Mojo - January 2008

Clinton Faces Trouble in South Carolina for MLK Remarks

| Fri Jan. 11, 2008 11:38 AM EST

clyburn.jpg Before the New Hampshire primary, Hillary Clinton went on Fox News and responded to Barack Obama's frequent invocations of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. "Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Lyndon Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act of 1964," she said. "It took a president to get it done."

The message was clear: knowing how to work the levers of power is more valuable in getting stuff done than even the mightiest of speeches.

But slighting Dr. King is probably not the best way to make any political point. Maybe the biggest ramification is this: South Carolina Representative James Clyburn, the highest-ranking African-American in Congress and a veteran of the civil rights movement, appears poised to abandon the neutrality he has maintained throughout the presidential race and endorse Barack Obama.

"We have to be very, very careful about how we speak about that era in American politics," Clyburn told the New York Times. "It is one thing to run a campaign and be respectful of everyone's motives and actions, and it is something else to denigrate those. That bothered me a great deal."

Clyburn is a heavyweight in South Carolina politics, and his endorsement could help solidify Obama's support amongst the black community there. The black vote in South Carolina, as we've discussed, is not solidly in anyone's camp at the moment, and if Obama can add that voting block to others that are on his side, he will have a very solid chance at the nomination. After all, if he could win Iowa and be competitive in New Hampshire, two states that are heavily white, imagine what he can do in places that are more diverse.

(And PS — Does Clinton really want to use the LBJ vs. MLK analogy? Who is going to say, "Well, I guess we could elect the Martin Luther King guy, but I'll go with the Lyndon Johnson lady instead." That's crazy. Ain't nobody getting a day off on LBJ's birthday.)

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Another Email Scandal

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 6:37 PM EST

As a follow-on to Nick's post about the missing White House emails, I should point out that there's another email scandal brewing—this one in Missouri, where the former deputy legal counsel to Governor Matt Blunt (son of House Minority Whip Roy Blunt) has alleged that the governor and four of his aides schemed to destroy potentially damaging electronic communications. According to a suit filed yesterday by Scott Eckersley, Blunt's one-time legal counsel Henry Herschel instructed staffers to destroy email records related to the politically-motivated firing of a state official, rather than turn them over to the press under a public records request. Ed Martin, then serving as Blunt's chief of staff, subsequently "instructed the governor's office to delete e-mail in inbox and trash files 'to ensure they did not have to be turned over to the press or the public in response to Sunshine requests,'" according to the Kansas City Star.

And this is what happened when reporters confronted Blunt about the allegations earlier today:

At the governor's annual prayer breakfast, Blunt declined to answer questions from The Associated Press about Eckersley's lawsuit but pledged to discuss it at a later news conference on drunken driving laws. At that news conference, however, Blunt devoted barely 2 minutes to questions about the lawsuit—refusing to discuss it any detail—and then turned his back on reporters and walked out of the room while ignoring continued questions.

Still M.I.A.: Millions of White House Emails

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 6:36 PM EST

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Remember how White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told us in April that she "wouldn't rule out" that the Bush administration may have lost 5 million emails? You know, the emails the White House doesn't want you to see? No? Here's your update:

Rick Santorum, Back From the Grave to Slam John McCain

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 4:02 PM EST

crypt_keeper.jpg I love when Republicans rip each other. And Rick Santorum just went on Hugh Hewitt's radio show and did nothing but rip John McCain the entire time. Enjoy.

HH: Why can't John McCain win this election?
RS: Well, number one, John McCain will not get the base of the Republican Party. I mean, there was a reason John McCain collapsed last year, and it's because he was the frontrunner, and everybody in the Republican Party got a chance to look at him. And when they looked at him, they wait well, wait a minute, he's not with us on almost all of the core issues of…on the economic side, he was against the President's tax cuts, he was bad on immigration. On the environment, he's absolutely terrible. He buys into the complete left wing environmentalist movement in this country. He is for bigger government on a whole laundry list of issues. He was…I mean, on medical care, I mean, he was for re-importation of drugs.
I mean, you can go on down the list. I mean, this is a guy who on a lot of the core economic issues, is not even close to being a moderate, in my opinion. And then on the issue of, on social conservative issues, you point to me one time John McCain every took the floor of the United States Senate to talk about a social conservative issue. It never happened. I mean, this is a guy who says he believes in these things, but I can tell you, inside the room, when we were in these meetings, there was nobody who fought harder not to have these votes before the United States Senate on some of the most important social conservative issues, whether it's marriage or abortion or the like. He always fought against us to even bring them up, because he was uncomfortable voting for them. So I mean, this is just not a guy I think in the end that washes with the mainstream of the Republican Party.

More after the jump. Santorum's final message? The GOP is like a meat-lover at a San Francisco co-op grocery store. No good options.

Forward This to Every Naderite and Bloomberg(ite? ian?) You Know

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 1:45 PM EST

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Some Democrats are worried that Michael Bloomberg, the liberal Democrat-turned-Republican mayor of New York City, might run for President as an independent. After all, Democrats have always tried to convince (or force) left-leaning third-party candidates not to run. The argument is that people like Ralph Nader and Michael Bloomberg split the Left-wing vote, damage Democrats' electoral prospects, and allow Right-wingers like George W. Bush to waltz into the White House. There might be something to that.

But third-party types, for their part, tend to argue that the country has a need for more diversity in politics, and that one day the public will come around to their line of thinking. But reasonable people know that's not particularly likely. Why? Because the nature of our voting system create an environment that favors two stable parties:

Obama's Chances in South Carolina: Can a Wine-Tracker Win?

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 1:10 PM EST

Let's do some thinking about the Democratic race in South Carolina (primary: Jan. 26; current polling here). Considering the Democratic electorate there is roughly 50% white and 50% black, Obama ought to have a huge advantage. But his main opposition is the wife of America's first black president—the Clinton's have very strong ties to many parts of the black community—and the polls show a close race.

The easiest observation is this: Edwards continued presence in the race divides the white vote, making things easier for Obama.

But here's a more interesting hypothesis: South Carolina may prove Obama's viability more generally. Here's why. Obama is considered a "wine-track" candidate. He appeals to upper-class, well-educated voters. Professors love him. So do college kids on Facebook. He isn't a "beer-track" candidate, someone who appeals to working- and middle-class voters. Usually, beer-trackers get the support of traditional Democratic constituencies like labor. Here's a better explanation:

Since the 1960s, Democratic nominating contests regularly have come down to a struggle between a candidate who draws support primarily from upscale, economically comfortable voters liberal on social and foreign policy issues, and a rival who relies mostly on downscale, financially strained voters drawn to populist economics and somewhat more conservative views on cultural and national security issues.
It's not much of an oversimplification to say that the blue-collar Democrats tend to see elections as an arena for defending their interests, and the upscale voters see them as an opportunity to affirm their values.

Thing is, wine-trackers don't win. Adlai Stevenson, Eugene McCarthy, Gary Hart, Bill Bradley, John Kerry (Bradley and Kerry have endorsed Obama)... they've all lost in either the primary or the general.

But Obama might rewrite the equation. If you take the wine-track voters (who looove the fact that Obama has written books, for example), but you add an unprecendent number of young and independent voters, and you add a hefty share of black voters to that, now you've got a coalition that can beat the working class block that traditionally sides with the establishment candidate.

Two other notes, re: Kerry and Richardson, after the jump.

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Roger Clemens' Strikeout Secret: Vioxx?

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 12:50 PM EST

Looks like Yankee pitcher Roger Clemens is getting a reprieve from Rep. Henry Waxman, who has rescheduled part of next week's hearings on steroid use in baseball until after the sentencing of former Mets batboy and MLB steroid dealer Kirk Radomski. Too bad, because I was looking forward to Clemens' testimony, especially in light of his claim on "60 Minutes" this week that he never took steroids, but that at the peak of his career, he was "eating Vioxx like Skittles." (Clemens was referring to the painkiller withdrawn from the market in 2004 after it was linked to an increase in heart attacks and strokes.)

I was hoping that Clemens might elaborate on his Vioxx consumption for Congress after seeing a Power Point presentation earlier this week by American Enterprise Institute scholar Ted Frank that cheekily charted Clemens' win record before and after Vioxx was pulled off the market. Ted was kind enough to share his slide, which is posted below. So, was it steroids, or was it Vioxx that led to his amazing strikeout record? You be the judge!

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Another NH Explanation - The Hillary Effect

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 11:54 AM EST

Add another potential explanation for Hillary Clinton's New Hampshire victory to my on-the-fly list composed on election night: the Hillary Effect.

The idea, courtesy of Cenk Uygur of The Young Turks, is that supporting Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary opens a voter up to accusations of being (1) for the old guard; (2) resistant to change; (3) blind to all of Obama's messianic glory; (4) motivated by a simple gender-based preference, if you are a woman; and/or (5) subtly or not so subtly motivated by race, if you are white. And Hillary supporters just don't want to put up with it any more. They don't want to be judged by their fellow liberals and they don't want to be yelled at by conservatives. So they are purposefully vague when they are polled (either suggesting that they are undecided, or for another candidate), and then pull the lever for HRC in the privacy of the voting booth.

Something to consider...

FINALLY Cracking Down on Milk Crate Thieves

| Thu Jan. 10, 2008 12:18 AM EST

I'm glad someone is finally taking a stand against college kids who want to make cheap coffee tables.

Representative Michael F. Kane, a Holyoke Democrat, is pushing for the crackdown on milk-crate thieves, or, translated into legislativese, anyone who "intentionally removes a plastic bulk merchandise container that is used by a product producer, distributor, or retailer or agent thereof which is used as a means for the bulk transportation, storage, or carrying of retail containers of milk . . . with the intention of permanently depriving the merchant of the possession, use, or benefit of such container."
Inspired by complaints from several retailers and dairy suppliers, Kane said, his bill would set a sliding scale of fines for first, second, and third offenses, all the way up to $1,000 and a year in prison for stealing more than $100 worth of crates.
"These crates have been used for many years in college dorms for basically storage and furniture," Kane said. "Obviously, I don't want to see any college students going to jail over this, but it is becoming a cost to the industry." Kane is hoping the measure will come up for a hearing in the Judiciary Committee this winter.

Massachusetts must be a paradise, if this is what the legislature is acting on.

Dep't of Terrible Ideas: Obama Surrogate Questions Hillary's Tears

| Wed Jan. 9, 2008 11:38 PM EST

Slamming Hillary Clinton for crying didn't help John Edwards any in New Hampshire. In fact, it probably hurt him substantially. What makes the Obama folks think questioning those tears' authenticity will do anything other than cause a backlash?

Really? We're supposed to think that because Hillary Clinton didn't cry publicly over Katrina, these tears were part of a political calculation? This is stupid and weak.

Is assuming the worst on the behalf of your opponents part of the politics of hope?