Friday, February 15, 2008

 

Open Thread

Better thread than dead!

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This One's Gotta Leave A Mark

Any minor happiness that Hillary Clinton might have gained from finally having New Mexico called for her (though it doesn't really change the delegate margin), must be completely crushed by the announcement from Rep. John Lewis -- one of her supporters -- that he would cast his superdelegate vote for Barack Obama.

Josh Marshall makes a
couple of good observations on why this particular switch hurts Hillary Clinton:

In the thick of a campaign it is easy to overrate the importance of an endorsement or a political hit. But it is difficult to overstate the significance of John Lewis' switch from the Clinton to Obama camps because it is a devastating blow on two or three levels wrapped together in a single person. Lewis' historic and moral stature in the African-American community and in the modern Democratic party bulks very large. “In recent days, there is a sense of movement and a sense of spirit,” Lewis told the Times. “Something is happening in America, and people are prepared and ready to make that great leap.” This is a curious statement as he seems to be suggesting that his earlier endorsement of Clinton was based on his own failure to set his sights sufficiently high. What's more, the willingness of a high-profile politician not simply to endorse one candidate but to switch from one to another (at least in terms of who he
believes he'll vote for as a super delegate) is a powerful sign that a tipping
point is at hand.

But the most immediate and significant import is Lewis's signal that whatever the basis of his original endorsement he is unwilling to join Clinton in carving a path to the nomination through the heart of the Democratic party. The tell in Lewis's announcement is that he is not technically withdrawing his endorsement from Hillary, at least not yet. He is saying that as a super delegate (which is by virtue of being a member of Congress) he plans to vote for Obama at the convention. On Wednesday the Clinton camp started pushing hard on the idea that a delegate is a delegate and if they need to pack on super delegates to overwhelm Obama's edge with elected delegates then so be it. A win is a win is a win. I take this as Lewis saying he just won't sign on for that.


There's also a sense that this decision might be indication of more fallout from the Clintons' disastrous South Carolina strategy and the raw divisiveness it engendered -- including Bill's dismissal of the results by comparing Obama to Jesse Jackson.

A very tough development for Hillary -- however, as we've said before, in this particular year the "emerging conventional wisdom" gets proven wrong time and again. The current one is that "Hillary is dead; it's definitely going to be Obama." While my posts earlier this week were 1) reflective of Obama's obvious wins and momentum and 2) feeling the "Obama wave", I think it is important to recognize that a lot can happen between now and the last Democratic primary in June.


UPDATE: Back and forth today on whether Rep. Lewis has indeed switched his vote. Ben Smith and Greg Sargent try to explain it all. Actually, to clarify, the question is whether Lewis' endorsement of Hillary, but his decision to cast his superdelegate vote for Obama qualifies as a switch in support. Got that?

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

 

A Few Good Baseball Men

Too good not to pass along.

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Happy Valentine's Day

Appropriate wishes as you spend time with your special someone.

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John "Kerry" McCain

There is a good editorial in the Wall Street Journal today by Kevin Stach about John McCain's fiscal record.

There is an interesting tidbit about the infamous Bush tax cuts which McCain voted against:
"In 2001, with the bitter primary battle still fresh, Mr. McCain voted against the final Bush tax-cut package. Why would he deviate from a pro-growth, tax-cutting position, built up over 17 years in Congress and dozens of votes, even after running on a tax-cut plan himself in 2000?

Mr. McCain's protest that he wanted spending cuts to accompany the Bush tax cuts has persuaded few conservatives. But what is not remembered is that, two weeks earlier, Mr. McCain voted to approve the final version of the Budget Resolution -- the blueprint used by congressional committees for spending and tax bills -- which included $1.35 trillion in tax cuts (the Bush proposal) coupled with a $661 billion cap on discretionary spending. When the promised spending cap never materialized, Mr. McCain denounced the wasteful earmarks and pork-barrel spending that he felt jeopardized the budget, and lodged the now famous protest vote against the tax cuts.
"

In other words, McCain voted for it before he voted against it. But I guess we won't hear him saying that.

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

 

Rocket's Red Glare

Only sporadically got a chance to check in on Roger Clemens' congressional testimony. However, ESPN's Jayson Stark blogged it (scroll to bottom and then work up). His verdict: Clemens defintely faces some problems, but still came across as a generally strong witness. His former trainer, Brian McNamee has some major credibility issues.

Oh -- surprise! -- the hearing became partisan: As the Times' noted in its own running blog, Democrats -- starting with the execrable Henry Waxman kicking off the hearings by saying that Clemens' earler depostition was "not true" -- going after Clemens; the Republicans went after McNamee:

This is not surprising: the committee chairman, Henry A. Waxman, is a Democrat, and those in his party clearly want to emphasize his belief that this hearing (as well as others) is necessary and important. Painting Mr. Clemens as possibly guilty of perjury is important to that end.

Meanwhile, the Republicans, less eager to back the Democratic committee chair, have focused on McNamee’s credibility, all but asking, “Why are we wasting our time with this guy?”

Given both sides’ analysis and accusations of motives, this dynamic appears relevant as well.
Also not surprisngly, Rep. Dan Burton (R-Ind.) in particular was on fire in attacking McNamee.

UPDATE: A wrap-up of the left-over questions and possible legal hurdles now faced by Clemens. Oh, yeah, and his "nanny problem," too!

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Hey, Big Spender

OK, a timeout from the presidential play-by-play for a little policy break. More accurately, here's a glimpse of the full impact of the Bush administration's spending policies have been. Kevin Hassett compares the Bush years and the spending baseline he inherited.

Hint: It don't look good:

If Bush had promised in January 2001 that the baseline of government spending that he inherited when he took office would be the cap during his term, then we would have a big budget surplus today. It would have been easy to do. He just had to say: ``I will not spend one penny more than President Bill Clinton planned to. I will veto any bill that tries to.''
....

To see how different the world could have been, I gathered data from a number of sources and ran an alternative history. In that wishful place, government spending was set equal to the spending envisioned by the Congressional Budget Office in the January 2001 long-run forecast, plus the spending for the war in Iraq and to fight terrorism. This simulation assumes that the war would have happened in spite of Bush's spending promise, and wouldn't have induced him to seek cuts elsewhere.

The difference between that spending path and the one we are on is huge. Today, we expect federal spending in 2008 will be $2.9 trillion. According to the alternative history, spending would be $2.5 trillion.

UPDATE: It slipped my mind when posting this earlier, but thanks to long-time regular commentator, Moose, for bringing the Hassett piece to my attention.

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And When I Die: "Blood, Sweat & Tears" and David Clayton-Thomas

Last year on American Idol, contestant Melinda Doolittle reminded me of Gladys Knight. That is the great thing about American Idol for someone like me who used to work as a DJ: Hearing a new vocalist who brings back the memories of another great vocalist.

Last night, another contestant (I think his name was Michael Johns) reminded me of a vocalist I haven't heard in years:
David Clayton-Thomas, former lead singer of Blood, Sweat & Tears, which was one of the most unique bands to come out of the 60's. Most people have heard their standard hits, such as "And When I Die", "You've Made Me So Very Happy", and "Spinning Wheel". Between the band's unique fusion of multiple musical styles, including big band, rock, pop, and jazz, and Clayton-Thomas's strong vocal style, Blood, Sweat & Tears was a one-of-a-kind band. I won't call them the best of all-time, but I cannot honestly say I have ever heard anyone do what they did, as well as they did it. They certainly deserve kudos as a band that stands out in the history of music.

Consider this: How many other bands could take "And When I Die", and make it fun, without turning it into satire?

The key, in my opinion, was Clayton-Thomas. The band was good, but his voice gave the music the "gravitas" it needed.

For example, check out this video from 1972, with Jerry Fisher doing the lead vocals on "And When I Die":


Now check out this performance from 1970, with Clayton-Thomas doing the lead vocals:


Even considering the poor quality of the second video, the difference is obvious. Clayton-Thomas's "lounge singer with a growl" vocals were sorely needed to make the song work.

But don't get me wrong. Clayton-Thomas can't do ANY song and make it work. On the following video, from 1993, he does Carole King's "Hi-De-Ho", and it's pretty bad. Personally, I recommend skipping to about 6:27 into the video, where there is a good quality copy of "And When I Die":


From that video, Clayton-Thomas has lost a little of the power in his vocals, but he is still better than most vocalists today. But his voice is still unique among vocalists.

And if another vocalist makes it on American Idol with Clayton-Thomas's sound, I won't shed a tear (or any blood and sweat).

P.S. If you're interested, here are some links to other butchered versions of "And When I Die" by different "artists" (and I use the term VERY loosely):
link, link, and link. It is amazing what people will shamelessly put on Youtube.

(Hat tip to
Youtube.com for the videos.)

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

 

Rout On The Potomac

Um, wow.

Getting the easy stuff out of the way: Whatever small chance Huckabee had to do a little damage in what remains of the GOP primary season is gone. He gave John McCain a bit of a scare in Virginia (networks had the race "too close to call" for more than an hour). But in the end, McCain won 50-41, despite a heavy evangelical turnout. That's over and done.

However, the big news -- again -- is on the Democratic side. Obama sweeping the so-called "Potomac Primary" was not a surprise. The breadth of the win though is absolutely stunning. 60-plus percent of the vote in Maryland and Virginia is amazing. I lived in the Maryland-DC area for 17 years. Maryland and Virginia may be right next to each other, but they are very different states. Maryland is more like Masschusetts South, while Virginia is more conservative -- even with the recent streak of Democratic statewide victories (Warner, Kaine, Webb). Even so, Obama clobbered Hillary Clinton by huge margins -- even greater than John McCain's wins over alleged also-ran Huckabee.

Chuck Todd said tonight on MSNBC that Obama now has a total lead in delegates (counting superdelegates) after Tuesday's results. Furthermore, the breadth of his wins wiped out the national popular vote lead Clinton had amassed because of her wins in the non-campaigned states of Michigan and Florida. It's also notable that Obama has won eight contests in a row.

More troubling for Republicans in November was another example of a pattern that has been seen throughout this season: Nearly a million Virginia Democrats voted in their primary; fewer than 500,000 voted in the Republican one. Now, admittedly, Virginia is an "open" state (like New Hampshire) where voters can declare on election day. Given that many Republicans may have considered "their" primary race over, several decided to vote in the Democratic primary (about 8 percent). Even so, a doubling of the other party's turnout is pretty remarkable.


I've always thought that Virginia was a good possible pick-up for the Democrats this fall, with former Gov. Mark Warner a prohibitie favorite to replace Sen. John Warner. I was, of course, anticipating Hillary being on the ticket. However, the Commonwealth of Virginia is also one of only three states since Reconstruction to elect a black person statewide (to a major office) -- Massachusetts and Illinois are the other two. The breadth of Obama's win tonight -- Obama won whites in Virginia 50-49 percent and carried white men by 14 percent -- suggests he can win that state in the fall.

Yeah, Virginia -- which hasn't voted Democrat in a presidential election since 1964.

Um, wow.

UPDATE: The numbers breakdown on Obama's delegate lead. Obama's campaign pushes the inevitability meme to put pressure on the superdelegates.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

 

"The One"

For those so inclined, take a look/listen at Barack Obama's speech from last Saturday's Jefferson-Jackson Dinner in Virginia.



The man always "gives good speech", but this one was, to me, in a class by itself. For one thing, there seemed to be more "meat on the bones." He put more policy specificity into this one. Indeed, it was a bit more noticeable that he worked from a prepared text this time.

The substance, body language and tone send a unified message: He is starting to believe that he is can see the light at the end of the tunnel of the primary process. There's a confidence, not over-confidence, coming out of him. He knows that even among Democrats, policy detail is the one thing Hillary Clinton has over him (that's why she challenged him to more debates; they are her strength). And so, he's decided to expand the rhetorical/strategic playing field. By incorporating more detail-oriented prose into his powerful poetry, he's now showing that he's happy to play on Clinton's turf.

Anyway, this is the first time that I really thought that this guy may actually the one to knock Clinton off.

The speech is 20 minutes long, but well worth watching.


UPDATE: Oops! Just to show that even the best campaigns can't be perfect, Ed Morrissey points out a rather embarrassing picture in an Obama local office in Texas.

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Was It Huckabam Sweeps?

Well, this was a particularly horrid weekend for Hillary Rodham Clinton. Barack Obama won convincingly in Louisiana, Nebraska and Washington (and the U.S. Virgin Islands!) on Saturday -- and Maine on Sunday (and rubbed it in by beating out Bill Clinton for a Grammy, for cripes sake). It's gotten so bad for Sen. Clinton that campaign manager Pattis Solis Doyle did the obligatory plank walk on Sunday -- replaced by former Clinton chief of staff Maggie Williams.

However, the more interesting story is whether Mike Huckabee had a right to crow over a weekend sweep over presumptive Republican Party nominee John McCain -- and whether that right was stolen from him by the Washington GOP.

The state party stopped counting votes from the caucuses and declared McCain the winner of Washington -- with only 87% of the vote in. At that moment, McCain led Huckabee 26-24 -- the actual margin was about 1.8 percent (Ron Paul had 21% of the vote). The party chairman even admitted that he didn't know where the outstanding vote would be coming from. Why do this?

Well, keep in mind that Huckabee had already won a huge victory in the Kansas caucuses early Saturday and eked out a one percent (43-42) win in Louisiana (which became a "beauty contest" because the winner didn't make 50 percent). So, from a public relations standpoint, Washington began to mean something. If Huckabee had won Washington, he would have been able to say that he he has strength outside of the South (and heavily evangelical states like Kansas and Iowa).

Josh Marshall reported the unfolding Washington story all weekend, beginning here. Josh has further updates, including a press release from the Huckabee campaign and a Meet The Press clip where the governor notes the "weird things" going on.

One point, however, that Josh missed is that the "weird things" began earlier in the evening. I was home Saturday and was flipping back and forth between the cable stations. I noticed that the Washington state Republican returns were stuck on 37 percent of precincts reported for what seemed like at least 90 minutes. Then, around 10:30 or so, the numbers jumped up to 74 percent, before slowing to a trickle -- and stopping at 87 percent. What was notable was that Huckabee led McCain by about 27-23 percent at the 37 percent reporting period. When the counting resumed, it seemed like McCain immediately jumped in front -- to the 26-24 margin that remained at the time the counting was "called." Normally, if one candidate catches and passes another as returns come in, it doesn't raise any eyebrows.

But given the, ahem, weirdness (theft?) in Washington, every odd activity needs to be examined.

Cripes, guys, McCain is going to win the darn thing. It's practically mathematically impossible for Huckabee to catch up. But, no, the Washington GOP has to try some underhanded measures to force the issue. And they wonder why the party is in such trouble.

UPDATE: Ed Morrissey chastises the Washington state party chair, while noting that the margin between McCain and Huckabee has remained constant after counting was restarted (they're up to 94 percent now).

UPDATE II: Josh Marshall has an even more of a detailed chronology of Saturday's evening voting aberrations -- as well as some incomprehensible "explanations" on what happened.

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

 

Open Thread

Uh-oh, don't take them off their open threads.

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RAG Comedy

It's been a while, but here's a new clip of yours truly doing stand-up. This is from one of my New York Comedy Club performances last month:

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