Friday, February 29, 2008

Quick Draw

Who's the fastest gun in Texas?

Back when Karl Rove beat John Kerry, I watched the Newsweek reporters who had covered the campaigns from the inside tell Charlie Rose that the Bush team had the markedly fastest response to any given situation or turn than the Democrat, and that in their experience the campaign that responds the fastest always wins.

This morning the Hillary Clinton campaign released a Giuliani-style fear-mongering ad designed to convince voters that she is somehow the superior choice to Barack Obama for handling a late-night national security call:

Did that do it for you?

Funnily enough, as livingproof says:
By the way, did anyone else notice that the phone in the ad rings 6 fucking times? Vote for me, I'll wait till I finish writing this chapter of my memoirs before I pick up the red phone at 3 am.
And if responsiveness is an issue, why can't her closest employees give a simple example of when she's handled a foreign crisis in any amount of time:

But do you know who was prepared? Do you know who responded, in miniature, to a sudden and terroristic campaign threat:

Um, as we say in the videogame world, he just pwned her.

He was ready today in live appearance as well:

Guess he not only owns the words "change" and "hope," but he just proved his ownership of "judgment" in this election cycle as well.

As for Clinton, who's tried to steal the change mantle, turned "Yes We Can" into "Yes She Can," who even took the cue for her Iraq War Authorization vote from George Bush, it turns out her backfiring ad wasn't even original to her either:

Barack Obama.
Ready on Day One.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Not Crooks

This time the Cheney-Bush crime gang is dummying up your U.S. Department of Agriculture:
The Agriculture Department abruptly ordered congressional auditors to leave its headquarters and told its employees not to cooperate with them...

...The auditors were seeking information for an ongoing audit on Agriculture's office of civil rights and its handling of discrimination complaints. Specifically, they were investigating allegations that the department had previously provided false information for the audit...

...The auditors refused to allow USDA lawyers to be present for the interviews, and after allowing one employee to talk, department officials stopped the interviews and told the investigators to leave the building, Kelly said.

"We are not interested in having our employees potentially put themselves at risk when they have not yet been advised of their rights and when we were not allowed to provide counsel," Kelly said. "We also pointed out to them that while they hold themselves out to be criminal investigators, GAO is an arm of Congress and has no authority to investigate violations of criminal law."

Criminal? Cheney-Bush appointees? could that be possible?

"We don't have anything to hide," Kelly said.

Of course you don't.


Tuesday, February 26, 2008


They always said to watch out, that Obama is a brilliant closer. And in business as well as government, if you're on a good strategy, it's the only thing that really matters.

She had her moments, but he was just brilliant tonight. I can't predict the final vote but certainly hope it goes his way if for only one reason: I want to be in a civic dialogue with President Barack Obama for the next four to eight years. I want to hear his voice coming out of rooms with TVs, computers, car radios. I don't want to hear Hillary Clinton as often, although per his brilliant closing tonight, she deserves her high position in the public discourse. Maybe even (especially if she were to separate from Bill) Vice President.

She so knowledgeable, she's so good on so many issues, but Obama has beaten her in the topmost leadership issue: strategy. He's just brilliant (that word again) on strategy, like a smart smart war gamer, so sober even with his far-reaching mind. It's a word he keeps returning to. It's the secret word, waiting there right behind change and hope, giving them substance. And it all wouldn't matter if he hadn't delivered a strategically successful campaign.

But not only has his campaign had a solid strategy and strong execution, it was a Herculean task to start and, when you think back to maybe July 2007, even ridiculous, impossible. But not only is that success itself, thus far, proof of his strategic soundness. He's succeeding with 20 and 30 point margins, an 11-state streak since eking out his win on Super Tuesday, he's got one million people giving his campaign our money to manage as he sees fit -- it's a wild success.

There's another interesting post (besides the one linked to above) on Kos, "Hillary's Retrograde Problem":

Ask yourself this question: When was the last time America replaced a presidency by choosing a President or Vice President from the preceding administration?


Richard Nixon in 1968 (previously VP to Eisenhower, elected after 8 years of Kennedy/Johnson)

Grover Cleveland, non-consecutive terms in 1884 and 1892

(I'm not counting John Quincy Adams)

Our elections have had a tendency to move forward with new faces rather than reach back to a past administration, even a successful one. Where an administration has been particularly unpopular, the urge to move in an entirely new direction is even more keenly felt. Hillary may have had no real chance in this election from the beginning. Not because of her policies, but because she has been flying into the wind without realizing it.

And we all know how well the Nixon Presidency went.

Monday, February 25, 2008

1 Week

Here's how Obama is doing in Texas:
The new Survey USA Texas poll everyone was anticipating today shows Barack Obama moving into the lead:
704 LVs, MoE 3.8, (2/18 results in parenthesis)
Obama: 49% (45%)
Clinton: 45% (50%)

Here's the landscape in Ohio:
"Buoyed by a big shift among college-educated voters," Sen. Barack Obama is gaining on Sen. Hillary Clinton, who now leads 51% to 40% among Ohio likely Democratic primary voters, according to a new Quinnipiac poll.


CBS News/NYT national poll:

Jan 13: Clinton 42%, Obama 27%
Feb 3: Clinton 41%, Obama 41%
Feb 25: Obama 54%, Clinton 38%

Seven days to tell the tale.


It's the two year anniversary of the start of Nettertainment, not to the day but to the event. Thanks to several friends I called moments after Crash was announced as the Oscar winner for Best Picture, an award I've gone on to describe as "Most Picture", I was compelled to write my very first post, "Crash?"

Since then I've posted every day and hopefully the writing has gotten better for it. But I have to say Nettertainment hit something of a milestone today, with a record 10 comments on last night's post.

There are only two ways I feel I can justify the time it takes to research and write every night. One is just for the release, so I don't have to keep my opinions trapped inside or inflicted on different friends over the course of a day. The other is to join the public discussion, hopefully in a responsible way, hopefully not shackled to a reverential way.

Maybe it's the time in my life, but I think it's really what's happening in the public sphere. That sphere has expanded with the opening up of the Internet, to where my voice is but one in a zillion. At the heart of this expansion, not necessarily limited to the political blogs and comments, is our innate civic-mindedness. And the fuel these past eight years has been an arguably stolen Presidential election and the hell-on-earth Administration that has made its bitter mark on our world since then.

So your comments are manna for Nettertainment. I believe the responsible public discussion of our public affairs is crucial to our future as a nation, society and planet. This blog is just one corner of the agora in ancient Athens, one broadsheet during the American Revolution, and I thank you, valued reader, for taking a look and for those of you who find yourselves compelled to participate.

Oh, and here's another reason why, even if I'm not a Hillary hater, I do hold her campaign in contempt:

“Now I could stand up here and say, let’s get everybody together, let’s get unified, the sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing,” she said, reportedly drawing giggles. “And everyone will know we should do the right thing, and the world will be perfect.

“But I have no illusions about how hard this is going to be. You are not going to wave a magic wand and make the special interests disappear.”

No, Hillary, you're fine with special interests. How would I infer that your anti-special interests position were anything more than rhetoric, if your Chief Strategist, Mark Penn, has lobbying subsidiary run by the man who is also John McCain's top advisor?

Any wonder why she and McCain seem to have been tag-teaming the same messages against Barack Obama since Super Tuesday?

Any wonder Obama continues to look more and more impressive, as he takes on enemies attacking from all sides?

Saturday, February 23, 2008


I've been wondering whether I have it wrong, whether the Clinton campaign will somehow swing back with new life, reverse the momentum, and forge a brand new comeback kid on the wings of her debate-closing graciousness this past Thursday.

Then I saw Hillary today:

Does she really think a performance like this, with Ohio Gov. Strickland looking stricken behind her, kind of a poor man's version of John McCain's ancient stage partners, makes he somehow look more electable than this gentleman (in his rebuttal):

Talk about measured. And, of course, Presidential.

My thought is that this is her Howard Dean Scream, her coffin nail moment. I'm guessing that the mention of John Edwards is more than tangential, that she's reading the writing on the wall (with Obama's campaign manager sneaking into North Carolina last week) and is attempting a Hail Mary pass by smearing Obama on universal health coverage.

But what I'm wondering now is how far gone Sen. Hillary Clinton's campaign really is, as in much farther than any of us realize. With the news this week that he's creeping up on her in the Texas and even Ohio polls, and even more telling that Obama's starting to win over those "super delegates" that her team somehow thinks they eke advantage on by suddenly calling them "automatic delegates" -- he gained 25 these past two week while she lost 2.

Frank Rich is particularly apt -- and merciless -- this week:
WHEN people one day look back at the remarkable implosion of the Hillary Clinton campaign, they may notice that it both began and ended in the long dark shadow of Iraq.

It’s not just that her candidacy’s central premise — the priceless value of “experience” — was fatally poisoned from the start by her still ill-explained vote to authorize the fiasco. Senator Clinton then compounded that 2002 misjudgment by pursuing a 2008 campaign strategy that uncannily mimicked the disastrous Bush Iraq war plan. After promising a cakewalk to the nomination — “It will be me,” Mrs. Clinton told Katie Couric in November — she was routed by an insurgency.
It's all devastating, going over a lot of the errors covered in Nettertainment recently, comparing her further to Bush in terms of loyalty over competence, most damning:
This is the candidate who keeps telling us she’s so competent that she’ll be ready to govern from Day 1. Mrs. Clinton may be right that Mr. Obama has a thin résumé, but her disheveled campaign keeps reminding us that the biggest item on her thicker résumé is the health care task force that was as botched as her presidential bid.

What's really going on inside of Sen. Clinton's campaign? The Washington Post has the scoop:

Inside Clinton's inner circle on Friday, the feeling was that the Thursday night debate in Austin was unlikely to slow Obama's momentum from 11 straight primary and caucus victories. Some supporters said they had discussed how to raise with Clinton the subject of withdrawing from the race should she fail to win decisively on March 4. One option was to wait a day or two and then dispatch emissaries to former president Clinton to urge him to make the case.

One adviser, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak freely, said Obama's 17-point Wisconsin victory on Tuesday had started to sink in as a decisive blow, given that the state had been viewed weeks earlier as a level playing field.

What's increasingly at stake:

"People who care about her are worried about her long-term future," the adviser said.

That's right. Want to maybe land as VP or Senate Majority Leader under President and Democratic Party Leader Obama? Maybe don't burn every bridge on your way out. Think of Al Gore's concession speech in 2000 impressing the hell out of everybody and laying the foundation for his new role as master statesman.

But, at least for now, it doesn't seem that Sen. Clinton is looking at things that way, per Clinton supporter Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, via a Political Wire reader who saw her speak last week:
"Townsend said she expects Sen. Barack Obama to win the Democratic presidential nomination and that Clinton is finished. She believed that the Wisconsin results demonstrated that Clinton's coalition (voters over the age of 50 and those earning less than $50,000) had fallen apart. When asked why the Clinton campaign had failed, Ms. Townsend had plenty of opinions and she placed significant blame on Bill Clinton and his racially tinged statements in South Carolina. She also felt that Clinton made a tactical error in making "experience and inevitability" her central campaign themes. Townsend argued that Clinton had little more experience than Obama and far less than candidates such as Senators Dodd and Biden. Additionally, making the inevitability claim hurt her when she lost Iowa... Townsend then lamented Clinton's decision to go negative and question Obama's readiness. She said that she called the Clinton campaign and advised that they 'go out on a high note' but her advice was politely dismissed."

Hillary's scold vs. Dean's scream. We don't elect scolds. Sooner or later they get ridiculed, and in this day and age, sooner:
I especially love that excerpt of her criticizing Edwards in one of the debates for his stance when he ran four years ago.

What a shame.

Friday, February 22, 2008


If the new Romanian movie that won the Palme D'Or at Cannes, 4 Weeks, 3 Months and 2 Days is playing in a theater near you, and you want to experience the most suspenseful cinematic drama in years, go immediately lest you lose the chance to see it on the big screen.

The story takes place over the course of a single day in 1987, two years before the overthrow and execution of evil bastard dictator Nicolae Ceausescu.

But under Ceausescu's 24 year rule, abortion was punishable by 3 to 10 years in prison:
New laws are introduced to engineer an increase in the size of Romania's population. "The foetus is the property of the entire society," Ceausescu states, "Anyone who avoids having children is a deserter who abandons the laws of national continuity."

Abortion and contraception are outlawed, childless couples face higher taxes, divorce is discouraged, and sex education prohibited. The birth-rate almost doubles, but is accompanied by a leap in infant mortality and unwanted pregnancies, with the rising numbers of handicapped, orphaned and abandoned children being placed in decrepit institutions under state care. After the fall of Ceausescu in 1989 over 100,000 handicapped and orphaned children are discovered living in horrific conditions.

None of this is in the text of the movie, it's all just baked into the noirish atmosphere that drenches this movie as we follow college student Otilia as she helps her friend, Gabrita, get clandestine abortion. Every advance is fraught with dread and danger, as it gradually becomes clear that Otilia is putting herself way, way out on a limb for a friend, and we're wondering whether it's that maybe the friend isn't so deserving, or maybe by making this act illegal, their rulers have put the most basic form of human bonding, that of friendship, into permanent contradiction.

Anamaria Marinca, who plays Otilia, turns in the best female performance of the year. We're with her every nerve-wracking step of the way. In the middle of the picture there's a single hint of why she's so much stronger than the passively damaging friend for whom she chooses to go through the ringer (Laura Vasiliu, also riveting although not who we bond with): she's a soldier's daughter. It's never mentioned elsewhere, and there aren't any pyrotechnic heroics. But in that repressive, terrifying and deadening world, she is Orpheus on a journey through hell, damned if she looks back.

Director Cristian Mungiu evidently rehearsed heavily for two and a half weeks, then along with Cinematographer Oleg Mutu made the decision to shoot every scene in a single shot, no cuts. Usually the camera is fixed in the perfect spot, most notably in the dinner scene where Otilia is unspeakably lonely in the midst of the celebratory chatter of her boyfriend's family friends, all of them clearly having accepted life under the regime, the generation getting by just fine, just playing by the rules and pretending to have normal bourgeois lives. But other scenes, particularly following Otilia on the move, go for long, heart-pounding handheld takes, yet always maintaining the unique claustrophobia of her situation at that moment in history in that society.

If you ever want to see a movie to make you hate Communism, this is the one.

The abortion issue is not treated lightly, nor (as I've indicated above) is Gabrita portrayed as a saint. As the title indicates, this isn't the first trimester, and the movie is far from supportive of abortion so late in the gestation period. But what I think gives the movie such resonance is the depiction of how loyalty gets so twisted under a fascist regime, down at the street -- or dorm -- level. Even the heavy of the piece, abortionist "Mr. Bebe" (Los Angeles Film Critics Award winner Vlad Ivanov), seems to operate per a kind of perverse survival strategy in the republic.

I don't want to give too much away and hope I haven't so far, but I'll just say that the first shot of the movie begins on two goldfish swimming around a tank, sitting on the dorm room table as the women make their preparations to leave. It's no accident that glasses of water echo this image at the end of the film, albeit in a subtle and clever way. These women are trapped just as transparently as their goldfish, as unaware of a world outside the glass, as vulnerable to surveillance as them as well.

As Otilia's experiences Mr. Bebe, the devastating cost of her friend's transgression and her own divided loyalties, it's fair to wonder which animal, 1987 Romanian or goldfish, has the better deal.

Thursday, February 21, 2008


Tonight was the night Barack Obama sealed his nomination, and it's the first night of his actual run for the Presidency against John McCain (or Mitt Romney, perhaps, should the McCain scandals multiply). Even Hillary Clinton admitted it at the end of their debate.

Obama is on a tear in Texas and Clinton is in a campaign spending clusterfuck. The vaunted $15 million she's raised since Super Tuesday is triage, servicing debt and psycho-high consultant salaries. Is Howard Wolfson worth even close to $267,000 a month? Has her $3.8 million investment in Mark Penn and his make-works been a solid investment judgment?

She had the best and worst moments of the night. The worst was her freshly minted, probably tested "Change you can Xerox" line.

I mean, who even Xeroxes any more? Scan, please, and print as necessary.

Then she closed with the moment that made Obama reach across to shake her hand. The Obama-Clinton pairing that makes a kinda sexy, turned on team. Politically.

As draylogan says:
I think pundits make a mistake when they forget about the short term effect of a debate...and words, and forget about the longer, secondary impact.
Tonight many people left the debate, or turned off the television and thought. "That was a good moment for her. She seemed humble and passionate in a warm way. Really human"
BUT, she either made a HUGE political mistake, or she is getting ready to concede, because the secondary take-away is clear. If it isn't clear now, it will be in the next 2 weeks.
She gave her supporters a way out.
Inotherwords, what she really said was: "This competition doesn't mean as much to me as some of you think. I have been through much worse. The American people have been through even worse. I'M GOING TO BE OKAY."
Those words are going to stick in the minds of many voters who have been voting for her out of a sense of loyalty...mark my words.
Barack Obama has been looking for a political way to give Hillary the gold watch. To both honor her, and take her place as the presumptive nominee.
Hillary gave him a gift tonight.

He just didn't make any mistakes. He had command, a great sense of humor, policies, substance, ease, wisdom, and clear superiority on the very Presidential aspect Clinton has tried so hard to claim for herself: Commander-in-Chief.

Obama is clearly superior to her on the two biggest jobs of the Office, the only two that can't be done by anybody else in government.

He nailed her on talking to dictators when it came up over Cuba, with a very clear logic for his position and sense of how he would execute.

Then he turned her vote on the Iraq War, which he's previously used as a battering ram on judgment (as in over experience) into an argument for his superiority as leader of our armed forces. It's not just about being a good COO of the Army. There is a decision prior and superior to that: choosing where and when to use the troops.

I also think his healthcare plan will sell a hell of a lot better, eschewing mandates because he eschews the only possible enforcement mechanism, garnishment of wages. Tell me when there will be an election in the United States of America where a majority of us go to the polls and vote for the garnishment of our wages. No, never. So Obama's plan is more likely to succeed, and will hopefully open the door to more advances in the future. The art of the possible.

If all goes as hoped and Obama becomes the nominee without the party being drawn asunder, and if Clinton can continue to ride this gracious kind of pre-concession talk all the way to the evening of March 4th, then you start to see her as either VP or Senate Majority Leader. Either way, should he win the general election, she will have the option of owning the Senate. She unites the Party, starts passing the Obama-Clinton agenda, and leaves an opening for another run eight years from now -- she'll be four years younger than McCain is right now.

If Obama has governed well, she'll have a good ride coming.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Seems like everything is hitting the fan now that Obama is starting to look a hell of a lot more inevitable, and the moment after McCain says he's no longer superstitious about saying he's won the GOP nomination.

I'm not interested in pontificating on the whole McCain thing because if it's just about cheating, I just think that's dirt. He hasn't been the leading morality demagogue in his party, and I'd be hypocritical since I gave Bill Clinton a pass -- until it cost Gore the election -- for Monica Lewinsky. And if it turns out to be an influence scandal, I'd like all the facts and scale of corruption to be in.

What is interesting is whether everyone in that tier of the GOP already knew. Why did Huckabee have his email ready to distribute just ninety-six minutes after the New York Times story went live? Why did Willard Romney merely "suspend" his campaign?

Why do the physical similarities between Cindy McCain and the woman being cited with him automatically raise our suspicions?

While that all percolating, Obama's fighting back against Hillary Clinton's same ol' same ol' tactics:
“Senator Clinton told us that there was a choice in this race, and, you know, I couldn’t agree with her more,” Mr. Obama said. “It’s not a choice between speeches and solutions; it’s a choice between a politics that offers more of the same divisions and distractions that didn’t work in South Carolina and didn’t work in Wisconsin and will not work in Texas, or a new politics of common sense, of common purpose, of shared sacrifice and shared prosperity.”
As she sounds like more and more of a bummer:
“We need to keep dreaming; dreaming keeps us hopeful,” Mrs. Clinton said. “Without dreams we can’t aspire to be great, but without action we cannot turn those dreams into reality.”
The problem isn't her basic premise. Words do need actions to close. But the problem is that her campaign is increasingly the prime offender in this category. Not winning, not delivering a coherent, appealing message, not mounting an effective campaign = no action.

Here's a prediction: Obama's campaign, particularly in how it took on that of the market leader, Hillary Clinton, from scratch, will not only be studied in political science, it will become a prime case study in business schools everywhere.

It turns out his organization raised $36 million dollars in January alone, a new world's record, and has now hit over one million donors (1,000,000), meaning a record number of Americans are now literally invested in Obama's success now, financial partners. And I wonder if his campaign is so effectively getting out the Early Vote in Texas (he made it a big part of his speech in Houston Tuesday night), that he may have this thing won even before Primary Election Day in two weeks.

If you need any more proof that Barack Obama is going to beat Hillary Clinton by a landslide in Texas, here's the photo taken just about one year ago today.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Story Development

One thing we want to see over the course of a long and successful campaign is the nominee to grow, in supporters as well as in character.

Obama hasn't gone negative against Hillary even with her old school attacks on his integrity yesterday, or her continued misdescription of Obama as somehow policy-less. But what everyone seems to forget is that you can't beat him on policy. He's too smart, has too much thought out, and actually seems to know who he is as a person.

Paul Waldman just wrote the defining (so far) piece of this campaign, "The Triumph of Narrative":
As Obama tells it, the country is held hostage by a political class that sows partisan and cultural division, making solving problems ever more difficult, while the country yearns for a new day of unity. As the youngest candidate, the only post-boomer candidate, the only bi-racial candidate, and the one candidate with a preternatural ability to obtain the good will of those who disagree with him, he can bring all Americans together and lead us to a future built on hope.
He goes on to point out how Obama's climb resonates with our sense of the epic hero, the man of destiny, all the way to: "When Luke gazes out across the barren desert of Tatooine, the wind rustling in his hair as the twin suns set and the music swells, we know just what it means, even if he doesn't know it yet." But it's even more interesting how he compares it with the story John McCain is offering:
McCain told an interesting story when he ran for president in 2000: the system was corrupt, and with his unmatched courage, independence, and integrity, he would rid Washington of its blood-sucking influence peddlers. But in this campaign he has told no story at all. What is the problem McCain's presidency is supposed to solve? Why is he the only one who can solve it? These are the questions to which winning campaigns know and communicate the answers. McCain doesn't even seem to have thought about them.
He'll fit perfectly into the Obama generational theme, the time for adults my age to step up and take the reins. But where they really differ is in that very revolutionary aspect Obama has brought to Presidential electoral politics: the Citizen Organizer as President:
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, McCain offers no indication of where we as citizens fit into his story, what a vote for him is supposed to say about us. And this is precisely where Hillary Clinton has had trouble countering Obama, despite her prodigious policy knowledge and disciplined campaigning. The Clinton campaign has made few mistakes, but it hasn't had nearly as much success as Obama’s in defining what a vote for her means on the symbolic level...Instead, she has offered multiple variations on a theme, most of which have been reactions to Obama. He was the candidate of change, so she became the candidate whose experience would enable her to achieve change. He gives great speeches, so she now says, "My opponent makes speeches. I offer solutions." There may be merit in that argument. But it is an argument, not a story.
And here's where story becomes crucial -- and why we've needed a new one for a very long time:
When you read a really good story, you sometimes reach the point where you almost forget that you're reading at all. When that happens, you experience the story in a fundamentally different way, as though you have entered it, and instead of taking place outside you, it proceeds around you, and you feel everything the story evokes more deeply and profoundly. Scholars who study narrative call this transportation.
Dig it, the deepest form of semiotics, the complex narrative. Lots of characters, novelistic, The Wire.

Hillary's story is developing into one of absence of planning and squandered opportunities. Not a Commander in Chief. Surely there will be a female President in my lifetime (after seeing her on Bill Maher last Friday, I could see voting for Sen. Claire McCaskill post Obama), and just as I've said that 24's President David Palmer is the model/gateway character for Barack Obama, so might Battlestar Galactica's President Laura Roslin be the model of a smart, fair, tough-minded female Chief Executive.

(Like Britain's first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, Roslin's only previous federal experience is as Secretary of Education.)

So tonight Obama won his ninth contest in a row, which will almost surely be ten after Hawaii counts theirs up, which will mean 23 wins in just two weeks.

That wasn't supposed to be the challenger's record. We were just supposed to be accepting them without bothering to pay attention. She was supposed to have it all sewn up. And he crushed her - by 17%. For 41% more delegates. An achievement.

I don't know if Obama can make up the difference in Ohio, especially if the Clintons make it her last stand, but I do think he can win Texas, having lived and traveled around there, knowing how much they like a maverick gunslinger who hits his targets. What I'm wondering about is her level of denial, if she really thinks she can come back because she has a plan (surprise us) or if she knows.

Her attacks on him haven't worked -- today's voting was his vindication, no matter how much they try to keep sticking him with it. "Not him" is not a story.

Does she know it? Does she get the sense, when she calls him after the speeches to congratulate him, does she realize she's talking to the next President of the United States?

If so, then the only question is either how far she'll go to tear him down with the barest chance of beating John McCain in the fall, or how will she bow out gracefully, should he win Texas or, and now it's possible, take Ohio as well.


Monday, February 18, 2008


I'm sorry, but if the Clinton machine has so far presented itself able to squander huge leads with massive lack of preparation and a distrustful management style, it creates huge cognitive dissonance with their proffering of "experience." In fact, one has to wonder if "Ready to Lead from Day One" actually applies to her opponent instead of her:

Supporters of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton are worried that convoluted delegate rules in Texas could water down the impact of strong support for her among Hispanic voters there, creating a new obstacle for her in the must-win presidential primary contest.

Several top Clinton strategists and fundraisers became alarmed after learning of the state's unusual provisions during a closed-door strategy meeting this month, according to one person who attended.

What Clinton aides discovered is that in certain targeted districts, such as Democratic state Sen. Juan Hinojosa's heavily Hispanic Senate district in the Rio Grande Valley, Clinton could win an overwhelming majority of votes but gain only a small edge in delegates. At the same time, a win in the more urban districts in Dallas and Houston -- where Sen. Barack Obama expects to receive significant support -- could yield three or four times as many delegates.

"What it means is, she could win the popular vote and still lose the race for delegates," Hinojosa said yesterday. "This system does not necessarily represent the opinions of the population, and that is a serious problem."

At this point she's become the radical choice, the "all show and no horse" candidate, the one who stakes her last day before the Wisconsin Primary on a rather spurious charge of plagiarism:

Once again, he's like rubber and she's just glue:

Goddamn if his campaign is right there with the rebound before the news cycle is half over, and he hits her so gently in his speech, it ends up playing more like the new black political heavyweight brotherhood than stealing from anyone.

More like a number that Patrick and Obama both played in concert. Some may like the original, I happen to prefer the cover. Obama got more of an edge; he's in a real fight back moment. I even linked to it in a previous post.

Whereas Hillary Clinton just seems to be copying, entirely unoriginal but with the lack of scruples to try and appropriate her opponent's message -- change, fired up, ready to Texas.

Y'see, this isn't exactly news how the Tx primary works, per publius:

While they were busy “discovering” the rules, however, the Obama campaign had people on the ground in Texas explaining the system, organizing precincts, and making Powerpoints. I know because I went to one of these meetings a week ago. I should have invited Mark Penn I suppose. (ed. Maybe foresight is an obsolete macrotrend.)

In this respect, Texas is simply a microcosm of the larger campaign dynamics. In fact, if the Clinton campaign were a corporation, the shareholders would have pretty good grounds for a derivative suit for Texas alone.

One starts to think, why not just go back to New York with Rudy Giuliani.

Leadership isn't a resume, and it isn't just a set of positions or a ton of connections. Leadership is in a state of transition and improvement, and leadership matters more than any other single factor in electing a President of the United States of America.

Even honesty and integrity are not automatically leadership unless they are harnessed by a clear eye, a strong plan and a forceful execution.

It's plenty easy to argue that Obama will have his unpleasant surprises in his first year of office, maybe even ups and downs for all four. But for all her lofty plans, how would anyone expect her to put them into action successfully? After she botched the health care initiative -- similarly with a management style of Nixonian arrogances and secrecy.

Leadership is something everybody innately understands. At this moment Obama is, by any empirical standard, the number one political organizer in America. If you're looking for reality-based leadership throughout this campaign season, there's nobody else even in Barack Obama's league.

Let's hope a majority of voters in Wisconsin, Hawaii, Ohio, Rhode Island, Texas, Vermont, Wyoming, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Guam, Indiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, Kentucky, Oregon, Montana, South Dakota and Puerto Rico agree.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Power Couple

Give it up for Michelle Obama:

Seems to be her coming out week. As a modern Democratic President/hopeful wife she seems smart as Hillary but completely disinterested in a political career for herself beyond First Lady. That's very appealing, against possible first First Gent William Jefferson Clinton.

However, the question remains, maybe America is ready to accept a half African-American man as President, but will they give it up for Michelle Obama as well?

Maybe when they see how wildly impressive she is -- values, character, judgment.

Her husband's no slouch, either, witness tonight at the big pre-primary dinner in Wisconsin:

"I have a dream." Just words? "We hold these truths to be self-evident." Just words? "We have nothing to fear but fear itself." Just words? Just speeches?
Signed, let's seal it so we can deliver in November.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Rally Round

I could write about John McCain's temper or the massive uncounted votes in Harlem for Barack Obama, or even the fallen soldier bracelet he's been wearing since the soldier's mother gave it to him at a rally yesterday.

I could go over how, sure, he's a brilliant orator, but his policies do exist quite fully and are pretty damned smart. I could show pictures of his hugely successful rally in Eau Claire today. I could rejoice that for the first time Obama has overtaken Clinton in the "poll of polls" and worry about how many primaries or caucuses are still left for that to play out.

(The answer is 18 starting with Wisconsin and Hawaii this Tuesday, including Guam on May 3rd, and tailing out with Puerto Rico on June 7th for a grand total of 1075 delegates.)

I write about this wild change, where now 45% of Americans now believe that socialized medicine would be better for our country, besting 39% who think it'd be worse. I could tell you my thoughts on Hillary Clinton again choking up on the campaign trail just before a primary, while her campaign alienates still more voters with its arrogance.

But instead, I'd like to pause for a little patriotism. Something we can all rally around:

After all, we've already had two gay Presidents.

Friday, February 15, 2008


I'm as guilty as anyone of election obsession getting in the way of everything else going on. And there's actually a touch of good news, if it holds -- Democrats in Congress showing some cajones.

The Cheney Administration pushed through a bill last summer they so wryly called the "Protect America Act". It was his way of keeping his FISA crimes from being recognized as such, with an expiration date he surely expected to be re-upped. After all, every single time the Dems have tried to stand up to him, he's stamped his foot and they've turned tail, giving him everything he wants.

Not this time:

What happened? The administration did everything right. The invocation of "countless American lives" hanging in the balance, the specter of terrorists delightedly chatting away undetected, the urgency emphasized by a threat to delay a long-scheduled presidential trip to Africa in order to secure the nation against attack.

That's right, the Protect America Act, the surveillance bill the administration pushed through Congress last August in a brilliantly executed squeeze play, will expire at midnight. The House should have already folded by now and simply passed the Senate's surveillance bill, complete with retroactive immunity for the telecoms. But the Dems haven't; they're sticking to the bill they passed months ago. What gives?

Nice way to end the week, after the Senate folded earlier on telecom immunity. (Although Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) made a credible defense for not punishing the telecoms, as long as you punish the government figures who strongarmed them.) Cry-baby Republicans walked out of the chamber...only there was no ball they could take home with them.

But there's even more fun in the new world. Bush tool Harriet Miers and Cheney tool John Bolton have been cited by the House of Representatives for Contempt of Congress. They earned it for their refusal to appear and spill the beans on the Cheney-Bush mob:
...recommending that the House of Representatives find Harriet Miers, former White House Counsel, and Joshua Bolten, the White House Chief of Staff, in contempt of Congress for refusal to comply with subpoenas issued by the Judiciary Committee. These subpoenas were issued as part of the Committee’s investigation into the firings of a number of United States Attorneys and matters concerning the politicization of the Justice Department. This resolution also provides for...authorizing the Committee on the Judiciary to initiate or intervene in judicial proceedings to enforce certain subpoenas.
Don't ask me what happens next, but it's about time. In fact, it looks like Colbert legend Rep. Robert Wexler (D-FL) is aiming for bigger game:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

In Motion

There seemed to be some attempt by Hillary Clinton's campaign to win the news cycle with more dismissiveness,
Of his wife's recent travails, [Bill Clinton] said, "the caucuses aren't good for her. They disproportionately favor upper-income voters who, who, don't really need a president but feel like they need a change."
and assumptiveness.
In a sign that the spin war over the significance of super-delegates is underway in earnest, Harold Ickes told assorted Hillary supporters on a private conference call yesterday that the campaign wants them to start referring to super-delegates as "automatic delegates," according to someone on the call.
Can she stop the increasingly Titanic-style leakage? The all-too public shouting match ignited by Chief Strategist Mark Penn? His hundreds of thousands of dollars earned for consulting to the same nuclear power plant her campaign is criticism for Obama not being hard enough on? His "insult 40 states" strategy?

There's The New York Times, the same editorial staff that endorsed her two weeks ago, inveighing on her to please release her full income tax returns before the nomination is decided, not after as she has supposedly promised. And asking that her husband publicize who's contributed to his charity -- and his Presidential Library. All that stuff that's undermining her vetted," "no new surprises" claim.

And is she either secretly or telepathically coordinating her Obama attacks with John McCain?

Somehow all of her old schoolyard actions seem to be reinvigorating Obama's image as underdog fighting against all odds rather than undercutting him at his first fragile moment of front-runner status. By not admitting he's the front-runner and instead clinging ferociously to her original "inevitably coronation" strategy, she's earning him new converts and helping bring out his vote.

Don't believe me? How about those "automatic delegates," the ones she'd previously gotten to commit to her:

"This is America. I have freedom of speech and freedom of choice and I'm free to change my vote. I don't have to answer to anyone except God and my conscience," said Christine "Roz" Samuels as she switched her SuperDelegate vote from Clinton to Obama.

Asked if she had heard from the Clintons before or since she made her SuperDelegate switchover, Samuels said, "I haven't heard from the Clintons and to be truthful, I guess I'm not that important to them. I'm only one of 13 SuperDelegates in New Jersey and I'm following my heart."

Or previously Clinton-committed Civil Rights legend, Rep. John Lewis (D-GA):

“In recent days, there is a sense of movement and a sense of spirit,” said Mr. Lewis, a Georgia Democrat who endorsed Mrs. Clinton last fall. “Something is happening in America, and people are prepared and ready to make that great leap.”

Mr. Lewis, who carries great influence among other members of Congress, disclosed his decision in an interview in which he said that as a superdelegate, he could not go against the wishes of the voters of his district, who overwhelmingly supported Mr. Obama.

Or the blue-collar unions who her campaign touts as her bedrock support:

Giving Senator Barack Obama new momentum, one of the nation’s largest labor unions, the United Food and Commercial Workers, endorsed him on Thursday. Another giant, the Service Employees International Union, was on the brink of backing him.

Or Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign manager:

David Wilhelm, who led the campaign and later became chairman of the Democratic National Committee, said Obama had the unique ability to encourage cooperation as a 65-percent president after the divisive years of a 51-percent majority.

This is not even to mention former Agriculture Commissioner for the state of Texas and populist hero Jim Hightower on the left, or former Sen. Lincoln Chafee (R-RI) in the middle, or senior campaign adviser to both Presidente Bush and Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) Mark McKinnon on the right -- all endorsing Sen. Barack Obama for President.

And now the press the Obama campaign is creating:
With Ohio's March 4th primary looming as the possible make-it-or-break it battleground for the Democratic nomination, Senator Barack Obama has landed his campaign A-Team three weeks ahead of the Buckeye State's D-Day.
It's all about the 50-state strategy, something I'm a firm believer has to happen for Democrats to win, a theory Democratic Chairman Howard Dean put into effective action in the last Congressional election.

Oh, and the Obama campaign can respond within 24-hours to an attack ad:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008


Hoo, boy!

If Hillary Clinton announces that if she has to win ugly, if it's backroom, party-splitting politics, she'll do it:
With every delegate precious, Mrs. Clinton’s advisers also made it clear that they were prepared to take a number of potentially incendiary steps to build up Mrs. Clinton’s count. Top among these, her aides said, is pressing for Democrats to seat the disputed delegations from Florida and Michigan, who held their primaries in January in defiance of a Democratic Party rules.

She's now not only mathematically incapable of winning the nomination through the popularly-elected delegate count, it's nearly impossible to beat his final popular total. So this is how she decides to play it, sending out her multi-million dollar campaign consultants:

"We don't make distinctions between delegates chosen by million of voters in a primary and those chosen between tens of thousands in caucuses,'' Wolfson said. "And we don't make distinctions when it comes to elected officials'' who vote as superdelegates at the convention.

"We are interested in acquiring delegates, period,'' he added.

Clinton advisers rejected the notion that the candidate -- and the party -- would be badly wounded in the general election if the nominee were essentially selected by a group of party insiders.

"This is a nomination system that exists of caucuses, primaries, superdelegates and also the issue of voters in Florida and Michigan,'' states whose delegates currently will not be seated at the convention because they broke party rules by moving up their primaries to January, said Mark Penn, senior strategist for the Clinton campaign. But "whoever the nominee is, the party will come together behind that nominee,'' he said.

They are under a bunkered delusion. They don't understand the lay of the land. Dems are racking up huge vote totals because independents and some Republicans, lifelong ones, are coming over to vote for a man of character. If she's successful, she will not only lose all those voters to Sen. John McCain, she will not only lose the youth vote that's just joined the party, but she will lose an arctic ice floe of longtime Democrats. And if she still manages to squeak out 51% of the vote, she can kiss her mandate goodbye.

On the other hand, if she wins through these back channel manipulative means, doesn't prove she's tough, bending whatever scruples to get the job done -- and if we want her to do what she's promising, that'll be what it takes. She'll have recovered from a full-blown campaign disaster -- it only takes one more nudge ahead in the polls for the media to give her the "Comeback Kid" moniker, regaining front-runner status after having been down, deserving of a win any way she can, that's the real world, that's proof.

So is that what's going to happen?

Even given the replacement of longtime confidante Patty Solis Doyle with longtime confidante Maggie Williams as Campaign Manager, the stories emerging from her campaign, if true, suggest that Sen. Clinton has neither the judgment nor the management skills to be President of the United States of America:
The Texas and Ohio presidential primaries, on March 4, have become must-win contests for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, her advisers say. So why is she just opening campaign field offices across those states?...

...She and her team showered so much money, attention and other resources on Iowa, New Hampshire and some of the 22-state nominating contests on Feb. 5 that they have been caught flat-footed — or worse — in the critical contests that followed, her political advisers said.

She also made a strategic decision to skip several small states holding caucuses, states where Mr. Obama scored big victories, accumulating delegates and, possibly, momentum.

Her heavy spending and relatively modest fund-raising in January compounded the problems, leaving the campaign ill-equipped to plan after Feb. 5, advisers and donors say.

“It sure didn’t look like they had a game plan after Super Tuesday,” Mr. Rendell said in an interview on Wednesday.
That's from the PA Governor who supports her. No plan for success. Sound familiar?

Why does her younger opponent seem more experienced than her:

In Maine, Arden Manning, chairman of the state’s Democratic Party, attributed Mr. Obama’s victory by almost 20 percentage points in Sunday’s caucuses to his superior organization, despite Mrs. Clinton’s apparent advantages with the state’s demographics of older, blue-collar, lower-income voters.

“A lot of the credit for what happened here goes to the Obama campaign, a grass-roots campaign, that was very well organized, with precinct captains and precinct leaders getting people out,” Mr. Manning said.

In addition, the Obama campaign was more adept at using the Internet.

“I got very little from the Clinton side,” said Amy Fried, a political scientist at the University of Maine, who signed up on both campaigns’ Web sites to compare them. “But I got a lot from Obama, urging me to come in and work and telling me about events, just giving me lots more.”

Can her campaign, called (no joke) "Hillaryland", recover from its disastrous start (sound familiar? sound familiar?) where it blew through trainloads of cash ($175 million) and didn't tell each other internally that they had bled the place dry:
Even after grasping the magnitude of the threat, the Clinton campaign didn’t react quickly and stuck to the strategy of trying to project an aura of inevitability. Here, too, Solis Doyle was disastrous; her lack of skill in areas other than playing the loyal heavy began to show. The first public sign of this came just after Clinton’s reelection to the Senate. Even though Clinton had faced no serious opponent, it turned out that Solis Doyle, as campaign manager, had burned through more than $30 million. As this New York Times story makes clear, the donor base was incensed. Toward the end of the Senate campaign, Solis Doyle did her best to bolster the impression of the inevitability of Hillary’s nomination as the Democratic presidential candidate, spreading word that Clinton’s Senate reelection fund-raising had gone so exceptionally well that $40 million to $50 million would be left after Election Day to transfer to the incipient presidential campaign. But this turned out to be a wild exaggeration—and Solis Doyle must have known it was. Disclosure filings revealed a paltry $10 million in cash on hand; far from conveying Hillary’s inevitability, this had precisely the opposite effect, encouraging, rather than frightening off, potential challengers.
From the nakedly corrupt assumption of a coronation:
Such arrogance led directly to the idea that Clinton could simply project an air of inevitability and be assured her party’s nomination. If she wins—as she very well might—it will be in spite of her original approach. As one former Clinton staffer put it to me last spring: “There was an assumption that if you were a major donor and wanted to be an ambassador, go to state dinners with the queen—unless you were an outright fool, you were going to go with Hillary, whether you liked her or not. The attitude was ‘Where else are they going to go?’”
And then there's this just emerging, a potential scandal simmering to blow -- the Clintons selling her campaign mailing lists to a brokerage house part of the large Info U.S.A. corporation. Sold at what appears to be a 99% discount. Sold to an old Clinton friend:

Info U.S.A.'s CEO is Vinod Gupta, a close ally of both Clintons. Gupta's empire also includes the Opinion Research Corporation, which conducts the political polling for the television network CNN.

Vin Gupta has a long history of giving and raising campaign money for the Clintons, and gave $1 million for the 2000 Millennium Celebration, a New Year's Party thrown by the Clintons.

When he was president, Bill Clinton named Gupta to the Kennedy Center board of directors. Gupta also got to sleep in the Lincoln bedroom. He gave another million to the Clinton Presidential Library.

The library is run by the National Archives, but Bill Clinton raised the money for its construction and always refused to identify his major donors.

Last fall, ABC News reported that the library rented out a portion of its donor list to a list broker — the same one that rented Hillary Clinton's campaign lists.

Now that's Presidential...sharing personal data for political profit. That's what'll make citizens vote for her in the fall.

What's worse, here's her answer to the user-generated Obama video(s):

And she's test-posting nasty, weak-sauce, unpertinent attack ad like his with astroturf comments from her staff filling up the YouTube page.


And he's already proving to have coattails, another core element of his argument, with newcomer Donna Edwards winning a Congressional Primary over corrupt incumbent Al Wynn:
The difference this time around was the enthusiastic and broad support that Barack Obama’s candidacy brought about, driving younger and more informed voters to the polls simply by appearing on the ballot. This new support was the key to Donna Edwards’ victory against what had become an entrenched establishment candidate.

Again, nine months before the general election is held, and there is already clear evidence of the effect that having Obama on the ballot will have on down-ticket elections come November.
It's possible that at this point it wouldn't be Hillary that beats Barack, it'd have to be himself. dloewe on Open Left lays out the now uncharacteristic missteps that would have to happen for Obama to lose (click for full description version):

1. He has to lose Ohio and Texas by significant margins
2. He has to lose Pennsylvania by significant margins
3. He has to lose the Edwards Endorsement
4. He has to lose Wisconsin
5. He has to lose the Florida/Michigan PR battle
6. He has to have a "Macaca" moment
7. He has to lose the super delegate PR fight
8. He has to lose the debate about debates

Any of this could conceivably happen, and it's a good warning for the contender to keep him and his supporters on their toes. Many or most of these would have to happen for him to lose -- the worst being a "Macaca" moment since it's the only one that can set all the others in motion.

So what is the Obama campaign doing right now? Resting on their laurels? Taking it easy, assuming it's all in the bag, meet the new boss, same as the old boss?

Check out his team's upcoming day's 18 participatory events for Texas, listed on his website.

Oh, and read to the bottom to find out about the one for hers.

One more thing: substance.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Fourth Quarter?

There's a diarist on Kos named ipsos who thinks Barack Obama crossed a line tonight:

He's no longer running for the Democratic nomination for president. He's running for president, period - and even John McCain knows it, with the addition of his lines about "platitudes" to his speech tonight. (And what a hell of a contrast between the tens of thousands of people of all ages and colors at the Obama rally and the little crowd of old white people, including the exhumed corpse of John Warner, in suits behind McCain a few minutes later!)

John McCain ended his speech poking fun at Obama's "fired up and ready to go" line. But he looked tired out and ready to bed.

Obama simply crushed her, DC at 75%, MD at 60% and VA at 64%. Sure, TX, OH and PA look more fertile for her, but he's now the frontrunner, he's pretty credibly making his case, and people are still flocking to him -- with donors melting his servers tonight.

Will she be able to put together the necessary 60% wins from hereon out to beat him in the popular delegate count? Will she manage to stay maybe only 30 or 40 popularly elected delegates behind him and also pull in enough superdelegates willing to commit political party suicide?

Is her staff shake-up finished with another one tonight, buried as best as possible in the triple landslide loss? Will the inside story of how un-Presidentially she's mismanaged her own campaign grow to even the size of Giuliani's city-paid mistress escort service?

The fact is that she's posting numbers that might have sustained a John Edwards campaign, but for a presumptive frontrunner just looks like inability to deliver. Obama's been winning for the past eight days, starting with his delegate edge last Super Tuesday, through the clobberings on Saturday and Sunday, to today. Winning by convincing her target constituency to vote for him instead. White males, Latinos, women. Doing what candidates have to do, here and in the General Election: build winning coalitions.

I've mentioned the Obama as a basketball team leader before. I've talked to friends about my suspicion that he purposefully drew the foul(s) from Bill Clinton by (correctly) denigrating the effectiveness of his Presidential legacy compared to Ronald Reagan. If you look at the nomination battle as a game, then the First Quarter ended after New Hampshire, the Second after South Carolina, and we may have just finished the Third.

No, it doesn't go to the Convention, he'll be the Party Leader by then. Obama's always been several steps ahead in the game, much deeper strategy than any of his Democratic opponents, and one based on excellent command of fundamentals, always an edge in sports. He's set the pace of the game repeatedly, whether forcing Clinton to up her tone by his own example and try to steal his rhetoric, or even John McCain, pathetically unoriginal, co-opting his signature "Fired up/Ready to go" phrase.

You know, from both Clinton and McCain, the sincerest form of flattery.

So is this endgame time? Is Obama going to close the deal between now and poll closing on March 4th?

His speech tonight is strong on framing his idea of hope, one you work to earn payoff on, and here's the whole video. Below is the excerpt reel, not as fun as the whole thing, but shorter:

It may not be a done deal, but it sure is looking appealing.

Monday, February 11, 2008


Just a brief pause before le deluge tomorrow where either Obama is stopped or rolls on like a freight train, or maybe doesn't hit blow-out expectations and somehow the Clintons spin that into a win.

I was fortunate enough to enjoy Roy Scheider speaking in person after one of his films, The Fourth War (John Frankenheimer, 1990) screened at NYU. It wasn't Scheider's best film or biggest budgeted, but he was, as always, great to watch.

Scheider was a total gent. He answered any and all question with a winning combination of self-respect and very funny humility. Wonderful stories about having all this rehearsal time with Richard Dreyfuss on Jaws because Spielberg's mechanical shark didn't work, so that the two of them could rehearse alone all day, then show up at Steven's with a bottle of red wine, eat dinner, then do the scenes for him. Which is why the movie holds up so well over time -- the shocks are totally earned by the character work.

I didn't realize until deep into the q & a how much All That Jazz was the highlight of his film acting career. Here was a summer stock song and dance man who got typecast as various shades of tough in Klute and The French Connection and Sorceror, and had fought hard, auditioning without real invitation, to get cast by director Bob Fosse in what was essentially his autobiography and mortality essay. Scheider was rewarded with an Oscar nomination, losing to the overdue Dustin Hoffman for Kramer vs. Kramer. (Hoffman later went on to win again for Rain Man.)

Scheider had the room feeling very warm and communal, everyone sharing in his good guy come far stories. I had always heard that Scheider was cool politically (lay down in the road in 2003 to protest the Iraq invasion) and he reminded me of a version of my dad, just three years younger -- Depression baby made good, essentially decent guy who could be tough when needed but never a smidgen more.

Maybe the room was a little too loose, because it was close to the end and some kid asked the innocent, instantly regrettable question out of the laughter to a previous answer: "Were you disappointed when you didn't win the Oscar?"

The laughter stopped dead. We were all suddenly embarrassed for him; he'd won us over, and this was how we repaid him? To dredge up a painful loss? The moment when Hoffman's name, not his, went into the almanac?

Scheider got serious, quiet and frank. While I can no longer quote it verbatim, it went something like this: It always feels better to win, and nobody who's honest will tell you it doesn't suck when you lose. But if you're not in it for the work, you're never going to be happy.

So Roy Scheider died yesterday of a staph infection complication from melanoma. Come to think of it, he was always so goddamn tan.

Like when I saw him live once again, at the premiere of Do the Right Thing at the Ziegfield in Manhattan. He was with a woman who may have been his girlfriend or his wife, looking for their seat. I was in the back of the orchestra, with Rick Moranis and wife in front of me, John Salley with his long legs on the aisle (sporting his brand new NBC Championship ring). Scheider came by as the lights were going down, looking dapper as usual in some kind of white suit (better show the tan), but they were running out of time.

I thought about how strange it was that this guy who had been in some of the premier AA++ films of that hard rockin' era was scrambling for a seat, maybe for the next job as well.

I remembered when he first made an impression on me (I was a little too young to see French Connection in the theaters) in Marathon Man. He plays the secret agent brother to NYC nerd Dustin Hoffman, the reason Hoffman gets in all the trouble with Olivier's Szell. Scheider's signature scene has one of the most memorable squibs of all time

Scheider is attacked from behind by a hired assassin using a razor thin piano wire, but Scheider managers to get his hand up in time to block the wire from garroting his throat. His forearm and wrist take the brunt of it, a suddenly opening long skinny gash, a long skinny geyser of red. He slams the assassin backwards. They crash around the room like Viggo in the baths this past year -- to the death.

Fate, fate fate. He 's poured his heart out into his Bob Fosse performance, arguably his career performance, but he's lost the Oscar to the guy at the top of the Marathon Man bill, his narrative brother from three years ago. No matter how much you might have expected it or not, it's gotta hurt.

Ah, well. At least he's still got the best scene in their movie together.

No contest.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Blood in the Water

I guess I was prescient last night. Nothing signals wheel trouble like firing a campaign manager in the heat of a campaign.

As a scorching 19-point landslide victory for Obama over Clinton in the Maine caucus unfolded today (59% to 40%), out come the news that longtime Hillary confidante Patty Solis Doyle had been replaced by longtime Hillary confidante Maggie Williams. Perhaps Ms. Williams, an African-American woman, has some skills to help the Clinton campaign recover and win Ohio and/or Texas but, once again, Barack Obama's campaign is one step ahead.

With Obama openly touting his poll advantage over John McCain, Clinton, openly touting having won in all different regions of the country, and possibly coming out of this Tuesday's Maryland, D.C. and Virginia contests with more victories, he's putting together a string that started with more states than her last Tuesday, an ensuing seven-state string (eight if you count the Virgin Islands).

The game change now is that the Clinton campaign is looking a lot like the Edwards campaign two weeks ago: Losers.

Obama the sports fan knows that the stink of a loser is the worst part of losing, the hardest to shake, the Kryptonite that drives away potential supporters and makes fans have second thoughts.

No one wants to be associated with losers for very long, hence the question of whether Edwards will come out for Obama or Clinton this week -- does he think he can turn the tide for her, or is he just finally sick of being on the losing end, whether John Kerry's campaign or his own.

What else happens when the loser tag is applied? Everything seems to underline the loserdom:

The announcement of Ms. Solis Doyle’s replacement came minutes after Mrs. Clinton was grounded by what her campaign said were high winds at Dulles Airport. After arriving at the airport for a charter flight to Roanoke, Mrs. Clinton, her staff and the traveling press corps were not allowed to board the plane.

A spokesman for Mrs. Clinton said high winds at the airport had forced “a number of planes” to be kept on the ground, and that some planes that had taken off today had suffered structural damage. (Other planes at the airport were taking off as Mrs. Clinton’s motorcade drove away, en route to Washington.)

This is not to say that Sen. Clinton and Ms. Williams won't end up the new "comeback kid", or that she doesn't have a dozen over or underhanded means to flip the tide. But at a certain point, to again quote Cormac McCarthy, you can't stop what's coming.

Dems want a winner more than anything else. More than a restoration. If Hillary Clinton can't run a winning campaign, or one that foresees challenges and challengers, that chooses the right strategy to win and shows a little originality in doing so, how on God's earth is she a remotely safe choice to lead the most powerful nation on earth and keep us safe?

But Obama is proving it. I want to see him up against Putin. I want to see him handling Chavez. I want to watch him to fire up this country and make us feel like a nation of winners again, regardless of Party affiliation.

And if the string of electoral victories weren't enough, he just beat Hillary's husband Bill for the Grammy Award.

And no, you can't make this stuff up!

Saturday, February 09, 2008


Is it too early to say that the wheels are starting to come off of the Hillary Clinton Presidential campaign?

He just ran the table today with four-count 'em-four big wins over Clinton:

- Louisiana Primary by 21 points (57%-36%)
- Nebraska Caucus by 36 points (68%-32%)
- Washington Caucus by 37 points (68%-31%)
- Virgin Islands Caucus with 90% of the vote

Maine is up tomorrow, and one wonders how it will look if he wins there. Does it neutralize her win in neighboring New Hampshire?

From the Daily Telegraph, the very definition of campaign erosion:

A senior Democrat who has discussed Clinton campaign thinking with a member of her inner circle said: "The Clintons are in a state of panic. She has to win both Texas and Ohio."

But he added that this might prove impossible if Mr Obama maintains his momentum and wins most, or all, of the nine contests which come before that.

Bizarrely enough, in the same article:

The Clinton camp hopes to stop the Obama bandwagon by winning Texas and Ohio primaries on March 4, after which Mrs Clinton is planning to call on party grandees including Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Harry Reid, the party's leader in the Senate, to persuade Mr Obama to stand down.

Clinton aides have privately admitted that Mr Obama would only consider such a move if offered the position of vice presidential running mate, something Mrs Clinton has always been reluctant to consider.

Is this furious spin or wishful thinking? Is there anything remotely scientific about it? Is it arrogance? Look, the race is far from over, but she may be lucky to get an offer from him for the Veep slot.

Sure, she raised a boatload of money this past week after learning from Obama how to do it (again the follower), but what's she running on today -- David Shuster's wrongful comment about how she and Bill are deploying their daughter Chelsea?

So they get Shuster suspended, he apologizes twice, but in trying to extend it in the news cycle they overplay their hand. It comes off as playing the pity card again, and ultimately Americans hate whiners almost as much as we love winners.

The longer she stays in the race playing the way she has -- or is it "they have"? -- the more the exposure to the types of exposes that can damage her post-candidacy much as Rudy Giuliani may be facing.

There's two articles today: Frank Rich tying together how the Clintons have played the vile race card over and over this campaign as well as how she transparently plants questions in supposedly open "town hall" audiences (Bush lite); and Thomas Edsall, spurred by the questions raised by her admission of a $5 million campaign self-loan, digging a little deeper into how the Clintons have made boatloads of money off politics -- and influence:

Other of the Clinton's income sources are far more difficult to ascertain -- for instance, the flow of cash from billionaire investor Ron Burkle and his Yucaipa companies.

In each of Senator Clinton's past four disclosure statements - 2003-2006 -- there is a line item that reveals only that Bill Clinton received "guaranteed payments to partner" of "over $1,000" from Burkle's Yucaipa.

The disclosure forms do not explain what the guarantee is, and they leave to the imagination how much over $1,000 the annual amounts are. President Clinton, according to news accounts, has helped Burkle in his business dealings...

...The purpose in hiring Bill Clinton is to use the connections he had made as President to gain access and to make lucrative deals -- a commonplace but controversial practice regarding former officeholders, a practice with little or no public support - and the money made from these activities in the Clintons' case becomes part of Bill and Hillary's jointly held assets, according to Senator Clinton's communications director.

In other words, money from Yucaipa and the interests it deals with - running the gamut from public employee pension funds to supermarket chains to the Dubai Investment Group - is directly benefiting Hillary Clinton, an incumbent politician charged with voting on issues crucially important to the profits of Yucaipa, its clients, partners and investors. favors...

Do I hear water running?

Friday, February 08, 2008

A Wise Choice

The latest attempt to mischaracterize Barack Obama isn't twisting his works to try and make Democrats believe that he somehow worships Ronald Reagan. It's not the earlier meme they attempted on Wednesday that Obama has somehow morphed into "the establishment candidate."

It's more insidious still.

The Clintons floated the idea, in hopes that it might catch on, that the Obama supporters, rather than the candidate himself, are a "cult."

Okay, where's the Kool-Aid?

But while it's true that his support is strongest with the young (you know, idealists with unformed minds easily led into cults) and that his speeches move people in ways they have not been moved by a politician in forty years (unlike Clinton's self-aggrandizing...and now money-pitch speeches), he's actually a guy who's thought things through and has smart plans, a guy with a 60-page "Blueprint for America".

Andrew Sullivan nailed it today in "The Unemotional Case For Obama":

A meme is developing is that support for Obama is all emotion, fantasy, hysteria, etc. There's no question that the emotions behind Obama are powerful. And any fool can see why. His oratory does what oratory should. He is the greatest public speaker in American life since Reagan. And the shame and demoralization of the Bush-Cheney years - when we launched a war with reckless indifference to planning it, when we tortured prisoners and called it "enhanced interrogation", when we saw a government rendered so utterly useless that a hurricane made the US look like the third world, when conservatives added $32 trillion to the debt of the next generation, when a president made sophomoric jokes about not finding weapons of mass destruction he leveraged American global credibility on ... if you don't feel emotions in wanting to put this disgrace of an administration behind us, then you are not being rational.

But the strongest case for Obama is not emotional; it is as coolly rational as he is. I tried to express it in my "Goodbye To All That" essay. On the most critical issues we face - Iraq, the war against Jihadism, healthcare, and the economy - he makes more sense as a president than Clinton. And when you watch the knee-jerk opposition to him, I think it is actually more emotional and less rational than the support for him. Fear is more emotional than hope.

He finishes off on the experience issue, the more spiteful Hillary stuff, but he closes with a video that a friend of mine forwarded separately to me, so I thought I'd embed it here. It definitely challenged my own assholish assumptions when I started watching it, but in a funny way it's a metaphor for the entire Obama campaign, that if he wins it'll be by excelling, because he had to, because the tie never goes to the challenger. You really have to prove it, against all odds, and earn the respect by acquitting yourself wonderfully:

So if this is the type of involved citizen Obama is imploring us all to me, I'd say there's reason for hope.

There's also an undeniable emotional element to each American citizen's relationship to her or his President. With Bush it's curdled, but with FDR it was very special, even with Reagan for those who supported him, even our own mental bargain with Bill Clinton. The most powerful emotion in a citizen is when the intellect is won over and the eye just completes it.

Like with this woman who saw Obama in Seattle today:

Although I was somewhat lukewarm on Obama and I certainly do NOT believe the only way America can experience "change" is by moving the "older woman" out of the way to make room for "something young and new," I gotta say, Obama pretty much said everything I wanted to hear. Now, this is scary and I don't believe a lot that comes out of a politician's mouth. But Obama is certainly a shot in the arm.

I was about to fall asleep before he started speaking. I was already worn out. Can I say that I didn't sit down for a solitary second the whole time he was speaking? From what he said about healthcare and Iraq, to education and yes, all that fanfare about "believe" and "hope" and the whole sack of cats, he made it sound real, do-able, and there is an effect he has that rings genuine to me. My hands are sore from clapping...

...I'm sure that several of Clinton's supporters can eviscerate me and ask me what Obama did - Obama, who I gave a chance to see live and in person - that Clinton can't do - a candidate who I haven't yet seen in person and will probably not have a chance to.

Well let me tell you this, and I'm putting my neck on the chopping block by doing so, I know: I went to see Obama, but I ended up seeing a president. He IS a shot in the arm. He IS something new. With all respect to Clinton, I do feel that you are a part of the past. I'm sorry, it is just going to come with the territory. Now, if she gets the nomination, I will be singing her praises and I will be casting my vote dutifully in November for noneother than our beloved Democrat.

Jus' sayin. Obama has "President" written all over him. My tongue's not wagging out, I don't have Obamamania; I'm just a woman who's done some research and I think this guy can take 'em on.

McCain's toast.

The Obama campaign is letting all Democrats, especially you "super delegates" out there, that this has already become conventional wisdom.

Don't screw it up.