Sunday, July 13, 2008

New Election Season - SOS, a letter to my brother

I don't think there is anything you can say to him, his mind is closed. Yeah he hates the war (so he says...) but as long as GWB is not on the ticket he will vote GOP (I bet he voted GOP in 2004 too).

No surprise to me he will vote for John McSame... people like him don't really care about the war in Iraq, he cares more about his make-believe war against 'liberals' (hence his 'are you with us or against us' are you a liberal or conservative rant at the end). In his mind you can only be on the good side or the bad side.... issues are just to divide up the sides not actual problems to be examined and resolved.

His belief system epitomizes many die-hard GOPers, they claim to hate the war but their mind is so inured to the last 40 years's worth of GOP lies and spin that they simply can't 'free their minds'.... (I could have told you that after the 15 minute chat at your wedding reception.... these people are so obvious it is like they come out of a cookie cutter.)

Take his examples - 'welfare' and 'deficit spending.' It is a matter of fact that the two biggest deficit spenders in US history are REAGAN and BUSH (hmm both had GOP congresses too - Reagan with the boll weevil dems in the house and a GOP majority in Senate, Bush with GOP majorities period). NO one else even comes close.... in fact, the only balanced budgets for the last 25 years have been under Clinton. The facts show that it is the Democrats who are the fiscal 'conservatives' - why? Because they believe government has a positive role to play in society, but only if it is run responsibly.

The GOP could care less about deficits - as history and their own philosophy show us.... Why? because they fundamentally don't believe in government as anything other than a means of giving away other people;s money (basically your stepfatherinlaws own words) - and so it is not a big leap from that belief to the one that says... if the money is going to be 'given away game' (your stepfatheinlaw's own word, a 'GAME,' that all this is for the GOPers, a fucking 'game') we might as well 'give' to our own --- hence historic levels of corruption at every level as in Iraq and Halliburton, Katrina and FEMA, you name it. A call for government aid is for the GOP another opportunity to get cash give-aways.... which brings us to welfare

'WELFARE' probably the scariest word in the GOP lexicon (next to 'uppity black people' LOL), what is welfare? Is Social Security welfare? Medicare, is that welfare? Unemployment insurance, is that welfare too? No doubt it must also be food stamps.... that is what has cost America more than the 100x Iraq war????? Last I heard it is valuable to invest in your own people... but then I am not making a killing importing faulty or dangerous products produced by slave labor in China...

And in fact is was 'welfare' (and the priorities it symbolizes) that made America great - we were able to win two wars on two separate continents, educate an entire generation, go to the moon, make great strides in societal justice and integration, virtually eliminate poverty amongst the elderly and raise our country to the highest standard of living in the world due to the Democrats and their 'welfare'. Over the past 40 years it has been nothing but decline as investment in safety, education, infrastructure, an our own people's health has been cut cut cut to give fat subsidies to corporate bloodsuckers like the oil, nuclear, pharmaceutical and military industries. The GOP has turned the US from the beacon of the workd into a hyper-militarized version of Brazil - the super-rich and then the rest of us desperately running to stay in the same place (come to think of it, maybe China would be a better analogy, you know iwth all the hyper-jingoism to keep the peasants in line etc).

When it comes to really expensive welfare - no bid contracts for years on end.... the GOP is suddenly silent (just as they are when it comes to any fee or premium or tax other than the income tax...) Where did those FEMA toxic trailers come from? Why does Halliburton get paid millions for supplying tainted water for the troops? where are the competitive bids? Why does the magic of the market place work for everyone but the GOP contributers? This is what is called 'crony capitalism' and it is the bedrock of the GOP - screw process, screw transparency, screw markets and especially screw the taxpayer. Wrap it up in a flag and serve it country-fried and people will eat it as long as you scare them with talk about 'taxes' and sixties hippies (just like the latest McCain ad).... after all, why tax when we can just borrow and borrow and borrow to support our campaign contributors obscene lifestyles?

Speaking of taxes.... your interlocutor should at least try and get his facts straight... the current payroll tax is regressive people only pay on the first $75k or so of income, it is tax free after that. Obama's proposal is to raise that ceiling (don't you think the currency has inflated a bit since the program was set up during the Great Depression?) - I would do away with it altogether (isn't the flat tax the thing these tax-whackos profess to love?) What is so terrible about that? Don;t you think there is something wrong with a system that charges a lower percentage to someone making a shit load more money? (Heaven forbid someone suggest to make FICA slightly progressive for those with incomes over $250,000.00 a year - I'm sure 100 more years in Iraq is preferable to that LOL).

And who is convincing who that the govt owes them a living...? I've not met one working person who assumes union membership means govt owes them a living... I've met plenty who wish we could get drugs at the same price as Canadians do, or that they could do something other with one of their two monthly paychecks than send it to day care, or that they could actually get some coverage and customer service in exchange for the bloated premiums we pay for health insurance, or that their kids could actually be on their health insurance rather than on Medicaid....

The only people who I have any contact with (via the non-stop media) that assume the govt owes them a living is the GOP-enabling punditocracy/govt staffers who infest washington scuttling between their GOP thinktanks, govt 'service' their gigs on fox, cnn and the networks... gee, what do you know, people just like David Brooks and his cocktail party pals or those at Tax Vox (or whatever the hell it is...), now that sounds like folks who are really public spirited, who live in Georgetown, and attend whitehouse dinners and drive around in their luxury autos texting each other on the different ways they've dreamed up of telling the American people that every Democratic candidate since FDR is corrupt or cynical or manipulative or are just really weird people, because, you know they talk about the public interest and boring stuff like that.

Your stepfatherinlaw lives in an entirely different universe from the rest of us, unfortunately it is people like him who have run this country into the dirt for the past 40 years and who continue to run it like it was their own private social engineering experiment with us folks who actually work for a living day in and day out as their fucking test subjects. They are so inured in the lies they have told themselves for the past 40 years to cover for their own greed that they have come to believe them.... they are like the old guard of the Soviet Union, corrupt, cynical yet still highly ideological, so when a true reformer comes around (like Gorbachev) they are piss-angry with envy because all they can see is someone just like them with what they think is an even bigger 'con-job.' They are the tired old gluttonous husks of men full of envy and spite who, tied to our back, would rather we all drown than that they get their toes wet with any kind of reform as we try and swim thought the ocean of their own past excesses towards a better future for all.

PS and why the fuck can't he spell your name correctly? You've only been fucking married to Kristin for, what, the last decade?

Love, your big brother LOL

----- Original Message -----
From: Charlie XXXXXX
Sent: Thursday, July 03, 2008 8:18 AM
Subject: Fw: Obama? Are you sure? More

Hey when you have a chance I want some help responding to my foolsih father-in-law.

----- Original Message -----
To: Charlie XXXXXX
Cc: Kristin XXXXXX
Sent: Sunday, June 29, 2008 9:41 AM
Subject: RE: Obama? Are you sure? More


Thanks for the articles.

As I said, I believe we need to look beyond what the candidates say and address what the Dems. and Reps. have stood for for the past 50-60 yrs. To believe that Obama will do otherwise and go against his party's wishes/platform is, to me, drinking his campaign Kool-Aid rhetoric. What would motivate Obama to go against what the Dems. have stood for forever?

As I indicated in my last email to you, in my adult lifetime the Dem. majority controlled Congress has ALWAYS endorsed and executed countless tax and spend welfare-type programs. Their M.O. has been to convince Johnny-lunch-buckets (JLB's) that somehow the "rich" and corporations don't deserve what they have so tax them heavily and give their money to you JLB's..because you work harder than the rich so you deserve it.

Worse yet, the Dem. decided that if a little welfare was good, a lot would be better--so they financed it with deficit spending. The JLB's who don't know or care how Dem. taxation, income distribution, and deficit spending programs have hurt the country, so they got off their 4-wheelers, put down their 7 babies and voted for the Dems. It's been the Dems. liberal "game" to make the JLB's their fiefs by convincing them that gov. owes them a living.

If you carefully read the article you sent re Obama with an eye toward past Dem. welfare programs you will note "..lack of specificity" in several Obama comments--here's one from that article:

"That lack of specificity concerns some tax experts. "If Obama is hinting that those making more than $250,000 would pay a higher payroll tax rate ... it would fundamentally change the way Social Security operates and run the risk of making the program look less like social insurance and more like welfare," Tax Vox blog editor Howard Gleickman wrote for the Tax Policy Center."

Personally, I believe the 50 yrs. of Dem. welfare programs have been 100x more harmful to the US than the Iraq invasion..and you know how much I hate the Iraq fiasco.

The Reps. have stood for the opposite approach over the last 50 yrs.--low taxation, fiscal responsibility in gov. with little/no deficit spending. The Reps. believed in responsibility for oneself--that welfare should only be given to those who are physically/mentally disabled. Unfortunately W has screwed up this philosophy with deficit spending, etc., as he has screwed up everything else, but his programs are not what most conservatives believe in.

Basically, one is either a conservative in thinking or one is not when it comes to our current voting choices. I wish we had more choices but we don't. While I don't agree with several Rep. platform positions like gun control and abortion rights, my compromise is much better than choosing another tax/spend Dem.

As for McCain, he doesn't excite me like some Reps. in the past. However I do believe he's honest enough to be forthright with us if push comes to shove. He may have flip-flopped on AMT, but as the article you sent says about McCain's AMT policy "... presumably, the AMT would (now) at least be hitting those for whom it was originally intended."

Question: Are you a basically a Dem. (liberal) in your thinking/beliefs or a Rep. (conservative) and why?


Saturday, June 14, 2008

A Tale of Two Teams

This could be entitled 'a tale of two cities' or perhaps more accurately 'a tale of two Americas.' Twenty years ago sportwriters loved to refer to the Celtics - Lakers rivalry as one between a lunchpail crew (the Celts) and glitzy 'LA Showtime.' Although there was some superficial truth to the comparison when discussing style of play, it was no more than a journalistic conceit, since both teams loved to run, both worked just as hard and neither had a monopoly on national attention.

Likewise today's players share similar lifestyles, income brackets and workplaces. But there are some differences between the players that make up the teams that are shared in common with the social networks that make up their respective fanbases. One team is made up of individuals who have labored in relative obscurity, while the other is seemingly the darling of America's media and corporate elites.

Many of the key players for the Celtics - Pierce, Allen and Garnett come immediately come to mind - have had to put in long years of toil in less than glamorous team circumstances. They are successful, but they have never been given anything, any success they have attained has come through years of dedication to their craft, their teammates and, yes, their fans. They have been matured by experiences that have taught them that nothing is given to you, you must take everything - the good with the bad. As a consequence they have become a professional's professionals - classy, gracious, centered, unpretentious TEAMMATES.

These are the qualities that hoop fans from around the country identify with in their own lives - the willingness to dedicate long hours of hard work to the perfection of their skills and the betterment of their team, even if they will never reap the media attention and recognition that is so capriciously bestowed on others. Doing it the right way is its own reward for these people, regardless of what others may think. Doing right by each other, by the team, by others in their community and not expecting anything from anybody that they would not be willing to do themselves.

The Celtics do not have a self-proclaimed 'leader;' each player leads by example, not because it may garner attention, but because it is the right thing to do. Like many hardworking Americans, these stars have earned their way, payed their dues and now are on the verge of reaping the rewards that only come from personal sacrifice for the team goal. Despite never having been the media darlings they have persevered to reach this point after a long journey.

Contrast that with the Lakers we have had on display this series. Has their ever been such a collection of arrogant whiners? From the coach on down, they seem to expect everything to be given to them and when shocked that it isn't they begin the blame game - it is always 'someone else's' fault: the refs whistles, the other team's physical play, their teammates 'inadequacies.'

You have all probably heard the idiocy Phil Jackson spouted about the refs after game two, Jackson - the beneficiary of highly suspect calls in the series against San Antonio, a ridiculous amount of calls throughout the Jazz series, not to mention one of the worst games ever called, (game six of Lakers - Kings in 2002). See how this kind of leadership rubs off on his young charges: Here is Sasha Vujacic (pronounced wussy-biatch) explaining why he couldn't move his feet to cover Ray Allen as he drove unconteted for the clinching lay-up in game 4:

The whole game, from the minute I came in, they called fouls on me. [Allen] fell down; foul. [Presumably referencing the time Vujacic was cought on camera blatantly trying to trip Allen with a scissor hold commentator Mark Jackson likened to a wrestling move.] I was trying to find a way to guard him for 48 minutes, and everything I did was a foul. He got me. He went to the basket, and it was a good basket. I don’t know what else to say. I wanted to stay with him, I wanted to stay aggressive, but again, there would be a foul. So I kind of stood back, I gave him the room to operate, and he went to the basket, so that was a bad defensive decision on my side. It doesn’t matter, help or not, we came out and were supposed to be more aggressive, and not let him breathe at the top of the key.
It is shocking to see no one take any responsibility - again, from the coach on down - on a team as talented and successful as the Lakers have been this season. The handling of Kobe Bryant's rape accusation is surely the most serious instance of this sort of behavior.

However for the Lakers, as many of the elite denizens of the Staples Center, such a serious dose of reality rarely intrudes into the media bubble of their pleasure dome, since it seems for them that the hype is their reality. And hype there is in spades - attention and adulation because they are 'celebrities.' In a sense they mirror the extreme elements of the glitterati fanbase that they attract - untroubled by ordinary cares and responsibilities, they love to play act and seek the attention of the camera. When the cameras go are off, however, so is the mask and 'cameraderie' is replaced by carping criticism of the most infantile variety. And as always, it is someone else is expected to excuse and clean up for them. Why remain on the floor with your team as the final seconds of a game tick down? The 'curtain' is falling, 'eff' the extras.

Which America will triumph? Well, as we have seen in Iraq, the hype starts out loud but reality has an insistant way of reasserting itself....

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Game 7 at the Garden

Well, it came a lot sooner than Celtic fans would have hoped, but their 66 win team is about to be tested in the fires of a winner-take-all game seven, against the Atlanta Hawks, a team that did not even win 50% of its games. How did it happen?

A) Up front, let's be clear that this Hawks team is better than their season record indicates. The Hawks have needed a PG for a long time (yes Chris Paul would have looked great in red and black...). They finally got one at the trade deadline with the arrival of Mike Bibby. Even though Bibby has been outplayed in Boston by the explosive Rajon Rondo, he has brought a calming, steadying influence that the Hawks have sorely needed. The more time he spends with the team the better they will be.

B) The Celts are having trouble adjusting to the playoffs. Why? The stakes are higher and so two people who are absolutely crucial to their success are under the gun. The first is Kevin Garnett. For whatever reason, he does not like to shoot the the ball crunch time. As with the Karl Malone, there seems to be a level of fear, and - even worse for a seven-footer who shoots free throws as well as he does - he shies away from contact too. So, as with the Mail Fraud, we get a rain of fall-away shots, hardly what it takes to get it done in the NBA.

All is not lost, however, since Garnett has two veteran all-stars at his side... which brings me to the second person whose performance seems to suffer in proportion to the importance of the occasion: Coach Doc Rivers. It is Doc's job to keep the team mentally up, game-situation prepared, and to make the necessary adjustments to keep the juggernaut running at peak performance. However Doc has never impressed as a game coach, being better at managing personalities than time outs. And Doc's reaction to stress seems to be to freeze up, almost as if he were calcifying before our eyes, and his resultant 'strategy' is to just play the vets longer and harder. In consequence Doc has tossed out the regular season rotations (such as they were) and substituted in their stead extended minutes for his veteran core (for example neither Ray Allen nor Keven Garneet had a break in the second half of game four).

This sacrifices the bench: one of the teams real strengths from the regular season, the ability to extend the suffocating defense for a full 48 minutes with fresh bodies spelling the starters. It also sacrifices the sheer physical athleticism that the younger bodies on the bench bring to the game. A tired veteran Celts team walking the ball up the court is also a Celts team that has a good chance of loosing. As Vince Lombardi said: "fatigue makes cowards of us all."

Perhaps even worse, when Doc does turn to the bench a major beneficiary is Sam Cassell. Now, don't get me wrong, I love that the Cs were able to land Sam. But the man is 38 years old. And he has not had much time with the team and doesn't have much experience with the plays to run. So he doesn't help much on D and unless his shot is falling he actually hinders the offense. His shooting would help at SG, but that would mean playing Eddie House (who, along with Tony Allen was unceremoniously dropped from the rotation).

Worst of all is that Doc often plays Sam with Ray Allen (not Tony) at SG - meaning we have two older, sub-par defenders (one who has already expended a great amount of energy) at the two perimeter spots.... not a good recipe for defense in general or big men fouls (covering for penetration) in particular. Bad, bad and BAD - no rest, no defense and no easy transition points.

C) the third reason, and this is the least important, but still a notable factor, is the curious calls of the men in stripes. Some of you may have noticed, for example in the Phoenix series, but also incidents in others, where out of the blue lane violations for free throws started to be policed with unusual scrutiny, resulting in numerous calls, I would not be surprised if more than in the regular season given how rare they usually are.

I bring this up as a reminder that sometimes, for seemingly no good reason, the refs decide to throw a curve-ball during the playoffs, this being one of them. Another seems to concern the defense of the Celtics. For 82 games they have played the same defense, but now they are incurring far more fouls - most pronounced in games 4 and 6 - than at any time since Pitino had the team running around like headless chickens. It is almost as if the defense that got the team where they are - and is a major motor for their offence, has been deemed unacceptable.

What is really unusual is that many of the fouls appear to be of the touch variety. While rebounding action is fierce on one end, a touch is enough to send someone to the line at the other. You may have seen the numbers - games 4 thru 6 the Hawks took roughly twice as many free throws as the Cs, 15 to 2 in the pivotal final quarter of game 6 - but the numbers alone don't convey the difference this makes in the defense, transition game and hence offense for the Cs.

It is not a case of the Celtics not getting their fair share of free throws. Rather it is a case of the Hawks getting an inordinate amount of free throws. Who would ever anticipate that the Hawks could ever get 47 free throw attempts in just one game? Or average 36 ft attempts over the past three games? People like to point to the different styles of play but the facts show that the Hawks had only 51 more FTA than Boston over the course of the entire season. And now somehow the Hawks have outshot the Celtics by 51 in the last three games?!? (71 for the series) Has the Celtic defense changed that much over the past 6 games? Strange days indeed!

One thing is for certain, this series has been the best thing for the NBA in Atlanta in 20 years. What is not for certain is whether the Hawks ride stops Sunday of contintues on to Cleveland. The odds say it will end, but then Doc has never won a playoff series and facing a similar situation against Indiana his team not only did not win but laid a stinkbomb of embarrassing proportions. Which is a long way of saying that I don't trust Doc under pressure. And pressure there will be.... particularly if these strange trends at the foul line continue.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Debates? and why Wisconsin 'matters'

The latest attack ads produced by Hillary's campaign against Obama have focused on his 'willingness' to debate. Obama has responded, not unreasonably, that he has debated 18 times with 2 more scheduled. So why would Hillary choose this line of attack? And why now, in Wisconsin?

On the debates question, I think the Hillary campaign sees debates as a very cost-effective means of reaching lots of voters. I think it is a given that she would reach a lot more voters in a joint appearance with Obama than she would in any other kind of campaign active of comparable time-length. Just looking at the differential in the crowds she attracts and those he attracts - a factor of 10 - demonstrates this.

To change the current dynamic Hillary needs to reach lots of voters quickly and somehow contrast herself positively against Obama. A debate is the quickest, most effective and cheapest way to do so. Yet given that Obama decided not to rescue Team Hillary from their own mistakes, they went for a series of attack ads that, while not shown that widely, did garner free media attention (as was intended)... which is why they were parceled out one by one. While she is not paying for them to play all that much, Hilary at least need to make a show of 'fighting,' since that is her own self-described forte. However, her campaign is not organized to effectively 'fight' with the level of resources she currently has on hand.

That latter point needs to be emphasized. A series of debates would be a lot more cost-effective and right now one of the major problems she is 'fighting' is not having enough resources to mount as an effective campaign as Obama (particularly since Hillary has not invested nearly as much in ground organization and, as Solis-Doyle said, they thought they'd be done campaigning on Feb 5th). In short, Hillary's team, through mistakes of their own, is comparatively unprepared and underfunded... which leads me to why Wisconsin 'matters.'

Of course, all states matter despite what Mark Penn, Hillary's campaign guru, insists. But Wisconsin may matter more than it's delegate count would suggest, due in part to it position in the primary calendar. It is the largest state in which Hillary has a good chance of defeating Obama before the large (and expensive) contests in Texas and Ohio on March 4th. Hillary needs money now to make a maximal effort in those two self-defined 'must-win' states.

But I imagine that contributors (those who have not already contibuted the limit) as well as 'bundlers' (those who solicit funds from others) are looking at this and wondering if it would be a case of simply throwing good money after bad. Hillary has already burned through over $100,000,000 and yet her campaign is in disarray and, unless the momentum changes, headed for defeat. So Wisconsin may well be the 'show me state' (apologies to Missouri) for her contributors... 'prove to us you are competitive before we go one more round in the hole for you.'

Which is why it is imperative for Obama's supporters to go all out in Wisconsin, since a victory there may do more than simply continue the current 'momentum' media narrative, it may cripple Hillary where it hurts, in the pocket book. She has not invested in a ground game, so cash is her campaign's lifeblood. And the greater the victory margin, the harder it will be for Hillary to make the argument to the money people that she is a good financial gamble.

Hillary is wounded, but she is far from down and out. Now is not the time to let up. The victories we win on Feb 19th could help us exponentially down the line. Pour it on at

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Meaning of 'Hope'

This article Inside the Clinton Shake-Up by Joshua Green is very interesting, particularly when he states:

Rather than punish Solis Doyle or raise questions about her fitness to lead, Clinton chose her to manage the presidential campaign for reasons that should now be obvious: above all, Clinton prizes loyalty and discipline, and Solis Doyle demonstrated both traits, if little else. This suggests to me that for all the emphasis Clinton has placed on executive leadership in this campaign, her own approach is a lot closer to the current president’s than her supporters might like to admit.

If nothing else the campaign that Hillary has waged has raised real questions about her executive ability and the value of her experience. Thsat is not to say she is lacking in either, but neither does she appear to be the 'experienced hand' that she has sought to portray herself.
Rewarding loyal mediocrity, ignoring campaign spending burn rates, choosing the old 'core states' strategy that has lost the Dems so many races over the past 30 years (rather than the 50 state strategy) - none of these inspire me with confidence in her leadership ability in a general election or in the day to day scrum of governing.

I admire her tenacity and spunk, but she and Bill seem to be fighting the last war using the DLC handbook.

We as Democrats have a chance at achieving victory in what could be a realigning election. Unfortunately, given what I have seen this campaign - the over-reliance on projected expectations of 'inevitablity' and the over-valuing of inside the beltway connections - I do not think Hillary would be able to wage the sort of campaign necessary to pull it off.

Such an election would require a greater organizational talent and the ability to motivate not only confirmed Democrats but also to attract others who have never really thought of themselves as Democrats. We as Democrats win when we grow as a party and that is the best way to break the current deadlock in the electoral college, Congress and the nation at large.

Obama's ability to organize in state after state and mobilize Democrat old and new speak to the potential to achieve such a victory. He is winning not because of a 'cult of hope,' but rather because he is able to articulate the vision of a political realignment to ordinary people and convince them that they have the power to make it happen. That is what truly excites me about Obama - his combination of organizational skill, strategic vision and they way he marries them together with inspiring but also very accessible language. He just doesn't ask you to 'hope' - he provides a very visible and effective organization within which you can easily volunteer and work to realize your 'hope.' When he say "yes WE can," he means it in a way that the Hillary campaign simply does not match organizationally.

As a political scientist, I can say that he is the first politician I have know who is able to both organize and communicate effectively around the idea of a realigning election. It is fascinating to watch but also very inspiring. Here's hoping that those who mistake the Obama 'phenomenon' as a fad or salesman's schtick take a deeper look at the hard work and thought that has actually gone into creating this opportunity for us all.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Caucus Craziness

The caucuses held out here in Colorado's front range were woefully unprepared for the number of attendees who showed up. Our caucus had to be moved from a classroom to a school gym to accomodate the great numbers of people who came. Of course, it was as about as organized as a spelling bee organized by illiterates. It took the caucus chief (or whatever he was) over half an hour to figure out that several hundred people were not going to fit in an average sized schoolroom. He also seems to have never used a megaphone before - whispering several inches behind the mouthpiece as he recited the rules - which served only to create annoying feedback that drowned most of what was said.

The huge numbers were overwhelmingly in favor of Barack Obama. My precinct had 63 for Obama to 17 for Hillary. Unfortunately since we only had three delegates to the state convention they were split 2 for Obama and 1 for Hillary (I was chosen as an alternate for Obama). The differences between the supporters was stunning as well. The Obama folks were a cross-section, young, old, male, female, professionals, students, mothers with small children, retirees. And while the Obama folks were celebratory, the Hillary supporters for the most part has an expression that said 'I think I just bit into a rotten egg.' The Hillary folks did nothing to dispel the image that she is the favored candidate of what seemed to be primarily over forty women with a politico or two sprinkled in. Now I know that is not the case, but got no hint of it with the sample that was on display.

Well as frustrating as it was at times (and believe me there is no reason in the world why every caucus should be replaced with a primary), it was also exhilarating to gather together with so many people who came together for the same political purpose, much like the feeling I have had attended some political rallies. It is also exciting to be taking part in what could well be the creation of a new Democratic majority. You could practically here the tectonic plates shifting as in state after state without a lock-down dominant Democratic political establishment (and even in a few with one), Obama's supporters swept aside the old party guard: Colorado, Idaho, North Dakota, Kansas, Alabama, Alaska and Utah.

That is the promise Obama brings to so many people - the ability to capitalize on John Dean's 50 state strategy by challenging Republicans everywhere because he is the right person to present the core Democratic positions in a way that does not polarize but rather speaks to our common concerns. Hillary, whether you judge it to be her fault or not, simply has (a) too much baggage and (b) has too often allowed political calculations to trump what should be decisions of conscience and principle - not only in the health care debacle in 1994 but as recent as the vote to go to war in Iraq and her votes to in essence authorize war with Iran (by declaring a part of the Iranian military a 'terrorist organization' therefore subject to military action).

Obama has always opposed the war, both when such a position was unpopular and now when it is the majority view. But the larger point is not that Obama is uniquely virtuous, the point is that like other great Americans like FDR, MLK or the dead Kennedys, he can reach people and get them to rethink their allegiances by appealling to their better natures. None of these people were saints, but they were able to channel and facilitate a movement of people coming together for the common good, and not simply fighting to retain the larger half. The Democratic Party has to grow if it is going to accomplish any of the goals it has set for itself. I don't see that growth happening under Hillary, instead there will likely only be score-settling on both sides.

Obama is the messenger who can help us transform the Democratic party into the majority party for the next half century by once again making the government the servant of the people, a people energized and aware of the strength they have when they come together and do not settle for the tit-for-tat of establishment politics.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

The problem with the Clintons

Josh Marshall has a stab at analyzing why he, presumably many other folks who like the Clintons, are feeling queasy about the role the Bill is playing in the campaign, which I think speaks to a general uneasiness with the whole idea of a dynastic 'Billary' candidacy in certain ways.

In his analysis, it stems from the fact that Bill is something rare - a former Democratic president who is popular, alive, and married to a leading candidate for the nomination. This puts Josh in a bind, since he, presumably again like many others, has genuine affection for Bill as a prominent member of the party, but feels that Bill is using that goodwill in unfair ways by attempting to play a partisan role in his wife's campaign. At least that is the gist of what I can take away from what Josh has to say, click the link above and judge for yourself.

In stating this as the potential source of his discomfort, Josh dismisses the idea that race-baiting may play any role in his conflicted feelings. While I agree with him that the Obama camp overreacted and that the press has run away with the issue, inflating it to proportions far outsized when compared to the initial statements, I disagree with his analysis dimissing this as a factor. In fact I think it is a major factor, and one that people have had trouble putting their finger on, because discussions or analyses of race make most people uncomfortable unless it is an incident that is just clearly beyond the pale.

I think what has Josh, and others as well, feeling a bit squeemish about the Clintons is the fact that they have very deliberately sought to inject race into the campaign but in such a way that no blame could come back to them. Just take for example the outsized brouhaha about LBJ and MLK.

The obstensible point was to contrast 'deeds' with 'words.' Of course, the comparison was forced and nonsensical on many levels: it was many deeds and not just words that created an environment where policy could move forward before LBJ ever became President. And deeds without words can often be overlooked without words (or TV cameras) to place them in proper context and give them meaning in a larger narrative.

But to focus on these distinctions misses the point: no one ever thought of stating that Hillary is the second coming of LBJ when it comes to legislative acumen. Rather it was a roundabout way to bring up the notions Civil Rights and Uppity Black People, which are still sadly linked in many Americans' subconsciousnesses. The Clintons did not have to beat anyone over the head about it, all they had to do was provoke something that could be interpreted as defensiveness from the Obama camp and let the press do what it does best: keep hitting the 'hot button' - which happened to be race in this case - via repetition, innuendo and reckless speculation in order to gin up false drama and excitement. The Clintons should know this game well, having been stung innumerable times by it when it concerned innuendoes of illicit sex.

Now several underlings in the Clinton campaign have been more heavy handed than Hillary or Bill himself, but when you are a past president with a remarkablely lawyer-like command of the English language (yes, the "depends on what the meaning of 'is' is" comment is apropos here), then even his seemingly off-hand or potentially misinterpreted comments are going to be influential and hence should be viewed in a skeptical light.

Now, as Josh has said, Obama and some of his supporters think he should be above hard-ball politics. I agree, there at times seems to be a degree of willful blindness in thinking that Republicans won't play the race issue like an organ, in all sorts of coded, deceitful and crude ways. But on the other hand, I think the fact that the Clintons have decided to play the race card is at the root of the feeling of unease that many are feeling regarding the Clintons. After all, Bill was supposed the be the first 'Black president,' wasn't he?

I think it is the dawning awareness that is demonstrated by these incidents that, whatever the Clintons may tell themselves, they would do anything, damage their own party and destroy anyone by any means in order to advance their careers that has shaken some people up.

Now politics is not for saints. LBJ helped orchestrate some of the most noble if not the most noble legislation in my lifetime, and he was by all accounts a rascal. But he was also a man of accomplishments. Indeed, I think the irony on the whole issue of 'deeds' is Hillary's resume undercuts her very claims to being an 'agent of change.' One can think of health reform in 1994, but even more recent examples - the vote to declare an arm of the Iranian military a terrorist organization - has shown her to be a habitual follower rather than leader. I'll be the first to agree that the nineties under Bill were the best time we have had in a quarter century. But I am sorry, that is faint praise given what we have had in comparison. We should have higher standard for office than not being total screw up and say what you want, triangulation is not a recipe for social progress.

I think much of the hunger for change that Obama seems best able to fulfill is due in large part to the fact that people realize at a gut level that all the Clintons offer is a well-run version of Republicanism-lite packaged together with with a good dollop of personal hatreds, vendettas, and partisan strife. While I agree with Josh that it is foolish to think such strife will dissipate, I DO think that people are savvy to the fact that unless we want to refight the same endless struggles of the past two decades over again, we need a new way to reach voters who are not sold on the Clintons and in that way capitalize on the strengths of what should be an emerging Democratic majority.

But fighting all the old fights - personal and otherwise - with a leader at the helm who would rather triangulate than articulate is NOT the path to such change. Some might say we should not hold the Clintons' enemies against them, but that misses the point. For far too long have people embraced the Clintons because of their enemies. Bill's popularity rose in reaction to the attacks upon him. I am struck that more do not find it odd that Hillary only seems sympathetic under similar circumstances. It is a sad but historic fact the Bill threw the Democratic Party under the bus in order, as he saw it, to salvage his presidency. I have no doubts that Hillary would do the same, and in fact that is part of the dynamic that we are seeing today - injecting race into the primaries will only help to weaken the Party, regardless of who wins.

And while Obama may not be a perfect candidate (I too find his 'above partisanship' posture off-putting) he is practically the only candidate who holds any promise of forging a new Democratic majority that breaks with the stale 'lets-clean-up-this-GOP-mess' politics of the DLC, the Clinton establishment and, yes, the past. Hillary can't and won't do it. Edwards has had his shot. Obama may be a just another politician like the Clintons (at times that is how they seek to portray him, when not depicting him as an out-of-touch dreamer). But he has not been give the chance to fail. Hillary has.

That is the hope people are voting for when they vote for Obama, the hope for something other than back to the future redux that another Clinton presidency - and the harm it would do to the Democratic Party at large - would likely yield.