Saturday, March 08, 2008

Political terrorism

Jonathan Chait at the New Republic believes Hillary Clinton plans to win the Presidential nomination at all costs, even at the price of wrecking the Democratic Party, because she can do it no other way. Dick Morris agrees with the assessment and so does Michael Barone. What does it mean for the Democratic Party?

Chait has the seen the Clinton battle plan and he's terrified.

The morning after Tuesday's primaries, Hillary Clinton's campaign released a memo titled "The Path to the Presidency." I eagerly dug into the paper, figuring it would explain how Clinton would obtain the Democratic nomination despite an enormous deficit in delegates. Instead, the memo offered a series of arguments as to why Clinton should run against John McCain - i.e., "Hillary is seen as the one who can get the job done" - but nothing about how she actually could. Is she planning a third-party run? Does she think Obama is going to die? The memo does not say.

The reason it doesn't say is that Clinton's path to the nomination is pretty repulsive. She isn't going to win at the polls. ... Clinton's path to the nomination, then, involves the following steps: kneecap an eloquent, inspiring, reform-minded young leader who happens to be the first serious African American presidential candidate (meanwhile cementing her own reputation for Nixonian ruthlessness) and then win a contested convention by persuading party elites to override the results at the polls.

Dick Morris, never at a loss for a good turn of phrase notes the only way Hillary can win is to rerun Chicago, 1968 in Denver: "kindle a civil war by denying the nomination to the man who earned the most elected delegates".

Michael Barone also observes that Hillary's "only plausible path to the nomination is to win a majority of super-delegates (party and public officials) and, perhaps, to reverse the party's decision disqualifying the Michigan and Florida delegations -- i.e., overruling the voters in one case and changing the rules after the game has been played in the other". But Barone goes beyond agreement with Chait and Morris and crucially identifies the strategy behind this scorched earth strategy.

Chait, by appealing to Hillary's decency ("Go already!") and Morris by invoking the arithmetic of the party rules ("It's over") are really calling on sources of authority that the Clintons neither have nor intend to recognize. Only Barone understands what's happening. Hillary has changed the rules, or more accurately, shredded the rulebook. Like Saddam Hussein after US forces took Baghdad, she has no intention of surrendering after the enemy has taken her capital city no matter what it says in the rulebook. Chait and Morris can continue to believe in the political Geneva Convention, but the game has now changed to 'take no prisoners'.

Barone's key insight is that both Hillary and Obama are now in a position to hold the entire party hostage unless their ambitions are served. "Both candidates have an incentive to attack on grounds that will weaken the other in the general election, as Clinton has already started to do with her 'red phone' ad." In other words, Obama can win the nomination, mayhap -- but Hillary can make sure he wins only at the cost of a subsequent loss to John McCain. If Obama wins in Denver, the Dems lose in November. The Hillary Way or No Way. Osama bin Laden would understand the strategy perfectly.

Ironically the situation is symmetric. Michael Barone observes that "the March 4 exit polls show increasing percentages of Democratic primary voters unwilling to accept the rejection of their candidate." Both Hillary and Obama have the power to wreck the Democratic Party unless they get their way. To turn back now would mean betraying the myriads who backed them to this point. And so each will continue to the bitter end. It is really the political dynamic of the putsch.

This situation has come about because the Democratic party is no longer about principle but personality. Because 21st century liberalism is bereft of real ideas it has become vulnerable to the cult of personality. Ideology has now been demoted to rhetoric or talking points. Who really believes that either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton are determined to preserve the national security of the United States? But anyone can readily see they are devoted to preserving the interests of themselves. That's what counts. And as Morris and Chait will now see, it's all that counts. 'How could she?' Chait wonders. The Clintons always could. It's just that he was the last to know.

The Belmont Club is supported largely by donations from its readers.


Blogger PeterBoston said...

Have at it. Ripping the far left wing out of the Democrat Party can only benefit the country.

Chait and others who whine about the 800 superdelegates are childish. The Party created the 800 superdelegates, comprised of the Party elite, to assure that these elites control the nomination process. There is absolutely no obligation that the superdelegates follow the popular vote, and to whine incessantly that there is, is disingenuous or just plain stupid.

3/09/2008 11:06:00 AM  
Blogger Benj said...

There's nothing to bear out W.'s assertion/assumption that OBama is not committed to the Natonal Security of the U.S. Your offhand dis actually seems pretty scurilous especially in the context of your equation of O's moment of hard-ball politics with Daily/Capone etc. I'm afraid that many of your readers may have missed my post on that score so I'm re-upping -

Thought as many Wretchard readers as possible should see the full Chaicago Trib story re Obama's campaign tactics in the mid-90s. I've cut and pasted it below. (And AFTER that you can find the Trib's editorial endorsing Obama, Rezko qualms notwithstanding.) I think folks who read the whole story will see that O's actions are a lot less egregious than Wretch and Co. make out....Key thing to understand is that the person whose petitions he challenged had guaranteed to him that she would not run again for State Sen (she was trying for the U.S. HOuse ) though he himself had urged her to keep her options open. The lady herself admits he pressed her to be CAREFUL there, but she didn't listen...The notion that Obama's bit of hardball when she chose to get back into the race (with a few days remaining and not much time to get petitions together) is comparable to the Chi-town Machine politics practiced by gangsters in the past is, ah, (to quote DeNiro in Goodfellows) "a little out of order."

Following up on some of the Obama "muckraking" on the right side of the net, I've been struck by a number of other flat-out mistakes. If Obama was the Machine's dream - why did he get his ass kicked when HE ran for the House against the ex-Black Panther Bobby Rush? O hasn't always been a golden boy. (And just compare his career to Hillary - damn she BEGAN her politcal career as a SENATOR - silver spoon, baby) I also noted someone saying that Harold Washington was one of Obama's heroes. O writes at length about Washington from the pov of a community organzer who was less than enthralled with this pol. He zeroes in on the failures of Wash's race-based politics, pointing out how it was all bound to fall apart w/o Harold's charisma. O was NEVER interested in being the NEXT Harold...

Here's the full Trib story on the 90s' campaign - AGain -doesn't make O look like he's got clean hands. But compared to Hillary, this guy still seems pure as the driven snow...

Obama knows his way around a ballot
Some say his ability to play political hardball goes back to his first campaign

By David Jackson and Ray Long

Tribune staff reporters

6:48 PM CDT, April 3, 2007

The day after New Year's 1996, operatives for Barack Obama filed into a barren hearing room of the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners.

There they began the tedious process of challenging hundreds of signatures on the nominating petitions of state Sen. Alice Palmer, the longtime progressive activist from the city's South Side. And they kept challenging petitions until every one of Obama's four Democratic primary rivals was forced off the ballot.

Fresh from his work as a civil rights lawyer and head of a voter registration project that expanded access to the ballot box, Obama launched his first campaign for the Illinois Senate saying he wanted to empower disenfranchised citizens.

But in that initial bid for political office, Obama quickly mastered the bare-knuckle arts of Chicago electoral politics. His overwhelming legal onslaught signaled his impatience to gain office, even if that meant elbowing aside an elder stateswoman like Palmer.

A close examination of Obama's first campaign clouds the image he has cultivated throughout his political career: The man now running for president on a message of giving a voice to the voiceless first entered public office not by leveling the playing field, but by clearing it.

One of the candidates he eliminated, long-shot contender Gha-is Askia, now says that Obama's petition challenges belied his image as a champion of the little guy and crusader for voter rights.

"Why say you're for a new tomorrow, then do old-style Chicago politics to remove legitimate candidates?" Askia said. "He talks about honor and democracy, but what honor is there in getting rid of every other candidate so you can run scot-free? Why not let the people decide?"

In a recent interview, Obama granted that "there's a legitimate argument to be made that you shouldn't create barriers to people getting on the ballot."

But the unsparing legal tactics were justified, he said, by obvious flaws in his opponents' signature sheets. "To my mind, we were just abiding by the rules that had been set up," Obama recalled.

"I gave some thought to … should people be on the ballot even if they didn't meet the requirements," he said. "My conclusion was that if you couldn't run a successful petition drive, then that raised questions in terms of how effective a representative you were going to be."

Asked whether the district's primary voters were well-served by having only one candidate, Obama smiled and said: "I think they ended up with a very good state senator."

Obama behind challenges

America has been defined in part by civil rights and good government battles fought out in Chicago's 13th District, which in 1996 spanned Hyde Park mansions, South Shore bungalows and poverty-bitten precincts of Englewood.

It was in this part of the city that an eager reform Democrat by the name of Abner Mikva first entered elected office in the 1950s. And here a young, brash minister named Jesse Jackson ran Operation Breadbasket, leading marchers who sought to pressure grocery chains to hire minorities.

Palmer served the district in the Illinois Senate for much of the 1990s. Decades earlier, she was working as a community organizer in the area when Obama was growing up in Hawaii and Indonesia. She risked her safe seat to run for Congress and touted Obama as a suitable successor, according to news accounts and interviews.

But when Palmer got clobbered in that November 1995 special congressional race, her supporters asked Obama to fold his campaign so she could easily retain her state Senate seat.

Obama not only refused to step aside, he filed challenges that nullified Palmer's hastily gathered nominating petitions, forcing her to withdraw.

"I liked Alice Palmer a lot. I thought she was a good public servant," Obama said. "It was very awkward. That part of it I wish had played out entirely differently."

His choice divided veteran Chicago political activists.

"There was friction about the decision he made," said City Colleges of Chicago professor emeritus Timuel Black, who tried to negotiate with Obama on Palmer's behalf. "There were deep disagreements."

Had Palmer survived the petition challenge, Obama would have faced the daunting task of taking on an incumbent senator. Palmer's elimination marked the first of several fortuitous political moments in Obama's electoral success: He won the 2004 primary and general elections for U.S. Senate after tough challengers imploded when their messy divorce files were unsealed.

Obama contended that in the case of the 1996 race, in which he routed token opposition in the general election, he was ready to compete in the primary if necessary.

"We actually ran a terrific campaign up until the point we knew that we weren't going to have to appear on the ballot with anybody," Obama said. "I mean, we had prepared for it. We had raised money. We had tons of volunteers. There was enormous enthusiasm."

And he defended his use of ballot maneuvers: "If you can win, you should win and get to work doing the people's business."

At the time, though, Obama seemed less at ease with the decision, according to aides. They said the first-time candidate initially expressed reservations about using challenges to eliminate all his fellow Democrats.

"He wondered if we should knock everybody off the ballot. How would that look?" said Ronald Davis, the paid Obama campaign consultant whom Obama referred to as his "guru of petitions."

In the end, Davis filed objections to all four of Obama's Democratic rivals at the candidate's behest.

While Obama didn't attend the hearings, "he wanted us to call him every night and let him know what we were doing," Davis said, noting that Palmer and the others seemed unprepared for the challenges.

But Obama didn't gloat over the victories. "I don't think he thought it was, you know, sporting," said Will Burns, a 1996 Obama campaign volunteer who assisted with the petition challenges. "He wasn't very proud of it."

Endorsement or informal nod?
By the summer of 1995, Obama, 34, had completed his globe-trotting education and settled deep into Chicago's South Side.

He had gone to Harvard Law School with private ambitions of someday following Harold Washington as mayor of Chicago. At Harvard, where Obama was celebrated as the first black president of the Law Review, classmate Gina Torielli remembers him "saying that governor of Illinois would be his dream job."

Back in Chicago after graduation, Obama won respect for running Project Vote, which registered tens of thousands of black Chicagoans. "It's a power thing," the volunteers' T-shirts said.

Community organizers packed his wedding to Michelle Robinson, a South Shore resident and fellow Harvard Law graduate. The newlyweds bought a Hyde Park condo.

His memoir, "Dreams from My Father," was published that summer to warm reviews. He was working at a small but influential legal firm, teaching constitutional law as a University of Chicago adjunct professor and sitting on the boards of charities.

At the same time, the South Side's political map was thrown up for grabs when then-U.S. Rep. Mel Reynolds was convicted of sex crimes and a special election was called to fill his congressional seat.

Palmer joined the race and, according to multiple accounts, introduced Obama as the successor for her Illinois Senate seat.

"She said, 'I found this wonderful person, this fine young man, so we needn't worry that we'd have a good state senator,' " said former 5th Ward Democratic committeeman Alan Dobry, who volunteered to help both Palmer and Obama that year.

In recent interviews, Obama and Palmer agreed that he asked her whether she wanted to keep her options open and file to run for her state Senate seat as a fallback in case her congressional bid failed.

Obama says he told her: "We haven't started the campaign yet."

"I hadn't publicly announced," he said. "But what I said was that once I announce, and I have started to raise money, and gather supporters, hire staff and opened up an office, signed a lease, then it's going to be very difficult for me to step down. And she gave me repeated assurances that she was in [the congressional race] to stay."

Obama "did say that to me," Palmer says now. "And I certainly did say that I wasn't going to run. There's no question about that."

But beyond that, the private discussions they held in 1995 are shrouded today in disputed and hazy memories.

Obama said Palmer gave him her formal endorsement. "I'm absolutely certain she … publicly spoke and sort of designated me," he recalled.

Palmer disputes that. "I don't know that I like the word 'endorsement,' " she said. "An endorsement to me, having been in legislative politics … that's a very formal kind of thing. I don't think that describes this. An 'informal nod' is how to characterize it."

In July 1995, Obama announced he was planning to run for Palmer's seat. He filed papers creating his fundraising committee a month later and officially announced his candidacy in September.

He emerged that winter as a gifted campaigner who after finishing hectic workdays would layer on thermal underwear to knock on South Side doors.

In impromptu street-corner conversations and media interviews, he disparaged local pols for putting self-preservation ahead of public service. At the last house on a dark block, "he would start a discussion that should have taken five minutes and pretty soon someone was cooking him dinner," said paid campaign consultant Carol Anne Harwell.

Then Palmer's congressional bid collapsed. On Nov. 28, 1995, she placed a distant third behind political powerhouses Jesse Jackson Jr., who holds that congressional seat today, and current state Senate President Emil Jones Jr.

Palmer didn't fade quietly away. Citing an "outpouring" of support, she upended the political landscape by switching gears and deciding to run in the March 1996 primary for her state Senate seat.

But she had two big problems. To get on the ballot, Palmer needed to file nominating petitions signed by at least 757 district voters—and the Dec. 18 deadline was just days away.

And then there was Obama, the bright up-and-comer she had all but anointed.

Obama's aides said he seemed anguished over the prospect of defying Palmer. "I really saw turmoil in his face," Harwell said.

Obama sought advice from political veterans such as 4th Ward Ald. Toni Preckwinkle and then-15th Ward Ald. Virgil Jones, who say they urged him to hold his course.

"I thought the world of Alice Palmer," said state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie (D-Chicago), now the House majority leader. But "at that point she had pulled her own plug."

According to Palmer, it was without her knowledge that her supporters initiated discussions to persuade Obama to step aside. They invited him to the home of state Rep. Lovana "Lou" Jones, now deceased. Obama arrived alone.

"It was a brief meeting," said Black, a Palmer friend who had advised Obama when he was a young community organizer in the mid-1980s.

Obama didn't try to justify his decision to reject Palmer's plea, Black said.

"He did not put it in inflammatory terms, he just did not back away. It was not arguments, it was stubbornness," Black said. "Barack had by then gone ahead in putting together his own campaign, and he just didn't want to stop."

'If you can get 'em, get 'em'
Just in time for the Dec. 18, 1995, filing deadline, Palmer submitted 1,580 signatures—about twice the minimum required. That day, Obama lashed out at her, telling the Tribune she had pressured him to withdraw.

"I am disappointed that she's decided to go back on her word to me," he said.

Obama campaign aides also responded that day—but quietly, and out of the limelight.

Davis and Dobry marshaled volunteers and began poring through the nominating petitions of Palmer and the three lesser-known Democrats, according to interviews.

"We looked at those petitions and found that none of them met the requirements of the law," Dobry said. "Alice's people, they'd done it in a great hurry. Almost all her petitions were signed a day or so before the deadline."

According to Davis, Palmer "had kids gathering the names. I remember two of her circulators, Pookie and Squirt."

Davis and others urged Obama to file legal challenges.

Such tactics are legal and frequently used in Chicago. Ballot challenges eliminated 67 of the 245 declared aldermanic candidates in Chicago before this past February's elections, an election board spokesman said.

Davis recalled telling Obama: "If you can get 'em, get 'em. Why give 'em a break?

"I said, 'Barack, I'm going to knock them all off.'

"He said, 'What do you need?'

"I said, 'I need an attorney.'

"He said, 'Who is the best?'

"I said, 'Tom Johnson.' "

Obama already knew civil rights attorney and fellow Harvard Law graduate Thomas Johnson, who had waged election cases for the late Mayor Washington and had offered Obama informal legal advice since the days of Project Vote.

With Johnson's legal help, Obama's team was confident. They piled binders of polling sheets in the election board office on the second floor of City Hall, and on Jan. 2, 1996, began the days-long hearings that would eliminate the other Democrats.

Little-known candidate Marc Ewell filed 1,286 names, but Obama's objections left him 86 short of the minimum, and election officials struck him from the ballot, records show. Ewell filed a federal lawsuit contesting the board's decision, but Johnson intervened on Obama's behalf and prevailed when Ewell's case was dismissed days later.

Ewell could not be reached for comment, but the federal judge's decision showed how he was tripped up by complexities in the election procedures.

City authorities had just completed a massive, routine purge of unqualified names that eliminated 15,871 people from the 13th District rolls, court records show.

Ewell and other Obama rivals had relied on early 1995 polling sheets to verify the signatures of registered voters—but Obama's challenges were decided at least in part using the most recent, accurate list, records show.

Askia filed 1,899 signatures, but the Obama team sustained objections to 1,211, leaving him 69 short, records show.

Leafing through scrapbooks in his South Shore apartment, Askia, a perennially unsuccessful candidate, acknowledges that he paid Democratic Party precinct workers $5 a sheet for some of the petitions, and now suspects they used a classic Chicago ruse of passing the papers among themselves to forge the signatures. "They round-tabled me," Askia said.

Palmer to this day does not concede the flaws that Obama's team found in her signatures. She maintains that she could have overcome the Obama team's objections and stayed on the ballot if she had more time and resources.

It was wrenching to withdraw, she said. "But sit for a moment, catch your breath, get up and keep going. I'm a very practical person. Politics is not the only vehicle for accomplishing things." She became a special assistant to the president of the University of Illinois and is now retired.

Obama said he has not been in touch with Palmer since 1996. "No, not really, no," he said.

Though she hasn't determined whom to support in the presidential race, Palmer, 67, said her dispute with Obama doesn't affect her assessment of his fitness to hold office.

Saying that jobless high school dropouts "are sitting on the steps next to my house," Palmer added: "There is a savage economy going on out here, and we've got collateral damage. I am looking closely to see who has the courage, the smarts."

In 1996, this page endorsed a Chicago attorney, law school instructor and community activist named Barack Obama for a seat in the Illinois Senate. We've paid him uncommon scrutiny ever since, wryly glad that he lived up to our modest prediction: We said Obama "has potential as a political leader."

Since then, so much has been written about U.S. Sen. Barack Obama that it's easy to forget how far an entire nation's scrutiny of him "as a political leader" has led us all. No longer does every article obsess on whether voters are ready for a black man in the White House.

Most Americans, we'd wager, by now have concluded that the color of his skin matters less than his evident comfort within it. Yes, he is vilified by less-secure Democrats for acknowledging Ronald Reagan was a transformative president who "put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it." Our takeaway: Obama has the confidence to speak truth, poll-tested or not.

Barack Obama is the rare individual who can sit in the U.S. Senate yet have his career potential unfulfilled. He is the Democrat best suited to lead this nation. We offer him our endorsement for the Feb. 5 Illinois primary.

By one measure, this endorsement is a paradox. We're urging votes for a candidate whose political views we often disagree with. But this is a more complicated contest, and a more complex candidate, than the norm. This nation's next president inherits a war -- against terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere -- that has found many ways to divide Americans. Capitol Hill is gridlocked and uncivil. Our discourse is hostage to blame.

Obama can help this nation move forward. A Tribune profile last May labeled his eight years in Springfield as "a study in complexity, caution and calculation. In the minority party for all but his final two years in the Statehouse, he tempered a progressive agenda with a cold dash of realism, often forging consensus with conservative Republicans when other liberals wanted to crusade."

Racial profiling, death penalty reform, recording of criminal interrogations, health care -- when victory was elusive, Obama seized progress. He did so by working fluidly with Republicans and Democrats. He sought out his ideological foes. He listened closely to them. As a result, many Republicans in Illinois have warm words for Barack Obama.

Obama's key opponent, U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, unifies only her foes. Her penchant for gaming every issue -- recall her clumsy dodging when asked in a Philadelphia debate whether illegal immigrants should be licensed to drive -- feeds suspicion of maneuvering that would humble Machiavelli.

As this campaign has progressed, Hillary Clinton in moments of crisis hasn't been an ennobling sight. Her reliance on her husband, the less-than-presidential Bill, to trash-talk Obama reaffirms that the Clintons do whatever it takes to prevail. Depicting Obama's record on Iraq as a "fairy tale" is instructive: Think what you will of the war, but Sen. Clinton was an enabler when that was popular. In Kerryspeak, she was for the war before she was against the war.

The candidates' differences on issues are minor and largely irrelevant: Presidents don't dictate laws, they tussle over legislation with Congress. Much of the "experience" Hillary Clinton touts in that realm instead was proximity to power. Bill's power.

Last week, Hillary Clinton attacked Obama for his association with alleged influence-peddler Tony Rezko. If Obama had dealt with the Rezko issue forthrightly long ago, it might rank in public memory with Clinton's remarkable success in cattle futures.

Instead, as we've said, Obama has been too self-exculpatory. His assertion in network TV interviews last week that nobody had indications Rezko was engaging in wrongdoing strains credulity: Tribune stories linked Rezko to questionable fundraising for Gov. Rod Blagojevich in 2004 -- more than a year before the adjacent home and property purchases by the Obamas and the Rezkos.

One more time, Senator:

You need to divulge all there is to know about that relationship. Until you do, the journalistic scrubbing and opposition research will intensify. You should have recognized Rezko as a political seducer of young talent. But given that you've not been accused of any crime or ethical breach, your Rezko history is not a deal-breaker.

Nor do we know of similar lapses during the 12 years we've been watching Obama.

To the contrary, the professional judgment and personal decency with which he has managed himself and his ambition distinguish Barack Obama. We endorse him convinced that he could lead America in directions that the other Democrats could not.

3/09/2008 11:35:00 AM  
Blogger John Hawkins said...

Both Hillary and Obama have the power to wreck the Democratic Party unless they get their way. To turn back now would mean betraying the myriads who backed them to this point. And so each will continue to the bitter end.

I didn't see this coming, and a reluctance to tempt fate makes me cautious to believe, but...

If this is true it would be a very, very good thing. The Democratic Party is indeed bereft of ideas and exists now only as a vehicle for patronage and robbery-by-government. The (Bill) Clinton sexual harrassment affair demonstrated it's all about power and not principle. Ultimately, the Democratic Party must go one of three ways - radically reform itself to one of principle, fracture into it's constituent interest groups and join the Whigs in extinction, or become a totalitarian state with sham elections like the old Soviet Union or Baathist Iraq.

Since it's proven uninterested in reform, I've been hoping for extinction. Besides removing the totalitarian threat, extinction would have another benefit. As long as the Democrats remain electable, the various members of the Republican Coalition need to stick together out of self defense. As soon as the Democratic party fractures, the Republican Party can as well, and the shards of the two parties can reform into a new (and hopefully better) alignment.

Unfortunately, the weakness of the Democratic Party has cross-contaminated the Republican Party. Republican leaders have taken the approach that they don't need to be good, they just need to be better than the Dems. The Dems are so bad, that "better" is still not good enough, and this has limited Republican's appeal. Rove and McConnell compounded this by hatching a strategy of buying voters with pork (i.e. adopting the Democratic practice of patronage). This massively backfired in 2006 and gave the Dems new lease on life, and the Republican coalition is in danger of fracturing before the Dems.

So, the Clinton scorched Earth policy may be the last, best hope for us to avoid real problems and the long-feared American Facsism which, contrary to conventional wisdom, is a threat from the left and not the right.

So, um, as the kids say, you go girl!

3/09/2008 11:50:00 AM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

A few months back I predicted the Clintons would use a "Poisoning of the well" strategy -- setting up loss for November if Hillary don't get the nomination. I also thought the Party might convince Obama to accept something like a Supreme Court nomination. But I didn't think he'd come on as strong as he has.

Still, he's young and may want a Democratic party for the future -- if only to serve as a vehicle for his own ambition. Advantage Clintons.

The wild card? Senator Obama may be a genuine idealist. An idealist can blow up anything. The Democratic party? Why not?

3/09/2008 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger said...

Rick Moran has a very interesting post about Obama's endorsement of Mayor Richard Daley. Going to the Sun Times source, we learn that in January, 2007:

U.S. Sen. Barack Obama today endorsed Mayor Daley's re-election bid, asserting that City Hall corruption is being cleaned up and that Chicago has "blossomed" under the mayor's "innovative" and decisive leadership.

Obama said he decided to support Daley and the mayor's revamped "rainbow ticket" long before deciding to enter the presidential sweepstakes.

Daley plans to abandon his longstanding tradition of remaining neutral in Democratic primaries to endorse Obama over Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential race. But Obama said his endorsement of Daley was earned and not part of any quid pro quo.

Much of Obama's defense has been of the "how dare you?" variety. Responding to Congressman King's statement that that terrorists would be "dancing in the streets" if Democratic candidate Barack Obama were to win the presidency, an Obama spokesman said such comments "have no place in our politics."

But King's assertion is exactly what Hillary is making, albeit in code, in her "3 am" phone call ad. What Morris, Chait and Barone are saying is that not only will these issues be raised by Republicans, which is natural, but they all be raised by Hillary too. In a much weaselier way but that's in character.

3/09/2008 12:12:00 PM  
Blogger George said...

Could someone please explain to me why it was ethical to have Jack Ryan's divorce records unsealed?

3/09/2008 12:22:00 PM  
Blogger said...

Ed Morrissey, now at Hot Air quotes the Chicago Sun Times new revelations from the Rezko trial.

During his 12 years in politics, Sen. Barack Obama has received nearly three times more campaign cash from indicted businessman Tony Rezko and his associates than he has publicly acknowledged, the Chicago Sun-Times has found.

Obama has collected at least $168,308 from Rezko and his circle. Obama also has taken in an unknown amount of money from people who attended fund-raising events hosted by Rezko since the mid-1990s.

But seven months ago, Obama told the Sun-Times his “best estimate” was that Rezko raised “between $50,000 and $60,000″ during Obama’s political career.

Ed says:

All of this — and more — centers on the Rezko-Obama relationship. Obama has tried to minimize his connections to Rezko, understandably, as Rezko sinks deeper into his federal trial. The Sun-Times and other Chicago newspapers keep finding more and more connections and showing that Rezko was more than just a contributor to an election campaign. Obama and Rezko have significant ties, and at the very least it calls into question how Obama could have remained ignorant of his friend’s corruption while at least indirectly benefiting from it.

But I agree with commenters who say that none of this will affect Obama's standing with his supporters until it gets much worse. That support is based on faith. Because issues don't really matter in the nomination battle between Hillary and Barack, the contest will come down to which side can completely destroy "faith" in the other so completely that even the most devoted cult follower will recoil.

That's why Hillary National Enquirer-type attacks have worked better than her previous policy jabs. She'll never get ahead of Obama by saying his policies stink. Policy, shmolicy. She can only gain an advantage by averring the stench comes from Barack himself. A politics of personality and cult necessarily leads to the politics of personal destruction.

3/09/2008 12:27:00 PM  
Blogger regretleft said...

"A politics of personality and cult necessarily leads to the politics of personal destruction."

Just right! important conclusion! but the personal and "identity" interact in a peculiar way - when and how does HRC say BO is not black enough? - and when does he start to call her Eva Peron?

3/09/2008 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

Benj, dude,

Try a hyperlink. Here, cut and paste this one into Wordpad or some ascii editor or Word or something. Then copy your URL into where the URL is here, and make up your own phrase for the hyperlink:


If you follow the above link Obama's web site, you will see there is PLENTY to bear out the fact that Obama is not committed to the National Security of the US. In fact, he pledges to make us weaker all around the world, both immediately in Iraq and the Middle East, and also in the strategic long-term by killing our proven missile defense systems and other advanced military technologies.

He seems to be a typical rich liberal who hates America and wishes we were weak and poor, so we wouldn't make the rest of the world mad at us. As President, he will make us weaker and poorer, if he follows his words now.

3/09/2008 12:44:00 PM  
Blogger talnik said...

"Could someone please explain to me why it was ethical to have Jack Ryan's divorce records unsealed?
Because he was a Republican.

3/09/2008 12:58:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

3/09/2008 01:01:00 PM  
Blogger said...

When Johnathan Chait says Hillary is willing to destroy the Democratic Party to win he is logically asserting that for Hillary at least, the Party platform; the issues -- national security, government health care, partial birth abortion and all the rest of it -- are really secondary to personal ambition. She's prepared to betray all that she purports to believe in and see McCain elected than give up her destiny.

In a Parliamentary system where party platforms tend to carry more weight it is often the practice for a younger rival leader to let the older one 'go first'. Gordon Brown simply had to 'wait his turn' while Tony Blair served out. It was the party platform which was paramount and in those systems its not unusual for one leader to give way for another.

But not Hillary and Barack. Clinton and Obama have declared themselves in agreement on most issues. So what would be Obama's beef in giving way to Hillary? Only that it won't be him. And that's the essential point.

That's why they clash over vaporous criteria like "experience" or "best candidate for change". Identity politics. Ebony and Ovary. Or as Mark Steyn put it memorably, we are watching a demented version of 'Driving Miss Daisy'.

If both are willing to take the party apart rather than concede it's because both care less about the issues than they do about themselves.

Now it's possible that both Hillary and Obama will run on a joint ticket. But rhetoric from their camps so far seems to exclude that. Supporters of both should ask themselves this. If neither cares enough to sacrifice their ambitions to serve the cause of their party why should either care enough to serve the cause of the voters at large?

3/09/2008 01:30:00 PM  
Blogger Tony said...

More importantly than Obama and Clinton, the Democratic voters care less about the issues than they do about themselves.

The question: what can my country do for me, personally, comes natural to Democrats. Don't judge them by others' standards.

Ps. "Ebony and Ovary" - I like that! Did you make that up?

3/09/2008 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger hdgreene said...

In a conversation before the Ohio primary I reassured some working class women that Hillary was not out of it (I didn't explain exactly why I thought that). When they asked me who I thought should be President, I told them I would vote for John McCain. Interestingly, they had not regarded that as an option.

If you had a Hillary/Obama ticket, a lot of nominal Democrats will regard McCain as an option. At that point it becomes about who they are and who they are is what America ain't. Basically, Ivy league leftists. There would be no "pivot to the center." They would take New York and Vermont. Maybe Massachusetts.

I wonder if Sen. Obama is doing a John Edwards? Realizing he is too far left to win reelection, he is running for President now. Combined with Rezko, he may be the future loser, not the rising star. A high Federal appointment may yet buy him off, and enhance his resume to run in 2016. He would want Attorney General but The UN would work for Democrats, and Hillary.

3/09/2008 02:12:00 PM  
Blogger said...

"Ebony and Ovary" -- no I didn't make it up. I saw it somewhere and can't remember where exactly. But it captures the essence of a contest based on personal attributes.

The NAFTA-flip-flop thing which Taylor Marsh has been on in symptomatic of the whole thing. First Obama is accused of telling the voters one thing while privately assuring the Canadians of another. Then Obama's people say Hillary did it too. Later the Canadians say only Obama sent them an emissary to send signals on NAFTA. Taylor Marsh says triumphantly that it proves Obama's the real double-dealer. I don't think that necessarily follows.

But the eye opener is that Obama's campaign could plausibly say Hillary was talking out of both sides of her mouth -- and enough people would believe it to stick.

This implies that at some subconscious level the voters really understand they are being lied to. And some don't care or are simply resigned to the candidate who lie to them more mellifluously than the other. The politics of personality is really based on despair. If all politicians are equally liars then it is rational to vote in the best-looking. Then it becomes like entertainment. All fantasy, so may as well go for the most visually appealing fantasy.

3/09/2008 03:11:00 PM  
Blogger Bill said...

I think the most interesting outcome of all this will be what becomes of the Clinton's dysfunctional marriage if she loses. Might be kind of like rubber necking at a car crash ,but interesting tabloid fodder anyways.

3/09/2008 04:16:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

“This implies that at some subconscious level the voters really understand they are being lied to.”

I get the strong impression that when the Democrats go into absolute and transparent hysterics over Republican “scandals” that have little or no substance it is less about trashing the opposition than it is about trashing all politicians. They trash themselves regularly by their own actions. By making the Republicans look scandal-ridden as well they can induce a general cynicism about all politicians in the voters. Then the issue becomes who can tell the prettier lie, who has the more popular cult of personality, and who best fits liberal mythologies of the day.

It is easy to be cynical about politics. In fact, if you have ever worked in the Wash DC area it is the only real alternative to becoming corrupt yourself. But there is something especially reprehensible about deliberately trying to increase that cynicism; it’s rather like demanding the heads of the American commanders at Pearl Harbor on 8 Dec 1941 rather than demanding the heads of the Japanese.

3/09/2008 04:25:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

Hillary is seen as the one who can get the job done" - but nothing about how she actually could.

This lack of concrete methods and objectives is rightfully dooming the democratic party.

Hillary and Obama are now in a position to hold the entire party hostage unless their ambitions are served.

A rather odd way of "serving" their political party. As I have mentioned elsewhere, political office is no longer part of a path towards enacting a specific agenda, it is now an objective in and of itself. Power and the access to wealth that it brings are now the primary motivation for getting elected. This is evidenced in how little mention there is any longer about real goals and the reasons for attaining them.

Hillary and Obama have the power to wreck the Democratic Party unless they get their way.

Even more ironic is that the election of either one will probably do more to destroy the democratic party than anything else possibly could. Neither candidate is qualified to clean the Oval Office much less sit in it.

Wretchard: Responding to Congressman King's statement that that terrorists would be "dancing in the streets" if Democratic candidate Barack Obama were to win the presidency, an Obama spokesman said such comments "have no place in our politics."

Maybe not in their politics but such comments certainly have a place in my politics. The mere fact that terrorists want a democratic party member elected president is reason enough to not want it. Chamberlain will end up looking like a total slacker when the democrats finish appeasing Islam.

Wretchard: But I agree with commenters who say that none of this will affect Obama's standing with his supporters until it [Rezko trial publicity] gets much worse.

I think we can safely rely upon Hillary to make sure that such a thing happens.

Wretchard: Ebony and Ovary.

Now, that's a keeper!

If neither cares enough to sacrifice their ambitions to serve the cause of their party why should either care enough to serve the cause of the voters at large?

My own point entirely.

3/09/2008 04:35:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

The fundamental problem of Democrats is they can't say what they believe in because it is repulsive and poisonous to most Americans.

Obama can't say the reason he won't wear the lapel flag pin or say the pledge of allegiance or act in any way respectful during the National Anthem is because he hates the Flag and believes like his Pastor that America is a poisonous, evil, fatally flawed nation that must be weakened or destroyed because of past racism. Obama hates America with a passion, because he's "chosen to be Black" and must like all new converts to a "religion" demonstrate pure orthodoxy.

He can't come out and say "I hate America and every American symbol because America is racist and must be humbled and weakened." That's disaster. So he says a lot of hot air.

Hillary of course is lying in a different sense. She WANTS a powerful America, the better to use her own power as President. Rather than punishing (mostly) White America for past racial sins, she wants to use the power to achieve historic greatness. Which her Party which mostly agrees with Barack Hussein Obama that America is intrinsically evil and must be 'punished' finds loathesome.

Democratic politics are centered on lies and concealment. Lies to the general public about what candidates really think about America (evil, must be punished) which would include Obama, Edwards, Kennedy, Kerry, Carter, Dukakis, etc. Or lies to the Party about how the candidate really LIKES America and wants it powerful if only for their own uses: both Clintons, Lieberman.

Mostly the Punish America crowd is the one that wins in the primaries, because the lies only affect the more distant general election. Mostly the public sees through those lies as the primary voters see through the Clintons lies. Which is why Kerry and Gore, running against inept and lazy GW Bush, lost.

3/09/2008 04:40:00 PM  
Blogger Zenster said...

RWE: But there is something especially reprehensible about deliberately trying to increase that cynicism; it’s rather like demanding the heads of the American commanders at Pearl Harbor on 8 Dec 1941 rather than demanding the heads of the Japanese.

Bravo! Superbly well put. With their vacuous platform whose emphasis is largely upon totally superficial and cosmetic issues, the democratic party—in its current incarnation—has soured America's electorate like few others since Richard Nixon.

3/09/2008 04:42:00 PM  
Blogger RWE said...

Zenster: You know I recall that when Jimmy Carter was first running for President I asked my family and friends in South Carolina about him. They all said they were voting for him, every one.

So I asked them, “Do you agree with him when he says he is going to pardon the draft evaders, cut back on our military, have more arms treaties with Soviets, etc.” And they all said “No, we don’t agree with any of that, but it is all just talk. He is just saying that to get elected. He is going to be very conservative.”

Within 6 months after Carter was elected, every last one of my family and friends said “That SOB! He did just what he SAID he was going to do! Can you believe he would double cross us that way?”

3/09/2008 06:12:00 PM  
Blogger Benj said...

The new SUN TIMES revelations re Obama/Rez funding cited by Wrtechard come from a piece dated JUNE of 2007. I don't know if you MEAN to do this Wretch, but you keep telling half-truths about O. If you LOVE America, this is not the way to go..You're just pumping up cynicism. Keep reading the muckrakers but go read his memoir too. Might as well have a truly informed opinion if you're going to keep holding forth so often on his character/persona ...

3/09/2008 07:31:00 PM  
Blogger Mad Fiddler said...

So, Benj,

You're saying that a candidate should not be held accountable for something WAY WAY BACK IN THE MISTS OF TIME...

Like all of TEN MONTHS AGO????

3/09/2008 07:42:00 PM  
Blogger Storm-Rider said...

The American socialist left now controls the Democratic party, and they wish to remake America into something resembling Socialist Europe; and if we and Europe become Communist somewhere along the way, all the better.

I never thought I'd see the day when one of our major political parties actually became un-American, but that is what has happened to the Democratic Party. The socialists controlling the party are un-American because they no longer believe in the Declaration of Independence.

The socialists do not believe all people are created equal - as in the old Soviet Union - some are more equal than others.

The socialists do not believe that unborn babies have a God-given right to life, even at the point when the baby reaches potential life-independency. They believe that right is trumped by a certain right to privacy. Privacy trumps human life? The founders didn't say it that way - they said human life is the first of our God-given human rights.

The socialists do not truly believe in our sacred individual liberty, because they value groups of people, not individuals. Groups of people are more easily controlled - more easily brainwashed. They want us grouped by income, color, sex, sexual orientation .... whatever. Group them and keep them divided - that's the ticket.

The socialists do not believe in the individual's pursuit of happiness, because they would tax productive and creative individuals; whom they don't value in the first place, to the point of burdensome non-creative labor, and therefore to the point of unhappiness.

The socialists do not believe that just government power derives from the consent of the governed - they would rule despite the consent of the governed - and that is the definition of tyrannical power.

The American socialists are also Un-American in the way they treat the Constitution. For them there really is no Constitution - it is "living" and therefore can mean what they declare it to mean at any given time. They have already passed laws which infringe the individual’s right to bear arms in self-defense. American liberty will die if they continue this incremental destruction our Bill of Rights - our Constitution, and our liberty will likewise die if the socialists declare dead our Declaration of Independence.

3/09/2008 08:11:00 PM  
Blogger John Lynch said...

This is why we should ignore all the spin and tap-dancing for the next three months. They need something to talk about on TV, in the papers, and on the blogs. But it doesn't matter until the votes are in. And maybe not even then.

Saying the pledged delegates don't matter is ridiculous- of course they do! Every one is one less for the other candidate, and one less superdelegate that must be wooed.

The superdelegates count exactly the same. They aren't one giant delegate, but 795 small ones. Neither candidate will win all of them. Saying that they will be decisive is obvious, but how many will be needed to be decisive? 400? or 40?

This is elementary stuff, but people seem to be forgetting it.

I don't know what will happen, and neither does anyone else. Which is why it is silly to appeal to rules or tradition or decency, when all that matters is what actually happens. Any attempt to explain this by any measure other than the voting at the convention is tap-dancing.

It's a long time until June, and something big will happen before now and then. We just don't know what.

This really is an unprecedented event, 1968 notwithstanding. It's about as unlikely as the 2000 election. So, there are no rules. We're watching them being made in front of our eyes.

Hillary seems to understand that you can make events bend to your will. Obama seems to be having trouble. Bad trait in a leader, but we'll see.

3/09/2008 08:53:00 PM  
Blogger whiskey_199 said...

Hillary has SNL, or more accurately Tina Fey on her side. So far Fey has been more effective than anything else, mocking the messiah worship of Barack Hussein Obama by the Press and his ineptitude as a would-be President.

The picture painted by the NYT of Hillary's management style is not flattering. Management by cronies who are supposed to argue each other into a stupor.

3/09/2008 11:18:00 PM  
Blogger Benj said...

Mad Fid - you're right - the story matters. But if Wretchard builds a whole riff (as he did) about the NEW YORK TIMES's failure to pick up on the reporting in Chicago papers - and then adds on this latest "revelation" (and never corrects the record that it's Old News), he's half-truthing. By the way - Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit passed the story on and THEN caught himself! [See below] I'm not asking for mea culpaes but full disclosure matters among pundits and pols...

An Add-On (of my own): Given the Cat's Outide view of the USA, I think he should be particularly careful re running down a candidate who seems to speak to/from the heart of the American experience(s). I know I could never see myself offering up expert commentary on, say, his country's equiv of a "The Chicago Way" - A certain modesty is indicated when you're so distant from the reality you're treating. One of the things that was winning about Wretchard's Iraq commentary has been a certain willingness to be in doubt even as he tries to figure out what's up...But about American life, he seems to have no doubts. I suspect the truth is he has no clue!

CHICAGO SUN TIMES: Rezko cash triple what Obama says. Is it just me, or is the press on Obama turning more negative? [LATER: Link was bad at first. Fixed now. Sorry!]

UPDATE: And the answer to my question is no -- at least not from this story, which turns out to be from last summer. Several people sent it to me (I don't know why) and I was still on my first cup of coffee and missed the date. Sorry.

3/10/2008 07:55:00 AM  
Blogger David M said...

The Thunder Run has linked to this post in the - Web Reconnaissance for 03/10/2008 A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the check back often.

3/10/2008 08:31:00 AM  

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