Barack Obama raised a stunning $32 million in January, his campaign announced today, as a new national poll showed him pulling within six points of Hillary Clinton.Barack ObamaMr Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, said that the Illinois senator also added 170,000 new donors, with the strongest money-raising period the day after he lost the New Hampshire primary to Mrs Clinton.
Referring to next Tuesday's 22-state contest, Mr Plouffe said: “Obviously these resources are critical...we’ve been able to advertise in just about every February 5 state in pretty high levels."
The Clinton campaign has not yet released its funding results for the month.
With the Democratic nomination expected to drag on after Super Tuesday, when voters in 22 states go to the polls next wek, Mr Plouffe said the Obama campaign will tomorrow start advertising in states that vote after February 5, including Louisiana, Maine and Virginia.
As recently as ten days ago, Mrs Clinton led Mr Obama by 20 points in Gallup's national survey, but the Illinois senator has dramatically cut the gap. His surge follows the endorsement on Monday of Senator Edward Kennedy, the late John F Kennedy's brother, and after a backlash among many senior Democrats over aggressive tactics used by Bill Clinton during the South Carolina primary.
National polls usually have little bearing on contests in individual, early voting states such as Iowa and New Hampshire. But the new survey is an important indicator of the political environment ahead of Super Tuesday.
After accusations that the Clintons used racial tactics in South Carolina to scare white voters away from Mr Obama, Mr Clinton appears to have been reigned in by his wife. In appearances on her behalf in the past 48 hours, he has barely mentioned Mr Obama, instead remaining positive and focusing on his wife's policies.
Mrs Clinton last night apologised for any offence her husband had caused in South Carolina, telling ABC News: “I think whatever he said which was certainly never intended to cause any kind of offence to anyone. If it did give offences then I take responsibility and I'm sorry about that.”
Asked if she could control her husband, she said: “Oh, of course.” In a separate interview she did not deny that she had asked the former president to tone down his campaign rhetoric, and insisted that this was very much her presidential campaign.
Mr Obama, in contrast, has stepped up his criticism of Mrs Clinton, who is now trying to take the moral high ground in their nomination battle at a time when both are desperate to woo supporters of John Edwards, who dropped out of the race yesterday.
In a speech in Denver yesterday, before a huge crowd of more than 10,000, Mr Obama said a Hillary Clinton presidency would be a step back to the past, turning her husband's campaign theme from his 1996 election - building a bridge to the 21st century - against her. “I know it is tempting, after another presidency by a man named George Bush, to simply turn back the clock, and to build a bridge back to the 20th century," Mr Obama said.
Turning to Mrs Clinton's accusation that she is ready to lead America on Day One, and that he is not, Mr Obama said: “It's not enough to say you'll be ready from Day One; you have to be right from Day One." It was a reference to his pre-invasion opposition to the Iraq war, and Mrs Clinton's vote authorising the war.
Mrs Clinton, who is now focusing her message on the economy, jobs and health care - the bread-and-butter issues of most concern to Mr Edwards's supporters - responded. “That certainly sounds audacious, but not hopeful,” she said, a play on the title of Mr Obama's book, The Audacity of Hope. She added: “It's not hopeful and it's not what we should be talking about in this campaign. I would certainly ... hope we could get back to talking about the issues, drawing the contrasts that are based in fact that have a connection to the American people.”
Mrs Clinton holds several advantages heading into Super Tuesday. She has significant leads in the biggest, delegate-rich states of New York, California, New Jersey and Missouri. Yet because of the way Democrats award delegates - through proportional representation - it is mathematically impossible for either candidate to emerge victorious after February 5.
Mr Obama is hoping to do well in his home state of Illinois and in smaller states such as Georgia, Alabama, Kansas, Colorado and North Dakota. He is also trying to limit his opponent's advantage in New York and California.
In his speech, he depicted Mrs Clinton as a calculating, poll-tested, divisive figure who will only inspire greater partisan divisions in America.
Mrs Clinton vowed to take the high road. “I'm going to continue to talk to people about what we need to do in our country to try to lift people up, to keep focused on the future, to be very specific about what I want to do as president, because I want to be held accountable,” she said.
With Mr Edwards out, the debate in Los Angeles tonight will be Mrs Clinton's and Mr Obama's first head-to-head encounter, and their last joint encounter before Super Tuesday. It also demonstrates that, for the first time, the Democratic Party will not be picking a white male as its presidential nominee.
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.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
"Obama raises $32 milion in a month, closes the gap on Hillary"
"A Dozen Reasons Why This Edwards Supporter is Backing Obama"
I gave John Edwards more money than I've given to any candidate in my life, and I'm glad I did. He raised critical issues about America's economic divides, and got them on the Democratic agenda. He was the first major candidate to stake out strong comprehensive platforms on global warming and health care. He hammered away on the Iraq war, even using scarce campaign resources to run ads during recent key Senate votes. He'd have made a powerful nominee-and president.Barack ObamaI've been going through my mourning for a while for his campaign not getting more traction, so his withdrawal announcement didn't shock me. But sad as I am about his departure, I feel good about being able to switch my support to Barack Obama, and will do all I can to help him win.
I've actually been giving small donations to both since Iowa, while hoping that the Edwards campaign would belatedly catch fire, and exploring ways the two campaigns could work together. With Edwards gone, I think Obama is the natural choice for his supporters, and that Edwards should step up and endorse him as his preferred nominee. All three major Democratic candidates have their flaws and strengths-they all have excellent global warming plans, for instance. But Edwards wasn't just being rhetorical when he said that both he and Obama represent voices for change, versus Clinton's embodiment of a Washington status quo joining money and power.
Here are a dozen reasons why I feel proud to have my energy, dollars and vote now go to Obama:
1. The Iraq war: Obviously, invading Iraq remains the most damaging single action of the Bush era. Obama spoke out against it at a public rally while Clinton was echoing Bush's talking points and voting for it. Obama's current advisors also consistently opposed the war, while Clinton's consistently supported it. It's appropriate that Clinton jumped to her feet to clap when Bush said in his recent State of the Union address that there was "no doubt" that "the surge is working."
2. Clinton's Iran vote: The Kyl-Lieberman bill gave the Bush administration so wide an opening for war that Jim Webb called it "Dick Cheney's fondest pipe dream." Hillary voted for it. Obama and Edwards opposed it.
3. The youth vote: If a Party attracts new voters for their first few elections, they tend to stick for the rest of their lives. Obama is doing this on a level unseen in decades. By tearing down the candidate who inspires them, Clinton will so embitter many young voters they'll stay home.
4. Hope matters: When people join movements to realize raised hopes, our nation has a chance of changing. When they damp their hopes, as Clinton suggests, it doesn't. Like Edwards, Obama has helped people feel they can participate in a powerful transformative narrative. That's something to embrace, not mock.
5. Follow the money: All the candidates have some problematic donors-it's the system--but Hillary's the only one with money from Rupert Murdoch. Edwards and Obama refused money from lobbyists. Clinton claimed they were just citizens speaking out, and held a massive fundraising dinner with homeland security lobbyists. Obama spearheaded a public financing bill in the Illinois legislature, while Clinton had to be shamed by a full-page Common Cause ad in the Des Moines Register to join Obama and Edwards in taking that stand.
6. John McCain: If McCain is indeed the Republican nominee, than as Frank Rich brilliantly points out, he's perfectly primed to run as the war hero with independence, maturity and integrity, against the reckless, corrupt and utterly polarizing Clintons. Never mind that McCain's integrity and independence is largely a media myth (think the Charles Keating scandal and his craven embrace of Bush in 2004), but Bill and Hillary heralding their two-for-one White House return will energize and unite an otherwise ambivalent and fractured Republican base.
7. Mark Penn: Clinton's chief strategist, Mark Penn, runs a PR firm that prepped the Blackwater CEO for his recent congressional testimony, is aggressively involved in anti-union efforts, and has represented villains from the Argentine military junta and Philip Morris to Union Carbide after the 1984 Bhopal disaster.
8. Sleazy campaigning: Hillary stayed on the ballot in Michigan after Edwards and Obama pulled their names, then audaciously said the delegates she won unopposed should count retroactively. She, Bill and their surrogates have conducted a politics of personal attack that begins to echo Karl Rove, from distorting Obama's position on Iraq and abortion choice, to dancing out surrogates to imply that the Republicans will tar him as a drug user.
9. NAFTA: Hillary can't have it both ways in stoking nostalgia for Bill. NAFTA damaged lives and communities and widened America's economic divides. Edwards spoke out powerfully against it. Clinton now claims the agreement needs to be modified, but her husband staked all his political capital in ramming it through, helping to hollow out America's economy and split the Democratic Party for the 1994 Gingrich sweep.
10. Widening the circle: Obviously Obama spurs massive enthusiasm in the young and in the African-American community. I'm also impressed at the range of people turning out to support his campaign. At a Seattle rally I attended, the volunteer state campaign chair had started as Perot activist. The founding coordinator in the state's second-largest county, a white female Iraq war vet, voted for Bush in 2000 and written in Colin Powell in 2004 before becoming outraged about Iraq "I've always leaned conservative," she said, "but Obama's announcement speech moved me to tears. The Audacity of Hope made me rethink my beliefs. He inspires me with his honesty and integrity." As well as inspiring plenty of progressive activists, Obama is engaging people who haven't come near progressive electoral politics in years.
11. The story we tell: Obama captures people with a narrative about where he wants to take America. His personal story is powerful, but he keeps the emphasis on the ordinary citizens who need to take action to make change. Clinton, in contrast, focuses largely on her personal story, her presumed strengths and travails. Except for the symbolism of having a woman president, it's a recipe that downplays the possibility of common action for change.
12. Citizen movements matter: Edwards not only ran for president, but worked to build a citizen movement capable of working for change whatever his candidacy's outcome. Obama has taken a similar approach, beginning when he first organized low-income Chicago communities and coordinated a still-legendary voter registration drive. His speeches consciously encourage his supporters to join together and constitute a force equivalent to the abolitionist, union, suffrage, and civil rights movements. Like Edwards, he's working to build a movement capable of pushing his policies through the political resistance he will face (and probably of pushing him too if he fails to lead with enough courage). In this context, Clinton's LBJ/Martin Luther King comparison, and her dismissal of the power of words to inspire people, is all too revealing. She really does believe change comes from knowing how to work the insider levers of power. Edwards and Obama know it takes more.
That's why this Edwards supporter is proud to do all I can to make Barack Obama the Democratic nominee and president.
"Town Hall Meeting with U.S. Sen. John Kerry"
Obama for America Presents
a Town Hall Meeting with U.S. Sen. John Kerry
Friday, February 1, 2008 at 9am
University of Washington Husky Union Building (HUB) Auditorium
With special guests Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels and U.S. Rep. Adam Smith
Please RSVP online at http://my.barackobama.com/page/event/detail/4vrg8
or please call 206-529-3859 or email Washington@barackobama.com
Come learn more about Barack Obama from Obama supporter and 2004 Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry. Sen. Kerry recently endorsed Barack Obama, citing his judgment, character, and unique ability to bring about transformational change in our country.
"Not Only Fired Up for CHANGE, but raised 32M in January, alone!!!"
cross-posted @ One Million Strong
A friend sent me a link of the late, great Senator Pat Moynihan's widow endorsing, Obama.
I must admit, I was surprised. Just as I have been surprised with Caroline Kennedy's endorsement, and her actively stumping for Barack Obama.But what got me about Elizabeth B. Moynihan's endorsment was this:
I know he would have become excited, as I have, to see Barack Obama rekindle hope in our young as he encourages them to participate in the political process, and I know Pat would approve, applaud and encourage me to join Caroline Kennedy in supporting Barack Obama’s candidacy for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States.
- icebergslim's diary :: ::
There is sheer excitement for Barack Obama. Every state he goes to, thousands just appear, as we have seen this week from Kansas, Kansas City, Denver, Phoenix, Birmingham, Atlanta, this is real.
Another thing that caught me was this from Mrs. Moynihan:
Mrs. Moynihan said she was inspired by an Op-Ed piece by Caroline Kennedy, the daughter of President John F. Kennedy, published on Sunday in The New York Times, and was also dismayed by the hostility Bill and Hillary Clinton have shown recently to Mr. Obama’s candidacy.
That dismay and resentment of the Clintons are real. Many who I know socially, through work, family members not following the primary race but picked up on the Clinton hostility in South Carolina, openly stated they don't like it.
Why should anyone like it? After South Carolina, who want to repeat that story? But it just makes you think, do we want or need another Clinton Administration? All those negative things, brought us back to what we had to deal with and witness under Bill Clinton, and it was not pretty.
That is why hope and optimism is important. Why? It gets folks, fired up and ready to go, for a purpose. It brings new voters out and those who are disenfranchised back in. It makes Independents swing our way, with some Republicans following, too. Why would anyone not want this for the Democratic Party? We all know that Barack Obama is bringing this steam and folks are responding.
What The Clintons tried to do in South Carolina was snuff out the possibility of hope and optimisim, for their own gain. But what they found out was that it is was rebuked, soundly and that Democratic establishment started to line up behind Barack Obama. Senator Ted Kennedy and Caroline Kennedy stuck a knife in The Clintons, by backing Barack Obama. Now they have to sit, watch and take it.
There is nothing wrong with fair game on one's record. It is total fair game. But the tactics of the Clintons sunk so low, they now are wondering if the voters will quietly, forcefully and soundly send a message. That is a vote for Obama.
Lastly, want to know how fired up Obama has been to the public? He raised 32M in January alone and plans to advertise, in states after February 5th. This is real.Campaign manager David Plouffe said the campaign attracted 170,000 new donors for a total of 650,000 donors overall.
Obama is advertising in all but two of the Feb. 5 states and plans to begin advertising in states with upcoming contests, including Louisiana, Washington, Nebraska, Maine, Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C.
YES WE CAN!!!!
MATT CAMERON OF PEARL JAM AND THE TOTAL EXPERIENCE GOSPEL CHOIR
And to continue the roll to the White House, donate to the Obamathon:
Howie P.S.: Thanks to icebergslim for cross-posting the "Fired Up, Ready to Go" video here that was made in Seattle!
"Obama Amps It Up"
LOS ANGELES -- Somewhat overlooked Wednesday amid the hubbub over John Edwards' exit from the Democratic race was this: Barack Obama is slowly but surely ratcheting up his rhetoric against Hillary Clinton, building what amounts to a hard-edged closing case against his rival as the pair head into a high-stakes debate here tonight.Howie P.S.: CNN, 5-7pm PST.It has been a gradual buildup for Obama. After his defeat in Nevada, he started hitting Clinton in his stump speech for what he said were her misstatements on his record and platform, such as her charge that he was for a "trillion dollar tax increase on hard-working families" because he has said he is open to raising the $97,500 cap on salary taxed for Social Security. At his victory speech in South Carolina Saturday night, he broadened this out to a sweeping condemnation of Clinton's tactics as old politics. "Right now, that status quo is fighting back with everything it's got; with the same old tactics that divide and distract us from solving the problems people face," he said.
He has been carrying that theme forward all week, casting the opposition's criticisms as nothing but the defensive lashes of an establishment under siege. In his grandfather's hometown of El Dorado, Kansas on Tuesday, he echoed the South Carolina speech in declaring that the nomination battle was "about the past versus the future." "It's about whether we settle for the divisions and distractions and drama that passes for politics today, or whether we reach for a politics of common sense and innovation," he said.
But he took this a step further Wednesday in Denver, where he told a crowd of 9,000 in the University of Denver basketball arena (with thousands more listening in spillover areas elsewhere on campus) that Clinton -- without naming her name -- was not only the representative of old politics, but someone poorly positioned for the general election. It was the most explicit case against Clinton's electability he has made to date.
"We can be a Party that tries to beat the other side by practicing the same do-anything, say-anything, divisive politics that has stood in the way of progress; or we can be a Party that puts an end to it," he said. He continued: "We've reached Americans of all political stripes who are more interested in turning the page than turning up the heat on our opponents. That's how Democrats will win in November and build a majority in Congress. Not by nominating a candidate who will unite the other party against us, but by choosing one who can unite this country around a movement for change."
He made his attack on electability and effectiveness in office specific to trade, health care, and foreign policy. Voters, he said, "can't afford to wait another four years or another fifteen years to get health care because we've put forward a nominee who can't bring Democrats and Republicans together to get things done." On the war in Iraq: "It's time for new leadership that understands that the way to win a debate with John McCain...is not by nominating someone who agreed with him on voting for the war in Iraq; who agreed with him by voting to give George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran; who agrees with him in embracing the Bush-Cheney policy of not talking to leaders we don't like; and who actually differed with him by arguing for exceptions for torture before changing positions when the politics of the moment changed."
He concluded: "It's not enough to say you'll be ready from Day One - you have to be right from Day One."
And he kept it up in Phoenix Wednesday night, telling a crowd of more than 10,000 inside Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum that his campaign was attracting "all the usual reactions from Washington," as he mixed together the criticisms from Clinton with the anonymous emails calling him a radical Muslim and accusing him of not saluting the flag for the Pledge of Allegiance.
It all added up, he said, to a "smear campaign just like we've seen in the past, the rubbing raw of racial divisions, making us suspicious of one another, all the strategies designed to make us afraid. You know, we don't need fear. We're tired of the politics of fear...We're tired of the smear campaigns. We're tired of the racial divisions. That's all in the past. We want to go forward."
It's strong stuff, and the Clinton campaign did its best to knock it down, calling the Denver speech -- which for all its tough lines was delivered in Obama's customary lofty tones -- an "angry screed" that was "certainly audacious, but not very hopeful."
It should be a good debate tonight.
"Why Caroline Backed Obama"
Her kids, her uncle, her father—and Obama's father—all played a role.--For all the attention paid to Ted Kennedy's endorsement of Barack Obama, the more crucial seal of approval may be the one affixed by Caroline Kennedy. An Obama TV ad that features her is already being widely aired in Super Tuesday states. If Caroline helps Obama cut into Hillary Clinton's base among women over 40 (especially Roman Catholic women), Obama aides believe her involvement could prove important to the outcome.Barack ObamaThe behind-the-scenes story of Caroline's journey into the Obama camp features her three teenage children, her uncle—and a long-forgotten controversy from the 1960 presidential campaign. The complicated tale involves an angry Sen. John F. Kennedy, Vice President Richard Nixon's "truth squad," baseball great Jackie Robinson and a group of stranded African students trying to book passage to the United States—including Barack Obama Sr., father of the presidential candidate.
I've known Caroline since the 1970s, and with the help of a knowledgeable source have pieced together how she moved from neutral observer of the campaign to impassioned Obama supporter, shedding tears at American University on Monday as she witnessed a moment that, she believed, deeply fulfilled the ideals of her family.
"It was my father's spirit, living on in a meaningful, profound way," she said afterward.
For decades Caroline has dutifully campaigned for the Democratic nominee for president. But except for 1980, when her uncle Ted ran unsuccessfully for president, she has never involved herself in a party primary contest. She did not expect that 2008 would prove to be different, though her long relationship with the Clintons and her admiration of them left her open to possibly backing Hillary. During the Clinton administration she hosted a dinner party for the president and First Lady on Martha's Vineyard, went sailing with them and her family and stayed in irregular but friendly contact.
Like all Democrats, Caroline and her husband, Edwin Schlossberg, had admired Obama's keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. But she didn't consider his possible presidential campaign seriously until Christmas 2006, when a friend of her older daughter, Rose, a Harvard sophomore, sat in her kitchen and described how Ivy League students were already organizing for Obama even before he officially declared his candidacy.
Declining invitations to fund-raisers, she and her 17-year-old daughter Tatiana slipped unrecognized into a speech Obama made last April to an African-American audience in New York. Obama didn't realize she had been there until after he left, and he quickly called her to make amends for not saying hello, which was the first time they talked. She saw him speak again at an event on Martha's Vineyard over the summer (when she also saw a Hillary speech) and at a September Obama rally in Manhattan's Washington Square Park, where she stood unobtrusively at the rear of a huge crowd.
Unlike some voters, Caroline wasn't immediately swayed by his oratory. Instead she watched the campaign closely, read Obama's position papers and his memoir, "Dreams From My Father," and talked to Rose, Tatiana and Jack, now 15, whom Obama on Monday described as "my greatest advocates over the last several months." Like Missouri Sen. Claire McCaskill and Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius, two other prominent supporters, Caroline credits her children with influencing her to take a closer look at Obama.
After Obama's big victory in Iowa, she spoke with the Illinois senator on the phone and pledged her support. Then, last week, Bill Clinton and his daughter Chelsea called her. Unlike Ted Kennedy's heated phone conversation with Clinton (which I learned of in mid-January from sources outside the Kennedy family), Caroline and the former president spoke cordially. But all along Caroline was talking much more frequently to Ted, with whom she is extremely close.
The Obama camp at first thought to send Caroline out to announce her support by campaigning with Obama on JFK Boulevard in New Jersey, but she decided instead to offer an op-ed piece to the New York Times, which she wrote on her own late one night, a few days before the Jan. 26 South Carolina primary. Before the article appeared she called Chelsea to tell her she was backing Obama.
One intriguing element of Obama's family history that resonated with Caroline was a long-buried story that was brought to her attention last summer. It drove home for her how history replays itself, how two generations of two families—separated by distance, culture and wealth—can intersect in strange and wonderful ways, and how people have no idea that their good deeds may come back to them someday.
Two weeks after he was nominated for president in July 1960, then-Senator Kennedy received a visit at his vacation home in Hyannis Port, Mass., from a Kenyan educator, Tom Mboya, who told him that more than 200 African students had received scholarships to American universities through the African-American Students Foundation but did not have the $100,000 for air transport. Despite efforts by Vice President Nixon (whom JFK would face in the November election), the Eisenhower State Department would not pay for what was described as "the African airlift."
With only weeks to go before the school year began, Kennedy quietly tapped his family's Kennedy Foundation, which agreed to raise the necessary funds privately. Upon learning this Nixon, seeking black votes, quickly convinced the State Department to reverse itself and offer the money, then arranged for one of his best-known African-American supporters, retired Brooklyn Dodgers star Jackie Robinson, to write a newspaper column praising him for coming to the aid of the African students.
But Nixon didn't stop there. Sen. Hugh Scott, who headed Nixon's campaign "truth squad," took to the Senate floor to denounce JFK for "plucking this project away from the U.S. government" in a "misuse of tax-exempt foundation money for blatant political purposes." Kennedy replied that this was "the most unfair, distorted and malignant attack I have heard in 14 years in politics."
When the truth finally emerged, Robinson wrote a column saying, "I don't mind admitting it—I was wrong." The airlift money came through from the Kennedy Foundation, and the students arrived. Barack Obama Sr. went to the University of Hawaii, where he met and married a young white woman from Kansas.
Their son, born the following year, arrived in the United States Senate in early 2005 and found that the antique desk he had been assigned on the Senate floor had once belonged to JFK, whose initials were carved inside. Obama learned only recently how his father's dream of studying in the United States had been fulfilled. A "young senator from Massachusetts" made an effort, Obama told the crowd at American University. "And because he did, I stand before you today."
The story captured why Caroline felt so satisfied by the symmetry of Monday's event. By Tuesday she was off to Colorado to begin campaigning with the man she believes is the true heir to her own father's legacy.
"He’s baaaacccckkk…Nader forms presidential exploratory committee"
Ralph Nader, the consumer advocate who has been accused by Democrats of helping hand the White House to George W. Bush in 2000, has formed a committee to explore another presidential bid.
Sure to stir up a hornet’s nest, Nader launched an Internet site to recruit campaign workers, paid and unpaid, as well as to raise money for a possible White House run.
Donors who give $300 will receive three books and two DVDs, including Michael Moore’s Sicko movie about the state of health care in the United States.
He has run several times before, including in 2004 as an independent and in 2000 as the Green Party candidate. That year he was blamed by many for siphoning off votes from Al Gore and ultimately resulting in Bush securing the White House.
"Dori monson cohort is passed over in KIRO massacre"
Howie P.S.: One word always pops in my head when Monson's name is mentioned: "ass."
"This has got Dori's fingerprints all over it," says one KIRO-ite.
"It stinks," writes another. "He finally won."The post-massacre KIRO weekend skedge is out and wonder of wonders: The Angel of Death passed over Phil, the news junkie's door! Besides the gardening Cisco and the cookin' Tom Douglas, the only local talk show left on the weekend is The News Junkie, the little show that does no harm, has neither listeners, nor point of view; but does have the tremendous advantage of being hosted by Phil Vandevort, the longtime producer for conservative Dori Monson, the self-proclaimed "King of Seattle Talk Radio."
David Goldstein, Bryan Styble, and Carl Jeffers and the support hours that go with them were eliminated Wednesday.
The Dori Monson Clause that retained Phil kinda blows a hole in the out-of-their-hands, "budgetary concerns" explanation they gave for laying off all these people.
It kinda blows...
"Dori has been after Goldy's hide for a year," says a newsie; "He's pushes his weight around, always has -- I don't know whether he got Goldy fired, but for sure if Phil's $300 a week job was saved, Dori was behind it."
Dori (whose name is a girl's name) stopped speaking or acknowledging Goldy's presence a few months ago.
KIRO staffers agree: Dori can be a real prick. "All this reminds me of the bad old Entercom days when you felt like you had to kiss his ass to keep your job."
This means a big loss of employment for the horrifically underpaid Board ops too. That's probably the reason Dustin Hornby walked. We'll be interested in hearing more about that.
It's only weekends, we know. But KIRO's closing them down for fledgling local talent is the end of an era. There is effectively no way for a talk host in this town to get started.
We'll probably pass on The Mutual Fund Show, and we can only listen to Bob Brinker once a week.
But take it from us: NPR is where it's at on weekends: in case you haven't already been driven away from KIRO. check out the weekend fare on KUOW.
Here's the Saturday line-up (except they don't say who will be in the former Carl Jeffers spot at 10p or on the overnight -- can't wait to find out!):
6am – 9am KIRO Morning News
9am- 10am The Mutual Fund Show
10am – 1pm In the Garden w/Cisco Morris
1pm to 4pm Bob Brinker Show
4pm-7pm In the Kitchen w/Tom Douglas
7pm-10pm Best of TBTL
Doesn't get much more exciting on Sunday:
6am -9am KIRO Morning News
9am- 10am Meet the Press
10am- 1pm Handel on the Law
1pm- 4pm Bob Brinker Show
4pm-7pm The News Junkie
7pm-8pm CBS News Weekend Round-up
8pm-9pm Meet the Press (Repeat)
9pm-Midnite Leo LaPorte – The Tech Guy
Midnite to 4am Bob Brinker (Repeat)
"For John Edwards, A Moment of Truth"
Politics demands that some truths cannot be told. You cannot divulge how much you ache inside, how difficult defeat is to swallow until you swallow it.Barack ObamaA week ago John Edwards was on his campaign bus barnstorming through rural South Carolina when he was asked a question that so many were pondering about his presidential candidacy: Are you in the Democratic race for the long haul?
"Yes, sir," he said.
Regardless of how well you do in the South Carolina primary or on Super Tuesday? Is there any calculation that would change your mind?
Edwards shook his head, no. He would compete all the way to the Democratic National Convention.
"This is not about me or my personal ambition," he said in the interview. "It's about the cause and the voices who are not being heard."
Yesterday, Edwards ended his campaign where he began it, in New Orleans, invoking the cause of poverty and the voices of janitors, nurses and poultry workers. He ended it with a straightforward declarative sentence: "It's time for me to step aside so that history can blaze its path." That was a simple truth he had long known, for either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton was bound to win the Democratic nomination. But it was a truth he felt he could not reveal even a week ago.
Hindsight is a cheap piece of instant wisdom, not nearly so valuable as prescience. But here's some hindsight from South Carolina: As Edwards campaigned there, a native son come home, his voice was strong and passionate whenever he was onstage or bellowing from a bullhorn. But when he was mingling in a diner, when folks were whispering in his ear, when he was signing their posters, his eyes sometimes told a different story -- and not one of attentive exuberance. He had the dead eyes of a candidate looking past the moment.
At Whiteford's Giant Burger in Laurens, S.C., a retired woman beckoned him toward her. "I don't know if I can get way over there," Edwards told her. "I'm sorry." She was not more than 10 feet away. Would Edwards have made the small effort at a different point in his campaign? For whatever hindsight's worth.
And there was this: "The whole country knows [Elizabeth] is terminally ill," former Georgia congressman Ben Jones said of Edward's wife and political partner. "If it's you or me, it's a no-brainer. Elizabeth is such a trouper, and she campaigned so relentlessly, I'm sure she was exhausted. I think he made the right decision on a personal level, that his priority was her health. It's hard for either one of them to give this up."
Beginning Tuesday night and continuing yesterday morning, Edwards made phone calls to people who needed to know of his decision before he announced it. He reached Dave "Mudcat" Saunders, a senior strategist and the campaign's national rural liaison, in a hotel room in Atlanta. Saunders was preparing for Super Tuesday. The news turned him melancholy.
"I'm a Scots-Irish hillbilly. I operate on passion rather than intelligence," he said. Saunders spoke by phone yesterday evening while traveling the highways headed home to Virginia. "I'm going to get home and get under my bed and get in a fetal position and suck my thumb with my gun, and then get back out there."
When Edwards phoned, he told Saunders: "I just want you to know you're my pal." According to Saunders, Edwards was more worried about him than anything else. Edwards did not, however, speak another truth that seems evident: He is drawn more to Obama than to Clinton.
Campaign advisers say this, and Edwards's debate and stump performances say this. Yesterday, however, all Edwards would say is he will continue talking to both candidates but not endorse anyone just yet.
But here's what ol' Mudcat had to say about that: "I'm going to do everything I can to make sure it's not Hillary Clinton." Saunders added: "Hillary Clinton has about as much chance of beating John McCain as this Scots-Irish hillbilly has of becoming pope."
This, of course, presumes John McCain will be the Republican nominee. But regardless, Saunders's logic is that there is no state in the country that Clinton can win that John Kerry didn't win in 2004. Which leaves the Democrats a state short of victory.
"I've gone over the math carefully," said Saunders. "Barack Obama, I don't know enough about him to make that decision on whether he can win. I've never met him. But his chances would have to be stronger than Hillary's."
"She's got toxic coattails," added Saunders. "I think it could be devastating for the party."
John Edwards would never say anything like that.
When asked in the interview last week if he had more in common with Obama or Clinton, there was a nine-second pause. "It's a complicated question," Edwards finally said. And then he went into, for a second time, how much pride he felt that his party could have an African American and a woman as its two leading candidates. "I'll just leave it at that for now."
But others won't.
Jones, best known as Cooter on the 1980s TV show "The Dukes of Hazzard," campaigned for Edwards in all of the early states. He said most of the Edwards staffers he dealt with were partial to the senator from Illinois. Interviews with other campaign aides suggest Jones is onto something. One senior Edwards adviser said Obama was not perfect, but comes closest to being a consensus second choice: "Clinton is the status quo, Obama appeases the status quo. And John fights the status quo."
Except John has left the ring.
"I've already enlisted in the Barack Obama campaign," Jones said. "The fight goes on. It's about the past and the future, and I'm with the future. I think the Clintons are the past."
As for what Edwards will do?
That truth is known. It just hasn't been revealed.
"Clintons come calling: Time to repay favors"
Hillary and Bill Clinton are calling in 15 years' worth of political IOUs and asking old friends for help as they try to head off Illinois Sen. Barack Obama in Washington's Feb. 9 Democratic precinct caucuses.Barack Obama
"The loyalty goes back a long ways," Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., noted Wednesday as she endorsed Hillary Clinton.Murray put parameters on the endorsement, saying she was acting out of "personal loyalty and friendship." Murray, a member of the Senate Democratic leadership, will not participate in the caucuses.
She was pointed about which Clinton she is embracing.
"I told Hillary that finding her own voice was absolutely critical," she said. "My support is for Hillary and the Hillary I knew before she went to the Senate and with whom I have served in the Senate."
Asked about recent days, in which ex-President Clinton attacked Obama and overshadowed his candidate wife, Murray posed a question asked by many Democrats across the country: "Who controls him?"
Gov. Chris Gregoire said she will endorse a candidate next week before the caucuses. Two close colleagues, Govs. Janet Napolitano of Arizona and Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, have come out for Obama.
Gregoire was not tipping her hand, but acknowledged that the Obama-Clinton choice is much tougher than she expected.
"I will admit to you that I have vacillated," the governor said. "Where I was two months ago is not where I am today. I love the message of hope that he sends. But I really admire her experience."
Asked who is lobbying her, Gregoire replied: "Oh boy! Bill Clinton is trying to connect with me. Obama is trying to get hold of me." She has heard Clinton pitches from ex-Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Townsend.
Gregoire gave a succinct answer to why she is being courted. "I think this state is absolutely in play," she said.
Withdrawal by John Edwards on Wednesday reduced the Democratic field to a two-person choice, pitting the first African-American to mount a viable bid for the presidency against the first woman with a clear shot at the White House.
"With Edwards out, my choice is Obama," Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin said after a breakfast with Madrona neighbors.
The Democrats' 2004 presidential nominee, Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., will campaign Friday in Seattle for Obama.
And Obama is coming back to the Northwest on Saturday. He will rally Democrats in Idaho, one of the nation's "reddest" states. Idaho holds its presidential caucuses on Super Tuesday.
Obama has been in the Seattle area four times. He drew big crowds to 2006 events at Garfield High School and Bellevue Community College, and packed Benaroya Hall for a lecture on his book "The Audacity of Hope."
The two visits of Obama's presidential campaign have combined inexpensive events -- a rally and a rock concert -- with pricey private fundraisers.
The Clintons have adopted a pay-per-view policy since the last big Pike Place Market rally of the 1996 presidential campaign. Bill Clinton has hawked books. He has collected $100,000-plus speaking fees in British Columbia. He has solicited local billionaires to help launch his foundation.
Hillary Clinton talked at a state Democrats awards ceremony in October, but squeezed no fewer than three private $2,300-a-person fundraisers into a 15-hour visit. She raised money for Sen. Maria Cantwell's 2006 re-election, but also took in $100,000 at a reception for her own Senate campaign.
The Clintons have done favors for which they can call in chits.
Cantwell, who endorsed Hillary Clinton early this month, has cited the Clintons' help in retiring her 2000 campaign debt. Bill Clinton raised $330,000 in a Seattle visit. Hillary Clinton opened her Embassy Row mansion in Washington, D.C., for a Cantwell fundraiser.
Hillary Clinton did a 1998 fundraiser for House candidate Jay Inslee at Dale Chihuly's glass sculpture studio. Bill Clinton wrote the foreword to Inslee's recent book "Apollo's Fire."
Inslee is a co-chairman of Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign in Washington.
Both Clintons campaigned here for Cantwell in 2006. Bill Clinton did a fundraiser to benefit Rep. Jim McDermott's legal defense fund. McDermott fought a decadelong legal battle with Rep. John Boehner, R-Ohio, over the leak of an illegally taped conversation between House Republican leaders.
Hillary Clinton has been soliciting McDermott's support in a battle for the hearts and minds of Seattle liberals.
She has twice been the keynote speaker at Murray's annual Golden Tennis Shoes awards ceremony and fundraising lunch.
Murray praised Clinton's "steeliness and courage" in the face of a hostile crowd turned out by right-wing radio hosts in 1994 when the first lady launched a "Health Care Caravan" in Seattle.
The health care rally was one of two jolts that Clinton has experienced in coming to Seattle. The other was a mild earthquake that shook Seattle shortly before one of Murray's luncheons.
A joke ran across the ballroom, namely that the phrase "The earth moved!" was usually associated with Bill Clinton.
Prominent Washingtonians who have endorsed presidential candidates in the '08 race:
Hillary Clinton: Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell; King County Executive Ron Sims; Rep. Jay Inslee; former Gov. Gary Locke.
Barack Obama: Rep. Adam Smith; Seattle City Council President Richard Conlin; former Seattle Mayor Norm Rice.
John McCain: Attorney General Rob McKenna; former Gov. Dan Evans; former Sen. Slade Gorton.
"YOUTUBE TO YOUBAMA" (with video)
Barack Obama recently shattered YouTube records with popular speeches, and now his YouTube fans are talking back.Obama's videos keep breaking campaign records -- his rebuttal to the State of the Union drew over 700,000 views in two days -- and some people are uploading their own grassroots videos on his behalf. A new site, YouBama.com, invites people to join a "citizen generated campaign" to advance Obama's candidacy.But it does reflect a sizable public appetite for hearing directly from the candidates about substance -- rather than the punditry, strategy and polls that dominate campaign media coverage.
Founded this week by Eric Park and Christopher Pedregal, two computer science alums from Stanford, YouBama is a hub for people to put their Obama support into words. It features testimonials from random people, political activists, Internet celebrities like Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, and real celebrities like Charles Barkley. "There's nothing more convincing than finding someone who really believes in a candidate and can tell you why when its heartfelt," said Pedregal in an interview with The Nation. "It might resonate more than a pre-packaged ad," he added. Pedregal and Park made the site in their free time and they do not run any advertising on it.
Since its launch this week, with a plug from the hot blog TechCrunch, YouBama has drawn 22,000 visitors. That's solid for a new, unfunded site, though it won't catch Obama's YouTube channel anytime soon. That portal has drawn over 11 million views -- about ten times that of Hillary Clinton -- and it is the most viewed channel across YouTube this week. (Many of the viewers are new people who are not on Obama's email or social network lists, for example, over 25,000 viewers of the rebuttal video came via Friendster, where Obama does not even have an official profile.)
On Wednesday, the Obama Campaign sent a fundraising email to supporters from Ted Kennedy promoting a YouTube highlight reel of his recent endorsement. Under the subject line "I'm with Obama," Kennedy invited supporters to join him on YouTube. "You may have already seen clips of my speech or parts of it on Monday. But take a look here. The energy in that room was amazing, and it's spreading across America," read the message, which was also sent to Kennedy's own email list.
Of course, Obama's online popularity says little about how most people will vote, as I've noted before.
Below is a testimonial from YouBama, followed by the two most recent official videos from the Obama and Clinton Campaigns.
The Stranger: "Our Endorsement for President"
For all the heated disagreements between the Democratic frontrunners, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, the policy differences between the two senators are pretty minimal. This can easily be missed while watching (and, for a lot of excited Democrats, participating in) the most interesting nomination fight in a generation. But the fact is both candidates support the urgent, fully defined, and popular Democratic agenda that has emerged after eight years of George W. Bush's catastrophic presidency.Howie P.S.: This was written before Edwards exited the campaign, stage left. Even so, and in spite of the fact that Seattle people like to mock The Stranger on occasion, this is one of best written endorsements I have seen.Under Bush, the number of Americans without health insurance has soared from 39 million to 47 million; the gap between rich and poor has reached an unprecedented and precarious divide thanks in part to Bush's top-down tax cuts, with the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans now earning nearly 25 percent of all income; and the $275-million-a-day fiasco in Iraq continues with nearly 4,000 American troops and 700,000 Iraqis dead.It's about transcendence. Barack Obama, with his rhetorical appeal to the center, is poised to make the Democratic Party the mainstream political voice in America.
This would seem to be a political environment in which it would be impossible for Democrats to lose. But we have felt this confident, and been burned, before. Thus, the crucial question facing the Stranger Election Control Board was this: Which candidate is best suited to take on the formidable and conniving GOP—and Fox News, Rush Limbaugh, and America's cowed "liberal" media—in November? The SECB believes the answer to this question is Barack Obama.
* * *
It is hard to believe today, but as recently as three years ago the Democratic party seemed in the midst of a crippling identity crisis. Its leaders could not figure out how to connect with a country that had become unrecognizable to most liberals. Now this same party—having won control of Congress in 2006—is speaking to a voting population that has, by and large, caught on. Democrats are advancing a focused agenda to achieve universal health care, end the occupation of Iraq, combat global warming, reestablish the United States as a respected international leader, reverse the erosion of civil liberties at home, and make the economy work for the middle class again.
Obama, a once-in-a-generation political orator with a bold message of unity, is the best bet for moving that agenda into the Oval Office. For starters, he would be better against the GOP on the campaign trail than Clinton. The SECB admires Hillary Clinton, and not in a damning-with-faint-praise sort of way: She's a wonk, and she can be a tough, even ruthless campaigner. But we have reservations about nominating a candidate who's so polarizing. If we were Republicans—which we're not, because Republicans are always fucking over people who live on SECB wages—we'd be terrified about having to take on a superstar like Barack Obama.
An Obama candidacy would be buoyed by his inspirational life story—a mixed-race kid abandoned by his father who made it to Harvard Law and the U.S. Senate, with a stint as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago in between. His candidacy will also be buoyed by his charisma. A single, profound speech about unity at the 2004 Democratic National Convention made him a sensation. And the eloquence has continued with goose-bump moments during his "In the face of impossible odds" speech in Iowa, and his "It is not about black versus white... it's about the past versus the future" speech in South Carolina.
What encourages the SECB most about Obama's oratory is that he uses his gift to open people's minds, unify them around progressive values, and challenge them to do better. At his Martin Luther King holiday speech in front of a black congregation in Atlanta, for example, he condemned the scourge of homophobia and anti-Semitism in the African-American community. By contrast, Clinton sticks to the standard politics of shameless pandering, telling interest groups only what they most want to hear.
On the less impressionistic side of things, there are the numbers. Where Clinton rallies support from staunch, partisan liberals—people whose votes are already firmly Democratic—Obama appeals to an all-important category, given the closeness of the last presidential election: the nearly 30 percent of America's electorate who identify themselves as independents. Nationally, Obama has an 11-point lead over Clinton among independents. These independents are infusing energy into the Democratic primaries—and were it not for Obama drawing them there, they might otherwise drift to John McCain.
* * *
At first, Obama's appeal for unity put us off. In his efforts to reach across old divides, he sometimes mimics GOP rhetoric about Social Security. He put out a mailer in South Carolina proclaiming himself a "committed Christian." He refused to cancel appearances with an antigay gospel singer. The SECB is not interested in "reaching out" to people whose political goals are inimical to liberal values.
But all we had to do was look at Obama's record and policy proposals to realize that he's committed to a liberal agenda. (Shhh—don't tell the Republicans.)
He has a 96 percent rating from the League of Conservation Voters and cosponsored a righteous and aggressive proposal by Senator Bernie Sanders (VT-Socialist?) for an alternative cap-and-trade proposal to curb global-warming emissions. He has eloquently defended abortion rights on the campaign trail, and his votes in the U.S. Senate have earned him a 100 percent rating from NARAL Pro-Choice America. He wants to repeal the federal Defense of Marriage Act and he denounced the pandering flag-burning amendment.
Most significantly, Obama was openly opposed to the war when that position was unpopular, warning in 2002 that "even a successful war against Iraq will require a U.S. occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences." He's voted for withdrawal timelines and he voted to restore habeas corpus.
As for Social Security, he's not raising alarm bells because he wants to privatize it. He's raising alarm bells because he wants to extend the payroll tax to tap fatter incomes. And while his health-care proposals look slightly more cautious than Clinton's, he's thinking ahead. Where punitive mandates may very well derail Clinton's proposed program before it gets off the ground, Obama's more palatable, incentive-based program could muscle through Congress and immediately expand access to quality health care.
Obama's liberal voting record, his position on the war, and his campaign priorities are firmly progressive. His promise lies in his ability to appeal to a wide cross section of Americans, and hopefully persuade them that these and other long-standing Democratic goals are mainstream no-brainers. It just might work.
* * *
Polls have found that when Hillary Clinton supporters are asked the main reason for their choice, almost as many point to the fact that she's married to Bill Clinton as cite her own experience. (An embarrassing 58 percent of Hillary Clinton voters in New Hampshire said that if third terms were allowed, they'd prefer Bill to his wife.) These stats point to a deeply troubling aspect of Clinton's campaign. She has a legitimate claim to an historic candidacy, but she has undercut it by playing up nostalgia for the 1990s. By rewarding old loyalties, Clinton is inflaming old ideological battles—battles that some of us on the SECB find dull. If she's able to squeak past the Republican nominee and secure the White House—and that's a big if—she could find herself paralyzed by the same partisan warfare she used to secure the nomination in the first place.
And about John Edwards: His shrink-wrapped anticorporate rhetoric sounds more like a campaign tactic than a firmly held belief. We like that he helped to focus his rivals on poverty and the environment, but a quick glance at his voting record in the U.S. Senate is all you need to understand that he's either a dilettante or a schizophrenic. We don't think Edwards—with his dismal showing in Nevada (which was supposed to be his populist union turf) and South Carolina (where he was born)—is much of a campaigner.
The election of Obama to the presidency would be a jump cut in American history, something the up-and-coming generation is clamoring for. President Bush's ugly politics have felt like a culmination of divisive culture wars dating back to the 1960s. Obama, who was born in 1961, represents a chance to move on, finally.
That's the energy of this election, and Obama, not baby-boomer Clinton, is the one who best represents our interests. Certainly, the SECB recognizes the history-making value in the possibility of a woman president, but Obama offers the chance for a truly seismic shift. And no, it's not about race (although we don't underestimate the symbolism—to the rest of the world—of electing a black man after eight years of cowboy diplomacy).
Wednesday, January 30, 2008
"Obama: Clinton too similar to GOP candidates on Iraq"
Rallying in the west with an all-star cast including Caroline Kennedy, Barack Obama sharpened his criticism of rival Hillary Clinton as a divisive, old-school politician as they formally entered a two-day race six days before Super Tuesday's primary blitz.As speculation swirled that Obama might get the endorsement -- and delegates -- of John Edwards, who hours earlier had dropped from the presidential race, Obama turned up the heat on Clinton by casting her as scarcely different from GOP White House hopefuls including new frontrunner John McCain.
He particularly slammed her muscular foreign policy platforms, including her initial vote for the Iraq war, which he has consistently condemned.
"It's time for new leadership that understands that the way to win a debate with John McCain or any Republican who is nominated is not by having the Democrats nominate someone who agreed with them on the war in Iraq," Obama told a cheering crowd estimated at 9,500, with thousands more in overflow areas, at a University of Denver arena.
Like Republicans, Clinton gave President George W. Bush "the benefit of the doubt" on contemplating military action in Iran and other hardline policies, Obama said. Yet she "actually differed with John McCain by arguing for exceptions for torture before changing positions when the politics of the moment changed," he continued sternly.
"Talking tough, and tallying up years in Washington, that's no substitute for judgement or courage," Obama said.
"It is not enough to say you'll be ready from Day One," he continued, borrowing the same line from Clinton's campaign that his new mentor, Sen. Ted Kennedy, had done earlier this week. "You have to be right from day one."
He also slammed Clinton for having appeared in Florida after primary polls closed Tuesday night to thank voters, after all Democratic candidates had pledged not to campaign there.
"We can be a Party that tries to beat the other side by practicing the same do-anything, say-anything, divisive politics that has stood in the way of progress," Obama said amid rowdy cries of "Boo!"
"Or," he added, "we can be a party that puts an end to it."
Obama received as much applause as Caroline Kennedy, who turned out to salute him with Denver Broncos star Rod Smith and former Colorado Sen. Gary Hart, a two-time presidential hopeful.
The willingness of the usually politically reclusive Camelot princess to stump with Obama in Denver and later Wednesday in Phoenix underscored the weight that American's most powerful political dynasty is throwing behind the Illinois senator, who is gaining on Clinton in nationwide polls. Ted Kennedy is to stump for Obama Thursday and Friday in New Mexico and California in an effort to boost his support among Latinos, where Clinton is seen as having an edge.
"Over the years, I've been deeply moved by the people who've told me almost all my life that they wished they could feel inspired and hopeful about America the way people did when my father was president," John F. Kennedy's daughter said in soft, gracious tones. "I felt that sense of longing is more profound today than it has ever been."
"Fortunately, there is one candidate who offers that same sense of hope and inspiration," she continued with a smile. "That candidate is Barack Obama."
Paying her homage, Obama said: "I am almost speechless."
Wide receiver Rod Smith, a native of Bill Clinton's home state of Arkansas, said he felt compelled to stump for Obama after he was lying in bed one night and heard him speak from South Carolina. "I thought to myself, Wow," Smith said. "I've got to be part of this."
"Why campaign coverage sucks"
Horse-race journalism works for journalists and fails the public. Just so you know, "the media" has no mind. It cannot make decisions. Which means it does not "get behind" candidates. It does not decide to oppose your guy... or gal. Nor does it "buy" this line or "swallow" that one. It is a beast without a brain. Most of the time, it doesn't know what it's doing.1. The Herd of Independent MindsHere, the job of the campaign press is not to preempt the voters' decision by asking endlessly, and predicting constantly, who's going to win. The job is to make certain that what needs to be discussed will be discussed in time to make a difference -- and then report on that.
This does not mean you cannot blame the media for things. Go right ahead! Brainless beasts at large in public life can do plenty of damage; and later on -- when people ask, "What happened here?" -- it sometimes does make sense to say... the beast did this. It's known as "the pack" in political journalism, but I prefer "the herd of independent minds" (from Harold Rosenberg, 1959) because I think it's more descriptive of the dynamic. Mark Halperin of Time's The Page (more about him later) calls the beast The Gang of 500. But gangs have leaders, which means a mind.
That's more than you can say about the media.
Now, the pack, lacking a brain, almost had a heart attack when Hillary Clinton won the New Hampshire primary, since they had told us Obama would run away with it because the pollsters told them the same thing. The near-heart attack wasn't triggered by a bad prediction, which can happen to anyone, but rather by some spectacular wreckage in the reality-making machinery of political journalism. The top players had begun to report on the Obama wave of victories before there was any Obama wave of victories. The campaign narrative had gotten needlessly -- one could say mindlessly -- ahead of itself, as when stories about anticipated outcomes in the New Hampshire vote reverberated into campaigns said to be preparing for those outcomes even before New Hampshire voted."PORTSMOUTH, N.H. -- Key campaign officials may be replaced. She may start calling herself the underdog. Donors would receive pleas that it is do-or-die time. And her political strategy could begin mirroring that of Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Republican rival..."
That's Patrick Healy in the New York Times the day of the New Hampshire primary, reporting on what would happen, according to nameless campaign insiders, if events about to unfold that day validated previous reports about what was likely to unfold that day. Healy's best defense would be: Wait a minute, people with the Clinton campaign actually told me those things. They turned out to be premature and wrong. I didn't make it up!
Which is true. But when actual facts are used in the construction of news fictions -- and reports about the moves to be made in Hillaryland after Obama won Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina were precisely that, a news fiction -- your story can be accurate, well-edited, within genre conventions, and, at the same time, deeply un-informational, not to mention wrong. In fact, accurate news about the race that subtracts from our understanding of it is one of the quirky features of chronic mindlessness in campaign media.
By mindless I generally mean: No one's in charge, or "the process" is. Conventional forms thrive, even if few believe they work. Routines master people. The way it's been done "chooses" the way it shall be done.
Independent bloggers, who should have more distance from the pack mind (and often do) were not necessarily better on this score. Greg Sargent of TPM Media -- the blog empire run by political journalist Josh Marshall -- reported as follows on January 7th: "Camp Hillary insiders who have been with her a very long time, such as Patti Solis Doyle, are worried about the long term damage that could be done to Hillary if she decides to fight on after a New Hampshire loss, though there's no indication they are yet urging an exit." Doyle was said to be alarmed about damage to Clinton's Senate career from staying in the race amid a humiliating string of defeats.
Campaign news in the subjunctive isn't really news. And primary losses don't especially need to come at us pre-reacted-to, especially when there is plenty of time to air those reactions once any "string of defeats" actually happens. But while an individual mind in the press corps is quite capable of realizing this, the herd is not.
A good example would be an MSNBC program I saw just before the New Hampshire voting, where Dan Abrams asked his panel -- including Rachel Maddow, Pat Buchanan, and himself -- what each thought the final vote would be. The guests should have said, "How do we know? We're not New Hampshire voters, or professional pollsters." That would be intelligent -- and accurate. But they did something mindless instead. Each took a few points off the polls everyone else in the pack was reading and gave a "personal" prediction -- Obama by 4, Obama by 7.
Okay, so it's not a big offense -- but I didn't say it was. I said it was an illustration of routine mindlessness. That's when on-air journalism is dumber than the journalists who are on air.
Greg Sargent -- a smart reporter, quite aware of the absurdities the pack produces -- can, without great difficulty, dial back the use of nameless advisers pre-reacting to things that may not occur. (This post from his boss, Josh Marshall, suggests it may happen.) But the fact remains that his account, defining reactions-before-the-fact as news, was within the existing rules of journalism, relied upon by hundreds of other reporters adding their stories to the larger narrative. There's nothing to prevent those rules from being changed, of course. Nothing, except for the fact that the media has no mind and so can't easily change it.
2. Convergence of Judgment
Because we have evolved a way of talking about the news media that fails to recognize this very basic fact -- no mind! can't decide a thing! -- everyone is free to grant more intentionality to the organism than reasonably exists. Here are just a few samples from recent weeks:
Howard Kurtz of the Washington Post: "The media have decided, fairly or unfairly, that Iowa was Edwards's best shot at winning the nomination."
John Amato, Crooks and Liars: "The media will treat Democrats much harsher than Republicans from here on in."
Ken Silverstein, Harpers: "Another factor in Obama's favor is (just as the Clinton campaign claims) that the media seems to be strongly in his corner."
Blogger Tom Watson: "At the start of the campaign, I didn't think the national media could possibly be successful in an anti-woman campaign against a Democrat."
Chris Bowers at Open Left: "OK, The Media Hates Clinton-But Why?"
I think we know why people speak this way. We use collective nouns, even when they mash way too much together, because, despite all the flattening and collapsing, there is some rough justice in saying, "The media loves Obama right now." We know we're speaking imperfectly, or metaphorically, but we also know we're observing something that's really happening.
And that's fine, normal, human even. Nonetheless, it's important to remember: The media has no mind. It might appear to decide things, but if no one takes responsibility for "Edwards must win Iowa," then it's not really a decision the media made, but a convergence of judgment among people who may instantly converge around a different judgment if it turns out that Edwards isn't done after failing to win Iowa.
That's pretty mindless. Strangely, though, the argument that the media has no mind serves almost no one's agenda, with one exception, ably represented by Jon Stewart, but including all who satirize the news and the news criers, exposing their collective mindlessness and making it almost... enjoyable.
3. "We have special insight"
John Harris and Jim VandeHei, formerly of the Washington Post, are the top editors of The Politico, a new newspaper-and-web operation that only does politics. After the New Hampshire screw-up, which they called a "debacle" and a "humiliation," Harris and VandeHei asked themselves why their profession, political reporting, "supposedly devoted to depicting reality, obsesses about so many story lines that turn out to be fiction."
This is an excellent question and it's admirable that they don't mince words in framing it. "The loser -- not just of Tuesday's primary but of the 2008 campaign cycle so far -- was us," they write. That would be the pack, "...the community of reporters, pundits and prognosticators who so confidently -- and so rashly -- stake our reputations on the illusion that we understand politics and have special insight that allows us to predict the behavior of voters."
A key point: "we have special insight." The current generation of political reporters has based its bid for election-year authority on its horse race and handicapping skills. But reporters actually have no such skills. Think: what does a Howard Fineman (Newsweek, MSNBC) know about politics in America? I mean, what would you logically turn to him for? It's got to be: Who's ahead, what's the strategy, and how are the insiders sizing up the contest? That's supposedly his expertise, if he has any expertise; and if he doesn't have any expertise, then what is he doing on my television screen, night after night, talking about politics?
Even if Fineman and company had it, the ability to handicap the race is a pretty bogus skill set. Who cares if you are good at anticipating events that will unroll in clear fashion without you? Why do we need people who know how this is going to play out in South Carolina when we can just wait for the voters to play it out themselves?
Among the "bogus narratives" the campaign press has developed so far, the Politico editors chose three to illustrate their humiliation. John McCain's "collapse" in the summer of 2007, which meant we could write him off; Mike Huckabee's win in Iowa, where the candidate without an organization took a state where electoral success, we were assured, was all about organization; and Obama's "change the tone in politics" campaign which, according to the Gang, was not going to be in tune with the voters' rawer, more partisan feelings in '08. All three were a bust, suggesting political journalists have no special insight into: How is this going to play out? What they have are cheap, portable routines in which you ask that kind of question, and try to get ahead of the race. This, too, is what I mean by mindlessness.
"If journalists were candidates, there would be insurmountable pressure for us to leave the race," say Harris and VandeHei about their sorry-ass performance in '08. But they're at sea in trying to explain why such things happen. They blame addiction to the game of politics, journalists and their sources hanging out too much together, and personal bias among reporters unconsciously rooting for the candidate who is more fun to cover. Those are certainly three factors. Another 23 could be listed without running out of plausible reasons, because what they're really grappling with is routine mindlessness in their institution. Explaining that is a bit harder.
4. "Removed from the experience"
A much better attempt was this short and consistently to the point entry by Christopher Hayes of the Nation magazine: "WHY CAMPAIGN COVERAGE SO OFTEN SUCKS." He starts with something that is known to everyone in the pack: Campaign reporting is an essay in fear."Reporting at events like this is exciting and invigorating, but it's also terrifying. I've done it now a number of times at conventions and such, and in the past I was pretty much alone the entire time. I didn't know any other reporters, so I kept to myself and tried to navigate the tangle of schedules and parking lots and hotels and event venues. It's daunting and the whole time you think: 'Am I missing something? What's going? Oh man, I should go interview that guy in the parka with the fifteen buttons on his hat.' You fear getting lost, or missing some important piece of news, or making an ass out of yourself when you have to muster up that little burst of confidence it takes to walk up to a stranger and start asking them questions."
Whereas he had once thought of it as a rookie's experience, this year he learned that the fear never goes away. "Veteran reporters are just as panicked about getting lost or missing something, just as confused about who to talk to. This why reporters move in packs. It's like the first week of freshman orientation, when you hopped around to parties in groups of three dozen, because no one wanted to miss something or knew where anything was."
It is rare to find a campaign correspondent who is inner-directed, with a vision of how to report on the election season that sends her off on her own. Campaign reporters tend to be massively other-directed. The reality-check is what the rest of the press is doing -- and the Web makes it far easier to check. Mindless.
"When you go to one of these events as a reporter, there's part of you that's aware that you don't really belong there," writes Hayes.
"You're an outsider, standing on the edges observing the people who are there doing the actual stuff of politics: listening to a candidate, cheering, participating. So reporters run with that distance: they crack wise, they kibbitz in the back, they play up their detachment. That leads to coverage that is often weirdly condescending and removed from the experience of politics."
Removed from the experience. Well, yeah. That is the number one virtue of horse-race reporting and the inside baseball mentality: speed of removal from the immediate experience. Hayes thinks the "worst features of campaign reporting" can be traced back to the "psychological defenses that reporters erect to deal with their insecurities." First line of defense: pack behavior. A second is what the Politico guys said: "the illusion that we understand politics" and with our special insight can predict the behavior of voters, anticipate a turn in the narrative, divine a winning strategy.
Maybe this illusion is reproduced for us because it is fear-reducing for them to mount the horse-race production.
5. Under the influence.
In November, Mark Halperin of Time, who is both a student of pack behavior and a creature of the pack, wrote a revealing op-ed piece about this "illusion that we understand." He said he had been under the influence of Richard Ben Cramer's massive and fascinating book, "What It Takes," about the 1988 battle for the White House. Halperin wrote:
"I'm not alone. The book's thesis -- that prospective presidents are best evaluated by their ability to survive the grueling quadrennial coast-to-coast test of endurance required to win the office -- has shaped the universe of political coverage.
"Voters are bombarded with information about which contender has 'what it takes' to be the best candidate. Who can deliver the most stirring rhetoric? Who can build the most attractive facade? Who can mount the wiliest counterattack? Whose life makes for the neatest story? Our political and media culture reflects and drives an obsession with who is going to win, rather than who should win."
Right there, Halperin identifies the roots of mindlessness in campaign coverage: All right, press team, when that door opens, I want you go out there and find out for us... WHO IS GOING TO WIN?
That's the baseline question. But how good a question is it?
The only decent definition of "information" I know of states that it is a measure of uncertainty reduced. But voters are the ones who reduce uncertainty in elections. They can do it pretty well themselves, without the help of horse-race journalists. Halperin once thought it fine to obsess over "the race," because he considered the race a good proxy for the leadership test we're supposed to be conducting during the now-well-more-than-a-year it takes to elect a new president.
"But now I think I was wrong," he writes. George W. Bush passed his horse-race test and flunked the leadership test once in office. So did Bill Clinton, Halperin says. Both were good campaigners and strategists. Their weaknesses only became glaring to the pack when they were in office, he argues.
Let me say it again: Reporters have no special insight into how elections will turn out. According to Halperin, a thesis that has "shaped the universe of political coverage" is false; the rigors of the race do not produce good outcomes. So what does the pack do now? "Well, we pause, take a deep breath and resist. At least sometimes... we can try to keep from getting sucked in by it all."
This is the same limp remedy Harris and VandeHei offered. They know they're stuck with horse-race journalism. They know what a mindless beast it can be -- and what a mindless beast they can be. And, above all else, they know they're not going to change it. After all, they are it. Glenn Greenwald of Salon was right to point to this exchange between NBC's Tom Brokaw and Chris Matthews as the results from New Hampshire came in...
"BROKAW: You know what I think we're going to have to do?
"MATTHEWS: Yes sir?
"BROKAW: Wait for the voters to make their judgment.
"MATTHEWS: Well what do we do then in the days before the ballot? We must stay home, I guess."
Matthews was being the realist: Without who's-going-to-win, "we" might as well stay home. Brokaw (now long retired as the face of the NBC brand) gave him an apt warning in response: "The people out there are going to begin to make judgments about us if we don't begin to temper that temptation to constantly try to get ahead of what the voters are deciding." But he was speaking as if the media had a mind and could shift course.
6. Less innocence, more politics.
Let's see if we can bring these strands together. I've been picking at the weaknesses of horse-race coverage, but to really understand it we need to appreciate its practical strengths.
Who's-gonna-win is portable, reusable from cycle to cycle, and easily learned by newcomers to the press pack. Journalists believe it brings readers to the page and eyeballs to the screen. It "works" regardless of who the candidates are, or where the nation is in historical time. No expertise is actually needed to operate it. In that sense, it is economical. (And when everyone gets the winner wrong the "surprise" becomes a good story for a few days.) Who's going to win -- and what's their strategy -- plays well on television, because it generates an endless series of puzzles toward which journalists can gesture as they display their savviness, which is the unofficial religion of the mainstream press.
But the biggest advantage of horse-race journalism is that it permits reporters and pundits to "play up their detachment." Focusing on the race advertises the political innocence of the press because "who's gonna win?" is not an ideological question. By asking it you reaffirm that yours is not an ideological profession. This is experienced as pleasure by a lot of mainstream journalists. Ever noticed how spirits lift when the pundit roundtable turns from the Middle East or the looming recession to the horse race, and there's an opportunity for sizing up the candidates? To be manifestly agenda-less is journalistic bliss. Of course, since trying to get ahead of the voters can affect how voters view the candidates, the innocence, too, is an illusion. But a potent one.
Imagine if we had them all -- the whole Gang of 500 -- in a room and we asked them (off the record): How many of you feel roughly qualified to be Secretary of State? Ted Koppel having retired, no hands would go up. Secretary of the Treasury? No hands. White House Chief of Staff? Maybe one or two would raise a hand. Qualified to be President? No one would dare say that. Strategist for a presidential campaign? I'd say at least 200 hands would shoot up. Reporters identify with those guys -- the behind-the-scenes message senders -- and they cultivate the same knowledge.
What a waste! Journalists ought to be bringing new knowledge into the system, as Charlie Savage and the Boston Globe did in December. They gave the presidential candidates a detailed questionnaire on the limits of executive branch power and nine candidates responded. This is a major issue that any candidate for president should have to address, given the massive build-up of presidential power engineered by George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. We desperately need to know what the contenders for the presidency intend to do -- continue the build-up or roll it back? -- but we won't know unless the issue is injected into the campaign.
Now, that's both a political and a journalistic act. And where does the authority for doing such things come from? There is actually no good answer to that within the press system as it stands, and so the beast would never go there.
The Globe's questionnaire grew out of Savage's earlier reporting on the "unitary executive" and the drive to create an "unfettered presidency." (See this PBS interview with Savage; also, contrast the Globe's treatment with more of a throwaway effort from the New York Times.)