Those of us who've been warning of an impending military strike on Iran sometimes feel like the proverbial voice crying in the wilderness. Many of us have wondered why Democrats in Washington D.C. haven't been raising their voices, even as the Bush administration hypes the rhetoric and builds its case for military action against Iran.
Led by Sen. Jim Webb of Virginia, some Senate Democrats have finally realized the urgency of addressing head-on the Bush plans to bomb Iran. While I would have wanted even stronger wording from Sen. Webb, I applaud his move to send a letter to Bush that spells out that the President is not authorized to attack Iran. I also applaud Sen. Cantwell for signing on to this letter and urge our senior Senator to join her. Here is the letter,which is due to be sent out today or tomorrow.
I started posting on HowieinSeattle in 11/04, following progressive American politics in the spirit of Howard Dean's effort to "Take Our Country Back." I decided to follow my heart and posted on seattleforbarackobama from 2/07 to 11/08.--"Howie Martin is the Abe Linkin' of progressive Seattle."--Michael Hood.
Wednesday, October 31, 2007
"Sen. Cantwell Joins Sen. Webb in Opposing Attack on Iran"
"Debate Results: Obama wins big" (video)
BarackObamadotcom, with video (04:13):
Courtesy of Frank Luntz, results from the Drexel University debate show a clear end point: Barack Obama displayed leadership and character, emerging as the favorite of the event.
"Hillary Clinton Has a Vagina and So Do I"
Am I Obligated to Support Hillary Clinton Based on Her Gender Alone? Should women support Hillary Clinton? As a progressive, a feminist, and a chick, my support for Clinton is presumed. After all, I have a vagina. So does she. I want to see a woman president. She's a woman. I support choice, reproductive services, expanded women's health care, pay parity. She says she'll deliver all those things.Howie P.S.: I'm a white Jew (and an Obama supporter) without a vagina, but I think she treats Obama like chopped liver. Erica has a very forgiving heart when it comes to the following:The thing is, though, so does John Edwards—someone I've supported since well before he became John Kerry's vice-presidential pick in 2004. I like Edwards because he emphasizes poverty, social justice, and ending corporate welfare. Of all the candidates, his positions are most in line with my beliefs. His campaign promises—ending corporate welfare, eliminating tax giveaways to the wealthiest two percent of Americans, implementing a just system of health care for all—are most in line with what I want.
But like almost everyone who is not a straight, white, Christian male, I've dreamed of having someone in the White House who looks like me. This is more than simplistic identity politics. Yes, it's identity politics, but it's not simple.
We live in a country where identity still, to a huge extent, shapes experience. A black person understands better than me what it's like to experience racism; a gay person understands what it's like to be denied basic rights because of your sexuality. And I feel that we need to put someone in the White House who understands that eight years of George W. Bush has devastated women's status in this country—and who will prioritize putting things right.
Clinton articulated this argument brilliantly October 22 during an appearance in front of the Washington State Democrats at Benaroya Hall. "There are two groups that inspire me to keep going," Clinton said. "One is women in their 90s who come to my events... They all say something like, 'I'm 95 years old. I was born before women could vote in this country and I'm going to live long enough to see a woman in the White House.' The other group is the children who come... I see a parent lean over to a daughter and say, 'See, honey? In this country you can be anything you want to be.'"
Cheesy? Trite? Sure. But compelling to many women, including Linda Mitchell, board chair for the Washington State Women's Political Caucus. In a letter to WPC members, Mitchell said that while Clinton's positions on health care, the environment, and choice were appealing, "I'm not going to lie: The reality is that for me, it's time. For the first time we have a strong, viable, qualified woman who CAN be president, who is giving it her all, and who has a real shot at winning. And it's time for feminists to step up and make it happen."
Edie Gillis, political director for Progressive Majority of Washington, has a similar take. She says she supports Clinton not for her political platform—"I'm probably a little more liberal"—but because Clinton is a woman. "All of the little differences between the candidates are meaningless to me," Gillis says. "For me, it's a precedent-setting thing. I just got married, I'm thinking about starting a family, and if I have a daughter, I want to be able to tell her that there's a woman in the White House. It would totally change the way we look at the presidency."
But, again, so would a truly liberal president like John Edwards. After decades of Republican rule, centrism, and triangulation, Edwards promises a return to the progressive tradition on which the Democratic Party was founded. It's hard to turn my back on that possibility. With Edwards trailing in the polls, Clinton is starting to seduce many who are wary of her centrist politics and corporate contributions—including many feminists.
* * *
But not all—and with good reason.
Although both Clinton and Edwards voted for the Iraq war resolution in 2002, only Edwards has fully recanted, saying bluntly in a Washington Post op-ed: "I was wrong." His emphasis on poverty and improving the living conditions of all Americans would disproportionately benefit women, who make up the bulk of those living in poverty and earning the minimum wage. He has also been more explicit about which taxes he would raise to keep the deficit under control: He would eliminate Bush's tax cuts for the richest 2 percent of Americans, those earning more than around $200,000 a year. And he would increase taxes on capital gains and windfall profits taxes on oil companies.
Two prominent feminist bloggers—Amanda Marcotte of Pandagon and Melissa McEwan of Shakespeare's Sister—have been vocal about their support for Edwards and lack of enthusiasm for Clinton. Back in February, after the Edwards campaign hired both Marcotte and McEwan, the pair came under fire by religious-right bigot Bill Donohue for being "anti-Catholic." After several days of indecision from the Edwards campaign, both women resigned. However, both Marcotte and McEwan have maintained their support for Edwards, asserting that he better represents the interests of women and progressives.
McEwan argues that because Edwards has daughters and a wife, Elizabeth, whose health-care needs are greater than most Americans', he "has nearly as much reason to be as keen on women's issues as... Hillary, who is also no doubt motivated by her daughter's needs in the future." She points to a 2005 study by researchers at Yale University that found that male politicians with daughters were actually more likely to focus on "women's issues" than female candidates. And, McEwan continues, "I'm not going to support a female Democrat just because she's a woman. Hillary is an especially tough case for me, because I really, really like her as a person... But some of her positions, and particularly her corporatism, rub me completely the wrong way."
* * *
Me, too—to the point that, until recently, I said I'd only support Clinton if she got the nomination, and only grudgingly. But my old childhood fantasy—the idea that, in my lifetime, a woman could be president—is pushing me slowly in Clinton's direction.
Putting Hillary Clinton in the White House would change presidential priorities. Yes, Edwards has a pro-choice platform—Barack Obama too. Yes, both believe in expanding family and medical leave and implementing policies that close the pay gap between men and women. In fact, on most issues that matter to women in particular, the three frontrunners hold virtually identical positions.
But although Edwards and Obama may agree with Clinton on many things, I believe that—as a progressive woman—Clinton would be far more likely to prioritize women and children than any candidate who has never been a woman or a mother. No, a President Condoleezza Rice or Elizabeth Dole wouldn't prioritize women; in fact, they'd probably roll back women's rights to please the sexist, retrograde, increasingly fundamentalist base of the party they belong to. But Clinton's a Democrat. Moreover, she's made women's issues the cornerstone of her campaign. To say she'll make them the cornerstone of her presidency isn't sexism; it's pragmatism.
Women's issues matter in this election—perhaps more than at any other time in the last 30 years. During his years as president, George W. Bush has dramatically eroded the rights of women and children at home and abroad. On his first day in office, Bush signed the "global gag rule," denying U.S. aid to any organization that provides abortions or information about abortions (responding to patients' questions about their options, for example)—a decision that has led to the dismantling of reproductive services around the world, and to countless deaths worldwide. He supported the so-called Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, and appointed two of the Supreme Court justices who subsequently upheld it as the law of the land. He pressured the FDA to bar the over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception, ignoring the recommendations of two FDA panels. He supported legislation that would redefine embryos as "individuals" with the same human rights as living people. He promoted misleading and inaccurate abstinence-only education programs whose only effect was to reduce the number of sexually active teens who use birth control. He even appointed an anti-contraception activist to head the federal family-planning office.
Because these are women's issues, it makes sense that a woman candidate would view them as her issues. And Clinton does. It's why she has spoken out against countries that ignore human trafficking and forced prostitution. It's why she sponsored legislation that would make family-planning services, including emergency contraception, more accessible to low-income women and require insurance companies to pay for birth control. It's why she supported allowing pharmacies to sell EC over the counter (and blocked confirmation of the new FDA chief until it was approved). It's why she introduced a bill that would make EC available to all women in America's armed services. It's why she opposed the noxious "global gag rule." It's why she sponsored legislation aimed at ending the pay gap between men and women. It's why she wants to implement a universal pre-kindergarten program. It's why she wants to expand the Family and Medical Leave Act and implement paid maternity-leave programs in every state by 2016. It's why she wants to require all health-care companies to cover prescription birth control in their plans. It's why she wants to outlaw "maternal profiling"—the practice in some companies of making pay and promotion decisions based on the assumption that women will have babies.
And it's why she's said things like, "I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies and had teas, but what I decided to do was fulfill my profession, which I entered before my husband was in public life."
* * *
Republicans lambasted Clinton for her cookie comment in 1992.
In the 15 years since, they've elevated Clinton to a sort of superstar villain, a malevolent bogeywoman who personifies all their darkest fears. At a recent Republican debate in Florida, the Republican presidential hopefuls couldn't stop talking about Clinton—to the point that they hardly spent any time at all talking about their own campaigns. Mitt Romney said Clinton "hasn't even run a corner store." Rudy Giuliani said America "can't afford" a Clinton presidency. And John McCain made a crack about her proposal to fund a Woodstock museum, saying, "I'm sure it was a cultural and pharmaceutical event."
In attacking Clinton, her critics on the right reveal how ugly, sexist, and antiwoman they really are. When she speaks in support of expanded civil rights, including adoption rights, for gays and lesbians, they insinuate that she's gay. When she fails to dress in Armani, à la Nancy Pelosi, they attack her for being "dowdy." When she doesn't act appropriately feminine, they call her a "man." (In fairness, they also call Obama and Edwards women.) When Michelle Obama makes an aside that "if you can't run your own house, you can't run the White House," the right-wing noise machine turns it into a manufactured "catfight."
When Clinton campaigns aggressively, they compare her to a "hellish housewife" who "just won't stop nagging you." When she doesn't come down hard enough on an issue, they insist that she isn't aggressive enough to be president. They accuse her of trotting out a manufactured "maternal" side. They even try to make her look like an ice queen for giving away her cat. And finally, when they have nothing else to say, they criticize her laugh—sorry, make that "cackle." Anyone who inspires this much hysteria among Republicans is all right with me.
On the other hand, some women argue that the very reason I like Clinton is reason enough to ditch her. Many women (and men) describe her as "divisive," and call her (despite polls that show her with a solid lead among Democrats and some support among Republican women) "the only Democrat who could lose this election." Sue Evans, media relations coordinator for Pyramid Communications and a Democrat, says that while she doesn't "think anybody questions Hillary's ability to do the job, it's the fear of not getting the White House back after what this country has been through that's the concern. I want the White House."
And many smart, liberal women who support candidates other than Clinton make a good point: She isn't as progressive as some of her fellow frontrunners. She supported the Defense of Marriage Act. She cosponsored the flag-burning amendment. And she supported legislation that some say opens the door for military action in Iran.
Like many liberals, I'm disturbed by all those votes, but here's where I run into a big "But." Democrats of late could not be accused of making the perfect the enemy of the good. We nominated John Kerry, for fuck's sake, and supported him wholeheartedly. So are we holding Clinton to a higher standard, and if so, can we see beyond her gender to her electability and fitness to govern? And are we, as women, holding Clinton to an unattainable standard? As Clinton supporter Mitchell puts it, "If not now, then when? If we're waiting for the perfect woman candidate, we're never going to get a woman president." City Council Member Sally Clark, a recent Clinton convert, thinks Clinton may "get called 'shrill,' a 'shrew,' and a 'bitch' because she's aggressive and knows what she wants and is really focused. It's not like she gets up on the platform and rages."
Feminist writers and political activists have debated themselves to death about whether being a woman means supporting Clinton. I don't think it does. As a woman, however, I believe Clinton will do right by me on issues that matter to women—which is an entirely different thing than supporting a candidate because of her gender.
I'll still support Edwards if he gets the nomination—an outcome that seems less and less likely in light of the Clinton juggernaut. But if it's Clinton, I'll support her enthusiastically. As a feminist and a woman, I'm ready to see someone who shares my values and my gender in the White House. It's about time.
She supported the Defense of Marriage Act. She cosponsored the flag-burning amendment. And she supported legislation that some say opens the door for military action in Iran."
BONUS QUOTE OF THE DAY
"The politics of hope does not mean hoping that your opponents aren't going to point out the differences between you and them."--Barack Obama, from his interview today.
QUOTE OF THE DAY (video)
"More people have seen UFO's than I think approve of George Bush as president."--Dennis Kucinich
"Last Night’s Democratic Debate"
During the summer doldrums, I criticized the presidential debates as superficial and meaningless. Last night proved me wrong.Yesterday’s Democratic debate was the best in either party so far. It had moments of substantive clarity, and it showed clear differences among the leading candidates. It may have busted the Democratic race wide open. MSNBC’s post-debate reportage was disgustingly puerile, but the debate itself was well run.
There were three headlines. First, Joe Biden proved knowledgeable and sensible on foreign policy. He made a simple and powerful point. Unlike Iran, which has yet to demonstrate the ability to produce any fissile material, Pakistan has multiple—perhaps many—operational nuclear weapons. Right now, we believe, those weapons are mounted on missiles capable of reaching both Israel and India. It therefore makes little sense to attack Iran and risk an Islamist uprising in Pakistan, which would put a powerful and existing arsenal of nuclear missiles in extremists’ hands.
Biden won the contest to demonstrate the bankruptcy of George W. Bush’s saber-rattling Iran policy hands down. He showed how actually knowing something about the outside world, plus the ability to put that knowledge in perspective, is vital in handling foreign and military affairs.
Uncharacteristically, Biden did all this without exceeding his time limits. He may not win the nomination, but if a Democrat wins he is likely to become Vice President or Secretary of State. He’ll be a good one.
The second headline was that Hillary Clinton stumbled badly. Throughout the debate, her rivals chided her for bad decisions, unclear positions, and political malleability—on Iraq, on Iran, and on social security. At first, she acquitted herself as usual. She doggedly maintained her divine right as leading candidate to waffle and evade any question, no matter how important to the audience or to our collective future.
Most of her waffles, however, were previous and offscreen. Then, with only minutes to go, she did her little dance before our very eyes. She waffled and evaded on camera, in real time.
The issue was hardly world-shaking. Tim Russert asked for her reaction to New York Governor Eliot Spitzer’s proposal to allow illegal immigrants to get drivers’ licenses. The question had some nuance, for Spitzer had proposed three levels of licenses. He would reserve one level for general identification (including airport security) and a second for most drivers. A third, low-level license (apparently with few questions asked) would encourage undocumented drivers to be identified and qualified to drive, through testing on laws and the roads.
Hillary got that nuance. She explained it well. She is nothing if not a good debater. But she visibly tried to have it both ways. She said twice that Spitzer’s proposal “makes sense.” But when pressed by Russert to say she supports it, she waffled. She wouldn’t say yes or no. She just complained of being driven into a “gotcha!”
That exchange was Hillary in an nutshell. She wants to be president, but she doesn’t want to make decisions. She can’t decide what to do without her advisers, her polls and her focus groups. Not even on a minor issue in a presidential debate. Can you imagine that sort of person leading the Cabinet in a crisis?
There are no “gotchas” in the Oval Office. There are only tough decisions to be made, in real time, under great stress. No wonder the Republicans are dying to run against her! She’s the only chance they have of shedding the millstone of George W. Bush.
Hillary’s waffling and evasions are not, as some believe, matters of honesty or credibility. They are matters of leadership and decisiveness. Hillary’s mental processes were transparent for all to see. You could practically hear her thinking, “if I say yes, I support it, I’ll be slimed in the general election as soft on illegal immigration.” So she waffled, even though her previous remarks made it clear that she thought Spitzer’s proposal a good one.
Of course Hillary was right about the politics. No sooner had the debate ended than Chris Matthews started sliming.
But it takes two to slime—a slimer, and a slimee. Barack Obama had a much simpler and more courageous response: he said he supported Spitzer’s proposal because it would encourage illegals to come forward and make New York’s roads safer.
Obama stuck with substance and stated his position clearly, with good reasons. He showed, in a small way, what a president should be. He won’t allow himself to be a slimee because he won’t waffle, and he won’t back down. Demagogues don’t intimidate him.
Call Obama naïve, but wouldn’t it be great to have a president like that again? Those of us over fifty can remember the type. We want one back.
The final headline of the debate was John Edwards. He came out swinging against Hillary and never stopped. It was he who first called attention to Hillary’s waffle over the Sptizer proposal, opening the door for Barack’s much more gentle rebuke.
Perhaps unwittingly, Edwards served as stalking horse for Obama. Two things hold Obama back from attacking Hillary. First, he has promised a different kind of campaign; he can’t allow himself to slide into negativity. Second, as a consummate gentleman, he can’t be seen as roughing up a lady—especially not the first serious female candidate for president.
Many women appear inclined to vote for Hillary just to smash the last glass ceiling. Obama can’t risk alienating them with rude behavior. He knows this because he’s not only the smartest candidate running. He’s also the most empathic.
But someone has to show that a candidate who makes every decision on politics, not substance—and who fears demagoguery more than death—might not make the best possible president. Edwards did that, and Obama was the clear winner.
I like to think that Edwards, who was passionate about saving our democracy, knew exactly what he was doing. He was willing to sacrifice his own candidacy for the greater good.
Not surprisingly, the MSNBC cell-phone poll after the debate showed Obama leading 29% to Clinton’s 21%. It’s a highly unscientific method of polling, but it’s suggestive of what intelligent, informed people think. If Obama can translate that success to a wider audience, we may see a shift in the polls soon.
One final aspect of last night’s debate deserves comment: Chris Matthews and his nitwit journalism. For Matthews, the two headlines of the evening were Dennis Kucinich’s admission that he had seen a UFO and Hillary Clinton’s support for giving illegal immigrants drivers’ licenses. In that order.
Matthews wasn’t interested in what Hillary’s waffling said about her capacity to serve as commander in chief. All he wanted to do was stir up a premature fight with Republican demagogues. Apparently he believes that whether illegal immigrants get drivers’ licenses in New York is more important than all those Pakistani nukes, mounted on operational missiles, that Joe Biden spoke about.
It is time that network news executives took their fair share of responsibility for our nation’s precipitous decline. MSNBC purports to have a serious news organization. Yet Chris Matthews is to journalism as Benedict Arnold is to patriotism. If MSNBC’s executives want to do their part to save our democracy, they should fire Matthews, the sooner the better. He should work for the National Enquirer, where he belongs.
"Democratic Debate: Winners and Losers"
The Fix grew up a HUGE fan of professional wrestling. So, it was with a mixture of fascination and glee that we watched last night's Democratic presidential debate, which resembled nothing so much as an out and out brawl.Howie P.S.: The debates are only late, Chris, if you reside in the Beltway and its time zone. How come Chris only heard "Sabre Rattling"? Where was he for the "carrots and sticks"?Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) spent the first hour of the debate fending off shots from her opponents and parrying pointed questions from the moderators. Sen. Barack Obama (Ill.) made good on his pledge to be more aggressive against Clinton, albeit it in the low-key manner that has come to be his trademark in this campaign. Former Sen. John Edwards (N.C.), on the other hand, took it directly to Clinton -- challenging her at every turn and effectively ensuring that the stories coming out of the debate didn't focus solely on Clinton versus Obama.
Even Sens. Chris Dodd (Conn.), Joe Biden (Del.) and Gov. Bill Richardson (N.M.) got in their shots -- although this debate was designed (rightfully so, to our mind) to give Obama, Edwards and Clinton a chance to mix it up.
Below you'll find our winners and losers from last night's debate. We added a "tweener" category for this debate because several of the candidates had performances that didn't seem to fit into either the winner or loser side. As always, these ratings are subjective. Agree? Disagree? The comments section is open for business.
John Edwards: We've said it before and we'll say it again: Edwards continues to make the strongest case against Clinton of any candidate in the field. Time and again last night, Edwards one-upped Obama's hits on Clinton by using his courtroom skills to deliver devastating one-liners about the New York Senator and her record. On Iran: "Are we going to hear 'If only I knew then what I know now,'" Edwards asked. On electability: "[Republicans] may actually want to run against you." On change: "If people want the status quo, Senator Clinton is your candidate." Was Edwards too angry? Too confrontational? Maybe. But, the anti-Clinton crowd wants someone to stand up strongly against her. Edwards showed he was willing to do that last night.
"Sabre Rattling": Wow. The Fix lost count of how many times the candidates uttered this phrase last night in reference to the Bush Administration's policy toward Iran. Edwards and Obama used it to hit Clinton; Clinton used it to hit the Bush Administration. Sabres were being rattled EVERYWHERE.
Barack Obama: Obama promised more aggression and he delivered -- sort of. The Illinois Senator was clearly committed to drawing contrasts with Clinton last night, even though it still feels as though he is forcing it at times. (Our read on Obama: he is not someone who enjoys direct confrontation and is still learning the political necessity of the tactic.) Obama's best line of the night (and one of the debate's highlights) came after Clinton refused to offer a clear answer on releasing the correspondence between herself and her busband during their time in the White House. "I'm glad that Hillary [used] the phrase "turn the page" but this is an example of not turning the page," Obama said. "Part of what we have to do is to invite the American people to take part in their government again." That message -- Obama as change agent -- is a powerful one; as the campaign has worn on, Obama has honed it nicely. So why not make him a winner? At times Obama seemed to wander into wonky policy talk on issues, letting his professorial side come out a bit too much. The more Obama sounds like every one else on the stage, the less chance he has of convincing voters he can and will change the status quo.
Hillary Rodham Clinton: After the first hour of the debate, Clinton seemed nearly-certain to wind up in the winner's circle again. She had largely faced down a withering barrage of attacks from Obama and Edwards (notable exception: her non-answer on opening up the National Archives) and come out none the worse for wear. And then she slipped. In the debate's final minutes, Clinton got caught trying to be too cute by half on whether she supported Gov. Eliot Spitzer's (D-N.Y.) plan to offer drivers licenses to illegal immigrants. Sensing a rare opportunity, Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.) jumped in to question Clinton and was followed in the piling on by Edwards and Obama who sought to cast Clinton's answer as typical of her tendency to offer the political rather than the honest answer. That the moment came at the close of the debate was a double edged sword for Clinton: on one hand, it left viewers with a sour taste in their mouth and may have colored her performance overall; on the other, it was nearly 11 p.m. by then and the viewership had probably declined somewhat significantly so less people saw the slip. Why not make Clinton a loser then? Because for the majority of the debate she acquitted herself well despite having the deck stacked heavily against her. In the first hour, nearly every question and response started and ended with Clinton. Might she have won points among women who saw a bunch of men going out of their way to gang up on her?
Bill Richardson: On a night when both Dodd and Biden had their moments, Richardson struggled. In every debate and every answer, it feels as though Richardson is trying to stuff 10 pounds of rhetoric into a five pound bag. Part of that is because he doesn't get as much time to address issues as the frontrunners. But, knowing he isn't likely to get as many opportunities, Richardson needs to have adjusted by now to take advantage of the chances he does get. Thinking back on the debate, it's hard to find a moment where Richardson distinguished himself -- with the possible exception of his defense of Clinton. Then, after the debate, Richardson seemed to side with the pro-UFO crowd in response to a joking question by MSNBC's Chris Matthews. Um, not good.
Lightning Rounds: For those who followed The Fix's live-blogging of the debate last night, you've already heard our rant against lightning rounds. While a great idea in theory (allow all of the candidates to sound off on an issue in a short period of time) these lightning rounds just don't work because there is no real penalty for a candidate going far over the allotted time in their answer. Our suggestion? If we are set on keeping lightining rounds, create a real penalty for candidates who don't follow the rules. Maybe the next round of questions skips them? Ok, that's never going to happen, but a boy can dream.
Late Night Debates: The Fix's campaign against debates that start at 9 pm or later continues. That is all.
"A Pitched Debate: Clinton Hears It From Her Rivals"
Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York came under withering attack from the rest of the Democratic presidential field last night in a pitched two-hour debate that her opponents used to challenge her candor and electability and to portray her as enabling President Bush to prepare for an invasion of Iran.It was the seventh time the candidates had met and it was strikingly different in tone from any of the prior debates. At times, it seemed that Mrs. Clinton was parrying criticism from every corner of the stage, reflecting the vulnerabilities that come from being a high-visibility candidate who has built large leads in national polls with just two months to go until the first vote.
Mrs. Clinton was attacked for not offering specific plans on what she might do with Social Security. She was challenged for voting to designate the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist organization. She was assailed at one moment as being disingenuous, the next as a symbol of tired Washington establishment and the next for being unelectable.
At one point, she appeared to say she supported an attempt by Gov. Eliot Spitzer of New York to give driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, a plan he abandoned in the face of fierce opposition. A moment later she backed off, leading her opponents to denounce her again for obfuscating.
The tone of the debate, which was sponsored by NBC News, had been established before the candidates walked onto the stage at Drexel University in Philadelphia, when Senator Barack Obama of Illinois proclaimed in an interview over the weekend that “now is the time” to begin drawing tough distinctions with Mrs. Clinton.
He did so almost immediately, accusing Mrs. Clinton of “changing positions whenever it’s politically convenient,” pointing to the North American Free Trade Agreement, torture and the war on Iraq. “Now, that may be politically savvy, but I don’t think that it offers the clear contrast that we need,” Mr. Obama said. “I think what we need right now is honestly with the American people about where we would take the country.”
But for all the attention Mr. Obama drew to himself coming into the debate, he was frequently overshadowed by former Senator John Edwards of North Carolina, who — speaking more intensely — repeatedly challenged Mrs. Clinton’s credentials and credibility, and frequently seemed to make the case against Mrs. Clinton that Mr. Obama had promised to make.
“Senator Clinton says that she believes she can be the candidate for change, but she defends a broken system that’s corrupt in Washington, D.C.,” Mr. Edwards said.
He added, “I think the American people, given this historic moment in our country’s history, deserve a president of the United States that they know will tell them the truth, and won’t say one thing one time and something different at a different time.”
The debate appeared to mark a turning point in the Democratic contest, as Mrs. Clinton’s rivals feel increasing pressure to begin trying to weaken her as the first voting approaches.
Though there were a few light moments — Representative Dennis C. Kucinich of Ohio said he had once seen a U.F.O. — the tone of the night was tense and combative.
Mrs. Clinton walked into the debate expecting to be the target of attacks but as the night went on, she appeared surprised by the intensity as she was challenged not only by her opponents but by the moderators, Brian Williams and Tim Russert of NBC.
Mrs. Clinton smiled far less frequently than she had in earlier debates, often looking grim as she turned her head from Mr. Edwards to her right to Mr. Obama on her left. “I need to rebut that,” she said at one point. “I don’t know where to start.”
Mrs. Clinton pointed to the fact that Republicans have been assailing her constantly as evidence that she was delivering a clear message.
“The Republicans and their constant obsession with me demonstrates clearly that they obviously think that I am communicating effectively about what I will do as president,” she said. “And I am trying to do that because it matters greatly. We’ve got to turn the page on George Bush and Dick Cheney. In fact, we have to throw the whole book away. This has been a disastrous period in American history, and we hope it will be aberration.”
The attacks on Mrs. Clinton grew so intense that one opponent, Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who served in President Bill Clinton’s administration, scolded the others. “You know what I’m hearing here, I’m hearing this holier-than-thou attitude toward Senator Clinton,” he said. “It’s bothering me because it’s pretty close to personal attacks that we don’t need.”
“But the important thing is that we need to stay positive,” Mr. Richardson said. “We need to have disagreements on the issues, not on whether you can trust. I trust Senator Clinton but I don’t agree with her on a majority of issues.”
Mr. Edwards and Mr. Obama almost stumbled over each other in offering a different interpretation of the Republican attacks on Mrs. Clinton than the one she offered.
“Part of the reason that Republicans, I think, are obsessed with you, Hillary, is because that’s a fight they’re very comfortable having,” Mr. Obama said. “It is the fight that we’ve been through since the ’90s. And part of the job of the next president is to break the gridlock and to get Democrats and independents and Republicans to start working together to solve these big problems.”
Mr. Edwards offered a similar line of attack. “I mean, another perspective on why the Republicans keep talking about Senator Clinton is, Senator, she — they may actually want to run against you, and that’s the reason they keep bringing you up,” he said, adding, “I think that if people want the status quo — Senator Clinton’s your candidate. “
Mr. Obama and Mr. Edwards came into the debate seeking to raise questions about Mrs. Clinton’s credibility — and, as a result, renew doubts about her electability. Mrs. Clinton may have helped them with her unsteady answer about whether she supported the initiative by Mr. Spitzer.
“Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to do?” she said. “No. But do I understand the sense of real desperation, trying to get a handle on this? Remember, in New York we want to know who’s in New York. We want people to come out of the shadows. He’s making an honest effort to do it. We should have passed immigration reform.”
She was challenged on what she said first by Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut and then by Mr. Edwards. “Unless I missed something, Senator Clinton said two different things in the course of about two minutes just a few minutes ago, and I think this is a real issue for the country,” Mr. Edwards said.
If Mrs. Clinton has become a favorite target at the Republican debates, Rudolph W. Giuliani — another New Yorker and a strong candidate for his party’s nomination — took that role at the Democratic debate last night. “There’s only three things he mentions in a sentence: a noun and a verb and 9/11,” said Senator Joseph I. Biden of Delaware, referring to Mr. Giuliani. “I mean, there’s nothing else. And I mean it sincerely. He is genuinely not qualified to be president.”
It was a rare moment when Mrs. Clinton was not on the firing line, and it did not last long.
In an exchange with Mr. Russert, arguably her third toughest opponent on the stage, Mrs. Clinton repeatedly declined to say whether she would push the National Archives to release correspondence from Mrs. Clinton to Mr. Clinton in the White House when he was president. Mr. Russert held up a copy of a letter from Mr. Clinton asking the Archives not to release any of those documents until 2012.
“Well, that’s not my decision to make,” she said. “And I don’t believe that any president or first lady has. But certainly we’ll move as quickly as our circumstances and the processes of the National Archives permits.”
Mr. Obama raised his hand, asking for a response. “We have just gone through one of the most secretive administrations in our history, and not releasing, I think, these records at the same time, Hillary, as you’re making the claim that this is the basis for your experience, I think, is a problem,” he said.
Hotline's "The Blogometer" Puts A Fork In Obama
On 12/5/06 DailyKos' founder Markos Moulitsas surveyed what was then the Dem WH '08 primary calendar and proclaimed: "If Obama runs, he wins." Ten months later, on the tail of problems surrounding Social Security and a gospel controversy, Markos blogs: "Unfortunately, the more he stumbles, the bigger the Clinton blowout could be. Her juggernaut advances steadily while her opponents flail. We truly are losing a real choice this primary season, and that's not a good thing."We do not think that Markos' prognostication skills should be derided here. Kos believed that Obama would run a very different kind of campaign than he actually wound up running. So did we. We thought Obama would embrace the netroots as allies and use their help to defeat Clinton. Instead, Obama has rejected their combative style of politics and has prioritized other constituencies at almost every turn. Now, if Obama is going to win the nomination, it is going to be without their help. And frankly we do not see how that is possible. It is not that the netroots are kingmakers for Dem primaries, but if you are going to run against an establishment candidate, we can't imagine anyone succeeding without their help.
OBAMA: Other Than That Barack, How Did You Enjoy The Show?
All might have been forgotten or forgiven between Barack Obama and the netroots over gospel singer/'gay-basher' Donnie McClurkin's appearance at an Obama Columbia, SC, gospel concert 10/28, but the fact that McClurkin emceed the event and reportedly "turned the final half hour of the three-hour concert into a revival meeting" became the last straw for many in the community. Reactions include:
- AMERICAblog's John Aravosis: "Obama's anti-gay religious right activist used the opportunity Obama gave him last night to preach his hate to thousands of African-Americans. That's just great. And the white preacher who Obama picked to help explain to the audience that gays aren't minions of Satan? CNN reports that he said nothing at all -- just a short little prayer, then he left. ... So, in the end, Obama let his "best" and "favorite" artist slam gays to thousands of African-Americans, in his name, and neither he nor his hand-chosen white gay preacher said anything in response. Class act, that Obama campaign."
- DailyKos' founder Markos Moulitsas: "It's an all-out implosion by the Obama campaign. This truly is indefensible."
- Open Left's Matt Stoller: "Obama's not a homophobe, he is probably more comfortable around gay people than any presidential candidate and he has a great record on LGBT rights. It is a significant incident though, because it's about priorities. ... This looks like Obama is giving a wink and a nod to bigots. ... It's not about positions and it never has been about positions, it's about constituencies and identity, and prioritizing your values. And it's not an accident, it's a choice."
- Atrios: "A fascinating thing about Democratic politics is that progressive activists, especially those in marginalized groups, are expected sit down and shut up and take it because they're supposed to be smart enough to know that nods and winks to bigots are just crass political maneuvers that candidates make to court votes."
- Fire Dog Lake's Jane Hamsher: "Obama's message of hope and bipartisanship stays positive by letting proxies do his dirty work for him. Sorry, no sale here."
- Pastor Dan at Daily Kos: "I tried to defend -- or at least recontextualize -- Barack Obama's association with Donnie McClurkin the other day, but the latest revelations are just too much. Clearly, Obama has thrown his lot in with defending a bigoted fathead. I kept hoping that he would take the appropriate steps to distance himself from said bigoted fathead, without much luck. If anything, he's even more tightly wrapped up in McClurkin now."
Obama's campaign did not help their cause by giving MSMers a three-page memo which included the following in all caps: "MCCLURKIN DOES NOT WANT TO CHANGE GAYS AND LESBIANS WHO ARE HAPPY WITH THEIR LIVES AND HAS CRITICIZED CHURCH LEADERS WHO DEMONIZE HOMOSEXUALS." AMERICAblog's John Aravosis responds: "So David Duke's only problem, per the Obama campaign, is that he vilifies the happy Jews and the happy blacks? Keep digging, guys. Obama keeps making clear that he hasn't learned his lesson, he doesn't understand what he did wrong, and he will continue to coddle those who attack our community so long as it wins him votes and money."
The memo even led Open Left's Chris Bowers to stop defending Obama: "This isn't simply a mistake, despite what I first wrote. If the Obama campaign is not only keeping McClurkin as the headliner of the concert, but also issuing memos defending his views, producing videos endorsing McClurkin before the event, and then allowing McClurkin to emcee the event, it is pre-meditated, not a mistake."
OBAMA II: Kicking A Campaign When They're Down
The netroots do not have a problem with Barack Obama's social security policy prescription (restructuring the cap on payroll taxes), but his rhetoric acknowledging there is a social security problem that needs to be 'fixed' is antithetical to netroots thinking on the issue. Atrios explains:
I imagine some readers who haven't been hanging around these parts for all that long might have justifiably been puzzled at the reaction to Obama's decision to try to make dealing with Social Security his signature attack on Clinton. It's true that Obama didn't assert that there was some huge crisis. But the fact remains that he put the idea out there that Social Security had a "problem" which needs to be fixed and that any serious presidential candidate needs to address the issue in clear detail. So what's the big deal?
Beating back George Bush's plan to kill social security was probably the first major victory for the broadly defined netroots movement. ... Beating back the steady stream of misinformation about the nonexistent crisis was done throughout the blogs, on Media Matters, etc. ... So, anyway, having someone suggest that Social Security is a problem which needs to be dealt with by any serious candidate is like the bat signal for people like me. There is no problem with Social Security. None at all. Whatever broader fiscal time bombs exist have absolutely nothing to do with Social Security.
Those with similar reactions include:
- Talking Points Memo's Josh Marshall: "If Obama is hoping for an issue to gain traction with vis a vis Hillary, he's really muffed it picking Social Security. In itself the idea of removing or significantly restructuring the 'cap' on payroll taxes is a good one, at least one with a lot to recommend it. ... But what Obama is doing is buying into the false idea that Social Security is in some sort of crisis."
- DailyKos' founder Markos Moulitsas: "We spent most of 2005 fighting the Bush administration and its minions in Congress on this very issue, and battled the media and the politicians on this very frame. There is no social security crisis that must be "fixed". Sure, the system could be improved to be less regressive, but what the hell is Obama doing using scare-mongering language on social security?"
- Open Left's Matt Stoller: "That Obama is using the need to shore up Social Security as an attack on Clinton, well, this makes me want to say that I'm disappointed that Obama is abandoning the politics of hope. ... On another level, I just feel bad for progressive Obama supporters. It's simply awful to watch a person that you thought was great and progressive betray and embarrass you for political gain, and move into a more authoritarian direction.
- The Huffington Post's Dave Johnson: "Obama is running ads reinforcing the right's bamboozlement that Social Security is running out of money! ... I know that Senator Obama's heart is in the right place and he has no intention of harming Social Security. But this ad is a mistake that could backfire. Please stop running this ad and please change the language."
OBAMA III: What Was Your Favorite Moment Of The Obama Era?
The combination of the McClurkin/social security issues has inspired some in the netroots to write post-mortems for his campaign already. DailyKos' founder Markos Moulitsas blogs: "I once wrote a post titled something like "if Obama runs, he wins". The fat lady hasn't sung yet, so I might still prove prescient. But I'd be shocked if I was."
Later Kos adds: "This is truly an epic flameout by the Obama campaign, engaged in actions that are completely indefensible. ... Obama isn't the be-all savior for what ails our country. No one is. If there's a message I thought we were successfully delivering in the netroots is that it was up to US to move this country in the right direction since we couldn't depend on our so-called "leaders". This sort of hero worship of several of our candidates (Edwards, Obama, and even Hillary) is somewhat creepy to begin with, but serves little more than to set up the inevitable disappointment."
Open Left's Matt Stoller congratulates the netroots for avoiding the Obama swoon: "I'm really proud of how we stood up for our values and ourselves, and didn't rationalize away Obama's pandering. It's how a healthy movement should act. ... It's an important precedent to set, that values are the driving force behind what we do, not incoherent notions of strategy. That is what divides us from DC insiders, that we react badly to acts of betrayal, that we don't let our leaders throw us or our gay brothers and sisters under the bus. That is what brings us strength and credibility, that we stand for something and lead."
Finally, Open Left's Chris Bowers explains why he should have seen Obama's "eventual downward slide" coming:
- Barack Obama was never going to run as a partisan progressive or Democrat, and was always going to chastise progressives in right-wing frames whenever he was challenged by the left. His past statements showed a pattern of this behavior that should have been obvious.
- Given his relatively high support compared to his name ID, and his natural base among both working class African-Americans and the under-50, progressive "creative class" of the Democratic Party, he clearly had the best chance to defeat Clinton from the start of the campaign. In fact, he might have had the only realistic chance.
- Unless the underwent a dramatic transformation, bullet point #1 was always going to destroy Obama's chances with the under-50, progressive "creative class" in #2, which would in turn destroy his ability to defeat Clinton. The only candidate with a clear shot to defeat Clinton was always going to repeatedly undercut and otherwise press the "self-destruct" button on his own coalition. In the end, the result would be Clinton domination as the Obama coalition scattered among the rest of the field.
CLINTON: It Takes A Woman
Garance Franke-Ruta links to analysis showing Hillary Clinton's campaign has more women in 'senior positions' than most other Dem campaigns and comments: "[I]t's not like there was some huge population of female strategists out there the various campaigns were competing for and Clinton just happened to snap them all up. Clinton created, on her own, a cadre of female strategists to serve her political needs, by spotting talent in the women around her and promoting them up the political food chain. No other candidate can say, for example, that their campaign is being managed by their female former scheduler."
Matthew Yglesias links and adds: "It also might be worth noting in this regard that I think almost everyone would agree that Clinton's had the best-run campaign -- free of mistakes, and seemingly drawing blood on those occasions when they've felt the need to attack."
EDWARDS: Trading Up?
John Edwards continued opposition to the Peru Trade Agreement is popular among the netroots. Jonathan Tasini blogs at The Huffington Post: "Aside from the ethical and moral opposition to so-called "free trade," Edwards is making a very smart political choice for the Democratic Party. I recently pointed out a nationwide poll that showed that a majority of REPUBLICAN voters oppose so-called "free trade." Do we need to put flashing lights on that fact for those Democratic Party leaders who would still prefer to side with the corporate insiders, as opposed to the voters?"
David Sirota adds at Working Assets: "The move, consistent with Edwards' economic populist campaign, drives a wedge right through the heart of the Democratic presidential primary. ... You can be sure we'll be hearing a lot of noise about how this deal is supposedly great for average Americans and Peruvians alike. But remember, no major labor, human rights, anti-poverty, environmental, consumer protection or religious group in either the United States or Peru have endorsed the deal."
"TPMtv: Dem Debate Highlight Reel" (video)
For the time challenged, here's an edited version: video, (11:21).
Tim Russert's Debate Take (video)
Howie P.S.: I am not a Russert fan, but must confess I found some of his points to be persuasive.
Ben Smith: "Clinton wears GOP hate as badge of honor"
Republican loathing for Hillary Clinton used to be viewed as her Achilles' heel.
But Tuesday night in Philadelphia, she wore Republican hate as a badge of honor, fending off her Democratic rivals' sharpest attacks yet by casting herself as a kind of partisan warrior queen.Barack Obama, pressed for weeks by his donors and by the media to take on Clinton more directly, came out swinging against her, moving from uncertainty to a more confident criticism.
She parried an early blow from him, an accusation that she is too close to President Bush and his party on Iran.
"I don’t think the Republicans got the message that I’m voting and sounding like them," she told the Illinois senator.
"If you watched their debate last week, I seemed to be the topic of great conversation and consternation – for a reason."
The heart of Clinton’s case was that if Republicans hate her, she must be doing something right.
"The Republicans, in their constant obsession with me, they obviously think I am communicating effectively," she said later in the debate.
But Obama came back sharper.
"Part of the reason Republicans are obsessed with you, Hillary, is I think that’s a fight they’re very comfortable having," he responded, adding that "what we don’t need is another eight years of bickering."
John Edwards kept up the pressure most skillfully on Clinton, putting his courtroom skills to use to build a case, at times mockingly, against the New York senator.
After almost two hours of largely fruitless sparring with Clinton, accusing her of “double-talk,” Edwards drove his point home when she refused to say whether she supports New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s plan to give drivers’ licenses to illegal immigrants.
“Do I think this is the best thing for any governor to do? No," Clinton said.
"But do I understand the sense of real desperation of trying to get a handle on this? Remember, in New York, we want to know who is in New York, we want people to come out of the shadows."
“Unless I missed something, Sen. Clinton said two different things in the course of two minutes,” he said.
Obama said he supports the plan. An Edwards aide, Mark Kornblau, said after the debate that Edwards also supported the plan.
Clinton, positioned in the middle of the stage with a row of men in suits on each side, turned to her left to listen to Edwards and her right to hear Obama.
She largely responded calmly, diminishing the policy differences between the candidates.
When Edwards tried to draw a difference between his plan to fight terror in the Middle East and hers to run combat missions against Al Qaeda in Iraq, she dismissed the gap as “semantic.”
New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, for his part, came to Clinton’s defense.
"You know what I’m hearing here — I’m hearing this holier-than-thou attitude toward Sen. Clinton ... close to personal attacks that we don’t need," he said. "I think it’s important that we save the ammunition for the Republicans."
The debate later took a turn to the weird, with Rep. Dennis Kucinich confirming that he had seen an unidentified flying object in the company of the actress and spiritualist Shirley MacLaine.
(Immediately after the debate, Richardson offered more ammunition to UFO fanciers in an MSNBC interview: "The federal government has not come clean" on UFOs, he said.
Later, he seemed to backtrack. "I don't believe there are UFOs but the government has not handled this well over the years.")
The UFO exchange also gave Obama, finally fully relaxed, his clearest line of the night.
"What I know is there's life here on Earth, and we're not attending to life here on Earth," he said.
"Video: MSNBC Democratic Debate - October 30, 2007" (with videos)
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
"A thousand (or two) people in the streets of Seattle" (with photos)
October 27, 2007 - A coalition of antiwar activists thundered through the streets of Seattle - part of a nationwide statement to our government and the whole world. An all-ages, colorful assemblage of pissed-off citizens united for peace, justice, and democracy yet again. I'm posting a lot of pictures to convey that the march went on...and on...and on: one of the biggest I've seen in Seattle. It made me proud!
The messages boiled down to a few themes. See below: MESSAGE ONE:
Throw in this message:
And this...Good to know there's an "Anti-Imperialist Committee":
Vets for Peace and Iraq Vets against War
The hot Code Pink props combined with screaming yellow ANSWER posters make quite a statement. Gotta hand it to ANSWER, they print up some sharp in-your-face graphics and distribute them widely.
The peace and love-peddling Kucinich folks were out on force...and a few Ron Pauls.
"Everybody look what's goin' down..." I had many moments of - WHAT YEAR IS IT? 1969 ?
Peace signs everywhere:
Bob Dylan quotes:
Pink Floyd tee shirts (is that Yoko Ono on the right?):
Flag-wrapped protestor luv:
"Young people speakin' their minds..."
He is turning 18 and worried about being drafted, he says.
One of the young folks referred to the cops as "fuzz". I haven't heard that expression since "Mod Squad" went off the air...But look! Not one gray head in this rapt crowd...
"A thousand people in the streets..." The TV report estimated close to two thousand.
West Seattle Neighbors, for whom I stitched this banner:
Vashon Island, Everett, Kitsap County for Peace...
The demonstrators were less than respectful of Dear Leader and his cabal:
My personal favorite:
Outrage over lies:
Outrage over the massive drain on our Treasury:
Outrage over torture:
Outrage over Constitution abuse:
And just plain HAD ENOUGH AND THEN SOME:
More young people speakin' their minds:
This one brilliantly combined his desire for peace and his Caped Crusaderism. Way to go!
I saved the best, er, most controversial, for last - puppets! Here is a jolly-looking greenback-stuffed Capitalistic Fat Cat with a machine gun:
A rough-looking Lady Liberty - wearing a Che t-shirt? Now I've seen everything...
The People's Judge:
The People's Jury:
The Last War:
Of course the famous BACKBONE:
The radiant source of SOLAR POWER, with a poster depicting a happy, peaceful, solar-powered and monorailed Seattle.
And lastly THANKS to the tireless Bill Moyer and the BACKBONE CAMPAIGN BAND for creating a dynamic beat for marching.