Political MoJo

Obama Matches Hillary Clinton's Fundraising Record

| Wed Apr. 4, 2007 12:50 PM EDT

People were impressed that Hillary Clinton raised $26 million in the first quarter of 2007 -- but not that impressed. Clinton, after all, came into the fight with a pre-constructed fundraising machine and the best organization of any candidate in either party. After two senate campaigns and eight years in the White House, she was pretty much expected to set a fundraising record.

This news, though, is really wowing people: Obama raised $25 million in the first quarter. It's an outstanding number from a guy who entered the national stage three years ago and is building his fundraising apparatus while raising money. I guess people don't share my concerns.

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McCain Continues His Hiring Practices

| Wed Apr. 4, 2007 12:42 PM EDT

In December, I reported that Sen. John McCain had hired Terry Nelson to be his campaign manager in his run for the presidency. Nelson, Bush's national political director in 2004, was the creator of the infamous anti-Ford "Call me" spot that ran in Tennessee. Later that month, I reported that McCain had also hired Jill Hazelbaker as his New Hampshire communications director. Hazelbaker is best known for posing as a liberal and disrupting dialogue on liberal blogs, then lying about it.

Now McCain has hired Fred Malek as his national finance co-chair. If that name sounds familiar, it is because Malek was the man who "counted Jews" for Richard Nixon, who was seriously anti-Semitic and wanted Jewish staff members in the Bureau of Labor Statistics demoted to less visible positions. Malek was also deputy director of CREEP in the 70s. During the 80s, he was deputy chairman of the Republican National Committee, but resigned when it was revealed that he had been the man who compiled the list of Jews for Nixon.

Iran to Release Hostages; Victory for Diplomacy

| Wed Apr. 4, 2007 11:14 AM EDT

Hey, so it turns out if you don't drop bombs first and ask questions later, you can actually get something productive done. And, as a bonus, no one gets killed!

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has given "amnesty and pardon" to the fifteen British soldiers detained by an Iranian border patrol. They are set to be returned to Britain shortly.

Looks like "Britain's quiet diplomacy" did work. Who knows what backroom deal was made to secure the release of these fifteen young people -- the point is they are all safe and an international incident was averted. Are you taking notes, George?

Edwards Goes on the Attack. Target: Obama

| Wed Apr. 4, 2007 10:29 AM EDT

Consider this quote from John Edwards: "I don't know about you, but I'm tired of the rhetoric. It's not enough to talk about 'hope' and 'we're all going to feel good.' We're past that. This is a very serious time in American history. It's time for anybody running for president to treat this seriously. I have talked about hope and inspiration in the past, and they're wonderful things, but you have to translate them into action."

Okay, he's obviously targeting Obama. I'm sure the Obama campaign's response, if there is one at all, will be something about how this attack is another sign of the "smallness of our politics" and how we need to "elevate the tone" in Washington.

(In a recent panel discussion between reps from all three major Dem campaigns, Obama advisor/oracle David Axelrod repeatedly used the phrase "lift this country up" while simultaneously getting in a pissing match with the Clinton rep on hand. See the period from 1:13 to 1:22 in the video "Campaign 2008: Looking Ahead." The Edwards guy tries to stop the bickering by saying something to the effect of "Guys, guys, this is what people don't like.")

I think it's great that Obama inspires and excites people, and that he brings people who don't normally follow politics into the Democratic fold. I think it's great that he gave progressives a speech they can point to and say, "That's our message. That's who we are. That's what we believe." I think it's great that he's so smart, so charismatic, and such a truly phenomenal orator that he can likely overcome the handicaps any minority candidate faces when running nationwide in America.

But can we please get some specifics? You want to lift this country up? What does that mean exactly? You want to reclaim America's promise? Great, how? I assume that underneath the platitudes is a progressive agenda that mirrors the one John Edwards articulates in detail in nearly all of his speeches and appearances. But maybe I'm projecting my desires onto Obama: maybe "the audacity of hope" means something else entirely. I really have no idea.

Perhaps Obama's high-flying rhetoric and ambiguity on the issues is acceptable to folks that make voting decisions based on how they feel and who they're inspired by, as opposed to the nuts and bolts of policy. That's fine. But I'd like more.

This contrast between Obama and Edwards plays out in their campaign appearances. Obama fills his speeches with "anecdotes and set-piece jokes" while Edwards, who has folksy charm by the bushel, instead produces a "stream of policy talk on global warming, Iraq, education, poverty, and health care." Can we meet in the middle, gentlemen? Isn't that in the spirit of lifting this country up?

Clinton Slips in New Hampshire Poll, Edwards Rises

| Wed Apr. 4, 2007 9:19 AM EDT

Hillary Clinton started the presidential race with such a hefty lead over her opponents, she can fall a long way before relinquishing the frontrunner's crown. And while that may be comforting to her and her staff, they have to realize she's headed in the wrong direction.

A new CNN poll of New Hampshire voters shows Clinton's support has dropped from 35 points in February to 27 points currently. John Edwards is the main beneficiary -- his support rose from 16 points to 21 over the same period. That puts him one point ahead of Barack Obama, who sits at 20 points and has shown little change in support over the last few months.

The only other politician with double digit support was Al Gore, with 11 percent. The poll has a margin of error of 5.5 percent, which kind of makes this whole thing laughable.

Move On To A Safe Place

| Tue Apr. 3, 2007 9:10 PM EDT

I have never been a big fan of MoveOn.org because I was quite opposed to the concept of moving on after the tainted 2000 election took place. It seemed to me that glossing over that incident and moving on was not what was needed. Now MoveOn has confirmed my worst suspicions by its recent decision to omit Rep. Barbara Lee's Iraq war amendment from its members' push poll.

In opposition to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's plan, Rep. Lee wanted to offer an amendment that would have funded withdrawal of troops, but she was not permitted to. But Lee has a lot of support, including: United for Peace and Justice, Progressive Democrats of America, U.S. Labor Against the War, After Downing Street, Democrats.com, Peace Action, Code Pink, Democracy Rising, True Majority, Gold Star Families for Peace, Military Families Speak Out, Backbone Campaign, Iraq Veterans Against the War, Voters for Peace, Veterans for Peace, the Green Party, True Majority, and many individuals.

MoveOn polled its members by giving them a choice of the Pelosi plan or nothing at all--no mention of Lee's plan. Eli Pariser of MoveOn says that the would-be Lee amendment was omitted from the poll because he knew a majority of MoveOn members would vote for it, and the amendment did not stand a chance in Congress.

Says David Swanson (AfterDowningStreet.org) of the poll: "It served to give cover to progressive Democrats in Congress who gave their support to Pelosi after having intended to vote no on Pelosi's bill unless it included Lee's amendment." Perhaps "progressive" is the wrong word.

Thanks to Avedon Carol at The Sideshow.

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Boo-Hoo Republicans

| Tue Apr. 3, 2007 8:25 PM EDT

One Republican after another is denouncing the direction of the party. Today Vic Gold, former press secretary to Barry Goldwater and a friend of Bush 41 and Dick Cheney, joins the club. The trend conveniently began just after the 2006 election. Many dyed-in-the-wool conservatives—including Mr. Gold—claim that pandering to the religious right precipitated the Grand Old Party's downfall. Some claim that over-identifying with the Republican Party has tarnished Christian evangelicals.

But both groups entered into the marriage willingly—and have been happily married since 1980. Yes, it was Reagan, that poster boy of pre-lapsarian conservatism, who presided at the ceremony. Twenty-seven years later, it strikes me as disingenuous to claim that the party's essence lies somewhere else. It's almost like saying Republicans are really like Abraham Lincoln. Meanwhile, evangelicals have been hurt how? Their numbers continue to rise, and they have inserted the issue of "[biblical] morality" into a vast spectrum of legislative issues when, in a secular state, there is no shared morality—or at least not one that goes beyond the basics of "No killing" and "No stealing." "Do unto others" is most definitely not part of the Republican platform (nor was it under Goldwater). The only thing that's really changed in the last six months is that the Evangepublicans blew their cover by pushing to legislate way beyond what can plausibly pass for political problems (think attempts to make divorces harder to obtain, redundant laws and constitutional amendments banning gay marriage in 22 states, etc., etc.)

One interesting convergence between Gold's account and Matthew Dowd's complaint in Sunday's New York Times is that both were at one point Democrats (Gold for about half a minute, Dowd for substantially longer) who describe falling in love with the virile optimism of a particular Republican candidate. Funny how it's easy to be filled with confidence and optimism when you believe God exists to support your wealth and power. Maybe the cracks forming between evangelicals and Republicans will check that omnipotence a bit, but beyond that I don't foresee any major shift in how Republicans do things or how many keys to the stateroom rest on how many church altars.

Kerry: McCain Approached Me About Being on Dem Ticket in 2004

| Tue Apr. 3, 2007 3:35 PM EDT

Building on the "McCain approached Tom Daschle to inquire about leaving the GOP" story, John Kerry now says that McCain's people approached his campaign about being the vice president on Kerry's 2004 ticket. If that's true, wow. We still don't have an explanation from McCain on all this, just a simple denial that none of it is true.

Update: Strong and detailed denial from the McCain people. It feels like both parties are playing loose with the truth here...

When Brigham Young Doesn't Want You, You're Washed Up

| Tue Apr. 3, 2007 1:47 PM EDT

There is currently a petition drive at Brigham Young University to withdraw Dick Cheney's invitation to speak at the school's commencement exercises later this month. 2,300 signatures were collected the first week. Here is an excerpt from the petition:

...Cheney has made misleading statements about the tragic war which continues in Iraq, levied outrageous partisan accusations against his Democratic opponents, and used vulgarity on the Senate floor. He has been linked to serious scandals involving botched intelligence reports, no-bid contracts awarded to friends and political donors, and perjury convictions handed down to his own staff. Mr. Cheney is simply not the type of role model to whom we wish to bestow the responsibility of addressing our best and brightest as they "go forth to serve".

It doesn't get much more conservative than Brigham Young, and it appears that a lot of BYU students have taken their Christian studies to heart and applied them to the behaviors of the current administration.

Thanks to Tennessee Guerilla Women.

Playing Chicken With Iran

| Tue Apr. 3, 2007 1:21 PM EDT

This is precisely how wars get started, an act of aggression by one side followed by an act of retaliation by the other, tit for tat until someone gets nuked. Patrick Cockburn reports that Iran's capture of 15 British marines and sailors was a direct response to a botched U.S. operation in January, when the military snatched 5 Iranians in Arbil -- identified as members of a Revolutionary Guard, or Pasdaran, unit -- who were suspected of arming insurgents. (These men are still being held.) Cockburn reports that U.S. forces were actually after two senior Iranian security officials, Mohammed Jafari, the deputy head of the Iranian National Security Council, and General Minojahar Frouzanda, the Pasdaran's intel chief. At the time, both officials were in Iraq on official business, meeting with Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Massoud Barzani, the President of the Kurdistan Regional Government.

Cockburn writes:

The attempt by the US to seize the two high-ranking Iranian security officers openly meeting with Iraqi leaders is somewhat as if Iran had tried to kidnap the heads of the CIA and MI6 while they were on an official visit to a country neighbouring Iran, such as Pakistan or Afghanistan. There is no doubt that Iran believes that Mr Jafari and Mr Frouzanda were targeted by the Americans.

...The abortive Arbil raid provoked a dangerous escalation in the confrontation between the U.S. and Iran which ultimately led to the capture of the 15 British sailors and Marines - apparently considered a more vulnerable coalition target than their American comrades.

Cockburn also reports that the official rationale for grabbing the Iranians in January, hours after President Bush went public with the accusation that Iran is equipping insurgents, doesn't quite add up.

US officials in Washington subsequently claimed that the five Iranian officials they did seize, who have not been seen since, were "suspected of being closely tied to activities targeting Iraq and coalition forces". This explanation never made much sense. No member of the US-led coalition has been killed in Arbil and there were no Sunni-Arab insurgents or Shia militiamen there.