After Losing Ten In A Row Clinton Tries To Change The Rules

Obama beat Clinton in a landslide in Hawaii, making it ten in a row. Steve Benen is back at The Carpetbagger Report and looks at Clinton’s options. There is one more option left to add: change the rules.

If this post was for the regular SciFi Friday feature I might note that part of the legend of James T. Kirk is the manner in which he was the only Star Fleet officer to pass the Kobayashi Maru simulation because he cheated and changed the rules. Similarly we like to watch J.R. Ewing or Tony Soprano break the rules. Often in fiction we cheer on a cheater, but not when the matter is running for President of the United States.

Political Punch reports on how Clinton is trying to change the rules:

This morning brings the news that the campaign of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-NY, has launched a new website where they are announcing how they are officially preparing to make the case that the rules of the Democratic nomination process should be changed.

Among many “facts” they declare are some accurate ones, such as the idea that superdelegates, which in true nomenclatural dexterity they now term “automatic delegates” “are expected to exercise their best judgment in the interests of the nation and the Democratic Party.”

But then comes this juicy non-fact:

“FACT: Florida and Michigan should count, both in the interest of fundamental fairness and honoring the spirit of the Democrats’ 50-state strategy.”

That’s not a fact, that’s an opinion.

And it’s clear evidence (not that there was any mystery about it) that the Clinton campaign is trying to change the rules in the middle of the game.

Clinton’s own senior adviser, Harold Ickes, voted as a member of the DNC committee to not recognize these two state delegations because they violated the rules of the primary scheduling process. Now as a Clinton campaign representative he’s making the case that they should count.

Tapper is also correct that those supporting Obama are wrong if they claim that super delegates should follow the lead of regular delegates. The super delegates are certainly free to vote contrary to the lead of the regular delegates, but I’m sure that many understand the consequences. The Democratic leaders must decide if they represent only those hard core Democrats who were loyal to the party when they were in the minority or if they want to embrace the support of independents who now lean Democratic. The super delegates are free to ignore the independent voters and stick with the party insider, but to do so will mean that John McCain and not Barack Obama will be the next president. My bet is that the super delegates want to win and want to build a majority party, leaving no alternative but to repudiate the politics of Hillary Clinton.

As Tapper writes, some of the “facts” claimed by the Clinton campaign are not facts at all. Throughout the campaign they have maintained an Orwellian named Fact Hub which presents propaganda as fact. I fear that this is the same mentality which leads to a president making false claims such as using the 9/11 attacks to justify the Iraq war. We must not forget that Hillary Clinton joined Bush in making such false claims. In justifying her vote in favor of the war, Clinton said:

And finally, on another personal note, I come to this decision from the perspective of a Senator from New York who has seen all too closely the consequences of last year’s terrible attacks on our nation. In balancing the risks of action versus inaction, I think New Yorkers who have gone through the fires of hell may be more attuned to the risk of not acting. I know that I am.

Clinton might also be breaking the rules regarding the use of 527 organizations. Mark Ambinder describes how Clinton backers are “canvassing Clinton donors for pledges of up to $100,000 in the hope of raising at least $10M by the end of next week.”

By law, the 527 cannot coordinate its activities with the Clinton campaign, although at least one major Clinton donor with direct ties to the campaign said last night that the effort was an open secret among donors.

(Update: Per ABC’s Jake Tapper, the group is calling itself the “American Leadership Project” and is staffed by several veterans of the Clinton White House.)

A Clinton spokesman said he knew nothing about the 527.

When engaging in questionable tactics the Clinton campaign fails to understand that this is why they are in the situation they are in to begin with. The more Clinton engages in tying to break the rules and in dishonest campaigning, the more Obama’s call for change resonates. Clinton cannot defeat a real call for change by repeatedly offering herself as an example of exactly why change is needed.

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  1. 1
    Texas Liberal says:

    Was at the Obama rally in Houston last night. A big happy crowd. Rally was both fun and substance. This rules tinkering and changing won’t change the votes being cast and how people feel.

  2. 2
    Anna says:

    And yet not one thing from you on how Obama now wants to change the rules regarding the pledge he made on campaign reform…. Or on how he told Floridians that he would work to make sure their votes would count (until he lost Florida, that is). What bias! He’s a fraud and a plagiarist.

  3. 3
    Ron Chusid says:


    That is because Obama has kept his word regarding campaign reform.

    You also have the facts backwards regarding Florida. It is Obama who, in contrast to Clinton, who supports a fair vote in Florida. Clinton did not really win Florida as the vote was held in violation of party rules. Clinton violated the pledges made by all the candidates not to campaign in Michigan and Florida.

    The plagiarism charge is yet another fabrication from the Clinton campaign. While the charges that Obama committed plagiarism turned out to be false, it turns out that Clinton is the actual plagiarist.

    If anyone is a fraud in this race it is Clinton who bases her campaign on making the types of false charges against Obama which you repeat. Clinton just offers four more years of Rove style dirty politics.

  4. 4
    Anna says:

    Oh, now see what I mean? You’re just being silly in your frenzied zealous state. What next, will you be speaking in tongues? NO ONE campaigned in Florida. I love to point out that your candidate aired a well-timed national commercial which was seen there, and as the following article attests, he teetered dangerously on the brink of breaking those rules by holding a small press conference just a day after signing the pledge that he would not. Still, I’m willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say he didn’t know what he was doing (something I fear we would be saying all too frequently, if he gets the job). No one camaigned in Florida! Good gawd… Now if you could only be as level headed (dare I say, kind?) in your treatment of my candidate. Too much to ask of the hotheaded and mean spirited Obama followers. He has indeed brought out a new element in the political world, and it’s an ugly one. Please read the following article:

    Obama wanted to seat the FL delegates…until he LOST.
    Published: September 30, 2007
    Fundraising Totals | Primary States | Where They Stand
    TAMPA – Barack Obama hinted during a Tampa fundraiser Sunday that if he’s the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, he’ll seat a Florida delegation at the party’s national convention, despite national party sanctions prohibiting it.
    Obama also appeared to violate a pledge he and the other leading candidates took by holding a brief news conference outside the fundraiser. That was less than a day after the pledge took effect Saturday, and Obama is the first Democratic presidential candidate to visit Florida since then.
    Obama and others have pledged not to campaign in Florida until the Jan. 29 primary except for fundraising, which is what he was doing in Tampa.
    But after the fundraiser at the Hyde Park home of Tom and Linda Scarritt, Obama crossed the street to take half a dozen questions from reporters waiting there.
    The pledge covers anything referred to in Democratic National Committee rules as “campaigning,” and those include “holding news conferences.”
    Obama seemed unaware the pledge he signed prohibits news conferences. Asked whether he was violating it, he said, “I was just doing you guys a favor. … If that’s the case, then we won’t do it again.”
    Frank Sanchez, a Tampa Obama supporter who helped organize the fundraiser, said the encounter illustrates the awkward situation the candidates have been put in by the controversy over the state’s Jan. 29 presidential primary.
    That date – earlier than allowed by rules of both major political parties – has led to a threat of sanctions against both Florida Republicans and Democrats, and to the Democrats’ boycott pledge.
    “This wasn’t planned,” Sanchez said of the brief press availability. “He was going to the car, and he just went across the street for a moment.”
    According to Sanchez and Tom Scarritt, Obama was asked during the event about making sure Floridians have a role in the nomination, despite the DNC sanctions and the pledge. Scarritt said Obama responded that he’ll “do what’s right by Florida voters.”
    The DNC has threatened to refuse to seat a Florida convention delegation because of the too-early primary, which the Florida Legislature decided on last spring. But if a candidate amasses enough delegates before the primary to ensure the nomination, that candidate would take control of the convention, including the power to seat a delegation.
    State Democrats are considering asking all candidates to pledge they would seat the state’s delegation.
    The boycott pledge was demanded by the four states – Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina – which are allowed to hold primaries before Feb. 5.

    Reporter William March can be reached at (813) 259-7761 or Reporter Elaine Silvestrini can be reached at (813)259-7837or

    You have apparently been drinking the kool aid, Ron. As to the charge of plagiarism. Read the definition. It’s the act of passing off someone else’s work as one’s own. He copies Patrick verbatim, only he doesn’t even speak as well as Patrick. He stutters and stammers his way through every thing he tries to ad lib. Tonight at the debates, count how many times he says “uhhhhh, aaaaaaaaand…..” Eloquent speaker indeed – only when there’s a script in front of him.

    I’m sorr to say that you and your friends will probably have your way, if the current trend holds. Unlike Michelle Obama, I will be saying that for the first time in MY adult life, I am ashamed of my country, for following the Pied Piper. He won’t get MY vote though he arrogantly speaks of getting all of Hillary’s supporters.

    Thanks for the reply.

  5. 5
    Ron Chusid says:


    There are so many factual errors in your answer–something to consider before saying someone else has been drinking the kool aid.

    Your article on Florida is from September–months before the event. It is hardly an accurate reflection of the subsequent events when Obama honored the pledge but Clinton violated it. The events in the article are quite trivial compared to what Clinton did afterwards–explaining why you have to resort to an article from September.

    Obama did not commit plagiarism. Using the works of others with permission is acceptable and regular procedure in political speeches, as James Fallows (a Carter speech writer) has explained). In contrast, Clinton has used the words of others without permission. Your account of Obama’s speaking is similarly incorrect. He’s been caught stammering on very rare ocassion but Clinton supporters prefer to dwell on this and ignore more important things like the issues, and which candidate is more qualified to be president. Most importantly, Obama has been right in what he has said while Clinton has repeatedly been both wrong and far too often dishonest.

    Obama might not get your vote, but he will get the vote of most Democrats, including those now supporting Clinton. In additon he will bring in the votes of many independents, which will more than offset the Clinton supporters like you who believe the falsehoods being spread by the more fanatic Clinton supporters.

  6. 6
    Anna says:

    I see, we’re just going to speak in vague generalities. Just lob the accusation without any facts or details to support it. Obama is a liar and a fraud. He is running a campaign based loosely on the spoken word. I think those words ought to be his own. His arrogance will be his own downfall. I hope you get your come-uppance when you see the droves that depart the democrats when it comes time to vote in November.

  7. 7
    Ron Chusid says:


    You have it backwards. I have posts here backing up everything I’ve said here, and have included some links. In contrast you have made a number of accusations but in each case the facts showed you were wrong.

    Your comment on people departing the Democrats makes no sense. It is Clinton who has high negatives while it is Obama who is bringing in many new voters. Many of the independents who support Obama will also vote for McCain over Clinton according to multiple polls. If the goal is a Democratic victory, Obama is the clear choice.

  8. 8
    Mike Butcher says:

    I’m not sure why it would surprise anyone that the Sen. Clinton is wanting to change the rules after the fact. It is perfectly consistent with the practice of Democrats in the past. The rules only seem to matter as long as the “correct” side is winning. If the “correct” side is losing then change the rules to arrive at the “correct conclusion”. This being evidenced in the debacle in Florida after the 2000 elections where attempts to change the rules after the ballots were cast was first OK’s by the Fla. Supreme Court and reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court that said basically “if you want to change the rules do it before the ballots are cast”.

    Further evidenced by the loose interpretation of the Constitution as a “living document”, rather than amending it by following the rules. A position that is generally held across the left.

    It is reassuring to find an element of the left that does still believe the rules should be followed, albeit the ones that are currently profiting from them. It is also reassuring to see that the Super Delegates are beginning to follow the people. It was none other than the hated Newt Gingrich who stated in a recent Wall Street Journal editorial that the voters having confidence in their ability to choose the nominee was more important than who wins, even though he believed Obama to be a stronger candidate against McCain than Clinton. The confidence in “the system” or following the rules has been severely damaged after the 2000 election in Florida. The cries of “stealing the election” and rancor that has been generated in those who lost would only be compounded if the Super Delegates don’t follow the vote of the people.

  9. 9
    Ron Chusid says:


    There is no comparison between what Clinton was doing and Gore in 2000. If anything, the comparison is to the Republicans.

    Gore did not change the rules as Clinton is trying. In Florida the first problem was partisan Republicans like Katherine Harris who were changing the rules. The Florida Supreme Court found that it was Gore who was following the rules and upheld the recount. Nest the Bush campaign fought to override the rules in Florida by going to the Supreme Court to shut down the recall.

    Gore was fighting to have voters actual votes counted, while the Republicans opposed that.

  10. 10
    Mike Butcher says:

    Gore was fighting to have actual votes counted as long as it was the “correct” votes. He did everything he could to make sure that absentee ballots cast by service men and women were not counted. But that is another argument.

    The criticism of Katherine Harris wasn’t that she changed the rules, but that she stuck by the rule that they believed to be too strict under the circumstances. Namely, that the date for submitting the votes was set by statute at November 14. This was later set aside by the Fla. State Supreme Court and changed to November 26. The count still was in favor of G. Bush and then V. Pres. Gore challenged asking for a recount in specific counties that he believed he would profit from.

    This resulted in the controversy of how to count the votes. What the Supreme Court of the United States held was that there were insufficient standard set by statute on how to interpret the “intent of the voter” and that those standards could have been set easily. Since they weren’t set, there were inconsistent and varied means of counting that varied not only from county to county but from counter to counter within the same county. Indeed the standards that were used not only varied from counter to counter but varied at different times with the same counter depending on when that individual counted. They held that
    the lack of standards and the relative arbitrary way in which they were counted failed to meet the standards of the Equal Protection Clause.

    read the following excerpt from that decision

    The Florida Supreme Court has ordered that the intent of the voter be discerned from such ballots. For purposes of resolving the equal protection challenge, it is not necessary to decide whether the Florida Supreme Court had the authority under the legislative scheme for resolving election disputes to define what a legal vote is and to mandate a manual recount implementing that definition. The recount mechanisms implemented in response to the decisions of the Florida Supreme Court do not satisfy the minimum requirement for non-arbitrary treatment of voters necessary to secure the fundamental right. Florida’s basic command for the count of legally cast votes is to consider the “intent of the voter.” Gore v. Harris, ___ So. 2d, at ___ (slip op., at 39). This is unobjectionable as an abstract proposition and a starting principle. The problem inheres in the absence of specific standards to ensure its equal application. The formulation of uniform rules to determine intent based on these recurring circumstances is practicable and, we conclude, necessary.

    The law does not refrain from searching for the intent of the actor in a multitude of circumstances; and in some cases the general command to ascertain intent is not susceptible to much further refinement. In this instance, however, the question is not whether to believe a witness but how to interpret the marks or holes or scratches on an inanimate object, a piece of cardboard or paper which, it is said, might not have registered as a vote during the machine count. The factfinder confronts a thing, not a person. The search for intent can be confined by specific rules designed to ensure uniform treatment.

    The want of those rules here has led to unequal evaluation of ballots in various respects. See Gore v. Harris, ___ So. 2d, at ___ (slip op., at 51) (Wells, J., dissenting) (“Should a county canvassing board count or not count a ‘dimpled chad’ where the voter is able to successfully dislodge the chad in every other contest on that ballot? Here, the county canvassing boards disagree”). As seems to have been acknowledged at oral argument, the standards for accepting or rejecting contested ballots might vary not only from county to county but indeed within a single county from one recount team to another.

    The record provides some examples. A monitor in
    Miami-Dade County testified at trial that he observed that three members of the county canvassing board applied different standards in defining a legal vote. 3 Tr. 497, 499 (Dec. 3, 2000). And testimony at trial also revealed that at least one county changed its evaluative standards during the counting process. Palm Beach County, for example, began the process with a 1990 guideline which precluded counting completely attached chads, switched to a rule that considered a vote to be legal if any light could be seen through a chad, changed back to the 1990 rule, and then abandoned any pretense of a per se rule, only to have a court order that the county consider dimpled chads legal. This is not a process with sufficient guarantees of equal treatment.

    So again, rather than follow the rules they asked that new rules be implemented where it benefitted themselves. Obviously, Florida could have avoided the problem had they had foresight enough to set the standards, but they didn’t. The Florida Supreme Court, along strict ideologic lines (based on the party of the Governor who appointed the Justice) not once but twice instructed the Florida Election Canvassing Commission to suspend the rules as written.

    A basic difference between “Liberals” and “Conservatives” is that Conservatives value the process more than the outcome. Outcomes are going to be unequal and at times seem unfair, but if the greatest protection of the individual is to ensure that the process is pure. Liberals are willing to “bend” the process in order to arrive at the outcome they believe is the “correct” one. It may even be an outcome that Conservatives would prefer as well, but if you are unhappy with the outcome you should make adjustments to the process by following the rule of law established to make those changes, not arbitrarily saying that since the process didn’t arrive at the desired outcome that the “framers” of the process really didn’t mean what they wrote, they really meant for us to get our way, so we will just retroactively change it.

  11. 11
    Mike Butcher says:

    p.s. There was more to the decision than just the above. If you want to read the entire decision here is a link. It is interesting reading.

  12. 12
    Ron Chusid says:


    That’s all a bunch of rationalization. Republicans did not care about the process–they were only concerned with the outcome. They used partisan elections officials to try to achieve the outcome they deserve. When this didn’t work they used the Supreme Court to overrule Florida law and stop a legal recount. Counting the votes is hardly a change in the rules.

    It has been Republicans who have been far more guilty of ignoring the process to get their desired results, including techniques such as Bush’s signing statements to ignore the law.

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