Mojo - January 2008

Whack-a-Mitt: The Republicans Debate in NH

| Sun Jan. 6, 2008 12:11 AM EST

never-heard-of-it.jpg Before you feel sorry for Mitt Romney for getting picked on relentlessly in tonight's Republican debate at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire, consider the fact that he's devoted millions of dollars to picking on everyone else.

There was no question who the collected cast of Republican candidates wanted to put between the crosshairs. Time and again, the former Massachusetts Governor was the target of full-scale grenade attacks and small potshots.

They frequently used his words against him. On the topic of the Iraq War, Governor Mike Huckabee looked straight at Romney, who has sniped Huckabee for abandoning the President, and said, "Governor Romney, you yourself on '60 Minutes' said that we had left Iraq in a mess. You've also said that you weren't going to have this 'my way or no way' philosophy… I supported the president in the war before you did. I supported the surge when you didn't."

On immigration, John McCain defended his position from his critics on the right, including Romney, by saying, "Now, no better authority than Governor Romney believed that it's not amnesty because two years ago, he was asked, and he said that my plan was, quote, 'reasonable,' and was not amnesty. It's a matter of record."

McCain delivered some of the petty remarks, too. When Romney, who is notorious for his flip-flops, said that he was going to more fully adopt Barack Obama's message of change because, "that was the message coming out of Iowa," John McCain replied, "I just wanted to say to Governor Romney, we disagree on a lot of issues, but I agree you are the candidate of change."

The attacks were at times almost gleeful. And that may be because Romney has run more negative ads than any of the candidates in the field. He has repeatedly hit Governor Huckabee on his record in Arkansas, and has several ads that imply Senator McCain is too old and out of touch to be president. (He also attacks McCain on immigration.) He has engaged in attack politics, and spent more than the rest of the field combined to do it.

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Hillary Clinton Tosses the Script

| Sat Jan. 5, 2008 6:46 PM EST

hillary-nh-event.jpg As Hillary Clinton looks to become the second Comeback Kid in her immediate family, her campaign is trying a new approach. She kicked off her New Hampshire campaign by sticking to the stump speech that she relied on in Iowa, but that's changed. Perhaps sensing that her stump speech was, in effect, third-rate, Clinton delivered very brief remarks at the beginning of her campaign appearances today and spent most of the time taking questions from New Hampshire voters.

At Merrimack Valley High School in the town of Penacook this morning, Clinton spoke for roughly ten minutes before turning to the very substantial crowd for questions. Her remarks did have a point, however: three times in those ten minutes, she managed to say that she was the only candidate ready to lead "from day one" or "from the first day." The speakers that came before her also used the phrases three times, in equally brief comments. Perhaps the Clinton camp took a hard look at the strategy from Iowa—emphasize biography, emphasize the '90s, emphasize work ethic—and determined that only the "day one" sound bite was worth keeping.

And it's just as well. At both the Penacook appearance and a later one in Durham, Clinton was masterful in the question and answer sessions. The questions were easy; examples included "What are the top two reasons to vote for you?" and "I've been frustrated by the deceptively named No Child Left Behind. What will you do about it?" Clinton provided very long answers—an answer ostensibly on social security touched on middle class incomes, health care, energy, and the Republican war on science, and lasted over 10 minutes—that included smart tangents and acknowledgments of important sub-issues. For example, when asked a question about rising health care costs by a woman who claimed to be the caretaker of both her parents and her children, Clinton pointed out that "the most difficult time of day for families is often three to six" and that "you can get more help from the government putting parents in nursing homes than you can for keeping them in your own home." In another discussion, she pointed out dental hygiene's connections to heart health and infections all over the body. If other candidates have an appreciation of the issues that is this in-depth, they don't show it on the campaign trail.

And that may be the point of the new all-questions strategy. It allows Clinton to display the breadth and depth of her knowledge. Her ability to make reference to past battles and former achievements underscores her experience even if it isn't a central focus.

Obama's New Hampshire Ads - Preview of National Race? Cause for Concern?

| Sat Jan. 5, 2008 6:11 PM EST

These Obama ads currently running in New Hampshire are obviously designed to pick up independent voters. If Obama wins the nomination, is this what we're going to see eight months of?

Obama highlights his independence and his ability to unify the country. Fair enough; he's trying to win in a state with lots of independents. (The main competitor for those votes, as odd as it sounds, appears to be John McCain; independents in New Hampshire can vote in either primary.)

I'm getting worried; should we be concerned about Obama's allegiance to progressive beliefs? Would a President Obama compromise on key issues in order to make it look like he is "bringing the country together"? And let's say at some point in his term(s) he faces stiff Republican opposition in Congress that doesn't share his passion for bipartisanship. Will he move to the center or to the right just to keep Washington from getting mired in gridlock?

Copycat GOPers: Mitt Channels Obama, McCain Claims He's an Agent of Change

| Sat Jan. 5, 2008 5:31 PM EST

Washington is fundamentally broken. It cannot deliver what the public demands: health care coverage for all, energy independence, good schools. And we're not going to change Washington by handing more power to the same-old people already there. Hillary Clinton says she has experience, but that's not what the voters want. They want someone who can bring real change to the nation's capital.

Is that Barack Obama campaigning in New Hampshire? No, it's Mitt Romney. At an "Ask Mitt Anything" meeting on Saturday morning in Derry, Romney was channeling the Democratic victor in Iowa. After finishing second in Iowa, where he had invested so much political and actual capital, Romney, good businessman that he is, took stock of the results and saw that the political market is demanding not experience but change. So he has recalibrated his sales campaign. "The message I read into" the Iowa results, he told the assembled in Derry, is that Hillary Clinton and John McCain were "handily rejected by people with messages of change." In that category he included Mike Huckabee, the GOP winner of Iowa, Obama, the Democratic winner, and...himself. Though Romney had finished 9 points behind Huckabee, he was claiming he had not been spurned by the voters and was a fellow rider of that change wave.

This is rather imaginative bookkeeping. But you can't blame a CEO for trying. And Romney appears to be in a tight (and bitter) race with McCain in New Hampshire. So he's attempting to hijack the Obama magic and discredit McCain as just another do-nothing Washingtonian.

At the Derry event, Romney stood near a giant sign proclaiming "Washington Is Broken" and unveiled a to-do list for the U.S. government. It included almost every idea that any candidate has proposed during this campaign: protect America, end illegal immigration, reduce taxes, cut pork, provide health insurance for everyone, end dependence on foreign oil, grow the economy, fix Social Security, put people ahead of "selfish interest." He was covering all the bases. And he discussed each as if he were conducting a PowerPoint presentation. Romney also noted that much of this would not be possible unless "we get the lobbyists off the shoulders" of the legislators. With this remark, not only was he swiping Obama's message, he was also shoplifting McCain's and John Edwards'. Talk about a hostile takeover.

New Hampshire GOP Bails on Fox News Forum for Excluding Ron Paul

| Sat Jan. 5, 2008 4:33 PM EST

The New Hampshire GOP has pulled its sponsorship of a Fox News forum tomorrow because of Fox's decision to exclude Ron Paul. Fox claims that Ron Paul isn't a serious enough candidate to merit including, except that he doubled Rudy Giuliani's performance in the Iowa caucuses and polls close to Giuliani and higher than Fred Thompson in New Hampshire.

Hey Fox, man up! What are you afraid of? And kudos to the NH GOP.

Kucinich's UFO Sighting: What He Really Saw

| Fri Jan. 4, 2008 8:27 PM EST
kucinichbelieve250.jpg

Dennis Kucinich has taken a lot of flack for saying that he once saw an unidentified flying object near Shirley MacLaine's house back in 1982. The Wall Street Journal just did a front-page story on it, adding to the Kucinich-as-silly-person storyline. But what if he really did see something—just not an alien spaceship? That's the skeptical-yet-speculative theory being floated over at Cannonfire:

The sighting took place in Washington state near Mt. Ranier, where the "flying saucer" craze was born.

Judging from the description of the three vehicles witnessed that day, I theorize that the party saw a test of prototype UAVs, or drones. Such unmanned reconnaissance craft were little-known at the time. They are well-known nowadays, since they play a major role in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Although the early development of unmanned craft is not easy for outsiders to trace, these devices do have a long history. Marilyn Monroe, in the days before she had that name, once worked for a company producing the first mass-produced UAVs.

The Kucinich sighting took place in Graham, Washington, situated directly between Mount Ranier and McChord Air Force Base. (The mountain is some twenty miles away from the base.) The report indicates that the craft were flying toward McChord. After the flyover, Kucinich's party saw military helicopters in the area.

Then how to explain MacLaine's claim that during the sighting Kucinich felt "a connection in his heart and heard directions in his mind"? No doubt the Department of Peace would want to keep that love-drone technology in its arsenal.

(Image: Buckeye State Blog)

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Off the Trail, and on the Warpath

| Fri Jan. 4, 2008 6:29 PM EST

It turns out Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was half right. After a poor showing in Iowa last night, Sen. Chris Dodd, D-Conn., dropped his bid to be the Democratic nominee for president—and, as such, will not be captive to the pander-inducing whims of electoral politics when the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is reconsidered later this month. But that doesn't mean he won't be back on the floor of the Senate blocking any FISA bill that contains an immunity provision for the telecommunications industry. Here's what he said in his concession letter:

Clinton, Edwards Campaigns Go Negative on Obama

| Fri Jan. 4, 2008 6:00 PM EST

So what does Clinton do to regain momentum in New Hampshire? Attack Obama from the right.

Hillary's aides point to Obama's extremely progressive record as a community organizer, state senator and candidate for Congress, his alliances with "left-wing" intellectuals in Chicago's Hyde Park community, and his liberal voting record on criminal defendants' rights as subjects for examination.

And what does Edwards do to keep Obama from getting the whole Iowa bounce? Attack Obama as a corporate tool.

Edwards' staff also immediately began to take shots at Obama: Appearing on MSNBC this morning, Edwards' manager David Bonior described Obama as a sellout to corporate America: "Barack Obama's kind of change is where you sit down and you cut a deal with the corporate world."

Neither of these approaches look all that promising, from first glance. But this could get ugly. (Via Sirotablog)

In New Hampshire, Hillary Finds It Tough To Dash Obama's Hope

| Fri Jan. 4, 2008 4:32 PM EST

The battle of New Hampshire—on the Democratic side—opened Friday morning with an obvious question: what, if anything, would Hillary Clinton do differently? Her 8-point loss to Barack Obama in Iowa was a clear indicator that what she had been doing until then was not working. And when it comes to the sort of voters who contributed to Obama's impressive win on Thursday night—including independent, young, and upscale voters—New Hampshire is a better hunting ground for Obama than Iowa. So reporters and politicos were wondering how Clinton would recalibrate in response to the thumpin' she had received.

Early in the morning, in a cold airport hangar in Nashua, in front of a couple of hundred people (including Arkansans and AFSCME union workers who were bussed in), Clinton provided the answer: not much. In her only major campaign appearance of the day (she would later join the other Democratic candidates at a dinner for the state Democratic party), she essentially stuck with the message that had failed her in Iowa.

John McCain, All-Around Good Guy

| Fri Jan. 4, 2008 2:06 PM EST

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.