Thursday, January 31, 2008

Packer: "Hillary Clinton will hedge her bets on Iraq"

(I was going to work this into a bigger piece on JRE and Iraq, but, well, events got ahead of me, so I’ll just report on this point that seems to have, like so many substantive points in this race, gone underreported.)

Appearing on WNYC’s The Brian Lehrer Show last week, George Packer, New Yorker writer and author of The Assassins' Gate, got to comparing the (then) three major Democrats left in the race. He had these two things to say (transcribed from the audio):

If a Democratic primary voter is concerned with getting out of Iraq as quickly as possible, then there is only one clear choice, and that is John Edwards.

. . . .

If you want to get out of Iraq as quickly as possible and you are trying to choose between Obama and Clinton—there is no way to choose.

I should note that Packer was not explaining his take on Edwards as a way of promoting him—quite the contrary. Indeed, Packer (a semi-repentant advocate of the 2003 invasion) believes US troops should not leave, as best I can tell, any time soon.

Instead, the man who just completed a multi-thousand word piece on Hillary Clinton sought to pay an odd compliment to the New York Senator by saying this: “Hillary Clinton will hedge her bets on Iraq.”

In other words, Packer thinks Clinton will campaign on a relatively quick withdrawal plan as a path to the nomination, but she will leave herself enough room to provide for an extended US presence should she find herself elected president.

After reading that New Yorker piece (which focuses on Clinton, but also devotes a good amount of space to her now one remaining rival), I get the sense that he expects Obama to also “wake up” to what Packer sees as the necessity of an extended military commitment. Apparently, as he explained on the radio, because the US has enlisted so many collaborators that our government will not now—to any meaningful extent—allow to immigrate here, Packer thinks that we need to stay and protect them there.

I’m all for aiding the people who have risked so much in service to the US, but I question how much we are helping anyone by maintaining our current posture.

Alas, after listening to him on WNYC, and reading his New Yorker article “The Choice,” Packer has made the choice now thrust upon me very much harder.

As if it weren’t hard enough.

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

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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Please sir, can I have some more?

I suppose you want your FISA update, don’t you?

Well, Tuesday saw the House vote out a 15-day extension of the PAA before they go the hell out of Dodge. That leaves this again up to the Senate, specifically the Senate Republicans, who now have to do a small twist (rather than a full pivot) if they want to accept for a fortnight what they just yesterday swore they would not.

I expect that Senate Republicans, with a gleeful push from some of our less bright Democrats, will agree to the extension. And though this will probably permit a period during which the Senate will consider amendments to the miserable SSCI FISA bill, the chance of any of the truly good amendments passing are slim.

If, by some miracle, any one of a number of these amendments is accepted, it might render the bill unsignable in the eyes of President Bush. Which, again, would be pretty much a victory from my standpoint—assuming Democrats are willing to say “shut up” to what will almost certainly be a pathetic whining from the White House and its spook-happy allies about how vulnerable this Democratic need for oversight and accountability would make us.

Of course, it wouldn’t make us the least bit vulnerable, as Democratic Representative from New Jersey Rush Holt explains (as transcribed by Glenn Greenwald):

[Even if the Protect America Act] expires, a perfectly satisfactory eavesdropping framework called "FISA" is already in place, along with the PAA's authorization that any programs begun under it can continue for one year after expiration.

(Greenwald also has video of Holt)

Holt even opposed the 15-day extension of the PAA, favoring its expiration if the Senate won’t take up the House version of the act (which, again, is far superior to the SSCI version). And Holt is right to do so—the PAA is a black mark on our nation’s history, not to mention a low point in the history of the supposedly Democratic controlled 110th Congress. As Greenwald reminds us:

With all the focus on the travesty of telecom amnesty, it has been easy to forget just how Draconian the Protect America Act really is, how radical are the warrantless eavesdropping powers it vested in the President. In essence, that bill allowed the Government to eavesdrop on every single international telephone call made or received by an American with no restrictions or judicial oversight whatsoever, and further empowered the Government to read every international email sent or received by an American with no restrictions or judicial oversight.

I also believe (as I previously explained) that the PAA has basically made each and every one of our e-mails fair game for warrantless surveillance—no matter where they go or who their from. In fact, the FISA regime, or lack thereof, under the PAA has likely cast so big a net that it has (as has been previously reported it would) overwhelmed our analysts with too much noise to provide anything resembling actionable intelligence on terrorism. It does, however, give this administration all the tools necessary to repress dissent, undermine a free press, and do opposition research on political opponents.

Don’t trust me. It’s already happened. Just ask Lawrence Wright. The Pulitzer Prize winning author of The Looming Tower has pretty good evidence that his phones were tapped starting in 2002. (And that was under a less permissive FISA structure.)

No, you don’t have to trust me—but why would you ever trust the Bush-Cheney Administration? As Senator Russ Feingold explains in the Greenwald piece that I link to above, “trust us” is all the assurance the White House ever gives, and all the oversight they will accept. After all that has happened in the last seven years, however, it is the last version of “oversight” that the Democrats in Congress should accept.

Nor should they have to. Practically no one in the country trusts this administration anymore. Everyone knows they have a penchant for secrecy and a complete disrespect for the rule of law. Everyone knows they are alternately venal and incompetent. And vast majorities of Americans rate the president and practically everything his government does as just plain awful.

Every time that Bush has spoken over the past three years or so, his popularity has gone down. So let him rant and wail; let him demand a FISA law with provisions that polls show a majority of Americans reject. Let the PAA expire and do so in the name of our Constitutionally guaranteed rights, have the gumption to stand up to telecom lobbyists, their bought-and-paid-for legislators, and an unpopular, lame-duck president, and I promise you good things will come. (Fail to stand up, and most likely bad things will come. Does the Democratic leadership not remember how their PAA “blink” was received last August?)

No one sided with the proprietors of the workhouse in Oliver Twist. No one thought, “That cheeky boy, why is he not happy with his one glorious bowl of gruel? How dare he make noise!”

Instead of meekly accepting another bowl PAA/FISA gruel, why not look down Pennsylvania Avenue and demand more of something much more fulfilling? Please sir, can we have some checks and balances, proper oversight, our Constitutionally guaranteed rights to privacy and due process—can we have more of those? Ask for that, instead of cowering to the politics of fear, and the American people will eat it up.

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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Monday, January 28, 2008

Let’s talk about sex. . . and race. . . and the race

Much has been and will continue to be made about the importance of race and sex in this year’s Democratic primary—about the importance of “identity politics.” Given the makeup of the Democratic field, I guess that such talk, on some level, was and still is inevitable. But at which level it is that this discussion takes place, well, to my mind, that doesn’t need to be as predetermined.

Here’s my overarching point: That a large majority of African Americans exhibit an affinity for candidate Barack Obama, or that a majority of White women exhibit an affinity for candidate Hillary Clinton, is not exactly the same thing as and does not justify the assumption that African Americans overwhelmingly voted for Obama because he is African American, or White women by-and-large voted for Clinton because she is a White woman.

Think about the never exactly asked but often alluded to question meant to gauge a prospective president’s “likeability”: Is this candidate the kind of person you would want to have a beer with? What I am trying to point out is that we all, to some extent, want candidates with which we share something—an experience, a proclivity, a history, a worldview. . . in short, an identity.

Do we usually advocate for someone exactly like us? I don’t think so. Do we assume that one common factor ensures that every other variable falls in line? Doubtful. Race and sex can be bound up with our aspirations and fears, but they are not the definitions of them. Rather, race and sex, in elections like in so many evaluative processes, are a kind of shorthand for a broad spectrum of factors—economics, education, outlook, etc. We search out candidates with whom we can identify on one or many of these levels, and we look for clues to help us make that evaluation—but that is not the same thing, to my mind, as practicing naked identity politics.

It is not an easy distinction (as I have just proven to myself over the previous three paragraphs), but that doesn’t mean it is a negligible one. It is, however, probably one far beyond the institutional interests of the establishment media.

For a broadcast journalism format, it has already taken me too long to explain this distinction. For the general interest press, it practically begs for an editor’s red pencil. The unfortunate demands of a profit-driven media catering to an audience that, to far too great an extent, is the product of an underfunded public education system does not work in the service of nuance. What was a kind of shorthand—a complex, multifaceted interaction—becomes simply an all-encompassing, zero-sum shorthand. The establishment media shorthands the shorthand—and as a result, we are all shortchanged.

The campaign and now the results from South Carolina will do little to improve this reductio ad absurdum that passes for campaign analysis. Alas, its afterglow—or collateral damage—will likely make things worse (at least in the short term—and who knows yet about the long term).

I have, to this point, been talking about race and sex (and if the establishment media were given to more sophisticated reporting, I would wish that they might, too), but it is race that seems to have seized the imaginations, such as they are, of most of the panting scribe class (Chris Matthews excepted, of course). The reasons for this owe in part, I figure, to America’s tragic history of openly violent racial oppression, and to the raw demographics of the population, but this part of the discussion is likely beyond my expertise, and beyond the scope of this post. For the moment, let me focus on what has increasingly been characterized as a nasty fight over race.

I don’t want to point fingers at any campaign—I think that fingers can be pointed, but not as clearly as many would think. I don’t want to say that there is plenty of blame to go around because that assumes, on the one hand, that there is plenty of blame, and, on the other, that it should somehow be distributed evenly—I’m not sure I feel secure in accepting either of those hands. I am not going to say it is all a wash, even if (and I am saying “if” because the polling data I’ve seen is not conclusive) the battle over race, such as it is, didn’t really push the voters in one direction or the other, because, at the end of the day, I do worry greatly about a fight that is characterized as revolving around what has been filed under to the charged rubric of “identity politics.”

But, for right now, at this point in the primary season, the worst thing about this tussle is that it gives the establishment media yet another story on which to focus at the expense of the issues.

Honestly, in the history of American identity politics, what has transpired this month is quite tepid (I'm not saying that I like or endorse these "strategies" to mobilize or divide voters—I don't—I'm just taking the long view). But, through the fisheye lens of the establishment media, suddenly it's human sacrifice! Dogs and cats living together! Mass hysteria! And it's practically all we hear about. Just watch the nightly news, the Sunday talkies, or supposedly erudite shows like Washington Week—for Republicans, they talk about how the economic downturn has affected the horserace, but for the Democrats, all I hear is "it's so nasty."

Where is Iraq? Where is national security? Where is healthcare, or education, or veterans' affairs? Where are the indignities done to our Constitution? The embrace of torture? The assault on privacy? Indeed, where is the failure of the entire GWOT ™?

And where is information on what the candidates will do to address these issues? Sure, the establishment doesn't like having to sell the meat, but it is the responsibility of the candidates to work overtime to keep the media from having access to easy sizzle.

The problems with the establishment media are manifold. There are national laws and individual reporters—all in dire need of reform. We should keep pressing for that reform, but it is a heavy lift, as they say. We won’t likely fix this one before we elect our next president.

So, this is a call to the candidates—all of them. If you truly do not want this race to be about race, don’t allow it to be. Don’t give the media anything that might play into their narrative. No allusions, no accusations, no counter-accusations. Actively contradict any reporter that poses a question framed by identity politics. Instruct all of your surrogates to do the same.

Steer all questions to talk about policy, to talk about proposals, to talk about the problem at hand and then suggest solutions. Be as specific as you dare. Be relentlessly on message. Give the press as little room as possible to reframe your campaign, or any part of your campaign, as an identity campaign.

Steer the conversation to President Bush. Talk about how united we all are in our disregard for him and our disgust with what his administration has done to our country. Mention Bush by name. Make the Republicans run with him or run from him. It’s a win-win.

Do not give in to the easy frame, no matter how advantageous it might seem at the moment. Come the summer, you will want to—have to—run a campaign that mobilizes voters of all stripes (and I’m not just talking about their external ones). Come next January, you will have to govern a country with numerous identities, many all mixed up in any given individual.

You will want to govern with a mandate. The more specific you can be about what you want to do and how you are going to do it, the more valid your claim to that mandate will be.

The Republicans will try to deny your mandate, chip away at it, characterize it as the agenda of special interests. The establishment media will no doubt play along because their operating principle is that people love a good fight, and every fight is as bloody and illicit as a cockfight, as bi-polar as a magnet, and as simple as. . . well, as simple as black and white.

That’s the way the media wants to see race—and that’s the way they want to see this race. If you want to win it—and I mean really win it—don’t give your opponents—and I mean your real opponents—a head start.

(cross-posted on Daily Kos)

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Friday, January 25, 2008

New York Times endorsement: intellectually lazy or outright dishonest?

Surprise, surprise—the editorial board of the New York Times has “decided” to endorse Hillary Rodham Clinton for the Democratic nod in the February 5th New York primary.

Pardon my tone, but any regular reader of the Times’ campaign coverage should have had little doubt that this was coming. I don’t have the exact totals at my fingertips, but the amount of stories written by NYT reporters about the presidential campaign of New York’s junior senator—not to mention the quantity that appeared on the front page—dwarfs the number about any other single candidate by a large margin.

Barack Obama was the clear silver medalist in the Times column inch Olympics, and most of Friday’s endorsement ping-pongs between the two celebrity senators. I will leave most of the analysis of that particular battle to someone else whom might give a tinker’s cuss about which $100 million campaign has best earned the right to fight alongside the Gray Lady in its pitched defense of the corporate-controlled status quo. Instead, let me turn my attention to the four (count ‘em—four) sentences that the editorial board devotes to the third candidate in the race, Senator John Edwards:

The remaining long shot, John Edwards, has enlivened the race with his own brand of raw populism.

. . . .

We have enjoyed hearing Mr. Edwards’s fiery oratory, but we cannot support his candidacy. The former senator from North Carolina has repudiated so many of his earlier positions, so many of his Senate votes, that we’re not sure where he stands. We certainly don’t buy the notion that he can hold back the tide of globalization.

Thank heavens for small favors, right? I mean, at least Edwards has enlivened the race for the enjoyment of the board. Why ruin a good diversion with a few minutes spent actually looking up the facts?

That this canard about the flip-flopping John Edwards originated in the mighty Wurlitzer of beltway bloviators and establishment media hacks shouldn’t be so shocking, I suppose—it’s not like a candidate arguing for tax fairness and a diversified media has much to offer their wheezy, private stock-owning boards. It is, however, a bit disturbing that supposedly liberal and erudite opinion leaders on the Times editorial board feel so little need to even pretend to justify their assertions.

I suppose throwing it out there makes it so. They are “the paper of record,” after all.

Except that record has nothing to do with it—at least not when it comes to Senator Edwards.

As I have noted before, with regard to domestic economics, the positions held by John Edwards have an almost tedious consistency. From his days as a lawyer, defending poor plaintiffs harmed by greedy, negligent corporations, to his work as the Director of the Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, Edwards has made speaking for the economically disenfranchised the organizing principle of his life.

In the US Senate, where his votes theoretically trouble the Times, John Edwards was rated the fourth most liberal member—ahead of such liberal lights as Ted Kennedy and Barbara Boxer. Indeed, Edwards was seen as so liberal by the North Carolina Republican Party that they dispatched a litany of attacks on his record, highlighting such threats as the Senator’s opposition to permanent repeal of the estate tax, to capital gains tax rate reductions, and—horror of horrors—his votes against President George W. Bush’s tax cuts for the wealthy.

The NC GOP also makes a big, big point of something else—something that should interest the esteemed editorial board at the Times—John Edwards voted with Hillary Clinton 89% of the time. (And let us not forget that Edwards had to represent the far more conservative state of North Carolina.)

John Edwards’s theme for the 2004 campaign was “The Two Americas”; this year, the Senator structures his platform around “Building One America.” It is a level of constancy some might almost call obsessive.

It is true that in 2002, Senator Edwards—along with Senator Clinton—voted “aye” on the Authorization for Use of Military Force, the legislation that paved the way for Bush’s Iraq debacle. But, unlike Clinton, Edwards has renounced that vote. He did so in 2005, in an opinion column published in the Washington Post. Perhaps the New York Times’ editors are not permitted to read the competition; if they had, they would have been able to understand that not only had Edwards the integrity and courage to apologize for a tragic error, they would have learned that even then, private citizen Edwards was calling for a withdrawal of troops, a push to train more Iraqi forces, and a concerted effort to engage other countries in crafting a diplomatic solution to the crisis.

Over two years later, Edwards is still the candidate calling for the quickest drawdown of US forces, and is light-years ahead of Clinton in understanding why this fiasco has gone so badly for our country.

That Edwards, Clinton, and a whole host of others made a mistake in 2002 is not news—but, in today’s political environment, that John Edwards has learned from his mistake is. Imagine, after two terms of the intransigent, incurious President George Bush, a leader that has the capacity to learn and grow.

In fact, it seems that is a quality that the Times’ writers admire:

Domestically, Mrs. Clinton has tackled complex policy issues, sometimes failing. She has shown a willingness to learn and change. Her current proposals on health insurance reflect a clear shift from her first, famously disastrous foray into the issue. She has learned. . . .

Why is the editorial board so quick to praise in Clinton what they disparage in Edwards? Why is Clinton’s “willingness to learn and change” more highly valued by the New York Times than Edwards’s overall consistency, his progressive evolution, or his ability to learn from his most notable error, and decisively change and advocate for a concerted remedy?

The greatest inconsistencies in this campaign, it seems, are the ones evident in the Times’ rationale.

And in their own historical record. Here’s what the New York Times wrote about John Edwards in its 2004 primary endorsement of Senator John Kerry:

Senator John Edwards, Mr. Kerry's only serious competitor, has been terrific on the campaign trail. He has a great speech and enormous discipline, and he makes a direct and genuinely emotional connection with people of all backgrounds. It's easy to envision him as the nominee four or eight years down the line, or on the ticket for vice president this fall. . . .

Almost everyone who has been watching the Democratic campaign would love to merge Mr. Kerry and Mr. Edwards into one composite super-candidate, with Mr. Kerry's depth and Mr. Edwards's personal touch with the voters.

Perhaps it is just me (though I’m betting it’s not), but the John Edwards that the Times describes in 2004 sounds very much like a candidate that the same paper accuses of being somehow different in 2008.

As for the shorthand dismissal of Edwards’s advocacy on behalf of those hurt by unchecked and unregulated globalization, you’d think that a paper whose own office is feeling the burdens of budget cuts and a hiring freeze would be more open to the Senator’s message. But, then again, what are we to expect from an opinion page that considers Thomas Friedman to be one of their liberal columnists?

Alas, the New York Times is teaching us to expect very little. From their gossip columnists turned campaign reporters (Julie? Adam? Kate?), to their disproportionate attention to big money, establishment candidates and tired, unsubstantiated narratives, the Times is the flagship of the conventional wisdom franchise we endearingly call “the press.” And because they are “the paper of record,” their habit of focusing on the horserace over the issues, and obsessing over personalities instead of platforms reverberates throughout second-tier newspapers, and serves to distort the electorate’s perceptions of the campaign just as much as any of the cable news noise networks.

Sadly, with their endorsement of Hillary Clinton—and, on the Republican side, John McCain—the New York Times does nothing more than once again, as they did four years ago, endorse the current front-runner. It is easy. It is safe. But it is also dishonest.

The blogosphere is often accused of being an echo chamber—or a collection of echo chambers—reifying and deifying its favored ideologies and ideologues. But, by picking Clinton, already the winner of the lion’s share of Times’ coverage, the paper is simply shouting in its own echo chamber—justifying their abstract perversion of fairness by confirming that their anointed frontrunner is, indeed, the one out in front. Reinforcing that status makes the Times nothing more than a defender of the status quo—one of the most pro-establishment of the establishment media.

That should probably not be a surprise. It is the Gray Lady, after all. And, given such a position, it should also probably not be a surprise that the Times would endorse Clinton and dismiss Edwards. But it is still disconcerting that such a grand old paper would not take the time to get the facts, and would then cover for its bias and lassitude by parroting establishment saws so flimsy even John Edwards’s rather combative competitors have not bothered to use them as attacks in this campaign.

In the end, frankly, the only surprise is that I—and so many others—still care what the New York Times thinks, and care about whom the editorial board endorses. Indeed, rather than harbor upset, anger, or disappointment that another standard-bearer for moneyed interests has failed to endorse John Edwards, perhaps I—we all—should hold it as a badge of honor.

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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Thursday, January 24, 2008

Woke up it was a FISA morning

This morning, at approximately 9:30, Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd continues his fight to prevent George Bush, Dick Cheney, rubberstamp Republican senators, and a troubling number of Democratic Senators from taking another bite out of the Constitution. In other words, he is fighting to stop the horrible SSCI version of the FISA revision that includes retroactive immunity for the telecommunications industry.

Because of jaw-droppingly bad “leadership” by Majority Leader Harry Reid, Dodd is forced to threaten filibuster against his own party. Dodd has shown real leadership on this issue, taking time away from his presidential campaign in Iowa, the last time this bill hit the Senate floor.

This time around, Dodd is out of the presidential race, but two other sitting senators are still claiming they have what it takes to lead us out of our Bush/Cheney-authored hell. Yes, I am talking about you, Barack. . . and you, Hillary.

You don’t need a vision for change, and you don’t need experience, you just need to be in Washington, DC, on the floor of the Senate, doing the job that voters elected you to do.

Why? Well, how about because a clear majority of Americans are opposed to telecom immunity and two-thirds believe that the government should have to get a warrant before it taps into the communications of its citizens (even if those Americans are calling overseas).

Or, how about because absolutely anything that Dick Cheney is for is something that you should be against. And Vice President Cankles has a hard-on (well, whatever passes for hard-on in his sclerotic world) for telecom immunity.

Or, how about because US code already provides cover for companies that can demonstrate that they acted in good faith, so telecom immunity is really Bush/Cheney immunity—pure and simple.

Or, how about because the only good faith that the telcos ever show is their good faith in the almighty dollar—if they’re so hell-bent on doing their patriotic duty, then how come they are disconnecting the wiretaps because the government hasn’t paid their bills?

Or, how about because your hard-charging competition for the Democratic nomination has dared you to step up and show America that you would really fight for our interests when Bush comes to shove.

John Edwards:

“In Washington today, telecom lobbyists have launched a full-court press to win retroactive immunity for their illegal eavesdropping on American citizens. Granting retroactive immunity will let corporate law-breakers off the hook and hamstring efforts to learn the truth about Bush's illegal spying program.

"It's time for Senate Democrats to show a little backbone and stand up to George W. Bush and the corporate lobbyists. They should do everything in their power -- including joining Senator Dodd's efforts to filibuster this legislation -- to stop retroactive immunity. The Constitution should not be for sale at any price."

Or, how about because it is just plain and simple the right thing to do—and if you can’t see that on an issue as clear as this one, then how am I supposed to trust your judgment down the line?

(Obama and Clinton have made “statements” opposing telecom immunity in response to inquiries made by Markos for his Wednesday post on The Hill, but BHO and HRC are both sitting senators, so it’s time they put their butts where their mouths are. . . or something like that.)

In December, both Barack and Hillary pledged to support Chris Dodd’s filibuster, but neither of them left their presidential campaigns to return to DC and actually do so. Today is their chance at a do-over. As Jason has noted, Obama, Clinton, and twelve other senators pledged their support for Dodd’s filibuster in December—why not give them a call to se where they stand (and where they are literally standing) today.

Fax / Phone

Feingold (202) 224-2725 / (202) 224-5323
Dodd (202) 224-1083 / (202) 224-2823
Obama (202) 228-4260 / (202) 224-2854
Sanders (202) 228-0776 / (202) 224-5141
Menendez (202) 228-2197 / (202) 224-4744
Biden (202) 224-0139 / (202) 224-5042
Brown (202) 228-6321 / (202) 224-2315
Harkin (202) 224-9369 / (202) 224-3254
Cardin (202) 224-1651 / (202) 224-4524
Clinton (202) 228-0282 / (202) 224-4451
Akaka (202) 224-2126 / (202) 224-6361
Webb (202) 228-6363 / (202) 224-4024
Kennedy (202) 224-2417 / (202) 224-4543
Boxer (415) 956-6701 / (202) 224-3553

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

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Tuesday, January 22, 2008

I support John Edwards—
and I’m not wearing pants!

David Letterman’s production company, Worldwide Pants, has cut their own deal with the WGA—which means that you can watch his show without feeling like a scab. It also means that candidates who understand how important unions are to America’s working men and women, and to our economy and our culture as a whole, can appear on The Late Show with a clear conscience.

John Edwards knows the significant role that unions have had in providing workplace protection and economic leadership. He has called organized labor “the most important anti-poverty movement in American history,” and has made strengthening the labor movement an important part of his campaign to end poverty and reinvigorate the economy. As is spelled out in his Plan to Build One America:

Unions made manufacturing jobs the foundation of our middle class, and they can do the same for our service economy. That's why Edwards has helped more than 20 national unions organize thousands of workers over the last few years. Union membership can be the difference between a poverty-wage job and middle-class security. Federal law promises workers the right to choose a union, but the law is poorly enforced, full of loopholes, and routinely violated by employers. Edwards supports the Employee Free Choice Act to give workers a real choice in whether to form a union, and making penalties for breaking labor laws tougher and faster, so unions can compete on a level playing field and the right to join a union means something. Edwards also supports banning the permanent replacement of strikers so unions can negotiate fairly.

So, it makes perfect sense that while Republican presidential contenders have been crossing WGA picket lines to appear on Leno, John Edwards will do his national late night star turn on The Late Show with David Letterman.

Edwards will attempt to run the establishment news media blockade and deliver his message directly to some 5 million viewers—and you can help.

Though most tickets for the Tuesday taping were distributed many months ago, the scene outside before ticket holders are seated often garners more attention than the studio audience. If Edwards supporters show up at the Ed Sullivan Theater to loudly and proudly greet the Senator when he arrives, tape of the scene has a good shot at making the local CBS news in a media market that reaches three Super Tuesday states. If the supporters outside are boisterous enough, some of the goings on might even make it on to the Letterman show—it has happened before.

So, New York Metro Area Edwards supporters, it’s time to take action!

Pry yourself away from your computer.

Put on your coat and hat—and your John Edwards ’08 buttons.

Come out and meet your fellow JRE supporters.

Come out and show JRE how much you support him.

Come out and show 5 million Americans you care about our country more than you care about squabbling celebrities. . . and show 5 million Americans John Edwards cares more about our country than those squabbling celebrities do, too.

What: John Edwards on The Late Show with David Letterman
Where: The Ed Sullivan Theater, Broadway at 53rd Street, NYC
When: 4 PM (one hour BEFORE the taping)

Show Corporate America and greedy media producers who wears the pants!

Stand up for John Edwards, and he will stand up for you.

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

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Give today—so that everyone gets heard tomorrow

I can’t go into the weekend without taking a moment to contrast the candidate interviews aired on Thursday’s All Things Considered with the interview of John Edwards that aired on Wednesday (which I wrote about yesterday).

First up on Thursday was Barack Obama, who got to start his interview by answering a series of questions on the economy. After that, he was asked to detail his “vision” for the presidency, and that was followed-up with a chance to restate his relatively straight and well received answer to the stupid (and substance-free) “name your biggest weakness” question from Tuesday’s Nevada debate.

The second hour included the John McCain chapter of this series, which sounded more like an audio mash note than an interview. Michele Norris referred to the Asshole from Arizona as “very honest, very straight” and called his “straight talk” “courageous.” Norris also asked about how McCain could withstand all those “scurrilous rumors” (without saying what any of those rumors might be), why “people think they can do this” to McCain—and only McCain—and then ventured that after you “got through something like that. . . I imagine you emerge stronger.”

Puh-lease. Get a room.

It is hard for me to imagine that an NPR editor, confronted with the Edwards, Obama, and McCain interviews played side by side could even begin to call their coverage fair or equitable.

But that was yesterday—this is today. Today everyone who is confused, upset, or disgusted by the treatment John Edwards has received from the establishment media has a chance to start toward setting things right. Whether you are a dyed in the wool Edwards supporter or someone who is in favor of letting the voters rather than the media moguls and moneyed interests decide the election for you—or both—today is your chance to make some noise, for today we go for the gold. Seven million dollars worth of it.

And tomorrow, Saturday:

Those of you in Nevada, please get out and caucus!

Those of you in the New York area, please come out and rally!

Rally for the Middle Class
Saturday, January 19th, 11:00 am - 2:00 pm
Union Square, NYC (northwest corner of the park, B'way & 17th St.)
Wear your Edwards buttons, hats, stickers, etc.
Bring signs & banners (homemade ones are great!).
Also, bring your mobile phone & charger!

After the rally, there will be an opportunity to make calls to the voters of South Carolina and tell them why you believe John Edwards is a great choice for president.

Every voice counts. Every vote counts. Make this and every day count—from now till November!

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

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Thursday, January 17, 2008

Michele Norris wastes some of John Edwards’s time. . . and ours

As has now been acknowledged by practically everyone, John Edwards don’t get no respect. . . at least not when it comes to the establishment media. Not only is equal time for JRE pretty much an alien idea for media outlets, when Edwards does get airtime or column inches, reporters practically bend over backwards to avoid talking about his platform or proposals. To say that these reporters are too focused on covering the horserace is really an insult to sports reporting.

I have written in the past about the pettiness and whining that the New York Times tries to pawn off as equitable coverage; today, let’s examine what NPR calls campaign coverage.

National Public Radio has not been immune to Edwards-itis. They, like the rest of the establishment (and how sad is that NPR is now among “the rest of the establishment?”), have been hard-pressed to give the public as much news about Edwards as they have practically every other candidate. For instance, on the day after the Iowa caucuses, All Things Considered had reports from the campaigns of Clinton, Obama, McCain, Romney, and Huckabee—there was even a segment on a possible third-party run by Michael Bloomberg—but nothing from the campaign of the man that placed second in Iowa. In fact, they mentioned Edwards only twice—and when I say “mentioned” I mean “mentioned.” One mention was that a woman flipping pancakes was an Edwards supporter who wanted to talk about Clinton’s third place finish; the other was a two-second soundbite of Edwards saying that his campaign was like “Seabiscuit”—that quote was used as a segue to a piece about how the Huckabee campaign was like, um, yeah, Seabiscuit.

I guess the editors of ATC must have read the Project for Excellence in Journalism report, and, so, sent host Michelle Norris to spend a few minutes with John Edwards in Myrtle Beach, SC a few days ago, an on Wednesday, they got around to airing the “interview.”

First, the eight-minute piece spends about half its time talking to supporters and playing quotes that universally say something about how John Edwards needs to “win one.” Then, Norris talks with Edwards.

First Michele asks John about the dust-up between Clinton and Obama over race. Then she asks him if he thinks that the stirring up of racial tension is intentional. Edwards, for his part, tries hard to move the discussion forward.

Done asking about the other two candidates, Norris moves on to a battery of questions about. . . wait for it. . . the horserace.

What are your prospects in South Carolina? How well do you have to do in Nevada and South Carolina? What happens after South Carolina? Can you compete in the February 5th states? You say you’re in it for the long haul, but one of your supporters out there says you have to win one. Do you think it will be a brokered convention? Have you studied the rules for a brokered convention? You could be a kingmaker—have you thought about that? I have heard your answer about running for vice president, so I won’t ask you about that again. . . .

To that last point, John Edwards thanked her and quickly reiterated that he is not going to run for vice president. . . at which point Norris thanked him—and ended the interview.

(I should point out the above is a paraphrase of the interview—which I listened to twice. NPR writes a summary article, but does not put up a transcript on their website.)

This might make you think I’m a bit touched in the head, but I have to tell you that while I was listening to the interview (the first time), I began to shout at my radio: “Ask him a f@#%ing question about an issue!” But, now that I have had half a day to cool off, let me put it n more civilized terms:

Ask him an effin’ question about an issue!

No. . . wait. . . I really am loath to tell Michele Norris how to do her job—but someone has to tell her that what she conducted was not a news interview. It was something more like a gossip column. Or, more accurately, like something you would see on Extra or Access Hollywood.

A news reporter would have tried to tease out some news, you see. She would have asked something like, “What about your candidacy resonates with the voters here in South Carolina?” Or, “What issue do you get asked about most here in the Palmetto State?” And, then, “How do your solutions to these problems differ from those of your main rivals?”

That would not only be useful, it would be interesting. Which really shouldn’t be too much to ask from a news program. Hell, it might even be advantageous for them—because if I’m anything like most folks who listen to the program, we are bored, bored, bored with talk about the horserace. Indeed, I am willing to wager that I am not the only one who finds it especially ridiculous to try to get the horses to handicap the horserace—which is exactly what Norris repeatedly tried to get Edwards to do.

Doubly annoying, of course, is that NPR will now use this piece as an example of how they are covering John Edwards. I also expect that if there were another survey of campaign coverage, this ATC piece would be counted as Edwards coverage.

But, of course, it isn’t coverage at all. What did we learn about John Edwards from this piece? That he’s running for president? That he’s in it to win it? Well, no shit. Did we learn about his strong support for labor unions? His plan to revitalize rural America? His plan to end combat operations in Iraq during his first ten months as President? How about his belief in the right to bear arms (a position on which I will admit I differ with JRE)?

Further, was there a report on how Edwards did in the Nevada debate the night before? Was there a report on the debate at all? I’ll save you the trouble of looking it up—no, there was not. Likely, a report on the debate was not deemed newsworthy since there was not much talk about the horserace, eight questions on race failed to provoke a pie fight, and the last hour or so actually had some discussion of policy positions.

- - - - -

So, it looks like we’ll have to get the word out ourselves. If you can get to Nevada or South Carolina, please consider volunteering. If you can’t make it, there is phonebanking to be done. And for those in the area of New York’s Union Square, there is a rally this Saturday, January 19th, from 11am to 2pm, near the corner of Broadway and 17th Street.

And, of course, tomorrow is Friday, which means it’s time to raise $7 million to get the word out!

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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Trump kills. . . with an assist from the city

As many have probably heard by now, an accident Monday at the Trump SoHo construction site killed one man—a married father from the Ukraine who fell some 42 stories—and injured several others. Though I live only about three minutes from the scene, I can add little to the facts reported by Jen Chung at Gothamist and Sewell Chan at the NYT’s CityRoom. Both stories are also illustrated with evocative and disturbing photos.

And I think that Andrew Berman of the Greenwich Village Society for Historic Preservation pretty much sums up my feelings about the accident (though he is probably more polite than I would have been):

First and foremost, our thoughts are with the victims of this tragedy and their families and loved ones. But this is a tragedy that never should have happened. This building was illegal and never should have been approved by the City. But the City bent over backwards to push it through, and then the developers worked at lightning speed to get the building up while the legal challenge has been making its way through the system. This building was already a monument to greed and hubris; now, sadly, it will be a monument to tragedy as well.

What Berman alludes to and the news stories gloss over is that the developers of this massive tower (at 45 stories, it will be the tallest building between the financial district and midtown) created the sham designation of a “Condo Hotel” to get around the area’s zoning—which would have prohibited a residential building anywhere near this size. But at every juncture, the city, its institutions, and its leadership looked the other way, or, in many cases, helped push through this shameful project.

Further—while it should never have been approved, the project certainly should have been stopped once excavation began. It turns out, Trump and his backers, Bayrock and Sapir, are building on a burial ground.

Until the early 1960’s, a large portion of this site was home to a Presbyterian Church and its graveyard—one of the very first racially integrated graveyards in the country. When bones were unearthed early in the construction, the project should have been shut down, and the site should have been excavated by archeologists and preserved as a sacred and historical site.

But little is sacred in Michael Bloomberg’s New York. Little except, of course, the almighty dollar. The unprecedented and largely unchecked construction boom of this century has been welcomed and shepherded by Bloomberg under the oft-repeated excuse that he means to “revitalize” the city.

I, for one, think that NYC is pretty effin’ vital, and would be a lot more so if not for the rampant mall-ing initiated by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, and perpetuated by the current mayor.

Indeed, it is Bloomberg and his appointees at the Department of Buildings and the Board of Standards and Appeals (among others) that have bent over for mega-developers like Trump, unleashing shoddy, ugly, illegal, unnecessary, and un-contextual developments on some of the city’s most treasured neighborhoods.

And things don’t look like they are going to get better anytime soon.

Christine Quinn, who is the Speaker of the New York City Council and the councilmember representing the district that includes Trump’s murderous building, has been basically AWOL on this issue. Though the community has appealed repeatedly to Quinn’s office for help in defending the quality of the neighborhood and integrity of our laws, the Speaker has stonewalled, foot-dragged, and triangulated her way through the confrontation—selling out her constituency so as not to offend real estate interests that will no doubt play a large part in financing Quinn’s all-but-declared run for mayor when Bloomberg moves on.

Take a look at Quinn’s statement on Monday’s tragedy:

I want to express my deepest condolences to the family of the worker who was killed in today’s accident at the Trump Soho construction site, and my thoughts and prayers remain with the two others who remain injured at St. Vincent’s Hospital. I continue to monitor the situation closely, and we will remain in close contact with the Office of Emergency Management, the Department of Buildings, and all other relevant agencies as we work to determine the cause of this terrible accident, and to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.

Do you see even an ounce of leadership in that statement? It is an army of words in search of a purpose. It is fence-sitting claptrap that might even make our junior senator blush.

Contrast Quinn’s statement, if you will, with that of Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer:

The accident at the new hotel at 246 Spring Street is another example of the dangerous conditions created by rushed construction in Manhattan. My office did an initial investigation of violations at the site and discovered that there were two Class A violations issued on Oct. 26, 2007. These violations are considered high risk. However, the construction was allowed to continue unchecked and the Environmental Control Board hearing to review the violations was not scheduled until Jan. 24, 2008.

This is unacceptable. The death and injury of construction workers and the compromised safety of emergency responders and surrounding community should not be considered the cost of doing business in Manhattan. Any type of high risk violation should necessitate a halt of unsafe work until the violation is cured. I will continue to investigate this matter and look to see rapid response from all relevant city agencies. I applaud the fire, police and other emergency responders for their bravery and for putting themselves at risk to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers.

The Times reports that the Trump project has actually accrued 11 construction-related citations since construction began last May. And yet, in every case, construction was allowed to continue. After all, there are a couple of very viable lawsuits against this project (that have themselves been repeatedly stalled by the city) awaiting their day in court, and Mayor Mike, his commissioners, and his wannabe successor can’t have the law getting in the way of another monument to their greed and hubris.

(cross-posted on guy2k)

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Monday, January 14, 2008

John Edwards—
the more voters know, the more voters like

Edwards only candidate whose favorability improves; one-quarter still haven’t heard enough – NYT/CBS poll says

The latest New York Times/CBS News nationwide poll on the presidential races, national issues, and Bush’s favorability was released today, and while the Times’ main article about the poll trumpets some rather predictable narratives, there are many—many—other stories buried in the numbers that were apparently not deemed interesting enough for “casual” readers (and by “casual,” I mean, here, people that only read the paper and don’t download the pdf of the whole poll—in other words, pretty much everyone).

While the headline flags the increased perception of Barack Obama’s electability and John “Asshole” McCain’s surge in popularity amongst Republicans, and the article also discusses Hillary Clinton’s perceived chances, and whether America will vote for a woman or an African American come November, so much more of interest can be found in the raw numbers. For instance, George Bush’s approval rating remains at 30% or below for the ninth straight month (currently it’s at 29%), and 75% now believe the country is on the wrong track.

Also interesting/disturbing to me is how the article continues to undergird the new conventional wisdom that the economy is now more important to Americans than the situation in Iraq—a storyline that isn’t actually borne out by the numbers. The survey also shows that even though the Beltway noise machine has decided that the “Surge” has somehow worked (don’t ask them about exactly how, it’s an unsightly mess), the American people still want our involvement in Iraq to end—and soon.

I’ll likely write more about the Iraq section of the poll in a separate post, but for today, let me focus on another unreported and under-analyzed part—that would be the surging likeability of John Edwards.

While the Times story tells of a relative stability in the national race for the Democratic nomination (with Clinton still in the lead, followed by Obama, and then Edwards), it misses some very interesting movement in the favorability numbers of the three leading candidates. Or, rather, the movement in the numbers for one candidate in particular.
Yes, the two sitting senators’ “favorable” numbers continue to come in higher than those of John Edwards, but notice that while Clinton’s favorability has slipped by a hair since the previous poll, and Obama’s numbers are static, the favorability of John Edwards has shot up 9%.

Further, the increase in favorability comes almost entirely from the undecided column. Couple this with the rather remarkable finding that, after over a year of this presidential election cycle, a whopping quarter of voters still haven’t heard enough about Edwards (compared with 8% who say they haven’t heard enough about Obama and a scant 2% that say the same about Clinton), and it appears quite clear that the more people know about John Edwards, the more they like him.

This, of course, is a good news/bad news conclusion. An Edwards supporter should be overjoyed to see that familiarity breeds affinity. Indeed, any campaign would love to know that exposure to their candidate has an almost universal upside. But, given the near universal cold-shoulder given to Edwards by the establishment media, how are those 16% undecided and 25% who haven’t heard enough to find out more about the South Carolina-born progressive Democrat?

Add to this the problems faced by a contender who refuses PAC money when he is forced to compete with two “celebrity” candidates that have each sucked in more than $100 million, and the question is underscored.

It can be taken as dispiriting or as a challenge. If all of America had a chance to hear from and about John Edwards, he might be viewed as the most favorable of all the Democrats in the field—but if Edwards cannot garner equal coverage, or fists full of cash, it is quite possible that the candidate, the party, and the country will all be shortchanged.

Let’s take it as a challenge. Help voters learn more about John Edwards. Tell your family and friends. Blog everywhere (cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos). Donate here.

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Friday, January 11, 2008

A friend writes. . . .

You know, I never really sat down and wrote a full-on endorsement of my preferred presidential candidate, John Edwards. OK, that’s not exactly true—I sat down to write one many times, but each time, I got bogged down with either too much table-setting about the Bush years, or too much wonkery about the Edwards plan, or too much hair-splitting about the large amount that I do like about John, and the small amount that I don’t. The months went by, and then I got wrapped up in the minutia of the race, and then got wrapped up in the campaign itself, and finally just got so frustrated with the establishment media’s lousy treatment of Edwards and the issues he cares about that I thought, “What’s the point?”

So, now probably seems like an odd time to lay out my case for an Edwards candidacy, what with the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary already in the rear-view mirror, and the official narrative having even further marginalized the campaign and the candidate I support. Even I will admit that it will take a monumental effort to overcome the (largely manufactured) momentum of the other two big fish in this race.

That’s right, it’s a fish race, not a horserace. So throw out your racing form and put on your mask and wetsuit, as we dive into a tributary of my psyche and examine a tiny bit of my. . . oh, you know what, this is the worst metaphor I think I’ve ever tried to construct—so let’s move on. . . .

So, you’re still here. Good. On the evening of the New Hampshire primaries, I got an e-mail from a friend out west that read like this:

I'm leaning towards Obama but had been supporting Edwards. Please let me know your thoughts on him. The one thing I noted is that in a poll of all the candidates on a variety of issues that he is against capital punishment (not Edwards or, obviously, Hillary). I know this isn't that crucial for a president, but I'm so tired of every Democrat having to support a sick, barbaric institution jettisoned by the rest of the "civilized" world.

Also, didn't Edwards run much more conservative in 2004. I.E. is he pulling a reverse-Romney?

I’m with my friend on the death penalty, but, as he admits, it’s not the most important issue for a federal leader (though I would welcome a loud, presidential condemnation of the death penalty). The death penalty is one of a handful of issues on which I probably differ with John Edwards, but there are so many issues—big, systemic issues—on which I think that Edwards has the best positions in the race. Yesterday, when I replied to my friend, I mentioned but a few of them.

Here’s what I wrote (with few tiny edits for the sake of clarity). It’s rough, it’s spur of the moment and top-of-mind, but it is from the heart. When I finished, I thought, well, you know, why not put it out there—it’s at least half as good as some of the endorsements I’ve read in the papers, even if it is a little rough and wonky. And, anyway, I want to be on record: I have for quite some time endorsed, and still even now—in fact, even more so now—endorse John Edwards for president. Make of it what you will:

Wow, I can't believe that rightwing attack line has legs in the thinking world. . . that's disturbing.

No, JRE is not pulling a Romney. I didn't support Edwards in '04 because he voted “aye” on the AUMF; in 2005, he apologized for that vote and called for withdrawal and a renewed diplomatic effort in the region—and he did this in an OpEd published in the Washington Post. I don’t like that he voted for the war in 2002, but I respect and appreciate that he had the courage to admit that he actually learned something from his mistake. Imagine: a president that learns. Wow.

As for his economic populism, it has always been there. He has refined some of his ideas and strengthened some of his rhetoric after four more years of Bushenomics, but he is essentially the very same populist he was back in ’04. You’ll remember that the theme then was “The Two Americas”—well, now, it’s “Building One America.” It’s almost disappointingly unimaginative in its sameness; not a reverse at all.

You can check out Edwards’s entire platform in an 80-page book that he put out. You can download a PDF from his website. It’s called “Plan to Build One America.” I’ve read the whole thing—do I agree with every page? No, of course not. I would say that I buy into about 75% of it. (Neither HRC or BHO have anything this detailed to compare and contrast, by the way.)

Yeah, there’s the mostly meaningless “tough on crime” positions—and you are right to be tired of those—and there is also some serious fence-sitting when it comes to gun control (which really annoys me). . . and there are other things that are a bit heavy on the ideological gymnastics, but, you know, it’s the price of running a national campaign in a country with a cash-strapped education system and an electronic media controlled by only four companies.

But on some really big issues, Edwards is way out in front of Obama and Clinton. He was first out of the box with a plan for truly universal healthcare, and his plan is much better than the one that BHO came out with five months later (HRC was third to the table, and her plan is almost an exact copy of the Edwards plan). No, it’s not single payer—which I would prefer—but JRE actually says that his plan is a step toward single payer; the other two haven’t and wouldn’t say that.

(I guess we should say that for the sake of argument, Dennis Kucinich is for single payer, and DK is the bestest and leftest on a lot of my issues, but DK won’t be elected president, and I’m not actually sure that I would want him to be, despite what he stands for—but that’s another conversation.)

How about Iraq? Edwards will instantly withdraw 40 – 50,000 troops, and will have all combat troops out within ten months. He will end combat operations. He has sworn there will be no permanent bases. He has called for the big US private corporations to get out, to be replaced with regional concerns. He wants no private paramilitary forces there operating outside the law. He advocates a broad diplomatic push, which includes talking to the Syrians and Iranians, as well as other regional powers, the EU, the Russians, and, importantly, the Chinese. It’s actually a complex plan—imagine that!

In fact, many of JRE’s proposals actually require more than a nice one-liner—which is mighty refreshing, even if it is not the best of strategies for the soundbite-driven nature of our news coverage.

Like immigration—which is really an issue manufactured by the Republicans and their press surrogates, but it’s out there, so you gotta have an answer—John’s answer says a) sure, secure our borders, but a fence is “silly” (his word), b) the permanent guest-worker program is a bad idea, c) you have to have a path to citizenship, and d) you can’t begin to talk about stopping illegal immigration without talking about world trade and global economics. Edwards wants to abandon NAFTA and CAFTA, wants to spend more money to aid emerging economies, and wants to set baseline job safety and environmental standards for our trading partners.

Edwards also wants the cost of lost US jobs figured into the equations when we evaluate trade deals.

Edwards is the only frontrunner that has said unequivocally that we will build no new nuclear power plants, ever, and wants to phase out federal subsidies for nuclear power. He also opposes building coal-fired plants until there is a truly effective carbon-sequestration technology. He is also against liquid coal.

Obama, by contrast, comes from the state with the largest number of nuclear power plants, and Illinois is one of the country’s leading coal producers. Right before the Iowa caucuses, BHO was asked directly about his position on nuclear power and liquid coal. He gave the most namby-pamby non-answer, tried to talk the question to death, but eventually left everyone with the answer that he would not rule out either fuel source as “part of the mix.”

Social security? Edwards advocates raising the cap on eligible income and has ruled out privatization schemes. Obama has a complicated donut approach to eligible income that seems to me to be a bit of a shell game. He has also signaled that he is open to a private investment option—which you and I know would destroy the system—as well as the Republican privatization scheme.

Clinton also has not ruled out privatization.

On letting the Bush tax cuts expire: Edwards wants to return to the higher rate on incomes over $200,000. The other two have said they would set the bar at $250,000.

I could go on and on. . . if you have a specific question, just ask.

You know that I have longstanding problems with HRC and her triangulating ways, but she has moved to the left in the last week to the point where she is almost parroting JRE’s speeches word for word. Do I trust her to lead from that new, more left-leaning place—no, not in the least—but I find it interesting that she chose to shoot for the Democratic base to shore up her support.

Obama, on the other hand, has shown a disturbing proclivity to adopt Republican frames when he seeks to criticize his opponents. On social security, on healthcare, on torts (he has openly attacked trial lawyers). His politics of hope, when push comes to shove, looks a lot like the cynical politics of “centrist caution and status quo bias” (to borrow a phrase from Ezra Klein).

Indeed, Obama has disappointed me a bunch in this campaign. He is tentative, always second to the table on proposals (if he comes to the table at all), and often extremely incremental. John Edwards has gone after BHO on this, and I think it’s a fair attack, even if it’s really just about style. You can’t nice the Republicans and their corporate allies to death. These guys don’t take “no” for an answer.

Edwards is a hard-bargaining lawyer by trade, and he knows that you don’t walk into a negotiation saying, “we want $150 million, but we’ll settle for ten.” Or some such—you get my drift.

You have to stake out a position in this race—and “I’m going to convene a meeting” is not a position when it comes to the big economic problems we face as a country.

Indeed, one of the things I care most about is how the presidential candidate will affect the other races on the ballot. Will he or she lead from out in front, energize voters, pull the dialogue leftward? Will the prez nominee expend political capital to campaign for other Democrats so that we can have a working majority in both houses of Congress? This stuff, to me, is as important as the name of the presidential nominee.

I will also point out that in a head-to-head race with any of the leading Republicans, Edwards, and only Edwards, beats all of them by margins bigger than the poll’s MOE.

Now, I know that the first two states have made it a hard road for Edwards—but it is not an impossible road (though worse than the vote counts is the media blackout on his campaign—it is so infuriating). Even if Edwards is not the frontrunner, he continues to pull this campaign to the progressive left. So, I would still urge you to stick with Edwards.

That’s my SHORT answer on the matter.

I don’t know if I mentioned to you that I was up in New Hampshire volunteering for Edwards, so I have had a lot of time to think and a lot of experience now explaining the differences. It’s a good exercise; makes you think about why you really like a guy. I like the Edwards campaign because it is about concrete policies to help working people. I probably like him more now than I did two months ago. Unfortunately, because of my in the weeds (or is it “reeds?”) experience, I like Obama a lot less.

My name is [guy2k], and I approve this message.

There you have it. Not my most eloquent post, but it puts some stuff on the table. Did I hit the right notes? Did I make any factual errors? Please let me know (kindly, please—you catch more flied with honey, after all) in a comment. I’m always up for a discussion; not so much for a pie fight.

. . . .

Do not adjust your set: This post is indeed in orange in recognition of the sixth anniversary of the day men and boys were first shipped off to the Guantanamo Bay detention facility. Since then, over 700 prisoners have been detained, abused, and deprived of some of our most deeply held and basic rights. In six years, not a single “terrorist” held at Guantanamo has been convicted, in fact, not a single trial—if you can call the star chamber process established by the Bush administration a “trial”—not a single trial has been completed. Hundreds are still being held—with no recourse, no habeas rights, and no way to disprove any of the charges against them. In fact, many are not even told what those charges are. In the words of the ACLU’s Caroline Fredrickson, “After six years of holding these individuals without charge, Guantanamo Bay can be viewed as nothing short of an American dungeon.”

Legislation has been introduced in Congress that would close the detention facility and restore due process rights to those being held at Guantanamo. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) introduced S. 1469, the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility Closure Act of 2007. The bill requires the president to close the facility within 120 days of enactment - during which time detainees would be charged and sent to either the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth, KS, or transferred to another country that will not torture or abuse them.

"Senator Harkin worked diligently to craft legislation that properly shuts down Guantanamo Bay and ends the indefinite detention of those being held. This is a major step in restoring the American image as a beacon of freedom in the world," said Christopher Anders, legislative counsel for the ACLU. "Senators Clinton, McCain and Obama have all spoken forcefully about shutting down the detention facility during their presidential campaigns but none have yet signed on to Senator Harkin’s legislation. Talk on the campaign trail comes easy, but signing on to the legislation would be a real commitment to shutting Guantanamo Bay."

Please use this unfortunate anniversary as an opportunity to call your senators and ask them to support Senator Harkin’s bill, S.1469. The Capitol Switchboard number is (202) 224-3121, or you can find more information about contacting your senators at

Thank you.

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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Wednesday, January 09, 2008

The sincerest form of flattery?

OK, pop quiz: Which presidential candidate said the following last night?

. . . politics isn't a game. This campaign is about people. It's about making a difference in your lives. It’s about making sure that everyone in this country has the opportunity to live up to his or her God-given potential. That has been the work of my life.

We are facing a moment of so many big challenges. We know we face challenges here at home, around the world, so many challenges for the people whose lives I've been privileged to be part of. I've met families in this state and all over our country who have lost their homes to foreclosures. Men and women who work day and night but can't pay the bills and hope they don't get sick because they can't afford health insurance. Young people who can't afford to go to college to pursue their dreams.

Too many have been invisible for too long. Well, you are not invisible to me.

The oil companies, the drug companies, the health insurance companies, the predatory student loan companies have had seven years of a president who stands up for them. It's time we had a president who stands up for all of you.

I intend to be that president, to be a president who puts you first - your lives, your families, your children, your future. I believe deeply in America, in our can-do spirit, in our ability to meet any challenge and solve any problem. I believe in what we can do together. In the future, we will build together. There will be no more invisible Americans.

Close your eyes and turn down the pitch, and you could easily imagine this speech coming from John Edwards—but it is none other than Hillary Rodham Clinton, claiming victory in yesterday’s New Hampshire primary.

This is not an isolated event, at least not in the last ten days. As a very small but noticeable bit of buzz about a resurgent Edwards started to come out of Iowa in late December, I noticed that populist or quasi-populist appeals had worked their way into the speeches of Clinton, Barack Obama, and even Mitt Romney. It is a small consolation to an Edwards supporter who might have expected a little more from the first two primary states, but it is a good argument for Edwards’s continued presence in the race—he has clearly moved the debate and the rhetoric to the left. Whether that translates into positions or policies remains to be seen.

What is already evident, however, is that the pressures of running a contested primary race have made Clinton a better candidate. Her rhetoric has changed, as has her tone. And whether you see her near-tear moment to be a mistake, a strategic turn, or a lucky bit of fatigue-induced serendipity, it has altered the establishment narrative.

That doesn’t necessarily mean that her emotional side translated into New Hampshire votes—better than half of Clinton’s support came from those who made up their minds over a week ago—but, going forward, it allows her, as well, to be cast as a fighter for whom this is personal.

That probably doesn’t bode well for an Edwards campaign that already has a hard time getting the attention of a money-conscious establishment media. That media, and its cloistered troubadours, seem incapable of telling more than one simple story at a time—last weekend, it was about how Obama won and Clinton lost; today we will hear of Senator Clinton’s re-energized fight. It’s a new story, even if it isn’t really a news story (Clinton led in the state for over 12 months, and always had the money and support to fight on past New Hampshire, no matter the result—the bigger news might be that the pollsters so botched predicting that result), but at least that new story will have more of John Edwards’s words and ideas, even if it remains nearly devoid of his very influential voice.

(cross-posted on The Seminal and Daily Kos)

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