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Does Clinton Need To Retool? Nah, Just Pump Up the Negative

| Wed Feb. 20, 2008 1:17 PM EST

On a conference call with reporters on Wednesday morning, Howard Wolfson, Hillary Clinton's communications director, was asked if within the Clinton camp there was any sense that the campaign needs to "retool or overhaul." The answer: no. In fact, throughout the call, Wolfson and Mark Penn, Clinton's chief strategist, showed no signs of any shifting. Instead, they signaled that the campaign's gameplan is to continue to pound away at Obama. Wolfson pushed two points: Obama "lifted" portions of a speech from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Obama seems to be backing out of a promise to participate in the public campaign finance system (and thus live within a spending limit) in the general election. "He's running on the power of his oratory and the strength of his promises," Wolfson said. Yet, he asserted, Obama's oratory is plagiarized and his promises are broken.

The problem: the Clinton campaign threw all this (and much more) at Obama before Wisconsin, and it didn't stick. Perhaps Clinton and her aides believe they have to pump up the volume on the attacks to have a fighting chance in Ohio and Texas on March 4.

Why do they believe they can triumph in those states? Wolfson and Penn were asked. "Growing scrutiny," Wolfson replied, is being paid to Obama--by the media, by the Republican Party, and by Senator John McCain, the likely GOP nominee. In other words, Obama's due for a fall--eventually. And the Clinton people will do what they can to bring about such change before Ohio and Texas. Their strategy appears to be to help tear him down, rather than find a better way to lift her up. The race got nasty before Wisconsin--and it looks as if it's going to get nastier.

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Deja Vu: Muslim Didn't Work So Now Obama's a Commie Pinko

| Wed Feb. 20, 2008 11:58 AM EST

Just a few hours ago, a smart chick I know predicted that the unscrupulous right would expand their smear-scope to dog Obama's mama. She figured: 'tramp who married a Kenyan then an Indonesian, getting her nice white genes all dirty. She's a 'ho.' Foolishly, I couldn't buy it. Well, she was right, but it's even worse. Mrs. Obama had to have been a Commie (no doubt also a tramp). What else explains why a nice white girl went crazy enough to marry so suspiciously since it couldn't possibly be love?

From NRO, via Andrew Sullivan:

...all of my mixed race, black/white classmates throughout my youth, some of whom I am still in contact with, were the product of very culturally specific unions. They were always the offspring of a white mother, (in my circles, she was usually Jewish, but elsewhere not necessarily) and usually a highly educated black father. And how had these two come together at a time when it was neither natural nor easy for such relationships to flourish? Always through politics. No, not the young Republicans. Usually the Communist Youth League. Or maybe a different arm of the CPUSA. But, for a white woman to marry a black man in 1958, or 60, there was almost inevitably a connection to explicit Communist politics. (During the Clinton Administration we were all introduced to then U. of Pennsylvania Professor Lani Guinier — also a half black/half Jewish, red diaper baby.)
I don't know how Barak Obama's parents met. But the Kincaid article referenced above makes a very convincing case that Obama's family, later, (mid 1970s) in Hawaii, had close relations with a known black Communist intellectual. And, according to what Obama wrote in his first autobiography, the man in question — Frank Marshall Davis — appears to have been Barack's own mentor, and even a father figure. Of course, since the Soviet Union itself no longer exists, it's an open question what it means practically to have been politically mentored by an official Communist. Ideologically, the implications are clearer.

They're not serious, are they? You can't scare the kids with that played out nonsense. But maybe the plan is two-pronged: McCain's refining his message that not only is Obama inexperienced (i.e. not in danger of a cardiac event), but he's so focused on what's wrong with America that he won't pay attention to the dangers of terrorism. That message may not focus the kids, but it should bring out the greatest generation in droves. Just in case the right thinks they might give in to silly notions like returning to our bedrock values and not fighting a war we've already won.

Interesting Fact About Wisconsin Election Results

| Wed Feb. 20, 2008 11:38 AM EST

Yesterday's 17-point win for Obama in Wisconsin was the smallest margin of victory in his 10-state streak since Super Tuesday.

February 9
Virgin Islands +82
Louisiana +21
Nebraska +36
Washington +37

February 10
Maine +19

February 12
District of Columbia +51
Maryland +23
Virginia +29

February 19 (yesterday)
Wisconsin +17
Hawaii +52

Yesterday's Full Results

| Wed Feb. 20, 2008 10:38 AM EST

For the Democrats:

Wisconsin
Obama 58%, Clinton 41%
Obama wins 40 delegates, Clinton wins 28

Hawaii
Obama 76%, Clinton 24%
Obama wins 12 delegates, Clinton wins 4

Current delegate count, including superdelegates
Obama 1356, Clinton 1267 (2025 needed to win)

For the Republicans:

Wisconsin
McCain 55%, Huckabee 37%, Paul 5%
McCain wins 35 delegates, Huckabee and Paul win 0

Washington
McCain 49%, Huckabee 22%, Romney 20%, Paul 7%
McCain wins 14 delegates, Huckabee, Romney, and Paul win 0

Current delegate count
McCain 967, Huckabee 245, Paul 14 (1191 needed to win)

Full analysis of the state of the Democratic race here.

Update: Those delegate totals are from Real Clear Politics, which has changed its numbers since I checked them this morning. They've been changed to reflect RCP's update. Also note that many news outlets have different delegate totals.

New Officers' Survey: US Military Stretched, Unable to Fight Another Major War

| Wed Feb. 20, 2008 9:57 AM EST

A survey of more than 3,400 senior U.S. military officers by the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think-tank, and Foreign Policy magazine has some grim findings (.pdf):

Of the more than 3,400 active and retired officers surveyed, 60 percent say the U.S. military is weaker today than it was five years ago. Asked the reason why, more than half cite the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the pace of troop deployments those conflicts require.
Nearly 90 percent of the officers—all of whom hold the rank of major or lieutenant commander and above—say that the war in Iraq has "stretched the U.S. military dangerously thin." Asked to grade the health of each military service on scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning the officers have no concern about the health of the service and 10 meaning they are extremely concerned, the officers reported an average score of 7.9 for the Army and 7.0 for the Marine Corps. However, asked if they believe the war in Iraq has broken the U.S. military, 56 percent of the officers say they disagree.

Perhaps most notable, the survey found:

An Embarrassing Loss for Clinton: Where Have All the Blue-Collar Dems Gone?

| Tue Feb. 19, 2008 10:59 PM EST

obama-wisconsin250x200.jpg Hillary Clinton's historic presidential campaign--once the political handicappers' favorite in the Democratic contest--now appears to depend on two things: Ohio and Texas.

On Tuesday, Barack Obama racked up his ninth win in a row, defeating Clinton by an embarrassing 17 points in Wisconsin. And once again, the nature of his win made the night worse for the Clinton crowd. As Obama had done in Virginia and Maryland a week earlier, he outdrew Clinton in voters in most demographic slices. In a state full of working-class voters, Obama demonstrated once more that he can appeal to lunch-bucket Democrats, outpacing Clinton among voters making $50,000 or less a year. Among voters below 30 years of age, Obama walloped Clinton 73 to 20 percent. He had a 2-to-1 edge with independents and Republicans who voted in the Democratic primary. Clinton did have an edge among those 65 and older: 60 to 39 percent. But among voters who said the economy was the top issue, Obama pulled 55 percent--a big gain from the 44 percent he collected among these voters on Super Tuesday. In Wisconsin, he won 54 percent of the vote of Democrats who have not attended college--presumably blue-collar Dems. On Super Tuesday, he collected only 42 percent within this group.

At this point, Clinton's base seems to be composed of one group of loyalists: older, middle-income women. (Among all Democratic women, Obama beat Clinton 50 to 49 percent in the exit polls.) Though women voters propelled Clinton to victories in New Hampshire and Nevada, they have not carried her to success since those two states. At the same time, Obama has expanded his core.

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Nature Does Anti-Terrorism Better

| Tue Feb. 19, 2008 9:50 PM EST

dhs-threat.jpg Living things can show us how to keep society safe. So says biologist Raphael Sagarin of Duke University in a fascinating interview with New Scientist. "You can look at virtually any question about security through a biological lens," says Sagarin, "from how to develop weapons systems to how to organise government departments. One clear lesson is that the species or systems that have been around the longest, adapted to many different environments and captured the most resources have a structure of fairly limited central control, with a lot of autonomy. You can see this… in the immune system, for example, or in colonial organisms such as ants and corals."

"In stark contrast, says Sagarin, is the US response to 9/11, "which was to create this enormous Department of Homeland Security. You can see the results: individual organisations do not get enough autonomy and cannot make decisions in a timely manner. They cannot respond and adapt without having to go up through many layers of command. It's more to do with keeping power and maintaining committee memberships, jobs and budgets than security."

Furthermore, he says, "organisms inherently understand that there is risk in life. The idea that we can eliminate these risks would be selected against quickly in the natural world since any organism that tried to do so would not have enough resources left for reproduction, or feeding itself."

Sounds vaguely familiar.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Who's Really Paying for Cheap Shrimp?

| Tue Feb. 19, 2008 9:03 PM EST

20051115135555.jpg Not you and me. That farmed tiger shrimp costs five times what we're paying. So who's getting charged the difference? Local poor people and the local environment. This according to Daniel A. Bergquist of Uppsala University. Despite what many international aid organizations claim (and fund), Bergquist says his studies in Sri Lanka and the Philippines prove that a major portion of the local population is excluded from aquaculture and continue to be as poor as ever. "The winners are the local elites," he says. What's more, aquaculture often entails cutting mangrove forests for shrimp and fish ponds, creating environmental problems that eventually impact aquaculture.

By using methods that factor in all costs, Bergquist was able to show, for instance, that the price of tiger shrimp would need to be more than five times higher than it is today for the environment and the local population to receive fair compensation for their input. "Aquaculture is a clear example of how the colonization of the southern hemisphere is still going on, finding new avenues via globalization and international trade," says Bergquist.

So maybe the good folks at Blue Ocean Institute will add tiger shrimp to their excellent sustainable seafood texting service, and keep a few more of us from eating it until the price gets real.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent, lecturer, and 2008 winner of the John Burroughs Medal Award. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.

Is The Lily Livered West an Unindicted Co-Conspirator of Islamo-Fascism?

| Tue Feb. 19, 2008 8:09 PM EST

While Musharraf, and Islamism was defeated in Pakistan (for now, and maybe only for strategic reasons), how complicit is the soggy Western left in its spread? If you can't trust the Archbishop of Canterbury to hold the line, who can you? Well, ask Anne Applebaum, at trusty Slate:

Is this a storm in a teacup, as the archbishop now claims? Was the "feeding frenzy" biased and unfair? Certainly, it is true that, since last Thursday, when Rowan Williams—the archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Church of England, symbolic leader of the international Anglican Church—called for "constructive accommodation" with some aspects of sharia law and declared the incorporation of Muslim religious law into the British legal system "unavoidable," practically no insult has been left unsaid....
What one British writer called the "jurisprudential kernel" of his thoughts is as follows: In the modern world, we must avoid the "inflexible or over-restrictive applications of traditional law" and must be wary of our "universalist Enlightenment system," which risks "ghettoizing" a minority. Instead, we must embrace the notion of "plural jurisdiction." This, in other words, was no pleasant fluff about tolerance for foreigners: This was a call for the evisceration of the British legal system as we know it.

Of course, Christopher Hitchens summed up the proper response most robustly, "To Hell With the Archbishop of Canterbury."

Private's Stripes Going Once, Going Twice: How Much to Serve Your Country?

| Tue Feb. 19, 2008 7:15 PM EST

Fred Kaplan, at Slate, keeps on giving us the bad news about what the war on terror is doing to the military. Along with epidemic suicides and ever-lowering recruitment standards, now they're offering new recruits $40k bonuses, more than the $30K they're offering to battle-scarred captains to reup.

So, which is worse: raising an army of sorta mercenaries or flipping vets in for the long haul the bird?

There's just so much that's worrying about the pernicious effects of this "100 years of war" it's hard to know what to bemoan first. Kaplan:

every good junior officer I've ever met gets very uncomfortable when the discussion turns to this topic; they emphasize, sincerely I think, that they're not in the military for the money; that fair compensation is appreciated, but they could make a lot more as a civilian if that was their goal. Putting so much emphasis on cash bonuses tends to draw people whose primary aim is making money—and who aren't talented enough to make the same kind of money in the civilian world.

I thought we learned in Viet Nam that it was a mistake to ignore the junior officers. You know, the ones closest to Joe Private.