Thursday, February 28, 2008

Fill in the blank

I love this:
I took a screen grab to emphasize the empty space as seen in orange-vision. The link to the Bloomberg “opinion” column is here. Kargo’s takedown of Schoen is here.

As much as I hate to mess with the essential (and essentially true) simplicity of DH’s post, I do have to say that Mayor Mike does make one small point:

[There is a] need for a new urban agenda. More than 65 percent of Americans now live in urban areas — our nation’s economic engines. But you would never know that listening to the presidential candidates. At a time when our national economy is sputtering, to say the least, what are we doing to fuel job growth in our cities, and to revive cities that have never fully recovered from the manufacturing losses of recent decades?

I have argued for quite some time that our agrarian mythos combined with the inherently undemocratic structure of our bicameral national legislature and the Electoral College have made US domestic policy inherently anti-urban. And unless some of our national electeds acknowledge this bias and lead us to a new understanding, the problem will not get fixed.

Urban centers—cities—are the engines of our 21st Century economy, and, no less important, the lifeblood of our culture. However, anyone who has had to live through and live with Mayor Bloomberg’s brand of urban renewal (or “revitalization,” as he like to call it) should know that what Mike has in mind could undermine that reality on both counts.

To Bloomberg, revitalization means lots of big real estate developments wherever a properly connected developer wants to put them. We can thank Mayor Mike for the Atlantic Yards boondoggle. We can thank him for a spate of new buildings named “Trump,” including an illegal 46-story residential “condo-hotel” in SoHo that has already taken one life (and threatens to overwhelm the neighborhood, and set a precedent for building permit loopholes that will likely destroy many others).

In fact, we can thank our “non-partisan” businessman mayor’s renewal strategy for a phenomenal rise in construction deaths—up 87% from 2005 to 2006—and serious high-rise accidents—up 83% last year.

And what—who—is all of this for? For our cities? For the workers that make those economic engines hum? For the artists of all stripes that invigorate our culture? For the services that support all of them?

No. What we have, and will have more of, thanks to Michael Bloomberg’s vision, are legions of cheaply, hastily constructed office towers and luxury condominium high-rises. The glut of office space in the city is worsened; the shortage of truly affordable housing is not helped. Not in the least.

Bloomberg’s vision is that of an ephemeral city, one that offers a patina of urbanity and an easily digestible dose of culture to wealthy and well-behaved class of transients—just passing through on their way to suburban dotage. That is not my idea of “vital.”

So, while the newly-minted non-candidate Bloomberg is right to call for a lively national discussion about the future of our cities, know that when it comes to solutions—bipartisan, nonpartisan, post-partisan, or whatever—Mayor Mike is dead wrong.

(cross-posted on The Seminal)

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Friday, February 22, 2008

John McCain—the straightest talk money can buy

As we all read yesterday, the campaign of Senator John McCain issued a stunningly absolutist non-denial denial about allegations (and, honestly, it seem silly to call them “allegations” when there is so much documentation) that the AZ Asshole’s close ties to lobbyists have led to all sorts of improprieties. While I took great issue with the campaign’s assertion that McCain “has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests,” I have to give them credit for one possible truism:

[T]here is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career.

You see, as was really always clear—and has become unavoidably obvious over the last 36 hours—John McCain’s guiding principles boil down to befriending lobbyists, hiring lobbyists, taking money from lobbyists, and doing favors for lobbyists.

In addition to the well-documented transgressions detailed in Thursday’s New York Times article—intervening on behalf of Paxson, meddling with the FCC, the Keating scandal—the Washington Post has a follow-up that assesses the current state of affairs with the McCain Campaign:

[W]hen McCain huddled with his closest advisers at his rustic Arizona cabin last weekend to map out his presidential campaign, virtually every one was part of the Washington lobbying culture he has long decried. His campaign manager, Rick Davis, co-founded a lobbying firm whose clients have included Verizon and SBC Telecommunications. His chief political adviser, Charles R. Black Jr., is chairman of one of Washington's lobbying powerhouses, BKSH and Associates, which has represented AT&T, Alcoa, JPMorgan and U.S. Airways.

Senior advisers Steve Schmidt and Mark McKinnon work for firms that have lobbied for Land O' Lakes, UST Public Affairs, Dell and Fannie Mae.

And it was McCain lobbyist Rick Davis that then turned around and tried to use the mushrooming influence peddling scandal to—you guessed it—raise more money for McCain. But that really shouldn’t come as such a surprise; John McCain “has at least 59 federal lobbyists raising money for his campaign.” That’s over three times the number employed by Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton.

Is that a problem? Melanie Sloan of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington sure thinks so:

"The potential harm is that should Senator McCain become elected, those people will have a very close relationship with the McCain White House," Sloan said. "[That] would be very helpful for their clients, and that would give them a leg up on everybody else."

Washington lobbyists and industry insiders with a close relationship to the president? An administration staffed by people with obvious corporate interests? Does that ring a bell?

It should—it is what we’ve been suffering with for over seven years. The only difference is that George W. Bush never expressed any problems with a government run by and for private corporate interests.

John McCain, however, has based his whole career on the appearance of fighting such offenses. Americans might mistrust large corporations, but they positively hate hypocrites. Add that to the general feeling among the electorate that we are fed up with “business as usual,” not to mention the vast majorities that want to see a rapid redeployment out of Iraq, and Senator McCain pretty much stands as the modern campaign equivalent of. . . well, gosh, I’m searching for another metaphor, but I keep coming back to this. . . he’s the campaign equivalent of Satan.

OK, I’ll put it another way: John McCain is like Boss Tweed and Gen. Buck Turgidson rolled into one.

Those are quite the roll models—but, hey, McCain has quite the principles.

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

He works hard for the money

Just hours before the New York Times went live with a story that shines an especially bright light on John McCain’s unseemly, suspicious, overly close ties to Washington lobbyists (especially one Vicki Iseman), McCain took time to send out a very special e-mail to his supporters (in the e-mail, the line that I bolded links to a donation page that includes the same paragraph above.):

While I am confident of the eventual outcome of this primary race - the stakes are too high to take the nomination for granted. There are still more primaries, there are still three of us competing for the nomination and I am still working night and day to make sure that we have the funds necessary to compete and win the remaining state primaries.

Working night and day to make sure you have the funds? Is that how you spend your time, John? Not legislating, or voting, or even campaigning? You work night and day for campaign contributions? Why Johnny, we had no idea. . .

Except, of course, we all did.

John McCain, the self-styled champion of Capitol ethics and campaign finance reform is also the man who is legendary for his ties to K Street. McCain’s 2008 campaign is chockfull of lobbyists—far more so than any of his competitors, Republican or Democratic—including his campaign manager, co-chair, and senior policy advisor.

And now the Times, and, not to be left out, the Washington Post, have front-page stories detailing what a close relationship with the Arizona Republican can do for a lobbyist. . . oh, and her clients, too.

A champion of deregulation, Mr. McCain wrote letters in 1998 and 1999 to the Federal Communications Commission urging it to uphold marketing agreements allowing a television company to control two stations in the same city, a crucial issue for Glencairn Ltd., one of Ms. Iseman’s clients. He introduced a bill to create tax incentives for minority ownership of stations; Ms. Iseman represented several businesses seeking such a program. And he twice tried to advance legislation that would permit a company to control television stations in overlapping markets, an important issue for Paxson.

In late 1999, Ms. Iseman asked Mr. McCain’s staff to send a letter to the commission to help Paxson, now Ion Media Networks, on another matter. Mr. Paxson was impatient for F.C.C. approval of a television deal, and Ms. Iseman acknowledged in an e-mail message to The Times that she had sent to Mr. McCain’s staff information for drafting a letter urging a swift decision.

Mr. McCain complied. He sent two letters to the commission, drawing a rare rebuke for interference from its chairman.

Of course, that was a different FCC back in ’99, but one has to figure that the commission still got all kinds of requests for various kinds of action. Imagine what the tone and quality of McCain’s letters had to be to elicit a rebuke.

Of course, to hear the McCain campaign tell it this morning, they did nothing wrong:

U.S. Senator John McCain's presidential campaign today issued the following statement by Communications Director Jill Hazelbaker:

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

"Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career."

What’s wrong with this non-denial denial, besides the fact that it is a non-denial denial? Oh, yeah—it’s blatantly untrue! McCain has never violated the public trust? McCain has never done favors for special interests or lobbyists? Never is long, long time—did Ms. Hazelbaker really want to go there?

Never, for instance, would include this (I quote at length from the Times article, but it is almost all confirmed in McCain’s own memoir):

Mr. McCain started his career like many other aspiring politicians, eagerly courting the wealthy and powerful. A Vietnam war hero and Senate liaison for the Navy, he arrived in Arizona in 1980 after his second marriage, to Cindy Hensley, the heiress to a beer fortune there. He quickly started looking for a Congressional district where he could run.

Mr. Keating, a Phoenix financier and real estate developer, became an early sponsor and, soon, a friend. . . . .

During Mr. McCain’s four years in the House, Mr. Keating, his family and his business associates contributed heavily to his political campaigns. The banker gave Mr. McCain free rides on his private jet, a violation of Congressional ethics rules (he later said it was an oversight and paid for the trips). They vacationed together in the Bahamas. And in 1986, the year Mr. McCain was elected to the Senate, his wife joined Mr. Keating in investing in an Arizona shopping mall.

Mr. Keating had taken over the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association and used its federally insured deposits to gamble on risky real estate and other investments. He pressed Mr. McCain and other lawmakers to help hold back federal banking regulators.

For years, Mr. McCain complied. At Mr. Keating’s request, he wrote several letters to regulators, introduced legislation and helped secure the nomination of a Keating associate to a banking regulatory board.

By early 1987, though, the thrift was careering toward disaster. Mr. McCain agreed to join several senators, eventually known as the Keating Five, for two private meetings with regulators to urge them to ease up. “Why didn’t I fully grasp the unusual appearance of such a meeting?” Mr. McCain later lamented in his memoir.

When Lincoln went bankrupt in 1989 — one of the biggest collapses of the savings and loan crisis, costing taxpayers $3.4 billion — the Keating Five became infamous. The scandal sent Mr. Keating to prison and ended the careers of three senators, who were censured in 1991 for intervening. Mr. McCain, who had been a less aggressive advocate for Mr. Keating than the others, was reprimanded only for “poor judgment” and was re-elected the next year.

Some people involved think Mr. McCain got off too lightly. William Black, one of the banking regulators the senator met with, argued that Mrs. McCain’s investment with Mr. Keating created an obvious conflict of interest for her husband. (Mr. McCain had said a prenuptial agreement divided the couple’s assets.) He should not be able to “put this behind him,” Mr. Black said. “It sullied his integrity.”

To me, that sounds like violating the public trust. To me, that sounds like doing a favor for a special interest. It sounded that way to the Senate Ethics Committee, too.

This, of course, is only one well-chronicled example of the kind of “straight talk” we can expect from sometimes Senator and fulltime presidential candidate John McCain—a man whose allegiance to the Bush agenda is trumped only by his fealty to Washington lobbyists.

Work it, Johnny!

(cross-posted on guy2k, The Seminal, and Daily Kos)

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Note to Democratic candidates:
let’s not just build a better asshole

Let me serve notice—this will be the first post where I assume that the Democratic presidential nomination is Barack Obama’s to lose. Senator Obama’s wins last night in Wisconsin and Hawaii were impressive all by themselves, for sure, but a shallow dig beneath the aggregate numbers shows a trend that can’t be music to Hillary Clinton’s ears: Clinton barely won (statistically tied, really) among white women, and Obama claimed an advantage among those earning under $50,000, as well. If these trends continue in Texas, and especially in Ohio, Clinton has almost nowhere to turn for dependable votes.

This will likely result in a new round of what, honestly, have been fairly light attacks from the Clinton camp. She’ll continue her war on rhetoric, no doubt, maybe try again to go after the Obama health plan, and, as now seems likely, attack the Illinois Senator for being somehow less tough than she when it comes to being “Commander in Chief.”

Oh, wait, that’s what she did in Youngstown, OH, before the final Wisconsin results came in: "One of us is ready to be commander in chief in a dangerous world."

This is a crappy plan of attack for at least three reasons:

First, given her votes on the Authorization for Use of Military Force against Iraq, and the branding of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, Senator Clinton’s judgment on foreign and military affairs has been something less than impressive. Clinton’s attempts to rationalize these votes without repudiating them only serve to muddy her efforts to look large and in charge.

Second, last August, Barack Obama was the candidate that advocated attacking suspected terrorist camps inside Pakistan without the permission of the Pakistani government. Clinton criticized him, and Bush criticized him, but, just last month, the CIA apparently did essentially what Obama had advocated.

And third, and perhaps most importantly, I can pretty much guarantee that there are already consultants and communications hacks over at the RNC and various rightwing 527s logging that little clip of Hillary Clinton and readying it for placement in countless attack ads to be run against Barack Obama in the general election.

Now, don’t get me wrong—I believe that Hillary Clinton has every right to fight for the nomination through March 4th, and maybe beyond. And, I expect the Obama campaign to have a cogent response to the Clinton attacks (if they don’t, I will be left not only disappointed, but a bit nervous). But I do wish that this fight would take place on different ground.

I do not relish the prospect of two Democrats trying to “out-tough” each other, and I anticipate with extreme dread the prospect of our Democratic nominee, no matter who it is, trying to appear more macho than the Republican (can anybody say, “John Kerry reporting for duty?”). Not because I don’t think that Democrats can be “tough,” mind you, and not even because John McCain is such a hero (he’s not—he’s an Asshole), but because these arguably tough times require so much more than tough talk, macho, and blunt force.

I understand the need for candidate Obama to make clear and unequivocal statements about going after those responsible for the 9/11 attacks, but I would hope that President Obama would be more sophisticated about our problems than putting in place a policy of letting the CIA have at it inside sovereign countries. I don’t care how many suspected al Qaeda operatives a handful of Hellfires can kill—the challenges that accrue from what all the remaining candidates (mistakenly) attribute to this “war on terror” cannot be met with missiles, or CIA missions, or even a million more troops.

Yes, I want to see a Democrat win in November, but what I really want is to see a Democrat lead. Leadership is not about acting tough. Leadership is not even about being “ready to be commander in chief.” This is something that has clearly been lost on the Republicans for the last decade, and I fear that it is something that might be lost on Clinton, here, too.

I want a president that is tough—but not with the world. I want a president that is tough with the cowardly, reductivist, macho Republicans. I want a president that says we’ve tried it your way—and it made things worse—now let me teach you about the Democratic way.

And it will be up to that president—that leader—to teach many in America and the world, as well. Teach them that we don’t believe in Pax Americana, or Fortress America, or even in the "clash of civilizations." Teach them that we can lead by example rather than by force. Teach them that it is cheaper to fight poverty, fear, hunger, and hopelessness than it is to fight “terror.” (Hell, I’d even say, teach them that you can’t “fight ‘terror’”—but that’s just me.)

Sure, this might be hard at first. It might even require the expenditure of some of that there "political capital." But, if the Democrat runs a campaign that lifts America up from the violent sewer that the Bush Administration has dragged us into, if our candidate separates the Democratic future from the Republican past, if he or she teaches Americans that we aren’t badder or tougher, but different, while training the opposition that Democrats plan to actually be different, well, if our presidential candidate can do all of that, then I believe there will be political capital to spare.

Of course, I would like to see our Democratic candidates build themselves up rather than tear the other Democrat down—but, most of all, I don’t want to see either of them try to out-McCain McCain. John McCain is an asshole—a nasty, vindictive, dishonest asshole—and I don’t need or want my next president to be the better asshole.

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A tale of two constituencies

As you have no doubt heard by now, the Democratic Caucus in the Senate handed President Bush-Cheney a huge victory on Tuesday, passing the un-amended SSCI version of the FISA bill, 68 – 29.

Let me just remind everyone, because, frankly, it is sometimes hard to remember, that the Democrats are the majority party in the Senate.

This bill contains retroactive immunity for the telecommunications industry, which, as previously explained, is really a “get out of jail free” card for the President and his henchmen. This bill also contains many other egregious planks that do more damage to our Constitution than any bill I could have ever imagined coming out of a supposedly democratic body. As Senator Chris Dodd put it, “We’ve just sanctioned the single largest invasion of privacy in American history."

That what passes for a Republican party voted in lock step to cover up this administration’s wrongdoings is not a surprise, but what can we say about the Democrats? Specifically, these Democrats:

Conrad, Rockefeller, Baucus, Webb, Kohl, Whitehouse, Bayh, Johnson, Bill Nelson, Mikulski, McCaskill, Lincoln, Casey, Salazar, Inouye, Ben Nelson, Pryor, Carper, and Landrieu.

I will also add Feinstein to this list. She voted against the final bill, but that was just a cover, since she voted for cloture—which was as good as signing off on it. Lieberman also voted with the coward caucus, but that’s no surprise.

Many of these same Dems voted for the Military Commissions Act back in 2006, and the last FISA “fix”—the Protect America Act—last year.

I would also like to nominate Majority Leader Harry Reid to this hall of shame, for if Reid had wanted to, he could have stopped this piece-of-crap bill (and the PAA, for that matter) cold. Reid made a big deal about his opposition to the SSCI version, but he ignored Chris Dodd’s hold on it, and allowed this bill to come to the floor ahead of the better Judiciary Committee draft. Shame!

It should also be noted that among the Presidential aspirants, Obama showed up to vote to strip telecom immunity from the bill, and voted against cloture—and I extend due thanks for those votes—but he left before the final roll call. Clinton missed all of the votes on Tuesday. And, John Asshole McCain—ever the maverick—didn’t show up, either.

Now that’s what I call leadership for the future!

I am surprised by the votes of Webb and Whitehouse. They are both over four years away from reelection and have been critics of the Bush Administration on other so-called “war on terror” issues—they should both know better.

As for most of the rest—oh, hell, ALL the rest—what were you thinking?

This is not a rhetorical question.

Polls show that voters are against telecom immunity and warrantless surveillance by solid margins. They despise and distrust George W. Bush even more. So, Senators, you clearly were not acting in the interests of the American people.

We also know that this bill does little (likely nothing) to enhance our nation’s ability to catch “potential terrorists” (whatever the fuck that is), but it gives the administration vast powers to do opposition research, limit a free press, and stifle dissent. So, Senators, you clearly were not acting to protect the nation or the Constitution.

And, as has been established, this version of the legislation lets the Bush bunch off the hook for what is now over six years of illegal behavior when it comes to domestic spying. So, you were clearly not acting to defend the rule of law.

So, what the fuck were you doing? Who the fuck are you working for?

Could it be that you really work for the telecommunications lobby?

Could it be that you harbor some vague future ambition?

Or, could it be that you are just acting out of stupidity or cowardice?

Really, I see no other options.

Of course, this exercise in incompetence/cowardice/greed is not quite over. There is still the superior House version of this bill to be dealt with in conference. There is a petition over at FDL asking House members to stand firm. If you have not yet seen it, please click on over and sign it. Then keep your ear to the ground—or whatever we do these days—and watch for another vote on something before the PAA expires on Friday. (And, I will continue to contend, simply letting the PAA expire would really be the very best option. I can dream, can’t I?)

As for all the Democrats that have failed us, I recommend that they pick up a paper and read about The Fourth Congressional District of Maryland, for it was there on Tuesday that progressive Donna Edwards beat eight-term Bush-dog Al Wynn in the Democratic primary.

Incumbents should now think long and hard about whom they really represent. Thanks to the increasingly sophisticated organizing skills of the grassroots and netroots, it not enough to simply label yourself a Democrat, grab a seat, and then hold on to it. Corporate money might have gotten you to where you are, but it will not always keep you there. Not any more.

Every one of the Democrats that help the Bush administration abrogate the Constitution, every one of you that votes for the rule of men over the rule of law, every one of you that chases the money instead of leading the way out of the last decade of darkness, you now have a time clock, and it is counting down to your next primary.

So, each of you, ladies and gentlemen of the United States Congress, the clock is ticking. It’s time to decide: which constituency do you represent?

(cross-posted on guy2k, Daily Kos, and The Seminal)

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Monday, February 11, 2008

Rich, and Krugman, and pie, oh my!

Over the course of the Democratic primary season, readers of the New York Times have been able to read/watch as a slow-motion, literary pie fight broke out between two of the Times’ columnists. Well, readers, my advice to you today is don’t wear your nice clothes, ‘cause someone broke out the mixed berry.

To be honest, for most of the last year, this wasn’t a pie fight in the true sense. Last February, Paul Krugman wrote a column praising John Edwards’s proposal for universal health coverage—at the time, Edwards was the only one with a detailed plan. Over the course of the summer and fall, as Barack Obama, and then Hillary Clinton, released their healthcare plans, Krugman compared them to what was already on the table. In the economist-turned-columnist, and earnest Bush critic Krugman’s eyes, Edwards had stepped up with a solid plan well ahead of the others, and it set a standard that was basically met by the Clinton camp, but was not equaled by Obama. As Krugman sees it, the Illinois Senator’s plan will leave millions uncovered, and Obama’s talk of “post-partisan” compromising might not even net a program as comprehensive as promised.

Krugman has criticized Obama’s comfort with right-wing frames for arguments about a variety of issues such as healthcare, social security, and the economy. And, Krugman has also taken the knife to Obama’s economic stimulus plan, calling it the most conservative of what was then the three main Democrats in the presidential race.

As a result, last December, the Obama campaign took a couple of stabs at attacking Krugman and his analysis. The attempts were as factually wrong as they were strategically bone-headed. It was not the campaign’s finest hour.

Meanwhile, in the Sunday paper, the Times’ one-time drama critic and now regular liberal Op-Ed columnist moved from reliable and often stirring attacks on the Bush-Cheney cabal, to acting (as one friend of mine put it) as Obama’s man-tampon.

I will admit to a fondness for that epithet, but, as they say, it’s funny because it’s true. Almost seemingly overnight, Rich became so enamored of the “politics of hope” that almost every Sunday, his column reads like a mash note.

I don’t criticize Rich for his choice in candidates, mind you, he is entitled to it, and, I will add, he is eloquent in his advocacy. But, to my eye, Rich’s Obama ardor is qualitatively different from Krugman’s Obama aversion (or even from what was previously PK’s near-endorsement of John Edwards).

Paul Krugman has spent years focusing on the “great unraveling” of America’s economic democracy, and has used his column repeatedly over the last year to draw attention to what presidential candidates might do to restore or exacerbate the problem. Krugman’s academic biases, such as they are, led him to repeatedly praise the economic proposals of John Edwards as the 2008 campaign heated up. By way of contrast, he was less impressed with some of Hillary Clinton’s ideas, and even less, still, with those of Barack Obama. The suspension of the Edwards campaign, coming on top of the Obama camp’s attacks on Krugman and, more pointedly, on health insurance mandates as a path toward universal coverage, has only served to sharpen the columnist’s arguments.

Frank Rich, by contrast, has fallen hard for Obama’s style and promise. The apparent openness, energy, and optimism of the Obama candidacy seem, to Rich, a ready antidote to years of cynical Republican poison. As an easy tangent, the Obama way contrasts quite favorably to the inside-the-Beltway “wisdom” and overly (and overtly) strategic triangulation of Hillary Clinton and her drive to (re)occupy the White House.

This is not to say that Rich is disinterested in issues. Long a critic of the Iraq war, he correctly identifies Clinton as one of those in Congress in 2002 that voted to authorize Bush’s folly. Obama, of course, though not a member of Congress at the time, was a vocal critic of the Iraqi incursion during the run-up to the war.

But Rich’s current critiques, positive or negative, such as they are, don’t often feature voting records or policy details, no matter which candidate he writes about. Rich’s Sunday columns tend to examine tactics, tone, and personality—and he is especially and increasingly disdainful of Hillary Clinton’s expression of those qualitative variables.

The contrast in the columnists’ style has grown sharper as this primary season has evolved, and, with the downgrading of the Edwards campaign, Rich and Krugman increasingly represent divergent sides in the clash of candidates, as well. For most readers, the toothsome eloquence of the two usually makes for a tasty snack, but, in the last 48 hours, the choice of pastry, and the velocity at which it is thrown, seems to have changed.

On Sunday, Frank Rich threw the first pies of the week, in his column, Next Up for the Democrats: Civil War:

However boring, this show [Senator Clinton’s Hallmark Channel Town Hall on February 4] was a dramatic encapsulation of how a once-invincible candidate ended up in a dead heat, crippled by poll-tested corporate packaging that markets her as a synthetic product leeched of most human qualities. What’s more, it offered a naked preview of how nastily the Clintons will fight, whatever the collateral damage to the Democratic Party, in the endgame to come.

For a campaign that began with tightly monitored Web “chats” and then planted questions at its earlier town-hall meetings, a Bush-style pseudo-event like the Hallmark special is nothing new, of course. What’s remarkable is that instead of learning from these mistakes, Mrs. Clinton’s handlers keep doubling down.

Less than two weeks ago she was airlifted into her own, less effective version of “Mission Accomplished.” Instead of declaring faux victory in Iraq, she starred in a made-for-television rally declaring faux victory in a Florida primary that was held in defiance of party rules, involved no campaigning and awarded no delegates. As Andrea Mitchell of NBC News said, it was “the Potemkin village of victory celebrations.”

. . . .

The campaign’s other most potent form of currency remains its thick deck of race cards. This was all too apparent in the Hallmark show. In its carefully calibrated cross section of geographically and demographically diverse cast members — young, old, one gay man, one vet, two union members — African-Americans were reduced to also-rans. One black woman, the former TV correspondent Carole Simpson, was given the servile role of the meeting’s nominal moderator, Ed McMahon to Mrs. Clinton’s top banana. Scattered black faces could be seen in the audience. But in the entire televised hour, there was not a single African-American questioner, whether to toss a softball or ask about the Clintons’ own recent misadventures in racial politics.

The Clinton camp does not leave such matters to chance. This decision was a cold, political cost-benefit calculus. In October, seven months after the two candidates’ dueling church perorations in Selma, USA Today found Hillary Clinton leading Mr. Obama among African-American Democrats by a margin of 62 percent to 34 percent. But once black voters met Mr. Obama and started to gravitate toward him, Bill Clinton and the campaign’s other surrogates stopped caring about what African-Americans thought. In an effort to scare off white voters, Mr. Obama was ghettoized as a cocaine user (by the chief Clinton strategist, Mark Penn, among others), “the black candidate” (as Clinton strategists told the Associated Press) and Jesse Jackson redux (by Mr. Clinton himself).

The result? Black America has largely deserted the Clintons. In her California primary victory, Mrs. Clinton drew only 19 percent of the black vote. The campaign saw this coming and so saw no percentage in bestowing precious minutes of prime-time television on African-American queries.

And, today, with Hate Springs Eternal, Krugman tosses back:

The bitterness of the fight for the Democratic nomination is, on the face of it, bizarre. Both candidates still standing are smart and appealing. Both have progressive agendas (although I believe that Hillary Clinton is more serious about achieving universal health care, and that Barack Obama has staked out positions that will undermine his own efforts). Both have broad support among the party’s grass roots and are favorably viewed by Democratic voters.

Supporters of each candidate should have no trouble rallying behind the other if he or she gets the nod.

Why, then, is there so much venom out there?

I won’t try for fake evenhandedness here: most of the venom I see is coming from supporters of Mr. Obama, who want their hero or nobody. I’m not the first to point out that the Obama campaign seems dangerously close to becoming a cult of personality. We’ve already had that from the Bush administration — remember Operation Flight Suit? We really don’t want to go there again.

What’s particularly saddening is the way many Obama supporters seem happy with the application of “Clinton rules” — the term a number of observers use for the way pundits and some news organizations treat any action or statement by the Clintons, no matter how innocuous, as proof of evil intent.

The prime example of Clinton rules in the 1990s was the way the press covered Whitewater. A small, failed land deal became the basis of a multiyear, multimillion-dollar investigation, which never found any evidence of wrongdoing on the Clintons’ part, yet the “scandal” became a symbol of the Clinton administration’s alleged corruption.

My favorite pie is cherry—how about you?

Interestingly enough, both columnists seem to like “mission accomplished” flavor, though Rich and Krugman credit the other’s preferred candidate with the recipe. OK, not the recipe—that rightfully belongs to the shit-pie maker Bush—but the columnists both like the metaphor of the current president’s clownish performance on the deck of the USS Lincoln for pie-throwing purposes, and that’s probably not an accident. The content and the quality of political leadership has been so soured by Republican rule that such crust serves as the base baseline by which future leaders are to be mismeasured.

And that’s too bad.

Taking the long view, both Krugman and Rich have been appreciated critics of the Bush Presidency and its often all too willing Congressional enablers on both sides of the aisle. Krugman has been especially on target when hurling a variety of items harder and sharper than baked goods at Bush’s economic evils—and he has been a consistent critic of Iraq policy, just as he has been a steady advocate for universal healthcare. And Krugman’s solid track record as a harsh critic of Bush policy gives his appraisals of this year’s campaign an anchor I find hard to ignore. I would rather see liberal advocates push platforms than pitch pie.

But, the sad, sad truth of this week’s tart escalation is that both columnists are mostly right. The Clinton campaign has given surrogates far too much freedom to introduce race as an attack, in-and-of itself, against Barack Obama. I don’t think it is accidental; I do think it is distasteful.

The Obama team has allowed its own brand of divisiveness to gain a toehold. The aforementioned comfort with Republican attacks on Democratic policies dovetails all too easily with the ready supply of Hillary hatred that exists across many different parts of the national electorate. The “Harry and Louise” style pamphlets that the Obama campaign used against the Clinton health plan are a perfect recent example.

In addition, I think Krugman is not alone in sensing a “cult of personality” developing in segments of the Obama base. I can’t accuse the candidate of purposefully cultivating it, but I fear he is too ready to capitalize on it as a means to an end. I believe in the importance of inspirational leadership, but I care more about where it leads. I worry about Hillary Clinton’s ability to inspire all the new, young voters (and the new, not-so-young voters) that Obama has brought into the process, but I also worry that those voters will show less allegiance to the process or the progressive agenda than they do to their current standard-bearer of choice.

Additionally, I think that many, Rich included, overlook how inspirational a viable female candidate might be to some voters.

I have previously inveighed against covering the horserace in lieu of the horses. I have warned of the establishment media’s affinity for identity frames. And I have urged the candidates to stress issues and policy differences, and save their brickbats for the Bush regime and the next Republican pretender. If we are to discuss style, we should make it a discussion of the awful style of politics practiced by Republicans—dating, as Krugman illustrates, all the way back to Richard Nixon.

I call it Clinton rules, but it’s a pattern that goes well beyond the Clintons. For example, Al Gore was subjected to Clinton rules during the 2000 campaign: anything he said, and some things he didn’t say (no, he never claimed to have invented the Internet), was held up as proof of his alleged character flaws.

For now, Clinton rules are working in Mr. Obama’s favor. But his supporters should not take comfort in that fact.

For one thing, Mrs. Clinton may yet be the nominee — and if Obama supporters care about anything beyond hero worship, they should want to see her win in November.

For another, if history is any guide, if Mr. Obama wins the nomination, he will quickly find himself being subjected to Clinton rules. Democrats always do.

But most of all, progressives should realize that Nixonland is not the country we want to be. Racism, misogyny and character assassination are all ways of distracting voters from the issues, and people who care about the issues have a shared interest in making the politics of hatred unacceptable.

Frank Rich also closes with an appeal for a campaign endgame free of “race-tinged” infighting, but he never quite brings it around to a universal plea. For all the deep dish served by Rich, he doesn’t seem to yet comprehend that all of us will have to eat some crow before this over.

For me, a long-time Clinton critic with what I believe is a healthy mistrust of Obama-brand post-partisanship, I find Krugman’s plea for unification around issues more appealing than Rich’s pointed, partisan warnings about some very putrid pie. Which is both obvious and odd.

Obvious because, candidates aside, I am firm believer in hope, with a deep desire to change the way politics is practiced in post-Nixon America. I care about issues much more than I will ever care about identity. I believe in movements more than men or women, and I never expect any president to be any more than human.

However, it is odd, I feel, because the Krugman column advocates for Clinton’s platform, but seems to describe a candidate that sounds more like Obama. Rich, conversely, overwhelmingly (and sometimes overbearingly) pro-Obama, writes a column very much in the style of the old, and, as he sees it, Clintonesque politics he claims to despise.

So, who wins in this week’s tart toss? The easy answer would be “everyone,” because we all benefit from an open and productive discussion. The easier answer would be “no one,” because no matter how substantive and subtle the Democrats’ discussion might be around their big table, the establishment media will still pick up the pie.

But my final answer will be Paul Krugman because Krugman’s column reads as a response to Rich. Indeed, my guess (and I’m not alone here) is that Krugman reads Rich more than Rich reads Krugman. Krugman is dialoging with Rich, and (perhaps again bizarrely, given their preferences) is writing more about a dialogue that is beyond the Republican era politics of fear and invective.

Rich, on the other hand, relies on those very two seemingly un-Obama-like tactics to craft his pro-Obama point. That’s a shame. Not to say that all the Clinton camp’s efforts to frame Obama are clean or noble, and not to ignore the very real threat to party unity that any attempt to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations—as currently configured—will pose, but constructing an argument for Obama by reminding all of us how and why to be anti-Clinton comes off as half-baked.

And, by stoking the flames of intra-party factionalism with the fearful specter of a stolen convention half a year before we all get to Denver, Rich just serves to cook up more pie—one that, no matter who you want to win the nomination, leaves a bitter taste.

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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Friday, February 08, 2008

AG to US: FU

Attorney General Michael Mukasey was on Capitol Hill yesterday, welcoming the House Judiciary Committee—and all of us Americans—to the era of recourse-free government.

In what can’t possibly be over-reported (but, alas, will be noticed by very few—it is not on the front page of the New York Times, for instance, and their short story about the hearing, buried deep inside, only mentions the AG’s face off with Congress over cocaine sentencing guidelines), Mukasey made several startling declarations:

  • No, the Justice Department will not be investigating whether the now-admitted-to waterboarding of US prisoners was against the law.
  • And, no, the DoJ will not be investigating whether the Bush Administration’s warrantless surveillance was illegal. Nor will the AG appoint a special prosecutor to investigate.
  • And, no, the Department of Justice will not enforce any contempt citations that Congress might bring against administration officials that have failed to honor subpoenas for testimony.

“How can that be?” say so many (Democratic) members of the HJC.

“Because we’re just not going to,” says the imperious AG.

“But aren’t you sworn to uphold the law?” the perplexed HJC members ask.

“We are the law,” blurts Mukasey.

No, that’s not an exact verbatim—but you might be shocked to find just how close it is. The transcripts are quite lengthy, so let me borrow Paul Kiel’s quick summary of an exchange with New York Rep. Jerrold Nadler over appointing a special counsel to look at the warrantless wiretaps (you can find the complete transcript below that post):

The question came after Mukasey had baldly asserted that it was not a "practical view" that the president could order someone to act outside the law. Nadler wanted to know if the president hadn't done just that with his warrantless wiretapping program, which had ignored the constraints of FISA.

Well, Mukasey said, the President had ordered that on the advice of the Justice Department that it was lawful. So, just as he will not initiate an investigation of waterboarding since the DoJ had given its OK, he will also not investigate whether the warrantless wiretapping was lawful, since it was legal, because the DoJ said it was ("there are views on both sides of that" he acknowledged).

You’ve got your Nuremburg Defense, you’ve got your executive privilege, and you’ve got a bucket-full of L’État c’est moi—and it all adds up to the most arrogant, bald-faced, and shameless defense of the unitary executive “theory” ever uttered by this administration (and, yes, I know, that is saying a lot).

What AG Mukasey is claiming—and what he is establishing unless Congress does something quickly to contradict him—is that there is effectively only one branch of government, and that is the Executive Branch. The AG’s statements do not allow for congressional oversight, and they do not allow for judicial oversight. It does not even allow for the rule of law, since the law is whatever the President instructs his Office of Legal Counsel and Attorney General to say it is. How can we know what he instructed? We can’t—that’s a state secret or subject to executive privilege. What if a member of Congress, or a judge, or any US citizen has a problem with that? Tough luck—you have no effective recourse beyond the whims or benevolence of the President/Emperor.

This doesn’t just trample on the United States Constitution—it abrogates the Magna Carta.

Perhaps it is easy to chalk this up to business as usual for a corrupt administration that is less than a year from out the door, but that would be letting Mukasey and his bosses off easy, and it would be letting the country down. While it is unbelievable that the establishment media won’t cover this power grab, it will be unforgivable if Congress doesn’t correct it.

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Tuesday takeaways—a super-ramble through my random observations

I’m jut going to throw these out—my apologies if this seems a little disjointed, but if I wait to edit and shape it, it’ll be not so super Thursday before you get to read it.

The Asshole from Arizona won big. Bigger, in fact, than most think right now. While much is being made about how California’s Republican delegates are not winner-take-all, since they are awarded on a district-by-district basis, it is important to note that each district is itself winner-take-all. As of this writing, McCain leads in almost every California district, so it could look very close to winner-take-all for the state when all the counting is finished. Barring a collapse—and I’m talking about a physical one, not an electoral one—McCain is all but assured the Republican nomination.

California, it should also be noted, was a closed primary for Republicans. Independents—or “decline to state” as they are called there—could only vote in the Democratic primary (where they split, by the way, between Clinton and Obama), so McCain had to win over confirmed Republicans.

McCain’s victory is, in one way, anyway, very good news for all of America. The old guy won over plenty of conservative voters in spite of a full court press from conservative talk radio stars like Rush Limbaugh and Hugh Hewitt. Those radio hosts have been excoriating McCain while supporting Romney. If conservative radio, with its nationwide reach, can’t scare Republicans off McCain, I don’t think we should be too afraid of their affect on the general election population.

Romney came out of Tuesday winning two primaries—in his “home states” of Massachusetts and Utah—and a handful of caucuses, but that’s it. It has cost Romney well over a million dollars per delegate won so far; in order to win the nomination, he’s going to need about a billion more dollars. Even Mitt’s not that rich.

But, with all of that in mind, it should still be noted that the Arizona Senator could not win 50% of the Republican vote in Arizona. No doubt McCain’s purportedly “moderate” position on immigration hurt him with the xenophobe wing. Will those voters swallow their irrational hate long enough to vote for McCain in November, or will they just sit on their hands? Will tacking Huckabee on the ticket as a sop to the haters of science and haters of Mexicans be enough to get them to the polls? Does such a cynical play alienate too many so-called independents to make it worth it for the Republicans?

On the Democratic side, the rush by most of the establishment press to call Tuesday a wash, a tie, a toss-up seems to spring on the one hand from some sort of disappointment that Wednesday’s headlines couldn’t announce a winner, and on the other from some need to prove the meme that we are a country divided.

How bloody stupid—on both counts.

There must be some part of the media’s collective lizard brain at work here: uncertainty equals anxiety (or so marketing consultants will tell you). And with the Democratic nomination still uncertain, the establishment must be anxious for us.

Take today’s editorial in the New York Times. It laments “stark intramural divisions” that threaten both parties. As noted, that might be true for Republicans, but for the Democrats, party enthusiasm is at an all-time high. The Times even grants that most Democrats agree on policy issues. But, instead, as has become infuriatingly predictable, the Times fixates on identity politics.

While Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton have few policy disputes, voter polls showed gulfs between their core supporters: men for Mr. Obama and women for Mrs. Clinton, and so on with black voters and Hispanic voters, more educated voters and less educated voters, richer and poorer, those driven by the idea of change and those looking for a candidate who cares about their problems.

Well, hats off to the Times’ editorial board, they have finally learned that men and women are different.

I can’t believe I have to explain this, but here goes: to say that different demographic groupings voted to some greater or lesser extent for one candidate over another is not the same thing as a split in the party.

I understand how having Limbaugh or Anne Coulter attack McCain for not being a real conservative can cause an ideological rift to open up inside the Republican Party, but that is just not equivalent to what is happening on the Democratic side. I went over this in an earlier post, but I’ll say it in a slightly different way here: that a female voter expresses a preference for Clinton does not mean that she is a member of the pro-woman wing of the party. The battle for the soul of the Democratic Party is not between those that think Democrats are most like African American men versus those that think the Democratic essence is embedded in the skin and pantsuit of a white woman.

Hell, I don’t even think there is a poll that shows a split between “the idea of change” and “those looking for a candidate who cares about their problems.” (It’s usually “change” versus “experience,” right?) If there are numbers on this, please show me—but I believe the Times has invented this dichotomy for the sake of their editorial.

Making it only slightly more fictional than their other “gulfs.”

If Senator Clinton gains the upper hand, should she reach out to many of the new, energized voters that Senator Obama has brought into the process? Of course she should—and I have no doubt that she will try. Should Obama try to understand the issues and undercurrents that ring true with Clinton’s core supporters? Absolutely—and I expect he will try to do that, too. But in either case, I expect that each will talk about issues—yes, issues—that interest those constituencies. You will not hear Barack say, “I think white women are real cool,” any more than you will hear Hillary claim, “There are lots of reasons for men to like me.” It’s not that it just sounds offensive to say those things, it’s that it is offensive because that is not how it works with real voters.

As I have noted before, Democrats—indeed, most of America—is quite united. Overwhelming majorities disapprove of Bush, his war, his economy, his love of torture, his assault on the Constitution. Likewise, majorities are solidly in favor of universal healthcare, a rapid withdrawal from Iraq, tax fairness, aggressive policies to end global warming. And on every major issue, Americans trust Democrats to have better solutions than Republicans.

It is bad enough that newspapers and news networks don’t understand that a continuation of the contest is good for their business, but it is especially unfortunate that their concern trolling overshadows the fact that this primary battle is good for the Democrats, too. As DNC Chair Howard Dean and others have noted, contested primaries keep voters interested. It gives the candidates lots of free press. Exposes more voters to their messages. Builds familiarity. Builds excitement.

Maybe the exposure is bad for Republicans, who generally hate their choices, but every indication so far is that Democrats are excited by their candidates and their chances. Voters are not turned off by the contest, they are turned on, and, so, turn out has been through the roof. This trend continued for Democrats in every Super Tuesday state for which I could find statistics.

So, taking the establishment media’s predilections into account, was it really a tie last night?

Dare I say, “Yes and no?”

You can find the exact numbers in various places, but, in short (or semi-short), Obama won more states; Clinton won bigger states. The sum total of all Democratic votes cast yesterday broke for Clinton by a very small margin (not that this matters for anything but bragging rights).

More interesting to me: Obama won all the caucus states. Caucuses should go to the candidate with the better organization. That was supposed to be Clinton, but, toss in Iowa, and I’m not sure we can say that anymore.

Obama did better in Illinois than Clinton did in New York. Though, delegate-wise, Clinton looks like she’ll get 60% of New York’s.

Obama won Yvette Clarke’s district (NY-11) which includes parts of Park Slope, Brownsville, Kensington, Flatbush, and Midwood. He also won Edolphus Town’s district (NY-10), which includes parts of Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, Bedford Stuyvesant, Canarsie, and East New York. But Clinton won Charlie Rangel’s district (NY-15), which is predominantly in Harlem, Inwood, and Washington Heights, but also includes parts of Astoria and the Upper West Side.

Obama didn’t win New Jersey, and he didn’t win Massachusetts, but he wasn’t supposed to. He wasn’t supposed to win Connecticut, either, but he did. He got close in NJ, too. Look at this how you want, but to me either you say “Clinton hung on” or “Obama almost caught up”—now which candidate would want that as a talking point?

Obama narrowly won Missouri—after several news organizations had called it for Clinton. While the delegate count will be close to evenly divided, the big O’s victory just might give him some big MO. As Al Giordano—who correctly predicted every one of last night’s Democratic races—puts it ever so cutely:

Game over. This is the big psychological win that Obama needed tonight. Nobody (present company excepted) expected this upset.

. . . .

And somewhere in a country called Tennessee, a grey eminence is watching, pulling hidden weapons out of the trophy case, eyeing them, remembering the thrill of the fight, gearing up for battle.

I have no idea where Giordano gets his grey eminence intel, but, if true, it would be a fine feather in Obama’s cap. No, Al Gore is not a white woman, Mr. New York Times guy, but he is as much a household name as the Clintons, and with lower negatives.

Another interesting development from Tuesday: The Clinton camp has called for more debates—roughly one a week through early March—and has moved to break with the party and agree to appear on FOX News for at least one of those debates. You have to wonder why the so-called frontrunner would call for more debates (that breaks with traditional strategy), and why Clinton would risk alienating part of the Democratic base before she wraps up the nomination.

Well, here’s a possible reason why: Hillary Clinton is out of money. I know, I can’t quite believe it, either, but both Al Giordano and Bob Cesca are more or less reporting this. Take into account that, through Tuesday, 90% of all money raised by all campaigns has already been spent, and it seems more plausible. Also, note that Obama out-raised Clinton in January by better than three to one.

Suddenly, a weekly burst of free media—risks and all—looks very attractive to the Clinton camp.

The rest of February also looks good for Obama. Louisiana this weekend, then the Chesapeake primaries, all have the chance of breaking for Barack. With proportional allotment of delegates, it won’t move him that much closer to the nomination, but, again, some big momentum could be in the offing.

And it is in that race for the delegates required to garner the nomination that I see the only problems with an extended and contested Democratic race.

Should Clinton fall short of the nomination by a margin smaller than what she would get from Michigan and Florida, then I expect her camp will fight to seat those delegates. Such a fight would be divisive, I fear. It lends to the perception that the Clintons play by their own rules, and lends a degree of credence to those in the Obama camp that have already accused the Clinton camp of electoral shenanigans.

Should, instead, the 20% of delegates known as “super delegates” be the deciding factor, and should there be no obvious side for the bulk of them to take going into the convention, the Democrats again risk alienating voters (especially new voters, I think). Forget the presidential race, it won’t be good for the party or any of its other candidates if a group of primary voters feel like their earlier exercise in democratic expression was a relatively meaningless work out.

And that is possibly my only really negative takeaway from SuperFat Tuesday—and it’s not even really a result of yesterday’s news, instead, it is a fear of tomorrow’s. What has been so exciting, so unequivocally wonderful this primary season, no matter which candidate you started out supporting, is the incredible rise in Democratic democratic participation. People feel like their votes really matter, and so they have gone out of their way to vote in record numbers. Wouldn’t it just disappoint those voters, and reward the cynics and the cynical Republicans, to demonstrate through machinations only a party hack or a beltway bloviator could love that the votes didn’t matter so very much after all. . . .

And wouldn’t it reward the gulf-loving media to have Democrats begin that internecine fight before the standard primary battles had run their course?

I think it would. And so, on this super Wednesday, when there is so much to cheer, I will sound this note of caution to the Democrats. Focus on the issues, not the process. Make George Bush your target, not your Democratic opponent. Contrast your proposals with John McCain’s—such as they are. Reference all the ways that we are alike—and like so many Americans—not those few ways that lazy pundits use to tell us apart.

(cross-posted on The Seminal and guy2k)

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Friday, February 01, 2008

The day after the day after

From the New York Times’ Matt Bai’s post to The Caucus:

Yesterday, on a day when two languishing campaigns finally succumbed, I called Tracy Russo in Chapel Hill to find out what was happening. The 26-year-old Russo was in charge of John Edwards's blog strategy; you might say she fulfilled the traditional role of a press secretary, only for the netroots. I'd gotten to know her earlier this year through some other bloggers, and I knew she was a passionate believer in her candidate and his liberal cause. . . .

Ms. Russo had been keeping it together since the campaign's chairman, David Bonior, had finally informed the staff of Mr. Edwards's impending withdrawal a few hours before his speech yesterday. "I'm a basket of emotions," she said. "Campaigns are like families. It hit everybody at different moments this morning." Russo still had a job to do; she was still talking to bloggers on the phone and trying to get them the video of Mr. Edwards's exit speech in New Orleans. She had no idea where she'd be going next, or when. "At least now we have time to sleep in and go see the doctors we haven't gone to in six months," she said, trying, unsuccessfully, to sound upbeat.

. . . . When a campaign ends, the candidate goes on to campaign for someone else or to the lucrative life he had before, but the staff is left to figure out the numbing logistics of leases and U-hauls and W-2 forms. Those of us who cover campaigns never write about that part of the process; we check out of hotels and turn our attention elsewhere. For the people who work on losing campaigns, moving on takes longer. For them, today is all about the grief.

Over the course of the last couple of months, I had the good fortune to correspond (and even once actually have a phone conversation!) with Tracy, and I can corroborate Bai’s assessment of her passion and dedication. I will also add that she was just damn nice. I was amazed at how, even in the midst of the busy pre-Iowa crunch, Tracy would take a chunk of time to talk with a little ol’ C-list blogger such as myself. And not just about logistics, either. Tracy talked about politics at large, and talked about the Edwards campaign with enthusiasm, yes, but also with an unexpected degree of candor.

In fact, I found all the people that I met on this campaign to be open, honest, and, to a person, nice. If, as folks say, a campaign is a reflection of its candidate, then it speaks very well of John Edwards. I am sad that I will not get to work longer with Tracy and the others on this campaign. I am sad that I will not get to work longer to make Edwards our president.

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