Four More Years!

Or, rather, that’s what John McCain wants to give us…

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The New GOP Talking Point (UPDATED)

On Memorial Day, Barack Obama gave a speech that contained this:

“I had a uncle who was one of the, who was part of the first American troops to go into Auschwitz and liberate the concentration camps and the story in our family was is that when he came home, he just went up into the attic and he didn’t leave the house for six months. Now obviously something had really affected him deeply but at that time there just weren’t the kinds of facilities to help somebody work through that kind of pain.”

Well, it turns out that the story wasn’t entirely accurate–Obama’s great uncle actually helped liberate Buchenwald. It was an innocent enough mistake, the kind of flaw that gets built into generations-old family stories and passed down from generation to generation.

Of course, that didn’t stop the Right-Wing Noise Machine from jumping all over this, pretending that a minor misstatement somehow means that Obama isn’t fit to be President. Come on–one of Barack Obama’s close family members liberated a Nazi concentration camp–what does it matter which family member liberated which Nazi death camp?

The Republicans are desperate–the dirt they’re throwing at Obama isn’t sticking, so they’re shopping around their new talking point: that Obama is gaffe-prone. Go to any of the major right-wing blogs and I guarantee you’ll find a post from the past few days that puts the words “Obama” and “gaffe” together in the same sentence.

Now, these are the same Republicans who have spent the last eight years backing a President who has made so many gaffes that you can buy calendars with a different Bush gaffe for each day of the year.

These are the same Republicans who just nominated John McCain, who freely admits he doesn’t know anything about economics (despite the fact that the economy is America’s #1 issue); who called his wife a ‘cunt’ in front of a group of reporters; who repeatedly confuses Sunnis and Shiites; who sang a song about bombing Iran. The Republicans just nominated that guy to be their Presidential candidate, yet they’re stupid enough to talk about other people’s gaffes?

Look, guys–if you want to criticize Obama’s policies or his ideas, go right ahead. But when you’re just shopping around your latest idiotic talking point, you might as well just save your breath.

UPDATE: John Cole has more.  Cole’s blog, Balloon Juice, has been added to the blogroll.

McCain’s Lobbyist Problem

Former Texas Senator Phil Gramm is one of John McCain’s major economic adviser; he crafted McCain’s mortgage relief policy and speech.

Well, it turns out that–up until late April–Gramm was a lobbyist for the Swiss bank UBS, which has a clear interest in crafting mortgage relief legislation favorable to their business and unfavorable to their customers.

So one of McCain’s major economic policies was written by a banking lobbyist with a clear conflict of interest.  If McCain will tolerate this kind of influence-peddling on his campaign, how far will he let it slide if he’s elected President? Can America really afford another four years of lobbyists running the show in Washington?

100% Bush

In the first six months of this year, John McCain sided with George W. Bush in 100% of the votes he cast in the Senate.

Of course, that’s a slightly misleading statistic because, this year, John McCain has missed nearly 60% of Senate votes.

It’s hard to tell what’s worse–that McCain sides with Bush 100% of the time, or that he can’t be bothered to show up and do the job he was elected to do.

Politics Matters

Behold the latest stupidity:

“Women are just apoplectic about the sexism that has come out in course of the campaign,” said Cynthia Ruccia, spokeswoman for Clinton Supporters Count Too, a women’s group threatening to boycott the election and abandon the Democratic Party.

While Ruccia and members of her group, made up of women from Ohio, Pennsylvania and other swing states, believe Clinton remains very much in the race, they are preparing for an Obama nomination.

“If Hillary Clinton is not the nominee, we will not support the nominee,” she said.

[Emphasis Added]

This is the ultimate cutting-off-your-nose-to-spite-your-face. If you’re a Clinton supporter, in all likelihood you’re a Democrat and a progressive—staying home and helping John McCain become President is neither Democratic nor progressive.

How could you call yourself a Hillary Clinton supporter but then turn around and say you’re willing to hurt the very party, the very political movement, that Hillary Clinton herself helped build? As Hillary herself has said, it’s not about her—it’s about the people of this great country. So why are you treating this like it’s all about one person?

Identity politics sucks because it boils politicians down to their component parts—race, gender, religion, etc. It strips away ideology, beliefs, policies; it removes what they’ve said, what they’ve done, what they’ve accomplished, and sticks them into narrow little boxes. If we Democrats only ever voted for people from our own little groups, we would never elect any Democrats and Republicans would be a permanent majority.

Politics isn’t a game. Politics matters It’s not about scoring points for your group or your team. Nobody’s keeping score. Who you vote for matters–I thought 2000 taught us that lesson. I’m sorry, but the choice this fall won’t be between Clinton and McCain.  It will, however, be between Obama and McCain. Democrat and Republican. Progressive and Conservative. The future and the past. There is no way you can be a Democrat and not acknowledge, deep down, that one of those candidates would be far better than the other. No way.

Yet you’re intent on hurting the Democratic candidate and the Democratic Party. But if the Democratic Party is hurt, you know who else is hurt? Democratic women. If Republicanism becomes dominant again then no progressive woman will get elected President. The more popular the Democratic Party is, the more likely it is that we’ll get a progressive woman President. Does it make sense to do something spiteful on behalf of one Democratic woman if it means hurting all other Democratic women?

You have the right to vote—or not vote—however you want. But remember, politics matters. You will have to bear responsibility for your choices. If McCain gets elected President, if he takes away a woman’s right to choose, if he gets more of our brave soldiers killed in unnecessary wars, if he further destroys our economy and puts more Americans in poverty, then all of that will belong to you.

Choose wisely. The fate of your nation depends on it.

BREAKING: Ted Kennedy Diagnosed With Malignant Brain Tumor

From the AP:

Sen. Edward M. Kennedy has a malignant brain tumor.

Doctors for the Massachusetts Democrat say tests conducted after Kennedy suffered a seizure this weekend show a tumor in his left parietal lobe. Preliminary results from a biopsy of the brain identified the cause of the seizure as a malignant glioma, they said.

His treatment will be decided after more tests but the usual course includes combinations of radiation and chemotherapy.

The 76-year-old senator has been hospitalized in Boston since Saturday, when he was airlifted from Cape Cod after a seizure at his home.

[…]

It’s a starting diagnosis: How well patients fare depends on what specific tumor type is determined by further testing.

Average survival can range from less than a year for very advanced and aggressive types — such as glioblastomas — or to about five years for different types that are slower growing.

Again, this is just a starting diagnosis, and the article cites average life expectancy figures. None of that applies specifically to Kennedy’s case.

Keep in mind that Senator Tim Johnson, who suffered a cerebral hemorrhage, performed far better than his doctors expected and even returned to the Senate several months ago.

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Kennedy family.

More as it comes…

The Clinton Campaign: Post-Mortem

There are a lot of articles being written about why Hillary Clinton’s campaign failed to deliver her the nomination, despite the fact that she started out as the undisputed front-runner.  Along those lines, I offer my analysis of why the Clinton campaign fell short.

Inevitability

Though they might not have come out and said it, inevitability was the meme the Clinton campaign was based on.  Her organization was lauded, as was her discipline.  Her campaign’s fundraising was prolific.  And she was dominating the polls–nationally and in most of the early states.

Of course, those polls meant nothing–early polls are little more than surveys of name recognition, and they’re highly fluid.  And Clinton’s fundraising apparatus–as impressive as it was–became overshadowed by Obama’s.  If Obama hadn’t raised the money he did, he never would have been a competitive candidate.

Clinton won 2 out of 4 early states, and she won an incredibly impressive spate of victories on Super Tuesday.  But expectations for her campaign were so high that, what normally would have been seen as an impressive performance was seen as a loss.

Change vs. More of the Same

The Clinton campaign also seriously misjudged the national mood when they crafted their message.  They thought America wanted an experienced, proven, competent President who could wade into our national morass and sort our problems out.  Instead, America wanted a change–they wanted someone new, someone untainted by the battles of the past, who could lead America in a new direction.

The Clinton campaign recognized this during the campaign, but by then it was too late–Clinton was the experienced yet status quo candidate, and no amount of attempted re-packaging could shake that first impression of her.

The Fundrace

The Clinton campaign built one of the most impressive fundraising apparatus in political history–unfortunately, it was based on a model pioneered in the 1990’s.  The Clinton’s network of well-connected, rich donors was supposed to keep her campaign awash with money–and it did.

Just not enough.

Obama’s model was a lot easier to set up, operate, and maintain–his campaign courted small donations from regular individuals.  The upside of this is that it takes far less effort to get a ton of small donations from supporters than to bundle $2,300 checks from wealthy connections (many of whom expect something in return for their generosity).  In addition, Obama’s network of small donors could keep giving and giving and giving, while Clinton’s donor base quickly got tapped out.

Obama’s fundraising prowess is what made him competitive to begin with–had his fundraising not matched or exceeded Clinton’s, he would have never even have had a chance.

The Philly Flip-Flop

The first chink in Clinton’s inevitability armor came during the Philadelphia debate during a question on granting drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants.  When asked if she supported the plan, she failed to give a yes-or-no answer; when pushed by moderator Tim Russert, she equivocated.  After that, it took several days for her campaign to release a clear answer, but by then it was too late.

Clinton’s campaign was praised for their organization and message discipline.  She was unflappable at the debates, and performed exceptionally well.  Yet, she failed to answer a yes-or-no question live on national television, floundering before an audience of millions.  It made her look calculating and seemed as if she were trying to play both sides, neither of which are preferable traits to have in a President.

Yeah, the issue was more complex than a yes-or-no answer would allow.  But her equivocation on such a national scale gave a lot of Democratic voters pause and, even worse, it lent credence to the charges that Clinton was a panderer and an equivocator.

Iowa

If Philly was a dent, Iowa was a big, huge crack. Had Clinton won Iowa, she would have become the Democratic nominee–her inevitability would be confirmed, and her subsequent victory in New Hampshire would have sealed the deal.

So what happened?

Again, inevitability became a problem, particularly in a state that Clinton was never really winning–Iowa was first Edwards’, then it was a three-way tie, then it became Obama’s. The national narrative was that she was inevitable, but in the state of Iowa, she was never really leading at all.  Thus, her loss in Iowa–which, overall, was not that big a deal–was seen as a huge turning point in the campaign.  Once again, the Clinton camp was hobbled by their own message.

Plan B

The Clinton campaign expected Hillary to win the nomination on Super Tuesday.  They focused on the early states and the larger states voting on Super Tuesday, assuming that they would win enough by then to effectively win the race.  Unfortunately, Obama performed far better than expected, winning half of the early states and putting up a massively impressive showing on February 5th.  Clinton won a lot of big states, but she only won the states she had focused on–all the rest went to Obama.  He walked away from that night with more states and more delegates; Super Tuesday resolved nothing.

Unfortunately, the Clinton campaign had no plan B. They had no infrastructure put in place to deal with a post-Super Tuesday campaign.  So they lost state after state–11 in a row–while Obama racked up huge margins of victory and a significant lead in delegates.

It was this single problem that really cost Clinton the nomination–she didn’t plan for the future.  Instead of organizing everywhere, instead of running like she was 20 points behind (as the old political adage says you should), she ran like she was the dominant front-runner.  And when her dominance turned out to be not nearly as solid as it needed to be, there was no plan B.  So Obama went on to win state after state, racking up a significant delegate lead, putting Clinton in a deficit she has yet to come out of.

I’m sure there are a lot more factors out there that contributed to her loss, but these are some of the big ones.  Clinton built an impressive campaign, but it just wasn’t good enough and, as time went on, her legendarily on-message, disciplined campaign fell to bickering and infighting.  In the end, though, it was the campaign’s strategic decisions that cost her the race–had things played out slightly differently, we would all have Hillary bumper stickers on our cars right now.