Saturday, April 5, 2008

McCain can orate, too

Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama has gotten most of the plaudits in the oratory department throughout this campaign. His speechifying has electrified rallygoers throughout the country and is responsible for most of the energy that's been injected into this cycle.

But Republican nominee-to-be John McCain showed this week that he's no rookie when it comes to turning an inspiring phrase.

On a self-styled "biography tour" to introduce (or reintroduce, if you read my earlier comments on it) himself to Americans, McCain delivered his own call for his countrymen, young and old, to invest their time, talents and treasure into this nation we call home:

McCain made his comments on his way to the U.S. Naval Academy, where he graduated, to deliver the third in a string of speeches in a week-long tour designed to reintroduce him to a wide, general election audience and remind them of his long military history.

In his speech on a wind-swept outdoor pavilion overlooking the football stadium at the U.S. Naval Academy, the one-time Vietnam prisoner of war issued a challenge.

"If you find faults with our country, make it a better one. If you are disappointed with the mistakes of government, join its ranks and work to correct them," he said.

He said he hopes more Americans will enlist in the military or run for office.

"But there are many public causes where your service can make our country a stronger, better one than we inherited. Wherever there is a hungry child, a great cause exists. ... Wherever there is suffering, a great cause exists."
With the range and depth of problems facing the United States, it's easy to become disillusioned and cynical -- and many people do. But that's why I love this kind of appeal to service to the country and its people, especially when it comes from someone who has such a long history of service himself: It's a reminder of what makes America great -- the people, and what they can do, themselves.

Dean turns down the sheets

DNC Chairman Howard Dean made hotel reservations Wednesday morning.

No, not Eliot Spitzer-type reservations -- these were for members of the Florida delegation to the Democratic National Convention.

The move seems to portend a resolution to the highly and hotly disputed delegate mess in which Floridians -- and Michiganders -- have found themselves since their too-early primaries that drew the ire of the Democratic National Committee.

Dean himself indicated that a compromise is assured ...

Florida's Democratic leadership and national party chairman Howard Dean presented a united front (Wednesday) as they met to resolve their dispute over the seating of that state’s delegation at the presidential nominating convention in Denver.

"It is my commitment, working with the Florida delegation and the campaigns to find a fair solution so that Florida will be seated — and we are confident enough that we have reserved hotel rooms for the delegates from Florida in Denver," said Dean.
... even though it's no clearer today than a month ago how that compromise will be reached:

" ... We all agree that whatever the solution, it must have the support of both campaigns. While there may be differences of opinion in how we get there, we are all committed to ensuring that Florida's delegation is seated in Denver. We're committed to working with both campaigns to reach a solution as soon as realistically possible," said the statement.

" ... We will continue to work towards a solution to ensure delegates are seated and logistics are in place for a Florida delegation in Denver."
Meanwhile, one thing has become clear, and that's that Michigan won't be holding a "do-over:" any compromise that is reached will have to work, in some way, around the numbers produced in the first go-round, when Hillary Clinton was the only candidate on what one cable news host called "a Soviet-style ballot:"

Michigan Democrats will not to go to the polls again to choose a presidential nominee, even though the national party has refused to recognize the results of their vote in January, the party announced Friday.

"We have concluded that it is not practical to conduct such a primary or caucus," the state party's executive committee said in a written statement. But they added they will continue to work with the Democratic National Committee and elected officials to ensure that the state is represented at the party convention in Denver this August.
If Dean manages to somehow avoid a brokered convention, working things out with Florida and Michigan should be relatively easy.

Friday, April 4, 2008

McCain security update

This just in:

Sen. John McCain intends to meet with Secret Service officials in the next several days in preparation for accepting security protection for the final several months of his White House bid, campaign officials said Friday.
How does that affect the Secret Service budget, congressman?

Dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb

The day before the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the director of the U.S. Secret Service told Congress in a public hearing that another prominent political figure is completely unprotected by his agency: Republican nominee-to-be John McCain.

"Statutorily, he is not required to take protection," Director Mark Sullivan said when asked about McCain's security during a hearing on the agency's budget. "As far as an actual request, we have not gotten one. We have no involvement at this point."
McCain has, so far, resisted calls for his campaign to come under the umbrella of Secret Service protection, "fearing it would interfere with his brand of intimate campaigning among voters. McCain also has said he'll try to last as long as he can without (Secret Service protection).

"I've never done it," McCain said in November ... "It's an invasion of your ability to have contact with voters."

Um, does anyone see the sense in pointing this out in a public hearing? Wouldn't it have been far better judgment for the congressman to expose McCain's glaring vulnerability behind closed doors?

It reminds me of that exchange from "In the Line of Fire," where Clint Eastwood plays aging Secret Service Agent Frank Horrigan, who is desperately trying to convince superiors that there was a legitimate threat to the president:

Security aide: They won't cancel. You know what Sargent said.
Horrigan: At least make the arrival underground. Don't give Leary a target.
Aide: They want a big show. They said unless we have proof --
Horrigan: The proof may just be a dead president.
Thanks to the reckless irresponsibility of one congressman, Americans can only hope that there is no clear and present threat to the senior senator from Arizona.

'Pledged delegate' = 'misnomer'

Hillary Clinton has all but confirmed what many political watchers have been suspecting for the better part of two months: Far from considering calls to leave the race for the good of the party, she fully intends to engage Barack Obama in an intense and bruising delegate battle at the national convention that promises to leave the eventual winner wounded going into the general.

From the political wire:

"There is no such thing as a pledged delegate," Clinton said at a news conference in California, where she has been fundraising ... The former first lady said she was traveling to North Dakota to thank her supporters and delegates — and wooing Obama supporters was fair game.

Pledged delegates are "misnomer. The whole point is for delegates, however they are chosen, to really ask themselves who would be the best president and who would be our best nominee against Senator McCain," Clinton said. "And I think that process goes all the way to the convention."
Observers knew this was coming; I told you about it in February. Democratic Party officials know how divisive it will be, and that's why Clinton has dealt with increasing calls for her departure from the race.

But she's breaking it to them, in the Hillary-gentle sort of way, that she's not going anywhere, and it may be the phones of pledged delegates that will now be ringing at 3 a.m.

40 years from Memphis

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the assassination of civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

King was just 26 when he became the national face of the civil disobedience campaign for racial equality that changed the way Americans lived with one another. He was gunned down as he stood on a balcony outside Room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tenn., in the early evening of April 4, 1968.

CNN has produced an excellent documentary, "Eyewitness to Murder: The King Assassination," as part of its Black in America series. I watched it at 2 a.m. this morning. I was up working on this weekend's column, and I found myself writing only during the short commercial breaks because I simply couldn't look away from the program. How much do you know about the assassination, or the conspiracy theories surrounding it? Test your knowledge with the questions on this page, designed by CNN as a companion piece to accompany the documentary for use in high school classes.

What if King had lived, asks CNN in this piece that speculates on both where King's path might have led and the impact his life -- and death -- had on those close to him.

Also on the web site, you can read this commentary from former Associated Press reporter Kathryn Johnson, who spent hours with Coretta Scott King at her home in the hours after King's murder as the family struggled to grasp what had happened. The atmosphere in the home was "eerie," she says; also eerie is her haunting recollection of the events of the evening. Yes, the bar for objectivity in this piece is nonexistent, but I doubt that it would have been possible for Johnson to have been unmoved by all she saw and heard that night.

Finally, perhaps as evidence of King's legacy, this study reports that 76 percent of Americans believe that the United States is ready for its first black president. Three out of four Americans: that's a lot of progress from the America of King's day. But it isn't four out of four. In that way, the study tells two stories, indicative of all that King and his work accomplished but also the work left undone.

Hillary does Leno

Hillary Clinton appeared on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno Thursday night and made efforts to smooth over the furor over her I-was-nearly-shot-to-death-in-Bosnia-by-a-sniper flap.

"It is so great to be here; I was so worried I wasn't going to make it. I was pinned down by sniper fire," Clinton said after joining him onstage, referring to her claims - since disputed - that she dodged sniper bullets while arriving in Bosnia as first lady. Clinton later said she had "misspoke."

... "This has been such a mismatch of words and action," Clinton continued. "Obviously I've been so privileged to represent our country in more than 80 other countries, lots of war zones. I wrote about it in my book and obviously had a lapse. But here I am, safe and sound."
A mismatch of words and action? More like a mismatch of her words and her actions.

Clinton has had more trouble with words and actions this week, this time over statements she may (or may not) have made to New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson as he considered his endorsement in the Democratic race. Clinton reportedly told Richardson flatly, "He cannot win, Bill. He cannot win," referring to her opponent, Barack Obama.

Did she say that? reporters asked Clinton at a press conference Thursday. Clinton responded:

“You know we have been going back and forth in this campaign about who said what to whom and let me say this about that. I don’t talk about private conversations. But I have consistently made the case that I can win because I believe I can win. You know, sometimes people draw the conclusions that I’m saying somebody else can’t win. I can win, I know I can win. That’s why I do this everyday. I’m in it to win it.”

The reporter pressed Clinton saying, “Is that a no?” To which Clinton responded, “That’s a no.”

But later...

Clinton aides now insist the Senator misunderstood the question, asserting the candidate believed she was answering whether or not she would discuss a private conversation.

"I just double checked," Doug Hattaway, Clinton spokesperson told ABC News, "She was saying she was not going to tell (the reporter) about her private conversation."
I just find it amusing that a grown woman who serves in the U.S. Senate and who wants to be president of the United States has trouble understanding, according to her campaign, a simple question about whether she made a comment attributed to her.

Perhaps CBS News' Fernando Suarez provides some clarity:

The campaign’s move leaves open the possibility that Clinton may have been worried that Richardson, who eventually endorsed Obama, would have come out and challenged Clinton’s denial.
Bosnia and Bill Richardson ... just the latest examples from Clinton, who has had trouble telling the truth throughout her entire public life.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Big news tomorrow on "Today!"

We interrupt this political blog for some very important news:

The New Kids on the Block are back!

The New Kids on the Block are back!!

The New Kids on the Block are BACK!!!!!!!

What can I say?? As a 30-year-old former card-carrying member of the New Kids on the Block Fan Club, I would be betraying my past if I wasn't drunk with celebratory glee. After all, between my sister and me, a lot of my parents' money went toward all manner of New Kids paraphernalia: T-shirts, tapes (yes, tapes), keychains, jackets, an endless supply of Bop and other teenybopper magazines (we tore the pages out of them and made them into "wallpaper" for our rooms, like this:) ...

... And then there was that time we literally slept in an alley behind a record store in a sketchy part of town to be in line for concert tickets the next morning.

True story.

I'll be tuned in at 7 a.m. EST tomorrow as the New Kids mark the 20th anniversary of their multiplatinum album "Hangin' Tough" by announcing their reunion, a new CD, a summer TV series and a fall tour. I've already been talking with my sister and another one of our friends about tickets. I have to admit that I have also spent some time today on YouTube watching those cheesy old videos.

You know what? It put a smile on my face. And I'm old enough that I don't care what people think about it.

And I'm not alone: Fan sites are already crawling with adult women, just like me, who are acting like they are 12 years old again, beside themselves with excitement and who just can't wait until tomorrow morning.

Welcome back, New Kids on the Block!! Your fans have spent these 14 years Hangin' Tough. :)

Change your lightbulbs ... or become Hannibal Lecter

After having a drought in the Incredibly Stupid Statements File over the past couple of weeks, we have two entries in two days!

Today's contribution comes to us from Ted Turner, the former CNN titan who now uses his bazillions to indulge in politics, environmental issues, land hoarding, entertainment, gypsy travels, curious collectibles and sorcery of all kinds.

Not really. But it seems like it.

Turner told PBS host Charlie Rose that not addressing global warming "will be catastrophic," and not just for the polar ice caps:

TED TURNER: Not doing it will be catastrophic. We’ll be eight degrees hottest in ten, not ten but 30 or 40 years and basically none of the crops will grow. Most of the people will have died and the rest of us will be cannibals. Civilization will have broken down. The few people left will be living in a failed state — like Somalia or Sudan — and living conditions will be intolerable. The droughts will be so bad there’ll be no more corn grown. Not doing it is suicide. Just like dropping bombs on each other, nuclear weapons is suicide. We’ve got to stop doing the suicidal two things, which are hanging on to our nuclear weapons and after that we’ve got to stabilize the population. When I was born-

CHARLIE ROSE: So what’s wrong with the population?

TURNER: We’re too many people. That’s why we have global warming. We have global warming because too many people are using too much stuff. If there were less people, they’d be using less stuff.
(OK, I have to write fast ... I've got the people in Idaho on the phone and I'm talking to them about a shelter.)

Whew. I felt like I was watching some B-movie about the end of the world.

Here's a link to a funny post about Turner's comments, including a clip of the interview. Read the comments at the end. Some of them are really funny and made me laugh out loud, including these:

When Howard Hughes and Hugh Hefner went stupid, at least they stayed in bed with pajamas on. What’s wrong with Turner? Can’t he find any nice pajamas?

The Aztecs were cannibals. The earth must have been warmer then ...
Also of note is a list of climate change-related quotes from the late 60s and 70s, posted by "Alden Pile" ... Verrrry interesting. Check it out!

I'll let you go now, because I know you have to run to Wal-Mart and buy some of those energy-saving lightbulbs ... Clarice.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Haley Barbour on H&C

Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour appeared on Hannity & Colmes last night to defend John McCain's much-publicized remarks about being in Iraq for "100 years."

The McCain camp has complained that Barack Obama has misrepresented McCain's position on long-term American presence in Iraq. Obama frequently repeats McCain's contention that being in Iraq for 100 years would be fine with him.

What Obama leaves out is the caveat McCain placed on that long-term presence: "As long as Americans are not being injured or harmed or wounded or killed, then it's fine with me," he said, going on to compare any long-term presence in Iraq to American military presence in Japan, Germany and South Korea.

(For what it's worth, the Washington Post comes down on McCain's side; read its analysis of the tiff here.)

Anyway, Barbour hammered on the point that Obama is intentionally misleading voters where McCain's Iraq comments are concerned. It was a relatively unremarkable segment -- except that it marked one of the only times I've seen Barbour on a cable news show during this presidential cycle. That's important because, as I've mentioned before, he's in McCain's VP mix.

Many people (myself included) believe that McCain needs a VP who can bolster his credibility with conservatives. And if that person happens to be a Southern governor, all the better. On H&C, Barbour showed a bit of why he's on the list: He delivered direct, McCain-like straight talk with a drawl that will set Southern minds at ease when he said, "You know, Shawhn, it ra-mines me of that Mark Twain sayin': A lye gets half-way arownd th' worl' buh-for th' truth kin git its boots on."

Perhaps most tellingly, Barbour didn't slam the door on the VP talk when he got the inevitable question from Hannity: Would he be McCain's running mate if asked? Barbour said he is flattered to be mentioned as a potential pick, but that he would be "very surprised" if McCain picks him, adding that he believes McCain will make his choice "sometime this summer" after he sees "what the Democrats do and what the geography is like."

That's not "No."

The interview was also notable for two funny statements: One, Hannity called himself a member of the "alternative media;" two, after doing a segment on Hillary Clinton's new 3 a.m. phone ad and Hannity asking Barbour if he would accept the vice presidency if his phone rang at 3 a.m. and McCain asked him to come on board, Alan Colmes said, "Can't anyone make a call during business hours?"

For all you wanted to know about Haley Barbour but didn't care to ask, click here for the story about McCain's working VP list (by the way, what's with that statement that he hasn't heard back from people heading up the search? "Oh, McCain? AGAIN? Geez ..."), here for Barbour's gubernatorial web page, here for his campaign site and here for the Wiki rundown on the Man from Yazoo City.

Finally, I will tell you that during the summer of 2006, I met a political consultant who had served as a state party chairman and run Fred Thompson's U.S. Senate campaign in Tennessee. We discussed potential GOP presidential candidates for this cycle, and he brought up Barbour's name as someone who would be a tough candidate -- if he chose to run. I remember this person telling me that there was already a "Draft Haley" movement in place at that time. (It's now the "Draft Haley for Vice President Committee," and it files with the FEC!) I only mention it here as credence for a potential VP selection and to point out that it can only help Barbour's stock if others already perceive him as being commander-in-chief-ready.

[Incidentally, there's something intriguing about the possibility of having a vice president from a place called Yazoo City (yes, they have a Haley Barbour Parkway). The only thing that could top it would be to have someone from Yeehaw Junction.]

Dobson's back ... Great.

It's been a while since we had someone contribute to the Incredibly Stupid Statements File. Thankfully, there's always the Rev. James Dobson.

In a statement to the Wall Street Journal, Dobson said John McCain's recent statements "appear to be fracturing an increasingly divided constituency.

"I have seen no evidence that Sen. McCain is successfully unifying the Republican Party or drawing conservatives into his fold. To the contrary, he seems intent on driving them away," Dobson said.

Yes, Rev. Dobson. McCain is intent on driving away the base of his party, because, you know, that's the first step presidential nominees take in a successful run for the White House.


What makes Dobson think this? According to CNN:

In his statement, Dobson said McCain had not reached out to "pro-family leaders" or changed his views on positions that "trouble" social conservatives, pointing to the candidate's support for embryonic stem cell research and stance to allow states to set their own definitions of marriage.
Dance, Johnny! Dance!!

So, let me get this straight: Social conservatives can't trust candidates who change their minds on these issues (see Mitt Romney), but McCain is unacceptable because he won't?

For his part, McCain is reacting just as he should: by brushing Dobson's comments off.

In an interview with CNN, McCain said he respected Dobson's views but disagreed, citing the endorsements of his former rivals and polling data to show that the party is rallying behind him.

"I'm very pleased at the polling data that shows that our party is very unified," McCain said. "More Republicans say they'll vote for me than Democrats say that they will vote for either Sen. Obama or Sen. Clinton."
It's almost like Dobson believes that if he repeats this McCain-is-unacceptable, McCain-is-divisive mantra enough, it will become true.

It is true that Christian conservatives aren't overly thrilled about McCain. But they will vote for him, because they understand, apparently better than Dobson does, that not doing so will likely result in a victory for the Democratic nominee. Whatever his flaws, McCain is much more acceptable to them -- mostly because of his position on federal judges -- than either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, because both have pledged to use support for Roe v. Wade as a litmus test for court nominees.

Dobson has been downright hostile to McCain throughout the campaign. Even so, McCain says he would still meet with Dobson.

Who's behaving more Christian-like? Hint: It's not the good reverend.

I have said this before, but the leadership of the Christian conservative movement is doing infinitely more harm than good to the advancement of its principles. The people who make up the movement -- Americans who support pro-life, pro-family policies -- are being embarrassed and betrayed by these men (and women -- see Phyllis Schlafly) who are acting more like Pharisees than Christians. Here's hoping for their continued slide into irrelevance.

More here.

Doctors and universal health care

As health care has entered the national consciousness as a political issue, conventional wisdom has held that doctors are opposed to a universal health care system. Their objections have included the government's reimbursement rate for services it already covers, like Medicare and Medicaid (and hovering at around 40 cents on the dollar, that rate can be described as nothing more than pathetic) and the potentially negative impact it is assumed such a change would have on quality of care.

But a new study from the Indiana University School of Medicine is challenging conventional wisdom.

Of more than 2,000 doctors surveyed, nearly three out of five, or 59 percent, said they support legislation to establish a national health insurance program, while 32 percent said they opposed it, according to Reuters.

Perhaps surprisingly, doctors are seeing universal health care as a potential solution to many of the problems is has been assumed the change would create -- or exacerbate.

"As doctors, we find that our patients suffer because of increasing deductibles, co-payments, and restrictions on patient care," said Dr. Ronald Ackermann, who worked on the study ... "More and more, physicians are turning to national health insurance as a solution to this problem ... Across the board, more physicians feel that our fragmented and for-profit insurance system is obstructing good patient care, and a majority now support national insurance as the remedy," Ackermann said in a statement.
But the major professional group for physicians sees it differently. The American Medical Association has launched Voice for the Uninsured to advocate for health care reform, and its plan doesn't advocate a universal system. Instead, the AMA proposal rests on three "pillars:" Making health insurance more affordable through tax credits or vouchers, providing for individual choice in health insurance plans and regulating markets and protecting high-risk patients:

In short, the AMA advocates a clear role for government in financing and regulating health insurance coverage, with health plans and health care services being provided through private markets, as they are currently. The AMA proposal gives patients more control over our nation’s health care dollars, without sacrificing personal security or choice. It reflects important social values and traditions, such as assistance based on need, freedom of choice, market innovation and fairness.
You can read the plan itself here (PDF).

There are nearly 50 million Americans without health insurance. Are you one of them? What do you think about universal health care? Have your say in comments.

Latest poll numbers ...

You know what the pundits are saying about Hillary Clinton in Pennsylvania: She must win there to keep the Democratic race "competitive."

What once was a 15-point lead at the beginning of March is now a five-point lead -- and it's shrinking, according to a new Rasmussen poll completed Monday.

The shift coincides with Barack Obama's campaign emphasis in the state, which includes a bus tour and triple the television advertising that Clinton is running. As a result of his efforts, Obama has picked up five points (we're going to stay away from calling it a "surge").

In other polling news, behold, the latest RealClearPolitics numbers:

Democrats (Obama-Clinton):
Total delegates: Obama + 136 (1635 - 1499)

Pledged Delegates: Obama + 169 (1417 - 1248)

Popular Vote: Obama +2.6 (49.5 - 46.9)

Popular Vote (w/FL): Obama +1.4 (48.5 - 47.1)

Nat'l RCP Average: Obama +2.6 (45.4 - 42.8)

Pennsylvania: Clinton +14.2 (37.8 - 52.0)

North Carolina: Obama +12.0 (49.8 - 37.8)

General Election:
McCain-Obama: McCain +0.2
McCain-Clinton: McCain +0.6

McCain-Obama: McCain +2.2
McCain-Clinton: McCain +0.4

McCain-Obama: McCain +7.0
Clinton-McCain: Clinton +0.3

McCain-Obama: McCain +6.8
McCain-Clinton: McCain +2.8

Pollsters love to talk about patterns. Do you see any here?

I'll make it easy for you: Lots of Obama all over the Democratic numbers, and lots of McCain all over the general election numbers ...

No wonder Howard Dean is all in a lather.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

McCain on Letterman

John McCain appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman tonight and took his sense of humor for a spin.

McCain looks like "the guy at the hardware store who makes the keys," "the guy who can't stop talking about how well his tomatoes are doing," "the guy who points out the spots they missed at the car wash," Letterman said.

McCain appeared and told Letterman, among other things, "You look like the manager of a creepy motel."

Letterman's jokes were better. But, hey -- he's the host. (And when we're talking about the writing on Letterman, remember that all things are relative.)

McCain took on several serious issues, including his rocky start as the presumptive nominee and the rejection of his candidacy by several prominent conservatives, the credit crisis and Guantanamo Bay. He showed off some wonkishness on the major issues -- McCain was perhaps at his best talking with passion about educational training programs at community colleges, one piece of the solution he envisions to the economic crunch facing the country -- but also showed a humorous, human side.

McCain's appearance was booked as part of his "biography tour," put together by his campaign as he slips his toe into the waters of a general election campaign and test-drives the message he'll need to win it.

If all I knew about McCain was what I saw tonight, I'd be impressed ... all in all, his strategists should be pretty happy -- and not just because of the latest RealClearPolitics polls.


Tired of watching the candidates "dance" around reporters' questions?

Try this game, Dance2DC, at (home to Obama Girl). Pick a candidate -- choose from the three still in the race, in addition to John Edwards, Mike Huckabee and Mitt Romney -- then try to keep up with the dance moves prescribed by the "powers that be" (think of them as your big campaign donors).

But watch out -- if reality is any guide, the Mitt Romney character will have an inherent advantage.

Clinton is a Chief

Missouri State Rep. Emanuel Cleaver is bringing some unwanted attention to Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign.

CNN reports that Cleaver, Clinton's Missouri co-chairman, told Canadian public television that he expects Barack Obama to beat Clinton, adding, "I will be stunned if he's not the next president of the United States.

"Even though I don't expect the Kansas City Chiefs to beat the Indianapolis Colts, I cheer for the Kansas City Chiefs," he said.

Cleaver is a key supporter on the Clinton bandwagon; in addition to serving on her steering committee, as a congressman, he is also a superdelegate. Cleaver intimated that he may consider casting his superdelegate support for Obama in the wake of the Illinois senator's victory in Cleaver's congressional district in the state's primary on Feb. 5. Count Cleaver among those who want to see the Democratic race decided before the convention; a floor fight for the nomination, he said, would be a "tragedy of tragedies."

Hear the podcast of the CBC's show, The Sunday Edition, here. Also, read about Cleaver's superdelegate dilemma here (also includes a nice Cleaver bio) on, an interesting web site "dedicated to telling the story of African Americans, Africans, Carribeans, and other melanated people in the State of Missouri" whose goal is "to show people that the heart of Missouri is Black." Posts are separated by category, including one called "Survival."

And -- I checked it out for you -- no, there is no, although there is an unincorporated area known as White City in Missouri.

A national disgrace

There's big trouble in the schools of this country's biggest cities:

Seventeen of the nation's 50 largest cities had high school graduation rates lower than 50 percent, according to a report released Tuesday ... The report also found that about half of the students served by public school systems in the nation's largest cities receive diplomas.
Did you get that?

One out of every two students in the public schools in this country's largest cities doesn't earn a diploma.

One out of two -- and that's on average.

Three out of every four teens in Detroit drop out, some of the 1.2 million a year who do so.

Those are staggering numbers.

Public schools in Urban America have been on a downhill spiral for many years. Maybe this report is the sobering reality check this country needs to stop playing politics with education.

Everything about the way our country does school should be up for debate -- everything. More on this in my column on Saturday.

Paul won't even vote for himself

One of the biggest head-scratchers of the presidential campaign for Republicans was why Ron Paul was running for president as one of them. After all, Paul's policy positions seem more in line with Libertarian views than those of the GOP, and that was borne out by the support he attracted, which was mostly Libertarians and Libertarian-leaning Republicans.

Well, Paul is giving more credence to those who argued that he shouldn't have been on the GOP ballot to begin with. reports that Paul is set to endorse former Georgia congressman Bob Barr, who will announce his candidacy as a Libertarian next week. Check out the comments; they're pretty funny.

(Yes, I've considered that it's April Fool's Day, but this story was actually posted on Monday. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution has done some reporting on the Paul-Barr connection, and it's also been mentioned on

Can I just ask one question? (OK, that was one, but there's one more.) How much sense does it make to run for president, commit to the grueling travel schedule, participate in all those debates, choke down who-knows-how-many chicken cordon bleu dinners at party events, shake an untold number of hands, suffer through all the local political soirees and fulfill all the other obligations of a major presidential campaign and then turn around and endorse someone who didn't think running for president was important enough -- or the American voters are important enough -- to go through the process the way that you did?

It's one thing to run for president becaues you believe you have something to offer the country. Obviously, Paul believed that about himself and his campaign. But then to endorse someone who didn't think the process was worthy his time to this point, that's a slap in the face to all those folks who live in Paul's congressional district who have put up with a part-time congressman while he ran his "reLOVEution."

If I was one of Paul's constituents, I'd be firing off a pret-ty test-y letter to his office today.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Chelsea takes another pass

Chelsea Clinton can ignore the Monica Lewinsky question all she wants, but apparently voters aren't playing along.

Last week, Chelsea scolded a Butler University student for asking whether the scandal hurt her mother's credibility.

"I do not think that is any of your business," the former first daughter flatly stated.

Welllllll ... as Chief of Staff A.J. MacInerney said in The American President (only one of the best movies ever made), "With all due respect, sir, the American people have a funny way of deciding on their own what is and what is not their business."

Witness Monday's Clinton rally at North Carolina State University, where another college student decided for himself what is and what is not his business as an American citizen. From CNN:

Campaigning at North Carolina State, a student brought up the touchy subject, saying the scandal was the public's business since the incident occurred when her father was President of the United States.

The younger Clinton sharply disagreed she should discuss the matter.

"It's none of your business," she said. "That is something that is personal to my family. I'm sure there are things that are personal to your family that you don't think are anyone else's business either." ... The student later defended his comments to CNN affiliated WTVD, saying "I felt that it is our business because he was president at the time, and his first duty is to be chief citizen."
Ahem. While it's true that every family has things that "you don't think are anyone else's business either," no one else's family includes a husband who was president of the United States and a wife who would like to be.

And as far as this whole "Don't-ask-me-about-Monica" strategy goes, in my opinion, they're going about it all wrong. If I was advising the Clinton team, I would encourage Chelsea to consider how she wants to respond to the Lewinsky issue. She's not a sheltered teenager anymore; she's an adult who's campaigning for her mother, and people want to know what she thinks. Instead of running from it, she should embrace that power. She has a tremendous opportunity -- and she's the only one in this position -- to speak plainly about what happened and how she thinks it contributed to her mother's character. There are plenty of women out there whose spouses have strayed; the campaign is missing an opportunity to humanize Hillary by not addressing this issue.

(I know what you're thinking ... the Clintons? Miss an opportunity to score political points? But apparently even the Clintons have a public embarrassment threshold, and it's spelled M-O-N-I-C-A.)

In politics, the longer you put off addressing an issue, the bigger the issue will become. In other words, Chelsea, there will always be someone who thinks your business is his business ...

Just ask any paparazzo.

Less isn't more

How does one word become 109?

When the person who speaks them is running for president.

Candidates are notorious for turning direct questions that could be answered "Yes" or "No" into long treatises that may, or may not, have anything to do with the question. You know those politicians -- the ones who, the more they talk, the less they've said?

Here's one example of campaign morphology, courtesy of Barack Obama. Consider the "growth" of his answer to whether he supports parental notification for abortions for minors:

Obama as an Illinois State Senate candidate in 1996:

An amendment to that statement added:

"Depends on how young — possibly for extremely young teens, i.e. 12 or 13 year olds."
As a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2004, Obama said:

"I would oppose any legislation that does not include a bypass provision for minors who have been victims of, or have reason to fear, physical or sexual abuse."
Last year, Obama said:

"As a parent, Obama believes that young women, if they become pregnant, should talk to their parents before considering an abortion. But he realizes not all girls can turn to their mother or father in times of trouble, and in those instances, we should want these girls to seek the advice of trusted adults - an aunt, a grandmother, a pastor.

"Unfortunately, instead of encouraging pregnant teens to seek the advice of adults, most parental consent bills that come before Congress or state legislatures criminalize adults who attempt to help a young woman in need and lack judicial bypass and other provisions that would permit exceptions in compelling cases."
Click here for the complete Politico article about the Wordy Wonder from the Windy City.

_OTE _OR _E!!

So let's pretend for a minute that you're managing the media buys for one of the major presidential campaigns. Where are you going to get the most bang for your buck? Where can you find the most voters, the ripest bunch of Americans who need to see your candidate's ad (or "learn" something about your opponent, courtesy of your candidate)?

Would you believe:

"WHEEL!!! ... OF!!! ... FORTUNE!!!!"

Yes, it's true; CNN reports that Pat Sajak and Vanna White's show has drawn more presidential campaign advertising -- more than $2 million so far -- than any other individual television program, according to the TNS Media Intelligence/Campaign Media Analysis Group (thankfully, just CMAG for short).

"Wheel" spending breaks down like this:

Barack Obama: $1 million
Hillary Clinton: $815,000
John McCain: $168,000

"Wheel" is "inexpensive but also efficient," because it typically follows the news and leads into prime time, CMAG CEO Evan Tracey explained.

Wait a minute ... I see an opportunity here. In honor of the show's 25th anniversary and in recognition of this story, how about a big-time, prime-time candidate showdown ... not on some boring debate stage, but AROUND THE WHEEL!! Let's have "Wheel of Fortune - I Want to be President Edition!" Let America see who's got (Theme: movie title)

T _ E R _ G _ T _ T U _ _ !!

Come on, Wheel execs!! Make it happen!!
Close on the heels of "Wheel" is "The Oprah Winfrey Show." Oprah herself might have endorsed Obama last year, but Clinton isn't giving up the talk show queen's demographic without a fight: Clinton has bought nearly $600,000 in ads on the show compared to Obama's $974,000. (McCain has spent $185,000 on "Oprah" so far; maybe he's more of a Judge Judy kind of guy.)

But spending on these shows is dwarfed by what candidates are dropping on local news: a whopping $36.7 million combined (Clinton $17 million, Obama $16 million, McCain $4 million).

As an interesting aside, Clinton also spent big on NBC's "Today Show" and ABC's "Good Morning America." Obama's top five television programs in terms of ad spending were rounded out by "Today" and the CBS sitcom "Two and a Half Men," while McCain also spent big on the syndicated show "Jeopardy," and NBC's "Deal or No Deal."

SIDEBAR: I would advise any presidential candidate to stay away from advertising on a program called "Deal or No Deal." It just doesn't bode well. END SIDEBAR
Figure out the puzzles and write in your answers in comments!

Getting to knooowwww yoooouuu ....

Remember that Rodgers and Hammerstein song from The King and I?

Getting to know you, getting to know all about you.
Getting to like you, getting to hope you like me.
Well, John McCain would like to get to know you, but more importantly, he is getting to hope you like him.

McCain has kicked off a "biography tour" his aides say is designed to "introduce" the Arizona senator to American voters.

He's been in Washington for 25 years, having been first elected to Congress in 1982. McCain ran for president in a contentious race against eventual winner George W. Bush in 2000. He's been at the forefront of some of the most high-profile and important fights on issues important to conservatives (immigration reform, campaign finance reform and federal court nominations chief among them, just off the top of my head). His 2008 campaign is nearly a year old.

So McCain's aides didn't mean they wanted to "introduce" you to McCain. They want to "re-introduce" you to McCain -- and those are the reasons why.

McCain will begin the tour in Mississippi (home to Gov. Haley Barbour, a frequently mentioned potential VP candidate) at the airfield in Meridian named for his famous father. Expect to hear a lot -- and I mean a lot -- about McCain's military pedigree and service, including the nearly six years he spent in a Vietnamese POW camp. Here's one excerpt from his web site:

As the son and grandson of distinguished Navy admirals, John McCain deeply values duty, honor and service of country. John attended college at the United States Naval Academy, and launched a 22-year career as a naval aviator upon his graduation. He continued the McCain tradition of service to country passed down to him from his father and grandfather when he asked to serve in the Vietnam War.
Accompanying these efforts will be a new, 60-second ad that McCain's campaign is calling his first of the general election. It poses hypothetical questions designed to draw contrasts between McCain and either Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama ("What must a president believe about us, about America? ... And what must we believe about that president?") and ends with the statement: "John McCain. The American president America has been waiting for."

SIDEBAR: You know, it takes a lot of chutzpah to run for president. A lot of chutzpah. END SIDEBAR
You can watch the ad here.

Getting to know you,
Getting to feel free and easy
When I am with you,
Getting to know what to say
Haven't you noticed
Suddenly I'm bright and breezy
Because of all the beautiful and new
Things I'm learning about you
Day by day.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Meet Meghan McCain

Former first daughter Chelsea Clinton has been busy stumping for her mom on college campuses and in town hall-style meetings throughout the country. But her effectiveness may have been blunted by the way the Clintons limit the access the press has to Chelsea. In other words, they think she's capable enough to campaign, but apparently they don't trust her enough to think for herself.

But, I digress. Hillary has Chelsea; John McCain has his daughter, Meghan. Meghan McCain hasn't taken a visible role in her father's campaign the way Chelsea has done with the Clinton campaign, but folks are taking notice of her quiet contribution:

Meghan McCain tells us that she graduated in May 2007 from Columbia University with a major in art history. Her bio on the site lists "Saturday Night Live" and "Newsweek" among her "previous job experiences."

SIDEBAR: What kind of work can an art history major do at SNL or Newsweek? END SIDEBAR
Oh, and she's a Scorpio, too, she informs us.

The Associated Press had this to say about Meghan's blog:

While the Web site is about a campaign, it is not about issues and rarely mentions other candidates. Rather, it is intended to make her parents, and politics, seem more real ... Her Web site mixes behind-the-scenes photos and videos from the campaign trail with iPod music playlists, designer fashion, even makeup tips.
I don't know yet what to make of this site. I'm not sure what makeup tips have to do with who should be the next leader of the free world. But maybe that's the point: Maybe the idea is to use something that has nothing to do with politics to draw in young people who wouldn't otherwise have any interest in politics.

Or, maybe I'm overthinking it and Meghan McCain just wants to share her designer fashion expertise with you, and it's just a coincidence that her father is running for president.

Check out her blog and see what you think.

Back to Chelsea, she made news last week when a college student asked her whether she thought the Monica Lewinsky scandal had damaged her mother's credibility. Chelsea bristled and seemed taken aback that anyone would DARE broach that subject in her presence: "Wow, you're the first person actually that's ever asked me that question in the, I don't know, maybe 70 college campuses I've now been to" (Like, how dare you!), finally declaring, "... and I do not think that is any of your business."

But wait! The questioner was a Clinton supporter who told cable news outlets that he asked the question to give Chelsea an opportunity to explain how the scandal made her mother stronger! No matter ... in Chelsea World, anything that isn't sanctioned is an attack.

In December, Chelsea brushed off 9-year-old Sydney "The Female Bob Woodward" Rieckhoff, a Cedar Rapids fourth grader and "kid reporter" for Scholastic News. Sydney, as everyone who's anyone in the press knows, is one part kid reporter, one part voracious pirhana. "Do you think your dad would be a good 'first man' in the White House?" Sydney demanded. (Sydney isn't the principal of the Playground Press Corps for nothing.) But the fair Chelsea never lost her composure under the merciless assault: "I'm sorry, I don't talk to the press and that applies to you, unfortunately. Even though I think you’re cute," Chelsea breezily replied.

After the Rieckhoff brushoff, Fox News posted this piece about Chelsea's role in her mother's campaign:

Onstage, Chelsea never speaks; she stands next to her mother and applauds but utters not a single sentence and doesn’t even say hello. And reporters covering the campaign have been put on notice that Chelsea is not available to speak to them. An aide follows the former first daughter as she works the crowd, shushing reporters who approach her and try to ask any questions.
The nerve of the press, trying to -- GASP!! -- ask questions!!

In the words of Meghan McCain (and, possibly her heroine, Cher Horowitz), AS IF!

Perhaps Robert Paul Reyes said it best:

If Hillary is the evil Queen who ran into a stumbling block called the democratic process on her way to her coronation, Chelsea is the haughty princess who has a hard time dealing with commoners as she tries to convince them that her royal highness is not a monster. ... Why does the press let her get away with her disdainful attitude? If she refuses to answer questions from the press, we shouldn't cover her appearances on behalf of her Mom. Chelsea isn't a vestal virgin; she's not off limits, by putting herself in the spotlight she is open to criticism, analysis and yes, questions from the press.