Friday, March 21, 2008

Obama Campaign Leaks Bill Clinton-Reverend Wright Photo

I had mentioned in an earlier post the inevitability of Barack Obama succumbing to "the real world of Washington politics," and that he would eventually go negative. Well he has done just that. Late yesterday, the above photo of President Clinton and the now infamous Reverend Jeremiah Wright shaking hands was provided to the NY Times by the Obama campaign. The shot was taken at a 1998 annual prayer breakfast at the height of the Monica Lewinsky scandal, where Bill Clinton addressed a group of high-profile clerics, outlining his affair with Lewinsky and confessing his sins.

Why, oh why, would Obama release this photograph at this time? Perhaps to divert attention away from the Wright mess he brought on himself? What is he saying here, that Hillary Clinton should be subject to the same ridicule over Mr. Wright that Obama has? Just because the Clintons invited him to this prayer breakfast? Come on. That is weak, and reflects so poorly on Barack. It shows vulnerability in the face of the first big challenge of his campaign. There can be no other explanation for releasing the photo than to play negative politics. No other reason. And what is funny is that it is not even good negative politics, how does this hurt Hillary? I don't see how. The American people are not going to fall for this ill-advised tactic, and I hope Obama gets some flak for it. Alluding to a prior post, is Obama abandoning his promise of "no negative attacks?" I think he is on a slippery slope, and if he falters then his campaign is running on an idea of nothing. No change, just same old, same old. Clinton spokesman Jay Carson put it best by saying:

"The Obama campaign put this photo out? How pathetic. Less than 48 hours after calling for a high-minded conversation on race, the Obama campaign is peddling photos of an occasion when President Clinton shook hands with Rev. Wright. To be clear, President Clinton took tens of thousands of photos during his 8 years as president."

I fully agree with the Clinton camp, and I believe America will as well. Weak, Obama... weak.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

McCain Takes Fallible Stance For Facing The Blues

McCain finally got back in the headlines by suspending a staffer today for posting a video about Obama and his pastor Wright. Apparently aired on YouTube, the video implied that Obama was somehow unpatriotic and included the now recognizable clips of the Reverend's sermons.

What is interesting here though, is not the scandal of the video, but the stance that McCain is taking. He is touting, publicly, that he will not engage in personal attacks with Democrats. Does he expect us to forget his campaign against Mitt Romney. Granted, Obama and Clinton are distracting enough but you cannot imagine the people who are truly passionate about politics to forget the heated debates where Huckabee pleaded to be heard with comments such as: "I didn't come here to umpire a ballgame between these two [McCain and Romney]... I came to take a swing at a few myself."

I do not think this is an attempt to gain media attention; he did the right thing to refute his staffer's opinions. I do think that he his choosing his words a little too carefully. We have seen him succumb to personal attacks before so why would that be different when he is facing opponents that aren't even a part of his own party? It seems like he might be trapping himself.

No one should ever intentionally say things meant only to hurt feelings or point out baseless flaws, but occasionally there are aspects of a person's life that should be highlighted in order to get a better view of the whole picture. By promising not to use personal comments in debate, he may be gaining some short term publicity and respect for his ethical decisions, but he will be limiting himself in the future at best, and at worst, he will be condemned as a hypocrite. This is a lofty strategy and one that could come back to haunt him.

Clinton Tops Polls; Still Faces Uphill Battle

In the latest Gallup Poll, Senator Clinton has taken a sizeable advantage over Senator Obama. Clinton took her first lead in the weekly poll since Super Tuesday, with Democratic voters now handing her a 49% to 42% edge over Obama. In another poll, Clinton has more than doubled her lead to 16 points in Pennsylvania, 51% to 35%.

Is this due to the Reverend Wright episode? While we may never be completely sure, it is a telling statistic that the week Obama faces his first wave of scrutiny of his past or the people he associates himself with, he slides dramatically in a national popular poll. At the same time, we should keep in mind that these polls were taken before Obama's response speech on Tuesday. Even so, Obama's surge to front-runner status has been viewed by observers like me with skepticism and bewilderment, and both the Wright fiasco and these polls perhaps indicate that some Americans are feeling tentative about nominating a politician with which they have precious little history. This is Obama's first negative press, and while I think he handled it sufficiently, I do believe it proves that he could be susceptible to harsh attacks in the general election, and his slipping in the polls may put question to his electability.

Things have looked brighter for Clinton of late, and although she has widened her leads in PA and US polls, she still has a mountain to climb. The New York Times notes that Clinton needs "three breaks" to take the nomination from front-runner Obama. She absolutely must defeat Obama soundly in Pennsylvania, we are talking by at least 15 points if not more. The above poll definitely boosts confidence for Clinton's campaign on this note. Second, and with much more difficulty, she needs to come to the Convention in Denver with a lead in the national popular vote. Let's face it, she is not going to make up the pledged delegate deficit, so count that out. But having a lead in the popular vote will make her case to be the nominee much more credible. Finally, The Times states that she must win over the hearts and minds of superdelegates.

For her efforts in trying to seat Michigan and Florida's delegates, the Obama campaign will go on portraying Clinton as a politician who will do "anything to win", which is the Obama camp playing Washington politics at its finest. I have been disheartened to see Obama ducking the issue with generic responses like "we will play by the rules" and will do "whatever the DNC proposes to seat these delegates," yet castigating Clinton for her attempts to enfranchise these voices. Obama is playing the way he needs to play to win, and so is Clinton. You cannot tell me that if the situation were reversed, that Obama would not be lobbying day in and day out for those votes to count. Let's be real people. Clinton needs these votes to cut into both his delegate lead, and more importantly, his popular vote lead. So what she is doing is perfectly normal. If FL and MI are not counted, she has what seems to be an insurmountable hill to climb.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

It’s Not Guilt By Association; It’s Guilt By Participation

Yes, we can all agree that Obama gave a very impassioned speech on race in America. In many, if not most, respects he is right. The American experience revolves around race, for all of us. For asking us to look at those issues, he should be thanked. It was a very good speech. Especially when taken out of the primary presidential campaign context. Obama would be much more believable on the issue if he had made this speech at the beginning of his campaign; if he had acknowledged that race was an issue in his campaign early on, instead of repeatedly denying that fact. In this speech made toward the end of the primary campaign, he finally admits that race is, and always has been, an issue for him and his community, much as it has been for most citizens of this great country.

But, did Obama actually address the real issue before him and those of us who must choose the nominee of our party, or the next president; the issue of the hateful, divisive, ugly words and ideas professed many, many, times by his pastor, his self-admitted spiritual advisor for these past twenty plus years, for virtually his entire adult life.

I do not believe he did.

The fact is that Obama made this speech, at this moment, out of political necessity, not out of any moral imperative. He saw his support falling dramatically over the past week, and he knew that he had to change course, to take on an issue that he had before publicly chosen to ignore. And, while that certainly does not mean he was insincere in most of what he said; it does mean that he saw a political reality, so he changed his mind. I am convinced that he would not have made a similar speech if he had not been confronted by public disclosure of the hateful divisive language uttered by his pastor, at least not during the campaign.

He did artfully and impressively manage to change the issue from that of anti-American hateful religious rhetoric to one solely about race. I will not repeat what Wright told his congregation on all those Sundays. I realize that race is a factor in what Wright preached, but it certainly is not the only or greatest factor. Politics played just as important of a role in those sermons. Just replay the one about Hillary Clinton. That was pure politics.

Obama skirted around the political tone and content of Wright’s preaching and focused on race. I believe he did so because as a politician in a close race for the nomination he could in no way politically justify his past close and continuing relationship with an individual who preaches that we Americans are responsible for 9-11-01; that we Americans are responsible for HIV/Aids; that we Americans intentionally infected people of color with HIV/Aids in some racially inspired war. Such words are political suicide for any presidential candidate. They are also words not only about race, but about politics, and beliefs deeply held. So, in the end Obama disowns the words, but continues to embrace the man who preaches them.

Obama chose the following words: “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother … .”

It is simply is not fair or genuine to suggest, as did Obama, that choosing to remain a member of a religious congregation is the same as remaining a brother or grandson or nephew; that choosing and keeping a spiritual advisor is the same thing as loving or keeping a daughter or mother or cousin. Obama chose to join Wright’s congregation. He chose to stay in the pews and listen for 20 years. He chose to stay with his pastor despite hearing those hateful and inflammatory words. He chose to place Wright on his presidential campaign committee knowing that he had uttered those sermons; and Obama chose to keep Wright on his campaign committee until news about those sermons broke. Obama chose to stay and participate in Wright’s congregation.

In the end it is not an issue of guilt by association; it’s an issue of guilt by participation.

Five Years in Iraq

Five years ago today US and coalition forces began operations to overthrow Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, thus beginning one of the most controversial wars in American history. Across the mainstream media and the blogosphere, people will no doubt be painting starkly contrasting assessments of this endeavor, from hysterical cynicism to blind optimism. There will be those that broadcast the casualties while muting any successes. And there will be those like Dick Cheney that continue to wear blinders, and refuse to acknowledge the glaring errors made by this administration and pay only lip service to the terrible sacrifices this country has had to make in the name of this war. We invite all opinions on this blog for sure, but in looking back on these past five years and on into the future, I feel a candid and reasoned assessment, avoiding useless hyperbole, is needed.

In critiquing the early stages of the war, there is little to write positive. I, for one, was initially against the war, feeling that the Bush administration had not given enough solid evidence that Hussein possessed WMD, and that we were rushing throwing our troops into Iraq with no legitimate 'smoking gun.' History will write that the administration's grounds for the war was at best unauthentic, and at worst sinister deception. Iraq had no WMD and Saddam was seemingly not an 'immediate threat.' He did have relations with Al Qaeda and other terrorist agencies, but did not coordinate 9/11 nor any other US terror attacks. No one can deny the world is a better place without the likes of Saddam Hussein running nations, but on the same token no one can deny that the Bush administration cataclysmically blundered the initial occupation after toppling Hussein. You can't quell insurgency and occupy without troops, and Donald Rumsfeld should be vilified in history for his appallingly stubborn decisions to not increase ground troop levels throughout his abysmal leadership at the DoD. His actions were indefensible, it should have been obvious that more troops were needed to reduce violence, and should not have taken until 2007's surge tactic to realize this point.

We are a nation divided because of this war. I believe this is in large part due to the way we discuss this war. This should not be a partisan war, this should not be a war dominated by both poles throwing flames at each other. There needs to be practical and useful discourse. So on a day like this, we should talk about the Iraq War's past, but we should focus on the future. I am sick and tired of talk about 'who supported the invasion' and who 'from day one did not.' We are in Iraq. That is the bottom line. Yes it may have been blind arrogance and unfettered hubris that got us there, yes the post-invasion agenda should have been managed better, and yes American lives are being lost everyday. But let's focus on what our next step will be without taking cheap shots at other parties. A stable Iraq is a positive for the entire world, especially an America fighting the cult of terrorism. So while I did not initially support the invasion, I do advocate remaining in Iraq until stability is secured and Al Qaeda is drastically weakened or eliminated from Iraq altogether. I have seen positives from the recent surge, and I rack my brain thinking that maybe so much violence could have been avoided had Bush listened to Powell and utilized more troops from the start. What happens to Iraq if we fully withdraw? For those that desire either a quick or sustained withdrawal, if our next President implements such a strategy, I only hope that he or she fully sees the reality of such a decision, where Iraq is embroiled in chaos. I only hope that such a decision does not mean that the US is right back in Iraq in 5 or so years. Let's hope such a decision is made with extensive contingency planning, and a much better sense of reality than the Bush administration had post-invasion.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama Delivers Passionate Speech on Race in America

Amid the race and gender firestorm that has recently engulfed the Democratic presidential nomination contest, Sen. Barack Obama today delivered a heartfelt and passionate speech focused race relations in our country and on his own experiences as a biracial American. Watch and read the full text of the speech here.

The man nailed it on the head. There is no doubt about that. Already well-known as a great orator, Obama's speech today has only served to enhance that reputation. His assessment that "race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now... that we would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality" is spot on. He acknowledges that race is the terrain of American society that we have not yet conquered when he says, "the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect."

It was good to see him address race. I apologize if this is an inaccurate assessment, but it seems that he has somewhat just glazed over the subject in this campaign, with the occasional word but no in-depth speech like this. It was a breath of fresh air to hear him say that race is not something we need to dodge as a campaign subject, it is something we need to discuss in a calm and politically correct fashion.

I implore all of you to read the transcript and watch the speech.

Donkey Daze

According to CNN, Obama and Clinton are in a stastical horse race when polling against McCain. With all of the divisiveness of the democrative party; voting problems in Texas, Florida and Michigan, claims of unfair criticism regarding both sex and race as well as the continued outbursts from representatives and close friends that need to be publicly refuted by the candidates, I am surprised that more Democrats aren't bewildered rather than polarized within their own party.

Celebrities are endorsing both sides. Comedy shows are mocking both sides. And we are talking about one party here. Just the democrats. McCain is barely even talked about these days unless it is when comparing whether or not it would be Obama or Clinton that could beat him. With so many passionate people in the democratic party it will be interesting to see whether or not this will divide the party (remember that Ralph Nader will be an easy alternative choice for pride hurt blues) or maybe the opposite will happen. The democrats are getting so much media attention and people are getting more involved; could this snowball to a powerful force in the future?

I, for one, am confused. These two are fairly similar on policies with minor discrepancies (depending on perspective). They both are representative of underrepresented minorities. And we also know exactly who each would be running against. Can we end this already so I can start focusing on the next choice? I have considered all the differences and am ready to move to the next step, but feel like I am in purgatory, being punished for years of allowing a Bush administration to rule over us by watching the Democrats tear themselves apart. Get me out of this Donkey Daze.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Political Absurdity

The democratic process has been violated to the utmost with an upper case 'U.' The other day in the local Camden at Gaines Ranch (my apt complex) monthly meeting of residents and potential residents and visitors curious about our community, some very disturbing events took place. In what was suppose to be a vote if we should begin recycling glass, turned into a dictatorship and put an asterisk next to the meeting minutes in the history books. It's a given that I want to recycle glass but I can only make a decision based on perspectives from both sides. The fact that Tom Morecilli wasn't allowed to explain why recycling glass would be a burden on our community forced local residents to vote without necessary and complete information. I'm a fair person and maintain a strict diet of supplements from local stores but when I'm forced to vote without the proper information to make a qualified decision then our so-called apartment community who boasts a 'democratic' community is clearly nothing more than a mockery of something that could be such a great thing.

End the Charade with a National Primary

As a change of pace, let's talk not about the candidates, but the system as a whole. Who here supports a National Primary?

I believe that we are currently employing an unfit system that does not give voice to our country as a whole. Too much importance is placed on the early contests like New Hampshire and Iowa, which do not represent the whole country. They are white, rural states and having them determine who will be each party's nominee is unfair and undemocratic. We have all seen so many candidates drop out after getting trounced in early states, when having other states go first could have lead to an entirely different outcome. Proponents of our current system play up that state and local issues are at the forefront of the nomination, something that can sometimes be lost in national elections. But, these candidates are running for just that, President of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA. So it pains me to see candidates tailor their platforms to each individual state, then move onto the next state and completely change the dialogue. This a national political office, and so the candidate should have a national campaign. And just how sincere is the candidate being when they bring up local/state issues in each state? The website cites a The Economist article: "A good example is 'one topic all presidential candidates agree on in the run-up to the Iowa caucuses (is) ethanol production is a very good thing and should be handsomly subsidized' (The Economist, 2004, pg. 24). Did they all think that way before running for President?" I, for one, highly doubt it.

So, in sum, I feel that our nominating process for President should mirror our process for selecting the President in November, with a national vote on the same day. Most other nominating processes in each state are done this way, from the Senate to the judiciary to State Legislatures. Why not Presidential primaries? I suggest all readers visit the aforementioned website (which seems to date back to 2004, but is still relevant in this year's heavily contested race). Go to

Your thoughts please on this highly important matter...

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Texas Caucuses and Clinton

No doubt we will all be hearing or reading a great deal in the next few days about the letter the Hillary campaign sent to the Texas Democratic Party.

"Therefore, it is our understanding that the results will be counted and delegates awarded based on a count of votes without any and without any certification by the Precinct Chairs or County and Senate District Chairs that they completed a thorough review of the eligibility of participants and delegate candidates.

. . .

We believe this is in direct contravention of the Rules, which require that the Party determine the eligibility of participants and that only the votes of eligible participants are counted. Moreover, if the Party's reason for not ensuring that only eligible participants are counted is based on the fact that the Party cannot complete the review process prior to the scheduled date of the County and Senate District Conventions, the campaigns can't possibly complete this review in a timely fashion. Credentials challenges are presently due March 26.

We believe that (1) it is a violation of the Party's Delegate Selection Plan and Rules for the Party not to ensure that the eligibility of participants was determined before their votes are counted; and (2) if the Party cannot complete this task in time to hold the next level conventions on March 29, those conventions must be postponed until such time as accurate presidential preference counts can be made based on a review of each and every sign in sheet to determine eligibility of participants and delegates.

It is a violation of the rights of legitimate participants to have their true vote count distorted by violations of the Party's Rules.

It is the Party's responsibility to ensure the integrity of the precinct convention process by making sure that the Rules were followed and that the final official results of the precinct conventions are accurate and in compliance with the Rules.

Therefore, we respectfully request that the Party explain to both campaigns what procedures will be followed to ensure the accuracy and integrity of the precinct convention results and agree to postpone the County and Senate District Conventions until such time as that process can be completed."

It seems the Texas Democratic Party, despite clearly published rules requiring it to verify county convention delegates' eligibility prior to the county conventions taking place, refuses to do so. Also, you will notice that the Hillary's campaign described in detail the rules violations that allegedly occurred at many precinct caucuses on March 4, including sign-ins by people not eligible to vote at the caucuses, the assignment or selection of delegates ineligible to serve as delegates to the county conventions, failure to ratify or certify the selection of the delegates by the precinct convention that night, failure to allow voter sign-in and basing candidate support percentages on head or hand counts; all in direct violation of party rules, and basic tenets of participatory democracy at caucuses.

And, no doubt we will begin to hear the cries from the other candidate that he supports the process and that Clinton is simply trying to once again disenfranchise the voters:

“We don’t think that the record-breaking number of Texans who stood up to be counted on March 4th would appreciate the Clinton campaign’s attempt to disenfranchise them and silence their voices just because the outcome wasn’t politically beneficial to Senator Clinton” – said Obama spokesman Dan Pfeiffer.
So, the lines have been drawn and the hypocrisy will begin to fly, and, no doubt, the media will once again let Obama off easy.

Since when is it wrong to make certain that only those eligible to vote at the caucuses did so! Since when is it wrong to verify that clearly laid out caucus rules were followed the night of March 4! Since when is it wrong to make certain that the state Democratic Party complies with its own rules on selecting delegates.

If by "disenfranchising" Obama means we should allow ineligible people to vote for him at the precinct caucuses, then he is a hypocrite. If by "silencing" voices he means allowing ineligible people to serve as delegates for him to our Party's conventions, then he is a hypocrite. If he thinks Texas Democrats "appreciate" violations of the rules, then he is simply wrong.

Obama has long taken the position that we must follow the party rules and not change them during the campaign, even if it meant disenfranchising millions of voters in Florida and Michigan; and he still takes that position. And for the most part, that is one of his strongest positions. But, now, much the same as his position on the so-called super delegates, he doesn't believe the rules really matter, or that they should be followed. Somehow, to him, following the Texas Party rules will disenfranchise voters, when, in fact, those rules are designed, when followed, to enfranchise voters.

Just imagine what the media and Obamatons would be yelling if there was evidence that hundreds or thousand of ineligible voters showed up at the polls on March 4th and voted in the primary en masse for Hillary, and the State Party refused to ensure voter eligibility prior to certifying the primary results. We know what would happen.

The problem is, although nothing new to the Obama style of saying one thing but then saying the opposite if it helps you win, that the rules remain the rules. The rules in Texas have been set for a very long time now, and are no less rules because we are not Florida. The State Party must verify the eligibility of caucus voters and delegates prior to the county conventions on March 29, especially considering the alleged violations that occurred in many of the precinct caucuses. The party is now refusing to do that. Clinton is well within her rights to demand that the Party follow the rules, and should make that demand, as should Obama.

And, for the candidate - Obama - who continues to demand that we follow the rules and disenfranchise two entire states' democrat voters, even to the extent of refusing to agree to a re-vote, I say stop being such an obviously self-serving old-style Chicago machine politician, and agree to follow the rules even on those occasions when it may not help you win.

But, I predict the media, if it picks up this story, will once again crucify Hillary, labeling her as someone who will do anything to get elected; they will once again follow the Obama line, ignore the truth, that Hillary is simply trying ensure that the Texas rules are followed.