Archive for February, 2008

WTF, Geraldine?

This is a picture of Geraldine A. Ferraro.

She was Mondale’s VP candidate in ’84. She was also on the Hunt Commission, the group of Democractic party officials who created the superdelegate system that we’re all having to learn way more about than we ever wanted.

In a Times Op-Ed, Geraldine explains the rationale for the superdelegate system, introduced in time for the 1984 presidential election.

Now, being a young twenty something who’s never been interested in politics until Barack Obama became my new bicycle, this was news to me, but: Ted Kennedy challenged Jimmy Carter for the nomination in 1980 – obviously a crisis for the Democratic Party.

At the convention, there was apparently a huge fight over a specific rule, called Rule 11 (H), or the “loyalty rule”. This rule required the delegates to the national convention to support the candidate that he or she had been elected to support. (not that weird of an idea, if you ask me.)

But the Kennedy campaign wanted the delegates to be able to “vote their conscience” – independent of the outcomes of the primaries and caucuses that had elected them in one candidate’s name or another. I’m not sure what happened, but Kennedy didn’t get the nomination, and everyone got shit all over, and everyone was mad at everyone.

So then in 1982, the Hunt Commission came along to clean up the nominating process. I’ll let Geraldine explain:

“Democrats had to figure out a way to unify our party. What better way, we reasoned, than to get elected officials involved in writing the platform, sitting on the credentials committee and helping to write the rules that the party would play by?

…So we created superdelegates and gave that designation to every Democratic member of Congress. …These superdelegates, we reasoned, are the party’s leaders.”

First of all, I think that the phrase “what better way…” is pretty lame here. I can think of lots of better ways to unify the democratic party than getting elected officials involved in sitting on committees (as if they don’t do enough of that…) I mean, a pizza party is better than that shit.

I’ll grant, though, that I have no idea what the democrats were going through – I don’t understand what Kennedy’s presidential bid really did to the Party. But it does seem to me that this commission was NOT created to make the nominating process more transparent, clear, and democratic. It was created to ensure a “smooth nomination”.

Geraldine has this to say about the effect the commission had on the 84 convention: “We lost in 1984, big time. But that loss had nothing to do with Democratic Party infighting.”

Whoop-de-frickin-do. It’s so much better when you can lose to Regan, ain’t it? Thank god for the Hunt Commission.

The Hunt Commission seems to have relied upon this weird conception of the “party’s leaders” – that they, as a group of people, are less divided and contentious than the party’s voters.

No, they just have different set of motivations than the voters.

The voters vote for the candidates they like, but the party leaders are looking to their own jobs. They want to line up behind the winner and then ride some presidential coattail. (mass noun!)

Geraldine again:

“The superdelegates were created to lead, not to follow. They were, and are, expected to determine what is best for our party and best for the country.”

Who created these superdelegates? Why were they created to lead? Why are they expected to determine anything at all? Why on Earth should anybody but the people in the democratic party nominate the democratic frickin candidate for president? These Superdelegates are elected officials, but they are NOT elected to choose our candidate for president. They are elected to choose all other sorts of things for us, but NOT our candidate for president.

Geraldine, it looks like the system you created was ad-hoc, designed to elbow out the Kennedy wing of the party. It may or may not have been good then, but I can tell you, it ain’t good now.


Vicki and the Three Bills

A few items tonight:

1. Mark Leibovich’s article in the Times about Bill Richardson is some of the best “human touch” political reporting of the season, about how Richardson, now bearded, is being courted. Some of the best lines:

“Lots of people are calling Gov. Bill Richardson these days, ‘just to check in.'”

“He is one of the biggest prospective endorsers in the Democratic Party: former candidate, prominent Hispanic governor, influential superdelegate and generally beloved teddy bear…”

““I want to make it clear that I’m not annoyed by any of this,” Mr. Richardson said of the repeated overtures. ”

2. The Furor over the Times/McCain WAR

I thought that the Times staff’s responses to reader questions were pretty good. Though they didn’t post my question, they did feel it necessary to respond to the (I guess numerous) negative reactions to their choice of Iseman picture. Apparently the evening dress one was from Getty, and the professional one is “low res”, so which one would YOU have chosen? I mean seriously.

In case you’re wondering, here’s my question to the Times:

Assuming that the story is true, here’s my question:

Was there a moment in this campaign that the Times could have run this article that would have hurt McCain less?

Seems to me, if it was going to get out, that this is a pretty good moment to do it, from McCain’s perspective. He doesn’t have a primary to lose, and there’s plenty of time before the general for this story to be old news.

Then again, I wonder if the Times could have picked a worse time from the GOP’s perspective – no chance to run someone else. The GOP begins the general election season with a hobbled candidate and no path to victory.

Basically, I’d like to know about the timing of the article. It stretches credulity to pretend that after such a long gestation period that Thursday, February 21 happened to be day that the story was “ready”. What were the considerations? Maximizing/minimizing impact on McCain/GOP?


and good luck.

3. And lastly, I want to just introduce this one little irony into the O’Reilly Lynch-Factor:

Here’s the full quote of what Bill said:

You know, I have a lot of sympathy for Michelle Obama, for Bill Clinton, for all of these people. Bill Clinton, I have sympathy for him, because they’re thrown into a hopper where everybody is waiting for them to make a mistake, so that they can just go and bludgeon them. And, you know, Bill Clinton and I don’t agree on a lot of things, and I think I’ve made that clear over the years, but he’s trying to stick up for his wife, and every time the guy turns around, there’s another demagogue or another ideologue in his face trying to humiliate him because they’re rooting for Obama.

That’s wrong. And I don’t want to go on a lynching party against Michelle Obama unless there’s evidence, hard facts, that say this is how the woman really feels. If that’s how she really feels — that America is a bad country or a flawed nation, whatever — then that’s legit. We’ll track it down.

The highlighted bit – it’s so fantastic on so many levels. Waiting around for people to make “mistakes” so that he can go and bludgeon them is precisely Bill O’Reilly’s MO.

So much so that the people who hate him (count me in!) wait around for him to make a mistake so that we can go and bludgeon him.

And what’s even better about all this is that Bill’s Big Gonna-Get-Him-Bludgeoned Mistake is preceeded directly by a description of the very same treatment he was about to receive.

It’s like telling someone to duck and then smacking your head directly on the exposed pipe because you’re seven fucking feet tall, bill.

Hot or Not; the flilf edition

Frequent visitor, commentor, and delirious interdisciplinarian Sebastion Bach writes:

She looks way better in that Times photo than she does in the other image of her (the one from her bio) that’s been circulating on blogs. Maybe she does fall into some sort of flilf category for somebody (NOT me) – but only if the “F” and the “L” stand for “Female Lobbyist.”

Here are the photos in question.  The right-hand one is the from the NYtimes site.

Here’s an “expectations game” question for you –

Does it hurt McCain more, the more Iseman seems attractive?

Personally, I think it does.  We get an image of a dirty old man going after some young thing.   Maybe someone (not me, please) can do a comparison of blog postings, positive and negative, and see which blogs use which photo.

I really wish that we had an intern here at ishum that we could tell to do that kind of dirty work.

Vicki Iseman Scandal!

First, a few words about McCain’s rebuttal to the now infamous Times Piece.

He said, “At no time have I ever done anything that would betray the public trust or made a decision which in any way would not be in the public interest or would favor anyone or organization.”

He also responded, “No” when asked if he had ever had a romantic relationship with Vicki.

These statements do not address what seems to me to be the central question – did he ever have any sexual contact with her.

“Romantic” is a slippery word. “Betraying the public trust” is equally slippery.  I know that he was addressing the concern that he behaved unethically in giving her companies special treatment.  But that’s less my concern, only because I think that McCain is at least intellectually in the right place about the power of lobbyists.  These statements leave possibilities open, even when they seem to deny “wrongdoing”.  These aren’t quite as good as Bill Clinton’s ontological query, but still.

My personal take on this is that the Times was in an incredibly tight spot with a very juicy story.  They ran a very, very tame article which suggested way more than it said.

The most “damning” part of the article was that “aides” had been concerned that the relationship had gone too far, and that they had confronted McCain and Iseman about it. On more than one occasion – which suggests to me that it was 100% misperception on the part of the “aides”.

But I think that Barack Obama needs to handle this very carefully – this right here is the politics of division, and he obviously benefits from it.  (Why do all of his opponents just fade away???)  So be careful Barack – now is not the time for a “you’re likable enough” joke.

Keep it positive, and let the NYtimes take the heat for playing gutterball.  (not that I’m sure that they are – but I’m reserving judgment till I know more…)

What do you think?  Did McCain leave himself a “way out” so that he wasn’t quite contradicting himself?

Michelle Obama gets it right!

Michelle Obama had this to say during a speech in Milwaukee.

What we have learned over this year is that hope is making a comeback. It is making a comeback. And let me tell you something — for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country. And not just because Barack has done well, but because I think people are hungry for change. And I have been desperate to see our country moving in that direction and just not feeling so alone in my frustration and disappointment. I’ve seen people who are hungry to be unified around some basic common issues, and it’s made me proud.

This is a gaffe, no question. This quote is going to make the rounds and is going to hound the Obama campaign all the way to the White House. John McCain’s wife is already making popular-high-school-girl style digs at her “counterpart,” as though Cindy McCain was anywhere near Michelle Obama’s league.

It’s clear to me that this is a gaffe, because the Obama campaign is having to spin this – which is uncharacteristic. By and large, the “spin” out of the Obama campaign has been straightforward – but this comment by campaign spokesperson Jen Psaki doesn’t ring true to me:

What she meant is that she’s really proud at this moment because for the first time in a long time, thousands of Americans who’ve never participated in politics before are coming out in record numbers to build a grassroots movement for change.

But no, that’s not what she meant.

Sure, she’s particularly proud at this moment – she’s the wife of a man who suddenly became one of the most beloved figures worldwide. She’s got to be frickin’ bursting with pride. And she can be equally proud of her country, for moving past cynicism.

Indeed, as the campaign points out, this is a moment that America can be proud of. The 2008 presidential campaign has shown the US and the world as a whole that we are better than George Bush, and we are better than the forces that brought him to power. The whole election cycle, but Obama’s campaign in particular, demonstrates so much less of the arrogance, small-mindedness, and greed that have dominated America’s image for such a long time.

But that’s still not what Michelle Obama meant when she said that “for the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country.”

She actually meant that this was the first time since her childhood. Since then, she  had become disillusioned. She probably didn’t see American foreign policy in the last 20 years as a force for much good in the world. She probably thinks that for years, America has waffled on civil rights for women, blacks, gays, arabs, mexicans, etc etc etc. That there hasn’t been public interest or engagement since the 60’s. That the American dream turned into fucking Chili’s and TGIF.

She maybe didn’t participate in the flag waving and chest thumping and freedom-fry eating of the early 2000s. Maybe she thought that the ugly partisanship of the 1990s was enough for anyone to say a pox on both your houses.

What does it really mean to be proud of your country? To be proud to be an American? It’s different from – it has to be – it has to be different from being on the “America” team.  No offense to Red Sox fans, but there’s no real reason anyone’s a red sox fan versus a yankees fan other than geographic happenstance.  I can’t say with total confidence where pride in America should come from, but I’m sure that it shouldn’t come from having been born here rather than there.

I feel as though the pride that Cindy McCain says she has in America is the same pride she no doubt had for the Central High School Bobcats when she was a cheerleader there.

In the video, it looks like Michelle Obama knew that she was putting her foot in her mouth.

But I think she was being honest – like many Americans, she really hasn’t been proud of America, until now.

And I think that I feel exactly the same way.

So just what is Alan Keyes up to lately?

Remember Alan Keyes? The total crackpot who got his ass handed to him in the 2004 election by Barack?

Here’s a link to a January 10, 2008 video of him chatting with with Mike Scheider of Bloomberg TV. It’s a mighty uncomfortable interview. Actually, interview is probably the wrong word. Keyes just doesn’t shut up. My god, he talks. and says more words in a row than most people eat before breakfast, if you know what I mean.

I just googled him because I thought that probably, somebody out there asked him what he thinks about Obama, considering he’s one of the few politicians out that who can speak from personal experience about what Jack and Hill are up against.

Well, good ole Mikey asked him (even though, “it’s uncomfortable, a white guy talking to a black guy”) what he thinks. the fun starts around 16:08.

Keyes apparently got into the 04 senate race because Obama hates babies. He hates them even more than Hillary Clinton (who hates babies a lot) Keyes wants you to consider Obama’s “cold-blooded, ideological mind”.

He wants you to know that Politics is not about success. (good thing)

He wants you to know that he is a Black American, and that voting for Barack Obama is racist.

He’d also like to state, just for the record, that “Barack Obama rejects the principle of our liberty, stands for the slave principle, and then asks that I support him. I can’t do that.”

A Hyper-Shout Link-Out to

Check it.

My personal favorites?

Obambudsman, Baracklamation, and Obamage.

However, I think the widget’s lame – i’d rather just have a list.  Slate’s just trying to milk the 3 hours they spent with a dictionary in the B’s and O’s for all the traffic they can get.  I’ll link to your freaking site, but I won’t let you embed your content on mine.