Saturday, April 26, 2008
THE CLINTONS ARE STILL AT LARGE! Part I. BLACKENING OBAMA, EVEN IF IT ELECTS JOHN MCCAIN James S. Henry
For six months now, partly under the influence of Senator Barack Obama's refreshingly naive
quest for a higher level of discourse in American politics, we've resisted the temptation to "go negative" on his arch-rival -- "Sir Hillary" Diane Rodham Clinton, the relentless one-and-one-third term New York Senator, two-term First Lady, five-term Arkansas Governor's wife, and life-long honorary Queen of the State of Blind, Unbridled Ambition.
Along the way, we've watched aghast as some of our closest associates -- people who describe themselves as "Democrats" and "Hillary supporters," but really turn out to be Obama haters who threaten to vote for John McCain in November if Hillary is not the Democratic nominee -- have tried nearly every trick in the book to tear Obama down.
For example, on January 4, 2008, just one day after the Iowa primary, one pundit was overheard suggesting to members of Sir Hillary's inner circle that the best way to undermine Obama's surprisingly broad appeal would be to "blacken" him.
At the time, Hillary's campaign was still reeling from her third-place finish in Iowa, based on the fact that Barack had done so well across conventional racial, ethnic, gender, and age boundaries.
Evidently the advice was taken. This helps to explain Hillary's odd, a-historical comments on January 7 in New Hampshire, when she compared Lyndon Johnson's role in securing US civil rights legislation during the 1960s to that of Martin Luther King, Jr. ("It took a President to get it done.")
(Actually it took a mass protest movement, based on years of organization and lots of blood, sweat, and tears, to get it done. Hillary's inaccurate recollections about that period may be have been due to the fact that in 1964, at age 17, she had spent her time campaigning actively for Barry Goldwater, the Republican Presidential candidate who opposed the US Civil Rights Act.)
This cynical tactic also helps to explain Bill Clinton's patronizing remarks in South Carolina on January 26, when he compared Obama's campaign to the Rev. Jesse Jackson's 1984 and 1988 Presidential bids -- as if Obama were just another "black niche" candidate.
The point is that these statements were deliberately made, regardless of their merit, because the Clinton camp wanted to provoke rebuttals from prominent black celebrities like the Rev. Jackson, the Rev. Al Sharpton, and Spike Lee.
Bill and Hillary probably knew full well that this might well cost them votes in a handful of states like South Carolina, where blacks are a majority of registered Democrats. Indeed, they were both widely criticized for their remarks.
However, in their cynical calculus, what really mattered was that the official black response would remind white voters elsewhere that while Senator Obama might seem to be "articulate and bright and clean" (in Joe Biden's memorable description), he's really just (as one anonymous Clinton campaign adviser put it) "the black candidate."
DIE HARDISM...OR WORSE?
In the short term, many observers thought that such cynical tactics had backfired. Indeed they may have. Contrary to Hillary's best laid plans, Barack not only survived "Super Tuesday" on February 5, but went on to acquire a commanding lead in delegates.
Even after the most recent machine-state primary in Pennsylvania, Barack still leads by at least 133 delegates. If the latest polls in the remaining nine primaries hold up, Hillary would need to capture at least 73 percent of the remaining unpledged "super delegates" to win. (Click on the chart below.)
Unfortunately, this situation appears to have only redoubled the Clintons' willingness to engage in McCarthyite tactics, including race-baiting and "guilt by association," regardless of the impact on the Democratic Party's chances in November.
The Clintons are notorious for pursuing their own interests at the expense of the Party (just ask Bill Bradley, Al Gore, and John Kerry). But this spectacle is setting new records.
These tactics include trying to smear Senator Obama with the radical views of the Rev. Wright, the Rev. James Meeks, or even the Rev. Louis Farrakhan; reminding people of the Senator's admitted occasional drug use 25 years ago (as compared with Gov. Bill Clinton's denied, much heavier use of cocaine during the same period); and attacking Obama for having a few corrupt contributors in Chicago ("...NOT Chicago!!!") like Antoin "Tony" Rezko (compared with the Clintons' legions of corrupt contributors); and associating Obama with former Weatherman and now Distinguished University of Chicago Prof. William Ayers, who was never convicted of anything (while Bill Clinton had sought fit to pardon two former Weathermen who'd been convicted of involvement in terror-related crimes.)
The tactics also include promoting the idea that Obama can't possibly appeal to white working -class voters, Hispanics, Jews, or Catholics in battleground states, simply because.... well, you see, the country may just not be "ready" for a "black" President -- whatever those terms mean.
Of course the Clintons argue that dwelling on such material now is justified because Karl Rove and the Republicans would only focus on it later. Furthermore, Obama's prolonged side-show with his former pastor appears to have done a perfectly job of undermining his campaign without much help from them.
This is mostly self-serving flim-flam. The fact is that Hillary & Co. have run a terrible campaign, and are now reduced to relying on hyping bogus issues like Rev. Wright rather than talking about real issues.
If the Clintons had not underestimated Obama so badly, they would have At this point, if they believe that the Democratic Party will reject Obama and opt for Hillary, they are delusional -- such a move would only lead the majority of Party activists that has supported Obama overwhelmingly to sit this election out. By continuing to battle Obama down all the way to the convention, the Clinton machine is wasting precious attention and resources that ought to be devoted to attacking the real enemy.
So why are the Clintonistas employing these Die-Hard, polarizing, kamikaze-style tactics?
Well, first, the hard-core stormtroopers down in the Bunker actually still hope to achieve a "Hail Mary" knock-out in
the last few primaries, shocking the super-delegates into a
wholesale defection from Obama. They simply can't admit that it is far too late for anything other than an Obama candidacy.
Second, Clinton supporters have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on this battle, and many of them have been preparing for it literally for decades. Many of them genuinely resent Obama's upstart campaign, and feel entitled to reclaim their White House.
Third, many (highly-paid) Clinton campaign operatives are not exactly looking forward to seeking real jobs in the midst of a recession.
Fourth, key Clinton supporters desperately fear being left out in the cold if Obama wins the nomination, let alone the Presidency, for as much as another eight years. Especially for those in Hillary's "boomer" generation, that's an eternity.
Finally, and most cynically of all, if 72-year old John McCain wins the Presidency, the odds are that he will only last one term. That would give Hillary another shot in four years.
Whereas if 47-year old Obama wins, he might well last two terms -- by which time Hillary will be approaching dotage and Bill Clinton will be in a retirement community for sexual predators.
From the standpoint of naked Clinton self-interest, therefore, the cynical calculus prevails again.
You see, it is a far far better thing to go after one's fellow Democrat with all the malevolence that one can muster, even at the risk of ruining his chances this November, than to withdraw now and help his chances.
Naturally this kind of cynical strategy has attracted all kinds of miscreants, Republicans-in-sheeps' clothing, stragglers, pimps, shills, camp followers, and hangers-on.
There ought to be a special place in Hell for such people.
But if there is not, we should endeavor to create one right here on Earth.
(c) SubmergingMarkets, 2008
Thursday, April 17, 2008
SNATCHING VICTORY? The Democrats Descend Into the Politics of Mutually-Assured Destruction James S. Henry
On an occasion of this kind, it becomes more than a moral duty to speak one's mind. It becomes a pleasure.
-- Oscar Wilde
On the one hand, after seven long years of catastrophic incompetence in Washington, our country is literally begging for new ideas and leadership, especially from the erstwhile Party of the Opposition.
Recent polls show that an unprecedented 81 percent of Americans believe their country is "on the wrong track," while President Bush's approval rating has sunk to an all-time low of 28 percent. There is a growing popular demand for decisive government action on any number of issues that have been festering while "Nero" Bush and "Imperator" Cheney have been fiddling.
THE DEMAND FOR CHANGE
John "McSame's" feisty personality notwithstanding, this is not the ideal moment to be plumping for free-market solutions, let alone more tax cuts for the extremely rich, hands-off deregulation for our wondrous mortgage banking, health care, automotive, airlines, handgun, coal-fired utility, and social insurance industries, and the unending prospect of more unilateral, open-ended wars.
No -- this is a time that cries out for smart, can-do, progressive, and -- yes -- youthful government.
Its precise slogan should be: Yes, we had better -- or else.
At the risk of depressing our readers, among the many tough issues that demand this pragmatic approach right now are the following:
>Containing the mortgage crisis and the deep
recession that it has produced.
>Withdrawing from Iraq as soon as possible, while discouraging Iran from filling the void.
>Intensifying the hunt for Bin Laden, without losing Pakistan and Afghanistan to a Taleban revival.
>Protecting our nation against the genuine on-going global terrorist menace.
>Fixing our high-cost, inhumane health insurance system once and for all.
>Biting the bullet on climate change and global warming.
>Rebuilding public education and college assistance.
>Guaranteeing the financial integrity of Social Security and Medicare.
>Restoring civil liberties and reversing the drift toward a state of siege.
>Reviving American's reputation in the world and its relations with key allies.
Revising our increasingly disfunctional "free trade" agreements.
>Reviving efforts to prosecute corrupt politicians, war profiteers, and big-ticket tax evaders to the limits of the law, as opposed to granting them Presidential pardons.
>Slashing government waste, especially the bloated $800+billion "total war" budget and the huge agro-industry subsidies that are literally wiping out poor farmers all over the world.
All together, this adds up to a demand for nothing less than at least a decade of intense regime change right here at home.
THE SUPPLY OF CHANGE ?
Is the Party of the Opposition up to this challenge? Unfortunately, the habitually ham-handed Democratic Party, as well as much of broadcast journalism, have responded to the soaring demand for substantive change and attention to real issues by focusing on.....Well, what, exactly?
Let's see. If last night's televised debate in Philadelphia is any indication, both candidate Hillary Clinton and the news media -- or at least pro-Hillary flacks like ABC News' George Stephanopoulos and the ponderous, self-important Charles Gibson -- are far more concerned with (1) Obama's Rev. Wright's alleged relationships with Rev. Farrakhan and a visiting Hamas associate, (2) Obama's even more tangential relationship with an obscure former Chicago "Weatherman" named Ayers, (3)his recent (really quite defensible) "Bittergate" comments about the roots of working-class culture, and (4) the torturous question of whether or not the Junior Senator from Illinois should demonstrate his patriotism by wearing a flag pin on his lapel.
>>As if Hillary and Bill have not accumulated a long list of even more dubious relationships, several of whom had to be pardoned.
>>As if Stephanopolous did not get his questions about Ayers directly from Fox News' mad-hatter host Sean Hannity the day before the debate.
>> As if there were not -- by definition -- quite a few other black males at Louis Farrakhan's rather successful 1995 "Million Man March" in Washington, D.C. -- at least 670,000 to 1 million, according to one careful aerial survey.
>>As if Gibson and his sidekick did not tilt so far to starboard in their questioning that one Washington Post journalist titled his review, "In Pa. Debate, The Clear Loser Is ABC."
This attempt to focus on a series of jaundiced Obama "gotchas" is actually a sign of Hillary's increasing desperation.
Obviously she is furious at having been repeatedly up-staged and out-campaigned over the past year -- despite her vast experience, wealth, and connections with wealthy donors and lobbyists, not to mention Bill. The smooth-talking Chicago upstart with the Harvard Law degree and the Bill Clinton-like hard luck story is actually trying to deprive her of her rightful place in history!
Hillary's focus on character assassination also reflects her sheer frustration at the fact that Obama now clearly has the inside track for the nomination.
This has not been a pleasant month for Ms.Clinton. She's just fired her long-time campaign strategist, after firing her campaign manager. She's just been caught in a bald-face lie about coming under fire in Tuzla. Her lead in Pennsylvania has dropped to five points. With just 10 primaries left to go, Obama is now at least 139 delegates ahead. Even if Hillary captures, as expected, more than half of the delegates elected in these primaries, she will still need to win two-thirds of the remaining 319 uncommitted "superdelegates." Obama just needs 125. (Click on chart.)
That's a pretty large gap for Hillary to overcome -- especially considering the fact that Obama's fund-raising machine allows him to outspend his rival by two-to-one in key states.
This explains Hillary's increasing reliance on negative advertising in Pennsylvania and the other primary states, her endless repetitions of the Rev. Wright and "Bittergate" story, and her grasping at all those other petty straws in last night's debate -- even while conceding that Obama, with all his flaws, could still beat John McCain in November.
In short, those of us who long for probing discussions of serious issues will probably have to look elsewhere than Hillary, let alone ABC News. And we should certainly not expect to hear much about them until Hillary faces facts and does the right thing -- which, just to spell it out for her clearly, is not to remain in this race "until the last dog dies."
(c) SubmergingMarkets, 2008