Monday, March 31, 2008

Earl Ofari Hutchinson’s “Ten Troubling Questions” for Obama

Courtesy of American Chronicle

I eagerly join Earl Ofari Hutchinson in awaiting answers to the questions detailed below that he recently sent to Obama’s national campaign headquarters.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst. His new book is The Ethnic Presidency: How Race Decides the Race to the White House (Middle Passage Press, February 2008).

"Here are ten troubling questions for Democratic presidential contender Barack Obama. There are others equally troubling but these are the starters. The questions were sent directly to him at his national campaign headquarters Friday, March 28. The questions are not campaign rhetoric, gossip, and partisan allegations. They are fully documented, and totally a matter of public record. If Obama won´t answer them, then the challenge is for his supporters to answer them point by point. This doesn´t mean hurling the usual cheap shot, brainless, personal invectives, name calling, personal insults, or character assassination. This is no substitute for factual answers.

"1. You stated that you were not in the Senate in October 2002 when President Bush rammed through Congress the resolution authorizing the use of force in Iraq. But you also stated that "perhaps the reason I thought it was such a bad idea was I didn´t have the benefit of U.S. intelligence." This implies that you might have voted for the war if you had been in the Senate when the vote was taken. Why then do you condemn Hillary Clinton and other Senators who voted for the war authorization resolution when you admit the possibility that if you had been in the Senate you would have done the same?

"2. As chairman of the Senate subcommittee on Foreign Relations you could have held oversight hearings, called witnesses and offered alternatives to Bush´s disastrous efforts against A Qeada in Afghanistan. Your subcommittee held none and provided no alternatives to Bush policy that you condemn, why?

"3. In the Senate you have one of the poorest attendance records, and you often simply vote present on thorny issues, why?

"4. Senate Legislation was proposed to require nuclear giant, Exelon to make public disclosure of its radiation leaks. You did not fully support that requirement. Exelon has been identified as your fourth biggest campaign contributor. Why did you oppose the tougher regulatory proposal for Exelon?

"5. Chicago financier Tony Rezko has been accused of numerous financial illicit dealings. You have claimed that you did no political or personal favors for Rezko. Yet as an Illinois state legislator you wrote endorsement letters to government agencies on his behalf, as well as having conducted other documented financial transactions and dealings and with him. Why do you deny that you have no relationship with Rezko?

"6. The head of your campaign finance chair is Penny Pritzker. Before taking over Obama´s campaign finances, she headed up the borderline shady and failed Superior Bank. It collapsed in 2002. The bank engaged in deceptive and faulty lending, questionable accounting practices, and charged hidden fees. It made thousands of dubious loans to mostly poor, strapped homeowners. A disproportionate number of them were minority. Why does she still have a principal financial role in your campaign?

"7. You have taken money in past campaigns from straw donors. These are donors that have taken money from tainted and dubious sources and then contribute to your campaign under their names. You have talked much about financial openness in campaigns. Why did you take money from straw donors in the past? And do you take money from them now?

"8. Following a speech by Hillary Clinton praising Lyndon Johnson for his role in helping pass the 1964 Civil Rights Act, an Obama campaign advisor privately released a four page memo urging hammering Clinton for denigrating Dr. King. Yet, you told reporters that neither you nor anyone in your campaign had made the accusation that Clinton denigrated King. Why did you say that when clearly it was the memo from your campaign advisor that triggered the media and public assault on Clinton regarding King?

"9. You have not produced a single public document that would provide the public with greater insight and knowledge about legislation, initiatives proposed, your votes on key bills, and your attendance record during your terms in the Illinois legislature. Why?

"10. You have repeatedly charged that Clinton violated a pledge not to put her name on the Michigan Democratic primary ballot. However, neither Clinton nor any other Democratic contender pledged to the DNC not to have their name on the ballot. Three other candidates had their name on the ballot in addition to Clinton. Why do continue to make this claim that the other candidates, but especially Clinton, violated a pledge not to have their name on the Michigan ballot?

"Obama´s campaign is based on the firm pillar that he represents a new, open, fresh, and transparent politics. He is the candidate that is the antithesis of the political duplicity, double dealing, evasions, lies and corruption that marred other candidates. Obama can prove it by answering these questions; questions that raise serious doubt about his contention that he represents a radical break from the political past. If He won´t answer them then will his supporters answer them for him?"

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Obama Team’s Strategic Use of the Race Card

Sean Wilentz, the Sidney and Ruth Lapidus professor of history at Princeton University

Sean Wilentz, the Sidney and Ruth Lapidus professor of history at Princeton University, has exposed the Obama campaign’s strategy of playing the race card in this Sunday’s Philadelphia Inquirer.

Wilentz introduces his op-ed by explaining how Hillary Clinton chose to remain silent about the inflammatory sermons preached by Obama’s pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright:

“Quietly, the storm over the hateful views expressed by Sen. Barack Obama's pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, has blown away the most insidious myth of the Democratic primary campaign. Obama and his surrogates have charged that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton has deliberately and cleverly played the race card in order to label Obama the "black" candidate.

“Having injected racial posturing into the contest, Obama's "post-racial" campaign finally seems to be all about race and sensational charges about white racism. But the mean-spirited strategy started even before the primaries began, when Obama's operatives began playing the race card - and blamed Hillary Clinton.

“Had she truly conspired to inflame racial animosities in January and February, her campaign would have brought up the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his incendiary sermons. But the Clinton campaign did not. And when the Wright stories and videos finally did break through in the mass media, they came not from Clinton's supporters but from Fox News Network.

“Although Wright had until recently been obscure to the American public, political insiders and reporters have long known about him. On March 6, 2007, the New York Times reported that Obama had disinvited Wright from speaking at his announcement because, as Wright said Obama told him, "You can get kind of rough in the sermons." By then, conservative commentators had widely denounced Wright. His performances in the pulpit were easily accessible on DVD, direct from his church. But Clinton, despite her travails, elected to remain silent.”

Wilentz then proceeds to debunk the Obama camp’s repeated efforts to smear the Clintons by injecting racism into the Democratic primary:
“Instead, she had to fight back against a deliberately contrived strategy to make her and her husband look like race-baiters. Obama's supporters and operatives, including his chief campaign strategist David Axelrod, seized on accurate and historically noncontroversial statements and supplied a supposedly covert racist subtext that they then claimed the calculating Clinton campaign had inserted.

“In December, Bill Shaheen, a Clinton campaign co-chair in New Hampshire, wondered aloud whether Obama's admitted youthful abuse of cocaine might hurt him in the general election. Obama's strategists insisted that Shaheen's mere mention of cocaine was suggestive and inappropriate - even though the scourge of cocaine abuse has long cut across both racial and class lines. Pro-Obama press commentators, including New York Times columnist Frank Rich, then whipped the story into a full racial subtext, charging that the Clintons had, in Rich's words, "ghettoized" Obama "into a cocaine user."

“The Obama campaign and its supporters pressed this strategy after Clinton's unexpected win in New Hampshire. Pundits partial to Obama, including Eugene Robinson of the Washington Post and John Nichols of the Nation, instantly mused that their candidate lost because of supposedly bigoted New Hampshire whites who had lied to pre-primary pollsters - an easily disproven falsehood that nevertheless gained currency in the media.

“Next morning, Obama's national co-chair, Jesse Jackson Jr., cast false and vicious aspersions about Hillary Clinton's famous emotional moment in New Hampshire as a measure of her deep racial insensitivity. "Her appearance brought her to tears," said Jackson, "not Hurricane Katrina."

“Obama's backers, including members of his official campaign staff, then played what might be called "the race-baiter card." Hillary Clinton, in crediting both Lyndon Johnson as well as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for the Civil Rights Act in 1964, had supposedly denigrated King, and by extension Obama. Allegedly, Bill Clinton had dismissed Obama's victory in South Carolina by comparing it to those of the Rev. Jesse Jackson in the 1980s. (In fact, their electoral totals were comparable - and in the interview at issue, Clinton complimented Obama on his performance "everywhere" - a line the media usually omitted.)

“Thereafter, Obama's high command billowed further race-baiter allegations into the media. Pointing to the notoriously right-wing Drudge Report, Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe accused the Clinton campaign of deliberately leaking a supposedly racist photograph of Obama in African garb, which actually originated on still another right-wing Web site. Finally, David Axelrod trumpeted Geraldine Ferraro's awkward remarks in an obscure California newspaper as part of the Clinton campaign's "insidious pattern" of divisiveness.

“One pro-Obama television pundit, Keith Olbermann of MSNBC, fulminated that the Clinton campaign had descended into the vocabulary of David Duke, former grand dragon of the Ku Klux Klan.

“(In his Philadelphia speech on race, Obama pressed the attack by three times likening Ferraro to Rev. Wright.)

“Since the Philadelphia speech, the candidate and his surrogates have sounded tone-deaf on the subject of race. On March 20, Obama described his Kansas grandmother to a Philadelphia radio interviewer as "a typical white person." The same day, Sen. John Kerry said that Obama would help U.S. relations with Muslim nations "because he's a black man." Another Obama supporter, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, called him the first black leader "to come to the American people not as a victim but as a leader." Her history excluded and conceivably denigrated countless black leaders, from Frederick Douglass to Rep. John Lewis. Obama remained silent, refusing to take Kerry and McCaskill to task for their racially charged remarks.

“Neither candidate can win sufficient elected delegates in the remaining primaries to secure the nomination, and so the battle has moved to winning over the superdelegates. Obama's bogus "race-baiter" strategy is one of the main reasons he has come this far, and it is affecting the process now. But by deliberately inflaming the most destructive passions in American politics, the strategy has badly divided and confused Democrats, at least for the moment. And having done so, it may well doom the Democrats in the general election.”

Note: The HuffingtonPost, one of Obama’s chief megaphones on the Internet, is running a headline over a photo of Hillary today claiming her campaign can’t pay its bills. I didn’t read the article as most of Huffpost’s headlines about Hillary are misleading – the Huffpost is the online answer to the National Enquirer.

However, the first quarter ends tomorrow at midnight. I’ve donated twice to Hillary’s campaign this weekend, and I’m urging all of her supporters to do the same. The best way to thwart the well-oiled Obama machine is by helping Hillary level the financial playing field. With a level playing field, she’ll easily leave Obama in the dust.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Obama’s Plan for the Presidency, and More on the Gender Wars

Photo credits: Getty

I’ve been tied up working on a presentation I’m scheduled to give tomorrow, so I’ve not had time to post today. But I did want to link to a couple of thought-provoking articles this evening at Wes Clark’s Blog and the Wall Street Journal.

Thanks to Kathleen, a regular Katalusis reader, for suggesting “Obama’s Theoretical Impasse” by Gabriele Droz, posted at Wes Clark’s blog. Gabriele begins:

“My argument is that Mr. Barack Obama is following a plan to become president that is both clear and consistent, which makes it possible to understand why he’s done what he’s done, as well as to predict what he’ll do next. If his plan to win the nomination succeeds, however, his plan to ‘transform’ America must fail, unless he makes a mid-course correction and runs on his theory and gives up trying to paint Hillary as a “monster,” and bully her out of the race.”

Read More:

At today’s Wall Street Journal, Jonathan Kaufman and Carol Hymowitz in an article titled At the Barricade in the Gender Wars, address “the sometimes bitter resistance to her {Hillary Clinton’s} campaign and the looming possibility of her defeat: a seeming backlash against the opportunities women have gained.”

The article begins:

Valerie Benjamin, a human-resources manager for a consulting firm here, was driving to work recently in her red minivan with a Hillary bumper sticker when a man pulled up alongside and rolled down his window. "You can be for Hillary all you want," he shouted, "but there is no way that thing is going to become president."

"I couldn't believe this guy was shouting at me in my car," says Ms. Benjamin. "I am continuously surprised by the level of venom."

Kaufman and Hymowitz continue:

“When Sen. Clinton started her presidential campaign more than a year ago, she said she wanted to shatter the ultimate glass ceiling. But many of her supporters see something troubling in the sometimes bitter resistance to her campaign and the looming possibility of her defeat: a seeming backlash against the opportunities women have gained.

“Just as Barack Obama's campaign has been empowering for African-Americans, Sen. Clinton's run has inspired women across the country, drawing millions to the polls and putting her in a neck-and-neck battle for the nomination. She has already gone farther than any woman before her -- a source of great pride for her women supporters.”

Read More

Friday, March 28, 2008

Krugman: Of the Three Candidates, Clinton is the “Bold Progressive”

Photo credits: NY Times

Paul Krugman may not hold Alan Greenspan in high favor, but he knows a bold progressive when he sees one: Hillary Clinton. And according to the NY Times columnist, who also happens to be an economist, neither Barack Obama nor John McCain measures up.

In today’s op-ed piece, Krugman reminds us that a candidate’s policy proposals are a better indicator of what kind of president he or she will be than the latest “revealing anecdote or out-of-context quote.” He suggests we ought to have learned that lesson by experience from George W. Bush who came across as a “reasonable, moderate guy,” while the policies he advocated said something very different.

Krugman sizes up McCain, Clinton, and Obama on the basis of how each has responded to the mortgage crisis.


Mr. McCain is often referred to as a maverick and a moderate, assessments based mainly on his engaging manner. But his speech on the economy was that of an orthodox, hard-line right-winger.

It’s true that the speech was more about what Mr. McCain wouldn’t do than about what he would. His main action proposal, as far as I can tell, was a call for a national summit of accountants. The whole tone of the speech, however, indicated that Mr. McCain has purged himself of any maverick tendencies he may once have had.

“Mr. McCain is often referred to as a ‘maverick’ and a ‘moderate,’ assessments based mainly on his engaging manner. But his speech on the economy was that of an orthodox, hard-line right-winger.

“Many news reports have pointed out that Mr. McCain more or less came out against aid for troubled homeowners: government assistance ‘should be based solely on preventing systemic risk,’ which means that big investment banks qualify but ordinary citizens don’t.

“But I was even more struck by Mr. McCain’s declaration that ‘our financial market approach should include encouraging increased capital in financial institutions by removing regulatory, accounting and tax impediments to raising capital.’

“These days, even free-market enthusiasts are talking about increased regulation of securities firms now that the Fed has shown that it will rush to their rescue if they get into trouble. But Mr. McCain is selling the same old snake oil, claiming that deregulation and tax cuts cure all ills.”


Noting that the substance of Clinton’s policy proposals on mortgages, like that of her health care plan, suggests a strong progressive sensibility, Krugman contrasts her approach to McCain’s:

“Maybe the most notable contrast between Mr. McCain and Mrs. Clinton involves the problem of restructuring mortgages. Mr. McCain called for voluntary action on the part of lenders — that is, he proposed doing nothing. Mrs. Clinton wants a modern version of the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation, the New Deal institution that acquired the mortgages of people whose homes were worth less than their debts, then reduced payments to a level the homeowners could afford.”


Describing Obama’s recent speech on the economy as falling into his previous cautious pattern, Krugman praises him for supporting broader financial structures, but faults him on a couple of other counts:

“I was pleased that Mr. Obama came out strongly for broader financial regulation, which might help avert future crises. But his proposals for aid to the victims of the current crisis, though significant, are less sweeping than Mrs. Clinton’s: he wants to nudge private lenders into restructuring mortgages rather than having the government simply step in and get the job done.

“Mr. Obama also continues to make permanent tax cuts — middle-class tax cuts, to be sure — a centerpiece of his economic plan. It’s not clear how he would pay both for these tax cuts and for initiatives like health care reform, so his tax-cut promises raise questions about how determined he really is to pursue a strongly progressive agenda.”

Krugman sums up:

“All in all, the candidates’ positions on the mortgage crisis tell the same tale as their positions on health care: a tale that is seriously at odds with the way they’re often portrayed.

“Mr. McCain, we’re told, is a straight-talking maverick. But on domestic policy, he offers neither straight talk nor originality; instead, he panders shamelessly to right-wing ideologues.

“Mrs. Clinton, we’re assured by sources right and left, tortures puppies and eats babies. But her policy proposals continue to be surprisingly bold and progressive.

“Finally, Mr. Obama is widely portrayed, not least by himself, as a transformational figure who will usher in a new era. But his actual policy proposals, though liberal, tend to be cautious and relatively orthodox.

“Do these policy comparisons really tell us what each candidate would be like as president? Not necessarily — but they’re the best guide we have.”

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Calling All Clinton Supporters: Let’s Level the Playing Field for Hillary!

Photo credits: Getty Images

John Whitesides at today reported on the gathering pressure from the Obama campaign and Obama’s groupies in the media to force Hillary Clinton out of the Democratic primary race.

Whitesides quoted Clinton: "But the most common thing that people say to me ... is 'Don't give up, keep going. We're with you.' And I feel really good about that because that's what I intend to do," she told reporters on Tuesday.

Here’s some news for Obama, his campaign staff, his supporters, and the blatantly biased media: the Whitesides article motivated me to go to Hillary Clinton’s Web site and make a donation. I’m urging all of Clinton’s supporters to do the same.

Let’s help Hillary get up to speed with her fundraising so she can compete with Obama on a level playing field from here on in.

It might also teach the Obamaphiles an important lesson in humility.

Joe Wilson Exposes the Obama Camp’s Sustained Assault on Hillary Clinton

Photo credits:

In yesterday’s Huffington Post, Former Ambassador Joseph Wilson describes how low the Obama campaign has stooped in recent weeks in their all-out negative assault on Hillary Clinton. Wilson begins by describing Clinton’s detailed policy speech on her plan to end the Iraq War. Wilson notes “Senator Clinton, in her speech, is the first presidential candidate to spell out in a precise plan the elements required for an international effort, including co-opting and controlling the enablers of the ongoing violence in Iraq, to promote political reconciliation and reform.”

Wilson points out that understandably Obama’s speech on race relations overshadowed Clinton’s important policy statement on Iraq. But Wilson explains that Obama’s motivation for his widely praised speech was primarily to douse the firestorm ignited by his pastor’s controversial statements.

Despite its preoccupation with Rev. Wright, Wilson points out that in the immediate aftermath of Clinton’s speech on Iraq “the Obama campaign dispatched several foreign policy surrogates to blitz the airwaves, supposedly to offer alternatives to Clinton's recommendations. But that's not what happened. Instead, Hillary was subjected to yet another round of personal abuse, denigration and ridicule rather than a serious debate of the issues. The real subtext of the Obama campaign was to attack Hillary in order to distract from Obama's association with his anti-American preacher. National security went un-addressed. Rather than filling in his largely absent record, Obama had his surrogates engage in what can be termed the mendacity of hype.

“Zbigniew Brzezinski, an otherwise serious person, made the extraordinarily silly comment belittling two-term Senator Clinton by comparing her experience to that of Mamie Eisenhower and his own travel agent after offering an analysis of the situation in Iraq and the path to a resolution that essentially mirrored the basic points Senator Clinton made in her speech. Brzezinski was not asked and did not explain why Obama early embraced him as an adviser and openly praised him, but recently has coldly distanced himself because of Brzezinski's controversial views on Israel.

“Nor did Brzezinski address the bloody issue of mercenary forces like Blackwater, which Obama states should be allowed to remain part of our military force in Iraq -- a position challenged by Senator Clinton, who has called for phasing them out. In place of practical policies, Brzezinski offered his vague "sense" that Obama is a person who understands change before it takes place and is therefore capable of making "transcendental" decisions, whatever that might mean. For a man with a reputation as tough-minded, Brzezinski retreated into cloudy abstraction in his defense of Obama, who, according to the Senator, he, Brzezinksi, knows hardly at all.”

Wilson reports on efforts by Obama surrogates John Kerry and Bill Richardson to smear Clinton:

“Senator John Kerry, another Obama surrogate, offered the startling observation that Obama is better equipped than anyone else to bridge the divide between the U.S. and the Muslim world and end Islamic extremism and terorrism -- "because he's a black man." There is absolutely no empirical evidence to sustain that claim, the notion that a single individual, even one with a resume filled with appropriate experience, would be able to halt terrorism because of the color of his skin. It is patently absurd. But Kerry presented nothing to back up his astounding racial reasoning. And the Obama campaign was remarkably silent on Kerry's racialization of the foreign policy discussion.

“Next, Governor Bill Richardson, who campaigned on his resume as a foreign policy practitioner, "agonized," he explained, before putting his faith in a "once in a lifetime leader" and endorsed Obama, repudiating his own rationale of experience as a prerequisite for being President. Rather than state why he believes Obama has superior national security credentials and positions, he opted to complain instead about James Carville comparing him to Judas Iscariot. Since Richardson made foreign policy the centerpiece of his campaign -- a direct consequence of President Bill Clinton's appointments -- and of the salience of foreign policy as an issue in the election, he owed an explanation of how Obama's foreign policy would make us stronger and more secure that Clinton's. But, preferring to defend himself against the charge of having betrayed the Clintons he neglected to discuss such policy.”

Continuing his thorough report of the dirty work of Obama surrogates, Wilson takes on retired Air Force General, Merrill "Tony" McPeak:

“Then, there was retired Air Force General, Merrill "Tony" McPeak, whose media appearance last week consisted of making the outrageous charge that Bill Clinton was using "McCarthy-like tactics" simply because he mentioned, in the event of a Hillary-McCain match-up, that Hillary and McCain are good patriots and that the campaign should be devoted to a substantive debate of the issues. Even the right wing National Review's Kathleen Parker, who was at the event, felt compelled to correct the record. "Bill Clinton was saying that Hillary and McCain are both good patriots who love their country, not that all those unmentioned are something else."

“Bill Clinton, of course, was not using "McCarthy-like tactics," but the Obama campaign was eager to smear him. Which was guilty of "McCarthy-like tactics"? Attack the character of your adversaries; demean them; turn them into caricatures; while lying about someone, claim they are liars.”

As usual, the media aided and abetted the Obama campaign’s slanderous assault on the Clintons. Wilson notes:

“Finally, the Obama campaign pushed a compliant press corps, all too eager to do its bidding rather than maintain its standards of objectivity and skepticism, into hyping a mini-pseudo-scandal: whether Hillary "misspoke" about being under sniper fire when she paid a visit to Tuzla in Bosnia in 1996. In fact, the then-First Lady was told the plane was diving to land to avoid possible sniper fire. Whether there was or not is irrelevant. Anybody who has been involved in these situations, as I have, knows this. The threat was apparently real enough for U.S. military on the ground, the pilot and her security detail to engage in evasive procedures. That should have been the end of the matter. But the cable TV talking heads nattered the Obama campaign talking points endlessly.”

Wilson brings his points home directly to Obama consultant, David Axelrod:

“Obama's week of rolling out national security surrogates and talking points was not a pretty sight and turned out to have almost nothing to do with bolstering his thin credentials. His distracting efforts were a clear attempt to deflect attention from them, in fact. In response to Hillary's detailed, substantive speech on Iraq, Obama replied with ad hominem insults. Instead of presenting his own plan, his campaign indulged in character assassination.

“David Axelrod, the top Obama political strategist, for one, knows better. After all, he and his wife were direct beneficiaries of Hillary Clinton's personal kindness and public policy experience when, in the midst of the impeachment trial of her husband, she travelled to Chicago to support Susan Axelrod's efforts to raise money for her foundation, Citizens United for Research on Epilepsy (CURE), established by her after one of the Axelrod children was afflicted with the malady. As reported in the New York Times in April, 2007 (with thanks to eriposte of the Leftcoaster blog for his research):

‘It was January 1999, President Clinton's impeachment trial was just beginning in the Senate and Hillary Clinton was scheduled to speak at the foundation's fund-raiser in Chicago. Despite all the fuss back in Washington, Clinton kept the appointment. She spent hours that day in the epilepsy ward at Rush Presbyterian hospital, visiting children hooked up to machines by electrodes so that doctors might diagram their seizure activity and decide which portion of the brain to remove. At the hospital, a local reporter pressed her about the trial in Washington, asked her about that woman. At the organization's reception at the Drake Hotel that evening, Clinton stood backstage looking over her remarks, figuring out where to insert anecdotes about the kids. 'She couldn't stop talking about what she had seen," Susan Axelrod recalled. Later, at Hillary Clinton's behest, the National Institutes of Health convened a conference on finding a cure for epilepsy. Susan Axelrod told me it was 'one of the most important things anyone has done for epilepsy.' And this is how politics works: David Axelrod is now dedicated to derailing this woman's career.’"

And Wilson concludes:

“Senator Obama and his campaign should get back to defending his policy positions and record rather than diminish a good person and an accomplished public servant. They know better.”

Joe Wilson demonstrated his integrity by opposing George W. Bush’s dishonesty in leading the United States into war.

As he has done on several previous occasions in the Democratic primary, Wilson has once again valiantly stood his ground in defending Hillary Clinton against the Obama campaign’s continuous slanderous attacks.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Time’s Exclusive: Hillary Clinton is in it to Win it!

Photo credits: AP

In an exclusive telephone interview yesterday with Time Magazine, a confident Hillary Clinton looks forward to being the Democratic nominee and uniting the party to defeat McCain in November. In Clinton’s words:

“Well, first I think that it's important to point out that the premise of the whole discussion that some people are engaged in is off base because this is a very close race and neither of us will reach the magic number of delegates. We're both going to be short, and when you think about the many millions of people who have already voted, we are separated by a relatively small percentage of votes. We're separated by, you know, a little more than a hundred delegates. I've won states that Democrats need to win in the general election in order to win the White House and obviously the strategy on the other side is to try to shut this race down, but I don't think voters want that. You know, there was a big surge in registration here in Pennsylvania. That seems to be happening in other states that are in the upcoming contests. Millions of people still remain to vote and to have their votes counted, so I think it's exciting and I find it very positive for our party. We're going to bring a lot of people into this race. Yesterday in Montgomery County I probably had six women tell me that they had changed their registration from Republican to Democrat to be able to vote for me, and I'm sure people are doing things to get prepared to vote for Senator Obama. I think this is all really good. And there's additional problems of Florida and Michigan, because I still don't see how the Democrats don't figure out a way to make sure their votes are counted. And I don't understand what Senator Obama was afraid of when I agreed and the DNC signed off on a re-vote in Michigan and he said no. So we're just going to keep this process going through these next contests.”

Read More

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

“Latest Polls Show Clinton Winning Big in Pennsylvania”

Photo credits: Getty

Mark Silva posting at the Swamp (Baltimore Sun) this afternoon is asking, ‘How bad is it for Barack Obama in Pennsylvania?”

“‘Just how bad is documented by some key findings from a series of polls, including the Franklin and Marshal College Poll, all released recently,’ writes Terry Madonna, professor of public affairs at F&M and Michael Young, managing partner of Michael Young Strategic Research.

“‘Almost none of the results bode well for Obama,’ they write of the Apr. 22 Democratic primary, from the polling they are looking at. ‘Cross the board Clinton is winning and winning big. She has decisively stopped Obama’s earlier momentum in Pennsylvania—and seems set for a romp.’”

Silva continues:

“Among Democrats in general in Pennsylania, Clinton holds an advantage over Obama ranging from 16 to 26 points, they {Madonna and Young} say in their column, Politically Uncorrected.

“‘She is winning every major region of the state except Philadelphia, while Obama has actually slipped slightly with blacks and more substantially with younger voters — two demographics that are critical backstops for him in the contest. He has also lost support with other key constituencies including white males and evangelicals.’”

Read More

Hillary Clinton Comments On Rev. Wright’s Hate Speech

Pittsburgh Tribune-Review staff writers Wereschagin and Brown reported that in an interview today with the Tribune-Review’s editorial board, Hillary Clinton said Rev. Wright would not have been her pastor, adding, "You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend."

Wereschagin and Brown continued:

“Obama's lead in national polls has slipped since clips of the retired Rev. Jeremiah Wright began being played on national news programs. The uproar prompted Obama to give a wide-ranging speech on race in America a week ago. The Clinton campaign has refrained from getting involved in the controversy, but Clinton herself, responding to a question, denounced what she said was ‘hate speech.’

“‘You know, I spoke out against Don Imus (who was fired from his radio and television shows after making racially insensitive remarks), saying that hate speech was unacceptable in any setting, and I believe that,’ Clinton said. ‘I just think you have to speak out against that. You certainly have to do that, if not explicitly, then implicitly by getting up and moving.’”

Read More:

Peter Daou Shatters Myths from the Obama Camp

Wow! Over at HuffingtonPost this morning, Peter Daou is breathtaking as myth buster. Daou shatters three major myths about the Democratic race. First off he nails the Obama camp with the same charges I’ve been repeating endlessly for weeks now:

“MYTH: Barack Obama is running a positive campaign that will unite Americans.

“FACT: Barack Obama and his advisers have conducted a divisive "full assault" on Hillary's character.”

Daou explains:

“While talking a lot about the politics of hope, change and unity, Sen. Obama and his campaign have been conducting a relentless and singularly personal assault on Hillary's character. They have blanketed big states with false negative mailers and radio ads and have described Hillary and her campaign as ‘disingenuous,’ ‘divisive,’ ‘untruthful,’ ‘dishonest,’ ‘polarizing,’calculating,’ ‘saying whatever it takes to win,’ ‘attempting to deceive the American people,’ ‘one of the most secretive in America,’ ‘deliberately misleading,’ ‘literally willing to do anything to win,’ and ‘playing politics with war.’

“This ‘full assault’ on Hillary's integrity and character has reached a new peak since Hillary's victories on March 4th. One of Sen. Obama's top surrogates equated President Clinton with Joe McCarthy; another called Hillary a ‘monster;’ and his campaign manager held an angry conference call claiming that Hillary is ‘deeply flawed’ and has ‘character issues.’ That's neither unifying nor hopeful. If Sen. Obama really is the prohibitive favorite some say he is, these negative attacks make absolutely no sense. Why would a frontrunner seek to attack and divide? If Sen. Obama can't unify Democrats in a primary, how can he unify Americans in a general election?”

Allow me to repeat Daou’s question: “If Sen. Obama can't unify Democrats in a primary, how can he unify Americans in a general election?”

In the second myth, despite what all the pundits are saying – Howard Kurtz’s column in yesterday’s WaPo was titled: “Hillary’s Last Rites?” – Daou shatters this one as effectively as he did the first:

“MYTH: The delegate ‘math’ works decisively against Hillary.”

“FACT: The delegate math reflects an extremely close race that either candidate can win.”

Daou explains:

“‘The Math’ is actually very simple: with hundreds of delegates still uncommitted, NEITHER candidate has reached the number of delegates required to secure the nomination. And EITHER candidate can reach the required number in the coming weeks and months. That is indisputable. No amount of editorials, articles, blog posts, charts, graphs, calculations, formulas, or projections will change the basic fact that either candidate can win. Pundits who confidently proclaim that Hillary has no hope of winning because of ‘the math,’ have counted Hillary out of this race three times before. Each time they based their sober assessments on 'facts' and 'realities' -- and each time they were wrong.

“In a campaign with dozens of unexpected twists and turns, bold prognostications should be viewed with a healthy dose of skepticism. Look no further than Sen. Obama's ‘full assault’ on Hillary's character to judge whether he thinks this election is over. The fact is this: Hillary and Sen. Obama are locked in a very close, hard-fought campaign and Hillary is demonstrating precisely the strength of character required of a president. Her resilience in the face of adversity, her faith in the voters, her capacity to rise to every challenge, are part of the reason she is the best general election candidate for Democrats. And it is why she is increasingly strong against John McCain in the polls at the same time that Sen. Obama is dropping against Sen. McCain.”

Finally, Daou shatters the myth about the superdelegates:

“MYTH: For Hillary to win, super delegates must ‘overturn the will of the people.’

“FACT: The race is virtually tied, the ‘will of the people’ is split, and both candidates need super delegates to win.”

Hint: As Daou explains, the election is not over yet:

“The Obama campaign and Sen. Obama's surrogates have engaged in a sustained public relations effort to convince people that the election is over and that if super delegates perform their established role of choosing a candidate who they believe will make the best nominee and president, they are somehow ‘overturning the will of the people.’ They have the audacity to make this argument while quietly and systematically courting those very same super delegates. They are courting them because they know that Sen. Obama needs super delegates to win. The Obama spin is being parroted daily by pundits, but it is patently false. The race is virtually tied; the ‘will of the people’ is split. By virtually every measure, Hillary and Sen. Obama are neck and neck -- separated by less than 130 of the more than 3,100 delegates committed thus far and less than 1% of the 27 million+ votes cast, including Florida and Michigan. Less than 1%.
“An incremental advantage for one candidate or the other is hardly a reason for super delegates to change the rules mid-game. Despite the Obama campaign's aggressive spin and pressure, the RULES require super delegates to exercise their best independent judgment, and that is what they will do. Even Sen. Obama's top strategist agrees they should. If not, then why don't prominent Obama endorsers like Senators Kerry (MA) and Kennedy (MA), and Governors Patrick (MA), Napolitano (AZ) and Richardson (NM) follow the will of their constituents and switch their support to Hillary? After all, she won their states. And if this is truly about the ‘will of the people,’ then Sen. Obama's short-sighted tactic to run out the clock on a revote in Florida and Michigan accomplishes exactly two things: it disenfranchises Florida and Michigan's voters; and it hurts Democrats in a general election. Apparently, for the Obama campaign, the ‘will of the people’ is just words.”

Note: Peter Daou is the Clinton Campaign’s Internet Director.

Pennsylvania Women Line Up for Blocks to Hear Hillary

From left to right are State Senator Connie Williams, Phila. councilwoman Marian Tasco, Senator Hillary Clinton and Rep. Allyson Schwartz at the "Pennsylvania Women for Hillary" event.

Photo Credits: ERIC MENCHER/Philadelphia Inquirer

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jeff Gammage vividly describes Hillary Clinton at her “Pennsylvania Women for Hillary” event in Blue Bell, Penn. yesterday:

“Hillary Clinton evoked themes of sisterhood and motherhood while addressing women voters in Blue Bell today - and reminded them she'd be a strong commander-in-chief and a fighter for universal health care.

‘“We have seen changes that are unimaginable for our mothers and grandmothers,’ Clinton said at a crowded gymnasium at Montgomery County Community College. Yet, she noted, even when she was growing up, ‘there were colleges I couldn't go to, scholarships I couldn't apply for.’

‘“Her talk resonated with the crowd, one of whom told the candidate during the question-and-answer period, ‘I'd like to say 'Madame President' just once.’

“Nearly a thousand people filled the room, and more were directed to an overflow space, the line to get inside stretching for blocks along campus sidewalks. The crowd at the "Pennsylvania Women for Hillary" event looked like Clinton's base - female, white, a little older. Not that the over-35 crowd were the only ones present. Mothers came carrying babies or trailing teen daughters, and two little boys held up a sign that said, "Our Mama's for the Mama!’

“Clinton emerged onto a platform at the center of the gym, her red blazer punctuating a sea of white and blue signs that said, "Hillary for President." The first two dozen people into the building claimed much-sought-after space, pressing against the barrier that surrounded the platform like fans around the stage at a rock concert. Some carried copies of Clinton's book, and one had a small stuffed Hillary-bear.

“Sister, wife, daughter, mother - she's all of these, Clinton said, and she takes the experience of those roles ‘with me on the campaign trail and I hope into the White House, with your help.’”

Read More:

Monday, March 24, 2008

Clinton’s Speech on the Economy: Transcript

Photo credits: Reuters

Following is the full text of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's speech on the economy, delivered in Philadelphia and provided by CQ Transcriptions. (Courtesy of the NY Times)

It's great to be back here at Penn and in Philadelphia. I remember giving the commencement address here some years ago and I always had that image of the beauty of this campus and, of course, its extraordinary reputation.

And I'm delighted to have a chance to be here with you to talk about an issue that is critical not only to Pennsylvania but to our country.

I want to thank Congresswoman Schwartz. She and I will be together later this afternoon and I'm looking forward to that very much. Mayor Nutter, I have heard the governor say that you could be the second-best mayor in Philadelphia history. I know you're aiming for first, so keep it up.


You're doing a great job.

And Governor Rendell, who has been so visionary and strategic in his leadership, first, of Philadelphia, then, of course, of Pennsylvania. And what he just said about how he and his administration responded to the first signs of trouble from the mortgage market is just typical of Ed Rendell. He really is someone who is always looking to solve problems. And that's why he's been so successful and why I'm so grateful for his support.

You know, I want to take a moment to note yesterday's heartbreaking news that five years after the start of the war there have now been 4,000 U.S. military deaths in Iraq. Tens of thousands of our brave men and women have also suffered serious wounds, both visible and invisible, to their bodies, their minds and their hearts.

As president, I intend to honor their extraordinary service and the sacrifice of them and their families by ending this war and bringing them home as quickly and responsibly as possible.


You know, as the headlines of the past months have made clear, we are experiencing a crisis of confidence in our country. We have a crisis of confidence in our leadership with respect to Iraq and we have a crisis of confidence in our economy.

What started out as a subprime mortgage crisis has now become a national credit crisis, rippling out from banks and boardrooms to businesses and living rooms across America. We've had three straight months of private sector job losses. Consumer confidence is down and falling. The dollar has hit record lows and gas prices, record highs.

And last week, the Federal Reserve took unprecedented measures to rescue Wall Street, the likes of which we haven't seen since the Great Depression.

These are not just red flags or warning signs. They are indisputable indicators that our economy is in serious trouble.

And now we face an urgent question: How do we keep today's turmoil from spiraling into a long and painful recession?

This is no easy task. The 21st century American economy is more complex and more interconnected with the global economy than ever before. It is shaped each day by billions and billions of individual transactions and interactions on every continent, subject to crises or even just speculation in one country can move markets in dozens of others with the blink of an eye or a flick of a mouse.

In today's economy, trouble that starts on Wall Street often ends up on Main Street, sometimes within minutes, sometimes over the course of months or even years.

When there's a run on mortgage-backed securities and the bottom falls out for investment banks, the bottom falls out for families who see the value of their homes -- their greatest source of wealth -- decline.

When our credit markets freeze up, that doesn't just cause panic on our trading floors, but in small businesses that can't get the capital they need to survive, and on college campuses, like this one, when the student loan for next semester falls through.

When we continue to persist in brain dead energy policy, as confidence in our currency erodes, that means gas prices so high you feel like it costs more to commute to work than you make when you get there. It means rising food prices that strain household budgets. It means having less left over for savings or even dipping into savings to make ends meet.

It means more challenges for the mayor. Because property tax revenues drop, businesses don't have the same ability to make that profit that benefits the city.

It means more problems for the governor, who has to look across a complex state economy trying to figure out how to keep what has been a remarkable string of real budget balances and surpluses. It causes problems for our country.

Ultimately, the true currency of today's American economy is confidence. When people lose confidence in the economy and our president's ability to manage it, problems become crises and crises lead to more crises.

So, we need a president who can restore our confidence, a president who is ready to confront complex economic problems with comprehensive solutions, a president who will act at the first signs of trouble, working with experts to identify the problem with agencies to adapt regulations, with Congress to pass necessary legislation; working to prevent crises rather than just reacting too little too late.

We need a president who is ready on day one to be commander in chief of our economy. If you give me the chance, I will be that president. I will start by facing our economic situation as it is, not as we wish it would be.

That means acknowledging that our economic crisis is, at its core, a housing crisis, a crisis caused in part by unscrupulous mortgage lenders and brokers and unregulated transactions in mortgage- backed securities, in part by speculators who were buying multiple houses to sell for a quick buck and other buyers who didn't act responsibly, and in part by a president and administration who failed to anticipate and continue to downplay the problems we face.

Unlike what happened here in Pennsylvania, when Governor Rendell started seeing problems -- and I remember those articles we had in the newspaper, Governor -- where the housing supply was being, you know, expanded and people were putting zero money down and they were trying to once again get the American dream, they were commuting sometimes two hours to be able to afford that house -- well, those warning signals went unheeded in Washington, but thankfully not in Harrisburg.

And what we have to do now is to look at our housing crisis in greater detail. And I'd like to outline my plans to address it.

2.2 million foreclosure notices went out last year, up 75 percent from 2006. Communities of color have been especially hard hit. Subprime loans are five times more common in predominantly African- American neighborhoods than predominantly white ones. And 41 percent of loans to Hispanics are subprime, compared to only 22 percent to whites.

But this crisis isn't just about the more than two million households at risk of losing their homes. And, of course, 2.2 million foreclosure notices means many more people than that, because, obviously, you have homes where anywhere from two to 10 people live.

It's about the tens of millions of families who have lost value in their homes.

When I talk about the home foreclosure crisis, sometimes people, I can tell, look at me a little skeptically because they, I can tell, are thinking to themselves, "I didn't buy one of those mortgages, I don't have an ARM. I'm not at risk." But, in fact, that is just not the case.

Home prices dropped almost 9 percent last quarter -- home prices for everyone. If you've paid off your home, if you have a fixed-rate mortgage with a manageable interest rate, you have suffered the steepest decline on record. That means families have lost at least $1.9 trillion in housing wealth so far, nearly two-thirds of the size of the entire United States government budget.

And today, nearly 9 million families are struggling with mortgages that are under water. They actually owe more for their mortgages than their homes are worth. So what was once their biggest financial asset is now a financial liability.

The housing crisis is also a crisis for our cities, our towns and our neighborhoods. At least 41 million homes will lose value because of foreclosures in their neighborhoods, including 1.7 million homes right here in Pennsylvania.

Abandoned homes and boarded up neighborhoods mean higher crime rates, lower property values and plummeting tax receipts for cities and towns across America.

Now, a year ago in March 2007, I called for immediate action to address abuses in the subprime market and I laid out detailed concrete proposals for how to do so. I warned this administration that the problems in subprime mortgages would soon spill over into regular mortgages.

The response from our president? Well, his treasury secretary told Congress that the problem was, quote, "contained." And president himself assured us there would be a, quote, "soft landing for the housing market."

The housing crisis soon spread from subprime to traditional mortgages. And in August of last year, I warned the administration that the housing mortgage crisis would soon ripple out through the entire economy.

Again, I called for immediate action and laid out concrete proposals to prevent foreclosures and help states hard-hit by this crisis.

I also called for tighter regulation of the housing market, starting with unscrupulous mortgage brokers who were taking advantage of our families.

I would require mortgage brokers to disclose right up front that they paid -- they're paid based on the size of the mortgage they sell to put buyers on notice.

I would work with states to develop strong, meaningful broker licensing standards to screen brokers and govern their conduct. And I would require all brokers to register with the federal government so that home buyers can do their own background checks to ensure they're dealing with someone who will deal fairly with them.

I also call for greater regulation of mortgage lenders. I would eliminate the prepayment penalties that lead to such high rates of default. I would require lenders to take into account the borrower's ability to pay property taxes and insurance fees when deciding whether to make a loan in the first place.

Too many loan lenders haven't made that part of the calculation, and too many families don't know that they need to budget for these expenses.

In October I proposed legislation, the Foreclosure Rescue Fraud Act, that imposed new criminal penalties on lenders who are taking advantage of people, offering foreclosure rescue schemes that lure families in, take their money and do nothing to help them.

I've also proposed that we amend the bankruptcy code to give judges the discretion to write down the value of struggling families' homes.

Believe it or not, bankruptcy judges can write down the value of many other things to help families pay off their debt, but not their homes. They can write off the value or write down the value of second homes, which seems kind of ironic to me.

Making this amendment to the code will help families in bankruptcy pay off their mortgages and stay in their homes.

Now, the response to all of this from the administration: Well, they continued their "wait and don't see" approach, largely ignoring the mounting problems.

By December of last year the mortgage crisis had become a national credit crisis. So I went to New York City and I told Wall Street they needed to do their part to address this crisis. I put forward an aggressive plan for a 90-day moratorium on all subprime foreclosures and a voluntary five-year freeze on interest rates for all subprime mortgages.

The response from this administration? A plan that let banks off the hook and left homeowners to fend for themselves. In the words of one expert, the president's plan was the bank lobby's dream.

This administration's top economic priority, it seems, has been to lavish roughly $400 billion in tax cuts on the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans while families have lost nearly five times that in the value of their homes.

Last week, when it became clear Wall Street was on the brink of a financial meltdown, the Fed and the administration sprang into action. The Fed extended a $30 billion lifeline to prevent Bear Stearns (NYSE:BSC) from imploding and took unprecedented action to provide tens of billions of dollars in credit for other struggling investment banks as well. Homeowners, on the other hand, have received next to no assistance.

Well, let's be clear. When families are losing their homes, that's also...


... Representative Barney Frank and Senator Chris Dodd, that would expand the government's capacity to stand behind mortgages that are reworked on affordable terms.

Currently, families apply to the government and the government decides on an individual basis whether to work with them to restructure their mortgages. You heard the governor say that maybe there will be 1,000 families that will be helped in Pennsylvania.

That is a slow process that helps relatively few families. It simply isn't enough to revive our housing market.

The Frank/Dodd legislation would move beyond this incremental approach by setting up an auction system for mortgage companies that hold hundreds of thousands of these mortgages.

Through this system, these companies could sell mortgages in bulk to banks and other buyers. The buyers would be willing to purchase these mortgages and restructure them to make them affordable for families because they know that government will guarantee them once they are refinanced.

This will be good for families who can keep their homes. It would be good for mortgage lenders because it's more profitable than foreclosures. It would be good for our economy, helping to unfreeze our credit markets.

But given the severity of today's housing crisis, simply facilitating this auction process might not be enough to get our economy moving again.

That's why I believe the Federal Housing Administration should also stand ready to be a temporary buyer, to purchase, restructure and resell underwater mortgages.

Just as it has in the past, this kind of temporary measure by the government could give our economy the boost it needs and families the help they certainly need. It would not require a single new federal bureaucracy. It would be designed to be self- financing over time, so would cost taxpayers nothing in the long run.

It's a sensible way for everyone -- lenders, investors, mortgage companies and borrowers -- to share responsibility, keep families in their homes, stabilize communities and the economy.

In order to determine whether the approach outlined by Representative Frank and Senator Dodd is sufficient or whether we need the government to step in as a purchaser, I'm calling on President Bush to appoint an emergency working group on foreclosures. That's the second part of my plan. We simply cannot wait until Congress passes legislation to find the best way to help millions of families.

That's why I'm proposing this emergency working group on foreclosures. It could be led by a distinguished nonpartisan group of economic leaders, like Alan Greenspan, Robert Rubin, Paul Volcker. It's the kind of proactive step that would help reestablish confidence in our economy, by showing that the president and the administration is taking our economic crisis seriously.

I've been calling for several weeks for the president to show some sense of urgency. This group's first order of business would be to determine how the government should implement the solutions proposed in the Frank-Dodd legislation and whether the legislation goes far enough.

If it's decided additional steps are needed, then we should investigate whether and how the Federal Housing Administration or other government entities or Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac could buy, restructure and resell these underwater mortgages. The group would report back to Congress on a very tight time line, no more than three weeks.

In the meantime, while the emergency working group is being formed, we should implement the moratorium on foreclosures that I first called for in December. Every unnecessary home foreclosure just worsens the credit crisis and further depresses housing prices.

Secretary Paulson and others have finally acknowledged the need for this moratorium in certain cases. I hope they will act as quickly as possible to implement it. The third part of my plan is a new housing stimulus package, to provide $30 billion directly to states and localities, like Pennsylvania and Philadelphia, hard hit by this crisis.

Right now, concentrated clusters of foreclosures are devastating some communities. A recent study of 10 states by the U.S. Conference of Mayors found that the foreclosure crisis will lead to $6.6 billion in lost tax revenues in just those 10 states alone.

Just over a month ago, Congress passed and President Bush signed a $168 billion stimulus package. But this package did next to nothing to help homeowners and communities struggling with foreclosures.

I said at the time, if we did not address the housing crisis, we would not be able to stem the bleeding.

Congress is trying to combat a recession caused by the housing crisis without doing anything to address that crisis.

Well, if the Fed can extend $30 billion to help Bear Stearns address their financial crisis, the federal government should provide at least that much emergency assistance to help families and communities address theirs.

That's why I'm calling for the creation of a one-time emergency $30 billion fund that would go directly to cities and states to address the housing crisis.

This money could be used to purchase foreclosed or distressed properties, which cities and states could then resell to low-income families or convert into affordable rental housing.

It could be used to help neighborhoods with high foreclosure rates avoid increased crime and blight by investing in everything from police and fire support to graffiti removal and better lighting.

It could be used by local agencies to provide counseling and refinancing to help families avoid foreclosure in the first place.

Governor Rendell has been leading the way with programs like that here in Pennsylvania. The Pennsylvania Homeowners' Emergency Mortgage Assistance Program offer small, low-cost loans to families facing foreclosure. It has saved up to 40,000 homes since it started.

And this past October, Governor Rendell launched two additional programs to help homeowners refinance and restructure their mortgages.

And we're seeing results here in Pennsylvania. Since the end of 2006, Pennsylvania's foreclosure rate has decreased 11 percent.

I look forward to working with governors like Governor Rendell, and with mayors like Mayor Nutter, who's already providing outstanding leadership here in Philadelphia, to replicate this kind of success across America.

The fourth and final part of my plan involves passing new legislation to clarify legal liability for mortgage companies that act to help more borrowers stay in their homes.

Right now, many mortgage companies are reluctant to help families restructure their mortgages because they're afraid of being sued by the investment banks, the private equity firms, and others who actually own the mortgage papers.

Because, remember, all of these mortgages were bundled up in these huge packages and sold around the world. So you can't just go down to see your mortgage broker or your bank or your other lender to work out a deal, because they no longer own the paper.

This is the case even though writing down the value of a mortgage is often more profitable than foreclosing, both for mortgage companies and for most of those who own the mortgages.

That's why I will be proposing legislation, when Congress returns, to provide mortgage companies with protection against the threat of such lawsuits.

I know this kind of policy isn't particularly glamorous and it probably won't make headlines. But it will make a critical difference in helping families save their homes, and getting our economy back our track.

Now, some may claim that the plan I have outlined today is a bail-out. They'll argue that it's not the government role to help. Well, that is the same kind of tired rhetoric we've been hearing for years now. And I think the American people know better.

We've had enough of that old ideology. We're ready for solutions, here and now.

And to those who object to our government helping middle-class families and low-income families devastated by the housing crisis, I say this. We've given Bear Stearns a $30 billion lifeline.

We've given their credits, their lenders, their customers and those associated with them the same lifeline.

We are now, through the Fed's change in policy, lending billions of dollars a day to help Wall Street banks that aren't regulated, that aren't transparent, that are not held accountable.

How can you tell a family about to lose their home that there is nothing we can do to help them? How can you tell them that if they had failed spectacularly, we would have helped them, but because they're failing quietly, desperately, we've turning our backs?

How can you tell them that there's nothing we can do to rebuild the American dream?

You know, I have been across our country for years. I know how much a home means to all of us. I remember like it was yesterday when Bill bought our first home. It was back in 1975 and we were living in Arkansas and teaching at the university there in the law school.

We weren't yet married, but not for lack of asking on Bill's part.


And one day, we drove by this tiny red-brick house with a "for sale" sign in front. All I said was I thought it was a sweet looking house and never thought about it again.

Several weeks later, Bill said to me, "Do you remember that house you liked?" I had never been inside, I had never been outside looking inside; I had just driven by.

I said, "What house that I liked?" He said, "You know, that red- brick house on California Drive. Well, I bought it. So now you got to marry me because I can't live in it by myself."

It wasn't exactly a mansion and the kitchen needed a lot of work, but I did say yes. And that fall, we were married in the living room of that house, surrounded by our closest friends and family.

That first home meant the world to us.

It was where we started our life together, celebrated birthdays, anniversaries and holidays with our friends. And families across America feel the same way, whether it's your first house or your tenth house. It is part of who we are as Americans to look at that home ownership as such an important part of the American dream.

Today we face unprecedented economic challenges. But we also have within our reach unprecedented economic opportunities. We've got clean energy (NASDAQ:CLNE) opportunities that we are not exploiting. Utilities are changing the way they do business, focusing on efficiency, not just producing energy. Renewables like wind and solar are the most exciting prospects for American manufacturing in decades.

I've even proposed we establish a carbon reduction mortgage association, or a Connie Mae, an idea that Vice President Gore first came up with.

We'd direct Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to provide loans to help people build more and retrofit more energy-efficient homes. We'd save money, over the long run. We'd create millions of green-collar jobs.

We've got infrastructure opportunities to rebuild crumbling roads, bridges, and highways, just like I-95, right here in Philadelphia, opportunities to revolutionize our public transportation systems, cut down on traffic and pollution.

We can do so much that will really build the strong economy we need in the 21st century. But we won't do it by just waiting and watching and losing the opportunity to act.

We've got so many great ideas that will give us the tools we need for the 21st century. Now, turning the economy around won't be easy. But we're gathered in the very city where our founders put to paper the words that have guided our nation and inspired the world for more than 200 years.

Each generation of Americans has faced threats to our ideals. Each generation has met them. We have fought wars, overcome a recession, weathered all kinds of problems, lived through the Great Depression. We've had market crises of all kinds.

Through it all, as President Franklin Roosevelt once said, we have always to the hope, the belief, the conviction that there is a better life, a better world beyond the horizon. But we have to translate that hope into reality. We have to translate that conviction into solutions.

And if we do, we will meet the current challenges with confidence and optimism. We will rebuild our economy stronger and more vibrant, more resilient than ever before.

It is a question of leadership. And I hope we don't have to wait until the next president is sworn in, but that we will come together and exercise that leadership in both the public and the private sector as soon as possible.

That's why I've set forth this plan and hope that the administration will begin to act with the urgency that the crisis before us demands.

Thank you all very much.

Clinton’s Economic Policies Meet the Main Street Test

In responding to the current economic crisis, Hillary Clinton’s first allegiance is to the people who live on Main Street.

According to Gene Sperling in today’s Washington Post, “To solve the current crisis, Hillary Clinton believes we need sorely missed proactive policies that ask what is best for families on Main Street. That starts with economic leadership that is poised to preempt rather than chase crises.”

Sperling continues:

“Last March, when the Federal Reserve and the Bush administration claimed that the subprime mess was "contained," Clinton called on regulators to take preemptive action -- including a foreclosure timeout, strengthening the Federal Housing Administration's capacities to respond to a crisis and cracking down on predatory lending practices with plain-language disclosure requirements.”

Further, according to Sperling, “She {Clinton} has since called for a plan to encourage the restructuring of viable mortgages through a voluntary agreement to freeze interest rates on subprime adjustable-rate mortgages and a 90-day foreclosure moratorium. She immediately supported the legislation introduced by Rep. Barney Frank and Sen. Chris Dodd seeking a more systemic effort to unlock and restructure mortgages, and she continues to consult experts over the most effective method for doing so.”

Clinton’s “Main Street Test” means “Complex lending vehicles for sophisticated financiers must ultimately be shown to benefit America's working families. What justifies a $30 billion temporary lifeline for Bear Stearns and more common-sense supervision of our mortgage industry is the recognition that hands-off postures toward mindless or mind-numbing lending practices can lead to an economic spiral that can hit Main Street hard.”

Sperling reports:

“Sometimes the best way to meet the Main Street Test is to directly assist those who live there. On Thursday, Clinton proposed a second stimulus package, focused on helping at-risk homeowners and communities. Across the nation, concentrated foreclosures and vacant buildings are leading to downward spirals; they threaten to bring crime and blight into once-viable neighborhoods. In early January, Clinton called for a $30 billion Emergency Housing Fund to give localities broad tools to head off this threat, including the latitude to buy and rent out or resell such vacant properties. Today, even Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke is calling for policies to confront the community harm traced to "clusters of foreclosures." If we can provide a $30 billion lifeline for Bear Stearns, can't we afford $30 billion to prevent Main Streets from turning into mean streets?

“As important as productivity growth can be, the ultimate test of our long-term economic policies are the wages, jobs, health care and economic mobility of typical and too often "invisible" American families. The answer does not lie in extending high-income tax cuts or in expensive new corporate tax cuts. Nor is it in creating a spate of new government bureaucracies. Hillary Clinton supports policies that empower Americans directly to achieve greater economic security and upward mobility: a health-care tax credit that goes directly to you; a $1,000 matching tax cut that goes directly to your savings account; and higher education tax cuts that go directly to pay for your or your child's tuition and dreams of a better future.”

Gene Sperling, is economic adviser to Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

A Minnesota Welcome to Easter Weekend

Along Weir Road in Woodbury

Minnesotans weren't all that surprised that the Vernal Equinox on Thursday was followed by a snowstorm dropping several inches of the white stuff on Good Friday. The flurries continued off and on, but when I stopped along the road on Saturday with camera in hand, I swear I caught a glimpse of a rather large, floppy-eared creature hopping through the woods. Unfortunately, he moved too quickly for me to capture him in the above photo.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Hillary to Barack: “You Can Identify The Problems, But What Have You Done About Them?”

Photo credits: Getty Images

In the aftermath of Obama’s speech on race the other day, Jay Cost, writing for the Horserace Blog at Real Clear Politics, raised the question Hillary Clinton has been posing to Barack Obama throughout her campaign: “You can identify the problems, but what have you done about them?"

After a comprehensive review of Obama’s speech, Cost addresses what he sees as its shortcomings:

“My concern with the speech is the following. I am not sure what I think about Obama's claim that he never heard Wright make incendiary comments. I think that hinges on the definition of "incendiary." More importantly, I have always thought this was a moot point. Incendiary comments make for great television - but the bigger concern, especially for somebody as smart as Obama, is the philosophy that undergirds them. Obama clearly understands Wright's philosophy - even if he never heard Wright say what has generated this firestorm. If nothing else, yesterday he contextualized Wright into the broader narrative of the American racial division. He would not have been able to do that so ably if he had only learned about this philosophy last week.

“This philosophy is divisive, and Obama was aware of it even if he had not heard its most extreme articulations. At the same time, this philosophy is clearly not the core mission of Trinity United Church of Christ. Jeremiah Wright does not wake up every morning dedicated to dividing people. However, the antipode of this divisiveness is the core mission of Barack Obama. He wakes up every morning dedicated to uniting people. This is why Obama thinks Wright is not just wrong, but "profoundly" wrong. Wright's divisiveness constitutes a grievous mistake on what Obama takes to be the central question of American identity - are we one people or are we not?

“Accordingly, this inclines me to ask what Obama did about this profound philosophical error. He has been a parishioner for twenty years, and he has been a strong believer in this philosophy of unity for at least four years, since his keynote address in 2004. I appreciate that he cannot walk away from Trinity because the church speaks to who he is. However, I must ask whether he worked to persuade Wright and the parishioners who applauded so jubilantly at his divisive words that they were wrong on a matter of existential importance. If he did, what was the consequence of those efforts? Did he succeed in bringing about change at Trinity?”

Cost points out that voters are forced to look at what candidates have done in the past to gauge what they will do in the future:

“These are reasonable questions to ask. They speak to the implicit warranty that a candidate offers when he or she runs for any office. Candidates make all kinds of promises about what they will do, and voters need to find some way to gauge whether they will keep their word. One way to do that is to look at what they have done. By contextualizing Jeremiah Wright in the broader dilemma of American divisiveness, Obama has identified his experience at Trinity as a small instance of a larger problem that plagues the country, the problem to which he intends to dedicate the 44th presidency. It is therefore reasonable to ask what he did - empowered as he was as a high-profile, long-standing parishioner - to change the viewpoint of Wright and Trinity, and whether those efforts were successful.”

Cost goes on to explain how Barack dodges the real issue before him:

“The essential problem of the speech is that it gives no answer to these queries. Obama recognizes the problem with Wright's viewpoint, feels strongly that it is part of a problem in society that needs to be corrected, but offers no evidence of his work to correct it. Instead, he says, "Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely - just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed." But there are many ways to "disagree." Did he merely shake his head quietly in the pews and complain to Michelle on the drive back to Kenwood? Or did he do something about it? Many parishioners in many churches or synagogues would do something if their pastors, priests or rabbis went astray on an important issue. Many more would expect a future president to do something.”

Cost then imagines Hillary Clinton’s response:

“What could be political trouble for him is that these are specific versions of the general question Hillary Clinton has been asking for weeks. Can't you just hear her now, in the back of your mind, say in response to this speech what she has said dozens of times before? ‘I have been working on these issues for 35 years. My husband and I made real progress in the 90s. You can identify the problems, but what have you done about them?’”

In conclusion, Mr. Cost states the obvious about Obama’s skimpy resume:

“Hillary Clinton did not invent this question. She is just exploiting it. The question is a real one that each voter must answer and weigh for himself. That would be the case regardless of whether Mrs. Clinton ever uttered ‘35 years’ or not. Thus, the speech returns us to the essential gamble of the Obama candidacy. It is simply true that his résumé is thin. It is not the thinnest of our past presidents. Chester Arthur probably gets that prize. However, it is thinner than what most Americans typically expect from a president. Obama is betting that voters have the same reaction to the Wright speech as they do to his candidacy itself: they are so persuaded by his insightful diagnosis of the national ailment that they are not bothered by the fact that he has done little to date to cure it.”

The logical follow-up questions is this: How long will the American people allow themselves to be persuaded by Barack Obama’s soaring rhetoric without challenging his inadequate qualifications to be president of the United States?

Friday, March 21, 2008

A Different Perspective On Obama’s Speech on Race

Photo credits: AP

Since Obama’s speech on race the other day, liberal pundits have been fawning over his “brilliant” response to the Rev. Wright controversy. I continue to be disappointed that no one appears to have analyzed in depth the black liberation theology behind Wright’s preaching that has undoubtedly influenced Obama’s understanding of Christianity over the years. (I discussed this topic to some extent in an earlier post.)

Nevertheless, Michael Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition and a former assistant national director of the NAACP, at least challenges Obama’s attempt to justify his relationship to Rev. Wright and move the debate to broader concerns on racism in America.

In an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times, Meyers argues that instead of “nailing it” in his highly publicized speech, Obama “blew it.” Meyers sets forth his argument in these terms:

“In my considered judgment as a race and civil rights specialist, I would say that Barack Obama's "momentous" speech on race settled on merely "explaining" so-called racial differences between blacks and whites -- and in so doing amplified deep-seated racial tensions and divisions. Instead of giving us a polarizing treatise on the "black experience," Obama should have reiterated the theme that has brought so many to his campaign: That race ain't what it used to be in America.
“He should have presented us a pathway out of our racial boxes and a road map for new thinking about race. He should have depicted his minister, the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., as a symbol of the dysfunctional angry men who are stuck in the past and who must yield to a new generation of color-blind, hopeful Americans and to a new global economy in which we will look on our neighbors' skin color no differently than how we look on their eye color.”
“In fact, I'd say that considering the nation's undivided attention to this all-important speech, which gave him an unrivaled opportunity to lift us out of racial and racist thinking, Obama blew it.
“I waited in vain for our hybrid presidential candidate to speak the simple truth that there is no such thing as "race," that we all belong to the same race -- the human race. I waited for him to mesmerize us with a singular and focused appeal to hold all candidates to the same standards no matter their race or their sex or their age. But instead Obama gave us a full measure of racial rhetoric about how some of us with an "untrained ear" -- meaning whites and Asians and Latinos -- don't understand and can't relate to the so-called black experience.
“Well, I am black, and I can't relate to a "black experience" that shields and explains old-style black ministers who rant and rave about supposed racial differences and about how America ought to be damned. I long ago broke away from all associations and churches that preached the gospel of hate and ethnic divisiveness -- including canceling my membership in 100 Black Men of America Inc., when they refused my motion to admit women and whites. They still don't. I was not going to stay in any group that assigned status or privileges of membership based solely on race or gender.
“We and our leaders -- especially our candidates for the highest office in the land -- must repudiate all forms of racial idiocy and sexism, and be judged by whether we still belong to exclusionary or hateful groups. I don't know any church that respects, much less reflects, my personal beliefs in the absolute equality of all people, so I choose not to belong to any of them. And I would never -- as have some presidential candidates -- accept the endorsement of preachers of the gospel according to the most racist and sexist of doctrines.
“But someone's race or religion is not mine or anybody else's concern. I couldn't care less that Wright is a Christian or that Louis Farrakhan professes to be a Muslim. I couldn't care less whether the hateful minister who endorsed John McCain is, deep inside, a decent man or a fundamentalist. But I do care about these pastors' divisive and crazed words; I do care that their "sermons" exploit and pander to the worst fears and passions of people based on perceptions and misperceptions about race. I hate that these preachers' sermons prejudge people's motives or behavior based on their race or ethnicity. I hate the haters, and I expected Obama to make a straightforward speech about what has become the Hate Hour -- and the most segregated hour -- in America on Sunday mornings.
“I expected Obama, who up to now had been steering a perfect course away from the racial boxes of the past, to challenge racial labels and so-called black experiences. We're all mixed up, and if we haven't yet been by the process of miscegenation, trans-racial adoptions and interracial marriage, we sure ought to get used to how things will be in short order.
“That would have been the forward-looking message of a visionary candidate. But Obama erred by looking backward -- as far back as slavery. What does slavery have to do with the price of milk at the grocery store? He referenced continuing segregation, especially segregated public schools, but stopped short. What is he going to do about them? How does he feel about public schools for black boys or single-sex public schools and classes? What does the gospel according to Wright say about such race-based and gender-specific schemes for getting around our civil rights laws?
“We can't be united as a nation if we continue to think racially and give credence to racial experiences and differences based on ethnicity, past victim status and stereotypical categories. All of these prejudices surrounding tribe-against-tribe are old-hat and dysfunctional -- especially the rants of ministers, of whatever skin color or religion, who appeal to our base prejudices and to superstitions about our supposed racial differences. The man or woman who talks plainly about our commonality as a race of human beings, about our future as one nation indivisible, rather than about our discredited and disunited past, is, I predict, likely to finish ahead of the pack and do us a great public service.”

For Meyers’ column as it appears in the Los Angeles Times, along with readers comments, go here.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Latest Gallup Daily Tracking Poll: Democrats Favor Clinton Over Obama

Photo Credits: AP

The Gallup Daily Tracking Poll announced today that Hillary Clinton is maintaining her lead over Barack Obama: the poll shows Clinton with a five percentage point lead over Obama in national Democratic voters' nomination preferences, 48% to 43%.

According to Gallup’s Web site, “This marks the second consecutive day of Gallup Poll Daily tracking showing Clinton with a statistically significant lead over Obama, something she had not accomplished since Feb. 7-9 polling. Clinton's recent momentum has coincided with the controversy created by Obama's association with controversial preacher Rev. Jeremiah Wright."

The latest tracking poll also shows: “Currently, registered voters express a slight preference for John McCain rather than either of the Democrats for the general presidential election. McCain has a 47% to 43% lead over Obama, and holds a 48% to 45% edge over Clinton. Both sets of numbers are unchanged from Wednesday's release. – Jeff Jones.”

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Theological Look at Barack Obama’s Speech on Race

Photo credits: courtesy of

Ever since the video clips surfaced of Barack Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, preaching a fiery brand of black liberation theology at Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ, I’ve had flashbacks to my student days at United Theological Seminary in New Brighton, Minn. Obama’s speech in Philadelphia today has prompted me to review my own tenuous connections to liberation theology and my reasons for choosing the alternative.

I attended United (a seminary coincidentally affiliated with the UCC) in the late 1980s when liberation and process theology dominated the curriculum. As you might expect, students debated one another strenuously over the merits of the two theological perspectives. As I recall, my friends at seminary unanimously preferred liberation theology for its strong emphasis on social justice and although I felt very much alone at the time, I chose to pursue process theology.

Liberation theology characteristically appeals to groups of people who have experienced some form of oppression, so there are feminist, ethnic, class, geographical, and racial versions. As the child of a large Appalachian family who migrated to northwestern Ohio to eke out a living as sharecroppers, I’ve known my share of oppression. I credit my childhood experiences of poverty and discrimination with teaching me compassion for the suffering of others.

It’s been a few years since I graduated from seminary, but I still recall a discussion I had one afternoon with an African-American student advocating black liberation theology. I balked at the idea of God taking sides, even on behalf of the oppressed, and I refused to condone the use of force to overcome those labeled as oppressors. To support my position, I cited historical examples of violent upheavals, such as the French Revolution, in which the oppressed in turn ultimately became the oppressors.

Further, I resisted the notion of an all-powerful God who could or would intervene at will to overthrow evil regimes. If that were so, I argued, why has God allowed Nazis, fascists, and one corrupt dictator after another to rule enslaved people for decades?

My classmate that day was not persuaded and since then liberation theology as demonstrated by the Rev. Wright has obviously continued to take root in various places around the globe.

It was no surprise to discover that James Cone, a well-known black liberation theologian I was once assigned to read in seminary, has influenced Wright’s theological development. Cone currently teaches Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

Cone points to Luke 4:18-19:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, To set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.”

Reminding me of what I’d learned about liberation theology in the past, Cone claims, "In Christ, God enters human affairs and takes sides with the oppressed. Their suffering becomes his; their despair, divine despair."

For a refresher course in process theology, I turned to my own ordination paper:

“As I progressed in my studies {at seminary}, it became increasingly clear to me that how we individually and collectively understand ourselves in relationship to God, whether consciously or unconsciously, informs our relationships to ourselves, to community, and to nature. For this reason, perceiving God from the point of view of process theology has been particularly helpful to me.

“Process theology offers a holistic image of God, large enough to encompass the variety of characteristics ascribed to divinity throughout the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. God is the source of all creativity and novelty in the universe where all of life is seen as interconnected and in the process of becoming. God knows at every moment what has been, what is, and what most likely will be.

“God relates to humans in faithful partnership in which God shares our suffering as well as our joy. God is in continuous communication with each person, ceaselessly inviting, but never using force, the best possible response to each newly arising set of circumstances, the response offering the greatest possible good to all those involved.

“In view of the suggestion that God communicates with us for the most part at the level of our unconscious, it follows that process theology affirms the integrated life and a “turning toward god.” The emergence of a loving invitation from God from the level of the unconscious to conscious awareness might be described as a moment of revelation.

“It’s my understanding that sin is internalized oppression or self-negation. I understand arrogance and pride as manifestations of insufficient, rather than excessive, love for the self, which decreases the capacity for love of neighbor. Evil would then result from dominant/submissive patterns of relationship found in social structures that perpetuate the oppression of individuals and groups.

“Process thought, however, avoids absolutes; to one extent or another, we are all representative of both the oppressor and the oppressed. God is therefore not on the side of one person or group. Instead, God is continuously offering salvation through grace, defined as acceptance, love, and forgiveness, to all persons.

“For Christians, the wholeness attributed to God in process theology is best exemplified in the portrait of Jesus that emerges in Scripture. Jesus embodied the biblical concept of shalom, the material and spiritual well being revealed as God’s intention for both the individual and community.

“A biblically based corollary to the above is that shalom is the God-given potential of every person, regardless of gender, race, national origin, ethnic background, or any other category used to create false positions of authority among humankind.”

As I’ve listened to Barack Obama speak at various times in this long, drawn out primary race, I’ve noted time and again the religious tone of his political rallies that seem to morph into revival meetings where participants chant in unison, “Yes, we can.” His following is often referred to as a “movement” guided by the mantra of “change you can believe in.” But I didn’t connect the subtext of his campaign of empowering the oppressed with liberation theology until I heard those revealing video clips of Pastor Wright making his incendiary comments. That’s when it all came together for me.

In his speech today in Philadelphia, Sen. Obama very likely dampened the firestorm his pastor’s words have evoked over the past several days. But I’m left wondering how much Obama, a layperson at Trinity UCC, actually knows about liberation theology, the religious perspective of his former pastor that has no doubt influenced him more than he realizes, both at the conscious and unconscious level.