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John Kerry

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Feingold Follows Fossey.

“Feingold has undertaken a dizzying round of talks in at least eight different African capitals, cajoling leaders face to face, negotiating with skittish rebels late into the night and strategizing with fellow diplomats, all in a very uphill effort to stop a long-running conflict in a region littered with failed peace deals. ‘Without a doubt,’ he said over coffee a few hours after the gorilla trek, ‘this is one of the favorite things I’ve ever done in my life.’

Stuart Reid checks in with former Wisconsin Senator Russ Feingold at his current job as John Kerry’s special envoy to the Great Lakes region and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. “‘I really wanted him here at the State Department because I saw him operate on the Foreign Relations Committee,’ Kerry told me. ‘He was the Senate’s expert, bar none, on Africa. He knows the region and the players.'”

Rosen: Stop me before I blog again!

“How absurd is that? Let us count the ways. First, even when the most establishment ‘journalists’ such as Rosen get caught engaging in patently irresponsible behavior, they still find a way to blame blogs rather than themselves (I thought I was just blogging, and reckless gossip is what bloggers do.) It wasn’t blogs that “reported” Saddam Hussein’s acquisition of scary aluminum tubes for nuclear weapons or that Iraq was behind the anthrax attacks; it wasn’t blogs that glorified Jessica Lynch’s nonexistent heroic firefight with Iraqi goons; it wasn’t blogs that turned John Edwards into The Breck Girl and John Kerry into a “French-looking” weakling; and it wasn’t blogs that presented retired military generals who were participating in a Pentagon propaganda program and saddled with countless undisclosed conflicts as ‘independent analysts.’

Call it the State of Play fallacy: After TNR’s Jeffrey Rosen blames “blogging” for the obviously poor quality of his recent Sotomayor hit piece — and vows never to blog again — Salon‘s inimitable Glenn Greenwald sets the record straight about what can and can’t be pinned on bloggers. “Despite his efforts to blame ‘blogging’ for what he did, Rosen didn’t use journalistically reckless methods to smear Sotomayor’s intellect because of some inherent attribute of the medium. Instead, he did that because…that’s how the establishment media typically functions: ‘background reporting from people with various axes to grind, i.e. standard Washington reporting.’” (And, for what it’s worth, Rosen’s original article was hardly what you’d call blogging anyway — it was just a lengthy piece that ran online.)

Kerry: I’m Mad as Hell & Not Taking It Anymore.

To those who still believe in the myth of a maverick instead of the reality of a politician, I say let’s compare Senator McCain to Candidate McCain. Candidate McCain now supports the very wartime tax cuts that Senator McCain once called irresponsible. Candidate McCain criticizes Senator McCain’s own climate change bill. Candidate McCain says he would vote against the immigration bill that Senator McCain wrote. Are you kidding me, folks? Talk about being for it before you’re against it!

In the second of three solid orations tonight, an impassioned John Kerry laid into John McCain hard, and delivered arguably a better speech than anything he ever gave as our 2004 nominee. [Transcript.] Thanks to the Swift Boat ridiculousness of that cycle, Kerry has now taken on some of the resonance that Max Cleland had back then — that of the good patriot horribly wronged by the sheer scumminess of the Rove-wallowing GOP. Well, Kerry tapped into this costly gravitas with aplomb in tonight’s speech, using it to insist that we not let McCain and his new friends screw the nation over once again. (“How insulting to suggest that those who question the mission question the troops. How pathetic to suggest that those who question a failed policy doubt America itself. How desperate to tell the son of a single mother, who chose community service over money and privilege, that he doesn’t put America first. No one can question Barack Obama’s patriotism.“)

The anger of Kerry’s own experience seethed just below the surface in his remarks, and it lent his speech a fiery passion that seemed as AWOL as cokehead-Dubya during crucial stretches in 2004. (Not that the election should’ve come down to a question of passion anyway, but frankly every little bit would’ve helped.) In a perfect world, Kerry wouldn’t have to play the martyr right now, of course. But this isn’t a perfect world. As it is, it’s hard to think of anyone who could better remind us in 2008 that the GOP are all too often an adversary without any semblance of honor or dignity, and we’ll be damned before we let those bastards get away with their pathetic lies and hateful smears once again. Not this time.

Endless Tours? | Catching Up with John McCain.

“When asked if he knew when American troops could start to return home, McCain responded: ‘No, but that’s not too important. What’s important is the casualties in Iraq.'” Not too important to you, maybe. While John Kerry and others jump on the latest McCain screw-up, these handy Youtubes bring us up to date on other recent goings-on aboard “the Double Talk Express.” Without the Democratic primary feeding the beast anymore, hopefully Senator McCain’s convenient U-turns and gaffe-a-minute tendencies will get more attention from the media powers-that-be.





Kerry Returns Fire.

“[B]eing an ex-president does not give you license to abuse the truth, and I think that over the last days it’s been over the top. Things have been said about Barack Obama’s positions that are just plain untrue. It was said in Nevada, it’s been said about Social Security, it’s been said about Yucca Mountain, and it’s been said in South Carolina. I think it’s very unfortunate, but I think the voters can see through that.

John Kerry calls out Bill Clinton to the National Journal, and lays into the experience canard. “We made some tough decisions [in the ’90’s] and we ought to be proud of them, about the budget and the deficit. But the fact is, that was not Hillary Clinton making those decisions. It was a different team, at a different time. In fact, Barack Obama has more legislative experience than either of his two opponents.

Permission to Come Aboard.

Since the birth of our nation change has been won by young presidents and young leaders who have shown that experience is not defined by time in Washington and years in office. It is defined by wisdom and instinct and vision…The only charge that rings false is the one that tells you not to hope for a better America. Don’t let anyone tell you to accept the downsizing of the American dream.” Barack Obama picks up a few more endorsements in Sen. John Kerry (and more importantly, his voter list and organization), South Dakota Senators Tim Johnson and Tom Daschle, and Congressman George Miller (which some see as a nod from Speaker Pelosi, although Pelosi clarified again today that she plans not to endorse anyone.) In the meantime, while a new poll has Obama up 12 in South Carolina (not that polls mean much anymore, of course), South Carolina’s leading Democrat (and my old congressman) Jim Clyburn still hasn’t officially picked his candidate. “Clyburn, continuing to be coy about his endorsement, often tells reporters that he’s made up his mind, but never offers a name. Most signs, though, point to Obama.

Update: “To call that dream [of an Obama presidency] a fairy tale, which Bill Clinton seemed to be doing, could very well be insulting to some of us.” No official word yet, but Clyburn suggests again he’s leaning Obama now, in part because of the Clintons’ dismaying behavior in New Hampshire. Speaking of Senator Clinton’s enthronement of LBJ as the civil rights ideal: “‘We have to be very, very careful about how we speak about that era in American politics,’ said Mr. Clyburn, who was shaped by his searing experiences as a youth in the segregated South and his own activism in those days. ‘It is one thing to run a campaign and be respectful of everyone’s motives and actions, and it is something else to denigrate those. That bothered me a great deal.‘”

Update 2: I posted more about Clyburn’s remarks — and Clinton’s view of history — here.

IA-Day | GitM for Obama.

An Early Round Knockout…

…or a new Democratic Frontrunner?

Barring a split decision of some kind, we should have our first real sense of how Election 2008 will all shake out by late this evening. Obviously, it seems somewhat bizarre to choose our two presidential candidates — a full eleven months before Election Day — solely by who can best navigate the byzantine complexities of the Iowa caucus system. But the cycle being as accelerated as it is, and with money, name recognition, and the post-Iowa press bounce playing the roles that they do, it’s hard to see any other Democratic candidate gaining enough traction between now and Super Duper Tuesday (February 5) to stop Senator Clinton should she win tonight. And — given her high negatives — it’s almost as hard to envision how Clinton might be able to come back should she definitively lose Iowa and New Hampshire to Obama or Edwards. So, with that mind, it’s seems like the last, best time to write up an primary endorsement. Now, as long-time readers might remember, I threw myself behind Bill Bradley in 2000 and tepidly endorsed Howard Dean in 2004, so the track record around here isn’t too good. But, hope springs eternal, so regarding 2008…

THE REST OF THE FIELD:

Even if it is a bit unfair, the fact that no other candidate besides the top three is breaking the 15% viability threshold in the polls helps facilitate clumping them together like this. Still, in a perfect world, CHRIS DODD in particular would merit a closer look from voters. An experienced Senate progressive who’s stressed the importance of universal service, Dodd would likely make a fine president. But, for whatever reason, Dodd never established the media presence to be a true contender in 2008, and he goes down as the top of the second tier.

Senator JOE BIDEN has run a much better campaign than I ever expected, particularly given his dismal performance during the Alito hearings and his “clean and articulate” flub out of the gate. Indeed, Biden has shown a nuanced understanding of global issues and an impressive command over the foreign policy domain, and he has distinguished himself in debates with wit and (surprisingly enough) brevity. If he is inclined to take the job, I expect he’d make a fine Secretary of State in the next Democratic administration (although he may face some competition from the likes of Richard Holbrooke, particularly if Clinton wins the nomination.)

His considerable record notwithstanding, BILL RICHARDSON has never made a positive impression on me this election cycle. He has scowled his way through debates (when he wasn’t capitulating to Clinton), he’s shown himself to be a practitioner of the Dubya Fratboy school of leadership (nicknames, backslapping, etc.), and I’ve yet to hear anything from him that seems even remotely inspiring. In a way, he’s been the Fred Thompson of the Democratic side — the theoretical Dark Horse candidate who’s been a total non-starter. At any rate, the fact that the New Mexico Governor can’t even break the top three in nearby Nevada suggests his presidential bid isn’t long for this world. (For what it’s worth, he’s apparently asked his supporters to back Obama in the caucuses.)

As in the 2004 cycle, DENNIS KUCINICH has been a breath of fresh air on stage — he’s the one (semi-viable) candidate who unabashedly refuses to join his colleagues in the protective camouflage of GOP-lite centrism. (This is no small feat given how reflexive this knee-jerk “triangulating” tendency has become among Dems in recent years.) Still, even he recognizes that Iowa will not be kind to him, and has also asked his supporters to vote Obama. So, (MIKE GRAVEL notwithstanding, I suppose, although, despite his impressive record of service, he never seemed much more than a novelty act), that leaves the Big Three:

HILLARY CLINTON:

Senator Clinton is a smart, tough, and formidable leader, and although the presidential merits of her experience as First Lady has lately been called more into question, no one can deny that she’s a battle-tested veteran of the partisan wars of the 1990s, or that she’s the candidate most accustomed to the vicissitudes of the GOP attack machine. She’d make a very good president, particularly compared to George W. Bush and any Republican running.

Still, I’ve already described my major concerns about Clinton’s candidacy here, here, and particularly here, so if you’ll permit me to quote from that last entry, my issues are thus: “[1] She’s thoroughly lousy on campaign finance reform, to my mind the issue that bears on virtually all others; [2] she apparently didn’t have the wherewithal or leadership instincts to realize the Iraq war was a terrible idea in 2003 (it didn’t take all that much to figure it out, particularly when you figure how much more information Clinton had access to than we did); [3] her view of centrism is apparently to act like Joe Lieberman every so often; and [4] most of the nation has already decided for various reasons that they don’t like her.” Once you factor in her unseemly corporate backers, her woeful view of human rights versus national security, her recent campaign missteps and tribulations, and the dynasty issue to that list, I find it hard to get very enthused about Senator Clinton’s candidacy.

If 2004 taught us anything, it’s that the electability issue is a bit of a canard. We picked John Kerry because we believed he was more “electable” than Howard Dean, and that may have even been true. But can anyone name a single state that Kerry won in the general election that Dean wouldn’t also have carried? All that being said, given her very strong negatives, I do think Senator Clinton is not only the least “electable” of the Big Three, but the only candidate — in either party — who could manage to reunite the fractured GOP this cycle. It may not be her fault, but she will invariably bring out the wingnuts in force to vote against her. I’d even go so far as to say that the GOP is banking on Hillary Clinton as the Democratic nominee. It’s the best possible outcome for them, and they know it.

And given that the leadership Clinton offers is the same unambitious and uninspiring blend of triangulated-to-death DLC centrism practiced by her husband, why even take the chance? This is not to say Bill Clinton was a bad president, not at all. Given the times he was working in and the low-down, unprincipled miscreants he was often forced to contend with, you could even say he accomplished amazing things, once he got his sea legs. Still, we are now at a moment when the Republican party is in rout. The conservative movement which began in 1964, coalesced during the 70’s and 80’s, and gave us the likes of Reagan, Gingrich, and Bush has now — at long last — been thoroughly discredited. Our nation has paid a heavy price for this realization, in both blood and treasure. Now more than ever, it is time for Democrats to shake off the protective camouflage and step into the sunlight. Put simply, it is time for change.

JOHN EDWARDS:

John Edwards is a candidate I’ve always thought highly of and, indeed, I voted for him in the NY primary in 2004. While he got off to a shaky start this cycle, Edwards — arguably the candidate with the most to win or lose today — has improved considerably over the past few months. In fact, I probably agreed with him more than any other candidate onstage in most of the debates. He was often the only person to suggest that the current system is fundamentally broken, and that stronger lobbying and campaign finance laws are needed to cleanse the taint of money from our political process and to make it responsive again to the needs and aspirations of everyday voters. As I said in the two long posts on progressivism several weeks ago, I agree — as many progressives did a century ago — that the unchecked influence of vast sums of money in Washington is arguably the central political problem facing our republic. Countless terrible decisions made by this administration, and by their Democratic counterparts in Congress, flow directly from the sad fact that dollars speak louder than people. And all the 12-point policy proposals in the world on health care, taxes, education, whathaveyou, won’t change a thing until this underlying problem is recognized and rectified. To my mind, Edwards should be applauded for ringing the alarm bell loudly and strongly. (Not for nothing has Ralph Nader endorsed him.) If this argument carries Edwards all the way to the presidency, the result would almost assuredly be good for the country.

That being said, if I were caucusing in Iowa today, I would not be voting for John Edwards. Not because of any fault of Edwards — he’s my strong second choice — but rather because I think there is one other candidate out there who shows more progressive potential. More on him in a moment, but, before I switch topics, here’s the rub. As much as I admire Edwards for articulating the problem before us, I don’t actually agree all that much with his solution to that problem. Put simply, Edwards is sounding the chord of populism, and populism is not progressivism. Populism speaks in a language of class, of insiders and outsiders, of haves and have-nots. Populism is often characterized by free-floating anger towards an elite “insider” cadre of some sort, and, while it’s reductionist to group everyone together like this, populism has worked as well for Tom Watson and Huey Long as it has for Joe McCarthy and Ronald Reagan. It’s a blunt instrument that despises elites of any kind and relies on and perpetuates an us-versus-them mentality among Americans. From everything I’ve seen of him in the debates and otherwise, John Edwards isn’t really using the inclusive language of progressive citizenship to make his case. He’s wielding the often divisive cudgel of populism. Now, if I have to pick a side, I’m obviously with the people against the oligarchs. And if this is the only way America will wake up and recognize the stench of legalized corruption, so be it. But I still think this nation will embrace civic progressivism along the lines I recently discussed, given the right leadership…

BARACK OBAMA:

If Edwards has been articulating the key progressive problem — corruption in government — then Barack Obama embodies the key progressive solution. Like no other candidate we’ve seen on the Left in nearly a half-century, Obama has the potential to restore Americans’ faith in government and bring people back into the political process. Many skeptics among the punditry have derided Obama as a “hopemonger,” but, to my mind, his optimistic appeal shouldn’t be taken lightly. In a country where less than half of us vote anymore, anything that encourages people who have felt disenfranchised to look anew at or become enthused about our common citizenship is a godsend. In short, Obama — young, thoughtful, intelligent, charismatic — seems the only candidate with the potential to spark a true progressive revival. True, Obama isn’t quite speaking the language of progressivism yet. But he’s been veering closer to it than either Clinton or Edwards (Note, for example, the line quoted in his stump speech at the link above: “Americans all across the country are hungry for — desperate for — a new type of politics. Something different. A politics focused not on what divides us but on our common values and our common ideals.” This argument that we are one people, all in it together and bound together as citizens by our commonalities, is the very warp and woof of civic progressivism.)

What goes for the nation goes for the globe. As Andrew Sullivan noted in his endorsement of Obama back in November, an Obama presidency single-handedly “rebrands” the United States in the eyes of the world. No other candidate running suggests so immediately and profoundly that we live by the democratic ideals we espouse, that we are a nation of diversity committed to individual flourishing, and that America is a land where anyone and everyone has the opportunity to rise to their full potential.

This holds true for our enemies as much as our friends (many of whom will be glad to see anyone but Dubya in the Oval Office.) As Sullivan put it, “Consider this hypothetical. It’s November 2008. A young Pakistani Muslim is watching television and sees that this man — Barack Hussein Obama — is the new face of America. In one simple image, America’s soft power has been ratcheted up not a notch, but a logarithm. A brown-skinned man whose father was an African, who grew up in Indonesia and Hawaii, who attended a majority-Muslim school as a boy, is now the alleged enemy. If you wanted the crudest but most effective weapon against the demonization of America that fuels Islamist ideology, Obama’s face gets close. It proves them wrong about what America is in ways no words can.

Progressive potential and global symbolism aside, Obama has shown himself to possess the requisite talents needed to make an excellent president. As we all know, he was the only major candidate with the judgment to speak out against the Iraq War from the start. In debates, he’s proven himself light on his feet and displayed a quick, voracious mind. (As Slate‘s Michael Kinsley put it, “When I hear him discussing some issue, I hear intelligence and reflection and almost a joy in thinking it through.“) During his tenure in the Senate, he’s shown a pronounced ability to work with people across the aisle, and counts among his friends and working partners such paleolithic conservatives as Sam Brownback and Tom Coburn. His Dreams from My Father testifies to a life of travel and experience that would serve him well in the Oval Office. And, unlike Senator Clinton, Obama has been a friend to campaign finance and lobbying reform, which remains crucial to any real change happening in the next four-to-eight years.

Now, obviously there are some lacunae surrounding Obama. He is a young man, and relatively new to national politics. He has admittedly been vague at times, and could have done considerably more these past few months, when given the nation’s ear, to highlight the issues he finds important. There’s a possibility — maybe even a strong possibility — that he’ll end up a Tommy Carcetti-like president: a well-meaning reformer outmatched and buffeted to and fro by the entrenched forces arrayed against him. After nearly eight years of Dubya, Washington is pretty screwed up these days, and I’m not naive enough to think any one politician can undo all the damage that’s been wrought in recent years. Still, given the Democratic field, my money’s on Barack Obama. He has the potential to be a very special candidate — the kind that comes around only once or twice a generation — and I hope this evening sees the first of many successes for his campaign.

GitM votes Obama.

Voices Kerry | The GOP Scandalized.

I don’t really have anything to say about Kerrygate, except, well, is it Tuesday yet? Way to stick your foot in it, Senator. But, really, is this all you guys got? Is this all you can conjure, Rove? The whole GOP media onslaught about it reeks of desperation (as do the gutterball ad campaigns), and, hey, I don’t blame them: times are desperate: “‘So many different kinds of scandals going on at the same time, that’s pretty unique,’ Zelizer said. ‘There were scandals throughout the ’70s, multiple scandals, but the number of stories now are almost overwhelming.‘”

Not this time, Karl.

“He’s making a political speech. He’s sitting in his air-conditioned office on his big, fat backside saying, ‘Stay the course.’ That’s not a plan.” As justifiably disgruntled veteran John Murtha lights into bile-spouting chicken-hawk Karl Rove for another gutterball attack on Dems’ patriotism, the Democrats step up to the bar and offer two substantive plans for phased withdrawal from Iraq, to be debated tomorrow. “Sens. John Kerry of Massachusetts and Russell Feingold of Wisconsin…pushed an amendment requiring that U.S. combat troops be out by July 2007…In a statement, Kerry and Feingold said a deadline ‘gives Iraqis the best chance for stability and self-government’ and ‘allows us to begin refocusing on the true threats that face our country.‘”

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