Friday, February 29, 2008

Obama Supporter Tony Rezko Faces Trial Monday

Photo credits: Courtesy of

Barack Obama has offered himself to the electorate as the harbinger of “the new politics” throughout the Democratic race, and he’s poised to seal the deal in next Tuesday’s primaries. However, voters in Ohio and Texas would do well to tune into the corruption trial of one of Obama's longtime friends and supporters set to begin Monday in Chicago.

According to ABC News, “reform watchdogs say it {the trial} will reveal the ‘cesspool’ of Illinois politics in which Obama came of age and has said little about in his campaign for president.”

The report continues: "'We have a sick political culture,’ said Jay Stewart, the executive director of the Chicago Better Government Association, ‘and that's the environment that Barack Obama came from.'

“Stewart says he does not understand why Obama has lectured others about corruption in Washington and Kenya but ‘been noticeably silent on the issue of corruption here in his home state, including at this point, mostly Democratic politicians.'"

To read more of the ABC News report, go here:


Jeralyn at TalkLeft posted on Rezko's upcoming trial this past Tuesday:

"Let me start out by saying, as I have before, that I don't think Barack Obama did anything illegal in his dealings with Anton "Tony" Rezko. Obama has labeled his involvement with Rezko and his wife in the purchase of his home "boneheaded." In other words, since Rezko was under federal investigation by a grand jury at the time Obama bought the $1.65 million house, it was bad judgment, nothing more."

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Obama Campaign Allegedly Deceives Ohio Voters on NAFTA

TalkingPointsMemo’s Eric Kleefeld reports on a development today that calls into question the Obama campaign’s honesty regarding their position on NAFTA, an issue close to the heart of Ohioans primed to vote in the Democratic primary next Tuesday.

A new report from Canada's CTV says that according to Canadian government sources, a senior official from the Obama campaign secretly assured a Canadian official not to take Obama's talk about threatening to pull out of NAFTA too seriously, noting that it was just "campaign rhetoric":

Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs did not strictly deny the allegations, only saying that it sounded implausible to him. "Senator Obama does not make promises he doesn't intend to keep," Gibbs added. Clinton campaign officials strongly denied similar allegations.

(The CTV video clip posted at TPM reports the Clinton campaign supports its denial of similar allegations by offering the Canadian government blanket immunity to disclose the name of anyone from their camp who may have directly or indirectly contacted a Canadian official.)

If this report catches on, it has the potential {to} undermine Obama's outreach to working-class whites in Ohio, many of whom still resent the Clinton Administration's passage of the free trade deal back in the 90s. It could also take the steam out of the Obama campaign's claims that Hillary favored NAFTA, something she denies.

The source for that is CTV, Canada's largest private broadcaster.

UPDATE: The Obama campaign has labeled the CTV report "inaccurate." The Canadian embassy in the United States denies that the reported incident occurred, although acknowledging that the embassy discusses various issues with campaign representatives.

As a native of Ohio, I'd advise my friends and relatives to adopt a high degree of skepticism as they vote in their primary next Tuesday.

Senator Obama: All Talk and No Action on Afghanistan

Photo Credits: Associated Press

Senator Barack Obama chairs a Foreign Affairs subcommittee on Europe. In the Tuesday night debate in Ohio, Hillary Clinton supported her contention that Obama is all talk and no action by noting that despite his often-voiced concern about the issue, his subcommittee has held no oversight hearings on Afghanistan. Acknowledging the charge, Obama explained that he had been busy campaigning.

On Wednesday, the Clinton Campaign followed up.

CNN reported:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign Wednesday pounced on Sen. Barack Obama's acknowledgment that he has yet to hold a substantive hearing since becoming chairman of a Senate subcommittee on Europe.

The admission during Tuesday night's Democratic debate offered a "glimpse of the real Barack Obama," and was emblematic of the Illinois senator's light record of results, the Clinton camp said in an e-mail.

Obama "did not hold a single oversight hearing because he was too busy running for president; the Barack Obama who spends his time talking about change you can believe in instead of change you actually can count on," the e-mail stated.

Clinton herself raised the issue at the debate in Cleveland.

'"He chairs the subcommittee on Europe. It has jurisdiction over NATO. NATO is critical to our mission in Afghanistan," she said. "He's held not one substantive hearing to do oversight, to figure out what we can do to actually have a stronger presence with NATO in Afghanistan."

In response, Obama noted he has only served as the committee's chairman since January of 2007, just when his presidential campaign was beginning — a fact the Clinton campaign's memo also highlighted.

"But by his own admission, he was too busy running for president to conduct a single substantive hearing of the committee he chairs," the memo stated. "So he would rather talk about what he would do rather than do it through the responsibility he had.”

For the record, Obama has held two hearings on ambassadorial nominations, but no oversight hearings.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Obama Campaign’s Destructive Tactics

Photo credits: Associated Press File Photo

In an article in The New Republic today, Princeton historian Sean Wilentz explains how Barack Obama played the race card and blamed Hillary Clinton. In the process, Wilentz addresses an issue related to one that I raised in a previous post, that is “the gap between Senator Barack Obama's promises of a pure, soul-cleansing ‘new’ politics and the calculated, deeply dishonest conduct of his actually-existing campaign. But it remains to be seen whether the latest ploy by the Obama camp--over allegations about the circulation of a photograph of Obama in ceremonial Somali dress--will be exposed by the press as the manipulative illusion that it is.”

Noting the media’s complicity in the Obama campaign’s destructive tactics, Wilentz states, “This development is the latest sad commentary on the malign power of the press, hyping its own favorites and tearing down those it dislikes, to create pseudo-scandals of the sort that hounded Al Gore during the 2000 campaign. It is also a commentary on how race can make American politics go haywire. Above all, it is a commentary on the cutthroat, fraudulent politics that lie at the foundation of Obama's supposedly uplifting campaign.”
Sean Wilentz is a contributing editor at The New Republic, and the author of The Rise of American Democracy: Jefferson to Lincoln (Norton).

Ohio Debate Raises the Question: Does Obama Support Preemptive War Strategy?

After the previous Democratic debate in Austin, Texas, the punditry echoed one another throughout the week with blatant attempts to diminish Hillary Clinton’s closing statement in which she powerfully connected with the audience who in turn gave her a standing ovation.

Clinton has since responded to the media’s gross distortions of her very moving words as “a valedictory speech” by forcefully demonstrating she’s still very much in the game both in her recent policy speeches and in her performance in last night’s debate at Cleveland State University in Ohio.

Media bias aside, throughout the debate, Clinton once again trumped Obama on substance, far surpassing her opponent with her deep knowledge of issues related to health care, economic concerns, and foreign policy.

On foreign policy, Russert posed the question first to Clinton about Putin’s successor in Russia. According to Clinton’s analysis, Dmitri Medvedev will likely serve as a puppet for Putin, continuing to carry out his policies.

When asked the same question, it was apparent from his blank expression that Obama knew absolutely nothing about the upcoming election in Russia, which forced him to agree with Clinton: “Well, I think Senator Clinton speaks accurately about him. He is somebody who was hand-picked by Putin. Putin has been very clear that he will continue to have the strongest hand in Russia in terms of running the government."

The candidates sparred over the invasion of Iraq as they have in past debates, however, this time, Clinton finally called Obama on his repeated portrayal of his opposition to the war “from the beginning” as if he had actually voted against it. She pointed out that he was ineligible to vote at the time and that since he became a US senator, the two have voted identically on funding the war.

Clinton also pointed out that during the time Obama has chaired a subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee on Europe, he has yet to call a hearing on oversight of the war in Afghanistan, which led to a very startling statement by Obama on how he would as president respond to perceived threats to the United States.

The issue arose when addressing Obama, Russert said: “I want you to respond to not holding oversight for your subcommittee. But also, do you reserve a right as American president to go back into Iraq, once you have withdrawn, with sizable troops in order to quell any kind of insurrection or civil war?”

After excusing himself for neglecting his subcommittee duties in order to campaign, Obama replied in part with a statement that completely contradicts his oft-repeated opposition to the invasion of Iraq and in fact, sounds like a verbatim quote from enumerable speeches by President George W. Bush:

“Now, I always reserve the right for the president -- as commander in chief, I will always reserve the right to make sure that we are looking out for American interests. And if al Qaeda is forming a base in Iraq, then we will have to act in a way that secures the American homeland and our interests abroad. So that is true, I think, not just in Iraq, but that's true in other places. That's part of my argument with respect to Pakistan.”

Brian Williams then called for a break, refusing to give Clinton time to respond to Obama’s statement that might easily be interpreted as his determination - if elected president - to keep Bush’s preemptive war policy on the table, a policy Bush has used time and again to justify invading Iraq.

In a final question, the candidates were asked to name a vote in their careers they now regret. Hillary Clinton mentioned her vote on the Iraq War resolution, which she has often explained was a vote to authorize the use of force only after allowing the inspectors in Iraq to finish their work.

Barack Obama mentioned his vote to allow congress to intervene in the Terry Schiavo case. He inflated his resume by adding that “as a constitutional law professor, I knew better.”

Fact check: Obama was never accorded the status of professor; he was a lecturer of constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School from 1993 until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004.

In the 20th Democratic debate, Hillary Clinton once again demonstrated she is by far the better qualified candidate to serve as president of the United States.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Obama Supporters Riled by Ralph Nader’s Pending Announcement

Photo credits: AP/Carolyn Kaster

It’s the talk of the Internet this evening: Ralph Nader is expected to throw his hat in the ring tomorrow on “Meet the Press.” Gauging the noise on the message boards, Obamaphiles are the group most riled up over Ralph’s potential entry into the presidential race. And well they should be. After all, a key component of Obama’s base is the extreme left wing of the Democratic party – those elite, upscale liberals who not so long ago were labeled Naderites.

The Kansas City Star’s MARIA RECIO reports, “In an e-mail to supporters from his exploratory committee, Nader asks, ‘What's been pulled off the table by the corporatized political machines in this momentous election year? ‘In what amounts to a preview of his campaign themes, he answers himself: ‘Cutting the huge, bloated and wasteful military budget, adopting a single-payer Canadian-style national health insurance system, impeaching Bush/Cheney, opposing nuclear power - among many others.’"

According to The Wall Street Journal, “Barack Obama said today during a visit at the Ohio State University Medical Center that he wasn’t terribly concerned about the prospect of a Nader campaign. ‘I think the job of the Democratic Party is to be so compelling that a few percentage [points] of the vote going to another candidate is not going to make any difference.”’

Here are a few examples of comments by Obama supporters pulled from the Web on a potential run by Nader; as you can see they get ugly at perceived threats to their leader:

1. Nader’s entry into the race is a clear indication that the GOP fears the inevitable Democrat nominee Senator Obama. As they have done in the past, the GOP will fund Nader’s campaign in the hope that he will take away enough votes from Obama to tilt the election to McCain. No worries. Democrats are turning out in such large numbers that the low single digits Nader’s GOP funded campaign will amass, in fact shall amount to the insignificance they truly represent. we’re an informed electorate now. These sophomoric tactics just don’t work anymore.

2. Go F**king!

3. If Ralph Nader fell in a forest, no one would hear him and no one would care. He is just not important. The only "little guy" Ralph Nader is out to protect is himself. His act has grown tired. Nader's swansong if he announces. 4. There is no way that this old man is going to stop the Obama movement. Nader promises NOTHING! Nader... Unsafe at any age.5. We've been there with Nader before and he will be remembered for giving the Republicans victory when they didn't deserve it.

4. If this stupid jerk had stayed out of the 2000 election, Al Gore would have won by a big enough margin so that the problems in Florida and the political Supreme Court would not have kept him from getting the Presidency that the people elected him for. Al Gore would now be near the end of his second term and the Iraq horrors would never have happened. But in 2004 Nader was irrelevant. And with Obama running in 2008 the young people will be flocking to him and Nader will be an irrelevant footnote. I guess Nader's running is essentially an attention-getting device for him. Without this political stunt virtually everybody has virtually forgotten that he is still around. He has now become a vanity candidate, like Alan Keyes on the right.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Clinton’s Substance Trumps Obama’s Style in Austin Debate

In his CapitolAnnex post, Vince Leibowitz agrees with the conclusion I reached last night in my Katalusis post that Hillary Clinton won the debate in Austin hands down.

Arguing that Clinton had more substance than Obama, Leibowitz provides an excellent, in-depth analysis of the policy differences between the two candidates, beginning with a question about the economy (Text from Leibotwitz's post at CapitolAnnex is shown below in blue):

Check Obama’s answer:

OBAMA: Well, first of all, let me emphasize the point that you just made, which is: You don’t need an economist or the Federal Reserve to tell the American people that the economy’s in trouble, because they’ve been experiencing it for years now. Everywhere you go, you meet people who are working harder for less, wages and incomes have flatlined, people are seeing escalating costs of everything from health care to gas at the pump. And so people have been struggling for a long time. In some communities, they have been struggling for decades now. So this has to be a priority of the next president.

In that first part of the answer, Obama pulled a classic move that high school debaters are taught: when you are unsure how to respond to the question or are trying to formulate your response, restate the question and expound on the question and offer some generalities, i.e., “this has to be a priority of the next president.”

Read, now, the remainder of Obama’s answer, followed by intermittent commentary from CapitolAnnex:

Now, what I’ve said is that we have to restore a sense of fairness and balance to our economy, and that means a couple of things. Number one, with our tax code: We’ve got to stop giving tax breaks to companies that are shipping jobs overseas and invest those tax breaks in companies that are investing here in the United States of America.

Standard, boilerplate stuff–what you’d expect. Then, more of what you’d expect:

We have to end the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy…and to provide tax breaks to middle-class Americans and working Americans who need them. So I’ve said that if you are making $75,000 a year or less, I want to give an offset to your payroll tax that will mean $1,000 extra in the pockets of ordinary Americans. Senior citizens making less than $50,000, you shouldn’t have to pay income tax on your Social Security. We pay for these by closing tax loopholes and tax havens that are being manipulated.

There is some substance there, but it isn’t all that substantial: end the Bush tax cuts to the wealthy, give middle class tax breaks.


On our trade deals, I think it is absolutely critical that we engaged in trade, but it has to be viewed not just through the lens of Wall Street, but also Main Street, which means we’ve got strong labor standards and strong environmental standards and safety standards, so we don’t have toys being shipped in the United States with lead paint on them.

Again, generalities and visuals, i.e., “Wall Street, but also Main Street.” Notes bringing in strong labor standards, etc., but doesn’t give much detail and then mentions a hot-button issue like lead-tainted toys. Lots of style, little substance.

Then, check this out, later in the response that rambled on a good bit:

The question people are going to have to ask is: How do we get it done? And it is my strong belief that the changes are only going to come about if we’re able to form a working coalition for change. Because people who were benefiting from the current tax code are going to resist. The special interests and lobbyists are going to resist. And I think it has to be a priority for whoever the next president is to be able to overcome the dominance of the special interests in Washington, to bring about the kinds of economic changes that I’m talking about.

“Coalition for change,” “special interests,” “lobbyists,” all buzzwords. But no specifics on the “kinds of economic changes [Obama is] talking about.”

Then check out Clinton’s response:

CLINTON: Well, I would agree with a lot that Senator Obama just said, because it is the Democratic agenda.

All Obama did was essentially recite party-line-platform points, and Clinton summed that up in one sentence.

Then, more:

CLINTON: We are going to rid the tax code of these loopholes and giveaways. We’re going to stop giving a penny of your money to anybody who ships a job out of Texas, Ohio or anywhere else to another country. We’re certainly going to begin to get the tax code to reflect what the needs of middle class families are so we can rebuild a strong and prosperous middle class.

You know, the wealthy and the well-connected have had a president the last seven years, and I think it’s time that the rest of America had a president to work for you every single day.
Clinton offers more specifics earlier in her response: (1)close the tax loopholes, end corporate giveaways; (2) end incentives and tax credits for outsourcing jobs to foreign countries; (3) reform the tax code to reflect the needs of middle class families. Yes, Obama said “tax breaks,” but that is different from a reform of the tax code. A tax-break implies a one-time deal or provision that must be renewed. Clinton implies actual reform.

More differences:

We will also have a different approach toward trade. We’re going to start having trade agreements that not only have strong environmental and labor standards, but I want to have a trade time-out. We’re going to look and see what’s working and what’s not working, and I’d like to have a trade prosecutor to actually enforce the trade agreements that we have before we enter into any others.

We’re also going to put much tougher standards in place so that people cannot import toys with lead paint, contaminated pet food, contaminated drugs into our market. We’re going to have much more vigorous enforcement of safety standards.

Specifics galore: (1) strong environmental and labor standards (yes, Obama mentioned that, too); (2) a trade “time-out;” (3) re-examination and evaluation of existing trade agreements; (4) trade prosecutor to enforce existing trade agreements; (5) no more trade agreements until we enforce what we have.

More from Senator Clinton:

CLINTON: Now, in addition, there are steps I would take immediately. One is on this foreclosure crisis. I have been saying for nearly a year we had to crack down on the abusive practices of the lenders. But we also need a moratorium on home foreclosures.

Everywhere I go, I meet people who either have been or about to lose their home. 85,000 homes in foreclosure in Texas; 90,000 in Ohio. I’ve met the families: the hairdresser, the single mom who’s going to lose her home, the postal worker who got really hoodwinked into an agreement that wasn’t fair to him.

So I would put a moratorium for 90 days, to give us time to work out a way for people to stay in their homes, and I would freeze interest rates for five years. Because these adjustable-rate mortgages, if they keep going up, millions of Americans are going to be homeless. And vacant homes will be across the neighborhoods of Texas and America.

Again, Obama has a teaspoon full of actual plans, Clinton has an overflowing bucket: (1) foreclosure moratorium; (2) interest rate freeze on adjustable rate mortgages; (3) crack down on the practices of abusive lenders.

Still, more:

CLINTON: Now, in addition, there are three ways we need to jump start the economy.

Clean green jobs; I’ve been promoting this. I wanted it to be part of the stimulus package. I thought a $5 billion investment in clean green jobs would put hundreds of thousands of Americans to work helping to create our future.

We also need to invest in our infrastructure. We don’t have enough roads to take care of the congestion, we have crumbling bridges and tunnels. We need to rebuild America, and that will also put people to work.

And, finally, we need to end George Bush’s war on science, which has been waged against scientists and researchers…
Again, Clinton offers solutions while Obama offers rhetoric: (1) clean green jobs as part of the stimulus package ($5 billion investment); (2) additional investments in infrastructure; (3) end the GOP war on science.

Too, Clinton touches on specific, progressive issues that Obama never really seems to bother with. For one, infrastructure needs and the correlation that this will also help put Americans to work. And, the “war on science,” which includes not only stem cell research but a variety of other scientific arenas the GOP has screwed–or attempted to screw–with.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Clinton Wins Austin Debate Hands Down

Tonight in Austin, Hillary Clinton topped Obama in both her opening statement and in her closing words; in between, she managed to get off the best line in the debate.

Obama had earlier won the draw and elected to go second in presenting his opening statement. But Clinton had the advantage as she talked about her first political job of registering voters in south Texas and recalled living for a while in Austin and San Antonio. She mentioned the many friends she’d made during that period, including Barbara Jordan and Ann Richards. And she also managed to interweave several impressive accomplishments, including major successes in health care for two important groups:

“You know, 350,000 children in Texas get health care every month, because I helped to start the Children's Health Insurance Program. (Applause.) And 21,000 National Guard and Reserve members get access to health care, because I went across the party line and joined up with a Republican senator to make that happen.”

What Obama lacked in comparison to Clinton’s personal experiences in Texas, he supplemented with his usual rhetorical flourishes, presenting himself as the heroic challenger of the status quo:

“But understand that what's lacking right now is not good ideas. The problem we have is that Washington has become a place where good ideas go to die. (Applause.) They go to die, because lobbyists and special interests have a stranglehold on the agenda in Washington. They go to die in Washington, because too many politicians are interested in scoring political points rather than bridging differences in order to get things done.”

In the midst of the debate, Obama, reaching for an example of good judgment, for the umpteenth time boasted of opposing the Iraq War from the beginning, while failing to mention he wasn’t a U.S. Senator when the Iraq War Resolution was passed. He also conveniently forgot to mention his later admission that he didn’t know how he would have voted had he been eligible to do so.

When the issue of Obama’s recent plagiarism of Deval Patrick’s speeches was raised, Clinton didn’t let him get away with trivializing the charges as “silly.” That’s when she got off the night’s zinger:

“Well, I think that if your candidacy is going to be about words, then they should be your own words. That's, I think, a very simple proposition. (Applause.) And you know -- you know, lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in; it's change you can Xerox.”

The two candidates engaged in reasonably civil discussions for the better part of the debate on substantive issues including economic policies, health care, and bringing the troops home from Iraq.

Noticeably rude, Cameron Brown, one of CNN’s questioners, cut Clinton off several times during the evening before she’d finished speaking. As I recall, Brown allowed Obama to finish what he was saying without once interrupting him.

To conclude the debate, the candidates were asked to describe a moment of crisis in their lives that tested them the most. Obama went first this time with a summary of the “trajectory” of his life that culminated in his self-described ability to bring people together.

It was Clinton’s response (transcribed by Federal News Service) that brought the crowd to their feet in a standing ovation:

SEN. CLINTON: Well, I think everybody here knows I have lived through some crises and some challenging -- (laughter) -- moments in my life, and -- (interrupted by cheers, applause).
And I am grateful for the support and the prayers of countless Americans. But people often ask me, how do you do it, you know, how do you keep going, and I just have to shake my head in wonderment because with all of the challenges that I've had, they are nothing compared to what I see happening in the lives of Americans every single day.

You know, a few months ago I was honored to be asked, along with Senator McCain, as the only two elected officials to speak at the opening of the Intrepid Center at Brooke Medical Center in San Antonio, a center designed to take care of and provide rehabilitation for our brave young men and women who have been injured in war. And I remember sitting up there and watching them come in: those who could walk were walking; those who had lost limbs were trying with great courage to get themselves in without the help of others; some were in wheelchairs and some were on gurneys. And the speaker representing these wounded warriors had had most of his face disfigured by the results of fire from a roadside bomb.

You know, the hits I've taken in life are nothing compared to what goes on every single day in the lives of people across our country. And I resolved at a very young age that I'd been blessed, and that I was called by my faith and by my upbringing to do what I could to give others the same opportunities and blessings that I took for granted. That's what gets me up in the morning. That's what motivates me in this campaign. (Cheers, applause.) And -- and you know, no matter what happens in this contest -- and I am honored. I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored. (Cheers, applause.)

SEN. OBAMA: (Off mike.)

SEN. CLINTON: And you know, whatever happens, we're going to be fine. You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends. I just hope that we'll be able to say the same thing about the American people, and that's what this election should be about. Thanks. (Cheers, applause)

MS. BROWN: All right. A standing ovation here in Austin, Texas. Our thanks to Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton. Appreciate your time tonight -- (cheers, applause) -- and to John and Jorge as well.

No question about it: Hillary Clinton won this debate hands down.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Plagiarism and Other Charges Cloud Obama’s Latest Wins

Associated Press: Barack Obama and Deval Patrick

Before Obama was declared the winner in Wisconsin on Tuesday, Gallup reported:

“Hillary Clinton has rebounded among Democrats in the Gallup Poll Daily tracking average for Feb. 16-18. She is now at 45% to Barack Obama's 46%. Clinton was seven percentage points behind Obama in the Feb. 15-17 average. In Monday night's interviewing, Clinton's percentage of the vote of national voters was higher than Obama's, but there has been fluidity in the nightly tracking numbers over the past several days as Democrats nationally process the intense, often heated, nature of the campaign. Monday's news coverage of the Democratic campaign was replete with a focus on the Clinton campaign's charges that Obama had plagiarized material from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick and other negative attacks on Obama by the Clinton campaign. It is unclear which, if any, of these factors could be responsible for changes in the candidates' standing.”

News coverage of plagiarism found in several of Obama’s major speeches, his waffling on a pledge to accept public financing for the general election if the nominee of the opposing party did the same, and other charges raised by his opponents didn’t surface in time to influence the outcome of the Wisconsin and Hawaii primaries that Obama won handily.

It’s also true that many in the media irresponsibly followed Obama’s lead in brushing off the charges of plagiarism by suggesting that stealing lines from the speeches of Mass. Governor Deval Patrick (pictured above), as well as adopting major themes from Patrick’s earlier campaign, is no big deal.

However, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank covers all the bases this morning, noting that “A week of news that could have killed a lesser candidate only made Obama stronger,” Milbank continues:

“Obama made things worse for himself. First came word that he was backing down on his promise to seek public financing in the general election if the Republican agreed to do so -- infuriating the good-government crowd that had adored him. Then, on Saturday night, Obama responded to Clinton's criticism by borrowing, nearly word for word and without attribution, a favorite passage from Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. 'Don't tell me words don't matter. 'I have a dream' -- just words. 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal' -- just words. 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself' -- just words.'

“On Tuesday morning, the Clinton campaign publicized another case of Obama apparently appropriating Patrick's words: a quote from last year ('I am not asking anybody to take a chance on me; I am asking you to take a chance on your own aspirations') that was strikingly similar to one that Patrick uttered a year earlier ('I am not asking anyone to take a chance on me; I am asking you to take a chance on your own aspirations').

After detailing other incidents of plagiarism by the Obama campaign, Milbank concludes by describing Obama’s victory celebration following his win in Wisconsin, including the origin of the 'signature slogan' the harbinger of the new politics repeats at every gathering:

“A couple of hours after that, Obama was at Toyota Center, waiting backstage for the networks to announce his victory. On the floor, a woman in a too-tight shirt danced about the stage and led painful-to-the-eardrum cheers of 'Fired up!' and 'Ready to go!"

“Axelrod, the Obama strategist who authored many of the phrases the candidate borrowed from Edwards and Patrick, preceded the senator to the floor. On the jumbo screen, the campaign played a music video by the Black Eyed Peas' '' Its title, "Yes We Can," is a signature slogan of the Obama campaign -- and before that, of Deval Patrick, not to mention César Chávez and Bob the Builder.

“A chant of 'Yes, we can' filled the arena, and Obama, emerging underneath a banner honoring basketball great Hakeem Olajuwon, enjoyed a reception the Houston Rockets would envy. 'The American people have spoken out, and they've said we need to move in a new direction," Obama told the arena.'

Note: The Clinton campaign likes to counter the Obamaphiles’ “Yes, we can” with the stronger version, “Yes, we will.”

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Choosing a President in 2008: Will Personality Trump Issues Once Again?

Photo credits: Aftermath News
My recent post of a letter in support of Hillary Clinton by Christine Stansell, Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago, and its impressive list of feminist signers has so far drawn nearly 1400 visitors to Katalusis.

The response to Stansell’s letter has been especially meaningful to me as I’ve been as frustrated and perplexed as other feminists by the troubling situation addressed in today's Boston Globe in a thought-provoking article by Susan Milligan titled Clinton's struggle vexes feminists.

Milligan’s thesis is summarized in her opening paragraph:

“As Hillary Clinton struggles to regain her momentum in the presidential race, frustrated feminists are looking at what they see as the ultimate glass ceiling: A female candidate with a hyper-substantive career is now threatened with losing the nomination to a man whose charismatic style and powerful rhetoric are trumping her decades of experience.”

Milligan reminds us the American electorate has an unfortunate history of allowing style to trump substance; think Gore vs. Bush in 2000 and John Kerry vs. Bush in 2004, but she goes on to note Clinton’s additional burden:

“The style-vs.-substance clash is common to presidential contests, and has hurt wonky male candidates as well, women's leaders say. But they argue that Clinton has a peculiar burden in this year's contest because she never would have been able to reach the final stages of the nomination process unless she had spent her life emphasizing her professional record over stylistic abilities.”

Milligan’s article quotes Democratic consultant Peter Fenn:

“Choosing a president is the most personal vote most Americans will cast, said Democratic consultant Peter Fenn, and voters often will be attracted to a candidate's general vision and leadership style more than to his or her specific policy agenda. Democratic presidential contenders Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, and John F. Kerry, for example, suffered from the perception that they were less personable than their GOP opponents, several political analysts observed.”

The article also quotes Jon Delano, adjunct professor of politics and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University: "Political analysts always say that personality trumps issues nine times out of 10 in a presidential race. But the bar for women is much higher - sad but true."

Note to Readers: I urge you to read Milligan’s complete article on the front page of today’s Boston Globe.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Signing On for Hillary Clinton - These Women Get It

Official portrait.

The letter below by Christine Stansell, Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago, and its impressive list of signees offers evidence that feminists in this country are finally closing ranks behind Hillary Clinton – and for good reason.

(Courtesy of Politics on the Huffington Post)

We are women who support Hillary Clinton for the presidency of the United States. We do so because we believe that she will be the best president for the entire country. And as feminists, we also believe that Clinton is the best choice for attending to issues of special importance to women.

We write to you now because it's time for feminists to say that Senator Obama has no monopoly on inspiration. We are among the millions of women and men who have been moved to action by her. Six months ago, some of us were committed to her candidacy, some of us weren't, but by now we all find ourselves passionately supporting her. Brains, grace under pressure, ideas, and the skill to make them real: we call that inspiring. The restoration of good government after eight years of devastation, a decent foreign policy with ties to world leaders repaired, withdrawal from Iraq and universal health care: we call that exciting. And the record to prove that she can and will stand up to the swift-boating that will come any Democratic nominee's way: we call that absolutely necessary.

Clinton's enormous contributions as Senator, public servant, spokesperson for better family policies and the needs of hard-pressed women and children are widely known and recognized -- even by her opponent. Her powerful, inspiring advocacy of the human rights of women at the Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995 was heralded around the world as a stunning departure from the normal anodyne role of First Lady. Corporate special interests managed to defeat the health care program she advocated in 1994, and her own leadership opened the plan to attack. But she kept on fighting, acknowledging her mistakes, and in ensuing years she succeeded in winning expanded coverage for children. Now she has crafted the only sensible and truly universal health care proposal before the voters.

On the Iraq war, many of us believe she made a major mistake in voting for Joint Resolution 114 in 2002 -- along with the 28 other Democratic senators, including John Edwards and John Kerry. But we also note that her current opponent, when asked about that resolution in 2004, responded that he did not know how he would have voted had he been in Congress then. We do not know either. But we do know that at the time, his opposition to the war carried no risks and indeed, promised to pay big dividends in his liberal Democratic district.

Now, the two candidates have virtually the same plan for withdrawal from Iraq. And on the critical, broader issues of foreign policy, we believe that Senator Clinton is far more consistent, knowledgeable, modest, and realistic -- stressing intense diplomacy on all questions and repairing our ties with world leaders.

We are keenly aware that much is at stake -- not just on national and international security, but on the economy, universal health care, the environment, and more. Our country needs a president who knows the members and workings of Congress, and has a proven record on Capitol Hill of persuading sympathizers, bringing along fence-sitters, and disarming opponents. There is an irony in her opponent's claim to be able to draw in Republicans, while dismissing her proven record of working with them as a legislator. We need a president who understands how to make changes real, from small things like the predatory student loan industry to large things like the Middle East. Hillary Clinton has the experience, knowledge and wisdom to deal with this wide range of issues.

Our country also needs a president who has a thorough mastery of "details" --yes, details -- after eight years of Bush and Cheney. The job of restoring good government is overwhelming, and will require more than "inspiration" to accomplish it. We believe that the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Justice Department, the Food and Drug Administration, the Centers for Disease Control, the Environmental Protection Agency, and many more can be restored to full and effective functioning only by a president who understands their scope, regulations, personnel, problems and history. Knowing these "details" and acting on them are essential to begin the healing and recuperation of the country.

How many of us have heard brilliant and resourceful women in the workplace dismissed or devalued for "detail-orientation" in contrast to a man's supposed "big picture" scope? How many of us have seen what, in a man, would be called "peerless mastery," get called, in a woman's case, "narrowness"? How many women have we known -- truly gifted workers, professionals, and administrators -- who have been criticized for their reserve and down-to-earth way of speaking? Whose commanding style, seriousness, and get-to-work style are criticized as "cold" and insufficiently "likable"? These prejudices have been scandalously present in this campaign.

With all this in mind, we believe that Hillary Clinton is the best candidate for president, because she is the surest to remove the wreckage and secure the future. Politics is not magic. Hillary Clinton as president promises what government at its best can truly offer: wise decision-making and lasting change.

Ellen Carol DuBois, Professor of History, University of California, Los Angeles

Christine Stansell, Distinguished Service Professor, University of Chicago

Gloria Steinem, writer, New York City

Michele Wallace , Professor of English, Women's Studies and Film Studies, City College of New York and CUNY Graduate Center

Faith Ringgold, artist and Professor Emeritus of Art, UC San Diego

Robin Morgan, writer, New York City

Janet Holmgren, President, Mills College

Deborah Nelson, Director, Center for Gender Studies, University of Chicago

Jennifer Baumgardner, writer, New York City

Peg Yorkin,, Chair, Feminist Majority Foundation, Beverly Hills,


Heidi Hartmann, President, Institute for Women's Policy Research, Washington, DC

Catherine Stimpson, Professor, New York University

Judith B. Walzer, former Provost and Professor of Literature, The New School, New York City

Margot Canaday, Society of Fellows, Princeton University

Ellen Chesler, Director, Eleanor Roosevelt Initiative at Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute, Hunter College, CUNY

Blanche Wiesen Cook, Professor of History, John Jay College and

Graduate Center/CUNY, New York City

Sonya Michel, Professor of History, University of Maryland, College Park

Alice Echols, Associate Professor. University of Southern California, Department of English Vivian Gornick, writer, New York City

Wendy W. Williams, Professor of Law, Georgetown University Law Center

Carol Berkin, Presidential Professor of History, Baruch College & The Graduate Center, CUNY

Morgan Lawley, film director, Los Angeles

Clare Coss, playwright, NYC

Jean Baker, Professor of History, Goucher College

Batya Weinbaum, Writer, Empire State College, Saratoga Springs, NY

Ellen McCormack, Assistant Corporation Counsel, City of Chicago

Deirdre Bair, biographer, NYC

Esther Rothblum, Professor of Women's Studies, San Diego State University

Amy Richards, writer, New York City

Ann Snitow, Eugene Lang College

Megan Marshall, biographer, Boston, MA

Irene Tinker, Professor Emerita, University of California Berkeley

Kristen Timothy Lankester, former United Nations Deputy Director for Women's Rights

Florence Howe, Publisher, Feminist Press at CUNY, NYC

Cynthia Harrison, Associate Professor of History, Women's Studies, and Public Policy, The George Washington University

Gloria Feldt, writer

Laura Karpman, Film composer , UCLA, Los Angeles

Anne K. Mellor, Distinguished Professor of English, University of California, Los Angeles

Beth Baron, Professor of History, City College and Graduate Center, City University of New York

Marilyn Boxer, Professor of History, San Francisco State University

Ellen McCormack, Assistant Corporation Counsel, City of Chicago

Marjorie J. Spruill, Professor of History, The University of South Carolina

Louise W. Knight, biographer, Evanston, IL

Karen Offen, historian, Stanford, CA

Claire Moses, University of Maryland

Marla Stone, Professor of History, Occidental College

Carrie Menkel-Meadow, A.B. Chettle Jr. Professor of Law, Dispute Resolution and

Civil Procedure, Georgetown University Law Center

Judy Lerner, International Committee of Peace Action at the United Nations

Carmen Delgado Votaw, President, Pan American Liaison Committee of Women's Organizations, Bethesda, MD Rochelle G.

Ruthchild, Professor Emerita, The Union Institute and University,
Cincinatti, OH

Chin Jou, graduate student, Princeton University

Abby Arnold, Santa Monica, CA

Roberta McCutcheon, Chair, History Department, Trevor Day School, New York City

Helen Tilley, Assistant Professor, History Department and African Studies, PrincetonUniversity

Linda Frank, Graduate Student, UCLA

Barbara Gershen, Program Manager, Program in the Study of Women and Gender, Princeton University

Vivian Endicott Barnett, New York City

Barbara Gault, Silver Spring, MD

Jean Shinoda Bolen, M.D., Clinical professor of psychiatry, UC/San Francisco

Beverly Wildung Harrison, NYC

Anne Goodwyn Jones, Whichard Distinguished Professor in the Humanities, East Carolina University
Dr. Marcia Synnott, Professor of History Emerita, University of South Carolina

Dr. Judith S. Weis, Dept. of Biological Sciences, Rutgers University

Maribel Morey, JD, graduate student, Princeton University

Cynthia Boiter, Lecturer in Women's Studies, University of South Carolina

Nancy P. Moore, South Carolina

Alida Black, Editor, Eleanor Roosevelt Papers, George Washington University

Artemis March, Director, The Quantum Lens, Cambridge, MA

Sandra F. VanBurkleo, Assoc. Prof. of History; Adjunct Prof. of Law, Wayne State University

Linda Stein, New York City

Lauren Sklaroff, Assistant Professor of History, University of South Carolina

Greta Krippner, Assistant Professor of Sociology at the University of Michigan

Heather Arnet, Pittsburgh, PA

Mary Shorba, Chaplain, Phoenix Hospice, Mendocino County, CA

Linda Jupiter, Jupiter Productions, Fort Bragg, CA

Jean Twitty, Republican officeholder, Springfield, MO

Suzanne Roberts, Columbia, South Carolina

Susan Deller Ross, Professor of Law, Georgetown University

Carter Heyward, Cambridge, MA

Susanne Smith, Principal of Student Services, Spackenkill Union

Free School District, Poughkeepsie, NY

Pamela Ellen Ferguson, Austin, TX

Lois Rudnick, Chair, American Studies Dept., University of Massachusetts/ Boston

Cynthia Burack, Associate Professor of Women's Studies, The Ohio State University

Chocolate Waters, New York City

Glenna Mathews, Visiting Scholar, Starr King School for the Ministry, Berkeley, CA

Laurie Swindler, Normal, IL

Jayne Baron Sherman, New York City

Marianne C. Fahs, Professor of Urban Public Health, Hunter College, City University of New York.

Fran Diamond, California League of Conservation Voters, Los Angeles

Linda Lucks, President, Board of Neighborhood Commissioners, Los Angeles

Sally Miller Gearhart, writer, San Francisco

Tobe Levin, University of Maryland in Europe, Frankfurt, Germany

Sheriden Thomas, Tufts University, Medford, MA

Kathryn Yandell, Professor Emerita, Texas Lutheran University, Seguin, TX

Holly Elliott, Washington D.C.

Jane Gurko, Professor of English, San Francisco State University

Marlene Springer, President Emerita, College of Staten Island

Dr. Susan Corso, Somerville, MA,

Margaret Sears, Essex, MA.

Manette van Hamel, Woodstock NY

M. J. Bridge, , Alexandria, VA

Claire Reed, New York City

Kate Black, Willits, California

Keithe Bisnett, Cathedral City, CA

Naomi Williams, Encinitas, CA

Rose Mary Mitchell, San Francisco

Zoe Ann Nicholson, President, Pacific Shore, CA NOW

Jenny Warburg, Durham, NC

Anita Taylor, Professor Emerita, George Mason University, Fairfax VA

Jan Levy, New York City

Donna Deitch, Desert Heart Productions. Venice, CA

Beth Holmgren, Professor, Duke University

Daysi Morey,, Miami, FLA

duVergne R. Gaines, Los Angeles

Mary Lee Warner, Radio Kansas Public Radio, Lawrence, Kansas

Margaret Moore, Director, National Center for Women and Policing, Feminist Majority Foundation, Los Angeles

Michele Kort, Journalist, Los Angeles

Sandra Saathoff, Medical Lake, WA

Linda Fowler, Asheville, NC

Dorothy Haecker, San Antonio, Texas

Melissa Sue Kort, Professor of English, Santa Rosa Junior College, Santa Rosa CA

Valerie Fields, Member, Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education

Linda Hunt Beckman, Professor of English, Emeritus, Ohio University, Athens, OH

Kate Ullman, Palm Desert, CA

Margaret Blanchard, Professor Emerita, Graduate Studies, Vermont College of Union
Institute & University

Lesley Stein, Bradenton, FL

Susan Rennie, Emerita Professor, Vermont College of the Union Institute, Montpelier

Kathleen Herrington, Montpelier, VT

Judy Murphy, State Coordinator, Vermont NOW

Ruth Cooper Reidbord, American Institute of Certified Planners, Pittsburgh, PA

Linda Boyd Kavars, Editor, Inside/Out, New Paltz, NY

Kristin L. Bishop, Chair, Women's Political Action Network, Riverside County, CA

Karen Storey, President, SuccessStory, Inc., Palm Springs, CA

Sally Apfelbaum, New York City

Anne Cognetto, Hudson Valley, NY

Lauren Levy, Catskill, NY

Elizabeth W. Oakman, Columbia, SC

Patricia Wilson, Ossining, NY

Rona Fields, Washington, D.C.

Barbara Ottaviani, Hunter College, New York City

Jane Dreher Emerson, Columbia, SC

Veena Talwar Oldenburg, Professor of History, Baruch College and Graduate Center/CUNY, New York City

Deanne Upson, Washington, D.C.

Elizabeth Quinn, Assistant Professor of Psychology, Marist College, Poughkeepsie, NY

Nancy Moore, Folly Beach, SC

Stephanie Rex, Slippery Rock, PA

Joyce Berkman, University of Massachusetts/ Amherst

Lisa M. Brennan, Stratford, CT

Victoria M. Capozzi Stratford, CT

Jan Whitman, Director, Food Bank of the Hudson Valley, Cornwall-on-Hudson, NY

Heidi Li Feldman, Professor of Law, Associate Professor of Philosophy, Georgetown University

Katheleen Loughlin, Professor of History, Metropolitan State University, St. Paul, MN

Mollie Camp Davis, Professor Emerita, Queens University, Charlotte, NC

Lupe Anguiano, Director, Stewards of the Earth, Oxnard, CA

Marie Deyoe, Schenectady,

Lucia Petrulli, Belmont, MA

Vivian A S Power, Mendocino College, Ukiah, CA

Corin R. Swift, Cape Elizabeth, Maine.

Syd Whalley, Executive Director, Western Center of Law and Poverty, Vallejo, CA

Shauna Lani James, Government Department, Harvard University

Sharon Isbin, The Julliard School, NYC

Ana I. Schwartz, Assistant Professor of Psychology, University of Texas/ El Paso

Sandra R. Levitsky, Department of Sociology, University
of Michigan

Sally Schindel Cone, Greensboro, NC

Rachel Lulov Segall, New York City

Patty Mooney, Crystal Pyramid Productions, San Diego CA

Mary Warshaw, Beaufort, SC

M. Junior Bridge, Alexandria, VA

Nina Sundell, NYC

Nieves M. Zaldivar, M.D., Delmarva Foundation, Washington, DC

Pat Cohen, Farmingdale State College, Farmingdale, NY

Liz Snow, NYC

Marion Browning-Baker, Portsmouth, VA

Margaret McKean, Associate Professor of Political Science, Duke University

Adele W. Miccio, Associate Professor, Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, The Pennsylvania State University

Angie Sadeghi M.D. Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, LosAngeles

Barbara Helmick, Washington DC

Barbara Bonfigli, Santa Fe, New Mexico

Bethany C. Tronsky, New York City

Carole Emberton, Assistant Professor of History, SUNY-Buffalo

Carrie Bills,Green Mango Real Estate, Austin, Texas

Charlene Ellis, East Dummerston, Vermont

Christine Steiner, Los Angeles, CA

Ellen Gavin, Brava/Theater Center, San Francisco

Esther Rothblum, Ph.D., Professor of Women's Studies, San Diego State University

Gail Rogers, Los Angeles Center for Enriched Studies

Janet Sunter, Molecular Virology, University of Texas at San Antonio

Susan Swinney, Colchester, Connecticut

Mia Mildred Yang, Colchester, Connecticut

Judith Kroll, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, Linguistics, and Women's Studies

Pennsylvania State University
Julie Young, Santa Barbara, CA

Kathy Weber, Artistic Environments, Santa Monica CA

Rabbi Leila Gal Berner, Dept. of Religion, George Washington University, Washington D.C.

Kirsten Grimsad, Professor, Antioch University Los Angeles

Gay Cheney, Browns Summit, NC

Kathleen Daugherty, Newport Beach, CA

Jo Oppenheimer, NYC

Wendy L. Kahn, Washington, D.C.

Paola Dussias, Department of Spanish, Italian, Pennsylvania State University

Mitt Seeley, Topanga CA

Judith G. Miller, French Department, New York University

Elisa Gonzalez, San Antonio, TX.

Stephanie A. Shields, Professor of Psychology & Women's Studies, The Pennsylvania State University

Donna Fairfield, Greensboro, N.C.

Juanita Castro, Miami, FLA

Jane Kinney-Denning , Pace University, NYC

Barbara Posner Beltrami, Setauket, NY

Jan Doerler, Vermont Woman newspaper, South Burlington, VT

Ashley Bogosian, NYC

Carolyn J. Brown, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill

Daphne Uviller, writer, NYC

Gretchen Gross, Department of Human Development and Family Studies, University of Vermont

Manuela Soares, Pace University, NYC

Daniela Gioseffi, writer, NYC

Kay F. Turner, Performance Studies, Tisch School/ NYU, NYC

Miriam Grace Monfredo, writer , Rochester, NY

Eileen Kessler, OmniStudio, Inc., Washington DC

Judith Johnson, Professor Emerita, English and Women's Studies , SUNY/Albany

Beverly Salerno, North Caldwell, NJ

Deborah Siegel, Woodhull Institute, Ancramdale, NY

Kathleen J. Hancock, University of Texas, San Antonio

Eileen Andrade, University of California /Berkeley

Carolyn T. Green, Executive Director, Piedmont Senior Care, Greensboro NC

Elaine D. Ingulli, Professor of Business Law & Women's Studies,

Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

Marilyn E. Vito, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

Dorothy Goldeen, President, Dorothy Goldeen Art Advisory.

Pam Turkett, Piedmont Senior Care, Greensboro NC

Frances Sjoberg, Literary Director, University of Arizona Poetry Center, Tucson, AZ

Mary Anne Ferguson, Professor Emerita, English and Women's Studies, University of Massachusetts/Boston

Geri Critchley, Washington, DC

Lisa Mullenneaux, Penington Press, NYC

Jil Clark, Boston, MA, Albany, NY

Lily Rivlin, NYC

Carol Leung, Texas Teachers Retirement System

Judith Lorber, Professor Emerita, Graduate Center and Brooklyn College, CUNY, NYC

Dorothy O. Helly, The City University of New York

Jillian Denby, artist, NYC

Stacy J. Mara, Little Chute, WI

Adrienne Marcus, Lexington Center for Recovery, Hudson Valley, NY

Karla Tonella, Obermann Center for Advanced Studies, The University of Iowa

Jane Augustine, writer, NYC

Barbara Marks,, Professor Emeritus, UCLA School of Theater, Film, Television &

Jacqueline R. Kinney, Attorney, California Legislature

Deniz Ozan-George, Refugee Services Coordinator, MA Office for Refugees and Immigrants, Boston, MA

Maria Meilan, NYC

Elisabeth Prugl, Associate Professor, Department of International Relations, Florida International University, Miami

Terry Weaver, Greensboro, NC

Diana Festa, NYC

Pat Ashbrook, Flagstaff, AZ

Friday, February 15, 2008

NYTimes Miscalls: Lewis Has Not Switched to Obama

Photo credits: John Nowak, NYTimes

According to the Atlanta Journal-Consitution the NYTimes story reporting that U.S. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) had decided to drop his support for Hillary Clinton and back Barack Obama is ‘inaccurate.’ The AJC article indicated that Lewis press secretary Brenda Jones had not responded to a request for clarification.

The AJC reported that Georgia’s 13 Democratic superdelegates have pledged their support to Obama and Clinton as follows, with several remaining uncommitted:

“Congress. Lewis had been backing Clinton. Scott is now with Obama, as are U.S. Reps. Hank Johnson and Sanford Bishop. The other two, Jim Marshall and John Barrow, have not publicly committed to either Obama or Clinton. Marshall, who as a super delegate has never endorsed a Democratic presidential nominee, said he didn't feel the need to go through the process of selecting one this year either. "This is not a decision I may have to make," Marshall said Friday. "It's my view that the votes of the super delegates are likely to be muted long before we get to the convention." Marshall said he expects Clinton or Obama – "more likely Obama" – to gather the 2,025 delegates they need before the party convention convenes this summer. Barrow, a Savannah Democrat, has still not decided whom he'll support as a super delegate to the party's national convention, his spokeswoman said. "He's still uncommitted," spokeswoman Jane Brodsky said. Both lawmakers live in swing districts and so are wary of siding with a more liberal national Democrat unacceptable to their constituents, fearing it would cause a backlash against the incumbents in their generally conservative home areas. Of the remaining seven superdelegates, party vice-chair Thurmond has endorsed Clinton; union leader and DNC member Lonnie Plotts told the AJC he has committed to vote for Clinton; Carole Dabbs, former aide to U.S. Sen. Max Cleland, has reportedly agreed to back Clinton; and DNC members Mary Long and Richard Ray, state party chairwoman Jane Kidd and former President Jimmy Carter all say they remain uncommitted.”

The National Media as Kingmakers

Photo credits: Associated Press
Scanning major news outlets on the Web this morning, I found the usual biased news coverage and to-be-expected opinion pieces dissecting the Clinton campaign and declaring Hillary Clinton’s drive for the presidency over.

The Washington Post’s Dan Balz in his analysis of the Clinton strategy blames Clinton’s recent losses on ceding the caucuses to Obama; Howard Kurtz chimes in with a tongue-in-cheek prediction of a media rush to judgment from the primary to the general election with Obama versus McCain.

Over At the New York Times, the Caucus manages to sneak in speculation about how Obama and McCain might address spending in the general election.

The Huffington Post has moved beyond declaring the Democratic primary over; the gloating over Obama’s nomination at the blogosphere’s leading supermarket tabloid, has been excessive even for the Hillary-hating Arianna and her minions.

What I haven’t found in today’s opinion and news coverage is acknowledgement of the media’s role as kingmaker in the 2008 primary season that Sean Wilentz and Julian E. Zelizer so effectively describe in an article titled No Way to Pick a President appearing in last Sunday’s Washington Post.

Wilentz and Zelizer begin by pointing out the flaws in our system of state primaries and caucuses:

“Something is seriously wrong with the way we pick our presidential candidates. But experts and pundits, caught up in the horse races, have been slow to point out the obvious -- or come to accept our badly flawed system as immutable fact. This is no way to choose a president.

The authors continue with a history of our official process for selecting presidential candidates going back as far as 1952 when the Democrats chose Adlai Stevenson over Estes Kefauver and bring us up to date with the present patchwork system they point out has some “grave problems,” for example:

"Open" primaries and caucuses (in which anyone can vote, not just registered party members) let voters from the other party cause all sorts of mischief. A Republican convinced that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is too divisive to win in the fall could vote for her in some Democratic contests in the spring, hoping to saddle the Democrats with a losing nominee. Or, as Sen. Barack Obama's campaign did in Nevada, a candidate can openly appeal for votes from people outside his or her party in order to stop a rival. The winners are outsiders hoping to game the system; the losers are rank-and-file party members whose choices count less.”

After detailed analysis of today’s severely flawed process, Wilentz and Zelizer describe how Democrats and Republicans have ceded power to the news media “now driven by national outlets that prefer sensationalism, scandal and sound bites to substance, nuance and balance.”
"Take back America" has cropped up from time to time as a slogan in the 2008 campaign. I suggest it's time for Americans to take back the power to select our party candidates. We can begin by getting behind Hillary Clinton today; she's easily the best qualified candidate for the presidency.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sexism and Misogyny Fuel the Rants of Hillary-Haters

Stanley Fish’s post at Think Again (NY Times) this morning is a bracing read for those of us who have been struggling against the continuous onslaught of sexism and misogyny directed against Hillary Clinton since the day she announced her candidacy. And make no mistake, much of the Hillary-hatred is fueled by the zeal of Obama supporters for the one they’ve evidently been waiting for.

In today’s post, Fish replies to responses to his previous column on Hillary hating:

“The responses to my column on Hillary Clinton-hating have been both voluminous (the largest number in the brief history of “Think Again”) and fascinating. The majority of posters agreed with the characterization of the attacks on Senator Clinton as vicious and irrational, but in not a few posts the repudiation of Hillary-hatred is followed by more of the same. Lisa (No. 17) nicely exemplifies the pattern. She begins by saying “I agree that there is a rabid nature in the manner in which numerous conservative groups attack Hillary Clinton,”, but in the very next sentence she declares that “most of Hillary’s reputation is well earned” and then she spends nine paragraphs being rabid. A significant minority of posters skipped the ritual disavowal of hatred and went straight to the task of adding to it.

“These Clintonphobes said things like “there’s nothing to like about her”(394) and wrote at length about her clothing, her voice, her laugh, her arrogance, her “countless plastic surgeries” (an inference it would seem from the fact that at 60 she still looks good), her insincerity, her stridency, her ambition, her love of power, and her husband. In their view, the hatred they expressed was not irrational at all, but was provoked by a record of crimes and character flaws they are happy to rehearse. Their mirror image on the left objected to my saying that President Bush fills the same role for liberals that Clinton fills for her detractors. No, no came the protest. However free-floating hatred of Clinton may be, hatred of Bush is firmly grounded in the record of a disastrous presidency that has left us at war, in debt, and in bad odor throughout the world. The two groups differed only in the bad qualities they attributed to their nemesis. Bush haters derided him as stupid. Clinton haters complained that she is too smart (the word “brilliant” is used as a pejorative), seems to know it all, and makes those who hear her speak feel they are less intelligent than she is.”

As I recall, Fish didn’t name the Hillary hating in his earlier column as sexism or misogyny, but this time around he takes sexism into account:

“Comments like these would seem to lend support to the view (voiced by many respondents) that sexism is what ultimately motivates the Clinton bashers. “A woman who doesn’t apologize for who she is. What’s not to hate?” (79). “Any woman who is anything more than a wallflower will always be attacked” (105). “People just can’t tolerate a woman in power” (111). “Why not get right to heart of the matter? It’s sexism. Most women on this planet face it every day” (168). If so, they face it from women as well as from men, at least on the evidence provided here. Carol Maloney (158) reports that many of her intelligent women friends are unable “to discuss Hillary in a logical manner.” Kat (23) wonders why “women seem to be on the Hillary hatred bandwagon.” Carol (359) says “What I find most disturbing is the amount of hatred spewed at Hillary by those who are so much like her … It is very odd. Is it really self-hate?

“One might ask, can it really be sexism if it is women who are practicing it? Sure it can. If sexism is defined as the conviction that women are unsuited by gender to perform certain tasks or hold certain positions, that conviction is as available to women as it is to men. Still, sexism doesn’t seem an adequate explanation of the Hillary-hating phenomenon if only because so much of the venom in the comments is directed at the Clintons as a team. The idea is that nothing but evil can emanate from them; they are a moral blot on the nation’s escutcheon, a canker-sore on the body politic, and they must be removed (perhaps by any means necessary). No doubt sexism is a component of such sentiments–a number of women respondents accused her of riding on her husband’s coat-tails and lambasted her for not leaving him–but sexism doesn’t really account for an anger that sometimes borders on the homicidal.”

Homicidal? Well, yes, what sentient being could ignore the rage manifest in the comments of hundreds of Obama supporters swarming the internet 24/7? In response to Fish’s contention that sexism is an inadequate explanation for the hatred directed at both Clintons, more needs to be said.

In the aftermath of Hillary Clinton’s win in New Hampshire, Chris Matthews was forced to apologize to her for his sleazy on-the-air comments. In addition, many in the media were forced to eat crow for having been eager to write Clinton off based on poll numbers. As if looking for another target, the day after the New Hampshire results were confirmed, the media turned its wrath on Bill Clinton and soon began attacking the Clintons as a couple.

I’m also a little disappointed that Fish fails to mention the contradiction I addressed in yesterday’s post at Katalusis between Obama’s image as a political messiah and the behavior of his Hillary-bashing followers. However, Fish does describe how Obama panders to the obvious vilification of Clinton by his numerous supporters in the media (from both the left and the right) and his zealous fans in cyberspace; I urge you to read more of Fish’s post at Think Again in today’s NY Times.

Note: According to his bio, “Stanley Fish is the Davidson-Kahn Distinguished University Professor and a professor of law at Florida International University, in Miami, and dean emeritus of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He has also taught at the University of California at Berkeley, Johns Hopkins and Duke University. He is the author of 10 books. His new book on higher education, "Save the World On Your Own Time," will be published in 2008.”

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Obama’s Image Conflicts With the Hate Speech of His Hillary-Bashing Followers

Photo Credits: DenverPost/Kathryn Scott Osler

The contradiction has been bugging me for weeks now, like a loose thread in the carpet that I walk over several times a day, until I finally take a break from whatever it is I’m doing and fix the darned thing.

But in reality, the issue at hand is much more serious than a loose thread. It’s ultimately about who will serve as the next president of the United States and the kind of followers he or she attracts.

Consider this: day after day, the Obama campaign presents its man as the harbinger of the new politics, the one who has transcended the struggles of the Baby Boomers. The impression you get from his extensive PR is that Obama can unify the country solely by virtue of his charismatic self and even go forth to change the world.

Although scripted by a talented team of speechwriters, Obama’s oratorical gifts are impressive. Reading from a teleprompter in the style of an evangelical preacher, Obama expertly works a crowd to the feverish pitch of a revival meeting with hundreds stomping their feet and shouting in unison, “Yes, we can!”

There’s no disputing it: Obama’s campaign has created excitement, especially among the young, who are eagerly embracing their newfound messiah’s much-touted ethical purity and mantra of change.

But here’s the rub: wherever I go on the internet, be it the mainstream media or left-wing blogs, such as the Huffington Post or, I encounter overwhelming numbers of hate messages written by Obama supporters directed at Hillary Clinton and her family. And I have to ask, do we really want to elect as president of the United States a man who presents himself as morally pure, while attracting as followers hundreds of rabid hate-mongers apparently incapable of civil discourse?

The hate mongers were out in full force recently in response to MSNBC’s suspension of David Shuster for his on-the-air remark suggesting the Clinton campaign has been “pimping” their daughter Chelsea. An unbelievable number of Obama’s supporters jumped to Shuster’s defense while verbally assaulting the Clintons.
(For a letter to MSNBC written by Smith College Professor Lois Dubin protesting Shuster's blatant misogyny, go here.)

Here are a few examples randomly pulled from the Washington Post, the NY Times,, and the Huffington Post.

From the Washington Post

Example 1

The Clintons are ridiculously thin-skinned sometimes. The phrase "pimped out" no longer has anything to do with prositution. Grow up, Billary. This is exactly the kind of crap you pull that has me supporting Obama.

Example 2

Seems to me that the analogy is fitting, given the Clintons's pimping out of the White House during his reign. Anyone remember selling access to Bill via the Lincoln Bedroom? What about transfer of top secret technology to China after Bill's fund raising activities with Chinese government surrogates? How about Bill's influence peddling this year for uranium exploration that is netting him $100MM+? Suddenly Hillary can afford to "donate" funds to her own campaign. Yuck - how slimy can you get?

Example 3

The P.C. police strike again...

The New York Times

Example 1

Yes, the comment was offensive, and Shuster was rightfully suspended. But I have a feeling Clinton is taking this further as a matter of potential political gain. And I have a feeling it’s going to backfire on her: it reeks of the victim card.

Example 2

Clinton will benefit from the sympathy… hence the letter. Also, the letter will ensure that Chelsea is now off limits. She will be free to make calls to super delegates without any discussion as to the appropriateness of such calls.

Example 3

The lady doth protest too much. The MSNBC comments were way over the top, but nowhere near what Fox says on a daily basis. This is a ploy to get her base worked up and angry. She’s hoping that people will rally to her, like they did in NH. I don’t think this story has much sticking power though.

Example 1

I agree that MSNBC shouldn't cave in to Clinton criticism. This is journalism and it's supposed to be free speech and hard hitting. Sure sometimes people can make an edgy that is a bit insulting...but that's the price of free speech. Journalists cannot back down every time they offend someone; that's their job. In fact, the media has often not been critical enough of the Clintons.

Example 2

I wouldn't go so far as to call the comments offensive. Were they in bad taste? Of course, but in no way does it seem that the gentleman from MSNBC was going so far as to call the daughter of the former first family a whore. Don't you just love the politically correct atmosphere that we've allowed to be created in this country? I'm sure this made the Clinton campaign happy to gain airtime prior to next round of caucusses and primaries. Just another non-issue during this year's nomination process.

Example 3

And the Clintons think Barack Obama will have trouble standing up to the Republicans in the Fall? Please..... Campaigns are rough. Billary put Chelsea out there to campaign for Mom yet she won't accept interviews & apparently can't accept edgy criticism either. Grow up Clintons or get out of the race!

From the Huffington Post

Example 1

“Shuster should have given them the middle finger. Pimp is becoming part of the vernacular today. It's one of the slang words thats utterly harmless. And the fact that the Clinton Machine is pimping Chelsea out makes this even more pathetic. People get so pissy and uppity over the stupidest things.

“What they really need to address is how the hell Chelsea became the ugliest child/ person in politics. Or Public office. That poor thing got beat with the ugly stick one too many times.”

Example 2

The Clinton"s want to have it both ways. They put Chelsea out front, but will slap you down if you dare to try to talk to her or about her. First of all, Chelsea is not a baby, she"s a 27 year old woman working for her parent"s friend"s hedge fund. Now, let"s look at a few of her actions. She continued to speak with caucusgoers in Nevada long after she was warned that the time for solicitation had passed. She called The View women and in a babydoll voice begged for votes. She"s calling superdelegates trolling for votes and meeting with them privately. So, maybe the only argument here is whether she"s being pimped or whether she"s doing it freely. Either way, she has interjected herself into the race, so game on. We women need to wise up and realize that Hillary is, once again, playing the victim for votes. That"s soooo yesterday.

Example 3

Last year, the then 25 year old Clinton Child started her First job as a HEDGE FUND manager earning a SIX Figure salary. She is old enough to come out and speak for herself and not have mommy and daddy defend Her Royal Highness.

Example 4

I'm really disappointed in MSNBC for caving in to the Clinton's. All this got her was some free campaign coverage. And Keith Olbermann!!! I can't believe he sold out too! He knows perfectly well how the "pimped" comment should have been taken!!! Nobody was calling Chelsea Clinton a "whore". It was a term meant to infer that Chelsea was being "used" to further the Senator's presidential campaign. The term "pimped" has evolved into the vernacular and for Keith Olbermann not to defend David Shuster right as an journalist to say this is just a case of the pot calling the kettle black! Especially since he used the SAME term (and justifiably) in his Special Comment: "President of Hypocrisy".

I repeat the question: do we really want to elect as president of the United States, a man who attracts such hate-spewing followers? It's something to think about.

Can Obama or Clinton Break the Patterns in Upcoming Contests?

Photo credits: Getty Images

Posting at Caucus (NY Times), John Harwood provides a good analysis of demographic patterns that in order to win the Democratic nomination either Obama or Clinton must break.

Crediting in part identity politics, Harwood notes:

“Mrs. Clinton, of New York, who would be the first woman to be president, has dominated among women; according to exit polls, they have consistently constituted 55 percent or more of the Democratic electorate. Mr. Obama, of Illinois, who would be the first black president, has dominated among blacks by even more lopsided margins.”

He then elaborates:

“But with the exception of a few states like South Carolina and Georgia, where blacks represented a majority and Mr. Obama won, they have represented a far smaller share of the vote.

“Mrs. Clinton, drawing on memories of prosperity during her husband’s presidency, has held steady advantages among Hispanics, older voters and blue-collar whites. Mr. Obama’s inspirational “Yes We Can” message has produced an edge among young people, independents, college graduates and higher-income Democrats.

“Those disparate collections can to some degree be distinguished using labels — Mrs. Clinton’s as more moderate, Mr. Obama’s as more liberal. But “the ideological differences clearly seem to be driven by demographics,” said Geoff Garin, a Democratic pollster.”
The Harwood analysis goes one step further. He says, “Those differences have helped define another important element.”

That element would be the difference between caucuses and primaries:

“While Mrs. Clinton has performed best in primaries, like New Hampshire and California, Mr. Obama has excelled in caucuses that turn on organizational prowess, from the kickoff event in Iowa to the Washington and Nebraska contests over the weekend.
“That is partly because Mr. Obama invested more heavily in grass-roots organization in his bid to overcome Mrs. Clinton’s establishment advantages. Moreover, the time and information required for caucus participation attract demographic elites drawn to the Illinois senator in the first place — his “Starbucks Democrats,” rather than Mrs. Clinton’s “Dunkin’ Donuts Democrats,” as Chris Lehane, a former aide to Al Gore, puts it.”

Finally, Harwood predicts the outcomes of upcoming contests based on his analysis of Clinton’s and Obama’s strengths:
He predicts that Obama will take Washington D.C. with its heavy black population, and Maryland with its “above-average proportion of both blacks and college graduates.”

And he also puts Hawaii in Obama’s column as he grew up there.
Harwood suggests that Clinton is favored in Ohio, Texas, and Pennsylvania.

In conclusion, Harwood acknowledges that either candidate could forge new patterns and come up with surprising outcomes of upcoming contests.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Still Leading Obama in Delegates, Clinton Beefs Up Her Campaign

Photo Credits: Associated Press
Despite Barack Obama’s recent wins, CNN calculates this morning that Hillary Clinton still maintains a 27-delegate lead over Obama, 1,148 to 1,121. CNN includes an ongoing tally of superdelegates in their count.

To beef up her campaign, Clinton raised more than $10 million in the past few days, and she recently brought in longtime aide Maggie Williams to replace Patti Solis Doyle as campaign manager. Solis Doyle will stay on as as a senior advisor to the campaign.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Obama’s Wins on Saturday Come as No Surprise

Obama’s three-state sweep this Saturday that included the caucuses in Washington and Nebraska and the primary in Louisiana came as no surprise to either the Obama or Clinton campaign. Obama’s track record has been better in caucuses, and he has done well among black voters, who made up about fifty percent of voters in the Louisiana primary.

The New York Times reported that Obama received the support of about two-thirds of those attending the caucuses in Washington and Nebraska to about one-third for Mrs. Clinton.

Today, Clinton and Obama campaigned in Maine, which holds its caucuses on Sunday. Later on, the two candidates headed south to Virginia where they were scheduled to speak this evening at the state party’s annual Jefferson-Jackson day fund-raiser.

Hillary Clinton’s Letter to NBC News President Capus

Photo credits: Wenn
Here’s an update to the firestorm ignited by David Shuster’s derogatory comments regarding Chelsea Clinton’s campaigning for her mother, Sen. Hillary Clinton: Sen. Clinton sent the following letter to NBC News President Steve Capus this morning.

Dear Mr. Capus,

Thank you for your call yesterday. I wanted to send you this note to convey the depth of my feeling about David Shuster's comments.

I know that I am a public figure and that my daughter is playing a public role in my campaign. I am accustomed to criticism, certainly from MSNBC. I know that it goes with the territory.

However, I became Chelsea's mother long before I ran for any office and I will always be a mom first and a public official second.

Nothing justifies the kind of debasing language that David Shuster used and no temporary suspension or half hearted apology is sufficient.

I would urge you to look at the pattern of behavior on your network that seems to repeatedly lead to this sort of degrading language.

There's a lot at stake for our country in this election. Surely, you can do your jobs as journalists and commentators and still keep the discourse civil and appropriate.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Comparing the Obama and Clinton Coalitions

Photo credits: Getty Images

In today’s National Journal, Ronald Brownstein provides an objective analysis of the coalitions backing Obama and Clinton and projects possible upcoming scenarios as the two Democratic candidates head toward November.

Brownstein sums up where the two Democratic candidates are now:

“After a month of dizzying ebbs and flows, the Democratic presidential race hit stasis this week. The epic contest between Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama now looks like a boxing match in which each combatant threw haymakers early (Iowa and South Carolina for Obama, New Hampshire and Nevada for Clinton) in the hope of a quick knockout -- but is now adjusting to the likelihood of a 15-round fight that will be decided only on points.”

Who's backing Clinton and Obama:

“Most important, Obama and Clinton each reaffirmed his or her hold on a distinct slice of the Democratic electorate. Obama almost everywhere carried young people, independents, well-educated voters, men, and African-Americans. In most places, Clinton carried seniors, partisan Democrats, voters without college educations, women, and Latinos.”

The road that lies ahead:

“March 4 looms as the critical date for Clinton. That's when Texas and Ohio vote, and both are the sort of brawny blue-collar states that favor her. If Obama generates enough momentum in February to swipe either, it could trigger a rush toward him from party leaders eager to end the race (especially because John McCain seems likely to claim the GOP nomination by then). But if Clinton holds both, she could consolidate an advantage over Obama in the other beefy states that follow: Pennsylvania in April, and then Indiana and Kentucky -- which don't vote until May and may find their decisions more relevant than they, or anyone else, had expected.”