Mojo - February 2008

Buckley's '69 Preview of a Pax Americana

| Fri Feb. 29, 2008 8:01 PM EST

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William F. Buckley, a man so idiosyncratic he could only be described as a caricature of himself, died on Wednesday. A conservative writer, magazine founder, failed NYC mayoral candidate, and television host, Buckley's views and his magazine, the National Review, could very well be considered Mother Jones' ideological counterbalance, a publication that, as described by the New York Times, "isolated [the] cranks from Mr. Buckley's chosen mainstream."

I found this gem of a video today, Buckley going up against Noam Chomsky in a 1969 debate on American imperialism and intervention. It shows a classic Buckley, so enamored with his own mannerisms and quirks that he hardly notices Chomsky tearing him apart. In making the case for an imperialism that seeks to "help" as opposed to exploit, Buckley says, "There is an observable distinction by, ahem, intelligent man between a country that reaches out and interferes with the affairs of another country because it has reason to believe that a failure to do so will result in universal misery, and that country which reaches out and interferes with another country because it wants to establish Coca Cola plants and Chase national banks and whatever and exploit it." And there you have it, one of the founders of the modern conservative movement lays out an ideology that will come in handy for a certain group o' buddies 34 years later.

Video after the jump:

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Clinton Camp to Press: All We Want is Willing Suspension of Disbelief

| Fri Feb. 29, 2008 4:10 PM EST

The Clinton campaign's press call with reporters this afternoon felt like a scene from a bizarro universe, where the suspension of disbelief was demanded at the door.

Reporters were primed for the call by a memo disseminated by the campaign earlier in the morning that referred to the four primaries on March 4 as "Obama Must-Wins." It cited Obama's spending advantage in Ohio and Texas and the fact that he has campaigned heavily in these states. "Should Senator Obama fail to score decisive victories with all of the resources and effort he is bringing to bear," it said, "the message will be clear: Democrats, the majority of whom have favored Hillary in the primary contests held to date, have their doubts about Senator Obama and are having second thoughts about him as a prospective standard-bearer."

The memo didn't bother to answer some obvious questions, such as, Given that the Clinton campaign has lost 11 primaries in a row, how can Obama losing a few close contests on Tuesday in states where he has trailed in the polls be considered a repudiation of his campaign? And considering that streak of losses, how can this be a must-win for anyone but Clinton?

But on these questions and others, the Clinton representatives on the call, including communications director Howard Wolfson and chief strategist Mark Penn, stuck to the party line, no matter how ridiculous.

New Clinton Advertisement: Protect the Kids!

| Fri Feb. 29, 2008 3:42 PM EST

Here's the ad everyone's talking about.

Note that the phone rings six times before Clinton answers it in the ad's final scene. How ready is she, really? Here are the two ads that it reminds everyone of:

This quote might be relevant: "One of Clinton's laws of politics is, if one candidate is trying to scare you, and the other one is trying to make you think, if one candidate's appealing to your fears, and the other one's appealing to your hopes, you better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope.'' That's Bill Clinton on the stump, campaigning for John Kerry in 2004.

Update: Obama hits back. His ad, after the jump.

Citing the Delegate Math, the Obama Camp Tells Clinton: You Will "Fail Miserably"

| Fri Feb. 29, 2008 12:02 PM EST

In a conference call with reporters on Friday morning, David Plouffe, Barack Obama's campaign manager, had a stark message for the Clinton camp: You will "fail miserably." He was referring to Hillary Clinton's attempt to overtake Obama in the pledged delegate count.

Plouffe maintained that even if Clinton wins Ohio and Texas she will not rack up much of a net gain in delegates. In Ohio, for instance, if the winner of that Democratic primary triumphs by 5 percent, he or she might only pick up 3 or so more delegates than the loser, thanks to the proportional awarding of delegates. Plouffe ran through the tough math Clinton faces. Currently, he said, Obama has a lead of 162 delegates. (The count at Realclearpolitics.com has Obama up by 155.) If Clinton wins close contests in both Ohio and Texas--and polls now suggest these elections will be close--she might cut Obama's lead to 150 or so pledged delegates. After March 4, there are 611 pledged delegates up for grabs in the subsequent primaries and caucuses. Consequently, Clinton would have to win over 60 percent of those delegates to catch up. And to do so, she would have to score a series of super-majority wins in the remaining states. Plouffe called it a "huge task" for Clinton to erase Obama's pledged delegate lead. And he noted that the Obama campaign could end up netting more delegates from the upcoming contests in Mississippi and Wyoming than Clinton might gain on March 4, should she place first in both Ohio and Texas. If Obama's pledged delegate lead doesn't precipitously drop to 100 in the next few contests, Plouffe asserted, the Clintonites "simply don't have any avenue to the nomination."

Sure, this is spin. But sometimes spin can be true, and the math, at this point, does favor Obama.

In the call, Plouffe also responded to the latest Clinton ad. That spot shows children dozing in bed, and a baritonal narrator somberly says, "It's three A.M. and your children are safe and asleep." But the phone is ringing in the White House: "something is happening in the world." The unseen narrator asks, "Who do you want answering the phone?"

If Obama Is a Woman, and I Vote For Clinton, Am I a Man?

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 7:41 PM EST

One would think Maureen Dowd had cornered the market on silly-beyond-belief gendered nonsense about Sens. Clinton and Obama. One would be wrong; Newsweek wants to vie for that crown:

Comment Trolls Hit the Ahmadineblog

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 6:27 PM EST

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Like many a personal blog, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's "Personal memos" page has gradually lost steam since its debut in 2006. In 2007 the Iranian president posted just three times, down from 10 posts the previous year, and he has repeatedly apologized for his tardiness in responding to readers' letters (he says he has just 15 minutes per week of blogging time).

But at this point, besides a neat feature that allows readers to choose from five background colors, the most interesting thing about the Ahmadineblog is the comments section. Comments are apparently not screened, and, somewhat surprisingly given the president's infamous unfriendliness to dissenters, a few caustic attacks have been allowed to stand.

After the jump, a sample of comments (preceded by country of origin):

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Pelosi Throws Down Gauntlet on Contempt

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 5:24 PM EST

Today House Speaker Nancy Pelosi took a major step forward on contempt. In a letter to Jeffrey Taylor, the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Pelosi certified the subpoena breeches by Harriet Miers and Joshua Bolten:

The undersigned, The Speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States, pursuant to the attached House Resolution 979, One Hundred Tenth Congress, hereby certifies to you the failure and refusal of Harriet Miers, former White House Counsel, to appear, testify, and furnish certain documents in compliance with a subpoena before a duly constituted subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary. The undersigned further certifies to you the failure and refusal of Joshua Bolten, White House Chief of Staff, to furnish certain documents in the custody of the White House in compliance with a subpoena before said committee. These failures and refusals are fully shown by the certified copy of the House Report 110-423 of said committee which is also hereto attached.

Clinton Campaign Hits Fundraising Peak

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 4:31 PM EST

According to a conference call held this afternoon, the Clinton campaign has bested its January fundraising haul of $14 million (a record for the campaign up to that point) with a stunning February fundraising haul of $35 million.

The pace of $1 million a day is roughly matches Obama's pace from January. We have yet to see Obama's February numbers.

The Clinton campaign is really hitting its stride in the money department. Campaign Chairman Terry Mcauliffe said on the call that their internet fundraising exploded when the campaign announced that Clinton was loaning herself $5 million, and that the excitement online has continued since.

This continues a pattern we've seen emerge this primary season: every time a candidate loses an important primary, their low-value online fundraising shoots up the next day. I guess it's time for a new maxim. When it comes to presidential fundraising, nothing succeeds like failure.

John McCain: Bad for Children?

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 2:17 PM EST

The Children's Defense Fund recently rated the members of the Senate by their performance on ten votes that are relevant to the nation's children. The votes were:

1. Increase minimum wage (H.R. 2)
2. Increase funding for children with disabilities (S. Con. Res. 21)
3. Protect children from unsafe medications (S. 1082)
4. 2008 Budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 21)
5. SCHIP Reauthorization (H.R. 976)
6. College Cost Reduction and Access Act (H.R. 2669)
7. SCHIP (H.R. 976 - motion to concur)
8. DREAM Act (S. 2205)
9. Funding child health and education (H.R. 3043)
10. Improving Head Start programs (H.R. 1429)

The lowest-scoring Senator, and the only Senator under 20 percent, was John McCain. (Sorry, I mean John Sidney McCain.) He scored so low because he constantly misses important votes. In fact, he's missed more votes in the Senate than anyone else, save the man who suffered a brain hemorrhage.

Look, all of the presidential candidates have missed something like 30-40 percent of their recent Senate votes (Hillary Clinton deserves credit for having missed only 28 percent). But McCain is in a category by himself: he's missed 57 percent. You can argue that he has neglected the nation's children, but it is more accurate to say he has neglected the nation's business altogether.

PS — This isn't a new problem for McCain. In spring 2007, he went five straight weeks without voting.

(H/T Think Progress)

Knives Come Out on the Clinton Campaign

| Thu Feb. 28, 2008 2:04 PM EST

Yikes. Judging from the New York Observer the last few days, it's safe to say that things are going to get ugly if the Clinton campaign goes into a death spiral in the next few weeks. For a preview of the anonymous jabs that Clinton insiders will likely take at their leadership, see this article on Mark Penn. The more courageous critics, who are willing to go on the record, will likely be like Leon Panetta — one step removed from the campaign and secure in their careers. Here are Leon's thoughts.

And while we're on the topic of news articles that are rough on the candidates, take a look at George Will's devastating take on John McCain from today's WaPo. No liberal could say it better.