Friday, February 22, 2008


Open Thread

Non-debate thots and feelings go here.

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Someone in the U.S. Secret Service needs to be fired:

The Secret Service told Dallas police to stop screening for weapons while people were still arriving at a campaign rally for Barack Obama, a report said.

Police stopped checking people for weapons at the front gates of Reunion Arena more than an hour before the Democratic presidential hopeful appeared on stage Wednesday, the Fort Worth (Texas) Star-Telegram reported.

Police said the order to stop using metal detectors and checking purses and laptop bags constituted a security lapse, the newspaper reported.
To have this happen anywhere is absurd to begin with, but in DALLAS!??!!? What is the Dealey with THAT?

"Sure," said [Dallas Deputy Police Chief T.W.] Lawrence, when asked if he was concerned by the great number of people who had gotten into the building without being checked. But, he added, the turnout of more than 17,000 people seemed to be a "friendly crowd."

Oh, right, this is Kennedy assassination memorabilia week!

There are no excuses for this. The Secret Service basically allowed there to be less security for a presidential candidate than would be provided for a sports event at the same venue.


And here's your unintentional ironic line for the day, delivered by someone waiting in line on Wednesday for the Obama rally:

While waiting for the doors to open at 10:30 a.m., Ms. Marcus had befriended Jeremiah Sutton, 31, of Highland Park, who said he came early because “I want to be front and center.” Mr. Sutton said he was proud that a black candidate had gotten this far in a presidential campaign.

“He gives us the same sense of security that JFK gave us,” he said.


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Thursday, February 21, 2008


Texas Two Step

Consider this an early open thread in which Hillary & Barack debate observations may be made.

UPDATE: Clearly no longer the front-runner, Hillary Clinton had to come up big in this debate. She ended up having two very memorable moments. One bombed, as she became the only person all night who ended up being booed. That was as she went after Obama on the plagiarism question:
CLINTON: Well, I think that if your candidacy is going to be about words, then they should be your own words. That's, I think, a very simple proposition.
And, you know, lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in, it's change you can Xerox. And I just don't think...
OBAMA: Come on.

The CNN transcript didn't capture the smattering of boos that could be heard in the auditorium. What was rather unfortunate for Clinton at this point was that it was clear that the audience was with her -- obvious applause at the "they should be your own words" part. And then she lost the moment with the Xerox line. If that was Mark Penn's great idea, he should be fired.

The other moment was stunning -- as she became the only candidate in any of the debates to get a standing ovation. After the candidates were asked to discuss crises and challenges they've overcome, Clinton spoke:

CLINTON: Well, I think everybody here knows I've lived through some crises and
some challenging moments in my life. And...
And I am grateful for the support and the prayers of countless Americans.
But people often ask me, "How do you do it?" You know, "How do you keep going?" And I just have to shake my head in wonderment, because with all of the challenges that I've had, they are nothing compared to what I see happening in the lives of Americans every single day. along with Senator McCain, as the only two elected officials, to speak at the opening at the Intrepid Center at Brooke Medical Center in San Antonio, a center designed to take care of and provide rehabilitation for our
brave young men and women who have been injured in war.
And I remember sitting up there and watching them come in. Those who could walk were walking. Those who had lost limbs were trying with great courage to get themselves in without the help of others. Some were in wheelchairs and some were on gurneys. And the speaker representing these wounded warriors had had most of his face disfigured by the results of fire from a roadside bomb.
CLINTON: You know, the hits I've taken in life are nothing compared to what goes on every single day in the lives of people across our country.
And I resolved at a very young age that I'd been blessed and that I was called by my faith and by my upbringing to do what I could to give others the same opportunities and blessings that I took for granted.
That's what gets me up in the morning. That's what motivates me in this campaign.
And, you know, no matter what happens in this contest -- and I am honored, I am honored to be here with Barack Obama. I am absolutely honored.
CLINTON: Whatever happens, we're going to be fine. You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends. I just hope that we'll be able to say the same thing about the American people, and that's what this election should be about. (APPLAUSE)

However, it was masterful -- partly wistful (is she sensing the end?), partly inspiring, but also assertive and compelling (a "don't stop believing" moment). I also think that, however subtly, there was also a slight rejoinder to Michelle Obama's "first time in my adult life I'm proud of America" line. Yes, she assiduously avoided using the word, "proud" or "pride," but the sentiment clearly had a service-to-America feel.

Will it be enough to stop the Obama steamroller? Who knows at this point. But, if this was one of candidate Hillary Clinton's final moments, it was also one of her finest.

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McCain Vs. The Gray Lady

McCain and the female lobbyist -- improper in more ways than one?

In interviews, the two former associates said they joined in a series of confrontations with Mr. McCain, warning him that he was risking his campaign and career. Both said Mr. McCain acknowledged behaving inappropriately and pledged to keep his distance from Ms. Iseman. The two associates, who said they had become disillusioned with the senator, spoke independently of each other and provided details that were corroborated by others.

Separately, a top McCain aide met with Ms. Iseman at Union Station in Washington to ask her to stay away from the senator. John Weaver, a former top strategist and now an informal campaign adviser, said in an e-mail message that he arranged the meeting after “a discussion among the campaign leadership” about her.

“Our political messaging during that time period centered around taking on the special interests and placing the nation’s interests before either personal or special interest,” Mr. Weaver continued. “Ms. Iseman’s involvement in the campaign, it was felt by us, could undermine that effort.”

Mr. Weaver added that the brief conversation was only about “her conduct and what she allegedly had told people, which made its way back to us.” He declined to elaborate.

It is not clear what effect the warnings had; the associates said their concerns receded in the heat of the campaign.
This is the story that McCain managed to keep from being printed back in December.

McCain today denied any romantic relationship with -- or pushing legislation favorable to -- Vicki Iseman:

"At no time have I ever done anything that would betray the public trust or make a decision which in any way would not be in the public interest and would favor any one or any organization," McCain said Thursday.

"I will focus my attention in this campaign on the big issues and on the challenges that face this country," the Arizona senator said.

Earlier, in a statement issued by his presidential campaign, McCain spokeswoman Jill Hazelbaker said:

“It is a shame that The New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit-and-run smear campaign. John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.

“Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career.”
The Times story certainly doesn't have a "smoking gun" -- or stained dress -- in proving an affair between McCain and Iseman. However, the key role of McCain's former right hand main, John Weaver, (the only aide mentioned prominently) gives it a certain power.

Still, this story hinges on the word of McCain vs. the New York Times. Will the conservative base, which hates the New York Times more than it does McCain (I think) rally to his side, as they would if this were about George W. Bush?

We'll see.

UPDATE: The story behind the story, from The New Republic.

UPDATE II: Greg Sargent over at Talking Points Memo's The Horse's Mouth finds much to criticize in the Times piece.

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Bubbas For The Bro

Ho-hum. Another primary, another Obama blow-out. Even the AP is getting bored by the Democratic nomination process:

Barack Obama cruised past a fading Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Wisconsin primary Tuesday night, gaining the upper hand in a Democratic presidential race for the ages.
It was Obama's ninth straight victory over the past three weeks - with results unknown from the Hawaii caucuses - and left the former first lady in desperate need of a comeback in a race she long commanded as front-runner.
"The change we seek is still months and miles away," Obama told a boisterous crowd in Houston in a speech in which he also pledged to end the war in Iraq in his first year in office.
"I opposed this war in 2002. I will bring this war to an end in 2009. It is time to bring our troops home," he declared.
"Fading" -- hardly an uplifting phrase for the former first lady, but pretty apt after the 9-0 nightmare Hillary Rodham Clinton has experienced in the two weeks (only two weeks!) since Super Tuesday.

Especially disappointing is this number -- 62 percent:

[Obama] did very well among white men with 62% of their vote to Clinton's 36%. Remember those Edwards voters? At least among white men, it looks like at least some of them are going for Obama. Clinton, though, still took a plurality of white women (53%-45%).

Obama also made inroads with one core constituency of Clinton's: white working-class voters (households making under $50k/yr). Clinton still edged him out 51% to 48%, but Obama had a strong showing. He won white households making more than $50k/yr -- 56% to 48%.
Obama increased the strong numbers among white men that he started registering last week in Maryland and Virginia. White guys -- well, white Democratic and Democratic-leaning independent guys -- seem to be very comfortable voting for the black guy in the race rather than the woman. Whether that is sexist or just a judgment on this woman is open to debate. What is clear, however, there's no way Hillary can overcome the sort of expanding coalition Obama is creating if she only beats him by three points among her supposed base, white women.

This is currently a prediction-free blog, but given that large parts of Ohio and Pennsylvania mirror Wisconsin, Barack Obama has to feel increasingly confident of his chances in those states over the next several weeks.

UPDATE: It's a perfect 10-0 run for Obama with his landslide win in his "third" home-state win in Hawaii. Obviously, this is the key to winning a nomination -- make sure you can make plausible relationship/residence connections to lots of places (Obama also won in Kansas and Illinois). On the other hand, Mitt Romney was 3-0 in Utah, Michigan and Massachusetts and that didn't work out so well in the long run...

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Tuesday, February 19, 2008


Have A Cigar!

Here's one foreign policy "triumph" that George W. Bush may not have planned, but can toast anyway: He will become the first president in 48 years to leave office without Fidel Castro in power.

Castro could outlast many people, but he couldn't outlast time.

It would be nice if Bush could underscore this moment by announcing a revocation of the U.S. embargo of Cuba (if we can trade with Castro Jr. in Venezuela...), but sometimes dumb policies outlast the reason for their existence in the first place.

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Tarnishing the Hal-"O"?

Barack, Deval, geez, guys, just when white people finally figured out that not all black folks look alike, you want to show that we all sound alike? Thanks, guys, thanks alot.

So, Hillary Clinton accuses Barack Obama
of "plagiarism" because a lengthy passage of a recent speech was found to be very similar to one delivered by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick two years ago? First of all, this is not something that immediately helps Sen. Clinton. It won't suddenly move poll numbers her way in Wisconsin or anywhere else. She'll have to do that by herself.

That said, however, this is the first real unforced error of the Obama campaign for a couple of reasons.

Given that Obama and Patrick are old friends and longtime political allies (c'mon, if your name were Barack or Deval, wouldn't you seek out a pal with an equally unusual name?), this hardly qualifies as an example of Joe Biden's Neil Kinnocking-off a Brit Labour leader in 1988. Both men say they knew what was going on.

On the other hand, if this were a college situation -- say an essay question on a test -- both men might stand accused of "sharing answers." Not exactly plagiarism, but something that strikes people as just "not quite right." This isn't just a simple phrase or slogan -- like the Obama campaign accuses Clinton of swiping "turn the page" (ahem, a Bob Seger song) or "fired up and ready to go" (ditto, Pat Benatar, as Huffington Post's John Ridley has noted). Obama used a full paragraph and intellectual structure:

The passage in question from Obama's speech addressed the power of oratory, and he used it to rebut Clinton's oft-repeated charge that he is long on rhetoric and short on policy specifics.

"Don't tell me words don't matter," Obama told the Wisconsin audience. "'I have a dream' - just words? 'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal' - just words? 'We have nothing to fear but fear itself' - just words? Just speeches?"

Patrick used similar language during his 2006 governor's race to push back on similar charges from his GOP opponent.

"'We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal' - just words? Just words?" Patrick said. "'We have nothing to fear but fear itself' - just words? 'Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.' Just words? 'I have a dream' - just words?"
As they say in copyright law, this goes beyond "fair use."

But more than the technical aspect of borrowing words without attribution, given that this speech was about the fact that Obama's rhetoric is more than "just words," his campaign's response that this was just a phrase shared by friends -- "just words," in other words -- undercuts the very point Obama was trying to make in the first place: He was trying to say that words matter, have powerful meaning and the ability to inspire. But that is because of a certain vibrancy and originality that certain speeches have. The historical words that both men quoted had those factors. Obama, however, was ultimately borrowing "just word" that his friend had already uttered. The idea in the speech -- the power of original rhetoric -- has been punctured.

Another way this hurts Obama is in ways that no politician wants -- it starts the press looking at the campaign organization itself. One reason this happened is that Obama and Patrick share a consultant, David Axelrod. Axelrod may welll have written Patrick's speech. Obama has been very lucky so far in making himself the nexus of the campaign --whereas Hillary has had to deal with the roles of surrogates from her husband to her former campaign manager and others. The fact that there might be more scrutiny on Axelrod makes the Obama campaign look, like, well a political campaign, rather than some amazing "movement" sweeping the country.

Whether the word borrowing has legs remains to be seen, but this certainly dings the halo that had been previously placed on St. Obama.

UPDATE: Marc Ambinder defends Obama's use of Patrick's language:
The best speakers tend to appropriate and expand; Obama's speeches pay tribute to the entire Kennedy family (and to the Sorensenian/Shrumian influences on their rhetoric); to Martin Luther King and to Barbara Jordan, ("Are we to be one people bound together by common spirit, sharing in a common endeavor; or will we become a divided nation?"), to Calvinist preachers; to
Jesse Jackson, to Cicero and Aristotle.
Nonetheless, Obama's speeches are more original, more authorial, more persuasive than any of his competitors.

Not sure if we want to go there, Marc.

Arguably, at one point, it would have been said that Martin Luther King's speeches were "more original, more authorial, more persuasive than any of his competitors."
Yet, twenty years after his death, as his papers were being examined, credible charges of intellectual plagiarism were raised. In the large picture, that doesn't diminish his greatness, but it remains a part of his history. Ambinder might not want to lump Obama into that sphere.

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