Friday, November 23, 2007
Editor’s Note: Truthdig welcomes David Sirota to our lineup of regular columnists. Look for him every week, right here.
“Ross Perot was fiercely against NAFTA. Knowing what we know now, was Ross Perot right?”
That’s what CNN’s Wolf Blitzer asked Hillary Clinton at last week’s Democratic presidential debate. It was a straightforward query about a Clinton administration trade policy that polls show the public now hates, and it was appropriately directed to a candidate who has previously praised NAFTA.
In response, Clinton stumbled. First she laughed at Perot, then she joked that “all I can remember from that is a bunch of charts,” and then she claimed the whole NAFTA debate “is a vague memory.” The behavior showed how politically tone deaf some Democratic leaders are.
To refresh Clinton’s “vague memory,” let’s recall that Perot’s anti-NAFTA presidential campaign in 1992 won 19 percent of the presidential vote—the highest total for any third-party candidate since Teddy Roosevelt. That included huge tallies in closely divided regions like the Rocky Mountain West, which Democrats say they need to win in the upcoming election.
A Democrat laughing at Perot on national television is a big mistake. Simply put, it risks alienating the roughly 20 million people who cast their votes for the Texas businessman.
But Clinton’s flippant comments and feigned memory lapse about NAFTA were the bigger mistakes in that they insulted the millions of Americans (Perot voters or otherwise) harmed by the trade pact. These are people who have seen their jobs outsourced and paychecks slashed thanks to a trade policy forcing them into a wage-cutting war with oppressed foreign workers.
Why is Clinton desperate to avoid discussing NAFTA? Because she and other congressional Democrats are currently pushing a Peru Free Trade Agreement at the behest of their corporate campaign contributors—an agreement expanding the unpopular NAFTA model. When pressed, Clinton claims she is for a “timeout” from such trade deals—but, as her husband might say, it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is, since she simultaneously supports the NAFTA expansion.
Of course, this deviousness is precisely why it is worth asking about Perot’s predictions: to make sure America has an informed and honest discussion about impending new trade policies before they are enacted.
And so without further ado, let’s answer the question Clinton ducked: Was Ross Perot right?
In 1993, the Clinton White House and an army of corporate lobbyists were selling NAFTA as a way to aid Mexican and American workers. Perot, on the other hand, was predicting that because the deal included no basic labor standards, it would preserve a huge “wage differential between the United States and Mexico” that would result in “the giant sucking sound” of American jobs heading south of the border. Corporations, he said, would “close the factories in the U.S. [and] move the factories to Mexico [to] take advantage of the cheap labor.”
The historical record is clear. The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace reports, “Real wages for most Mexicans today are lower than when NAFTA took effect.” Post-NAFTA, companies looking to exploit those low wages relocated factories to Mexico. According to the Economic Policy Institute, the net effect of NAFTA was the elimination of 1 million American jobs.
Score one for Perot.
What about immigration? In 1993, the Clinton administration pitched NAFTA as “the best hope for reducing illegal immigration.” Perot, by contrast, said that after NAFTA depressed Mexican wages, many Mexicans “out of economic necessity” would “consider illegally immigrating into the U.S.”
“In short,” he wrote, “NAFTA has the potential to increase illegal immigration, not decrease it.”
Again, the historical record tells the story. As NAFTA helped drive millions of Mexicans into poverty, The New York Times reports that “Mexican migration to the United States has risen to 500,000 a year from less than 400,000 in the early 1990s, before NAFTA,” with a huge chunk of that increase coming from illegal immigration.
Score another one for Perot.
Clinton may continue to laugh at Perot and plead amnesia when asked about trade policy. And sure, she and her fellow Democrats in Washington can expand NAFTA and ignore the public’s desire for reform. But these politicians shouldn’t be surprised if that one other Perot prediction comes true again—the one accurately predicting that Democrats would lose the next national election if they sold America out and passed NAFTA.
Foreshadowing that historic Democratic loss in 1994, he warned, “We’ll remember in November.”
Yes, indeed, Ross. America probably will.
David Sirota is the bestselling author of “Hostile Takeover” (Crown, 2006). He is a senior fellow at the Campaign for America’s Future and a board member of the Progressive States Network—both nonpartisan research organizations. His daily blog can be found at www.credoaction.com/sirota.
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
More than 35.5 million people in the United States went hungry in 2006, according to a Department of Agriculture study. Of those, about one-third reported they had "very low food security," meaning they had a substantial disruption in the amount of food they typically eat.
John Edwards, http://johnedwards.com/
Monday, November 19, 2007
Posted on Nov 18, 2007
By Bill Boyarsky
If Barack Obama beats Hillary Clinton and the others for the Democratic presidential nomination, a good portion of credit will go to the volunteers now making phone calls in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina, California and other places along the campaign trail.
Such a volunteer effort seems old-fashioned, a leftover from the 1960s and ’70s. The speed of the Internet, the power of bloggers and the constant presence of 24-hour television news are supposed to determine elections today. The judgment of the media horde at a televised debate is considered more important than volunteers in a Los Angeles suburb.
If such judgments were the only measure of a campaign’s success, last weekend would have been grim for Obama. The horde panned him for his performance Thursday night at the Las Vegas Democratic debate. Clinton, ridiculed the week before, was reborn as the star. Such media judgments are fed by the polls. Pollster.com’s compilation of surveys has Clinton leading nationally at 44 percent compared with Obama’s 22 percent. In New Hampshire, where the primary will be held Jan. 8, Clinton is leading Obama 34 percent to 24 percent, with John Edwards receiving 15 percent. In Iowa, which holds its caucuses Jan. 3, Clinton is leading only slightly.
The Obama campaign hopes to counter this with volunteerism, and nowhere is the effort more intense than in California, which holds its presidential primary Feb. 5. There, winning candidates always favor mass advertising rather than grass-roots campaigning to reach a sprawling and diverse electorate.
Other campaigns have volunteers. But none of the other candidates are as firmly rooted as Obama in the volunteer experience. In Chicago, he worked for a group trying to restore the economy of neighborhoods battered by steel plant closings. America’s prototype community organizer, the late Saul Alinsky, was from Chicago, and the city is famous for its contributions to the art of bringing together poor and working-class people for political action.
In California, the effort to organize Obama volunteers is headed by Buffy Wicks, a veteran of anti-Wal-Mart and anti-war campaigns and Howard Dean’s run for the presidency. The overall national organizing chief is Marshall Ganz, who was with Cesar Chavez in the farm workers’ union for many years and is something of a guru to young community organizers. The goal is to contact likely Obama voters, mostly by telephone.
Wicks told me that teams of eight or nine have been organized in each of the state’s 53 congressional districts. Each team has someone in charge of volunteers, data and technical matters. The congressional district teams are also putting together neighborhood teams. “We have 100,000 activists in California, and this is our strength,” she said. Wicks and six to eight other paid staff members have trained volunteers in three-day “Camp Obama” sessions, where they learn how to make the phone calls. “You do this by training,” Wicks said, “train them to talk on message.”
The volunteers begin with people they know, building their own network of campaign workers. They also learn how to use the campaign’s sophisticated communications and data system. The volunteers access a statewide databank for names to call.
Among the resources available to them are voter profiles assembled by a firm called Strategic Telemetry, run by Ken Strasma, whose work helped John Kerry carry the Iowa caucuses in 2004. As Ryan Lizza describes it in the Nov. 26 New Yorker, “Strasma’s firm builds profiles of voters that include more than a thousand indicators, long strings of data—everything from income to education to pet ownership—that he calls ‘demographic DNA.’ ”
Technology also permits Wicks and other staff members to check on how many phone calls volunteers make. This is designed to solve the old problem of volunteers promising to make calls and then running off and doing something else. “Having accountability is very important,” Wicks said. “We pull numbers every night. ... These are quantifiable numbers. This is every call.”
I was skeptical as I listened to Wicks. I told her I had written many stories about grass-roots volunteer efforts that failed to elect their candidate. “Here they go again,” I thought. I said I felt like Charlie Brown in the “Peanuts” comic strip trying once again to kick the football that Lucy always pulls away.
No, she assured me, this year is different.
I found a piece by Ganz on the TPM Café blog that explained why.
Recent elections, he said, “have been very, very close. The most media-oriented of political consultants recognizes that in close elections, effective grass-roots mobilization can influence outcomes. And when conducted by people with ties to one another—as opposed to bussed-in canvassers—it is more effective. The commitments people make to people with whom they maintain relationships are far more reliable than answers given to an anonymous caller, over the phone or in person. This is especially true of the presidential primaries in small states like New Hampshire and caucus states like Iowa.”
Another change is the Internet and its ability to bring people together. “In the last election, opportunity created by the Internet was only intermittently translated into action because there were few organizers,” Ganz wrote. This time, perhaps it will be different. The ranks of young organizers have increased. Some are veterans of union organizing campaigns in Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New York, Chicago and other urban centers. Others learned the trade organizing poor and working-class people to fight city hall—just as Obama did.
It sounds good. The volunteers could make a difference in a close race. But what if their candidate disappoints them in Iowa and New Hampshire in January? It will be a challenge to keep them fired up for days and nights of making phone calls in the big states holding their primaries Feb. 5.
Working the mike is one way Obama gets his message out; his team of supporters hitting the switchboards gives him an added boost.
In the 1980's he was ambassador in Honduras. From there he ran the Contra terrorist war against Nicaragua. He supervised and channeled the U.S. funds to create death squads in Honduras, which was nominally neutral. He is a terrorist himself.
When he meets with Musharraf, I am confident that the Pakistani intelligence service knows that he is a terrorist. He believes in the use of bombing and terror against civilian populations.
So, what is his message?
His message must be - talk about democracy, but you are free to use whatever military and terrorist tactics you deem necessary. That is the real message.
If we had a independent media they would not be spewing the nonsense they are reporting today.
I encourage each PA member to call or write their local station - or send a letter to the editor- pointing our the hypocricy of claiming that John Negroponte is there to promote democracy.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Nation Magazine, November 26, 2007
If the Democratic presidential primary were held today in your state, whom would you support? Cast your vote in the Nation Poll.
The recent news that SEIU's chapters in twelve states--representing more than a million workers--endorsed the candidacy of John Edwards is a loud wake-up call. The race for the Democratic nomination is still that: a real race. For my money, there is no other candidate who will work as hard as Edwards for the nation's low-income families, the working poor, struggling students and the 47 million Americans who desperately need health insurance. Organized labor sees him the same way, which is why he has garnered this seal of approval and the boots on the ground that it represents--even in the face of the Clinton juggernaut. They know that Edwards is the candidate who can actually win the general election, the one who is thinking about people like them.
They know because Edwards stood with them through every state-level campaign to raise the minimum wage long before he announced a run for the White House. They know because he was first out with a health insurance plan that actually provides universal coverage while acknowledging what we all know to be true: the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans will have to be rolled back to pay for it. And they know because he has been solidly, unambiguously in favor of withdrawing from Iraq, even as the Democratic Party has tacked back and forth on the issue, despite overwhelming public support for ending the war.
I first met Edwards at a gathering at the University of North Carolina's Center on Poverty, Work, and Opportunity. Hurricane Katrina had devastated the Gulf Coast only a few months before and exposed the "two Americas" of which Edwards had spoken throughout the 2004 campaign. He called the country's experts together--across party lines--to debate the causes, consequences and remedies for poverty in an era of unprecedented wage inequality. For two days we discussed what should be done to enhance the mobility of the working poor, how we should deal with the competition from low-wage countries like China and what the trends in out-of-wedlock births mean for single mothers below the poverty line.
Most politicians would have given their obligatory keynote address and retired to the comfort of their leather chairs. Edwards stayed the whole time, ran virtually all of the sessions, asked intelligent questions, probed for more practical answers and stuck around to talk with the presenters about how to cull from their academic research workable ideas that could form the basis of a campaign that has as its centerpiece the eradication of poverty in this wealthy nation.
He stands with organized labor, even as it has taken body blows over the past forty years. Despite opinion polls showing that workers want union representation, the ranks of unions are dwindling. Why this disconnect? Edwards has part of the answer: the rules governing the organizing process were written to favor management. Edwards has endorsed the Employee Free Choice Act, which will give workers a chance to organize and use their clout to increase their wages and benefits. At a time when the gap between CEOs and the rank and file is at an all-time high, this is a critical first step toward returning to workers a fare share of what their extraordinarily high productivity has contributed to the bottom line.
And while we're at it, how about focusing some attention on the regulatory structure that ensures we have safe food, clean water and working conditions that do not expose employees to hazardous chemicals? The protective legislation we rely on is all but devoid of enforcement capacity as a result of budgetary strip mining. Inspectors are disappearing, fines are not levied or enforced and families have to worry about whether the spinach on the table is safe to eat. Edwards is the only candidate who has emphasized the importance of targeting abusive industries that sacrifice worker safety and public health.
Edwards has also made serious, imaginative proposals for improving public schools, protecting people from predatory lenders, increasing college access and extending the school system to incorporate the millions who have dropped out and need a second chance. These are not pie-in-the-sky ideas or handouts: they are sound investments in the fiscal health and educational well-being of the country.
There is every reason to expect that the Democrats will end up with solid majorities in the House and Senate in 2008. We need a President who will grab this brass ring. We should not squander the opportunity on tepid, middle-of-the-road, blow-with-the-wind candidates who will be too busy trying to paint themselves as tough on crime or hard-nosed on Iran to seize a chance that may not come again in our lifetime.
Other Essays in This Series:John Nichols for Joseph BidenEllen Chesler for Hillary ClintonBruce Shapiro for Christopher DoddRichard Kim for Mike GravelGore Vidal for Dennis KucinichMichael Eric Dyson for Barack ObamaRocky Anderson for Bill Richardson
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
by MICHAEL ERIC DYSON
[from the November 26, 2007 issue]
If the Democratic presidential primary were held today in your state, whom would you support? Cast your vote in the Nation Poll.
Ever since he thundered into our collective consciousness with an electrifying speech before the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama has breathed new life into American politics. He has revived the hope of millions that their elected leaders would dare to dream outside the rigid categories and earthbound aspirations that hold too many politicians captive. Though his written word sings and his spoken word soars on the wings of renewed faith in the democratic process--and how we need such renewal in an ugly age of despotic indifference to freedom's true creed--Obama's eyes are fixed on what we can make together of our national future.
For a clue to what makes Obama stick and tick, one need look no further than his training in the trenches of community organizing. As Ronald Reagan practiced what Vice President George Bush would call "voodoo economics"--supply-side theories wrapped in tax cuts for the wealthy--Obama exited the Ivy League corridors of Columbia University in 1983 and, after a brief and unsatisfying stint on Wall Street, headed straight for the 'hood. On the South Side of Chicago, he worked with a church-based group that sought to speak to poverty by understanding the language of its painful expression in crime and high unemployment. Obama rolled up his sleeves--something he was used to in satisfying his basketball jones on the courts of many a concrete jungle--and applied elbow grease and hard thinking to the persistent ills and unjust plight of the poor. Such practical training in relieving the burdens of the beleaguered will stand him in good stead as leader of the free world--as the poignant memory of the most afflicted replays in his mind.
Young Obama soon learned the limits of local remedies, however, and imagined how law and politics might help him positively change the lives of the vulnerable at the national level. While Reagan spread skepticism about government as a political mantra, Obama's hopeful--but far from naïve--belief in the political process sent him to Harvard Law School in the late '80s, with a round-trip ticket back to Chicago, where he served as an Illinois State Senator for eight years before entering the US Senate in 2004.
If Obama's community organizing and work in the Illinois Senate--especially his bipartisan efforts to earn families across the state more than $100 million in tax cuts, his advocacy of legislation in support of early childhood education and his opposition to racial profiling--offer a glimpse into his political pedigree, so does his stay in the US Senate. Obama has fought for disability pay for veterans, worked to boost the nonproliferation of deadly weapons and advocated the use of alternative fuels to cure our national addiction to oil. He has spoken out against the vicious indifference of the Bush Administration to the poor--and to political competence--in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and he has rallied against genocide in Darfur. Long before it was popular, he stood against the war in Iraq as a futile gesture of American empire that would do little to beat back the threat of terror. Sadly, he has been proved prophetic.
If Obama's credentials for the highest office in the land have been gained in the give-and-take of community organizing and power politics, his belief in the American people--a reflection, in part, of the profound belief they have invested in him--derives from his molding in the crucible of various cultures, colors and communities. Obama's multiracial roots and multicultural experiences are not a liability; instead, they offer him an edge in the national effort to overcome the poisonous divisions that plague the American soul. His fascinating mix of race and culture shows up in lively fashion--including his love for the upper reaches of Abraham Lincoln's emancipating political vision, as well as his compassion for the black boys and girls stuck on the lowest rung of the ladder of upward mobility. That he is aware of race without being its prisoner--that he is rooted in, but not restricted by, his blackness--challenges orthodoxies and playbooks on all sides of the racial divide and debate. But it also makes him curiously effective in the necessary pledge to overcome our racial malaise by working to deny it the upper hand in restoring our national kinship.
Barack Obama has come closer than any figure in recent history to obeying a direct call of the people to the brutal and bloody fields of political mission. His visionary response to that call gives great hope that he can galvanize our nation with the payoff of his political rhetoric: a substantive embrace of true democracy fed by justice--one that balances liberty with responsibility. It is ultimately the hard political lessons he has learned, and the edifying wisdom he has earned--and is willing to share--that make Obama an authentic American. He is our best hope to tie together the fraying strands of our political will into a powerful and productive vision of national destiny.
Other Essays in This Series:
John Nichols for Joseph Biden
Ellen Chesler for Hillary Clinton
Katherine S. Newman for John Edwards
Bruce Shapiro for Christopher Dodd
Richard Kim for Mike Gravel
Gore Vidal for Dennis Kucinich
Rocky Anderson for Bill Richardson
DUBUQUE, Iowa, November 14, 2007 -- Former Sen. John Edwards today linked presidential rival Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, to a "crowd of corporate Democrats" who Edwards said have no more interest in changing Washington's culture than Republicans.
Edwards criticized Hillary Clinton's acceptance of donations from special-interest lobbyists and pointedly reminded a regional conference of the United Auto Workers that it was a Democratic White House under Bill Clinton that failed to advance universal health care but delivered what he said were job-jeopardizing trade agreements.
"That's what I mean when I say it's not going to change anything if we trade a crowd of corporate Democrats for corporate Republicans," Edwards said.
Among Democratic rivals, Edwards has been the most direct critic of the Democratic senator from New York. But his rhetoric has taken on an even harsher tone as the time to Iowa's nation-leading presidential caucus on Jan. 3 draws nearer.
In soliciting labor support by portraying himself as the candidate most attuned to union issues, the former North Carolina senator repeatedly cited Sen. Clinton's continued acceptance of campaign donations from federal lobbyists, which both he and Sen. Barack Obama of Illinois eschew.
"The person who has raised the most money from Washington lobbyists, the presidential candidate, is not a Republican. It's a Democrat. The person who has raised the most money from the drug industry, from the health insurance industry is not a Republican. It's a Democrat. The person who has raised the most money—and this is most startling to me—from the defense industry is not a Republican. It's a Democrat," Edwards said. "The answer to every one of those questions is Sen. Clinton."
Asked by reporters afterward if Clinton was a "corporate Democrat," Edwards said, "She is part of a system that includes a lot of corporate Democrats."
Edwards also noted that in the early 1990s, when Hillary Clinton as first lady failed in trying to construct a universal health care plan, Democrats controlled the House and Senate as well as the White House.
"We were in charge of every branch of government and those (special-interests) still killed universal health care," he said. "And we didn't get what we needed—universal health care. Man, we got something we didn't need. We got NAFTA. And NAFTA, just to remind you, did not pass and was not pushed by a Republican administration. NAFTA passed in a Democratic administration."
Organized labor has been highly critical of the North American Free Trade Agreement pushed by President Clinton, and subsequent free-trade agreements, contending they have led to huge job losses in the country, particularly in the manufacturing sector.
Hillary Clinton, who appeared earlier in the week before the UAW's Region 4 conference—which includes representatives from Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin and Minnesota—told the group that the nation should take a "time out" from NAFTA to examine its negative effects on labor.
Edwards also defended his call to act, as president, to take away federal health care from members of Congress until they approve a universal health care plan. Hillary Clinton and others have questioned Edwards' rhetoric by noting that the president does not have the power to take away federal health benefits.
"The response of Sen. Clinton and members of Congress is to circle the wagons and focus on protecting their health care instead of what needs to be done for America," Edwards said.
Edwards also touted his own universal health care plan, which mandates coverage. "Sen.
Clinton's plan is similar to mine," he said. "Some would say she copied it. Understand, I didn't say that."
Copyright © 2007, Chicago Tribune
Monday, November 12, 2007
Obama Makes Hay at JJ
Des Moines Register | November 11, 2007
By David Yepsen
The leading Democratic presidential candidates showed up for the Iowa Democratic Party's big Jefferson Jackson Dinner Saturday night.
Five of them gave really good speeches.
Barack Obama's was excellent.
It was one of the best of his campaign. The passion he showed should help him close the gap on Hillary Clinton by tipping some undecided caucus-goers his way. His oratory was moving and he successfully contrasted himself with the others - especially Clinton - without being snide or nasty about it.
Historically, the iowa party's "JJ" dinner is a landmark event in Democratic presidential caucus campaigns. All the key party activists, donors and players from the state are present. This year, about 9,000 of them showed up, most were from Iowa though there was some grumbling that Obama packed the place with people from Illinois. The charge was denied by the Obama people, who were clearly pleased they beat the other candidates in the noise war inside Veterans Memorial Auditorium.
A candidate who does well at a JJ is quickly in the political buzz around Iowa. A candidate who does poorly can be quickly written off by some important players in the party. Candidates also know the event provides them with an opportunity to sound new themes, launch new attacks or mount a defense of their weaknesses. Local and national observers show up to chronicle the changes.
Obama was particularly impressive Saturday night. Should he win the Iowa caucuses, Saturday's dinner will be remembered as one of the turning points in his campaign in here, a point where he laid down the marker and began closing on Clinton, the national frontrunner. For example:
He said the Iraq war "should have never been authorized and should have never been waged," a shot at the votes Clinton and most of the others cast in favor of it.
He said the nation has a "moment of great opportunity" and "we have a chance to bring the country together to tackle problems that George Bush made far worse and that festered long before George Bush took office." Translation: Clinton is divisive and there were problems the Clinton era didn't solve.
He said "the same old Washington textbook campaigns just won't do it in this election." Translation: Democrats can't win running a Bill Clinton campaign again.
He said "Not answering questions because we're afraid our answers just won't be popular just won't do it." Translation: Clinton doesn't take questions at some of her events. Now she's bogged down in a flap over staffers planting questions for her when she does and this was neat way to remind Democrats of it without tweaking Clinton directly."
He said "telling Americans what they think they want to hear instead of telling the American people what they need to hear just won't do it." Translation: Obama is often inclined to say things party interest groups don't want to hear - like the need for school reform, merit pay, more efficient cars or money to rebuild the military. She panders or is mushy.
He said "triangulating and poll-driven positions because we're worried what Mitt or Rudy might say about us just won't do it." He said he offers "change that is not just a slogan" and "change we can believe in." Polls were a hallmark of the Clinton era.
He said he wanted to "stop talking about the outrage of 47 million Americans without health care and start actually doing something about it." That was a smooth way to remind the audience how Clinton's effort at national health care failed.
There were also references to not taking money from lobbyists. And he said "I am running for president because I am sick and tired of Democrats thinking the only way to look tough on national security it talking and acting and voting like George Bush Republicans." Ouch.
His coup de grace came with this: "When I am the nominee of this party, the Republican nominee will not be able to say I voted for the war in Iraq, or that I gave George Bush the benefit of the doubt on Iran, or that I support Bush-Cheney policies of not talking to leaders that we don't like."
"I don't want to spend the next year or the next four years refighting the same fights that we had in the 1990s," a reference to the polarization of the Clinton years. "I don't want to pit red America against blue America."
The speech was also noteworthy because of the hour it was given. He was the last one to speak and didn't start until after 11 p.m. That's because the Iowa party loaded up the program with a bunch of Iowa politicians, who, well, just aren't in the same league with their presidential candidates but whose egos just couldn't keep them off the big stage.
It was a little like listening to a long Beethoven symphony while having some kid play a Tonette between movements.
And Obama can sometimes be flat or tired when speaks late at night. He can meander or sound wonkish and hesitant. Not Saturday night. (He came fired up and ready to go, to borrow a phrase.) At one point, he invoked Martin Luther King and his cadence even included the uplifting touches and quavering voice of a traditional black preacher's sermon.
While the Democratic candidates all had a good night, Obama clearly had the best. Now we'll have to see if he's got anything left for Tim Russert this morning. Obama faces one of the toughest questioners in the business on NBCs Meet the Press at 8 a.m. Iowa time after only a few hours of sleep.
Read the full article from The Des Moines Register
Friday, November 9, 2007
The decision to endorse Edwards over Illinois Sen. Barack Obama came down to "courage versus caution," according to the group's executive director.
"There's a rhetoric gap with Obama," executive director Peggy Huppert told ABC News. "He told me personally: 'Trust me. Ideologically, I'm with you.' But people have told him to be afraid of being pushed too far to the left. He doesn't bring up [cuts in Pentagon spending] on his own. He doesn't incorporate it into his speeches. He skirts around it. He talks around the edges. He never gets to the heart of it in strong, bold language."
"Edwards gave an excellent answer," said Huppert. "He said we have to stop buying into their frame which equates spending money on the Pentagon with keeping us safe. He also said we can't have a Democratic candidate who cowers and runs away from this issue."
Wednesday, November 7, 2007
Posted November 2, 2007 | 08:27 AM (EST)
Sandy City, California -- Barack Obama might indeed be running a full 20 points behind Hillary Clinton in the latest California polls but the Illinois Senator is hardly ready to concede the Golden State. Quite to the contrary.
With a neat one hundred days left to go before the voter and delegate-rich California contest, the Obama campaign is unfolding a full-blown battle plan, devised by a veteran strategist, with the aim of snatching away the West Coast's golden fleece.
The plan is a mini-campaign in every California congressional district, using a modified form of pyramid campaign marketing. With small core groups established in every congressional district, the Obama strategy relies on the multiplier effect of each-one-reach-one with an ultimate goal of knitting together volunteer campaign staff in every one of the thousands of California voting precincts. Starting immediately, the campaign is also embarked on a strategy of converting campaign donors into campaign workers.
If the plan is implemented, this will be "the deepest organizing strategy ever in a California presidential primary," says Brent Messenger, one of the Obama campaign's six California regional field directors.
The man behind the Obama plan, its veritable architect, is the legendary organizer Marshall Ganz, who originally helped build the farmworkers union before moving into grassroots campaigning. His involvement in the Obama campaign is only the latest chapter in Ganz' decades-long career of engineering progressive ground operations.
According to his plan, every California congressional district will have a seven-member team running its own mini-campaign. Each of the seven will find and teach another seven, according to the campaign blueprint. Then each of those groups doubles again. "You will be forming these teams for the next 30 days," Messenger said to a group of northern California organizers. "For the next few weeks you will be doing intense volunteer recruitment."
I caught up this week with Messenger and his right-hand-man for training, Jeff Coleman, just after Messenger had spent days touring the 11 congressional districts in his purview. Driving up to Monterey Bay from Avila Beach, where the field directors and other top campaign staff had pow-wowed hours before, Messenger and Coleman arrived early for the local organizing meeting -- despite the fog and rain that hampered my progress through the Santa Cruz Mountains down from San Francisco. We met in a bar in an old factory neighborhood near the water, a hip bar that the 30th congressional dustrict's 17 campaign troops, all white, almost all middle-aged, would not frequent if it were not for Obama. Messenger and Coleman, sick of Roundtable Pizza meets, seemed ecstatic.
"Let's clash the cymbals together and get us organized," Messenger said, before launching into Obama campaign signature mode -- personal story-telling. From a conservative family (another frequent characteristic of Obama staffers), Messenger worked for moderate Republican state legislator Brook Firestone ("people know who he is as soon as I say he's the father of 'The Bachelor,'" Messenger quiped) until he saw the machinations of the state Republican Committee in Sacramento. "'I gotta get out of here,' I tell myself, so of course I promptly move to San Francisco and join a rock band." For Messenger, like many a supporter, Obama's 2004 Democratic Convention speech was a turning point. "It broke me down," he said. "I realize there is another way, another way than anger. . . . I would work for this guy if he were running for dog catcher."
"So. This is a major tool. Telling your story. You'll be using that," Messenger said. The tone shifted and Messenger was off and running -- first, with some pep talk to the troops. "We have a 4-state strategy in place. All the top candidates will be coming out of them with a mixed bag. But California has over 30% of the delegates. We can pick the next president of the U.S."
Messenger then rolled out the rest of the California battle plan time line: "November 14th. You'll help with Obama's last appearance here probably before the primary. The 17th. State-wide Service Project Day. Team building winds down after November 18th. No more cold-calling for volunteers. Next is voter identification. You will call and ask, 'do you know the primary is on February 5th? Do you know who you are going to vote for?' You rank all your calls on a scale of 1-5. Then mid-December is our time for the permanent absentee vote. There are 6 million in California. Then it's G.O.T.V. full-on in January. We target the 2's in a huge phone bank. We get every single person identified as a supporter out to vote. Now we're down to the precinct level, and our goal is 120 votes at precinct level. We walk the vote. For the precinct captains, that literally means neighbors."
The Obama Battle Plan ultimately depends on the commitment of the state's 27,000 precinct captains. The three-dozen middle-aged people in the hip Sand City bar are going to be some of the 7-member teams who muster these legions and some of them had a visible What have we got ourselves into? look on their faces. What's called "the intense volunteer recruitment" drive between now and Thanksgiving will target the roughly 100,000 Californians who have given money to Obama. They are about to be drafted into field work.
Briskly, Messenger helped the bar group begin its work. He divided them into teams: Santa Cruz, Monterey, Carmel. He charged them with their roles: chief coordinator, data manager, volunteers, communications, phone banking, canvassing and resources. He told the teams that they can't leave that night until they've settled on three positions: chief coordinator, canvass manager and data manager. The data managers are key, Messenger emphasized. Finally, three people who know how to use Excel spreadsheets raised their hands. "We have a geo-coding data guy," Messenger said, "and we keep him locked away in a dungeon in Oakland." Over the next few days the data managers will talk with the map whiz in Oakland; they will be trained via conference call with the data people at Obama HQ in Chicago. Without precise data collecting and entering, the campaign would be marching forward blind.
Messenger told the teams that they can't leave until they set up their next meetings, sometime in the next few days. Messenger told each new communications volunteer that he or she will be getting a list of Obama donors in the team's section of congressional district 17 the next morning. And that very night, each of the seven on each team will spend several hours phone-banking - quite literally. "You'll start with the low-dollar donors," Messenger said. "With supporters, it's not so hard. Usually right away they say, 'it's about time. What took you so long? I was wondering when you were going to call.'"
Messenger assured the volunteers that they will have all the tools they need: the list of donors by precinct, the state voter file, web-based voter tools, Google groups, new software, and a new field manual. There's skills-based training at northern California HQ in Oakland, as well as Messenger himself, who will constantly be on call for the core 77 campaigners under him.
All the troops, from the 7-member teams down to the 27,000 precinct captains, will be volunteers. As Messenger points out, the Obama California campaign can't afford the Iowa ratio of paid operatives to voter. "That would mean 65,000 people on the payroll in California," he says.
These are the plans. They may or may not match reality. The very day after Messenger's meeting with the leadership of CD17, Chris Matthews of MSNBC says before the Drexel University Democratic Debate, "Obama has fallen down to where Jesse Jackson was this time in the race for president in 1988. He is now an also-ran, a minority candidate in a number of ways; he's not really a contender anymore. He has to get in the ring tonight. If he doesn't, he'll stay where he is right now, dropping in the teens. And that's not serious business. It's a waste of the millions and millions of dollars he's been given by people who hoped he would bring an alternative. . . ."
The Obama campaigners, the core group of staff and volunteers, however, weren't watching the debate. It was Tuesday, and that's "data night" at Oakland headquarters. The leaders of CD8 and CD9 sdre there, learning how to put information into the data base -- one of the tools, they are convinced, that will carry them to victory. --end
Monday, November 5, 2007
Saturday, November 3, 2007
Thursday, November 1, 2007
Democrat Barack Obama introduced a Senate resolution late Thursday that says President Bush does not have authority to use military force against Iran, the latest move in a debate with presidential rival Hillary Rodham Clinton about how to respond to that country's nuclear ambitions...
Obama spokesman Bill Burton said the Illinois senator drafted the measure in an effort to "nullify the vote the Senate took to give the president the benefit of the doubt on Iran."
Burton was referring to an amendment sponsored by Sens. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz., and Joe Lieberman, an independent from Connecticut, that passed 76-22 on Sept. 26 and designates Iran's Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization.
Clinton was the only Senate Democrat running for president to support the measure, and her rivals have argued that Bush could use it to justify war with Iran...
Said Obama spokesman Bill Burton: "With her vote for the war in Iraq and her vote for the Kyl-Lieberman amendment, Hillary Clinton has now given George Bush the benefit of the doubt not once, but twice. While she's trying her best to change her position on yet another critical issue facing our country, Senator Obama knows that it takes legislation, not letters, to undo the vote that she cast."
His resolution says any offensive military action against Iran must be explicitly authorized by Congress, and seeks to clarify that nothing approved so far provides that authority.