14 March 2008

See you when the stupidity storm has passed

Today the fifth-largest investment bank in the country went hat-in-hand to a competitor and the Federal Reserve Bank to keep itself afloat.

Had Bear Stearns been unable to find someone to participate in a bailout we could have seen - and in fact may still see - more banks and investment banks go belly up.

A global credit crisis looms.

The stock market is in the tank.

Oil prices are well over $100 a barrel.

Home foreclosures have people living in 21st century Hoovervilles.

We are heading into - and frankly I would say are already in - a recession.

And the dollar is getting weaker by the second.

But the big story today on the blogs and the 24-hour noise networks is Barack Obama's pastor. It's hard to imagine that there's anyone out there who doesn't know what I'm talking about, so I'm not going to explain it here.

You'll notice that my posts on this blog have been fewer in recent weeks, and that is no accident.

I refuse to get involved in the bullshit and slime that passes for news and political discourse in this country, the supposed model of Democracy.

If you check back over the past month of posts on this blog, you will not see anything about the half-baked John McCain/female lobbyist story that sullied, or shall I say further sullied, the reputation of a once-great newspaper - the New York Times.

You won't see anything about the incendiary and bigoted remarks made by the right-wing preachers that have backed McCain in the hopes of bringing the rest of the religious right into the GOP fold for the fall.

You won't see anything about Geraldine Ferraro, or Samantha Power or any references to Hillary Clinton being a monster.

You won't see anything about the 3 AM ad, or Saturday Night Live.

That's because (to quote George Carlin) it's all bullshit and bullshit is bad for you.

As the Democratic race drags on, and the Republicans try to get a head start on the November campaign, the so-called news is getting uglier and more moronic by the day.

And it is getting that way for a reason.

Americans are themselves bigoted, stupid or just plain fearful and the politicians know how to play on that prejudice, ignorance and fear.

If you disagree with me, please explain to me how the Vietnam war hero was painted as the wuss in 2004, while the guy who got a plum appointment to the National Guard (secured by his important daddy) became the tough guy hero.

Politicians know that when they get into the gutter they get votes. And the 24-hour noise networks know that when politicians get into the gutter the networks get viewers.

You can argue that all the noise is really news because it affects how people vote.

Sadly, I'd have a difficult time arguing that point.

But that also proves my point.

Taken as a whole, the American electorate is not sophisticated enough to know when they are being led around by the nose.

With a six-week lull until the next primary, the noise machine will become deafening. The blogosphere and the airwaves - just when you think it impossible - will become trashier and more ridiculous.

This campaign started in earnest about a year ago with about 9 or 10 candidates (some from each party) who could make a good case that they were qualified to do the job they aspired to.

We're now down to three candidates who lose more and more luster each day, as they beat each other over the head and have every word they have ever spoken parsed, pulled out of context and distorted for someone else's political gain.

By the time the slime machine gets done with the remaining trio we will once again come to a November when we voters will ask ourselves if the last two candidates standing are the best we can do. Another hold-your-nose-and-vote election.

But we in the electorate have no one to blame but ourselves.

The politicians and the networks serve up this shit and we gladly eat it up.

If and when this campaign gets back to something worth talking about, I'll be posting again.

For now I will spend my time trying to figure out why it is we just don't seem to be able to do this Democracy thing right.

09 March 2008

Dream Team? Dream on

There has been a lot of talk the past few days coming out of the Clinton camp - indeed out of the mouths of the Clintons themselves - about giving the Democrats their cake and letting them eat it to.

Giving the party faithful a two-fer.

Vote once and get Clinton and Obama - in that order.

Neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton said it should be in that order when they each advocated for a ticket with both of the remaining Democratic candidates on it. But it's clear which way they intend the ticket to be structured.

The motives behind the suggestion are obvious.

The Clintons clearly see great value in having Obama, who has turned out droves of new voters during the primary season, to add excitement and votes to a November effort.

But that is not the immediate motivation.

So what is?

How about the notion of damning with feint praise?

By suggesting they'd love to see the Clinton-Obama ticket, they're telling voters that Obama would make a good president down the road, after he's had a chance to learn under Hillary.

They're also telling voters that they can get a ticket with both Obama and Hillary, if they vote now to make sure Hillary is at the top of the ticket.
After all, they let the voters reason, Obama's still young. He can get in line for his turn next time.

Obama is having none of it.

In the past when the subject has come up, Obama has mostly said it is a question for another day.

Over the weekend he was more emphatic, saying he won't be running for VP.

On Meet the Press today, Obama backer and former Senate Democratic leader Tom Daschle put it a bit more bluntly.

"It may be the first time in history that the person who is running number two would offer the person running number one the number two position."

The so-called Dream Ticket will never come about.

The most obvious reason is the nastiness of the current campaign and the animosity it is building between the two candidates and their supporters.

Which of the two is going to agree to play second fiddle?

Just based on the audacity she has displayed during this campaign, the sense of entitlement, do you really see Clinton agreeing to be No. 2 to "the novice" ?

If you were Obama, would you accept the vice presidency - a position already in search of a job description - with Bill Clinton hanging around the West Wing with lots of time on his hands?

In the case of either candidate, which would be a more attractive position to hold - a no-show job in the administration or a powerful new role in the Senate?

Both Clinton and Obama - with their strong showing as presidential candidates - can lay legitimate claim to a position of leadership in the Senate.

And then there's one more question to consider.

Do the Democrats really want the first legitimate woman candidate and the first legitimate African-American candidate for the presidency on the ticket together?

Isn't that a huge crap shoot?

Isn't that putting a bit too much faith in a country that has shown itself historically to be racist and sexist?

Will the new voters that such a ticket would bring to the party outnumber the swing voters who may decide that Clinton/Obama or Obama/Clinton is a little more change than they bargained for?

The Democratic Party is too hungry for a victory to roll those dice and find out.

05 March 2008

McCain gets the nod from W

Ever come across one of those photos that you wish would just go away?

Maybe it's the prom photo where lavender is your dominant color. And you're the guy in the photo, not the girl.

How about a picture you posed for in March which could really come back to bite you in the backside in - say - November?

The GOP presidential nominee, John McCain, had one of those photo ops today - and will likely have many more in the months ahead with the man he hopes to succeed in the White House.

McCain was endorsed today by President Bush, who promised to help McCain in any way he could - including staying away from McCain if the GOP nominee feels that's the best way to go.

But McCain is wedded to Bush's war. He's wedded to Bush's "surge" and he's wedded to Bush's tax cuts.

He will easily be painted by the Democrats as the candidate offering four more years of what we've got now.

By accepting Bush's support today McCain seems to be OK with that.

04 March 2008

War of words is key

Hillary Clinton has characterized Barack Obama's presidential campaign is little more than fancy words.

Obama has argued that, although his campaign is a lot more substantive than that, words do matter.

They're going to matter big-time after the results of today's four primaries are known.

I'm not in the business of prognostication. That's often when trouble starts.

But based on the
latest polls over the past few days, I'm going to stick my neck out and say Hillary Clinton will win Ohio tonight by 5 to 10 points, and probably a lot closer to 10.

polls of the past two days show Texas as a tossup, but new polls released today show Clinton with a mid-single-digit lead.

I'm going to assume this all means the momentum has swung noticeably toward Clinton in the past few days and that she will notch a slim victory in Texas - though I think Obama could win more delegates in the state.

I'm going to say the two will also split the two small states voting today - Rhode Island and Vermont.

Most news organization have Obama leading Clinton by about 100-120 delegates, depending on who's doing the counting - and by about 140-160 pledged delegates.

Despite the fact that she seems poised to win Ohio and the popular vote in Texas, the delegate needle is not likely to move more than about 10 0r 20 in Clinton's favor. Which is hardly a move at all.

It's six long weeks until Pennsylvania, the next mother load of delegates. So the war of words after today's elections will be important.

If she wins the popular vote in both Texas and Ohio, Clinton's argument that she's as viable as Obama will be strengthened greatly.

But Obama can still boast a delegate lead and likely victories in more of the remaining states than Clinton is likely to pull off. With mostly western and southern states among the dozen elections that will remain after tonight, Obama's argument would seem to hold.

But Clinton, ahead by double-digits at the moment, is likely to take the largest single prize- Pennsylvania.

As of today
her national numbers are as good as Obama's.

And she is likely to come out of tonight with a legitimate claim of momentum.

But with virtually no chance of winning the nomination with pledged delegates, Clinton may face a war of words with party leaders - who are growing tired of the length and nastiness of this campaign.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said the other day that the race must end after tonight, with the candidate holding the most pledged delegates being the nominee.

There is no chance of that happening, but it is indicative of a restlessness within the party over the possibility that the two candidates will tear each other down enough to lose in November.

NBC's Tom Brokaw today broke a story saying that about 50 super delegates are poised to come out very soon in Obama's favor.

That's another indication that the patience of party leaders is growing thin.

Depending on who the 50 are, the pressure for Clinton to step aside could be great.

She will need a strong argument to stay in the race.

But if the polls of the past few days are correct she just may be building that argument successfully.

02 March 2008

Heading toward Hillary?

Earlier this week former (Bill) Clinton press secretary Dee Dee Myers said on CNBC's Hardball that she felt the races coming up on Tuesday in Ohio and Texas were moving toward Hillary Clinton.

I don't remember her exact words, but that was the gist of her comment.

When Chris Matthews jumped down her throat asking her what she based that opinion on, Myers paused for a brief moment and then said "my golden gut."

I have to say as we reach the end of the final weekend of the Ohio/Texas campaign I'm feeling the same way, based on little more than my considerable gut.

Having spent the first 27 years of my life in Cleveland - six of those years covering politics - I think I have a bit of a handle on Ohio's political make-up.

I look at today's (Cleveland) Plain Dealer survey, which shows Clinton ahead of Barack Obama by four points (47%-43%) and I have no cause to doubt the poll is accurate.

You have to look beyond the surface numbers to determine that, indeed, those results appear to be pretty solid.

Clinton leads among women (53-38), people over 50 (54-36) and union households (56-34) - three key components of her coalition. That she leads those groups is not surprising, but the size of her lead among those groups is larger than it has been in many of the recent contests

The same can be said about the white vote, where Clinton holds a commanding 58%-32% lead.

Clinton has a 23-point lead in southeast Ohio, a sparsely populated part of the state which is dirt poor and in the foothills of Appalachia. Clearly Clinton remains appealing to low-income voters, which will be key in a state that has been stung more than most by lost jobs and home repossessions.

Perhaps a larger key for Clinton is her 47%-43% lead in northeast Ohio, which is the most populous part of the state and includes Cleveland, Akron, Canton and Youngstown. These are all cities that have been devastated by the effects of NAFTA, but also the part of the state that has a much larger percentage of African Americans than other regions.

Clinton also leads in northwestern Ohio (53-38), which has Toledo as its largest population center.

Obama's strength is in central part of the state (46-43) and the southwest (52-36).

Central Ohio's population center is Columbus, easily the most progressive city in a not-very-progressive state. It's the home of Ohio State University and the state government. It also has the most highly educated electorate of any region in the state. What's surprising is that Obama's lead here is only three points.

The southwest population center is Cincinnati - home of the iconic Taft family, a leading Republican force in Ohio politics for more than 100 years. The pro-Obama vote here is more likely an anti-Hillary vote.

Only 8% of those polled by the Plain Dealer said it was possible they would change their mind before Tuesday, and they are evenly split among Obama and Clinton supporters. It's unlikely when these votes play out that they will bring about any overall shift in support.

Obama's best hope for an upset lies with two groups - the 9% statewide who say they remain undecided and independents, among whom Obama is favored 53%-33%.

If Obama can turn out independents in huge numbers and he can win the last two news cycles and move the undecideds into his camp, he can win.

Clinton has never trailed in the polls in the Buckeye State, and although Obama has cut her lead sharply over the past couple of weeks, I'm going to say Ohio will be a win for Hillary.

In Texas, the latest polls show Obama ahead, but by only a point or three.

Today's Fort Worth Star-Telegram puts Obama ahead by 1 point.

The other recent Texas polls are equally inconclusive.

Whether it was her complaint of unfair treatment by the media finally getting traction, her performance in the latest debate in Cleveland or her tenacious campaigning, something has happened this week that seems to have stopped the bleeding for the Clinton.

Clearly no unexpected, Wisconsin-like blowout for Obama is in the offing.

The question is whether Clinton can spin one, and possibly two, very narrow wins in Tuesday's big primaries into an argument for her continued candidacy.

I'm going to predict we'll see a lot more of Clinton on the campaign trail in the weeks ahead.