The Clinton Campaign’s View of Fox


I’ve noted several times recently how Hillary Clinton has joined the vast right wing conspiracy (such as here, here, and here). The latest example comes from Clinton surrogate Ed Rendell:

I think during this entire primary coverage, starting in Iowa and up to the present — FOX has done the fairest job, and remained the most objective of all the cable networks. You hate both of our candidates. No, I’m only kidding. But you actually have done a very balanced job of reporting the news, and some of the other stations are just caught up with Senator Obama, who is a great guy, but Senator Obama can do no wrong, and Senator Clinton can do no right.

Fox has done the fairest job? From the perspective of the Clinton campaign that is not an unexpected claim. After all, Fox does devote quite a lot of time making up things about Barack Obama–just like the Clinton campaign does.  The Clinton campaign figures there is no reason to object to lies such as the Madrassa claims spread by Fox if it helps them politically.

Obama and John Edwards

There’s been a lot of speculation as to why John Edwards has not endorsed Obama or Clinton. John Heilemann thinks that Obama didn’t impress Edwards as Clinton did when talking about poverty:

According to a Democratic strategist unaligned with any campaign but with knowledge of the situation gleaned from all three camps, the answer is simple: Obama blew it. Speaking to Edwards on the day he exited the race, Obama came across as glib and aloof. His response to Edwards’s imprecations that he make poverty a central part of his agenda was shallow, perfunctory, pat. Clinton, by contrast, engaged Edwards in a lengthy policy discussion. Her affect was solicitous and respectful. When Clinton met Edwards face-to-face in North Carolina ten days later, her approach continued to impress; she even made headway with Elizabeth. Whereas in his Edwards sit-down, Obama dug himself in deeper, getting into a fight with Elizabeth about health care, insisting that his plan is universal (a position she considers a crock), high-handedly criticizing Clinton’s plan (and by extension Edwards’s) for its insurance mandate.

Noam Scheiber has a different take:

Reading between the lines, I got the impression Edwards’s calculations were mostly dictated by–surprise!–self-interest. Early on, he wasn’t sure Obama was tough enough to beat Hillary. Or to reassure voters and superdelegates that he’d be able to win the general. And what good does it do you to endorse a guy who’s going to lose?

Since then, Obama’s obviously become the favorite to win the Democratic nomination, which has changed Edwards’s calculus. The risk is no longer endorsing a guy who may lose. (At least in the primaries.) It’s that you won’t get credit for helping Obama win. Endorsing Obama at this point would basically mean jumping on a bandwagon, and there’s no percentage in that. So I’m guessing Edwards is biding his time until there’s a moment when his endorsement would matter–for example, when it could help bump Hillary from the race. (Say, after a loss in the North Carolina primary.)

I suspect that Scheiber’s interpretation is right but I actually wish that Heilemann’s account was what really happened, after correcting for some anti-Obama spin. I’m not sure if he would have done so considering how tight the race was at the time, but personally I’d think even more highly of Obama if he went to meet John and Elizabeth Edwards and told them that their economic ideas are idiotic, even at the expense of their support.

Teresa Heinz Kerry: Vote For Obama

Teresa Heinz Kerry had an op-ed in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette last week backing Barack Obama:

Election days are always special to me. I grew up in a land where there were no election days.

The Mozambique of my childhood was governed by a right-wing dictatorship in far-away Portugal. My father, a wise and good man, was 71 years old when he voted for the first time. I never cast a ballot until I became a citizen of the United States. But when I did, it was for a young man who spent years teaching me about the needs of Pennsylvania’s working families and the good our government can do for them — my late husband, Sen. John Heinz. He helped me learn how precious a right suffrage is — as a weapon against tyranny; as an instrument of hope, progress and change.

That is why, this year, I will cast my vote in the April 22 Pennsylvania primary for Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois.

Pennsylvania needs a president like Barack Obama, someone who understands the tough times Pennsylvanians are facing. Raised with much love but in challenging circumstances by a single mom and grandparents, he knows firsthand the stress and financial pressures families face. When he beat the odds and put himself through college, he could have made good money with a big-name law firm anywhere in the country, but he chose the gritty streets of Chicago’s South Side where, as a community organizer, he worked helping families like his build better lives.

Mr. Obama’s work taught him what happens to families and communities when factories shut down and jobs go overseas. He knows firsthand the devastation and despair the global economy can bring — and how important hope is in overcoming setbacks and getting lives and neighborhoods back on track.

But there’s more to Mr. Obama than hope. There’s a practical approach to economic recovery. It starts with a tax cut of up to $1,000 — for middle-class families, not for millionaires. And Mr. Obama believes that there can be no “free” trade without fair trade. He’s committed to fixing NAFTA, so that it works for American workers. For those whose jobs are threatened by foreign trade, Mr. Obama supports reforms to the Trade Adjustment Assistance program so that workers can be retrained before they lose their jobs.

Mr. Obama’s health-care plan will cover every child in America, and help families afford the same kind of insurance he and I both have, by giving them access to the same plan that covers Congress. He’ll simplify paperwork and ensure no family can be turned down, regardless of pre-existing conditions. As I saw in Sen. Heinz, and as I see in my husband, Sen. John Kerry, a personal connection to working families drives Mr. Obama in his passion to get working Americans and seniors access to affordable insurance.

But Mr. Obama wants more; he wants the United States to win the race to the next economic era by increasing federal investment in research and development, in education and training and workforce development so we can pioneer the green technologies that will lessen our dependence on foreign oil, slow global warming and create not only high-tech, high-wage jobs but also all the good jobs that follow.

Mr. Obama’s background and passion make him the right choice for all of us worried about bringing a broader prosperity back to Western Pennsylvania; he will lead a surge of voters next November and then build coalitions across party lines to put people back to work. When I think of the problems facing working mothers waiting tables or stocking shelves in Pittsburgh, I think of how much we need a president who can unite us across race and region to fight for economic security for these women and their families.

I am also eager for a leader who will keep our homeland secure while upholding the high ideals on which this country was founded. After eight years of a president who twisted evidence and manipulated our fears to goad this nation into an unnecessary war, and a vice president who seems never to have read the Constitution; after seeing our moral authority blurred by torture, rendition and Abu Ghraib, I am excited about a candidate who knows that we can safeguard our security and still preserve our civil liberties.

In Sen. Barack Obama I see not just a president but a transformative leader, a candidate with a unique gift. He is a man who has drawn the disinterested and dispirited into his campaign, challenging them to become bigger than themselves.

Pennsylvania needs a president who knows that our hopes, not our fears, make America strong. And above all, we need a president who will give us our optimism back, who believes in us enough to ask us to do our part, to sacrifice and to dream together.

Barack Obama will be that president. I believe he stands apart from others not just as a capable politician, but as an American of true vision. Thousands of Pennsylvanians, tired of the divisive politics, have already switched registration so they can vote for change and for hope — for Barack Obama. At a moment when so much needs to be done, Mr. Obama’s ability to bring us together, to inspire us and challenge us makes him uniquely qualified to hold the most powerful office in the world.

In the bicentennial year of 1976, Pennsylvania took a chance on a smart, hard-working and optimistic young congressman named John Heinz and made him their senator. They made a wise choice. He worked across the aisle to tackle the tough problems of the 1970s and 1980s — saving Social Security, reforming nursing home care, demanding fair trade, offering new solutions to environmental problems. He proved that, when you love people and put their interest ahead of politics you can make a real difference.

That is the spirit I see in Barack Obama and why I look forward to voting to make him our 44th president.

The “audacity of hope” means a vote for change. Vote for Barack.

President Bartlett and Biblical Quotes


I’ve been posting videos from The West Wing as a demonstration of a president who both understands separation of church and state and who can discuss these matters intelligently. I have to turn to fiction since we do not currently have a president who understands the topic or who can discuss anything intelligently. One out of three of the viable major party candidates left in the race are capable of doing this.

In this video, President Bartlett discusses biblical quotes. The previous video from the pilot episode was posted here.

John Kerry on Obama’s Health Care Plan

On one of today’s battles of the surrogates John Kerry backed Barack Obama while Ed Rendell backed Hillary Clinton on This Week. Kerry made many good points in favor of Obama. On health care, Kerry noted that “Hillary Clinton’s plan in the United States Senate is a non-starter because it starts with a mandate which is unachievable in the United States Senate.” Kerry had also rejected mandates when developing his 2004 health care plan. The video is available here.

Richard Scaife, Another Conservative Hillary Fan?

Hillary Clinton is sure getting along better with the “vast right wing conspiracy.” Despite all the conflict she has had with them, she is not above working with Rush Limbaugh, Matt Drudge, and more recently Richard Mellon Scaife. It isn’t necessarily bad to mend fences with one’s political enemies and find ways to work together. The problem in Hillary’s case is that her views are far closer to theirs than many realize. I was not at all surprised to see today’s columnfrom Richard Scaife in which he reassesses Clinton and found many more areas of agreement than anticipated.

In some cases this is because Scaife agrees with virtually everyone but the extreme right that remaining in Iraq is contrary to our national interests, as well as the interests of the Iraqis. In other cases this may because of how conservative Clinton is on social issues (with the exception of abortion). I’ve noted her association with social conservatives in recent posts (here and here) and how this can be seen in many of her political positions.

It is not surprising that Scaife still finds areas of disagreement with Clinton on domestic issues. Her economic populism, along with her views on abortion, will prevent most conservatives from realizing how close she actually is to their views. From my perspective, while her populist economic views might be labeled as “liberal”I do not support such views any more than many conservatives do.

Someone like Clinton who is conservative on social issues, civil liberties, church/state issues, reversing the flow of power to the Executive Branch, and foreign policy, while populist on economic issues, is in many ways the worst of all possible choices in American politics and why, while I still have far too many areas of disagreement to vote for him, I’m not so sure that John McCain would be any worse (or more conservative) than Hillary Clinton as president.

Both Hillary Clinton and John McCain are similar in that they demonstrate the limits of our political labels which divide up most people as liberals or conservatives. Both Clinton and McCain actually support a set of positions which are contrary to the views of large numbers of both liberals and conservatives. I would classify both Clinton and McCain as conservatives, but in doing so also understand that neither fit in with the views of the bulk of conservative writers and bloggers. There are also many conservatives who would label both Clinton and McCain as liberals. That is fine with me in light of the limitations of political labels, as long as they also understand that this does not mean their views coincide with my views or the views of a number of other liberals.

More importantly, I hope that during this primary campaign more liberals are realizing that Hillary Clinton is not a liberal. While some still accept the incorrect conventional wisdom that Obama and Clinton are similar on the issues, a growing number of those in the liberal blogosphere are finding reason to oppose Clinton.

As I said at the beginning, if this was a case of Clinton making conservatives more willing to listen to liberal views, as Barack Obama has accomplished, then this would be a favorable thing. The problem remains that Clinton is promoting an essentially conservative agenda and continuation of Bush style politics and government. Instead of getting conservatives to consider liberal ideas, all Clinton is accomplishing is getting conservatives to realize to what degree she is really one of them.

Bush’s War Crimes

Scott Horton has written about the Convention Against Torture and has described the use of torture at Abu Ghraib:

Enforced nudity. This technique is adopted for purposes of degrading and humiliating the prisoner, heightening his senses of vulnerability, weakness and shame. Enforced nudity also enhances other techniques, particularly hypothermia.

Starvation. As Davis notes, when the prisoner is entitled to an MRE, he would be given one component only of the MRE. The entire MRE constitutes a reasonable food ration which is properly balanced. Giving only one part of it reflects a decision to starve the prisoner.

Stress Positions. Perhaps the oldest and best established torture technique, widely used by the Inquisition in Europe, was the strapado. Hands would be fastened behind the back and the victim would be hoisted, causing severe stress to joints, frequent dislocation, and severe and sustained pain. The strapado would invariably get its victim to confess to anything, very quickly. During World War II, this same technique was widely adopted and used by the Germans, who called it Pfahlbinden. In the English of the Bush Administration, this technique is called a “stress position,” and it was widely used at Abu Ghraib.

Hypothermia. Shortly after the Bolshevik Revolution, the Soviet secret police pioneered a very simple technique that had the advantage of leaving the victim’s body unbruised or bloodied, but whose physiological effects were equally if not more effective than direct beatings. In its mildest form, the victim was left with thin clothing in a cell with temperatures hovering just above freezing. A day of such treatment was generally enough to produce physical collapse. The Bush Administration, of course, not having the benefits of a Siberian winter, turns to far cruder and more brutal techniques, which Davis describes. The prisoner is stripped naked, dunked in a bath of ice water, and a window is left open to insure exposure.

For President Bush, these techniques are a part of the “Program.” More generally in the American media, you’ll hear these things referred to as “highly coercive techniques.” But they have a proper name, which is “torture.” Their use is a serious crime under international law, and under U.S. law. And that stubborn fact has driven much of the Bush Administration’s bizarre machinations relating to the Convention.

The New Yorker has also looked at the use of torture recently. In response to these articles, Andrew Sullivan writes, “One day this president and vice-president will be prosecuted for war crimes.” They should be, but I doubt it will ever happen.

SciFi Friday (Saturday Edition): Jericho, Torchwood, and Britney

It was a slow week with Lost on hiatus, Torchwood off for a week on the BBC, and shows such as Doctor Who and Battlestar Galactica being on the verge of returning with new episodes. Battlestar Galactica is airing a recap show in case someone wants to begin watching with the final season. (You will still have missed quite a bit with a thirty minute recap only touching the surface.)

The major event of the week was the series finale of Jericho. The finale, Patriots and Tyrants, had to wrap up a series which had already been condensed into seven episodes. My suspicion is that the season would have been much better if there was more time for each plot thread to play out as opposed to quickly presenting major events before fully seeing the impact on prior events.

The ending left things open for a continuation, with there remaining some possibility that the SciFi Channel or CW might pick up the series. This is hardly surprising as even though they did not leave without a cliff hanger they had created a country which was drastically changed, leaving plenty of room for future development. Executive Producer Carol Barbee provided some information as to what the finale would have been like if they had gone with the other ending prepared for if the show had been picked up. The show’s official web site also contains photos from the episode with a scene I do not recall (one above) making me wonder if it is something which was present in the other version.

One aspect of the rushed season I didn’t like was the minimal treatment of the John Smith subplot. It came as no surprise that he turned out to be a bad guy but we ultimately found out too little about him. In many ways his addition actually weakened the narrative for the final episodes. Jericho was becoming a commentary on Iraq and contemporary America with Jennings and Rall taking on the role of an even more powerful Halliburton. The viewers, and later characters like Beck, saw that something was rotten with the new government and there was the implication that there was a connection between them and the destruction of twenty-three American cities.

Until John Smith took credit for the nuclear explosions, the suspicion was that Jennings and Rall might have been responsible for the attack in order to take over. Instead John Smith claimed he did so in order to rid the country of the influence of Jennings and Rall. This still leaves the Allied States government with problems, but they are not as evil as they were appearing at one point. Without time to develop Smith, it would have been better for the attack to have come from J&R as at least we would have had known something about them. In John Smith’s case we saw far too little of the person who was identified to be the show’s ultimate villain.

Another question is why the bomb was brought to Cheyenne as opposed to a military base, especially considering that it was being transported out of the city shortly after it arrived. This was clearly done to give them an excuse to show Cheyenne, but it helped reduce the believability of the finale. The conclusion in which Texas is expected to join with the Columbus government in a civil war against Cheyenne would have been stronger if we had seen more evidence that the other two governments did not suffer from problems similar to those in Cheyenne. How does Jake and Hawkins really know that the other two would turn out any better?

Torchwood only has one more episode this season (with others still to be shown on BBC America) but it looks like there will be a bonus episode which we do not get to actually see. Digital Spy reports:

Bridging the gap between an apparently apocalyptic end to its second season and the potentially-revamped third, sexy alien-hunter show Torchwood is making the jump to radio. A special one-off episode about the secret organization that guards a “temporal rift” in Cardiff will be transmitted on BBC Radio 4 this summer — and it happens to be oddly topical, if you’re a science geek.

In the 45 minute episode, to be broadcast in Radio 4’s traditional “Afternoon Play” slot, the Torchwood team – portrayed by their television cast – will deal with a mission revolving around a particle accelerator. Why a particle accelerator, you ask? Well, because the episode will be transmitted on the same day as the opening of the world’s biggest particle accelerator in Switzerland, and if nothing else, Radio 4 likes to keep up with what’s happening in the world.

Having Britney Spears on How I Met Your Mother might have paid off as it led to the highest ratings for the season and greatly increasing its chances for renewal. Otherwise the episode was a disappointment, with Sarah Chalke (who replace Alicia Silverstone, who was originally planned to appear) having a much more significant role. Britney was undoubtedly added purely for her name and her minor role could have easily been filled by an unknown actress.

I expected more of her role considering her guest appearance on Will and Grace. On Will and Grace she started out appearing to be a conservative but then revealed that this was just an act as she said, “I’m not who you think I am. My real name is Peg. And I’m a hardcore lesbian. I’m into leather play, butch white girls, skunkin’, pullin’ the blinds, and poodle balling. Whatever you got, I’ll eat it, snort it, or ride it, baby.” Imagine Barney’s reaction to this type of Britney Spears character.

The Future of Fox

Time has an article on the challenges faced by Fox News and the changes which are inevitable should the Democrats win as expected in November. Steve Benen warns against writing off Fox and I agree with him. A Democratic government would be the best thing which could happen for Fox in terms of improving their ratings.One remarkable thing about Fox is the manner in which they changed from an opposition voice to a Pravda-clone overnight when Bush replaced Bill Clinton. They will do the same (in reverse) and probably thrive.

A network like Fox can work as the mouthpiece for the government if the government has solid support, but they are not going to thrive in the current atmosphere. When Bush was popular post 9/11 Fox had a winning formula. It is not surprising that their  ratings would diminish along with Bush’s popularity, even if they are still beating CNN and MSNBC.

A Democratic government is just what Fox needs to improve their ratings. I guess this is an insurmountable problem for liberals who both back the Democrats and hate Fox. As a mouthpiece for the Bush administration, they risk losing viewers except among those who still support Bush despite all the evidence of his failings. While not all conservatives agree in backing Bush anymore, they will be more united in objecting to the Democratic controlled government and will seek out news which promotes this view.

There are also potentially more viewers when they return to being a network opposingt he government as opposed to acting as a government propaganda outfit. Simply being critical of the government (regardless who is in power) is a stronger position for a network to be in than to be stuck supporting a government which has failed.

I recall when I first noticed Fox on the cable schedule at a time when I was no big fan of Bill Clinton. Initially I had some interest in a network which was often bashing him. If nothing else it fed into my general anti-politician and anti-government feelings. My interest diminished very quickly when I noted two problems with their approach. While they knocked the Clinton Administration, which was fine with me, I had no interest in their blind support for the Republican opposition, which I certainly did not think was any better. The second problem was that it didn’t take long to realize that some of the negative “news” on Clinton was made up. The scandals they discussed just never turned into anything of consequence (with at least one notable exception). While I might have enjoyed coverage which honestly discussed their shortcomings, I saw no value in a “news”show which made up their facts.

In the long run Fox must decide whether they care more about being a news outlet with a conservative tilt versus being a dishonest propaganda outlet which is primarily concerned with promoting the fortunes of one political party. So far it has been clear which route Fox has chosen.

Professor Obama

Clinton supporters, in their never ending attempts to behave exactly like Republican Clinton bashers have since the 1990’s, have been raising an endless stream of bogus attacks on Barack Obama. While many aspects of Clinton’s biography have been exposed as fiction some Clinton supporters have been claiming that it is  untrue that Obama has been a Professor of Constitutional Law.

Having her claims on Bosnia exposed as fiction has harmed Hillary Clinton as it undermines her now debunked claims of greater experience on foreign policy.  Gerard Baker has pointed out how Clinton has a habit of lying about even minor matters such as claiming she was named after Sir Edmund Hillary even though she was born about five years before he climbed Everest when he was unknown outside of New Zealand.

Strangely, the Clinton camp has a much higher standard for truth with regards to Barack Obama’s biography. Obama’s experience in teaching Constitutional law does provide him with an advantage in experience over Hillary Clinton, making it understandable that they would like to pretend it wasn’t so. What matters is not so much the line on the resume but the results of the experience, and Obama’s experience can be seen in comparing their views on issues such as civil liberties, limiting presidential power, and separation of church and state.

Clinton supporters and some Republicans have concentrated on a distinction which most people have no concern with between a lecturer and a full professor. The Clinton camp has been distributing this blog post but, as with most of their attacks, it simply does not hold up factually. The University of Chicago released this statement verifying that Obama has been a professor (emphasis mine):

From 1992 until his election to the U.S. Senate in 2004, Barack Obama served as a professor in the Law School. He was a Lecturer from 1992 to 1996. He was a Senior Lecturer from 1996 to 2004, during which time he taught three courses per year. Senior Lecturers are considered to be members of the Law School faculty and are regarded as professors, although not full-time or tenure-track. The title of Senior Lecturer is distinct from the title of Lecturer, which signifies adjunct status. Like Obama, each of the Law School’s Senior Lecturers have high-demand careers in politics or public service, which prevent full-time teaching. Several times during his 12 years as a professor in the Law School, Obama was invited to join the faculty in a full-time tenure-track position, but he declined.

Apparently the University of Chicago regarded Obama as a professor but the Clinton campaign does not. I’ll go with the statement from the University of Chicago. It is certainly true that there are differences between professors, which most voters probably do not care about at all.

It is common for universities to give titles of professor to professionals which differ from the actual full time faculty on a tenure-track. I have a title which I believe is officially labeled Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine from Michigan State University (which has no bearing on my loyalties to my alma mater, the University of Michigan, and I take no responsibility for their basketball performance last night.) While placing me about as low as one could be on the professorship totem pole, this contributes to my understanding of Obama being labeled a professor when he taught law while in private practice. I never assumed he was more than he was, and see no evidence that he made any attempts to exaggerate his position.

Obama never claimed to be anything other than what he was at the University of Chicago, and their statement verifies the validity of referring to this as being a professor.  Seeing the University of Chicago write of “his 12 years as a professor in the Law School” trumps any of the distortions being distributed by the Clinton campaign when they claim he was not a professor.