Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Mayor Bloomberg decides not to run...

In an op-ed for the NYT, New York City's Mayor Bloomberg says he is not - and will not be - a candidate for President.
Mayor Bloomberg's op-ed is largely filled with in-country concerns, with nary a thought for the Iraq war, which has resulted in tens of thousands of deaths (Iraqi and American), is a drain on the US economy, and has taken the focus away from the real war on terror in Afghanistan and Bin Laden. Not a word about Iran's nuclear ambitions or Russia's slide back into dictatorship. And his only thought about global climate change is about the cost of mitigation.
Anyway, despite the good Mayor's assertion that an Independent can win the US Presidency - not this year, with Senator McCain the presumptive nominee, without even considering the Democratic nominee. If the latter is Senator Obama, that closes the door completely for an Independent run. No wonder Mayor Bloomberg decided to not run.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Oh, the hypocrisy!

The charge often levied against Obama-supporters by Clinton-backers is – “You hypocrites! You, so-called “progressive” Democrats, can’t stand a woman becoming President, and would rather vote for a man with a slim resume!”

Undoubtedly, there are men (and maybe some women) voting for candidates-other-than-Senator Clinton because of gender bias. There is also some of that with folks not voting for Senator Obama because he’s Black.

But to cast the entire lot of Obama-followers as male chauvinist pigs is surely an exaggeration? This characterization overlooks the many faults of Senator Clinton and the campaign she has run. I have listed the reasons why I moved away from supporting Senator Clinton, even though I feel it is high time the USA had a woman President. I might even make a claim that I can out-feminist (!) Robin Morgan, since she railed against the lack of female commentators on political talk shows, but I have pointed out that the problem really is the total lack of female hosts on said talk shows, which she did not appear to observe! Yet, I would be classified as a bad old MCP!

In addition to my list, there are other problems with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton – these may or may not be her fault, including the fact that half the country dislikes the ClintonS. President Clinton did lie about his relations with Monica Lewinsky, and may have about numerous affairs he had earlier. The moral character of a President has come into sharper focus, particularly with the rise of the Christian Right; in a previous era, nobody would have cared about President Clinton’s private affairs (see Kennedy, John F.; and Harding, Warren G.). But now enough people do, and like it or not, Senator Clinton carries that baggage with her, in addition to "mixed blessings" like NAFTA, packaged with the glories of the Clinton-42 era. That makes some people worry about her electability, particularly against someone like Senator McCain; some Democrats may not vote for her due to resentment over NAFTA. Note that this has nothing to do with Senator Clinton being A Woman. And yet, these same folks would be called anti-women!

How would Clinton supporters feel if they were called racist and anti-African American for not supporting Senator Obama? That charge could very well be made; after all, Senator Obama has been elected to public office more often than Senator Clinton. He has a decent track record of legislative accomplishments; the advantage Senator Clinton holds, if any, is because she has been around longer, including her stints as First Lady with the powers and influence associated with that position, not because Senator Obama was not active. Some of Senator Obama's positions on foreign policy and the "war on terror" appear to have the approval of Senator Joe Biden, the resident Democratic expert on foreign policy. The Obama health care plan may - initially - leave more people uninsured than the Clinton plan, but may be more acceptable to a broader audience, and thus, more likely to become reality. Overall, the Obama and Clinton policy proposals are pretty much the same – except perhaps the fact that Senator Obama does not explicitly state his support for abortion rights, and puts Women’s issues under “Civil rights” rather than as a separate category by themselves, as Senator Clinton does.

But recently, pro-life Democrats like Colorado Governor Bill Ritter have been elected; apparently, a pro-life Democrat need not be actively anti-abortion rights. Senator Obama has not explicitly stated that he is pro-life either; in fact, his Illinois record shows quite a few votes against anti-abortion rights legislation. But in any case, it appears that it is OK for a pro-life White person like Governor Ritter to be elected on a Democratic ticket, just not OK for a Black person to be nominated by the Democratic Party because he appears to waffle on abortion rights, even if he is not pro-life and has received a 0% rating from the National Right to Life Committee. [I know the issue is more complicated - women's rights are not just about abortion; but it is the most bandied-about example.]

So – how would Clinton supporters feel to be called racist bigots, just because they refuse to support Senator Obama if he were to become the Democratic nominee?

In the end, if a progressive agenda is to be implemented, the supporters of Senators Obama and Clinton have to come together; otherwise they risk not gaining anything at all! A prominent example is provided by the extreme leftists who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000; even though I think Al Gore’s loss was due to Al Gore, it is very possible that there were at least 538 leftists out of the 97000+ who voted for Nader in Florida that could have voted for Al Gore. It is well-known how the succeeding years have turned out, in critical fields such as education, health care, emergency response (we have Mayor Giuliani to thank for the 9/11 response), and, as I am told, women’s rights. The country will survive, as good democracies inevitably do; but would one rather not have the country thrive? So – no matter who the Democratic nominee is – a unified front is essential.

P.S. The more I think about it, the more I feel an Obama/Clinton ticket will be the only reasonable solution this election cycle. If the delegates were split 2600-1300, the nominee would be clear. But with a 1900-1700 split – as is likely – how do you realistically choose one over the other? It appears Senator Clinton is willing to ask Senator Obama to be the Vice-Presidential nominee, even if she doesn’t like it. However, would Senator Clinton be willing to fill the VP slot herself, if, as appears likely, Senator Obama has the delegate lead at the end of the nomination process?

P.P.S. SNL, on its return after the writer’s strike, had a couple of good skits in-between the usual drivel. The opening act parodied the CNN debate, showing the hosts as in-the-tank for Senator Obama; the “weekend update” section had an excellent sketch with Governor Mike Huckabee overstaying his welcome and relying on (Democratic!) superdelegates to win the Republican nomination. Hilarious. But the sad part is – SNL could not find a competent Black comedian to play Senator Obama, relying instead on Fred Armisen in blackface. Despite the rich history of African-American comedians (see Rock, Chris; Murphy, Eddie; and others), all SNL has is the stereotypical Fat Black Guy in Keenan Thomson. Plenty of White women, though, some even shilling openly for Senator Clinton. [UPDATE/SOURCE: The part about Keenan Thomson was inspired by Randolph Terrance's quote for Helena Andrews' column in Politico.]

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Another Nader run, and more on campaign management

Ralph Nader announced that he will be running for President again this year. He ran in 2000 on the Green Party ticket, and won 2.7% of the popular vote. Many Democrats accuse him of costing former Vice-President Al Gore the election; Nader won 97000+ votes in Florida, where Gore lost by 537 votes. It is possible quite a few (extreme left) Democrats voted for Nader hoping to get him over the 5% threshold required to qualify the Green Party for federal financing in the next election cycle.
The Democrat response has been typical - both Senators Clinton and Obama say Nader made a mistake in 2000, and possibly was making another today. The Republicans, at least Mike Huckabee, appear thrilled. However, I have to disagree with the Democrats on this - Al Gore lost the 2000 election on his own. He did not carry his own home state of Tennessee - if you can't do that, you don't deserve to win, IMHO.
How will this play out? I have stated earlier that there are Democrats who are unhappy with Senator Obama; they could possibly vote for Nader rather than Senator McCain. Senator Clinton does not attract as many independents as Senator Obama; these voters might consider Nader more palatable than Senator McCain. Of course, Nader has no realistic chance of winning; his votes will be more out of pique at the Democratic candidate than anything else. Oh well.

The Clinton campaign has been lamenting being outspent by Senator Obama in Wisconsin, and apparently in "many early-voting" states. While they could use this to motivate their fund-raising efforts, this is purely - no other way to say this - their own dumb fault. They raised almost as much money as the Obama campaign - $130 million as per an AP report - but apparently had no control over spending... typical for Democrats?

Ciccina decides to not-vote, and Senator Obama - a new Democrat?

Ciccina, over at The Lurking Canary, has decided to follow her heart and not vote, if, as current trends hold, Senator Obama is the Democratic nominee. That is unfortunate; but that is her considered opinion, and I respect her for that - not that my opinion is worth tuppence. Hopefully, that is not part of a larger trend where ardent supporters of Senator Clinton - a core of the Democratic party - stay at home rather than vote, or vote Republican for the explicitly pro-life/anti-abortion Senator McCain, in November.
Ciccina has stated that Senator Obama is not explicitly pro-choice on abortion rights. This appears to be true - I looked at Senator Obama's website under "issues", and did not find any mention of abortion rights. However, as Senator Clinton is fond of saying, actions speak louder than words; here is Senator Obama's record on the question of choice.

Senator Obama's non-position on abortion rights during his Presidential campaign, and his move away from mandated health insurance, are in opposition to positions normally taken for granted in the Democratic Party. This could be why some Independents and Republicans are comfortable with him, the same way that some Independents and Democrats are OK with Senator McCain. The similarities between the two presumptive nominees include discomfort on the part of their chosen Party's core, and the lack of an obvious rallying cry against either candidate by the opposing Party. IF Senator Obama is the Democratic nominee, November 2008 could come down to a clash of personalities more than anything else.

While on the potential of Senator Obama as the Democratic nominee, Senator Joe Biden (D-Delaware) was on ABC with George Stephanapolous this morning. Senator Biden was a candidate for the Democratic Presidential nomination this cycle, but dropped out after a poor showing in Iowa. However, he is considered a foreign policy expert with, among others, a sane plan ("decentralized federation"?) for Iraq. He says Senator Obama's stated position - striking at Al-Qaeda in Pakistan given adequate evidence, without consulting the Pakistani government - has been a policy of the US Government for the past two Presidents. Senator Obama has been ridiculed for "proposing" this policy. As Senator Biden pointed out, Senator Obama should perhaps have not explicitly stated this strategy, but it was nothing new. Senator Biden also says Senator Obama's position on meeting with the new Cuban President - without preconditions, but with some preparation - is reasonable.
So, does that indicate the Democratic Party is coalescing behind Senator Obama, or was Senator Biden offering an objective opinion? Or maybe both?

The battle over health care reform

Paul Krugman wrote in the NYT that Senator Obama's plan will leave 22 million people uninsured (out of ~45 million as at present). He based this on a "new paper" by MIT economist Jonathan Gruber. What irked me was that Krugman did not share a title or link of any sort; further, I figured if 22 million was the right number, the Clinton campaign would use this rather than the "15 million" figure bandied about.

So I did a web-search, and found a number of articles relevant to this discussion:
1. The Gruber paper appears to be this one. I have a PDF that, presumably, I can share for purely personal/non-commercial use. I will post a summary when I read it.
2. Here is another study that appears to suggest a plan mandating insurance ("Clinton") would leave about 6 million uninsured, while an opt-out plan ("Obama"?) would leave about 12 million uninsured (both inclusive of 3 million "including non-filers" uninsured.) Here is the summary where I got these numbers.
3. Here's a blog describing "Medicare for All"; the blogger also states that "universal mandate" plans are open to Republican attacks of the "Democrats are Big Brother" variety.

[My own view on mandated health insurance - like auto insurance - is that while one can opt not to drive, one can't (realistically) opt not to live. Thus, without that choice, mandates strike me - a foreigner - as unAmerican. This is essentially what the Republican attack on a nationally mandated health care plan will be, as explicitly stated in the blog above, and in the Jonathan Cohn article below.]

4. Professor Gruber apparently thinks Senator Edwards' plan was the best; but Senator Obama's plan still represents a vast improvement over the current system.
5. Here are a couple of fact-checker articles that discuss the numbers. From these articles, here is a story by Jonathan Cohn, which apparently is where the "15 million" number (as in "uninsured with Senator Obama's plan") comes from. This article in The Concord Monitor discusses the political battle as well as other "expert" opinions, and also sources the 15 million number to Professor Gruber.
6. Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor in the '90s Clinton administration, thinks Senator Obama's plan will insure more people than Senator Clinton's plan.

That's a lot of information, hopefully intelligent! As always, caveat emptor - I cannot think for you!

I am a blogger, not a journalist!

ST summarizes my blog as an unabashed shill-for-Obama. Mea culpa!

This blog actually started after I read The Lurking Canary; Ciccina over there is vehemently pro-Clinton and anti-Obama, as Senator Clinton is explicitly pro-choice; Ciccina feels Senator Obama is not explicit. I am sure there are plenty of other pro-Clinton, anti-Obama and pro-Obama blogs out there; I shall try to keep from blind-Obamaism, but much of what you read here will be in support of Senator Obama. Note, however, that Senator Obama was my third choice; see here why first Senator McCain and then Senator Clinton lost my support. As I wrote ST:

"As I discover things about Obama that I don't like, I find myself saying, "well, nobody's black or white..." A conclusion I came to when reading (and about) Thomas Jefferson (the closest equivalent to my "hero" in politics). I guess the only "dissent" is that I am biased against the two establishment/entitlement candidates :-) [Most Republicans seem to be voting for McCain to make up for 2000!]"

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hillary Clinton's new tactics

Back in 2004, about ten days before the Presidential elections, John Kerry met with President Clinton. After that meeting, Senator Kerry came out swinging against President Bush, attacking him on the economy. Of course, that didn't work (though the Bin Laden video might have something to do with it).

Thursday's debate between Senators Clinton and Obama was fairly congenial, though there was the occasional skirmish. Many analysts later felt that it appeared Senator Clinton was beginning to realize this might be it - she was unlikely to win the nomination.

However, today that appears to not be the case. Senator Clinton has come out attacking Senator Obama for what she calls "misleading" fliers - she even said, "Shame on you, Barack Obama!" As some commentators have pointed out, never bet against a Clinton till the last dog dies...

One of Senator Clinton's contentions is that the Obama campaign's flier says the Clinton plan for universal health care will force people to buy insurance even if they can't afford it. Senator Clinton says this is not true. However, I thought her UHC plan had a mandate - something she has repeatedly asserted is required to make sure people don't game the system. She has also stated that to implement this mandate, it might be necessary to garnish people's wages if they don't buy health insurance. Well, that sounds to me as though everybody will have to buy insurance under Senator Clinton's proposal - even if they can't afford it!
(Otherwise they risk paying fines - and still not get health insurance, as is the case in Massachusetts currently.)

As for the NAFTA flier - here is the Newsday response. Newsday, when it first published a comparison between the positions of Senator Clinton and her then-primary rival, apparently said that is appeared Senator Clinton feels NAFTA is a boon. "Boon" was not Senator Clinton's direct quote, which is how the Obama campaign flier used it; rather, it was Newsday's characterization of her position. Newsday admits their report should have made that clear.
Senator Clinton now criticizes NAFTA, and says she opposed it when Clinton 42's administration passed it. Well, that may have been; but as one of the comments on the Ohio Daily Blog posting about the flier points out, if Senator Clinton uses her "experience as a First Lady" to bolster her resume, and take credit for that Clinton administration's accomplishments, should she not also be held accountable for any failings, real or perceived?

NYT - gaming the system for its endorsee?

Here is how the Gray Lady counts delegates in the Democratic Presidential nomination race -
only the pledged (elected) delegates that are bound by their preferences, which rules out caucuses like Iowa. In addition, they count unpledged delegates - "superdelegates."
Technically, caucus delegates pledge their support to a Presidential candidate at their state convention. This means that even though Senator Obama won Iowa, the state delegates could still change their preference and vote for Senator Clinton at the state convention. So in a sense, the NYT is correct; however, since the caucus delegates are chosen by voters expressing their preference for a particular candidate, would it not be undemocratic for the state delegates to switch their Presidential preference?
Someone from the Clinton campaign has already spoken about poaching pledged delegates, though later both the Clinton and Obama campaigns said they had no such plans. Mind you, this is not just unbound-but-elected pledged caucus delegates, but all pledged delegates - elected in a primary or through a caucus/state convention system. If the NYT really wanted to leave out folks who could change their Presidential preference, they should really not count any delegates - bound by their primary/caucus or not.

Further, the NYT counts unpledged or "super" delegates - though it is clear that superdelegates are not bound by their own current opinion. As the Gray Lady herself notes, historically superdelegates have supported the front-runner at the national Democratic convention. So it the NYT really wants to be strict, they should not include the superdelegates in their count.

Not counting caucus delegates cuts down Senator Obama's lead; Senator Clinton has the edge among superdelegates. By following such a differentiation of pledged/elected delegates - unlike most other news organizations like CNN and the AP, which do count caucus delegates - and counting unbound superdelegates, the NYT is putting up a delegate count that favors their Democratic endorsee - Senator Clinton. If the NYT method was unlike their delegate count in previous years, one might even think the Gray Lady is gaming the system!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Senator Clinton's campaign finances - and Texas excuse?

The NYT has an article about how the Clinton campaign appears to have mismanaged its finances. The more I read it, though, it appears Senator Obama spent more, but since he also raised more funds and is winning, he appears to be off the hook. Jim Jordan, a one-time Kerry campaign manager, says as much at the end of the article.
However, there are a couple of differences between the Clinton and Obama campaigns:
1. The Obama campaign was better prepared for post-Feb 5 races, and also organized well in caucus states. Grass-roots support has been crucial to Senator Obama's success.
2. Mark Penn, Senator Clinton's strategist and pollster, has raked in about $10 million so far. For the Obama campaign, David Axelrod and four polling firms together have collected ~$4 million.
Well, we definitely know who's getting the most bang for the buck!

In an interview with Texas Monthly, Senator Clinton says Texas doesn't factor into a Democratic winning strategy, unlike... Florida and Michigan! So if recent trends hold and Senator Obama wins Texas, will this be Senator Clinton's new excuse?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Tonight's Democratic debate on CNN

A few thoughts:

1. The debate started off very civilly, but then there was enough fight - I enjoyed it!

2. I think the debate was at least a draw, if not a victory for Senator Obama. Even a draw helps Senator Obama - there was a good reason the Clinton campaign was clamoring for a debate a week. On CNN, Donna Brazile said, "[Obama] was Presidential... he had the poetry, but also the prose. He was good!"

3. Senator Obama threw a few good punches, as did Senator Clinton - but I think Senator Obama got the better zingers, like "this is silly season in politics" (video) when asked about the plagiarism charge.

4. More importantly, Senator Obama defended himself well against the charge that he is all talk and no action. He specifically stated many of his legislative accomplishments, and got one of the best lines of the night - that the Clinton campaign is trying to paint Obama supporters as "delusional."

5. Senator Clinton repeatedly went back to health care, but Senator Obama got back saying mandates on adults haven't worked in Massachusetts (which has mandatory health insurance) - people can't afford insurance, so they end up paying fines without getting any benefits! He also pointed out why Senator Clinton's 1993 efforts to get universal health care failed - because she didn't even include the views of other Democrats, let alone Republicans and stakeholders.

6. I can't really tell how effective - for lack of a better word - the CNN "people meter" is. The few snatches I did see, Senator Clinton was getting consistently good scores (i.e. a more positive response), which speaks to her debating skills. However, the one clear negative period for her came when Senator Clinton tried to repeat the plagiarism charge against Senator Obama. That line isn't working, girl!

7. CNN commentators are saying that Senator Clinton's last answer to end the debate got a standing ovation. Roland Martin, also of CNN, had a different take - he said people related to Senator Clinton's hint at her trials and tribulations in the 90s, but they also stood up because she gave a generic unifying answer to end - "we Democrats will win November" or some such bromide - and it was the end of the debate. So the standing ovation could well have been for the debate overall.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

A tale of two wives...

Michelle Obama said: "Let me tell you, for the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country. Not just because Barack is doing well, but I think people are hungry for change."

Of course, this has the Patriotic Right up in arms. So much so that Cindy McCain, whom I have never heard speak or seen a report that said she even does (!), said at a campaign event while introducing her husband: "I'm proud of my country, I don't know about you, if you heard those words earlier. I have, and always will be, proud of my country." [Same link as above] Some comments on other blogs and articles about this incident have called Ms McCain the Stepford Wife given her usual silence; that's extreme and unfair, but this AP picture is quite scary! More importantly, though - and this is something I thought of earlier but missed till I was reminded by this blog-post - was Ms McCain proud during the Abu-Ghraib torture scandal, the pathetic response to Hurricane Katrina, the White House-sponsored waiving of Geneva conventions, the underhanded campaign painting Veit Nam veteran and former Georgia Senator Max Cleland as unpatriotic and similar to Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein, and the slander against Senator McCain himself during the 2000 campaign by "friends" of his now-buddy President George W Bush?

Michelle Obama has since clarified her statement, saying she meant she's proud of the political process for the first time. Which is not unreasonable considering the partisanship of the past couple decades.

Personally, I think Michelle Obama is a smart, intelligent woman perfectly capable of making reasonable arguments and holding her own opinions. I also think one can be patriotic without being jingoistic. Jingoism is characteristic of right wing nutjobs, who paint anyone without a rose-tinted view of one's country as "unpatriotic"; I have seen this in India as well. Unfortunately, the more I see of Senator McCain's campaign - his attacks last night on Senator Obama were typical Republican boiler plate - and with these few words from Cindy McCain, the less enthused I am about Senator McCain. Senator Obama had better be prepared for more such attacks if he is the eventual Democratic Presidential nominee; both Obamas will have to watch their words. More is the pity.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Obama's personality cult?

Cora Currier at The Nation has an interesting take on the media hype about the "personality cult" surrounding Senator Obama.
The actions of a few are being characterized as characteristic of the larger body; this makes quite a few people uneasy about supporting Senator Obama. Why does no-one raise a stink about the flaming feminists who rabidly support Senator Clinton just because she's a woman? Could it be because these feminists have always been politically active, while the young people who ardently support Senator Obama have not? Opposition spin machines and the media try to trivialize this new-found interest in politics among young people as the next fad... "these young voters won't turn-out on election day."
CNN exit polls show an increase in the turn-out by the 18-29 age group comparing the 2004 and 2008 Democratic primaries (from 2004 to 2008):
Missouri: from 9% to 14%
Wisconsin: from 11% to 16%
California: from 11% to 16%
New Hampshire: from 14% to 18%
So - contrary to spin by other-than-Obama campaigns and the media - these young voters are showing an increased interest, and more importantly, are turning out in force. Remember that absolute voter turn-out this primary season is breaking previous records, so the increase in terms of absolute number of young voters turning out is more significant than the higher percentages indicate.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Obama and Patrick speeches

Last Saturday, at a Democratic Party dinner in Wisconsin, Senator Obama responded to the Clinton campaign's criticisms characterizing Obama as a "talker, not a doer." A couple of his sentences were very similar to Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick's response in the same situation, during the Governor's campaign in 2006. Here is a description of the similarities between the two speeches (video link, via The Nation) and the Clinton campaign's subsequent charge of plagiarism against Senator Obama. Senator Obama did not attribute the sentences to Governor Patrick, hence the charge of plagiarism.

Back in 1988, Senator Joe Biden ended his Presidential bid after a similar charge of plagiarism. He repeated a speech by British labor leader Neil Kinnock, with apparently only minor modifications (link). So the question is - is this Obama's Biden moment?

The incident could not have come at a better time for the Clinton campaign - just before the Wisconsin Democratic primary, which is tight, though Senator Obama has a slight lead. A Clinton victory will definitely kill any talk of Obama-momentum, and should help Senator Clinton tremendously in the March 4 primaries in Texas and Ohio. This could well be the turning point of the campaign.

But - was the incident as serious as the Clinton campaign would have us believe? Senator Biden apparently recited the Kinnock speech with only minor modifications. On the other hand, Senator Obama's faux pas was part of a much longer speech, though it definitely was one of the highlights. Further, Senator Obama has a long history of speaking and writing - as he says, he has written two books and most of his own speeches. As far as I can tell, his books have not been accused of plagiarism, though an AP report in January apparently reported on similarities of his talking points with Governor Patrick's speeches. Senator Obama defends himself saying Governor Patrick and he talk all the time, trading ideas. The sentences in question were apparently extemporaneous - they were not in the text.

The plagiarism does not appear to be on the Biden-scale. Governor Patrick, a supporter and friend of Senator Obama, apparently encouraged Senator Obama to give such a response. Further, Senator Clinton herself has appropriated some of Senator Obama's language, and that definitely is planned; one thing Senator Clinton has not been accused of is spontaneity. But with the Wisconsin race as tightly poised as it is, any minor incident could tip the scales one way or the other.

We will find out on the morrow.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Clinton v. Obama - on science!

A brief Slate report on the Clinton and Obama plans for science and technology, presented at the AAAS annual meeting, is here. Apparently, the Obama representative repeatedly asked the attending scientists to look up the Barack Obama website for details. The Slate reporter says:
"Those without laptops learned only that Obama planned to double federal research funding, spend $150 billion on biofuels, and appoint a national Chief Technology Officer."

Let's see... "those without laptops" at a science meeting - that would be less than 1% of the attending public!
Of course, that's not to say the Obama representative did the right thing. Scientists want data. I can see why the Slate writer thinks the Clinton camp won the day.

Great article...

... way back in Jan 2007! Here is the WaPo comparing the voting records of Senators Obama and Clinton. I think Senator Obama mostly comes off better...

In a little town in Ohio...

This story by the Washington Post talks about people in Lima, Ohio. Interesting story, but here's what struck me, a conversation between two Clinton supporters:

[QUOTE] Pennington told Huenke that she had just returned from the grocery store, where she overheard a young woman gushing about Obama. In the checkout line, Pennington confronted the woman. "Do you know his middle name?" she asked. "It's Hussein. Hussein."

Now, recounting the exchange, Pennington sighed. "It bothers me that these Obama people don't even know anything about him," she said. "They just don't know.

"I mean, don't get me wrong. He's all right. If he gets the nomination, well, we're going to have to vote for him and get behind him because we're Democrats above anything else. But I just don't like the preaching that he's doing. He sounds like an old Bible-thumper to me. I like being talked to. I don't like being yelled at."[END QUOTE]

Of course, they end up saying that if Senator Obama wins the nomination, they will work for him. But this has to be the first time I have heard someone paint Senator Obama as both a Muslim as well as a Christian evangelist... in almost the same breath!

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Electability in swing states

A story on CNN says Senator McCain is statistically tied with Senators Clinton and Obama in Florida and Ohio, but in Pennsylvania, Senator Clinton beats Senator McCain by 6 points - these results are based on a Quinnipac poll taken Feb 6-12. So effectively, Senator Clinton has an edge in electability... or so the story goes.

However, CNN is not presenting polls taken in other swing states. For example, Rasmussen Reports has polls for New Hampshire, Colorado, Nevada, and Missouri:
Missouri (2004 Bush +7): McCain (+1, +2) tied with both Clinton and Obama
New Hampshire (2004 Kerry +1): Obama-McCain 49-36 (+13%), Clinton effectively tied 43-41 (+2)
Colorado (2004 Bush < +5): Obama-McCain 46-39 (+7%); Clinton-McCain 35-49 (-14%)
Nevada (2004 Bush): Obama-McCain 50-38 (+12%); Clinton-McCain 40-49 (-9%)

These are states which have seen Senator Obama campaign, unlike Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania. So I think MO/NH/CO/NV are a much better indicator of swing-state electability than FL/OH/PA.
Note that Senator Clinton narrowly beat Senator Obama in Nevada and New Hampshire, while Senator Obama edged her in Missouri and handily won the caucuses in Colorado. However, the large winning margins for Senator Obama in NV/NH/CO comes from unaffiliated and Republican voters. Senator Obama draws support from these two groups, away from Senator McCain. Senator McCain may not be very popular amongst Republicans (link), but Senator Clinton definitely is - in a perverse fashion.

Bottom line - Senator Obama can definitely win swing states which Senator Clinton cannot. And in Pennsylvania, he ties McCain; with personal exposure to voters, Senator Obama could very well come away with PA as well.

Senator Obama and Ohio

After Wisconsin, the critical March 4 states are Ohio and Texas. Currently, polls show Senator Obama trailing Senator Clinton by ~15% and ~7% respectively. Texas is getting tighter - and the primary/caucus hybrid there could put Senator Obama within striking distance of Senator Clinton, at least in terms of delegates.

However, I think Ohio should not be written off - apart from the reason that Senator Obama has not yet campaigned in Ohio. There are quite a few similarities between Ohio and Senator Obama's home state of Illinois. For starters, Illinois and Ohio are both midwestern states. Major agricultural products in both states include corn, soybeans, dairy products, cattle, and hogs. Common industries include machinery manufacturing, processed foods, and rubber products. So Senator Obama should be tuned into the needs of Ohio's working-class voters.

In addition, steel is a major industry in Ohio - and Senator Obama worked with folks who lost their jobs after the steel industry collapse of the '70s and '80s, so he should be able to relate with similar folks in Ohio.

"Experienced in handling the economy!"

One of the arguments I heard about a McCain vs Clinton match-up (from a Clinton supporter) in the general election was:
1. McCain has served in the military heroically, which Clinton has not, but Clinton did serve on the Armed Services Committee, which should help her face military threats.
2. But, Clinton's forte is the economy - which is the primary issue facing Americans now-a-days. She will do much better than Obama on that front, against McCain.

I am not sure where Senator Clinton picked up this "experience" on the economy. True, there was a major boom during President Clinton's reign, but a large part of that has been attributed to Bill and Al... as in, Alan Greenspan and Bill Gates! Further, as Senator Clinton herself says:

"[NAFTA] is was not something I was focused on at the time. I was focused on health care at the time, as you remember," she said laughing, alluding to her well-publicized failure to overhaul the system. "I was working 24-7 to try to achieve universal health care..."

Of course, we all know how her efforts to get UHC ended - but this indicates that Senator Clinton had nothing to do with the trade and economic policies of the '90s Clinton administration.

So, what experience on the economic front is Senator Clinton touting? As far as I can tell, her plans are made up for her by economic advisers - the same as the plans for Senator Obama. If anything, Senator Obama has actual experience creating jobs for "downsized" or forced-out factory workers, back in the 1980s... When Senator Clinton was on the board of anti-labor Wal-Mart!

Maybe Senator Clinton's economic experience was in the area of "always low prices!" [The Nation link via this.]

Friday, February 15, 2008

If the NYT says so...

... it must be true! Especially since they endorsed Senator Clinton.

But here is the NYT editorial page calling on Senator Clinton to release her income tax records, to clear the air over the source(s) of the $5 million personal loan.

And here is some disturbing news of wrong vote counts in New York city - some African-American-dominated districts recorded ZERO votes for Senator Obama! To be fair, apparently some districts recorded zero votes for Senator Clinton as well. But the important point is, if Senator Obama gets more votes - say 1/3 of the district vote instead of zero - he would now get a delegate!

Talk about disenfranchising voters - the charge some Clinton supporters now throw at Senator Obama for not wanting Florida and Michigan voters decide the Presidential nominee. Hey, as Speaker Pelosi said, you can't penalize someone for following the rules!

Why the Wisconsin Democratic primary is so close...

... Senator Obama is an avowed Bears fan, which does not endear him to the legions of Packer fans!

I was thinking of this earlier today, and then saw this link on the LA Times website. The irony, of course, is that LA does not have a football team. And yet the LA Times picks up on this point well.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Senator Obama's fiscal plans and stump speech

Here's WaPo on the speech at a GM SUV (!) plant in Janesville, Wisconsin. Among other comments, WaPo says tax loopholes are not the sole reason for companies moving abroad. Actually, I don't think Senator Obama is trying to prevent companies from shifting jobs overseas - rather, by closing tax loopholes which benefit such companies, he could level that inequity, and generate additional revenue to fund his job proposals.
As for the other source of revenue - ending the Iraq war - the WaPo points out (correctly) that war funding is temporary. Well, if the US Federal budget is going into deficit, might as well use those deficits to generate jobs in the US and thus boost the economy... which could reduce those deficits!?

At RealClearPolitics, Daniel Henninger of the Wall Street Journal says Senator Obama's stump speech is "getting hard to listen to... it's a downer. ...depressing message..." That's because Senator Obama speaks about the difficulties facing poor Americans, which Henninger says is what John Edwards or Dennis Kucinich - admitted populists - preach.
I think a fair assessment is that the WSJ is not receptive to Democrats! But more important than this ad-hominem attack, Henninger is missing the point of the speech (and perhaps has listened to it once too often, unlike the target audience; even the best speech can get tiring if one listens to it too often). Senator Obama says "We are who we are waiting for!" In other words - ordinary citizens have to help themselves. Obama lays out the ground realities, which can sound depressing, but they are realities nevertheless. But, people suffering under such conditions cannot depend on the federal government to bail them out; they have to help themselves. That should be music to true fiscal conservatives, even those at the WSJ! And the overall message - that these are the depressing realities, but "we can overcome" - is essentially hopeful and optimistic.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

More on March 4 and beyond

Beware the Ides of March.... less 11 days!

Senator Clinton's campaign is apparently ready to take "potentially incendiary steps" to stop Senator Obama, though the NYT piece only mentions an attempt to make Michigan and Florida count. And if Senator Clinton wins Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania, they will try to convince the superdelegates to pay attention to the "quality of where the win comes from." Though it seems some, some and some superdelegates are not too warm to the idea of another Clinton presidency! (Lovely bit: "What," Bill Clinton reportedly asked [Governor Bill] Richardson, "isn't two Cabinet posts enough?"[for endorsing Senator Clinton])

Presumably, if Senator Clinton loses any of these big states, even the great Carville (a Clinton-backer, FYI) will accept that "this thing is done." But here is Mark Penn, the chief Clinton strategist, on the Democrat to defeat Senator McCain (surprise... not!) As a reader pointed out to Kaus, Penn puts women and Latinos as both the Democratic base as well as swing voters! (Links from ABC News and Kaus.)

Finally - VP Rice? I don't think so - it would be too easy to paint McCain/Rice as GWB, Term 3. Maybe Secretary Rice's budget-balancing act at Stanford might provide some economic policy muscle to the GOP ticket, but both Senator McCain and Secretary Rice are national security/foreign policy experts. Shouldn't the VP slot complement the P?

[Updated] The X-factor?

In my earlier post on the middle-term and outlook for Texas and Ohio, I failed to mention the impact of possible endorsements. This morning, ABC News reports that former Senator John Edwards, the last drop-out in the Democratic primaries, is considering supporting Senator Clinton.

Apparently, a former aide said, Senator Edwards "is attracted not only to Clinton's policy portfolio, but also to her long track record as first lady and as a senator. "He's now in a position where he's thinking, who's really ready to be president?""

Wait a minute - didn't John Edwards attack Senator Clinton's years in Washington as the status quo? Further, it is not like Senator Edwards was much more experienced than Senator Obama - Edwards had just one term in the Senate, yet Edwards kept insisting he himself was qualified to be the next President.

I just hope Senator Edwards stays neutral, just like Al Gore has.

UPDATE: Apparently, Senator Edwards thinks Senator Obama is a wuss. It looks like Time's Mark Halperin used the word "pussy" to describe Edwards on Obama. Yikes. Now, did Edwards himself use that word? In any case, it looks like Edwards will not be endorsing Obama. Oh well. (Links from Kaus.)

The new Zell Miller

Zell Miller was a Democratic Senator from Georgia, who had fiery denunciations of the Democrats back in 2004; he backed George W Bush, and even spoke at the Republican Convention.

But for a moderate Republican like John McCain, we have a more subdued version: Senator Joseph Lieberman (link). FYI, Senator Lieberman was elected as an Independent after losing in the Democratic primaries to Ned Lamont, an anti-war businessman and a darling of leftist bloggers.

I don't like Senator Lieberman, because in 2000, as Al Gore's running mate, he continued to run for the Senate. I firmly believe that if one competes for the highest (or second-highest) office in the land, there should be a 100% commitment to that effort, with no other distractions. But Senator Lieberman backs Senator McCain for much the same reason I did - finishing the war in Iraq. Then again, that doesn't make Senator Lieberman unique in my world!

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

[updated 2/13 AM] Mini-Super Tuesday, and thoughts on the middle-term

After today's Potomac primaries, Senator Obama has finally moved ahead of Senator Clinton unequivocally (numbers are Obama-Clinton) [UPDATED/corrected 2/13 AM]:

1. CNN-allocated pledged delegates: 1096-977 (+superdelegates: 1253-1211)
a. I estimate a final count of: 1144-1001 (1301-1235)

2. Popular vote totals are available only for states with primaries (in millions):
a. Without Florida and Michigan: 8.944 - 8.409, or 51.5%-48.5%
b. IF we include Florida and Michigan: 9.672 - 9.595 or 50.2%-49.8%
(only 2/3 of the "uncommitted" vote in Michigan to Senator Obama)

3. Senator Obama has also won ten caucuses, usually by large margins (difference between allocated state delegates in parentheses):
Alaska (50%)
Colorado (35%)
Idaho (62%)
Iowa (9%) - only margin less than 19%
Kansas (48%)
Maine (19%)
Minnesota (35%)
Nebraska (36%)
North Dakota (24%)
Washington State (37%)
He lost Nevada by 6%.
Add the popular votes that these caucus results represent, and Senator Obama is well ahead.

These numbers were generated using CNN's data. My estimated final counts were obtained, as explained in earlier posts, by allocating all state- and district-level delegates based on the state-wide vote, unless CNN allocated all such delegates, in which case I used the CNN numbers.

Next week, we have Hawaii and Wisconsin:
a. Hawaii has 13 district-level and 7 state-level delegates, and is a caucus, which should favor "native son" and Punahou alum Senator Obama.
b. A PPP poll for the Wisconsin primaries (48/26 delegates) shows Senator Obama ahead 50-39, while an earlier ARG [shill for Hill!?] poll had Senator Clinton ahead 50-41 (link).

As we head into Texas, Ohio, Vermont and Rhode Island on March 4, the possibility that Senator Obama will be ahead in both delegates and the nation-wide popular vote is quite strong.
Let us say that Senator Obama wins the Hawaii caucus 60-40, which is at the small end of his caucus victories. The current trend estimates for Wisconsin at are Obama 43.1%, Clinton 39%. By my crude estimates, Senator Obama gains another 8 delegates on Feb 19.

Texas is part-primary, part-caucus; let us say Senator Obama wins the caucus portion by an even smaller margin, 55-45 (this assumption from Election Inspection's Texas work). Then, even if Senator Clinton wins all four March 4 states 60-40, she could still trail Senator Obama by ~95 pledged delegates, which - as of now - is more than the difference in superdelegates. Thus, even with blowout wins in Texas and Ohio, Senator Obama could still be ahead in total delegate count.

Of course, this does not count Florida/Michigan delegates; if these delegates are fully counted, they could give Senator Clinton ~233 delegates compared to ~135 for Senator Obama. That would even up the pledged delegate count, with Senator Clinton getting the edge on the basis on superdelegates. And then we wait for Pennsylvania, though there is no indication that the Florida/Michigan debacle will be resolved before April 22 (the PA primaries).

Earlier tonight on CNN, I heard James Carville proclaim that if Senator Clinton wins Texas, Ohio and Pennsylvania, she will be most electable. I agree - this also means Senator Clinton could be ahead in total delegate count - assuming blowout 20%-margin wins in Texas and Ohio.

While I think Senator Obama's path to the nomination is not easy, I don't think Senator Clinton will get blowout wins in Texas and Ohio either. Much as I am prone to pessimism, I think there is a chance Senator Obama will squeeze out a win in either Ohio or Texas, given enough momentum coming out of February and his fund-raising advantage.

[UPDATED] A win in either Texas or Ohio could well tip the balance in Senator Obama's favor, as the one outstanding argument against him - he has not won primaries in big states outside of Illinois, Georgia and now Virginia- should be fully answered. Expect more money and superdelegates to flow to Senator Obama, and peer pressure on Senator Clinton to drop out.

No wonder the Clinton campaign has repeatedly beaten down expectations for the post-Super Tuesday February races. Also, the Clinton campaign management changed:
(a) Patti Solis Doyle, Senator Clinton's campaign manager and long-time aide, quit on Sunday, dominating CNN headlines - for a long time Obama's Maine win did not headline CNN, even after Maine was called by CNN;
(b) Mike Henry, the deputy campaign manager, also quit. Henry apparently quit on Monday, but "volunteered" with the campaign for two days before the news came out today - on the day of the Potomac primaries.

Senator Clinton apparently had a chance to win either Maine or Virginia, but lost both heavily. Conveniently, perhaps, the two personnel stories broke out on the days of these two losses (though Henry's resignation didn't carry the weight of Solis Doyle's departure). Am I just too cynical, or do I credit the Clinton campaign with more smarts than they have?

Delegate counts and Intrade

As of writing, Senator Obama has moved ahead of Senator Clinton in the delegate race - including superdelegates! As the results from Maryland and DC come in, and the full results from Virginia come in, the Obama-Clinton gap will widen - possibly as high as 67 total delegates, including ~145 pledged delegates.

On to the main subject of this post - political futures trading markets like Intrade. ST sends me a link to a NYT article that looks at Intrade (thanks!) Apparently, Intrade did very well predicting the states W won back in 2004, as well as the states that went for the poor man's JFK - much unlike the early exit polls that leaked in the middle of the day. But this time, Intrade was badly off on the California Democratic primary, predicting an Obama win. If you were living outside the USA or under a rock stateside - Senator Clinton won that battle by 10%.

What happened? David Leonhardt, writing for the NYT, says there is a lack of trading volume - the market does not adjust to changing conditions rapidly enough. That is possible - I am not an economist, and admit to having to spend a little time trying to figure out what the numbers on Intrade's website meant.

But there is also the factor of misleading information. Most of the surveys released just prior to the California race showed either a tight race or - egads - a substantial Obama win (your bad, Zogby!) Only SurveyUSA got it right; ARG generally is seen - fairly or not - as a shill for Hill.

What happened in California? I think it is a combination of early voting and Latino support.
1. SurveyUSA's last poll showed 1/3 of voters had sent it in; these favored Senator Clinton 54-37 (7% to Edwards before he dropped out?) In-person voters were closer - 51-45. Question is, did other polls account for the early-voters?
2. Latinos were ~30% of the California voters based on exit polls, I think almost twice the Hispanic fraction in earlier elections; they broke for Clinton 70-30 or so.

Misleading information inevitably leads to misleading plays; and possibly no sane person could account for a historic turn of events. So I would not fault Intrade all that much. Maybe someone with a better handle on economics could find a better reasoning.

More on Chelsea

Guy Branum says "it's time for the press to scrutinize Chelsea." Here is what happened to him back in the 90s.
I agree with Branum - back in the 90s, Chelsea was a kid, and had to be protected by her parents. But now she's an adult, with her own life. Just like any other political figure or surrogate for any of the campaigns. So if Chelsea Clinton can campaign for her mother, why can't the press scrutinize and criticize her without fear of retribution?

Revisiting Super Tuesday

Though I said I wouldn't post my delegate score-card, I saw a district-level Potomac primary poll and a district-level delegate estimation for Texas today. So here's my score-card for Super Tuesday, comparing my simplistic delegate counts with CNN projections.

Note that I am counting differences only when CNN allocates all pledged delegates for a state. In the five states where this is not the case, Colorado and Georgia have delegate distributions proportional to the state-wide vote shares. California and possibly New Mexico could give Senator Clinton more delegates than would be proportional to her vote-share. Senator Obama already has less delegates in Alabama than his victory margin there would suggest.

As of now, Senator Clinton has 5 more delegates than the state-wide vote-shares would suggest. When the delegates are completely allocated, she is likely to be ahead even more, probably +9.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Texas Democratic primary delegate projections and some thoughts on the way ahead

A detailed estimation of the Texas delegate split. Note that Texas is partly a primary (but at the district-level!) and partly a caucus. Great work, Election Inspection!
Bottom line: the caucus portion could put Senator Obama over the top, even in Texas! EI says Obama 98, Clinton 95 delegates. Now let's wait for March 4... Even if Senator Clinton wins both Texas and Ohio, as long as the margins are 10% or less, Senator Obama should come out even or ahead on March 5.

Unfortunately for Senator Obama, that might not be enough. He has to win at least one major state (Texas, Ohio or Pennsylvania) and get a margin large enough that Florida/Michigan will not matter. This site appears to say Senator Clinton will get 111 more delegates than Senator Obama from Florida/Michigan (no idea of the assumptions - maybe all "uncommitted" to Obama?) That means Senator Obama will have to get a lead of ~125 pledged delegates excluding Florida/Michigan. Otherwise, the race will get ugly. A tough proposition, to say the least.

But - maybe efforts like this could propel Senator Obama to the nomination (from an NYT article):
“You are going to see Senator Obama campaign [in Texas] the way he did in Iowa,” Mr. Figueroa [Obama’s national field director] said. “We’re going to take him to little communities so that he’s not only going to touch voters with his words, he’s going to be able to reach out and physically touch them.”

Clinton, Krugman, and forgiveness

Today's Krugman op-ed in the NYT was disturbing - "hate springs eternal"? "most of the venom I see [in this campaign] is coming from supporters of Mr. Obama"? Yikes.

Let us see... "fairy tale" (video); "drug dealer"; "absolutely stupid"; continuously trying to explain away Senator Obama's victories as similar to Jesse Jackon's Black-candidate strategy... Yes, all the venom is coming from Senator Obama's campaign, while the Clinton campaign is pure as the driven snow.

Sure, there are some Obama supporters who would rather vote McCain than Clinton, and there probably are some personality cultists who are drawn by Senator Obama's charm. But there are just as many irrational folk on Senator Clinton's side - see Robin Morgan's rant (my take), or the NY chapter of NOW berating Senator Ted Kennedy for endorsing Senator Obama.

Melinda Henneberger writing for the XX Factor on Slate has this response to Krugman's op-ed.

Recently, David Shuster of MSNBC was suspended for saying Chelsea Clinton's recent campaign involvement meant she's being "pimped out." Shuster's friend Daniel Gross has an interesting response (self-admittedly likely biased), which Emily Yoffe suggests means Senator Clinton has a thin skin... Dahlia Lithwick tries not to say pimp while watching Senator Clinton describe Nelson Mandela's forgiving attitude toward his foes.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

A loss...

Oh Mitt.... we shall miss you and your family! I really liked Ann Romney :-)
Maybe 2012?

Flaming feminists...

Yes, that essay Chelsea Clinton apparently forwarded.

I will give her this: Robin Morgan makes some good points. But I can make some points too:

1. OJ is a regular feature on late night shows - and not in a good way. But I don't see people saying "that's racist!"

2. Clinton-hating is not woman-hating in as much as the Clintons tried to do many things in the 90s that half the US did not like, e.g. Hillarycare, and even did, e.g. winning the Presidency. Also, like it or not, President Clinton's peccadillos and Senator Clinton's continued stick-by-my-man attitude sure angers many. Those are probably the people who buy Hillary nut-crackers. Democrats love Hillary (80+% approval ratings among Dems. Can't seem to find the link now.) That is probably why Hillary Clinton is seen as a polarizing figure, not because she's a woman who has come a long way. Counter-example: Nobody says Condi Rice, a Black high-achiever, is a polarizing figure, and definitely not because she's a woman!

3. Anybody who sees South Park making fun of Senator Clinton as reflective of a broader misogyny... is way off. South Park makes fun of everybody. I vividly remember an episode with a village of animal lovers... the other kind!

4. A recent Tim Russert show I watched had Doris Kearns Goodwin and Mary Matalin as two of the four talking heads. In today's shows, Chris Matthews had two women out of four commentators, while Russert had Gwen Ifill and George Stephanopoulos apparently had Donna Brazile (I didn't see this show). I won't defend Fox News.
a. A more pertinent question would be - why are all the talk show hosts white and male? There is the Katie Couric news hour on CBS, but it lags behind the NBC and ABC news-shows from what I hear. Oh well.

5. As someone said, Senator Clinton is better qualified - to be Secretary of Health and Human Services (can't seem to find the link). See my earlier post on how Senator Obama can get things done, that I think Senator Clinton cannot.

6. Morgan says Black feminists supporting Hillary Clinton are seen as "race traitors." But Morgan, by voting for Senator Clinton because Morgan's a woman, is trying to classify women who vote for Barack Obama as anti-feminists... gender traitors, even. How does that make her better than the people she's vilifying?

Bush/Rove views on Obama/Clinton

Karl Rove, on Face the Nation this morning, says "Obama is thin on experience... lost the Democratic primary for Congress eight years ago, first-term Senator." Effectively, Senator Clinton would be the more formidable Democratic candidate, and (apparently) Clinton would be the Democratic nominee.
President George Bush also apparently said, "I certainly don't know what [Senator Obama] believes in."

So - it could be that Bush/Rove are offering objective analysis. On the other hand, could it be that they want Senator Clinton as the Democratic nominee, knowing even if Senator McCain can't rally the conservative base behind him, Senator Clinton could do that for McCain? Or, they want Democrats to think Republicans want Clinton as the nominee, so Obama wins, and then the Republicans can tear Obama apart?

This is so much fun!

Gene Hackman

Just read this wonderful bio of Gene Hackman on IMDB. Apparently, both Hackman and Dustin Hoffman were voted "least likely to succeed" at the Pasadena Playhouse. So much for that prediction!
Lovely quote attributed to him, among many others: "The difference between a hero and a coward is one step sideways." Amen!

(Apparently, the only football movies in TBS' library are The Replacements and The Longest Yard. Decent movies, but I wish they would show some others as well! I can't watch these two every Sunday till September!)

Saturday, February 9, 2008

My personal take on the US Presidential primaries

I am not a US Citizen, and cannot vote in US primaries or elections. However, as a citizen of this world, where the US is the sole superpower, and more importantly, as a (legal!) resident of the USA, I do have a vested interest in the US Presidential election.

My path began with support for Senator John McCain (R), mainly because he vowed to finish the job in Iraq. The current mess in Iraq was precipitated by the US invasion, and I firmly believe in cleaning up after oneself. Senator McCain is a Republican, but he also accepts the scientific evidence supporting anthropogenic climate change, is not a part of the religious right, and has a sensible approach to immigration. However, of late his pandering to conservatives and promise to make the Bush tax-cuts permanent (without any mention of cutting spending) have undermined his appeal.

Both Democratic Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama will withdraw US forces out of Iraq, which is somewhat unfortunate. I was inclined to support Senator Clinton because she is a woman. As simple as that – I find it extremely embarrassing that for over 200 years, Americans have not elected a woman President. I come from India, and our most powerful Prime Minister was Indira Gandhi, who ruled India (some might say like a dictator, which she was between 1975-1977) with an iron fist for 16 years. Other countries in South Asia – Pakistan, Sri Lanka, and even Bangladesh – have had woman premiers. And these were (are?) among the most backward, highly illiterate countries!

However, having seen the Clinton and Obama campaigns in action has made me switch my loyalties to Senator Barack Obama.

Here is a list of what soured me off Senator Hillary Clinton:

  1. Senator Clinton represents the 50+1% style of politics, where opponents are her enemies. That only leads to protracted struggle, where it would be difficult to bring about her avowed goals of universal health care, comprehensive immigration reform and the like. For example, the US Senate requires 60% support to avoid filibusters.
  2. The Clinton campaign’s original fund-raising strategy was to amass a war-chest so huge that no other candidate would be able to compete in the Democratic primaries (link; link). Seeking to undermine the democratic process with money strikes me as sheer arrogance.
  3. The attacks on Senator Obama by Senator Clinton’s surrogates and campaign workers, from the two workers in Iowa to President Clinton. Among others:
    1. Spreading false rumors like “Obama is a Muslim out to destroy America.”
    2. Seeking to reduce Senator Obama to a Black candidate like the Rev. Jesse Jackson, despite Senator Obama’s performance in White states like Iowa, New Hampshire and even Nevada. This was pre-Super Tuesday.
    3. Repeatedly bringing up Senator Obama’s self-admitted drug use during his youth. Remember “I did not inhale!”? Do we not want our leaders to be truthful?
  4. Back to President William Jefferson Clinton. If Senator Clinton cannot control him on the campaign trail, how will she control him in the White House? In the last California debate, Senator Clinton cleverly dodged this question.
  5. Senator Clinton has a reputation for secrecy, as described by Carl Bernstein (link). I just might buy Bernstein’s book, but what I hear – of her past – makes me visualize another Bush/Cheney-like approach to “open” government.

Why I support Senator Barack Obama for President of the United States:

  1. He understands what a leader really needs to do. It’s not just about legislative maneuvering, getting the 50+1% support. It’s about making a significant majority support landmark reform, whether it be health care, climate change, education, what have you.
    1. President Reagan was able to create Reagan Democrats, and swept Mondale in almost all 50 states back in 1984; many people voted for him even when it was not in their interests to do so.
  2. Even better than (1), Senator Obama truly inspires, to the extent that:
    1. Caroline Kennedy (the daughter of President Kennedy), who generally keeps away from the public spotlight, has come out to endorse him (link).
    2. Supposedly-apathetic youngsters are coming out in force, and even convince their parents to support Senator Obama (link; video link).
    3. Even Susan Eisenhower, a life-long Republican and grand-daughter of President Eisenhower, supports him (link).
  3. He is open and candid. Witness his admitted drug use during his youth, and his explanation why. He has also released his income tax returns; Senator Clinton has refused to do so unless she wins the Democratic nomination.
  4. Senator Obama has successfully pushed for ethics reform in the Illinois legislature as well as in the US Senate. This is a passion he shares with Senator McCain, though they have their disagreements!
  5. In the Illinois legislature, Senator Obama introduced and passed (with bipartisan support) legislation making video-taping of interrogations and confessions mandatory. He has also expressed his strong reservations on certain aspects of the PATRIOT Act, and supports Senator Feingold’s amendments (who voted against the PATRIOT Act, and has tried to curb expansive government powers).
  6. Senator Obama’s fund-raising comes mostly, if not entirely, from regular voters, not corporations, PACs or Federal lobbyists. Most of his donors give less than $200, and yet he has matched or out-raised the Clinton fund-raising machine (the Clintons and Terry McAuliffe, among others). That speaks to the passion and dedication of his supporters.
    1. Could Senator Obama do better, say, avoid all lobbyists’ money? Sure. But admitting the influence of lobbyists and the fact that they have an agenda is a good first step to cleaning up the system.
    2. Even Senator Obama’s campaign slogan, “Fired up! Ready to go!” comes from a regular voter, not some paid ad guru.
  7. Senator Obama is young – just 46 as of writing. He is just a few years from paying off his student loans! That’s got to be a good thing :-)

Responses to anti-Obama blog posts

A couple recent posts caught my attention, and here's my response:

In a response to my comments on Senator Obama and abortion, Ciccina replies at The Lurking Canary, “Furthermore, Hillary can and will pull independent and Republican women because she is fully pro-choice. That is one issue that has demonstrably pulled these women to vote Dem.”

This suggests that there are Republican women who are pro-choice, who will vote for Senator Clinton purely because of the Senator’s track record on abortion rights.

There are broadly three categories of Republicans: national security hawks, the religious right, and fiscal conservatives. I think it is a fair assumption that women Republicans also fall into these categories.

The religious right think abortion is a sin, no matter what. They are not pro-choice. They will not be attracted to a strongly pro-choice candidate when McCain, strongly pro-life, is available.

National security hawks will definitely not vote for Senator Clinton over Senator McCain, the vocal proponent of the surge and “victory in Iraq.” McCain is a war-hero; Clinton, who does not have any military experience, wants to withdraw from Iraq (“surrender!”)

Fiscal conservatives – Clinton is back-tracking on NAFTA, wants to garnish people’s wages over health care and quite possibly roll back the Bush tax-cuts (effectively raising taxes). McCain has newly discovered the value of the Bush tax-cuts, but he also says “have tax-cuts, but also cut spending.”

Any woman who is strongly pro-choice already votes Democratic, or would not vote for the pro-life Senator McCain. Having Senator Clinton as the candidate is unlikely to make these women any more likely to vote Democratic come November 2008.

Ciccina also comments on Kate Michelman’s Obama endorsement, again at The Lurking Canary (Kate Michelman, former President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, has been called the public face of a woman's right to privacy):

“Last, the most interesting part of her whole statement is this: Barack will lead "Not out in front with us behind him, but rather with us beside him." This, my dears, is the Big Clue. Kate sees herself as part of Barack's circle, in a favored position "beside him"; she wouldn't have such a place next to Hillary… She is a bigger fish in that pond.”

Or in other words, “Ms Michelman’s selfish; she wants power that she will have as a woman besides Obama, that she will never have next to another powerful woman like Senator Clinton.”

First, it’s a disturbing thought that a powerful woman would not let other powerful women near her. What are they, crabs-in-a-basket?

Second, what Ms Michelman's statement tells me is that Senator Obama and his supporters are equals. There are no entitled leaders, above everybody else. In other words, a democracy.

Professor Marc Lamont Hill, at TheRoot says (quotes from his article in italics):

Despite his claims of being a peace candidate, Obama has repeatedly expressed a commitment to ramping up military and continuing the presidential legacy of using war as an instrument of foreign policy. Although he opposes the war in Iraq, Obama refuses to vote against its funding.”

I don’t think there was a big uproar when the US invaded Afghanistan; Senator Obama came out against the war in Iraq. As Senator Obama has said, he is not against all wars, just dumb ones. He may appear as a peace candidate as far as Iraq is concerned, but that’s it. And that’s good – Iraq was a bad war, and the US should have concentrated on taking out Bin Laden and Al-Qaida in Afghanistan/Pakistan. Force is needed at times, and for that, the US, as the remaining superpower, has to be strong.

Trying to end the war by cutting off funding is a Quixotic quest that will have no positive result – the current White House will not end the war, no matter what. Might as well reduce US casualties by providing armor and supplies – i.e. funding – to the troops over there.

In the face of a black electorate that still craves messianic leadership, Obama has skillfully positioned himself as the Martin Luther King of his generation. Unlike King, however, Obama does not aim to disrupt the fundamental structure of society. Rather than dismantling the triple threat of global racism, poverty, and militarism that King warned against, Obama has promoted a doctrine of compromise that is self-serving rather than strategic, milquetoast rather than pragmatic.”

Since when has “pragmatism” come to mean anarchism by disrupting the fundamental structure of society? Rigid ideologists might think of it that way, but that is not reality. I assume the “doctrine of compromise” means negotiating with all stakeholders in each issue – for example, health insurance companies, doctors, patients' rights advocates. I don’t see that as compromise, particularly when such negotiations in Congress will be broadcast on C-SPAN for the common person to watch and participate in. If that is not making a fundamental change in the way things are done, then what is?

In a democracy, transformational change – unfortunately, ending poverty is one such goal – can be made only by bringing people together. Racism can be ended only through education, not by government laws.

A strong military is strategic; that can protect folks like the Kosovo Albanians in Serbia; that could be used to end strife in Darfur. What is needed is the will to do it, and more importantly, wisdom to use the military carefully. In 2002, Obama showed he has the wisdom to not send the military unnecessarily to war, when he spoke out forcefully against the Iraq invasion. That does not constitute militarism, as far as I can tell.

To believe that Obama is a Kucinich leftist rather than a Clinton centrist is to ignore his own expressed positions. To believe that the world will be markedly improved after an Obama presidency is to ignore the structure of corporate-controlled politics. To believe that Obama is prepared to address the fundamental structure of our political system is to ignore his own investment in it.”

I think there are very few Kucinich leftists; the distinguished gentleman from Ohio proved this when he repeatedly failed to garner any significant support in the Democratic primaries. I don’t think any educated person mistakes Senator Obama for a Kucinich leftist.

The grass-roots organization of the Obama campaign is reflected in the enthusiastic support and more importantly, his fund-raising. Senator Obama does not take money from corporations, political action committees, Federal lobbyists or other interest groups. Almost all of his funding, if not all, comes from individual donations. Essentially, he is owned by the voting public. That does not strike me as corporate-controlled politics.

Unfortunately, this is exactly what Barack Obama is asking us to do: vote for him as a change maker against all evidence to the contrary. That sounds more like the hope of audacity than the audacity of hope.”

Poetic as the conclusion sounds, I have not seen any such contrary evidence.