Mojo - January 2008

Obama Wins South Carolina; Plus, Bill's Jesse Jackson Comparison

| Sat Jan. 26, 2008 7:55 PM EST

Um, polls have been closed for 1 min and 50 seconds and MSNBC has already called South Carolina for Obama. According to the network itself, 0 percent of precincts have reported. More analysis to come.

By the way, earlier today Bill Clinton was asked in South Carolina what it means that it takes two Clintons to compete with one Obama. He said (and I'm paraphrasing), "Well, listen. Jesse Jackson won this state, too." Yikes. That answer has nothing to do with the question, but it does do three things. One, it lowers expectations. Two, it attributes Obama's victory exclusively to his race. It basically means, "Hey, a black candidate is always going to win this state." And three, it compares Barack Obama to a guy who is considered exclusively an advocate for black America, and whom many white Americans have an uncomfortable relationship with.

And, of course, it injects race into the conversation. Considering the fact that Bill Clinton has been running around South Carolina chastising reporters for focusing on race, it's a pretty cynical thing to say. Very strategic, and not very pretty.

Update: I'm still irritated by this B. Clinton statement. It's really dismissive of black voters: it suggests that they will always vote for a black candidate, instead of evaluating candidates on their merits. And it ignores the fact that just a few weeks ago, H. Clinton was crushing Obama in heavily black South Carolina.

Update Update: Video of B. Clinton's statement after the jump.

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Exit Polls in South Carolina Point to Importance of Economy, Dirty Politics

| Sat Jan. 26, 2008 7:18 PM EST

The AP has some exit polling out. Let's take a look at what it says about the South Carolina electorate.

Half of voters cited the economy as the most important issue. Twenty-five percent said health care and 20 percent said Iraq. Those were the only choices, however, which skews the numbers pretty badly. When Mother Jones runs its own exit polls, we'll do it better.

One out of four exit poll respondents said America is not ready for a black president. The same number said America is not ready for a woman president. So... South Carolina isn't completely on board the diversity train yet.

People were really not happy with the candidates. According to exit polls from MSNBC, 70 percent of all voters thought Hillary Clinton unfairly attacked Barack Obama. Fifty-six percent thought Barack Obama unfairly attacked Hillary Clinton. And voters of all stripes were unhappy with the Clintons: 75 percent of black voters thought they played dirty, 68 percent of white voters said the same.

Many pundits are assuming Barack Obama will win this handily—the only question is by how much. Have we learned nothing from New Hampshire? No assumptions. Anyone could win this primary tonight. Besides, will it kill us to wait another few hours to find out for sure?

Here's a more worthwhile question: how much of the white vote can Barack Obama win? He won very, very substantial portions of the white vote in Iowa and New Hampshire. Some polls in SC show him winning just 10 percent. If that's actually the case, Clinton's strategy of, well, reminding everyone that Obama is black (over and over) has worked.

Amman Dispatch

| Sat Jan. 26, 2008 6:06 PM EST

In a chilly apartment office in the booming, white-villaed Jordanian capital yesterday, an associate of my contact, a slim aristocratic Jordanian, dressed in a navy sports jacket, discusses in fast English various subjects of interest, his cigarette extended into the air. Downed cups of tea before us, I was writing as fast as I could on a huge notebook whose pages detached as I turned them. And then in the course of discussing why he blocked a certain transaction, he came to: " ... But I would never do anything to harm my idol, the greatest leader, Saddam Hussein." More professions of love for Saddam followed as I kind of started. But the conversation remained benevolent, and I later found this view that Saddam knew how to manage Iraq better than the current American-propped-up, Shiite-run setup to be pretty widespread and ordinary among the admittedly few Jordanians I got to meet, who were universally incredibly hospitable, and whose borders, under the omnipresent official portraits of a benevolently smiling King Abdullah and his late father King Hussein, are open to pretty much everyone, including some one million of Iraq's wealthier emigrees, Syrians, Saudis, Gulf investors, Lebanese, Turkish, Americans, Israelis, etc., albeit with an extensive and watchful security superstructure. Massive real estate contruction booms around the city, with towers, new hotels, villas and industrial offices going up. A half hour drive out of the capital, peasants from out of a Biblical scene herd sheep and goats on roadside hills, and petit blue and green decoratively painted Isuzu pick-up trucks deliver wooden crates of fresh tangerines, eggplants, and tomatoes to markets. Another Jordanian I met, Samir, discussing the importance of education and his university degree in good English, got to the subject of the Shiites -- "who do not practice the right Islam" -- as well, and how Saddam "was like a king" who knew how to govern the Iraqis, "who are difficult, they are not easy like the Jordanian people."

Attorney General John Edwards?

| Sat Jan. 26, 2008 2:59 PM EST

Bob Novak has a report out that says unnamed "Illinois Democrats" are "quietly passing the word that John Edwards will be named attorney general in an Obama administration." Novak is a hyperpartisan bullshit artist who will make stuff up in order drive a wedge between Democrats, so it's hard to take this all that seriously.

But it does raise an interesting thought experiment. John Edwards is a passionate fighter for the poor, for labor, and for universal health care—he would be a wonderful addition to any Democratic administration. He would be a great attorney general, particularly because he could fight for workers on labor law issues and he could fight for the traditionally disenfranchised on election law. He could really reinvigorate the role of the Secretary of Labor. He could head a regulatory agency like the FDA, where his distaste for corporate power could combine with his passion for fair and affordable health care. And he would make an exciting VP choice for Obama, as I've said for quite some time.

That's a long-winded way of saying, even if he doesn't get the nomination, more Edwards! Of course, the Edwards folks probably don't want to hear that. They want to hear "Edwards for prez!" And that's why the Obama people are floating this rumor, assuming it's true: it gets the progressive media to laud Edwards' potential as an attorney general while further marginalizing his chances for the presidency.

What Saddam Learned From George H.W. Bush

| Sat Jan. 26, 2008 10:35 AM EST

Why did Saddam Hussein decide to invade Kuwait in 1990? George Piro, the FBI agent who interrogated Saddam for seven months, explains in a new interview:

In the course of several face-to-face discussions, Piro said Hussein also told him that the incident that finally led him to decide to invade Kuwait in 1990 was a personal insult by the emir there.

"What really triggered it for him, according to Saddam, was he had sent his foreign minister to Kuwait to meet with the emir al-Sabah . . . to try to resolve some of these issues. And the emir told the foreign minister of Iraq that he would not stop doing what he was doing until he turned every Iraqi woman into a $10 prostitute. And that really sealed it for him, to invade Kuwait," Piro said in the interview.

Wow, what a preposterous justification for invading a much smaller country! I wonder where Saddam got the idea such nonsense was acceptable?

Here's George H.W. Bush speaking on December 20, 1989, seven months before the invasion of Kuwait, explaining why he'd just invaded Panama:

Analysis Shows Possible Pattern in Missing White House Emails

| Fri Jan. 25, 2008 5:20 PM EST

waxman250x200.jpg Since last Spring, the White House has repeatedly told the press and Congress about a potential problem involving millions of missing emails. But last Thursday the story changed: An administration spokesman told reporters "we have no way of showing that any emails at all are missing."

(You can find all of our past coverage of this issue in our missing White House emails index.)

Rep. Henry Waxman, the Oversight Committee chairman, was understandably concerned by the sudden change in the administration's story. They had originally told him that there were 473 days for which no email was archived; now they were saying they weren't sure if any were missing at all. So Waxman and the Oversight Committee scheduled a hearing on February 15 to clear up all the confusion. He quickly fired off letters to White House counsel Fred Fielding (PDF) and Allen Weinstein, the National Archivist (PDF), requesting their testimony. Also invited to testify is Alan Swendiman, the Director of the Office of Administration.

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Parsing the Compromise Stimulus Deal

| Fri Jan. 25, 2008 4:35 PM EST

The stimulus package President Bush and House leaders concocted on Thursday is better than the President's proposed package but has left some economists wanting more.

If you don't know the outlines of the plan, here they are. The plan gives individual tax filers up to $600 back in the form of a tax rebate and gives couples up to $1,200, with an additional $300 per child. The plan also includes tax cuts for businesses. The total value is $150 billion.

Democrats agreed to the plan because it doesn't make the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy permanent and because the tax filers eligible for the full rebate are capped by income at $75,000 (filers lose 5 percent for every $1,000 in income above that amount). The White House agreed to the plan because it didn't include any additional unemployment benefits or an increase to the food stamp program, which President Bush called "unnecessary spending projects." There were plaudits all around.

But for all the self-satisfied back-slapping in Washington, outside observers were somewhat ambivalent. Conservatives wanted deeper tax cuts, and liberals were underwhelmed by the package's relief for the poor.

NYT Dumps on Giuliani in McCain Endorsement

| Fri Jan. 25, 2008 2:11 PM EST

Today, the New York Times endorsed Hillary Clinton and John McCain. They most certainly did not endorse Rudy Giuliani. From the McCain endorsement:

The real Mr. Giuliani, whom many New Yorkers came to know and mistrust, is a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man who saw no need to limit police power. Racial polarization was as much a legacy of his tenure as the rebirth of Times Square.
Mr. Giuliani's arrogance and bad judgment are breathtaking. When he claims fiscal prudence, we remember how he ran through surpluses without a thought to the inevitable downturn and bequeathed huge deficits to his successor. He fired Police Commissioner William Bratton, the architect of the drop in crime, because he couldn't share the limelight. He later gave the job to Bernard Kerik, who has now been indicted on fraud and corruption charges.
The Rudolph Giuliani of 2008 first shamelessly turned the horror of 9/11 into a lucrative business, with a secret client list, then exploited his city's and the country's nightmare to promote his presidential campaign.

But really, are Republicans going to care about an endorsement that begins, "We have strong disagreements with all the Republicans running for president" and goes on to support a guy because he "is the only Republican who promises to end the George Bush style of governing"? Liberals love McCain! Time for a Michelle Malkin blog post!

(H/T Wonkette)

Update after the jump.

Saddam's Interrogator Speaks

| Fri Jan. 25, 2008 1:01 PM EST

As Bruce notes below, George Piro, an FBI agent who was Saddam's sole interrogator, will be on Sixty Minutes this Sunday:

Saddam Hussein initially didn't think the U.S. would invade Iraq to destroy weapons of mass destruction, so he kept the fact that he had none a secret to prevent an Iranian invasion he believed could happen. The Iraqi dictator revealed this thinking to George Piro, the FBI agent assigned to interrogate him after his capture.

Saddam still wouldn't admit he had no weapons of mass destruction, even when it was obvious there would be military action against him because of the perception he did. Because, says Piro, "For him, it was critical that he was seen as still the strong, defiant Saddam. He thought that [faking having the weapons] would prevent the Iranians from reinvading Iraq," he tells Pelley.

Bill Clinton to Continue Attacking Obama '08 for Acting Like Clinton '92

| Fri Jan. 25, 2008 11:41 AM EST

Patrick Healy writes in the New York Times that the Clintons feel the Bill-as-attack-dog strategy ("sphincter-like") is working, and needs to be continued.

Advisers to Sen. Hillary Clinton have concluded that Bill Clinton's aggressive politicking against Sen. Barack Obama is resonating with voters, and they intend to keep him on the campaign trail in a major role after the South Carolina primary.
The Clinton team has decided that the benefits of having Bill Clinton challenge Obama so forcefully, over Iraq and Obama's record and statements, are worth the trade-offs of potentially overshadowing Hillary Clinton at times, undermining his reputation as a statesman and raising the question among voters about whether they are putting him in the White House as much as her.

Much more after the jump...