2008 - %3, January

John McCain, All-Around Good Guy

| Fri Jan. 4, 2008 12:06 PM PST

mccain-angryu.jpg

If John McCain does something hypocritical in a forest, does anyone notice?

As everyone knows, John McCain is just a great guy. So great, apparently, that he can criticize negative ads one moment, then turn around and issue his own attack ads the next, and no one will report it. According to a biting Media Matters piece:

Numerous print media outlets reported on Sen. John McCain's assertion following the Iowa caucuses that "[t]he lesson of this election in Iowa is that ... negative campaigns don't work." But none of those articles noted that McCain has run negative TV and Web ads against Mitt Romney.

Numerous attack ads, indeed. McCain just released another one today, which says, in part: "Mitt Romney, leading? He'd rather call lawyers."

The main-stream media, tell the full story? They'd rather just keep loving John McCain. Let's hope they at least report the "Let's stay in Iraq for 100 years" comment.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

How Obama Won, and What it Means for the Democratic Race

| Fri Jan. 4, 2008 12:36 AM PST

obama-iowa-win600.jpg

I knew there was something afoot for Barack Obama about half an hour into the caucus I attended at Merrill Middle School in Des Moines, Iowa. First of all, there was the turnout. Democratic Precinct 72 had roughly 25 attendees in the 2004 caucus, according to precinct chair Louise Alcorn. Today, it had 58. And even though the caucus represented a union-heavy neighborhood, which one might expect to turn out for John Edwards, the first count of the night identified 24 Obama supporters, 16 Edwards supporters, and just 12 Hillary Clinton supporters. The caucus also included one Biden supporter, four Richardson supporters, and one undecided voter, all of whom later spread evenly to the larger groups.

The relatively small precinct only had two delegates to give, so the Clinton, Obama, and Edwards groups all tried convincing each other that they ought to switch camps. Though the Edwards supporters in attendance were well-prepared (they had pies and candy available for converts) and committed (they gave passionate speeches advocating for Edwards), the Obama supporters sat steadfast and quiet. caucus-speaker.jpg After some heated moments, including a long discussion of whether Elizabeth Edwards' cancer necessarily meant she would die while her husband was in office, the final count showed that Obama had actually grown in strength. Obama 25, Edwards 22, and Clinton 11—Obama and Edwards each took home one of the precinct's two delegates.

By the time the caucus wrapped, it was becoming clear that Thursday was Obama's night. Anecdotal reports suggested that turnout was way up—the eventual turnout number would shatter all records—a fact that favored Obama significantly because it meant first-time caucus-goers, independents, and young voters were turning out big time. Indeed, young voters in particular might be the story of the Iowa caucuses: notoriously hesitant to participate, they composed over 50 percent of Obama's support. News reports even indicated that Obama had beaten Clinton among women.

The final results—Obama 38 percent, Edwards 30 percent, Clinton 29 percent—suggested that Iowans had responded to Obama's call for decreased partisanship and a renewed politics that left special interests and lobbyists behind. In fact, they had answered it so fervently, and in such large numbers, that they had bested the best political machine in politics by nine points. In his victory speech at the Hy-Vee Hall in Des Moines, where supporters hugged, cried, and hooted randomly, a grinning Obama struck almost grandiose tones.

Watching the Caucuses: Obama Speech Strikes Keith Olbermann Dumb

| Thu Jan. 3, 2008 11:02 PM PST

mojo-photo-caucuses.jpg

Approaching the coverage of the Iowa caucuses like I suspect a lot of Americans were—unspeakably sick of Bush, uncommitted to a Democrat, curious about how things would shake down—there were a couple fascinating moments. MSNBC's coverage brought out their new power duo of Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews, and after the margin of Obama's victory became clear, Matthews seemed to want to grab the mantle of "fiery liberal commentator" from his cohost. Asking questions of their panel of experts, he launched into a spitting tirade about how Clinton could possibly be considered an agent of change when she voted for the Iraq war, emphasizing over and over that "two thirds of the party has voted against her." A quick channel change to Fox News saw their reporter, a wide-eyed strong-jawed frat boy in what looks like military-issue headphones, stationed at the Huckabee headquarters, barely able to contain his glee over Huckabee's win. Over at CNN, their situation room seemed invaded by information-filled data screens, with entrance poll pie charts rolling around the studio like mad Pac-Men.

Iowa Isn't Quite What You Think: Remember Jesse Jackson in '88

| Thu Jan. 3, 2008 10:39 PM PST

There are a lot of reasons not to compare Barack Obama and Jesse Jackson, but Obama's romp in Iowa tonight does bring to mind 1988, when Jesse Jackson and his Rainbow Coalition captured 11 percent in the Hawkeye State—coming in behind Dick Gephardt, Paul Simon (both veteran pols from neighboring states), and Michael Dukakis, but still astounding in a state where conventional wisdom had pegged Jackson as a quasi-fringe candidate (and where, as commentators never tired of pointing out, the black population was less than 1 percent). Back then, as I recall, some of the things that worked in Jackson's favor were cadres of passionate field organizers; some really smart strategizing that the campaign never got credit for; a deep, deep anger over the way ordinary people had been hung out to dry in the farm crisis; and, well, that thing that just might make Iowa a useful participant in the primary sweepstakes after all (okay, go ahead and flame), which is that people there seem to insist on making their own choices, conventional wisdom be damned.

Update: Yes, I'm confused too: some sources I've seen say Jesse got 11 percent, some say 9, and he's entirely missing from the Wikipedia entry; what's up with that?

Biden and Dodd Out; Richardson Stays In With Some Guile

| Thu Jan. 3, 2008 9:20 PM PST

CNN is reporting that Joe Biden and Chris Dodd are dropping out of the presidential race. According to the current count, Biden took 0.94 percent of delegates and Dodd took 0.02 percent. And though Richardson's press secretary told me in November that "a top three finish is all we need," Richardson is going to take his fourth place finish (and 2.10 percent of delegates) and move forward. "We made it to the final four," Richardson said in a statement. "My staff and volunteers worked their hearts out to get us here. Now we are going to take the fight to New Hampshire."

There's some intrigue with Richardson. I heard a Richardson precinct captain say he was told personally by someone in the Richardson campaign to throw his caucus-goers to Obama if Richardson wasn't viable. The reasoning given, according to this precinct captain, was that internal polling was telling the Richardson campaign that Obama needed the most help, and by throwing support to him, no clear frontrunner would emerge in the race. The move also insured that Biden and Dodd didn't get any additional support. After all, what does a few extra percent for someone like Obama really matter?

Richardson, however, will have to drop out soon, barring a miraculous comeback. It will be interesting to see if Biden, Dodd, or Richardson endorse a remaining candidate.

Edwards Tips Hat to Obama in Concession Speech

| Thu Jan. 3, 2008 8:10 PM PST

Edwards just took the stage to speak—introduced as the "second-place finisher in Iowa," which isn't exactly finalized—and began his remarks with the statement, "The status quo lost and change won." He then transitioned quickly into this standard stump speech.

I'm telling you, folks. Edwards is looking for the number two spot on an Obama ticket if he doesn't take the nomination.

The Edwards perspective tonight: he trails substantially in New Hampshire and wouldn't have survived a bad loss. His second place or close third place finish probably means that he'll receive a moderate bounce; people will likely take another look at someone who could hang tough with the Clinton machine. The size of that bounce relies heavily on the size of the Obama bounce. If Obama shoots through the stratosphere in the next few days, there may be few voters left over for Edwards to grab. In fact, some Edwards partisans may shift to the Senator from Illinois.

Advertise on MotherJones.com

Iowa Caucus Sees Record Turnout for Dems

| Thu Jan. 3, 2008 8:00 PM PST

I wrote this week that the Iowa caucuses were a 120/135/150 game. If 120,000 people showed up, it would be heavy on Edwards' hardcore supports. If it was closer to 135,000, you'd have the hardcore plus Clinton's older voters. And if it was 150,000 or more, Obama got the youth vote out.

The Iowa Democratic Party just released this one-line email:

"With 93.5 percent of the precincts reporting we are seeing record turnout with 218,000 caucus attendees."

By now you probably know that Obama won Iowa, and won big. He may have won amongst the old, the white, the female—he may have won on other people's turf tonight. We'll find out soon. But what we do know is that he dominated on his turf. The Des Moines Register gets it right again.

Update: New email. "With 96 percent of the precincts reporting we are seeing record turnout with 227,000 caucus attendees." This may be a whole new paradigm...

Update Update: Another email. "With 100 percent of the precincts reporting we are seeing record turnout with 239,000 caucus attendees." I'm going with, yes, new paradigm. Turnout in 2004 was 125,000. For the record, this turnout isn't all Obama: an exceptionally strong set of Democratic candidates is creating enthusiasm across the board. So says Howard Dean: "Record turnout for Democrats—nearly twice as many people participated in the Democratic caucus as in the Republican caucus—shows that voters are excited about our candidates and that our Party is strong."

Breaking: Obama Wins Iowa. Clinton and Edwards Tied for 2nd. Ron Paul Kicking Rudy's Ass

| Thu Jan. 3, 2008 7:56 PM PST

Those are the results with 91% percent of precincts reporting. Best part is this:
Ron Paul 8,549 10.1%
Rudy Giuliani 3,053 3.6%

More here.

McCain in NH: Would Be "Fine" To Keep Troops in Iraq for "A Hundred Years"

| Thu Jan. 3, 2008 6:43 PM PST

The United States military could stay in Iraq for "maybe a hundred years" and that "would be fine with me," John McCain told two hundred or so people at a town hall meeting in Derry, New Hampshire, on Thursday evening. Toward the end of this session, which was being held shortly before the Iowa caucuses were to start, McCain was confronted by Dave Tiffany, who calls himself a "full-time antiwar activist." In a heated exchange, Tiffany told McCain that he had looked at McCain's campaign website and had found no indication of how long McCain was willing to keep U.S. troops in Iraq. Arguing that George W. Bush's escalation of troops has led to a decline in U.S. casualties, McCain noted that the United States still maintains troops in South Korea and Japan. He said he had no objection to U.S. soldiers staying in Iraq for decades, "as long as Americans are not being injured, harmed or killed."

After the event ended, I asked McCain about his "hundred years" comment, and he reaffirmed the remark, excitedly declaring that U.S. troops could be in Iraq for "a thousand years" or "a million years," as far as he was concerned. The key matter, he explained, was whether they were being killed or not: "It's not American presence; it's American casualties." U.S. troops, he continued, are stationed in South Korea, Japan, Europe, Bosnia, and elsewhere as part of a "generally accepted policy of America's multilateralism." There's nothing wrong with Iraq being part of that policy, providing the government in Baghdad does not object.

In other words, McCain does not equate victory in Iraq--which he passionately urges at campaign events--with the removal of U.S. troops from that nation. After McCain told Tiffany that he could see troops remaining in Iraq for a hundred years, a reporter sitting next to me quipped, "There's the general election campaign ad." He meant the Democratic ad: John McCain thinks it would be okay if U.S. troops stayed in Iraq for another hundred years.....

Well, it was straight talk. And McCain's combativeness livened up a session during which he alternated between the old McCain (as in punchy, feisty, humorous) and the old McCain (as in just plain old). He moved a bit stiffly on the stage set up in the middle of the Adams Memorial Opera House. And he--somewhat oddly--shared the spotlight with Senator Joseph Lieberman, who has endorsed him. Lieberman did not merely introduce McCain; he stood by McCain during the entire event, helping McCain to answer questions about education, climate change, and the Iraq war. Several times, Lieberman gave more coherent and animated replies than did McCain. Repeatedly, Lieberman maintained that McCain could rack up bipartisan successes as president. (The Lieberman sidekick bit was curious. But an elementary-age girl in the audience did say, after being handed a microphone, that Lieberman was her role-model and that she fancied McCain. Lieberman hugged her, and the whole crowd oohed at this cuteness.)

Update: Video after the jump.

Evolution Education a Must

| Thu Jan. 3, 2008 5:40 PM PST

433843536_b22dbb1592.jpg A coalition of 17 organizations calls on the scientific community to become more involved in the promotion of science education, including evolution. According to the National Academy of Sciences, the American Institute of Physics, and the National Science Teachers Association (among others), the introduction of nonscience, such as creationism and intelligent design, fundamentally undermines education—including learning how to use the scientific method, understanding how to reach scientific consensus, and distinguishing between scientific and nonscientific explanations of natural phenomena. The article appears in the January 2008 issue of the FASEB Journal (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology).

Based on a national survey of 1,000 likely U.S. voters, the study reveals that respondents favor teaching evolution over creationism or intelligent design, and are more interested in hearing about evolution from scientists, science teachers, and clergy than Supreme Court Justices, celebrities, or school board members. "In an age when people have benefited so greatly from science and reason, it is ironic that some still reject the tools that have afforded them the privilege to reject them," says Gerald Weissmann, MD, Editor-in-Chief of The FASEB Journal. "The bottom line is that the world is round, humans evolved from an extinct species, and Elvis is dead. This survey is a wake-up call for anyone who supports teaching information based on evidence rather than speculation or hope; people want to hear the truth, and they want to hear it from scientists."

Amen.

Julia Whitty is Mother Jones' environmental correspondent. You can read from her new book, The Fragile Edge, and other writings, here.