Clinton Insults “Activist Base” of Democratic Party

Last weekend the big story was a bogus argument that Obama had insulted those who live in small town America. This weekend’s buzz in the blogosphere is likely to be about a different story–Hillary Clinton insulting the Democratic base. Celeste Fremon reports:

At a small closed-door fundraiser after Super Tuesday, Sen. Hillary Clinton blamed what she called the “activist base” of the Democratic Party — and in particular — for many of her electoral defeats, saying activists had “flooded” state caucuses and “intimidated” her supporters, according to an audio recording of the event obtained by The Huffington Post.

“ endorsed [Sen. Barack Obama] — which is like a gusher of money that never seems to slow down,” Clinton said to a meeting of donors. “We have been less successful in caucuses because it brings out the activist base of the Democratic Party. MoveOn didn’t even want us to go into Afghanistan. I mean, that’s what we’re dealing with. And you know they turn out in great numbers. And they are very driven by their view of our positions, and it’s primarily national security and foreign policy that drives them. I don’t agree with them. They know I don’t agree with them. So they flood into these caucuses and dominate them and really intimidate people who actually show up to support me.”

Besides making the mistake of further antagonizing party activists, Clinton is also wrong on her facts:

In a statement to The Huffington Post, MoveOn’s Executive Director Eli Pariser reacted strongly to Clinton’s remarks: “Senator Clinton has her facts wrong again. MoveOn never opposed the war in Afghanistan, and we set the record straight years ago when Karl Rove made the same claim. Senator Clinton’s attack on our members is divisive at a time when Democrats will soon need to unify to beat Senator McCain. MoveOn is 3.2 million reliable voters and volunteers who are an important part of any winning Democratic coalition in November. They deserve better than to be dismissed using Republican talking points.”

Her claims about intimidation don’t hold up well either:

Howard Wolfson, communications director for the Clinton campaign, verified the authenticity of the audio, and elaborated on Clinton’s charge that these same party activists were engaged in acts of intimidation against her supporters: “There have been well documented instances of intimidation in the Nevada and the Texas caucuses, and it is a fact that while we have won 4 of the 5 largest primaries, where participation is greatest, Senator Obama has done better in caucuses than we have.” About Clinton’s remarks suggesting dismay over high Democratic activist turnout, Wolfson said, “I’ll let my statement stand as is.”

In fact, the Nevada caucuses occurred prior to MoveOn’s endorsement of Obama, and when Clinton made her remarks, the Texas caucuses had yet to take place.

While last weeks “bittergate” controversy did not hurt Obama, this might hurt Clinton. At worst Obama repeated some of Thomas Frank’s flawed ideas on voting based on values versus economics. Even if Obama’s analysis was partially in error, there was no validity to Clinton’s distortions of his comments to claim he was insulting small town Americans. In contrast, these comments clearly show Clinton insulting Democratic activists who do have a role in determining the outcome of the final primaries.

Report on Iraq Cites Faulty Assumptions And Inability to Replace Saddam With Stable Entity

McClatchy reports on this report from the National Defense University which calls the Iraq war “a major debacle.” They write that, “The report carries considerable weight because it was written by Joseph Collins, a former senior Pentagon official, and was based in part on interviews with other former senior defense and intelligence officials who played roles in prewar preparations.”

The report said that the United States has suffered serious political costs, with its standing in the world seriously diminished. Moreover, operations in Iraq have diverted “manpower, materiel and the attention of decision-makers” from “all other efforts in the war on terror” and severely strained the U.S. armed forces.

“Compounding all of these problems, our efforts there (in Iraq) were designed to enhance U.S. national security, but they have become, at least temporarily, an incubator for terrorism and have emboldened Iran to expand its influence throughout the Middle East,” the report continued.

The addition of 30,000 U.S. troops to Iraq last year to halt the country’s descent into all-out civil war has improved security, but not enough to ensure that the country emerges as a stable democracy at peace with its neighbors, the report said.

“Despite impressive progress in security, the outcome of the war is in doubt,” said the report. “Strong majorities of both Iraqis and Americans favor some sort of U.S. withdrawal. Intelligence analysts, however, remind us that the only thing worse than an Iraq with an American army may be an Iraq after a rapid withdrawal of that army.”

“For many analysts (including this one), Iraq remains a ‘must win,’ but for many others, despite obvious progress under General David Petraeus and the surge, it now looks like a ‘can’t win.'”

Donald Rumsfeld receives much of the blame, but mistakes by others in the Bush administration are noted:

Compounding the problem was a series of faulty assumptions made by Bush’s top aides, among them an expectation fed by Iraqi exiles that Iraqis would be grateful to America for liberating them from Saddam’s dictatorship. The administration also expected that “Iraq without Saddam could manage and fund its own reconstruction.”

The report also singles out the Bush administration’s national security apparatus and implicitly President Bush and both of his national security advisers, Condoleezza Rice and Stephen Hadley, saying that “senior national security officials exhibited in many instances an imperious attitude, exerting power and pressure where diplomacy and bargaining might have had a better effect.”

Supporters of the war are arguing that McClatchy’s article misrepresents the report. Small Wars Journal states they received a comment from Joseph Collins claiming that the article distorts his research. He presents this as a summary of his findings:

This study examines how the United States chose to go to war in Iraq, how its decision-making process functioned, and what can be done to improve that process. The central finding of this study is that U.S. efforts in Iraq were hobbled by a set of faulty assumptions, a flawed planning effort, and a continuing inability to create security conditions in Iraq that could have fostered meaningful advances in stabilization, reconstruction, and governance. With the best of intentions, the United States toppled a vile, dangerous regime but has been unable to replace it with a stable entity. Even allowing for progress under the Surge, the study insists that mistakes in the Iraq operation cry out in the mid- to long-term for improvements in the U.S. decision-making and policy execution systems.

The study recommends the development of a national planning charter, improving the qualifications of national security planners, streamlining policy execution in the field, improving military education, strengthening the Department of State and USAID, and reviewing the tangled legal authorities for complex contingencies. The study ends with a plea to improve alliance relations and to exercise caution in deciding to go to war.

While not as strong as McClatchy’s article, this summary continues to support the views of many of us who opposed the war, feel it was mishandled from the start, and do not believe that the Bush administration can achieve a military solution.

Robert Reich Endorses Obama

It’s time to see James Carville blow up again. Another Clinton appointee has endorsed Obama. Robert Reich initially did not plan to endorse anyone but, as with many other people, the negativity and dishonesty of Clinton’s campaign tipped the balance:

“I saw the ads” — the negative man-on-street commercials that the Clinton campaign put up in Pennsylvania in the wake of Obama’s bitter/cling comments a week ago — “and I was appalled, frankly. I thought it represented the nadir of mean-spirited, negative politics. And also of the politics of distraction, of gotcha politics. It’s the worst of all worlds. We have three terrible traditions that we’ve developed in American campaigns. One is outright meanness and negativity. The second is taking out of context something your opponent said, maybe inartfully, and blowing it up into something your opponent doesn’t possibly believe and doesn’t possibly represent. And third is a kind of tradition of distraction, of getting off the big subject with sideshows that have nothing to do with what matters. And these three aspects of the old politics I’ve seen growing in Hillary’s campaign. And I’ve come to the point, after seeing those ads, where I can’t in good conscience not say out loud what I believe about who should be president. Those ads are nothing but Republicanism. They’re lending legitimacy to a Republican message that’s wrong to begin with, and they harken back to the past twenty years of demagoguery on guns and religion. It’s old politics at its worst — and old Republican politics, not even old Democratic politics. It’s just so deeply cynical.”

Robert Reich endorsed Obama on his blog:

The formal act of endorsing a candidate is generally (and properly)limited to editorial pages and elected officials whose constituents might be influenced by their choice. The rest of us shouldn’t assume anyone cares. My avoidance of offering a formal endorsement until now has also been affected by the pull of old friendships and my reluctance as a teacher and commentator to be openly partisan. But my conscience won’t let me be silent any longer.

I believe that Barack Obama should be elected President of the United States.

Although Hillary Clinton has offered solid and sensible policy proposals, Obama’s strike me as even more so. His plans for reforming Social Security and health care have a better chance of succeeding. His approaches to the housing crisis and the failures of our financial markets are sounder than hers. His ideas for improving our public schools and confronting the problems of poverty and inequality are more coherent and compelling. He has put forward the more enlightened foreign policy and the more thoughtful plan for controlling global warming.

He also presents the best chance of creating a new politics in which citizens become active participants rather than cynical spectators. He has energized many who had given up on politics. He has engaged young people to an extent not seen in decades. He has spoken about the most difficult problems our society faces, such as race, without spinning or simplifying. He has rightly identified the armies of lawyers and lobbyists that have commandeered our democracy, and pointed the way toward taking it back.

Finally, he offers the best hope of transcending the boundaries of class, race, and nationality that have divided us. His life history exemplifies this, as do his writings and his record of public service. For these same reasons, he offers the best possibility of restoring America’s moral authority in the world.

Clinton and Republican Loonies Let Imagination Go Wild

The attacks from right wing loonies and the increasingly indistinguishable Clinton loonies are getting even more ridiculous. A video of Obama speaking about Clinton shows him scratching his face, but the loonies have used their warped imagination to claim he was making a one-fingered derogatory gesture.

It just took a quick glance at a couple of videos of Obama speaking to confirm that he often scratches his face when he speaks. For example, check out the videos here and here. Sure you could imagine that he was flipping off Clinton from the angle shown, but it is far more likely he was repeating what appears to be a frequent, and possibly subconscious gesture while speaking. John Cole demonstrates how innocent the act was by showing a picture from a different angle:

The real irony is that Obama was speaking about all the nonsense which comes from the Clinton campaign. This just demonstrates his point. Lacking any real reasons to support their candidate beyond the now debunked idea of her inevitability, her supporters have been coming up with an endless stream of nonsense. This is just one more example of how low the Clinton supporters, and their intellectual equivalents on the far right, are willing to go. To both groups matters of real policy and matters of principle mean nothing. All they care about is whether Obama wears a flag pin or if someone he associates with holds controversial views (regardless if Obama does not share such views).

What the Clinton supporters fail to realize is that waging a campaign based upon such nonsense rather than matters of substance is a major reason why Obama is winning the nomination battle. The Clinton supporters have been playing to Obama’s strength, and the Republicans will probably face the same fate if they try to run a similar campaign.

Libby presents a good counter-example for the Republicans who see this as reason to criticize Obama:

Baracky: The Movie