Friday, May 16, 2008

Back page

I referenced the impact the fall out from the Bush-McCain comments have had on the Democratic primary and how they have unified the party. As I watch the news cycle go by with Obama attacking Bush-McCain, and McCain fighting right back, I see it has done more than unify the party, it has ended the primary.

There's another round of voting in four days, but you'd never know it from watching the news. There have been no arguments about Clinton winning the popular vote or seating Florida and Michigan.

This is a general election battle between McCain and Obama. The only other people talking are those coming to the defense of Obama (has anyone come to the defense of McCain?), which includes Clinton. She has been moved to the background. She is on the back page.

McCain is still yapping

I really don't understand the logic here. John McCain has responded to Obama's comments by repeating what he said yesterday -- Obama is not fit to defend the country. He said, "American people have every reason to doubt whether he has the strength, judgment and determination to keep us safe." I guess the idea is to continue to label Obama as unpatriotic and to put the question out there about his ability to defend the nation. But in the process of labeling Obama, McCain is ruining any remaining credibility on the "maverick" front. It seems that he thinks it is worth it because he keeps hammering away at this point.

It doesn't make sense to me. I think Obama was right today to welcome an argument on foreign policy with McCain.

The argument is made more bizarre by the fact it's not McCain's argument, it's Bush's. I suppose I should be licking my chops like all the other Democrats, but I just can't figure out what Bush-McCain are up to.

Obama responds

Obama took on the Bush-McCain remarks head on today at an event in South Dakota. He was aggressive and confident, saying that a discussion with Bush-McCain over foreign policy "is a debate I am happy to have any time." Here's a key portion of Obama's speech via Ben Smith:

"That’s exactly the kind of appalling attack that’s divided our country and that alienates us from the world, and that’s why we need change in Washington," he said, going to repeatedly link Bush and McCain.

"That was frustrating enough," he said of Bush's words. "Then John McCain gives a speech. He gave a speech in the morning where he talked about the need for civility in our politics. He talked about elevating the tone in our country.... Not an hour later, he turned around and embraced George Bush's attacks on Democrats. He jumped on a call with a bunch of bloggers and said that I wasn’t fit to protect this nation that I love."

Good for him. This confidence is precisely what has been lacking from the Democratic Party over the last six years. Finally someone is calling it like it is.

Unifying the party

Leave it to Shrub to bring Obama and Clinton together. In the 24 hours since Bush's disgusting comments comparing Obama to Nazi appeasers (in the Knesset, of all places), Clinton and her supporters have come out in defense of her opponent. Yesterday Clinton said the comments were "offensive and outrageous."And this morning, James Rubin, an assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration, has an op-ed in the Washington Post blasting McCain as a hypocrite for agreeing with Bush's remarks. From the op-ed:

McCain, meanwhile, is guilty of hypocrisy. I am a supporter of Hillary Clinton and believe that she was right to say, about McCain's statement on Hamas, "I don't think that anybody should take that seriously." Unfortunately, the Republicans know that some people will. That's why they say such things.

But given his own position on Hamas, McCain is the last politician who should be attacking Obama. Two years ago, just after Hamas won the Palestinian parliamentary elections, I interviewed McCain for the British network Sky News's "World News Tonight" program. Here is the crucial part of our exchange:

I asked: "Do you think that American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past, working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?"

McCain answered: "They're the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so . . . but it's a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy. Fatah was not giving them that."

The interview Rubin referred to can be seen here.

This all brings me back to the political fallout of Bush's and McCain's comments. Obviously they weren't a mistake. Bush is a brilliant politician and he knows the reaction his comments would generate. There's a chance that Obama, Clinton, Rubin, et al are falling right into the Republican trap. But I think the blow back from the comments may be stronger than Bush-McCain had intended.

Democrats can unify around their hatred for Bush more than anything. After a 15-month campaign, which has gotten uglier by the day and seemingly has no end, finding common ground around Bush's comments will be what ends the campaign and brings Democrats back together.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

More from McCain

Greg Sargent just got off a conference call with "100 years" and reports that McCain upped the ante against Obama. His comments before -- agreeing with Bush's remarks in Jerusalem -- were nothing compared to what he has said now. "100 years" wasn't wishy-washy. He unequivocally said Obama is not fit to defend the country. Here's what he said:

"I think [it] is an unacceptable position, and shows that Senator Obama does not have the knowledge, the experience, the background to make the kind of judgments that are necessary to preserve this nation's security."

He didn't have to embrace Bush. He didn't have to use the scare tactics. He could have punted. He could have said he disagrees with Obama's position without saying Obama is unfit to defend the country. But he chose the Bush way. The blogs and the news still seem to be focused on the Bush remarks. But as far as I'm concerned, McCain's comments, by agreeing with, and not distancing himself from, Bush, are worse.

McCain is disgusting too

The Caucus is reporting on McCain's reaction to Bush's comments. In essence, McCain agrees with Bush. At a campaign stop today, McCain said, “Yes, there have been appeasers in the past, and the president is exactly right, and one of them is Neville Chamberlain." He then added, “I believe that it’s not an accident that our hostages came home from Iran when President Reagan was president of the United States. He didn’t sit down in a negotiation with the religious extremists in Iran, he made it very clear that those hostages were coming home."

This guy is incredible. He won't even throw Bush under the bus when the president compares Obama to Nazi appeasers. In fact, he agreed with him. Any voter that thinks McCain is any different from Bush better be listening when he makes comments like this.


Just when you thought Bush was gone, he pops up again. Bush returned to his old tactics today in Jerusalem, where he compared Obama to Nazi appeasers. From the CNN report:

"Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along," said Bush, in what White House aides privately acknowledged was a reference to calls by Obama and other Democrats for the U.S. president to sit down for talks with leaders like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

"We have heard this foolish delusion before," Bush said in remarks to the Israeli Knesset. "As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American Senator declared: 'Lord, if only I could have talked to Hitler, all of this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is — the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history."

This disgusting tactic has failed in the past and will fail again. Rumsfeld compared Dems to Nazi appeasers before the 2006 election, and we all know how that turned out. I'm not too worried about it working this time, either.

I'm curious to know what the Republican standard-bearer, John McCain, will say about Shrub's remarks. As I pointed out, Cindy McCain claimed her "husband is absolutely opposed to any negative campaigning at all." It seems that the Jerusalem comments count as "negative campaigning."

Update: I love Joe Biden:

“This is bullshit, this is malarkey. This is outrageous, for the president of the United States to go to a foreign country, to sit in the Knesset . . . and make this kind of ridiculous statement.”


As the race starts to wind down, there is increasing buzz about the idea of Hillary Clinton as Obama's vice president. And, in a vacuum, it certainly makes sense. She has 17 million voters and access to a lot of money. She appeals to several demographics the Obama has struggled with (whites, Latinos, older people). But as far as I can tell, the only people seriously talking about this are Clinton supporters.

Yesterday, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, who campaigned heavily for Clinton in his state's primary, told CNN that Obama "should ask Hillary Clinton" to be vice president. Last week, Clinton adviser Terry McAuliffe said the joint ticket is a "great idea."

It's worth keeping in mind that Clinton people are the ones pushing this. They are looking for a deal; for some way that Clinton can exit the race with integrity. It is in their interest to push the idea of Clinton as VP.

But does it make any sense? I haven't heard one word from the Obama camp that would suggest he is considering making the offer to Clinton. By this point, we've all heard the arguments for and against the "dream ticket" -- the media has addressed the topic ad nauseam -- but I don't get any sense that Obama is interested.

I will begin posting on VP speculation in the coming days, but one person I will not be discussing further is Clinton because I don't get any sense that it is a realistic option. Scratch that, it's not a desirable option.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Is tonight the night?

The Obama campaign says it will announce a major national endorsement tonight in Michigan. There aren't a whole lot of those left. So, who could it be? John Edwards? Al Gore? Mike Bloomberg? Colin Powell? Bill Clinton? I kid, I kid.

Mark Halperin says Edwards is the most likely, and I would have to agree. Edwards has made several appearances lately during which he may have let it slip that he voted for Obama and he said he thinks the race is pretty much over. Add to that the venue. Michigan would be a perfect setting to roll out a populist like Edwards.

I guess I'll jump on the Edwards bandwagon, but you have to admit it would be pretty entertaining if it was Bill Clinton.

Update: It won't be Clinton after all. Damn. ABC News is confirming that Edwards is the mystery person endorsing Obama tonight.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Four corners

There's no point in watching the returns tonight. We already know the winner. We've already heard the loser concede. Look the other way; nothing to see here.

That is the Obama strategy for tonight's West Virginia primaries. In fact, it's the strategy for the rest of the Democratic nomination. And, yes, there is still a nomination going on. Despite declarations by pundits and lowly bloggers that the race is over and the general election has finally begun, the race is not, technically over, and Clinton will continue to campaign.

She's the only one who will continue to campaign. And she's out there pleading with voters in West Virginia, Kentucky and Puerto Rico to send a message. On Monday, Clinton campaign chairman Terry McAuliffe said his candidate will win the popular vote when all is said and done. He predicted lopsided victories in the aforementioned states, plus Florida and Michigan could turn the tide.

Of course the Clinton message is spin; of course it's a stretch to think the campaign can still find a way to win. But it seems silly for the Obama campaign to simply let Clinton do this. Why not compete?

Pardon the sports analogies, but they are so apparent to me that I must make them. Obama's strategy is like defensive indifference in baseball or like the prevent defense in football. But since we are talking about Obama, I'll use a basketball analogy. Obama's strategy is like Dean Smith's Four Corners offense. Before there was a shot clock, Smith would have his team spread out on the court and pass the ball around, killing the clock. He did it with his team comfortably ahead.

But in 1977, Smith used the Four Corners offense against Marquette in the national championship game. The strategy failed miserably and Smith lost his chance at a title. In this video (go about 3 minutes in), Dave Hanners, an assistant on the team, said, "There were 4,000 other examples where it worked out. And everybody remembers this one."

I don't think Hillary Clinton is Marquette. Instead of the game being tied, it seems like Obama has a 20-point lead. But the 1977 championship proved that playing safe can sometimes cost you the game.