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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hillary or Nobody?

Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Maureen Dowd

While the cool cat’s away, the Hillary mice will play.

As Barack Obama was floating in the pool with his daughters the last few days in St. Thomas, some Clinton disciples were floating the idea of St. Hillary as his vice president.

She can’t win without him, said one Hillary adviser, and he can’t win without her.

They’re stuck with each other.

It’s one of my favorite movie formulas, driving the dynamics in such classics as “A Few Good Men,” “The Big Easy” and “Guys and Dolls”: Charming, glib guy spars and quarrels with no-nonsense, driven girl, until they team up in the last reel. He spices up her life, and she stiffens his spine. And soon they hear the pitter-patter of little superdelegate feet, who are thrilled not to be pulled in two directions anymore.

And everybody’s happy. Or are they?

A couple of weeks ago, when Hill and Bill mentioned the possibility of a joint ticket, it was an attempt to undermine Obama and urge voters and superdelegates to put Hillary on top; the implication was that this was the only way Democrats could have both their stars, and besides, it was her turn. The precocious boy wonder had plenty of time.

But with the math not in her favor, her options running out, Bill Richardson running out and her filigreed narrative of dodging bullets in Bosnia and securing peace in Northern Ireland unraveling, could Hillary actually think the vice presidency is the best she’ll do?

One Hillary pal said she wouldn’t want to go back to a Senate full of lawmakers who’d abandoned her for Obama. And even if she could get to be majority leader, would it be much fun working with Nancy Pelosi, whose distaste for the Clintons has led her to subtly maneuver for Obama?

Maybe The Terminator is thinking: if she could just get her pump in the door. Dick Cheney, after all, was able to run the White House and the world from the vice president’s residence, calling every shot while serving under a less experienced and younger president. And Observatory Circle is just up the street from where Hillary now lives.

But, aside from Barack and Michelle Obama’s certain resistance, would it fly? Many Hillary voters are hardening against Obama, and more and more Obama fans are getting turned off by the idea of dragging down the Obama brand with Clinton dysfunction.

“No drama, vote Obama” placards and T-shirts are popping up at Obama rallies, and one of his military advisers dubbed him “No Shock Barack.”

It’s hard to imagine that after spending her whole life playing second-fiddle to a superstar pol, Hillary wants to do it again. She’s been vice president.

Could the veep talk be a red herring? A ploy designed to distract attention from the Clintons’ real endgame?

Even some Clinton loyalists are wondering aloud if the win-at-all-costs strategy of Hillary and Bill — which continued Tuesday when Hillary tried to drag Rev. Wright back into the spotlight — is designed to rough up Obama so badly and leave the party so riven that Obama will lose in November to John McCain.

If McCain only served one term, Hillary would have one last shot. On Election Day in 2012, she’d be 65.

Why else would Hillary suggest that McCain would be a better commander in chief than Obama, and why else would Bill imply that Obama was less patriotic — and attended by more static — than McCain?

Why else would Phil Singer, a Hillary spokesman, say in a conference call with reporters on Tuesday that Obama was trying to disenfranchise the voters of Florida and Michigan. “When it comes to voting, Senator Obama has turned the audacity of hope into the audacity of nope,” he said, adding, “There’s a basic reality here, which is we could have avoided the entire George W. Bush presidency if we had counted votes in Florida.” So is Singer making the case that Obama is as anti-democratic as W. was when he snatched Florida from Al Gore?

Some top Democrats are increasingly worried that the Clintons’ divide-and-conquer strategy is nihilistic: Hillary or no democrat.

(Or, as one Democrat described it to ABC’s Jake Tapper: Hillary is going for “the Tonya Harding option” — if she can’t get the gold, kneecap her rival.)

After all, the Clintons think of themselves as The Democratic Party. When Bill and Dick Morris triangulated during the first term, it was what was best for Bill, not the party. In 1996, when Bill turned the White House into Motel 1600 for fund-raisers, it was more about his re-election than the re-elections of his fellow Democrats in Congress; in 2000, the White House focused its energies more on Hillary’s Senate win than Al Gore’s presidential run.

And even Clinton supporters know that Bill does not want to be replaced as the first black president, especially by a black president with enough magic to possibly eclipse him in the history books.

Original here

MSNBC Questions Clinton's Truthiness, Says She Was Pro-NAFTA

MSNBC Questions Clinton's Truthiness, Says She Was Pro-NAFTA

Obama Camp on Tax Returns Release

Obama Posts Tax Returns on the Internet, Calls on Clinton to Follow Suit Immediately

Clintons’ investment in Cayman Islands firm shows need for full and prompt disclosure

CHICAGO, IL—Senator Barack Obama today posted his tax returns from 2000-2006 on his campaign website, demonstrating his continued commitment to transparency in government and changing business as usual in Washington. The returns are complete, including all schedules, and are now available to anyone to view. The Obama campaign urged Senator Clinton to join Senator Obama in making her returns public.

Full disclosure on Senator Clinton’s part is especially important because she recently loaned $5 million to her campaign, shortly after revelations surfaced that her husband was to receive a $20 million payout from Yucaipa, a supermarket holding company that invests in tax shelters in the Cayman Islands.

Senator Clinton has agreed to release her returns, but will only offer a target date at least three days before the Pennsylvania primary, and has not specified the level of detail.

“Senator Clinton recently claimed that she’s ‘the most transparent figure in public life,’ yet she’s dragging her feet in releasing something as basic as her annual tax returns,” said Obama Communications Director Robert Gibbs. “Senator Clinton can’t claim to be vetted until she allows the public the opportunity to see her finances—particularly with respect to any investment in tax shelters.”

The Clinton campaign’s vague commitment to release the returns and the Clintons’ known involvement with such investments as Yucaipa raise a number of questions.

1. Yucaipa Has A Financial Stake In Three Investment Entities Registered In The Cayman Islands. “Securities and Exchange Commission documents and financial- disclosure forms filed by Hillary Clinton show that Bill Clinton, 61, has a financial stake in three investment entities registered in the Cayman Islands by Burkle’s Yucaipa Cos. LLC. In 2004, Hillary Clinton, a New York senator, said she wanted to close the “loopholes’’ for “people who create a mailbox, or a drop, or send one person to sit on the beach in some island paradise and claim that it is their offshore headquarters.’’ [Bloomberg , 12/17/07]

à Question: If elected President, would Sen. Clinton propose or support legislation to block or curb any of Yucaipa’s current business or tax strategies?

2. Clinton Spokesman Claimed That Yucaipa Is Registered In Cayman So That Bill Clinton Can Pay US Taxes. “Jay Carson, a Clinton spokesman, said that while the former president hasn’t “severed ties’’ with Yucaipa, he “is taking steps to ensure’’ that “there will be an appropriate transition for those relationships’’ if his wife receives the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Carson, in an e-mail, said the funds are designed for foreign investors. “All three of these entities (which are related) are organized in the Cayman Islands so that each investor or partner pays the taxes they would owe in their home country,’’ he said. “For U.S. citizens like Bill Clinton, that means he pays U.S. taxes on his income from this fund, which he does.’’ [Bloomberg , 12/17/07]

à Question: Did Bill Clinton participate in the decision for Yucaipa to register any of these funds in the Cayman Islands? If so, did he argue for or against?

3. Clinton Spokesperson Will Not Answer Questions On Whether Bill Clinton Receives Equity Instead Of Cash, Allowing Him To Pay The Lower 15 % Capital Gains Tax Rate Instead Of Higher Income Tax Rate. “Carson said Bill Clinton’s payments from Yucaipa aren’t deferred and the former president pays tax on that income in the year in which it is earned. Steven Howard, a partner at Thacher Proffitt & Wood LLP in New York who advises investment firms, said private-equity firms such as Yucaipa often compensate advisers with a stake in the company rather than salary. “In Clinton’s case, he may be allocated equity instead of significant cash for services rendered,’’ Howard said. Carson didn’t respond to questions about whether Bill Clinton receives this form of compensation. Howard said equity allocations are taxed at the 15 percent capital-gains rate instead of as ordinary income, which is taxed at rates as high as 35 percent. He said the same benefit applies to so-called carried interest, a profit-sharing arrangement used by fund managers that Hillary Clinton and other Democrats have criticized and vow to curb.” [Bloomberg , 12/17/07]

à Question: Is Bill Clinton allocated equity? What is the effective tax rate that Bill Clinton pays on all income or gains from Yucaipa?

4. Clintons Won’t Explain Why Yucaipa Was Listed On Disclosure Forms As Based In Los Angeles Rather Than Cayman; Won’t Disclose When Sen. Clinton Became Aware Of Husband’s Offshore Deals. “Bloomberg’s questions to the campaign involved the nature and amounts of his compensation from Yucaipa, why the holdings were listed as Los Angeles-based rather than Cayman Islands entities, and when Hillary Clinton became aware that the funds were offshore. Carson didn’t address those questions. Yucaipa spokesman Frank Quintero referred all questions about the former president’s role to the Clintons’ spokespeople.” [Bloomberg , 12/17/07]

à Question: Why do the Clintons consider Yucaipa to be a Los Angeles-based company when it is actually based in the Cayman Islands?

à Question: Why were the Clintons unable to answer the media’s questions in mid-December 2007?

Ironically, Senator Clinton herself made the release of her opponent’s tax returns a central issue when she ran for the Senate in 2000. Numerous Democratic presidential candidates in recent years have released their tax returns, including Senator Kerry, Senator Edwards, General Clark, Senator Lieberman, and Congressman Kucinich.

With the next primary only weeks away and sure to see significant spending from the Clinton campaign, now is the time for Senator Clinton to keep faith with the voters, release her tax returns, and allow these questions to be answered in full. In the meantime, you can view Senator Obama’s 2000-2006 tax returns HERE .

Clinton has claimed that releasing her tax returns is unnecessary because she has filed the personal financial disclosure forms that all Senators are required by to submit. But there are key facts that the personal financial disclosure form alone does not disclose, including:

Ø The amount the Clintons make as a couple;
Ø Senator and President Clinton’s effective tax rate;
Ø What loopholes, if any, they used to reduce it;
Ø The actual amount of President Clinton’s income and not just the range;
Ø What stock have they sold, and how much did they made from it;
Ø The amount they made from their stock dividends;
Ø The deductions they took for losses related to stock sales;
Ø The household employment taxes they paid for employees;
Ø The personal exemptions they took; and
Ø The charitable contributions they have made.

Original here

Pastor Of Clinton's Former Church: Don't Use Wright To Polarize

On Tuesday, Sen. Hillary Clinton re-stoked the flames of the controversy surrounding Sen. Barack Obama's former pastor, saying she would have long ago distanced herself from Rev. Jeremiah Wright if she had attended his church.

"He would not have been my pastor," Clinton told a gathering of the campaign press corps, repeating a line she used earlier in the day on a Pittsburgh radio program. "You don't choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend."

But the pastor at the church that Clinton did once attend has recently expressed public support for Wright. He's even proclaimed it a "grave injustice" to make a judgment on Wright based off of "two or three sound bites," and criticized those who would "use a few of [Wright's] quotes to polarize."

Last week, Dean Snyder, the senior minister at the Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington D.C. -- which the Clintons famously attended while in the White House -- released a little noticed statement offering a sympathetic defense of the totality of Wright's work.

"The Reverend Jeremiah Wright is an outstanding church leader whom I have heard speak a number of times," Snyder wrote. "He has served for decades as a profound voice for justice and inclusion in our society. To evaluate his dynamic ministry on the basis of two or three sound bites does a grave injustice to Dr. Wright, the members of his congregation, and the African-American church which has been the spiritual refuge of a people that has suffered from discrimination, disadvantage, and violence. Dr. Wright, a member of an integrated denomination, has been an agent of racial reconciliation while proclaiming perceptions and truths uncomfortable for some white people to hear. Those of us who are white Americans would do well to listen carefully to Dr. Wright rather than to use a few of his quotes to polarize."

Snyder, it should be noted, was not the pastor at Foundry during the Clinton years. That was the previous minister, J. Philip Wogaman. Moreover, there seems to be confusion as to exactly what church Clinton now attends. Her campaign did not return requests for comment.

However, Foundry was cited on numerous occasions as a steady presence during the first couple's time in the White House. And in January 2001, Bill Clinton gave a farewell speech to the congregation, thanking the church for its work in the city as well as for its "courage" to welcome gay and lesbian Christians.

Snyder, according to the church's website, became senior minister in 2002. "Before his appointment to Foundry, he served as director of communications for the Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church. His writings on theology, Biblical interpretation, and Christian mission have appeared in dozens of publications."

And in a recent New York Times article, even he acknowledged that some in his congregation were aghast at Wright's remarks.

"During staff meetings this week at his church," the Times reported, "Snyder said he noticed the rising awareness among some African-Americans of white Americans, he said, 'who don't understand the history of black people in this country and the role of the black church as a prophetic voice, and that in church you can say things that you couldn't in larger society.'"

Original here

Clinton takes the low road, goes after Obama on Wright

When the controversy surrounding some of Jeremiah Wright’s sermons first erupted a couple of weeks ago, the Clinton campaign went out of its way to say absolutely nothing about the story publicly. If a reporter brought it up during one of the campaign’s many conference calls, you could practically hear tumbleweeds rolling. The flap was undermining the Obama campaign, and Team Clinton saw no need whatsoever to intervene.

This was, to my mind, the right call. Given the racial elements of the campaign thus far, it would have been a huge risk for the Clinton campaign to be seen stoking the same fires as Fox News. Yes, Ickes & Co. were using it with superdelegates, but that’s behind the scenes. The public pitch was different: “When Clinton was then asked specifically if her campaign was pushing the Wright story — she shrugged and took the next question, ignoring the reporter.”

That was five whole days ago. The desperation factor has apparently grown more intense.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, in a wide-ranging interview today with Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reporters and editors, said she would have left her church if her pastor made the sort of inflammatory remarks Sen. Barack Obama’s former pastor made.

“He would not have been my pastor,” Clinton said. “You don’t choose your family, but you choose what church you want to attend.” […]

The Clinton campaign has refrained from getting involved in the controversy, but Clinton herself, responding to a question, denounced what she said was “hate speech.”

“You know, I spoke out against Don Imus, saying that hate speech was unacceptable in any setting, and I believe that,” Clinton said. “I just think you have to speak out against that. You certainly have to do that, if not explicitly, then implicitly by getting up and moving.”

It’s hard to overstate how disappointing this is. Clinton waited until the story had died down and then decided to make her first public comments on the controversy, going after Obama for staying with his church.

I know Clinton is willing to fight as hard as possible for his nomination, but tactics like these are pretty low.

This may sound cynical, but my guess is that media interest in Clinton’s debunked Bosnia story had become too great a distraction. The controversy (and damaging videos) undermined Clinton on two fronts — credibility and national security experience — both of which are of critical significance.

So, how better to change the subject that to revive the Jeremiah Wright story with brand new criticism?

Clinton has been offered repeated chances to comment on the Wright controversy for three weeks. She’s not only declined, she’s avoided saying a single word. Today, all of a sudden, Clinton has all kinds of concerns she’s anxious to share. What a remarkable coincidence.

What’s more, we now have a situation in which John McCain defended Obama against Wright-related charges, and Mike Huckabee defended Obama, but Hillary Clinton sat down with editors of a conservative newspaper to reignite a fire that had already largely gone out.

Less than a week ago, former Mondale campaign manager Bob Beckel said, “Many liberals like myself, who would be happy to support Hillary Clinton if she earned the nomination, would abandon her if her campaign seeks to exploit the Wright controversy either in the remaining contests or with superdelegates.”

Now, it appears she’s doing both. I’d hoped Clinton was above this.

Original here

Activism You Can Do: Help Clinton Produce Her Tax Returns By Sending a "Tax Fax"

Hillary Clinton, who claims to be "the most transparent" politician in America, isn't. There's a long history of her withholding documents relating to her personal history, her days as First Lady, and her financial records (for instance, why did she wait until after the important primary in NAFTA-hating Ohio to release her daily schedules as First Lady, which show all the work she did to help NAFTA pass?) (For those who are interested, there's more detail about Barack Obama's unusual frankness and transparency, and Clinton's lack of it, in a slightly fuller version of this post on VichyDems.)

Today the issue is tax returns. It's become customary for Presidential candidates to release copies of their returns so voters can see how they've made their money -- and who they might owe favors to.

Barack Obama released his tax returns to the media months ago. Today he went even further and posted all his returns from 2000 forward on his campaign website. You can get .pdfs of them here.

But Hillary Clinton - who is rich enough that she's personally loaned at least $5 million to her own campaign to keep it afloat - hasn't produced any tax returns since her husband left office. That's seven years during which she and Bill went from being civil servants to becoming incredibly wealthy - yet she won't tell the public where her newly-acquired millions came from. (At first, she ignored the issue. Then, she said she would produce them sometime "around" April 15. Now, she's agreed to produce something tax-wise, but not until 3 days before the Pennsylvania primary on April 22 -- nearly a month away, and not leaving Pennsylvania voters much time to really thing about any issues her returns might raise -- and won't say exactly what she'll provide: for instance, will it be just the 1040s, or also the schedules and attachments that contain the actual details?)

A more cynical person than me might suspect those tax returns contain something Clinton would rather hide -- but Senator Clinton has a simpler explanation.

Why hasn't she done what every other candidate has done, and made copies of her tax returns available early enough to make a difference? Because, she claims, she's been too busy - as if she personally needs to rummage through her filing cabinet, run to Kinko's, and look up the fax number for the Associated Press.

Personally, I think it's easier to photocopy a tax return than Clinton thinks. In fact, since 2007's returns are due in less than a month, everyone in America has just finished, or soon will be, filling out, copying (for their own files), and sending off a tax return. In other words, we're all doing exactly what Clinton claims she "doesn't have time" to do!


1. Grab this year's tax return, and some past years' returns too if they're handy, and copy them.

2. Take a Sharpie and black out any personal information like your name, social security number, etc. - we don't want any identity theft!

3. Scribble a brief note, maybe in huge Sharpie letters on the first page of your return, saying something like: "Hey, Hil: if I can do this, so can you. Please produce your 2000-2006 returns NOW."

4. Fax to one of Clinton's campaign offices. (I say fax, not mail, because all mail to Senators has to be screened for anthrax before it's opened.)

That's it! Grassroots activism at its best (and simplest!). Again: photocopy, Sharpie, note, fax - and you're a "netboots" activist (informed by the Internet, but taking action, "boots on the ground"). Feel good? It should!

Here are three important guidelines to make sure you're just sending a message, not harassing or interfering with her campaign:

1. Please keep your cover note polite and to the point.

2. Don't send faxes to Clinton's official Senate offices (either in D.C. or in New York); those numbers are for her real work, and we don't want to interfere with that in any way.

3. Do your best to fax a local campaign office, not the national one. That way, the load will be spread among many fax machines, rather than jamming up a few important ones and making them unusable for campaign business. Again: we're sending a message, not doing a dirty trick by jamming her lines.

Contact information for Clinton's various campaign offices can be found on her website's "States" page. If her local campaign office shows a telephone number but not a fax number, give them a call and ask politely what their fax number is (and please share that info in the comments section of this post so others in your area can use it). If her website doesn't give any local information for your state (e.g., she has lots of info for Pennsylvania, where she expects to win, and none for North Carolina, where she doesn't), then you don't have much choice, and need to use one of her other numbers. Only for those who don't have a local office to telephone or fax to, here are some fax numbers you can try:

National Campaign Headquarters (Virginia): 703-962-8600
Pennsylvania Headquarters: 215-625-0379
New York Headquarters: 212-213-3041

If I can get more fax numbers to spread things out, I'll post them over at VichyDems - so please check there if the numbers above get too busy.

Original here

Articles of Impeachment? Bear Stearns Buyout Illegal?

"On or about March 16th, 2008, George W. Bush, both personally and through his Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, caused to be provided to JP Morgan/Chase a bribe(1) ultimately flowing from the United States Treasury in an amount not to exceed $30 billion dollars US, via The Federal Reserve, in order to induce JP Morgan/Chase to assume the liabilities and assets of Bear Stearns and Company at a price not determined in the free market or via public bidding, in violation of the limitations expressly set forth in The Federal Reserve Act of 1913, 12 USC Ch 6."
(1) Bribery is defined by Black's Law Dictionary as the offering, giving, receiving, or soliciting of any item of value to influence the actions of an official or other person in discharge of a public or legal duty.

I have spent a solid week both reading The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 and thinking about the circumstances of this transaction trying to find a means under which "backstopping" Bear Stearns debt via The Federal Reserve is legally permissible.

Despite my best efforts I can't find explicit or implicit authorization for "a put", as differentiated from a loan, anywhere in The Federal Reserve Act. You can call something whatever you'd like but if in point of fact there is no recourse then it is not a "loan" at all; it is a "PUT" or a "conditional payment", and under The Federal Reserve Act such an action appears to these eyes to be a direct violation of the law.

It is widely reported that both Hank Paulson and George Bush personally "signed off on" The Bear Stearns "bailout" last Sunday. As such their direct and indirect actions, in my view, constitute a "High Crime and Misdemeanor" within the meaning of the United States Constitution and therefore subject George W. Bush to impeachment proceedings as proposed in the above sample article for same.

By the way, I'm not the only one who thinks this is an illegal transaction. John Hussman, of The Hussman Funds, has this to say in a letter with a publication date of tomorrow, March 24th:

"In my view, the deal would be palatable if J.P. Morgan was to remain fully responsible for any losses on the 'collateral' provided to the Federal Reserve, assuming shareholders were to consent to the buyout. As it stands, Congress should quickly step in to bust the existing deal and demand an alternate resolution, by clearly insisting that the Fed's action was not legal.

The Fed did not act to save a bank, but to enrich one. Congress has the power to appropriate resources for such a deal by the representative will of the people – the Fed does not, even under Depression era banking laws. The 'loan' falls outside of Section 13-3 of the Federal Reserve Act, because it is not in fact a loan to either Bear Stearns or J.P. Morgan. Bear Stearns is no longer a business entity under this agreement. And if the fiction that this is a 'loan' to J.P. Morgan was true, then the only point at which the 'collateral' would become an issue would be in the event that J.P. Morgan itself was to fail. No, this is not a loan. It is a put option granted by the Fed to J.P. Morgan on a basket of toxic securities. And it is not legal."

Finally, it appears that even the SEC Chairman, Christopher Cox, isn't sure that Bear was "done"; that is, this entire transaction might smell like dead fish:

"In what is likely to be a bit of a blockbuster, SEC chairman Christopher Cox sent a letter to Swiss regulators indicating the Bear Stearns (NYSE:BSC) did not have to go the way of all flesh. According to The New York Post "the fate of Bear Stearns was a lack of confidence, not a lack of capital," Cox, the head of the Securities and Exchange Commission, wrote in a five-page letter sent to a Swiss regulator.""

So there you have it.

Now, the question is, do our Congressfolk have the necessary will to stop this raiding of the public treasury for the enrichment of a private firm - if necessary, by bringing the above article of impeachment?

If you think they should, then I have a solution for you.


to Congress for the purpose of raising debate on this exact issue and stop the mockery of our legal and regulatory systems.

PS: I'm a lifelong registered Republican, voted for George W. Bush twice, and have one of Gingrich's "Speaker's Gavels" on the credenza behind my desk, so before you go accusing me of being a "leftwing nutjob", think again. Nonetheless, what's right is right and I must stand for what's just, and when the political party I am a member of does something wrong, they must admit to it and face the consequences. Sorry Mr. President; I like you a great deal, but what happened here was, in my opinion, blatantly unlawful. The $30 billion "backstop" must be rescinded until and unless Congress explicitly authorizes that act through legislation and you sign same.

Original here

PBS Frontline: The Definitive Account of “Bush’s War”

Tonight on PBS, part two of the Frontline special “Bush’s War” (or as I would call it, McCain’s War) will air. Part one — which covered the period from 9/11 to March 2003 — aired last night was absolutely remarkable in it’s grasp of the entire picture of how and why we are in Iraq. Although things will certainly evolve from where we find ourselves today, this special will undoubtedly be viewed as the definitive account of the Iraq War.

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But he was the LIFE of the party! As NBC/NJ’s Carrie Dann writes, One-time Democratic candidate Mike Gravel is leaving the Democratic Party, accusing it of "work[ing] in tandem with the corporate interests that control what we read and hear in the media." Greener pastures await, he says, with his joining today of the Libertarian Party, where he hopes to continue his presidential bid.

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