Monday, April 28, 2008

The fight for the Presidency

Howard Dean in his Meet the Press appearance of 04/27/08 not only did a good job of preventing Timmy Russert from turning it into 30 minutes of trivia and "gotcha" points, but also did a good job of discussing the Democratic Party Presidential campaign from a partisan perspective but not taking the side of either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. Definitely worth a look.

Also addressing the intra-party issues and the analogy to the 1972 election is someone who knows quite a bit about that election, former Senator George McGovern, in a Huffington Post interview reported by Sam Stein in George McGovern: Still Backing Clinton, But Going Way Off Script 04/25/08.

I've tried to step back and look at the state of the race in a bit of a new light myself. My own basic preferences haven't changed since the California primary, when I sent in my absentee ballot for John Edwards about two days before he dropped out of the race. Between Clinton and Obama I'm marginally more in favor of Clinton. Obama has a better position on pulling out of Iraq and Clinton's health plan is more likely to achieve universal coverage, which is essential.

When either of them is elected President, the Democratic base will have to keep the pressure on them over both the Iraq withdrawal and the health care plan because they will face powerful opposition to both, despite the very unpopular nature of the Iraq War. The peace movement will also need to bring pressure to make sure that the new President makes a full withdrawal of American troops, which neither has clearly committed to doing.

And also to avoid continuing the escalation of the Afghanistan War - which both are saying should be done - and instead find a near-term solution to that situation so that NATO troops (including US troops) can leave. Pulling out of Iraq but escalating in Afghanistan could destroy the Democratic Presidency because the Republicans will howl in outrage about every problem that occurs in both places and blame it all on the deficiencies of the Democratic administration.

But for that problem to arise we have to get a Democratic President instead of 100-Years-War McCain.

Obama is slightly ahead in the delegate count right now. But for all practical purposes Clinton and Obama are tied at this point. I think Dean in his Meet the Press appearance made very reasonable points about the outstanding delegate controversies. On the question of the superdelegates, he made a good point that even though they aren't elected in primaries or caucuses, almost every one of them are elected officials who are there precisely because they won actual general elections as Governor, Member of Congress, or other office, and they were selected as superdelegates by their state parties. The whole idea of the superdelegates is that they are not required to simply ratify the decisions of the primary and caucus delegates. They are supposed to make their own choices based (in theory) on their best judgment. Good or bad, that's the rules the Party is operating under this year. As Dean put it, "My personal belief is they're going to vote for the person they think ... can beat John McCain, which is what I think a lot of these voters [in the primaries and caucuses] are voting for."

On the question of the Florida and Michigan delegations, it doesn't make sense to simply allow the delegates elected in those primaries to be seated. The state parties knew, and the Presidential candidates knew, that the Party would not recognize the results of those elections because they were in violation of the Party rules. He reminded the viewers of the reason for the problem:

For the - this year, for the first time, we balanced the early primaries with ethnic and geographic diversity. We included a state from the South and a state from the West, because we think we can win there now. And we included states with significant numbers of minority groups who the Democrats can't win without, and those folks ought to be allowed to say early on who they think should be the president.
That was why the Michigan and Florida primaries were disallowed by the national Party. Dean goes on to say, "I believe Michigan and Florida should be seated in some way because it was their - their voters did not cause this problem. This was caused by a political problem, not the voters' problem." No doubt this is a sticky problem. But the eventual resolution is probably going to be providing some representation to Florida and Michigan so that they are totally disenfranchised at the convention but not to seat the full delegates as elected in the illegitimate primaries.

A couple of comments on the Jeremiah Wright issue. I was happy to see the report that Clinton is reaming the bold Maverick over the Floyd Brown ad against Obama featuring the most inflammatory of the controversial Wright snippets.

Salon's Joan Walch blogged her reaction to Wright's appearance with Bill Moyers in Why Jeremiah Wright is so wrong 04/27/08. But after more research, she posted I was wrong about Wright 04/28/08. But the latter isn't a more generous evaluation. She says she's going to blog more about ways Obama can deal with the issue.

It seems to me that his best response is to keep responding that he's made his disagreements with Wright clear, to remind everyone that they don't agree with everything their own pastor says, and to use it as an opportunity to jam McCain on his association with the warmongering radical cleric John Hagee and others like him.

But nobody should be under any illusions that we won't see sleaze like this and worse slung by the Establishment press and the Republicans from now through the fall election. I'll bet there's rightwing bloggers who have already typed up the accusation that Clinton's attacking McCain over the Floyd Brown ad with Wright in it shows that she, too, wants God to damn America.

Obama needs to keep the discussions around focused on his own positions and the destructive positions of 100-Years-War McCain, so he doesn't need to defend Wright. Wright is not his running-mate.

Having said that and being clear that Wright does not speak for Obama and vice versa, I did like a line that Wright used at the National Press Club Monday when asked if he was patriotic. "I served six years in the military. Does that make me patriotic? How many years did Cheney serve?"

I'll say it again. In every Presidential race since 1964, the Republicans have been running again black people. It's what they do. As Dean said:

Republicans have scapegoated minority groups for a long time. First they pointed the fingers at African-Americans by calling what - affirmative action as a quota system. Then they pointed the finger at gay Americans with an anti-gay marriage stuff on all the ballots where gay marriage was already illegal anyway. Now they're pointing the fingers at immigrants and, by extension, Hispanic and Asian-Americans.
If we lived in one of those alternative universes where the Republican Party hadn't absorbed the values of Southern segregationists and didn't support torture and had enough decency not to constantly attack the patriotism of the Democrats, then we could reasonably hope to have a campaign free of that. Assuming that universe also has a national press corps that practices actual journalism. But that's not the universe we live in.

So I don't like the blame-the-victim approach of, oh, Obama should have foreseen this and done something to prevent it. Walsh writes, "Clearly it was bad judgment [for Obama] to stay with the church, given Wright's divisive views, once Obama knew he had national political ambitions." But she at least goes on to acknowledge that such an observation is water under the bridge now.

Yes, we probably all regret that we didn't foresee the problem that something we were doing would cause us problems in the future. But there is no way Obama or Clinton is going to avoid being accused of being somehow unpatriotic or associated with scary black people. Both are poisonous accusations. But a party that supports the Cheney-Bush torture policy is poisoned. They have to hit back against race-baiting and radical-baiting and throw it back in the Republicans faces. There is no way to prevent the Reps from making the charges. That's who they are. That's what they do.

Also on Meet the Press (see link above), Timmy Russert (not carrying water for the Republicans, you understand; yeah, right) referred to a Nation piece by Tom Hayden, who Timmy called "the former radical from the '60s", Why Hillary Makes My Wife Scream 04/22/08, in which he notes that Clinton also was in the same room at times with people who had views with which she might not agree with every word, then or now. I don't think Hayden was carrying water for the Reps, though he is an Obama partisan and I wouldn't word everything he says in his article that way, this is a valuable observation:

All these were honorable words and associations in my mind, but doesn't she see how the Hillary of today would accuse the Hillary of the sixties of associating with black revolutionaries who fought gun battles with police officers, and defending pro-communist lawyers who backed communists?
That's why it's good to see Clinton taking a different tone on the Wright issue, criticizing McCain over sleaze-slinging politics. Neither of them can avoid these kinds of attacks. But they shouldn't be saying things now about each other that would partially validate the inevitable Republican and press corps versions. As McGovern says, "I don't want to see Hillary or Barack giving McCain ammunition in the general election. It is more important that we not have another four years of Bush government."

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