Friday, February 22, 2008

Water cure

I just read the article in The New Yorker about the use of water torture (it was then called "water cure") by American troops in the Philippines at the turn of the century. The article ended with a quote from an article in the New York World on April 16, 1902, which described America's reaction to the torture:

It sips its coffee and reads of its soldiers administering the “water cure” to rebels; of how water with handfuls of salt thrown in to make it more efficacious, is forced down the throats of the patients until their bodies become distended to the point of bursting; of how our soldiers then jump on the distended bodies to force the water out quickly so that the “treatment” can begin all over again. The American Public takes another sip of its coffee and remarks, “How very unpleasant!”

“But where is that vast national outburst of astounded horror which an old-fashioned America would have predicted at the reading of such news?” the World asked. “Is it lost somewhere in the 8,000 miles that divide us from the scenes of these abominations? Is it led astray by the darker skins of the alien race among which these abominations are perpetrated? Or is it rotted away by that inevitable demoralization which the wrong-doing of a great nation must inflict on the consciences of the least of its citizens?”

Clinton's moment

I only got to see the end of the debate, but Clinton's answer to the final question, where she was asked to describe the moment that tested you the most, was incredible. As far as I'm concerned, it was the moment of the campaign for her. This is what she said:

CLINTON: Well, I think everybody here knows I've lived through some crises and some challenging moments in my life. And...


And I am grateful for the support and the prayers of countless Americans.

But people often ask me, "How do you do it?" You know, "How do you keep going?" And I just have to shake my head in wonderment, because with all of the challenges that I've had, they are nothing compared to what I see happening in the lives of Americans every single day. along with Senator McCain, as the only two elected officials, to speak at the opening at the Intrepid Center at Brooke Medical Center in San Antonio, a center designed to take care of and provide rehabilitation for our brave young men and women who have been injured in war.

And I remember sitting up there and watching them come in. Those who could walk were walking. Those who had lost limbs were trying with great courage to get themselves in without the help of others. Some were in wheelchairs and some were on gurneys. And the speaker representing these wounded warriors had had most of his face disfigured by the results of fire from a roadside bomb.

You know, the hits I've taken in life are nothing compared to what goes on every single day in the lives of people across our country.

And I resolved at a very young age that I'd been blessed and that I was called by my faith and by my upbringing to do what I could to give others the same opportunities and blessings that I took for granted.

That's what gets me up in the morning. That's what motivates me in this campaign.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Re: Holy Toledo!

A couple weeks ago on The Wire, as a couple of Baltimore police officers were manipulating crime scenes to get the city to pay attention to the city's murder problem, one of the characters who was central to the manipulation, McNulty, went to the press. He told the Baltimore Sun that there was a serial killer on the loose.

There was a scene where he was talking with the reporters in a bar, trying to demonstrate that the murders were a big story, and that the reporters should put it on page 1. The reporters said they needed "juicy" details. So McNulty said there was evidence of sexual activity. The next day, the story was on page 1.

It seems that this is what we have with this McCain Times story. It's a story because McCain has had relations with, and wrote letters on behalf of, lobbyists. The story is that McCain, the man who champions the cause of ending politicians' relationships with lobbyists, had, at the minimum, a professional relationship with lobbyists. But that story doesn't run on page 1. So they threw in some "juicy" details about sexual activity.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Holy Toledo!

The Times breaks the story that McCain had a romantic relationship with a lobbyist. Richard Wolffe of Newsweek is on MSNBC saying that this is a story that has been discussed in Washington for years.

This is a thing. To be discussed soon.

(McCain's in Toledo tonight. Get it?)

Catching Clinton

The most amazing thing in this campaign is Obama's ability to chip away at Clinton's advantage. If he goes to a state down 20 points two weeks out, it may as well be a toss up. Even in the states he lost, such as California and New Hampshire, he showed an ability to make up ground quickly. The polls are meaningless until his plane touches down. It's happening already in Texas (this link is stunning), and I imagine it will happen in Ohio.

The same is true of specific demographics. Ben Smith reported, and Greg Sargent flagged, Gallup's finding that Obama has now even passed Clinton in support from Hispanic voters.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008


MSNBC cut into Clinton's speech to air Obama's. That's not too surprising, I suppose, but it forced me to realize something. For the first time since this election started, I looked at Obama, not as someone running for president, but as the president.

Ironically, this realization came to me as McCain and Clinton are hammering Obama for being all about words. Indeed, in his speech tonight, McCain said, "Americans are not deceived by an eloquent but empty call for change." But this is not "empty." It may have seemed that way at some points to some people, but it can't be written that way any more.

Obama is still talking, and nothing about what he is saying is "empty." He started his speech by telling the 20,000 people in the Houston arena that they need to vote early. He said they need to vote in November. But then he added that their job doesn't end there; that they will have to keep working to really change things in America. He has now gone on for 20 minutes about the war, about health care, about social security, about the free market, about trade, about the environment.

I don't know why MSNBC's decision to switch to Obama made me realize this for the first time, why a network's decision to flip a switch made me think about this, but it represented, to me, what is happening in this country. Tonight, for the first time, I saw Obama as someone who could be a president, who could deliver a State of the Union, who could sit down with the world's leader. And there is nothing "empty" about that.


I was watching the Dook-Wake Forest game the other night and I heard, for the first time this season, the most ridiculous chant in all of sports. In essence, the Wake Forest fans, after upsetting the No. 2 team in the country, were saying, "You must be overrated if we beat you. You're not any better than us and we suck."

Well, this whole Obama plagiarizing thing is akin to Clinton calling Obama "overrated." I can't think of a political speech that wasn't borrowed in some way from another political speech, including Clinton's. This is what David Kurtz had to say about this:

The attacks are intended to bring down Obama's positives, to knock him off his pedestal. But it's hard to see how they raise Hillary's. Her argument, boiled down, is: "He's no better than me." (Or perhaps, less charitably, "He's just as bad as me.")

Judged as political rhetoric, it strikes me as equally ineffective as her earlier charge that Obama was "raising false hopes."

Kurtz hits this right on the head, and this is precisely what people hate about Clinton. The Clintons want to bring people down into the mud with them. They want to get dirty. This kind of campaigning is what Clinton earlier referred to as "the fun part."

Monday, February 18, 2008

The Edwards plan

A loyal reader asked me today if Obama's meeting with Edwards was more about being offered the vice presidency than anything else. I don't buy it for a few reasons. First of all, I don't think anyone wants to have Edwards on the ticket as the VP again, possibly even including Edwards. I think its much more likely that Edwards would be promised a cabinet position, such as attorney general.

Second of all, Obama's visit got all the press, but we shouldn't forget that Clinton and Edwards have already had their meeting. There's more excitement around the Obama-Edwards meeting because there's more excitement around anything Obama does. But they are 1-1 on the meeting with Edwards scorecard.

Third and most importantly, I don't think it's at all inevitable that Edwards is going to choose Obama. Edwards wants a role in the next administration, so if he thinks Clinton has a better chance at winning, he would be wise to endorse her. The AP story on the meetings reported that the Edwardses have been more impressed with Clinton's courting.

But the timing will be interesting. If Edwards endorses now, he can probably get a deal with the candidate he chooses and be guaranteed a role in 2009. If he plays it safe and waits to make sure he backs the winner, he risks being irrelevant.

What Europe thinks

The Financial Times has some interesting observations about European opinion about the Democratic primary. The paper polled 5,000 Europeans and found "that the two Democratic candidates were by far the most popular, with Mr Obama winning between 35 per cent of the 'vote' in Spain and 45 per cent in Italy."

More numbers:

But in the UK Mrs Clinton edged out Mr Obama by a margin of 28 per cent to 23 per cent.

On the Republican side, John McCain and Rudy Giuliani were the two most popular candidates (Mr Giuliani, who was particularly strong in Italy, has ­subsequently pulled out of the race).

The online poll was conducted between January 30 and February 8.

In a separate FT/Harris poll of 1,020 adults in the US, Mr Obama narrowly beat Mrs Clinton by a margin of 22 per cent to 21 per cent. Mr McCain was in third place with 14 per cent.

Maybe Obama will start saying the superdelegates should heed the will of the Europeans. But then again, Clinton won UK, and it is our closest ally. So ...

Badger state

How is it that the perception in the media is that Wisconsin is Obama's to lose? In the polls taken since Super Tuesday in the Badger state, Clinton is within 5 points in all of them, but one. Even more surprising to anyone who watches the political coverage on TV, Clinton is ahead in two of those polls, including the most recent one, which shows her up 6.

Tomorrow's election is going to be close, and because of the media's hype for Obama in Wisconsin, Clinton will be the perceived winner if she loses by less than four points. If she wins, Wisconsin will be the second New Hampshire.