Saturday, February 23, 2008

Hillary throws down

"Shame on you, Barack."

With her back against the wall in crucial March 4 contests in Ohio and Texas, Hillary Clinton lashed out at Barack Obama today and charged that he is intentionally misleading voters in those states with mailers that include incorrect information about her positions on health care coverage and NAFTA.

You can see the story and the videos here:

Hillary has a hissy

This was barely 48 hours after Clinton was roundly praised throughout the World of Punditry for her closing lines in the Texas debate on Thursday, where she shook hands with Obama and said she was so proud to be on the stage with him.

As you can see, Hillary showed more emotion in that press conference since the day she cried at an event before the New Hampshire primary. The finger-waving, outraged former first lady reminded me a bit of her husband during his infamous news conference in 1998 when he insisted, "I did not ... have ... sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky ..."

What was the line from Hamlet?

"The lady doth protest too much, methinks."

Obama called Clinton's anger "tactical," pointing out that the mailers in question had been around for several days -- and possibly weeks -- by the time Clinton lashed out on Saturday.

"The notion that somehow we're engaging in nefarious tactics I think is pretty hard to swallow," Obama said.

It seems pretty obvious that Clinton is trying to draw Obama into an ugly confrontation that would give her a springboard into next week. She is trying to re-establish herself as the controlling personality in the race that is rapidly slipping out of her reach. By painting Obama as a negative campaigner, Clinton hopes to shatter the positive, above-the-fray feel that Obama has cultivated throughout the primary season.

Obama's measured, breezy response is just the ticket to take the hot air out of the sails that Hillary hopes will put her faltering campaign back into motion.

Travelin' gal

I'm in the Birmingham airport waiting to board a flight to Kansas City. I'm on the way to visit a college buddy of mine. I like to think of her as what my twin would be like, if I had one -- only she's much cooler and hipper than I. I can tell you about politics; she's an expert on all things celebrity. Check out her Fantasy Tabloid League at

I'll try to post a couple of times while I'm gone -- if I can get her out from in front of the computer, where she writes her own blog: She is Consuela B.

There's the boarding call ... Gotta go flap my wings now!
Sent wirelessly via BlackBerry from T-Mobile.

Something for the locals

Local folks who read the editorial page of the Opelika-Auburn News might remember seeing a letter to the editor written this week from one of our neighbors. Here it is, reproduced for you in its entirety:

Dear Editor,

American women who read “The Nation” must be discouraged to read “Long Road to Hoe” Feb. 4, that states “the United States has one of the most punitive and regressive politics on reproductive health in the developed world.”

The Nation goes on “…how things would be different if women’s needs were met rather than the demands of a fundamentalist Christian right. Almost without exception in Western European countries where abortions are legal, they are included in national healthcare plans. They do not require parental consent … contraceptives are reasonably priced, covered by health insurance and often available without prescription; teens and adults have access to emergency contraception in hospitals or over the counter at pharmacies; and abstinence-only education is rare.

“When (they) choose to have babies, they generally get free prenatal care and birthing options. They receive medical and family leave. Single mothers have access to professional day care.

“Countries with these policies have lower unintended pregnancy and abortion rates.

“The major development agencies do not deny funding to countries where abstinence is not put forward. Family planning funds are not withheld.”

What seems inconceivable is that there are American women who would vote for Mike Huckabee, though he would try to make the Constitution more Biblical and American women’s rights more in keeping with Muslim counterparts. Why do men like him? To deny the humanity of women?


Simply put, I couldn't let this pass without addressing it.

The first thing I noticed about the letter is that there were only three and a half sentences in it that our neighbor actually wrote himself. He copied the balance of the article -- about 75 percent -- from the self-described progressive magazine The Nation, hardly an evenhanded or balanced political voice.

Our neighbor parrots The Nation's apparent position that only societies with legalized abortion can have social policies that are beneficial for women and children. His final paragraph, the only one of the letter that is completely his, says it is "inconceivable" that American women would support Mike Huckabee and insinuates that only men who want to "deny the humanity of women" can support him.

I'll take a shot at providing our neighbor with some answers:

  • Perhaps American women support Huckabee because they believe in the sanctity of life, not in the sanctity of the circumstance under which that life was created.

  • Perhaps American women support Huckabee because they don't envy any country where young teenage girls can undergo potentially life-threatening, but assuredly life-altering, surgery without the knowledge or agreement of the parents who have fed, clothed, housed, taught, raised, nutured, loved and protected them from infancy.

  • Perhaps American women support Huckabee because they don't believe that protecting the sanctity of life should be incongruous with the availability of good prenatal care, birthing options, family and medical leave and quality, professional child care.

  • Perhaps American women support Huckabee because they don't believe principle and choice must be mutually exclusive.

  • Perhaps American women support Huckabee because they believe that personal responsibility and personal freedom can co-exist.

  • Perhaps ... just perhaps, American women support Huckabee because they believe he might have a better understanding of their values than the editors of The Nation magazine.

  • And as for American men, perhaps they support Huckabee not to "deny the humanity of women" but, in fact, to do the opposite: To stand up for the humanity of even the youngest women -- and men -- who cannot yet do so for themselves.

And so, friends, what I think is inconceivable is that our neighbor, as a man, would presume to second-guess the motives of millions of American women as they go to the polls for themselves and their posterity.

Friday, February 22, 2008

John McCain and the New York Times

For all you Saturday visitors, here's a rundown of my posts so far on the McCain-NYT saga, in chronological order:

There are two quick updates to this story: One, McCain has decided that he has said enough on this issue and has made it clear he will no longer address it, leaving the Times to face the music alone. Two, McCain's people are making some serious lemonade out of the skirmish. From the political blog:

But after McCain and his advisers aggressively denounced the article Thursday as false and misleading, campaign aides say the story actually led to their most successful drive-by fundraising effort to date.

“There was a lot of outrage across the country on this story, and the campaign has raised a lot of money in the last 24 hours,” said Steve Schmidt, senior campaign adviser, declining to specify how much was raised.

Both the Republican National Committee and McCain used the article as a fundraising pitch Thursday. In an e-mail sent to donors, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis asked them “to counteract the liberal establishment and fight back against The New York Times.” Aides said it was the most lucrative e-mail of the campaign.

And that, friends, is how you manage a political crisis: Meet it head on, stare it down, will the life out of it and move on.

Of course, it doesn't hurt if the kid who caused the crisis on the bus happens to slam his finger in the window, unwittingly distracting everyone with all the blood everywhere.


Here's a link to the CNN report, "Are you 'Obamafied?'"

The political world's latest "Barackstar" is rocketing into the lexicon. CNN's Jeanne Moos reports:

This is the report that tipped me off to the Encyclopedia Baracktannica, which you see below.

My personal favorite so far are "Obambardier," a campaign staffer in charge of direct mail, and "Baracker spaniel," a canine Obama supporter.

You know you are laughing.

What are your favorites? Do you have any suggestions for new words, from Obama's name or other candidates? Let's hear them in comments.

The Encyclopedia Baracktannica

Compliments of, I give you the Encyclopedia Baracktannica, a look at some of the words Barack Obama's name has spawned throughout the presidential primary season.

As Slate's Chris Wilson points out, "It's hard to imagine that Barack Obama would be as big of a phenomenon if his name were, say, Tom Smith. As numerous fans, detractors, reporters, and bloggers have demonstrated, it's a name that lends itself to neologisms -- everything from Barackstar to Obamania to Omentum."

Take a minute and check it out. Click on the "more" button to browse the entries.

I guarantee you a laugh or two!

SNL's Faux-bama update

Here's a nice article from Politico about the search for SNL's own Obama:

Except for the error that Mike Huckabee is guest hosting (he's making a cameo appearance), it's a nice article that gives perspective to why the selection is important.

One reason is that it's likely that we'll be seeing a lot of Obama -- and Fauxbama -- into November and beyond.

Ralph Nader rides again

Vote for Ralph Nader for president. No?

How about now? Are you sure?

Or now?

Or now?

Maybe you've changed your mind, so ...

How about now?

Ralph Nader appears to be poised to announce his fifth (1992, 1996, 2000, 2004) candidacy for president of the United States. He will appear Sunday on NBC's Meet the Press, revisiting the perch from which he made his 2004 campaign official.

CNN reports that "last month, Nader began an exploratory presidential campaign and launched a Web site that promises to fight 'corporate greed, corporate power, corporate control.'"

The title of Nader's book, "Crashing the Party" may come to mean something else entirely for Democrats who hope to take back the White House in 2008.

Here's the link to Wikipedia's Nader entry:

Other Nader titles include "The Ralph Nader Reader" and "Civic Arousal." True political voyeurs won't be able to keep themselves from checking out Nader's web site (go ahead, I'll wait for you):

"Civic Arousal" is out of stock at right now. That's coincidence, right?

The Xerox strikes again

During her debate with Barack Obama yesterday, Hillary Clinton condemned Obama for using phrases "borrowed" from his national co-chairman, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick:

CLINTON: Well, I think that if your candidacy is going to be about words, then they should be your own words. That's, I think, a very simple proposition. (APPLAUSE) And, you know, lifting whole passages from someone else's speeches is not change you can believe in, it's change you can Xerox. And I just don't think...
OBAMA: Come on.
CLINTON: No, but, you know, but, Barack, it is. Because, you know, if you look -- if you look -- if you look at the YouTube of these videos, it does raise questions. Now, there is no doubt that you are a passionate, eloquent speaker, and I applaud you for that. But when you look at what we face in this country, we do need to unite the country, but we have to unite it for a purpose around very specific goals.

How 24 hours can change things!

Today, Clinton came under scrutiny from Obama's camp and others as they questioned the originality of her much-ballyhooed parting remarks, some of which they said sounded strangely like those delivered by John Edwards when he dropped out of the presidential race on Jan. 30 and others of which sounded much like a speech her husband gave in 1992.

Here are the snippets, complements of CNN; read them, and decide for yourself.
BILL CLINTON, November 1992: "The hits that I took in this election are nothing compared to the hits the people of this state and this country have been taking for a long time."
HILLARY CLINTON, Thursday night: "You know, the hits I’ve taken in life are nothing compared to what goes on every single day in the lives of people across our country."

JOHN EDWARDS, during a debate in Iowa in December: "What's not at stake are any of us. All of us are going to be just fine no matter what happens in this election. But what's at stake is whether America is going to be fine."
JOHN EDWARDS, Jan. 30 withdrawal speech: "But I want to say this to everyone: with Elizabeth, with my family, with my friends, with all of you and all of your support, this son of a millworker's gonna be just fine. Our job now is to make certain that America will be fine."
HILLARY CLINTON, Thursday night: "You know, whatever happens, we're going to be fine. You know, we have strong support from our families and our friends. I just hope that we'll be able to say the same thing about the American people. And that's what this election should be about."

One of two things is true: Either Hillary is overpaying her speechwriter, or we have reached the political platitude point of no return.

Your thoughts?

Barack breaks it down

Check this out:

SuperFriends and the NYT

I must have missed this in all the excitement yesterday, but NYT Executive Editor Bill Keller is playing the victim card.

Critics of his handling of the McCain story are "trying to change the subject to us," Keller whined, and McCain's advisers are attempting "to use the New York Times as an opportunity to rally the base."

Changing the subject from weak and unsubstantiated allegations to irresponsible reporting and editing practices at one of the nation's largest newspapers?? Now why would anyone want to do THAT?!

Let's just put it this way: When I was in college, a story like the one that appeared on the front page of the Times yesterday would have earned me a great, big, fat F -- that is, if my professors had allowed me to turn in such a lousy effort at all, which I suspect they wouldn't.

And as for the GOP using the story to rally its base ... GASP!! How dare they??

The Times is only one of modern conservatism's most-reviled targets. This "story," which is turning out to be more of a scandal for the Times than for McCain himself, is just the latest example of why. It's "arrogance run amok," to borrow a phrase from Sydney Ellen Wade.

Conservatives were so distracted by the infighting among the SuperFriends that they were beginning to lose sight of their archenemy from the Legion of Doom.

Thanks to Keller and the NYT, the race is falling back into perspective for them.

"Obama" found

KALB in Los Angeles reports that Lorne Michaels has found his Obama, but those in the know are tight-lipped so far about who it is.

Cast members say after an exhaustive search, SNL has found someone to impersonate Senator Obama.

Amy Poehler says, “I know I'm not playing him, and other than that, you’re just going to have to watch on Saturday. That’s how it works.”

Read the whole article here:

Desperately seeking Obama, and other SNL news

Good morning, all!

While the political establishment is busy digesting analysis of last night's Democratic debate and the latest jabs being exchanged between presumptive GOP nominee John McCain and the New York Times, the rest of the world awaits important political news of a different kind.

Saturday Night Live godfather Lorne Michaels let the word go out through the streets earlier this week that the show was looking for someone to play Barack Obama throughout the rest of campaign season. It appears that Michaels is comfortable enough with Obama's success to this point that he figures he'll be around until November -- if not as the nominee, at least as a figure as influential as the nominee. So auditions were held Tuesday ... and the world waits!

I actually held this post from yesterday in hopes that the announcement would be made by this morning; Michaels had anticipated making it late yesterday. But, no dice so far this morning. We can console ourselves in the meantime with this offering from comedian Argus Hamilton:

Saturday Night Live auditioned comedians Tuesday to find the one who does the funniest Barack Obama impression for the show's sketches. Finding a comedian to impersonate Hillary was simple. Playing a corpse is everybody's first acting job in show business.

While Michaels is deciding on his "Faux-bama," maybe he'll pick up Hamilton -- at least on a temporary basis. Playing a corpse? Come on! You know you laughed when you read it!

In other SNL news, GOP still-a-candidate Mike Huckabee will make an appearance on the show Saturday, its first one since the writers' strike ended last week. Tina Fey will host, so Huckabee will be relegated to a sketch or two. He's always good for a one-liner. Anyone want to propose any sketch ideas for him?

Finally, the 16-week-long writers' strike is estimated to have cost $2.5 billion (yes, with a 'b'), according to the Economic Forecast Report.

There's nothing funny about that.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Where is NOW when you need them?

Part-time pundit Lisa Caputo, who is also Hillary Clinton's former press secretary, just delivered the worst line I've heard during the entire primary season.

She said Clinton needed to come in to tonight's debate and "show some leg."

She went on to say that she meant that Clinton needed to show her human side. But "show some leg?"

Oh, the horrors of feminists who allow such language to seep into their everyday lives!!! (It must be due to the influence of all those men out there, right?)

[My husband just suggested that perhaps Caputo was responsible for suggesting Cleavage-gate (]

When do you think the leadership of the National Organization for Women will release a statement expressing their outrage, condemning the sexist remark and demanding an apology from Caputo?

Yeah, I won't stay up too late looking for it, either.

Looking back at the debate

Conventional wisdom held that during tonight's debate, Hillary Clinton needed to land some serious body blows on Obama to stop his momentum and re-establish herself as the candidate with the upper hand.

She had her moments where she scored some points, and he had a moment or two where he could have done better. And there was that beautiful moment at the end when she was talking about the opening of the medical center, as she described watching the wounded soliders arrive. All agree that that moment was her best -- the best -- of the night.

But she didn't make it over the bar she came in needing to clear.

Jeffrey Toobin, of whom I am not a great fan, actually taught me a word tonight: He said Clinton's final response had a "valedictory" feel to it.

I looked it up for you, and yes, it means what you think it might: From Merriam-Webster, the noun form means "a closing or farewell statement or address, especially one delivered at graduation exercises." The adjective means, "of, relating to, or expressing a valedictory."

Perfect word for the feel of Clinton's line.

I didn't catch that inflection in her voice during the live delivery, but it was apparent to me in replay. My husband, watching her reach out to Obama and shake his hand, called it a "soft concession."

It comes down to this: Hillary Clinton can read the tea leaves. She isn't trending well in the states she absolutely has to win to stay in the race. And as much as she has wanted to be president, she has to know that wonks don't match up well against dreamers -- especially in a nation founded on the grandest of dreams.

It goes back to what Gloria Borger said the night that Obama won Iowa: "She's running against inspiration. And that's a hard thing to compete against right now."

Round 12: What is the moment when you were tested the most?

Obama says he can't point to a single moment but that he looks at the "trajectory of my life" as a whole. He talks about "personal responsibility" (see why he has crossover appeal?) and how that impacted his life. That "cumulative experience" is why he has the capacity to bring people together.

Clinton says she has lived through her share of crises (a good applause line). How do you do it? (Is she going to cry again?) Her own challenges are nothing compared to what she sees in the lives of everyday Americans. Along with McCain, she was invited to speak at opening of Brook Medical Center in San Antonio. She describes watching them come in, the wounded and the broken, some in wheelchairs, some on gurneys. "The hits I've taken in life are nothing that goes on every single day ... I was called by my faith and by my upbringing to give same blessings to others that I took for granted. that's what gets me up in the morning ... I am absolutely honored to be up here with Barack Obama ... whatever happens, we will be OK; I just hope the American people can say the same."

Hillary gets a standing ovation. Not a bad note to end on ... Not bad to finish with your best answer of the night.

Round 10 clearly to Clinton.

And with that, it's over ... Let the spinning and the Monday morning quarterbacking begin.

Round 11: Superdelegates

What if the nominee is not the person who gained the most popular votes?

Clinton quickly and simply says that "this is the process" the party works under, and "I think it will work itself out." "We will be united in November," she adds.

Obama, who obviously has the most to lose under such a scenario, says, "I think it's important that these votes count for something" and that what's "most important to voters is that they have a government that is listening to them again," not just the well-connected.

Round 11 to Obama; everyone knows what the Clinton campaign could be up to behind the scenes.

Round 10: Earmarks and transparency

Why won't Obama release list of earmarks?

We did, I believe in transparency. I passed "Google for government" with fiscal conservative Tom Coburn (R-Okla.). Idea is to open up the process so Americans can make judgments about whether government is doing what it should with taxpayer money. Let's not forget that many of these are worthy programs in states, and I have supported those.

Clinton, on pork barrel spending, does McCain have a better case to make to Americans than you?

No, because he supported wasteful tax cuts of Bush Adminstration and Iraq war, she says (this was a great comeback). "We borrow money from the Chinese to buy oil from the Saudis" (great soundbite). Who is going to move us toward fiscal responsibility? I believe I can get us back on path we were on (surplus and strong economy).

Round 10 to Clinton.

Round 9: "The willing suspension of disbelief"

Is Iraq better off today because of the surge?

Clinton doesn't answer directly; she says it was meant to give Iraq's government the time and space necessary to make tough decisions about its future. "The purpose of it has not been fulfilled," she says. "It hasn't taken advantage of the sacrifice ..." made during the surge. This is why she would begin withdrawing troops within 60 days -- no, wait, she said she would ask the Joint Chiefs for a plan to withdraw troops within 60 days, which is actually something quite different. (Has anyone talked about that? That it isn't a hard commitment?)

Obama says it is indisputable that violence has been reduced in Iraq, and he notes the contribution of Fort Hood's soldiers but says the surge is a "tactical victory imposed upon a strategic blunder." Again he hits Clinton on the Iraq war authorization, saying a debate with McCain will be easier if it is done with someone who had a different position on the war from the start. He ends with a barrage of points about how veterans are not being properly served, from troop pay to post-traumatic stress disorder screening; these things are all true, and he should score big points with military families here.

Round 9 to Obama.

Round 8: Are you saying Obama is not prepared to be president?

Clinton says, basically, yes. Now she is back to health care.

Everyone agrees that she is the world's greatest policy wonk in health care. But again, you reach a point of diminishing returns. It isn't like people don't know about the differences between the candidates on health care.

Obama falls into the trap. Is it a substantive difference or a philosophical difference with regard to health care? Now we're back to talking about the Massachusetts model.

Ugh, I'm starting to glaze over. Come on, guys, let's move on.

Clinton comes back about health care. "I just fundamentally disagree." She's reminding me of Demi Moore's character in "A Few Good Men:"

"I object!'
"The defense STRENUOUSLY objects!"
"... I strenuously object? Is that how it works? 'Objection.' 'Overruled.' 'No, no, no, no, I strenuously object.' 'Oh, well, if you strenuously object, let me take a moment to reconsider!'"

Finally, back to the question, Clinton mentions the unrest in Serbia and the attack on the American Embassy in Belgrade tonight. She says she would hold the Serbian government accountable for the protection of the embassy. (How, exactly?)

Obama says he wouldn't be running for president if he wasn't ready to be commander-in-chief. He hits Clinton again on the Iraq war authorization. Obama says he's shown the judgment necessary to lead.

Round 8 is a draw. I refuse to award it to either of them for wasting so much time on health care. But Obama did a good job in defending himself.

Round 7: Obama, you plagarized that speech

Campbell Brown hints that Obama copied the speech from Massachusetts governor.

Obama says it is "silly season in politics" and says he took the line at the governor's suggestion because the governor is a national co-chair of his campaign. He turned the question right back on Campbell Brown and is now talking about issues.

If you are a potential candidate watching this debate, this is how you turn a potential negative into a positive. Obama is a pro at it.

"Sen. Clinton has a fine record; so do I."

Clinton says that if your candidacy is going to be about words, they should be your own words. "Those are changes you can Xerox." Clinton is being booed.

Where are those lookouts in the birds' nest? Did they lose those binoculars again? Because for as much as the Clinton campaign has made about this speech issue, they should have seen this iceberg coming.

Clinton is getting a bit strident here. She's sounding a bit desperate.

Obama refocuses the debate on health care, arguably the most important domestic issue of the campaign. He is measured and reasoned, everything Clinton was not in her critique. But again, he needs to get better about making his point and leaving it alone.

Unless his strategy is to dominate time of possession, in which case, A+.

Round 7 to Obama. He looks like the statesman; she looks like the rookie.

Round 6: Where's the beef?

I love this question. John King hits Clinton with a big question about whether she was referring to Obama with that gratuitous "all hat and no cattle" remark last week.

Clinton says she was referring to President Bush and that she and Obama have a lot in common, and that they have been civil to each other but there are differences. " we see the world differently." The wheels on this answer are coming off quickly. "Working to make a difference..." (add that to our list of banned phrases) She mentions that one Obama supporter on TV couldn't name a single accomplishment of Obama's.

Obama says actions do speak louder than words, and that that's why he's acted on health care, tax cuts to families, criminal justice reform, ethics reform, transparency in federal spending, Walter Reed (I wondered if that would come up!) ... "I think they would say that I've engaged not just in talk, but in action." "A fundamental difference in how change comes about." Clinton has said lately "let's get real," implying that my supporters are "somehow delusional." He mentions his endorsement by every major newspaper in Texas. He wraps it up by saying that since the policies are similar, inspiration is key. This is a stake through the heart of the answer.

Round 6 to Obama, and in a big way.

First commercial break

It's the first breather during the debate, so let's take a quick look at how it's gone.

It's been civil. There haven't been any "you-were-a-corporate-lawyer-for-Wal-Mart/you-were-a-slumlord-lawyer" comments.

But the GOP must be smiling after looking at the first round of topics. These candidates didn't do themselves any favors for the general election.

Round 5: Is there a downside to the US becoming a bilingual nation?

ANOTHER bomb from Jorge Ramos.

Clinton says she supports English as the common unifying language of the country but that multilingualism is our bridge to the rest of the world. "I encourage people to become bliguial but also want English to remain the common language of our country," she said.

Obama: Wants everyone learn English and have that binding together of our country; also thinks every student should be learning a second language.

Does anyone out there care to have their cake and eat it, too? Anyone? Anyone?

Round 5 is a weak draw.

Round 4: A border fence

Is it sovereignty or property rights? Will you finish the fence, or not?

Clinton: We both voted for it as part of immigration debate; "There is a dumb way to protect our borders." She's backing off of her vote; now she wants to see where it would be "appropriate." [Is part of the University of Brownsville in Mexico? Why would part of it be cut off?] John King asks whether she thinks her vote for the fence was wrong: Clinton doesn't answer. She uses the phrase, "smart fencing." And now she seems to be advocating a larger border patrol.

Obama says he and Clinton basically agree. He says they need to consult with local communities. There may be areas where it makes sense to have a real fence, others, not.

(Coincidentally, my six-year-old daughter is singing a song she learned at school about the flag. "When the flag goes by, wave it high, wave it for our country ... stand up strong.")

Round 4 is a draw.

Round 3: Immigration

Another bomb from Jorge: Would you consider stopping raids on undocumented immigrants?

Hillary says yes, she would consider it, but stops short of saying yes. (There is a general election down the road, after all.) She gives a multi-step answer to what she considers "comprehensive immigration reform."

Obama: Is your position the same?
He takes credit for helping to move the immigration bill ahead. Critical that we "tone down the rhetoric" that has been "ugly, oftentimes directed at Hispanic community, we have seen hate crimes skyrocket."

Obama also touches on the untold story of the immigration issue: The failure of the legal immigration system. No one is talking about that in the national press, and yet it's the reason we have problems with illegal immigration.

I give Round 3 to Obama ... but he didn't make any friends for the general election campaign with this answer.

Round 2: The economy

John King asks Clinton and Obama how they are different, how they would be different as president, on the economy. Obama goes first.

One thing that bothers me about this debate format is that candidates spend the first 30 to 45 seconds pointing out the obvious. Obama did this and then concluded the first part of the answer, "So it's clear that this needs to be a priority of the next president."

Well, duh.

Obama gives the following as specific ideas:

  • Amend tax code to end tax breaks for companies that invest overseas
  • End the Bush tax cuts
  • Give tax breaks to $75K and less, including payroll tax rollback; closing tax loopholes
  • Regarding trade deals: engage in trade but viewed through "wall street and main street," meaning labor, environmental and safety standards should be included
Obama also touched on creating a "green economy."

Clinton was asked how she would be "ready on day one" to lead with regard to the economy. She said she wants to:

  • Change the tax code to make it "reflect middle-class priorities"
  • Take a "trade time-out" (although it's unclear what that means and how long it would last)
  • Have a "trade prosecutor" who enforced the U.S.'s trade law (shouldn't that be part of the U.S. Trade Representative's job?)
  • Tighten enforcement of safety standards on imports
  • Regarding the foreclosure crisis, freeze, have a moratorium on home foreclosures for 90 days to allow people time to "work out a way to stay in their homes"
  • freeze interest rates for five years
  • Invest in the creation of "clean, green jobs"
  • "End George Bush's war on science"
Campbell Brown tried to stop her, but Hillary just bulldozed right on through. Wow!

Round 2 to Hillary! She does have some fire left in her!

Round 1 to Obama

If Obama has a debate weakness, it's that he sometimes doesn't know when to shut up. He clearly had Clinton on the ropes on the Cuba issue; she had to clarify her answer, and then he felt like he had to come back again.

That second answer on his part wasn't necessary, but it didn't really hurt him.

Round 1 to Obama.

Clinton tries to punch back

Clinton uses Iran as an example of a country where she has supported taking steps to have contact with countries short of normal, formal dipomatic negotiations.

Probably not the best example to use here.

Obama on Cuba

Obama is good about getting to the bottom line: The number one goal of any American policy with regard to Cuba should keep the freedom of the Cuban people in mind as the endgame.

Obama is also mentioning specific changes in policy that he would suggest "as a start."

Let me just say here that Campbell Brown comes off as combative and rude. Not a good choice for a debate moderator, CNN.

WHERE IS GLORIA BORGER? She would have been great.


First question is no softball: Would you meet with Raul Castro?

Clinton basically dodged it; she got pushed on it and then gave a straight answer that she wouldn't meet with him until "real changes" were evident in Cuba.

This is a tricky question because of the ramifications in Florida, which has a significant Cuban-American population.


What is the deal with the Spanish questioning? I know this is jointly hosted with Univision, but wow -- talk about teeing it up for the GOP on the English-as-a-national-language issue.

Platitude count

I wish I had a pedometer handy. I would shake it every time Obama used a platitude. I bet I'd reach my 10,000 today.


Here goes Obama on the NAFTA issue. This is going to be a big issue tonight in light of the report CNN did yesterday about the trade corridor being proposed through east Texas. Expect to hear more than a little bit about that tonight ... it's near and dear to the hearts of Texans, not just because of trade issues, but because eminent domain is involved.

Clinton's opening statement

I give it a C+. She got the plus for mentioning Ann Richards.

Other than that, and a mention about the children's health insurance program, it was an average opening statement ... nothing memorable, but nothing hurtful, either.

Another banned phrase

"Making real differences ..." As opposed to ... unreal differences?

Banned phrases

OK, let's start a list of phrases that should be banned. My first contribution to it is "a real conversation."

Debates are not meant to be "real conversations."

Chat room?

I thought about setting up a chat room for this but then I didn't know if that would be the way to go. What do you guys think?

Off to a bad start

I didn't know Campbell Brown was going to moderate. Ugh.

Oh no! What is John King going to do without his map??? Maybe it's under a glass screen for him.

My husband would like to know why the candidates don't play intro music, like DJs provide for newly married couples at the reception. I thought that was funny.

That lady in the orange cardigan is putting Hillary on her mark. That's pretty funny.

It's GO time!!

The kids are fed, the laundry is done, and I'm all set to enjoy the latest round of Clinton v. Obama.

Ding ding ding!!

It's go time!

This just in ...

The blog counter hits 100!

I guess it's more of a psychological achievement than anything else. It's easy to think that no one ever reads all this stuff. You guys don't have much to say!

But thanks to all who read ... and thanks again if you've passed my link on to someone else!

Let me know what you want to hear about, and I'll do my best to cover it. My aim is to produce the most informative, entertaining and insightful blog out there. Thanks for being a part of it!

McCain v. NYT -- update

Following John McCain's denouncement of its story about his relationship with a female lobbyist in its print edition this morning, the New York Times has responded through its executive editor, Bill Keller, to "McCain as well as media commentary about the timing of the publication of the article:"

“On the substance, we think the story speaks for itself. On the timing, our policy is, we publish stories when they are ready. ‘Ready’ means the facts have been nailed down to our satisfaction, the subjects have all been given a full and fair chance to respond, and the reporting has been written up with all the proper context and caveats. This story was no exception. It was a long time in the works. It reached my desk late Tuesday afternoon. After a final edit and a routine check by our lawyers, we published it.”

I searched in vain for a more formal presentation of the statement or anything that would expand on it. (If anyone knows of further comment from Keller and would direct me to it, I would appreciate it.) Perhaps it would shed light on some of the several issues here:

  • Keller stands by his reporters' use of anonymous sources: "We think the story speaks for itself."
  • Keller believes that the use of anonymous sources meets the paper's "proper ... caveats."
  • Keller acknowledges that the story reached his desk late on Tuesday afternoon and went to press 24 hours later. Apparently, Keller believes that 24 hours was enough time to carefully review a story that had been in the making for four months -- and the lawyers agreed. (Incidentally, McCain says it's been in the making for seven years, but that's another argument ...)
  • Speaking of lawyers, apparently it is standard practice at the NYT for at least some stories (and that's something else: Is it all stories, or just some stories? What's the trigger? Who decides when the lawyers get involved? Do they have to sign off, or does ownership just prefer that they do? Can the lawyers alone kill a story?) to be cleared through a team of lawyers. Ahem ... awkward silence ... It begs the question: What does this indicate about the NYT ownership's confidence in the knowledge and understanding of standard reporting practices, ethics and media law possessed by its editors?
  • Finally, what does it say about a newspaper and that newspaper's credibility when its leadership is forced to respond to a response from the subject of a story? Actually, we can probably leave this on off the list ... I think we all know the answer.

Bill Keller, if you're reading this, I think you and your colleagues owe the institution of journalism a MUCH more detailed explanation.

(See original post on this article below)

Debate tonight

If you have even a passing interest in the Democratic debate set for 8 p.m. EST, make it a point to stop by the blog tonight. I'll be updating throughout in reaction to all the fun and folly. :)

Also, please pass it around to anyone else you think might be interested. Thanks!

McCain and the NYT

The political machine is already churning out news this morning.

Presumptive GOP nominee John McCain appeared at a news conference this morning to flatly deny a story in the New York Times this morning that makes "assertions," to use CNN's word, that presumptive GOP nominee John McCain had a "close relationship" with a lobbyist that his advisers worried had become "romantic."

Apparently unable to confirm a romantic relationship, the NYT charged that McCain inappropriately used his position in the U.S. Senate to influence federal agencies on the lobbyist's behalf.

McCain spoke with reporters as his wife, Cindy, stood by his side. He was asked about circumstances in the story -- including whether he was approached by advisers concerned about his relationship with the lobbyist and even if he had had sex with her -- and he answered simply, "No," to several such questions.

McCain said he was "very disappointed in the New York Times" and scolded the newspaper for running the story based on anonymous sources. Cindy McCain spoke briefly and repeated her husband's comments about being "disappointed" in the NYT.

McCain noted that the newspaper brought up this story back in 2000, and its reporters have apparently been working on revisiting it for this cycle since at least October. Four months, and not a single on-the-record source who would substantiate the charges.

One Fox News Channel reporter (whose name escapes me for the moment) said that there will be another story forthcoming in the next day or two, this one exposing the infighting at the NYT about the story and the paper's struggle with The New Republic, which also was working on an article. It appears that the Times, the reporter said, was essentially bullied into running with the story today because it didn't want to get scooped by The New Republic.

So, once again, after running a story, the New York Times itself becomes the story.

No wonder the Times' credibility is at an all-time low.

[Sidebar: I have a real problem with the trend in mainstream journalism toward the use of anonymous sources. It used to be taboo; anonymous sources were used only for background information and to develop named sources. And I believe that there is a role, although limited, in stories with a strong national security interest.

But the NYT piece this morning is not such an issue. Its reporters Jim Rutenberg, Marilyn W. Thompson, David D. Kirkpatrick and Stephen Labaton could not even get through two paragraphs without pinning these serious allegations to "several people involved in the campaign" who spoke "on the condition of anonymity."

It's unfortunate, and I believe even reckless, for the New York Times to run an article like this with such weak underpinnings. I believe that such lazy reporting would stop if people in the public eye -- the high bar of libel notwithstanding -- would sue for defamation when editors trade in the highest standards of journalism for the types of reporting practices commonly practiced by supermarket tabloids. Lawsuits cost money, and big media companies don't like to spend money -- even if they win in the end. End sidebar]

For the reasons noted above, I hesitate to even share the link to the NYT story with you; I think that little of the story itself. But I think you will agree once you see it, so here it is:

Here are some other stories on the story:

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


So we're now within 24 hours of the big Democratic throw-down in the Lone Star State. Pundits are in agreement that it will be a pivotal night that will either revive what GOP strategist Rich Galen called the "lagging, flagging, sagging campaign of Hillary Clinton" or serve as the final nail in the proverbial coffin of her presidential aspirations.

What will you be looking for tomorrow night? What do you want to hear from the candidates? Will Obama go for the jugular, or will he play it safe? Will Clinton come out with both barrels blazing, or will she stick by her established soundbites? Do you expect any surprises? What would you ask the candidates?

Let me know what you're thinking ... Kick around some ideas in comments.

Jon Stewart ...

... is Larry King's guest tonight.


I guess it's just me, but I've never understood Stewart's particular brand of humor. I don't even really consider it to be effective political satire. As I said a few months back when there was a chance -- however disgusting -- that Steven Colbert would besmirch a debate in South Carolina with his presence, I think there's a difference between good satire and speech that is based on a plain hatred of the thing being critiqued.

You can read the rest of the post here:

The section about Stewart and Colbert is at the bottom.

As for the Larry King interview, even the commercials for it made me want to reach for the remote. Stewart said something unintelligible about monkeys.


At least we'll have the debate tomorrow night.

Bad news for Hillary

This just in from CNN: The Teamsters is about to become the third major labor organization in a week to endorse Barack Obama for president:

So much for her taking up the mantle of big labor from John Edwards.

The Teamsters join the SEIU and the United Food and Commercial Workers Union, which endorsed Obama last week, and the Culinary Workers Union, which endorsed him on the eve of the Nevada caucuses.

One has to wonder whether this is indicative of the way Edwards' personal endorsement -- and, perhaps, his 26 delegates -- will go.

Remember that bit in the last post about the deck chairs on the Titanic? For Clinton, the (iceberg) hits just keep on comin'.

High point for Hillary

So I found the high point for the Clinton campaign. Ironically, it's the ground her opponent has been claiming throughout the campaign.

CNN returned to Clinton's speech in Youngstown, Ohio, and played the tape of it for viewers last night after abandoning it for Obama's Houston speech. The pundits widely panned it, but I thought it was her best effort of late.

The only thing I would suggest for Clinton's campaign is that she stop trying to disparage Obama's "speechifying." You know, the lines like, "We need more than words," "It takes action, not just speeches," things like that. Everyone knows he's a world-class speaker; just accept it, Clintonistas, and move ahead. Talk about your candidate. The longer she tries to compare herself to him in that area, the worse off she's going to be.

I will say, however, that if she doesn't NAIL the debate in Texas tomorrow night, anything she does from here on out will be akin to rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. That debate is her last, best chance to go toe-to-toe with him before March 4. She can't just keep pace with him, because she's behind now. So anything short of a knockout will just ensure that she stays behind.

Jeanne Moos

If you're reading right now, tune in CNN, either on TV or via live streaming video at They are about to run a report from Jeanne Moos. I saw it yesterday, and it's very funny. It's worth your time!

Obama wins Hawaii ... and Hillary's on the ropes

I was turning in as the results from Hawaii started coming in. In case you missed it, Obama whipped Clinton 76 to 24 percent. The win was not unexpected; Obama spent time in Hawaii during his childhood. (Come to think of it, that's at least the third state to which he's claimed some personal connection: He was born in Kansas, he spent part of his childhood in Hawaii and he serves as a U.S. Senator from Illinois. Maybe he's trying to keep up with Hillary: Born in Illinois, former first lady of Arkansas, now a U.S. Senator from New York. Five down, 45 to go ...)

Anyway, there's no doubt about it: Obama has Clinton on the ropes. Last night's results make wins in the March 4 contests in delegate-rich Ohio and Texas absolutely critical to Clinton's hopes for survival.

Here's a good primer on why the Clinton campaign is feeling -- well, blue this morning:


I'm back

The ticket run was a success. I actually ended up with two sets of tickets because of some server situation ... I read on the web site that a bunch of other people had the same issue and either ended up with multiple sets or had to redo the order form several times. I've already sold one of the extra tickets. Let me know if you want the other one. :) But in any event, I'm all set! Yay!!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Suzanne Malveaux is in Hawaii ...


Yes, it's a plum assignment, but this is still television, and I don't have time to adjust the tint on my TV whenever they cut to her.

Good grief.

Blog break coming up

If you're reading the blog right now, I'll be taking a break in about five minutes until sometime after the 11 o'clock hour CST. I'm trying to get tickets for a concert, and it's obvious that it's going to be a feeding frenzy, because there are only 200 available.

Who's the artist, you ask?

Haven't heard him sing, you say?

Plenty more available on YouTube ... search David Phelps, and enjoy!

Back in a few ... and I hope it will be with good news!

CNN wants you to know...

...that it is hosting a Democratic debate on Thursday at 8 EST.

That's Thursday at 8 EST, a Democratic debate on CNN.

CNN. Democratic debate. Thursday. 8 EST.

Just in case you missed them drumming it in to your skull.

Donna Brazile

Here we go with Donna Brazile and the requisite questioning of her on the superdelegate situation.

To her credit, Brazile has said that if the Democratic nomination comes down to the superdelegates at the convention, she will quit.

Brazile holds her superdelegate position as the result of an appointment then-President Bill Clinton gave her in 1998. She tried to give the Clinton campaign some advice: Fire the speechwriter. There's no more use in talking about 35 years of experience and getting beat down by Republicans. It's obviously not resonating. (The Catch-22 for Clinton is that she talks about her 35 years in government as proof of her experience, but Obama talks about that 35 years as proof that she is no agent of change. He seems to be winning that argument at this point.)

And, speaking of quitting, I think a lot of people will quit -- quit the Democratic Party as a whole -- if the superdelegates decide this nomination and it is awarded to anyone other than the person who won the most popular votes during the primary and caucus process.

David Gergen just said that the Clinton campaign is guilty of "political malpractice" and that the campaign is Obama's to lose.

But GOP strategist Rich Galen, who writes a thrice-weekly political column you can read at, gets the night's award most ear-pleasing analysis. In his morning edition, he notes "the lagging, flagging, sagging campaign of Hillary Clinton."

Now, that's punditry.

Paul Begala: "????"

Sometimes when a pundit makes a comment, you just sit back and go, "????"

Such is the case with Paul Begala. (In the interest of full disclosure, I have to say that I've never been a fan of his, mostly because ... well, simply put, he's a jerk. Did you see how he just responded to Anderson Cooper and Leslie Sanchez? "What's she doing wrong, Paul?" "She's losing." Duh.) Anyway, he sits as an analyst on CNN's desk as a Clinton supporter, opposite Jamal Simmons, the resident Obama supporter.

He was asked what he made of the results -- which are obviously and incontrovertibly bad for Clinton -- and he responded that it was proof of the redeeming qualities of negative campaigning.

I know what you're thinking: "????"

His argument was actually that Obama is a better candidate now than he was on Super Tuesday because -- get this, now -- Hillary has been attacking him. Somehow, he's trying to give Clinton credit for Obama's surge. Now that's some serious chutzpah, even for Begala.

Swallowing that bit of punditry from Begala requires ... wait, there's a phrase coming to mind ... oh, yes, I got it: To borrow from Clinton herself, it requires the "willing suspension of disbelief."

CHOMP: The newest term in the political lexicon

I don't know why this is so funny to me, but I am in near-hysterics over something that I just heard on CNN!!

Statistical analyst Bill Schneider was discussing exit polls with fellow anchor (anchorette?) Soledad O'Brien. Making the point that Obama drew 49 percent of Democratic women in Wisconsin today as opposed to 43 percent of Democratic women on Super Tuesday, Schneider said Obama was biting into Clinton's base:


No, really; he said "CHOMP."

Then he said it again when talking about another demographic ... "CHOMP!"

I told my husband, I got a mental picture of an old public service announcement that used to run on TV when I was a kid:


I was so busy laughing, I could hardly write this post.

Now I have to go get a tissue to wipe my eyes.


Community service makes a comeback

I also love this section in Obama's speech about community service. Remember my column last summer where we talked about this? If not, here it is:

It originally appeared in print on June 6.

Why wouldn't Obama wait?

I love this section of Obama's stump speech where he talks about people asking him why he didn't wait to run.

"You're a young man," he says they tell him, adding that he responds by explaining to them what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to call "the fierce urgency of now."

Obama takes twin swipes at Clinton as he explains that he does not see the presidency as something he feels is owed to him or the fulfillment of some long-held ambition (although he acknowledges that "people" (read: the Clinton camp) have been looking through his kindergarten papers and say otherwise, in reference to this incident back in December:

(Check out Bill Burton's response to the Clinton campaign, in the sixth graph. That is an instant classic.)

"There is such a thing as being too late," Obama says, "and that hour is almost upon us.

"We cannot wait."

Obama takes heat for being a great speaker who's short on substance. I don't know about the latter, but I can attest to the former. Policies completely aside, I just love listening to this guy speak.

Walking Guy

The random Walking Guy is back. You can see him over Obama's right shoulder, now looking around to his right. He has big ears and close-cropped hair and is wearing a suit and tie. What is going on with that guy? I bet the Secret Service would like to know.

Obama speaks in Houston

Obama himself is estimating the crowd at 20,000. And they're ready to party.

Obama notes "a little bit of business" to do "before we get into the main event." He's talking about early voting in Texas, which is going on now.

[Early voting is a brainchild of GOP kingmaker Karl Rove, and Texas is a GOP stronghold, which explains why the Lone Star State has it. The idea is to get your people to vote early so that you can be ahead by the time polls formally open on the day of the election. It's an effective firewall against unknowns that could affect turnout on Election Day, such as the weather.]

Obama's lead is up to 54-45 with 10 percent reporting in Wisconsin. If he gets above the 60 percent mark, it will be difficult for Clinton's camp to spin it at all.

Some young guy in a suit over Obama's right shoulder keeps moving around. He just walked out of the stands behind the candidate with a sign in front of his face, exiting to his left. What's up with that?

Obama notes the need to fight for "every delegate" throughout the nomination process. More on that in this weekend's column.

This just in

My husband suggests "slim 'pickens'."


A grammarian's nightmare

OK, guys, you'll notice that I just used the phrase "slim pickins" in the previous post. If you consider yourself a wordsmith, please carefully consider the following quandary and respond with all dispatch:

Is it "slim pickens?" Or is it "slim pickins?" Or "slim pickin's?"

It's a Southern phrase, of course, so dropping the 'g,' as all good Southerners do, would seem to require the apostrophe. But then it looks like a possessive -- and there's nothing I hate more than a misplaced apostrophe, especially with possessives.

HELP! I'm developing a twitch.


WHOA! I was still in the process of typing the post with the first numbers from Wisconsin when CNN broke in with their prediction that Obama wins the state. They must REALLY be comfortable with those exit polls!

I heard earlier that Obama's people were expecting 33,000 people -- yes, you read that right -- at his rally tonight in Houston. That's a lot of people, and they have a lot to celebrate tonight.

The pundits are already breaking down the exit polls and reporting that Obama has continued to make inroads into Clinton's core supporters -- voters with a high school education or less, voters who make under $50,000, voters who choose their candidate based on the economy, and white men, among others.

I'll keep listening for any good news for Clinton, but ... it's slim pickins so far for her.

First numbers from Wisconsin's Dems

First numbers from Wisconsin's Democratic voters shows Obama leading Clinton 52-47 with less than 1 percent of the precincts counted.

My new favorite phrase

McCain just made me smile with my new favorite phrase in politics:

"I've been an imperfect servant of my country for many years."

Who among us is not an "imperfect servant" of this country we love?

This is why I love words, and why numbers can never -- sorry in advance for this horrible pun -- measure up. :)

McCain wins Wisconsin

GOP presidential candidate has won Wisconsin and now feels comfortable enough to refer to himself as the candidate who "will be the nominee of our party." He continues to make nice with that pesky still-opponent, former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee; he led those assembled at his victory rally in a round applause for the man he says he has come to admire through the campaign.

But it's clear that the general election is beginning to take shape -- for the GOP, anyway. McCain took a clear swipe at Obama by telling supporters that he will see to it that Americans will not be deceived by an "elegant but empty call for change" that necessitate a "holiday from history" to believe.

Touching on his foreign policy experience, McCain also mentioned the triumphs of opposition groups in Pakistani elections today, word of the resignation of longtime Cuban dictator Fidel Castro this morning and that "self-important bully in Venezuela," Hugo Chavez.

Now, on to what people really care about: Whether Hillary Clinton can put the skids on her two-week slide. CNN reports that Obama leads her in Wisconsin, but doesn't give early numbers; Fox News Channel detailed exit polls earlier that seemed to indicate that a good night could be in the offing for Obama.

We shall soon see.

Tied in Texas ... and a cool link!

Remember James Carville throwing down the gauntlet on Larry King's show last week?

KING: James, if Hillary loses Texas or Ohio, is it over?

CARVILLE: Yes. (silence) (LAUGHTER)

KING: ...Yes?

CARVILLE: Yes, she has to win Texas and Ohio. I mean, yes.

KING: Well said. Is she smart for looking ahead and past Wisconsin?

CARVILLE: Well, I don't know -- you know, I don't know if anybody looks ahead
or past anything. And I don't think Wisconsin -- it certainly would be
preferable for her to win Wisconsin, but I don't put it in the same category as
I would put Texas and Ohio on March the 4th.

Well, it seems that we're in for a Texas-sized slugfest in the Lone Star State. Latest poll numbers show the race in a deat heat, with Obama leading within the margin of error:

If polls are your thing, check out CNN's campaign polling page, where you can view the latest poll results by state or candidate:

**Incidentally, the opening for King's show that night had a little something for all you reality TV fans out there:

LARRY KING, HOST: Tonight, reality TV at its best -- who will get kicked off election island?Is it Barack Obama, today's American idol? Or Hillary Clinton, the self-proclaimed survivor who's fallen behind? Will the GOP deal with John McCain? And could Mike Huckabee be the biggest loser? It's the amazing presidential race.
It's unscripted, it's unrehearsed. And it's next, on LARRY KING LIVE.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

One-Liner of the Week

CNN's Gloria Borger wins this week's One-Liner of the Week award.

During post-election analysis of the so-called Potomac Primaries Tuesday, anchor Anderson Cooper opined on the "bounce" that Barack Obama would get in Texas and Ohio polls after his sweep of contests in Maryland, Virginia and the District of Columbia.

"Remember, polls are thunderbolts," Borger said, referring to the delay between the actual event -- a lightning strike -- and the audible confirmation of it -- the thunderclap. With this metaphorical gem, Borger demonstrated the lag between the event that would precipitate a bounce and the appearance of the bounce itself.

She then went on to explain how the polls would affect the 450 uncommitted superdelegates remaining in the Democratic presidential race.

As one of my favorite journalism professors used to say, Borger puts "the hay down where the cows can get it" -- and it's just the latest evidence of why Borger is one of the best in the business.