Hillary Clinton Wins Meaningless Victory in Puerto Rico

Hillary Clinton won big in Puerto Rico. Joe Klein puts it in perspective:

A Stockdale moment: What am I doing here? (Answer: I’m joining the Clinton traveling press for the last day of campaigning in South Dakota tomorrow.) But, really, what are we doing here? The Puerto Rico “primary” is a crypto-democatic act: We are selecting delegates who will be able to vote at the Democratic Convention even though they won’t be able to vote in the general. At last, a political event even more ridiculous the Iowa Republican straw poll–at least, Iowans can vote in November.

And yet, there’s Terry McAuliffe bloviating on CNN about how this adds to Clinton’s popular vote “victory”–a victory only if you count states that violated party rules (Florida), didn’t have Obama’s name on the ballot (Michigan) or aren’t even states (Puerto Rico).

This sort of thing is just plain annoying, and divisive. The impotent ferocity of the Clinton campaign over the past month has done neither herself or Barack Obama much good. I suspect the Clinton campaign will be over in a matter of days….and then, I believe, the onus will be on Clinton to initiate the reconciliation process. More on that later…

When Hillary Clinton’s argument to the superdelegates comes down to bragging about a victor in Puerto Rico, you know her campaign is really over.

Update: Andrew Sullivan posts this comment written by a someone from Puerto Rico:

I’m a Puerto Rican reader and I currently live in PR after living a good chunk of my adult life in the US. I’ve been following the primaries in the US closely. I studied in the States, have a masters degree. Out of my very highly educated friends, I’m the only one who’s paying attention to what’s going on in this election year in the US.

You cannot use Puerto Rico as a basis for explaining any phenomenon in the US.

We are a colony. We do not participate in any of the US political processes, really. There isn’t a general understanding of US national politics, nor of the “Republican” v. “Democrat” mentality. We are consumed by our local politics and whether we should become a state, an independent country or remain as we are.

Clinton’s victory here means nothing. There’s a lot of name recognition and her husband is a rock star here. That’s it. Don’t extrapolate the results into anything. We are not Latinos in the same way that Mexican Americans are Latinos. Our vote has nothing to do with Obama’s “problem” with Latinos. Anyone trying to frame the PR vote into anything other than name recognition, has no knowledge of PR at all and is, in short, full of it.

Bill Clinton’s Associates and Lovers

We learn from Tod Purdum’s article on Bill Clinton in Vanity Fair that Clinton has been angry in recent years, and that he might have cheated on Monica as well as Hillary:

It may well have been Clinton’s displaced anger (at the media, the Obama campaign, or both) on his wife’s behalf that led to his charged performance in the South Carolina primary, where he campaigned extensively against the wishes of Hillary’s high command in the mistaken belief that he could help her among black voters. He not only failed to do so but damaged his own relations with many prominent blacks, just as black voters were flocking to Barack Obama for the first time in large numbers. Hillary’s campaign was arguably never the same again.

It is also possible that all these influences have combined to make the cavernous narcissism that has always driven Clinton, for better and worse, at last consume the man almost completely. It was Clinton’s political genius to position the Democratic Party, for the first time in a generation, as the champion of those who “work hard and play by the rules.” In his own life, he has always followed only the first half of that dictum, and has never been fastidious about appearances, in ways charming and not. At a private meeting in New York City in 1992, aids activists, who were lobbying Clinton to include a speaker with aids at the Democratic convention that summer, presented him with a big batch of condoms, and a participant told me at the time that Clinton instantly replied, “My staff thinks this is the last thing I need.” Less amusingly, in the run-up to the 1996 re-election campaign, when Clinton took one of his many fund-raising trips to California, I teasingly asked his press secretary, Mike McCurry, whether the president intended to go jogging with Eleanor Mondale, the daughter of the former vice president—as he had on a previous trip—after he was spotted with her (and Barbra Streisand) in the wee hours of the morning. The next day, as we boarded the plane at Andrews Air Force Base en route to Los Angeles, McCurry, whose effectiveness as Clinton’s spokesman was aided by the fact that he never fell in love with him, sidled up to me and told me that he had passed my question on to the president, and that Clinton had responded, in vivid terms he knew I could not print, that I should not confuse exercise with extracurricular activity.

Only much later would the world learn that no less an informed observer than Monica Lewinsky, whose judgment, in hindsight, has often seemed sounder than the president’s, had taken note of Mondale’s presence at his side. According to Andrew Morton’s authorized account Monica’s Story, Lewinsky flew into a swivet when she was once stopped at the White House gate on her way to a hoped-for meeting to deliver Christmas gifts to the president. While waiting, she learned that Mondale was with him in the White House.

“Do you think I would be stupid enough to go running with someone I was foolin’ with?,” Clinton later asked Lewinsky. Without missing a beat, she replied, “Do you want me to answer that?”

Questions are also raised with regards to the people Clinton has been associating with:

Whatever the facts of Clinton’s personal life, it is beyond dispute that he has associated with some decidedly unpresidential company. In 2002, Clinton flew to Africa with the New York investor Jeffrey Epstein on his private Boeing 727 on an anti-aids and economic-development mission. (Others on the mission included Kevin Spacey and the comedian Chris Tucker.) In 2006, Epstein was indicted on state charges of soliciting prostitution in Palm Beach, Florida, and he later came under investigation by federal authorities amid allegations that he hired under-age girls for massages and more in a house stocked with sex toys and genitalia-shaped soaps. He remains the subject of at least four pending civil lawsuits from young women and is reportedly expected to accept a plea deal on a state charge that would give him 18 months in prison, followed by house arrest, in lieu of a trial now set to begin this month.

The article goes on to raise more questions with regards to Clinton’s associates, his finances, and his behavior in recent months. It provides yet another reason why Democrats are wise to nominate Obama as opposed to tying the party to this freak show.

Further Thoughts on Yesterday’s Compromise

While most Democratic leaders see yesterday’s deal as a positive accomplishment, there continues to be considerable nonsense coming from the Clinton camp. I’ve already discussed the deal, and the reasons why Michigan and Florida did not represent valid results, in several previous posts. At this point I will just quickly comment on the major spin heard on the morning talk shows today:

Harold Ickes is arguing that the rules committee overstepped its authority in giving Obama delegates. There are two different versions of this complaint. One is that they gave Obama four delegates which Clinton supposedly won, and the other version is that Obama should not receive any delegates at all as he was not on the ballot.

Michigan and Florida were not valid primaries and therefore Hillary Clinton did not win any delegates. Obama was not given four of Clintons’s delegates as Clinton won zero delegates in both Michigan and Florida. The vote which did take place did not represent the wishes of the voters of either state as many did not vote after being told that the votes would not count. Even Hillary Clinton had initially supported this view.

The Democratic Party had no choice but to arbitrarily divide up the delegates. The Michigan compromise was the easiest to go with as the state party, dominated by Clinton supporters, were pushing for it. It would have been just as valid to award Clinton zero delegates, which might be justified as it was she who violated earlier agreements. Obama had the votes to achieve a 50:50 split and but wisely went for this compromise for the sake of party unity, even though it gave Clinton more delegates than she deserved (or would have won if there was an actual primary).

In response to the protests from the Clinton campaign and her supporters, some are now saying that it was pointless to offer any compromise as the Clinton supporters would only be happy if they got everything, regardless of how unfair and undemocratic their demands are. While true, the reason for compromise was to win over the remaining superdelegates, not necessarily to satisfy the Clinton camp.

The Clinton supporters continue to claim that they are leading in the popular vote, but that is both untrue and irrelevant. There is no meaningful popular vote total when we have to mix the authorized primaries, the two unsanctioned primaries, and many caucus states where there is no popular vote comparable to primary votes. While the popular vote number is meaningless, Obama still leads if all the votes are counted. Even if there was a legitimate count of the popular vote, this would remain a poor argument as the nomination is based upon winning delegates. If the nomination was based upon the popular vote, Obama would have conducted his campaign differently to increase his vote in states where he had an overwhelming majority.

Perhaps the most absurd comment of all came from a conservative claiming that the big winner was the Supreme Court. An analogy was made between the Democratic Party settling the delegate count and the Supreme Court deciding the 2000 election. The difference is that there was no valid vote for delegates in Michigan and Florida and it fell upon the party to settle the issue. In contrast there was an election in Florida in 2000 which should have been settled by a fair counting of the votes, and not by the Supreme Court blocking a recount authorized under Florida’s laws.

The big loser might be the Democratic Party unless they can resolve the issue of primary order for the future. This settlement will only give more reason for states to think they can get away with moving up their primaries and ultimately have them more or less count. The manner in which Clinton conducted herself will also give more candidates reason to ignore any party sanctions out of fear of placing themselves at a disadvantage. Early primaries give an advantage to the front runner if nobody campaigns. A future challenger in Obama’s position might see no choice but to campaign in such states to avoid the situation of a future front runner receiving an unfair advantage as Clinton has this year.

Unity Among Democrats or Realignment?

Despite all the protests seen from the most rabid Clinton supporters, most likely after the final primaries are over Hillary Clinton will realize that further fighting is futile and will accept a dignified settlement from the Obama campaign and begin unifying the party.

To partisan Democrats that is the only rational outcome. To an independent such as myself, this is the most probable outcome. It is also the most realistic outcome to home for if the Democrats are going to defeat John McCain. As I hope to see the defeat of any supporter of the Iraq war (including both McCain and Clinton) as well as the defeat of any social conservative (again including both McCain and Clinton), unity between the diverse Democratic factions appears to be the desirable goal in the short run.

This isn’t the only possible result. I discount the claims of Clinton supporters that they will vote for McCain. The videos I posted earlier with such claims are a product of both the passions of the moment and of the tendency of both the media and internet to report the most controversial and extreme views. Still, the fact remains that both parties contain diverse groups which are unified more out of political expediency than common views. Congressional votes deliberately organized to fall along party lines often provides a false sense of two unified parties when candidates are evaluated based upon their voting records as opposed to core beliefs.

The divisions among the Republicans, ranging from near-libertarian to the religious right, are far more obvious, but similar divisions exist among the Democrats. This division is increased with the trend, started before the 2006 elections and greatly accelerated by support for Obama, for independents and moderate Republicans (such as the Starbucks Republicans) to vote Democratic. While older (and often bitter) Democrats have tried to cling to the New Deal coalition, losing election after election in the process, younger voters working in the information age have a different view of government. Many of us independents voting Democratic are more interested in matters such as government reform, changing our disastrous foreign policy, stopping both the Iraq war and the drug war, increasing civil liberties, and strengthening the wall of separation between church and state. We have no love for “tax and spend” liberalism of recent years. This is quite different from the big government, nanny state views of Clinton and her supporters.

The Obama campaign has walked a fine line to present policies which will most likely be backed by both factions of the Democratic Party. While Obama seeks a more inclusive party, the Clinton camp has written off the views of Obama’s supporters and declared us to be a band of elitists. In many ways the Clinton supporters would be much more at home with the party of George W. Bush, Richard Milhouse Nixon, and Sprio T. Agnew. While Barack Obama has been compared to John F. Kennedy, the Clinton supporters remind me more of Spiro Agnew who condemned liberals as an “effete corps of impudent snobs.” The Clintonists might have come up with such a line if not for their anti-intellectualism which prevents them from expressing their views as well as the right wing, even when their views coincide.

While I believe the most likely outcome, for better or for worse ,is that the Democrats will become reunited, Cernig has presented a plausible alternative:

It seems to me that the schizophrenic nature of the Democratic Party may finally resolve itself. There’s a good chance that the right wing of the party will follow the Clintons into GOP-land. They always were “compassionate conservatives” and that’s probably where they belong. The Dems could end up looking a lot more like a European social democrat party as a result and if so the GOP will most likely fracture in its turn too. The far right won’t be able to call the shots quite so much, with what will then be a massively enhanced left wing of the Republicans able to steamroller them, and they’ll head for the exits to form a new hard right bunch of God-bothering, xenophobic helicopter-chasers. That way lies their consignment to history as a part of a ruling coalition, although they’ll be able to exert pressure from the finges. It’s probably the most positive role they could possibly play. Likewise, on the other flank of the main two, I think we’ll come to see democratic socialists and greens providing pressure from smaller but still influential partries on specific issues. The GOP will be left looking far more like a European conservative party.

If we don’t see Clintonista defections in droves, then it will be because the Republican hard right is just too odious for them to contemplate making common cause with. That will have pretty much the same efect, since in that case the GOP leadership is going to have to engineer a move leftwards just to recapture that party’s electability. The same fallout would then ensue as the hard right will still decamp following such a move and the Dem tent now has so many holes in it that a lot of those further left than right of the Dem center are likely to look to other parties to support so that they don’t have to relive the feuds of this primary season. Their trust that the Clinton camp has roughly the same aims as they do has been seriously eroded.

Either way, then, I think change is coming. The US has been further Right than the international mean for decades now, mainly due to the interplay of power centers in both the main parties rather than any intrinsic rightwingedness in the nation as a whole – but the adjustment has to come sometime.

I’ve often stated that I do not vote for the Democratic Party when they nominate conservative populists such as Hillary Clinton and, if not for the fact that it would mean electoral defeat when the Democrats do have a liberal candidate such as Barack Obama, would not mind if they left the party. I have much more in common with the diminishing type of Republican who is moderate on social issues and stresses civil liberties as opposed to social conservatism and support for the war. There are both those such as myself who currently lean towards the Democrats as well as many disenchanted Republicans who would prefer a realignment in the parties. Such a desire is also expressed by Mark at Publius Endures:

The Clintonites now threaten to pick their ball up and go home if their candidate is not the nominee. Obama supporters should not have a problem with this- the Clintonites are as illiberal as could be and are an anchor that weighs down any claim that the Dem Party is a force for good in this country, as I explained here. Instead, the Obama campaign and the remnants of the Dem party should start looking at reforming their coalition- let the Republicans be the party of authoritarians. In the process, the Republicans will lose a pretty good number of their own members, who either vote for Bob Barr (like me) or for Obama, with whom they will have more in common than McCain and the Clintons.

Most likely the Democrats will reunite and the same divisions will persist. Our greatest hope is actually not that the party will fracture at this moment but that the new voters will change the nature of the Democratic Party for the better. Demographics favor this outcome as the views of the younger voters will have dominance over those of the older Democratic voters as long as they turn out to vote as they have in the primaries.

SciFi Friday: The Lost Season Finale

The season finale for Lost began just where last season’s finale ended. The difference is that, having seen this season’s episodes, last season’s finale makes much more sense. The finale also has some similarities to the premier of the series with a crash playing a major role. Instead of the crash of an airplane, we have the crash of a helicopter which sets up the rescue of the Oceanic Six.

Very few of the survivors Oceanic Flight 815 remain alive after this episode, but the exact number is not clear. Besides the Oceanic Six, we know that Sawyer and Locke remain on the island, with Locke to die at a later date. Rose and Bernard were among those who remained at the beach. Jin probably died when the freighter exploded, but it is possible he jumped off at the last moment and survived. Even if he survived the explosion, this still leaves the question of whether he was left in empty ocean or managed to return to the island before it was moved. It is far less likely that Michael remained alive considering how close he was to the explosion. The raft with Faraday and some others presumably was close enough to the island to go along with it, and with the time shifting we can’t be certain as to who was really on the freighter when it exploded. While the number of survivors is unclear, most of them are unknown people from the original flight who don’t really play a role in the story.

Claire’s fate remains unclear. Is she dead or alive? Regardless of whether she is dead she appears to still be interacting with others. Who is Kate to believe? She had a phone call with a message (spoken backwards) saying, “The island needs you…You have to go back before it’s too late.” However in her dream Claire also tells Kate, “Don’t bring him back,” referring to Aaron.

While there are only a handful of people left from the original crash of Oceanic 815, several people added to the cast over the years remain. Juliette has remained behind on the island along Charlotte and Miles from the freighter. The most interesting could be Charlotte now that we learn she might have been born on the island. Incidentally this was the role originally offered to Kristin Bell. Desmond also survived and has been reunited with Penelope Widmore. This could represent the conclusion of Desmond’s role in the story or he might still play a part. Even Walt could conceivably return now that it no longer matters that he looks so much older than he was back on the island.

The key event of the episode was the movement of the island in time, raising the science fiction elements of the series to a new level. As with any good science fiction, there is some basis in actual science. Popular Mechanics recently discussed some of the scientific aspects related to Lost.

We also learn the identity of the body in the casket from last season. To keep secret the fact that it was Locke, alternate endings were filmed showing Desmond and Sawyer in the casket.

One weakness in the episode was the rational for the big lie about the Oceanic Six. There no longer appeared to be a need to lie about the island to protect those who remained behind after the saw the island disappear. The lie would have little bearing on how Widmore responded to their return as he would realize they were lying.

Another aspect of the cover story was revealed Thursday night in the reshowing of the previous episode. There was an extended version of the press conference where they claim that Boone, Libby and Charlie survived the initial crash but later died. There’s no clue yet as to why they would complicate the story in this manner as opposed to saying everyone else died in the initial crash.

This episode changes the nature of the series far more than any other. It is not even clear as to where or when the main focus of the next season will be. I suspect that the main narrative might pick up after Ben tells Jack that they all must return to the island at the funeral home as opposed to immediately after their rescue. This would leave plenty of room for flash backs to fill in the gaps after they returned home, as well as events back on the island. Perhaps we might even see flash forwards to an eventual return to the island. Another possibility is that the main narrative will take place after Jack and the others return to the island with flash backs to explain how it occurs.

Among the gaps to fill in is the favor that Kate performs for Sawyer. Presumably this request was made just before Sawyer jumped from the helicopter. There’s far more to learn about Ben, but least we now know how he wound up in the Tunisian desert after using the Frozen Donkey Wheel to move the island, along with himself, in time. There’s much more to learn about the fight between Ben and Charles Widmore, along with what Sun was really up to when she approached Widmore. Is she really planning to help him, perhaps motivated by hatred for Jack if she still blames him for the death of Jin, or is she misleading Widmore?

Following the start of the series we would have never anticipated how many questions, and how much story would remain, after the survivors of Oceanic Fight 815 were rescued and returned home.