Blogs

How Obama Could Capture Hillary Voters: Answer the Obvious

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 9:05 PM EDT

Below is a guest blog entry by economist and MoJo author Nomi Prins:

Hillary Clinton's speech has been duly dissected. Bill's will be, too. But the DNC question still lingering for the PUMAs is: Why didn't Obama choose Clinton as his running mate? Dems would be naïve to suggest such people just 'get over it,' Hillary's verbal push not withstanding.

Love it or hate it, it's a valid question, particularly for the women who did and do identify with her. And it's a question that Obama needs to at least acknowledge, if not address.

Why? Because in the absence of a resounding statement from Camp Obama, the bloviosphere has filled in the gap with excuses like these: She's too divisive, he couldn't deal with Bill, the Clintons are too powerful, she wouldn't have wanted it anyway.

Whatever. A strong person campaigning for the most powerful office in the world should be able to answer difficult questions head on. With swing state voters, can Obama really afford to play the Hillary card so close to the vest?

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The Vicious Cycle

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 6:28 PM EDT

THE VICIOUS CYCLE....Matt Yglesias on how we deal with the rest of the world:

Part of the perverse logic of conservative foreign policy founded on a bizarre combination of hysteria and hubris is that there's this kind of quicksand phenomenon where the worse things get, the more you need to keep flailing.

Boy howdy, ain't that the truth. Over and over, we see years of bad foreign policy meander along fitfully and then, suddenly, explode into a crisis of some kind that was probably avoidable. But by then, it's too late. Once the crisis erupts, national honor is at stake and it's too late to do the right thing because nobody (including me!) likes to back down under pressure. So the only acceptable option is to stand tough and ratchet up the tension.

The Bush administration is certainly the acknowledged master of this vicious cycle: we've seen it with North Korea, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, and now Russia. We could have engaged earlier with North Korea; we could have avoided war with Iraq; we could have accepted Iranian overtures to talk in 2003; we could have kept up diplomatic relations with Syria; we could have accepted democratic reforms in Pakistan; and we could have treated Russia as a serious negotiating partner. This would hardly have avoided all the problems in the world, but it would have helped avoid some of them.

This isn't meant to justify bad behavior from other countries, no matter how hard conservatives try to paint it that way. It's just to point out that smart leaders, regardless of ideology, can't be naive; they need to understand the real world and conduct their foreign policy without closing their eyes to the likely consequences of their actions. But the American public, like a lot of other publics, never sees this. All they see is the eventual crisis, and when the crisis hits they want a leader who doesn't back down. One who's tough. "Toughness" may have been part of the very attitude that helped create the crisis in the first place, but few people make the connection. They just want a response.

John McCain, of course, shows every sign of wanting to take over exactly where the Bush administration leaves off: mishandling foreign affairs until crisis after crisis hits, and then insisting that national honor demands that we respond to each crisis as bellicosely as possible. And that sells. It sells for John McCain the same way that it sells for Vladimir Putin.

Is Barack Obama a guy who can sell the American public on a different vision of how to handle foreign affairs? I sure hope so. But I'm not holding my breath yet.

Biden at Work

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 5:51 PM EDT

A couple accounts have come out that illustrate how Joe Biden works and thinks. I think they provide a pretty interesting look into the mind of the man who may become vice president. Here's one from a former U.S. ambassador to Romania:

In the aftermath of NATO's success in stopping ethnic cleaning in Kosovo, Cabinet members and Members of Congress stopped in Bucharest to thank the Romanians for their support of NATO and get a feel for where the Balkan region was going in its aftermath.
Unlike some of the other visitors whose approach was helpful but remarkably relaxed, Biden was a whirlwind of inquiry, analysis and commentary from the time he landed at Otopeni airport.
On the 20-minute drive into the city, he quizzed me on Romanian attitudes, the status of various government leaders and the inside story on Romania's foreign policy toward Slobodan Milosevic, who was still in power next door in Yugoslavia. Because Biden has known all the major Romanian leaders since the dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, the questions were Ph.D. level, not Romania 101. That was remarkable in itself since he is no specialist on Romania; he could do the same, landing in dozens of nations around the world.

There's a lot more there; check it out. And here's a very long interview Biden did with Josh Marshall in 2004 — the section below pertains to a visit Biden had with Muammar Qaddafi after Libya gave up its WMD programs. Biden emerges as a fascinating character — tough, vulgar, down-to-earth, and an expert practitioner of hard-nosed diplomacy.

Lying

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 5:50 PM EDT

LYING....I swear, it's like watching Anakin Skywalker turn into Darth Vader in Star Wars. It's not as if McCain hasn't always been brazenly opportunistic, but the depth of his flat-out lying is becoming pathological. Jake Tapper calls him on it here. Will the rest of the press follow?

Hillary Clinton Releases Her Delegates

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 5:29 PM EDT

Her name and Obama's will be in the roll call vote, meaning that Clinton's delegates will be able to vote for whomever they choose. Her words to them:

"I come here today to release you as my delegates.... What that means is that both Senator Obama's name and mine will be put into nomination this afternoon. I have spoken to many of you who have expressed your questions about what you should do. Many of you feel a responsibility to represent your voters. Others of you want the chance to vote what's in your heart. Still others will be voting for Senator Obama because they want to demonstrate their commitment to the party and the nominee. So I am not telling you what to do."
"I signed my ballot this morning for Senator Obama."
"What is important to come out of today is that we nominate Senator Barack Obama and Joe Biden for the president and vice president of the United States."

Brian Schweitzer, Everyone's New Favorite

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 3:56 PM EDT

A number of other people shared my enthusiasm for Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and his speech last night, so I thought I'd post the sucker in full. Check it out if you missed it.

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Turtles Saved By New Hooks

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 3:41 PM EDT

553px-Chelonia_mydas_in_Kona_Hawaii_2008.jpg Here's the recipe for saving sea turtles from drowning in the longline fishery. Switch out the classic J hooks for circular hooks. Add a little training and the tools to release turtles accidentally hooked.

A new report by the World Wildlife Fund and the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) finds the new hooks dramatically reduce the bycatch of marine turtles without impacting fishing activity. They analyzed 4 years of data from 8 Eastern Pacific countries: Mexico, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. They found up to 89% reductions in the marine turtle bycatch per thousand hooks, and that 95% of all turtles caught in longline fishing were recovered alive. Circle hooks performed as well as J hooks in the catch rates of tuna, billfishes and sharks fishery.

Okay, well the tuna, billfishes, and sharks fisheries compose a whole other thorny issue. One as deserving of solutions as the sea turtles. The big fish of the sea are in superserious trouble and also need a reprieve from the hooks, like, right this second. . .

Eros Gravis Ea

Wed Aug. 27, 2008 3:25 PM EDT
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Likeability

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 2:31 PM EDT

LIKEABILITY....Dayo Olopade on Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer's speech last night:

Not only was Schweitzer's delivery emphatic and simple — his mien was entirely genuine, a reality only enhanced by his bolo tie. The governor, an irrigation specialist and practicing catholic, got the meat of these two identities across without being pedantic, speaking of a crucifix in his home and the environmental battles he fights as an executive with fluency.

....A quick Google investigation of the governor reveals an appearance at an American Prospect event in which he lays out the very case for casting him as a major face of the party in future: "[People] like what we Democrats do when we're elected — we just have to be more likeable when we're doing the things they like." And oh, was he. Beyond his endearing tics — the A-OK hand gestures, his refrences to "industry" — he got off some great jabs at McCain, and his hokey but effective pep-rally techniques were straight from the heartland.

This is something of a problem, isn't it? Yes, successful politicians all have to be likeable in one way or another (Richard Nixon is the exception who proves the rule), but this a particular kind of likeability that Dayo is talking about. It's the rural, jeans-wearing, brush-clearing, aw-shucks likeability of John McCain and George Bush and Ronald Reagan and Dwight Eisenhower. (And LBJ and Bill Clinton.) But if that's the only kind of genuinely acceptable likeability in presidential elections, then our list of electable candidates shrinks to about two or three per year.

I don't have any brilliant answer to this problem, and obviously a lot of people this year are hoping that Barack Obama's version of likeability turns out to be acceptable too. That said, I sort of wish liberals would stop buying into the Schweitzer-esque version of what's likeable and what's not. In the long run, it just kills us.

New Poverty Data Induce Clinton Nostalgia

| Wed Aug. 27, 2008 2:31 PM EDT

Hillary's speech last night at the Democratic convention wasn't the only event of the day to inspire a little nostalgia for the Clinton administration. A few hours earlier, the Census Bureau released its 2007 poverty and income report, a snapshot of the nation's economic well-being. The easy takeaway message might have been this: We never had it so good as we did in Bill Clinton's second term, when unemployment was low, poverty was low, and the rising tide was lifting all boats. The Census data for 2007 confirm that all future economic progress will be measured by whether the country can get back to the prosperity of 1999. Right now, the Bush administration can't even get the economy back to where it was during the 2001 recession.

According to the Census Bureau, child poverty, which hit a record low during the Clinton years, went up in 2007, and it's significantly higher than it was in 2001 (18 percent vs. 16.5 percent). Median income for working-age adults was lower last year than it was during the recession of 2001, and more people were uninsured, too. The numbers were especially grim given that they came at the end of six years of economic expansion. The data for 2008 are likely to be much, much worse.

The happy years of the Clinton administration notwithstanding, the data make clear that the country has made scant little progress in combating poverty since 1980. The percentage of children living in poverty today is 18 percent, slightly more than it was 28 years ago. The percentage of single moms living in poverty stands at 30 percent, almost exactly what it was in 1980. And the median income for black households in 2007 was $33,916. In 1980, it was $32,876. The poverty trends haven't gone unnoticed by the political class, however, on both sides of the aisle.