In the wake of Tunisia‘s “Jasmine Revolution,” and as seen all over the news the past week (once the Village moved past its who-sitting-with-who, SotU–prom obsessions), protests continue to roil Egypt — as well as Yemen, Jordan, and the Sudan — in what amounts to an historic popular uprising across the Middle East. Our response so far (Joe Biden notwithstanding): “Saying that ‘no one is satisfied‘ with the steps Mubarak has taken since the protests for political and economic freedom began, Clinton said a transition process was needed ‘so that no one fills a void..what we don’t want is chaos.‘”
As Slate‘s Kai Bid notes: Nor do we want to alienate the Egyptian people further by seeming to back a cruel and repressive government that has clearly lost the confidence of its people. “Obama still has the relatively clean slate and the rhetorical powers to execute a pivot in American policy. In his June 2009 Cairo speech Obama said, ‘America respects the right of all peaceful and law-abiding voices to be heard around the world, even if we disagree with them. And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments — provided they govern with respect for all their people.‘”
Hopefully, that worthy standard will encourage us to think twice before backing any play involving Egypt’s newly-appointed vice-president (and thus Mubarak’s suggested successor), former intelligence chief Omar Suleiman — a.k.a. the CIA’s point man for extraordinary renditions. “In a nutshell: this appointment will do nothing to pacify the millions of rioting citizens, and if it stands it will perpetuate the same kinds of policies and US power interests in the region to which the people have said enough.“
“That Rove and so much of the Punditburo refuse to acknowledge this reality and instead forward this fantastical story about today’s elections being a pro-Republican ‘bellweather’ is to be expected. More and more of the political prognostication industry has been taken over by biased shills who are wielding a partisan axe. But the objective truth is clear: Democrats certainly have some weaknesses and problems, but the fact that Democrats are even competing in these supposedly “key” races suggests Republicans have their own – and arguably far bigger – weaknesses and problems as well.“
Happy Election Day everyone, particularly those of you in Virginia (Deeds), New Jersey (Corzine), NY-23 (Owens), and Maine (No on 1.) Looks like we Dems will have a bad night of it, all in all, but as Open Left‘s David Sirota notes above, let’s keep things in perspective. Given the still-woeful state of the economy and particularly the job markets, it’s an anti-incumbent mood out there right now, and sitting GOP governors like Schwarzenegger or Charlie Crist would be in a world of hurt if they were on the ballot today as well.
Plus, as Frank Rich pointed out over the weekend, the weird wild fight in NY-23, which saw the GOP candidate drop out and endorse the Dem, signifies a party in full self-immolation mode: “The battle for upstate New York confirms just how swiftly the right has devolved into a wacky, paranoid cult that is as eager to eat its own as it is to destroy Obama…Who exactly is the third-party maverick arousing such ardor? Hoffman doesn’t even live in the district.” Burn, baby, burn.
Update: “All worried that ACORN was going to show up in the district, or even at the Biden event — a paranoia that led to some minor awkwardness when an African-American Hoffman worker walked by. ‘This guy’s with ACORN,’ said Dewitt. ‘Definitely, not from around here,’ said businessman Erik Dunk.” The Washington Independent‘s Dave Weigel reports in from the ground on NY-23.
“We have begun the essential work of keeping the American Dream alive in our time. Now, I don’t want to pretend that today marks the end of our economic problems. Nor does it constitute all of what we’re going to have to do to turn our economy around. But today does mark the beginning of the end…The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that I will sign today — a plan that meets the principles I laid out in January — is the most sweeping economic recovery package in our history.” Back in Denver for the day, President Obama signs the ARRA economic stimulus bill into law. [Remarks.] “‘We have done more in 30 days to advance the cause of health-care reform than this country has done in an entire decade,’ Obama said, prompting a standing ovation.“
As with the initial versions, the final bill passed without a single GOP vote in the House and only three Republicans — Snowe, Collins, Specter — in the Senate. Y’know, it’s bad enough that these situationally-ethical jokers stand in the way of what obviously needs to be done to get our economy moving again. (I don’t remember any calls for spending restraint, or any worries about pork, in the flush times when Boss DeLay was running the show, or when both Reagan and Dubya were ratcheting up the deficit to all hell.) But, it offends the senses to have to listen to the aggressively stupid talking points Republicans tend to trot out these days. For example, the party’s new leader, Michael Steele: “Not in the history of mankind has the government ever created a job.” (The armed services notwithstanding, who does he think the runs the government? Elves? Hey, Mr. Steele, look down — we call those roads.) Or consider South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint: “This is not a stimulus bill. It’s just a spending bill.” Econ 101: A stimulus bill is a spending bill. (They do in fact teach this in SC — I can attest to it.)
Worse still, the national newsmedia has been failing miserably in their coverage of the stimulus battle, by continually enabling these Republicans to spout their inanities without comment. It reminds me of Paul Begala’s “Neil Armstrong Principle,” which I heard him break down on Charlie Rose a few months back: “If John McCain and Sarah Palin were to say the moon was made of green cheese, we can be certain that Barack Obama and Joe Biden would pounce on it, and point out it’s actually made of rock. And you just know the headline in the paper the next day would read: ‘CANDIDATES CLASH ON LUNAR LANDSCAPE.’” Too true.
Well, at least the durned thing passed. I’m sure the bill has its problems, not the least that it was transformed and watered down in an attempt to placate a bunch of Republicans who were never in a million years going to vote for it anyway. Perhaps, when we move forward now, we can focus on writing good policy that will get this economy and our country moving again, rather than catering to the whims of the naysayers, political opportunists, and/or flat-earth morons that comprise today’s GOP.
To be honest, I don’t have all that much to say about last night’s lone vice-presidential debate in St. Louis, as I think the event speaks for itself. The general consensus congealing today is that Joe Biden won the debate, which he obviously did, but that Sarah Palin performed better than expected. Well, I guess she did, given that everyone was pretty much expecting another embarrassing and hard-to-watch Couric-style meltdown. But, remove that exceedingly low bar, and we still find ourselves confronted with a fundamentally unqualified and frighteningly obtuse candidate for the vice-presidency, one who has no business getting anywhere near the Oval Office, let alone only the heartbeat of a 72-year-old cancer survivor away.
Biden was Biden — a bit wonky and/or self-aggrandizing at times, but clearly knowledgable about the issues and cognizant of the struggles that working people in America face, both as a result of the daily vagaries of the Dubya economy and of awful, unforeseen circumstances that can loom at a moment’s notice. (Imho, his emotion-filled nod to the tragedy in his past was a far more authentic moment than any of the “Aw shucks, I’m just a Wasilla hockey mom” patter emanating from Gov. Palin over the course of the evening.) If anything, I think Biden might’ve erred slightly on the side of gallantry, since Palin seemingly held no qualms about regurgitating easily refutable lies (Obama raised taxes on the poor, Obama voted against funding the troops, Biden supports McCain’s Iraq position — all hooey) throughout the evening. But, all in all, BIden definitely did himself and the ticket credit last night, and I expect he helped to solidify further Obama’s lead in the polls among independents.
Sarah Palin, on the other hand, had the immediately recognizable air of the student who fills the air with digressions, non-sequiturs, and the occasional remembered idea in order to deflect attention from the fact that he or she didn’t really do the reading and doesn’t really understand the concepts being discussed. Even with Biden and moderator Gwen Ifill letting Palin slide on all sorts of evasiveness, the Governor often seemed scarily out of her depth whenever anything but energy policy was being discussed. (Her discussion of the Constitution and the vice-presidency was particularly galling.) As Paul Begala noted on CNN during the postgame, we already tried the whole “elevating the average Joe” thing with eight years of Dubya, and it’s turned out to be a miserable failure. And, while excellence may sadly be a rare commodity among our elected officials, I don’t think we the people are asking for too much when we expect basic competence from our leaders. Take away the memories of the Couric implosion, and Gov. Palin still failed to hurdle even that depressingly low threshold last night. Simply put, she wouldn’t be qualified to lead this nation even in the best of times. At it is, she’s a risk we can’t afford to take.
“You know, my mom taught her children — all the children who flocked to our house — that you’re defined by your sense of honor and you’re redeemed by your loyalty. She believes that bravery lives in every heart, and her expectation is that it will be summoned. Failure at some point in your life is inevitable, but giving up is unforgivable…[W]hen I got knocked down by guys bigger than me — and this is the God’s truth — she sent me back out and said, ‘Bloody their nose so you can walk down the street the next day.’ And that’s what I did. You know — and after the accident, she told me, she said, ‘Joey, God sends no cross that you cannot bear.’ And when I triumphed, my mother was quick to remind me it was because of others. My mother’s creed is the American creed: No one is better than you. Everyone is your equal, and everyone is equal to you.”
Closing out Wednesday night (give or take a brief visit from the man of the hour) was Vice-Presidential nominee Joe Biden’s acceptance speech [Transcript], a well-constructed yarn which began as a Jim Sheridan-ish tale of a scrappy Irish Catholic upbringing and segued into another full-throated endorsement of Barack Obama and evisceration of John McCain. (Its refrain: “John McCain was wrong, and Barack Obama was right.“) It’s getting late, so I’ll just note that I thought this was a better speech than Biden’s coming out last week (which was good too), and I’m definitely liking the Senator’s inclusion on the ticket. And now, on to the big show…
As many surmised (and I hoped) earlier in the week, Sen. Obama has apparently chosen Senator Joe Biden of Delaware as his running mate and future vice-president. In brief, I’m very happy with this choice (and particularly considering the evening’s early word suggested Bayh.) As I said the other day, Obama-Biden seems both a good match and a winning ticket to me. Bring on the convention.
Update: “Joe Biden is that rare mix. For decades, he has brought change to Washington, but Washington hasn’t changed him.” The ticket is unveiled in Springfield, Illinois. And other than Ron Fournier, embarrassingly having the AP carry water for McCain (again), and a handful of Clintonite dead-enders (to which McCain is now making blatant appeals), the pick seems to go over swimmingly.
“Obama had not notified his choice — or any of those not selected — of his decision as of late Monday, advisers said. Going into the final days, Obama was said to be focused mainly on three candidates: Senator Evan Bayh of Indiana, Governor Tim Kaine of Virginia and Senator Joseph Biden Jr. of Delaware…Aides said the announcement would come at the earliest on Wednesday morning.” With the convention a week away — I’ll see y’all in Denver — Sen. Obama would seem on the verge of a veep. (Colleague Dr. Vendre gave a concise round-up of the top potentials a few days ago.)
Of late, I’ve swung pretty strongly into the Biden-for-veep camp. I had him pegged as our next secretary of state, but the more I think about it, the more he seems the best complement for Obama in 2008, and particularly now that recent events in Georgia have given the election more of a foreign policy cast. He’s well-known, he’s experienced, he’s distinguished, he’s got impeccable foreign policy bona fides (his Iraq vote notwithstanding, of course), he’s a white male of a certain age, which should soothe those swing voters for whom such stuff matters, and, most importantly, he’s very comfortable in — and, in fact, would seem to relish — the acerbic attack dog role one desires in a #2. (Plus, Delaware’s governorship, while up in November, is nonetheless as safe a Dem seat as they come, meaning we’d keep Biden’s vote in the Senate.)
In short, I think Obama-Biden is a winner. Then again, I’m still of the mind that “Obama-Anyone Not Named Dubya or Clinton” is as close to a shoo-in this year as we’ll see in many moons to come.
“Kaine and Obama became friends after they campaigned together during Kaine’s 2005 gubernatorial race…In recent weeks, Kaine and his staff have been in frequent contact with Obama and his campaign about strategy and operations in Virginia and elsewhere.” Webb may be gone, but some of the smart money seems to think that Obama is now leaning toward his fellow Virginian, Tim Kaine, for his running mate. Don’t know much about him, but, particularly if that secures Virginia, I’m all for it. Other names rumored on the short-short list: Joe Biden (Good choice, but might be a better fit at State) and Evan Bayh (frankly, I’ve never understood the appeal).
“The momentum is shifting to us right now. If we are the leader in the popular vote and we have closed the gap in pledged delegates, that’s a very persuasive argument.” In a revealing piece in the Sunday Times, the Clinton campaign seems to concede it has lost the delegate race, instead placing their hopes on the popular vote. (At the moment, they’re down 600,000, not counting rogue states Florida and Michigan.) This is basically akin to the New England Patriots arguing they should be given the Super Bowl trophy because, even if they lost the game, they got more yards. (They didn’t, but you get what I mean.) Of course, since getting that lead looks hard for them, the Clinton campaign reserve the right to try to change the most-important stat again if need be. (“The argument is being made privately as winning the most votes still presents a formidable challenge. She might, in the end, have to rest her case on her ability to win key battleground states.“)
The Times piece is also notable because it has Bill Bradley calling the Clintons out (again) as liars: “‘The bigger the lie, the better the chance they think they’ve got. That’s been their whole approach,’ he said. ‘She’s going to lose a whole generation of people who got involved in politics believing it could be something different.’“
Meanwhile, the sinking Clinton campaign finds a lifeline in this front-page WP story on undecided superdelegates, which states that [a] many undecideds seem to be planning to wait for now and, more troubling, [b] at least a few undecided super-delegates are comfortable with overturning the pledged delegate count. Says Oregon super Bill Bradbury: ““If the pledged-delegate total is within 100 votes or whatever, I don’t think there’s a great deal of significance in that.’” Hmm. Well, I’d be more concerned about this statement if all the data didn’t suggest Obama is a stronger national candidate with bigger coattails (see also tonight’s Foster win), so I’m guessing supers would be more inclined to back Obama in the end anyway. That being said, I’m absolutely positive Bradbury here significantly understates what the reaction would be if the supers reject the pledged delegate leader en masse. It would mean clear defeat in November, if not a lasting party schism. Fortunately, whatever Bradbury’s personal opinion, this scenario isn’t at all likely, particularly given that super-supers with more pull — Pelosi, Biden, Richardson, etc. — have all specifically argued against Bradbury’s position.