Saturday, February 2, 2008

Looking for a president in the Muslim world

Greg Sargent highlighted this video of Obama giving a press conference in which he discussed the impact he would have as an ambassador to Muslim countries. In the clip, Obama said, "I think the world would see me as a different kind of president; someone who could see the world through their eyes."

This is an issue that hasn't received as much attention as it should. I think he's exactly right. I think this is a strong argument for why he would make a good president. I think he would be able to talk to the Muslim world in a way that none of the Republicans could, and Clinton probably couldn't either.

The problem, though, is the politics of it. I don't know how Obama sells this point while simultaneously fighting off the smears that he's a Muslim. It's a shame that he has to walk on eggshells about an issue that should make him appealing to American voters. Instead, though, I fear that by bringing up what should be a strength for him, he is also reminding people of why they would be scared of an Obama presidency.

(Sorry for referencing that awful Albert Brooks movie. I couldn't think of anything else.)


I need to get better on following through on my promises. I said I was going to write about the debate and now it's almost too late. I'm going to give my thoughts anyway. (By the way, this photo is not from the Jan. 31 debate, but I think it represents what I'm about to say, so I'm using it anyway.)

The media is abuzz with disappointment about the civil debate. (Immediately following the event, it was funny to watch CNN's Anderson Cooper and Candy Crowley try to analyze it. He asked what the biggest moment was, and who won. Neither of them could really answer. It was quite amusing, actually.)

It was civil because for the first time in a month, or so, they weren't just playing politics. They talked about the issues and we all were reminded that they agree pretty much on everything. Their differences on health care aren't huge. He gets to hammer her for on Iraq (and rightfully so) but everyone knows that by now.

The difference is not in policy; it's in philosophy. That's what this debate was about. That's what the choice is for voters. People will argue that someone who doesn't mandate health care for everyone doesn't understand what it will take to fix the system. Or they will say that anyone who trusted Bush and voted for Iraq clearly doesn't have the necessary vision to lead us in this dangerous time.

But I think the debate reemphasized that the choice isn't about health care or Iraq. It's about bringing in a new voice, and trying something different, and bringing in a new manager who knows what Washington looks like from Pennsylvania Avenue. That's the real choice, and I love it.

Friday, February 1, 2008


I'm still working out my thoughts about the debate and I'll have them later, but this morning I saw an interesting moment on MSNBC. In a discussion with Joe Scarborough, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank joked about the "fratricide" in both parties right now, and how the media is loving it. He ended the conversation by saying, What's best for journalists isn't usually what's best for the country. That's not the exact quote, but it's close and it goes a long way in explaining the problems with today's media, which I have written about before and will again.

Thursday, January 31, 2008


We all know where Clinton and Obama are tonight. Guess where Edwards is.


I've been trying to wrap my head around February 5. There are so many numbers, speeches, ads, etc. that it's impossible to keep track of it all. And on top of all that, we had the whole NH thing where no one knows what polls to trust anymore. With that caveat, I want to share a helpful guide that the folks at TPM Election Central put together. Even in this one post, the numbers are overwhelming, but if nothing else, it gives us a good idea of where things stand and what to expect.

The conclusion, as I see it, is that Clinton is looking good, but Obama is catching up. That kind of sums up the whole race, doesn't it? Enjoy all the numbers, and let me know if anyone else can make more sense of this whole thing.


Wow. Obama's campaign says it raised $32 million in January. In January! And it did it from 170,000 new donors. I don't know what to say other than wow, but I thought I should at least say that.

Crooked talk

I didn't watch the debate last night, and I haven't followed the McCain-Romney spat too closely, but from what I've been reading this morning, McCain has been involved in some seriously crooked talk regarding Romney's position in 2007 on Iraq.

First, some background. McCain started this whole thing last week when he accused Romney of advocating dreaded "timetables" and "milestones" for U.S. troops. He said this is the same thing that the Democrats want. (That's a dumb point to me since that's also what the majority of the country wants, but so be it.) This being a Republican primary, Romney became furious saying he had never advocated for a timetable for withdrawal, and was offended by the comparison. He demanded an apology.

Romney is correct. The quote McCain has been highlighting shows that Romney wanted "timetables" and "milestones" for the Iraqi government, not for the U.S. military. He wasn't advocating withdrawal, he was advocating management of a government. You can read more about all this here.

This all went down last week. But last night, McCain did it again. From the debate:

McCAIN: Then in April, April was a very interesting year (sic) in 2007. That's when Harry Reid said the war is lost and we've got to get out. And the buzzword was "timetables, timetables."

Governor, the right answer to that question was "no," not what you said, and that was we don't want to have them lay in the weeds until we leave and Maliki and the president should enter into some kind of agreement for, quote, "timetables."

"Timetables" was the buzzword for the...

ROMNEY: Why don't you use the whole quote, Senator?

McCAIN: ... withdrawal. That...

ROMNEY: Why don't you use the whole quote? Why do you insist on...

McCAIN: I'm using the whole quote, where you said "I won't"...

ROMNEY: ... not using the actual quote? That's not what I said.

MCCAIN: The actual quote is, "We don't want them to lay in the weeds until we leave." That is the actual quote and I'm sure...

ROMNEY: What does that mean?

McCAIN: ... fact-checkers --

ROMNEY: What is the meaning?

McCAIN: It means a timetable until we leave.

It's a lie. That's not what Romney meant. Joe Klein has a great take down of this over at Swampland and correctly compares this kind of twisting of words to the whole Clinton-Obama-Reagan nonsense. The difference is that that was exposed. The media should pause its love affair with McCain long enough to tell the public that he is lying. (Photo: New York Times)

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

An unreasonable man

Christopher Orr at The New Republic pointed out that the home page for Ralph Nader's newly announced 2008 Presidential Exploratory Committee (yup, you read that right) says, "Maybe we're wrong." Nuf said.

So long, John

Word this morning is that John Edwards is done. The conversation will quickly center around who this benefits more, but I think it's worth taking a moment to reflect on what his candidacy has meant to the party and the race.

First of all, his announcement will come from the same place he announced his candidacy -- New Orleans. He is down there to work on a Habitat for Humanity project. His campaign, which the media defined around hair, hedge funds and houses, will leave with the message that ending poverty is important, even if it is not a useful campaign slogan.

Those who focus on the alleged "hypocrisy" have missed the point. And those who urged him to step aside and clear the way for one of the other two, don't get what Edwards has been trying to do. I've written about this before, but it's worth repeating. Edwards made this campaign better. He raised the issue of poverty, even though other don't talk about it. He was the first to put out a plan for universal health care, and forced the hands of his competitors to do the same. He spoke out passionately about his mistake of voting for Bush's war.

Maybe I give him too much credit, but I have always believed his sincerity. I still remember his appearance on the February 4, 2007 edition of Meet the Press, when he told Tim Russert of his plan to unveil a plan for universal health care, which would cost between 90 and 120 billion a year. Russert rightfully asked how Edwards planned to do that without raising taxes. Edwards, in a sign that he understands the necessity of universal health care, didn't skip a beat saying: "Yes, we'll have to raise taxes." Russert asked again: "But you'd be willing to increase taxes to provide health care?" Edwards answered: "Yes, absolutely."

On that same program, Edwards was asked about his 2002 vote to authorize Bush's war in Iraq. He was asked "why shouldn’t voters in Democratic primaries say, ‘On the big issue of the war, Obama was right, Edwards was wrong’?" Edwards' response: "I was wrong. They should say that."

I could be wrong about him. He may have fooled me just like the other 15 percent or so who support him. But I think he was a special, and unfortunately overlooked candidate, and I think the party lost an important voice today.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Nice strategy

Update: NBC News reported that Giuliani is done. He will endorse McCain tomorrow.

McCain's win

We'll know next week how much tonight means for the Republicans, but if the pundits are to be believed (and I think they probably are this time) the story is becoming pretty clear for the Grand Old Party.

If they're right, Mr. 9/11 is embarrassingly done, after bizarrely ceding the first few primaries. If they're right, Hair Gel is done, after wasting a fortune. And if they're right, "100 years" McCain will be the anointed candidate of the right wing (though how far right remains to be seen).

Next comes the speculation from liberal-minded people such as myself: What does this mean for the Democrats? Now here is some real speculation, but I'm going to give it a shot.

(Quick aside: Matthews called McCain Lazarus, not Phoenix, because we're living in "this Christian time." He really said that.)

So what about the Dems? I think if this is all true, it's probably bad news for them. Set aside the head-to-head polls, which show that the only Republican who can beat one of the Dems right now is McCain. There's something else that is worth discussing as the Dems head for a long battle, and the Republicans get a breather.

In baseball, when a team wins in a 4-0 sweep, and waits for its opponent who is battling a long seven-game series, people question the impact. And the conventional wisdom always is that the team that is rested wins. I'm not convinced this works in baseball (players can get complacent and sometimes it's better to keep playing, as opposed to resting), but it probably works better in politics.

McCain will get to rest. And while that could be a shot at his old age ("100 years" serves as a way to mock his Iraq policy as well as his age) I mean it more in the sense that he gets to rally the base. He gets to build up his war chest. And he gets to start beating the drum that he has a chance to win. He can rally the hard-core Republicans who don't like him and convince them that he now becomes their only choice.

Who cares?

In framing the message of this blog, I have tried not to acknowledge what I find to be stupid news stories, and try to focus on what is actually important in politics right now. I try to write about the message and the trends; how people are voting and why.

With the 24-hour news cycle, we are subjected not only to unimportant stories, but also analysis of the unimportant stories. The first two that come o my mind were stories from reputable newspapers dissecting Clinton's laugh and her blouse.

Well, now we have "The Snub."

When I woke up I saw a story about Obama walking away from Clinton at the State of the Union last night as she approached Sen. Kennedy. I shrugged and moved on. I assumed it would be over by midday. I, once again, gave the media too much credit.

It has turned into a thing. The blogs are all over it, including the Times. And it will surely be discussed in the next few days (certainly Chris Matthews will talk about it this afternoon).

But who, really cares? I like to stand up for the media. I think people don't understand how hard the job of a journalist is. But it's moments like these that I think the pundits deserve all the criticism they get. (Photo: New York Times)

Peace, out

Mr. 9/11, Mr. third-place (sometimes fourth) in Florida said that "The winner of Florida will win the nomination." So ... it's looking like he'll battle Fred Thompson for most disappointing campaign.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Response to SOTU

As I was waiting for Gov. Sebelius, I was reminded of Jim Webb's brilliant and strong response to the SOTU last year. Here's a refresher.

My new best friend

I'll take name suggestions in the comment section. (She's a she.)

Life on Mars?

Great moments in SOTU history.

In 2004, shortly after announcing a goal of sending astronauts to Mars, Bush was silent on the issue in his SOTU. It gives me an excuse to play Bowie.


Ted Kennedy's upcoming endorsement of Obama is getting a lot of play. It's the lead story in the New York Times. The TV people are saying its a bridge to the Democratic establishment, to the old guard, to the Kennedy generation.

Now Marc Ambinder reports that Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius is also planning on endorsing Obama. This won't get as much play in the national media, but it will certainly matter in middle America. Sebelius will give the Democratic response to the State of the Union tonight and is an extremely popular Democrat in a red state.

And while we're at it, ABC reports that Toni Morrison will endorse Obama too. This likely doesn't matter at all, but as ABC notes, its interesting because it was Morrison who famously referred to Bill Clinton as the country's "first black president."

Sunday, January 27, 2008

More race baiting

If you thought the Clintons were getting the message that the race baiting wasn't working, forget it. BC yesterday compared Obamas success in SC to that of Jesse Jackson in 84 and 88. The Clintons obviously know a lot more about winning elections than I do, but it's hard for me to believe that this rhetoric helps them.