Saturday, January 26, 2008

Score Another for Obama

Barack Obama beat Hillary Clinton 55-27 in the South Carolina primary today. Congratulations to him for the big win. I believe that just leaves Florida before the big Feb. 5 primaries with Obama winning Iowa and South Carolina and Hillary taking New Hampshire and Nevada.

Thankfully, the Democratic primary battle has gotten a lot tougher over the last two weeks. I think it's very fruitful and that the South Carolina primary was especially fruitful.

Ultimately, that's because Hillary Clinton's campaign went in and fought Barack Obama for the black voters who were 50% of the total Democratic vote in South Carolina. It was important for Hillary Clinton's campaign, the Democratic Party, and race relations in America that Hillary did her best to appeal to black voters in South Carolina over the last several months.

The Hillary Clinton campaign had a particularly difficult needle to thread in appealing to black voters. They needed to criticize Barack Obama without sounding "racial" and didn't do a particular good job of balancing the two goals. Hillary's own comment about the need for Lyndon Johnson to get civil rights legislation passed was poorly considered because she didn't guard against the likelihood that any reflection on the limits of MLK would be considered racist. Bill Clinton did even more poorly. His idea that Obama's anti-war stance has been "pure fantasy" was a mis-representation of Obama's position and his comment today about Obama and Jesse Jackson certainly sounds like he's treating Obama as the "black candidate."

Another reporter asked what it said about Obama that it “took two people to beat him.” Clinton again passed. “That’s’ just bait, too. Jesse Jackson won South Carolina twice, in '84 and '88. And he ran a good campaign. Senator Obama's run a good campaign here, he’s run a good campaign everywhere.”

The reference to Jackson seemed a way to downplay today's result in a state where a majority of voters are African American. Clinton was also asked today about charges of race baiting, and defended himself by citing testimony from John Lewis and Andrew Young, who marched with Martin Luther King. "I don't have to defend myself on civil rights," he said.

In a way, it sounds like Clinton was just returning fire in an "if you bait Hillary about me, I'm going to bait you about Jesse Jackson" kind of way. But it doesn't matter. It's much worse to pin "being black" on Obama's shoulders than it is to pin "married to Bill" on Hillary's. Bill Clinton has emerged as the major attack dog in the Hillary campaign. However, Hillary should find somebody else to do her (necessary) dirty work if Bill doesn't have enough discretion to do the job.

Still, the fact that Hillary Clinton made herself accountable to black voters while running against a black candidate was a big advance in the politics of race and she deserves credit for it.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Dear Hillary: Tell Liberal Whiners to Stick It!

Today is as embarrassing a day as I've ever had being on the liberal-left. All I saw was pathetic whining about Hillary and Bill Clinton being so tough on poor Barack Obama. It was so bad that even Obama got tired of it.

1. E. J. Dionne Hand-Wringing. I'm not sure whether Talking Points Memo or E. J. Dionne is worse. But here's Dionne bleating in the Washington Post about Bill Clinton:

Let's further stipulate that Obama's formulation -- he said Reagan "changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not" -- was guaranteed to enrage the former president. In Democratic circles, associating someone with Nixon is akin to a Roman comparing an emperor
with Caligula.

None of it justifies the counterproductive behavior. Does anyone doubt that if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, she will need the votes of the young people and African-Americans who have rallied to Obama -- and that what she's doing now will make it harder to energize them? Doesn't calling in Bill Clinton as the lead attacker merely underscore Obama's central theme, that it's time to "turn the page" on our Bush-Clinton-Bush political past?

What the hell does Dionne want? Obama took a sneaky shot at Bill Clinton's presidency by saying that Ronald Reagan had more significant ideas and that the Clinton administration was more like the Nixon White House in not really changing the conversation.

What was the Clinton campaign supposed to do--just take it? That wouldn't make her look very strong would it? If fact, favorably comparing Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton during the heat of the 2008 Democratic primary was a dumb thing for Obama to do. Bill Clinton is still popular with Democrats while Ronald Reagan looks even worse over time because many of Reagan's excesses are being pursued in an even more determined way by George Bush.

Much like Hillary's awkward MLK comment left her open to lots of criticism, Obama's Reagan comment practically invited an energetic counter-attack from Hillary Clinton and her N0. 1 surrogate. She delivered first, then Bill piled on. Both of them would have been stupid to ignore the opportunity.

Dionne emphasizes that Clinton himself said favorable things about Reagan in 1991 as a way to get beyond the "brain-dead partisanship" of the 80's. But times have changed. Partisan lines have become a lot harder as the Republicans have become the party of endless war, determined waterboarding, privatizing social security, gay bashing, and SwiftBoating. By the time Bill Clinton ended his two terms as president, he understood that the only way to combat Republican hyper-partisanship was for the Democrats to become much more partisan themselves. The fact that Obama doesn't understand this is the main reason why he shouldn't be nominated for the presidency.

Dionne gets the point precisely wrong. Bill Clinton learned the partisan lessons of the 1990's. To the extent that Obama still believes he can transcend partisanship, he is very far behind the times.

In other words, Hillary should tell Dionne to stick it.

2. I usually have a lot of respect for Talking Points Memo, but they've lost their way in relation to Bill Clinton. Last Sunday, editor-in-chief Josh Marshall wrote about how disturbed he was by the aggressiveness of Bill Clinton's attacks on Obama:
Yesterday I wrote that I was troubled by the intensity of Bill Clinton's attacks on Barack Obama. A number of readers thought I meant that I didn't like seeing bare-knuckle politics. But that's not it. What troubles me is seeing the man who is in many
respects still the de facto leader of the Democratic party, certainly its elder statesman, inject himself as an attack dog into a intra-party contest. I think it's damaging to him and more importantly I think it's damaging to his party.

I've been more troubled that Bill Clinton's attacks on Obama have sometimes been undisciplined and ineffective. What exactly does being "the de facto leader of the Democratic party" actually mean in terms of Bill Clinton's role in the party. Precisely nothing. Until the primary season started in earnest, the most important leader of the Democratic Party was Nancy Pelosi as Speaker of the House. To be de facto leader, you have to be in the center of the action, and Bill Clinton stopped being near the center until after Hillary's Iowa defeat.

To go to the deeper political point, why shouldn't Bill Clinton campaign hard for Hillary. She campaigned hard for him when he ran and Michelle Obama is certainly doing everything she can for her spouse. The main difference is that Bill Clinton is a superb politician who can accomplish a lot more politically for his spouse than Michelle Obama can for hers. Far from making the Democratic Party weaker, I'm somewhat reassured that Bill Clinton will be an aggressive surrogate for Hillary during the general election and during a Hillary administration. That's what Democratic presidents need, surrogates who are just as aggressive as the Republicans attacking them.

Hillary should tell Josh Marshall to stick it too.

Approaching the River of Comfort (Food)

Well, Mrs. RSI and I took a trip out to her school to use her "official" Red State Impressions diet scale and I weighed in at 220 3/4 which is a 4 1/2 pound weight loss over the last six days.

Overall, I've lost 22-23 pounds over the last three weeks and I'm approaching the "River of Comfort" where eating enormous amounts of "comfort food" led to my initial big weight gain from 190 to 220.

I thought I would look different with a twenty pound weight loss, but I really don't. My clothes don't fit any differently either.

And none of my friends or colleagues at the office has noticed.

Of course, maybe they'd notice more if I didn't complain all the time about being hungry and irritable.

Just a possibility.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

How the Protein Wisdom Gang Blasts Out the Bigotry

Once again, I have to thank the Protein Wisdom gang for showing me the ways of right-wing bigotry. In this case, I owe a debt of gratitude to "B Moe" who's been replying to some of my posts at RSI over the last week.

B Moe picked up on a positive reference I made to Hillary's looks and re-posted it over at PW Pub with an expression of amazement that I would refer to Hillary's looks in a positive way. B Moe and other commenters in the Protein Wisdom community were amazed that I wasn't going along with the Hillary-hating stereotype that Hillary is an "ugly bitch."

When I persevered and replied that Hillary was an attractive woman who was certainly a hell of a lot better looking at 60 than Fred Thompson was at 65, I got this reply from B Moe.
You know, that is some affirmative action I could definitely get behind. Let's get the government to supply all old women with the same plastic surgeons, hair dyers and stylists, and make-up and botox artists Hillary has got. I am tired of fucking ugly, wrinkled, grey-haired old women.


In a lot of ways, this is a typical bit of misogyny. B Moe is implying Hillary who appears before the cameras might be an attractive woman (without actually conceding the point) but only because she's hiding or making over the really ugly woman under the plastic surgery, hair workers, and face artists who work on her. Of course, B Moe has no evidence of either plastic surgery or botox or that she's doing anything more with her hair than most professional women (and a lot of professional guys). But given that right-wing hatred of Hillary is based on faith rather than evidence, that's hardly surprising.

What makes B Moe's comment on all women of age 60 or so are ugly, decaying, and repulsive. He also puts in a little ambiguity with the word "fucking." In one way, it looks like B Moe is tired of older women who are "fucking ugly" and is using the term "fucking" as a way to heighten and the sexual repulsiveness he attributes to older women. But he could also be interpreted as saying that he is "tired of fucking ugly wrinkled grey-haired old women" in the sense that he's tired of having sex with these kinds of women.

Either way, he's being typically misogynistic in portraying older women as repulsive. Of course, beneath the surface of that repulsion is the suspicion that any woman would be repulsive if they weren't "beautiful" according to his personal criteria. For B Moe, it takes a special kind of woman for her to not be repulsive and therefore hated.

Another interesting aspect of B Moe's comment is that he writes "irony" underneath. I take this to mean that B Moe is claiming that he is being "ironical" here and that the bigotry in his words does not reflect any real bigotry of character. As with a lot of right-wing racists, homophobes, and misogynists, B Moe is trying to give himself a "plausible deniability" that allows him to say bigoted thing while dodging accusations that he means it.

But using the term "irony" in this way seems to have special valence for the bigots at Protein Wisdom. They seem to think that referring to their statements as ironical gives them a license to blast out their bigotry in harder, cruder terms than might otherwise be the case. Their pretensions to pseudo-intellectualistic irony seem to incite them to higher levels of public bigotry.

Maybe that's something Protein Wisdom could contribute to right-wing discourse. People like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh are always looking for new ways to formulate their own bigotries. Maybe they should look at Protein Wisdom.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Notes on the Democratic Campaign Trail

Robert Novak views Hillary Clinton as having an advantage over Obama leading into the Feb. 5 deluge of 22 or 23 primaries, but also sees that advantage as being unstable. That's about right.

There's some talk today about Barak Obama and affirmative action. Sunday on ABC, Obama stated that his own kids are so incredibly advantaged that he does not believe they need further assistance from affirmative action to get into Harvard. No big issue there. For the record, I'm a strong supporter of affirmative action for African-Americans and would like to see more of it in business and government as well as academics. I'd also like to see more affirmative action for women, Appalachians, and poor people. One of the things I've learned at Morehead State is just how talented people in impoverished areas are. Not being born into privilege like George Bush, they should start getting extra legs up as they begin their college education and professional lives. That would go a long way toward equalizing equal opportunity.

Hillary's Looks. A comment I made on Bill and Hillary's looks drew some sneers at Protein Wisdom. Given the misogynistic weeniness that's so pervasive on the right, it's hard to take anything they say about any woman very seriously. But, Hillary Clinton is a pretty attractive 60 year old woman. She's certainly a hell of a lot better looking as a 60 year old woman than Fred Thompson is as a 65 year old guy.

Hillary Smearing. If Hillary Clinton is the Democratic nominee, there's going to be lots of smear campaigns. That point was brought home today when legendary Republican smear artist Roger Stone announced a 527 group entitled "Citizens United Not Timid" devoted to attacking Hillary Clinton. I'm sure everybody understands the misogynistic slur intended there by Stone, but my guess is that this kind of bigotry will move a lot of women to support Hillary as a way to stand up for gender. Maybe Stone should crawl back under his rock.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Sky is (Almost) Falling

U. S. News and World Report has a brief note that Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke (Yes, Alan Greenspan finally retired from that job) is pretty pessimistic about the prospects for the American economy in 2008.

One of the things that bothers me about the American economy is that corporate officers and investors seem to have little toleration for anything but robber baron profits even though relatively few opportunities for really high profits have emerged since the dot-com bust of 2000.

That's one of the reasons why the sub-prime mortage scam looked promising to companies like Merrill-Lynch and Citicorp. It looked like an easy way to make high margins at a time when opportunities for high margins have been scarce.

Bernanke is gloomy about recovery from the forthcoming recession because he believes that the problems of the housing market will keep cutting into overall consumer spending. But I wonder how well investors are going to be able to adjust to a more difficult investment climate with lower returns all around.

What Happened to Fred?

Well, Fred Thompson's the first of the "name" candidates to bite the dust. Frankly, I'm surprised! I mean, don't an original vision for the country, sparkling resume, boundless energy, ageless charisma, relentless work ethic, and competitive spirit mean anything in this country?

All joking aside, I thought Thompson had a plausible scenario for winning the nomination. He could have kept after Huckabee until the Huckabee's campaign collapsed and then faced off with the winner between McCain and Romney.

He would have stood a decent chance there.

But I don't think Fred was interested unless it was a sure thing.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Good News for Hillary: Obama Goes After Bill

I'm not a big fan of Bill Clinton's involvement in Hillary's campaign. Obviously, the former president is still popular with most Democrats, helps raise the big bucks, and has a lot of oratorical skills. But Bill Clinton's time has passed. Since his heart attack, he looks awful--like a former playboy who's lucky to be married to someone as good-looking as Hillary. Likewise, his undisciplined, shoot from the hip style is all too often a distraction to Hillary's campaign. Frankly, I thought his reference to Obama's anti-war record as a "fairy tale" was an embarrassment.

Along that line, I'm glad to see that Obama is going to call Bill out about his inaccurate statements. From Drudge (via Kos diarist Poblano)
EXCLUSIVE: OBAMA RIPS INTO BILL CLINTON MONDAY DURING ABC INTERVIEW WITH 'GOOD MORNING AMERICA' HOST ROBIN ROBERTS... SAYS HE FEELS LIKE HE RUNNING AGAINST BOTH CLINTONS... Bill 'has taken his advocacy on behalf of his wife to a level that I think is pretty troubling. He continues to make statements that are not supported by the facts. Whether it's about my record of opposition to the war in Iraq or our approach to organizing in Las Vegas. This has become a habit and one of the things that we're gonnna have to do is to directly confront Bill Clinton when he's making statements that are not factually accurate'... DEVELOPING....

I don't think confronting Bill Clinton is going to help Obama much. It's too much "insider politics" between the heavyweights for anyone but political junkies to care.

But it might do Hillary some good. Perhaps Bill will start watching what he says before he becomes even less of an advantage to Hillary than he is now.

In general, I don't think that either Hillary or Obama has a clear edge. Hillary does better among older voters, women, whites, Hispanics, and relatively poorer Democrats; Obama among younger voters, men, and the more prosperous. In general (South Carolina being an exception), there are larger numbers of Democrats in the Hillary categories. Hillary is also positioned to do well in big states like Florida, New York, and California.

But none of this is very solid and the picture is actually more clear with the Republicans. It's easy to imagine Hillary's position weakening if she has another debate flub or if Obama finds another compelling line of attack. Hillary's campaign can't rely on their New Hampshire/Iowa strategies to hold the line in Florida and the Feb.5 states. She needs to come up with compelling themes of her own if she wants to cash in on her fragile advantage. One thing she could do is seek to cash in on her baby boomer heritage and emphasize that one of the differences between her and Obama is that she played an active role in the last big effort of young people to change the world while Obama grew up in more cautious and conservative times. Perhaps, she's the better person to push for big change than Obama.