Why Hillary Lost (Comment of the Day)

The most succinct response to the Clinton supporters who think that Hillary would have won if not for one thing being different (such as Edwards not being in the race) can be found in a comment to a post I quoted earlier at Joe Trippi’s blog signed John in Chicago: “If only I hadn’t gone back in time 10,000 years and killed that butterfly, Hillary Clinton would be the nominee. If only.”

Or if only they had a less flawed candidate who didn’t manage to blow the campaign despite starting with all the advantages.

Coffee Chains Shorting Customers

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel did an investigative report and found that the amount of coffee in cups sold by coffee chains was less than the advertised amounts:

Caribou Coffee fared the worst among area chains, cutting several ounces from every drink ordered by Public Investigator. That amounted to nearly 50 cents’ worth of coffee shorted from some cups.

Starbucks offers the most honest cup of joe in town but on average still fell short of the advertised amount.

Here’s a practical tip for coffee buyers who spend as much as $4 for their caffeine fix: If you want to get what you pay for, you might want to shy away from the largest size on the menu. Customers ordering the largest coffees were shorted the most because most cups used for 20-ounce drinks hold exactly 20 ounces of liquid, and cups are almost never filled completely, the P.I. Team found. Filled to the brim, cups for medium and small drinks hold more liquid than the amounts advertised.

For those concerned about receiving value, the real problem is paying coffee chain prices in which 50 cents represents only a portion of the drink. I’ll stick with my Tassimo and make better cups of coffee than offered by the chains at a significantly lower cost.

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Troops Back Obama Over McCain By Six to One Margin

The troops strongly support Obama over McCain based upon their contributions. OpenSecrets reports that their contributions to Obama are six times the contributions to McCain. Ron Paul falls between the two in overseas military contributions, also demonstrating the preference for antii-war candidates.

Obama Advisers Describe Tax Plans

Obama economic advisers Jason Furman and Austan Goolsbee describe Obama’s tax policies in The Wall Street Journal, beginning with warnings that, “Even as Barack Obama proposes fiscally responsible tax reform to strengthen our economy and restore the balance that has been lost in recent years, we hear the familiar protests and distortions from the guardians of the broken status quo.” Such distortions are coming directly from the McCain campaign, as exposed here and here. Despite claims being spread on the right that Obama would institute confiscatory tax rates, taxes under Obama would be less than under Ronald Reagan with those earning under $250,000 per year not seeing an increase. They write:

Sen. Obama believes a focus on the middle class is appropriate in the wake of the first economic expansion on record where the typical family’s income fell by almost $1,000. The Obama plan would cut taxes for 95% of workers and their families with a tax cut of $500 for workers or $1,000 for working couples. In addition, Sen. Obama is proposing tax cuts for low- and middle-income seniors, homeowners, the uninsured, and families sending a child to college or looking to save and accumulate wealth.

The Obama plan would dramatically simplify taxes by consolidating existing tax credits, eliminating the need for millions of senior citizens to file tax forms, and enabling as many as 40 million middle-class filers to do their own taxes in less than five minutes and not have to hire an accountant.

Sen. Obama also recognizes that small businesses are the engine of job growth in the economy. That is why he is proposing additional tax cuts, including a tax credit for small businesses that provide health care, and the elimination of capital gains taxes for small businesses and start-ups. The vast majority of small businesses would face lower taxes under the Obama plan than under the McCain plan. In addition, Sen. Obama supports reforming corporate taxes in a manner that would help create jobs in America and simplify the tax code by eliminating distortions and special preferences.

Sen. Obama believes that responsible candidates must put forward specific ideas of how they would pay for their proposals. That is why he would repeal a portion of the tax cuts passed in the last eight years for families making over $250,000. But to be clear: He would leave their tax rates at or below where they were in the 1990s.

– The top two income-tax brackets would return to their 1990s levels of 36% and 39.6% (including the exemption and deduction phase-outs). All other brackets would remain as they are today.

– The top capital-gains rate for families making more than $250,000 would return to 20% — the lowest rate that existed in the 1990s and the rate President Bush proposed in his 2001 tax cut. A 20% rate is almost a third lower than the rate President Reagan set in 1986.

– The tax rate on dividends would also be 20% for families making more than $250,000, rather than returning to the ordinary income rate. This rate would be 39% lower than the rate President Bush proposed in his 2001 tax cut and would be lower than all but five of the last 92 years we have been taxing dividends.

– The estate tax would be effectively repealed for 99.7% of estates, and retained at a 45% rate for estates valued at over $7 million per couple. This would cut the number of estates covered by the tax by 84% relative to 2000.

Overall, in an Obama administration, the top 1% of households — people with an average income of $1.6 million per year — would see their average federal income and payroll tax rate increase from 21% today to 24%, less than the 25% these households would have paid under the tax laws of the late 1990s.

There is considerable more information in their article, including futher comparisons with McCain’s tax policies. Another comparison can be seen in the report from the Tax Policy Institute which I previously discussed here.

Clinton To Have Convention Roll Call

Marc Ambinder reports that an agreement is near to have Hillary Clinton’s name placed in nomination at the Democratic convention. This is certainly her right. She did receive the second highest number of votes (and not the most as Clinton supporters continue to claim) and is entitled to the delegates she won.

Whether this is helpful is another question. Some Clinton supporters persist in claiming that if her name was placed in nomination she would somehow win the nomination. This is clearly not going to happen. I also wonder if bitter Clinton supporters will be any less angry after seeing Clinton beaten yet once again. Perhaps the roll call will be choreographic in a manner to help Obama as Ambinder suggests:

It is possible that Sen. Clinton, having had her name submitted, would use the occasion to release her delegates to Obama; depending on how the roll call is staged, Clinton’s released delegates could put Obama over the top.

Joe Trippi: Barack Obama Won It

Joe Trippi is the latest to weigh in on Howard Wolfson’s claim that Hillary Clinton would have won the nomination if John Edwards had been forced out of the race due to the Rielle Hunter scandal before the Iowa caucus. He concludes, “John Edwards didn’t lose it for Hillary Clinton. Believe it or not, Barack Obama won it.”

That last line, “Barack Obama won it”, is also an excellent response to many other ridiculous claims being made by Clinton supporters who continue to think that somehow Clinton was robbed of the nomination.

A Reporter Reassesses His View of John Edwards

Last October I had a post which was critical of a favorable article Walter Shapiro had written on John Edwards. Considering all the emails I received from Edwards supporters for not accepting Shapiro’s mostly positive assessment, I do have some satisfaction in today’s article from Shapiro on Edwards. Shapiro now admits he was wrong in light of recent revelations about Edwards in an article entitled Johnny, I hardly knew ye: After covering John Edwards — and liking him — for years, what I thought I knew about him was wrong. But reporters often misjudge candidates. He writes:

Five days after Edwards flat-lined on “Nightline,” I am still embarrassed by how badly I misjudged him both in print and in my personal feelings.

Beginning with a trip to North Carolina in the spring of 2001 to scout this first-term Senate phenom, I chronicled his dogged pursuit of the presidency both as a newspaper columnist and for Salon, as well as making him (and Elizabeth) central figures in my book on the 2004 Democratic primary campaign. My wife (a magazine writer who developed her own friendship with Elizabeth) and I had several off-the-record dinners with the Edwardses, including an emotionally raw evening in Washington two weeks after the 9/11 attacks.

Without overstating these bonds, I naively believed that I knew Edwards as well as I understood anyone in the political center ring. Yet I never saw this sex scandal coming — partly because I accepted the mythology that surrounded the Edwardses’ marriage and partly because I assumed that any hint of a wandering eye would have come out during the 2004 campaign. But then Rielle Hunter and the National Enquirer brought us all into the real world.

I do not want to dwell long on the specifics of this modern-day no-love story. But even though some facts remain in dispute, at every moment when judgment was called for, Edwards made the wrong choice: 1) the entanglement itself; 2) putting Hunter on his political payroll; 3) believing that he could run for president without being exposed; 4) continuing his campaign after Elizabeth was diagnosed with terminal cancer; 5) lying to the press when the National Enquirer ran its initial story last fall; 6) being recently lured, by his own account, to a meeting with Hunter in her hotel room; and 7) attempting to salvage things by appearing on “Nightline” rather than issuing a truthful and rueful press release.

As a reporter covering my eighth presidential campaign, I am mostly interested in the journalistic lessons arising from my flawed character assessment of John Edwards. This was not a case of the Inside-the-Beltway Syndrome in which beloved Washington figures get every conceivable break from a sometimes gullible press corps. Edwards was always a bit of a political outsider (especially after he recast himself as the left-wing populist in the 2008 presidential field) and my affection for him was more idiosyncratic than reflective of press-bus groupthink.

If there is a moral here (other than the obvious truism about the danger of women who inspire Jay McInerney novels), it is about the need for humility when writing about a candidate’s marriage, his religious beliefs and other deeply personal matters. There are things that reporters and readers simply cannot know for certain without empowering journalistic gumshoes to do bed checks. My mistake about John Edwards was believing all his public boasts about his nearly perfect marriage. I allowed myself to judge him through the prism of his union with Elizabeth when I would have reached a far different conclusion if I had gazed through the lens of his dalliance with Rielle Hunter.

Of course Walter Shapiro was not alone in his faulty assessment of John Edwards. The problem with Edwards is not only that he managed to fool most people about his personal life, but that his public life was also a  fake. Edwards has turned out to be one of the most successful con man of all time to enter politics, based upon a single term in the Senate which he used purely as a stepping stone. He managed to make it as far as the number two spot on a major party presidential ticket despite a lack of qualifications, understanding of the issues, and integrity. Bob Shrum had it right in calling him a “lightweight,” a “hyper-ambitious phony” and “a Clinton who hadn’t read the books.”