Saturday, March 15, 2008

Spitzer and the CDC

If you read my column this morning, you may be wondering how the downfall of soon-to-be-former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's downfall relates to the shocking report by the CDC that documents the rates of four STDs in American teenage girls.

To review:

Also this week, the CDC released stunning findings that 1 in 4 teenage girls in America has a sexually transmitted disease, and nearly half – HALF – of African-American girls ages 14 to 19 have an STD. These numbers alone are “overwhelming,” in the words of one physician. But it gets worse: The study only included teen girls, and it only accounted for four diseases, leaving out other prevalent STDS like HIV, syphilis and gonorrhea. The stark and underreported reality of this story is that the STD infection rate among American teens is much higher – and much scarier – than anyone seems willing to accept.
The connection is insidious, but it is undeniable: Americans' fascination with, and tolerance and even acceptance of, sex as a social activity underpins both of these stories.

Spitzer was forced to resign this week after he was linked to a high-dollar prostitution ring.

Regular readers here know that I have three young daughters. At 6 and 3, they are both, I have learned, highly susceptible to marketing and advertising. They know their commercials. I have heard each of my two eldest daughters singing the jingle for Red Robin hamburgers to themselves ("Reeeeddddd Robin. Yummmmmmmmmm"). If we change the television station before the end of a Subway commercial, they chime in, "Eat fresh!" And then there are the entire categories of music and dance numbers they can replicate, dominated by Disney phenom Hannah Montana.

This is disturbing to my husband and me, but not as disturbing on its own as some of the things -- and ideas -- we have seen placed before them. As such, because of scantily clad actresses, ill-mannered, irresponsible and/or disrespectful tween characters and age-inappropriate storylines, we've had to deep-six several programs their friends apparently continue to enjoy.

For example, my girls know not to even ask for any Bratz-related items. We don't have Bratz in our house, period. Bratz are not good examples for young ladies, I tell them. The dolls' very appearance indicates a deficit of self-respect.

The time will come in the too-near future when I will have to talk with them about sex. My mom had "the talk" with me when I was about 12. I don't have the luxury of waiting that long. I had a swing set; my girls have the Internet.

But where my mother couched "the talk" in terms of morality, I will couch it in terms of safety: Fully half of my daughters' classmates in eight years could be infected with an STD.

For those interested in expanding "safe sex" education in schools, I would like to point out that your colleagues in the "safe sex" movement have begun to drift away from the term "safe sex" and toward the term "safer sex." Why is that? "Safer sex?" Safer than what? Than unprotected sex? It seems a tacit acknowledgement of the truth that abstinence advocates have long espoused: There is no such thing as "safe sex." There is only "safer sex" -- and abstinence.

In one of my many discussions with people about this issue, I engaged a young man who holds liberal views with regard to sex education. I tried to draw a parallel for him. Imagine, I said, your son or daughter getting ready to cross a battlefield. The shots are ringing out, mortars are landing and it is possible that he or she may be hit. You have a choice: On one hand, you can give them an armored suit that is 99 percent effective -- if it is put on and used correctly. On the other, you can send your child though a tunnel beneath the battlefield, eliminating her entirely as a target for the enemy.

How would you have your child cross? Because, make no mistake, the hazards lurking for them on the battlefield of sex are just as dangerous as those in any war.

In short, the sexualization of young American children has reached epidemic proportions, so it's no surprise that STD infection rates reflect it. But while it may not be a surprise, it is a tragedy, because it is evidence of an epidemic failure of parents and guardians across this nation to parent, guard and stand up for their children and their dignity.

Obama puts on the fire suit

One of the political hacks with whom I worked during my time as a legislative aide used a phrase one time that stuck with me. We were discussing a contentious issue that was coming up for a vote, and he mentioned that if a particular amendment was brought up and attached to the bill, he would have to "get out his poop suit" and come clean up after his clients -- the elected officials -- who were unable to avoid stepping in the mess.

It's unfortunate imagery, I know, but he had a point: Sometimes things get so messy, you almost feel like you have to handle them with gloves so as to avoid soiling yourself.

This weekend, it's Barack Obama reaching for the gloves.

In the last 48 hours, the story about Obama's pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., and the racist and apparently anti-American remarks Wright made in past sermons have completely overtaken the presidential campaigns. The national media has seized upon the story with -- dare I say it? -- almost a religious fervor.

(If you missed the remarks, click here to read my post from Thursday afternoon.)

Obviously aware of the potential this issue has to consume his entire campaign, Obama is in the midst of a full-court press to repudiate/denounce/disassociate/comdemn Wright's remarks. He has submitted written statements to that effect as he has made the rounds on cable news networks. He gave a rare, wide-ranging interview to CNN's Anderson Cooper, remaining measured and polite, though firm, in his remarks. Cooper spent the balance of the hour -- about 30 minutes -- exploring the relationships between candidates and their endorsers and of politics and religion in general.

You have, no doubt, seen that e-mail about how Obama doesn't say the Pledge of Allegiance, he doesn't sing God Bless America, he turns his back on the flag, his anti-American sentiment lays just beneath the surface, he is Muslim, etc. If the religious and questions surrounding Obama's candidacy were flammable material, Wright poured gasoline all over them and ignited them with a flamethrower. Even Obama himself called the comments "inflammatory."

This is arguably the first major crisis the Obama campaign has faced, the first test of his ability to lead through crisis. Can he pull his campaign out of the conflagration? If not, all the talk about delegates, superdelegates, revotes and momentum may go up in smoke.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Leslie Sanchez and the art of the sound bite

Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez is fast becoming one of my favorite pundits. Much like James Carville, her colleague on the left, she's a master at turning a phrase.

Here's her latest offering, delivered about five minutes ago on Fox News Channel during a discussion about the Democrats' dickering over what to do about their delegate mess in Michigan and Florida:

"Democrats want to run our country's health care system, but they can't run their own primaries."

The comment drew an audible groan from her debate counterpart, and it made me laugh out loud.

Southern govs = McCain VP material?

Three of John McCain's endorsements were lost in all of the excitement over Super Tuesday II: Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue, Alabama Gov. Bob Riley and Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour. Perdue and Barbour announced their support at a news conference in Washington on Monday; Riley, and three other governors endorsing McCain, were not in attendance. The Southern-fried trio joined Florida Gov. Charlie Crist, who also endorsed McCain and worked with him in the state on the eve of its primary there on Jan. 29. Pundits generally give Crist credit for pushing McCain over the edge and giving him the victory in a tight race with Mitt Romney.

Each of these men has been mentioned as possible VP material for McCain, who must now begin the task of screening and vetting potential running mates. Crist has spent the most time with McCain during primary season. After McCain won the Sunshine State, Crist tagged along with him to California and was on hand when McCain accepted the endorsements of Rudy Giuliani and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He gave a national stump speech the ol' college try in this interview on Feb. 25 (note that he gets in the line about lowering taxes in Florida by $25 billion -- not bad for an national amateur). And Crist has gotten a lot of face time in the national press over the last two weeks by virtue of the discussions surrounding the Democratic delegate dustup.

But in comments made March 6 while fundraising with Crist, McCain seemed to temper speculation that the "Tan Man" sits in the catbird seat:

During his first campaign appearance since clinching the GOP presidential nomination, McCain said he has not even begun looking at vice presidential candidates ...

"You know, obviously, we have just begun that process, and we, in fact, have not even outlined how we're going to go about this," McCain said at a news conference after he and Crist shook hands with people at a diner. "We're looking at how the process was conducted by other candidates and nominees of their party.

"But I know one thing about Governor Crist," he added. "And that is that he is a great governor. He does a great job. And I think that ... there are many ways for him to serve the country." ...

Crist, 51, is among more than a half-dozen politicians mentioned as a potential running mate. His last-minute endorsement of McCain is credited with helping him win the pivotal Florida primary election on Jan. 29. Sworn in to office last year, his state will be a battleground for the November election.

"The process is really open," McCain said of his search. "But I know that Governor Crist will continue to serve this country in many respects in the future. He's still a very young man."

At the end of this piece that examines the relationship between Riley and McCain, the author adds that the Republican nominee-to-be and the Mississippi governor have been at fierce odds in the past:

"I like John McCain. His family is from Mississippi. He is a genuine American hero," said Barbour during the Republican primary of 2000. "But genuine American heroes have got to play by the same rules of telling it like it is as everybody else. And Senator McCain says he's going to break up all these lobbyists, these power brokers, and his campaign is full of lobbyists. Some of my best friends -- There's nothing wrong with it. What's wrong is the phony baloney of being hypocritical about it."
There is plenty to consider in making his selection, but in the mind of this political junkie, what it will come down to for John McCain is whether he wants a running mate who can help him shore up the conservative base, someone who can help him in a competitive state like Ohio, or a vice presidential pick who is ready to be president if the unthinkable happens.

No one can do it all.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Wright -- or wrong?

As much as Barack Obama has tried to minimize his impact, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr. is again making unwanted waves for Obama's campaign.

Wright is the senior pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, where the Obamas are longtime members. The church, and Wright in particular, have come under scrutiny for Trinity-specific doctrine such as, "We are a congregation which is Unashamedly Black and Unapologetically Christian ... We are an African people, and remain 'true to our native land,' the mother continent, the cradle of civilization."

Well, the IRS may be joining the pundits in scrutinizing Trinity UCC.

According to this post on the Fox News web site, Wright made statements in recent worship services that appear to violate federal tax law banning churches from participating in or intervening in a political campaign. Violations can result in the loss of a church’s tax exempt status, the story notes, although enforcement is lax.

The questionable statements, according to Fox News, include:

  • During a Christmas sermon, Wright tried to compare Obama’s upbringing to Jesus at the hands of the Romans. "Barack knows what it means living in a country and a culture that is controlled by rich white people," Wright said. "Hillary would never know that. Hillary ain’t never been called a nigger. Hillary has never had a people defined as a non-person."
  • In a sermon on Jan. 13, Wright said, “Hillary is married to Bill, and Bill has been good to us. No he ain't! Bill did us, just like he did Monica Lewinsky. He was riding dirty."

But it appears Wright has problems with a bigger authority than the Internal Revenue Service. The Fox News post, mentioned above, offers a clip of one of Wright's sermons, along with a warning that it includes offensive language.

You can check out Wright and the Trinity UCC for yourself at the church's web site, which also offers talking points on the church itself and the Black Value System and live and archived webcasts of worship services.

Sorry. Sorry. And ... sorry.

Has Hillary Clinton finally tired of race-baiting politics?

"Clinton apologizes to black voters for racial comments," read the head at

"Clinton apologizes to black voters," said in a headline.

Apology No. 1 of the series of three made before the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a group of more than 200 black community newspapers across the country, dealt with comments her husband, former president Bill Clinton, made in the wake of Barack Obama's overwhelming victory in South Carolina. "Bill Clinton said Jesse Jackson also won South Carolina when he ran for president in 1984 and 1988, a comment many viewed as belittling Obama’s success," the story explains.

"I want to put that in context. You know I am sorry if anyone was offended. It was certainly not meant in any way to be offensive," Hillary Clinton said. "We can be proud of both Jesse Jackson and Senator Obama."
Apology No. 2 came regarding Clinton fundraiser and former vice presidential candidate Geraldine Ferraro, who went off the deep end last week and said that Obama would not have made it this far if he were white:

Of Ferraro’s comment, Hillary Clinton told her audience: "I certainly do repudiate it and I regret deeply that it was said. Obviously she doesn’t speak for the campaign, she doesn’t speak for any of my positions, and she has resigned from being a member of my very large finance committee."
(Sidebar: What distinguishes a "large" finance committee from a "very large" finance committee? Is there a book someone can get for me on this?)

Finally, Clinton turned Apology No. 3, regarding the response of the federal government in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, into a criticism of President Bush:

"I’ve said it publicly, and I say it privately: I apologize, and I am embarrassed that our government so mistreated our fellow citizens … It was a national disgrace," she said.
Time will tell whether Clinton was simply seized by an inexplicable and temporary attack of phony contrition, or whether she genuinely intends to lay down her campaign's race-baiting flamethrower.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The picture worth 10,000 words

No one out there had any guesses as to what this is, so I guess I'll have to just tell you. The photo accompanies this Newsweek article written by Tina Brown, a member of the press corps covering Hillary Clinton's campaign. Brown writes:
Perhaps this explains the Clinton advance team's puzzling decision, discovered when we arrived in Austin, Texas, on Monday afternoon, to have the press file from a men's locker room. Laptops were set up cheek by jowl with a wall of urinals, prompting raucous cries of: "Now we really know this campaign is in the toilet!"
Yes, that is a men's locker room in Austin, Texas, and those are members of the national media "stashed" alongside urinals and sinks.

And Clinton wonders why she's getting a hard time from the press.

Actually, the interesting thing is that the Newsweek article is surprisingly saccharine about Clinton, who has complained about the fawning of the press over Barack Obama. Politeness = negative coverage ... giving the press space in a men's room = positive coverage. Hmm ... maybe they were just waiting for Clinton to get tough with them.

The takeaway: To improve relations with them and their coverage of the president, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino should seat Helen Thomas and David Gregory in the men's room.

From "Gerry" to "Hillary" -- ISS No. 2

"Gerry" and Hillary in happier times.

Well, folks, Geraldine Ferraro has left the Clinton campaign hierarchy, but not before contributing again to our new feature and giving us Item No. 2 for the Incredibly Stupid Statements File.

Far from apologizing for or backtracking in any way from previous statements she made that "if (Barack) Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," Ferraro stood by her statements Tuesday, adding, "I really think they're attacking me because I'm white. How's that?"

Ferraro then earned an ISS Honorable Mention for her statement that "she thought it was a shame that the Obama campaign was trying to block her First Amendment rights, and that she felt that was no way to conduct a campaign."

The Obama campaign, trying to block her First Amendment rights? Come on, Geraldine! Two entries and an HM already in the ISS? Give someone else a chance!

You can read the entire text of the note "Gerry" wrote "Hillary" here.

For his part, Obama stayed mostly on the sidelines, giving Clinton a pass on denouncing/rejecting/repudiating Ferraro's comments and making a measured statement to reporters about the mess that included this snippet:
I think that (Ferraro's) comments were ridiculous. I think they were wrong headed. I think they're not borne out by our history or by the facts. The notion that it is of great advantage to me to be an African-American named Barack Obama and pursue the presidency, I think, is not a view that has been commonly shared by the general public.
See the whole sound bite here.

... But he uses Dial!!

While I was flipping through the channels ahead of results yesterday's primaries in Mississippi (Barack Obama trounced Hillary Clinton, 61 percent to 37 percent), I noticed something on Fox News Channel that made me chuckle.

If you watch FNC for elections coverage, you have seen the "Election Notes" box in the lower left-hand corner of the screen. This is the place, presumably, where writers post short items about the campaigns.

Yesterday, one note read, "HRC says B.O. not ready to be cmdr. in chief."


I laughed.

I kept watching the notes scroll for a minute, and the writers apparently had trouble deciding when to use the candidates' last names and when to abbreviate. From what I saw, space wasn't a concern; there were several times when "Clinton" and/or "Obama" would have fit, instead of "HRC" and "B.O."

Obama may be running to be the leader of the free world, but to writers at FNC, he's just B.O.

The Incredibly Stupid Statements File

Plato once said that necessity is the mother of invention. Today I introduce you to a invention on this blog that has been necessitated by our politicians.

Readers, welcome to the Incredibly Stupid Statements File.

Our first entry features Geraldine Ferraro, that groundbreaking feminist who ran for vice president on Walter Mondale's ticket, like, 80 years ago.

(Actually, it was 1984, but with the way the world has changed, it might as well have been 1928.)

Anyway, Ferraro is one of Hillary Clinton's top fundraisers and has stood in gender solidarity with the Democratic candidate since the beginning of her campaign. Late last week, Ferraro gave an interview to a reporter with the Torrance (Calif.) Daily Breeze:

When the subject turned to Obama, Clinton's rival for the Democratic Party nomination, Ferraro's comments took on a decidedly bitter edge.

"I think what America feels about a woman becoming president takes a very secondary place to Obama's campaign - to a kind of campaign that it would be hard for anyone to run against," she said. "For one thing, you have the press, which has been uniquely hard on her. It's been a very sexist media. Some just don't like her. The others have gotten caught up in the Obama campaign.

"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," she continued. "And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept." Ferraro does not buy the notion of Obama as the great reconciler.

"I was reading an article that said young Republicans are out there campaigning for Obama because they believe he's going to be able to put an end to partisanship," Ferraro said, clearly annoyed. "Dear God! Anyone that has worked in the Congress knows that for over 200 years this country has had partisanship - that's the way our country is."
OK, so that was three or four Incredibly Stupid Statements. But for convenience, we'll just call it No. 1.

In the aftermath, CNN reported that a senior adviser to Barack Obama’s presidential campaign called on Hillary Clinton to "repudiate" the comment. Clinton's communications director, Howard Wolfson, said Clinton "disagrees" with Ferraro's statements.
Sidebar: Remember Clinton's insistence a couple of weeks ago that Barack Obama "reject," and not just "denounce," comments made by Louis Farrakhan about Israel? "There's a difference between 'denouncing' and 'rejecting,'" Clinton said then.

I wonder where "disagreeing" falls in relation to "denouncing" or "rejecting" on the Clinton Scale of Outrage. I'm envisioning something like that strong-man game you see at the county fairs, you know, where you have to bang on a sensor with a big mallet and the meter climbs the tower based on your strength? Maybe Clinton could call hers the Object-o-Meter.
During the Strategy Session segment with CNN's Wolf Blitzer on Tuesday, Republican strategist Leslie Sanchez said that Ferraro "didn't go off message; she went off the deep end ... As someone who has been the recipient of the politics of gender, she has a lot of nerve engaging in the politics of race."

BAM! Now that's a sound bite you can take to the bank.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

All Tuckered out

MSNBC is cancelling Tucker -- the show, not the person.

The network has finally had it with the show's low ratings. But Carlson's always good for a sound bite, so he will "remain with MSNBC, as a campaign correspondent who will cover the presidential race from Washington and the road," the New York Times reports.

Perhaps MSNBC will loan Carlson to ABC for some guest commentary for Dancing with the St -- oh, wait ... maybe not.

Meanwhile, "Tucker" will be replaced with what the New York Times calls a "new, politically oriented program featuring David Gregory, chief White House correspondent of NBC News."

In a word: Yuck.

David Gregory. For me, he is the embodiment of everything that is wrong with modern political reporting. (See some examples of why here.) In one particularly testy exchange he had with White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan, Gregory was so aggressive that his demeanor completely obfuscated the point he was trying to make, no matter how valid it might have been. I told a reporter friend of mine that if I was McClellan, I would have had Gregory's White House press pass revoked by the end of the briefing. Covering the White House is a privilege, not a right, and Gregory's conduct was anything but professional. What good does it do to get the story if, in getting it, you sacrifice -- or throw away -- all credibility as an evenhanded and balanced reporter who can tell the story straight? Gregory's continued presence in the press pool is a constant drain on the credibility of NBC News.

The bottom line here is that MSNBC will probably end up on the losing end of this decision. A low-rated show featuring a relatively affable guy is better than a low-rated show featuring a boorish egomaniac.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Hillary's chutzpah

You've got to hand it to Hillary Clinton. Even when the chips are down -- in fact, perhaps most when the chips are down -- she's got a lot of chutzpah.

After her 3-for-4 showing on Super Tuesday II that featured anticipated wins in Ohio and Texas, Clinton began making comments about the potential for a so-called "dream ticket," which would feature herself and Barack Obama.

Never mind the fierce battle between the two. Never mind that pundits and Democratic activists have been floating the idea of such a "dream ticket" for the better part of two months. Never mind, even, that Clinton had stood at an Ohio news conference just days before and angrily decried two Obama advertisements in the state, declaring, "Shame on you, Barack Obama."

Bygones are bygones, I guess.

Or are they?

This article from British newspaper The Times details Clinton's new, three-pronged strategy to beat Obama: "Win the popular vote, secure reruns in Florida and Michigan and undermine Obama's credibility as the candidate to beat McCain," the paper says.

The Times notes that the disputed nomination contests in Michigan and Florida are key not only for their delegates, which are getting the most attention, but also for their popular votes -- more than 5.2 million between them.

"Obama leads Clinton by nearly 600,000 in the number of votes cast to date, but trails her by 30,000 if the votes of the two 'rogue' states are counted. These states are now likely to stage some form of rerun," The Times says.

Therefore, securing reruns is good in itself for the delegate count, but it could end up meaning more for the popular vote if it puts Clinton out in front.

Which brings us back to the "dream ticket" talk. Clinton has now mentioned it no fewer than three times since Wyoming's caucuses on Tuesday. It's not a bad strategy: If an ugly, internecine battle seems likely to drag on to the convention in August, Obama will come under pressure to "work something out" with his rival -- in other words, bow out. Clinton is laying that groundwork now.

Obama brushed off the talk last week but finally addressed it Monday. From CNN:

"With all due respect. I won twice as many states as Senator Clinton. I've won more of the popular vote than Senator Clinton. I have more delegates than Senator Clinton. So, I don't know how somebody who's in second place is offering vice presidency to the person who's in first place," he said.

Obama also said the Clinton campaign was "hoodwinking" voters when it suggested he was not ready to be president while also floating the possibility of a joint
Clinton-Obama ticket.

"I don't understand," he said. "If I'm not ready, how is it that you think I should be such a great vice president?"

As the say, facts are stubborn things. But Clinton may be more stubborn.

One of the worst ideas ever

The New York Times reports this morning that two of Hillary Clinton's top fundraisers have generously offered to raise up to $15 million -- half of the estimated cost -- to stage new primaries in Florida and Michigan.

Those knights in shining armor? New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine and Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell.

Pennsylvania, you say? Why does that ring a bell? It seems that perhaps, there is something coming up there soon ... What was it again?

Oh, yeah, the Pennsylvania uber-primary on April 22, the last of the big nominating contests and the next anticipated showdown between Clinton and Barack Obama.

Why does everyone seem to think that soft money is the way to solve this problem? Soft money is the cancer infecting good policy at all levels of government across America, so it can't be the antidote to the delegate mess.

Why not have the candidates fork over the money themselves? It's not like they don't have it. Just to refresh your memory, the fundraising takes -- in February ALONE -- were Clinton: $35 million; Obama: $55 million.

I didn't major in math or anything. But the following equation is apparent even to me:

Clinton's $35 million
+ Obama's $55 million
$90 million
- $30 million for primaries
$60 million

The candidates could even provide the $30 million needed on a proportional basis, if that would make the Clinton campaign more comfortable (yes, $15 million is more to her than $15 million to Obama).

Umm, I'm pretty sure that's still enough money to get the candidates through March without having to resort to the political equivalent of Ramen noodles. If not, then forget the red phone; I don't want either one of them anywhere near the federal budget.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The picture worth 10,000 words

Can you guess what this is?

Take your best shots. I'll be back later to give you the answer.

And no fair googling.

Michigan and Florida -- Who will step up?

Here's a great column about the Michigan-Florida delegate mess by Tom Foreman, of CNN's Washington bureau. In his words:

With so many states angling for a bigger say in the election process, if they didn't stop these two big players, they feared an avalanche of others would follow.

Christmas caucuses. Halloween primaries. Who knew where it would stop?

But even back then, other troubling questions were rising: Are you really going to tell all those Democrats they can't play? Don't you worry that they'll be angry and will punish the party in the general election? And for crying out loud, doesn't Florida in January sounds a lot nicer than New Hampshire?

But they went ahead, and now they are paying. They left the basement full of oily rags, matches and 5-year-olds, and now they are surprised that it's burning.

Putting out the blaze around these two states now is possible -- but so problematic it almost defies rational discussion.

Foreman goes on to list the potential solutions -- and the problems they create in their own right -- and adds one more problem to the list for good measure:

"I'm also not sure which national level Democrat has the muscle and courage, given the raw feelings rising around this election, to step in and lead the charge toward a compromise," Foreman says.

This is a huge opportunity for the Obama campaign and for Obama himself to demonstrate the kind of leadership some are saying he is too young to have. I wrote in this week's column that the best solution is likely going to involve a revote in both states. It can be done via mail -- as if everyone votes absentee -- for about $6 million in Florida; the figure would likely be lower in Michigan. The candidates have raised $90 million between them, so they can certainly afford to pitch in for the revote. Using those results to seat delegates would solve the problem, and it would make a veritable hero out of the candidate who proposes it.

And as for someone with "muscle and courage" who could make it happen, check out this story about what happened to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert's congressional seat this week -- and why.