) in a small town community center for a scheduled “media opportunity” with Rudy.


There are no Gods or devils in this fight

Monday, January 28th, 2008

Having been called “shameful” and given a number of similar put downs by outraged Clinton supporters in recent days, even I sometimes find myself wondering whether, without realizing it, I’ve somehow morphed into a raving advocate for Obama.

But I haven’t.

I’m still officially undecided on the Democratic contest. But, like a lot of other folks, I’ve been offended by the way the Clinton campaign’s been conducting itself. So I give her hell about it here. And I understand why that may offend some of her supporters.

So be it. Because you know what? Back in 2004, when John Kerry was being swift boated, I didn’t give Republicans a break for going along with that slander because, “hey, you know, they’re Bush supporters, they’ve got to go along.”

Bullshit. Just because you admire a candidate doesn’t give you a pass to endorse anything he or she says or does. And so even though I continue, in many ways, to admire both Hillary and Bill Clinton, I’m not giving them a pass for the ugliness of Hillary’s campaign. And I’m also not going to pretend that Bill’s presidential legacy was all good, when it wasn’t.

Come what may, as I’ve said before, I won’t hesitate to support Hillary in the general, if, as still seems most likely, she ends up being the nominee. To my mind, that’s what’s called keeping perspective — recognizing that whatever problems I have with any of the Democratic candidates, all of them are incalculably better than any of the Republicans. I know some readers don’t agree, but for me it isn’t even a close call.

But that doesn’t mean I’m going to give Hillary a pass.  

And the same, by the way, goes for Obama. As I said in discussing his book, The Audacity of Hope:

There is also an unmistakable element of intellectual dishonesty in how Obama tries to paint his self-portrait as the sensible man in the middle — as the one reasonable soul in an ocean of partisan fanatics.  He often commits the sin of false equivalency.  Yes, conservatives are bad about this, he will say, but then he will always quickly add that liberals are equally bad about that.  But the truth, of course, is that usually they aren’t.  How could they be?  As of the time he wrote the book, liberalism had been all but politically powerless for over a decade.

So that’s where we stand — right in the middle of a testy nomination contest between two people, neither of whom is a God or a devil, and both of whom are better than anyone the other side has to offer. And we do ourselves and our candidates no good by pretending otherwise. 

Update: I wrongly said the contest is between two candidates. I greatly admire John Edwards and respect him as a continuing candidate in the race. Realistically, however, he isn’t going to win the nomination. 

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Question of the day: Can Bill Clinton regain the love?

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

From all across the blogosphere the same judgment is coming in: Bill Clinton, to borrow Josh Marshall’s metaphor, has finally jumped the shark by dismissing the importance of Obama’s crushing victory over Hillary in South Carolina, because, after all, Jesse Jackson carried the state also. 

A small splattering of this massively negative response (not all of it from Hillary opponents) includes, in addition to Josh Marshall, the previously pro-Hillary Kevin Drum, John from AMERICAblog, Glenn Greenwald and BuzzFlash.

Almost certainly, Bill Clinton will remain popular with a majority of Democrats, but his reputation within the party, especially among liberals, has taken a significant hit.

I think it’s safe to say that the long lasting love affair between Bill Clinton and liberal Democrats has significantly cooled. Can it be reignited? While no one should ever count out the comeback kid, I think it’s going to be difficult. Even before the current controversy blew up, the Clinton years were starting to lose a little of their luster among informed Democrats.

At the end of the day, Clinton, who came into office with a Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, left office with the Republicans in complete control of the federal government. This in turn ushered in years of radical right wing governance. The sad truth is Clinton, for all his gifts, left no political legacy at all, other, perhaps, than for his own wife trying to take his place.

When you look at it that way, it’s a little hard to feel all that nostalgic about his administration.

Still, no one should forget that this is Bill Clinton we’re talking about, the greatest politician of his generation. If anybody can do it, he can.

So, what do you think? Is there anything Bill Clinton can do to regain the love?

Huge night for Obama

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

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Friday, January 25th, 2008

A word of warning: it’s always dangerous to put too much faith in one medical study. Often follow-up studies don’t confirm the original findings. Still, this sounds like really good news.

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Every time I decide to lay off Hillary . . .

Friday, January 25th, 2008

She pulls me back in.

Contrary to what some people seem to believe, I’m far from a rabid opponent of Hillary Clinton. I’ve freely acknowledged I’m not enthusiastic about her candidacy, but I’ve also made it clear I’ll support her in the general election if she does end up being the nominee (as seems the most likely scenario right now).

But come on.

(Tim Grieve) Clinton: I’ll take those delegates now, thanks

When Michigan and Florida defied the Democratic National Committee by scheduling their primaries for dates before Feb. 5, the DNC Rules Committee responded by stripping both states of their delegates to the Democratic National Convention.

Most of the Democratic presidential candidates pulled their names off the ballot in Michigan, but Hillary Clinton didn’t. And now that she has won in Michigan — she beat “uncommitted” by 15 percentage points — she says she’s going to fight to have the delegates from both Michigan and Florida seated at the convention.

So anyone see a pattern here? You know, like trying to change the rules of the game once they prove inconvenient (think of caucuses at a place where gambling occurs)?

Everyone understands that Michigan and Florida will need to be represented at the Democratic convention. But when the vote in Michigan was taken, it was with the clear understanding of all concerned that no delegates would be awarded based upon the primary’s outcome due to the state’s defiance of the party’s rules for scheduling primaries. This may or may not have been a wise sanction by the Democratic National Committee, but it was the decision made

Because of this, no candidate’s name appeared on the ballot except Hillary Clinton’s and no one campaigned there. So, surprise, surprise, Hillary won. To suggest that the rules should now be changed to allow delegates to be allocated on the basis of that vote (to Hillary’s benefit) is absurd.

It’s highly probable the nomination will be settled long before the delegates are seated in Denver. If so, fine — let the current slate of delegates be seated. Otherwise, a different method of selecting delegates from these two states will be needed (one workable approach has been suggested by the editor of BuzzFlash; you can check it out here).

Postscript: I see Josh Marshall has a similar take.

A star is born!

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Well, well, well.  Credit where credit’s due: it would seem that one man’s “close to the line” comment is another man’s work of art.

My good “friend” johncp has had one of his, shall we say, somewhat less than complimentary comments here favorably quoted by none other than the one-of-a-kind Bartcop.

I don’t get to Bart’s site nearly as often as I once did — the “burdens” of blogging myself, I suppose — but even though he tends to spend a lot of his time these days slashing and burning people like me who fail to worship at the Temple of Hillary, I have a soft spot in my heart, esophagus, gallbladder or someplace like that for him.  Back in the dark days after the Great Theft of 2000, his slash and burn commentary helped keep me sane.

So, in this case I guess the friend of my “enemy” is my fond memory.

Go figure.

Update: Bart responds, sort of.