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Sunday, May 4, 2008
During an appearance on Fox News Sunday this morning, Democratic Party chairman Howard Dean said that Fox's news coverage has at times been "shockingly biased, and I think that's wrong and I just say so right up front." Dean also said he agreed with the netroots campaign to boycott the Democratic debates on the network.
Host Chris Wallace tried to get Dean to bash MoveOn and Daily Kos, saying they were "using words about you guys showing up here as weak, idiotic, stupid. How do you respond to the left wing?" But Dean avoided taking the bait:
DEAN: We stayed off Fox for a long time because your news department is, in fact, biased. But, Chris, you haven't been. You've always been tough, but I always thought fair and I still think that's true. And we need to communicate with people who are going to vote in the Democratic Party. Hundreds of thousands of Republicans have turned their back on their own party to vote in the Democratic primaries in the last six months. We owe it to our -- to all the American people to reach out to those folks. This is not about Fox News. That's not why I'm here today. I'm out because I want to talk to your viewers directly about why this election is important and what we can offer the American people.
Dean also said on Fox that Republicans are using "hate and divisiveness" to win elections.
Dean argued that the use of Sen. Barack Obama's (D-Ill.) former pastor Jeremiah Wright in GOP ads in local races is "race baiting."
"When you start bringing up things that have nothing to do with the candidate and nothing to do with the issues, that's race baiting," Dean said on Fox News Sunday in response to a question whether the Wright issue and his ties to Obama hurt Democrats down ticket.
"There's a lot of difference between the Republicans and the Democrats on issues, but the biggest issue of all is we don't use this kind of stuff. We never have used this kind of stuff, and we're not going to start now," said the DNC chairman. "America is more important than the Republican Party, and that's the lesson that the voters are about to teach the Republicans."
WALLACE: The left wing of your party is in a snit over all these Democrats appearing on Fox. In fact, the head of MoveOn.org had this to say about Democrats on Fox. "It legitimizes a right wing network that is going to use that credibility to smear them in the general election." He and the head of the Daily Kos are using words about you guys showing up here as weak, idiotic, stupid. How do you respond to the left wing?
DEAN: What I'd say is this: we stayed off Fox for a long time because your news department is, in fact, biased. But, Chris, you haven't been. You've always been tough, but I always thought fair and I still think that's true. And we need to communicate with people who are going to vote in the Democratic Party. Hundreds of thousands of Republicans have turned their back on their own party to vote in the Democratic primaries in the last six months. We owe it to our -- to all the American people to reach out to those folks. This is not about Fox News. That's not why I'm here today. I'm out because I want to talk to your viewers directly about why this election is important and what we can offer the American people.
WALLACE: Let me ask you, and obviously it's always about the millions of people who watch these shows. Looking back, do you think it was a mistake for the Democratic Party to boycott Fox debates and all the other programs during the last year and thereby boycott getting your message out to the millions of people who watch?
DEAN: No, I think it was the right thing to do, because there are some things in the news department that have really been shockingly biased and I think that's wrong and I just say so right up front. It is important also for us -- we shouldn't punish the viewers of Fox by staying away. Now those viewers have had an opportunity to look at the debates on other channels, now they're going to have an opportunity viewing on this channel and I think that's fair.
About Thomas B. EdsallThomas B. Edsall is the political editor of the Huffington Post. He is also Joseph Pulitzer II and Edith Pulitzer Moore Professor at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. From 1981 to 2006, he was a political reporter at the Washington Post. He is the author of Chain Reaction and Building Red America. Tom can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Hillary Clinton's campaign has a secret weapon to build its delegate count, but her top strategists say privately that any attempt to deploy it would require a sharp (and by no means inevitable) shift in the political climate within Democratic circles by the end of this month.
With at least 50 percent of the Democratic Party's 30-member Rules and Bylaws Committee committed to Clinton, her backers could -- when the committee meets at the end of this month -- try to ram through a decision to seat the disputed 210-member Florida and 156-member Michigan delegations. Such a decision would give Clinton an estimated 55 or more delegates than Obama, according to Clinton campaign operatives. The Obama campaign has declined to give an estimate.
Using the Rules and Bylaws Committee to force the seating of two pro-Hillary delegations would provoke a massive outcry from Obama forces. Such a strategy would, additionally, face at least two other major hurdles, and could only be attempted, according to sources in the Clinton camp, under specific circumstances:
First, this coming Tuesday, Clinton would have to win Indiana and lose North Carolina by a very small margin - or better yet, win the Tar Heel state. She would also have to demonstrate continued strength in the contests before May 31.
Second, and equally important, her argument that she is a better general election candidate than Obama -- that he has major weaknesses which have only been recently revealed -- would have to rapidly gain traction, not only within the media, where she has experienced some success, but within the broad activist ranks of the Democratic Party.
Under that optimistic scenario, some Clinton operatives believe she could overcome several massive stumbling blocks:
-- Clinton loyalists on the Rules Committee would have to be persuaded to put their political futures on the line by defying major party constituencies, especially black leaders backing Barack Obama. Committee members are unlikely to take such a step unless they are convinced that Clinton has a strong chance of winning the nomination.
Former DNC and South Carolina Democratic Party chair Donald Fowler -- a Hillary loyalist -- would, for example, face an outpouring of anger from South Carolina Democrats if he were to go along with such a strategy.
-- A controversial decision to seat the two delegations, as currently constituted, would be appealed by the Obama campaign to the Democratic National Convention's Credentials Committee.
The full make-up of the Credentials Committee will not be determined until all the primaries are completed, but the pattern of Clinton and Obama victories so far clearly suggests that Obama delegates on that committee will outnumber Clinton delegates. Obama will not, however, have a majority, according to most estimates, and the balance of power will be held by delegates appointed by DNC chair Howard Dean.
For the scenario to work, then, Dean would have to be convinced of Clinton's superior viability in the general election, and that she has a strong chance of defeating McCain next November.
One of the arguments the Clinton campaign is privately making to autonomous "super" or "automatic" delegates, as well as to delegates technically "pledged" to Obama as a result of primary and caucus results, is that the campaign shifted dramatically in roughly mid-February. At that point, Clinton supporters contend, the economy replaced Iraq as the dominant issue among primary voters, and that transition led to Clinton's successes in Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania.
Clinton people also make the case that the past six weeks have seen examples of Obama's political vulnerabilities: his wife's "proud to be an American" remarks, the emergence of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright controversy, wider coverage of Obama's ties to 1960s radicals Bill Ayers and Bernadine Dohrn, "bittergate," the flag pin imbroglio, and "hand on the heart" accusations -- all impugning Obama's patriotism.
The controversy over Michigan and Florida grows out of the decision of both states to flout national party rules prohibiting all but a few states -- Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina -- from holding primaries or caucuses before February 5, 2008. Michigan held its primary on January 15 and Florida on January 29.
On December 1, 2007, well before the contests were held, the Rules and Bylaws Committee voted to refuse to seat either state's delegation at the August 2008 convention in Denver.
When the contests were actually held, none of the candidates actively campaigned in either state. In Michigan, Obama had his name taken off the ballot. Clinton "won" both contests.
The Obama campaign contends that the primaries in the two states were not legitimate, especially in Michigan where voters could not cast a ballot for Obama. Clinton "won" the Michigan contest with 55 percent, while 40 percent voted "uncommitted" and the remainder went to minor candidates.
Obama manager David Plouffe has argued that the only way to seat the Michigan delegation would be to divide the delegates evenly between Clinton and Obama: "A 50-50 split would be fair."
Many Democrats, including DNC chair Howard Dean, believe it is critically important to reach some kind of compromise to seat the Michigan and Florida delegations in order not to alienate voters in the two battleground states, each of which could be pivotal in the November general election.
In the case of Florida, there are a number of proposals under consideration. One would be to seat the delegation as is, but give each delegate only one half a vote. Another would be to cut the number of Florida delegates in half.
Spokesmen for the Obama campaign declined to discuss their strategies for dealing with the May 31 Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting, or to speculate on what they think the Clinton forces with try to do.
UPDATE: Former Clinton labor secretary, and now Obama supporter, Robert Reich, asks some Clinton economic advisers about her comments this morning:
When asked this morning by ABC News' George Stephanopoulos if she could name a single economist who backs her call for a gas tax holiday this summer, HRC said "I'm not going to put my lot in with economists."
I know several of the economists who have been advising Senator Clinton, so I phoned them right after I heard this. I reached two of them. One hadn't heard her remark and said he couldn't believe she'd say it. The other had heard it and shrugged it off as "politics as usual."
That's the problem: Politics as usual.
The gas tax holiday is small potatoes relative to everything else. But it's so economically stupid (it would increase demand for gas and cause prices to rise, eliminating any benefit to consumers while costing the Treasury more than $9 billion, and generate more pollution) and silly (even if she won, HRC won't be president this summer) is worrisome. That HRC now says she doesn't care that what economists think is even more troubling.
Meanwhile, Politico's Ben Smith notes that Clinton's campaign is arguing that the gas tax distinction is a character issue:
Clinton has been sharpening her argument that policy distinctions between the candidates -- on health care, on banning foreclosures and on the gas tax -- are really a character issue, making her in touch and Obama out of touch.
Clinton aide Howard Wolfson put it as clearly as the campaign has on a conference call just now. Obama, he said, is "somebody who just doesn't seem to understand that middle-class families are hurting, working-class families are hurting, that they need relief. He would rather side with the oil companies over the interest of middle-class families."
Sen. Hillary Clinton is sticking to her policy proposal of a gas tax holiday, and the breadth of her now-famous statement that members of Congress are either "with us or against us" has been extended to economists. Today she joined George Stephanopoulos for a "This Week" town hall.
When asked to name a credible economist who backed her idea to use a windfall profit tax against oil companies to fund the suspension of a tax on gasoline, Clinton responded:
"I'm not going to put my lot in with economists"... Clinton added that the tax holiday would work "if we actually did it right."
She continued the line of attack, criticizing more generally "this mindset where elite opinion is always on the side of doing things that really disadvantage the vast majority of Americans."
Clinton's proposal has met widespread resistance from policy analysts of all political persuasions.
BORED by those endless replays of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright? If so, go directly to YouTube, search for “John Hagee Roman Church Hitler,” and be recharged by a fresh jolt of clerical jive.
What you’ll find is a white televangelist, the Rev. John Hagee, lecturing in front of an enormous diorama. Wielding a pointer, he pokes at the image of a woman with Pamela Anderson-sized breasts, her hand raising a golden chalice. The woman is “the Great Whore,” Mr. Hagee explains, and she is drinking “the blood of the Jewish people.” That’s because the Great Whore represents “the Roman Church,” which, in his view, has thirsted for Jewish blood throughout history, from the Crusades to the Holocaust.
Mr. Hagee is not a fringe kook but the pastor of a Texas megachurch. On Feb. 27, he stood with John McCain and endorsed him over the religious conservatives’ favorite, Mike Huckabee, who was then still in the race.
Are we really to believe that neither Mr. McCain nor his camp knew anything then about Mr. Hagee’s views? This particular YouTube video — far from the only one — was posted on Jan. 1, nearly two months before the Hagee-McCain press conference. Mr. Hagee appears on multiple religious networks, including twice daily on the largest, Trinity Broadcasting, which reaches 75 million homes. Any 12-year-old with a laptop could have vetted this preacher in 30 seconds, tops.
Since then, Mr. McCain has been shocked to learn that his clerical ally has made many other outrageous statements. Mr. Hagee, it’s true, did not blame the American government for concocting AIDS. But he did say that God created Hurricane Katrina to punish New Orleans for its sins, particularly a scheduled “homosexual parade there on the Monday that Katrina came.”
Mr. Hagee didn’t make that claim in obscure circumstances, either. He broadcast it on one of America’s most widely heard radio programs, “Fresh Air” on NPR, back in September 2006. He reaffirmed it in a radio interview less than two weeks ago. Only after a reporter asked Mr. McCain about this Katrina homily on April 24 did the candidate brand it as “nonsense” and the preacher retract it.
Mr. McCain says he does not endorse any of Mr. Hagee’s calumnies, any more than Barack Obama endorses Mr. Wright’s. But those who try to give Mr. McCain a pass for his embrace of a problematic preacher have a thin case. It boils down to this: Mr. McCain was not a parishioner for 20 years at Mr. Hagee’s church.
That defense implies, incorrectly, that Mr. McCain was a passive recipient of this bigot’s endorsement. In fact, by his own account, Mr. McCain sought out Mr. Hagee, who is perhaps best known for trying to drum up a pre-emptive “holy war” with Iran. (This preacher’s rantings may tell us more about Mr. McCain’s policy views than Mr. Wright’s tell us about Mr. Obama’s.) Even after Mr. Hagee’s Catholic bashing bubbled up in the mainstream media, Mr. McCain still did not reject and denounce him, as Mr. Obama did an unsolicited endorser, Louis Farrakhan, at the urging of Tim Russert and Hillary Clinton. Mr. McCain instead told George Stephanopoulos two Sundays ago that while he condemns any “anti-anything” remarks by Mr. Hagee, he is still “glad to have his endorsement.”
I wonder if Mr. McCain would have given the same answer had Mr. Stephanopoulos confronted him with the graphic video of the pastor in full “Great Whore” glory. But Mr. McCain didn’t have to fear so rude a transgression. Mr. Hagee’s videos have never had the same circulation on television as Mr. Wright’s. A sonorous white preacher spouting venom just doesn’t have the telegenic zing of a theatrical black man.
Perhaps that’s why virtually no one has rebroadcast the highly relevant prototype for Mr. Wright’s fiery claim that 9/11 was America’s chickens “coming home to roost.” That would be the Sept. 13, 2001, televised exchange between Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell, who blamed the attacks on America’s abortionists, feminists, gays and A.C.L.U. lawyers. (Mr. Wright blamed the attacks on America’s foreign policy.) Had that video re-emerged in the frenzied cable-news rotation, Mr. McCain might have been asked to explain why he no longer calls these preachers “agents of intolerance” and chose to cozy up to Mr. Falwell by speaking at his Liberty University in 2006.
None of this is to say that two wacky white preachers make a Wright right. It is entirely fair for any voter to weigh Mr. Obama’s long relationship with his pastor in assessing his fitness for office. It is also fair to weigh Mr. Obama’s judgment in handling this personal and political crisis as it has repeatedly boiled over. But whatever that verdict, it is disingenuous to pretend that there isn’t a double standard operating here. If we’re to judge black candidates on their most controversial associates — and how quickly, sternly and completely they disown them — we must judge white politicians by the same yardstick.
When Rudy Giuliani, still a viable candidate, successfully courted Pat Robertson for an endorsement last year, few replayed Mr. Robertson’s greatest past insanities. Among them is his best-selling 1991 tome, “The New World Order,” which peddled some of the same old dark conspiracy theories about “European bankers” (who just happened to be named Warburg, Schiff and Rothschild) that Mr. Farrakhan has trafficked in. Nor was Mr. Giuliani ever seriously pressed to explain why his cronies on the payroll at Giuliani Partners included a priest barred from the ministry by his Long Island diocese in 2002 following allegations of sexual abuse. Much as Mr. Wright officiated at the Obamas’ wedding, so this priest officiated at (one of) Mr. Giuliani’s. Did you even hear about it?
There is not just a double standard for black and white politicians at play in too much of the news media and political establishment, but there is also a glaring double standard for our political parties. The Clintons and Mr. Obama are always held accountable for their racial stands, as they should be, but the elephant in the room of our politics is rarely acknowledged: In the 21st century, the so-called party of Lincoln does not have a single African-American among its collective 247 senators and representatives in Washington. Yes, there are appointees like Clarence Thomas and Condi Rice, but, as we learned during the Mark Foley scandal, even gay men may hold more G.O.P. positions of power than blacks.
A near half-century after the civil rights acts of the 1960s, this is quite an achievement. Yet the holier-than-thou politicians and pundits on the right passing shrill moral judgment over every Democratic racial skirmish are almost never asked to confront or even acknowledge the racial dysfunction in their own house. In our mainstream political culture, this de facto apartheid is simply accepted as an intractable given, unworthy of notice, and just too embarrassing to mention aloud in polite Beltway company. Those who dare are instantly accused of “political correctness” or “reverse racism.”
An all-white Congressional delegation doesn’t happen by accident. It’s the legacy of race cards that have been dealt since the birth of the Southern strategy in the Nixon era. No one knows this better than Mr. McCain, whose own adopted daughter of color was the subject of a vicious smear in his party’s South Carolina primary of 2000.
This year Mr. McCain has called for a respectful (i.e., non-race-baiting) campaign and has gone so far as to criticize (ineffectually) North Carolina’s Republican Party for running a Wright-demonizing ad in that state’s current primary. Mr. McCain has been posing (awkwardly) with black people in his tour of “forgotten” America. Speaking of Katrina in New Orleans, he promised that “never again” would a federal recovery effort be botched on so grand a scale.
This is all surely sincere, and a big improvement over Mitt Romney’s dreams of his father marching with the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Up to a point. Here, too, there’s a double standard. Mr. McCain is graded on a curve because the G.O.P. bar is set so low. But at a time when the latest Wall Street Journal-NBC News poll shows that President Bush is an even greater drag on his popularity than Mr. Wright is on Mr. Obama’s, Mr. McCain’s New Orleans visit is more about the self-interested politics of distancing himself from Mr. Bush than the recalibration of policy.
Mr. McCain took his party’s stingier line on Katrina aid and twice opposed an independent commission to investigate the failed government response. Asked on his tour what should happen to the Ninth Ward now, he called for “a conversation” about whether anyone should “rebuild it, tear it down, you know, whatever it is.” Whatever, whenever, never mind.
For all this primary season’s obsession with the single (and declining) demographic of white working-class men in Rust Belt states, America is changing rapidly across all racial, generational and ethnic lines. The Census Bureau announced last week that half the country’s population growth since 2000 is due to Hispanics, another group understandably alienated from the G.O.P.
Anyone who does the math knows that America is on track to become a white-minority nation in three to four decades. Yet if there’s any coherent message to be gleaned from the hypocrisy whipped up by Hurricane Jeremiah, it’s that this nation’s perennially promised candid conversation on race has yet to begin.
ABC News' Jake Tapper and Sunlen Miller report: Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., made an economic heavy closing argument to the voters of Indianapolis, Ind., summoning up a historical reminder of the last time the state’s primary was so closely watched.
“It was 40 years ago this May that Robert Kennedy took his unlikely campaign to create a new kind of politics to Indiana,” Obama said, just three days before the Indiana primary, where he's seen his poll numbers slowly dropping.
Obama painted a picture that the American dream is slipping away and it takes more than tinkering around the edges in Washington to bring back prosperity to American working families. As he has in many campaign events leading up to the Indiana and North Carolina primaries, Obama used his opposition to the gas tax holiday to demonstrate this problem -- highlighting his dissention from his two opponents, who support the plan.
“There’s not an expert out there that believes that this is going to work. There’s not an editorial out there that has said this is actually the answer to high gas prices,” Obama said of the gas tax holiday plan. “In fact, my understanding is, today, Sen. Clinton had to send out a surrogate to speak on behalf of this plan, and all she could find was, get this, a lobbyist for Shell Oil to explain how this is going to be good for consumers. It’s a shell game, literally.”
Obama was referencing Steve Elmendorf, a Clinton supporter, who told CNN that Clinton’s gas tax holiday plan was a good proposal. Elmendorf is also a lobbyist from Shell Oil.
“We can’t afford to settle for a Washington where our energy policy, and our health care policy, and our tax policy is sold to the highest-bidding lobbyist,” Obama said, and criticized Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., for a plan that he said would do nothing to solve the gas price problem. “This is what passes for leadership in Washington -- phony ideas, calculated to win elections instead of actually solving problems.”
Part of Obama’s closing argument to voters is to flesh out his background, one that has been called into question in the wake of the incendiary comments made by his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. The senator has been retelling the biography of his family, with an emphasis on his and his wife’s humble roots, and asking people to move past controversies that have dominated the news cycle recently.
“The only way a black guy named Barack Obama, who was born in Hawaii, and started his career on the streets of Chicago, is standing here before you today -- and that’s the only way we can win this race -- is if you decide that you’ve had enough of the way things are,” Obama said, and brought recent controversies into the fold.
“If you decide that this election is bigger than flag pins or sniper fire and the comments of a former pastor –- bigger than the differences between what we look like or where we come from or what party we belong to.”
Joining Obama on the campaign trail today are his wife Michelle and two daughters, Malia and Sasha, who rarely make an appearance with their father at events. The family have a pot luck dinner tonight in Kempton, Ind., at a home with some of his Kansas family roots: Obama's 2nd, 3rd and 4th great-grandfathers owned the land, and Obama's great-uncle built the home.
Time Magazine's Mark Halperin reported late Saturday that Hollywood superstar Tom Hanks is endorsing Barack Obama for President:
Actor/activist who had given money to both the Illinois Senator and Clinton posts compelling video on his MySpace page explaining his choice.
Watch Tom Hanks' endorsement of Barack Obama:
SIX days ahead of the North Carolina primary comes a story of real sleaze—not Jeremiah Wright-style buffoonery, but Nixon-style illegality designed to dupe and disenfranchise voters—that should surprise precisely nobody who has been following and covering this campaign. A group called Women's Voices Women's Vote (WVWV), which claims to have been "created to activate unmarried Americans in their government and in our democracy" has been placing robocalls to voters across North Carolina that seem designed to fool them into thinking they have not yet registered to vote. Many of the voters who received those calls are black. Voters in 11 states have complained about similarly deceptive calls and mailings that have been traced back to WVWV this primary season.
Guess which Democratic candidate WVWV's founder and president, Page Gardner, has donated $6,700 to (hint: it's not Barack Obama). Guess whose election campaign Joe Goode, WVWV's executive director, worked for (hint: it was in 1992, and it was a winning campaign). Guess whose chief of staff sits on WVWV's board of directors (hint: it was the president who served between two Bushes). And guess whose campaign manager was a member of WVWV's leadership team (hint: it's Hillary Clinton).
It's an odd story: a recording of someone named Lamont Williams calls voters to tell them a voter-registration packet is on its way. It's unclear whether anything arrives; what isn't unclear is that the call is well after the registration deadline. It's not too hard to imagine this call coming to an unsophisticated voter (and let me make this clear: I am in no way saying black voters, who seem to have received the lion's share of the calls, are all unsophisticated; I'm simply positing a scenario), and that voter becoming confused. Perhaps he thinks he's not registered, and calls his state's board of elections who tells him it's too late so he stays home on election day. Perhaps the board of elections doesn't know what he's talking about, and he gets frustrated and stays home, assuming he's unregistered.
If this were a one-time event, I might be less suspicious, but it's happened in state after state, always after the registration deadline has passed, and always shortly before the primary. This is an organisation stuffed with Washington insiders; incompetence like this simply doesn't happen over and over again, not in the same way like this. Something stinks.
Again, perhaps if the Clinton campaign hadn't shown itself to be quite so sleazy (remember those photos of Barack Obama in Somali garb?); perhaps if the calls weren't going to the constituency least likely to vote for Mrs Clinton; perhaps if Mrs Clinton's supporters weren't so heavily represented among WVWV's board, it wouldn't set off as many bells as it does. But something isn't right here, and it's not a simple error either. As a scam, it seems just Rube Goldberg-ish enough to provide plausible deniability for anyone involved, but just authoritative enough to work on some voters. If it does trace back to Mrs Clinton's campaign, it will provide further evidence that her cronies have abandoned every shred, everything that ever got them into politics in the first place. The end (Mrs Clinton's victory) will justify the means. From flower children of the 1960s to deceivers of black voters in North Carolina in 2008. A long, strange trip indeed.
Sean Malloy, a professor at the University of California Merced, "recently unearthed 10 previously-unpublished photographs illustrating the aftermath on the Hiroshima bombing."
These photographs, taken by an unknown Japanese photographer, were found in 1945 among rolls of undeveloped film in a cave outside Hiroshima by U.S. serviceman Robert L. Capp, who was attached to the occupation forces. Unlike most photos of the Hiroshima bombing, these dramatically convey the human as well as material destruction unleashed by the atomic bomb.
Yesterday, in preparation for the start of our GOTV weekend, we asked our grassroots phonebankers to sound off and let us know who was committed to making calls to voters over the next two days.
Here are just a few of the people who have pledged to make calls this weekend to help Get Out The Vote in Indiana and North Carolina:
Teresa: I plan to call 1000 people this weekend. I am also canvassing from 1-7 Saturday! I have called about 50 so far, but I am not stopping until 1000!
Makeda: I will commit to make 100 calls to Indiana tomorrow....
Doris: I will promise to make at least 10 calls to Indiana Saturday. I will be calling from Florida. We must be a part of this change.
Sarah: I will make 100 calls this weekend ... At least!
Chris: You can count on me to make at least one hundred calls this weekend.
Tracey: I can commit to 25 calls tomorrow, maybe more! It's our 7 year olds' birthday party but I'll do some in the morning.
Max: I'll be calling all Saturday and Sunday too! Going for at least 250 calls!
Barbara: I plan to make at least 150 calls this weekend. The people I've called in Indiana seem to be interested in discussing the issues -- some of the longest calls yet. Talking about everything from jobs to unions right to organize to taxes to gay rights. It's fun and interesting and feels like it's making a difference. I like seeing the counter click over, knowing that so many others are doing the same thing.
Donna: I'll be making 25 calls to IN and 25 calls to NC this weekend.
Daniel: At least 10 calls for me
Really Hopeful: I am devoting Saturday and Sunday to calling. I am pledging now to call at least 50 numbers each day.
Jen: I commit to doing 50 calls this weekend. It is easy. Heck getting into the flow of things I might makes 100 before I even know it. How about you?
Cathy: I'll match 100...who else?
Eric: I'm good for at least 25 calls on Sunday. I'm hoping we'll be well over 750,000 calls by then. We want change.
And we should also make a special mention for Christine, one of our grassroots supporters who has been an inspiration and a help to countless supporters here on the blog (and all of us at HQ). Yesterday, Christine reached her own personal goal:
I just finished my 1001st call to Indiana . . . But 14 other people have committed to make 500 calls each as part of the Christine O'Bama Indiana Call Challenge. That's 7,000 calls pledged!
To join the Challenge, click here.
It only takes a minute to get started. The Indiana and North Carolina calling campaigns run from 9:00 AM to 9:00 PM Eastern time every day. If you're willing to commit to making calls this weekend, let us know in the comments below and we'll add you to the Roll Call.
Tuesday truly is one of the last big milestones of this primary season, and these next two days are our chance to move the polls and make a difference.
For several weeks, the Clinton campaign has been distributing literature and disseminating incendiary notions -- which figured significantly in Pennsylvania, and are now central to the candidate's message in Indiana and North Carolina -- assailing Barack Obama for his association with Bill Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground, the radical, violent organization responsible for bombing several government buildings in the early 1970s.
In their debate in Philadelphia, after moderator George Stephanoplous had raised the question of Obama's relationship with Ayers, Hillary Clinton elaborated on the subject, seeking to add to its significance:
SEN. CLINTON: ...I also believe that Senator Obama served on a board with Mr. Ayers for a period of time, the Woods Foundation, which was a paid directorship position. And if I'm not mistaken, that relationship with Mr. Ayers on this board continued after 9/11 and after his reported comments, which were deeply hurtful to people in New York, and I would hope to every American, because they were published on 9/11 and he said that he was just sorry they hadn't done more. And what they did was set bombs and in some instances people died. So it is -- you know, I think it is, again, an issue that people will be asking about.
Whether this is 21st century McCarthyism--as argued by several important commentators not publicly allied with Obama -- among them Stanley Fish in the New York Times (who has written several admiring columns about her candidacy) and Rick Hertzberg of the New Yorker -- is a matter readers will have to decide.
Whatever name it is called, Hillary Clinton, perhaps better than any contemporary political figure of our time, knows the insidious nature of this kind of guilt by association, for she (like Bill Clinton) has been a victim of it herself over a political lifetime.
Precisely because she knows the destructive power of such assertions and how unfair they can be, she has sought for a quarter-century to hide and minimize her own activities, associations, student fascination, and personal history with the radical Left. Those associations -- logical, explicable, and (her acolytes have always maintained) even character-building in the context of the times -- are far more extensive than any radical past that has come to be known about Barack Obama.
Which raises the question: Is the Clinton campaign's emphasis on the Ayers-Obama connection significantly different or less spurious than the familiar (McCarthyite?) smears against Hillary, particularly those promulgated and disseminated by the forces she labeled "the vast right-wing conspiracy" in the 1990s?
Like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton has (at least so far as this reporter and biographer has been able to determine) consistently rejected the ideological rigidity of the radical Left and -- especially -- the notion of revolutionary violence as a means of political change in contemporary America, despite claims to the contrary by the VRWC. Like Obama -- and John McCain for that matter -- she has valued her friendships with individuals who figured in the Left-wing and anti-war movements of the 60s and Vietnam era. And like Obama and McCain, she has never wavered from her belief and faith in establishment politics, within the two-party system.
But her past associations -- and her evasions about them -- may tell us much about the formation of Hillary Clinton, both as a product of her youthful time -- the sixties and seventies, when radical student movements and the anti-war movement were a hugely potent force on campus and in American politics generally -- and as a presidential candidate. The facts are fairly simple:
In the 60s, as an undergraduate at Wellesley, she exhibited an academic fascination with the Left and radicalism; rejected more extreme forms of political protest and violence as a student leader (there is no evidence I know that Obama has ever done anything but the same); wrote her senior thesis on the radical Chicago community-organizer Saul Alinsky (whose best-known philosophical mantra was, "Whatever works to get power to the people, use it."); and then, during the 1992 presidential campaign and White House years, insured that the thesis was locked up in the Wellesley archives and unavailable to reporters.
At Yale law school she embraced some leftist causes she perhaps wishes she hadn't today (the Black Panthers' claim that they couldn't get a fair trial, more about which later); worked in the most important radical law firm of the day -- Treuhaft, Walker and Burnstein, in Oakland, which represented the Communist Party and defended the Panthers in their murder trials; and became associate editor of an alternative law review at Yale which ran stories and pictures depicting policemen as pigs and murderers.
In her 2003 "memoir," Living History, Hillary mentions not a word about her role in the Panther trial in New Haven--during which she directed Yale law students monitoring the proceedings for evidence of government misconduct in its prosecution of the Panthers accused of murder. "It meant going in and out of the Black Panther headquarters to obtain documentation and other information," a classmate told Donnie Radcliff of the Washington Post, quoted in Hillary Rodham Clinton: A First Lady For Our Time. "Hillary's job was to organize shifts for her classmates and make certain no proceeding went unmonitored...[for] civil rights abuses..."
As for her summer at the law firm, Hillary's one-sentence mention of it in Living History gives the impression that Treuhaft, Walker and Burnstein might as well been handling postal rate increases, rather than defending the Panthers, members of the communist party, and accepting cases that mainstream lawfirms were afraid to take -- particularly civil liberties cases -- in the 60s, 70s, and 80s. "I told Bill about my summer plans to clerk at Treuhaft, Walker and Burnstein, a small law firm in Oakland California, and he soon said he would like to go to California with me."
That is the total verbiage expended on so formative an experience, and the lasting -- but distant friendship -- she maintained for the next twenty-some years with Bob Treuhaft and his wife, the muckraking journalist (and, like her husband) former communist party member Jessica Mitford.
"The reason she came to us," Treuhaft told me [the quotation is in my biography of Hillary Clinton, A Woman In Charge] "the only reason I could think of, because none of us knew her, was because we were a so-called "Movement law firm at the time. There was no reason except politics for a girl from Yale" to intern at the firm. "She certainly... was in sympathy with all the Left causes, and there was a sharp dividing line at the time. We still weren't very far out of the McCarthy era."
And might not still be, to judge from the 2008 presidential campaign.
In the 1980s, Jessica Mitford visited the Clintons at the governor's mansion in Little Rock. She and Treuhaft had left the communist party in 1958, years after the revelation of Stalin's murderous crimes, but -- Jessica Mitford wrote in her memoir, A Fine Old Conflict, she quit "not primarily over some issue of high principle, but because it had become dull....boring. Rather like London's debutante circuit."
When Jessica Mitford died in 1996, Hillary Clinton wrote Bob Treuhaft a lovely condolence letter from the White House, characteristically filled with the kind of heart-felt personal touches that the senator's friends have always remarked upon.
Which, of course, no more raises the question "Is Hillary Clinton a Stalinist?," or a communist sympathizer, than "Is Barack Obama a Weatherman?" or a weatherman sympathizer, because of his association with Bill Ayers.
Aside from the candidate herself, her prime-most abettor in pushing the Bill Ayers-Weatherman-Obama line is, inevitably, Sidney Blumenthal, who has also been distributing many other questionable allegations about Obama he has plucked from and disseminated to, at times, of all places--organs of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy.
As in the Clinton White House, where he was the archivist of the Vast Right Wing Conspiracy's plots, Blumenthal is no independent operator. He maintains an ongoing personal and strategic dialogue with his patrons, Hillary and Bill Clinton.
One of Hillary Clinton's most winning attributes -- and Bill Clinton's too -- has always been their understanding of the complexity of American politics, and the danger of ideological demagoguery (witness their fight against the "vast right-wing conspiracy" and excesses). The resort by Hillary and her campaign to guilt-by-association--of which the Bill Ayers allegations are but one example: see Louis Farrakhan, or a comparatively-obscure African-American writer and perhaps -- communist party member named Frank Marshal Dixon, whom Obama knew in high school in Hawaii -- is, even for some of her most steadfast advocates, particularly dismaying. Like Gov. Bill Richardson and Senator Christopher Dodd, among others who have abandoned the Clintons, many old Clinton hands had hoped, judging from Hillary's triumphant and collegial senate years, that she -- and Bill -- had left behind such tactics when the Clinton Presidency ended in 2001 and the Right-wing threat to the Clintons' tenure in the White House had abated.
"The sad irony," noted Jonathan Alter in Newsweek, "is that these are the same [guilt-by-association] attacks used against her husband in the elections of the 1990s. The GOP tried to destroy Bill Clinton for his relationships (much closer than Obama's tangential connections) with Arkansas crooks, sleazy fund-raisers and unsavory women. But 'The Man From Hope,' while seen as less honest than Bush or Bob Dole, bet that issues and uplift were more important to voters than his character. He won...."
"Shame on you, Barack Obama," said Hillary Clinton in Ohio, asserting that the Obama campaign had misrepresented her health-care plan.
"Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairy tale I've ever seen."
—former President Bill Clinton, Jan. 11, 2008. Clinton was criticizing Sen. Barack Obama's claim to have opposed the Iraq war more consistently than Hillary Clinton. This claim was, Clinton said, "the central argument for his campaign. 'It doesn't matter that I started running for president less than a year after I got to the Senate from the Illinois state senate. I am a great speaker, a charismatic figure, and I'm the only one who had the judgment to oppose this war from the beginning, always, always, always.' " (Click here for the video.)
Here's a rule I would like every political reporter, campaign official, TV talking head, and politician in the United States to follow. Go ahead and say, if you like, that Hillary Clinton retains a serious chance of winning the Democratic nomination. If you say this, however, you must describe a set of circumstances whereby this could happen. Try not to make it sound like a fairy tale.
Yes, Obama has dropped a few points in national polls, and Clinton has picked up a few points, putting her in the lead. The Gallup Tracking Poll had it 49-45 for Clinton on April 30, compared to 50-42 for Obama on April 15. That isn't surprising in a week when Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, elaborated on his most controversial statements at the National Press Club (click here for the video), prompting Obama to distance himself more emphatically ("I will talk to him perhaps some day in the future. … Inexcusable. … I do not see that relationship being the same after this") than he had earlier in a stirring speech on race.
The only number that matters, however, is 2,025, which is how many delegates a candidate will need to secure the nomination. Obama has 1,488 primary delegates to Clinton's 1,334, according to the Associated Press delegate tracker. Add in superdelegates and Obama has 1,736 to Clinton's 1,602. Obama needs 289 more delegates to win the nomination. Hillary needs 423. There are three ways to win these additional delegates:
- In the nine Democratic primaries and caucuses that remain, in which about 400 delegates are at stake
- By winning over still-undecided superdelegates, of whom about 290 remain
- By persuading the necessary number of superdelegates and/or primary delegates among the 1,736 pledged to Obama to change their allegiances. The former will be difficult to achieve, and the latter, though permitted, will be extremely difficult to achieve
It's numerically impossible for Hillary to get to 2,025 through the remaining primaries and caucuses. In theory, Obama could get to 2,025 that way, but to do so he'd need to capture, on average, 71 percent of the vote in every remaining contest, according to Slate's "Delegate Calculator." That obviously isn't going to happen. Hence the relentless press focus on the superdelegates. They will almost certainly choose the nominee.
A great debate has taken place on how superdelegates ought to choose the nominee. Should they vote their conscience, or should they follow the popular will? We could debate that one all day. The more relevant question is: How do superdelegates choose the nominee? Answer: They tend to follow the popular will. That's why superdelegates gravitated to Clinton when polls showed she looked like a sure thing, and then to Obama when he started outpolling her. That's why more than one-third of the superdelegates remain uncommitted now. Believe me, it isn't because they haven't been paying attention, and (except for a few head cases) it isn't because, after 23 Democratic debates, they still don't know which candidate tickles their fancy. It's because they're reluctant to be out of step with the popular will as expressed through all the primaries and caucuses. The longer any given superdelegate waits to make his or her endorsement, the likelier he or she is to choose whoever ends up with a plurality of delegates. Why else wait?
The 291 undecideds have now waited a very long time.
This is an important point, so I'm going to repeat it. The longer a superdelegate waits to choose, the likelier he'll choose whoever the primaries and caucuses chose.
That means whoever ends the primary season with a plurality of delegates is all but certain to win the nomination, unless the plurality is so paper-thin as to be meaningless. According to Slate's delegate calculator, Clinton needs to win, on average, 70 percent of the vote in every remaining contest in order to surpass Obama on pledged delegates. Remember when I said there was no way Obama would capture 71 percent? There's no way Clinton's going to capture 70 percent, either.
OK, let's see how Hillary can get close enough to call it a tie. If she gets within about 30, that's pretty close, right? To do that, she needs to win, on average, 65 percent of the vote in every remaining contest. That's still in the realm of extreme improbability. How about 60 percent? That's a difference of 74 delegates, which is starting to sound like too many to justify throwing up your hands and declaring, "Close enough for government work." And, anyway, that's still too improbable to take very seriously. Do I hear 55 percent?* Which is to say: What if she wins every remaining contest, on average, by the 10-point spread she achieved in Pennsylvania? (It was really 9 points, but everybody thinks it was 10, so let's say 10.) OK, that's possible. Difficult to achieve, but possible. But that puts Obama 115 delegates ahead of Clinton. That is definitely too large a plurality to shrug off as a virtual tie.
But what if the superdelegates decide the will of the people resides in the popular vote? I doubt they will, because the popular vote seriously undercounts Obama's support in the caucus states. Even if they ignore that shortcoming, though, Hendrik Hertzberg has demonstrated that Obama right now has a plurality of 611,520 votes. That's not likely to change, because all the big-population states have already voted. Even if you toss in the delegates from Florida's unsanctioned primary, Obama maintains a plurality of 316,748. Add in Michigan and Clinton acquires a plurality of 121,783. But it's insane to count Michigan, because Obama wasn't even on the ballot there. (It is merely unfair to count Florida, because Obama was on the ballot there; in Florida, the problem is that neither candidate campaigned there.)
Hertzberg posited that a mental compromise might be reached in counting Michigan's popular vote by giving Obama all the "uncommitted votes." Clinton has on occasion tried to argue that the Michigan primary wasn't a Soviet-style election because most of the uncommitteds should be considered Obama supporters. OK, then, Hertzberg reasoned; let's include Florida and Michigan in the tally but count the Michigan uncommitteds for Obama. That leaves Obama with a margin of 188,439. If Clinton were to win every remaining contest by 10 points on average, Hertzberg calculated that she still would lose the popular vote by 161,520 votes.
That is, assuming Florida and Michigan went uncounted. Toss in Florida, and Clinton gains a popular-vote plurality of 133,252. But this scenario depends on three improbable contingencies: The superdelegates decide it's fair to equate the popular vote in primaries and caucuses with the popular will (which it isn't); Clinton wins by 10 percent everywhere from now on (possible but unlikely); and the superdelegates decide it's fair to consider the popular vote in Florida (doubtful).
That leaves Option 3, which is for Clinton to convince the already-pledged primary delegates and/or superdelegates that they must change their minds. This has happened in the distant past; Charles Peters cites in the latest issue of the Washington Monthly the Republican convention nominating the last-minute entrant Wendell Willkie in 1940. But that was in a different era, when much less than a third of all convention delegates were chosen by primary; everyone else was, in effect, a superdelegate. Ted Kennedy tried and failed to turn Carter's primary delegates (there were no superdelegates) at the 1980 convention. Mondale turned a few of Hart's primary delegates in 1984, but he already had a delegate plurality, which made his job a lot easier; he just needed to turn that plurality into a majority. At the 2008 convention, Clinton's position would be comparable to Kennedy's in 1980, not to Mondale's in 1984.
What would it take for Clinton to start a stampede? A massive, catastrophic drop in the polls for Obama. But the only way for that to happen is for Clinton to tear into Obama so viciously, Lee Atwater-style, that she destroys her own reputation, causing her to lose the general election and very likely her Senate seat, too. Not going to happen. Clinton is determined, but she isn't insane.
That exhausts the possibilities. Not one of them is plausible. So, please, let's stop pretending there's much suspense about who the nominee will be. As an arithmecrat, I will not consider anyone the winner until a candidate achieves 2,025 delegates. But neither am I obliged to believe Hillary Clinton has a decent shot. She doesn't.
Momentucracy vs. Arithmecracy Archive:
April 23, 2008: "Hillary Clinton, Ex-Arithmecrat"
March 6, 2008: "Agony of the Arithmecrats"
Feb. 6, 2008: "Triumph of the Arithmecrats"
Feb. 1, 2008: On the Media interview about momentucracy and arithmecracy, New York Public Radio
Jan. 30, 2008: "Momentucrats vs. Arithmecrats, Part 2"
Jan. 28, 2008: "Momentucrats vs. Arithmecrats"
Jan. 21, 2008: "Is Obama Winning?"
Dec. 11, 2007: "Whose Nominee Is It, Anyway?"
Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of U.S. Forces in Iraq in 2003-2004, has written a new memoir, Wiser in Battle: A Soldier's Story, an account of his life and his service in Iraq. Sanchez was a three-star general — and the military's senior Hispanic officer — when he led U.S. forces in the first year of the war. He was relieved of his command by Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in 2004 following the revelations of the abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. In 2005, Marine General Peter Pace, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called him to say his career was over and he wouldn't get the promotion to a full general — four stars — that Sanchez says he was promised. Six months later, at Rumsfeld's request, he showed up at the Pentagon for a meeting with the defense secretary shortly before retiring. In this exclusive excerpt, Sanchez details what happened next:
I walked into Rumsfeld's office at 1:25 p.m. on April 19, 2006. He had just returned from a meeting at the White House, and the only other person present in the room was his new Chief of Staff, John Rangel.
"Ric, it's been a long time," Rumsfeld said, greeting me in a friendly manner. "I'm really sorry that your promotion didn't work out. We just couldn't make it work politically. Sending a nomination to the Senate would not be good for you, the Army, or the department."
"I understand, sir," I replied.
Then we walked over to his small conference table. "Have a seat," he said. "Now, Ric, what are your timelines?"
"Well, sir, my transition leave will start in September with retirement the first week of November."
"That's a long time. Why so long?"
"I want to have my son graduate from high school in June. After that, I'll have forty-five days to hit my three years' time in grade, so I can retire as a three-star without a waiver."
"Oh, yes, I remember now. That's why we kept you in Germany in your current job."
"Ric, I wanted to tell you that I'm interested in giving you some options for follow-on employment as a civilian in the Department of Defense." Rumsfeld then talked about a possibility with either the Africa Center for Strategic Studies and the Center for Hemispheric Defense Studies. There was a director they were thinking of moving to make room for me, he explained.
"Well, I'll consider that, sir, but I'm not making any commitments. I have some other opportunities I need to explore."
Secretary Rumsfeld then pulled out a two-page memo and handed it to me. "I wrote this after a promotion interview about two weeks ago," he explained. "The officer told me that one of the biggest mistakes we made after the war was to allow CENTCOM and CFLCC to leave the Iraq theater immediately after the fighting stopped — and that left you and V Corps with the entire mission."
"Yes, that's right," I said.
"Well, how could we have done that?" he said in an agitated, but adamant, tone. "I knew nothing about it. Now, I'd like you to read this memo and give me any corrections."
In the memo, Rumsfeld stated that one of the biggest strategic mistakes of the war was ordering the major redeployment of forces and allowing the departure of the CENTCOM and CFLCC staffs in May�June 2003.
"This left General Sanchez in charge of operations in Iraq with a staff that had been focused at the operational and tactical level, but was not trained to operate at the strategic/operational level." He went on to write that neither he nor anyone higher in the Administration knew these orders had been issued, and that he was dumbfounded when he learned that Gen. McKiernan was out of the country and in Kuwait, and that the forces would be drawn down to a level of about 30,000 by September. "I did not know that Sanchez was in charge," he wrote.
I stopped reading after I read that last statement, because I knew it was total BS. After a deep breath, I said, "Well, Mr. Secretary, the problem as you've stated it is generally accurate, but your memo does not accurately capture the magnitude of the problem. Furthermore, I just can't believe you didn't know that Franks's and McKiernan's staffs had pulled out and that the orders had been issued to redeploy the forces."
At that point, Rumsfeld became very excited, jumped out of his seat, and sat down in the chair next to me so that he could look at the memo with me. "Now just what is it in this memorandum that you don't agree with?" he said, almost shouting.
"Mr. Secretary, when V Corps ramped up for the war, our entire focus was at the tactical level. The staff had neither the experience nor training to operate at the strategic level, much less as a joint/combined headquarters. All of CFLCC's generals, whom we called the Dream Team, left the country in a mass exodus. The transfer of authority was totally inadequate, because CENTCOM's focus was only on departing the theater and handing off the mission. There was no focus on postconflict operations. None! In their minds, the war was over and they were leaving. Everybody was executing these orders, and the services knew all about it."
Starting to get a little worked up, I paused a moment, and then looked Rumsfeld straight in the eye. "Sir, I cannot believe that you didn't know I was being left in charge in Iraq."
"No! No!" he replied. "I was never told that the plan was for V Corps to assume the entire mission. I have to issue orders and approve force deployments into the theater, and they moved all these troops around without any orders or notification from me."
"Sir, I don't ... "
"Why didn't you tell anyone about this?" he asked, interrupting me in an angry tone.
"Mr. Secretary, all of the senior leadership in the Pentagon knew what was happening. Franks issued the orders and McKiernan was executing them."
"Well, what about Abizaid? He was the deputy then."
"Sir, General Abizaid knew and worked very hard with me to reverse direction once he assumed command of CENTCOM. General Bell also knew, and he offered to send me his operations officer. In early July, when General Keane visited us, I described to him the wholly inadequate manning level of the staff, and told him that we were set up for failure. He agreed and told me that he would immediately begin to identify general officers to help fill our gaps."
"Yes, yes," replied Rumsfeld. "General Keane is a good man. But this was a major failure and it has to be documented so that we never do it again." He then explained that he would be tasking Adm. Ed Giambastiani, Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, to conduct an inquiry on this issue.
"Well, I think that's appropriate," I said. "That way you'll all be able to understand what was happening on the ground."
"By the way," said Rumsfeld, "why wasn't this in the lessons-learned packages that have been forwarded to my level."
"Sir, I cannot answer that question," I replied. "But this was well known by leadership at multiple levels."
After the meeting ended, I remember walking out of the Pentagon shaking my head and wondering how in the world Rumsfeld could have expected me to believe him. Everybody knew that CENTCOM had issued orders to drawdown the forces. The Department of Defense had printed public affairs guidance for how the military should answer press queries about the redeployment. There were victory parades being planned. And in mid-May 2003, Rumsfeld himself had sent out some of his famous "snowflake" memorandums to Gen. Franks asking how the general was going to redeploy all the forces in Kuwait. The Secretary knew. Everybody knew.
So what was Rumsfeld doing? Nineteen months earlier, in September 2004, when it was clearly established in the Fay-Jones report that CJTF-7 was never adequately manned, he called me in from Europe and claimed ignorance, "I didn't know about it," he said. "How could this happen? Why didn't you tell somebody about it?"
Now, he had done exactly the same thing, only this time he had prepared a written memorandum documenting his denials. So it was clearly a pattern on the Secretary's part, and now I recognized it. Bring in the top-level leaders. Profess total ignorance. Ask why he had not been informed. Try to establish that others were screwing things up. Have witnesses in the room to verify his denials. Put it in writing. In essence, Rumsfeld was covering his rear. He was setting up his chain of denials should his actions ever be questioned. And worse yet, in my mind, he was attempting to level all the blame on his generals.
But why now? Why was he doing it in September 2006? I wasn't completely sure. I knew it had been a hectic week. The media was hounding Rumsfeld, because a number of former generals had staged something of a revolt and were calling for his resignation. Perhaps he wanted to set up this link in his chain of denials before I left the service, or gauge how I was going to react to his position. Or Rumsfeld might have been anticipating a big political shift in Congress after the midterm November elections, which, in turn, might lead to Democratic-controlled hearings. I didn't know exactly why it happened at this particular time. I just know that it did happen.
Upon returning to Germany, I had some very long discussions with my wife, especially about Rumsfeld's offer of a possible high-paying job in the Department of Defense. "I'm not sure I want to pursue something like that," I said. "But given my reaction to Rumsfeld's memorandum, he now knows that I'm not going to play along. So I don't think he'll pursue it."
"Ricardo, they are just trying to buy you off and keep you silent," said Maria Elena. "I don't think we should mess with them anymore."
My wife had hit the nail right on the head. "I believe you're right," I replied. And sure enough, no one from the Department of Defense ever followed up. So at that point, I closed out all options of doing anything with DoD after retirement.
On my first day back in the office, I received a phone call from Adm. Giambastiani, who had obviously talked to Rumsfeld. "Ric, what happened in that meeting?" he asked. "The Secretary was really upset."
"Well, sir, I essentially told him that his memorandum was wrong," I said. "I guess he didn't like that."
"Well, no, I guess he didn't. Anyway, he's asked me to make this study happen, so we'll get right on it."
Giambastiani assigned the task to the Joint Warfighting Center and gave them a pretty tight timeline. So it wasn't long before I was giving the investigative team a complete rundown of everything that had happened in Iraq between May and June 2003. I later learned that Gen. Tommy Franks, however, had refused to speak with them.
A few months later, I was making a presentation at the Joint Warfighting Center and ran across several of the people involved with the study. "Say, did you guys ever complete that investigation?" I asked.
"Oh, yes sir. We sure did," came the reply. "And let me tell you, it was ugly."
"Ugly?" I asked.
"Yes, sir. Our report validated everything you told us — that Franks issued the orders to discard the original twelve-to-eighteen-month occupation deployment, that the forces were drawing down, that we were walking away from the mission, and that everybody knew about it. And let me tell you, the Secretary did not like that one bit. After we went in to brief him, he just shut us down. 'This is not going anywhere,' he said. 'Oh, and by the way, leave all the copies right here and don't talk to anybody about it.'"
"You mean he embargoed all the copies of the report?" I asked.
"Yes, sir, he did."
From that, my belief was that Rumsfeld's intent appeared to be to minimize and control further exposure within the Pentagon and to specifically keep this information from the American public.
Continuing the conversation, I inquired about the "original twelve-to-eighteen-month occupation deployment," because I wasn't sure what he was talking about. It turned out that the investigative team was so thorough, they had actually gone back and looked at the original operational concept that had been prepared by CENTCOM (led by Gen. Franks) before the invasion of Iraq was launched. It was standard procedure to present such a plan, which included such things as: timing for predeployment, deployment, staging for major combat operations, and postdeployment. The concept was briefed up to the highest levels of the U.S. government, including the Secretary of Defense, the National Security Council, and the President of the United States.
And the investigators were now telling me that the plan called for a Phase IV (after combat action) operation that would last twelve to eighteen months.
To say I was shocked would be an understatement. I had never seen any approved CENTCOM campaign plan, either conceptual or detailed, for the post�major combat operations phase. When I was on the ground in Iraq and saw what was going on, I assumed they had done zero Phase IV planning. Now, three years later, I was learning for the first time that my assumption was not completely accurate. In fact, CENTCOM had originally called for twelve to eighteen months of Phase IV activity with active troop deployments. But then CENTCOM had completely walked away by simply stating that the war was over and Phase IV was not their job.
That decision set up the United States for a failed first year in Iraq. There is no question about it. And I was supposed to believe that neither the Secretary of Defense nor anybody above him knew anything about it? Impossible! Rumsfeld knew about it. Everybody on the NSC knew about it, including Condoleezza Rice, George Tenet, and Colin Powell. Vice President Cheney knew about it. And President Bush knew about it.
There's not a doubt in my mind that they all embraced this decision to some degree. And if it had not been for the moral courage of Gen. John Abizaid to stand up to them all and reverse Franks's troop drawdown order, there's no telling how much more damage would have been done.
In the meantime, hundreds of billions of taxpayer dollars were unnecessarily spent, and worse yet, too many of our most precious military resource, our American soldiers, were unnecessarily wounded, maimed, and killed as a result. In my mind, this action by the Bush administration amounts to gross incompetence and dereliction of duty.