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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Barack Obama Tells Crowd that Homophobia is Not Christian

Ben Smith at Politico reports on a question and answer session at a Barack Obama rally in Beaumont, Texas yesterday:

Obama_2"An interesting moment came when he was asked a question about LGBT rights and delivered an answer that seemed to suit the questioner, listing the various attributes — race, gender, etc. — that shouldn't trigger discrimination, to successive cheers. When he came to saying that gays and lesbians deserve equality, though, the crowd fell silent. So he took a different tack: 'Now I’m a Christian, and I praise Jesus every Sunday,' he said, to a sudden wave of noisy applause and cheers. 'I hear people saying things that I don’t think are very Christian with respect to people who are gay and lesbian,' he said, and the crowd seemed to come along with him this time."

Adds Smith: "The moment reminded me of a conversation I had recently with a senior figure in the national gay rights movement, who noted that Obama's deference to some black Christian discomfort with homosexuality — his refusal to dump the "ex-gay" gospel singer Donnie McClurkin from a tour — angered some gays and lesbians; but conversely, that his ability to sell gay rights in the black church is unique and appealing."

Original here

Hillary Clinton, you had me at “BOO!”

Fear, Propaganda and Scaring Up Votes For Political Power in America

I thought we’d have to wait for John McCain’s opposition to Democrats before we got another taste of the fear tactics that I used to rail on Rudy Giuliani for.

Rudy Giuliani is well-known for exploiting 9/11 and fear to try and garner up votes.

John McCain’s campaign put out this gem against Mitt Romney

Hillary Clinton shows us that no strategy, no matter how utterly reprehensible, is beneath her campaign and I can say with complete certainty that Hillary Clinton has lost my support and good luck appealing to the Democratic base.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign agrees with the neo-cons, that Fear is the path to power and it’s acceptable to exploit it.

I’ve given her the benefit of the doubt, because I believe Bill Clinton was a great man and always felt that his presence in the White House (despite what the propagandists would have you believe) would be a good thing for the United States. What I see now, however, is a desperate attempt by a failing campaign. The other night I was giving Hillary kudos for doing “the right thing” and admitting that the Iraq War was a regrettable part of her voting record.

Now, all that echoes in my head is the fearful message that Hillary Clinton wants me to think about when I wake up in the morning. The media is buzzing about comparisons to a 1964 Election ad for LBJ.

Are you afraid yet?

If this is the kind of garbage I wanted out of my presidential nominee, I’d sooner reach out to the neo-conservative clowns of the Republican party because at least they know how to put up a good scare. Stupid Hillary.

Barack Obama responded to Hillary Clinton’s ad entitled: “3AM”

If you’re still not afraid, please subscribe to the White House Intel Report — or the terrorists win!

Original here

Pregnant Pause

It was, in this reporter's opinion, the most interesting moment in today's Clinton campaign phoner with reporters. Responding to the release of HRC's new TX TV ad, which asserts in no subtle terms that only she has the experience to deal with a major world crisis, and, relatedly, to keep your children safe, Slate's John Dickerson asked the obvious question:

"What foreign policy moment would you point to in Hillary's career where she's been tested by crisis?" he said.

Silence on the call. You could've knit a sweater in the time it took the usually verbose team of Mark Penn, Howard Wolfson and Lee Feinstein, Clinton's national security director, to find a cogent answer. And what they came up with was weak -- that she's been endorsed by many high ranking members of the uniformed military.

Take a listen ...

(JENNIFER SKALKA)

Original here

President Clinton responds to Hillary's "Children" ad.


This is a video response to [PRES] Clinton: Children

Original here


Obama Destroys Clinton with "Red Phone Moment" [update w/video]


We've all seen this ridiculous ad, trying to scare your childrens and freak you out. Well, now Obama has responded.

Per CNN:

"I just want to take a moment to respond to an ad that Senator Clinton is apparently running today that asks, 'Who do you want answering the phone in the White House when it’s 3am and something has happened in the world?'

"We’ve seen these ads before. They’re the kind that play on peoples’ fears to scare up votes.

"Well it won’t work this time. Because the question is not about picking up the phone. The question is – what kind of judgment will you make when you answer? We’ve had a red phone moment. It was the decision to invade Iraq. And Senator Clinton gave the wrong answer. George Bush gave the wrong answer. John McCain gave the wrong answer.

"But I stood up and said that a war in Iraq would cost us thousands of lives and billions of dollars. I said that it would distract us from the real threat we face – and that we should take the fight to al Qaeda in Afghanistan. That’s the judgment I made on the most important foreign policy decision of our generation, and that’s the kind of judgment I’ll show when I answer that phone in the White House as President of the United States – the judgment to keep us safe, to go after our real enemies, and to provide the men and women who wear the uniform of the United States with the equipment they need when we do send them into battle, and the respect and care they have earned when they come home. And I’ll never see the threat of terrorism as a way to scare up votes, because it’s a threat that should rally this country around our common enemies. That’s the judgment we need at 3am. And that’s the judgment that I am running for President to provide."

Devastating, simply devastating. Politico picks it up, and you can be sure this gets a lot of play.

Update: Obama's video response.

Update x2: Bill Clinton seems to disagree with Hillary's fearmongering.

Now one of Clinton’s laws of politics is this: If one candidate’s trying to scare you and the other one’s trying to get you to think, if one candidate’s appealing to your fears and the other one’s appealing to your hopes, you better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope.

Original here


Does Experience Matter in a President?

A story is often told at times like this — times when American voters are choosing among candidates richly seasoned with political experience and those who are less experienced but perhaps more exciting alternatives. Once upon a time, the torch was passed to a new generation of Americans, and a charismatic young President, gifted as a speechmaker but little tested as an executive, was finding his way through his first 100 days. On Day 85, he stumbled, and the result for John F. Kennedy was the disastrous Bay of Pigs.

For scholars of the presidency, Kennedy's failure to scuttle or fix the ill-conceived invasion of Cuba is a classic case of the insufficiency of charisma alone. No quips, grins or flights of rhetoric would do. Kennedy needed on-the-job training, as he later admitted to a friend: "Presumably, I was going to learn these lessons sometime, and maybe better sooner than later." Unfortunately, when a President gets an education, we all pay the tuition.

Barack Obama basks in comparisons to J.F.K., but this is one he'd rather avoid. In the run-up to what could be the decisive contests for the Democratic nomination, Obama's relatively light political résumé — eight years as an Illinois legislator and three years in the U.S. Senate — continues to be the focus of his rivals' attacks. Hillary Clinton advertises her seven years in the Senate and two terms as First Lady, saying "I am ready to lead on Day One." And the message has gotten through: by clear margins, voters rate her as the more experienced of the two candidates. The fact that this hasn't stopped Obama's momentum doesn't mean he's heard the last of it — not with John McCain, who has spent 26 years on Capitol Hill, the likely Republican nominee. "I'm not the youngest candidate. But I am the most experienced," says McCain. "I know how the world works."

Obama's credentials would be an issue in any election year. He would be sworn in at age 47, making him one of the youngest Presidents in history, and would arrive in the Oval Office with less executive experience than most of his predecessors. Depending on what your leanings are, you could compare his work history — lawyer, state legislator, Washington short-timer, orator — to Abraham Lincoln's, or to a thousand forgotten figures in politicalgraveyard.com. The question of experience takes on added bite this year, though, because the next President will inherit a troubled and menacing satchel of problems. From the Iraq tightrope to the stumbling economy, from the China challenge to the health-care mess, from loose nukes to oil dependence to (some things never change) Cuba policy — the next President will be tossed a couple dozen flaming torches at the end of the inaugural parade, and it would be helpful to know that this person has juggled before.

But if one moral of the Bay of Pigs is "Beware of charisma" or "Timeworn trumps callow," what do we make of the mistakes and miscalculations of deeply experienced leaders? Franklin D. Roosevelt's failed court-packing scheme, for example, or Woodrow Wilson's postwar foreign policy? For that matter, Kennedy would not have faced such a harsh early tutorial if the venerable warrior and statesman Dwight D. Eisenhower had not allowed the Cuba-invasion plan to be put in motion during the last of his eight years as President.

Wouldn't it be nice if time on the job and tickets punched translated neatly into superior performance? Then finding great Presidents would be a simple matter of weighing résumés. Take a Democrat like Bill Richardson — experienced in Congress, in the Cabinet, as a diplomat and governor — and have him run against Republican Tom Ridge, a former soldier, governor and Director of Homeland Security, with the winner chosen by a blue-ribbon commission of all-purpose elders. The Danforth-Mitchell commission, perhaps, or O'Connor-Albright. But it has never worked that way, which is why Lincoln's statue occupies a marble temple on the Mall in Washington, while his far more experienced rival William Seward has a little seat on a pedestal in New York City. "Experience never exists in isolation; it is always a factor that coexists with temperament, training, background, spiritual outlook and a host of other factors," says presidential historian Richard Norton Smith. "Character is your magic word, it seems to me — not just what they've done but how they've done it and what they've learned from doing it."

There's something egglike about the concept of experience as a qualification for the highest office. At first blush, the idea appears to be something you can get your hands around. Presidential experience means a familiarity with the levers and dials of government, knowing how to cajole the Congress, understanding when to rely on the Joint Chiefs of Staff and when to call on the National Security Council — that sort of thing. But bear down even slightly, and the notion of experience is liable to crack and run all over. If knowing the system is so useful, then second-term presidencies should be more successful than first-term. Instead, many Presidents lose effectiveness as they go along. Lyndon Johnson, for example: his experience as a master legislator no doubt helped as he steered his historic civil rights and welfare agenda to passage. By the end of two years as President, however, "he was out of gas," recalls Johnson aide Harry McPherson. The longer Johnson was in the Oval Office, the more feckless his presidency became.

Was it Franklin Roosevelt's experience as governor of New York that gave him the power to inspire in some of the nation's darkest hours? Or was that gift a distillate of his dauntless battle with polio? To a keen student of human nature, all of life offers lessons in how to lead, inspire and endure. Lincoln's ability to apply useful lessons from his motley experiences was among his most striking traits. When Ulysses Grant explained his grand strategy to defeat Lee by attacking on multiple fronts, Lincoln immediately thought of a lesson in joint operations learned years earlier on the farm. "Those not skinning can hold a leg," he said approvingly. For other temperaments, no amount of schooling, no matter how specific, will do. Richard Nixon served as a Congressman, Senator and Vice President; he watched from the front row as Eisenhower assembled one of the best-organized administrations in history. When Nixon's turn came, though, his core character — insecure, insincere, conspiratorial — led him to create a White House doomed by its own dysfunction.

Experience, in other words, gets its value from the person who has it. In certain lives, a little goes a long way. Some people grow and ripen through years of government service; others spoil on the vine. At the same time, the value that voters place on résumé is constantly shifting. James A. Baker III is an authority on this. In 1980, he managed the campaign of his well-credentialed friend George H.W. Bush, under the slogan "A President we won't have to train." But the public mood was sour on Washington, and victory went to an outsider, Ronald Reagan, who had never served in Washington. Eight years later, the mood was stay the course, and Bush's experience as Vice President was his ticket to victory. Then the atmosphere turned again, and in 1992 the public demanded someone new. Baker, a former Secretary of State, still believes that a candidate with credentials should certainly tout them, but in the end, "there's no such thing as presidential experience outside of the office itself." The quality we ought to seek "is leadership."

Countless words have been devoted to the presidency, and still its dimensions remain indescribable. Two words that recur poignantly are power and loneliness. Former White House chief of staff Leon Panetta recalls a moment in 1994 that for him expresses the intersection of these burdens and the essence of the office. Bill Clinton had called for a military dictator in Haiti to step down, and the crisis had ratcheted up to the point where "the ships were moving, the Navy SEALs were on alert." Some of the most experienced statesmen in Washington "were all standing around the desk saying to Clinton, 'You've got to make a decision.'" (After Clinton ordered the 82nd Airborne Division to start flying toward Haiti, the dictator backed down.) A President can take counsel from the most eminent advisers in the world, but in the end, only the President can make the fateful decisions. Some decisions are too hard or too weighty to be made at a lower level. "It's about that moment," Panetta says — that decisive moment.

When Americans pass over the best-credentialed candidates because their heart or their gut leads them elsewhere, they are only reflecting a visceral understanding that the presidency involves tests unlike all others. They are, perhaps, seeking the ineffable quality the writer Katherine Anne Porter had in mind when she defined experience as "the truth that finally overtakes you." An ideal President is both ruthless and compassionate, visionary and pragmatic, cunning and honest, patient and bold, combining the eloquence of a psalmist with the timing of a jungle cat. Not exactly the sort of data you can find on a résumé.

With reporting by Tiffany Sharples/New York

Original here

State's Democratic Party braces for lawsuit

FORT WORTH STAR-TELEGRAM


AUSTIN -- The Texas Democratic Party is warning that its March 4 caucuses could be delayed or disrupted after aides to White House hopeful Hillary Clinton raised the specter of an "imminent" lawsuit over its complicated delegate selection process, officials said Thursday night.

In a letter sent out late Thursday to both the Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama campaigns, Texas Democratic Party lawyer Chad Dunn warned that a lawsuit could ruin the Democrats' effort to re-energize voters just as they are turning out in record numbers.

Spokesmen from both campaigns maintained there were no plans to sue before the March 4 election.

"It has been brought to my attention that one or both of your campaigns may already be planning or intending to pursue litigation against the Texas Democratic Party," Dunn said in the letter, obtained by the Star-Telegram. "Such action could prove to be a tragedy for a reinvigorated Democratic process."

Democratic sources said representatives from each campaign had made it clear they are keeping all their options open but that the Clinton campaign in particular had warned of an impending lawsuit.

"Both campaigns have made it clear that they would go there if they had to, but I think the imminent threat is coming from one campaign," said one top Democratic official, referring to the Clinton campaign. The official spoke on condition of anonymity.

Another Democratic source who was privy to the often intense discussions confirmed that representatives of the New York senator's campaign had issued veiled threats in a telephone call this week.

"Officials from Senator Clinton's campaign at several times throughout the call raised the specter of 'challenging the process,' the official said. "The call consisted of representatives from both campaigns and the Democratic Party."

The source, who did not have authorization to speak about the matter on the record, said Clinton's political director, Guy Cecil, had pointedly raised the possibility of a courtroom battle.

But Adrienne Elrod, Clinton's top Texas spokeswoman, said campaign and party officials had merely discussed primary night procedures and that the campaign was merely seeking a written agreement in advance. She could not elaborate on the details of the agreement the Clinton campaign is seeking. "It is our campaign's standard operating procedure that we need to see what we are agreeing to in writing before we agree to it," Elrod said. "No legal action is being taken. We have no reason to take any legal action."

Obama spokesman Josh Earnest said the Obama campaign had no plans to sue.

"We're confident that by working closely with the Texas Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign we'll have a caucus that Texans can be proud of -- because every eligible voter will be allowed to participate and have their vote counted in a timely manner," Earnest said.

The letter to the two campaigns did not specify what procedures or rules might trigger a lawsuit. But one party official said the campaigns were most concerned about the caucus process, or, as the party refers to it, the "precinct conventions." Texas has 228 delegates, the biggest single cache remaining. But only 126 delegates are doled out based on the selection voters make at the ballot box.

Another 67 delegates -- more than in many states -- are to be apportioned based on the number of people who participate in the caucuses that begin in more than 8,000 precincts once the polls close at 7 p.m. March 4. (The remaining 35 are so-called superdelegates, or party honchos free to support whomever they choose). The intense competition between Obama and Clinton has made every delegate a precious commodity.

In past years, the caucuses have generated little attention or interest, but not this year. Now questions are being raised about procedures, whether there's enough space to accommodate a flood of caucus participants and just how the results will be recorded and reported.

Democrats have described the enthusiasm in Texas, as evidenced by the record turnout among early voters in the most populous counties, as a sign that the party is undergoing a revival after years of decline under virtually unchallenged Republican rule.

Dunn, the Democratic Party lawyer, said it could all be for naught if the Texas nomination battle winds up in a courtroom.

"If it is true that litigation is imminent between one or both of your campaigns and the (Democratic Party), such action could prove to be a tragedy for a reinvigorated democratic process that is involving a record number of participants here in Texas and across the nation," he wrote.