Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Another Reason We Need Health Care Reform

A year ago, I had some leftover from an old dental abscess cleaned out. Unfortunately, the x-ray didn't show a small side channel that the dentist missed and the abscess took off before I realized what was happening. When the abscess started getting into my tongue and going down my throat, I called my dentist group on the weekend and quickly got some antibiotics. I saw my dentist on Monday and he took one look at my throat and prescribed something stronger. In a couple of days, I was fine though there was some minor damage to the muscles in my tongue that took about three months to heal. Although I have some medical and dental insurance, it was actually fairly cheap medicine but there are people in our country who hesitate to spend twenty to eighty dollars when they have other expenses to deal with.

Susie of Suburban Guerilla points to a sad story on MSNBC:
WASHINGTON - Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache Sunday.

A routine, $80 tooth extraction might have saved him.

If his mother had been insured.

The boy died when his tooth infection spread into his brain. Keep in mind that there are many times when children are not treated early enough, but they manage to survive, and are physically damaged by the results. These incidents of medical breakdowns are not that rare. For lack of insurance for a tooth extraction (and antibiotics?), Deamonte Driver required an expensive brain surgery that was unable to save him. This is evidence of a broken health care system and many children have no choice but to endure such a system.

It's time for our health care system to be fixed. Americans should stop pretending that the Republicans will ever do anything about it. At least not the Republican Party as it now exists, dominated my right wingers who seem bent on taking the country backwards. If we're the greatest country in the world, we need to act like it.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Does Experience Matter in 2008?

Yeah, experience matters. And yet, I'm still skeptical when the issue is brought up in presidential campaigns. After all, Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld came loaded with experience and they have given us one of the biggest foreign policy failures in our nation's history. Of course, at the other end of the spectrum is George W. Bush who never accomplished much in any field before becoming president. Without his father, George W. Bush would never have had a significant career in politics let alone business. He would have been a salesman selling overpriced bonds or real estate or, at best, he would have been a public relations man for some middle level baseball team.

Now the truth is that nearly every Democratic candidate running would be a good president and all of them would be a better president than Bush. The front four (yes, I'm making four instead of three) candidates, John Edwards, Barack Obama, Bill Richardson and Hillary Clinton, would all do well. Barack Obama has the least experience at the national level but he could probably make a case that his experience at the state level qualifies him.

The Concord Monitor (N.H.) carries a story by Johanna Neuman of the Los Angeles Times:
Experience - and how to measure it - has become one of the first big debating points of the 2008 presidential race.

And so Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut (with 33 years in the House and Senate) has been trying to heighten the importance of Washington knowledge, making a constant refrain of his claim that President Bush proves the dangers of on-the-job training in the White House.

"I think people do care about experience," Dodd said.

Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico (15 years in the House, two years as U.N. ambassador, three years as energy secretary) touts his "unparalleled experience."

And Sen. Joseph Biden (35 years in the Senate) has said of his campaign rivals, "It's not so much whether I can compete with their money, but whether they can compete with my ideas and my experience."

Even former senator John Edwards of North Carolina, who served a single term before opening a White House bid and becoming the vice presidential nominee in 2004, has brought his twist to the issue. Asked at an event last month how he differed from Obama, Edwards said, "Experience. I've been through a presidential campaign."

Advocates for Obama, as for other candidates who are positioning themselves as outsiders to Washington's political culture, like to say that the range of their life experiences makes them more fit for office than those who have spent their careers in government. In Obama's case, that resume includes stints as a community organizer, law professor, civil rights attorney and eight-year member of the Illinois state Senate.

Of course, the failures of Cheney and Rumsfeld remind us that there are other issues to be considered and they include judgment, vision and who the candidates consider their constituency. A case along these lines can be made for each of the top four Democratic candidates depending on what voters want and what they're looking for. There is one other quality that I personally look for and I'm not sure how much others think about it: who has the ability to close a deal on the serious issues of the day? All four candidates are good closers; they can persuade people, they can get a deal done. In 2008, they'll have to persuade the voters that they can clean up Bush's mess and start moving our country in a new direction. In 2008, more of the same is not going to sell well. In the end, it's why I believe the Republican candidate will probably lose. But that puts the responsibility on those voting in the primaries to find the best candidate we can.


Monday, February 26, 2007

Hillary Clinton Ambitious Campaign

It's early. The general election is 20 months away. The primaries are a little more than 10 months away. I appreciate how hard Hillary Clinton is working for the nomination but she seems to making every effort to win the nomination by summer of this year which would be a record of sorts.

At least she is beginning to make Bill Clinton part of her campaign instead of oddly avoiding the issue. Here's one story from The Hotline:
The Hillary Clinton camp is rolling out the big names of the Clinton Administration in its “grassroots” effort to raise $1M in a week.

The “One Week One Million” campaign launched last week with high profile e-mail (and accompanying picture that still has us scratching our heads) from “Bill Clinton.”

(As of 9 am, they had raised $619,896.)

And here's another article from the Earth Times:

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., speaking at a fundraiser in San Francisco, said that her husband may have a role as a U.S. diplomat if she becomes president.

She said that former President Bill Clinton is "the most popular person in the world right now,'' the San Francisco Chronicle reported, and promised to keep up with the tradition of using former presidents as roving diplomats.

Bill Clinton would make a very fine diplomat—there's no question of it—but sooner or later we need to talk more openly about the political relationship between Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton—particulary in relation to Iraq and Hillary's vote to support Bush's war. The clearest path is straightforward. Hillary needs to clear the air. And Bill Clinton can help by helping us to understand the role of his administration in our dealings with Iraq, the influence that both Republican and Democratic neoconservatives had on our approach to Iraq in the 1990s, and his personal role in facilitating the relationship between Tony Blair and George W. Bush, if indeed that is what happened. We knew in 2002 and we know even more certainly now that Bill Clinton's policy of containment was the right approach to Iraq but he still had a role that needs to be explained and understood.

Last week, Paul Krugman of The New York Times had a few thoughts on Hillary Clinton (via Truthout):

The experience of Bush-style governance, together with revulsion at the way Karl Rove turned refusal to admit error into a political principle, is the main reason those now-famous three words from Mr. Edwards - "I was wrong" - matter so much to the Democratic base.

The base is remarkably forgiving toward Democrats who supported the war. But the base and, I believe, the country want someone in the White House who doesn't sound like another George Bush. That is, they want someone who doesn't suffer from an infallibility complex, who can admit mistakes and learn from them.

And there's another reason the admission by Mr. Edwards that he was wrong is important. If we want to avoid future quagmires, we need a president who is willing to fight the inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom on foreign policy, which still - in spite of all that has happened - equates hawkishness with seriousness about national security, and treats those who got Iraq right as somehow unsound. By admitting his own error, Mr. Edwards makes it more credible that he would listen to a wider range of views.

In truth, it's the second issue, not the first, that worries me about Mrs. Clinton. Although she's smart and sensible, she's very much the candidate of the Beltway establishment - an establishment that has yet to come to terms with its own failure of nerve and judgment over Iraq.

The problem with the Beltway establishment is that it's so cocksure it has the answers that it's been falling on its face for some years now, though most of the falling has been done by those connected to Bush and his fellow Republicans. One cannot ignore, however, those giving Bush and his crew a free pass for so long. Does Hillary Clinton now oppose Bush because of the incompetence of his administration, which of course is now evident to all, or does she understand how fundamentally flawed Bush's foreign policy vision was from the beginning? If all she is saying is that she would be more competent than Bush, that suggests that she has a poor understanding of what it will take to repair our foreign policy. We need a strong defense and a vigorous State Department with all the tools it can use—and I, for one, would welcome Bill Clinton as a roving ambassador—but what we do not need is a Democratic version of neoconservativism. Hillary Clinton's recent trip to Afghanistan is a good sign that she understands the importance of finishing the war there. Nevertheless, Senator Clinton needs to clear up some of these issues instead of simply steamrolling her way to the nomination.

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Saturday, February 24, 2007

Mother Jones Notices John Edwards

Maybe the real campaign news in the last few days is simply the strong straightforward way that John Edwards is making his case to be the next president of the United States while the other two frontrunners battle it out. Here's the story from Sasha Abramsky of Mother Jones:
Carson City, Nevada, might seem an unlikely placge for the starter-gun to be fired in a presidential race, but that's what happened yesterday. The small state capital, surrounded by the snow-dusted mountains of the eastern Sierra Nevada, the huge western sky specked with gentle white clouds, played host to the first Democratic Party candidates' forum. Eight of the declared runners were there: Senators Joseph Biden, Christopher Dodd, and Hillary Clinton, Representative Dennis Kucinich, Iowa's ex-governor Tom Vilsack, Governor Bill Richardson, and ex-Senators John Edwards and Mike Gravel. The only big name missing was Barack Obama.


To my mind, there were two things of particular interest about the event. The first was the unabashed liberalism-cum-populism of the candidates. These weren't Democratic Leadership Committee-type speeches. They were fiery speeches, in their economic timbre redolent of New Deal era oratory, full of references to economic injustice, to America's squandered reputation in the world, to the historical urgency of the current moment. "We need to reestablish America as the great moral leader on the planet," Edwards declared. "The world needs to see us as a force for good again. The world needs to see us as the shining light we used to be." Richardson, who arguably has a broader array of experiences in the world of government and diplomacy than any candidate in the field, averred that the country "should not be known for Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib and eavesdropping and violating international conventions."

The second revelation was the Bobby Kennedy-esque presence of Edwards. Clinton's body language is supremely confident—but it comes off as somehow forced, almost overacted. John Edwards, by contrast, is a natural performer. In 2004, Edwards seemed charismatic, yet somehow not fully formed. This time around, there is nothing raw or inexperienced in his presentation: he establishes an instant rapport with his audience, his answers are passionate, and he exudes a command of his subject. When he fields questions from the press, his eye contact is almost hypnotic. When he talks about the issues he cares about most—poverty, Iraq, healthcare—he creates the same sincere-yet-not-pontificating aura that Bill Clinton mastered 15 years ago.

None of which is to say Edwards emerged from the forum as the front-runner in Nevada let alone nationwide. Clearly, Clinton and Obama have tremendous momentum behind their campaigns. Richardson, too, is a powerful, smart-as-hell candidate who will benefit from having early Western caucuses and primaries. But in Carson City, Edwards did put the rest of the candidates on notice: his voice this time around is stronger than in 2004, his policies better honed, and his anger at the state of the country today almost incandescent.

It's not something that most voters pay attention to but one thing that I have noticed about John Edwards is that he can handle a steep learning curve. Hillary Clinton is a brilliant politician and a tough campaigner but I don't believe she understands how much the times have changed since her husband ran for president. She doesn't understand how profoundly damaged America's foreign policy is at the moment. She doesn't understand how fundamentally bankrupt the neoconservatives are and she still seems to be listening to the Democratic version of neoconservatives. She doesn't understand how much corporate corruption, globalization, K Street and big money are distorting our politics to the point that the needs of tens of millions of Americans are not getting addressed. And she doesn't understand America's profound energy problem.

Barack Obama, on the other, seems to understand the times but I honestly don't feel that I know him yet; I like what I see but I don't know what he can do or will do. But I'm beginning to feel I know something about Edwards and I find my respect for him deepening. This isn't the same guy who ran in 2004; there's more to him and people are going to be finding that out in the months to come (by the way, an odd thing happened after Kerry lost: I kept encountering people who wish they had voted for Edwards in the primaries). Watch the polls. By early fall, if Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama have not closed the deal, Edwards' numbers may very well be moving up.

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Dennis Kucinich on the Trail

Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) doesn't have much chance of winning the Democratic nomination but I like his spirit and his reminder of the Democratic Party's big tent. Keep in mind that a cynical media doesn't have much respect for any candidate not in the top three or four in campaign fundraising and that's wrong. In 1860, four or five candidates were ahead of a guy named Abraham Lincoln.

In 2000, the media should have exposed George W. Bush for the mediocrity that he is long before he wrapped up the big money. The other thing the media has forgotten is that the campaign for both parties is a chance to try out ideas even if those ideas don't catch on for that election cycle. Sometimes our best ideas have come from one or two earlier election cycles. Maybe Kucinich has some great ideas and maybe he doesn't but let's hear some different voices.

Bonnie Adler of the Westport Minuteman has a story on a recent visit by Kucinich; here's an excerpt:
Kucinich ... campaigned in Westport last weekend at the Westport library, where about 50 people gathered for a campaign stop that ran one hour late and lasted no more than 30 minutes.

Kucinich, elected as mayor of Cleveland in 1977 at the age of 31, said he was looking for a return to the values that he grew up with when he and his six siblings were raised in and around Cleveland in a family that always lived on the edge of poverty. Saying he lived in 21 places before the age of 17, Kucinich vowed he would never forget the struggles of the poor.

Kucinich said America should never have entered into a war in Iraq, that Congress has the ability to stop the funding for the war and that the United States must withdraw its troops immediately. ...

This time around Kucinich may have to work on creating a little more buzz. And he needs to show that he has some fresh ideas.

The Mahablog has a somewhat friendly critique of Kucinich and explains at length why he probably has no chance of winning and why he probably would not make the best president:
I want to say upfront that I’m happy there’s a Dennis Kucinich. I’m happy he’s in the Democratic Party. I’m happy he’s in the House of Representatives. I’d be happy if he ever got into the Senate. But he’s not a viable presidential candidate, and I am hugely skeptical he’d make a good president. I am skeptical not because he is a liberal, or a lefty, but for reasons specific to Dennis Kucinich, the individual.


On the whole I agree with Kucinich’s ideas — not all of ‘em, but many of ‘em. But people can have good ideas and be bad presidents. (I have a lot of good ideas — I happen to think all of my ideas are good — and I will tell you frankly I’d make a terrible president. They’d probably ship me off to an asylum less than a week after the inauguration. Even so, I’d do a better job than Bush.)

Well, Kucinich would also make a better president than Bush. Now Kucinich has said that he is a 'practical idealist'; to pass the other Democrats, he needs to show how that characterization of himself is real, though undoubtedly it's more real than Bush's characterization of himself as a 'compassionate conservative' (though maybe all along Bush really meant to call himself a compassionate reactionary).

Kucinich is a good man but if he wants to have an impact in 2008, he needs to find a way to step it up.

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Friday, February 23, 2007

Barack Obama Pokes Cheney's Self-Importance

Why does the media still take Dick Cheney seriously? How many times has Cheney said something is true only to be contradicted by the facts? Why are right wingers with such a dark vision like Cheney even taken seriously? Has Dick Cheney gained us any friends in the last six years? No, but he has been the ugly face of America for six years; there is much that is good about America but Cheney is not to be counted among the best that America has to offer.

I haven't made up my mind who to support for the Democratic nomination but I like the way Barack Obama talks. The Washington Post has an Associated Press story by Kelley Shannon:
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama ridiculed Vice President Dick Cheney on Friday for saying Britain's decision to pull troops from Iraq is a good sign that fits with the strategy for stabilizing the country.

Obama, speaking at a massive outdoor rally in Austin, Texas, said British Prime Minister Tony Blair's decision this week to withdraw 1,600 troops is a recognition that Iraq's problems can't be solved militarily.

"Now if Tony Blair can understand that, then why can't George Bush and Dick Cheney understand that?" Obama asked thousands of supporters who gathered in the rain to hear him. "In fact, Dick Cheney said this is all part of the plan (and) it was a good thing that Tony Blair was withdrawing, even as the administration is preparing to put 20,000 more of our young men and women in.

"Now, keep in mind, this is the same guy that said we'd be greeted as liberators, the same guy that said that we're in the last throes. I'm sure he forecast sun today," Obama said to laughter from supporters holding campaign signs over their heads to keep dry. ...

Cheney may know how to wield power behind the presidential curtain but he's been clumsy and paranoid when it comes to foreign policy. Somebody needs to tell Bush he hired the wrong man to be vice president and send him packing before he does more damage.

Now, to be honest, rhetoric isn't enough to qualify someone to be president, but I like Obama. He's a fighter.

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Tom Vilsack Drops Out of Presidential Race

Tom Vilsack may not have been the best speaker on the campaign trail, but he had serious credentials to bring to a presidential campaign. He's dropped out due to the difficulty of raising money. I know it's early but if Democrats want a wide open race, it's time to start contributing to the candidates and keeping them viable. Here's the story from Kay Henderson of Reuters in The Washington Post:
Democrat Tom Vilsack, the former governor of Iowa, dropped his longshot 2008 White House bid on Friday after he failed to keep pace with his big-name rivals in raising funds.

"It's really about money," Vilsack said at his Des Moines headquarters as he shut down his 3-month-old campaign operation.


Vilsack is the second declared Democratic candidate to drop out of the 2008 race, following Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh's withdrawal in December just weeks after entering.

"I came up against something for the first time in my life where hard work and effort couldn't overcome," Vilsack said. "I just couldn't work any harder, couldn't give any greater effort and it just wasn't enough."

I wish Vilsack had stayed in. The other day, I saw a brief glimpse of a speaking style that he used that might have served him well. Over the years, I've seen a number of candidates grow into a much better candidate over the course of a number of months. Even John Kerry didn't make a serious move in the polls until December of 2003.

In any case, I'm getting a little concerned. One of the reasons a mediocrity like George W. Bush became president is that through his father's connections he essentially wrapped up the 2000 nomination before the first vote; a number of better qualified candidates dropped out because they couldn't raise $200 million, an outrageous sum back in 2000. Bush seem well set in early 2000 but he ran into trouble with John McCain (when McCain when still interesting) but had the money, the muscle and the sleaze to push on through to the nomination. Money and mediocrity won.

Now there's nothing mediocre about the field of Democratic candidates, including Bayh and Vilsack who have dropped out. But we could wind up with a candidate who isn't the best choice for the times we are facing. Hillary Clinton is a well-qualified candidate but she shows signs that she's following the George W. Bush method of simply wrapping up the money and otherwise largely ignoring the real issues of the day and bypassing the Democratic rank and file. She also shows signs that she's more concerned about what her contributors want rather than what's best for our country. Notice that Bayh and Vilsack are moderate Democrats and the only moderates left now are Biden and Clinton. In the end, the voters may indeed prefer a moderate, but we need a serious debate before the voting begins. I hope the remaining candidates stay in the race until there have been a few debates. But they need support.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

Wesley Clark Criticizes Bush's Iraq Policy

Of the Democrats being discussed for a run in 2008, only Al Gore and Wesley Clark have not declared and Gore keeps saying he won't. That makes Wesley Clark the last candidate if he decides to run. I suspect Clark is biding his time and if he doesn't see a good opportunity to jump all the way in, he may stay active on the issues, particularly on foreign policy.

Stephanie Veale of the Utica Observer-Dispatch has a story on Clark's recent speech at Colgate College:
The Bush Administration's strategy in Iraq is wrong because it's short on dialogue and diplomacy and heavy on violence, Retired Army Gen. Wesley Clark said Tuesday night at Colgate University.

"You cannot defeat al Qaida with military force alone," Clark said, adding that invasions, bombings and shoot-outs create terrorist-sympathizers and worsen the problem.


"The United States must talk with nations it disagrees with," he said.

Having an ideological vice president who talks like a John Bircher and a public relations president who plays to the base is not doing the United States much good. I see no sign, with the exception of Chuck Hagel, that any of the Republican presidential hopefuls have a serious foreign policy. Newt Gingrich has moved himself so far to the right that he openly advocates World War III; yes, Newt, that should improve our lives, build a better future and enrich your cronies in the defense industry.

I like Wesley Clark, but sometimes, for a presidential candidate, he's a bit low key and yet clearly he is well informed and thoughtful. I would welcome that in a vice president or a cabinet member of a Democratic administration. Clark understands how foreign policy is supposed to work.

Wesley Clark is also associated with a veterans group that has a website called, Stop Iran War. I can see where Bush's very dangerous Iran policy may be the reason Wesley is focusing more on foreign policy issues than running for president—it's a dangerous situation and somebody like Wesley Clark has to show the way to a bit of foreign policy reality. Here's part of Wesley Clark's statement on the site:

All Americans want to stop Iran from developing nuclear weapons and interfering on the ground inside Iraq. Yet President Bush’s saber rattling gives the US little additional leverage to engage and dissuade Iran, and, more than likely, simply accelerates a dangerous slide into war. The United States can do better than this.

Whatever the pace of Iran’s nuclear efforts, in the give and take of the Administration’s rhetoric and accusations, we are approaching the last moments to head off looming conflict.


... Military force against Iran is not the solution now, and if we adopt the right strategy, perhaps it need never be. ...

Too bad the Bush adminisration ignores competent people like Wesley Clark. But Republicans in Congress can't ignore thousands of Americans who write to them objecting to Bush's slow drift towards war with Iran.

Let's hope Wesley Clark speaks up more.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Hillary Clinton Question

I'm not ready to go negative on Hillary Clinton but she has some thinking and explaining to do whether she likes it or not. This is not 1992; we've had eight controversial years from the Clintons where the negativity came primarily from the far right but any number of things were not handled well by the Clintons; and we've had six years of a failed presidency under George W. Bush that have been like nothing any of us have ever seen. Things have changed in fourteen years and Hillary needs to understand it.

I looked on Hillary Clinton's news section on her site tonight and I'm not comfortable by what I see here, here and here. A lot of us have been cutting Hillary Clinton some slack since some negative news started appearing in the last six weeks about other Democrats and seemed the kind of thing that comes from the right but, posting some of these things on her campaign website give cause to be concerned. Hillary has the potential of being a fine president but not if she's keeps up some of the negativity and resistance to being upfront with voters.

I'm willing to give Hillary the benefit of the doubt because some of the things going on are outside the kind of things I usually follow and I feel I don't know all the details yet. Here's a post by Arianna Huffington to think about:
In his interview with Maureen Dowd, which is filling up email inboxes all around DC and Hollywood, David Geffen made this prediction about the Hillary Clinton campaign (which Dowd dubbed "Clinton Inc"): "That machine is going to be very unpleasant and unattractive and effective."

It didn't take long for Clinton Inc to prove him right. Not long after Dowd's column hit the streets, "that machine" whirred into high gear with Clinton Communications director Howard Wolfson firing off a press release condemning Geffen and urging Obama to denounce him:
While Senator Obama was denouncing slash and burn politics yesterday, his campaign's finance chair was viciously and personally attacking Senator Clinton and her husband.

If Senator Obama is indeed sincere about his repeated claims to change the tone of our politics, he should immediately denounce these remarks, remove Mr. Geffen from his campaign and return his money.
The thing is, Geffen is not Obama's "finance chair" nor his "principal fundraiser" as Wolfson also claims.

Was the assertion that Mr. Geffen was Barack Obama's campaign finance chair a deliberate fib or just a mistake? Either way, it doesn't put Hillary in a good light.

Hillary Clinton's refusal to explain her vote is also troubling. In the background, hanging over her shoulder whether she likes it or not is Bill Clinton. Now I voted twice for Bill Clinton and was glad to do so. Among other things, Clinton did a terrific job with the economy and the creation of jobs after a number of years of stagnant job growth. And I appreciate what our former president did to Chris Wallace on Fox News and I appreciate what our former president is doing with his many worthwhile ventures these days. But.... While I have been concerned with the Bush administration's profound incompetence and lies and while I spent a lot of time examining how we got into Iraq, Clinton and some of his advisers have an odd way of popping up in the background.

I remember reading an article before the war in Iraq where Bill Clinton apparently urged Tony Blair to be patient with George W. Bush; nothing was stated explicitly about Bill Clinton's position but it seemed to suggest that perhaps our former president favored the invasion of Iraq, albeit by way of the UN and with multilateral support. Some of President Clinton's former advisers were also very hawkish about Iraq. None were more hawkish than James Woolsey, the CIA director under Clinton, and one of the few neoconservative Democrats. With all due respect to Hillary Clinton, she does have some explaining to do if only to put any number of her supporters at ease about her position on foreign policy and Iraq and how she arrives at her decisions. I don't insist on anything elaborate but I'm far from being satisfied by what she has said so far. And frankly, it feels like someone has something she's trying to avoid. I hope not.

One last thing. Hillary Clinton has been selling herself as a moderate Democrat and I say that's just fine, as long it's the kind of moderate Democrat we expect of Jack Murtha or Diane Feinstein or Mark Warner or Jim Webb or any number of others. What we do not need is a Democrat, or rather former Democrat, like Joe Lieberman. Lieberman represents business as usual in Washington. Our country needs something far better than that at the moment.

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

John Edwards Calls for Real Change

One thing I like about John Edwards is that he understands bandaids are no longer enough to deal with our nation's problems. Our nation has been muddling through various crises for a long time, frequently kicking the can down the road for the next guy to figure out. Health care is one of the more obvious crises out there but the crisis that has been ignored the longest is the lack of a real long-term energy policy. Over thirty years have passed since we knew we had a problem. And there's education, jobs and our broken foreign policy. To protect our future, we're going to need more than bandaids. Even the Republican Party's habit of essentially going backwards after years of simply going slow has become a national disgrace.

Conservative magazine U.S. News & World Report has a reasonable profile this week on John Edwards:
... The Democratic vice presidential candidate from 2004 is well known in political circles and has the kind of charisma that attracts news coverage-and crowds-wherever he goes. The problem is whether his new message of dramatic change will catch on, and that will depend on whether fellow Democrats are in a take-no-prisoners mood when the presidential primaries and caucuses start next January. Certainly, the ongoing debate in Congress over the Iraq war adds resonance to Edwards's outrage about the conflict and, more broadly, fuels his newfound frustration with the status quo. "I am the candidate of big, fundamental change," he told U.S. News.

Obviously, Edwards himself has changed considerably from the happy-face centrist who refrained from attack politics in '04. His appeal today is based in large part on his sharp-edged antiwar stand, which is more urgent and emotional than the positions of Senators Clinton and Obama. Edwards, reflecting the growing impatience of many rank-and-file Democrats nationwide, derides the nonbinding resolution now before Congress, which opposes President Bush's "surge" of 21,500 additional troops into Iraq. "Nonbinding resolutions don't stop the escalation of this war," Edwards told U.S. News. "It's time for Congress to use its power [over spending] to stop the escalation of this war and to keep this president from making another huge ... ego-driven mistake." ...

Part of the problem that Edwards faces is whether he can convince an increasingly entrenched media that it's time to change, that it's time to yield to America's powerful impulse to renew itself from time to time. At the moment, John Edwards and Barack Obama are the two candidates who appeal to me the most though I'll support whoever wins the nomination, including Hillary Clinton who indeed seems to favor more bandaids. But Edwards has the clearest message, and perhaps understanding, of the profound need for change. The task is for him to explain what some of that change has to be and how it can be accomplished. Whoever wins the White House in 2008 is likely to be someone who has decided 'staying the course' is no longer an option in this era of American politics.

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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Barack Obama Generating News Stories

I've been trying to even up the coverage on the Democrats running for president in 2008 but it's a little difficult to blog about the other candidates if the buzz is mostly about Barack Obama at the moment. I truly believe we have a wide open primary and if the media somewhat continues to ignore other candidates, I'll deal with that as it becomes more obvious. For now, here's a story about Senator Obama's visit to South Carolina by Aaron Gould Sheinin in The State:
He fought his way through the crowd, shaking hands and posing for pictures.

When he finally reached the square stage reserved for him, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama took the crowd from jubilant to frenzied.

“How you doing South Carolina! Look at this! Look at this! Goodness gracious!” he called out.


Finally, Obama called on the crowd to maintain enthusiasm and spirit through the long campaign ahead. He invoked the name of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., who once remarked that the “arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

“So, South Carolina, let’s get busy. Let’s get to work. Let’s organize,” he said.

I like what I see and hear when Barack Obama gives speeches or interviews but I have to admit that he's so new on the scene, I hardly know quite what to make of him. Every presidential race ought to have its fresh faces and there was a time when people made an early run just to introduce themselves. Going from nowhere three years ago to the White House is still a big leap.

Elsewhere, the McClatchy Washington Bureau's Steven Thomma has a story on Obama:

Watching Barack Obama launch his presidential campaign, you'd never know he's from Chicago.

He staged the dramatic kickoff downstate in Springfield, far from his adopted hometown. He barely mentioned Chicago. And he didn't share the stage - or the spotlight - with any of the well-known Democratic politicians from Chicago. Not Gov. Rod Blagojevich, not Mayor Richard M. Daley. Not the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

His seeming slight of Chicago shouldn't be a surprise. For while Obama is from Chicago, he's not of it. At least not its politics.

The story is just a little odd since Senator Obama is getting considerable support from politicians in Illinois and that includes some from Chicago. But the point may be that Barack Obama is an appealing candidate who can easily run as an outsider. In 2008, outsiders may do well but only if they can show they understand the problems our nation is facing and can show at the same time that they can build a broad consensus. The Illinois senator who was born in Hawaii and went to law school in Massachussets and who has a mother from Kansas seems to cover the bill. Of course, the Clintons also have a reputation for consensus building and Hillary Clinton has thrived well in several places, but the senator from New York cannot run as an outsider. Will being something of an outsider make a difference in 2008? Within a year, we'll begin to get the answer.

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Saturday, February 17, 2007

Straw Poll Results at MyDD

Internet straw polls don't mean a whole lot but who can resist taking a look? According, to the straw poll at MyDD, Barack Obama and John Edwards are doing well. Go take a gander. I liked that they asked for first and second choice and even what the last choice was. To be honest, I couldn't pick a last choice among Democrats but ask me about Giuliani or Duncan Hunter or Newt Gingrich or.... Well, you get the picture.


Senator Biden Wants to Rescind Iraq Authorization

If you buy a house from someone and they neglect to tell you that the house is sitting on an old toxic dump that is still leaking into the soil, should the contract be declared null and void? One could argue that the authorization Congress gave Bush to deal with Iraq was the equivalent of a contract: Bush made his case, Congress provided the money and authorization, Bush signed the deal like the marketing executive that he is. It could be argued that the original deal was based on fraudelent claims knowingly made by the president and his advisers. I don't know if that's the case that Joe Biden is making but it's something to think about. Here's the story by AP writer Barry Schweid in the San Diego Union-Tribune:
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden said Thursday he would move to repeal the authority Congress gave President Bush in 2002 to send U.S. troops into Iraq and replace it with a narrower mandate.

The chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said the legislation was based on the idea that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction and was designed to oust Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.


Congress should make clear the mission is to draw down U.S. forces in Iraq while continuing to combat terrorists, train Iraqis and respond to emergencies, he said.

I like the idea of somebody somewhere declaring loud and clear what it is we're trying to accomplish in Iraq at this late date. Most Republicans in Congress utterly refuse to deal with the issue. On the most important issue of the day, Senator McCain couldn't even be bothered to be in Washington.

Why are we in Iraq? What are we gaining from Bush's misadventure? Is Iraq now nothing more than an opportunity for Republicans to engage in fear mongering and posturing while they refuse the responsibility of dealing with Iraq and Bush's failures? Republicans may not want to deal with these issues but at least Democrats like Senator Joe Biden is attempting to do so. I'm looking forward to the first foreign policy debate among the 2008 Democratic presidential hopefuls.

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Thursday, February 15, 2007

Mike Gravel on the Campaign Trail

Former Alaska senator Mike Gravel has been running the longest of the current candidates for president and is polling somewhere in the low single digits but he's on the campaign trail raising the issues that are important to him. A look through the news stories finds him in Wisconsin last weekend; here's a story by Becky Thielke of the Watertown Daily Times:
With great enthusiasm and energy, presidential candidate and former U.S. Sen. Mike Gravel emphasized why it's crucial for America to change its ways during the Jefferson/Dodge Democratic Party's 14th annual Presidents Day Dinner at Plattdeutscher Hall Sunday evening.


Gravel said we need to get the troops out now, not six months from now. He said a poll conducted by Iraqis said 80 percent want the Americans out of Iraq and 70 percent said it's OK to kill Americans.

Gravel also said Americans are 49th in literacy in the world and 30 percent of the children don't graduate from high school.

“Think about that. How are we going to compete in the world?” he said.

President Bush thinks winning is everything, even if it's just an illusion. Mike Gravel thinks it's more important to talk about real issues and do what's what right. He may not win the presidency but he's helping our country to start thinking again about where we're going. The future of our country is in the hands of tens of millions of Americans, not in the hands of wealthy Republicans with deep pockets for millions of dollars of campaign ads. Let's hope enough voters figure it out in time for 2008.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Rolling Stone on Barack Obama

Today, I was tossing out some old magazines and came across an issue of Rolling Stone that featured Bush as the worst president ever. Then later this afternoon I came across a long Barack Obama article by way of The Huffington Post and it was in the Rolling Stone—the contrast between the two articles couldn't be greater; so here's an excerpt from Ben Wallace-Wells profile on Barack Obama:
...Washington has plenty of wonks, and Obama wasn't going to distinguish himself through diligence alone. He came to the Capitol equipped with his own, swelling celebrity; the Senate was not a perfect fit. Beyond his considerable charm, Obama can be righteous and cocky. He came to Washington pushing the hope that politics could be better -- but now he can give the impression that he'd rather be just about anywhere other than in Washington. "It can be incredibly frustrating," he tells me. "The maneuverings, the chicanery, the smallness of politics here." Listening to a bloviating colleague at his first meeting of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Obama slipped a three-word note to a member of his staff: "Shoot. Me. Now." On a recent day, as Obama made his way through the Capitol's corridors, his fellow senators seemed like good-natured sportscasters, jolly and easy with their power, bantering about the fortunes of baseball teams in their home states. . Obama is aloof and quiet. He prefers to listen, attentive as a rector, not quite of this world, silently measuring it. "The typical politician pushes himself on people to get them to pay attention," says Frank Luntz, the Republican campaign strategist. "Obama is quieter. He doesn't push -- he has a laid-back feel that pulls you in. That is so rare."

It's a great article but I notice that the article paints Barack Obama as very liberal, though he clearly has the ability to reach across the aisle. Senator Obama is a force to be reckoned with and sometimes real leadership trumps all other issues, but it's worth pointing out early that it may be easy for the Republicans and the media to paint Barack Obama as 'too liberal' in the general election. On the other hand, although John Kerry received 9 million more votes than Al Gore, some argue that the Democrats got too cautious by picking Kerry. Conclusion: Barack Obama will stay in the top three but the Democrats should keep all options open.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Albuquerque Tribune Resource on Bill Richardson

Due to a sourcing error on my part (or was it the paper I quoted?), I was led to an excellent resource on Bill Richardson and the Democrats at this link on the Albuquerque Tribune. It has articles on Richardson and links to other blogs on the New Mexico governor and a good list of sites for other Democrats.

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Richard Cohen on Hillary Clinton

John Edwards, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are capable top level candidates far more connected to the world as it really is than the crowd Republicans put up for president these days. Unlike current Republicans, however, people like myself aren't shy about expressing criticism, points of disagreement or concerns about candidates we would gladly vote for. The rubber stamp Republicans of the last six years will go down in history for their complete inability to act responsibly or question anything a president of their party does. The inability of most of the media to notice the lack of responsibility among Republican members of Congress or the White House is something I'll never understand; and when a few of the bigger names do come around to recognizing the failures of somebody like Bush, some of them still seem to miss the picture.

I used to read Richard Cohen of The Washington Post on a regular basis but his judgment slipped badly on Iraq, and certainly more badly than did Hillary Clinton's judgment. In his column today, Richard Cohen wrote:
Yet another man has betrayed Hillary Clinton. This time it's George W. Bush, who not only deceived her about weapons of mass destruction but, when granted congressional authorization to go to war in Iraq, actually did so. This, apparently, came as a surprise to her, although in every hamlet and village in America, every resident who could either read or watch Fox News knew that Bush was going to take the country to war. Among other things, troops were already being dispatched.

Somehow, Bush's intentions were lost on Clinton, who then as now was a member of the United States Senate. This was the case even though she now rightly calls Bush's desire to topple Saddam Hussein an "obsession."


... For reasons extraneous to this particular column, I thought the war would do wonders for the Middle East and that it would last, at the most, a week or two. In this I was assured by the usual experts in and out of government. My head nodded like one of those little toy dogs in the window of the car ahead of you.

First, let's get on Cohen's case for that unnecessary sexist first sentence. It's cleverness that doesn't add anything to a supposedly serious discussion.

Now let's get some issues straight. Presidents aren't always honest. That's not news. But if a proposal is on the table, members of Congress have various ways to verify, particularly when it comes to foreign affairs, what the real issues are behind the politics. At least that's how things used to work up until 2002; Richard Cohen himself fell victim to the new Bush marketing method by way of the discussions he had with the 'usual experts.' What Cohen didn't know at the time was how carefully orchestrated the 'experts' were, particularly by Cheney in the background always claiming to know more than anybody else and always manipulating the evidence with the help of a political public relations team that gave short shrift to the real facts. I've read several books now where generals, for example, took for granted that what they were being told by the 'experts' was true and how they slowly realized the hard way how very wrong the 'experts' were.

As for everyone knowing we were going to war, that became more obvious the closer we got to March of 2003 but it was not a certainty in the summer of 2002 when the Bush Administration began publicly pushing its case for war. And of course we all listened to Bush lie through his teeth every time he said he hadn't made up his mind about whether we were going to war. During this time, Congress, though mainly the Democrats, were trying to get Bush to respect a process, such as going to the UN and trying to get real multilateral help and trying to get a clearer assessment of the Iraqi threat (the Bush Administration was claiming at the time that it had more evidence and would present it in due course, but no such additional evidence existed). Bush kept going through the motions but he largely blew off the process for most of the five months that followed the vote. These are things Cohen knows so his column is a bit disingenuous.

Iraq was a major strategic blunder. Senator Clinton has yet to acknowledge that fact and has instead chosen to focus largely on Bush's incompetent execution of the war. When Clinton came back from Iraq and Afghanistan, I briefly thought she was finally going to get on the right page. But she began triangulating again. To my mind, Hillary Clinton has some explaining to do largely because she keeps hedging and waffling on what happened. That's a Clinton habit that doesn't work anymore and it's a habit we all hope Senator Clinton breaks because we have, after all, moved on to a very different era, with different needs, and Clinton is, after all, a very good candidate, but being straight with the voters is more in line of what we need. If Hillary Clinton doesn't come up with a more acceptable explanation for her past position on Iraq, then yes, Barack Obama and John Edwards are going to have a better chance of taking the nomination than Hillary.

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Monday, February 12, 2007

New Interview with Bill Richardson

Believe it or not, it takes time to find good articles on the candidates. Whether I'm googling the news or blogs, there's considerable noise about candidates that's either worthless negative stuff coming from the right or articles that honestly don't say much. I'm happy when I can find an interview and let the candidate do the talking.

Here's an excerpt from a long interview with Bill Richardson by Knox News:
Question: Tell us what you consider the three most important issues facing the nation.

Answer: First, energy security and national security. The issue of energy independence, how can we wean ourselves from the 65 (percent) imported oil statistic to become a country that is not so dependent on fossil fuels and shifts to renewable technologies.

Number two, how can we regain our standing in the world as a country. As part of that, how do we get out of Iraq in an efficient and honorable way.

Third, the state of our education system. Our schools need to become more competitive. We need to find ways to pay our teachers better, to restore America's ability to be able to send every kid to college or community college or vocational school.

I agree with the first two and it's clear education is very important but I would say health care is number three; I live in an area where a good hospital is closing because the money is simply drying up. Nationally, there's no question health care is broken. Otherwise, it's a good interview, though it covers more personal or political areas rather than Richardson's views on the big issues. Even if Richardson doesn't win the nomination, we've got to get this guy somewhere into the next administration.

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Sunday, February 11, 2007

Barack Obama Doesn't Triangulate

Hillary Clinton is one of the three leading candidates for the Democratic presidential nomination. But she is vulnerable on the issue of 'triangulating,' meaning she's overanalyzes how her position will play with voters rather than simply doing what's best for the country. Of course, Senator Clinton is correct that a president has to be able to unify the country and that means building a broad consensus. But I suspect the country wants politicians who talk straight like Senator Jim Webb.

Hillary is also vulnerable on the issue of her vote for the Iraq resolution. Something to keep in mind is that she is technically correct that the vote was not a full authorization for war. In fact, there were calls just before the war for another vote on Iraq but a proper vote never took place. But perception is critical in politics and Bush took full advantage of the perception at the time that the October Iraq resolution gave him all the authority he needed to deal with Iraq. That was where the blunder was made by a majority of the members of Congress, both Republicans and Democrats.

Senator Clinton didn't run for reelection to the Senate until 2006; if she were truly against the war or had serious doubts, she would have had four years to defend her position if she had voted no. Now I'm really not one of those holding such votes against the candidates; it was a bizarre situation that involved a great deal of deception and strong arming on the part of the Bush Administration (I'm speaking specifically about what happened to the career people in the military and CIA). But it's a simple fact that Hillary has some explaining to do and she's now fudging her explanations the way Bill Clinton used to fudge. I voted for Bill Clinton twice but we're in a different era now and Senator Clinton needs to understand that.

Whether it's a wise move or not (sometimes it's better to let the media or even bloggers handle these things) Barack Obama is taking Senator Clinton to task on her Iraq position; here's the story from the Telegraph of the UK (the Telegraph is a British paper but even they might be slanting the story somewhat; on the other hand, there are similar stories elsewhere):
[Barack Obama said,] "I feel good about the fact that my judgment was we shouldn't be proceeding and I think that speaks hopefully to the kind of judgment I'll be bringing to the office of president."

Mrs Clinton, he charged, was also vague about how she would end the war beyond promising to bring it to a close if she were elected. "How she wants to accomplish that, I'm not clear."

Mr Obama, 45, who has been criticised by the Clinton camp for a lack of experience, showed that he was not going to let his main opponents off the hook.


Mrs Clinton, campaigning in New Hampshire at the same time, had to field hostile questions about her vote from disgruntled Democrats. Mr Obama also took Mrs Clinton's early campaign slogan of "I'm in it to win it" to suggest she was interested only in getting elected.

"I am in it to win it," he said, responding to calls from a Davenport crowd. "Hold on. But I want you to understand that I'm also I'm in it to transform the country."

At a breakfast in Iowa Falls, he appeared to take another shot at Mrs Clinton, who is often accused of excessive ambition. "I'm not one of those people who decided at the age of seven that I wanted to be president."

The campaign is young. Democrats need to be careful that while it's perfectly legitimate to stake out their turf, they need to make sure they're not getting too negative. Barack Obama has a good wit and it's important, I suspect, that he keep his potshots on the light side. The Senator from New York could also do a better job of lightening up and being straighter with voters. But my judgment stands and it's loud and clear: the Democrats have strong candidates for 2008 and that certainly includes Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

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Saturday, February 10, 2007

Barack Obama Makes It Official

We knew it was coming—Barack Obama is running for president and his poll numbers put him in a good position. And it's going to be a first: a serious presidential candidate who was born in the state of Hawaii shortly after the islands became the 50th state. 2008 is going to be a wide open contest for the presidency. Here's the story from Sarah Baxter of Times Online:
AS Barack Obama officially launched his campaign for president in Springfield, Illinois, the home town of Abraham Lincoln, his team was quietly beefing up his security. Mindful of the fate of the 19th-century president, who abolished slavery and was assassinated, friends say that new measures are being taken to ensure Obama’s protection on the campaign trail.

At the Old State Capitol building, comparisons with the gaunt, top-hatted president were inescapable. Springfield is where Obama, like Lincoln, served for eight years as a state legislator before entering national politics.

Thousands of eager spectators thronged the square in freezing temperatures waving Obama ’08 banners as he stepped on the stage and hugged his wife and young daughters, who were bundled up in hats and scarves.

Setting out what is likely to be his signature theme, he urged Americans: “Let’s be the generation” for change. “I know it’s a little chilly, but I’m fired up.”


Obama was aware of the personal risks he was taking, Davis said. “He recognises that we have some very extreme elements in this country. His campaign is wisely not discussing their security precautions publicly, but they know Barack’s candidacy creates a dimension that is different to the others and are taking steps to deal with it.”

I may or may not jump on the Barack Obama bandwagon during the Democratic primaries but I celebrate his candidacy. Announcing in Springfield was a smart choice. Lincoln was the most literary and poetic of our presidents and of all the current candidates, Barack Obama is by far a superb wordsmith and speech maker. Even with all of Bill Clinton's gift for politics, Barack Obama has a gift for language that we haven't seen since John Kennedy. The one thing that has already impressed me about Obama is the strong support he's getting from Democrats in Illinois. He's obviously well regarded.

One sobering note is about Barack Obama's security arrangements. I picked up my local paper today to read that Elie Weisel, the author of numerous books and winner of the Nobel Peace prize was attacked in a hotel in San Francisco by a Holocaust denier. We need to be careful. We could easily be entering another era of the crazies coming out of the woodwork. I hope all the candidates have adequate security. And yes, even Nancy Pelosi needs security as well and right wing Republicans should stop playing games. As it is, Republicans have work to do to rebuild their party. Bush's radical conservative agenda has failed our nation and we need to talk seriously about where our nation goes from here. I look forward to hearing what Barack Obama has to say.

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Friday, February 09, 2007

Wesley Clark Speaks on Iran

General Wesley Clark hasn't announced yet that he's running again but he spoke at the DNC meeting and was well received. Here's an excerpt from an article on a speech he gave at UCLA in late January:
In his State of the Union address last month, President Bush emphasized that Iraq would be overrun by extremists if more U.S. troops were not sent there. Gen. Wesley K. Clark (Ret.), who campaigned against Bush in the run-up to the 2004 presidential election, wholeheartedly agrees.

But no amount of military intervention in Iraq can work without equal emphasis on robust diplomacy and political initiatives in the strife-torn nation, Clark said in a Jan. 22 lecture on the eve of Bush's national address.


The bipartisan Iraq Study Group has recommended drawing down troops, Clark pointed out. But the group's recommendations are widely seen as "an admission of failure — and it's made Iraq even more triumphalist than it has already been."

Globally, he noted, the prestige and power of the United States are hanging in the balance. U.S. generals in Iraq have doubtless erred, but the Bush administration has made mistakes that are not only far more grievous but have "contributed to our continuing difficulties in our war on terror," said Clark, who commanded the 1999 NATO-led campaign in Kosovo.

The administration's biggest mistake, he elaborated, was the failure to appreciate the importance of law and the concept of legitimacy in the conduct of American affairs abroad.

Legitimacy is an issue that many Americans still do not appreciate. Launching a war on false premises does not usually lead to a nation being better appreciated by other nations. As we have seen, Bush's reckless plunge into war has damaged our foreign policy.

I was against the war in Iraq but once it was launched even most opponents of the war, myself included, hoped that it would go quickly and be done. Of course many of us did not know that the Bush Administration was seriously thinking of going after more countries after Iraq. The enormity of Bush's strategic blunder is going to take many years to fully understand.

Of course, conventional journalists like David Broder seem to have trouble catching up to the world these days or being skeptical when his right wing friends sell him a load of nonsense. Broder recently said that Democrats don't appreciate Wesley Clark. That of course is ridiculous. Along with Bill Richardson and Joe Biden, Wesley Clark is among the Democrats with the most foreign policy experience. Who wouldn't listen to Clark? Editor & Publisher has the story on Broder:
David Broder's comment about what Democrats allegedly think of the military drew an angry reaction.

"One of the losers in the [Democratic National Committee's] weekend oratorical marathon was retired Gen. Wesley Clark, who repeatedly invoked the West Point motto of 'Duty, Honor, Country,' forgetting that few in this particular audience have much experience with, or sympathy for, the military," Broder wrote in a column syndicated yesterday by the Washington Post Writers Group.

A writer for "The Carpetbagger Report" site responded: "I expect these kinds of dishonest smears from Limbaugh, Hannity, and O’Reilly, but Broder is supposed to be credible and serious. Why take such a gratuitous shot at the entire Democratic Party? Why intentionally perpetuate a right-wing lie? Why libel a political party with an observation that’s the opposite of the truth?"

The site noted that Clark's remarks were received warmly by the audience, and added: "(H)ow long will Dems have to put up with such transparent nonsense about the party not supporting the troops? How many war heroes -- Kerry, Murtha, Webb, Cleland, etc. -- have to become Democratic champions before Broder and his brethren give up on such ugly lies? How many more veterans have to come home from Iraq and Afghanistan, and then join the 'Fighting Dems,' before this myth has been debunked to Broder’s satisfaction? ... "

Republicans have nothing to run on. The biggest danger to Democrats in the next two years will be the fictions that Republicans can get people like Broder or Lou Dobbs (the fiction about Pelosi) to take seriously. When it comes to ideas, today's Republicans are bankrupt. They are desperate. Broder ought to be ashamed of himself to fall for such nonsense. George W. Bush and Dick Cheney did what they could to stay out of the war in Vietnam while Kerry and Cleland and others served. You would think Broder would understand that by now.

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Thursday, February 08, 2007

Al Gore Draft Movement Afoot

The voters were right in 2000: the man with the most votes, Al Gore, would have made a fine president. Busy with his campaign to do something about Global Warming, Al Gore says he's not running in 2008 but there are those who are thinking of getting a movement going to draft the former vice president. Here's an AP story from Yahoo News:
Veterans of Al Gore's past are quietly assembling a campaign to draft the former vice president into the 2008 presidential race — despite his repeated statements that he's not running.

His top policy adviser from his 2000 presidential campaign and other key supporters met Thursday in Boston to mull a potential Gore campaign. The participants and Gore's Nashville office both said Gore, who is in London, is not involved.


"He certainly has the right political climate. How many political candidates are being nominated for Nobel prizes and winning Oscars?" said Dylan Malone, co-founder of and organizer of a political action committee trying to draft Gore.

His work on global warming earned him a Nobel nomination and two Oscar nods for his documentary, "An Inconvenient Truth." He has re-branded himself on late-night television and has brought together a stable of grass-roots supporters.

In 2002, Gore asked Malone to stop a draft effort he had begun; Malone did. Malone started up again and, so far, Gore hasn't waved him off.

The Democrats have three strong front runners in Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and John Edwards and there are several Democrats who are running who can quickly step up if any of the top three falter. But an Al Gore candidacy would be a major force if Gore decides to run again. Gore is probably the only candidate who can afford to enter the race in late summer or fall; for him, it makes sense to hold back and see what happens in the campaign.

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Edwards Campaign Clears Up Blogging Issue

On the one hand, I think John Edwards handled himself well in the episode concerning bloggers he had hired who, before they were hired, wrote posts some time ago that some on the right have chosen to interpret as anti-Catholic. On the other hand, I'm not entirely certain that liberal bloggers should be micro-managing campaigns from the outside; and of course it's a given that I have no use for right wingers who choose to wave their banner when moderates or liberals don't agree with them by getting into name calling. We have seen this recently in the assertion by right wing conservatives who seem to claim that if you're the slightest bit critical of Israel, you must be anti-semitic, even if you happen to support the right of Israel to exist or you happen to be Jewish (what do liberal Israelis get called these days when they disagree with the Israeli version of neoconservatives?).

Religion is a subject that needs to be handled with sensitivity by all sides and it doesn't always happen. And it's important to remember there are people on the right who are themselves very cynical about religion who aren't the least bit shy about manipulating religion for their own purposes. It's important to keep in mind that surveys of Americans on religious tolerance consistently show that a majority of Americans believe in the important of religious tolerance and they have tolerance for most of the major beliefs in the world.

MyDD has been covering the story and, to some extent perhaps, somewhat creating the story, but it's worth looking at their coverage to see how it was handled. Chris Bowers posted the Edwards statement; here's an excerpt along with Bowers' brief comment:
The statements of Senator John Edwards, Amanda Marcotte and Melissa McEwen in reference to their work as independent bloggers before joining the Edwards campaign are below.

Senator John Edwards:
"The tone and the sentiment of some of Amanda Marcotte's and Melissa McEwen's posts personally offended me. It's not how I talk to people, and it's not how I expect the people who work for me to talk to people. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but that kind of intolerant language will not be permitted from anyone on my campaign, whether it's intended as satire, humor, or anything else. But I also believe in giving everyone a fair shake. I've talked to Amanda and Melissa; they have both assured me that it was never their intention to malign anyone's faith, and I take them at their word. We're beginning a great debate about the future of our country, and we can't let it be hijacked. It will take discipline, focus, and courage to build the America we believe in."

Good. It looks like they are still on the campaign. It took a while, and it isn't perfect, but Edwards didn't cave. I am so relieved.

However, that still does not excuse the horrible media reporting that has been done on this subject. Expect more action on that front later today.

Edwards brings up a point and I agree with it. Free speech is fine but liberal bloggers need to understand the era that we're in and how satire is easily misinterpreted and sometimes not very distinguishable from writing that is actively intolerant of religion to the point of ridicule. There are religions of all types and there are nonbelievers of all kinds and there are agnostics and doubters in between who have serious views on the things that concern us all. Obviously, right wingers are looking for wedge issues to drive a political agenda that most Americans do not accept and all of us need to watch out for smear jobs against people like Edwards who are talking seriously and thoughtfully about moving our country forward again.

Chris Bowers has more posts on MyDD on all this; here's an excerpt that seems to get at the heart of several issues:
Great victories indeed. I am so relieved for Amanda and Melissa. I am just as relieved for John Edwards, who I really did not want to write off my list of potential candidates to support in the primary. Now, I will happily identify myself as an Edwards supporter. The only way I could imagine that changing is if another candidate shows a superior ability to help grow the movement. While there are a few more with that potential, no one has really come to close stepping up yet.

Still, despite our victories, this is far from over. First, because he refused to cave to right-wing pressure and establishment campaign advice, Edwards will receive a significant amount of criticism. When this happens, we need to remember that he stood with us during this fight, and so we have to stand with him against the forthcoming attacks. This goes for everyone, whether or not you are an Edwards supporter. He didn't throw us under the bus, and so we can't let him get thrown under the bus, even--especially--if another Democratic campaign is trying to do the throwing.

John Edwards has taken some strong stands lately that, in my mind, define leadership. Bloggers can help him and other Democratic candidates by being more thoughtful about some of the things they say. Most bloggers on the progressive side are responsible but even the most popular ones sometimes get carried away. I understand. These are difficult times. But copying the divisive methods of right wingers, or sometimes being overly clever without being wise, is no answer. I said this a long time ago and it's worth repeating: moderates, progressives and liberals need to raise their game.

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Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Getting to Know Barack Obama

A quick caveat. I try hard to find stories that seem reasonably accurate about the various Democratic candidates that I have been profiling for the 2008 presidential race. I don't want just cream puff stories (nor do I wish to avoid friendly stories) so I find myself very cautious when I come across negative stories by people I don't know. Rush Limbaugh, of course, is easy; very little he says is reliable. Nevertheless, I have to note that there is a growing noise coming from the right that is designed to obscure who the candidates are. The recent fabrication about Barack Obama's education in Indonesia is a classic example of the Republican Party's breakdown when it comes to integrity and accurately informing the public. Swiftboating, for example, will always be associated with the Republican Party of this era. The GOP, as it is now constituted, has nothing to run on and must turn to other 'methods,' so I expect it will be increasingly difficult to sort through stories on an excellent line up of Democratic candidates. But I'll do my best.

Here's a friendly story from Chicago Defender about Barack Obama when he was in Hawaii in the 1970s:
He was known as Barry Obama, and with his dark complexion and mini-Afro, he was one of the few black students at the privileged Hawaiian school overlooking the Pacific.

Yet that hardly made him stand out.

Diversity was the norm at the Punahou School, one of the state's top private schools. The 3,600 students came from a wide variety of backgrounds, with a blend of Polynesian, Asian, European and other cultures. Everybody in Hawaii is a minority.

At Punahou, Barack Obama was known primarily for his appealing personality, his honesty and his aggressive play on the basketball court.


By his senior year, Obama was part of a talented team with at least three college-bound players. As a backup forward, Obama helped Punahou win the state championship in 1979. Teammates described him as charismatic, a somewhat quiet leader and outspoken with coaches when he didn't agree with them or understand their methods.

"He wasn't afraid to challenge authority," Lum said. "Sometimes I couldn't believe he would say it, but I would be thinking the same thing. I remember him being honest and courageous. I respected him for that."

Well, we haven't had a president from Hawaii yet. Maybe it's time. Senator Obama, of course, represents Illinois and the best president we ever had came from there.

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Afghanistan and NATO

Afghanistan is a war that should have been done a long time ago. However, Bush's decision to go to war in Iraq put Afghanistan somewhat on the back burner for the better part of three years. The decision to bring in NATO was a good one but it's never certain what the outcome will be if someone like President Bush is involved. Afghanistan requires close watching.

I'm not sure I totally agree with him but American Pundit had a thoughtful post on Afghanistan that's worth passing along, particularly these two paragraphs:
Last summer NATO and Afghan government forces moved into the south and east of the country. For the first time in decades these provinces are coming under control of the central government. This is good news for the common folk and bad news for the Taliban and opium growers who thrive on lawlessness. Unsurprisingly, the level of violence in Afghanistan's eastern and western provinces ratcheted up last year in response.

The NATO commander during this period, British Gen. David Richards, did a fantastic job with the forces he had available. He understood the basic premise of counterinsurgency warfare: less is more. The fewer battles fought and the less damage and killing done, the better our relationship with the Afghan civilians who hold the power to either give shelter to the enemy or turn them over to us.

Something of the same sort may have to happen in Iraq. We need to get ourselves out of the civil war that has far too many factions and issues for us to resolve. One option is to remain in the country, outside the urban areas, and act only when it is clear what we need to do, while working hard on political settlements. We can also start drawing down while we pursue this option; in fact, drawing down would facilitate the option since it would make it clear to the Iraqis that they have to take control of their future.

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Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Rudy Giuliani Decides to Run

The world is very different in 2007 than it was in 2001; many of us have uncovered how much the media create stories that aren't quite what they seem to be. Rudy Giuliani is running for president and there are Republicans willing to take him seriously in spite of many questions, including whether Republicans are once more falling for a public relations illusion. Here's ABC News with the story:
It's unofficially official. Rudy Giuliani says his statement of candidacy filed with the Federal Election Commission is as close as you're going to get to an official announcement that he's running for the Republican nomination.

In the last 10 days, "America's Mayor" has flown to two of the key primary states, New Hampshire and South Carolina. Now he's filed the legal paperwork so he can continue to build a campaign.

On Fox's "Hannity and Colmes," Giuliani said, "it's a little…it's very humbling to think that running for president of the United States is for a kid from Brooklyn. It's quite a step."

Hmmm. Didn't George W. Bush talk about restoring humility to the presidency? My, these guys have good speech writers. When Bush smirks, it's because he's laughing at us and Rudy is no different.

Maha of The Mahablog gives Rudy Giuliani the business; here's a taste of what she has to say:
You might recall that several New York firefighters died when the towers collapsed. Giuliani testified to the 9/11 Commission that firefighters had been given an evacuation order, but they chose to stay because they were rescuing civilians. This testimony was not exactly, um, true.


The police could not talk to the firefighters, however, because the two NY departments used different types of radios set on different frequencies. Giuliani offered the 9/11 commission a lame excuse about the limits of technology, which is absurd on its face. In fact, there had been many complaints about the radios before 9/11, and the Mayor had done nothing.


In fact, many of the 9/11 families were so outraged at the gentle treatment Giuliani received at the hands of the 9/11 Commission that hundreds of them refused to go to the final hearings as scheduled. Today, some are threatening to campaign hard against Giuliani’s presidential bid.

For more than twenty-five years, Republicans have been getting pretty good press. I'm not sure how much more 'good press' our nation can stand. The disasters in Iraq and New Orleans are not good resume items for today's Republican Party.


Oklahoma 2008 Presidential Poll

There are no real surprises among the leaders in an Oklahoma poll of the likely GOP and Democratic contenders. Here's the story Tulsa TV station KOTV:
The latest violence in Iraq has left at least 120 dead and hundreds more injured. The Iraq War will be a defining issue in the 2008 Presidential Campaign. With A growing field of candidates, we wanted to know who Oklahoma prefers as America’s next leader. We teamed with the Tulsa World to see who leads the race for the GOP nomination. Twenty-five percent of Oklahoma Republicans say they'd support Arizona Senator John McCain. Former New York City Mayor Rudy Guiliani is second with 17 percent. With 16 percent Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who has said she will not run, is third. Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich was fourth with 14 percent.


Twenty-eight percent of Oklahoma Democrats put Hillary Clinton in the driver's seat. Former Senator John Edwards did well in Oklahoma when he ran for president in 2004 - he comes in second with 23 percent. Senator Barack Obama from Illinois is third with 14 percent, and former Vice President Al Gore is fourth, polling in the single digits.

It's interesting who the Republicans support. McCain is no longer the maverick he once was and is now largely an illusion who's trying to woo the far right; and he continues to support Bush's failed presidency. Guiliani is the most moderate of the four but there are serious questions about his fitness to serve and his character. Newt Gingrich is the architect of the Republican Party's failures over the last twelve years and he clearly is itching for World War III. And Condi Rice is imcompetent. This is the best the Republican Party can do? This is their response to Bush's failed presidency? At some point, reality has to kick in and Republicans have got to start rebuilding their party. I notice the poll doesn't mention Chuck Hagel or some of the other Republican candidates.

In the Democratic poll, I'm surprised to see Al Gore listed since he says he's not running and most Democrats know that. I'd like to see a poll where voters are asked to suppose or assume that he's running and then see how he does. I think the former vice president would do well.

My one concern about the poll is that the story doesn't say how many people were polled or how many candidates for each party were mentioned or how many people are undecided. But I'm willing to assume it's reasonably accurate for Oklahoma.

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Monday, February 05, 2007

The Special Universe of the Media

There are good reporters out there but one of the problems of the last fifteen years is a media that often doesn't hear itself when it says things that show it isn't paying attention. Politicians apologize but it is rare to hear journalists do so.

Kagro X of Daily Kos heard an exchange of reporters while sitting in on the Libby trial:
The discussion among the reporters present that day was of Joe Biden's Obama flub. It was generally agreed that the statements were an embarrassment. ...

One reporter, with not even the slightest hint of irony, turns to the others, declares Biden's candidacy as good as dead, and then says, essentially: Who's gonna vote for him? He just runs around saying dumb stuff. Who wants to vote for a president who's just gonna say dumb stuff for four years?

That ladies and gentlemen speaks volumes in year seven of the George W. Bush presidency.


Sunday, February 04, 2007

John Edwards: Update on the Dartmouth Speech

Originally posted on 2/1/07; an update follows the main text.

If nothing else, John Edwards has been busy. Here's a story from James Pindell of The Boston Globe:
Former Senator John Edwards said that if he was elected president he would spend the first 100 days visiting foreign countries in an attempt to improve the way those countries feel about the United States.

Speaking to 500 people at Dartmouth College, Edwards said the nation's image has been hurt during George W. Bush’s presidency.

“I don’t mean to do this just so we can feel good,” said Edwards. “We need to do this because the fact is that when America doesn’t lead, there is no leader in the world. No one else can do it.”

I like that last paragraph because Edwards makes a point too easily forgotten by people like Bush (then again, maybe Bush thinks he's leading). The reality is that the United States has responsibilities as the most powerful country in the world; the way to exercise those responsibilities is rarely, reluctantly, with little or no military intervention when possible and only when there is true multilateral support for doing something that is in our national interest. I don't honestly know how practical it is to visit countries for a 100 days but if Edwards visits countries for only his first 30 days, he'll be doing more than Bush.

Here's more on the speech from Grace Wyler of The Dartmouth:
Standing in the center of an overflowing Alumni Hall Wednesday, 2008 presidential candidate John Edwards implored the Dartmouth community to take action against global poverty, climate change and other issues plaguing a world that has become "an extraordinarily dangerous and chaotic place."

In a town-hall style speech, the former senator from North Carolina stressed the need for the American people to reemerge as leaders in the global community by becoming the forerunners in the battles against global warming, disease and genocide.

"It is now clear to me that baby steps, incremental change is not enough," Edwards said. "We need serious transformational change on so many fronts. The character of America needs to be seen and heard. As the preeminent power of the planet we have an enormous responsibility to humanity. America must be a force for good on earth, and that means that we have to do more than talk."

What Edwards is saying is important but it's a tough sell for the American people and I would want to know more about what Edwards has in mind and what kind of foreign policy experts he's been consulting. But it's important for Americans to realize that our foreign policy is adrift and there is a dangerous vacuum of leadership in the world at the moment when it comes to negotiating important international agreements. Many issues simply are not being addressed as if many nations are waiting to see if there will be a change in America's direction within a couple of years (though a number of nations are already beginning to form new alliances that do not necessarily include the United States as a primary player). Issues like global warming (or climate change as many are now calling it), energy, disease and a host of other issues demand global leadership and it's not there these days. No matter who is elected in 2008, the next president must bring an end to unilateralism and start addressing a number of these issues.

UPDATE: I just saw John Edwards' speech at Dartmouth on C-Span. It was a much better, much more thoughtful speech than was reported in the press. He spoke without text or notes and zeroed in on a number of important issues. The point about visiting other countries in the first 100 days was reported in a way that wasn't entirely accurate (and is probably a function of reporters looking for a quotable line rather than taking the trouble to paraphrase accurately what Edwards was saying); in context, Edwards was simply saying that restoring American leadership in the world is vital and, if elected, he will be taking time in his first 100 days to visit other countries to do that; but he was explaining how on several issues that have lapsed under Bush, the United States needs to lead because there is no leadership that steps forward when the United States does not lead.

I've noticed elsewhere that some of the quotes taken from what Edwards says make him sound a little superficial but when you go back and read the full text of what he's saying (or listen to a video), the speech he gave was better than what was reported. The Dartmouth speech was a bit different; it was very thoughtful, even shrewdly observant at times, and he's clearly done his homework and he was very carefully trying to get the students to think about a number of issues. This is leadership.

I hope the Edwards campaign make a tape of the Dartmouth speech available to young people around the nation. We're in a critical era and no one is going to be more affected by decisions in the next five to ten years than those who are young. Whether Edwards wins the presidency or not, he's doing something important: he's telling people what they need to hear.

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The Unhappy Mr. Cheney

The Bush/Cheney war in Iraq has not gone well. And Cheney is a bit grumpy these days as his deceits and acts of incompetence are laid bare for everyone to see. But the fact remains that Dick Cheney and George W. Bush have still not been held accountable in any significant manner despite the results of the elections in November. There is much still to do.

If you read nothing else today, read New York Times columnist Frank Rich in Truthout; it's the kind of column The New York Times would not have published four years ago when it might have done a great deal more good:
... From the start, the capital has belittled the Joseph and Valerie Wilson affair as "a tempest in a teapot," as David Broder of The Washington Post reiterated just five months ago. When "all of the facts come out in this case, it's going to be laughable because the consequences are not that great," Bob Woodward said in 2005. Or, as Robert Novak suggested in 2003 before he revealed Ms. Wilson's identity as a C.I.A. officer in his column, "weapons of mass destruction or uranium from Niger" are "little elitist issues that don't bother most of the people." Those issues may not trouble Mr. Novak, but they do loom large to other people, especially those who sent their kids off to war over nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and nonexistent uranium.

Our troops have done the best job they can but it is never in the interest of the troops to send them into wars we do not need or to leave them in a war for political reasons, without an exit plan, to save the reputation of an incompetent administration. Iraq is now in a civil war. At the minimum, we need to stop pretending there is sufficient wisdom in the White House to figure out who to help in that war; we may need to keep troops nearby or on the borders to keep the war from spreading, but it's time to stop digging a hole and it's time to do the hard diplomatic work of arranging some kind of political solution. I'm not a pacificist but the people in Washington never bothered to understand who we're shooting at and why and what the consequences would be. This is not the kind of behavior one would expect from the leader of the free world. And it's unforgiveable that much of the media simply ignored the lies and incompetence for far too long.

One thing much of the media has never understood is that are many Cindy Sheehans out there trying to understand what happened to their loved ones; this is a strange war being run by a strange White House and while not everyone has the courage and strength of someone like Cindy Sheehan, there are many Americans who want answers, who need to understand why their loved ones were sent to a war based on lies. The last six years have been an historical embarrassment in our country; we need better people next time and they better be reasonably straight with the American people.

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Saturday, February 03, 2007

Democrats Debate Iraq While Republican Waffle

One of the sure signs of the demise of the Republican Party is the willingness of so many elected Republican officials in Washington to blindly follow the president; others who show a little independence, of course, are quick to submit to the bullying of the leadership if they wander too far from right wing groupthink. The last seven years have not been American democracy at its best. The question is whether Americans can turn our nation around and whether Democrats can lead the way to some serious reform.

Democrats are increasingly united on Bush's incompetence and recklessness when it comes to Iraq, though the media allow Republicans to push the phony meme about Democrats lacking a 'plan.' The reality is that Bush's decision to go to war without a plan is one reason Iraq is such a mess. Yes, Democrats are debating Iraq, something Republicans have refused to do for over four years, and although Democrats are largely debating timing and what mechanisms to put in place (and what veto-proof votes they might be able to get from Republicans given their razor thin majority in the Senate), they are united in finding a rational way to bring the war in Iraq to a close. It's a difficult problem given how deep a hole Bush has dug and how willing his Republican supporters are to continue rubber stamping his failures.

Tom Hamburger and Janet Hook of The Los Angeles Times write about the debates Democrats are having about Iraq:
Until recently, most Democratic presidential candidates, like the party generally, found success by bashing President Bush's Iraq strategy without offering comprehensive alternatives.

But this week, Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), in a departure from his own past statements, introduced legislation that would begin a phased redeployment of troops by April and require that all combat troops leave Iraq by March 2008.

Obama's announcement set him at odds with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.), who has declined to specify a date for the removal of all troops from Iraq. Last week, Clinton proposed placing a cap on the number of U.S. troops and threatening Iraq's government with a withdrawal of support.

Clinton's approach, in turn, drew a caustic attack this week from Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. (D-Del.) — a noteworthy development in a campaign that had been marked by collegiality. Biden said Clinton's proposed strategy for Iraq would "produce nothing but disaster."

The reporters offer a plausible story about what's going on but the truth is that the Democrats are mindful that the nation is united on Iraq: however it's done, it's time to start drawing down in Iraq and bring this dismal chapter in our nation's history to a close. What Americans do not want is more escalation and unending war. I hope that's not too difficult for the media to understand.