SciFi Friday: Torchwood Returns; Annie Leibovitz Returns to Fantasy Land; How George Costanza Would Respond to the Clinton Smear Campaign

Torchwood has had two episodes air in the UK but American fans no longer have to wait very long to see the show. Torchwood premiers tomorrow night on BBC America. The first season DVD set was also released this week. While there have been cast changes and questions as to how long David Tennant will remain on Dr. Who, Torchwood should not have this problem. SciFi Wire interviewed John Barrowman who says he will stick with the show:

John Barrowman, who stars in the Doctor Who spinoff series Torchwood, told SCI FI Wire that he’s open to playing omnisexual time traveler Capt. Jack Harkness for years to come.

“If I was asked to do Jack for the next five or six years I would do it with a big smile on my face, because I absolutely love playing him,” Barrowman said in an interview. “When the time comes for us to close the page on Torchwood and Jack Harkness, I’m also then happy to do that when that decision is made. But I think it’s got a bit of a life out there. Let’s hope we get [season] three, [season] four and, hopefully, [season] five.”

“You’re going to learn an awful lot more about Toshiko [Naoko Mori], Owen [Burn Gorman], Ianto [Gareth David-Lloyd] and Gwen [Eve Myles],” Barrowman said. “You’re going to also see much more of Jack’s history. Our time travel in Torchwood is different. [In] Doctor Who, the Doctor gets in a TARDIS and travels. Our time travel is done through memory. So you’re going to go back in time with Jack through his memory. You’re going to see the future through what he’s seen in his memory.”

Lost returns on Thursday nights. USA Today has some information on the upcoming season.

Last week the trailer to the upcoming Star Trek movie was shown with the opening of Cloverfield and low quality copies quickly popped up on line. A high definition version is now available here. Also click on the red dot for further views.

Last year I posted some of Annie Leibovitz’s photographs of stars portraying Disney characters. A new set is now available. Here is Jessica Beil as Pocahontas:


This photo has Gisele Bundchen portraying Wendy Darling, with Mikhail Baryshnikov as Peter Pan and Tina Fey as Tinker Bell. A close up of Tina Fey is available here.


411mania argues that Barack Obama needs a friend like George Costanza to help respond to the Clinton smear campaign:

The Clintons want to play dirty, to quote George Costanza “Well, there’s nothing dirtier than a giant ball of oil.” George Costanza may have been a fictional character from Seinfeld, but he was the sort of guy that would poison his boss, run down Lloyd Braun for being in a mental hospital, encourage Jerry to have a revenge date, and to torment an employer by dropping a giant ball of oil all because this employer discovered he had faked a disability. A friend like this could do the same thing to Hillary that Bill is doing to Obama. The thing is a Costanza type might take each of Bill Clinton’s smart barbs and media explosions as a challenge to drive the Clinton campaign to a fake house in the Hamptons with two solariums and horses named Snoopy and Prickly Pete. In short, Obama needs an attack dog that would relish a fight and not know when to quit.

Several suggestions for attacking Hillary are provided in the post.

Actress Beth Broderick also commented on the Clinton smears at Huffington Post:

It is unseemly for a former president to be sniping at reporters and railing against caucus rules and Primary dates. It is heartbreaking to watch him degrade and attack Barack Obama … deliberately obscuring the facts and going for the cheapest of shots. During an election season this is referred to as ‘throwing elbows”. Any other time this would be called ‘lying’ and ‘race-baiting”.

My friends on the ground in the primary states report to me that the behavior of the Clinton campaign is appalling. Many of them are former supporters and it is truly upsetting for them to witness the “anything to win” tactics of the Clinton folks. I knew from the beginning, when Terry McAluffe arrived in LA and threatened “You are either with us or against us”, that there was cause for concern. Now there is cause for alarm. This is not good for the Country and in the end it is not good for Hillary Clinton. They are at risk of fracturing the party that they hope to lead. There are some wounds that will never heal.

There is a war going on for the soul of the Democratic Party and there are arguments to be made on both sides. The Clintons have been sowing the seeds of a Hillary presidency for years. They are surely and rightfully anxious about the ascendance of the young man from Illinois. The Clintons have dominated the party for decades and not always for the good. The Bushes have embarrassed and exhausted many of the staunchest supporters of the right. That is why we must look at this election in the wider context of the state of the union. For the first time since 9/11 we have an opportunity to bring this country together. To do this Americans may well be wise to choose the new guard over the old.

Hillary Clinton Tries To Steal Nomination

Hillary Clinton might have pulled her attack ad on Obama in South Carolina less than twenty-four hours after receiving criticism for its dishonesty, but this doesn’t mean she hasn’t discontinued her dirty tricks. Clinton is trying to circumvent party rules and have the Michigan and Florida delegates seated. Clinton won the Michigan caucus due to being the only major candidate to leave her name on the ballot after all the candidates agreed not to campaign in the state. Many bloggers feel she has now gone too far.

Ezra Klein writes:

This is the sort of decision that has the potential to tear the party apart. In an attempt to retain some control over the process and keep the various states from accelerating their primaries into last Summer, the Democratic National Committee warned Michigan and Florida that if they insisted on advancing their primary debates, their delegates wouldn’t be seated and the campaigns would be asked not to participate in their primaries. This was agreed to by all parties (save, of course, the states themselves).

With no one campaigning, Clinton, of course, won Michigan — she was the only Democrat to be on the ballot, as I understand it, which is testament to the other campaign’s beliefs that the contest wouldn’t count — and will likely win Florida. And because the race for delegates is likely to be close, she wants those wins to matter. So she’s fighting the DNC’s decision, and asking her delegates — those she’s already won, and those she will win — to overturn it at the convention. She’s doing so right before Florida, to intensify her good press in the state, where Obama is also on the ballot. And since this is a complicated, internal-party matter that sounds weird to those not versed in it (of course Michigan and Florida should count!), she’s adding a public challenge that, if the other Democrats deny, will make them seem anti-Michigan and Florida.

But if this pushes her over the edge, the Obama camp, and their supporters, really will feel that she stole her victory. They didn’t contest those states because they weren’t going to count, not because they were so committed to the DNC’s procedural arguments that they were willing to sacrifice dozens of delegates to support it. It’s as hard as hardball gets, and the end could be unimaginably acrimonious. Imagine if African-American voters feel the rules were changed to prevent Obama’s victory, if young voters feel the delegate counts were shifted to block their candidate.

Josh Marshall provides another explanation of the situation and concludes, “everyone else should see this for what it is and say No.”

Robert Farley writes:

It’s dirty business on the part of the Clinton campaign, no question. And cloaking the nasty little power grab with the language of democratic inclusion irritates me even more. I can’t say that I’m completely surprised, but I would have preferred if Hillary had demonstrated more appreciation for party unity than this; it amounts to an effort to steal delegates.

Barack Obama’s campaign manager, David Plouffe, responded:

No one is more disappointed that Florida Democrats will have no role in selecting delegates for the nomination of the party’s standard bearer than Senator Obama. When Senator Clinton was campaigning in Iowa and New Hampshire, she made it clear that states like Michigan and Florida that wouldn’t produce any delegates, ‘don’t count for anything.’ Now that Senator Clinton’s worried about losing the first Southern primary, she’s using Florida for her own political gain by trying to assign meaning to a contest that awards zero delegates and where no campaigning has occurred. Senator Clinton’s own campaign has repeatedly said that this is a ‘contest for delegates’, and Florida is a contest that offers zero. Whether it is Barack Obama’s record, her position on Social Security, or even the meaning of the Florida Primary, it seems like Hillary Clinton will do or say anything to win an election. When he is the nominee, Barack Obama will campaign vigorously in Florida and Michigan to put them in the Democratic column in 2008.

Feingold and Krauthammer Question Edwards’ Newly Developed Principles

Robert Novak is spreading a rumor that there might be a deal between Obama and Edwards in which Edwards becomes Attorney General. I hope this isn’t true as after the mess created in the Bush years we need someone with a stronger background in Constitutional law and civil liberties.

Edwards has also come under criticism from a couple different people today. Last week I quoted Russ Feingold as calling Edwards the most “problematic candidate.” Feingold repeated his criticism of Edwards in an interview with Huffington Post:

“I don’t understand how somebody could vote, five or six critical votes, one way in the Senate and then make your campaign the opposite positions,” Feingold said, expanding on comments he made a week ago to the Appleton (Wisconsin) Post-Crescent. “That doesn’t give me confidence that if the person became president that they would continue the kind of policies that they are using in the Democratic primary. I’m more likely to believe what they did in the Senate.”

Asked to explain what precisely he found problematic, Feingold offered that Edwards had “taken in” voters by switching positions on several key issues.

“You have to consider what the audience is, and obviously these are very popular positions to take when you are in a primary where you are trying to get the progressive vote. But wait a minute — there were opportunities to vote against the bankruptcy bill, there was an opportunity to vote against the China [trade] deal. Those are the moments where you sort of find out where somebody is. So I think, people are being taken in a little bit that now he is taking these positions.”


John Kerry Accuses Bill Clinton of Abusing the Truth

The National Journal has interviewed John Kerry. When asked about the attacks from the Clinton campaign, Kerry replied, “Well, I think you had an abuse of the truth, is what happened. I mean, being an ex-president does not give you license to abuse the truth, and I think that over the last days it’s been over the top. Things have been said about Barack Obama‘s positions that are just plain untrue.” Kerry also discussed Obama’s experience noting, “Barack Obama has more legislative experience than either of his two opponents.” The full transcript of the interview follows:
Q: I’d like to introduce Sen. John Kerry, former Democratic presidential candidate in 2004, United States senator now. Welcome, Sen. Kerry.

Kerry: Good morning, glad to be with you. Thank you.

Q: So, senator, you have endorsed Barack Obama, and this week, of course, the campaign was absolutely consumed with these charges and counter-charges, and it seemed to many of us that Obama’s message about hope and change was pretty much drowned out. What happened, here?

Kerry: Well, I think you had an abuse of the truth, is what happened. I mean, being an ex-president does not give you license to abuse the truth, and I think that over the last days it’s been over the top. Things have been said about Barack Obama‘s positions that are just plain untrue. It was said in Nevada, it’s been said about Social Security, it’s been said about Yucca Mountain, and it’s been said in South Carolina. I think it’s very unfortunate, but I think the voters can see through that. When somebody’s coming on strong and they are growing, people get a little frantic, and I think people have seen this sort of franticness in the air, if you will.My sense is, Barack Obama offers a better opportunity to pull America together than any other candidate in the race. If you look at the fact that the governor of Arizona, a red state, Gov. Janet Napolitano, has endorsed Barack Obama, former governor and now senator, Ben Nelson of Nebraska, red state, has endorsed Barack Obama. The two senators from North Dakota and South Dakota, the Democratic senators, have endorsed Barack Obama. Claire McCaskill, the senator from Missouri, Gov. Tim Kaine of Virginia, was asked the question, “Can a Democrat carry Virginia?” And his answer was, “the right Democrat,” and then he endorsed Barack Obama.

So, I think Barack Obama has the ability to pull the nation together, to offer the kind of inspired leadership that we need to tackle some very serious problems, and to make America stronger in the world. And that’s why I’m for him.

Q: Let’s just go back to what you said right at the beginning. So you are saying, then, that former President [Bill] Clinton is the one who has been abusing the truth?

Kerry: I think there has been an overreach with respect to what Barack Obama has said and when he said it, and I think it’s been unfortunate, but I don’t think we ought to spend our time there. I think people want to focus on what are you doing to do to get my health care, what are you going to do to get my job?I think that Barack Obama, for instance, has a stimulus plan that is important to the workers of South Carolina and to the rest of the country. Because, first of all, it’s smart. It’s not going to be a long-term budget increase, it’s going to be a temporary one; it’s targeted to the middle class; it’s targeted to poor families who need the relief. But it also provides money to business investment — business incentive in order to help create the jobs we need to move the Economy and he focuses also on the sub-prime housing crisis, which I personally believe is one of the single most important components of restoring confidence in the Economy.

Q: Of course, Hillary Clinton is running a very focused campaign on the economy and now certainly her own stimulus plan was criticized by some but she has former President Clinton’s Economic record to run on, how does he push back against that, that’s a very powerful asset that she has.

Kerry: Sure it is, but people again need to be able to distinguish. Look, I supported the programs, a lot of things that we did in the 1990s, but I think everyone understands we had a technology boom in the 1990s which was unprecedented, and everybody benefited from that. We made some tough decisions and we ought to be proud of them, about the budget and the deficit. But the fact is, that was not Hillary Clinton making those decisions. It was a different team, at a different time.In fact, Barack Obama has more legislative experience than either of his two opponents. He served eight years in the Illinois legislature and now several in the United States Senate, in total, he has more legislative years. And if you look back in history, Abraham Lincoln had only two years in the United States Congress, and then he lost. He was sent back to Illinois in shame, ran for the United States Senate, lost his race for the Senate, then was nominated to be the leader of his party. And he became, arguably, our greatest president in history. So I think you have to look at the breadth of experience, and the type of experience.

You know, I look at Barack Obama: He’s older than Bill Clinton was Bill Clinton became president. He’s older than John Kennedy was, he’s older than Teddy Roosevelt was and he has a broad experience and has proven his ability through his campaign to be able to lead and to pull people together. And again, I go back to what I just said — look at the coalition he is building: Nebraska, Arizona, Virginia, Missouri, North and South Dakota. These are the states where we need to build that kind of new coalition, and I think he’s attracting independents and Republicans and Democrats who are fed up with the way things have been. We gotta change.

Q: Just a couple quick questions, because you made such interesting points here, senator. The consensus seems to be now though that, for whatever reason, Barack Obama is now identified as the “black candidate.” How did that happen?

Kerry: Well, if it happened, I’m not sure that that is accurate at all, and I don’t necessarily accept it. But to whatever degree that has been injected here, it has been injected, frankly, by the other campaign, and I think it’s unfortunate, but I just don’t accept that. And I think the people that are supporting him is evidence of that.I don’t look at Barack Obama and see a black candidate. I see an inspiring, young, American United States senator — that’s what I see — who happens also to be African American. Just as Hillary happens also to be a woman, and just as John Edwards happens also to be a white. So what? What you look at– I mean, this is the test of this race.

Are we the country we say we are? Are we the country that holds certain truths to be self-evident, words which incidentally were written by a 33-year-old named Thomas Jefferson. You know, are we the country that judges people by the content of their character, not the color of their skin — words that were written by Martin Luther King when he was about 34 years old.

So the fact is that, to whatever degree that issue has been put in this race, I think this is a moment for Americans to prove it doesn’t matter anymore, and we’re beyond that. And that’s one of the transformative aspects of this candidacy that I find so appealing and so important to the nation and to the world. If we can elect Barack Obama, the message to the world about who we are, what we believe and what the possibilities are in America, are extraordinary.

Q: Well, very strong case made, certainly, on behalf of your candidate. Thank you so much, Sen. John Kerry. I hope you can join us again.

Kerry: It’s a pleasure to be with you. Thank you very much.

Clinton Surprised By Photo With Rezko


One of the many absurd attacks coming from Hillary Clinton this week involved Tony Rezko. Considering both the number of questionable business dealings involving the Clintons, and the lack of any evidence of wrong doing by Obama, this attack appears as just one more desperation measure. This morning Hillary got what she deserved when she appeared on The Today Show and was confronted with the above picture with Rezko. Clinton responded:

“I don’t know the man. I wouldn’t know him if he walked in the door. I don’t have a 17 year relationship with him. There’s a big difference between standing somewhere taking a picture with someone you don’t know and haven’t seen since, and having a relationship that the newspapers in Chicago have been exploring.”

The picture very well may be perfectly innocent. There is no evidence of any wrong doing by either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. There’s little doubt that Rezko hoped to receive favors, but none were given. As Steve Benen wrote:

…the story has been around for a while, but there doesn’t seem to be anything to it. The LA Times went digging, and ran a front-page piece on the “controversy” on Wednesday, but if there’s anything seriously damaging about Obama and Rezko, the LAT couldn’t find it.

Matthew Yglesias wrote:

The essence of the matter is that there doesn’t seem to have been any quid to go with the pro quo here. Rezko tried to curry favor with politicians in order to get stuff from them, and Obama was no exception…what makes this sort of line of attack curious to me is that if there’s one thing we absolutely know for sure about the Clintons it’s that if you’re inclined to make mountains out of molehills there are tons and tons of thin ethical charges you can make against them.

Jason Zengerle wrote:

For what it’s worth, I don’t think the Rezko thing is a very big deal for either candidate. So far as I can tell, Obama didn’t do any favors for him–other than giving the son of a Rezko friend an internship. And, just because Drudge has a photo of the Clintons with Rezko doesn’t mean they did anything untoward, either. But, of course, Hillary was the one who brought up Rezko (in response, to be fair, to Obama’s shot about her serving on Wal-Mart’s board), so she left herself open to this sort of thing. I wonder if the Clinton team is furiously searching for a photo of Obama with Sam Walton.

Rezko appears to be a non-issue for each candidate, but there is a certain satisfaction in seeing Hillary Clinton embarrassed by the matter after she tried to smear Obama by distorting the relationship between Rezko and Obama. In case any Clinton supporters want to make an issue over the intern appointment, The Carpetbagger Report also disposed of that issue:

As for the internship angle, apparently one out of about 100 internships Obama’s office offered in 2005 went to the son of one of Rezko’s friends. (The kid spent five weeks in Washington, answering Obama’s front office phone and logging constituent mail.) As scandals go, it’s pretty laughable — as Tom Bevan, a conservative Republican, said, “Please. If we went and made a federal case over every Congressional internship that’s been doled out over the years to the child of a friend or political contributor we’d run out of trees and ink by next Thursday.”

The Tipping Point on Clinton Dishonesty

At this point nobody knows who will win the Democratic nomination. Insurgent candidates typically lose to the establishment candidate. Good does not always triumph over evil. Hillary Clinton might win as a result to resorting to lies and smears. However, should Obama win, Thursday just might have been when the tipping point was reached. The campaign is not going as Obama would prefer, but he has managed to make the issue of Clinton’s dishonesty a major issue.

Making honest an issue might matter. shows that Obama is the candidate that voters feel is the most honest.

How important are perceptions of integrity and trust? Very. Drawing on decades of opinion poll data, political scientists identify two central traits — competence and integrity — that drive judgements about presidents and presidential candidates. “Presidents are judged,” wrote Professor Donald Kinder (with whom I once studied at the University of Michigan), ” by their intelligence, knowledge and experience on the one hand, and by their honesty, decency and ability to set a good moral example on the other” (p. 840). Candidates that are perceived to be otherwise qualified and competent lose when voters find them lacking in terms of honesty and trust. And keep in mind that the bulk of the research driving these conclusions comes from general election surveys in which perceptions of competence and integrity were sometimes strong enough to overcome partisan leanings in driving voter choices.

The media is increasingly describing the race in terms of the Clinton smear campaign and Obama’s response. Greg Sargent describes how Obama has won the “spin war.” Numerous journalists have discussed how the Clintons have responded to smears, with several of these articles discussed in previous posts here. We also find that the Clinton campaign’s response is to continue to lie, smear, and distort as they draw a false equivalency between their own smears and Obama’s response.

The Clinton campaign attempts to attack Obama regardless of how he resonds. If Obama doesn’t respond strongly the narrative is that he wouldn’t be able to stand up to similar types of attacks from Republicans. When Obama does respond they claim that he is also engaging in attacks and therefore there is no difference between Clinton and Obama. Fortunately several journalists have seen through these bogus attacks and this is reflected in the coverage.

Obama is showing that he can handle Republican attacks by handling the same types of attacks from the Clintons. There is little doubt he will criticize the Republican candidate even more strongly where there are more legitimate differences in their positions. This is far different than the Clinton strategy of inventing differences by lying about what Obama has said. Should the Republicans resort to similar lies, smears, or distortions Obama can take the higher moral ground and convince voters to reject that approach. This is something the Clintons could never do, leaving us in another cycle of the same dysfunctional partisan disputes.

By fighting back against their campaign of lies, smears, and distortions the Clintons have been forced to back down and discontinue their dishonest ad in South Carolina. Among the other accomplishments I noted yesterday, former Clinton Secretary of Labor Robert Reich has criticized his old boss concluding “sadly, we’re witnessing a smear campaign against Obama that employs some of the worst aspects of the old politics.” Thursday’s must-see TV came from YouTube as Lorna Brett Howard, the former President of Chicago NOW, explains why she changed from supporting Clinton to Obama in response to the Clinton smear campaign. She explains how Obama is one hundred percent pro-choice and one hundred percent honest.

Obama has done his best to turn a bad situation to his advantage but it is not yet certain that this will be enough. Andrew Sullivan notes the problem that remains for Obama:

I think the spin war itself is a distraction from Obama’s core message – of unifying change – and distracting from that is central to the Clintons’ strategy. It seems to me that Obama needs to focus back on the case for his own candidacy, in particular, providing explicit concrete policy detail in his public presentation. The Clintons are running as prosaic general managers. Obama should not downplay his transformational potential or his broader themes. But in the battle for base voters, many people are not hearing specifics – on the economy, on healthcare, on taxes, on climate change. He has them. He needs to repeat them. With the same mind-numbing repetitiveness that the Clintons always deploy.

What Obama must do is to combine his defenses against the Clinton smear campaign with his original message. Obama has been calling for change, but not everyone was clear as to what this means. The Clintons provide an excellent example of the type of politics, and government, we need a change from. Obama must make it clear that defending himself from the Clinton smears is not only about himself, but about bringing about a necessary change in the tone of politics in this country. In contrast, Hillary Clinton offers not only a Bill Clinton third term but a third term for the ethics of George Bush and Karl Rove.