Archive for the ‘Clinton’ Category

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A Video Montage Of PUMA Craziness

August 27, 2008

With the Democrat National Convention going on in Denver this week, much has been made out of the effect that the disgruntled Hillary supporters will have on the event, presumably because the drama-loving cable news networks thrive on this kind of thing.  I’ve noticed that, sprinkled throughout the coverage, there have been interviews with a few of them, and with each one I can say that I can feel my own IQ level dip a bit.  So, to share my pain with the rest of the world, I’m putting together a little montage of the ones I’ve come across.

First, enter Elizabeth Joyce, the founder of justsaynodeal.com who was interviewed by Larry King last night:

My favorite parts are where she is visibly upset with King for basically being called out on her air-headedness, but then reminds herself to smile as to not appear rattled.  King tries to remind her that things like some vitriolic comments on blogs are outside the control of Obama himself and is a pretty weak reason to not vote for the guy, given the fact that Hillary shares the same position as Obama on virtually every issue and his trying her darnedest to convince people like Elizabeth that she needn’t worry.  But oh well.  Spite wins the day, I guess, and victimhood by association has a new poster girl.

Next, lets take a look at Chris Matthews mucking it up with the founder of “Clintons 4 McCain“. (h/t sensico)

Now, Cristi Adkins had me there for a second, since I think she was referring to this:

This registration document, made available on Jan. 24, 2007, by the Fransiskus Assisi school in Jakarta, Indonesia, shows the registration of Barack Obama under the name Barry Soetoro into the Catholic school made by his step-father, Lolo Soetoro. The document lists Barry Soetoro as a Indonesian citizen, born on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu, and shows his Muslim step-father listed the boy’s religion as Islam.(AP Photo/ Tatan Syuflana)

Of course, this has been brought up before, and the claim she’s making that the school itself is some sort of radical Islamic madrassa has been debunked.  Not to worry though, she moved the goal posts about three times there, so in the end I’m not quite sure what she was getting at.  A little too much TexasDarlin methinks (you might notice that the linked page discussing this document has been removed from Darlin’s site.  Why, oh why?)

Finally, we’ve got an actual delegate at the convention who is quite obviously overcome by emotion, interviewed by Suzanne Malveaux right after Hillary’s big speech.

So let me get this straight…oh nevermind.  I don’t even know where to begin with that one.  “Get a grip” comes to mind.  Another thought would be bewilderment on how a Dem delegate could rationalize sitting out the vote for the Dem candidate for president.   But there you have it, big ‘H’ t-shirt and everything.

Anyway, McCain hears you, brave PUMAs!  He has come to pander to you:

I’d like to say that most people would see right through that, but given the collective intellect of the few that I’ve just highlighted, I’m not sure if “Its OK” is all the whiners need to tip them over.

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Why Biden?

August 24, 2008

Like so many others who signed onto Obama’s “Be the first to know” text message gimmick with regards to who he was picking to be his running mate, I received my alert about 5 hrs after the media confirmed that Joe Biden was the guy (the message came via twitter and was timestamped 4:24 AM CST; the other text message I never received, so I’m not sure what I did wrong there).  I was pretty disappointed, and I think it had less to do with the fact that it was a waste of time, and more to do with how it reflects on how Obama was managing his campaign, and what that might mean about he would handle his presidency.  ‘Cause lets face it, “Be the first to know” was a bit of a broken promise.  And for the record, I don’t think that the middle-of-the-night message was designed as a jab at Hillary (as many have opined and discussed) or to imply anything, rather, I imagine that it was timed that way to save as much face as possible, in light of the fact that CNN and others had pretty much let the cat out of the bag (a text message received after it was all over cable news networks on Saturday morning would have seemed pretty silly, no?).

In any case, Biden is the guy, and as an Obama supporter, I must say that I have some mixed feelings about this pick.  I have stated here in the Chamber my feeling that the best choice would have been Bill Richardson, but I’ve never voiced my opinion on anyone else on the short list (although now I’m not sure if Richardson was even on the list), so now that the pick has been made, I thought I’d post something about my initial reaction.  From where I sit, the selection of Biden as VP has pros and cons for both the campaign and the eventual presidency, so I’ll break it down here.

Pro

First, the oft-mentioned experience factor.  I see this from two points of view, in that the experience that the long-time Democrat Senator from Delaware brings to the table can have an effect both perceived (in the sense that voters are more comfortable electing Obama with the resume gap filled) and real (in the sense that Obama’s presidency will be shaped by the actual advise or influence that Biden wields).  I guess the question is which one overshadows the other.  Either way, I view this as a plus.

Second, as a no-nonsense character who is unafraid to speak his mind, Biden is a good choice for a candidate that promised to pick a VP that would  “challenge my thinking and not simply be a yes person when it comes to policy-making”.  I must admit that this is pretty comforting, considering that we’ve just been subjected to 8 years of governance from people who placed loyalty above competence.

Con

I’ve long stated that I wasn’t going to favor a candidate that voted in favor of the 2002 Iraq AUMF.  Biden did, and later ran his own campaign for the presidency that included an Iraq policy that was more in line with what Republican Senator Sam Brownback was proposing, namely, partitioning Iraq into Sunni, Shia and Kurd regions.   This was a position that, as Allah at Hot Air reminds us, even the Iraqis are vehemently against.

Also, Biden has a history of saying some really stupid things, which explains why blog after blog on the right are overjoyed, as they’re anxious for the next opportunity to highlight his next gaffe.  In fact, the front page of the RNC’s website features a “gaffe clock“, counting down the time until his next one.  If Biden takes on the role of a loose cannon, it could really be a turnoff to those who might otherwise be inclined to support the ticket, and can be a major distraction when they’re trying to get the message out.

Up For Grabs

The role of “attack dog”.  Traditionally, one of the benefits of a VP was the ability to deflect partisan criticism away from the president and allow him to remain above the fray.  When Obama launched his campaign and announced his bid for the presidency, he promised a “new kind of politics”, and one could make the argument that the addition of a fire-in-the-belly persona like Biden would undermine that.  On the other hand, as this campaign slides into the sewer of attack ads and personality wars, Biden could be the perfect countermeasure (something that Richardson wouldn’t have been as effective at), and provide Obama the ability rise above it.   The deciding factor might come down to the aforementioned gaffes, and a nightmare scenario might be one where Obama is called upon to disavow something that Biden has said (and don’t be surprised to see those calls come early, often, and for just about anything).

Also, the Biden pick could be seen by those Clinton supporters as a slap in the face, further disrupt party unity, increase recruitment of the PUMA mindset, and eventually lead to disaster in November.  Indeed, the McCain camp sees a light at the end of this tunnel, and has already begun to exploit it with a recent ad painting Clinton as “passed over”.  Will people fall for this?  Does Biden represent the “risky” choice, and Clinton the “safe” one?  Just how fractured is the party?  Time will tell, I suppose.

This is going to be one heck of a home stretch.

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Update: It would appear that I was right about the text message: CNN forces Obama to release VP pick early

“Had a certain network not blown our cover at a certain time the text message would have gone out in the morning, 8 a.m. Eastern,” Robert Gibbs, a senior advisor, said with a grin on Sunday. “We told people they would find out from us. When we decided it was going to get out we decided to send the text out.”

Gibbs said he believes despite the fact that the rollout plan had to be altered, a “vast majority of the people” still learned by text message when they woke up in the morning.

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Wild PUMA’s On The Prowl

August 11, 2008

I’ve come across some pretty bitter netizens during my travels through the political web, but some of the disgruntled Clinton supporters who have dubbed themselves PUMA’s (Party Unity, My Ass) have to win some sort of award for their high concentration of focused and unhinged spite.

Back in April, I first noticed that the hub of this rancor appeared to be centered around Hillary supporter Larry Johnson’s No Quarter blog, represented by a flurry of posts accusing Obama of slyly giving Hillary an obscene gesture at a speech (see Chamber entry Obligatory “Obama Flipped Hillary The Bird” Post).   The premise was silly, and the theory subsequently debunked, but little did I know that this was just the beginning.   After all, in June, I used some space here to comment on the still unseen Michelle Obama “whitey” video, which, last I heard, Johnson is still insisting exists. 

Now fast-forward to yesterday, when I followed a few links to land on No Quarter groupie TexasDarlin’s site, and found this little nugget: Obama’s Dual Citizenship Disaster: an Overview

Now, I’d like to expand this by offering up a little excerpt of the content, but in the transparently desperate attempt to be taken seriously, TexasDarlin has included about a half dozen paragraphs of “disclaimers” and “copyrights” attached to both the post and the blog itself, so I sit here hoping that I won’t be served with legal papers for simply providing the link.  Well, I guess there’s the copyright thing, and the fact that the ‘Darlin appears to have an extreme paranoia with regards to being “outed’ by “stalkers”, but since “mocking” is a far cry from “stalking”, I’ll continue.  In short, this latest volley of undoubtedly sleep-depriving attempts at spreading disinformation alleges that Obama’s birth certificate is fake, that his real name is Barry Soetoro, and that he’s not eligible to be running for president.

Note to the rabid PUMA’s:  No one is taking you seriously*.  You can add all the disclaimers and copyright notices that you want, but that credibility check has been cashed months ago, and it’s been stamped NSF.  Forget the claims of being backed up by mysterious sources and anonymous “computer forensic experts”, at this point you’re just being laughed at.  Hillary lost, and concocting wild theories about Obama isn’t going to change that. 

Exit question for the PUMA’s:  If you asked Clinton to comment on all this, do you really think that the response would be anything other than a disapproving shake of her head?  I mean, really.

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conspiracy.gifNote to Chamber readers:  Don’t bother commenting over at TexasDarlin’s blog if you plan on challenging any of that.  It won’t make it past her moderation.  You see, it’s much better for the propaganda if it appears that everyone agrees with you. 

For more fisking and play-by-play of TD’s antics, check out this site.

*I did wonder to myself for a moment why I should give any attention to this, as it would serve to add some sort of legitimacy based on perceived worthiness of comment, but the stupid assertions appear to have gone viral.

Update: More background on the origin and major players in the BO birth certificate myth by Patrick McKinnon at Taylor Marsh’s blog.

There seem to be a couple main sources for this constant myth. The biggest are the formerly sane “NoQuarter”, and the blog of PUMA “TexasDarlin”. “TexasDarlin” is the one who cross-posts the latest round of myths to “NoQuarter” as the old ones get busted. However, the Conservative blog “Atlas Shrugs” is another source, as well as the right-wing “Israel Insider” and one of the supposed “experts” that “TexasDarlin” uses is on Townhall.com

On the debunking side, you have “Koyaan” of Koyann’s Weblog, Dr. Neal Krawetz of “HackerFactor”, (and a widely recognized computer forensics and security expert). PUMA Joseph Cannon of “Cannonfire” has become a vocal critic of the people promoting this myth, (and feels they’re damaging PUMA’s cause). “AJ Strata” of the right-wing blog “Strata-Sphere” is where I got the term “Cult of the COLB” to start with.

So in a nutshell, you have a mix of some PUMA sites and some right-wing sites promoting the myth, and a mix of anti-PUMA, pro-PUMA, left-wing, and right-wing sites debunking it.

All I have to say is, when you’re a Hillary supporter looking for back-up from Atlas Shrugs, you might have issues.

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Mental Gymnastics: Not An Olympic Event (I checked)

June 23, 2008

(OK, OK, so I was watching the Olympic trails, and it inspired the title for this post.  So what?)

Anyway, I just had to bring up this post I saw (and commented on) over at Hot Air:  McCain advisor: A new terror attack would be “a big advantage to him”

Now, before I continue, I suppose I should note that I have addressed this issue before here in the Chamber: What Color Is The Sky On Hillary Clinton’s Home Planet?

I only mention this now because …well…because there’s this phrase that’s etched into my brain.  It’s “NO ATTACKS SINCE 9/11″.  This probably comes to me so quickly since, as a brave traveller of the political rightosphere, I’ve heard it dozens of times.   The phrase has been effective, apparently, as it had somehow permeated and invaded Mrs. Clinton’s brain as well (however many fallacies inherent), but the reason why I title this post the way I have is because…well…because it would mentally take a perfect-10 triple-backflip with a stuck dismount to somehow reconcile this phrase with the now de-facto notion* that another attack on the US would be beneficial to the side that has spouted it with such confidence.

I mean, how in the hell can both the lack of attacks and an attack be a political advantage? 

*just see the comments section of that Hot Air post

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Why Obama, Part VIII: Gas Prices

May 6, 2008

I know it’s been a little while since I added another installment to my “Why Obama” series, so I figured that with all the talk here in the Chamber about those obscene gas prices lately it was as good a time as any to highlight the issue. 

There’s been quite a bit of debate over this (with good reason), and a lot of attention has been paid to the fact that Obama is departing from McCain and Clinton with regards to suspending the 18-cent federal gas tax for the summer.  I know that when I first heard about it, my initial reaction was that it was a gimmick and wouldn’t really save people that much.  Of course, I’m no economist, so…

Luckily, the economists have weighed in, as the Obama campaign posted on the “fact-check” portion of the website:

Washington Post Fact Checker: Temporary Illinois Gas Tax Holiday Showed that Economic Benefit Was Minimal and the Majority of Consumers Didn’t Feel They Were Paying Less. “The gas tax moratorium proved politically popular in Illinois, but economically questionable. The Illinois Economic and Fiscal Commission estimated that the state lost $175 million in revenues during the six-month period. A subsequent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research showed that gas prices fell by 3 percent, meaning that only three fifths of the savings from reduced taxes was passed on to consumers. “It turned out to have a pretty small effect,” said Joseph Doyle, an assistant economics professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Consumers were slightly better off, but the benefits were spread very thinly, and the government was a lot worse off.” A poll by the Chicago Tribune showed that only 28 percent of motorists believed that they were actually paying less for gas as a result of the temporary suspension of the tax. Obama has changed his mind dramatically on the tax cut since voting for it back in 2000 in Illinois. On the campaign trail Monday in North Carolina, he described the proposal as a “short-term quick fix that we can say we did something even though we’re not really doing anything.” [Washington Post Fact Checker, 4/29/08]

Economists Agree: Most Savings from Gas Tax Holiday Are Passed on to Producers, Not Consumers. “James Hamilton, professor of Economics at the University of California-San Diego, said that most of the benefits from a temporary tax moratorium would likely go to producers rather than consumers. He said that states that suspend gas taxes are able to respond to rising demand more efficiently than the country as a whole, because gasoline supplies can be easily moved from one state to another. “Prices would certainly rise to the market-clearing level,” said Hamilton. “I would expect the price [of gas] to go back to very close to where it was before [the tax cut], in which case consumers would not see any benefit.” Another economist, Jeffrey Perloff, of UC-Berkeley, agreed that a federal tax moratorium would likely have less impact on consumer gas prices than a state moratorium. He said his models showed that a suspension of the 18.4-cent federal tax on gasoline would likely result in a temporary 9 to 12 cent reduction in the cost of a gallon of gas to the consumer, with the remainder of the reduction coming in wholesale prices.” [Washington Post Fact Checker, 4/29/08]

There’s a lot more there there, but the consensus is pretty universal.  In fact, when Clinton was pressed to name a single economist that has endorsed the “tax holiday”, her response was “I’m not going to put my lot in with economists,”, which is an answer that sounded like it came from George Bush.   It kinda begs the question as to who she is putting in her lot with, if it isn’t the experts.

The bottom line here is this is a phony gimmick; an easy thing to propose in light of the current situation as an attempt to buy some votes.   Obama’s position is grounded in reality.

What Obama should do right now is take this and pivot to a reminder to everyone that there are certain easy things we as Americans could do to relieve the financial burden of gas, as long as we’re talking about pennies on the gallon:

At this stage, I’d consider it a patriotic duty to make sure my air filter is clean and my tires are inflated.   hmmm…maybe I should be running a presidential campaign?

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Obligatory “Obama Flipped Hillary The Bird” Post

April 18, 2008

I should feel ashamed of myself for even entertaining this lunacy here in the Chamber, but since the story appears to have gone viral and somewhat mainstream, and I’ve spent a few moments commenting on it on other blogs, I might as well drag it in here for the WPPBA and the rest of my visitors.

Usually an analysis is followed by a verdict, but for this I’m going to do it backwards.  Bottom line:  NO, Obama did not subtly flip Hillary Clinton the bird in his speech yesterday

Good grief.  As if the premise alone doesn’t work sufficiently against the accusation, check out the evidence (h/t Balloon Juice):

Nothing, however, was going to stop both those in the Hillary camp and those on the right from seeing what they wanted to see, and declaring Obama’s actions to be childish and indecent.  One pro-Hillary blogger was so obsessed with it that he/she sat down in front of their computer and painstakingly composed a replay video of the event, complete with slo-mo and closeups:

One of my favorite hangouts, Hot Air, actually went from initially labelling the scrutiny “moronic” to, a few hours later, posting a thread about how Obama might have “let his guard down” and how the crowd “clearly recognized it”:

Obama has a pretty satisfied look on his face afterwards, which makes it look a little more purposeful than not. It’s subtle enough to have deniability for anyone who might get offended, but clear enough for his followers to enjoy the moment of disrespect towards Hillary. And who hasn’t wanted to flip off a Clinton at some time in their lives?

And Larry Johnson completely lost me as a fan as he spent the better part of a day and posted not one, not two or three, but four times making the accusation.  And this is a guy who used to work for the CIA.* 

How embarrassing.

*Update:  My apologies, as those posts weren’t posted by Johnson himself, but rather contributors to his blog.  But still…

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You Know, Those Philly Debate Questions, Maybe Not A Bad Thing

April 17, 2008

I had to work today, so en route I had a chance to listen to the righty talk radio personalities gloat over what happened last night in the Democrat’s debate, as well as their mocking of the various lefty blogs and op-ed columnists’ whining about it.   So, I figured that I’d check out some more of the reactions and post a few thoughts…

I’ll admit that, at first, I was pretty dismayed that ABC’s Charles Gibson and George Stephanopolous spent so much time focusing on the sort of trivial tabloid-esque “issues” such as flag pins, Bosnia gaffes, and yet another trip down Wright avenue, instead of focusing on the actual issues (you know, the ones that the candidates feature on their campaign sites, like Iraq, immigration, national security, etc.).  And throughout the day on memeorandum, I saw plenty of commentary from blogs echoing that sentiment.   But the more I thought about and read and digested all this, the closer I came to the conclusion that this wasn’t really that bad.  In fact, maybe Stephanopoulos and Gibson did the Dems a big favor.

This epiphany came when I revisited No More Mister Nice Blog, which had a post titled “THE REPUBLICAN TALKING-POINT DUMP, OTHERWISE KNOWN AS THE DEMOCRATIC DEBATE“.  I came to realize that the title described what happened pretty accurately.  If there are these various talking points out there (and Hannity won’t shut up about them, trust me), wouldn’t it be better to just put it all on the table, let them respond to them on the public stage, get it out of their collective systems and then put it behind them sooner rather than later?   If, as Rush Limbaugh mentioned today, those things are going to come up in the general election, would it be such a bad thing to have addressed them preemptively?  In the very least, it’s practice (for both of them), and if they weren’t paying attention to this stuff before, they sure as heck will now, so it would make it harder for the 527′s and others to blindside them with it and force them to waste countless dollars shooting back when they’d otherwise be spending it making their distinctions known on the real stuff.

Also, this is the 21st debate.  I suppose one could make the argument that the majority of the policy differences between Obama and Clinton have been covered by now.  From that perspective, it’s a little harder to view the first 45 minutes of the session as a complete waste of time. 

So, how did Obama handle it?  Fairly well, in my opinion, although he could have done better.  It was clear that he really didn’t want to go down this road, ’cause at times he didn’t look entirely comfortable and even slightly perturbed.   But he made it through, and at this point what he should do is brush it off…

…and move on.

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John Kerry Gets It

April 6, 2008

I’ve never been a big fan of John Kerry (in fact, I remember rejoicing the fact that he wouldn’t be running for president this year), but Mr. “Reporting For Duty” said something today that I thought I’d comment on, since lately I’ve been spending an inordinate amount of time blogging, debating and discussing the McCain “100 years in Iraq” issue.

First, the Think Progress link: Kerry: McCain’s ‘100 Years’ Remarks Show A ‘Fundamental Misunderstanding Of Iraq Itself’ 

The vid:

I say that Kerry “gets it” in the sense that he understands that Clinton and Obama really shouldn’t be issuing misleading charges that McCain wants 100 years of war in Iraq, but that they should instead be stressing that the insistence on establishing permanent bases there just might mean that’s essentially what the result would be.  He could have done a better job making the point, actually, because there is some data that backs this up pretty well:

The belief that the United States plans to have permanent bases in Iraq is highly correlated with support for attacks on U.S.-led forces. Among those who believe this, 68 percent approve of attacks. Among those who believe that the United States plans to withdraw once Iraq is stabilized, only 34 percent approve of attacks. Beliefs about whether the United States would respond to an Iraqi government request to withdraw follow the same pattern.

I suppose I could ask how many troops have died because of rhetoric like McCain’s, but I won’t go there.   It would appear that perhaps the “permanent base” propaganda is a little more dangerous than the “anti-war” propaganda that war supporters consistently lament, however.  But I’ll let my readers draw their own conclusions.

Now, I know that Maverick qualified his “100 years” comment by saying “As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, it’s fine with me”, but based on the sentiment in the region, does McCain have any reason to believe that the hostilities will stop anytime soon?  And I’m not suggesting that he’d be able to say exactly when here. I’m talking more broadly about a rational assessment on whether or not we can expect the hostilities to stop at all if our intention really is to establish permanent bases, and if we can, would it come months, years, or even decades from now?  That’s not an unfair question to pose to someone who his maintaining that a 100 year presence is possible, and it should be posed.   What Kerry did here was put the debate over what McCain suggested in the proper framework, and put the ball in McCain’s court… but it should have another follow up question attached:

“If a 100 year presence in Iraq is fine by you, on the condition that the shooting had stopped, how much of America’s time, money and bloodshed would be acceptable to achieve that condition, assuming it’s possible?”

Update: To reiterate the point that stating a policy of permanent presence is counter-productive to what we’re trying to accomplish over there, take it from this guy:

CentCom’s planning director, Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt, has said the building of permanent bases would not be in the US interest.

“We must continue to show that we will not become a permanent force of occupation… because we need to operate in that region in an environment of consent,” Jane’s Defence Weekly quoted him as saying.

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How To Ask Chelsea About Lewinsky

April 2, 2008

I couldn’t help but notice that there has been a considerable amount of media attention given to these Lewinsky-related questions that are being posed to Chelsea Clinton by college students lately.   It came up again today:

Student: “Right but I, because fortunately or unfortunately he is the president, or was president at the time so as American people, I feel that it is our business.”

Clinton: “Well sir, I respectfully disagree. I think it is something that is personal to my family. I’m sure there are things that are personal to your family that you dont think are anyone else’s business either… but also on a larger point, I don’t think you should vote for or against my mother because of my father.”

That, of course, is a dodge. 

I suppose Chelsea can continue to evade the question with the “none of your business” angle as long as she wants, and if the amount of press coverage stays the same every time it comes up, it’s likely that she’ll be dodging it in this manner a couple more times.

Putting aside any reference to the old “vast right wing conspiracy” gaffe, my suggestion to those who would want to pin Chelsea into a position where she would have to at least address the issue would be to preface the question with something that Hillary said a short while ago:

“We don’t have a choice when it comes to our relatives,” she said. “We have a choice when it comes to our pastors and the churches we attend. Everyone will have to decide these matters for themselves. They are obviously very personal matters.”

If Wright were her pastor, she said, “the choice would be clear.”

Emphasizing that she was saying only how she would have dealt with a minister such as Wright, Clinton added: “I don’t think that’s negative.”

So, Clinton brought what she described as “personal matters” into the political discourse,  stating outright out what her decision would be.

Now, I can see a few different ways to use this, but the first narrative that comes to mind would be to make the connection between the perceived importance surrounding the judgement with regards to leaving a church and …leaving a marriage.

The question would go something like this:

“You mother, Hillary Clinton, recently stated that she would have left a church that featured Rev. Wright’s controversial sermons, and said that the issue was obviously a very personal matter.   But if it is acceptable for Americans to discuss a decision such as this, why wouldn’t it also be acceptable to discuss a decision to not seek a divorce after proven dishonesty and infidelity?”

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Brainstorming An Iraq “Super-Surge”

March 28, 2008

Last night I took a few hours to watch FRONTLINE “Bush’s War” on the PBS site.  My reaction was mixed.  Part of me felt vindicated for some of the things that I’ve been posting here in the Chamber and elsewhere, another part felt angry at people like Cheney and Rumsfeld, and yet another part felt just…depressed (which is probably the overriding feeling, but I do encourage everyone to watch it in case you’ve missed it).  

I gave myself a few hours to digest what I had just watched, and although there was quite a bit of material that I was already familiar with, this documentary chronicled the entire Iraq adventure in a way that I hadn’t yet seen.  This led to a small epiphany on my part concerning what to do next, and I figured I’d just throw it out here for debate, so bear with me ’cause there may be some flaws in my thinking. 

The proposals coming from the presidential candidates for our course of action going forward in Iraq have pretty much fallen into two main categories.   McCain is politically wedded to the strategy he championed (the “surge”) in a way that would put him in the same position as Bush insofar as he’s going to keep up the “stay the course” mantra, and has even gone as far as to say that he’d support a permanent American presence in Iraq long after the period of shooting stops (and if it takes 100 years, so be it).  On the other side, Clinton and Obama have rejected the notion of an open-ended commitment, and while the rationale behind a responsible withdrawal may bounce between a few concepts,  the end game is the same:  leave Iraq for the Iraqis as soon as reasonably possible.  Critics on both sides have, rightly or wrongly, argued that McCain’s plan is untenable in the long run while the Obama/Clinton plan is a recipe for eventual chaos and genocide.

Other options for Iraq have gained much less steam.  For example, former presidential candidates Sens Brownback and Biden have proposed a sort of soft partition.  This proposal has probably been less popular because, the way I see it, it involves undoing a lot of what has been done already and is essentially going back to the drawing board in many ways.  That, and there is reason to believe that the idea isn’t popular amongst the Iraqis themselves.

So, I enter another proposal, one that I will call the “Super-Surge”, based on a few facts/assumptions gleaned from the documentary and elsewhere:

-Before the invasion, Gen Shinseki stated the opinion before Congress that success in the months after Saddam’s regime fell would require “several hundred thousand” troops, while people like Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz urged a much smaller number.  The eventual plan was somewhat of a compromise, but today, it is pretty much considered conventional wisdom that one of the major errors in the mission was that there weren’t sufficient forces to keep the peace during that critical timeframe.

-The “coalition of the willing” was never much of an actual coalition, as 98% of the troop commitments came form the U.S. and Britain.  Brent Scowcroft,  national security adviser for President George H.W. Bush and a leading figure in the U.S. foreign policy establishment, believed from the very beginning that attacking Iraq would dissolve any kind of coalition we had built in the aftermath of 9/11, and more recently suggested that the best hope for pulling the country from chaos would be to turn the U.S. operation over to NATO or the United Nations — which, he said, would not be so hostilely viewed by Iraqis.

-The doctrine of “clear, hold, build” had shown itself to be successful on the micro scale in the city of Tal Afar.  Originally credited to Col. H.R. McMaster, it eventually became the rough blueprint for the “surge” in that it simply took more troops to employ such a strategy.    Or, in the words of McMaster himself, when asked if additional troops would help the mission:

Yeah. I think one of the critical elements of improving security is the number of forces you have to be able to carry out that security mission, along with the other missions that you have. Securing the population is obviously first and foremost. And this is a mission … for American and coalition forces working alongside Iraqi forces.

The other mission is to develop Iraqi security force capability, … and that takes a lot of soldiers and Marines to carry out that effort: to train these forces, to help them organize and then to introduce them initially in the context of multinational operations where we operate alongside them until they develop the ability to operate on their own.

Also, just securing critical infrastructure, lines of communication — I mean, there are a lot of demands on our forces, and our soldiers and Marines are just doing an amazing job with multiple tasks simultaneously. So I think additional forces will certainly help. Is it the answer in the long term? No. The answer in the long term is still very much the same: that the Iraqis have to develop their own ability to provide the kind of security that is necessary such that economic development and political development can proceed. …

-The current troop surge will come to an end for logistical reasons.  In fact, the troop drawdown is right around the corner:

A senior Pentagon official said earlier this week that the US “surge” is likely to end in July with more troops in Iraq than the 132,000 who were there before five extra combat brigades were sent in more than a year ago.

-Staying in Iraq until the shooting stops (and beyond), as McCain has suggested, is likely to be financially untenable.  The estimates for the cumulative cost of the war have been projected to be as high as $3 trillion.  And although many nations have a significant stake in a stable Iraq, the United States has taken on the vast majority of the burden in terms of monetary sacrifice.

So, you toss some of these things into a pot and stir.  I’m left with a few questions.

  1. Is it too late to deploy a peacekeeping force of “several hundred thousand” troops to stabilize Iraq, or has that ship sailed?  If not, then…
  2. Is it too late to bring together a meaningful coalition to share the burden of the effort, or have those bridges burned?  If not, then…
  3. Could a new, charismatic, inspiring and internationally popular U.S. president (*cough*Obama*cough*) bring together the nations of the world to address the issue?  If so, then…
  4. Would it work in a way that would ultimately save Iraq from descending into chaos, prohibit the formation of a terrorist safe haven, and allow the troops to come home a lot faster than the current proposals?   If so, then…

It’s something to think about.

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Open Letter To Barack Obama

March 16, 2008

(this is my first “open letter” here in the Chamber, so bear with me)

Don’t throw your pastor, Rev. Wright, under the bus.

Of course, it’s probably too late, as you’ve already repudiated his cherry-picked remarks, taken him off your campaign, and, apparently, erased his testimonial from your website, so I guess I’m writing this less in the vein of don’t and more in the vein of …why?

Doing all this reeks of political expedience, inherently calls into question your judgement (on why you chose to stick with the church for so many years), and overall, comes off as insincere.  No one is going to believe that you’ve suddenly discovered that Rev. Wright says controversial things now that ABC has broadcasted clips of his sermons for all the world to see, so why give anyone the incentive to scour through church records, interview parishioners and keep the issue in the spotlight while the drooling minions that are hell-bent to take your campaign down try to catch you in a GOTCHA! moment?

I watched as you went on 3 networks (FOX, CNN, and MSNBC) and clumsily attempted to distance yourself from the remarks that they kept playing in ad infinitum fashion.  You alluded to some of the good things the church has done for the community, but you had a hard time making the case for one important aspect: You.  The fact that you have had a successful life and are closer than anyone in history to being America’s first black president reflects favorably upon the church, doesn’t it?  I would think that a black church that can list among its long-term membership a state and U.S. Senator and the frontrunning candidate for the oval office would suggest that the church might have a positive influence on people, an influence that helped inspire you to answer the call to public service.    I understand that you can’t really come out and say all that, but to me, it appeared that you were more concerned with denouncing whatever rhetoric was deemed offensive instead of focusing on defending the church. 

The bottom line here is:  He’s your pastor.  You’ve made donations to the church.  There’s no escaping it, so why avoid it?  You shouldn’t have to cave and cast him aside simply because, suddenly, people are grilling you on the remarks that were made years ago.    

If one of the networks’ pundits asks you about his statement that America caused the AIDS virus or whatever say, “Fine, call up Rev. Wright and invite him to debate that position, I’m sure he’d be happy to.  Personally, I don’t subscribe to that view.  I’m sure many people out there don’t agree with absolutely everything that their minister or priest says, but I’m sure that most would say that they’ve had a positive influence on their lives.  It’s no different in my case”.  Or to address the accusation that Wright “hates America”, you could say, “I think Rev. Wright loves America like a parent loves their child, and sometimes he believes there’s reason to be angry”.   (After all, Wright is hardly alone when it comes to delivering negative rants on American culture from the pulpit.   Somebody is sinning, somewhere, after all.*) 

See, that sounds a lot more sincere than going so far as to whip out the knee-jerk CONDEMNED stamp.  That, and they can’t really go anywhere with it.  It’s like saying, “Yea, he’s my pastor, live with it.  Let’s move on.”  

In conclusion, I’m afraid that your reaction here has done more harm than good for your campaign.  You’ve put yourself in a hole on this that is going to be a distraction from the debate over the issues and why you’re the best man for the job.    For myself, I’ll continue to support you here in the Chamber, but I’ll say that I’ve been a little disappointed with how you and your campaign has handled these recent events. 

*In the interest of full disclosure, I haven’t been to a church service in many years.   Watching what is said by the televangelists, I sometimes wonder why people still go, quite frankly.  So, in this regard, I am not going to consider myself an expert on the range and scope of unhinged sermons, but I think it’s safe to assume that there are some strange things that get said out there.  For myself, I left the church because one person “possessed by Satan” was enough for me.

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Note To Candidates And Their Advisers: Just Say “Blank” Instead

March 7, 2008

First, the fuss: Barack Obama forced to decry adviser’s ‘monster’ remarks of Hillary Clinton

During an interview with The Scotsman, Samantha Power, one of Obama’s unpaid advisers, said Clinton would stop at nothing in her zeal to seize the lead from Obama. monsters_inc_7.jpg

“She is a monster, too – that is off the record – she is stooping to anything,” Power said, hastily trying to withdraw her remark.

Yep, one would really hope that all the campaigns could avoid the childish name-calling.   I know things will just slip out, but you’d think they’d have learned their lesson that extra time spent defending and apologizing isn’t moving your message forward. 

All this reminded me of someone I used to work with about 15 years ago.   His name was Dwayne, and while he happened to be mentally disabled, he had a really funny (and effective) way of name-calling… without name-calling:  He simply substituted “blank” for the offending word.

So, for the Samantha Power example:

“She is a blank, too – that is off the record – she is stooping to anything,”

You see?  Genius.  You get the point across, with the added bonus of not actually using any offending verbiage.  You let the listener (or reader) fill in the “blank”.  No apology needed.

Over time, you can begin to use variations, and even use it as a substitute for profanity.  For example:

“I can’t believe that the New York Times put that blankin’ story on the blankety blankin’ front page!”

Ready for prime time TV.  No problems. 

Update:  Samantha Power has resigned!   What the blank?

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How To Take The Credibility Of The Blogosphere Down A Notch

March 2, 2008

Having previously noted the dueling ads that are playing out in Texas, I thought I’d expand on it by highlighting a bit of unhinged blogger hysteria I happened to notice surrounding Clinton’s TV spot.   Namely, this post at Althouse: “Why are the letters ‘NIG’ on the child’s pajamas?”

*sigh*

nig.jpgNow, I’m not going to dive into the fray of painstaking analysis and (are you kidding me?) follow-up posts, but I will mention that the post was deservedly mocked across the political web.   I mean, are people really suggesting that the child’s pajamas were printed, stitched, and dressed in a way that allowed the camera to capture 1 second of “NiG”, presumably to plant some sort of subliminal message?  

Please, say it isn’t so.  I really don’t know what to say.  

Then again, maybe I do:

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McCain’s “100 Years”

March 1, 2008

I spent the better part of the day perusing the political web, and there was an issue I stumbled upon a couple of times, so I thought I’d post some thoughts on it and dedicate a thread….

It’s pretty clear that many of the bloggers on the right are taking exception to the way that McCain’s “100 years” comment regarding Iraq was being exploited by bloggers, pundits and candidates alike, charging that his statement was being spun and misrepresented.   Nowhere did I see this theme come up more often than at my new hangout at Hot Air, encapsulated by this post from Capt. Ed:

The AP fact-checked
one of the memes that Democrats have used against John McCain, and come to the conclusion that neither Hillary Clinton nor Barack Obama understand the term “war”. Both have tried to “make hay” out of McCain’s suggestion that we could stay in Iraq for 100 years as a proposal for an unending war, especially Obama. However, they leave out a little something from their analysis — casualties

Ed goes on to paste a section of the linked story, which attempts to make the distinction between “presence” and “war”, and that McCain’s reference was actually to the former:

No, John McCain is not proposing a 100-year war in Iraq.

The future Republican presidential nominee and the Democrats vying to run against him in the fall are engaged in a debate of sorts over how long U.S. troops should stay in Iraq and under what circumstances.

That’s a genuine point of contention. But Hillary Rodham Clinton and especially Barack Obama have distilled McCain’s position into sound bite oversimplifications, suggesting he foresees a war without end in anyone’s lifetime.

THE SPIN:

Obama: “We are bogged down in a war that John McCain now suggests might go on for another 100 years.”

Clinton: “I’ve also been a leader in trying to prevent President Bush from getting us committed to staying in Iraq regardless, for as long as Senator McCain and others have said it might be — 50 to 100 years.”

THE FACTS:

The Democrats leave out a vital caveat.

When McCain was asked about Bush’s theory that U.S. troops could be in Iraq for 50 years, the senator said: “Maybe 100. As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, it’s fine with me, and I hope it would be fine with you, if we maintain a presence in a very volatile part of the world where al-Qaida is training, recruiting, equipping and motivating people every single day.”

A troop presence that does not involve Americans being harmed is, by definition, not a war.

I jumped in to the discussion, making the argument that, given the dynamics of the region, “presence” and “war” are essentially one in the same:

Well, it’s fine with him, but is it fine with the Iraqis?

McCain really said a mouthful here. Perhaps the reason why groups like al Qaeda and the rest of the insurgency has had success “motivating” people is because people like McCain have stated that they have no problem with our presence in the region for 100 years? Is the perception that we are there to set up permanent bases and take over one of the reasons why we’ve encountered so much resistance? You see, this works both ways.

If McCain wants to go on the assumption that Iraq would eventually be like S. Korea or Germany in the sense that we’d have a nice friendly base there indefinitely, perhaps he is the one who is naive with regard to foreign policy. It’s a different part of the world. Sooner rather than later, they’ll want us to leave.  In all likelihood, it will continue to be a “war” as long as we’re there. Hence, the grief McCain gets over the 100 years comment.

The bottom line?  Sure, the argument can be made that the Democrats are oversimplifying McCain’s statement in the form of a quick sound bite to score political points.   In the spirit of intellectual honesty and honorable debate, at some point they should probably focus on what is at the core of this disagreement and present it in a way similar to the argument I’m making. 

Update (4/1/08):  McCain’s statement and the spin surrounding it is still getting plenty of attention.  More from me over at Hot Air:

…backing him into the very stupid assertion that Maverick wants a Germany/Japan-type occupation of Iraq that’s somehow going to cost us $150 billion a year for decades and decades and decades.

Maybe I’ve missed it, but has Maverick estimated just how much it would cost? I mean, here we are 5 years in, and the cost has stayed pretty static (if not gone up with a troop increase), with little or no reduction on the horizon. So, maybe it’s up to McCain to put forth some prediction or vision on what this 100 years will look like, and how soon we could realistically see those cost levels go down. I know that logically they would eventually (assuming that we improved the situation), but for now, all we have to go on is $150 billion a year.

Exit question: He wants to know how Bush and McCain define victory. How does he define it?

I’m not sure he has to, because unlike many, he doesn’t insist on addressing the situation in those terms. Heck, I don’t think even Gen. Petraeus thinks in those terms. For my part, I’ve long argued that we’ve both “won” and “lost” a long time ago, depending on one’s perspective. Right now it looks like we’re mitigating an internal and somewhat regional conflict, nation building, and putting down an insurgency (as opposed to “fighting a war”, in the sense that we’re not sinking battleships and expecting some formal surrender of a defined enemy). For everyone else, I think that the goal posts have been moved so many times that I’m sure if you asked 10 people to define “victory”, you’d get 10 different answers. I think the whole paradigm is counterproductive, actually.

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