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Monday, May 12, 2008

Gotcha! Hillary Clinton Rehearsing Hand Gestures!

McCain faces doubts among Republican conservatives

John McCain

WASHINGTON (AFP) — While John McCain is practically assured the Republican presidential nomination, many party members are having a hard time accepting him -- and showing it with symbolic votes against him in primary contests.

The Republican nomination battle has been all but decided for over two months. Still, some Republicans used the April 22 Pennsylvania primary and last week's votes in Indiana and North Carolina to register their unhappiness with the de facto victor.

Some vote for libertarian Texan Ron Paul, who has refused to quit the race and has racked up more than one million votes, according to his campaign.

Other Republicans keep voting for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, and former governor Mike Huckabee of Arkansas -- both markedly more conservative than McCain -- although both have long since dropped out of the race and endorsed him.

As many as 25 percent of Republican voters want a different candidate to represent their party in the November 4 presidential election. In Pennsylvania, 27 percent opted for Huckabee or Paul; in North Carolina and Indiana on May 6, McCain opponents earned 23 percent of the vote.

The Washington Times, a conservative newspaper, calculated that McCain had garnered no more than 45 percent of the Republican vote since January.

McCain's reputation as a party maverick and a compromising moderate has left the party's most conservative and ideological members disgruntled.

He focused this week on winning their backing, delivering a major speech on legal issues and promising to nominate conservative justices to any possible new Supreme Court vacancies, as President George W. Bush has done.

"I have my own standards of judicial ability, experience, philosophy, and temperament," McCain said.

"And Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito meet those standards in every respect. They would serve as the model for my own nominees if that responsibility falls to me," he said, pointing to Bush appointees.

Even so, McCain carefully avoided mentioning thorny subjects like abortion and homosexual unions, on which he has staked out much more moderate positions than members of the party's religious right.

On Thursday, McCain vigorously denied voting in the 2000 presidential elections against Bush, his main rival during the Republican primaries that year.

Popular liberal pundit and Internet blogger Ariana Huffington had published a report that shortly after the election, McCain revealed during a dinner that he did not vote for his party's nominee.

"I voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004," the Republican candidate insisted on Fox News. "And not only that, far more important than a vote, I campaigned everywhere in America for him."

While such defenses might help the Arizona senator woo the most conservative Republicans, it carries great risks.

A Wall Street Journal opinion poll last week showed only 27 percent of Americans approved of Bush's performance. And 43 percent said they worried that McCain "will be too closely aligned with the Bush agenda" -- a worry Democrats are already moving to exploit.

That spells trouble for McCain with the potential swing centrist voters McCain needs to defeat his Democratic opponent, Senator Barack Obama or Senator Hillary Clinton.

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Four More Superdelegates for Obama

Updated Senator Barack Obama picked up three more superdelegates today. While Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton earned a new one, one of her opponent’s pick-ups was a defector, so, at this point, today is a wash for her.

Several states’ Democratic Party leaders, including Ohio and Massachusetts, are choosing “add-on” or “automatic” delegates today. Both states are choosing two, but so far, only Arthur Powell, a Clinton supporter from Massachusetts, has been announced.

Last night, Kristi Cumming, an Obama supporter from Utah, was named that state’s add-on.

The Obama campaign also announced today that he had poached a Clinton superdelegate from the Virgin Islands: Carole Burke, a party official. He also scored Kevin Rodriguez, also from the United States territory, who had been previously uncommitted.

This leaves Mrs. Clinton with 264 superdelegates and Mr. Obama with 268, according to The Times’s count. Mr. Obama first surpassed Mrs. Clinton in superdelegate support, according to most tallies, on Friday.

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Judge Him by His Laws

Barack Obama

Barack Obama (Charlie Neibergall - AP)

People who complain that Barack Obama lacks experience must be unaware of his legislative achievements. One reason these accomplishments are unfamiliar is that the media have not devoted enough attention to Obama's bills and the effort required to pass them, ignoring impressive, hard evidence of his character and ability.

Since most of Obama's legislation was enacted in Illinois, most of the evidence is found there -- and it has been largely ignored by the media in a kind of Washington snobbery that assumes state legislatures are not to be taken seriously. (Another factor is reporters' fascination with the horse race at the expense of substance that they assume is boring, a fascination that despite being ridiculed for years continues to dominate political journalism.)

I am a rarity among Washington journalists in that I have served in a state legislature. I know from my time in the West Virginia legislature that the challenges faced by reform-minded state representatives are no less, if indeed not more, formidable than those encountered in Congress. For me, at least, trying to deal with those challenges involved as much drama as any election. And the "heart and soul" bill, the one for which a legislator gives everything he or she has to get passed, has long told me more than anything else about a person's character and ability.

Consider a bill into which Obama clearly put his heart and soul. The problem he wanted to address was that too many confessions, rather than being voluntary, were coerced -- by beating the daylights out of the accused.

Obama proposed requiring that interrogations and confessions be videotaped.

This seemed likely to stop the beatings, but the bill itself aroused immediate opposition. There were Republicans who were automatically tough on crime and Democrats who feared being thought soft on crime. There were death penalty abolitionists, some of whom worried that Obama's bill, by preventing the execution of innocents, would deprive them of their best argument. Vigorous opposition came from the police, too many of whom had become accustomed to using muscle to "solve" crimes. And the incoming governor, Rod Blagojevich, announced that he was against it.

Obama had his work cut out for him.

He responded with an all-out campaign of cajolery. It had not been easy for a Harvard man to become a regular guy to his colleagues. Obama had managed to do so by playing basketball and poker with them and, most of all, by listening to their concerns. Even Republicans came to respect him. One Republican state senator, Kirk Dillard, has said that "Barack had a way both intellectually and in demeanor that defused skeptics."

The police proved to be Obama's toughest opponent. Legislators tend to quail when cops say things like, "This means we won't be able to protect your children." The police tried to limit the videotaping to confessions, but Obama, knowing that the beatings were most likely to occur during questioning, fought -- successfully -- to keep interrogations included in the required videotaping.

By showing officers that he shared many of their concerns, even going so far as to help pass other legislation they wanted, he was able to quiet the fears of many.

Obama proved persuasive enough that the bill passed both houses of the legislature, the Senate by an incredible 35 to 0. Then he talked Blagojevich into signing the bill, making Illinois the first state to require such videotaping.

Obama didn't stop there. He played a major role in passing many other bills, including the state's first earned-income tax credit to help the working poor and the first ethics and campaign finance law in 25 years (a law a Post story said made Illinois "one of the best in the nation on campaign finance disclosure"). Obama's commitment to ethics continued in the U.S. Senate, where he co-authored the new lobbying reform law that, among its hard-to-sell provisions, requires lawmakers to disclose the names of lobbyists who "bundle" contributions for them.

Taken together, these accomplishments demonstrate that Obama has what Dillard, the Republican state senator, calls a "unique" ability "to deal with extremely complex issues, to reach across the aisle and to deal with diverse people." In other words, Obama's campaign claim that he can persuade us to rise above what divides us is not just rhetoric.

I do not think that a candidate's legislative record is the only measure of presidential potential, simply that Obama's is revealing enough to merit far more attention than it has received. Indeed, the media have been equally delinquent in reporting the legislative achievements of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, both of whom spent years in the U.S. Senate. The media should compare their legislative records to Obama's, devoting special attention to their heart-and-soul bills and how effective each was in actually making law.

Charles Peters, the founding editor of the Washington Monthly, is president of Understanding Government, a foundation devoted to better government through better reporting.

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Nuclear option

They call it the "dream ticket" - a unity deal, brokered at the Democratic convention in Denver, Colorado, that puts both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton on a bumper sticker and, hopefully, in the White House. Now that the mainstream media, Clinton's greatest ally, has finally recognised the legitimacy of Obama's triumph over her grinding and obdurate campaign, the dream ticket has lost any speculative vagueness of Beltway cocktail chat. Now, that dream is a matter of deadly seriousness - because it is now Hillary's dream, and her last remaining option. Make no mistake: going into Denver with a heap of white votes and fortified by the new power of the post-Cheney vice-presidency, Hillary Clinton intends to force her way onto the ticket. If it knows what's good for it, the Democratic party should stop her.

First, Democrats should be clear that they face a woman who has consistently put her own interests and passions above those of her party. For Hillary to retreat back to the Senate, John Kerry-style, or lower her sights, like Nixon, to her home state's governor's mansion, is unpalatable to her and her husband. Given her significant haul in money raised, ballots cast and states won during the primary season, to admit defeat in either fashion would add insult to injured ego. Yet, since Super Tuesday, Hillary has shown no qualms about piling insult after injury on the Democratic party. Party leaders have had to stand by awkwardly as the Clinton machine wore on, pressed into indulgent collusion with a campaign fixated on validating its own vanity. Obama, meanwhile, has been asked - no, required - to pay the price, as Hillary's embarrassingly shameless and bottom-dwelling attacks have led Rush Limbaugh and other right-wing heavyweights to revel for once in the Clintons' dirty work.

All things being equal, it's reasonable for a candidate in Hillary's position to seek the second spot on her party's ticket. But all things are never equal in the with-us-or-against-us world of the Clintons. There, either you're a card-carrying crony, like reviled Clinton cash man Terry McAuliffe, or you're a traitor, like ex-Clinton energy secretary Bill Richardson - who had the audacity to prefer someone else to Hillary and make that preference known. The Clintons have made a long career out of forced loyalty and the threatened settling of scores. Now, backs against the wall, the vice-presidential nomination provides them a perfect opportunity for the psychopolitical blackmail that has so unnaturally maintained their party influence long past its prime.

Second of all, Democrats must recognise that Obama owes Clinton no love, and owes the party nothing in terms of faking it. Nothing could be more outrageous than for the Democratic party to demand of its first African-American nominee to join hands with a loathed, race-baiting opponent in the name of the greater good. The success of Obama's outsider campaign is definitive proof that neither he, the Democratic party, nor the United States has any need for Hillary Clinton. His brain trust is as brainy as hers. His political operators, if anything, are more savvy. And his ability to raise money is more consistently impressive, more broadly based, and plenty cleaner than her own. Hillary would add aggressive puerility to the ticket, not maturity. She would contribute mixed messages about foreign and domestic policy, not clarity. And she would strike a glaring counterpoint to Obama's signature theme of integrity, a daily reminder of the crass and anti-democratic principle that only others, and never she, must make apologies for her ambition.

Though the polls do reflect a possibility (because of her negative campaigning) that at least some current Clinton supporters are likely to consider McCain in the general election, Democrats have a clear choice to make. Either they can reward the woman who chased voters from her own party in the ironic hope of retaining them, or they can grant their nominee the full use of his natural power to make another winning decision - this time, the decision about the person best suited to join him on the ticket. What new fabricated formality must Obama satisfy to earn their trust? What hoop is left to jump through? That Clinton has even caused these questions to be raised reflects the profundity of damage she has already done to her party and its assured nominee. On the campaign trail or in office, what more might come from this calculating aggrandiser, long accustomed to thinking of herself in co-presidential terms, should be left to Democrats' most fertile imaginations.

Third, and lastly, Democrats shouldn't fear that only Hillary has the kind of name recognition or the voter affinity that can best enhance the ticket's electability. Joe Biden has far more experience than Clinton. John Edwards joins partisan credibility with southern appeal. And Jim Webb, as commentators left and right have observed, seems to offer Obama all the advantages that Hillary has tried to command without any of the drawbacks. In fact, Biden, Edwards and Webb are among several instant and obvious answers to the veep question, self-evident substitutes for - or, indeed, improvements upon - Hillary. Democrats don't need to exert an ounce of energy figuring out what to do once they successfully resist the iron will of the Clintons. The VP "problem", never a problem to begin with, solves itself.

The nomination of Barack Obama presents the Democratic party with more than its fair share of historic opportunities, and not just skin deep. Among these - and I think Obama would be the first to agree - are the possibilities which open when Democrats realise that the 2008 campaign is about more than the petty personalities of particular persons. Democrats have a once-in-a-generation chance, sorely needed, to fully refresh their national leadership. This chance has conveniently come at a time when Republican fortunes are at lows unseen since the last days of Herbert Hoover. To accept the GOP's most profitable punching bag onto the national ticket after Democratic voters have plainly rejected her is to sacrifice the party's best hopes to its worst habits. With American citizens of all persuasions crying out for fundamental change in Washington politics, such a failure hurts not just the Democratic party but the country as a whole.

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Obama's army of small donors

Timothy Sweeney

Timothy Sweeney, 24, a medical student at Duke University, is seen in his home in Durham, N.C. Sweeney says he has given about $300 online overall to Obama's presidential campaign.
Photo: AP

Kriss Riggs isn't one to spend her money on politicians.

"Even the place you can donate a dollar on your taxes, I refuse to do it," says the 60-year-old photographer from Blue River, Ore.

Likewise for Kate Schwartz, a 24-year-old marketing expert from Chicago. Past elections, she says, always seemed far removed from young people.

"A lot of people felt like it wasn't happening in my demographic," Schwartz said.

Not this time.

Riggs and Schwartz are foot soldiers in Barack Obama's 1.5-million-strong army of campaign contributors. Dozens of Associated Press interviews with donors and an AP financial analysis show how contributions that make only a soft ka-ching by themselves, arriving in increments of $10, $15 and $50, have collectively swelled into a financial roar that has helped propel Obama toward the Democratic presidential nomination.

Altogether, Obama's campaign has taken in an unprecedented $226 million, most of it contributed online. His donor base is larger than the one the Democratic National Committee had for the 2000 election.

These are hardly political fat cats. Ninety percent of his donors give $100 or less, and 41 percent have given $25 or less, according to the Obama campaign. Overall, he has raised 45 percent of his money in small contributions. Hillary Rodham Clinton's figure is 30 percent, Republican John McCain's is 23 percent.

Riggs and Schwartz are examples of how Obama has become a financial colossus: Neither had given money to a candidate before; both have donated to him more than once; both expect to continue giving. And, just as significantly, they've gone on to help the campaign in other ways, such as staffing phone banks and canvassing neighborhoods.

In interviews with small donors around the country, the same message comes through: These donors feel they've taken ownership. They believe they're helping to set Obama free from the tug of big-money corporations and special interests.

Says Aaron Alpern, a 46-year-old actor from Chicago: Donors like him "don't have the pull of a gigantic corporation, but we have sort of the reverse — we give him freedom."

An AP analysis helps to fill in the portrait of Obama's small donors.

They are more broadly dispersed than Clinton's. People whose small contributions to Obama add up to at least $200 can be found in more than 14,000 ZIP codes nationwide, compared with a little less than 12,000 for Clinton, and less than 9,000 for McCain. Conversely, the 10 ZIP codes that contributed the most to Clinton's campaign account for more than 15 percent of her total contributions, while Obama's top 10 ZIP codes account for less than 5 percent of his take. McCain's top 10 ZIP codes account for just over 11 percent of his total.

Obama, a magnet for younger voters, is cashing in on that phenomenon. Among small donors, students have given $303,000 to him, compared with less than $100,000 to Clinton and less than $20,000 to McCain.

Campaigns are not required to disclose detailed information on donors who contribute less than $200, so little is known about the smallest givers. But campaigns do report information on small donors once their combined contributions top the $200 mark.

One such donor is Timothy Sweeney. The 24-year-old medical student at Duke University first noticed Obama when Sweeney was an undergraduate in Chicago, and liked his "high-minded approach to things." Sweeney has donated online in small increments adding up to about $300 so far, and says he may give $100 to $150 more if Obama makes it to the general election.

Obama, says Sweeney, strikes him as "just an honest, decent man, and I felt like somebody like that should be in the race."

Obama also appears to draw a disproportionate amount of support from black donors. In ZIP codes where 90 percent or more of residents are black, the AP analysis found, Obama attracted nearly $150,000 from individuals who gave small donations totaling at least $200, compared with less than $20,000 for Clinton and just $2,140 for McCain.

Obama gets 20 percent of his campaign dollars from the biggest donors, those contributing the maximum $2,300 for the primary campaign, compared to 34 percent for Clinton and 39 percent for McCain, according to the private Campaign Finance Institute.

While little is known about the characteristics of Obama's smallest donors, the impact of their giving is unquestioned.

Their combined purchasing power has turbocharged Obama's campaign, allowing him to do virtually everything he wanted in state after state in the prolonged Democratic duel with Clinton. They also have given Obama the luxury of spending more time talking to the public and less attending fundraisers, and have created a host of supporters working to elect him.
"Anybody that contributes, we immediately call them and ask them if they would like to be part of our organization," says Obama campaign manager David Plouffe. "Every state we go into, we have a foundation of support."

Not only can Obama keep returning to his donors for repeat contributions — only 2 percent have given the maximum $2,300 — he still has the potential to increase his pool of contributors from the names on his 3-million-plus e-mail list of contacts. Plouffe stresses that "we don't view our online community as an ATM" — rather as a network of supporters ready to help in all sorts of ways.

Michael Malbin, executive director of the Campaign Finance Institute, said even the smallest contribution helps voters feel they have a stake in the campaign. Obama, he said, has taken to heart a lesson taught by Saul Alinsky, the father of community organizing, who often spoke about the importance of getting people to contribute even as little as 50 cents to get them invested in a cause. (Obama began his work as a community organizer in Chicago in 1985, more than a decade after Alinsky died, but studied Alinsky's methods.)

"Once a person does anything, that person is likely to do some other thing," Malbin said. In that respect, Malbin said, Obama's small donors are dramatically different from those of Howard Dean, the 2004 Democratic candidate who first tapped into small giving over the Internet but was unable to translate that support into votes.

"It's not just about getting the small gift," said Malbin. "It's about bringing a new person into the campaign, both financially and in terms of the volunteer program, and turning out the vote."

At least 20 percent of Obama's donors never have given to any candidate before, according to Plouffe.

Bonnie Reagan, a 56-year-old consultant from Nashville, Tenn., is an example. Obama is the first candidate she's ever given to — more than a dozen contributions so far totaling somewhere under $1,000. And after she gave, she took the campaign up on its invitation to help, and ended up working a phone bank during the early primaries.

Gerald Cook, a 67-year-old retired aerospace engineer in Denver, has $25 for Obama automatically deducted from his checking account each month and then tosses in "a little on top of that." He helped out on the Obama campaign in the lead-up to the Colorado caucuses.

Larry Levine, chair of a community services organization in tiny Hinton, W.Va., gives $50 or $100 every two or three weeks. Hardly anyone would see an Obama sign on his gravel road, he says, but he does keep an Obama sticker in the window of his car.

Riggs, the photographer from Oregon, began making calls for Obama after she began contributing, and even flew to Waco to canvass neighborhoods before the Texas primary.

"I've never done anything" before, said Riggs. "This man has stirred me."

And she's ready to help again.

While the small donors' impact in the immediate race is unquestioned, their future involvement in politics remains an intriguing question mark.

Are these new donors connected only to Obama, or a permanent part of the Democratic political apparatus? Individual donors suggest the answer could go either way.

Dan Cole, a 78-year-old retired teacher from Chicago, said he's willing to look elsewhere should Obama's campaign falter.

"What's of primary importance is that we get a Democrat in the White House," Cole says. "We're not going to fold up our tent and fall back to our hole if it's Hillary or nothing."

But Rosanna Williams, 82, a Philadelphia retiree who has given $500 to Obama in small increments, is adamant.

"If Obama doesn't win, then they can forget about me," she declared.

It could spell trouble for Democrats down the line if Obama's younger supporters don't transfer over.

Anthony Corrado, a campaign finance expert at Colby College in Maine, said there's good reason to think many of Obama's donors won't branch out should his candidacy falter.

"That $25 is their first foray into politics," Corrado said. If Obama doesn't win, he said, "Among these small donors, many will be done. Obama is their candidate."
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Coordinator of GOP convention quits after Newsweek report on his firm's ties to Myanmar junta

ST. PAUL, Minn. - The man picked by the John McCain campaign to run the 2008 Republican National Convention resigned Saturday after a report that his lobbying firm used to represent the military regime in Myanmar.

Doug Goodyear resigned as convention coordinator and issued a two sentence statement:

"Today I offered the convention my resignation so as not to become a distraction in this campaign. I continue to strongly support John McCain for president, and wish him the best of luck in this campaign."

Goodyear, chief executive of lobbying firm DCI Group, resigned a few hours after Newsweek posted a story posted online that the company was paid $348,000 in 2002 and 2003 to represent Myanmar's junta.

"We respect Mr. Goodyear's decision, and look forward to the convention in September," said Brian Rogers, a spokesman for the McCain campaign.

Cyclone Nargis left more than 60,000 people dead or missing, and the U.N. estimates that at least 1.5 million people have been severely affected. Human rights organizations and dissident groups have bitterly accused the junta of neglecting disaster victims and blocking foreign donations of relief supplies.

Justice Department records covering agents of foreign agents that are required to register with the U.S. government show DCI signed a contract to work to "improve relations between the United States and Myanmar" and to act as the junta's public relations agent in Washington.

Newsweek said the firm drafted news releases praising Burma's efforts to curb the drug trade and denouncing claims by the Bush administration that the regime engaged in rape and other abuses.

"It was our only foreign representation, it was for a short tenure, and it was six years ago," Newsweek quoted Goodyear as saying. The magazine said Goodyear added that the junta's record in the current cyclone crisis is "reprehensible."

The Newsweek article also reported that some of Goodyear's allies worried the choice of Goodyear could fuel perceptions that McCain is surrounded by lobbyists. DCI Group earned $3 million last year lobbying for ExxonMobil, General Motors and other clients, the report said.

Newsweek also reported DCI has been a pioneer in running "independent" expenditure campaigns by so-called 527 groups, the kind of operations that McCain has denounced in his battle for campaign finance reform.

The convention runs Sept. 1-4 at the Xcel Energy Center in downtown St. Paul.

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Hillary Clinton’s suicidal gamble with race poison

From the very beginning, the premise and the promise of Barack Obama’s campaign was that it would transcend race. And last autumn the Obama team also knew this was the only way it could win.

The Clinton brand among black voters was so strong, so unbreakable, so resilient a force that even the first credible black candidate for the presidency remained stuck 20-30% behind Hillary Clinton among African-American voters. She was, after all, the wife of the “first black president”, as the author Toni Morrison called Bill.

She had almost all the black political establishment behind her. Her husband, from his days in Arkansas during the civil rights movement, had forged a deep, durable bond with black America. And Obama’s only hope as a young insurgent was in winning a surprise victory in Iowa or New Hampshire, where black votes were close to nonexistent.

A biracial man reared by one white mother and two white grandparents knew that his ability to touch and inspire white voters was his greatest strength. Especially among younger voters, it was critical. And this appeal wasn’t geared only to white audiences. I will not forget a rally over a year ago, filled with predominantly black donors and activists, when Obama recounted how a supporter greeted him at the anniversary of Martin Luther King’s march on Selma.

“That was a great celebration of African-American history,” the supporter said, to which Obama immediately responded: “No, no, no, no, no. That was not a great celebration of African-American history. That was a celebration of American history.” The postracial appeal wasn’t just about necessity. It was also Obama’s core conviction about his own political message.

And after the primaries in Iowa and New Hampshire, where Obama scored extensive white support, the Clintons realised this as well. Flummoxed by this young, charismatic pretender to their dynastic throne, they made a fateful decision: not to compete aggressively for black votes, but to push Obama into the “black candidate” box and leverage white ethnic and Hispanic support instead. And as the Clintons’ losses mounted, the hints became harder and harder to miss.

Before Super Tuesday, Clinton campaign operatives aired rumours that Obama had been a drug dealer – hint, hint – in his younger days. When Obama scored a landslide in South Carolina, Bill Clinton reminded the media that Jesse Jackson had won the state as well. He called Obama a “kid”, perilously close to calling him a “boy”, prompting the former Clinton operative Donna Brazile to say: “I tell you, as an African-American, I find his words and his tone to be very depressing.” The black civil rights icon John Lewis switched from Clinton to Obama. When Clinton told white rural voters that Obama didn’t care about “people like you”, it stung.

In the last months, the Clintons pushed the story about Jeremiah Wright (Obama’s fiery pastor) hard, but the media did all the heavy lifting. The Clintons shrewdly focused their efforts on older, white Democrats in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Indiana (the kind who had once voted for Ronald Reagan) and refused to shoot down categorically rumours that Obama was a closet Muslim, and stopped even addressing predominantly black audiences in North Carolina.

Last Thursday, Senator Clinton – dazed from a brutal setback in last Tuesday’s primaries – went even further. She told USA Today to consult an Associated Press story “that found how Senator Obama’s support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me”.

Yes: a candidate was explicitly arguing that she was the candidate of white Americans. No Republican would be so crude, certainly not John McCain. And that became her primary rationale for carrying on. After North Carolina, the short-term electoral costs have evaporated: West Virginia has a black population of just 3.3%, Kentucky has 7.5%, Oregon has 1.9%, Montana and South Dakota both have less than 1%. There are no black superdelegates willing to switch from Obama to Clinton at this point.

And so a strategy that was essentially telling superdelegates that a black man could not win the general election became Hillary’s last resort. In this, the Clintons were egged on by the less principled members of the Republican right.

Black Americans – skilled at judging when they are being dissed – got the message. In last Tuesday’s North Carolina primary, Clinton got only 7% of the black vote – a lower percentage than Nixon or Reagan had won in general elections. If someone had told me last year that a Clinton would get less than 10% of the black vote in a Democratic primary, I would have asked what they were smoking. But in a few months, the Clintons have turned a 30-point lead among African-Americans into a deficit of more than 80 points. No constituency has swung as much over the past few months. And the black turnout last Tuesday was massive.

Obama, mercifully, did not take the bait. Despite the Wright fiasco, he tried mightily not to be racially pigeonholed, as he has his entire life. His victory speech last Tuesday night was full of references to his predominantly white family from Kansas and his love of America.

It was a shrewdly adjusted message. And more interestingly, it seemed to be working – slowly. In Ohio, he won 34% of the white vote; in Pennsylvania, he won 37%; in Indiana, he won 40%. The more the Clintons attempted to polarise the voting racially, the more successful Obama was in deflecting it. His rebuke of Wright probably helped. But also the profound media attention.

The more working-class white voters actually saw and heard of him, the more their fears of the unknown seemed to subside. He won only 27% of white voters without college degrees in Ohio; he won 29% in Pennsylvania and 34% of them in Indiana. And when you look at age, the effect is even more striking. In North Carolina, a southern state, Obama won 57% of white voters under 30 and 45% of white voters under 40.

In the Clintons’ morphing into a crude version of racially angry Reagan Democrats, you can see an almost Shakespearian tragedy. Bill Clinton has a long and admirable record in civil rights; and was on the right side of the struggle in the South in his youth. He has an effortless rapport with black Americans, and they were his core final constituency of support in the darkest days of impeachment.

But like any southerner, Clinton also knew how to navigate racial resentment. In 1992, he interrupted the primary campaign to return to Arkansas to sign the death warrant of a mentally retarded black man. He made a point of attacking the radical black hip hop artist Sister Souljah in his first campaign. He signed off on welfare reform. His genius was in holding together a coalition that included enough Reagan Democrats to win, while never losing wide and deep black support.

But he never ran against a black candidate and neither did his wife. They are used to loving and supporting minorities – as long as the minorities know their place and see the Clintons as the instrument of their salvation. Obama broke that dependency and that relationship. And that was why the Clintons had to do all they could to destroy and belittle and besmirch him.

But in that venture the Clintons are destroying themselves and their legacy and their capacity to bridge the very gaps they now must widen to stay in the race. It is a Clinton tragedy – and one that most Americans seem slowly, cautiously but palpably determined not to make their own.

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Recount: New Docudrama Could Influence Election

Kevin Spacey (left) and Denis Leary in a scene from the HBO Docudrama Recount"

After George W. Bush won Florida in 2000--O.K., I apologize to my Democrat readers for legitimizing Bush by using the word won. Also, I apologize to the Republicans for delegitimizing Bush by apologizing to the Democrats ...

This is what Florida has done to us. Nearly eight years after Bush--um, "became President"? Can we agree on that?--the Florida recount still grips our politics, down to its semantics. To choose a verb is to take sides. Florida is not just a state but a state of mind: the widely held attitude that the game is rigged (by the courts, the media, the voting machines ...) and that any close election is suspect. Florida looms over politics like the Alamo, the Maine and the grassy knoll all rolled into one.

On May 25, an HBO docudrama about the legal-political battle between Bush and Al Gore will remind us of all that again. You might think that HBO would have timed Recount to air around Election Day. As it turns out, the network could not have scheduled the movie better. The Democratic primary, like the Florida election, has turned out close enough that it must be decided by people whom nobody voted for--this time superdelegates, not Supreme Court Justices. With the old electoral wounds being ripped open, here comes Recount like a brimming shaker of salt.

Even if the primary is settled by the time Recount airs (or by the time you read this), some Democrats will feel bitter and cheated and will invoke the powerful language of 2000 all over again. If Barack Obama gets the nomination, the anger will center on the primaries in Michigan and you-know-where. (Democrats! Disenfranchised! In Florida! The blog posts write themselves.) Hillary Clinton's camp has already stepped up the "count every vote" talk. If it's Clinton, the protests will be that, as in 2000--when thousands of black Floridians were struck from voter rolls--African Americans were overruled and the popular-vote leader denied. That there are several competing gauges of legitimacy only makes recriminations more likely.

Recount is told largely from the Gore camp's perspective; the Dems even get the marginally bigger stars--Kevin Spacey, Denis Leary and Ed Begley Jr. to the Republicans' Laura Dern, Tom Wilkinson and Bob Balaban. When a Florida court decision holds out hope for Gore, stirring music swells. When Bush recount honcho James Baker III (Wilkinson) walks onscreen, the sound track all but plays Darth Vader's theme.

But it makes sense for Recount to be Dem-centric. True, Florida was bipartisan in feeding cynicism about institutions--politics, the courts, the media. (There's a montage of the networks calling the state for Gore, then Bush, then no one.) But it had the greatest effect on the Democratic psyche, as will happen after you lose an election. (My apologies for writing "lose." And "election.")

Still, Recount portrays Republicans as not so much stealing the election as getting lucky (with the Palm Beach "butterfly" ballot that led seniors to accidentally pick Pat Buchanan over Gore), then aggressively going after the jump ball in the media, the courts and the streets. In Recount, the enemy is often Democrats. Former Secretary of State Warren Christopher (John Hurt), elder statesman of Gore's recount effort, is portrayed as a wet noodle, fretting about honorable compromise while Baker goes to the mattresses. Gore's running mate, Joe Lieberman, hands the Bush team a gift by declaring that challenged military ballots should be counted. With friends like these, who needs Karl Rove?

Seen this way, Recount is more important for what it says about intra-Democratic politics than about the interparty battle. (Bush and Gore appear only in clips, in shots from behind or as off-camera voices.) As Gore's brass-knuckled campaign staff (Spacey as recount captain Ron Klain and Leary as field director Michael Whouley) urge the likes of Christopher to fight GOP fire with fire, you can see the seeds of the schism between netroots activists and Establishment Dems. The activists regard their colleagues as sellouts or wusses, too refined to throw a punch and too concerned about the mainstream media's approbation.

Through Gore's defeat, Recount hints at the emergence of the Democrats of 2008. Clinton and Obama have each argued that they know the post-Florida way to win: Obama by embracing the grass roots, Clinton by promising to whale on the Republicans. But with those lessons came a zeitgeist that views elections as dirty unless proved otherwise. How to marshal the spirit of '00 rather than be destroyed by it will be the challenge for whichever candidate wins. And I apologize in advance for using that verb.

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Unofficial Tallies in City Understated Obama Vote

Michael Nagle/European Pressphoto Agency

A sign supporting Senator Barack Obama on Primary Day in Harlem. Some districts reported that no one had voted for him.

Correction Appended

Black voters are heavily represented in the 94th Election District in Harlem’s 70th Assembly District. Yet according to the unofficial results from the New York Democratic primary last week, not a single vote in the district was cast for Senator Barack Obama.

That anomaly was not unique. In fact, a review by The New York Times of the unofficial results reported on primary night found about 80 election districts among the city’s 6,106 where Mr. Obama supposedly did not receive even one vote, including cases where he ran a respectable race in a nearby district.

City election officials this week said that their formal review of the results, which will not be completed for weeks, had confirmed some major discrepancies between the vote totals reported publicly — and unofficially — on primary night and the actual tally on hundreds of voting machines across the city.

In the Harlem district, for instance, where the primary night returns suggested a 141 to 0 sweep by Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, the vote now stands at 261 to 136. In an even more heavily black district in Brooklyn — where the vote on primary night was recorded as 118 to 0 for Mrs. Clinton — she now barely leads, 118 to 116.

The history of New York elections has been punctuated by episodes of confusion, incompetence and even occasional corruption. And election officials and lawyers for both Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton agree that it is not uncommon for mistakes to be made by weary inspectors rushing on election night to transcribe columns of numbers that are delivered first to the police and then to the news media.

That said, in a presidential campaign in which every vote at the Democratic National Convention may count, a swing of even a couple of hundred votes in New York might help Mr. Obama gain a few additional delegates.

City election officials said they were convinced that there was nothing sinister to account for the inaccurate initial counts, and The Times’s review found a handful of election districts in the city where Mrs. Clinton received zero votes in the initial results.

“It looked like a lot of the numbers were wrong, probably the result of human error,” said Marcus Cederqvist, who was named executive director of the Board of Elections last month. He said such discrepancies between the unofficial and final count rarely affected the raw vote outcome because “they’re not usually that big.”

On primary night, Mrs. Clinton was leading with 57 percent to Mr. Obama’s 40 percent in New York State, which meant she stood to win 139 delegates to Mr. Obama’s 93, with 49 others known as superdelegates going to the national convention unaffiliated.

Jerome A. Koenig, a former chief of staff to the State Assembly’s election law committee and an adviser to the Obama campaign, suggested that some of the discrepancy resulted from the design of the ballot.

Candidates were listed from left to right in an order selected by drawing lots. Mrs. Clinton was first, followed by Gov. Bill Richardson and Senator Joseph R. Biden Jr., who in most election districts received zero votes, and by John Edwards, who got relatively few. Mr. Obama was fifth, just before Representative Dennis J. Kucinich.

Mr. Koenig said he seriously doubted that anything underhanded was at work because local politicians care more about elections that matter specifically to them.

“They steal votes for elections like Assembly District leader, where people have a personal stake,” he said.

A number of political leaders also scoffed at the possibility that local politicians, even if they considered it vital that Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton prevail in the primary, were capable of even trying to hijack such a contest.

Still, for those inclined to consider conspiracy theories, the figures provided plenty of grist.

The 94th Election District in Harlem, for instance, sits within the Congressional district represented by Charles B. Rangel, an original supporter of Mrs. Clinton.

Assemblyman Keith L. T. Wright, a Clinton supporter who represents the same area, said he was confident that there was an innocent explanation for the original count giving Mr. Obama zero votes.

“I’m sure it’s a clerical error of some sort,” Mr. Wright said. “Being around elections for the last 25 years, no candidate receives zero votes.”

But Gordon J. Davis, a former New York City parks commissioner and an Obama poll watcher in the district, remained skeptical, even after being informed of the corrected count.

“First it was reported at 141 to 0, now it’s 261 to 136 in an Assembly district that went 12,000 to 8,000 for Barack,” Mr. Davis said on Friday.

“I was watching like a hawk, but how did I know the machine had a mind of its own?” he added. “And I speak as one who grew up on the South Side of Chicago where we delivered the margin of victory for John F. Kennedy at 4 in the morning.”

At the sprawling Riverside Park Community apartments at Broadway and 135th Street, Alician D. Barksdale said she had voted for Mr. Obama and her daughter had, too, by absentee ballot.

“Everyone around here voted for him,” she said.

The 53rd Assembly District, in Brooklyn, is represented by the borough’s Democratic chairman, Assemblyman Vito P. Lopez, another Clinton supporter. He said the party faithful have produced lopsided margins of as much as 160 to 4 and that on Primary Day he fielded election captains in every district to galvanize Hispanic voters for Mrs. Clinton.

“We ran it the old-fashioned way,” he said. Still, he said, the 118 to 0 vote “has to be a mistake.”

At the Archive, a cafe and video store on the border of Bushwick and East Williamsburg, the manager, Brad Lee, agreed. “There were Obama posters in everyone’s windows,” he said. “There was even Obama graffiti.”

Most election-night anomalies are later reconciled by the official canvass of the machines and in the formal count of absentee returns and of paper affidavit ballots issued on Primary Day, to people who do not appear to be eligible but demand the right to vote, and later validated.

On Feb. 5, Mrs. Clinton carried 61 of the state’s 62 counties but won Brooklyn by a margin of less than 2 percent. Because delegates are awarded proportionately on the basis of the primary vote in each Congressional district, Obama supporters expressed hope that if the official count continued in their favor, they might gain an additional delegate or two.

Kate Hammer and Robin Stein contributed reporting.

Original here

A Convention Quandary

Frank C. Dougherty / New York Times
Goodyear (right) with New Jersey Senate candidate Pete Dawkins in 1988.

John McCain's choice to manage the GOP convention this summer is lobbyist Doug Goodyear, whose firm once represented Burma's repressive regime.

After John McCain nailed down the Republican nomination in March, his campaign began wrestling with a sensitive personnel issue: who would manage this summer's GOP convention in St. Paul, Minn.? The campaign recently tapped Doug Goodyear for the job, a veteran operative and Arizonan who was chosen for his "management experience and expertise," according to McCain press secretary Jill Hazelbaker. But some allies worry that Goodyear's selection could fuel perceptions that McCain—who has portrayed himself as a crusader against special interests—is surrounded by lobbyists. Goodyear is CEO of DCI Group, a consulting firm that earned $3 million last year lobbying for ExxonMobil, General Motors and other clients.

Potentially more problematic: the firm was paid $348,000 in 2002 to represent Burma's military junta, which had been strongly condemned by the State Department for its human-rights record and remains in power today. Justice Department lobbying records show DCI pushed to "begin a dialogue of political reconciliation" with the regime. It also led a PR campaign to burnish the junta's image, drafting releases praising Burma's efforts to curb the drug trade and denouncing "falsehoods" by the Bush administration that the regime engaged in rape and other abuses. "It was our only foreign representation, it was for a short tenure, and it was six years ago," Goodyear told NEWSWEEK, adding the junta's record in the current cyclone crisis is "reprehensible."

Another issue: DCI has been a pioneer in running "independent" expenditure campaigns by so–called 527 groups, precisely the kind of operations that McCain, in his battle for campaign-finance reform, has denounced. In 2004, the DCI Group led a pro-Bush 527 called Progress for America, which was later fined (along with several other 527s on both sides of the political divide) for violating federal election laws. Goodyear, however, says that DCI is "not in the 527 business anymore."

Ironically, Goodyear was chosen for the post after the McCain campaign nixed another candidate, Paul Manafort, who runs a lobbying firm with McCain's campaign manager, Rick Davis. The prospect of choosing Manafort created anxiety in the campaign because of his long history of representing controversial foreign clients, including Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos. More recently, he served as chief political consultant to Viktor Yanukovich, the former Ukrainian prime minister who has been widely criticized for alleged corruption and for his close ties to Russia's Vladimir Putin—a potential embarrassment for McCain, who in 2007 called Putin a "totalitarian dictator." "The Ukrainian stuff was viewed as too much," says one McCain strategist, who asked not to be identified discussing the matter. Manafort did not return calls for comment.

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Seeds of Destruction

The Clintons have never understood how to exit the stage gracefully.

Their repertoire has always been deficient in grace and class. So there was Hillary Clinton cold-bloodedly asserting to USA Today that she was the candidate favored by “hard-working Americans, white Americans,” and that her opponent, Barack Obama, the black candidate, just can’t cut it with that crowd.

“There’s a pattern emerging here,” said Mrs. Clinton.

There is, indeed. There was a name for it when the Republicans were using that kind of lousy rhetoric to good effect: it was called the Southern strategy, although it was hardly limited to the South. Now the Clintons, in their desperation to find some way — any way — back to the White House, have leapt aboard that sorry train.

He can’t win! Don’t you understand? He’s black! He’s black!

The Clintons have been trying to embed that gruesomely destructive message in the brains of white voters and superdelegates for the longest time. It’s a grotesque insult to African-Americans, who have given so much support to both Bill and Hillary over the years.

(Representative Charles Rangel of New York, who is black and has been an absolutely unwavering supporter of Senator Clinton’s White House quest, told The Daily News: “I can’t believe Senator Clinton would say anything that dumb.”)

But it’s an insult to white voters as well, including white working-class voters. It’s true that there are some whites who will not vote for a black candidate under any circumstance. But the United States is in a much better place now than it was when people like Richard Nixon, George Wallace and many others could make political hay by appealing to the very worst in people, using the kind of poisonous rhetoric that Senator Clinton is using now.

I don’t know if Senator Obama can win the White House. No one knows. But to deliberately convey the idea that most white people — or most working-class white people — are unwilling to give an African-American candidate a fair hearing in a presidential election is a slur against whites.

The last time the Clintons had to make a big exit was at the end of Bill Clinton’s second term as president — and they made a complete and utter hash of that historic moment. Having survived the Monica Lewinsky ordeal, you might have thought the Clintons would be on their best behavior.

Instead, a huge scandal erupted when it became known that Mrs. Clinton’s brothers, Tony and Hugh Rodham, had lobbied the president on behalf of criminals who then received presidential pardons or a sentence commutation from Mr. Clinton.

Tony Rodham helped get a pardon for a Tennessee couple that had hired him as a consultant and paid or loaned him hundreds of thousands of dollars. Over the protests of the Justice Department, President Clinton pardoned the couple, Edgar Allen Gregory Jr. and his wife, Vonna Jo, who had been convicted of bank fraud in Alabama.

Hugh Rodham was paid $400,000 to lobby for a pardon of Almon Glenn Braswell, who had been convicted of mail fraud and perjury, and for the release from prison of Carlos Vignali, a drug trafficker who was convicted and imprisoned for conspiring to sell 800 pounds of cocaine. Sure enough, in his last hours in office (when he issued a blizzard of pardons, many of them controversial), President Clinton agreed to the pardon for Braswell and the sentence commutation for Vignali.

Hugh Rodham reportedly returned the money after the scandal became public and was an enormous political liability for the Clintons.

Both Clintons professed to be ignorant of anything improper or untoward regarding the pardons. Once, when asked specifically if she had talked with a deputy White House counsel about pardons, Mrs. Clinton said: “People would hand me envelopes. I would just pass them on. You know, I would not have any reason to look into them.”

It wasn’t just the pardons that sullied the Clintons’ exit from the White House. They took furniture and rugs from the White House collection that had to be returned. And they received $86,000 in gifts during the president’s last year in office, including clothing (a pantsuit, a leather jacket), flatware, carpeting, and so on. In response to the outcry over that, they decided to repay the value of the gifts.

So class is not a Clinton forte.

But it’s one thing to lack class and a sense of grace, quite another to deliberately try and wreck the presidential prospects of your party’s likely nominee — and to do it in a way that has the potential to undermine the substantial racial progress that has been made in this country over many years.

The Clintons should be ashamed of themselves. But they long ago proved to the world that they have no shame.

Original here

Obama Campaign Launches "Vote For Change" Voter Registration Drive

Today, May 10, marks the first day of what the Obama campaign is calling its "Vote For Change" project. From

On May 10th, Barack Obama is launching Vote for Change, an unprecedented 50-state voter registration and mobilization drive. More than 100 events will be held across the country that day. Obama volunteers will register new voters as the start of a six-month voter registration drive.

Marc Ambinder has more on just what this project entails and its potential impact:
The Vote For Change program will lay the foundation for Obama's general election get-out-the-vote efforts. Obama aides won't say much more, but I gather that the campaign is constructing an incredibly elaborate online interface to allow its more than a million donors and volunteers to directly persuade their neighbors through a variety of media. Names gathered from the voter registration effort will be merged with names gathered through Obama's primary efforts and the names off of the Democratic Party's integrated voter file as well as lists purchased from outside vendors.

On election day, Obama might have more than a million individuals volunteering on his behalf. That should scare the beejeesus out of the McCain campaign and the RNC.

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Different Side Of Clinton Seen By One Tennessean

ANDY MEEK | The Daily News

In a front-page story in Thursday's edition of The Hill, the newspaper covering Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis, D-Tenn., was reported to have turned down an invitation to meet with presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.

Davis was among a group of so-far-uncommitted Democratic "superdelegates" who were approached in the last day or so by the Clinton camp in the hopes of garnering their endorsement.

"He says that's not true," U.S. Rep. Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., told The Daily News about Davis' refusal to meet with Clinton. "But that's on the front page of The Hill. I told him he might as well go ahead and endorse Barack (Obama), because once Hillary sees that he's a dead man anyway."

Frosty ties

That sentiment from Cooper is the product of a long and famously sticky relationship he's had with the former first lady, one that has been the focus of sporadic national media attention over the years. Before he came to Memphis Friday at the request of U.S. Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., to give a speech at the Shelby County Democratic Party's Kennedy Day Dinner, Cooper talked at length with The Daily News about some of that history.

Cooper, the state chairman of Obama's campaign in Tennessee, said his speech at the Holiday Inn-University of Memphis would focus on the 2008 presidential contest in general terms. But a look at his dealings with the first lady in the 1990s helps put his current political stance into context.

The year was 1993, and the focus was on comprehensive health care reform. The Clinton administration was mounting a full-court press in persuading congressional leaders to sign on to a health care bill championed by the White House.

Cooper had a health care bill of his own.

"They turned up their nose at my bill, and that's fine. But then they constructed this secret 500-person task force to draft a whole new bill - and I knew it would go nowhere," Cooper said. "So I went privately to the White House to warn (Hillary Clinton). No publicity. No nothing.

"She brought in a camera to record the meeting. And she has not released the memos on this meeting. She immediately declared war on me. I warned her we didn't even have the votes (for her bill) in our subcommittee. She said, 'We're going to (politically) cut your legs off.' I've never gotten such a cold reception as I got from her."

Cooper said the first lady set up a war room to undercut Cooper, who was gearing up for a run at the U.S. Senate in 1994. And a former television news reporter from Nashville was tasked with leading that war room, he said.

"Bill Clinton couldn't have been nicer to me during this period," said Cooper, who still keeps an old photograph of himself that was taken during a visit to the first lady's West Wing office in the White House during the 1990s. "I went running with him. I played golf with him. I was asked to hang out in the White House with him.

"I respect Hillary supporters because they haven't had the chance to get to know her like I have. She does not have the political skills of her husband. Or Barack. You need somebody who can bring people together. She criticized my health care bill because it wouldn't achieve universal coverage until 1998. Well, today we'd be celebrating the 10th anniversary of having every American with insurance."

Still in it

The Clinton campaign, meanwhile, declined to respond to Cooper's remarks. When asked, some of her prominent local supporters still affirm their commitment to her, despite a widening lead in the primary race for Obama.

Memphis City Council member Myron Lowery, one of the Democratic superdelegates from Tennessee already committed to Clinton, said he had not felt any recent pressure to shift his allegiance.

"I am still firm with Clinton. I made that commitment, and as long as she's there, I will be there supporting her," he said. "Right now I've made my commitment, and that's where I am."

Another staunch Clinton backer is former Tennessee Gov. Ned McWherter. He's long been a close friend, sounding board and prominent backer of both Clintons.

Speaking with The Daily News, McWherter said Clinton's political skills would be put to good use in reforming the nation's current health care system.

"With her leadership and her knowledge of health care, I believe she could put a good health care program together and pass it in the House and Senate," he said. "We can all talk about having a health care program, but to go to Washington and get legislation on the books and make it real - that's a different proposition. And I believe Hillary possesses that leadership and has that commitment to develop and pass a health care bill for all Americans."

Cooper, meanwhile, is insistent that the country needs to metaphorically turn the page by electing Obama as president.

"I was just with him. ... It's incredible the appeal he has," Cooper said. "We walked from a townhouse near Capitol Hill up to the Capitol to vote. And kids were screaming. He's like a rock star. It's fabulous.

"Democrats would be crazy to throw this away. There's like a million new voters registered in North Carolina and Indiana. Nobody else has been able to do that. The Clintons had eight years. You don't get a do-over in American politics. They had eight good years. Now it's time to turn the page. We need to change."

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Superdelegates Flocking to Obama

ImageToday Obama picked up a whopping nine superdelegates, and is now only 160 delegates short of clinching the Democratic nomination. Here are some quotes from, and links to today’s endorsements.

DNC member Ed Espinoza said, “He has shown he has the character to lead our great nation, from his choice to spend his career serving people in the poorest communities in Chicago to his commitment to speaking truth to the American people, even when it isn’t politically convenient to do so.”

Wilber Lee Jeffcoat, the South Carolina Democratic Party Vice Chair said, “With Barack Obama as our nominee, we can bring more and more new voters out to become involved and have their voices heard. Obama has worked his whole life to unite people from all backgrounds and walks of life for change, he has done that in this campaign and he will continue to do that as President. I am excited to join his campaign today.”

Laurie Weahkee of New Mexico said, "Obama has proven that he can campaign in a difficult environment and still inspire thousands of new voices to take part in the democratic process."

Rep. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii said, Of course, all of us are especially proud of Senator Obama's deep roots here in our state, and overwhelmingly embraced his candidacy in our recent caucus. His love for Hawaii and understanding of its diversity have given him a foundation for understanding the diversity of our country. I am proud to endorse Senator Obama and I look forward to a winning campaign.”

Superdelegates better hurry up and get their seat on the bandwagon, because space is filling up by the hour. Is there anyone out there besides the Clintons who believes that the Democratic nomination is still in dispute? A new generation of leadership is poised to take over the Democratic Party.

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A Startling Collapse for Clinton, And An Inability to Let Go

Despite a resounding defeat in North Carolina and a slim win in Indiana on Tuesday, Hillary Clinton has promised to remain in the race through the end of the primaries in June. Unless, for some unforeseen reason, Barack Obama’s campaign implodes, there is no real way that she could win a majority of Democratic delegates in that time.

Reactions have been unsympathetic. The New York Post called her “toast” in three-inch-high letters on Wednesday. University of Chicago political scientist John Mark Hansen, one of my favorite political commentators (and a professor for whom I worked as a research assistant while in college) is typically restrained in making broad pronouncements, but even he calls Clinton’s candidacy “over.” With five more superdelegates declaring their support for Obama, the wonderment at Clinton’s motives continues.

So why has Clinton stayed in? There are possible procedural reasons; the Clinton campaign may be negotiating with the Obama campaign for a way to end Clinton’s candidacy with some face-saving measure. For instance, the Obama campaign could pay off the Clinton campaign’s debt. Since much of this debt is owed to Clinton herself, that would practically amount to buyout of Clinton.

The Clinton campaign also continues to hope for an advantageous resolution of the disputed Michigan and Florida primaries. Any resolution would have to be approved by both candidates, though, and Hansen suspects that the candidates will negotiate a solution under which those results are counted, but not in a way that affects the larger outcome of the nominating process.

There is a more emotional aspect, too, in what looks like an inability on Clinton's part to accept her loss. Hansen points out that by other rules (particularly the Republican winner-take-all rules), Clinton would have won. She also would have had a better chance at winning if the Michigan and Florida Democratic organizations had contained themselves and had not moved their primaries in defiance of the Democratic National Committee, since wins in those states would have given her campaign some high-profile victories to counter early Obama successes.

This year’s Democratic race has largely been about plausibility—Obama, after all, became a viable candidate when voters in South Carolina took his victory in Iowa to be a sign that he could win the nomination. From January of 2007, when she said “I’m in to win,” until about three months ago, Clinton was clearly the most plausible Democratic candidate in the contest for the nomination, and presenting herself as the inevitable nominee was a significant part of her early strategy. Although it’s been ongoing for months, the collapse of her candidacy is abrupt in the context of her long claim of inevitability and the near-universal expectation a year ago that she would be the Democratic nominee.

It could be that a still-startled Hillary Clinton just can’t bring herself to let go.

--Jon Bruner

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Truth Alert: McCain's Freudian Slip is Showing (and Very Telling)

At the same time that former West Wingers Brad Whitford and Richard Schiff were stepping forward to say that they too had heard John McCain say that he didn't vote for George Bush in 2000, McCain was grabbing a shovel and digging himself deeper with yet another denial.

Appearing on The O'Reilly Factor, McCain told O'Reilly, "I voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004."

But on the way to that unequivocal refutation, his unconscious mind jumped up, started waving its hands and yelled: "Not so fast!"

O'REILLY: Did you vote for President bush?

MCCAIN: Of course not. I campaigned all over this country for him.

As dear old Dr. Freud would tell you, the unconscious is a powerful thing. And the new, do-and-say-anything-to-be-president McCain clearly couldn't keep the old, give-it-to-you-straight McCain - and the truth - from slipping out. "Of course not."

There was another interesting wrinkle in the McCain/O'Reilly Bush vote exchange: after asserting that he'd twice voted for Bush, McCain added, "And not only that, far more important than a vote, I campaigned everywhere in America for him." [emphasis added]

Do I see a fallback position coming? "Okay, look my friends, I was angry, I was contemptuous of him, I knew I was better than him, he'd attacked my family, and I couldn't bring myself to pull the lever next to his name. But I campaigned everywhere in America for him - and that's far more important than one little vote, right? Right? Isn't it..? My friends..?

Check out the video and transcript below.

UPDATE: I've said before that when it comes to the love affair between John McCain and the media, old loves die hard. The latest proof of this comes courtesy of The New Republic's Michael Crowley. Faced with the mounting evidence that McCain is lying about not saying that he didn't vote for Bush, Crowley scrapes the bottom of the logic barrel and wonders: "Is it possible McCain was talking to Arianna about the Arizona primary?"

Talk about bending over backwards to give McCain some wiggle room! The media-McCain dynamic is pure high school: the nerds are always so grateful when one of the jocks is nice to them.


O'REILLY: OK. Arianna Huffington says you didn't vote for Bush in 2000. She's one of these people who is going to come after you.


O'REILLY: On her website yesterday, somebody blogged that you collaborated with the North Vietnamese, and they didn't torture you. This is Arianna Huffington. Now Arianna Huffington flat out said you did not vote for President Bush in 2000.

MCCAIN: What can you say?

O'REILLY: Did you vote for President bush?

MCCAIN: Of course not. I campaigned all over this country for him.

O'REILLY: So you voted for President Bush.

MCCAIN: Of course. I mean, that's a ridiculous question.

O'REILLY: So she lied?

MCCAIN: Well, I don't -- frankly, I do not read Huffington Post. I spare myself from having that experience.

O'REILLY: You voted for Bush in 2000?

MCCAIN: I voted for Bush in 2000 and 2004.


MCCAIN: And not only that, far more important than a vote, I campaigned everywhere in America for him.


MCCAIN: I enjoyed it. I campaigned with him. I did everything I could to get him elected and reelected president.
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McCain to Me in 1999: Bush "As Dumb as a Stump"

As a lawyer might say (OK, I am one), I have no personal knowledge of whether John or Cindy McCain voted for George W. Bush in the 2000 election. However, now that that has been called into question by Arianna Huffington (who says no) and Huffington's truthfulness has in turn been questioned by the McCain campaign (although not yet by the McCains), I can offer the following anecdote as admissible hearsay shedding a little light on the subject:

Over the Fourth of July weekend of 1999, I had the good fortune to accompany my then fiancée (and now happily my wife) to the McCain vacation home in Sedona where she was interviewing them for a Home and Garden Television show. The interview itself was entirely apolitical, focusing on fabrics and furnishing in their lovely Oak Creek abode, topics about which I do recall the senator was less than comfortable discussing.

Always the goods hosts, the McCains also invited us to spend the day with them, including for barbeque, a favorite of John's. And as McCain flipped burgers, I could not help but ask his views about then candidate George W. Bush.

"He's as dumb as a stump," McCain offered. We then went on to discuss other matters (including Vietnam) but that quote remains seared in my memory.

So how the McCains actually voted that November is between them and their voting booth. But if John McCain did end up voting for Bush, then by his own admission he voted for a stump.

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What Would Happen If Pot Were Legal for Adults?

What would happen if marijuana were legal? In the LA Times today, "This Bud's For You."

I always wondered what would happen if marijuana were legalized for anyone over 18. It seems it already has been, and nothing happened.

Except, people still get busted and go to jail.

Which reminds me, NORML founder Keith Stroup's trial for smoking a joint at a press conference in Boston begins Monday. Keith and his codefendant, High Times associate publisher Rick Cusick are challenging the constitutionality of the law criminalizing adult pot possession and use. They also requested a jury nullification instruction. [More...]

The defense will also file a separate motion requesting a special jury instruction to the effect that a juror has the legal right to refuse to convict an individual, even if he or she admits to the elements of a crime, if the juror believes the application of the law to that particular defendant would create an injustice.

If you're in Boston, head on over and show your support for Keith and Rick on Monday. Here's how to recognize them:

I hope they let Keith out in time for the NORML Aspen Legal Seminar June 6 and 7. It wouldn't be the same without him. We'll be spending one afternoon at Hunter Thompson's Owl Farm in Woody Creek again. If you're a criminal defense lawyer or if you're a medical pot user and want to hang with sympaticos, you're welcome to attend. Here's my video from our 2006 Owl Farm party and me interviewing Tommy Chong at Owl Farm in 2007. My topic this year: Crackadoodledoo! A New Dawn in Crack Cocaine Sentencing. Here's the full schedule.

Not in Boston? How about Minnesota? They're trying to get a compassionate law passed there and are running into trouble with false ads. The e-mail I received says:

We have a bill in the legislature that's already passed the full Senate and is pending a vote in the House any day now. Although it has had Republican support in the legislature form the start, Minnesota's Gov. Pawlenty has stated that he "stands with law enforcement" on the issue – meaning, presumably, in opposition to it and inclined to veto on the basis of a small but vocal group of prosecutors and law enforcement officials who have repeatedly testified against it through the committee process.

There's only one problem: these opponents – who so adamantly defend their right to arrest and jail the sick and dying for using marijuana with their doctor's recommendation – have made false claim after false claim, some of which have been outright lies.

They are looking for media attention -- the local press is ignoring it:

It's staggering that elected officials like County Attorneys and law enforcement officers are permitted to just lie about legislation and, when they're called on it, the media seems uninterested, no matter how well it's documented. I suppose this is in the interest of "balance" – and also why independent media and blogs like yours are so crucial.
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Government in secret

The Bush administration recently announced it will allow select members of Congress to read Justice Department legal opinions about the CIA's controversial detainee interrogation program that have been hidden from Congress until now. But as the administration allows a glimpse of this secret law -- and it is law -- we are left wondering what other laws it is still keeping under lock and key.

It's a given in our democracy that laws should be a matter of public record. But the law in this country includes not just statutes and regulations, which the public can readily access. It also includes binding legal interpretations made by courts and the executive branch. These interpretations are increasingly being withheld from the public and Congress.

Perhaps the most notorious example is the recently released 2003 Justice Department memorandum on torture written by John Yoo. The memorandum was, for a nine-month period in 2003, the law that the administration followed when it came to matters of torture. And that law was essentially a declaration that the administration could ignore the laws passed by Congress.

The content of the memo was deeply troubling, but just as troubling was the fact that this legal opinion was classified and its content kept secret for years. As we now know, the memo should never have been classified because it contains no information that could compromise national security if released. In a Senate hearing that I chaired April 30, the top official in charge of classification policy from 2002 to 2007 testified that classification of this memo showed "either profound ignorance of or deep contempt for" the standards for classification.

The memos on torture policy that have been released or leaked hint at a much bigger body of law about which we know virtually nothing. The Yoo memo was filled with references to other Justice Department memos that have yet to see the light of day, on subjects including the government's ability to detain U.S. citizens without congressional authorization and the government's ability to bypass the 4th Amendment in domestic military operations.

Another body of secret law involves the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). In 1978, Congress created the special FISA court to review the government's requests for wiretaps in intelligence investigations, which is -- and should be -- done behind closed doors. But with changes in technology and with this administration's efforts to expand its surveillance powers, the court today is doing more than just reviewing warrant applications. It is issuing important interpretations of FISA that have effectively made new law.

These interpretations deeply affect Americans' privacy rights, and yet Americans don't know about them because they are not allowed to see them. Very few members of Congress have been allowed to see them either. When the Senate recently approved some broad and controversial changes to FISA, almost none of the senators voting on the bill could know what the law currently is.

The code of secrecy also extends to yet another body of law: changes to executive orders. The administration takes the position that a president can "waive" or "modify" a published executive order without any public notice -- simply by not following it. It's every president's prerogative to change an executive order, but doing so without public notice works a secret change in the law. And, because the published order stays on the books, Congress and the public have no idea that it's no longer in effect. We don't know how many of these covert changes have been made by this administration or, for that matter, by past administrations.

No one questions the need for the government to protect information about intelligence sources and methods, troop movements or weapons systems. But there's a big difference between withholding information about military or intelligence operations from the public and withholding the law that governs the executive branch. Keeping the law secret doesn't enhance national security, but it does give the government free rein to operate without oversight or accountability. Even the congressional intelligence committees, which are supposed to oversee the intelligence community, have been denied access to some of these legal opinions.

Congress should pass legislation to require the administration to alert Congress when the law created by Justice Department opinions ignores or even violates the laws passed by Congress, and to require public notice when it is waiving or modifying a published executive order. Congress and the public shouldn't have to wonder whether the executive branch is following the laws that are on the books or some other, secret law.

Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) is a member of the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees.
Original here

Whose War?

A neoconservative clique seeks to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America’s interest.

by Patrick J. Buchanan

The War Party may have gotten its war. But it has also gotten something it did not bargain for. Its membership lists and associations have been exposed and its motives challenged. In a rare moment in U.S. journalism, Tim Russert put this question directly to Richard Perle: “Can you assure American viewers ... that we’re in this situation against Saddam Hussein and his removal for American security interests? And what would be the link in terms of Israel?”

Suddenly, the Israeli connection is on the table, and the War Party is not amused. Finding themselves in an unanticipated firefight, our neoconservative friends are doing what comes naturally, seeking student deferments from political combat by claiming the status of a persecuted minority group. People who claim to be writing the foreign policy of the world superpower, one would think, would be a little more manly in the schoolyard of politics. Not so.

Former Wall Street Journal editor Max Boot kicked off the campaign. When these “Buchananites toss around ‘neoconservative’—and cite names like Wolfowitz and Cohen—it sometimes sounds as if what they really mean is ‘Jewish conservative.’” Yet Boot readily concedes that a passionate attachment to Israel is a “key tenet of neoconservatism.” He also claims that the National Security Strategy of President Bush “sounds as if it could have come straight out from the pages of Commentary magazine, the neocon bible.” (For the uninitiated, Commentary, the bible in which Boot seeks divine guidance, is the monthly of the American Jewish Committee.)

David Brooks of the Weekly Standard wails that attacks based on the Israel tie have put him through personal hell: “Now I get a steady stream of anti-Semitic screeds in my e-mail, my voicemail and in my mailbox. ... Anti-Semitism is alive and thriving. It’s just that its epicenter is no longer on the Buchananite Right, but on the peace-movement left.”

Washington Post columnist Robert Kagan endures his own purgatory abroad: “In London ... one finds Britain’s finest minds propounding, in sophisticated language and melodious Oxbridge accents, the conspiracy theories of Pat Buchanan concerning the ‘neoconservative’ (read: Jewish) hijacking of American foreign policy.”

Lawrence Kaplan of the New Republic charges that our little magazine “has been transformed into a forum for those who contend that President Bush has become a client of ... Ariel Sharon and the ‘neoconservative war party.’”

Referencing Charles Lindbergh, he accuses Paul Schroeder, Chris Matthews, Robert Novak, Georgie Anne Geyer, Jason Vest of the Nation, and Gary Hart of implying that “members of the Bush team have been doing Israel’s bidding and, by extension, exhibiting ‘dual loyalties.’” Kaplan thunders:

    The real problem with such claims is not just that they are untrue. The problem is that they are toxic. Invoking the specter of dual loyalty to mute criticism and debate amounts to more than the everyday pollution of public discourse. It is the nullification of public discourse, for how can one refute accusations grounded in ethnicity? The charges are, ipso facto, impossible to disprove. And so they are meant to be.

What is going on here? Slate’s Mickey Kaus nails it in the headline of his retort: “Lawrence Kaplan Plays the Anti-Semitic Card.”

What Kaplan, Brooks, Boot, and Kagan are doing is what the Rev. Jesse Jackson does when caught with some mammoth contribution from a Fortune 500 company he has lately accused of discriminating. He plays the race card. So, too, the neoconservatives are trying to fend off critics by assassinating their character and impugning their motives.

Indeed, it is the charge of “anti-Semitism” itself that is toxic. For this venerable slander is designed to nullify public discourse by smearing and intimidating foes and censoring and blacklisting them and any who would publish them. Neocons say we attack them because they are Jewish. We do not. We attack them because their warmongering threatens our country, even as it finds a reliable echo in Ariel Sharon.

And this time the boys have cried “wolf” once too often. It is not working. As Kaus notes, Kaplan’s own New Republic carries Harvard professor Stanley Hoffman. In writing of the four power centers in this capital that are clamoring for war, Hoffman himself describes the fourth thus:

    And, finally, there is a loose collection of friends of Israel, who believe in the identity of interests between the Jewish state and the United States. … These analysts look on foreign policy through the lens of one dominant concern: Is it good or bad for Israel? Since that nation’s founding in 1948, these thinkers have never been in very good odor at the State Department, but now they are well ensconced in the Pentagon, around such strategists as Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith.

“If Stanley Hoffman can say this,” asks Kaus, “why can’t Chris Matthews?” Kaus also notes that Kaplan somehow failed to mention the most devastating piece tying the neoconservatives to Sharon and his Likud Party.

In a Feb. 9 front-page article in the Washington Post, Robert Kaiser quotes a senior U.S. official as saying, “The Likudniks are really in charge now.” Kaiser names Perle, Wolfowitz, and Feith as members of a pro-Israel network inside the administration and adds David Wurmser of the Defense Department and Elliott Abrams of the National Security Council. (Abrams is the son-in-law of Norman Podhoretz, editor emeritus of Commentary, whose magazine has for decades branded critics of Israel as anti-Semites.)

Noting that Sharon repeatedly claims a “special closeness” to the Bushites, Kaiser writes, “For the first time a U.S. administration and a Likud government are pursuing nearly identical policies.” And a valid question is: how did this come to be, and while it is surely in Sharon’s interest, is it in America’s interest?

This is a time for truth. For America is about to make a momentous decision: whether to launch a series of wars in the Middle East that could ignite the Clash of Civilizations against which Harvard professor Samuel Huntington has warned, a war we believe would be a tragedy and a disaster for this Republic. To avert this war, to answer the neocon smears, we ask that our readers review their agenda as stated in their words. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. As Al Smith used to say, “Nothing un-American can live in the sunlight.”

We charge that a cabal of polemicists and public officials seek to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America’s interests. We charge them with colluding with Israel to ignite those wars and destroy the Oslo Accords. We charge them with deliberately damaging U.S. relations with every state in the Arab world that defies Israel or supports the Palestinian people’s right to a homeland of their own. We charge that they have alienated friends and allies all over the Islamic and Western world through their arrogance, hubris, and bellicosity.

Not in our lifetimes has America been so isolated from old friends. Far worse, President Bush is being lured into a trap baited for him by these neocons that could cost him his office and cause America to forfeit years of peace won for us by the sacrifices of two generations in the Cold War.

They charge us with anti-Semitism—i.e., a hatred of Jews for their faith, heritage, or ancestry. False. The truth is, those hurling these charges harbor a “passionate attachment” to a nation not our own that causes them to subordinate the interests of their own country and to act on an assumption that, somehow, what’s good for Israel is good for America.

The Neoconservatives

Who are the neoconservatives? The first generation were ex-liberals, socialists, and Trotskyites, boat-people from the McGovern revolution who rafted over to the GOP at the end of conservatism’s long march to power with Ronald Reagan in 1980.

A neoconservative, wrote Kevin Phillips back then, is more likely to be a magazine editor than a bricklayer. Today, he or she is more likely to be a resident scholar at a public policy institute such as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) or one of its clones like the Center for Security Policy or the Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA). As one wag writes, a neocon is more familiar with the inside of a think tank than an Abrams tank.

Almost none came out of the business world or military, and few if any came out of the Goldwater campaign. The heroes they invoke are Woodrow Wilson, FDR, Harry Truman, Martin Luther King, and Democratic Senators Henry “Scoop” Jackson (Wash.) and Pat Moynihan (N.Y.).

All are interventionists who regard Stakhanovite support of Israel as a defining characteristic of their breed. Among their luminaries are Jeane Kirkpatrick, Bill Bennett, Michael Novak, and James Q. Wilson.

Their publications include the Weekly Standard, Commentary, the New Republic, National Review, and the editorial page of the Wall Street Journal. Though few in number, they wield disproportionate power through control of the conservative foundations and magazines, through their syndicated columns, and by attaching themselves to men of power.

Beating the War Drums

When the Cold War ended, these neoconservatives began casting about for a new crusade to give meaning to their lives. On Sept. 11, their time came. They seized on that horrific atrocity to steer America’s rage into all-out war to destroy their despised enemies, the Arab and Islamic “rogue states” that have resisted U.S. hegemony and loathe Israel.

The War Party’s plan, however, had been in preparation far in advance of 9/11. And when President Bush, after defeating the Taliban, was looking for a new front in the war on terror, they put their precooked meal in front of him. Bush dug into it.

Before introducing the script-writers of America’s future wars, consider the rapid and synchronized reaction of the neocons to what happened after that fateful day.

On Sept. 12, Americans were still in shock when Bill Bennett told CNN that we were in “a struggle between good and evil,” that the Congress must declare war on “militant Islam,” and that “overwhelming force” must be used. Bennett cited Lebanon, Libya, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and China as targets for attack. Not, however, Afghanistan, the sanctuary of Osama’s terrorists. How did Bennett know which nations must be smashed before he had any idea who attacked us?

The Wall Street Journal immediately offered up a specific target list, calling for U.S. air strikes on “terrorist camps in Syria, Sudan, Libya, and Algeria, and perhaps even in parts of Egypt.” Yet, not one of Bennett’s six countries, nor one of these five, had anything to do with 9/11.

On Sept. 15, according to Bob Woodward’s Bush at War, “Paul Wolfowitz put forth military arguments to justify a U.S. attack on Iraq rather than Afghanistan.” Why Iraq? Because, Wolfowitz argued in the War Cabinet, while “attacking Afghanistan would be uncertain … Iraq was a brittle oppressive regime that might break easily. It was doable.”

On Sept. 20, forty neoconservatives sent an open letter to the White House instructing President Bush on how the war on terror must be conducted. Signed by Bennett, Podhoretz, Kirkpatrick, Perle, Kristol, and Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer, the letter was an ultimatum. To retain the signers’ support, the president was told, he must target Hezbollah for destruction, retaliate against Syria and Iran if they refuse to sever ties to Hezbollah, and overthrow Saddam. Any failure to attack Iraq, the signers warned Bush, “will constitute an early and perhaps decisive surrender in the war on international terrorism.”

Here was a cabal of intellectuals telling the Commander-in-Chief, nine days after an attack on America, that if he did not follow their war plans, he would be charged with surrendering to terror. Yet, Hezbollah had nothing to do with 9/11. What had Hezbollah done? Hezbollah had humiliated Israel by driving its army out of Lebanon.

President Bush had been warned. He was to exploit the attack of 9/11 to launch a series of wars on Arab regimes, none of which had attacked us. All, however, were enemies of Israel. “Bibi” Netanyahu, the former Prime Minister of Israel, like some latter-day Citizen Genet, was ubiquitous on American television, calling for us to crush the “Empire of Terror.” The “Empire,” it turns out, consisted of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Iraq, and “the Palestinian enclave.”

Nasty as some of these regimes and groups might be, what had they done to the United States?

The War Party seemed desperate to get a Middle East war going before America had second thoughts. Tom Donnelly of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) called for an immediate invasion of Iraq. “Nor need the attack await the deployment of half a million troops. … [T]he larger challenge will be occupying Iraq after the fighting is over,” he wrote.

Donnelly was echoed by Jonah Goldberg of National Review: “The United States needs to go to war with Iraq because it needs to go to war with someone in the region and Iraq makes the most sense.”

Goldberg endorsed “the Ledeen Doctrine” of ex-Pentagon official Michael Ledeen, which Goldberg described thus: “Every ten years or so, the United States needs to pick up some small crappy little country and throw it against the wall, just to show we mean business.” (When the French ambassador in London, at a dinner party, asked why we should risk World War III over some “shitty little country”—meaning Israel—Goldberg’s magazine was not amused.)

Ledeen, however, is less frivolous. In The War Against the Terror Masters, he identifies the exact regimes America must destroy:

    First and foremost, we must bring down the terror regimes, beginning with the Big Three: Iran, Iraq, and Syria. And then we have to come to grips with Saudi Arabia. … Once the tyrants in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Saudi Arabia have been brought down, we will remain engaged. …We have to ensure the fulfillment of the democratic revolution. … Stability is an unworthy American mission, and a misleading concept to boot. We do not want stability in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and even Saudi Arabia; we want things to change. The real issue is not whether, but how to destabilize.

Rejecting stability as “an unworthy American mission,” Ledeen goes on to define America’s authentic “historic mission”:

    Creative destruction is our middle name, both within our society and abroad. We tear down the old order every day, from business to science, literature, art, architecture, and cinema to politics and the law. Our enemies have always hated this whirlwind of energy and creativity which menaces their traditions (whatever they may be) and shames them for their inability to keep pace. … [W]e must destroy them to advance our historic mission.

Passages like this owe more to Leon Trotsky than to Robert Taft and betray a Jacobin streak in neoconservatism that cannot be reconciled with any concept of true conservatism.

To the Weekly Standard, Ledeen’s enemies list was too restrictive. We must not only declare war on terror networks and states that harbor terrorists, said the Standard, we should launch wars on “any group or government inclined to support or sustain others like them in the future.”

Robert Kagan and William Kristol were giddy with excitement at the prospect of Armageddon. The coming war “is going to spread and engulf a number of countries. … It is going to resemble the clash of civilizations that everyone has hoped to avoid. … [I]t is possible that the demise of some ‘moderate’ Arab regimes may be just round the corner.”

Norman Podhoretz in Commentary even outdid Kristol’s Standard, rhapsodizing that we should embrace a war of civilizations, as it is George W. Bush’s mission “to fight World War IV—the war against militant Islam.” By his count, the regimes that richly deserve to be overthrown are not confined to the three singled-out members of the axis of evil (Iraq, Iran, North Korea). At a minimum, the axis should extend to Syria and Lebanon and Libya, as well as ‘“friends” of America like the Saudi royal family and Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak, along with the Palestinian Authority. Bush must reject the “timorous counsels” of the “incorrigibly cautious Colin Powell,” wrote Podhoretz, and “find the stomach to impose a new political culture on the defeated” Islamic world. As the war against al-Qaeda required that we destroy the Taliban, Podhoretz wrote,

    We may willy-nilly find ourselves forced … to topple five or six or seven more tyrannies in the Islamic world (including that other sponsor of terrorism, Yasir Arafat’s Palestinian Authority). I can even [imagine] the turmoil of this war leading to some new species of an imperial mission for America, whose purpose would be to oversee the emergence of successor governments in the region more amenable to reform and modernization than the despotisms now in place. … I can also envisage the establishment of some kind of American protectorate over the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, as we more and more come to wonder why 7,000 princes should go on being permitted to exert so much leverage over us and everyone else.

Podhoretz credits Eliot Cohen with the phrase “World War IV.” Bush was shortly thereafter seen carrying about a gift copy of Cohen’s book that celebrates civilian mastery of the military in times of war, as exhibited by such leaders as Winston Churchill and David Ben Gurion.

A list of the Middle East regimes that Podhoretz, Bennett, Ledeen, Netanyahu, and the Wall Street Journal regard as targets for destruction thus includes Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Hezbollah, Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, and “militant Islam.”

Cui Bono? For whose benefit these endless wars in a region that holds nothing vital to America save oil, which the Arabs must sell us to survive? Who would benefit from a war of civilizations between the West and Islam?

Answer: one nation, one leader, one party. Israel, Sharon, Likud.

Indeed, Sharon has been everywhere the echo of his acolytes in America. In February 2003, Sharon told a delegation of Congressmen that, after Saddam’s regime is destroyed, it is of “vital importance” that the United States disarm Iran, Syria, and Libya.

“We have a great interest in shaping the Middle East the day after” the war on Iraq, Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz told the Conference of Major American Jewish Organizations. After U.S. troops enter Baghdad, the United States must generate “political, economic, diplomatic pressure” on Tehran, Mofaz admonished the American Jews.

Are the neoconservatives concerned about a war on Iraq bringing down friendly Arab governments? Not at all. They would welcome it.

“Mubarak is no great shakes,” says Richard Perle of the President of Egypt. “Surely we can do better than Mubarak.” Asked about the possibility that a war on Iraq—which he predicted would be a “cakewalk”—might upend governments in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, former UN ambassador Ken Adelman told Joshua Micah Marshall of Washington Monthly, “All the better if you ask me.”

On July 10, 2002, Perle invited a former aide to Lyndon LaRouche named Laurent Murawiec to address the Defense Policy Board. In a briefing that startled Henry Kissinger, Murawiec named Saudi Arabia as “the kernel of evil, the prime mover, the most dangerous opponent” of the United States.

Washington should give Riyadh an ultimatum, he said. Either you Saudis “prosecute or isolate those involved in the terror chain, including the Saudi intelligence services,” and end all propaganda against Israel, or we invade your country, seize your oil fields, and occupy Mecca.

In closing his PowerPoint presentation, Murawiec offered a “Grand Strategy for the Middle East.” “Iraq is the tactical pivot, Saudi Arabia the strategic pivot, Egypt the prize.” Leaked reports of Murawiec’s briefing did not indicate if anyone raised the question of how the Islamic world might respond to U.S. troops tramping around the grounds of the Great Mosque.

What these neoconservatives seek is to conscript American blood to make the world safe for Israel. They want the peace of the sword imposed on Islam and American soldiers to die if necessary to impose it.

Washington Times editor at large Arnaud de Borchgrave calls this the “Bush-Sharon Doctrine.” “Washington’s ‘Likudniks,’” he writes, “have been in charge of U.S. policy in the Middle East since Bush was sworn into office.”

The neocons seek American empire, and Sharonites seek hegemony over the Middle East. The two agendas coincide precisely. And though neocons insist that it was Sept. 11 that made the case for war on Iraq and militant Islam, the origins of their war plans go back far before.

“Securing the Realm”

The principal draftsman is Richard Perle, an aide to Sen. Scoop Jackson, who, in 1970, was overheard on a federal wiretap discussing classified information from the National Security Council with the Israeli Embassy. In Jews and American Politics, published in 1974, Stephen D. Isaacs wrote, “Richard Perle and Morris Amitay command a tiny army of Semitophiles on Capitol Hill and direct Jewish power in behalf of Jewish interests.” In 1983, the New York Times reported that Perle had taken substantial payments from an Israeli weapons manufacturer.

In 1996, with Douglas Feith and David Wurmser, Perle wrote “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm,” for Prime Minister Netanyahu. In it, Perle, Feith, and Wurmser urged Bibi to ditch the Oslo Accords of the assassinated Yitzak Rabin and adopt a new aggressive strategy:

    Israel can shape its strategic environment, in cooperation with Turkey and Jordan, by weakening, containing, and even rolling back Syria. This effort can focus on removing Saddam Hussein from power in Iraq—an important Israeli strategic objective in its own right—as a means of foiling Syria’s regional ambitions. Jordan has challenged Syria’s regional ambitions recently by suggesting the restoration of the Hashemites in Iraq.

In the Perle-Feith-Wurmser strategy, Israel’s enemy remains Syria, but the road to Damascus runs through Baghdad. Their plan, which urged Israel to re-establish “the principle of preemption,” has now been imposed by Perle, Feith, Wurmser & Co. on the United States.

In his own 1997 paper, “A Strategy for Israel,” Feith pressed Israel to re-occupy “the areas under Palestinian Authority control,” though “the price in blood would be high.”

Wurmser, as a resident scholar at AEI, drafted joint war plans for Israel and the United States “to fatally strike the centers of radicalism in the Middle East. Israel and the United States should … broaden the conflict to strike fatally, not merely disarm, the centers of radicalism in the region—the regimes of Damascus, Baghdad, Tripoli, Tehran, and Gaza. That would establish the recognition that fighting either the United States or Israel is suicidal.”

He urged both nations to be on the lookout for a crisis, for as he wrote, “Crises can be opportunities.” Wurmser published his U.S.-Israeli war plan on Jan. 1, 2001, nine months before 9/11.

About the Perle-Feith-Wurmser cabal, author Michael Lind writes:

    The radical Zionist right to which Perle and Feith belong is small in number but it has become a significant force in Republican policy-making circles. It is a recent phenomenon, dating back to the late 1970s and 1980s, when many formerly Democratic Jewish intellectuals joined the broad Reagan coalition. While many of these hawks speak in public about global crusades for democracy, the chief concern of many such “neo-conservatives” is the power and reputation of Israel.

Right down the smokestack.

Perle today chairs the Defense Policy Board, Feith is an Undersecretary of Defense, and Wurmser is special assistant to the Undersecretary of State for Arms Control, John Bolton, who dutifully echoes the Perle-Sharon line. According to the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz, in late February,

    U.S. Undersecretary of State John Bolton said in meetings with Israeli officials … that he has no doubt America will attack Iraq and that it will be necessary to deal with threats from Syria, Iran and North Korea afterwards.

On Jan. 26, 1998, President Clinton received a letter imploring him to use his State of the Union address to make removal of Saddam Hussein’s regime the “aim of American foreign policy” and to use military action because “diplomacy is failing.” Were Clinton to do that, the signers pledged, they would “offer our full support in this difficult but necessary endeavor.” Signing the pledge were Elliott Abrams, Bill Bennett, John Bolton, Robert Kagan, William Kristol, Richard Perle, and Paul Wolfowitz. Four years before 9/11, the neocons had Baghdad on their minds.

The Wolfowitz Doctrine

In 1992, a startling document was leaked from the office of Paul Wolfowitz at the Pentagon. Barton Gellman of the Washington Post called it a “classified blueprint intended to help ‘set the nation’s direction for the next century.’” The Wolfowitz Memo called for a permanent U.S. military presence on six continents to deter all “potential competitors from even aspiring to a larger regional or global role.” Containment, the victorious strategy of the Cold War, was to give way to an ambitious new strategy designed to “establish and protect a new order.”

Though the Wolfowitz Memo was denounced and dismissed in 1992, it became American policy in the 33-page National Security Strategy (NSS) issued by President Bush on Sept. 21, 2002. Washington Post reporter Tim Reich describes it as a “watershed in U.S. foreign policy” that “reverses the fundamental principles that have guided successive Presidents for more than 50 years: containment and deterrence.”

Andrew Bacevich, a professor at Boston University, writes of the NSS that he marvels at “its fusion of breathtaking utopianism with barely disguised machtpolitik. It reads as if it were the product not of sober, ostensibly conservative Republicans but of an unlikely collaboration between Woodrow Wilson and the elder Field Marshal von Moltke.”

In confronting America’s adversaries, the paper declares, “We will not hesitate to act alone, if necessary, to exercise our right of self-defense by acting preemptively.” It warns any nation that seeks to acquire power to rival the United States that it will be courting war with the United States:

    [T]he president has no intention of allowing any nation to catch up with the huge lead the United States has opened since the fall of the Soviet Union more than a decade ago. … Our forces will be strong enough to dissuade potential adversaries from pursuing a military buildup in hopes of surpassing or equaling the power of the United States.

America must reconcile herself to an era of “nation-building on a grand scale, and with no exit strategy,” Robert Kagan instructs. But this Pax Americana the neocons envision bids fair to usher us into a time of what Harry Elmer Barnes called “permanent war for permanent peace.”

The Munich Card

As President Bush was warned on Sept. 20, 2001, that he will be indicted for “a decisive surrender” in the war on terror should he fail to attack Iraq, he is also on notice that pressure on Israel is forbidden. For as the neoconservatives have played the anti-Semitic card, they will not hesitate to play the Munich card as well. A year ago, when Bush called on Sharon to pull out of the West Bank, Sharon fired back that he would not let anyone do to Israel what Neville Chamberlain had done to the Czechs. Frank Gaffney of the Center for Security Policy immediately backed up Ariel Sharon:

    With each passing day, Washington appears to view its principal Middle Eastern ally’s conduct as inconvenient—in much the same way London and Paris came to see Czechoslovakia’s resistance to Hitler’s offers of peace in exchange for Czech lands.

When former U.S. NATO commander Gen. George Jouwlan said the United States may have to impose a peace on Israel and the Palestinians, he, too, faced the charge of appeasement. Wrote Gaffney,

    They would, presumably, go beyond Britain and France’s sell-out of an ally at Munich in 1938. The “impose a peace” school is apparently prepared to have us play the role of Hitler’s Wehrmacht as well, seizing and turning over to Yasser Arafat the contemporary Sudetenland: the West Bank and Gaza Strip and perhaps part of Jerusalem as well.

Podhoretz agreed Sharon was right in the substance of what he said but called it politically unwise to use the Munich analogy.

President Bush is on notice: Should he pressure Israel to trade land for peace, the Oslo formula in which his father and Yitzak Rabin believed, he will, as was his father, be denounced as an anti-Semite and a Munich-style appeaser by both Israelis and their neoconservatives allies inside his own Big Tent.

Yet, if Bush cannot deliver Sharon there can be no peace. And if there is no peace in the Mideast there is no security for us, ever—for there will be no end to terror. As most every diplomat and journalist who travels to the region will relate, America’s failure to be even-handed, our failure to rein in Sharon, our failure to condemn Israel’s excesses, and our moral complicity in Israel’s looting of Palestinian lands and denial of their right to self-determination sustains the anti-Americanism in the Islamic world in which terrorists and terrorism breed.

Let us conclude. The Israeli people are America’s friends and have a right to peace and secure borders. We should help them secure these rights. As a nation, we have made a moral commitment, endorsed by half a dozen presidents, which Americans wish to honor, not to permit these people who have suffered much to see their country overrun and destroyed. And we must honor this commitment.

But U.S. and Israeli interests are not identical. They often collide, and when they do, U.S. interests must prevail. Moreover, we do not view the Sharon regime as “America’s best friend.”

Since the time of Ben Gurion, the behavior of the Israeli regime has been Jekyll and Hyde. In the 1950s, its intelligence service, the Mossad, had agents in Egypt blow up U.S. installations to make it appear the work of Cairo, to destroy U.S. relations with the new Nasser government. During the Six Day War, Israel ordered repeated attacks on the undefended USS Liberty that killed 34 American sailors and wounded 171 and included the machine-gunning of life rafts. This massacre was neither investigated nor punished by the U.S. government in an act of national cravenness.

Though we have given Israel $20,000 for every Jewish citizen, Israel refuses to stop building the settlements that are the cause of the Palestinian intifada. Likud has dragged our good name through the mud and blood of Ramallah, ignored Bush’s requests to restrain itself, and sold U.S. weapons technology to China, including the Patriot, the Phoenix air-to-air missile, and the Lavi fighter, which is based on F-16 technology. Only direct U.S. intervention blocked Israel’s sale of our AWACS system.

Israel suborned Jonathan Pollard to loot our secrets and refuses to return the documents, which would establish whether or not they were sold to Moscow. When Clinton tried to broker an agreement at Wye Plantation between Israel and Arafat, Bibi Netanyahu attempted to extort, as his price for signing, release of Pollard, so he could take this treasonous snake back to Israel as a national hero.

Do the Brits, our closest allies, behave like this?

Though we have said repeatedly that we admire much of what this president has done, he will not deserve re-election if he does not jettison the neoconservatives’ agenda of endless wars on the Islamic world that serve only the interests of a country other than the one he was elected to preserve and protect.

March 24, 2003 issue
Copyright © 2003 The American Conservative

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