Saturday, March 31, 2007

Jesse Jackson Backs Barack Obama

The Barack Obama bandwagon keeps rolling and keeps creating a buzz wherever the senator from Illinois goes. Although not entirely aboard the Barack Obama campaign, Rev. Jesse Jackson plans on voting for Barack Obama; the Saint Petersburg Times carries the story from The Washington Post:
The Rev. Jesse Jackson says he is supporting Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., in his 2008 presidential bid, but Jackson is refraining from encouraging others to do the same.

"I will vote for him because he is from my state," Jackson, a civil rights leader who is influential in the African-American community, said in an interview Thursday. "He has the intelligence and the integrity and the strength of reasoning to make a tremendous impact. He has already inspired many people to get involved."

Obama and Sen. Hillary Rodman Clinton, D-N.Y., have been battling vigorously for the support of black voters. Jackson said he does not plan to join Obama's campaign yet.

For the record, Jesse Jackson's influence is not limited to the African-American community. Jackson is, after all, the founder of the Rainbow Coalition and has been active on a number of broad progressive issues for some years.

Barack Obama also visited Florida on Friday and was a hit; here's the story from S. V. Date of the Palm Beach Post:
Illinois Sen. and Democratic presidential hopeful Barack Obama brought his campaign to the state capital Friday, eliciting star-struck responses from lawmakers and ordinary residents alike.

"On behalf of the Capitol and behalf of the Democratic Caucus from both the House and the Senate, I want to welcome Sen. Obama and 'Starship Obama.' There's a lot of excitement here," said House Democratic Leader Dan Gelber, who along with other Democratic legislators met with Obama behind closed doors where he signed a table full of copies of his book.


"It's going to be a 50-state campaign. Oftentimes, over the last several years, there's been a tendency to just focus on one or two states," Obama said. "We also want to make sure that we're coming to states like Florida, not just to fund-raise, which has been the tradition, but also to provide community forums, access to ordinary folks, so that they get a chance to lift the hood and kick the tires."

He provided some brief access to those folks a short time later with a three-minute, impromptu speech to a crowd of 200 or so gathered outside the Challenger Learning Center, where several hundred supporters - including some Republican lobbyists - paid as much as $500 to listen to a speech in private.

I've noticed that Barack Obama has been giving a fair number of impromptu speeches outside various events where people show up hoping to catch a glimpse of him. He's clearly a political rock star and we'll know in a few months if he has what it takes to go all the way.

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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

More on Elizabeth Edwards

"Some say..." has become a cliche for journalists like Katie Couric who don't want to put questions directly in their own words. 60 Minutes is what it is and I wasn't particularly bothered by the screwy hardball questions. Certainly John and Elizabeth were not surprised by them. But I wish there had been more followup on their answers which were quite good and straightforward. The Huffington Post has a post by Melinda Henneberger on Elizabeth Edwards:
After you have cancer, people both do and do not want to know how you are. It isn't that they don't care, exactly. But often, it is hard for them to hear anything other than one word: Great! If you said the truer thing -- I hope I'm OK, but none of us really knows, do we? -- it would clear the room. That's how we are about death.

Which is why the single most important thing Elizabeth Edwards said on 60 Minutes the other night was "We're all going to die." And it's this unflinching acknowledgment of mortality that, paradoxically, makes her so fully available for swing-for-the-fences living.


... There is no daylight between the personal and the political for Elizabeth Edwards, which is what people mean when they rave, rightly, about how "real" she is. ...

It's what we respond to in her...


We'd amen anything she'd decided, of course, anything at all. But if that were me, we all agreed, we'd hope to be right where she is, saying, "Baby, don't you DARE drop out and put that on me."

She believes in her husband, with everything she's got. ...

This sounds about right. Elizabeth says onward! and onward it is.

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Monday, March 26, 2007

Tom Vilsack Endorses Hillary Clinton

I like Tom Vilsack. His speaking style is a bit dull but if you listen closely to what he's actually saying, he gets it. I'm to the left of him somewhat, but he's a principle moderate and we need more like him. I'm sorry he dropped out of the race.

Vilsack and his wife have had a friendship with the Clintons for some time so it's not surprising that Tom Vilsack is endorsing Hillary Clinton. Reuters has the story:
Former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who dropped his brief presidential bid last month, endorsed Democratic Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's candidacy for the White House on Monday.

"This is the person to be the next president of the United States," Vilsack said at a news conference with Clinton. "She is tried, she is tested and she is ready."

Vilsack said the endorsement was in part a result of the former first lady's fund-raising efforts on his behalf during his first campaign for governor in 1998.

"In politics, loyalty is a commodity that is rare," Vilsack said.

I appreciate what Vilsack is saying but given how dysfunctional loyalty in the Republican Party has become, I wish he had found a better way to talk about loyalty. There's also concern that Hillary Clinton can sometimes be more loyal to her campaign contributors than to her Democratic supporters. If Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, I will work for her and work hard but I hope she doesn't take people like me for granted.

Actually, my loyalty is reasonably easy to buy. All a candidate has to do is put the American people first, work hard for the average American, take on the growing new problems of the 21st century and take on the issues that have been ignored for the last twenty-five years. In defense of Bill Clinton, he was obstructed on some issues by an obstinate Republican Congress but he had his weak areas. Bill Clinton didn't push very hard on the environment or on a decent energy policy. And in his first term, foreign policy at times was not on the front burner. Hillary Clinton needs to give us some strong assurances that she'll do better than her husband did on some of these critical issues.

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Friday, March 23, 2007

The Remarkable Elizabeth Edwards

I wanted to write the title of this post before we found out that Elizabeth Edwards' cancer had returned. Now it's more true than ever.

Here's a story on Elizabeth Edwards by Lynn Duke and Lois Romano of The Washington Post:
Not once did the shadow of fear cross her face. Elizabeth Edwards stood before the nation, a graceful fighter steeled for personal tragedy again. The cancer is back and in her bones, a lung and possibly elsewhere. The news seemed worse than bad. Yet Edwards conveyed no hint of being hobbled by an incurable cancer. Self-pity was nowhere on the scene.

"Is this a hardship for us? Yes, it's yet another hurdle," she said. "But I've seen people who are in real desperate shape who don't, first of all, have the wonderful support that I have and have no place to turn."


In the hours before yesterday's noon news conference, there had been speculation that her husband might suspend some of his campaign activities. But friends says they are certain that his wife would have been dead-set against any change in his campaign.

The real question friends and political observers have is not whether she'll tough it out -- but whether he can stay connected and focused without her. Though Edwards said he expects his wife to be with him on the campaign trail when she can, he also added, "Any time any place that I need to be with Elizabeth, I will be there, period."

Friends say this turn of events, as distressing as it is, was handled in pure Elizabeth Edwards style: head on.

We need a president in 2008 who is who he says he is. Sometimes you can measure a candidate by the people who are around that candidate. John Edwards measures up. There are other good candidates so this is not an endorsement. Not yet. But I'm leaning, I'm leaning.....

Tomorrow, the Democratic candidates will be talking about healthcare. Now John Edwards has the money to take care of his wife's medical needs but he knows his roots and he knows that millions of Americans have concerns about whether they can afford to take care of their medical needs. Our country has the best medical research in the world but more and more Americans cannot afford the benefits of that research. As usual, Republicans, particularly right wing Republicans, do not have the answers. And bandaids are no longer going to fix our broken medical system. Whether it's John Edwards or one of the other Democratic candidates who might go all the way, we can hope that the time to reform healthcare has come and that Republicans and their wealthy campaign contributors will stop obstructing something a majority of Americans know needs to happen.

In the meantime, let's hope Elizabeth Edwards' cancer remains treatable and that she remains reasonably healthy and in the thick of things.

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Thursday, March 22, 2007

Elizabeth Edwards Has Cancer Recurrence

I caught the story late last night that the Edwards campaign had an announcement and that it probably concerned Elizabeth Edwards. Here's the story from ABC News:
Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., announced today that his wife's cancer has returned, but that his presidential campaign will go on.

Standing together at the Carolina Inn in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where they were married nearly 30 years ago, Edwards stood with his wife Elizabeth Edwards and announced at a news conference, "Her cancer is back."

"It's largely confined in bone, which is a good thing," he said.

Edwards said his wife's cancer isn't curable, though it could be managed with treatment. However, Edwards said "the campaign goes on, the campaign goes on strongly."

Let's hope Elizabeth Edwards' treatment goes well and that's she back in the thick of things. My wife and I wish her well. And our hearts go out to her and her family.

I suppose it's wise that the media and the Edwards campaign haven't said much about the relationship between John and Elizabeth but there's a love story here. Some unkind comments were made in 2004 about John and Elizabeth by Republican operatives; those operatives were unwilling to acknowledge a strong marriage and bond between the two. Not all men stand by their women when they're diagnosed with cancer (Newt Gingrich comes to mind) but John did. I've been watching Elizabeth Edwards because she truly is a strong part of the team. She wants John Edwards to go all the way, not because of ambition but because she believes in him. And she stands by John. There's a lot of strength and courage in those two.

Like I said, there's a love story here.

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Wednesday, March 21, 2007

What Is Bush Hiding This Time?

If the firing of the eight U.S. Attorneys was straightforward and a nonstory as some administration figures and their defenders suggests, then why hasn't there been a straightforward and satisfactory explanation for what happened? Now one of the U.S. Attorneys that was fired was Carol Lam. Supposedly she wasn't aggressive enough on dealing with illegal immigration. One of the people who decided she wasn't doing enough about illegal immigration was none other than Duke Cunningham, the Congressman caught in a series of bribes and prosecuted by Carol Lam. I suppose even crooks have their priorities. Readers should keep in mind that Duke Cunningham was caught by reporters working for the San Diego Union-Tribune, a Republican newspaper if there ever was one but one still holding up a strong respect for the law.

Steve Soto of The Left Coaster repeats a simple observation that many critics of Bush's rope a dope on the U.S. Attorneys have observed:
The “executive privilege” defense already unravels: why assert a privilege for an executive you claim had nothing to do with the decision?

One suspects that George W. Bush and Karl Rove didn't plan on having a defense for the firings because they didn't believe anyone would particularly notice. Now once again the Bush Administration is issuing a series of statements that don't stand up to close examination for more than a few hours and so more statements are issued. I believe in some circles we would find statements of low credibility to be nothing other than lies. In six years, many statements of low credibility keep coming out of the White House. Admittedly, as columnist Cynthia Tucker asserted earlier this month when writing about Scooter Libby and Iraq, it's not always easy to know which Bush Administration statements are lies and which are delusions:
Not a week goes by without a Bush administration spokesperson uttering a sentence or two that stretch credibility to the breaking point. Clearly, though, the most outrageous fabrications and most scurrilous falsehoods of the past six years were told in defense of the decision to invade Iraq.


The Bush team knew they could never have sold American voters on an invasion of Iraq just because Saddam had illicit weapons. So they decided to distort, dissemble and lie. The fabrications used to justify the invasion were those linking Iraq to al-Qaida, those claiming Saddam had unmanned drones that could be used to attack American cities, those declaring that Saddam was "actively and aggressively seeking to acquire nuclear weapons," as Vice President Dick Cheney put it.

Perhaps that's unfair to the vice president. Cheney lies so regularly and spectacularly that he probably is delusional rather than dishonest.


Among a dwindling group of voters, Bush is still revered as an upright and moral man, still credited with having the values and virtues that any decent person should respect. But morality encompasses more than sexual fidelity, more than sobriety after years of reckless drinking. It also encompasses honor, integrity and candor -- especially in an enterprise such as war.

Bush took the nation to war on a web of lies...

Yes, the word 'lie' is increasingly used in the description of White House behavior. It's unavoidable and a sign of how little credibility Bush and his advisers have these days. No one should expect Bush to clear the air on the firing of U.S. Attorneys anytime soon.

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Sunday, March 18, 2007

Cheney Must Be Happy: Halliburton Up $43

Bush and Cheney's war in Iraq is a disaster that has done very little, if anything, for the United States. Back when the war started in 2003, I was posting on the AOL message boards and was treated like a traitor for pointing out any number of obvious contradictions. I was actually slow to oppose the war and was bothered by a number of people I respected who supported the war, but by February of 2003, I was against it. I despised any number of outright lies that were becoming increasingly obvious and being bandied about to justify the war and, at the same time, I was particularly bothered by how Afghanistan wasn't going as well as it should have been, partly because of the administration's obsession with Iraq but mainly because the administration didn't seem to take its job very seriously. Osama bin Laden was based in Afghanistan. That's where al Qaida was. I found it disturbing that the Bush administration didn't seem concerned about finishing the job in Afghanistan.

The issue of Iraq has now taken on a larger context and we now recognize that Bush's war was a strategic failure based on a poor understanding of foreign policy and the world. Yes, there was incompetence but the larger failure was the conception of grandiose scheme to remake the Middle East in ways that contradict who we are as a nation and in ways that have little to do with democracy. Bush's policy was riddled with hubris and ideology and nonsense.

In Truthout, Frank Rich of The New York Times can be found once again giving his perspective, this time four years after the start of Bush's folly in Iraq:
Tomorrow night is the fourth anniversary of President Bush's prime-time address declaring the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In the broad sweep of history, four years is a nanosecond, but in America, where memories are congenitally short, it's an eternity. That's why a revisionist history of the White House's rush to war, much of it written by its initial cheerleaders, has already taken hold. In this exonerating fictionalization of the story, nearly every politician and pundit in Washington was duped by the same "bad intelligence" before the war, and few imagined that the administration would so botch the invasion's aftermath or that the occupation would go on so long. "If only I had known then what I know now ..." has been the persistent refrain of the war supporters who subsequently disowned the fiasco. But the embarrassing reality is that much of the damning truth about the administration's case for war and its hubristic expectations for a cakewalk were publicly available before the war, hiding in plain sight, to be seen by anyone who wanted to look.


In one of its editorials strongly endorsing the war, The Wall Street Journal writes, "There is plenty of evidence that Iraq has harbored Al Qaeda members."

[In a Feb. 12, 2007, editorial defending the White House's use of prewar intelligence, The Journal wrote, "Any links between Al Qaeda and Iraq is a separate issue that was barely mentioned in the run-up to war."]


President Bush declares war from the Oval Office in a national address: "Our nation enters this conflict reluctantly, yet our purpose is sure."

Price of a share of Halliburton stock: $20.50

[Value of that Halliburton share on March 16, 2007, adjusted for a split in 2006: $64.12.]

That last one is my favorite, though Mr. Rich offers many other examples. No bid contracts indeed!

Too many Republicans in Congress, the White House and the media lie to our faces and then deny that they're lying to our faces. Our country, at minimum, needs a two-party system, but it's time to send the Republicans home until they start offering people with more integrity. Integrity or not, even the rubber stampers should be sent home for turning a blind eye to the most corrupt era in anyone's memory.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

'Vast Right Wing Conspiracy' Is Back

One moment Hillary Clinton is brilliant and the next moment she brings back a cliche from the 1990s. I never liked it when she coined the phrase, 'vast right wing conspiracy.' I knew what she meant but I thought, at the time, that it made her look petty when a more thoughtful explanation would have served her better. Here's the AP story in The Guardian:
Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton on Tuesday described past Republican political malfeasance in New Hampshire as evidence of a ``vast, right-wing conspiracy.''

Clinton's barbed comments revived a term she coined for the partisan plotting during her husband's presidential tenure and echoed remarks she made last weekend in New Hampshire, which holds the nation's first primary.


Clinton asserted on Tuesday that the conspiracy is alive and well, and cited as proof the Election Day 2002 case of phone jamming in New Hampshire, a case in which two Republican operatives pleaded guilty to criminal charges, and a third was convicted.

Like I said, I didn't like the phrase the first time around and I don't think much of it now. For one thing, it makes it sound like someone or a small group is in charge of such a conspiracy. In reality, there have been multiple scandals in the last six years, some in the White House, some in the Senate, some among Republican fundraisers, and some in the House of Representatives. I know, I know, it seems every time we hear of one of these scandals, there's two or three characters in the scandal with a close connection to somebody like Karl Rove. But Hillary's phrase feels like one of those phrases tested on a focus group rather than worked through until its owned by the speaker.

The corruption in the Republican Party has been going on for some time now and it's gotten increasingly worse since the 1980s. One can argue that the Reagan presidency never fully addressed the issue, at least not in a way that was in the best interests of the public. The senior Bush called for more honest government and he gave pardons to members of the Reagan administration and changed any number of rules, legally, to make it easier for Republicans to pull nonsense. Newt Gingrich and George W. Bush simply threw out the rules and Kenneth Starr went off on a $70 million fishing expedition with the clear help of right wing friends in the media. But its not one vast conspiracy.

Certainly, Republicans in leadership positions have engaged in some conspiracies, Duke Cunningham and Tom DeLay being the two best examples. But there have been multiple 'conspiracies' on the part of the big players in the Republican Party, if that's how one wants to look at it. Too many Republican leaders talk about values while looking for big money and what it is they have to do to get that money. That's a party that simply has lost its moral compass. Newt Gingrich compounded the problem by actively recruiting political candidates who 'share' his values. But the overwhelming majority of Republican rank and file are generally hardworking and honest people who frankly have not been looking very critically at the leaders of their own party and sometimes don't really want to take a look. I can understand when people want to fight for their 'heroes' but there aren't too many heroes in the Republican Party these days worth fighting for.

Now Hillary Clinton isn't too far from the truth. I'll give her that, but she needs to keep it real.

Although Republicans in power have become corrupt or prefer too often to look the other way, I think we're talking, to some extent, about a generational problem. To be honest, there are sometimes similar problems in the Democratic Party, particularly when it comes to big money donors. I would prefer Hillary Clinton to explain how she herself would be listening to average Americans rather than big money. We all know that a politician at the national level needs money and that's a fact of life but the fact that Hillary Clinton is fighting with Barack Obama for big money donors is not necessarily a good sign, even if both candidates are considerably cleaner than much of the Republican leadership these days.

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Saturday, March 10, 2007

Remembering the Strengths of John Edwards

All the top Democratic candidates have definite strengths to bring to the job of being president. Adam C. Smith apparently is doing a series of article listing the strengths of the various candidates; alas, he's also doing Republicans as well. Fair enough. But Smith has a good list of some of Edwards strengths in the St. Petersburg Times:
- Edwards has been the only candidate to move beyond broad rhetoric to propose a sweeping plan requiring everyone in the country to have health insurance by 2012. So far, he is setting the pace for laying out a specific and ambitious agenda and casting himself as the candidate for "transformational change."

- Having unambiguously declared he was wrong voting to authorize invading Iraq, Edwards has staked out a sharper antiwar stance than Clinton or Obama.

- Along with creating the most sophisticated Internet operation of any campaign, Edwards spent the last two years building formidable grass-roots organizations in key early election states like Iowa.

- He has aggressively courted labor organizations, from rallying alongside janitors at the University of Miami to speaking across the country to assorted locals. His campaign manager, former Michigan Rep. David Bonior, has deep ties to labor.

- Edwards, 53, maintains the sunny charisma from his 2004 campaign, but he is no longer the same scripted sound-bite politician. At a time when voters supposedly crave authenticity, the new Edwards is blunt, relaxed and even prone to admit occasionally, "I don't know."

John Edwards has other strengths that ought to be mentioned. One of those strengths is that he knows Washington is broken and that bandaids are no longer enough to fix the systemic problems that have been accumulating for a generation. Edwards is open to ideas but it's time to stop pretending that today's Republican Party has the answers; actually, the leadership of the Republican Party is now part of the problem. Maybe I'll try my hand soon at listing some of the strengths of the candidates.

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Quote of the Day: About Cheney Of Course

Given how disastrous the Bush presidency has truly become, it's important to keep our sense of humor. The Lady Speaks offers this:

Has anyone ever so embodied the T-shirt phrase, “God doesn’t want me, and the devil’s afraid I’ll take over.” as much as Dick Cheney?

I mean, just how many close calls is this guy gonna get? ...

I don't know how the movies are ever going to play Dick Cheney and George W. in the years to come. Can movies do a straight drama about a president and vice president who insist on being caricatures of themselves?


Thursday, March 08, 2007

Edwards Says We Need to Restore Our Credibility

In years past, there was much that Ronald Reagan and the senior Bush did that I did not agree with, but both presidents had considerably more credibility than the current occupant of the White House. Around the world, our credibility, and therefore our ability to get things done, has been badly damaged by Bush and Cheney. John Edwards understands this and has talked about the issue several times now. Here's an AP story on a recent visit to San Antonio by Edwards:
Democrat John Edwards said Wednesday he's not worried about all the attention Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama are getting more than a year and half out from the 2008 presidential elections.

In San Antonio for a private fundraiser, Edwards told reporters after a campaign rally that "I feel a long way from left out. I think it'll be clear that I'll get all the attention I need."


The former senator also said America must regain its credibility and "deal with what is the bleeding sore of Iraq."


Also Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Charlie Gonzalez, D-San Antonio, issued a letter endorsing Edwards for the Democratic nomination.

I'm convinced that the early poll numbers for the 2008 race don't mean much. Only a few months ago, McCain seeemed to be the clear front-runner among Republicans and now his numbers have fallen off. One of the clues that the race for 2008 is still in its early stages is that Rudy Giuliani is taken seriously as presidential material.

I'll write more about Giuliani later on but, getting back to Edwards, he's actually well-positioned to make his move when we start getting closer to the primaries and people start getting serious about where our country needs to go in the next few years. Obviously, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are fine candidates but I find it interesting that it's Edwards most Republican right wingers are attacking.

When I look for news stories for all the Democratic candidates, there's always nonsensical stories that pop up that have been written by Republicans trying hard to smear Democratic candidates in the early going. But the attacks on John Edwards, particularly the one recently by right wing hit artist Ann Coulter, are ridiculously over the top.

Rush Limbaugh has several hits on Edwards lately that suggest Limbaugh has some sort of fixation on Edwards. I'm amazed, at this late date, that Limbaugh still has any credibility given how wrong he has been on a number of issues in recent years, including his often blind support for Bush's judgment, but there he is when you try to find information on the Democrats.

Even if we take into consideration Limbaugh's poor judgment, what's consistent about right wingers is that the more they fear something, they more they attack. Limbaugh clearly fears John Edwards but I think it's more than that. If a Republican wins, Rush Limbaugh could still consider himself relevant though that's not quite as true as it was ten years ago when Limbaugh had a considerably bigger audience. If a Democrat wins, however, Limbaugh would lose his small stake in the Republican Party's right wing era of dominance. The radical revolution would be over for sure. Edwards may be the Democrat that Limbaugh feels could render him impotent and irrelevant.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Republican Chuck Hagel Getting Attention

With one exception, none of the Republican candidates for president are the kind of men capable of repairing the damage that George W. Bush has done to our nation and particularly our foreign policy. McCain is increasingly out of touch, clueless and compromised. Giuliani is a public relations illusion whose flaws are considerable and largely kept out of the public eye for the moment. Newt Gingrich wants to start World War III. The rest of the field are lightweights, though one or two of the lesser knowns would be better than George W. Bush (but is that saying much?). The one exception, the only potential Republican candidate that worries me, is Senator Chuck Hagel. Why? Because he's qualified to be president and would be the only Republican candidate that would give the Democrats a serious challenge. He's also capable of steering the Republican Party away from its lunatic fringe back to a more authentic conservativism.

Steve Clemons of The Washington Note has an article from the Weekly Guardian about Hagel; here's a couple of excerpts but give it a read:
Anti-War Veteran May Rally the Republicans

by Ewen MacAskill, Washington Bureau Chief, The Guardian

Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator from Nebraska, is one of the few senior figures in either Congress or the Bush administration to have been in combat. While many of them deferred their service, like the chief hawk, Vice-President Dick Cheney, or did a short spell on home soil in the National Guard, like George Bush, Hagel spent time in the mud of Vietnam as an infantry sergeant.

That experience explains why he is one of the leading opponents in Bush's own party of the Iraq war. When the president announced his decision in January to increase the number of US troops in Iraq by 21,500, Hagel's comment was one of the most widely quoted in the media. He called the troop surge "the most dangerous foreign policy blunder in this country since Vietnam."


Hagel's anti-war views are not confined to Iraq. During the Israeli war against Hizbullah in Lebanon last year, he urged Bush to call an immediate ceasefire, something not only the president but Tony Blair refused to do.

He also calls for the closure of the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, where more than 300 people from Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and elsewhere in the Muslim world have been detained without trial. He sees this as damaging America's reputation as a champion of human rights.

While Bush refuses to open dialogue with Iran, sent an extra aircraft carrier group to the Gulf and insists that all options remain on the table, including a military strike, Hagel spoke passionately at Nora's in favour of negotiating with Tehran. His opposition to escalation of the Iraq war and avoidance of one in Iran can be traced to his still strong memory of Vietnam, from which he returned in 1968 with shrapnel in his chest and two Purple Hearts. Like the former secretary of state, Colin Powell, another Vietnam vet and one of the few members of the administration who cautioned against the Iraq invasion, Hagel has seen at first hand what happens in war.

I suspect Chuck Hagel will enter the presidential race but I have doubts that the Republican Party, as it now exists, will be smart enough to make Chuck Hagel their nominee for president. For the moment, the right wingers are full of their own hubris and are likely to destroy the Republican Party by making all kinds of demands that most Americans oppose. I doubt the right wingers will go for Senator Hagel and they seem to control their party at the moment; and ordinary Republican conservatives seem unwilling to take back their party (or to turn off Fox News, for that matter). But Hagel will make the race considerably more interesting and he may very well surprise us.

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Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama Speak in Selma, Alabama

Senator Obama and Senator Clinton gave good speeches in Selma, Alabama over the weekend. From what I hear, Barack Obama had the stronger reception but the truth is that both Democratic presidential candidates were well received. Here's the story from Richard Fausset and Jennie Jarvie of the Los Angeles Times:
Presidential candidate Barack Obama staked his claim to the African American experience Sunday, despite a personal background far from the bloodshed that was typified in this Deep South city during the struggle for civil rights.

Yes, the senator said, his grandfather was a Kenyan, but a racist system similar to America's limited him to work as a cook for whites. Yes, Obama said, his mother was a white woman from Kansas. But she learned colorblindness from the likes of Selma's 1965 freedom marchers, marrying the son of that cook in Hawaii.

All of that, Obama said, made him "the offspring of the movement" — and it made his first visit to Selma a sort of homecoming.

"Don't tell me I'm not coming home when I come to Selma, Alabama," the Illinois Democrat said.


Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, the Democratic front-runner, was also here to celebrate the anniversary of the Edmund Pettus Bridge crossing, in which black protesters were beaten by white state troopers on March 7, 1965.

Clinton brought her husband, the former president, a beloved figure among many black voters who was inducted into the hall of fame of the National Voting Rights Museum. She too claimed to be a beneficiary of the civil rights era — because it eventually led to advances for women.

Despite some serious questions I've raised about the Clintons and the Iraq war, I continue to think well of them. It's clear Hillary Clinton is still trying to figure out how to incorporate Bill Clinton in her campaign—in fact, that may become her biggest challenge. Given Wesley Clark's assertion that the Bush administration had considerable ambitions in 2002 in terms of taking on more than just Iraq, I continue to have questions about how much Bill Clinton knew about these things. What kind of discussions did he have, for example, with Tony Blair? And what kind of discussions with Hillary? I hope Senator Clinton doesn't think she can avoid some of the questions around her vote and around Bill Clinton connection to the Iraq policy by simply piling up enough money to simply overwhelm her Democratic competition. The Republicans will not be so easy with her if she wins the nomination.

I continue to like Barack Obama but I admit to worrying about how much is there beyond his rhetorical brilliance. He would be a good president but our nation is in trouble and we need the best president we can get. Let's hope if the senator from Illinois is still hot a year from now and is winning the nomination that he is what we hope he is.

I'm still puzzled by how Barack Obama is covered. There are people who seem to accuse Senator Obama of not really experiencing what it's like to be black since his father was African and he was raised in Hawaii, far from Alabama. But that's ridiculous too. Those who are black Americans share the same experience in school, jobs and elsewhere. Barack Obama also worked for a number of years in community organizing on the south side of Chicago; that's a powerful experience in itself.

I guess Republicans are finally beginning to worry about Obama though. They have recently pointed out that Barack Obama's family on his mother's side (who's white) were slaveholders way back when. Actually, since most African Americans have some white blood in their background, it's very common to have ancestors who owned slaves, if you go back far enough. I suspect most Americans, including whites, who can trace their family tree to those who were here in the United States before 1800 would find relatives on the family tree who were slaveholders. That happens to be true of one side of my own family.

Slavery was the one big issue our founding fathers wrangled with and could not solve when they wrote the US Constitution but it should be noted that they ended the trade and that many men of the constitutional convention would have preferred to end slavery. We forget too easily how far we have come and how much work there is to do. When conservative or right wing Republicans play games with the history of the law, people should remember that, in fact, we inherited the laws of kings and cavaliers in 1776, and not the laws of free men (and later, women). Despite the serious problem of not dealing fully with slavery, the US Constitution and the Bill of Rights moved clearly in the direction of real freedom. Now Republican movers and shakers talk about being free and etc. but when you scrutinize what they're doing, their objective is to protect the status of the wealthy and the privileged. It's 2007, and we are still creating the laws of a free nation and we still have a ways to go.

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Saturday, March 03, 2007

Wesley Clark Still Thinking about Running

One thing I like about Wesley Clark is that you often get straight answers from him. Certainly more straight answers than we hear from other politicians such as Bush and Cheney.

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now had an interview with Wesley Clark the other day; here's a couple of excerpts:

    AMY GOODMAN: Will you announce for president?

    GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, I haven’t said I won’t.

    AMY GOODMAN: What are you waiting for?

    GEN. WESLEY CLARK: I’m waiting for several different preconditions, which I’m not at liberty to discuss. But I will tell you this: I think about it every single day.


AMY GOODMAN: Now, let’s talk about Iran. You have a whole website devoted to stopping war.


AMY GOODMAN: Do you see a replay in what happened in the lead-up to the war with Iraq -- the allegations of the weapons of mass destruction, the media leaping onto the bandwagon?

GEN. WESLEY CLARK: Well, in a way. But, you know, history doesn’t repeat itself exactly twice. What I did warn about when I testified in front of Congress in 2002, I said if you want to worry about a state, it shouldn’t be Iraq, it should be Iran. But this government, our administration, wanted to worry about Iraq, not Iran.

I knew why, because I had been through the Pentagon right after 9/11. About ten days after 9/11, I went through the Pentagon and I saw Secretary Rumsfeld and Deputy Secretary Wolfowitz. I went downstairs just to say hello to some of the people on the Joint Staff who used to work for me, and one of the generals called me in. He said, “Sir, you’ve got to come in and talk to me a second.” I said, “Well, you’re too busy.” He said, “No, no.” He says, “We’ve made the decision we’re going to war with Iraq.” This was on or about the 20th of September. I said, “We’re going to war with Iraq? Why?” He said, “I don’t know.” ... ... He said, “I guess it’s like we don’t know what to do about terrorists, but we’ve got a good military and we can take down governments.” And he said, “I guess if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem has to look like a nail.”

So I came back to see him a few weeks later, and by that time we were bombing in Afghanistan. I said, “Are we still going to war with Iraq?” And he said, “Oh, it’s worse than that.” He reached over on his desk. He picked up a piece of paper. And he said, “I just got this down from upstairs” -- meaning the Secretary of Defense’s office -- “today.” And he said, “This is a memo that describes how we’re going to take out seven countries in five years, starting with Iraq, and then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Somalia, Sudan and, finishing off, Iran.” I said, “Is it classified?” He said, “Yes, sir.” I said, “Well, don’t show it to me.” And I saw him a year or so ago, and I said, “You remember that?” He said, “Sir, I didn’t show you that memo! I didn’t show it to you!”

It's a long interview but well worth reading. Any time General Clark is involved in a long interview or debate, you learn things you don't necessarily learn elsewhere. I hope Wesley Clark jumps all the way into the race but he's very much a straight shooter and I suspect his opponents and the media will use that against him and that would be a shame for America's future.

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Friday, March 02, 2007

Poverty Increasing in America

Statistics show that poverty is increasing in America. Given predatory credit cards, pay day cash sharks (including some just outside military bases), variable loans that can result in losing a home, a volatile job market where good pay is often followed by much lower pay, it's getting easier for Americans to get in trouble these days and trouble doesn't necessarily mean poverty but it can mean serious problems, difficulty and worry. We're keep hearing about record corporate profits but most Americans have to wonder where those profits are going.

Statistics are funny; we know they don't always tell the full picture. In California, rents are high and take a significant portion of income. But there are homeowners who can barely make ends meet who share their homes with others. I met a woman in her 60s a few years ago crippled with arthritis and heart trouble who had three adult sons, one with a wife, living at home along with a grandson by her daughter (who lived elsewhere and had lost custody of the boy); the small house had only two bedrooms, though the married son and his wife lived more or less in the small converted garage and the grandson slept in the living room. It was not an easy living arrangement for anyone. There are many stories out there and they don't always get told.

Tony Pugh of the McClatchy Washington Bureau has a long article on the increased number of Americans in severe poverty:
The percentage of poor Americans who are living in severe poverty has reached a 32-year high, millions of working Americans are falling closer to the poverty line and the gulf between the nation's "haves" and "have-nots" continues to widen.

A McClatchy Newspapers analysis of 2005 census figures, the latest available, found that nearly 16 million Americans are living in deep or severe poverty. A family of four with two children and an annual income of less than $9,903 - half the federal poverty line - was considered severely poor in 2005. So were individuals who made less than $5,080 a year.


The plight of the severely poor is a distressing sidebar to an unusual economic expansion. Worker productivity has increased dramatically since the brief recession of 2001, but wages and job growth have lagged behind. At the same time, the share of national income going to corporate profits has dwarfed the amount going to wages and salaries. That helps explain why the median household income of working-age families, adjusted for inflation, has fallen for five straight years.


As more poor Americans sink into severe poverty, more individuals and families living within $8,000 above or below the poverty line also have seen their incomes decline. Steven Woolf of Virginia Commonwealth University attributes this to what he calls a "sinkhole effect" on income.

"Just as a sinkhole causes everything above it to collapse downward, families and individuals in the middle and upper classes appear to be migrating to lower-income tiers that bring them closer to the poverty threshold," Woolf wrote in the study.


One in three Americans will experience a full year of extreme poverty at some point in his or her adult life, according to long-term research by Mark Rank, a professor of social welfare at the Washington University in St. Louis.

An estimated 58 percent of Americans between the ages of 20 and 75 will spend at least a year in poverty, Rank said. Two of three will use a public assistance program between ages 20 and 65, and 40 percent will do so for five years or more.

These estimates apply only to non-immigrants. If illegal immigrants were factored in, the numbers would be worse, Rank said.

"It would appear that for most Americans the question is no longer if, but rather when, they will experience poverty. ...

The article includes stories about two people in poverty. Multiply that by millions and none of us can take it in. It's a disturbing article. For my money, it shows the failure of Republicanism over the last 26 years and the failure of American business for over thirty years to honor its long-standing agreement with American workers. If something isn't done, it's going to get worse.

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