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Hillary Clinton

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A Wasted Opportunity. | So Now What?

“The task facing the makers of the Obama museum, however, will be pretty much exactly the opposite: how to document a time when America should have changed but didn’t. Its project will be to explain an age when every aspect of societal breakdown was out in the open and the old platitudes could no longer paper it over — when the meritocracy was clearly corrupt, when the financial system had devolved into organized thievery, when everyone knew that the politicians were bought and the worst criminals went unprosecuted and the middle class was in a state of collapse….It was a time when every thinking person could see that the reigning ideology had failed, that an epoch had ended, that the shitty consensus ideas of the 1980s had finally caved in — and when an unlikely champion arose from the mean streets of Chicago to keep the whole thing propped up nevertheless.”

In Salon, Thomas Frank laments the wasted opportunity of the Obama years. “Why, the visitors to his library will wonder, did the president do so little about rising inequality, the subject on which he gave so many rousing speeches? Why did he do nothing, or next to nothing, about the crazy high price of a college education, the Great Good Thing that he has said, time and again, determines our personal as well as national success? Why didn’t he propose a proper healthcare program instead of the confusing jumble we got? Why not a proper stimulus package? Why didn’t he break up the banks? Or the agribusiness giants, for that matter?”

Frank’s piece is definitely a bit overwritten, with its “mausoleum of hope” and all. That being said, I’m on board with his central thesis, as I’ve said several times before. (In fact, I was glad to see when fixing the old archives lately, that however hopey-changey I felt in 2008, I was more measured in my writing than I remembered, bringing up the ominous example of Herbert Hoover in my post-election post and wondering what the heck was going on within two weeks of Obama’s inauguration.)

Also, to get a sense of what a bad place our party is at these days, just look at Kevin Drum’s ridiculous response to this Tom Frank piece. Drum, mind you, is the official blogger of Mother Jones, named after the famous labor leader. And he writes: “It’s easy to recognize this as delusional…Because — duh — the hated neoliberal system worked. We didn’t have a second Great Depression. The Fed intervened, the banking system was saved, and a stimulus bill was passed…As for Obama, could he have done more? I suppose he probably could have, but it’s a close call.”

A close call? C’mon. As I responded on Twitter: “And all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds. This neoliberal horseshit would’ve made Mother Jones blanch. This piece sidesteps O’s GWOT record. 2. It ignores O’s penchant for starting negotiations where they should finish. 3. It presumes filibuster reform impossible. 4. It ignores that financial crisis response grew inequality. And so on.”

And, remember: This fatalistic “Americans are all centrists anyway, Obama did all he could” shrug is coming from the house blogger of one of our foremost progressive journals. It’s pathetic. This is yet another example of we progressive Democrats no longer having the courage of our convictions.

See also this very worthwhile Salon piece on Zephyr Teachout’s challenge to notorious douchebag Andrew Cuomo, by my friend and colleague Matt Stoller, which talks about this exact same phenomenon.

“The basic theory of the ‘New Democrat’ model of governance is that Wall Street and multinational corporate elites produce wealth through the creation of innovative financial practices and technology, and that Democrats should then help middle class and poor citizens by taxing this wealth, and then using some of it to support progressive social programs…This method of running the economy has become so accepted among Democratic leaders that writers like New York Times columnist Paul Krugman and Vox writer Matthew Yglesias now argue that there simply is no alternative…

“There is a hunger in the Democratic Party for making the party serve the interest of regular voters, not the rich. In 2008, liberal Democrats decisively broke from the Clinton legacy and voted for Barack Obama, with his mantra of hope and change. Obama, however, stocked his administration with Clinton administration officials like Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and Janet Yellen. A joke going around Democratic circles after the election was that ‘Those supporting Obama got a president, those supporting Clinton got a job.’ Obama broke with the Clinton name, but brought the Clinton intellectual legacy, and Clinton’s Wall Street-backed machine, into governance…”

“The potentially transformative message of the Teachout-Wu campaign is that the problem is not solely one of personalities or tactical political approaches. Rather it is that the New Democrat model itself, and the Democratic party establishment, is fundamentally at odds with the party’s traditional liberalism…Teachout and Wu are trying to place the citizen at the center of policy. They do that through their proposals for public financing, for antitrust, for social insurance, infrastructure and labor.”

Without vision, the people perish. If we ever want to see the real and positive change that Americans were promised back in 2008, we progressives have to stop acting like we have no other option than to fall into line behind the leftiest of the centrists and clap harder for every occasional, diluted-to-all-hell scrap they throw our way. There’s more to life than Rockefeller Republicanism, and it’s not like we don’t have excellent historical templates to borrow from. We need to dream bigger, stop thinking the status quo is all there is, and push back.

Are Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu going to knock out Andrew Cuomo, a guy who’s quite obviously the poster child for everything that’s wrong with our party? Alas, probably not. But one does not always fight because there is hope of winning. And New York in 2014 is as a good a place as any to start the long uphill slog of taking back our party.

Update: Right on cue, the NYT delves into Andrew Cuomo’s hobbling of the state ethics commission. “[A] three-month examination by The New York Times found that the governor’s office deeply compromised the panel’s work, objecting whenever the commission focused on groups with ties to Mr. Cuomo or on issues that might reflect poorly on him.”More here.

Meanwhile, Blake Zeff thinks Cuomo may have met his match in US Attorney Preet Bharara. “[Bharara] has not only taken possession of the files from the corruption-fighting Moreland Commission that Cuomo recently closed down as part of a budget deal, but has also publicly floated the possibility of investigating the governor’s alleged meddling in its investigations.”

Same Old Hillary.

While working this week on my semi-regular project of fixing the archives around here (something I’d like to complete before GitM’s 15th anniversary in November, but it’s slow, tedious going), I came across this line, from a post on the very first Election 2008 debate back in May 2007:

“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.”

Of course, the 2008 primaries thereafter grew quite heated, and, suffice to say, I didn’t think HRC accorded herself very well. So instead of the cautious, methodical, triangulating centrist we knew, I and millions of others took a gamble on Hope and Change…and ended up with a cautious, methodical, triangulating centrist regardless.

So here we are six years later, with an American electorate that has moved demonstrably to the left, and the former Secretary of State and presumptive Democratic nominee just held her first almost-a-candidate townhall on CNN. And what have we learned so far about the all-new, tanned, rested, and ready, 2016 iteration of Hillary Clinton?

1) She thinks Edward Snowden pals around with terrorists. “I think turning over a lot of that material—intentionally or unintentionally—drained, gave all kinds of information, not only to big countries, but to networks and terrorist groups and the like. So I have a hard time thinking that somebody who is a champion of privacy and liberty has taken refuge in Russia, under Putin’s authority.”

2) Her favorite book is…the Bible. “[T]he Bible was and remains the biggest influence on my thinking. I was raised reading it, memorizing passages from it and being guided by it. I still find it a source of wisdom, comfort and encouragement.” Edgy!

3) She won’t take a position on Keystone. “‘I can’t respond,’ she said…’This particular decision is a very difficult one because there are so many factors at play.'”

4) She was actually against the Iraq War last time around, but just couldn’t come out and say it because she supports the troops. “[I]n fact, in the Democratic Party at that time, the smart political decision, as so many of my colleagues did, was to come out and say ‘Terrible mistake, shouldn’t have done it,’ and you know blame the Bush administration. I had this sense that I had voted for it, and we had all these young men and women over there, and it was a terrible battle environment…So I felt like I couldn’t break faith with them.”

5) By the way, those troops should still be in Iraq right now. “When — President Bush decided, before President Obama became president, that we would leave Iraq in 2011, the United States would end its combat mission, unless the Iraqi government agreed to ask us to stay, under the same conditions that we have all around the world. It’s called a status of forces ingredient. I was involved in a lot of the efforts to come up with what our offer would be. And we made such an offer to then Prime Minister Maliki. And he would not accept the status of forces agreement…[W]e knew Iraq would be quite dangerous for a long time, unpredictable, at the very least — you have to have the host government, in this case Iraq, say, OK, here’s what we want…We didn’t get that done. And I think, in retrospect, that was a mistake by the Iraqi government.”

6) She won’t come right out and endorse paid maternity leave in America. “I think, eventually, it should be, but, right now, we’re seeing some — some very good proposals being implemented in other parts of the country, so that we have answers…I don’t think, politically, we could get it now.” By the way, you know who else doesn’t have paid maternity leave? Lesotho, Papua New Guinea, and Swaziland. That’s it.

7) She won’t come right out and say racism may be a factor in anti-Obama sentiment. “Well, I know that — I don’t want to — I don’t want to say that I verify that, because that would be generalizing too broadly. I believe that there are people who have trouble with ethnicity, with race, with gender, with sexual orientation, you name it. And therefore, they are not developing a reasoned opinion — even if it’s an opinion in opposition, but they are a reacting on a visceral stereotypical basis. And that’s unfortunate.” YES, Madam Secretary. The answer here is “YES.”

8) Her family is apparently shielding wealth from the estate tax, a tax both she and the former President support. A common move among 1%’ers, but nonetheless one that doesn’t inspire confidence.

And so on. Secretary Clinton has moved left on immigration (though she wouldn’t badmouth Obama’s draconian deportation policy), on marijuana (though she said medicinal marijuana “needs more research” and gave the “let the states lead the way” hedge on decriminalization), and on gay marriage (she came out in support…last year.) In all of these, she’s lagging behind the country as a whole, much less the Democratic Party.

TL;DR: Secretary Clinton is still, indisputably, the same cautious, methodical, triangulating centrist as ever. And yet, for some reason — even though it’s hard to think of a single solitary stance she’s taken that would move our party in a new and progressive direction — she’s not only the party of the left’s presumptive standard-bearer — For all intent and purposes, she’s running unchallenged!

Politics these days is depressing, and no mistake.

Geithner: Wrong on Everything

“At every turn on housing — on mass refinancing, on principal reduction, on leverage for homeowners in the bankruptcy process, on forcing banks to write down mortgages, on a modern-day HOLC–the evidence points to Tim Geithner preferring whatever option put the least pressure on banks, rather than actually helping ordinary people. He made far more excuses to do nothing than any effort to make a difference…In fact, the programs were never meant to help homeowners, designed only to ‘foam the runway’ for the banks, to spread out foreclosures and allow banks to absorb them.”

In the wake of Tim Geithner’s new rehab book tour — currently being aided and abetted by Wall Street’s usual court stenographer, Andrew Ross Sorkin — Dave Dayen says not so fast. “I don’t have to just focus on housing; this is indicative of Geithner’s worldview, which sees protecting the financial system at all costs as the only thing that matters.”

Yves Smith has also ably eviscerated Geithner’s game of “Three Card Monte”: “The entire edifice of the piece is a sleight of hand…The focus on TARP (and to a lesser degree, Lehman) allows Sorkin to omit mention of actions that were clearly Geithner’s doing…The bigger point, which is not lost on the public, was there were plenty of other options for saving the system. The one chosen, that left the banks largely unreformed and no one of any consequence punished, was clearly just about the worst of the available options, unless, of course, you are, like Geithner, a banker.”

And here’re economics and finance professors Atif Mian and Amir Sufi: “Whatever reasons he had for opposing assistance to underwater homeowners, a careful evaluation of the policy effects was not among them. The evidence is pretty clear: an aggressive bold attack on household debt would have significantly reduced the horrible impact of the Great Recession on Americans. The fact that Secretary Geithner and the Obama administration did not push for debt write-downs more aggressively remains the biggest policy mistake of the Great Recession.”

Noam Scheiber has his say in TNR: “[The article] inadvertently highlights something deeper about Geithner, which is the shocking extent to which he’s accepted financialization of the economy as a benign, even admirable, development. The people who spend their days shuffling trillions of dollars around the globe are really just like you and me, except with nicer offices. They deserve the same sympathy and respect, notwithstanding their abysmal track record. That blinkered view colors pretty much every one of Geithner’s utterances as he makes the rounds hawking books.”

Also of note: Geithner doesn’t seem to understand how Social Security works, and, in classic #ThisTown fashion, he — the Secretary of the Treasury! — just parrots the same ignorant Beltway line about zomg out-of-control entitlements as all Very Serious People™ do. To wit, from Geithner’s book:

“I remember during one Roosevelt Room prep session before I appeared on the Sunday shows, I objected when Dan Pfeiffer [a senior advisor to the Obama White House] wanted me to say Social Security didn’t contribute to the deficit. It wasn’t a main driver of our future deficits, but it did contribute. Pfeiffer said the line was a ‘dog whistle’ to the left…code to the Democratic base, signaling that we intended to protect Social Security.”

And here’s the LA Times’ Michael Hiltzik: “But let’s get to the nub. Does Social Security ‘contribute to the deficit’? The answer is, bluntly, no. By law, it can’t contribute to the federal deficit, because Social Security isn’t allowed to spend more than it takes in. Those who claim — as Geithner has at one point or another — both that the program contributes to the deficit yet will be forced to reduce benefits to retirees once its trust fund is depleted are trying to have things both ways: The reasoning behind the threat of reduced benefits is that Social Security can’t engage in spending money it doesn’t have, i.e., deficit spending. Pick one, fellas. If it can contribute to the deficit, then there’s no reason to cut benefits.”

So is there’s anything positive about Geithner’s rewriting of history here? Well, the Sorkin piece does include this telling anecdote: “At another point, [Geithner] cheerfully relayed a story that also appears in his book about the time he sought advice from Bill Clinton on how to pursue a more populist strategy: ‘You could take Lloyd Blankfein into a dark alley,’ Clinton said, ‘and slit his throat, and it would satisfy them for about two days. Then the blood lust would rise again.'”

Could somebody please tell me again why I should be excited about Hillary 2016?

Update: Sheila Bair offers her take. “On his book tour, to explain the need for bailouts, Tim has used a clever analogy of a pilot trying to land a plane that is on fire and in the back, sit the terrorists who started it. He argues that the pilot can’t leave the cockpit to put them in handcuffs. He first has to land the plane. The problem with this analogy is that the plane landed at the end of 2008. And let’s face it, instead of handcuffing the terrorists, we escorted them to the executive lounge.”

Running Right on NatSec Again.

“I think turning over a lot of that material—intentionally or unintentionally—drained, gave all kinds of information, not only to big countries, but to networks and terrorist groups and the like. So I have a hard time thinking that somebody who is a champion of privacy and liberty has taken refuge in Russia, under Putin’s authority.”

Not that our next president and erstwhile progressive standard-bearer seems any better: Hillary Clinton insinuates Edward Snowden is up to no good. ‘When he emerged and when he absconded with all that material, I was puzzled because we have all these protections for whistle-blowers. If he were concerned and wanted to be part of the American debate, he could have been,’ she said.”

Yeah, ’cause that worked out great for Chelsea Manning. C’mon. Also, if it were me, and “Pentagon officials” were openly fantasizing about putting a bullet in my head, I’d probably skip town for awhile too.

Still Too Big to Jail.

“‘I think that there is a great sense of frustration and a sense of injustice that the laws have not been enforced in the way most Americans think they should have been,’ said Miller, who wrote the report’s chapter on regulatory enforcement. He notes that 79% of Americans ‘think more bankers and other financial executives should have been criminally prosecuted for their role in the financial crisis.'”

A welcome new report drafted by Americans for Financial Reform and Mike Konczal and championed by Senator Elizabeth Warren makes the much-needed case for further financial reform.“Today, the four biggest banks are 30% larger than they were five years ago. And the five largest banks now hold more than half of the total banking assets in the country.”

At the moment, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 ascendancy to the Democratic nomination, and subsequently the presidency, is looking like a virtual lock. But if Clinton really wants to nip a serious 2016 primary challenge in the bud, she’d start moving to the left on these matters. I’m not holding my breath. (Striking Guy Fawkes Day “Million Mask March” pic above via the OWS Twitter feed.)

Birds of a Feather.

Could I offer one piece of serious advice?…Start thinking now about you want your legacy to be.” Having made peace with The Queen, Tony Blair (Michael Sheen once more) now contends with President Bill and First Lady Hillary Clinton (Dennis Quaid and Hope Davis respectively) in this brief teaser for Richard Loncraine’s The Special Relationship, written by Peter Morgan. (This is the fifth Morgan/Sheen collaboration after The Deal, The Queen, Frost/Nixon, and The Damned United.) With this, Treme, The Pacific, Song of Ice and Fire, and Boardwalk Empire, the reasons for re-subscribing to HBO seem to be mounting.

Blue Sky Mining.

“One of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), said: ‘The American people wanted change in our energy and climate policy. And this is the change that the people are overwhelmingly asking for.’ He called it ‘the most important energy and environment bill in the history of our country.‘” After much wrangling and a half-hearted GOP attempt at filibuster (which is only a prerogative of the Senate), the House passes the Waxman-Markey climate bill, 219-212. (Eight Republicans voted for it, 44 Dems opposed.) The “cap-and-trade” bill “would establish national limits on greenhouse gases, create a complex trading system for emission permits and provide incentives to alter how individuals and corporations use energy.” [Key provisions.]

There is some concern that the bill has been watered down too much out of political necessity: “While the bill’s targets may seem dramatic, they are in fact less than what the science tells us is required to avoid catastrophic warming. The 2020 target in particular is far too weak and quite easy and cheap for the country to meet with efficiency, conservation, renewables and fuel-switching from coal to natural gas.

Still, environmentalists remain hopeful. “It is worth noting that the original Clean Air Act — first passed in 1963 — also didn’t do enough and was subsequently strengthened many times.” And, while the bill — which (sigh) gives away 85% of the new emission allowances (the heart of the “cap-and-trade” market hopefully soon to emerge) to interested parties — looks to “set off a lobbying feeding frenzy,” groups like the NRDC seem to agree that “[t]his is the best bill that can actually get through committee.”

Of course, now the bill has to get through the Senate, where the usual lions lie in wait. “”Senator Inhofe of Oklahoma said ‘It doesn’t matter,’ he declared flatly, ‘because we’ll kill it in the Senate anyway.'” And even some Dems are fatalistic about its prospects. “Mississippi Rep. Gene Taylor (D) voted against the measure that he says will die in the Senate. ‘A lot of people walked the plank on a bill that will never become law,’ Taylor told The Hill after the gavel came down.” Looks like Sen. Reid has his work cut out for him.

Clinton: Mea Culpa, Mexico.

“‘I feel very strongly we have a co-responsibility,’ Clinton told reporters accompanying her to Mexico City a day after the Obama administration said it would send more money, technology and manpower to secure the Southwestern frontier and help Mexico battle the cartels.” During a visit to our ailing neighbor, Secretary of State Clinton admits American culpability in the exacerbating of Mexico’s drug war. “‘Our insatiable demand for illegal drugs fuels the drug trade,’ she said. ‘Our inability to prevent weapons from being illegally smuggled across the border to arm these criminals causes the deaths of police officers, soldiers and civilians… Clearly, what we have been doing has not worked and it is unfair for our incapacity… to be creating a situation where people are holding the Mexican government and people responsible,’ she said.’That’s not right.’

Well, cheers to Sec. Clinton for being honest about some of the causes of Mexico’s escalating drug violence. Still, in pledging tighter borders, more troops, yadda yadda yadda, she and the administration are still dancing around one of the more obvious solutions to the problem.

Gaza: No Easy Answers.

Speaking of those ostensibly terror-despising free peoples, I haven’t written here on the depressing situation in Gaza, but friend and colleague Liam of sententiae et clamores concisely and elegantly summed up my basic sentiment toward recent events the other day: “it seems that almost all the discussion and reporting on the issue is one-sided and simplistic. Let me state my position: I am pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian, anti-Hamas and against current Israeli policy. I oppose what the Israeli government is doing now in the same way I opposed my own government’s war against Iraq: not only is it immoral, heartless, and cynical, but actually increases the long-term security problems for Israel, much like our invasion of Iraq has weakened our own security situation.

Given what little I know about what’s going on, that’s basically my view of it as well. On the one hand, Israel is responding to an untenable security situation — Hamas rockets being fired into neighborhoods and cities — that we wouldn’t tolerate for a second. (In fact, we invaded Iraq on a much flimsier security pretext.) Still, it’s hard to shake the feeling that Israel is trying to run the table right here right now, in the twilight moments of the Dubya presidency, because they know they have carte blanche from 43 to do what they will. And I suspect this particular neocon-run advance, like all the rest of ‘em in recent years, is doomed to failure — if anything, I’d wager, it’s just swelling the ranks (and the coffers) of Hamas.

Regardless, the Obama administration and Secretary of State Clinton are going to have their work cut out for them. I’m not one who believes particularly that conflicts with roots in millennia-long religious strife can get “solved” in one or two US presidential terms. But let’s at least hope, under their watch, we can start to achieve the type of broader range of discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that you can find in…say, Israel. It’s both embarrassing and extremely counterproductive for our nation to be seen — and to continually be used — as a knee-jerk diplomatic dupe that will always blindly support policies initiated by the most conservative factions in Israeli politics.

A Rose By Any Other Name.

So I take it y’all have been following the recent outrage in Empire State politics: A woman who’s never held any kind of elected office but happens to have a big, important surname just up and decides she’d like to be the Senator from New York. To accommodate this sudden quasi-royal prerogative, other deserving candidates in the Democratic party are completely shunted aside, including some who’ve spent their entire careers in public service. And, here’s the real kicker: At the end of the day, despite having very little to show for her legislative career, this well-named woman is for some reason made Secretary of State.

Ok, I’m partly kidding. Nonetheless, I find the recent furor over Caroline Kennedy’s possible two-year appointment to the New York Senate to be a bit willfully obtuse about both recent events and the former occupants of that Senate seat. Even the obvious Clinton analogy notwithstanding, lest we forget: Longtime Massachusetts resident Bobby Kennedy was only tangentially qualified for a New York Senate seat in 1964, and even his brother Teddy was basically appointed the first time ’round. And, besides, if Clinton’s perch doesn’t go to Mrs. Kennedy, who then is waiting in the wings? Well, most likely, Andrew Cuomo. A real bootstrapper, that one.

Don’t get me wrong: In principle, I’m dead set against the idea of Senate seats being doled out on the basis of familial connections. It’s an ugly, monarchical habit, and if the seat ends up going to a relatively unknown pol who’s paid their dues (a la Nita Lowey, who got pushed out for Clinton in 2000), all the better. Still, I’m inclined to think charitably of Caroline Kennedy for several reasons other than her name and historic lineage: her early advocacy of Sen. Obama and the good work she’s done for my sister’s organization over the years, to name just two. And, if Gov. Patterson were to end up choosing her…well, ok. I can think of more egregious injustices in this world. To watch the TNR gang throw an extended fit about it, or read Salon hackmeister Joan Walsh (who, by the way, penned an extraordinarily self-serving 2008 retrospective this past week) put down her Clinton pom-poms for a second to tsk-tsk the Kennedy “celebrity” candidacy is, in a word, irritating.

The Man of the Hour.

So, can you guess who TIME’s Person of the Year for 2008 turned out to be?

Not a huge surprise of course. Regardless, in honor of the occasion, and since now seems as good a time as any to fire up the 2008-in-retrospect train, below are some of the longer GitM essays on President-elect Obama over the past year and change. (And if you’re really a glutton for punishment, and want to relive all the debate coverage or somesuch, there’s always the election 2008 archives.)

  • Progressivism, a Born Loser?, “Progressivism Continued” — November 2007. Wherein the case is made that [a] Obama is more progressive than he is liberal and that [b], contra friend and colleague David Greenberg, that’s exactly what America needs right now.
  • IA-Day | GitM for Obama” — January 2008. An overview of the Democratic field as it stood the morning of the Iowa caucus, and an endorsement of Barack Obama.
  • The Future Begins Now,” “Iowa By the Numbers” — January 2008. On Senator Obama’s victory in the Iowa caucuses.
  • Barack Obama and the Generation Gap” — January 2008 — A plea to Baby Boom voters, borrowing heavily from my man Bob Dylan, to get behind Sen. Obama.
  • Greenberg: Missing the Thread” — January 2008. Arguing, again with friend David Greenberg, that there is much more to Obama’s candidacy than just the “Great White Hope.”
  • The Great Need of the Hour” — January 2008. An excerpt from then-Senator Obama’s MLK day speech.
  • Yes, We Can,” “Oh Carolina!” — January 2008. Excerpts from Sen. Obama’s speech, and parsing Obama’s victory, in my home state of South Carolina.
  • A President Like My Father,” It is Time Now for Barack Obama” — January 2008. Excerpts from Caroline and Ted Kennedy’s respective endorsements of the Senator.
  • “Empty Suit…with a Stovepipe Hat” — January 2008. The Tribune‘s Eric Zorn makes the Lincoln v. Seward comparison explicit.
  • Lakoff on the Dem Divide” — January 2008. Linguist and political theorist George Lakoff endorses Obama.
  • Showtime | Barack Obama for President” — February 2008. A round-up of Obama endorsements, and primary news thus far, on Super Tuesday.
  • We’re Going the Distance” — February 2008. Parsing the Super Tuesday results.
  • Obama Endorses La Follette” — February 2008. In Wisconsin, Obama rhetorically tips his hat to the progressives of yesteryear.
  • Dodd Comes Forward” — February 2008. Senator Chris Dodd becomes the first former primary opponent to endorse Obama.
  • We are Hope Despite the Times” — March 2008. Michael Stipe endorses Obama.
  • Stepping Back for the Big Picture” — March 2008. On the state of the race during the six-week Pennsylvania lull.
  • A More Perfect Union” — March 2008. On Senator Obama’s “Race in America” speech.
  • Our Five Year Mission” — May 2008. Barack Obama and others respond to the fifth anniversary of “Mission Accomplished” in Iraq.
  • So Happy Together… | It’s On.” — May 2008. The McCain-Obama general election unofficially begins.
  • The Lesson of the Ring” — June 2008. Some closing thoughts on the seemingly never-ending 2008 Democratic primary.
  • The Nominee” — June 2008. Excerpt from Sen. Obama’s nomination-clinching victory speech.
  • The Bygones are Bygones” — June 2008. Senators Obama and Clinton make peace.
  • Obama: Don’t Tread on Me” — June 2008. Thought on and excerpts from Sen. Obama’s “patriotism” speech in Independence, MO.
  • Wir sind alle Berliners” — July 2008. On Sen. Obama’s summer world tour and speech in Berlin.
  • That’s Me in the Corner…” — August 2008. On Sen. Obama’s visit to Chesapeake, VA, which I attended.
  • The Ticket” — August 2008. Sen. Obama chooses Joe Biden as his running mate.
  • Wow,” “Obama: The Main Event” — August 2008. Reflections on my visit to Denver, and Sen. Obama’s nomination speech.
  • Astride the Mad Elephant” — October 2008. On the sad turn taken by the McCain campaign.
  • Barack Obama for President” — November 2008. The closing argument for Sen Obama, on election day.
  • 44,” “Thoughts after the Quake” — November 2008. Early reflections on the election of Barack Obama.
    Phew, what a long, strange trip it’s been! Of course, in all the important ways, we’re only just getting started.

  • The Restoration?

    ‘You could have had an administration with a sprinkling of Clinton people, it would have been fine,’ said Robert Kuttner, co-editor of the American Prospect…’But when so many of the top people are holdovers, and he’s promoting change, you have to say, wait a minute.’” As the official Cabinet appointments file in, some left-minded folk cast a wary eye upon the Clintonian tinge of the Obama cabinet. (If you haven’t been keeping up, among those announced by the transition of late are Eric Holder at Justice, Tim Geithner at Treasury, and Larry Summers(!) as in-house economic guru, and word has leaked of Bill Richardson for Commerce and You-Know-Who for State.)

    To be honest, with a few exceptions — After his egregious stint at Harvard and his hand in forging the economic mess we’re in now, I’m not altogether sure Larry Summers deserved to “fail up” — I’m not only fine with so many experienced Clinton-era officials in the Obama cabinet, I expected it. This was the great fallacy of the McCain campaign — For all his talk of maverick independence, there was never any substantial trough of non-Dubya Republicans out there from which McCain could’ve picked a government. A few cosmetic changes in the Cabinet aside, a McCain Washington would by necessity have been run by the same jokers who brought us the last eight years. And, for better or worse, we Dems also don’t have a different farm team of any kind. As Robert Borosage well puts it in the article above, “It hasn’t surprised me that he’s chosen stars from the Clinton bench, because that’s the bench we have.

    All that being said, I’d be lying if I didn’t note that the probable choice of Sen. Clinton for Secretary of State gives me pause. Part of my qualm, I suppose, is just a temperamental defect in my grudge-carrying Irish character — I’d be the first to admit that I lean towards “the Chicago way” in these sorts of things. (If it were up to me, Joe Lieberman would be working the Senate cloakroom after his behavior this election cycle, and, imho, Sen Clinton still has quite a bit to answer for as well.) But even allowing for my own petty vindictiveness, I’m not feeling the pick. Notwithstanding her dubious qualifications for State — don’t we have any career diplomats who would fit the bill? — Sen. Clinton’s record in foreign policy matters thus far is not what you’d call stellar. (See also: the Iraq vote, the Iran vote.) And, to put it delicately, if we learned anything from the Clinton campaign this past cycle, it’s that management skills may not be her forte — Wouldn’t we all be better served with Sen. Clinton replacing Ted Kennedy as the new liberal lion of the Senate?

    Mind you, I can see the political merits of the pick, both in terms of its Lincolnian magnanimity (it enhances Obama’s “goodbye to all that” post-partisan prestige, and completes the Seward analogy) and its Johnsonian shrewdness. (As LBJ said of J. Edgar Hoover, ““I would rather have him inside the tent pissing out than outside the tent pissing in.“) And, if the president-elect believes Sen. Clinton to be the woman for the job, despite everything that’s happened over the year, I’m inclined to trust his judgment on the matter. I just hope it works out better than I fear. (Pic via Sullivan.)

    Clinton II: I Want to Believe.

    “Everything I learned in my eight years as president and in the work I’ve done since, in America and across the globe, has convinced me that Barack Obama is the man for this job. He has a remarkable ability to inspire people, to raise our hopes and rally us to high purpose. He has the intelligence and curiosity every successful president needs. His policies on the economy, taxes, health care and energy are far superior to the Republican alternatives. He has shown a clear grasp of our foreign policy and national security challenges, and a firm commitment to repair our badly strained military. His family heritage and life experiences have given him a unique capacity to lead our increasingly diverse nation and to restore our leadership in an ever more interdependent world. The long, hard primary tested and strengthened him. And in his first presidential decision, the selection of a running mate, he hit it out of the park.:

    And with that, President Bill Clinton, in his impressive throwback performance tonight, helped to rectify the most egregious lacunae in his wife’s speech the night before. [Transcript.] In some ways, the former President’s speech exhibited a classic Clinton dynamic: His remarks had many of the same issues as those of Sen. Clinton — they were often relentlessly self-aggrandizing, for example — and yet, as with so many other things, he’s often just better at getting away with it. “Vote for Obama, because he’s the Second Coming of Me in 1992″ is an argument that’s almost breathtaking in the audacity of its self-absorption, and yet Bill Clinton — when he’s on his game, as he was tonight — is remarkably good at making such egotism seem more like a magnanimous benediction, kindly bestowed on his Democratic successor. It’s a neat trick, no doubt…and when he goes after the GOP, few in our party do it better.

    That being said, I thought even President Clinton’s unparallelled powers of salesmanship and seduction couldn’t sell me a line like “If, like me, you still believe America must always be a place called Hope, then join Hillary, Chelsea and me in making Sen. Barack Obama the next president of the United States.” Not when you spend even a moment remembering anything Clinton had to say about “false hopes” or “fairy tales” over the first six months of this year. But that’s watching the magician’s hands move, isn’t it?

    (If It’s Wednesday,) We Roll Together.

    “Madam Secretary, on behalf of the great state of New York, with appreciation for the spirit and dedication of all who are gathered here, with eyes firmly fixed on the future in the spirit of unity, with the goal of victory, with faith in our party and our country, let’s declare together in one voice, right here, right now, that Barack Obama is our candidate and he will be our president.”

    In a choice bit of stagecraft that helped to partially salve the memory of her speech last night, Sen. Clinton shut down the official roll call and called for Barack Obama’s nomination by acclamation. In terms of a show of unity, I thought this was nicely done all around, and it went over like gangbusters on the floor. “Another Clinton advisor told me Wednesday morning that the negotiations that were being reported were never really that involved — basically, the roll-call vote was handled as Obama’s aides wanted.” If so, well-played.

    Clinton: He’s not me, but I guess he’ll have to do.

    “To my supporters, to my champions — to my sisterhood of the traveling pant suits — from the bottom of my heart, thank you. Thank you because you never gave in and you never gave up. And together we made history.” Have you ever heard Chris Rock’s stand-up riff about folks who want massive props from everyone for doing things they were supposed to do anyway? (“I take care of my kids! I’ve never been to jail!“) This, in a nutshell, was my impression of Sen. Clinton’s guilt-trip call to her remaining supporters last night, which — I doubt few will be surprised — I found mostly self-centered wallowing, and all in all a missed opportunity. [Transcript.] Following the address, the media were mostly sent into paroxysms of adulation for the Senator’s remarks, with my old employer leading the charge on CNN. I’m not sure we watched the same speech. OMG, she tepidly endorsed the winner of the Democratic nomination? She’s supposed to.

    Now, if you’re here, you probably already know my feelings about Senator Clinton’s candidacy this past spring, how it went negative early in a fit of panic and poor planning, how it was distended beyond all proportion well after the fight was already over, how it appropriated GOP talking points for its own purposes and needlessly gave the McCain campaign all manner of soundbites (which it is now happily having the media play for them.) I just can’t take Sen. Clinton seriously as some tribune of the working class, particularly given she’s had someone waiting on her hand and foot since 1978, when she became First Lady of Arkansas. Nor do I buy into her recent “I’m Every Woman,” Shiva, Shatterer of Glass Ceilings routine: Even notwithstanding her behavior amid the various bimbo eruptions over the years, it was Sen. Clinton’s campaign who was the one trafficking in stale, sexist notions of “testicular fortitude” all the time. And it was she, among the candidates for president, who felt the dangerous need to dangle her phantom cajones by talking of “obliterating” Iran and/or Iraq. In all honesty, I think it’s safe to say that many of the suffragettes she’s now taken to invoking would blanche at her campaign’s behavior over the past year.

    All that being said, now was the time for unity, yadda yadda yadda, so I went into Clinton’s speech with a relatively open mind. But then, true to form, she started talking about herself…again…and she just wouldn’t stop. The line people are keying into as some massively impressive act of self-abnegation is this: “I want you — I want you to ask yourselves, were you in this campaign just for me, or were you in it for that young Marine and others like him?…Were you in it for all the people in this country who feel invisible?” Now, I know I’m not one of the um, hundreds, of Dems who are finding it so hard to get over Sen. Clinton’s inability to manage a campaign this past spring that I’ll vote for McCain as a result. But this, to me, is a grossly self-absorbed way of endorsing Barack Obama for president, one fully in keeping with what we’ve come to expect from the Senator from New York.

    Meanwhile, Sen. Clinton said nothing to atone for her lamentable, injurious, and unnecessary commander-in-chief digs of a few months ago. She praised John McCain’s personality without saying much, if anything, nice about Barack Obama. Basically, the sum total of her argument last night was “Barack Obama is the lesser of two evils, and he almost’s as good as me, so get behind him.” Forgive me for not finding that much of a rousing call to unity.

    PUMA: Don’t Believe the Hype | Bill & Ed, Sssh.

    Looking over the coverage from afar, it seems much is being made at Salon — naturally — of the PUMA crowd (particularly given that tonight is Clinton night.) Well, don’t believe a word of it. I happened to catch this exact same “protest” yesterday afternoon, and there couldn’t have been more than fifty people involved. Frankly, I’ve seen bigger protests by the third party and no party types than I have the stark raving Clintonites, and they don’t seem to be getting any coverage. As far as overt protests by the ex-Clintoners go, Salon, and related media outlets, are trying to make a mountain out of a very feeble-looking and tenuous molehill.

    That being said, over in his corner Bill Clinton still seems to be keeping up with his protest of one. “Suppose you’re a voter, and you’ve got candidate X and candidate Y. Candidate X agrees with you on everything, but you don’t think that candidate can deliver on anything at all. Candidate Y you agree with on about half the issues, but he can deliver. Which candidate are you going to vote for?” Honestly, Mr. President, get a grip.

    Update: Rendell’s off the reservation too. “Barack Obama is handsome. He’s incredibly bright. He’s incredibly well spoken, and he’s incredibly successful — not exactly the easiest guy in the world to identify with…He is a little like Adlai Stevenson.

    The Ticket.

    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.

    Surveying the Wreckage.

    “Above all, this irony emerges: Clinton ran on the basis of managerial competence — on her capacity, as she liked to put it, to ‘do the job from Day One.’ In fact, she never behaved like a chief executive, and her own staff proved to be her Achilles’ heel…Her hesitancy and habit of avoiding hard choices exacted a price that eventually sank her chances at the presidency.The Atlantic‘s Josh Green, who covered the dirt on the Patty Doyle firing earlier this year, tells the story of Sen. Clinton’s primary bid from the inside (thanks mainly to being the beneficiary of vindictive document dumps from across the campaign hierarchy.)

    Among the many interesting revelations, Mark Penn is apparently an even bigger asshole than he seemed during the primaries. Regarding Sen. Obama: “All of these articles about his boyhood in Indonesia and his life in Hawaii are geared towards showing his background is diverse, multicultural and putting that in a new light. Save it for 2050…his roots to basic American values and culture are at best limited. I cannot imagine America electing a president during a time of war who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values…Let’s use our logo to make some flags we can give out. Let’s add flag symbols to the backgrounds.” Classy.

    Update: Speak of the devil. While giving kudos to McCain for his Paris Hilton ad, Mark Penn emerges from his cave to extol the usefulness of negative advertising. “Picking a president is not just about the candidates’ strengths but also about how their weaknesses can manifest themselves. Imagine if, in 2000, Al Gore’s advertisements had hit George W. Bush hard over incompetence on foreign affairs and as a trigger-happy cowboy.

    Echoes of the Spring.

    “‘The most important thing we learned is this: Hillary Clinton won 8 of the last 13 primaries,’ said Steve Schmidt, Mr. McCain’s top strategist. ‘He is beatable.'” Facing an uphill battle against Sen. Obama, John McCain takes several pages from the Clinton playbook. Well, thanks much for pre-plowing that road, Senator. I don’t think it’ll make much difference in the end, whatever the polls say at the moment, but we might as well make the GOP work for a strategy next time.

    In related news, Bill Clinton still seems stuck in a moment he can’t get out of. “‘I am not a racist,’ he continued. ‘I’ve never made a racist comment and I never attacked him [Obama] personally.’” Uh, riiight. Tell you what, Mr. President: We’ll forgive you if you just stop insulting our intelligence about it.

    Update: He’s still picking at the scab. “‘You can argue that nobody is ready to be President,’ the former President told ABC News.

    Into the Memory Hole. | For the Record.

    “‘She’s no longer campaigning for president,’ said Clinton spokesman Mo Elleithee. ‘She’s focused on her work in the Senate, campaigning for Senator Obama and other Democrats.’” With the Dems back on the same team, the Clinton campaign scrubs its website of anti-Obama material from the primary era. As such, this seems as good a time as any to definitively put to rest these Penn-inspired primary fictions as well:

  • Sen. Obama won’t be able to compete in crucial swing states.“: He’s currently up in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, as well as Michigan, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Iowa, and Virginia…and does Montana count?

  • Sen. Obama can’t even win the big Dem states“: The most recent polls have Obama up 28 in California and up 20 in New York.

  • Sen. Obama has a ‘Latino problem’“: Obama currently beats McCain by 30 among Hispanics, 59%-29%. (This is already better than Kerry in 2004.)

    So R.I.P., goofy primary reasoning. You won’t be missed.

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