“They will be satisfied when we have Canadian healthcare and we’ve eliminated the Pentagon. That’s not reality.’ Of those who complain that Obama caved to centrists on issues such as healthcare reform, Gibbs said: ‘They wouldn’t be satisfied if Dennis Kucinich was president.’” In the virulently stupid department, insulting the base and further depressing midterm turnout = change we can believe in? Um, no, not really. Thankfully, I was away from civilization when press secretary Robert Gibbs threw his whiny temper tantrum about “the professional left,” so I missed out on the initial bout of aggravation about it.
Suffice to say, Robert Borosage, among others, was on the case: “The left is pushing the president from the left? The horror. The shame…The president is in trouble because his historic reforms were too timid, not too bold…We can argue about whether the president fought hard enough, or compromised too soon — but the reality is that the reforms, as bold as they were, are not sufficient to deal with the mess we are in.” And that doesn’t even get into the torture and civil liberties clusterfrak, where reform has been non-existent. Dennis Kucinich? I’d be happy with the Barack Obama I ostensibly voted for, thanks much.
“My fellow Democrats. My fellow Americans. The most important contest of our generation has begun. Not the campaign for the presidency. Not the campaign for Congress. But the race for the future.” Well, one thing becomes clear about Gov. Mark Warner after his keynote speech last night [transcript]: he’s no Barack Obama. Granted, delivering the keynote four years after our current nominee would’ve been a tough gig by any measure. (And, hey, at least he was better than Clinton in ’88.) Still, I found Warner’s speech last night to be one of the more tepid and uninteresting of the evening. Brian Schweitzer was more wry, Kucinich’s fireplug “Wake Up America!” rally was more rousing, and Bob Casey was more devastating: (“McCain’s not a maverick, he’s a sidekick.”)
It doesn’t help that, at least to me, Warner has the air of a salesman and the look of a slightly deranged muppet (if not Guy Smiley, then one of the Avenue Q gang.) He also seems to have come off the same blow-dried assembly line that gave us Evan Bayh and John Edwards — the latter is company absolutely nobody seems to want to keep this week, even in resemblance — and that doesn’t help to dispel that certain feel of inauthenticity about him. And some of the riffs in his oration, especially early on, seemed particularly platitudinous. (The thing about the future is it comes, inexorably, whether you like or not.)
Now, don’t get me wrong — I’ll be casting my Senate vote for Warner this November, and I really hope the guy wins. His record in Virginia clearly suggests he’s a capable executive who can get things done. But I still found this keynote rather unremarkable, even if I found myself in great sympathy with its call for a return to science.
“Clinton’s claim to superior experience isn’t merely dishonest. It’s also potentially dangerous should she become the nominee. If Clinton continues to build her campaign on the dubious foundation of government experience, it shouldn’t be very difficult for her GOP opponent to pull that edifice down. That’s especially true if a certain white-haired senator now serving his 25th year in Congress (four in the House and 21 in the Senate) wins the nomination. McCain could easily make Hillary look like an absolute fraud who is no more truthful about her depth of government experience than she is about why her mother named her “Hillary.” Dennis Kucinich has more government experience than Clinton. (He also has a better health-care plan, but we’ll save that for another day.)”
So…now that we’ve (hopefully) stepped back from the abyss of identity politics, where does that leave us? Ah, yes, hope vs. experience. Well, drawing on this NYT story of several weeks ago, Slate‘s Tim Noah argues that Clinton’s claims of superior experience just don’t hold up, and particularly once you factor in John McCain. “Oh, please. Thirty-five years takes you back to 1973, half of which Hillary spent in law school, for crying out loud. I don’t mean to denigrate her professional experience…But in government, Clinton’s chief role over the years has been that of kibitzer.” Update: Speaking of Dennis Kucinich, he’s back in tomorrow’s Nevada debate. Update 2: Nope, he’s out again, by decision of the Nevada Supreme Court.
“‘I don’t think Oklahoma has seen this kind of enthusiasm for a Democrat since Bobby Kennedy,’ marveled Lisa Pryor, chairwoman of the Oklahoma Democratic Party, who is not endorsing a candidate…’He could be the first Democrat to win Oklahoma since LBJ.‘” Is it SNL, his dance moves, or a certain je-ne-said-quoi? TIME surveys the Obama boom among Red Staters and Republicans, despite the fact that “Obama’s voting record is the most liberal of any candidate, according to a National Journal analysis. Obama’s score of 84.3% in the Journal’s ratings formula, tops even that of Representative Dennis Kucinich, who was considered the most liberal Democratic presidential candidate in 2004.“
So, for the first time and by a (statistically-insignifcant) margin of 32% to 30%, Barack Obama has moved ahead of Hillary Clinton in the polls. And, in more good news for the Obama camp, this poll was mostly taken before last week’s first Democratic debate, so there might still be a bump to come. For, at least to my admittedly jaundiced eye, Obama came across as far and away the most impressive candidate last Thursday. I feared he might seem callow and inexperienced going in, but Obama came across to me as thoughtful, nuanced, and, when needed, decisive…in short, he seemed suitably presidential, while still exuding that youthful flair and enthusiasm that makes him such a potentially exciting vehicle for generational political change in 2008. (And, boding well for the general election, Obama also seemed well-practiced in the art of debate jujitsu, deftly tossing aside at least two clear trip-up questions — on shady campaign contributors and Israel — with remarkable ease.) As for Clinton, well, it’s not entirely her fault, I guess — unlike Obama, she’s been with us for a decade and a half now, and is nothing if not a known quantity. But she came across to me as the same cautious, methodical, triangulating centrist she’s shown herself to be over the past fifteen years in public life, and it’s getting harder to imagine myself being anything but underwhelmed by her as a candidate in the general election.
John Edwards still seems the best of the rest, but he didn’t do much on Thursday to stand out, I thought. (I expect he’ll do better as the candidates decrease in number.) I found Richardson surprisingly uninspiring, given all the good things often said of him. (The Governor really needs to work on his presentation — he kept scowling and frowning his way through every question like Old Man Potter.) Biden came across as better than usual but still interminably Bidenish — that cute one-word answer couldn’t mask his Senate-honed penchant for blathering and monologuing. Distinguished and discerning, Dodd actually seems like he’d make a fine president, if money and star power weren’t so often the defining factors in this business. (As it is, it doesn’t look good.) Speaking of which, the 2008 Kucinich seemed Kucinich-lite next to the throwback rantings of Mike Gravel, who was intermittently amusing with the Admiral Stockdale-isms at first, but who grew wearisome, in my opinion, by the end. (I’m all for the idea that the military-industrial complex has ballooned into a monstrosity, but saying things like America in fact has no enemies sounds a bit naive after 9/11, and is the type of thing the GOP agitprop hounds tend to have a field day with.)
“Democrats were swept into power on November 7 because of widespread voter discontent with the war in Iraq. Instead of heeding those concerns and responding with a strong and immediate change in policies and direction, the Democratic congressional leadership seems inclined to continue funding the perpetuation of the war.” Irate over Iraq, Democrat Dennis Kucinich returns for another go at the presidency. And, more intriguingly, Senate wunderkind Barack Obama seems to be testing the waters in New Hampshire: “‘America is ready to turn the page,’ he said. ‘America is ready for a new set of challenges. This is our time. A new generation is prepared to lead.'”
Carol Moseley Braun calls it quits, and will be endorsing Dean later today. That was very nice of her to do so before Iowa, and thus give the Doctor the benefit of a friendly press cycle before the first big contest. And, what with Jimmy Carter taking up a day too, that’ll make it even harder for the other candidates to gain traction in the media in the last four days. So…who’s next? Kucinich, I suspect…although it’d be nice if Lieberman saw the writing on the wall.
In a week of minor stumbles (among them caucus-dissing — let’s face it, the Iowa caucuses are dominated by special interests. Ethanol subsidies, anyone? — and gubernatorial honoraria), Howard Dean pulls up another key endorsement in Tom Harkin. At this point, I’ll just go ahead and say that I hope the good Doctor takes both Iowa and New Hampshire and ends all the primary shenanigans sooner rather than later. It’s a safe bet to say that I like Howard Dean better than any of the other eight candidates, but that frankly isn’t saying much, and particularly given how Edwards, Clark, and Kerry have all underperformed.
I’ll be honest – I’m much less enthused by Dean than I was by Bradley last cycle. Dean has yet to make any policy proposals that I flat-out love, and I find him neither as progressive nor as inspiring as I’d like. In fact, more often than not, he kinda leaves me cold…But, of the nine, he’s the witch-king, so to speak. His occasional grouchiness and glibness does concern me, but no more so than any of the other candidates’ personality traits (And let’s drop the “unelectable” stuff…c’mon, this country elected George W. Bush. Anyone‘s electable. Oh, wait a minute, we didn’t.) In sum, Dean’s run a great campaign to this point, he’s got money and moxie to spare, and he clearly strikes a chord with many Democratic souls out there, so here’s hoping the party coalesces around him before we bleed ourselves to death solely to satisfy the big dreams of also-rans and the bruised egos of the DLC.