Archive for January, 2008

Beyond the pale on race

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

As someone who has in many ways (although not in all of them) been a longterm admirer of Bill Clinton, I find myself increasingly disappointed by his actions in his wife’s campaign.

But you know what? At the end of the day that’s just my tough luck. It’s for the Clintons to decide how best to utilize this very potent weapon in their arsenal. And if I don’t like it, I don’t have to support her for the nomination).

But some things are simply beyond the pale. And this is one of them.

(AP) Bill Clinton: Race, gender key in S.C.

Bill Clinton said Wednesday he expects blacks to vote for Barack Obama and women to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the dynamic may cause his wife to lose the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary Saturday.

The comments by the former president — who also lashed out at Obama and the news media — mark one of the starkest commentaries yet on the possible role of race, although it has been a subtext of the Obama-Clinton rivalry for months. The comments also furthered the Clintons’ bid to play down Sen. Clinton’s chances of winning in a state where Obama seems to be ahead.

Voting for president along racial and gender lines “is understandable because people are proud when someone who they identify with emerges for the first time,” the former president told a Charleston audience while campaigning for his wife.

Let me state this as strongly and clearly as I can. For either the Clinton campaign or the media to try to discount the results of the South Carolina primary (if Obama wins) because, “after all, it was just a bunch of black folks voting for another black person” is racist and morally wrong.

These aren’t black voters; they’re Democratic voters.

Sure, it’s fine to consider how race may be playing into the results, just as it’s fine to consider how gender may play in. But taking the discussion to the next step of using that to “play down” the importance of the vote is not fine. It is not fine at all. And we’re hearing that very suggestion being made quite often now by both the media and the Clinton campaign and, even speaking as a white man, I find it deeply offensive. It needs to stop.

Update: I guess I need to make this clearer. There is nothing wrong with noting, discussing and analyzing black support for Obama.  What’s beyond the pale, is implying that the vote in South Carolina — assuming it goes Obama’s way, which is not a foregone conclusion — is somehow less meaningful because of the unusually large number of black voters there.

This type of subtle racism is far from unique to this one primary. It often appears, for example, under the guise of commentary making a big deal over how “dependent” Democrats are on the black vote — how without it the party would have almost no chance of winning a national election. There’s often an unmistakable undercurrent to such comments suggesting that black votes are somehow less worthy than white votes. 

Atrios, for one, has often made this point.  

A letter to three Democrats: it isn’t about you

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

Let’s take a moment to think about a particularly disconcerting “what if.” What if a Republican wins in November? What if we’re looking at four (probably eight) more years of Bush-like governance? What will that mean? What will it do to progressive dreams? To the nation as a whole? 

There’s actually no mystery to the answer. Whatever else one may accuse the Republican candidates of, one thing they’re clean as a whistle on is giving fair notice of the truly radical nature of their agenda (the same radical agenda, of course, we’ve been living under for the past seven years).

What will that mean? Well, here are just a few things:

– It will mean a Supreme Court with not just four radical Scalia-style right wing judicial activists (with a fifth justice who usually, but not always, goes along with them), but six, seven or even eight such justices. An ultra-reactionary Supreme Court of a type not seen in this country for 70 years, a Court happy to use principles of federalism to strike down federal legislation designed to protect workers, consumers and the environment, but equally happy to ignore federalism in order to strike down state statutes passed to achieve these same ends.

– It will mean war without end in Iraq. Year after year of staggering human loss. Year after year of treasure, desperately needed here at home, being thrown into a black hole of stupidity. A waste of resources that will gradually sap this nation of its greatness.

– It will mean more wars like Iraq — maybe against Iran, maybe Syria, maybe even North Korea, as the neoconservatives continue to double down on a losing bet.

– It will mean an America that gradually grows less free, as we continue to be led by people who see fear as a political opportunity, rather than a common nemesis to be expunged. 

– It will mean ever increasing inequality between the rich and the poor, with ever fewer Americans enjoying a standard of living that falls between the two extremes.

– It will mean Americans living in an increasingly undemocratic society as the growing wealth inequality carries with it increasing political inequality.

– It will mean the end of reproductive choice for women.

– It will mean a United States that continues to sabotage efforts to address global warming until, quite possibly, it will be too late to prevent an almost unthinkable worst case scenario (assuming it isn’t already too late).

To borrow from Rick in the movie Casablanca, it isn’t hard to see that the desires for high office of three little candidates in this crazy world don’t amount to a hill of beans. Yet, right now, by making this campaign profoundly  personal in the pursuit of individual glory, and in the process seeding anger deep into the heart and soul of the base of the Democratic Party, these three candidates are sabotaging our best chance to snuff out this nightmare. And that is nothing less than irresponsibility of historic proportions. It must stop now.


Guess what? Bush lied about Iraq

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

In the category of: well, yeah, what else is new?

(AP) Study: False statements preceded war

A study by two nonprofit journalism organizations found that President Bush and top administration officials issued hundreds of false statements about the national security threat from Iraq in the two years following the 2001 terrorist attacks.

The study concluded that the statements “were part of an orchestrated campaign that effectively galvanized public opinion and, in the process, led the nation to war under decidedly false pretenses.”

The study was posted Tuesday on the Web site of the Center for Public Integrity, which worked with the Fund for Independence in Journalism.

On a less flippant note, the participants in and funders for this study are to be commended.  We need to build as complete a historical record as possible of the Bush Administration’s crimes.  This is true, if for no other reason, so that we’ll be ready to fight back with the revisionists go to work.

Still, it’s hard to keep from thinking that in a sane world we would no longer be collecting evidence of Bush’s crimes: we’d be prosecuting them.

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How will America respond to a ferocious Hillary?

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

If I didn’t care so much about this damn election, I’d forget the politics and just intently await the answer to a fascinating sociological question.  Can a woman in American politics, especially one running for president, prosper by being harsh?

Let me be clear.  From a personal standpoint, I believe women in politics should be judged by no different standard than men.  If we admire brutal toughness in a male candidate, we should admire it just as much in a female running for office.

But at age 52, I’ve long since discovered that not everything I believe ends up carrying the day.

And what’s interesting about the Democratic debate that just concluded, from a sociological standpoint, is how completely Hillary Clinton broke the traditional gender rules for a female advocate.  In general, it has long been accepted (as a trial lawyer I know a little about this) that a woman can appear tough and be effective, but she can’t afford to come across as harsh.  When a woman advocate becomes harsh, according to the conventional wisdom, she turns off a lot of people.

Tonight, Hillary Clinton was harsh — impressively so intellectually, but harsh.

While I’m not a Hillary supporter, as a strong believer in equality for women, I hope she isn’t punished for this, at least in a gender biased fashion.  I hope we’ve moved past that so that men and women are judged alike in such matters.

But to be honest, I think she may be.  Maybe not among Democrats, who tend to be more liberal in such matters, but more broadly in the general election. 

But if nothing else, it should be a learning experience. 

Al Gore and the impossible dream

Monday, January 21st, 2008

Okay fellow Gore daydreamers, time to confess: you’ve done it, haven’t you?  You’ve dreamed the impossible dream.

It goes like this.  Clinton and Obama fight to a draw, while meanwhile Edwards wins just enough delegates to deny either one a majority.  At the convention, rather than allow the issue to be settled in what used to be known as smoke filled rooms, the delegates take matters into their own hands and nominate Al Gore.

Suddenly, instead of limping out of the convention site in Denver, Colorado, battered, bruised and divided, the party marches out in unison under the banner of the most logical candidate.

It is, of course, literally an impossible dream. Brokered conventions don’t happen any more.  It’s probably statistically more likely that a meteor will fall from the sky and wipe out the convention center than that Gore will walk away with the nomination now (whether or not he wants it).

Still, if dreams had to be realistic — or even plausible, for that matter — what would be the point of dreaming? 

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The silliest campaign may end

Monday, January 21st, 2008

As Fred Thompson contemplates formally ending his campaign for president (I guess I must have missed something, since I don’t actually remember it ever starting), it should be noted for the sake of history that this must surely have been the silliest presidential campaign in American history (and I’m including Pat Paulsen’s):

1. Enter campaign late;

2. Work at it three or four hours, here and there, when he felt like it;

3. Get bored with the whole process and stop trying altogether;

4. Drop out.

Yup, one for the history books, alright.

Why many of us feel betrayed by Bill Clinton

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

No one expected that Bill Clinton, once out of office, would go home to Hope, Arkansas and settle down, the way Harry Truman did in Independence, Missouri. And while it seemed likely Clinton would set up a charitable foundation, do some international good will work and otherwise contribute, few of us harbored any illusions of him becoming another Jimmy Carter. And certainly no one doubted that if Hillary ran for president he’d be in her corner.

But I don’t think many of us anticipated anything quite like this.

(Newsweek) Leading Democrats To Bill Clinton: Pipe Down

Prominent Democrats are upset with the aggressive role that Bill Clinton is playing in the 2008 campaign, a role they believe is inappropriate for a former president and the titular head of the Democratic Party. In recent weeks, Sen. Edward Kennedy and Rep. Rahm Emanuel, both currently neutral in the Democratic contest, have told their old friend heatedly on the phone that he needs to change his tone and stop attacking Sen. Barack Obama, according to two sources familiar with the conversations who asked for anonymity because of their sensitive nature. Clinton, Kennedy and Emanuel all declined to comment.

And it isn’t just members of the Democratic establishment, like Kennedy and Emanuel, who are upset with Clinton’s almost attack dog approach to an intraparty nomination contest; many traditionally pro-Clinton bloggers are expressing similar misgivings. Here, for example, is Josh Marshall;

I don’t have a good answer to this. I don’t expect Bill Clinton, who’s not a shrinking violet, to be neutral in his own wife’s nomination campaign. But I have to admit that the intensity of Bill Clinton’s attacks on Barack Obama really makes me uncomfortable. I know there are a lot of Democratic party insiders, mostly older than I am, who don’t like it either. But I wonder if there’s not some generational aspect to it for people my age. I was in my early 20s in 1992. And really throughout the 90s you couldn’t be a bigger Clinton guy than I was. So it’s hard to see that history (and it’s quite some history) leveraged to muscle this campaign.

For many Democrats this goes beyond being uncomfortable with Clinton’s conduct. It’s more like a feeling of betrayal. And that, as strange as it may sound, has a lot to do with Monica Lewinsky.

As strongly as I supported Bill Clinton every step of the way through the Lewinsky dust up, I always knew ultimately that he would stab his supporters in the back. What he did was reckless, stupid, selfish and ultimately dishonest. And the repercussions didn’t just hurt him: they hurt his supporters, and may well have played a role in bringing the worst president in American history to power.

Still, we stuck with him.

Why did we do it? A lot of it, I suppose, came down to something as simple as the fact we liked him. In fact, we liked him a lot. Also, defending Clinton had become almost instinctive after years of watching him subjected to one unfair attack and investigation after another. But more than anything else, I think most of us just felt that it was the right thing to do: as foolish and disingenuous as Clinton’s conduct had been, he’d done nothing nearly bad enough to justify his being driven out of office, especially given the mitigating factor that his Lewinsky dishonesty occurred at a time when he was being mercilessly pursued by a massive right wing witch hunt.

So we stuck with him, and he survived. And, as Josh Marshall said, seeing that now “leveraged to muscle this campaign,” often in very unfair ways, is disturbing.

And it feels like betrayal.

You know something’s disgusting when . . .

Sunday, January 20th, 2008

You know something’s disgusting when a mainstay of the major media seems even more outraged about it than an “angry liberal blogger.”  The actions of Tommy Franks, the general who led the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, in accepting $100,000 in exchange for endorsing a veterans charity that’s currently under investigation for allegedly ripping off donors, appear to fall into this category.

When I blogged on this a few days ago, I was strongly critical of Franks, of course, even titling the post, “Duty, honor and cha-ching.”  But my pitiful little post couldn’t hold a candle in sheer outrage to this scorching rebuke from none other than CBS’s own Bob Schieffer:

(CBS) The Follies Of Fundraising 

After General Tommy Franks invaded Iraq with a force so small he didn’t even have enough troops to guard the ammunition dumps that Saddam Hussein abandoned, I questioned the strategy.

*  *  *

Franks has since retired, but I have questions now that go far beyond his military expertise.

Congressional investigators have discovered he charged a professional fundraiser $100,000 to use his name to raise money for wounded soldiers.

Which leads me to ask: What kind of PERSON would insist, or even ALLOW himself, to be paid to raise money for those who were wounded while serving under him?

Franks says he severed his connection to the fundraiser when he realized most of the money he helped raise went to the fundraiser, not the troops. But doesn’t he owe the troops a little more than that? 

(Check out the video at Crocks and Liars.)

Ouch.  If Gen. Franks wants to rebuild his reputation, here’s my suggestion: he should start volunteering 20 hours a week as an orderly at a VA hospital.  He might even learn a little something.

And, no, I’m not holding by breath.

A poem for Mike Huckabee

Friday, January 18th, 2008

Part of our continuing series . . .

A Poem for Mike

There once was a man with views quite far right
Who thought that fried squirrel was quite a delight,
He used his corn popper
To cook it up proper,
Then the big squirrel ate a small squirrel, what a fright!

A member of the media actually apologizes — sincerely?!

Friday, January 18th, 2008

Oh my God, if something that unlikely has happened could this be a sign of the coming apocalypse?!

Oh, it’s Keith Olbermann.

Never mind.