Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Obama Tries to Explain Another Broken Promise Obama Polishes His Resume with Misleading Ad

From on June 21, 2008: "Obama has released his first post-primary ad, a 60-second spot that's airing in 18 battleground states. In effect, "Country I Love" is Obama's first ad of the general election campaign, and as such it invites scrutiny. (FactCheck will address McCain's first general election ads in a separate article.) We don't find this ad egregiously misleading, but it paints a picture of Obama's accomplishments that could leave viewers with a misimpression or two.

His description of his upbringing and work history are accurate. He describes the "strong values" he says he learned from his mother and her parents. But when Obama discusses his legislative accomplishments, he leaves out some important context.

The ad talks about laws that Obama "passed," but in fact, he sponsored only one of the three bills mentioned and cosponsored another. The third included provisions from some bills he'd sponsored earlier, but his name wasn't attached to the one that passed. And two of the three laws were accomplishments of the Illinois Legislature, not the U.S. Senate.

Presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama's first ad of the general election aims to play up his Midwestern roots, his patriotism and his concern for working families.
The basic details that Obama provides about his family are correct. His books and various news reports confirm that Obama was raised in Hawaii by his mother and grandparents, who were transplants from Kansas. They weren't rich, though young Obama did attend an elite private school. Obama worked at least one job during college, a construction job that he mentions in "Dreams From My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance," and he took out loans to pay for his undergraduate and law school education. After law school, Obama worked for church-based community action groups and tenants' rights organizations in poor Chicago neighborhoods.

Obama also says he passed up "Wall Street jobs" to "go to Chicago instead, helping neighborhoods devastated when steel plants closed." Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post points out that "Obama may have turned down Wall Street jobs after graduating from Columbia University in 1983, but he spent a year working for Business International Corp. in New York before becoming a community organizer in Chicago." But Obama's work at Business International Corporation, despite the fancy name, was by no means an investment banking job. The New York Times reports that the company was "a small newsletter-publishing and research firm, with about 250 employees worldwide, that helped companies with foreign operations ... understand overseas markets." Obama was a researcher and writer for the firm for about a year, after which he moved on to the New York Public Interest Research Group, a consumer protection and environmental reform organization.

So far, so good. But Obama goes on to tout his legislative accomplishments, and those claims don't stand up as well under scrutiny. In order to establish his bona fides as a politician who cares about working families, Obama cites his success with three relevant bills. But he doesn't mention that two of the three pieces of legislation were actually passed by the Illinois Senate, not the U.S. Senate. Obama's campaign tells us that when he says, "I passed laws moving people from welfare to work," he is referring to the bill that created Illinois’ Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program in 1997. Obama was one of five original sponsors of the bill, which set limits on public assistance and required welfare recipients to outline plans for moving into the workforce. The law that "cut taxes for working families" is a 2000 bill, on which Obama and 35 others were later added as cosponsors, instituting an earned income-tax credit for the state. Both bills affected only Illinois residents.

The only national law in Obama's ad is the one that "extended health care for wounded troops," and it's dubious whether he can claim full responsibility for that one. H.R. 4986, which became public law 110-181 in 2008, includes provisions from several Obama-sponsored bills. His ideas made it into law, but Obama was not a sponsor or cosponsor of H.R. 4986 itself.

Finally, it has always been our position that it's misleading when a member of a legislative body says that he or she "passed a law," "cut taxes" or makes any similar claim to single-handed lawmaking. It takes more than one legislator to get these things done. In addition to the sponsors and the cosponsors, sometimes dozens of them, the bill needs the support of a majority in both houses. Usually, a governor or president needs to then sign a bill into law, unless the legislature comes up with a veto-proof majority.

So for Obama to say that he "passed a law" casts him as a legislative Lone Ranger, hogging credit that properly belongs to other parties as well."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Obama Lies in First National Ad

From the National Review: "Padding Obama [Yuval Levin]

"Barack Obama released his first general election ad on Friday, which seems aimed above all to answer some early concerns about his biography and experience. It’s a well made ad, but it also offers an example of the kind of brazen padding of the resume that Obama will inevitably need to engage in, and which will carry serious risks for him.

About 46 seconds into the ad, we are told that Obama “passed laws” that “extended healthcare for wounded troops who’d been neglected,” and in the usual manner of these political commercials we are given a little citation at the bottom. The citation reads “Public Law 110-181 1/28/08”. That law is the only federal legislation cited in the ad — the other two items mentioned were from the Illinois legislature and referred to other issues raised in the ad.

Public Law 110-181 was the 2008 defense authorization bill. It passed the Senate by 91 to 3 in January, with six Senators not voting. Among those six absentees was Barack Obama. So he cites a bill he didn’t even vote for. Did he contribute to it in some way that might be reasonably referred to as extending healthcare for wounded troops who’d been neglected? It certainly doesn’t seem that way, as even Obama supporters at the Daily Kos discovered when they tried to answer some of the bloggers who pointed to Obama’s citation of the bill. They found that Obama had tried to insert an amendment that had to do with screenings for service members returning from deployments, and one that would ease the discharge of service members found to have personality disorders, but neither amendment passed. Another part of the bill, calling for inspector general reports about hospital facilities, had come from a different bill Obama had sponsored.

Even under the most generous reading imaginable could any of that count as passing legislation that extended health care for wounded troops? The Chicago Tribune noted the problem on its blog last week but defended Obama by pointing out that John McCain didn’t vote for the bill either. That would be an interesting piece of information if John McCain had cited this bill as among his chief legislative accomplishments.

The Obama team’s desire to pad the resume is understandable — it’s awfully slim after all. But this kind of dishonesty will catch up with them…or at least it should."

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Obama Supports FISA Giveaway to Bush

From Glenn Greenwald in "In the past 24 hours, specifically beginning with the moment Barack Obama announced that he now supports the Cheney/Rockefeller/Hoyer House bill, there have magically arisen -- in places where one would never have expected to find them -- all sorts of claims about why this FISA "compromise" isn't really so bad after all. People who spent the week railing against Steny Hoyer as an evil, craven enabler of the Bush administration -- or who spent the last several months identically railing against Jay Rockefeller -- suddenly changed their minds completely when Barack Obama announced that he would do the same thing as they did. What had been a vicious assault on our Constitution, and corrupt complicity to conceal Bush lawbreaking, magically and instantaneously transformed into a perfectly understandable position, even a shrewd and commendable decision, that we should not only accept, but be grateful for as undertaken by Obama for our Own Good.

Accompanying those claims are a whole array of factually false statements about the bill, deployed in service of defending Obama's indefensible -- and deeply unprincipled -- support for this "compromise." Numerous individuals stepped forward to assure us that there was only one small bad part of this bill -- the part which immunizes lawbreaking telecoms -- and since Obama says that he opposes that part, there is no basis for criticizing him for what he did. Besides, even if Obama decided to support an imperfect bill, it's our duty to refrain from voicing any criticism of him, because the Only Thing That Matters is that Barack Obama be put in the Oval Office, and we must do anything and everything -- including remain silent when he embraces a full-scale assault on the Fourth Amendment and the rule of law -- because every goal is now subordinate to electing Barack Obama our new Leader.

It is absolutely false that the only unconstitutional and destructive provision of this "compromise" bill is the telecom amnesty part. It's true that most people working to defeat the Cheney/Rockefeller bill viewed opposition to telecom amnesty as the most politically potent way to defeat the bill, but the bill's expansion of warrantless eavesdropping powers vested in the President, and its evisceration of safeguards against abuses of those powers, is at least as long-lasting and destructive as the telecom amnesty provisions. The bill legalizes many of the warrantless eavesdropping activities George Bush secretly and illegally ordered in 2001. Those warrantless eavesdropping powers violate core Fourth Amendment protections. And Barack Obama now supports all of it, and will vote it into law. Those are just facts.

The ACLU specifically identifies the ways in which this bill destroys meaningful limits on the President's power to spy on our international calls and emails. Sen. Russ Feingold condemned the bill on the ground that it "fails to protect the privacy of law-abiding Americans at home" because "the government can still sweep up and keep the international communications of innocent Americans in the U.S. with no connection to suspected terrorists, with very few safeguards to protect against abuse of this power." Rep. Rush Holt -- who was actually denied time to speak by bill-supporter Silvestre Reyes only to be given time by bill-opponent John Conyers -- condemned the bill because it vests the power to decide who are the "bad guys" in the very people who do the spying.

This bill doesn't legalize every part of Bush's illegal warrantless eavesdropping program but it takes a large step beyond FISA towards what Bush did. There was absolutely no reason to destroy the FISA framework, which is already an extraordinarily pro-Executive instrument that vests vast eavesdropping powers in the President, in order to empower the President to spy on large parts of our international communications with no warrants at all. This was all done by invoking the scary spectre of Terrorism -- "you must give up your privacy and constitutional rights to us if you want us to keep you safe" -- and it is Obama's willingness to embrace that rancid framework, the defining mindset of the Bush years, that is most deserving of intense criticism here.

* * * * *

Last night, Greg Sargent wrote that the most infuriating aspect of what Obama did here "is that since the outset of the campaign he's seemed absolutely dead serious about changing the way foreign policy is discussed and argued about in this country"; that Obama's "candidacy has long seemed to embody a conviction that Democrats can win arguments with Republicans about national security -- that if Dems stick to a set of core principles, and forcefully argue for them without blinking, they can and will persuade people that, simply put, they are right and Republicans are wrong"; and that "this time, he abandoned that premise," even though:

if there were ever anything that would have tested his operating premise throughout this campaign -- that you can win arguments with Republicans about national security -- it was this legislation. If ever there were anything that deserved to test this premise, it was this legislation.
This superb piece from The Technology Liberation Front makes the same argument:
We are, in other words, right back to the narrative where being "strong" on national security means trashing the constitution. . . . . This is doubly disappointing because until now Obama has been a master at re-framing national security debates to get out of this box. Unlike John Kerry, he has refused to shy away from a confrontational posture on foreign policy issues. He's shown a willingness to say he has a better foreign policy vision, rather than simply insisting he can be just as tough on the terrorists as the Republicans are. He could and should have done the same with FISA, taking the opportunity to explain why warrantless surveillance isn't necessary to protect us from the terrorists. But it seems he, along with Steny Hoyer and Harry Reid, chickened out. So it's back to Republicans being tough on national security and Democrats defensively insisting that they, too, hate terrorists more than they love the constitution.
It's either that he "chickened out" or -- as Yale Law Professor Jack Balkin asserts and Digby wonders -- Obama believes he will be President and wants these extreme powers for himself, no doubt, he believes, because he'll exercise them magnanimously, for our Own Good. Whatever the motives -- and I don't know (or much care) what they are -- Obama has embraced a bill that is not only redolent of many of the excesses of Bush's executive power theories and surveillance state expansions, but worse, has done so by embracing the underlying rationale of "Be-scared-and-give-up-your-rights." Note that the very first line of Obama's statement warns us that we face what he calls "grave threats," and that therefore, we must accept that our Leader needs more unlimited power, and the best we can do is trust that he will use it for our Good.

Making matters worse still, what Obama did yesterday is in clear tension with an emphatic promise that he made just months ago. As the extremely pro-Obama notes today, Obama's spokesman, Bill Burton, back in in September, vowed that Obama would "support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies." MoveOn believes Obama should be held to his word and is thus conducting a campaign urging Obama to do what he promised -- support a filibuster to stop the enactment of telecom amnesty. You can email Burton here to demand that Obama comply with his commitment not just to vote against, but to filibuster, telecom amnesty:
Incidentally, Chris Dodd made an identical promise when he was running for President, prompting the support of hundreds of thousands of new contributors, and he ought to be held to his promise as well.

* * * * *

The excuse that Obama's support for this bill is politically shrewd is -- even if accurate -- neither a defense of what he did nor a reason to refrain from loudly criticizing him for it. Actually, it's the opposite. It's precisely because Obama is calculating that he can -- without real consequence -- trample upon the political values of those who believe in the Constitution and the rule of law that it's necessary to do what one can to change that calculus. Telling Obama that you'll cheer for him no matter what he does, that you'll vest in him Blind Faith that anything he does is done with the purest of motives, ensures that he will continue to ignore you and your political interests.

Beyond that, this attitude that we should uncritically support Obama in everything he does and refrain from criticizing him is unhealthy in the extreme. No political leader merits uncritical devotion -- neither when they are running for office nor when they occupy it -- and there are few things more dangerous than announcing that you so deeply believe in the Core Goodness of a political leader, or that we face such extreme political crises that you trust and support whatever your Leader does, even when you don't understand it or think that it's wrong. That's precisely the warped authoritarian mindset that defined the Bush Movement and led to the insanity of the post-9/11 Era, and that uncritical reverence is no more attractive or healthy when it's shifted to a new Leader.

What Barack Obama did here was wrong and destructive. He's supporting a bill that is a full-scale assault on our Constitution and an endorsement of the premise that our laws can be broken by the political and corporate elite whenever the scary specter of The Terrorists can be invoked to justify it. What's more, as a Constitutional Law Professor, he knows full well what a radical perversion of our Constitution this bill is, and yet he's supporting it anyway. Anyone who sugarcoats or justifies that is doing a real disservice to their claimed political values and to the truth.

The excuse that we must sit by quietly and allow him to do these things with no opposition so that he can win is itself a corrupted and self-destructive mentality. That mindset has no end. Once he's elected, it will transform into: "It's vital that Obama keeps his majority in Congress so you have to keep quiet until after the 2010 midterms," after which it will be: "It's vital that Obama is re-elected so you have to keep quiet until after 2012," at which point the process will repeat itself from the first step. Quite plainly, those are excuses to justify mindless devotion, not genuine political strategies.

Having said all of that, the other extreme -- declaring that Obama is now Evil Incarnate, no better than John McCain, etc. etc. -- is no better. Obama is a politician running for political office, driven by all the standard, pedestrian impulses of most other people who seek and crave political power. It's nothing more or less than that, and it is just as imperative today as it was yesterday that the sickly right-wing faction be permanently removed from power and that there is never any such thing as the John McCain Administration (as one commenter ironically noted yesterday, at the very least, Obama is far more likely to appoint Supreme Court Justices who will rule that the bill Obama supports is patently unconstitutional). The commenter sysprog described perfectly the irrational excesses of both extremes the other day:


Why are so many four-year-olds and fourteen-year-olds making comments on blogs?

Four-year-olds see their preferred politicians as god-like fathers (or mothers) whose virtuous character will guarantee good judgment. If a judgment looks questionable to you, then it's because you don't know all the facts that mommy and daddy know, or it's because you aren't as wise as them.

Fourteen-year-olds have had their illusions shattered about those devilish politicians so now they perceive the TRUTH - - that mommy and daddy make bad judgments because mommy and daddy are utterly corrupt.

Personally, I can empathize with the impulses behind the latter far more than the former, even while recognizing that they both must be diligently avoided. It's understandable that there is a substantial sense of anger and betrayal towards Obama as a result of what he did yesterday, particularly among those who previously viewed him as something transcendent and "different." Quoting Shakespeare is always slightly pompous (at least) but -- with apologies in advance -- his observation in Sonnet 94 is too apropos here to refrain:
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;

Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.

If there is one good thing that can come from this week's horrific embrace by Obama and our bipartisan political establishment of warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty, perhaps it will be that the illusions of "lily-ness" about Barack Obama can finally fade away and be replaced by a more realistic perception of what he is, what his limits are, and the reasons why he merits real scrutiny, criticism and checks -- like everyone else pursuing political power does. Recall that the very first thing that he did upon securing the nomination was run to AIPAC to prostrate himself before them and swear undying fealty to their militant pieties. There will be plenty more of these sorts of ugly rituals to come. Whether you think he is engaging in them out of justifiable political calculation or some barren quest for power doesn't much matter.

Either way, no good comes from lending uncritical support to a political leader, or cheering them on when they do bad and destructive things, or using twisted rationalizations to justify their full-scale assault on your core political values. The overriding lesson of the last seven years is that political figures, more than they need anything else, need checks and limits. That is just as important to keep in mind -- probably more so -- when you love or revere a political leader as it is when you detest one.

* * * * *

The campaign against politicians who are enabling this assault on our Constitutional framework, core civil liberties and the rule of law has now raised close to $300,000. My explanation about the current plans for these funds, in response to a commenter's inquiries, can be read here. Contributions to that campaign can be made here.

UPDATE: In comments, Hume's Ghost wrote:

What really rubbed me the wrong way was how Obama in his statement says essentially trust me with these powers, I'll use them responsibly.


"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty." - John Adams [1772].

In 1799, Thomas Jefferson echoed that: "Free government is founded in jealousy, not confidence . . . . Let no more be heard of confidence in men, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitutions." Between (a) relying on the limitations imposed by the Constitution or (b) placing faith in the promises of a political leader not to abuse his unchecked power, it isn't really a difficult choice -- at least it ought not to be, no matter who the political leader in question happens to be."

Obama Endorses Bush Supporting Georgia Democrat

From "In an unusual move, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is backing U.S. Rep. John Barrow in a contested primary election.

On July 15, Barrow, who is white, faces state Sen. Regina Thomas, who is black, in a Democratic primary likely to attract overwhelmingly black turnout.

The Savannah congressman supports policies such as the war in Iraq and President Bush's tax cuts, which Obama and Thomas oppose.

His campaign is airing radio ads featuring Obama in his 12th Congressional District. "We're going to need John Barrow back in Congress to help change Washington and get our country back on track," Obama says. "He's ... standing up to the ... Republicans who go right down the line with George Bush."

Obama said Barrow will help lower fuel prices and provide access to affordable health care and good-paying jobs.

"It's kind of surprising," said University of Georgia political science professor Charles Bullock. "Party leaders usually don't want to get involved in a contested primary, thinking they don't have anything to gain."

Bullock said the endorsement likely will sway at least some black voters who are inclined to vote for Thomas.

Thomas, a Savannah lawmaker, disputed that. "People have their own minds," she said. "I'll win whether Obama, Bush or Clinton endorses him. My record speaks for itself. So does John's. He votes the Bush agenda."

Ed Feiler, a local Barrow supporter, said the endorsement speaks well of Barrow.

"This shows that he does a very balanced job of representing a district with very different kinds of people," the Savannah businessman said. "It shows he can talk to everybody and that he works hard to deal their concerns."

But Mary Osborne, who was Obama's Chatham County coordinator in Georgia's Feb. 5 Democratic presidential primary, said she is disappointed.

Osborne, a Savannah alderman, said Obama might not be familiar with Barrow's voting record.

Kevin Clark, another local Obama supporter and a leader in the gay rights community, said he was "sorely, sorely disappointed."

Clark said Barrow failed to stand behind the pro-gay-rights positions he took in his 2004 Democratic primary campaign.

Osborne and others suggested the endorsement was a reward for Barrow's support of Obama for president. Barrow backed Obama as he rounded up support from so-called "superdelegates" such as Barrow. Thomas did not back Obama until around the time he locked up the nomination.

"I'm sure there's a matter of trade-offs," Osborne said. "That's how things are done in politics."

But others noted that Barrow also is helping Obama with a major voter registration drive.

"Absolutely not," Barrow responded when asked about payback speculation.

He acknowledged that he differs with Obama on some issues. "But he's trying to make the economy work for the middle class, and so am I," Barrow said. "It doesn't mean he agrees with me 100 percent, or that I agree with him 100 percent."

Obama campaign spokeswoman Amy Brundage made a similar point.

"Sen. Obama believes that Congressman Barrow has worked hard to bring change that families in his district deserve," Brundage said."

Ever-Changing "Change"

From "June 21, 2008 -- Awash in campaign cash, Barack Obama this week announced that he's opting out of the public-financing system for presidential campaigns. He'll be the first general-election candidate to do that since the system was set up.

This gives new meaning to the notion of "politics of change."

"In February 2007, I proposed a novel way to preserve the strength of the public-financing system in the 2008 election," he wrote in November. "My plan requires both major party candidates to agree on a fund-raising truce, return excess money from donors and stay within the public-financing system for the general election."

So much for that.

This isn't the first time Obama has, um, "changed" political lanes:

* He ripped Hillary Clinton for months for voting to list Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. Days after Clinton conceded, Obama flipped and said he supported the definition.

* Obama repeatedly vowed to meet with various heads of terror states - most notably Ahmadinejad of Iran - "without preconditions." Then, with the nomination in sight, he zigzagged: "There's no reason why we would necessarily meet with Ahmadinejad. He's not the most powerful person in Iran."

* In October, he supported NAFTA expansion. In March, campaigning in the Ohio primary, he called for a "reopening" of the trade pact's terms. This week, he called his own primary rhetoric "overheated" and said NAFTA has had a positive effect on the US economy.

* Yesterday, after signaling opposition to nuclear power, he told Democratic governors he's open to expanding it.

Change, yes.

But "change we can believe in"?

That remains to be seen."

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Obama - Just Another Politican

From by Glenn Greenwald:
"Thursday June 19, 2008 05:39 EDT
Obama, telecoms and the Beltway system
(updated below - Update II)

As noted yesterday, Blue Dog Rep. John Barrow of Georgia has been one of the most enthusiastic enablers of the radical and lawless policies of the Bush administration. When running for re-election, he ran ads accusing his own party of wanting to "cut and run in Iraq," and was one of the 21 Blue Dogs to send a letter to Nancy Pelosi demanding that they be allowed to vote for the Rockefeller/Cheney Senate bill to give warrantless eavesdropping powers to the President and amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms.

As a result of all of that, Barrow faces a serious primary challenge in July from State Senator Regina Thomas, who decided to run against Barrow due to -- as she told Howie Klein when she announced -- "Barrow's failure to support his constituents against the encroachments of powerful Big Business interests." As Klein noted yesterday, Thomas' positions on both foreign and domestic policy are firmly in line with Barack Obama's views and with the Democratic base in that district, while Barrow has continuously supported the most extremist Bush policies, as he himself proudly boasts.

In contrast to Barrow's demands for warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty, here is the statement Regina Thomas issued yesterday (via email):

After reading the FISA bill -- Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act -- I thought "This can not be good for Americans. That the Bush Administration wants unlimited powers for spying on not only terrorists, but on any American citizen. This is against and violates the Constitutional Fourth Amendment [right of] privacy. This also allows warrant-less monitoring of any form of communication in the United States." I was disappointed and dismayed with my Congressman John Barrow supporting this Bush Republican initiative against Americans. Too often Congressman Barrow from the 12th district in Georgia has voted with Bush and the Republicans on key issues.
Despite all of this, The Atlanta Constitution-Journal reported yesterday that Barack Obama -- who has been claiming to be so emphatically opposed to warrantless eavesdropping and telecom amnesty, to say nothing of the Iraq War -- taped a radio endorsement this week for Rep. Barrow, with the specific intent to help him defeat Regina Thomas in the Democratic primary (h/t sysprog):
Obama cuts an ad to help John Barrow in his primary fight

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has taped a radio commercial on behalf of U.S. Rep. John Barrow of Savannah, who faces a July 15 primary challenge.

It's the first case of Obama involving himself in a local race in Georgia. . . But the Obama campaign made clear to my colleague Aaron Sheinin that it sees Barrow, a two-term Democrat, as an important ally. . . .

"Senator Obama believes that Congressman Barrow has worked hard to bring change that families in his district deserve, and we'll work hard to help John Barrow win in November," Obama spokeswoman Amy Brundage said.

In the ad, Obama asks voters to join him in supporting Barrow. "We're going to need John Barrow back in Congress to help change Washington and get our country back on track," Obama says in the 60-second ad.

The article highlighted the reason Barrow was so eager to have Obama record an ad endorsing him and why it's so potentially important in helping Barrow win his primary:
Barrow beat a Republican incumbent in 2004 and had tough GOP opposition in 2006. But this April, Barrow picked up unexpected opposition from Regina Thomas, a well-known African-American state senator based in Savannah. Barrow is white, and in past primaries in the 12th District, black voters have cast nearly 70 percent of the ballots.
What makes this even more amazing is that, as the article notes, Barrow cynically waited until after Obama's sweeping primary victory in Georgia to endorse him. He did so only once he saw that Obama would likely be the nominee and obviously with the hope of having Obama encourage Barrow's sizable African-American constituency to support him. And now Obama turns around and intervenes in a Democratic primary on behalf of one of the worst Bush enablers in Congress -- not in order to help Barrow defeat an even-worse Republican, but to defeat a far better and plainly credible Democratic challenger.

For all of Obama's talk about the wicked ways of Washington, these incumbent protection schemes -- whereby Beltway power factions all help each other stay in power no matter their ideology or positions -- are among the most vital instruments for perpetuating how Washington works. Democratic leaders pretend that they are forced continuously to capitulate to the Bush administration due to their "conservative" members, yet continuously work to keep those same members in power, even when it comes to supporting them against far better Democratic primary challengers.

Obama has made himself a central part of that rancid scheme. Recall that in 2006, Obama -- who now touts his commitment to ending the war -- endorsed Joe Lieberman in his Connecticut primary race over war opponent Ned Lamont, appearing with Lieberman to say: "Joe Lieberman's a man with a good heart, with a keen intellect, who cares about the working families of America . . . . I am absolutely certain that Connecticut's going to have the good sense to send Joe Lieberman back to the United States Senate."

* * * * *

Making matters much worse here, Obama -- who has removed himself almost completely from the pending eavesdropping and telecom amnesty debate -- recorded this ad for Barrow on the eve of that bill's passage, all in order to keep in power a key Democratic supporter of this FISA/amnesty bill. Yet telecom amnesty is not merely a side issue but is one of the purest expressions of what Obama claims so vigorously to oppose in Washington.

Just consider this Reuters article from yesterday in which anonymous officials decree to us that it's now a fait accompli that the Democratic Congress will enact the FISA/amnesty bill -- an article which the commenter pow wow describes as "carefully-planted PR in the government-mouthpiece media -- anonymously reminding the peons that resistance is futile; the game is up":

U.S. phone companies would be shielded from potentially billions of dollars in lawsuits under an anti-terror spy measure that appears headed toward approval, congressional sources said on Wednesday. . . . .

Democratic and Republican aides and a lobbyist familiar with negotiations said the House would likely approve the measure overwhelmingly. Despite opposition from its top two Democrats, the Senate would then likely give it final approval, clearing the way for President George W. Bush to sign it into law. . . ..

The proposed compromise would allow a federal district court to dismiss a suit if the company was provided written assurances that Bush authorized their participation in the spy program and that it was legal, sources said.

The telecom amnesty bill is something that has been engineered by telecom lobbyists from start to finish, while Bush officials engineer the part of the bill to provide full-scale warrantless eavesdropping powers. While the ACLU and other grass-roots groups have been shut out of the negotiation over this bill almost completely -- it's been conducted, like most important government processes, totally in the dark -- telecom lobbyists are not only fully informed about what is going on but have been participating directly in the negotiations. Along with Bush officials, it's the telecoms' lobbyists who are "negotiating" with Congress over how to write the law providing for their own amnesty from breaking the laws passed by Congress.

This is everything Obama claims so vehemently to oppose, claims he wants to end. And yet the Congress under the control of his party is about to enact a radical bill to legalize vast new warrantless eavesdropping powers and immunize telecoms who broke our country's laws for years. And not only is Obama doing nothing about any of that, but far more, he's actively intervening in a Democratic primary to help one of the worst enablers of all of this stay in power, while helping to defeat an insurgent, community-based challenger.

None of that is enjoyable to write or accept, but those are just facts. There is a disturbing tendency on all sides to view Obama through a reductive Manichean lens -- either he's the embodiment of pure transformative Good who is going magically to cleanse our polity the minute he takes office, or he's nothing other than a mindless, passive tool of the establishment whose pretty rhetoric masks a barren ambition for power and who is no better than McCain. Neither of those caricatures is remotely accurate, and a John McCain presidency would be an unmitigated disaster on every level.

But it's critical to keep in mind that Obama is a politician and, like all people, is plagued by significant imperfections. He has largely entrenched himself in, and is dependent upon, the power structure he says he wants to undermine. Uncritical devotion to political leaders, including him, is destructive. Obama needs pressure, criticism, checks, and real scrutiny just like anyone else in power in order to keep him accountable, responsive, and faithful to the principles he claims are the ones driving him.

Pressure of that sort should include demanding that he take meaningful action against this Draconian and lawlessness-enabling bill. This is, after all, a bill which his own party is seeking to pass and justifying their behavior, in part, by claiming that they're doing it to protect Obama politically from being attacked as Weak on Terrorism. If this bill passes and Obama does nothing to stop it, he'll bear significant responsibility for its enactment. Here's his campaign's phone number: (866) 675-2008 [Dial 6, then 0, on the menu]. I'll post other contact information as people leave it in comments.

* * * * *

A few quick updates about the FISA/telecom campaign: The amount raised in the last 1 1/2 days is now an amazing $115,000 -- brining the total for this campaign to $195,000. By any measure, that is an extraordinary amount to raise for a campaign like this, through a handful of blogs, in such a short time. It attests to the intensity and depth of the constituency for defending our constitutional framework and the rule of law, and it will only grow.

New ads are being prepared right now to run ASAP in the districts of Hoyer, Carney and Barrow, and they will continue even if the vote occurs Friday.

Simon Owens interviewed several of the members of the "Strange Bedfellows" alliance and wrote an excellent article about the campaign. Bloggers, activists and organizations that want to join that alliance can do so here. The ACLU Press Release announcing this coalition, as well as a tool for embedding the amount raised for this campaign, can be found here at the Strange Bedfellows site.

As indicated yesterday, this will be an ongoing campaign for all matters relating to constitutional protections, civil liberties, unchecked government power, and the rule of law -- particularly devoted to removing from power those who enable the assault on our constitutional liberties and to put into power those devoted to their preservation. The massive money bomb being coordinated now by the Ron Paul faction will enable many more deserving political figures -- both good and bad -- to be targeted.

UPDATE: Here's the newly elected Rep. Donna Edwards, who defeated Bush-enabling Democratic incumbent Al Wynn, speaking on telecom immunity after she defeated Wynn in the primary:

Wynn was not only heavily supported by the entire telecom industry, but by Nancy Pelosi and the Democratic leadership as well, who tried to keep Donna Edwards out of Congress and keep the Bush-supporting Al Wynn in power. As Matt Stoller wrote today: "I don't know what kind of game Obama is playing, but using his remarkable brand to protect conservative Democrats is a move reminiscent of Nancy Pelosi endorsing Al Wynn."

Democratic leaders expect that you're going to be understanding when they tell you that Bush gets everything he wants from Congress because -- oh-so-unfortunately -- there are so many members of their caucus who support those radical policies, the "Blue Dogs" and the like. But when it's those very Democratic leaders doing everything possible to keep those pro-Bush Democrats in power, even when it means defeating far better Democratic candidates, then they bear the full responsibility for the consequences.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

More Obama Lies - He is For NAFTA (he was against it in the primaries)

From Fortune Magazine By Nina Easton, Washington editor
Last Updated: June 18, 2008: 3:00 PM EDT:
"WASHINGTON (Fortune) -- The general campaign is on, independent voters are up for grabs, and Barack Obama is toning down his populist rhetoric - at least when it comes to free trade.

In an interview with Fortune to be featured in the magazine's upcoming issue, the presumptive Democratic nominee backed off his harshest attacks on the free trade agreement and indicated he didn't want to unilaterally reopen negotiations on NAFTA.

"Sometimes during campaigns the rhetoric gets overheated and amplified," he conceded, after I reminded him that he had called NAFTA "devastating" and "a big mistake," despite nonpartisan studies concluding that the trade zone has had a mild, positive effect on the U.S. economy.

Does that mean his rhetoric was overheated and amplified? "Politicians are always guilty of that, and I don't exempt myself," he answered.

Obama says he believes in "opening up a dialogue" with trading partners Canada and Mexico "and figuring to how we can make this work for all people."

Obama spokesman Bill Burton said that Obama-as the candidate noted in Fortune's interview-has not changed his core position on NAFTA, and that he has always said he would talk to the leaders of Canada and Mexico in an effort to include enforceable labor and environmental standards in the pact.

Nevertheless, Obama's tone stands in marked contrast to his primary campaign's anti-NAFTA fusillades. The pact creating a North American free-trade zone was President Bill Clinton's signature accomplishment; but NAFTA is also the bugaboo of union leaders, grassroots activists and Midwesterners who blame free trade for the factory closings they see in their hometowns.

The Democratic candidates fought hard to win over those factions of their party, with Obama generally following Hillary Clinton's lead in setting a protectionist tone.

In February, as the campaign moved into the Rust Belt, both candidates vowed to invoke a six-month opt-out clause ("as a hammer," in Obama's words) to pressure Canada and Mexico to make concessions.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper called that threat a mistake, and other leaders abroad expressed worries about their trade deals. Leading House Democrats, including Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel, distanced themselves from the candidates.

Now, however, Obama says he doesn't believe in unilaterally reopening NAFTA. On the afternoon that I sat down with him to discuss the economy, Obama said he had just spoken with Harper, who had called to congratulate him on winning the nomination.

"I'm not a big believer in doing things unilaterally," Obama said. "I'm a big believer in opening up a dialogue and figuring out how we can make this work for all people."

Obama has repeatedly described himself as a free-trade proponent who wants to be a "better bargainer" on behalf of U.S. interests and wants agreements to include labor and environmental standards.

In May 2007, congressional Democrats and the Bush administration agreed to a plan to include environmental and international labor standards in upcoming trade agreements. Still, later that year Obama supported one agreement (Peru) and opposed three others (Panama, Colombia, South Korea). Labor leaders - many of whom backed Obama in the primary - were the chief opponents of those pacts.

Obama jumped into the anti-trade waters with Clinton even though his top economics adviser, the University of Chicago's Austan Goolsbee, has written that America's wage gap is primarily the result of a globalized information economy - not free trade.

On Feb. 8, Goolsbee met with the Canadian consul general in Chicago and offered assurances that Obama's rhetoric was "more reflective of political maneuvering than policy," according to a Canadian memo summarizing the meeting that was obtained by Fortune. "In fact," the Canadian memo said, Goolsbee "mentioned that going forward the Obama camp was going to be careful to send the appropriate message without coming off as too protectionist."

In the Fortune interview, Obama noted that despite his support for opening markets, "there are costs to free trade" that must be recognized. He noted that under NAFTA, a more efficient U.S. agricultural industry displaced Mexican farmers, adding to the problem of illegal immigration.

We "can't pretend that those costs aren't real," Obama added. Otherwise, he added, it feeds "the protectionist sentiment and the anti-immigration sentiment that is out there in both parties."

Obama also reiterated his determination to be a tougher trade bargainer. "The Chinese love free trade," he said, "but they are tough as nails when it comes to a bargain, right? They will resist any calls to stop manipulating their currency. It's no secret they have consistently encroached on our intellectual property and our copyright laws. ...We should make sure in our trade negotiations that our interests and our values are adequately reflected."

Republican nominee John McCain, for his part, is emphasizing his consistent position as a free-trader. In a press conference in Boston this week, he attacked Obama as protectionist: "Senator Obama said that he would unilaterally - unilaterally! - renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, where 33 percent of our trade exists. And you know what message that sends? That no agreement is sacred if someone declares that as president of the United States they would unilaterally renegotiate it. I stand for free trade, and with all the difficulties and economic troubles we're in today, there's a real bright spot and that's our exports. Protectionism does not work."

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Obama Has Never Marched in Pride Parade

"Is Barack Obama Going to March in Chicago's Gay Pride Parade?

Chicago holds its Pride Parade on Sunday June 29th on Halsted in Boystown. It's the biggest Pride Parade in the Midwest. It's also, coincidentally, the weekend of the DLC Conference, also held in Chicago. Since Obama's relocated the DNC, largely, to Chicago to be closer to himself and his campaign's operations, and the DLC will also be in Chicago this weekend, we're surprised Obama has not made plans to show his commitment to the LGBT community by marching in Chicago's Pride Parade.

Hillary Clinton was the first First Lady to ever march in a Pride Parade -- and she marches every year in NYC. She also has promised to be the first sitting President of the United States to march in a Gay Pride Parade.

Obama showed us last weekend he's got a pair of pretty comfy-looking sneakers, when he went out on his Chicago bike ride.

Those sneaks would be extra comfy (and would look fabulous, we're sure), marching down Halsted in support of the LGBT community.

If not in Chicago, then where?

If not at the Pride Parade, then when?

If he's not supporting the LGBT community, then why should the LGBT community support Barack Obama?"

Friday, June 13, 2008

Obama Says No to Town Hall Meetings with McCain

From Roll Call By Mort Kondracke:

"Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) got an answer from Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) Tuesday on his proposal for 10 town hall-style debates: Not going to happen. That's too bad - and, the fewer there are, the more Obama should suffer for it politically.

The town halls not only would give ordinary citizens a chance to ask the candidates some pointed questions (see suggestions below), but - because they would be nationally televised - they would let voters nationwide see how the candidates handle challenges from across the political spectrum.

When Obama was debating Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY) and - in the distant past - when McCain debated his GOP rivals, the Democrats rarely got tough questions premised from the right, or the Republicans, from the left.

McCain has challenged Obama to 10 joint appearances to take place before the national conventions. Obviously, McCain thinks they're to his advantage because Obama is such a better orator and McCain performs well in informal settings.

Moreover, McCain - with less money to spend than Obama - wants the free national exposure that the town halls would provide. Obama is ahead in the polls and probably doesn't want to risk his advantage on possibly risky joint appearances.

So, on Tuesday, Obama told reporters, "You know what we've said is we are happy to do more than the three typical presidential debates in the fall ... We hope to have negotiations soon."

He added, "It's not realistic for us to do 10 ... It will probably be somewhat fewer than 10 but more than the three that have been already agreed to, and we'll probably propose a mix of formats."

That's a far cry from the ideal - 10 or more free-wheeling, longish (say, 90 minutes) exchanges centered on a specific topic area but with time left for random (say, political) inquiries. The questioners could be a mix of ordinary citizens and policy experts, maybe with a media person occasionally thrown in.

The ideal would be an exchange very soon on Topic A - gasoline prices, energy policy and environmental policy. Sample question: Senators, you both complain about high gasoline prices but also favor a cap-and-trade system to control global warming. That surely will raise energy prices - in fact, it's meant to. How does that square?

Also, you both oppose drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and off-shore, yet you talk about making the U.S. less dependent on foreign sources. How can you do that - and don't talk about 'alternatives' like wind and solar, which can't replace oil for decades?

If gas prices are Topic A, then the economy and jobs are Topic A1/2 and deserve the second exchange - also soon. McCain needs to be asked: You favor extending all the Bush tax cuts - but they haven't raised incomes for the average American. Why do you think they would in the next four years?

And, Sen. Obama, all your promises - middle-class tax cuts, infrastructure, education, health care and energy investment - will cost how much? Three trillion dollars over 10 years, as Sen. McCain charges? How are you going to pay for that with just tax increases on the wealthy, estimated to raise $1.5 trillion?

Both candidates also need to be asked: Just what are you going to do to prevent meltdowns in the housing and financial markets - and why are your solutions better than his?

There ought to be two or more debates on foreign policy - one on Iraq, one or more on the rest of the world. Question for Obama: Suppose the U.S. had followed your policy and hadn't done the surge in Iraq - wouldn't al-Qaida now be in charge of Sunni areas, radical militias of Shiite areas and wouldn't the U.S. have suffered a strategic defeat it might now avoid? That is, wasn't Sen. McCain right?

To both candidates: If diplomacy can't stop Iran's nuclear program, are you going to bomb?

There ought to be separate town halls on entitlements, education, health care and trade. So, some more questions: Sen. Obama, even AARP advocates some shaving back of retirement benefits to prevent Social Security and Medicare from going broke. Why don't you?

Sen. McCain, independent analysts say that your health care proposal - detaching insurance from the workplace - will make insurance unaffordable for older and sicker workers, and those whose kids may have pre-existing conditions. What about that?

Both of you: A third of ninth graders won't finish high school - 50 percent for minority kids. Where is the dropout crisis on your priority list? Come to think of it, both of you have put a lot of proposals out there - what will you tackle first, second and third?

So many questions, so little time. If Obama really means to change the political landscape, he ought to agree to lots of open exchanges with McCain. And if he won't, the media should ask, why not? "

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Friends of Barack

From June 11, 2008; Page A22
"Barack Obama may have come up with a creative way to solve the housing recession: Let everyone buy property at a discount the way he did from Tony Rezko, and give everyone in America a discount mortgage the way Angelo Mozilo of Countrywide did for Fannie Mae's Jim Johnson. Team Obama's real estate and mortgage transactions are certainly a change from business as usual. They suggest old-fashioned back-scratching below even current Beltway standards.

A former CEO of mortgage financing giant Fannie Mae, Mr. Johnson is now vetting Vice Presidential candidates for Mr. Obama. But he is also a textbook case for poor disclosure as regulators sifted through the wreckage of Fannie's $10 billion accounting scandal. Despite an exhaustive federal inquiry, Mr. Johnson managed to avoid disclosing one very special perk: below-market interest-rate mortgages from Countrywide Financial, arranged by Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo. Journal reporters Glenn Simpson and James Hagerty broke the story this weekend.

Fannie Mae tells us that Mr. Johnson did not inform the company's board of these sweetheart mortgage deals, nor did his CEO successor Franklin Raines, who also received such loans. We can understand why. Fannie bought mortgages from loan originator Countrywide, and then packaged them into securities for sale or kept the loans and profited from the interest. Mr. Mozilo told Dow Jones in 1995 that he was "working very closely . . . with Jim Johnson of Fannie Mae to come up with a rational method of making the process more efficient by the use of credit scoring."

Since Fannie was buying Countrywide's loans, under terms set by Mr. Johnson and later Mr. Raines – or by people in their employ – the fact that Fannie's CEO had a separate personal financial relationship with Countrywide was an obvious conflict of interest. The company's code of conduct required prior approval of such arrangements. Neither Mr. Johnson nor Mr. Raines sought such approval, according to Fannie.

Even if they had received waivers from the board to enjoy these perks, conscientious board members would then have wanted to disclose the waivers to investors. Post-Enron, the Sarbanes-Oxley law requires such disclosures. But even in the late-1990s, when the Friends of Angelo loans began, board members would likely have raised red flags.

Former SEC Chairman Harvey Pitt tells us that "the best way to deal with issues like this is not to have these kinds of relationships. From both the Countrywide and the Fannie perspective, it is simply bad policy to permit loans to 'friends' on more favorable terms than others similarly situated would be able to get."

One question is whether Messrs. Johnson and Raines were using their position to pad their own incomes that were already fabulous thanks to an implicit taxpayer subsidy. (See the table nearby.) But the bigger issue is whether they steered Fannie policy into giving Mr. Mozilo and Countrywide favorable pricing, which means they helped to facilitate the mortgage boom and bust that Countrywide did so much to promote. A further federal probe would seem to be warranted, and we assume Barney Frank and his fellow mortgage moralists will want to dig into this palm-greasing from Capitol Hill.

The irony here is that Mr. Obama has denounced Mr. Mozilo as part of his populist case against corporate excess, calling Mr. Mozilo and a colleague in March "the folks who are responsible for infecting the economy and helping to create a home foreclosure crisis." Obama campaign manager David Plouffe also said in March that "If we're really going to crack down on the practices that caused the credit and housing crises, we're going to need a leader who doesn't owe these industries any favors." But now this protector of the working class has entrusted his first big task as Presidential nominee to the very man who received "favors" in return for enriching Mr. Mozilo.

Yesterday, ABC News asked Mr. Obama whether he should have more carefully vetted Mr. Johnson and Eric Holder, who is working with Mr. Johnson on veep vetting. Correspondent Sunlen Miller noted Mr. Johnson's loans from Countrywide and Mr. Holder's involvement as Deputy Attorney General in the Clinton Administration in the pardon of fugitive Marc Rich. Said Mr. Obama: "Everybody, you know, who is tangentially related to our campaign, I think, is going to have a whole host of relationships – I would have to hire the vetter to vet the vetters."

Vetting Mr. Johnson's finances would have been time well spent, judging by a May 2006 report from Fannie Mae's regulator, the Office of Federal Housing Enterprise Oversight (Ofheo). Even if Mr. Obama considers the advisers helping him select a running mate "tangentially related" to his campaign, he might have thought twice about any relationship with Mr. Johnson.

Addressing the company's too smooth (and fraudulent) reported earnings growth in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Ofheo reported: "Those achievements were illusions deliberately and systematically created by the Enterprise's senior management with the aid of inappropriate accounting and improper earnings management . . . By deliberately and intentionally manipulating accounting to hit earnings targets, senior management maximized the bonuses and other executive compensation they received, at the expense of shareholders."

* * *
The regulator described how, despite an internal Fannie analysis that valued Mr. Johnson's 1998 compensation at almost $21 million, the summary compensation table in the firm's 1999 proxy suggested his pay was no more than $7 million. Ofheo found that Fannie had actually drafted talking points to deflect such media questions as: "He's trying to hide how much he's made, isn't he?" and "Gimme a break. He's hiding his compensation."

To this list we would add one more, directed at Mr. Obama: Is this what you mean by bringing change to Washington?

Obama's Johnson Test

"Will Obama show us the instruction manual for his new kind of politics?
By John Dickerson
Posted Tuesday, June 10, 2008, at 1:48 PM ET Jim Johnson, the man Barack Obama has picked to lead his vice-presidential vetting team, has gotten preferential treatment for personal loans from Countrywide Financial, a company Sen. Obama and others have blamed for helping to create the subprime mortgage mess. How big a deal is this for the Democratic nominee? The Republican National Committee, as you might expect, is diving for the fainting couches. Here is an assessment, based on three different standards:

The Obama Standard
Barack Obama called out Countrywide by name on the campaign trail during the primaries. He particularly criticized the company's CEO for his excessive compensation and more generally "infecting the economy and helping to create a home foreclosure crisis," which he linked not only to the 2 million who lost their houses but to school districts that couldn't purchase supplies and pay teachers. This is the same CEO who gave Johnson his sweetheart deal. Obama's aides also criticized Clinton's then-campaign strategist, Mark Penn, for giving PR advice to the company.

Now the man Obama has entrusted with what he has called the most important decision of his campaign is wrapped up in Countrywide and tied to the CEO. There are lots of unanswered questions about the Johnson deal, though no evidence as yet that he did anything wrong. But the Obama standard isn't wrongdoing. It's mere connection to the company. By that standard, this is bad news.
Since Obama has just held a national seminar for 16 months on changing politics and shedding the old insider way of doing things, you might expect that he'd take these disclosures seriously, if for no other reason than to show that even when it might hurt him, he's committed to letting the light shine on his associates. Nope—his campaign has called the issue irrelevant. Double bad.

The McCain Standard
Jim Johnson is a powerful insider who has friends in high places. The Countrywide deal is evidence that they can get things done quickly and extra-smoothly for him. John McCain has lots of similarly connected friends like Johnson. Many of them raise money for him. Some of them work these kinds of connections professionally, are called lobbyists, and McCain hangs out with them. A former lobbyist is vetting his vice-presidential picks. He also has former lobbyists on his staff, some of whom worked for free while being paid their regular salary by their lobbying firms. This amounts to a subsidy (it's also legal, and Obama volunteers do it, too).

None of this should stop McCain from pointing out Obama's hypocrisy about Johnson. It makes sense for McCain to balance out the hit he's been taking for his special-interest ties by pointing out Obama's difficulty here. But because of his own operations, he can make only so much of this. If McCain gets too self-righteous, he'll open himself up to the same charges of hypocrisy Obama now faces.

The Objective Standard
There are lobbyists, and then there are friends. Both can influence the president. The latter can actually influence him more then any paid lobbyist. Far more, because influence peddling is a lot subtler than people think. Obama has called Johnson a "friend," and if he helps the young senator navigate this crucial decision (including the sticky Hillary Clinton issue), they're going to be good friends, or at the very least, Johnson will become a fixer.

Presidents, like the rest of us, rely on friends to give them trusted advice about their areas of expertise. Friends can also get their calls returned by presidents or the men and women who work for them. The advice-givers never show up on a lobbying disclosure form, but they can deeply influence a president's thinking because they come to issues with an outside-the-bubble perspective and the credibility, often, of having been right before.

This is part of the Washington system, which as a whole Barack Obama is running against and promising to change. It's also part of the Chicago system he comes from. But it's not a factor of political life that Barack Obama talks about very much. He rails against lobbyists at length, but where does he draw the boundaries for himself on these other kinds of relationships? And where should the boundaries be? How does Obama, who says his mistakes with his friend Tony Rezko represent a lapse in judgment, show us he's grown?

I'm not suggesting we have to vet every friend. But it would be great if Obama could show us the instructions for how his new kind of politics works on this front. He has a chance now. And he could see this as a political opportunity, too, to outdo McCain, who has sometimes responded to questions about his ties to lobbyists by saying that we should trust that he's never done anything that would harm the public interest. The Johnson business is hardly the national crisis the Republican National Committee claims it is. But it's worse than the brushoff Obama is giving it."

Obama Defense of Johnson Raises More Questions

From Washington Post's The Trail By Dan Balz on June 11, 2008:
"The most important decision Barack Obama will make between now and the November election is the selection of a vice presidential running mate. That makes all the more remarkable his effort Tuesday to suggest that the people he has put in charge of helping make the decision are somehow not really part of his campaign.

Obama is on the defensive over his selection of James A. Johnson, the former CEO of Fannie Mae, to help lead the vice presidential search process, a role he played for John F. Kerry four years ago.

Johnson is drawing fire over his jumbo home loans from Countrywide Financial, a major actor in the subprime mortgage mess, that may have been below market rates. The loans were first reported by the Wall Street Journal. Johnson also has drawn criticism in the past for his role in generous compensation packages to executives of companies on whose boards he served.

At a news conference in St. Louis yesterday, Obama was asked about Johnson and the fact that the candidate has often criticized the activities of Countrywide. Rather than defend his choice, he sought to suggest that the role Johnson is playing is only tangential to his campaign and that it is impossible for the campaign to vet the vetters.

"Jim Johnson has a very discrete task, as does Eric Holder [another member of the VP search team], and that is simply to gather up information about potential vice presidential candidates," Obama responded. "They're performing the job well. It's a volunteer, unpaid position and they're giving me information, and I will then exercise judgment in terms of who I'll want to select as a vice presidential candidate. So these are folks who are working for me, not people who I have assigned to a particular job in the future administration, and ultimately, my assumption is, is that this is a discrete task they'll be performing over the next two months."

The distinctions Obama tried to draw raise other questions. Is he suggesting that Johnson, who is not paid, is exempt from campaign strictures that might apply to the lowliest paid staffers? Is he suggesting that Johnson, while overseeing some of the most sensitive work underway in the campaign, will act merely as a transmission belt for information scooped up from any and all available sources? Is he suggesting he would not select Johnson for a role in his administration? Or that different rules would apply to those he might select than those who play central roles in the campaign?

Johnson can certainly defend himself, if he needs defending. He is a skilled and discreet Washington insider and veteran political powerbroker whose advice and judgment are valued by people like Obama and Kerry and scores of other powerful politicians and business executives. Nor are all the details of the Countrywide transactions known, although the Journal story said Johnson received a favorable interest rate. A lawyer for Johnson told the Journal that the loans were within standard practice in the industry, given someone "of Mr. Johnson's background."

All of this will be sorted out in the days ahead. But in the meantime, for Obama to suggest that Johnson is floating in some outer orbit of his campaign raises questions about the candidate's willingness to deal forthrightly with controversy. Presidential candidates long have turned to trusted and loyal advisers and potential administration officials to help run vice presidential search operations. Is there any reason to think Obama has not done the same?

The last two presidents tapped the advisers who oversaw the vice presidential selection process to play enormously important roles in their administration. Warren Christopher ran Bill Clinton's search process in 1992 and ended up as secretary of state. Dick Cheney ran the process for George W. Bush and in a remarkable twist ended up as the vice president -- perhaps the most powerful ever. It is not unreasonable to think that Johnson could end up playing a significant role in an Obama administration.

There are many ways Obama and his team could be responding to this, but they are doing what they've done in the past when turbulence hits, which is to hunker down, stick to their talking points and wait for the storm to pass, which it often has.

David Axelrod, Obama's senior strategist, echoed the candidate during a Wednesday morning interview on MSNBC. "He's a volunteer and the job is just to gather information, period," he said of Johnson. He went on to say, "He's not leading the vetting. There's a committee that's vetting these candidates. He's part of that committee."

It isn't clear whether the uproar over Johnson is a passing storm or a more serious problem for the Obama campaign. For now, the campaign has decided to treat it as a minor annoyance that will soon disappear. But the candidate's response has raised questions about the candidate himself that could well linger past the moment."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Obama's Stumbling Response to Countrywide-VP Search Controversy

From abcnews Political Punch by Jake Tapper: "June 10, 2008 11:42 AM

ABC News' Sunlen Miller today asked Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, how he could "rail against Countrywide Financial Corp as an example of insiders and today's economy while your VP search is headed by someone who got questionable loans from Countrywide?" (This is an issue we wrote about earlier today.)

"And in addition," Miller continued, "another person on that same VP search team – Eric Holder -- has also been involved in the Marc Rich scandal."

"Well, look," Obama said, "the, the, I mean - first of all I am not vetting my VP search committee for their mortgages, so you’re gong to have to direct -- "

"But shouldn’t you?" asked Miller.

"Well, no," Obama said. "It becomes sort of a, um, I mean, this is a game that can be played - everybody, you know, who is tangentially related to our campaign, I think, is going to have a whole host of relationships -- I would have to hire the vetter to vet the vetters. I mean, at some point, you know, we just asked people to do their assignments.

"Jim Johnson has a very discrete task," Obama continued, "as does Eric Holder, and that is simply to gather up information about potential vice presidential candidates. They are performing that job well, it’s a volunteer, unpaid position. And they are giving me information and I will then exercise judgment in terms of who I want to select as a vice presidential candidate.

"So this – you know, these aren’t folks who are working for me," Obama said. "They're not people you know who I have assigned to a job in a future administration and, you know, ultimately my assumption is that, you know, this is a discreet task that they're going to performing for me over the next two months."

You can watch some of this press conference HERE.

Did I read that correctly? Did Obama claim that Johnson and Holder -- two of the three people heading up his VP search committee -- aren't "work"ing for him?

I suppose that's because they're unpaid, but my stars, that's a lot of high-level, time-consuming sensitive effort to not be considered "working" for Sen. Obama.

- jpt

UPDATE: Sen. John McCain presidential campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds just pounced on this, saying “It’s preposterous for Senator Obama to claim that the leader of his VP selection committee isn’t working for him. Barack Obama has castigated Countrywide Financial, but now that Jim Johnson has been exposed for taking sweetheart deals from Countrywide’s CEO - Obama is in a state of denial. It’s that brand of weak leadership and hypocrisy that shows why Barack Obama has no record of taking courageous stands or making change in Washington.”

Obama's VP Screener has Ties to Controversial CountryWide Financial

From abcnews Political Punch by Jake Tapper: June 10, 2008 9:36 AM

"That's the problem with bringing a Washington, DC, insider on board. They're sometimes covered with the goop from the insides of Washington.

What's the big deal about Obama campaign fundraiser/Vice President selection committee member Jim Johnson getting $7 million in loans from Countrywide Financial Corp.? (As the Wall Street Journal reported Saturday and the New York Sun's Josh Gerstein followed up on.).

Mortgages with rates below market averages, including "a $5 million home equity line of credit against a house in Ketchum, Idaho, a 5.25% loan of $1.3 million for a home in Palm Desert, Calif., and a 3.875% loan of $971,650 for a home in Washington, D.C." Mortgages set up through an informal program for friends of the company's CEO, Angelo Mozilo.

The problem is, Obama critics say, perception and hypocrisy. Obama had railed against Countrywide and Mozilo, and his campaign had impugned Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, for taking money from Countrywide lobbyists and for allowing a senior campaign adviser to simultaneously do work for Countrywide.


Campaigning in Pennsylvania in March, Sen. Barack Obama, D-Illinois, assailed mortgage giant Countrywide Financial Corp., for embodying the economic and political culture dominated by corporate lobbyists and insiders.

"Countrywide Financial," Obama said. (Watch HERE.) "This is a company that is as responsible as any firm in the country for the housing crisis we're facing today. When Countrywide Financial was sold a few months ago, its top two executives got a combined $19 million. These are the folks who are responsible for infecting the economy and helping to create a home foreclosure crisis….They get a $19 million bonus while people are at risk of losing their home. What's wrong with this picture?"

("They" are Mozilo and the president of Countrywide, David Sambol.)

Around that time the Obama campaign also criticized Clinton for affiliations with Countrywide.

In the Washington Post: "Obama aides also said Clinton is in no position to stiffen oversight after taking contributions from mortgage industry lobbyists, including funds from representatives of Countrywide, which has been at the center of the mortgage meltdown. 'If we're really going to crack down on the practices that caused the credit and housing crises, we're going to need a leader who doesn't owe these industries any favors,' campaign manager David Plouffe said."

On MSNBC, senior Obama strategist David Axelrod criticized how senior Clinton strategist Mark Penn had consulted for Countrywide. "She's stuck him with him through the revelation that his firm was working for Blackwater and working for Countrywide," Ax said (watch HERE.) "And, you know, so, it’s kind of stunning. Remember that the embassy said they weren't sure whether he was there as a representative of his firm or a representative of Senator Clinton. I mean, I think there are issues associated with this. I'm not - you (Keith Olbermann) can use the word hypocrisy, but there are certainly questions that arise from this."


Yesterday McCain told Fox News that the presence of Johnson on the Obama campaign "suggests a bit of a contradiction talking about how his campaign is going to be not associated with people like that. Clearly he is very much associated with that."

Shot back the Obama campaign, through spox Tommy Vietor, "It’s the height of hypocrisy for the McCain campaign to try and make this an issue when John Green, one of John McCain’s top advisors, lobbied for Ameriquest, which was one of the nation’s largest subprime lenders and a key player in the mortgage crisis. As President, Senator Obama will crack down on fraudulent lenders and bring real relief to Americans struggling in the grip of the housing crisis—the kind of change that works for the American people.”

The Obama campaign through talking points first reported at Mark Halperin's The Page call this story "overblown and irrelevant...This an overblown story about what appear to be completely above-board transactions. The Wall Street Journal even admits that they don’t have a story-noting that it’s 'impossible' to know the factors that went into these arrangements."

(Note: the Wall Street Journal admits no such thing.)

Continue the talking points: "Americans know that we face a critical choice in this race-and isn’t about the terms of an outside advisor’s loans. This race is about leadership, and which candidate will crack down on fraudulent lenders and bring real relief to Americans struggling in the grip of the housing crisis. Barack Obama has offered a real solution to the housing crisis-John McCain hasn’t."

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Obama needs to Ask for Your Vote

From By Marie Cocco on June 3, 2008:

"WASHINGTON -- Now that Barack Obama has secured the Democratic presidential nomination, I am thinking a lot about Bob Dole. Admittedly, this is one heck of a free association.

It seems impossible for the mind's eye to conjure up the image of the stodgy, former Senate Republican leader and consummate Washington insider while watching the young, charismatic outsider Obama bring his audiences to an emotional frenzy, as he did on Tuesday night when he clinched the 2008 nomination.

My thoughts turn to Dole not because he and Obama have much in common, though both served in the U.S. Senate, and both have Kansas roots. My mind wanders because one of Dole's most likable qualities was his habit on the campaign trail of closing each and every speech the same way: "I ask for your vote." This was the punch line to a story Dole would tell about a woman he'd known for years who revealed in a casual conversation that she'd not cast her ballot for him in one of his early campaigns. And why not? Because, the woman told Dole, he didn't ask.

The question for Obama now is not whether he will ask for the votes of Democrats who failed to support him in the primaries -- that is, roughly half the 35 million people who cast ballots. I am assuming he will. The puzzlement is whether he understands that one reason these voters remain so cool to his candidacy is that as yet, he has never really asked for their votes -- and at times has been downright dismissive of them.

Since the Iowa caucuses and more strikingly, since the New Hampshire primary, the clarity of Obama's problem attracting white, working-class voters has been apparent. It glared out from the exit polls before anyone had ever accused Bill and Hillary Clinton of playing racial politics; before the media narrative had taken hold that whites who voted for Clinton did so because of race; before Americans had ever heard about the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The pattern was evident long before Obama was caught describing these voters as "bitter," and therefore clinging to guns, religion and an antipathy to people unlike themselves.

The contours of Obama's coalition even as the primaries closed -- indeed, the foundation of his strategy for securing the nomination -- was to stitch together the votes of enough college students and upscale, liberal activists with those of African-Americans to win the prize without the lunch-bucket crowd. This is why caucuses were crucial to building Obama's delegate tally and why Clinton's victories in big swing states, particularly in the Rust Belt, would not be enough.

But now Obama confronts this problem: These voters will have the final word on who will be elected president in November. "If you track blue-collar whites basically since 1980, they bounce all over the place," says Mike Lux, a longtime Democratic strategist who supports Obama. "They're the biggest swing group in the electorate."

It is true in congressional elections as well as in presidential years. When voters who lack a college degree -- a rough definition of the working class -- vote Democratic, Democrats tend to win. When they don't do so in great enough numbers, Democrats lose.

Obama still does not seem to speak their language, nor, toward the tail end of the primary season, did he seek to speak with them at all. His campaign plane barely touched down in West Virginia and Kentucky, where he ceded both states to Clinton. Why the snub? On Tuesday night, Obama's chief strategist, David Axelrod, was touting the emergence of a changing Democratic Party chock-full of new voters. But why convey, even inadvertently, such dismissiveness toward the old?

This is the sort of slight Clinton may have had in mind when she riffed on Tuesday night about "what does Hillary want?" One of the items on her list: "I want the nearly 18 million Americans who voted for me to be respected, to be heard and no longer to be invisible."

Obama's own election-night speech was beautiful in its cadence, mesmerizing as political theater. Bob Dole, you can be certain, could never have delivered it. Still, the blue-collar and middle-class voters Obama needs to lift him to the White House aren't much interested in joining a movement. They want their meat-and-potatoes concerns to be met.

Obama now must earn their votes. He also needs to steal Dole's best line -- and finally ask for them."

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Obama's Mentor Found Guilty of 16 Counts

From Chicago Sun-Times on June 4, 2008: "Tony Rezko — the high-flying developer and fast-food magnate who was once a major campaign fund-raiser for Gov. Blagojevich and Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama and one of the governor’s closest advisers — is now a convicted felon.

A federal jury in Chicago convicted Rezko this afternoon on 16 of 24 charges he faced in a political corruption trial that cast a harsh light on the Blagojevich administration.
The verdict, reached after deliberations that spanned 12 days, could give federal authorities new ammunition in their probe of the governor’s campaign and his administration. They already have subpoenaed Blagojevich’s campaign fund, scrutinized his donors, looked into his wife’s real estate dealings and questioned potential witnesses about whether they were promised anything in return for campaign contributions, sources told the Sun-Times.

Now, facing the prospect of prison time in the corruption case, as well as two additional criminal trials on unrelated charges, Rezko is under pressure to cooperate with the continuing investigations.

Among those in the crowded courtoom as the verdict was read were Rezko’s family, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and Robert Grant, the agent-in-charge of the Chicago FBI office.

Rezko wore a crisp, taupe-colored suit and a red tie to court. It was the same tie he wore the first day of the trial. His two sons entered the courtroom with him, sporting new crewcuts.

Rezko’s two-month trial began March 3. Rezko, 52, of Wilmette, was charged with 24 counts that included taking kickbacks tied to state business, money-laundering, attempted extortion, mail fraud and wire fraud. Prosecutors aid he schemed with co-defendant Stuart Levine to get and split kickbacks from projects tied to two boards on which Levine sat.

Levine pleaded guilty and was the prosecution’s star witness. He testified for 15 days.

The jury began its deliberations three weeks ago, but met 12 times, and broke early for half days on three of those occasions.

Rezko lawyer Joseph Duffy had urged jurors in his closing argument not to convict Rezko based on Levine’s words, portraying him as an admitted “liar and thief and a drug user and a con-man.”

Levine testified that, in one case, he and Rezko agreed to split a $1.5 million kickback from a disputed $81 million proposal for a new hospital in Crystal Lake. The project needed a nod from a state hospital planning board that numbered Levine among its members. Levine also testified that, in another case, he promised to divert $3.9 million in kickbacks from business related to the state Teachers’ Retirement System, which handles teacher pensions. Levine also was a member of that state board.

Rezko still faces trial in a $10 million business-loan fraud case in Chicago federal court, as well as Las Vegas charges that he didn’t pay $450,000 in casino-gambling debts."

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Obama's Friend of 20 Years, Father Pfleger Removed from Post

From Chicago Sun-Times on June 3, 2008: "The firebrand pastor of St. Sabina parish was removed from his duties there Tuesday, according to a statement released by the Archdiocese of Chicago.

In the statement, Cardinal Francis George says he asked the Rev. Michael Pfleger, 59, to "take leave for a couple of weeks from his pastoral duties." The statement said Pfleger "does not believe this to be the right step at this time." "While respecting his disagreement, I have nevertheless asked him to use this opportunity to reflect on his recent statements and actions in the light of the Church's regulations for all Catholic priests," George said.

The recent statements in question were video clips broadcast on You Tube where Pfleger mocked Hillary Clinton for crying on the campaign trail. He suggested her tears were due to "white entitlement" leading Clinton to believe the Democratic nomination should go to her, not Barack Obama.

Pfleger has been a priest for 33 years, serving nearly all that time at St.

Sabina's in the Auburn-Gresham neighborhood.

Fr. William Vanecko, Pastor of St. Kilian's parish, will be temporary administrator of St. Sabina's, the statement said.

"I ask the members of St. Sabina's parish to cooperate with him and to keep him and Fr. Pfleger in their prayers," the statement reads. "They are in mine."

Obama's Pastor Problems and Bombshell Michelle Tape

From Wall Street Journal Political Diary
June 3, 2008
Pastor Problems
by John Fund
"The Rev. Michael Pfleger was a busy preacher on Sunday, May 25. In addition to his mocking criticism of Hillary Clinton in a sermon at Trinity United Church of Christ – which yesterday Barack Obama severed his ties with – he gave another sermon at his own church in which he issued the following healing statement: "Racism is still America's greatest addiction. I also believe that America is the greatest sin against God."

Mr. Pfleger had earlier apologized for his Clinton comments. It's unclear how he will react now that his second sermon has been made public. While the 59-year-old radical preacher is no longer affiliated with the Obama campaign, many are bound to ask why he was involved at all. Mr. Obama had frequently appeared at public events with Mr. Pfleger over the years and counted him as an adviser. Team Obama brought Mr. Pfleger to Iowa last year to host several interfaith forums on behalf of the campaign. As an Illinois state senator, Mr. Obama steered over $225,000 in taxpayer funding to Mr. Pfleger's church.

Now Team Obama is responding to the latest Pfleger outburst by once again saying the candidate is "deeply disappointed" in what was said.

The problem here is that voters may begin to detect a pattern in Mr. Obama's increasingly odd set of advisers and allies. Jeremiah Wright. William Ayers. Michael Pfleger. As the political blogger Jerry Fuhrman notes: "Traveling in this circle, is it any wonder that Obama's wife Michelle never found a reason to be proud of her country?"

Indeed, rumors are swirling on the campaign trail that a new video will soon surface featuring Mrs. Obama appearing on a panel with radical speakers during which she makes more controversial statements.
Mr. Obama has performed brilliantly in all but wrapping up the Democratic nomination. But he clearly has lost control of the storyline surrounding his Chicago advisers. If he doesn't move to address these problems more forthrightly, they will continue to haunt his campaign.

Obama's Irrelevant Apology

From by Thomas Sowel: "It is amazing how seriously the media are taking Senator Barack Obama's latest statement about the latest racist rant from the pulpit of the church he has attended for 20 years. But neither that statement nor the apology for his rant by Father Michael Pfleger really matters, one way or the other. Nor does Senator Obama's belated resignation from that church.

For any politician, what matters is not his election year rhetoric, or an election year resignation from a church, but the track record of that politician in the years before the election.

Yet so many people are so fascinated by Barack Obama's rhetorical skills that they don't care about his voting record in the U.S. Senate, in the Illinois state senate, the causes that he has chosen to promote over the years, or the candidate's personal character and values, as revealed by his actions and associations.

Despite clever spin from Obama's supporters about avoiding "guilt by association," much more is involved than casual association with people like Jeremiah Wright and Father Pfleger.

In addition to giving $20,000 of his own money to Jeremiah Wright, as a state senator Obama directed $225,000 of the Illinois taxpayers' money for programs run by Father Pfleger. In the U.S. Senate, Obama earmarked $100,000 in federal tax money for Father Pfleger's work. Giving someone more than 300 grand is not just some tenuous, coincidental association.

Are Barack Obama's views shown by what he says during an election year or by what he has been doing for decades before?

The complete contrast between Obama's election year image as a healer of divisions and his whole career of promoting far-left grievance politics, in association with America-haters like Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers, are brushed aside by his supporters who talk about getting back to "the real issues."

There is nothing more real than a man's character and values. The track record of what he has actually done is far more real than anything he says, however elegantly he says it.

There is no office where the character and values of the person in that office matter more than the office of President of the United States. He holds the destiny of 300 million Americans in his hands and the fate of generations yet unborn.

That was never more true than today, with Iran moving ever closer to a nuclear bomb, while the United Nations wrings its hands and Congress fritters away its time on everything from steroids in sports to earmarks for pet projects back home.

Does anyone seriously consider what it would mean for Iran to have nuclear weapons? They are already supplying terrorists with the means of killing people in other countries, including killing American troops in Iraq.

Senator Obama has been downplaying the Iran threat, saying that they are just "a small country," not like the Soviet Union. The people who flew planes into the World Trade Center were an even smaller group than the Iranian government.

Half a dozen terrorists like that with nuclear weapons would be a bigger danger than the Soviet Union ever was, because the Soviet leaders were not suicide bombers. They could be deterred by the threat of what we would do to Moscow if they attacked New York.

You cannot deter suicidal fanatics. They are not going to stop unless they get stopped. Rhetoric is not going to do it.

Not only Senator Obama, but too many other Americans, seem to have no concept of the seething hatred that can lead people to destroy their own lives in order to lash out at others.

But terrorists have been doing this repeatedly, not only in Iraq and in Israel, but in other countries around the world-- including the United States on 9/11.

Have we already forgotten how the Palestinians were cheering in the streets over the news of the attack on the World Trade Center? How videotapes of sadistic beheadings of innocent people by terrorists have found an eager audience in the Middle East?

Are we going to leave our children hostages to hate-filled sadists with nuclear weapons? Are we to rely on Barack Obama's rhetoric to protect them?

Senator Obama's foreign policy seems to be somewhere between Rodney King's "Can't we just get along?" and Alfred E. Neuman's "What, me worry?"

White Women Take of Gloves on Obama

From by Froma Harrop :"The woman who shouted "McCain in '08" at the Democratic rules committee was speaking for a multitude. After mounting for months, female anger over the choreographed dumping on Hillary Clinton and her supporters has exploded -- and party loyalty be damned. That the women are beginning to have a good time is an especially bad sign for Barack Obama's campaign.

"Obama will NOT get my vote, and one step more," Ellen Thorp, a 59-year-old flight attendant from Houston told me. "I have been a Democrat for 38 years. As of today, I am registering as an independent. Yee Haw!"

A new Pew Research Center poll points to a surging tide of fury, especially among white women. As recently as April, this group preferred Obama over the presumptive Republican John McCain by three percentage points. By May, McCain enjoyed an eight-point lead among white women.

What's dangerous for the Democratic Party is that, for many women, the eye of the storm has moved beyond Hillary or anything she does at this point. The offense has turned personal.

They are now in their own orbit, having abandoned popular Democratic Websites that reveled in crude anti-Hillary outpourings -- and established new ones on which they trade stories of the Obama people's nastiness.

But worse than the online malice has been the affronts to their faces.

Tara Wooters, a 39-year-old mother from Portland, Ore., told me that wearing a Hillary sticker around town has become an act of defiance. She recalls one young man telling her, "I'd rather vote for a black man than a menopausal woman."

"We don't hurl insulting, berating remarks at Obama supporters, or at Obama himself or his family," Debbie Head, a 40-year-old from Austin, Texas, complained to me.

Remember Peggy Agar? The women do. They can't stop talking about the Detroit TV reporter who asked Obama a serious question at a Chrysler factory -- "How are you going to help American autoworkers?" -- to which he answered, "Hold on a second, sweetie."

The women are angry at the ludicrous charges of racism leveled against Clinton by the Obama camp -- amplified in the supposedly respectable media -- and projected onto themselves.

Jean B. Grillo, an "over 50" writer in lower Manhattan, was pretty straightforward: "I am so tired as a white, ultra-liberal, McGovern-voting, civil-rights marching, anti-war fighting highly educated professional woman who totally supports Hillary Clinton to be attacked and vilified as racist and or dumb."

Shauna Morris, a 44-year-old lawyer from Largo, Fla., told me, "I am upper-middle class, and I still can't stand him -- and it has nothing to do with race, believe me."

The women talk of being taken for granted by a party leadership that never spoke out on some of the outrageous Hillary bashing -- and despite the close race, joined the early rush to crown Obama.

"Many of us feel slighted," said Lynn Eyrich Harvey, 76, from Los Gatos, Calif. "We feel that years of supporting the party is unimportant, that we are to sit down and shut up -- but be sure to vote Democratic in November."

Passions can change, one supposes, but the women I hear from do not see the rampant sexism, particularly toward older women, as isolated gaffes but as a systemic dismissal of them -- an enormous voting bloc that has been reliably Democratic.

"How Obama's campaign has treated Hillary will not be forgotten," Janet Rogers, 55, who runs a Bed and Breakfast in Medina, Ohio, wrote me. "I will vote for McCain if Hillary is not the nominee. My husband and friends all feel the same way."

Indeed. McCain in '08 has suddenly become a more likely prospect."

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Democratic Party Changes the Rules After The Game

Turkana writes in "The DNC Rules & Bylaws Committee has made its decision about the Florida and Michigan delegates. I'm not going to bother with the details, because the vast majority of those who have been screaming about the roooooolz have no actual understanding of them, anyway. So, I'm going to keep this simple and straightforward: those of you who have been screaming about the rules, please show me where the rules provide for the DNC to simply allocate pledged delegates to a candidate who was not by any of the absurd allocation rules voted those pledged delegates. I don't care about what you think was fair, or what you want people to believe someone once said about the two states and their alleged rules violations, or who you think has won or is more electable or is nicer or more honest or whatever some of you love to rant about, no matter whether or not it relates to the actual posted topic. I want you to show me the rule that says a candidate who was not voted pledged delegates from a state can simply be awarded pledged delegates by the DNC. Because the rules were changed, today, in the middle of the game, but not by Hillary Clinton or her supporters.

Anyone who truly believes that our nominating process is honest and democratic has no idea what they're talking about. That doesn't mean that we won't have a legitimate nominee, because when the party is run by adherents of Calvinball, there is no such thing as legitimacy or illegitimacy. But legitimate does not mean democratic. Which the Democratic Party is not."

Fears grow that Obama can't win

Analysts believe white working class Democrats will defect to McCain if Clinton is not the nominee
Paul Harris in New York
The Observer, Sunday June 1 2008: "With senator Barack Obama poised this week to clinch his party's nomination for President, there are growing fears in some quarters that the Democratic party may not be choosing its strongest candidate to beat Republican John McCain.

Senator Hillary Clinton has been making that argument for weeks. Now some recent polls and analysis, looking particularly at vital battleground states and support among white voters, have bolstered her case - even as Obama looks certain to become the nominee.

Obama supporters reject this argument and point to his record of boosting Democratic voter turnout, especially among the young. But sceptics in the party, already nervous about nominating Obama after the furore over outspoken pastor Jeremiah Wright, are growing increasingly concerned. 'There is an element of buyer's remorse in some areas. The question is whether it gets really strong now or in September - or even after the election is over, if he loses,' said Steve Mitchell, head of political consultancy Mitchell Research.

Another boost to Clinton's case came late last week after a pro-Obama preacher gave a race-tinged rant against her at Obama's church in Chicago. In a recent sermon Michael Pfleger - a long-term Obama backer who is white - mocked Clinton as an entitled white person angry at a black man having beaten her. His angry, red-faced speech, in which he mimicked Clinton weeping, was played repeatedly across American cable channels and the internet.

The news sent shock waves through Democratic circles; many had hoped Obama had put 'pastor problems' behind him. 'It is more of the same problem as Wright. It reinforces the image among some voters that Obama does not share their values,' said Mitchell.

The uproar also lent a disturbingly antagonistic tone to scenes in Washington DC where Clinton and Obama supporters gathered yesterday outside a party rules meeting called to resolve the problem of the disputed Michigan and Florida primaries, which Clinton claims as victories. Clinton supporters chanted 'Count our votes!' and waved placards and banners. Clinton wants those states' delegations seated at the Denver convention, even though they broke party rules by holding early contests.

Obama is now to some extent limping to the finishing line. Clinton's refusal to bow out even though her odds of victory have become almost impossible has seen her win several of the most recent contests. In fact, since 4 March, Clinton has won around half a million more votes than Obama. That run of victories should easily continue today when Puerto Rico goes to the polls, and could even extend to the final primaries - South Dakota and Montana - which vote on Tuesday. Obama had been expected to win there, but Clinton has been campaigning furiously and it could be close.

Clinton has been making the case for several months, as her support has grown stronger among white working class voters, that those voters will not support Obama in a general election. By contrast, experts believe Obama's core - educated Democrats and blacks - will remain loyal to the party no matter who the nominee is. There is strong data to back that up, especially from recent votes in West Virginia and Kentucky where large proportions of Clinton voters said they would not back Obama in November.

There is also a growing fear that many of the women backing Clinton are turning against Obama. Clinton and her supporters have controversially accused their rival, and the media, of being misogynistic in the last few weeks of the race. A recent Pew Poll showed Obama's support among white women collapsing from 56 per cent to 43 per cent.

But the electoral fact remains the same. The dramatic Obama vs Clinton contest is now down to a few hundred uncommitted party 'superdelegates', who are under huge pressure to make their decisions in the next few days. Senior party figures, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, have been working privately to convince them to make that decision as soon as possible, ideally this week. With Obama's delegate lead unassailable, the vast majority are almost certain to come over to his side.

Republican analysts, meanwhile, are surprised about how healthy their party's prospects look in a year when almost all indicators suggested they should lose. McCain remains competitive against Obama. He even leads in some key states. Indeed, some research predicts he could romp home against Obama.

It is that prospect, Clinton supporters say, that leads them to keep fighting. They point to Obama's performance in North Carolina as a bellwether: it was his strong win there earlier this month that dealt an almost fatal blow to Clinton's chances. Yet, two weeks after that win, polls showed Clinton easily outperformed Obama there when measured against McCain. 'Clinton has a very strong argument that she is a stronger candidate against McCain. It is just that it has fallen on deaf ears,' said Mitchell.

About this articleClose This article appeared in the Observer on Sunday June 01 2008 on p37 of the World news section. It was last updated at 00:00 on June 01 2008."