Nevada’s Largest Paper To Endorse Obama Wednesday

The Las Vegas Review-Journal, the largest newspaper in Nevada, has announced that the paper will endorse Barack Obama in Wednesday’s newspaper:

Review-Journal to recommend Obama
In Wednesday’s Review-Journal, the editorial board recommends Democrats in the Saturday caucuses support the candidacy of Sen. Barack Obama. The board notes he is the most viable of the remaining candidates for the party.

Update: The editorial endorsing Obama is now on line. This is obviously quite a right wing publication, and I can’t imagine many Democratic voters using this editorial page to guide their votes. The “endorsement” is basically a right wing attack piece on the top three remaining Democratic candidates which falls back on typical conservative talking points. About the only good thing which can be said about it is that it does show that even conservatives find Obama more acceptable than Clinton and Edwards, but the type of conservatives who think like this editorial writer aren’t going to vote for any Democrat in November.

Jewish Groups Condemn False Charges of Obama Being Anti-Semitic

The latest round of smears on Barack Obama is quickly being debunked, as Jewish groups are joining in to condemn the right wing attempts to connect Obama with anti-Semitism. Richard Cohen repeated some of these claims in a column in The Washington Post. The smears concentrate on relationships between Jeremiah A. Wright, the pastor of Obama’s church, and Trumpet Magazine, a church newsletter, to Louis Farrakhan. The attacks boil down to insinuating that Obama shares views with Farrahkan  because of support for Farrahkan by Wright and the church newsletter. As even Cohen concedes in his column, “It’s important to state right off that nothing in Obama’s record suggests he harbors anti-Semitic views or agrees with Wright when it comes to Farrakhan.”

Obama has previously made it clear that he does not agree with Wright’s anti-Semitic views, and repeated this today:

I decry racism and anti-Semitism in every form and strongly condemn the anti-Semitic statements made by Minister Farrakhan. I assume that Trumpet Magazine made its own decision to honor Farrakhan based on his efforts to rehabilitate ex-offenders, but it is not a decision with which I agree.

One aspect of this smear campaign has been to translate the anti-Obama emails into Hebrew. Several Jewish organizations have condemned this attack in the following letter:

January 15, 2008

An Open Letter to the Jewish Community:

As leaders of the Jewish community, none of whose organizations will endorse or oppose any candidate for President, we feel compelled to speak out against certain rhetoric and tactics in the current campaign that we find particularly abhorrent. Of particular concern, over the past several weeks, many in our community have received hateful emails that use falsehood and innuendo to mischaracterize Senator Barack Obama’s religious beliefs and who he is as a person.

These tactics attempt to drive a wedge between our community and a presidential candidate based on despicable and false attacks and innuendo based on religion. We reject these efforts to manipulate members of our community into supporting or opposing candidates.

Attempts of this sort to mislead and inflame voters should not be part of our political discourse and should be rebuffed by all who believe in our democracy. Jewish voters, like all voters, should support whichever candidate they believe would make the best president. We urge everyone to make that decision based on the factual records of these candidates, and nothing less.


William Daroff, Vice President, United Jewish Communities

Nathan J. Diament, Director, Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America

Abraham Foxman, National Director, Anti-Defamation League

Richard S. Gordon, President, American Jewish Congress

David Harris, Executive Director, American Jewish Committee

Rabbi Marvin Hier, Dean, Simon Wiesenthal Center

Rabbi David Saperstein, Director, Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism

Phyllis Snyder, President, National Council of Jewish Women

Hadar Susskind, Washington Director, Jewish Council for Public Affairs

The Significance of the Michigan Primary

Today’s Michigan primary is primarily a Republican event as most of the Democratic candidates have had their names removed from the ballot due to the primary being held early in violation of party rules. This means that Democratic voters might influence the Republican results should many Democrats vote in their primary. John McCain, who win in 2000, is most likely to benefit from a cross over vote. I doubt it will have much impact but Daily Kos has recommended a vote for Mitt Romney to keep as many candidates as possible alive in the race. The theory is that the longer the nomination battles goes on, the more Republicans are tied down attacking each other. This logic could also backfire as an active primary battle also provides the party more news coverage. Some Democrats plan to vote for Ron Paul in protest of the war. Personally if I was to vote in the Republican primary I would do so only to vote for the Republican that I thought would make the best president, and not solely to cause trouble as Kos recommends.

Most likely the winner will be whoever did the best at convincing voters they could improve Michigan’s economy. Romney’s chances are helped by having been advertising heavily in Michigan for several weeks. Some see this as Mitt Romney’s last chance to save his campaign after losing in the earlier high profile events. I’m no longer so sure of this. We might be beyond the point where one candidate can get the momentum to dominate the race with early high profile wins, especially with different winners in Iowa and New Hampshire. It might be possible for the candidate who repeatedly wins the silver to ultimately accumulate more delegates than the other candidates.

If anyone can get the momentum to dominate at this point it would be John McCain. Possibly a win in Michigan could give him the momentum to continue to win through Super Tuesday and wrap up the nomination, but he still faces obstacles due to opposition from many in the party’s base. This opposition to McCain might keep Mitt Romney’s chances alive should he be able to get the base to support him over McCain, even if he comes in second in Michigan.

Mike Huckabee makes it difficult for anyone to dominate the Republican base as he receives the bulk of the votes from the religious right contingent of the GOP. Huckabee concentrated on both immigration and Christian values as he concluded campaigning. (Personally I’ve never been too worried about illegal aliens crossing the border from Ontario.) If he can do better than expected in Michigan, especially if he pulls in many votes from the non-evangelicals, Huckabee would give his campaign additional credibility.

The results of the Democratic primary probably won’t mean anything unless Uncommitted does extremely well against Clinton. Write in votes won’t be counted, making an Uncommitted vote the only means for supporters of Obama or Edwards to oppose Clinton. I had originally planned to vote for Chris Dodd as the best alternative to Clinton who is on the ballot. The night of the Iowa caucus, when Obama won and Dodd dropped out, my wife and I quickly filled out our absentee ballots by writing in Obama’s name, hoping others would do the same. Later in the week the newspapers began reporting that write in votes for those not on the ballot will not even be counted, so if Clinton should only beat Uncommitted by two votes I will be quite upset by our wasted ballots!

The Battle over Michigan

There’s a big battle going on over Michigan today. I’m not speaking of the primary. I’ll get to that later as time permits. The real battle is an attack on the University of Michigan by PZ Myers, who is finding that attacking the honor of Michigan results in as many comments as a post criticizing Ron Paul (without the name calling, racism, conspiracy theories, and other irrationality.)

Myers is picking on Michigan based upon the beliefs of a small number:

Engineering senior Israel Vicars didn’t think it was a coincidence when he walked by a drunken girl who had fallen over in a parking lot and desperately needed help. Vicars attributes his ability to safely return the girl to her residence hall to the power of united prayer. Fostering that united prayer is what the campus program 40 Days of Prayer is all about.

Like finding a drunken girl in a parking lot is anything all that remarkable in a college town. Besides, if there was really any remarkable power of united prayer in Ann Arbor other prayers would have worked. For example, if prayer worked in Ann Arbor, Hart and Henne would have stayed healthy all season.

True blue blogger Shelly Batts (and a Neuroscience PhD candidate at Michigan) has stepped up to defend our honor, but my argument above is challenged in the comments. Apparently there is circumstantial evidence that an omnipotent, omniscient being which created the entire universe also spends his time intervening in college sporting events. I guess Notre Dame fans could have told us this all along. I wonder what Notre Dame did to piss him off so much this football season.

George Bush Falls to New Lows

George Bush has managed to fall to yet another new low in the latest ABC News/Washington Post poll. His approval is down to 32 percent, falling just below his previous low of 33 percent. Nixon, Carter, and Truman have had approval ratings lower than this, but Bush is likely to set a new record for longest period of unpopularity. He is only two months away from breaking Truman’s record of going 38 months with approval under 50 percent.

Approval of Bush’s handling of Iraq has fallen to 30 percent, two points below his previous low.

Bush has hit new lows among three groups. It is no surprise that his approval is only 9 percent among liberals, but it is also low among moderates at 24 percent and independents at 25 percent. Bush’s low approval has also led to reduced support for the Republican Party. Identification with the GOP fell to an average of 25 percent over 2007, its lowest year long average since 1984.

Peace Is At Hand?

Barack Obama is trying to act as peace maker–with the Clinton campaign. He made this statement yesterday:

You have seen a tone on the Democratic side of the campaign that has been unfortunate. I want to stipulate a couple of things. I may disagree with Senator Clinton and Senator Edwards on how to get there, but we share the same goals. We all believe in civil rights. We all believe in equal rights. They are good people. They are patriots….

I don’t want the campaign at this stage to degenerate to so much tit-for-tat, back-and-forth, that we lose sight of why we are doing this.

Obama said he wants to send “a strong signal to my own supporters that let’s try to focus on the work that needs to get done. If I hear my own supporters engaging in talk that I think is ungenerous or misleading or unfair, I will speak out forcefully against it….

Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton have historically been on the right side of civil rights issues. They care about the African American community.… That is something I am convinced of. I want Americans to know that is my assessment.

Clinton responded:

“Over this past week, there has been a lot of discussion and back and forth – much of which I know does not reflect what is in our hearts.

“And at this moment, I believe we must seek common ground.

“Our party and our nation is bigger than this. Our party has been on the front line of every civil rights movement, women’s rights movement, workers’ rights movement, and other movements for justice in America.

“We differ on a lot of things. And it is critical to have the right kind of discussion on where we stand. But when it comes to civil rights and our commitment to diversity, when it comes to our heroes – President John F. Kennedy and Dr. King – Senator Obama and I are on the same side.

“And in that spirit, let’s come together, because I want more than anything else to ensure that our family stays together on the front lines of the struggle to expand rights for all Americans.”

Maybe this will be the last we will hear about the Martin Luther King, Jr. controversy, but I doubt this will be the end of the attacks. In any campaign we expect to see attacks from each campaign. The battle between Clinton and Obama has the danger of being worse. Hillary Clinton has based her campaign on being the inevitable winner, trying to almost play the role of the incumbent. In doing so she never gave a good reason to support her candidacy as Obama has.

Once Obama turned into a serious challenger, the Clinton campaign has responded with a series of nonsense attacks. Besides the subtle attempts to bring race into the campaign, Clinton has used a variety of weak arguments ranging from claims about their health care policies which even old Clintonite Robert Reich has debunked to attacks on a paper Obama wrote in kindergarten. Clinton has even attempted to use the Rove strategy of attacking the opposition on their strong point as she has tried to distort their differences on Iraq, where Obama was right and Clinton was wrong from the start.

I doubt this will be the end of these attacks, but hopefully this will end Clinton’s attempts to inject race into the campaign. My suspicion is that Clinton’s goal was to use a series subtle racial attacks, often from surrogates, in the hopes that Obama’s response would be seen as an over reaction. Clinton could then deny any intentions to use race, blaming the attacks on surrogates if necessary, and portray Obama as an angry black man to scare people into voting for her. Regardless of whether this theory is correct, Obama responded perfectly, both taking the high road and giving Clinton no choice but to back down.