Mojo - February 2008

Does Clinton Need To Retool? Nah, Just Pump Up the Negative

| Wed Feb. 20, 2008 2:17 PM EST

On a conference call with reporters on Wednesday morning, Howard Wolfson, Hillary Clinton's communications director, was asked if within the Clinton camp there was any sense that the campaign needs to "retool or overhaul." The answer: no. In fact, throughout the call, Wolfson and Mark Penn, Clinton's chief strategist, showed no signs of any shifting. Instead, they signaled that the campaign's gameplan is to continue to pound away at Obama. Wolfson pushed two points: Obama "lifted" portions of a speech from Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick and Obama seems to be backing out of a promise to participate in the public campaign finance system (and thus live within a spending limit) in the general election. "He's running on the power of his oratory and the strength of his promises," Wolfson said. Yet, he asserted, Obama's oratory is plagiarized and his promises are broken.

The problem: the Clinton campaign threw all this (and much more) at Obama before Wisconsin, and it didn't stick. Perhaps Clinton and her aides believe they have to pump up the volume on the attacks to have a fighting chance in Ohio and Texas on March 4.

Why do they believe they can triumph in those states? Wolfson and Penn were asked. "Growing scrutiny," Wolfson replied, is being paid to Obama--by the media, by the Republican Party, and by Senator John McCain, the likely GOP nominee. In other words, Obama's due for a fall--eventually. And the Clinton people will do what they can to bring about such change before Ohio and Texas. Their strategy appears to be to help tear him down, rather than find a better way to lift her up. The race got nasty before Wisconsin--and it looks as if it's going to get nastier.

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Deja Vu: Muslim Didn't Work So Now Obama's a Commie Pinko

| Wed Feb. 20, 2008 12:58 PM EST

Just a few hours ago, a smart chick I know predicted that the unscrupulous right would expand their smear-scope to dog Obama's mama. She figured: 'tramp who married a Kenyan then an Indonesian, getting her nice white genes all dirty. She's a 'ho.' Foolishly, I couldn't buy it. Well, she was right, but it's even worse. Mrs. Obama had to have been a Commie (no doubt also a tramp). What else explains why a nice white girl went crazy enough to marry so suspiciously since it couldn't possibly be love?

From NRO, via Andrew Sullivan:

...all of my mixed race, black/white classmates throughout my youth, some of whom I am still in contact with, were the product of very culturally specific unions. They were always the offspring of a white mother, (in my circles, she was usually Jewish, but elsewhere not necessarily) and usually a highly educated black father. And how had these two come together at a time when it was neither natural nor easy for such relationships to flourish? Always through politics. No, not the young Republicans. Usually the Communist Youth League. Or maybe a different arm of the CPUSA. But, for a white woman to marry a black man in 1958, or 60, there was almost inevitably a connection to explicit Communist politics. (During the Clinton Administration we were all introduced to then U. of Pennsylvania Professor Lani Guinier — also a half black/half Jewish, red diaper baby.)
I don't know how Barak Obama's parents met. But the Kincaid article referenced above makes a very convincing case that Obama's family, later, (mid 1970s) in Hawaii, had close relations with a known black Communist intellectual. And, according to what Obama wrote in his first autobiography, the man in question — Frank Marshall Davis — appears to have been Barack's own mentor, and even a father figure. Of course, since the Soviet Union itself no longer exists, it's an open question what it means practically to have been politically mentored by an official Communist. Ideologically, the implications are clearer.

They're not serious, are they? You can't scare the kids with that played out nonsense. But maybe the plan is two-pronged: McCain's refining his message that not only is Obama inexperienced (i.e. not in danger of a cardiac event), but he's so focused on what's wrong with America that he won't pay attention to the dangers of terrorism. That message may not focus the kids, but it should bring out the greatest generation in droves. Just in case the right thinks they might give in to silly notions like returning to our bedrock values and not fighting a war we've already won.

Interesting Fact About Wisconsin Election Results

| Wed Feb. 20, 2008 12:38 PM EST

Yesterday's 17-point win for Obama in Wisconsin was the smallest margin of victory in his 10-state streak since Super Tuesday.

February 9
Virgin Islands +82
Louisiana +21
Nebraska +36
Washington +37

February 10
Maine +19

February 12
District of Columbia +51
Maryland +23
Virginia +29

February 19 (yesterday)
Wisconsin +17
Hawaii +52

Yesterday's Full Results

| Wed Feb. 20, 2008 11:38 AM EST

For the Democrats:

Wisconsin
Obama 58%, Clinton 41%
Obama wins 40 delegates, Clinton wins 28

Hawaii
Obama 76%, Clinton 24%
Obama wins 12 delegates, Clinton wins 4

Current delegate count, including superdelegates
Obama 1356, Clinton 1267 (2025 needed to win)

For the Republicans:

Wisconsin
McCain 55%, Huckabee 37%, Paul 5%
McCain wins 35 delegates, Huckabee and Paul win 0

Washington
McCain 49%, Huckabee 22%, Romney 20%, Paul 7%
McCain wins 14 delegates, Huckabee, Romney, and Paul win 0

Current delegate count
McCain 967, Huckabee 245, Paul 14 (1191 needed to win)

Full analysis of the state of the Democratic race here.

Update: Those delegate totals are from Real Clear Politics, which has changed its numbers since I checked them this morning. They've been changed to reflect RCP's update. Also note that many news outlets have different delegate totals.

New Officers' Survey: US Military Stretched, Unable to Fight Another Major War

| Wed Feb. 20, 2008 10:57 AM EST

A survey of more than 3,400 senior U.S. military officers by the Center for a New American Security, a Washington think-tank, and Foreign Policy magazine has some grim findings (.pdf):

Of the more than 3,400 active and retired officers surveyed, 60 percent say the U.S. military is weaker today than it was five years ago. Asked the reason why, more than half cite the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the pace of troop deployments those conflicts require.
Nearly 90 percent of the officers—all of whom hold the rank of major or lieutenant commander and above—say that the war in Iraq has "stretched the U.S. military dangerously thin." Asked to grade the health of each military service on scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning the officers have no concern about the health of the service and 10 meaning they are extremely concerned, the officers reported an average score of 7.9 for the Army and 7.0 for the Marine Corps. However, asked if they believe the war in Iraq has broken the U.S. military, 56 percent of the officers say they disagree.

Perhaps most notable, the survey found:

An Embarrassing Loss for Clinton: Where Have All the Blue-Collar Dems Gone?

| Tue Feb. 19, 2008 11:59 PM EST

obama-wisconsin250x200.jpg Hillary Clinton's historic presidential campaign--once the political handicappers' favorite in the Democratic contest--now appears to depend on two things: Ohio and Texas.

On Tuesday, Barack Obama racked up his ninth win in a row, defeating Clinton by an embarrassing 17 points in Wisconsin. And once again, the nature of his win made the night worse for the Clinton crowd. As Obama had done in Virginia and Maryland a week earlier, he outdrew Clinton in voters in most demographic slices. In a state full of working-class voters, Obama demonstrated once more that he can appeal to lunch-bucket Democrats, outpacing Clinton among voters making $50,000 or less a year. Among voters below 30 years of age, Obama walloped Clinton 73 to 20 percent. He had a 2-to-1 edge with independents and Republicans who voted in the Democratic primary. Clinton did have an edge among those 65 and older: 60 to 39 percent. But among voters who said the economy was the top issue, Obama pulled 55 percent--a big gain from the 44 percent he collected among these voters on Super Tuesday. In Wisconsin, he won 54 percent of the vote of Democrats who have not attended college--presumably blue-collar Dems. On Super Tuesday, he collected only 42 percent within this group.

At this point, Clinton's base seems to be composed of one group of loyalists: older, middle-income women. (Among all Democratic women, Obama beat Clinton 50 to 49 percent in the exit polls.) Though women voters propelled Clinton to victories in New Hampshire and Nevada, they have not carried her to success since those two states. At the same time, Obama has expanded his core.

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Is The Lily Livered West an Unindicted Co-Conspirator of Islamo-Fascism?

| Tue Feb. 19, 2008 9:09 PM EST

While Musharraf, and Islamism was defeated in Pakistan (for now, and maybe only for strategic reasons), how complicit is the soggy Western left in its spread? If you can't trust the Archbishop of Canterbury to hold the line, who can you? Well, ask Anne Applebaum, at trusty Slate:

Is this a storm in a teacup, as the archbishop now claims? Was the "feeding frenzy" biased and unfair? Certainly, it is true that, since last Thursday, when Rowan Williams—the archbishop of Canterbury, spiritual leader of the Church of England, symbolic leader of the international Anglican Church—called for "constructive accommodation" with some aspects of sharia law and declared the incorporation of Muslim religious law into the British legal system "unavoidable," practically no insult has been left unsaid....
What one British writer called the "jurisprudential kernel" of his thoughts is as follows: In the modern world, we must avoid the "inflexible or over-restrictive applications of traditional law" and must be wary of our "universalist Enlightenment system," which risks "ghettoizing" a minority. Instead, we must embrace the notion of "plural jurisdiction." This, in other words, was no pleasant fluff about tolerance for foreigners: This was a call for the evisceration of the British legal system as we know it.

Of course, Christopher Hitchens summed up the proper response most robustly, "To Hell With the Archbishop of Canterbury."

Private's Stripes Going Once, Going Twice: How Much to Serve Your Country?

| Tue Feb. 19, 2008 8:15 PM EST

Fred Kaplan, at Slate, keeps on giving us the bad news about what the war on terror is doing to the military. Along with epidemic suicides and ever-lowering recruitment standards, now they're offering new recruits $40k bonuses, more than the $30K they're offering to battle-scarred captains to reup.

So, which is worse: raising an army of sorta mercenaries or flipping vets in for the long haul the bird?

There's just so much that's worrying about the pernicious effects of this "100 years of war" it's hard to know what to bemoan first. Kaplan:

every good junior officer I've ever met gets very uncomfortable when the discussion turns to this topic; they emphasize, sincerely I think, that they're not in the military for the money; that fair compensation is appreciated, but they could make a lot more as a civilian if that was their goal. Putting so much emphasis on cash bonuses tends to draw people whose primary aim is making money—and who aren't talented enough to make the same kind of money in the civilian world.

I thought we learned in Viet Nam that it was a mistake to ignore the junior officers. You know, the ones closest to Joe Private.

Castro Says Goodbye; Will the U.S. Say Hello?

| Tue Feb. 19, 2008 3:00 PM EST

castro.jpg

With the ailing Fidel Castro having finally announced a formal end to his 49 years at the helm of communist Cuba, a would-be workers' utopia of his own imagining, "the ball is in the U.S. court right now," said Congressman Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, speaking earlier today on a conference call of Cuba experts, organized by the New America Foundation. "If we want things to change in Cuba, then we have to change." To that end, McGovern and 103 other members of the House of Representatives, Republicans and Democrats, sent an open letter to Condoleezza Rice, requesting "a tough-minded review of U.S. policy." (The letter notably lacks signatures from any Florida representatives.) It reads:

President Castro has departed form office voluntarily. An orderly succession has occurred in Cuba, without violence or upheaval. The Cuban government, under a new leadership, is reportedly already considering changes in the economic arrangements on the island to give the Cuban people a long-sought improvement in their living standards.
For five decades, U.S. policy has tried economic sanctions and diplomatic isolation to force changes in Cuba's government. These developments demonstrate that the policy has not worked. Allies and adversaries alike have rejected our approach and instead engage the Cuban government directly on diplomatic issues and make billions of dollars in economic investments on the island, making it even less likely that our sanctions will ever achieve their stated purpose.

Dissecting HRC's New Attacks on BHO

| Tue Feb. 19, 2008 1:34 PM EST

clinton_obama_profile.jpg The Clinton camp has unveiled two new attacks on Barack Obama: (1) He plagiarized a handful of lines in one of his speeches from Deval Patrick, the Governor of Massachusetts and a prominent Obama supporter, and (2) he once promised to accept federal funds in the general election if the GOP candidate agreed to do the same, in a move that would honor and preserve the campaign finance system in this country, but has abandoned that pledge as greenbacks have flowed in by the tens of millions.

The first observation is that both of these attacks are substantively correct. The second observation is that they are both pretty weak tea.

Let's tackle the plagiarism first. As you can see at this site, there is indisputable video evidence that Obama used about 30 seconds of Patrick's speech without crediting him. The problem, and you can see this at the link above, is that Patrick himself told Obama to use the content because the attacks Obama is facing in this campaign about substituting style/words/speechifying for substance are attacks Patrick faced when he ran for Governor of Massachusetts. Does this make the plagiarism okay? No. But does it basically make the story a non-issue? That's for the voter to decide. I suspect so.