McCain’s Foreign Policy Gaffes Continue

While the main attention has been devoted to the meeting of the rules committee and the ramifications of what remains of the Democratic primary race, there has also been some action in the more meaningful campaign between the presumptive nominees of the two major parties. Barack Obama has taken major steps to counter the perceived, and erroneous, belief that McCain has stronger foreign policy credentials. Greg Sargent wrote yesterday:

The Obama and McCain campaigns are battling it out today over whether a McCain comment about Iraq troop levels was a gaffe that betrayed his lack of knowledge of the facts on the ground — and the early media coverage suggests that the Obama team is winning this spin war.

The comment in question was made by McCain yesterday to reporters. He said: “I can look you in the eye and tell you it’s succeeding. We have drawn down to pre-surge levels. Basra, Mosul and now Sadr City are quiet.”

Pre-surge troop levels? Not so much, countered the Obama campaign, which pointed out that troop levels are at 155,000 right now, well above the 130,000 pre-surge mark.

Obama has kept the pressure up on McCain with this statement today:

We all misspeak sometimes. I’ve done it myself. So on such a basic, factual error, you’d think that Senator McCain would just admit that he made a mistake and move on. But he couldn’t do that. Instead, he dug in. And the disturbing thing is that we’ve seen this movie before — a leader who pursues the wrong course, who is unwilling to change course, who ignores the evidence. Now, just like George Bush, John McCain refused to admit that he made a mistake. And that’s exactly the kind of leadership that we’ve had through more than five years of fighting a war that should’ve never been authorized, and should’ve never been waged.

We don’t need more leaders who can’t admit they’ve made a mistake, even when it’s aboutsomething as fundamental as how many young Americans are serving in harm’s way.

McCain has tried to claim that a substantive disagreement over the facts is a matter of verb tense. In doing so he sounds as ridiculous as Bill Clinton arguing over what the meaning of is is. If this was the only error on foreign policy made by McCain it might be overlooked, but this has been part of a trend. Steve Benen has summarized McCain’s many foreign policy gaffe’s:

This is his signature issue. If McCain doesn’t know what he’s talking about on this subject, he doesn’t have anything in reserve. It’s not “nitpicking” to note that McCain seems incapable of speaking intelligently on the issue he cares about most.

What’s more, it’d be easier to overlook isolated mistakes if McCain didn’t screw up the basics of what’s going on in Iraq so frequently. McCain has been confused about whether the U.S. can maintain a long-term presence in Iraq; confused about the source of violence in Iraq; confused about Iran’s relationship with al Qaeda; confused about the difference between Sunni and Shi’ia; confused about Gen. Petraeus’ responsibilities in Iraq; and confused about what transpired during the Maliki government’s offensive in Basra.

Worse, this isn’t a new phenomenon. Back in November 2006, McCain couldn’t answer a reporter’s question about his own opinions on the war without reading prepared notes on national television. As recently as March 2007, McCain was embarrassing himself by insisting that Gen. Petraeus travels around Baghdad “in a non-armed Humvee” (a comment that military leaders literally laughed at.)

I think any intellectually honest person would agree that if all of this happened to Barack Obama, he’d be laughed off the presidential stage, and the media would relentlessly insist that he was clueless and unqualified to be commander in chief during a war. And yet, it’s not Obama, it’s the Republican who claims Iraq as his strongest issue.

The point is, with each passing week, it appears John McCain simply doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Obama Leaves Trinity Church


I’ve said it many times before and I’ll say it again. Arnold Vinick, the fictitious Republican candidate for president on The West Wing, had the right idea in keeping talk of religion out of politics, as seen in the video above.

I understand why Obama has felt the need to bring his religion into politics. This has been done both to counter the smear campaign from the right wing claiming he is a Muslim, as well as to try to counter the Republican advantage with religious voters. While well intended, highlighting his religion has backfired against Obama. This drama, largely flamed by both conservatives and Clinton supporters (which is being redundant) will hopefully come to an end now that Obama has left the Trinity United Church of Christ.

Some of the conservative and pro-Hillary blogs (again I’m being redundant) are responding to this news by repeating their nonsense attacks on Obama. This is not unexpected but hopefully the average voter will understand that what matters is the views of Obama, not those of the church he attended. Having disassociated himself from such views, and now the entire church, should make these attacks sound even more absurd and desperate.

We have seen during the primary campaign that when Clinton launched her smear campaign against Obama many voters responded by backing Obama in protest over the use of such tactics. Hopefully there will continue to be such backlash against those who resort to smears over Obama’s former church while avoiding honest discussion of the real issues.

Democrats Reach Compromise While Clinton Threatens Convention Fight


Despite all the protests outside and hissing from Clinton supporters inside, the rules committee actually managed to end the day with a compromise. Clinton picks up a net of 24 delegates. This is more than she deserves but, as I discussed earlier, it is far smarter for Obama to accept such a deal. Obama shows himself to be willing to compromise for the good of the party while the Clinton campaign will continue to lose support from superdelegates with stunts such as threatening to take this to the convention.

The Clinton campaign continued to be embarrassed by the action of their supporters. While normally a campaign might not be blamed for such statements, in this case it is warranted considering how the Clinton campaign has encouraged the protests. To add to the video and reports of the protests I posted earlier, there is another video (above) showing a Clinton supporter indicating support for McCain over Clinton.

It is remarkable how, after starting out as appearing like the inevitable winner, the Clintons managed both to totally destroy any future for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party and destroy the legacy of the Clinton presidency. Bill and Hillary Clinton have become the Richard Nixons of the Democratic Party.

Update: It turns out that Obama had the votes to obtain a 50:50 split on the Michigan delegates but would have only won by a couple of votes. Instead he chose to go for the compromise allowing Clinton more delegates than she really deserved, allowing this to pass 19-8. While the Clinton supporters will still claim this is unfair, despite the fact that Obama would have done far better if a sanctioned primary was actually held, having the compromise pass by this larger margin will prevent very many people from taking Clinton’s complaints seriously.

Obama could afford to give up these extra delegates. After today’s changes, he only needs 62.5 delegates to win the nomination. Clinton needs 238 to win. The final primaries should give Obama over forty additional delegates, meaning he will only need to pick up about twenty more superdelegates to clinch the nomination.

The Clinton Protest


Looking around the blogosphere, Steve Benen quotes from the report at The Stump on the Clinton protests which I linked to in the previous post:

Howard Dean may hope that the “healing will begin today,” but two blocks away from the northwest Washington Marriott where the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee is meeting right now to try to figure out Florida and Michigan, the Hillary protesters are occupying an utterly alternate (and healing-free) universe: a universe in which one of the big lawn rally’s speakers yells that the Democratic Party no longer is in the business of “promoting equality and fairness for all”; in which a Hillary supporter with two poodles shouts, “Howard Dean is a leftist freak!”; in which a man exhibits a sign that reads “At least slaves were counted as 3/5ths a Citizen” and shows Dean whipping handcuffed people; and in which Larry Sinclair, the Minnesota man who took to YouTube to allege that Barack Obama had oral sex with him in the back of a limousine in 1999, is one of the belles of the ball.

“They almost made me cry this morning when they told me to get out of there,” the blond Sinclair–who’s looking roly-poly and giddy in a blue-and-white striped shirt with a pack of Marlboros protruding from the breast pocket–says, referring to several nervous protest organizers who tried to evict him when he first showed up at the rally site early this morning carrying a box of “Obama’s DIRTY LITTLE SECRETS: Murder, Drugs, Gay Sex” fliers. Since then, though, he goes on, “I have been totally surprised by the reception I have received!”

He’s not kidding. Clusters of people in Hillary shirts ask to take their photo with him, one woman covered in Clinton buttons introduces him to Greta Van Susteren, and he estimates he has handed out 500 fliers. “You could improve your credibility if you downplayed the gay sex and focused on the drugs,” sagely advises one Hillary supporter with auburn hair and elegant makeup. But in this universe, Sinclair’s credibility doesn’t seem to be suffering too much. In fact, he’s treated nearly as well as he might be at a meeting of the Vast Right-wing Conspiracy. In the thirty minutes I stand with him, only one woman expresses disgust at his fliers and his willingness to chattily discourse on whether Obama is “good in bed.”

This selection, along with the rest of the post, certainly demonstrates considerable hostility towards Obama from the Clinton camp. What is bizarre is that while Obama supporters can provide real examples of dishonest campaigning from Clinton, as well as real differences in policy, the objections from the Clinton camp come down to a pack of nonsense. You know that their arguments are weak when they resort to quoting Larry Sinclair, who has already failed a lie detector test regarding his ridiculous accusations. This attitude from the Clinton camp leads Steve Benen to be concerned:

Hillary Clinton has said, on multiple occasions, that she will work her heart out for the Democratic ticket this year, whether she’s on it or not. I have every reason to believe she means it, and will follow through on her commitment.

But I get the sense some of her supporters are going to need more convincing than others.

Considering the huge numbers of people who have voted for Clinton this year (even if less than those who voted for Obama), it should not come as a surprise that there are vast differences among them. Some, such as the person in the video above, will need more convincing than others.

Some are socially conservative working class voters who might wind up voting for McCain. Whether or not that makes sense is a different matter, but there is a distinct portion of Clinton’s support which is closer to Republican than Democratic voters of recent years. There’s also a racist element who will not vote for Obama.

There are also many long time Democratic voters who are unlikely to vote for McCain over Clinton once the passions of the primaries are over, regardless of what Clinton does. Most will vote for Obama, especially if Clinton keeps her word and backs him.

There’s a strong feminist component to Clinton’s support. Some want a woman president, and are willing to overlook Clinton’s lack of ethics, her lack of experience (as they promote the fantasy that her years of proximity to power are the same as actual experience), and her many flawed policy positions. At the moment they might say they will vote for McCain in revenge. Three words will ultimately change their minds: Row versus Wade.

Obama will undoubtedly lose some votes due to the fanaticism of some Clinton supporters. He will also pick up far more votes from independents and disenchanted Republicans who are supporting him, but will not support Hillary Clinton.

Matthew Yglesias quotes from another report on the Clinton rally and questions if it makes sense for Clinton supporters to vote for McCain:

Meanwhile, people who are seriously drawn to Hillary Clinton’s plans on health care, climate change but also think they might vote for John McCain in the fall rather than the candidate with plans that are very similar to Clinton’s are being a bit confused. People who are seriously drawn to Clinton on feminist grounds but are considering staying home in the fall so McCain can replace John Paul Stevens with another justice in the mold of Alito or Roberts really need to think harder.

Perhaps the ultimate answer comes at the end of the report at The Stump:

Inside the Marriott’s gift shop, the sales clerk tells me that Democratic bumper stickers have been selling like crazy today. “Mostly Hillary?” I ask.

“Actually, mostly Obama,” she giggles.

Obama Still Out Smarting Clinton By Taking The High Road

For a politician who was supposed to be the inevitable winner of the Democratic nomination, Hillary Clinton really has not been very smart.

Barack Obama’s campaign has out smarted her every step of the way. They out smarted her by playing close attention to the party’s rules, and using them to win. They out smarted her on message, having opposed the Iraq war from the start, and being the candidate who supported diplomacy as opposed to continuing George Bush’s policies. As Hillary Clinton stuck to a top down mind set, both in her campaign and support for the increasingly unpopular nanny state, Obama stressed a bottom up mind set to empower individuals.

In a year when voters were sick of the Bush years, Obama beat Clinton by calling for change while Hillary Clinton offered more of the same. Clinton also tried to claim she represented change, failing to understand that you had to provide hard evidence that your campaign really represented change. Just repeating the word change was not enough.

While Clinton took the low road, Obama took the high road. While he was not my first choice, the difference here was too vast to ignore and won my support, as well as that of many other voters. Each time Clinton engaged in Rove style dirty politics to try to stop Obama, it only demonstrated further why we should support Obama over Clinton.

Today is another major event in the fight for the nomination. While the Clinton forces are engaging in silly arguments (and hissing at Obama supporters) on the inside, and protesting outside, the Obama forces are once again out smarting Clinton as the rules committee meets.

If we were only looking at fairness, neither Michigan or Florida should count at all. As Josh Marshall points out, changing the rules in this manner is unfair to those of us who live in those two states, and represents the true act of disenfranchisement. When voters are told that an election will not count the results are not indicative of the real wishes of the voters of the states. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that only Clinton’s name was on the ballot in Michigan, and Obama most likely would have won in the state if there was a fair primary. For all practical purposes she began campaigning at the last moment in Florida. Neither the voters of Michigan and Florida or Barack Obama, the candidate who followed the party’s rules, should be penalized by counting votes for Clinton in those states.

There are further dynamics in play. Obama would be well within his rights to protest any settlement which awards Clinton more delegates, but he is again out smarting Clinton by not doing this. Obama has agreed to a compromise which does give Clinton an edge she does not deserve in Florida.

The rational for this is quite clear. Just as Obama took the high road over Clinton in the manner in which he campaigned, attracting the support of many voters and superdelegates in doing so, Obama’s camp realizes that much of what happens today is also for the benefit of the remaining uncommitted superdelegates. While Obama cannot risk giving Clinton enough delegates to erode his lead, he can afford to give up a handful. In the process he shows himself as the candidate willing to compromise for the good of the party. This comes as a stark contrast to Clinton’s demands with regards to Michigan, where they seek to deny Obama any delegates in a state he otherwise would have won. Not only are they claiming the delegates based upon an inflated vote count due to Obama not being on the ballot, but they are denying Obama the support of the uncommitted vote, which undoubtedly was anti-Clinton. Even write in votes for Obama did not count in Michigan.

Not even Putin was as undemocratic as Hillary Clinton. He at least allowed the pretense of a choice in the last election.

Superdelegates will see a choice between Obama, who was willing to compromise when he did not have to, and Clinton, whose demands are totally unreasonable. If by now there really are superdelegates who are undecided between these two, this might be the final straw to get them to choose Obama.


The Clinton Protest

Democrats Reach Compromise While Clinton Threatens Convention Fight

Unity Among Democrats or Realignment?

Further Thoughts on Yesterday’s Compromise

Former Bush Donors Giving to Obama

The general consensus the last several years, coming from the extremes of both parties, has been that there is no middle, no swing voters, and that us independents don’t matter. The predominant political strategy, used to great success for a small moment in history by Karl Rove, was to motivate the base to get out to vote and forget about attracting swing voters. I had been in the minority arguing against this view, which really only makes sense to those whose political memories does not go back before the Bush and Clinton years. The 2006 election was the ultimate proof of the error of this view, and there have been many other examples.

The success of Barack Obama in defeating Hillary Clinton for the nomination by bringing in so many of us independents who supposedly did not exist, as well as more disenchanted Republicans, is the ultimate proof that concentrating only on your party’s base is not a good long term strategy. It is too early to see the evidence of a swing in votes which I believe will occur this November, but the next best thing might be to follow the money.

McClatchy looked at who former Bush contributors were donating to this year and found that many moderate Republicans are backing Barack Obama:

Beverly Fanning is among the campaign donors who’ll be joining President Bush at a gala at Washington’s Ford’s Theater Sunday night, but she says that won’t dissuade her from her current passion: volunteering for Barack Obama’s presidential campaign.

She isn’t the only convert. A McClatchy computer analysis, incomplete due to the difficulty matching data from various campaign finance reports, found that hundreds of people who gave at least $200 to Bush’s 2004 campaign have donated to Obama.

Among them are Julie Nixon Eisenhower, the daughter of the late GOP President Richard Nixon and wife of late GOP President Dwight Eisenhower’s grandson; Connie Ballmer, the wife of Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Steve Ballmer; Ritchie Scaife, the estranged wife of conservative tycoon Richard Mellon Scaife and boxing promoter Don King.

Many of the donors are likely “moderate Republicans or independents who are dissatisfied with the direction of the country now and are looking for change,” said Anthony Corrado, a government professor at Colby College in Maine who specializes in campaign finance.

“There is a large block of Republicans, particularly economic conservatives, who just feel that the Republican Party in Washington completely let them down” by failing to control spending and address other problems, Corrado said. “The Republicans have really given these donors no reason to give.”

Lawyer Allen Larson of Yarmouthport, Mass., a political independent, contributed $2,000 to Bush’s 2004 reelection campaign, but said he gave Obama the maximum $2,300 in hopes he can use his “unique skills” to rebuild fractured foreign alliances.

Not only does this illustrate the failure of George Bush, but also shows the failure of John McCain to convince many that he is a different type of Republican. If somehow Hillary Clinton manages to steal the nomination, they will certainly go back and support John McCain as the lesser evil, but Obama is the only candidate who can bring in wide scale support from most Democrats (possibly minus the socially conservative, racist, and populist elements still backing Clinton) as well as independents and disenchanted Republicans.

Bill Clinton Argues For Uniting Behind the Presumptive Nominee

Unfortunately that occurred in 1988, not this year when his wife has remained in the race long beyond the point where she had any real mathematical chance of winning. With the final primaries taking place in a few days there is certainly no longer any reason to expect Hillary Clinton to leave the race before that time, regardless of how questionable it has been for her to have remained until this date. There’s little doubt that the party leaders will do everything possible to get Clinton to cease the farce her campaign has become after the final states vote, even if it requires considerable pressure (most likely out of public view).

If arguments are needed as to why Clinton should not remain in the race, we can turn to the advice of Bill Clinton from May 6, 1988. At that time Michale Dukakis did not have a majority of votes but was considered the presumptive nominee. Ben Smith cites this report of AP quoting Bill Clinton:

“Gov. Dukakis has emerged as the voters’ choice, the clear leader in the Democratic nomination process,” said Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton, described as the leader in the effort to round up the gubernatorial support that was announced during the day. “It is time for the party leadership to unite behind his candidacy,” he said.

What Hillary Might Be Up to With Her Bogus Popular Vote Claims

Daily Kos (who I linked to in the previous post) isn’t the only one to show that Obama, not Clinton, leads in the popular vote. The Nation looks at who is really leading, whether the popular vote matters, and what Clinton might be up to:

Moreover, the popular vote is no more than a symbolic statistic when it comes to choosing a nominee. The Clinton campaign knew full well when the race began that delegates determine the Democratic nominee. As Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson said back in January, “this is a race for delegates.” It was only when Obama starting racking up delegates at a faster pace than Clinton that the Clinton campaign started hyping the popular vote.

They’ve pursued a similarly surreal strategy with regards to Florida and Michigan. Lest you forget, the Democratic Party voted near unanimously to strip Florida and Michigan of their delegates last August when the two states moved up their primaries in violation of party rules. Clinton adviser Harold Ickes backed the decision on the Democratic Party’s Rules Committee, as did other Clinton confidantes. Yet Obama gets the blame.

Arguments like these stoke divisions at the very time the party is trying to unify. Comparing Florida’s sham primary to elections in Zimbabwe or the 2000 recount, as the Clinton campaign has done recently, feeds the myth that this election was rigged against Clinton. As Josh Marshall blogged: “What she’s doing is not securing her the nomination. Rather, she’s gunning up a lot of her supporters to believe that the nomination was stolen from her–a belief many won’t soon abandon.”

Maybe Clinton is just trying to gain enough leverage to force herself on the ticket when she exits the race in a week. If so, she’s going about it in an increasingly bizarre and cynical way.

I think it is just a desperation move from Clinton to claim she is winning the popular vote. She’s running out of reasons to argue why the superdelegates should override the primaries and caucuses and appoint her as the candidate. If Bill and Hillary could do it like Putin they would, but they can’t. Therefore they resort to making a lame argument as opposed to none at all. Like most of their weak arguments, this one has backfired against them, showing that Hillary is both dishonest and doesn’t play by the rules (which is rather important for a democracy to work). It’s no wonder the vast majority of superdelegates who didn’t choose early are now backing Obama.

Count All The Votes

Young Hillary Clinton

This video shows the roots of Hillary Clinton’s current behavior during her childhood.