Friday, February 29, 2008

Edwards Can Put Obama Over the Top

John W. Mashek
U.S. New & World Report, February 29, 2008

Former Sen. John Edwards can end any real suspense over next Tuesday's Democratic primaries in Ohio and Texas by backing Barack Obama.

In the wake of 11 straight losses in primaries and caucuses by Hillary Clinton and defections by some key superdelegates, Edwards could settle the outcome.

The former presidential candidate and vice presidential nominee in 2004, Edwards has won only 50 delegates or so. He probably can't deliver all of them. But his endorsement of Obama would weigh on labor voters in union-heavy Ohio.

Clinton needs more than a simple victory next Tuesday. She needs decisive wins, and the latest polls, especially in Texas, are not encouraging.

When he was a candidate, the populist Edwards went after Clinton in several debates. His main point was that change was needed in Washington and Clinton represented the past.
Obama is decidedly the new player this year, and his constant theme has been the need for change. It is a compelling reason for Edwards to make his choice.

In backing Obama, Edwards would be following the lead of Sen. Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, another candidate who spoke well but managed little support. Dodd announced his support of Obama earlier this week.

And it would help, too, if Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware would step in and back Obama. Biden showed a lot of common sense in the earlier debates and shied away from any angry words at Clinton. In my book, he would be an excellent secretary of state in an Obama administration.
The hour grows late for Clinton. No one doubts her smarts and grasp of the issues—especially healthcare, where she is stronger than Obama. However, the verdict is almost in on the race. And John Edwards could very likely decide it so Democrats can move on. Unity will be needed to defeat John McCain, who has the legacy of George W. Bush to defend in the fall. Some legacy.

John W. Mashek covered politics in Washington for four decades with U.S. News & World Report, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and the Boston Globe. His primary beats were Congress, the White House, and national politics. He covered every presidential election from 1960 to 1996. He was a panelist in three televised presidential debates in 1984, 1988, and 1992. In retirement, he is teaching part time at the Medill School's graduate program in Washington.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Obama, Enthusiasm & Movement-Building

The African World
Black Commentator
By Bill Fletcher, Jr., Executive Editor

A friend called me the other day. “Bill,” he said, “How will all of this enthusiasm for Obama translate into anything long-term?” He went on to comment on the potential this upsurge of support for Senator Obama COULD have for a progressive movement. The discussion led me to draw some conclusions I would like to share with you.

First, and as I have noted in previous columns, we must all be clear as to what politics Senator Obama holds and what politics he does not hold. He is not the political reincarnation of The Rev. Jesse Jackson (and his ’84 and ’88 campaigns) and he is not the leader of the progressive movement. In reviewing his platform and his speeches, I do not see much difference from the platform of Senator Clinton, a fact which I think helps to explain some of the intensity between the two of them. Thus, we should not try to make of him something he is not. Such an approach will lead to long-term problems.

Second, and also as I have noted, the waves of enthusiasm for Obama derive from a variety of different sources, some completely idealistic and others grounded in an absolute hatred of what we have experienced in the Bush years (and to some extent during the earlier Clinton years), and, therefore, a demand for something very different.
Yet what complicates all of this is the unevenness in Obama’s platform. What we confront is potential for change in a progressive direction rather than leadership in a progressive direction. In other words, Obama opens up possibilities, but as can be repeatedly demonstrated, there are inconsistencies in his views and approach, as well as times when he is just wrong. The unilateral attack carried out by the US against Al Qaeda in Pakistan by the Bush administration just recently was perfectly consistent with what has been advocated by Obama. The consequences of such actions are simply incalculable.

So, what does this mean?

I keep coming back to Obama’s own words when he speculated as to what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. would do vis-à-vis the presidential elections if he were still alive: pressure all the candidates! Pressure, however, needs organization and it needs courage. It means that we have to point out to the campaign and the candidate precisely when we think he is wrong, and in doing so we should point him in the direction that needs to be taken.
But when the campaign is over, whether it is at the Democrat Convention or in November, if there is nothing to build upon, the enthusiasm will evaporate as it has on so many other occasions after energizing electoral campaigns. I would suggest two steps:

Progressives for Obama:
While there are many progressives who have entered into the Obama campaign and are doing good work, there needs to be an independent voice and location to push progressive politics. I spoke the other day with someone working in the campaign that - as enthusiastic as she is - acknowledged that a number of the proposals her committee has been developing have simply been overlooked. My guess is that more of that will happen and the candidate will be increasingly influenced by financial contributors and those forces he believes to be most significant. If the progressive voice is only one among many, it will be drowned out. Progressives need to figure out where they can make a difference in the larger campaign as well as explain to their respective constituencies why they are taking the step of supporting Obama; what to expect and what not to expect from the candidate; and what can be done now.

Build locally-based, independent political organizations:
Electoral activism and energy is so easily and quickly lost. For those who have become motivated through this campaign, they should be encouraged to build organizations in their communities and social movements that reflect progressive politics. Such organizations should be grassroots based and, among other things, aim to identify, train and run progressives for local elected office. Holding a President of the USA accountable - be it Obama, Clinton, McCain or Huckabee - will necessitate organization at the base, organizations capable of both putting people into the streets as well as getting them to the polls.

There are tremendous dangers AND opportunities in this election season. Casting caution to the wind and uncritically supporting any candidate is a recipe for disaster. We must expect that there will be immense tugs to the Right on any elected official. If progressives are not prepared to push back and keep Obama’s feet to the fire then every reservation that many of us have about his candidacy will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Bill Fletcher, Jr. is Executive Editor of The Black Commentator. He is also a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum. Click here to contact Mr. Fletcher.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

State Assembly Makes Black & Women's History with Choice of New Speaker

[Note: The Sacramento Progressive Alliance would like to offer our hearty congratulations to the new Assembly Speaker Karen Bass! As the rains give way to sunshine and February fades into March, the Capital City is celebrating both Black and Women's History Months today as Karen Bass was elected to serve as the first African American woman Speaker in California history. Together with the new Senate Majority Leader, Sacramento's own Darrel Steinberg, they will form what many folks are calling a "progressive dream team" at the State Capitol. The times they are a changing. --PB]

Karen Bass to Become Next Speaker of California Assembly
By Anthony York
Capitol Weekly, Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Assemblywoman Karen Bass captured the speakership Wednesday night to replace Speaker Fabian Nunez following a round of closed-door meetings. She is the first Democratic woman--as well as the first African American woman-- to lead the Assembly in the history of the state.

Bass, a Los Angeles Democrat and the Assembly's majority leader, received a majority of support in the Democratic caucus to win the job. Nunez engineered the deal that put her over the top. Several legislators, including some who had hoped to be speaker themselves, announced as they left the meeting that Bass had won.

"She's got it," said Assemblyman Hector de la Torre, D-Southgate, after the final meeting.

The speaker's race had been a 10-way deadlock, with Bass as the presumptive front-runner for weeks. But questions about Bass's political future -- about whether she would be a candidate for Senate or Los Angeles City Council -- stalled her candidacy briefly. But this afternoon, two of Bass's rivals -- San Francisco Democrat Fiona Ma and Los Angeles Democrat Kevin De Leon -- threw their support behind Bass officially. The speaker quickly followed suit, and began getting on the phone to members.

That movement, the first real change since the race began in earnest three weeks ago, was enough to break the deadlock in the Democratic caucus. In the end, said one Assemblymember, there was no real rationale to vote against Bass, and with no other candidate gaining traction, she wound up where she began months ago -- as the consensus choice to replace Nunez.

Bass becomes the first-ever Democratic woman to lead either house of the Legislature, and the third African American Speaker. San Francisco Democrat Willie Brown lead the House from 1980 until he left to run for Mayor of San Francisco in 1995. Nunez's predecessor, Herb Wesson, was also African American.Bass's election also keeps the Speaker's gavel in Los Angeles. Every speaker since Cruz Bustamante in 1996 has hailed from Los Angeles.

The decision is expected to be formally ratified Thursday morning at meeting of the Assembly Democratic caucus, followed by a vote on the Assembly floor Thursday.

Nunez spokesman Steve Maviglio said the transition would be "the smoothest ever" between speakerships, but no formal date had been set for the handing over of the gavel. Nunez had orignially said he would stay on as speaker through the end of session in a February press conference. But at that same press conference, Nunez said the election to succeed him would be held on March 11.

That time line has now obviously been moved up. It remains to be seen whether the other one will as well.

William F. Buckley, R.I.P.

[Note: The passing of the conservative icon William F. Buckley today reminds us of the sad reality of how low the likes of Rush Limbaugh, Bill O'Reilly and Ann Coulter have taken our political discourse in recent years. Condolences to William F. Buckley's loved ones and, although I never thought I'd say this, big props not only to Mr. Buckley, but also to other civil, thoughtful conservatives such as George Will and David Brooks. As much as we may disagree with their views, at least these folks engage in substantive debates over issues that matter, rather than stooping to the level of personally demonizing and degrading everyone with whom they disagree. --PB]

Why William F. Buckley Was My Role Model
By Rick Perlstein
Campaign for America's Future

February 27th, 2008

William F. Buckley was my friend.

I'm hard on conservatives. I get harder on them just about every day. I call them "con men." I do so without apology. And I cannot deny that William F. Buckley said and did many things over the course of his career that were disgusting as well. I've written about some of them. But this is not the time to go into all that. My friend just passed away at the age of 82. He was a good and decent man. He knew exactly what my politics were about—he knew I was an implacable ideological adversary—yet he offered his friendship to me nonetheless. He did the honor of respecting his ideological adversaries, without covering up the adversarial nature of the relationship in false bonhommie. A remarkable quality, all too rare in an era of the false fetishization of "post-partisanship" and Broderism and go-along-to-get-along. He was friends with those he fought. He fought with friends. These are the highest civic ideals to which an American patriot can aspire.

I first met Bill in 1997. When I contacted his assistant to ask for an interview for a book I was writing about Barry Goldwater, Buckley was immediately accommodating, though I had very little public reputation at the time. He was, simply, generous with people who cared to learn about conservatism. I sat with him for a good half hour in National Review's offices on Lexington Avenue in Manhattan, and he answered every damned question I asked, in searching detail, and then answered a few I hadn't even asked. He also opened his papers to me at Yale University without hesitation. Would that all conservatives honored these ideals of intellectual transparency.

When my Goldwater book came out, he was generous in his praise of it—again, acknowledging all the while that we were ideological adversaries.

First came a very nice column. He called me "an ardent enthusiast for the America Left." Damn straight. Then he sought out my friendship. "I reproach myself"—I'll never forget that impeccable Buckleyite locution—for not reading the book earlier, he wrote in a personal letter. What a deeply sensitive, humane thing to say to a 31-year-old first-time author: an apology for not affording him his immediate attention.

The passage from my book he reproduced in his column quoted a "liberal" reporter on Goldwater: "What could such a nice guy think that way?" Why did I love WFB? Because he never would have asked such a silly question. The game of politics is to win over American institutions to our way of seeing things using whatever coalition, necessarily temporary, that we can muster to win our majority, however contingent—and if we lose, and we are again in the minority, live to fight another day, even ruthlessly, while respecting our adversaries' legitimacy to govern in the meantime, while never pulling back in offering our strong opinions about their failures, in the meantime. This was Buckleyism—even more so than any particular doctrines about "conservatism."

Nice people, friends, can disagree about the most fundamental questions about the organization of society. And there's nothing wrong with that. We must not fantasize about destroying our political adversaries, nor fantasize about magically converting them. We must honor that some humans are conservative and some humans are liberal, and that it will always be thus.
And some, simply are mensches. Last year Bill called me to ask if I would blurb his next book, about Goldwater. I chose not to. But damn: I bit my nails a little. I wanted him to blurb my book! Now he'd certainly take out his revenge by refusing. That's the way you're supposed to behave in the literary game.

He didn't. Instead, when a reporter came calling to ask him about Rick Perlstein, he said something remarkably sweet for the record—for all I know, one of his last public utterances. Then, after sending him the galleys of my book last, I heard back from him post-haste: another self-reproach. He would love to endorse it, but could not; he was too frail. This in an email obviously drafted by himself: letters were missing, words garbled.

Buckleyism to the end: friendship, and adversarialism, coinciding. All of us who write about politics, may that be our role model.

UPDATE: a lovely bit from the comments below—
I can't imagine that I had anything in common with Mr. Buckley except a love of sailing (which I haven't done in so long I've forgotten how). Still, his death is a loss to this Republic, such as it still stands.
Here is what Bill Buckley wrote to Michael Harrington near the end of Mike's life when he was battling the cancer that would take him away from us: "I saw you briefly on tv yesterday (you were making a brief appearance in behalf of socialism), and I rejoiced that your appearance was brief, and that you looked so well...I have said a special prayer for your recovery...Meanwhile, take care of yourself: You are a brave and admirable man, the daemons to one side." William F. Buckley was a "brave and admirable man, the daemons to one side," too. We should remember him as such, even while fighting tooth and nail the politics for which he stood.

The Architect of Modern Conservatism
By Jeff Jacoby
Boston Globe, February 27, 2008

In the days and weeks ahead, a Niagara of words will be devoted to William F. Buckley Jr., who died this morning at the age of 82.

It would be hard to overstate the impact that Buckley had on 20th-century American thought and politics. The man who founded National Review in 1955 and launched “Firing Line” -- the longest-running public affairs talk show in television history -- 11 years later is rightly celebrated as the father of modern American conservatism. Had there been no Buckley, there would likely have been no Reagan administration, no Morning in America, no “Tear down this wall,” and no Cold War triumph for liberty and the West.

It may sometimes be confusing, what with all the intramural squabbling among libertarian conservatives, neoconservatives, paleoconservatives, and the like, to know exactly what “conservatism” stands for these days. But Buckley more than anyone made clear that there are things it would not stand for. His “first great achievement,” the Dallas Morning News noted in 2004, “was to purge the American right of its kooks. He marginalized the anti-Semites, the John Birchers, the nativists, and their sort.” In their place, beginning in the 1950s, he cleared the way for the construction of a conservatism of optimism and progress and good humor. And, above all, of ideas: Ideas about limited government and individual freedom, about the blessings of the market and the lethality of Communism, about the importance of religion and the securing of peace through strength.

But it wasn’t Buckley’s ideas alone that made him so influential. It was his style, too: funny, unflappable, irrepressible, glamorous, gracious. He could be merciless to the pompous, yet was renowned for his vast range of friendships. “He inspired and incited three generations of conservatives, and counting,” his successors at National Review wrote today upon learning of his death. He did so not only through the force of his ideas and an amazing gift for expounding them, but also by embodying a conservatism that was cool and fun and merrily down-to-earth. How many other influential American intellectuals ever penned a column singing the praises of peanut butter?

In 1999, Buckley was interviewed for “Nightline” by Ted Koppel. "Mr. Buckley, we have 10 seconds left,” Koppel said at the end. “Could you sum up in 10 seconds?" Buckley replied, simply: "No." In the days ahead, no one will find it easy to sum up Bill Buckley’s extraordinary legacy. His output was so prodigious and his range so immense that he routinely made the rest of us “feel like hopeless underachievers,” as I wrote in a column four years ago. Today Buckley’s astonishing, history-changing output comes to an end. But his life and his life’s work will resonate for many years to come.

Jeff Jacoby's e-mail address is
© Copyright 2008 Globe Newspaper Company.

The Clintons Just Won't Learn

[Note: Dick Morris is a pretty slimy political operative and is certainly no progressive, but nobody ever called him stupid. Nasty and self-destructive, yes. Stupid, no. This is a pretty interesting analysis of how Hillary Clinton went from the "presumptive nominee" to political oblivion in less than two months. Political scientists and political sociologists will be studying this debacle of a campaign for many years. Who would have thought in December that Obama would end up winning the nomination easily and that Chris Dodd and Joe Biden would finish in a stronger political position than Sen. Clinton? Who would have thought that Bill Clinton would have sabotaged his wife's campaign, not due to personal indiscretions, but rather by alienating black voters and showing an overall lack of political skill? Amazing. -- PB]

Real Clear Politics -- February 27, 2008
By Dick Morris

Whether one likes, dislikes, loves, hates, admires, fears, despises, or envies them, every Clinton watcher has this in common: They are dumbfounded both by the incompetence with which Hillary has run for president and her intransigence at sticking to a failed message. In a demonstration of inability and inflexibility reminiscent of her healthcare debacle of 1993-94, Mrs. Clinton seems destined to fulfill Voltaire's description of the Bourbon kings of France: "They learn nothing. They forget nothing."

Even now, with her back against the wall, fighting for her political career, Hillary, presumably with Bill's acquiescence, insists on making the same mistakes that landed her in the soup. No new tactics, no new strategy, no new message emerges.

Incredibly, both Clintons are harping, once more, on the theme of experience to carry the day. No matter that it hasn't worked since before Iowa; they repeat the same mantra endlessly -- that Hillary can "hit the ground running" on "Day One." Will they ever realize that voters grasp two essential facts:

(a) That Hillary's experience is derivative of Bill's and her claims to his achievements are largely invented and spurious, and

(b) That the real edge she has in experience is her ability to repeat the strategies, tactics, message, fundraising models and campaign style of the 1990s, something modern voters reject emphatically?

Why, after losing 24 states, do Hillary and Bill fail to get these messages? Are they saving up these insights for their memoirs?

And why do the Clintons persist in running a negative campaign even when they can't find anything to be negative about? Alienating voters with their abrasive attacks without attracting them with their content, they throw pitty-pat punches accusing Obama one day of plagiarism for borrowing speech lines from his close and consenting friend and the next day for accurately describing Hillary's healthcare plan as requiring sanctions to make those who do not wish to sign up do so against their will (albeit for policies Mrs. Clinton deems to be "affordable").

If you are going to pay the price of going negative, throw real punches. Hit Obama with big negatives. You take the backlash for going negative in order to pass the lethal message on to the voters. But if you don't have any negatives to throw and your detectives have, indeed, come up empty, then stop trying to go negative. Stop alienating people to no purpose.

But as obvious as these observations are, they seem to be lost on Bill and Hillary and the geniuses who are running her campaign. Despite defeat after defeat, we still hear about experience and still get a daily dose of so-what attacks on Obama.

The deeper reality of this campaign is that Obama has shown, by his incredible skill in the way he is waging it, an ability to handle himself and a talent for the demands of center stage that show, experienced or not, he is better able to be president than the inept Hillary.

We are watching a grim re-enactment of all of the character traits that led Hillary to decompose in the healthcare debate of her husband's first term. The blind reliance on a guru-delivered strategy, the religious insistence on following the same rhetorical line even when it obviously isn't working, the inflexibility in adapting to one's opposition, and the inability to formulate new strategies or to improvise tactics when her pre-conceptions are found to be so obviously faulty -- this is Hillary at her worst.

As citizens, we are entitled to watch Obama's skill, leadership style, and savvy sophistication and contrast it with Hillary's doctrinaire insistence on approaches that aren't working and to conclude that Hillary would be a disaster as president and that Obama would be pretty good. We can, at least, conclude that the same tenacity that led Johnson into Vietnam and may be inducing Bush to risk his party, his reputation and the attitudes of a generation in Iraq may be abundantly present in Hillary.

But we are driven to wonder: Does Hillary's rigidity stem from a false conviction or from an absence of sufficient imagination and creativity to formulate an alternative course?

Morris, a former political adviser to Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) and President Bill Clinton, is the author of “Outrage.” To get all of Dick Morris’s and Eileen McGann’s columns for free by email, go to

Friday, February 22, 2008

Wellstone Would Be Smiling

Published on Friday, February 22, 2008 by
by E.J. Dionne

If you want to talk about candidates borrowing from each other, consider how much Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are taking on loan from the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, the affable populist killed in a plane crash shortly before the 2002 election.

“I don’t represent the big oil companies. I don’t represent the big pharmaceutical companies,” Wellstone said in the final television ad of his last campaign. “I don’t represent the Enrons of this world. But you know what? They already have great representation in Washington. It’s the rest of the people that need it. I represent the people of Minnesota.”

And here’s Hillary Clinton in a television ad run during the Wisconsin primary campaign: “The oil companies, the drug companies have had seven years of a president who stands up for them. It’s time we had a president who stands up for all of you.”
As for Obama, he noted in Ohio this week that “year after year, politicians in Washington sign trade agreements that are riddled with perks for big corporations but have absolutely no protections for American workers. It’s bad for our economy; it’s bad for our country.”
Wellstone called for a trade policy that “doesn’t just work for the multinationals, but also works for the environment, for safe food, for living wages; a trade policy that promotes democracy and the right to organize and bargain collectively.”

No, this is not a column about “plagiarism.” On the contrary, it’s good news that both Clinton and Obama are echoing one of their party’s most effective practitioners of egalitarian, grass-roots politics. As the Democratic presidential primary campaign enters its climactic stage, both candidates are focusing like a laser on white blue-collar voters. The language of choice is populist.
This is salutary for Democrats. Middle- and lower-middle-income white voters will be among the most important target groups for both parties this fall, crucial in such swing states as Ohio, Wisconsin and Iowa. The economic interests of blue-collar whites largely coincide with those of African-Americans and Latinos, yet these groups often move in different directions. When they vote together, they can make their candidates invincible. By competing fiercely for blue-collar ballots now, Obama and Clinton are beginning a coalition-building process that Democrats typically embark on too late.

Until recently, Clinton had a decided advantage among whites of moderate income. Restoring a firm lead in this group is vital to her political survival in the March 4 primaries.
Obama, long aware of his weakness among these voters, put more focus on wooing them in recent weeks. The success of this effort-particularly among white male voters who were once inclined to support John Edwards, the uber-populist-has been important to Obama’s 10-state sweep after the Feb. 5 contests.

Obama’s strong support among affluent, well-educated voters put him in danger of being branded the candidate of “limousine liberals.” The term was coined in 1969 by Mario Procaccino, a conservative Democrat from New York City who cast himself as a champion of the white middle class and mocked Mayor John V. Lindsay’s alliance of well-off progressives and African-Americans.

In fact, the early Obama alignment resembled the successful coalitions of reform-minded African-American mayors elected in the 1980s and ‘90s. That may be no accident since David Axelrod, one of Obama’s closest advisers, ran a number of those victorious campaigns, notably in Obama’s Chicago.

In an interview, Axelrod argued that Obama had long ago transcended the contours of the urban politics of two decades ago, reaching into predominantly white, blue-collar precincts in his 2004 U.S. Senate primary. But it’s clearly become an Obama campaign imperative to match that performance this year.

Clinton will not just let this happen, and one of her most affecting recent campaign ads, called “Night Shift,” is an ode to working people similar to Jesse Jackson’s best speeches highlighting the contribution of those who “work every day,” from his 1988 campaign.
“You pour coffee, fix hair, you work the night shift at the local hospital,” says a warm-voiced male announcer on the Clinton ad. “You’re often overworked, underpaid and sometimes overlooked.”

Not this year, not at this moment.

Supporters of the free market often forget that we don’t just have a capitalist system; we have a democratic capitalist system. Democracy is what gives those on the short end of market outcomes a chance to talk back and, sometimes, to alter unjust market decisions. Paul Wellstone understood that. A big-hearted communitarian, Wellstone, I suspect, would be perfectly happy to lend Clinton and Obama all the good lines they want to use.

E.J. Dionne’s e-mail address is
© 2008, Washington Post Writers Group

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Obama Coffers Fill with Checks from Edwards' Donors

[Note: My man John Edwards has completely dropped the progressive ball. He should have endorsed Barack Obama at some point during the last few weeks when it could have made a major difference in the race. I'm very disappointed. Now that Obama has the nomination virtually secured an Edwards endorsement will have little impact and will just make Edwards look like a frontrunner. Reports that Edwards is concerned about Obama's supposed lack of experience make Edwards look foolish since Obama has more legislative experience than he does. On the other hand, if Edwards endorses Clinton he will look like a fraud since he spent the last year portraying her (accurately) as a "corporate Democrat" and therefore part of the reason we need "change." He would also look foolish, since her campaign is on life support and somebody in Clintonland should pull the plug to avoid further humiliation on March 4. At this point any more come-from-ahead blowout losses will only weaken her influence as an effective U.S. Senator and potential Senate Majority leader. Edwards' window of opportunity has now closed every bit as much as that of our Sacramento Kings. By trading Bibby last week, at least our Kings have officially begun the rebuilding project. Guess that's what John Edwards needs to do now as well. He's a very talented public figure and by all accounts a good and decent man. I am still proud to have worked on his campaign. On the other hand, his campaign strategy was deeply flawed and he has now compounded the problem by demonstrating such profound indecision over the last few weeks when the times called for decisive action. His moment came but rather than seizing it he blinked -- as a result he is now sliding into political irrelevance. What a bummer. We all had such high hopes. I still think Sen. Edwards would make an oustanding Attorney General but there are certainly other good candidates out there and I don't see why Obama would give him the job at this point. Not that he's asking for my advice, but at this point perhaps Sen. Edwards should focus on taking care of his children and his wife Elizabeth, a truly courageous and inspirational woman. --PB]

Barack Obama at a Nov. 1 fundraiser at North Carolina Central University in Durham.Photo by Jeremy M. Lange

Printed from the Independent Weekly website:

High-dollar donors, including former adviser and law partner, get behind Barack
By Mosi Secret

John Edwards may have yet to give his official endorsement to either of the Democratic presidential hopefuls, but his prominent local supporters—and their wallets—are lining up behind U.S. Sen. Barack Obama in his bid to secure the nomination.

This week, Triangle supporters who commit to raising at least $10,000 for Obama will meet with Obama's campaign manager David Plouffe at a lunch organized by Tim Toben, Edwards' former environmental adviser and a major Edwards fundraiser. Toben, of Chapel Hill, became a convert to the Obama camp after a two-day trip to the Illinois senator's Chicago headquarters earlier this month, at the campaign's invitation.

"It just became clear to me that it's no accident that this candidate is doing so well," says Toben. "He clearly is a new force on the scene, but like a lot of great CEOs, he has hired very smart people to run his organization."

The Feb. 21 event will be hosted by the Raleigh law firm Kirby & Holt, where Edwards' former law partner and close friend from law school, David Kirby, is an attorney. Employees at the firm have given almost $27,000 to the Edwards campaign in the 2008 election cycle, according to federal campaign finance reports.

Prominent civil rights lawyer Adam Stein, who has supported Edwards since his first run for the U.S. Senate in 1998, is also supporting Obama.

"I was loyal to John. I was happy to be an enthusiastic supporter of his, but since he was gone, I'm freed up from those loyalties," Stein says. "I have been involved in lots of campaigns and [Obama] is the most inspiring candidate I can remember."

Edwards dropped out of the race Jan. 30 after a two-year campaign for the White House. He was unable to match money or votes with his two high-profile opponents, Obama and U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton.

However, Edwards outpaced his competition in North Carolina. Edwards raised $2.2 million in his home state through the end of 2007—about triple the coffers of Clinton or Obama. More than half of that came from Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, according to campaign finance reports.
Those donors seem to be shifting allegiances to Obama en masse, as well as tapping their networks to solicit contributions for him.

"All the people that I called were people in my former life that I called for Edwards and they are saying yes," Stein says.

Obama is also courting Edwards' endorsement. He visited the former senator at his Chapel Hill home Feb. 17.

The Raleigh lunch has drawn a lot of interest, Toben says. "We have commitments from about 20 people and I think we'll end up without about 50," Toben says. "I think there are a few of us that will raise anywhere between $250,000 to $500,000."

Chapel Hillians Jim Protzman and his wife Jane Brown, also former Edwards supporters and donors, have offered to host an Obama fundraiser.

"When I start thinking about all the local races, I start to try to calculate what's the best shot for down ticket," says Protzman, a liberal blogger. "I feel like an Obama candidacy in a general election will have the effect of increasing Democratic Party turnout—traditional as well as new voters—and probably won't crank up the rabid right the way a Hillary candidacy would."
Protzman and Brown hosted a Kerry/Edwards event and raised $150,000 at one party. Protzman says 80 percent of the former Edwards supporters he talks to are now supporting Obama.

The exact amount Edwards' contributors have given to Obama in the three weeks since Edwards dropped out is unclear; campaign finance reports for February will be submitted to the Federal Election Commission later this month.

Money does not necessarily equal votes though. Public Policy Polling, a Raleigh company, found that Obama leads Clinton by a slim margin in North Carolina, just 42 percent to 40 percent. The poll also suggested that voters who favored Edwards are jumping to the Clinton and Obama campaigns in almost equal numbers, at 41 percent each.

"In my view, Barack Obama brings huge number of disenfranchised folks to the polls," says Toben. "He brings people of color. He brings lots of Democrats. And he brings independents to the polls."

The North Carolina primary is May 6.
URL for this story:

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

No You can't

The Grand Old White Party Confronts Obama

Published on Sunday, February 17, 2008 by The New York Times
by Frank Rich

The curse continues. Regardless of party, it’s hara-kiri for a politician to step into the shadow of even a mediocre speech by Barack Obama.

Senator Obama’s televised victory oration celebrating his Chesapeake primary trifecta on Tuesday night was a mechanical rehash. No matter. When the networks cut from the 17,000-plus Obama fans cheering at a Wisconsin arena to John McCain’s victory tableau before a few hundred spectators in the Old Town district of Alexandria, Va., it was a rerun of what happened to Hillary Clinton the night she lost Iowa. Senator McCain, backed by a collection of sallow-faced old Beltway pols, played the past to Mr. Obama’s here and now. Mr. McCain looked like a loser even though he, unlike Senator Clinton, had actually won.

But he has it even worse than Mrs. Clinton. What distinguished his posse from Mr. Obama’s throng was not just its age but its demographic monotony: all white and nearly all male. Such has been the inescapable Republican brand throughout this campaign, ever since David Letterman memorably pegged its lineup of presidential contenders last spring as “guys waiting to tee off at a restricted country club.”

For Mr. McCain, this albatross may be harder to shake than George W. Bush and Iraq, particularly in a faceoff with Mr. Obama. When Mr. McCain jokingly invoked the Obama slogan “I am fired up and ready to go” in his speech Tuesday night, it was as cringe-inducing as the white covers of R & B songs in the 1950s - or Mitt Romney’s stab at communing with his inner hip-hop on Martin Luther King’s birthday. Trapped in an archaic black-and-white newsreel, the G.O.P. looks more like a nostalgic relic than a national political party in contemporary America. A cultural sea change has passed it by.

The 2008 primary campaign has been so fast and furious that we haven’t paused to register just how spectacular that change is. All the fretful debate about whether voters would turn out for a candidate who is a black or a woman seems a century ago. Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Obama vanquished the Democratic field, including a presidential-looking Southern white man with an enthusiastic following, John Edwards. What was only months ago an exotic political experiment is now almost ho-hum.

Given that the American story has been so inextricable from the struggle over race, the Obama triumph has been the bigger surprise to many. Perhaps because I came of age in the racially divided Washington public schools of the 1960s and had one of my first newspaper jobs in Richmond in the early 1970s, I almost had to pinch myself when Mr. Obama took 52 percent of Virginia’s white vote last week. The Old Dominion continues to astonish those who remember it when.

Here’s one of my memories. In 1970, Linwood Holton, the state’s first Republican governor since Reconstruction and a Richard Nixon supporter, responded to court-ordered busing by voluntarily placing his own children in largely black Richmond public schools. For this symbolic gesture, he was marginalized by his own party, which was hellbent on pursuing the emergent Strom Thurmond-patented Southern strategy of exploiting white racism for political gain. After Mr. Holton, Virginia restored to office the previous governor, Mills Godwin, a champion of the state’s “massive resistance” to desegregation.

Today Anne Holton, the young daughter sent by her father to a black school in Richmond, is the first lady of Virginia, the wife of the Democratic governor, Tim Kaine. Mr. Kaine’s early endorsement of Mr. Obama was a potent factor in his remarkable 28-point landslide on Tuesday.

For all the changes in Virginia and elsewhere, vestiges of the Southern strategy persist in some Republican quarters. Mr. McCain, however, has been a victim, rather than a practitioner, of the old racial gamesmanship. In his brutal 2000 South Carolina primary battle against Mr. Bush and Karl Rove, Mr. McCain’s adopted Bangladeshi daughter was the target of a smear campaign. He was also pilloried for accurately describing the Confederate flag as a “symbol of racism and slavery.” (Sadly, he started to bend this straight talk the very next day.) He is still paying for correctly describing Jerry Falwell, once an ardent segregationist, and Pat Robertson, a longtime defender of South African apartheid, as “agents of intolerance.” And of course Mr. McCain remains public enemy No. 1 to some in his party for resisting nativist overkill on illegal immigration.

Though Mr. Bush ran for president on “compassionate conservatism,” he diversified only his party’s window dressing: a 2000 Republican National Convention that had more African-Americans onstage than on the floor and the incessant photo-ops with black schoolchildren to sell No Child Left Behind. There are no black Republicans in the House or the Senate to stand with the party’s 2008 nominee. Exit polls tell us that African-Americans voting in this year’s G.O.P. primaries account for at most 2 to 4 percent of its electorate even in states with large black populations.

Mr. Obama’s ascension hardly means that racism is kaput in America, or that the country is “postracial” or “transcending race.” But it’s impossible to deny that another barrier has been surmounted. Bill Clinton’s attempt to minimize Mr. Obama as a niche candidate in South Carolina by comparing him to Jesse Jackson looks more ludicrous by the day. Even when winning five Southern states (Virginia included) on Super Tuesday in 1988, Mr. Jackson received only 7 to 10 percent of white votes, depending on the exit poll.

Whatever the potency of his political skills and message, Mr. Obama is also riding a demographic wave. The authors of the new book “Millennial Makeover,” Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais, point out that the so-called millennial generation (dating from 1982) is the largest in American history, boomers included, and that roughly 40 percent of it is African-American, Latino, Asian or racially mixed. One in five millennials has an immigrant parent. It’s this generation that is fueling the excitement and some of the record turnout of the Democratic primary campaign, and not just for Mr. Obama.

Even by the low standards of his party, Mr. McCain has underperformed at reaching millennials in the thriving culture where they live. His campaign’s effort to create a MySpace-like Web site flopped. His most-viewed appearances on YouTube are not viral videos extolling him or replaying his best speeches but are instead sendups of his most reckless foreign-policy improvisations - his threat to stay in Iraq for 100 years and his jokey warning (sung to the tune of the Beach Boys’ version of “Barbara Ann”) that he will bomb Iran. In the vast arena of the Internet he has been shrunk to Grumpy Old White Guy, the G.O.P. brand incarnate.

The theory of the McCain candidacy is that his “maverick” image will bring independents (approaching a third of all voters) to the rescue. But a New York Times-CBS News poll last month found that independents have even a lower opinion of Mr. Bush, the war, the surge and the economy than the total electorate and skew slightly younger. Though the independents in this survey went 44 percent to 32 percent for Mr. Bush over John Kerry in 2004, they now prefer a Democratic presidential candidate over a Republican by 44 percent to 27 percent.

Mr. McCain could get lucky, especially if Mrs. Clinton gets the Democratic nomination and unites the G.O.P., and definitely if she tosses her party into civil war by grabbing ghost delegates from Michigan and Florida. But those odds are dwindling. More likely, the Republican Party will face Mr. Obama with a candidate who reeks even more of the past and less of change than Mrs. Clinton does. I was startled to hear last week from a friend in California, a staunch anti-Clinton Republican businessman, that he was wavering. Though he regards Mr. McCain as a hero, he wrote me: “I am tired of fighting the Vietnam war. I have drifted toward Obama.”

Similarly, Mark McKinnon, the Bush media maven who has played a comparable role for Mr. McCain in this campaign, reaffirmed to Evan Smith of Texas Monthly weeks ago that he would not work for his own candidate in a race with Mr. Obama. Elaborating to NPR last week, Mr. McKinnon said that while he is “100 percent” for Mr. McCain and disagrees with Mr. Obama “on very fundamental issues,” he likes Mr. Obama and what he’s doing for the country enough to stay on the sidelines rather than fire off attack ads.

As some Republicans drift away in a McCain-Obama race, who fills the vacuum? Among the white guys flanking Mr. McCain at his victory celebration on Tuesday, revealingly enough, was the once-golden George Allen, the Virginia Republican who lost his Senate seat and presidential hopes in 2006 after being caught on YouTube calling a young Indian-American Democratic campaign worker “macaca.”

In that incident, Mr. Allen added insult to injury by also telling the young man, “Welcome to America and the real world of Virginia.” As election results confirmed both in 2006 and last week, it is Mr. Allen who is the foreigner in 21st century America, Mr. Allen who is in the minority in the real world of Virginia. A national rout in 2008 just may be that Republican Party’s last stand.

Frank Rich is a regular columnist for The New York Times.
© 2008 The New York Times

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Why John Edwards Believers Should Support Barack Obama

[Note: This article from Ben Brandzel, John Edwards' former web guy, is instructive. Like Edwards' campaign itself, however, it is also limited. Brandzel, like Sen. Edwards, admirably focuses on poverty and the moral imperative of ending it. But Brandzel leaves out the fundamental issue of race, much like his boss did during the campaign. Although most poor folks in America are white, the main reason we have not prioritized ending poverty in the U.S. is the deliberately constructed misperception that most poor people are "undeserving" racial minorities. For us to develop an effective anti-poverty program, and more broadly a progressive social/political movement to address a wide array of social justice issues, we have to put together an effective multi-racial coalition. The major difference between Obama and the other candidates is that he knows how to build such a coalition, and is in the process of doing so as we speak -- perhaps as effectively as any single individual in our nation's history. Sen. Edwards' major flaw as a candidate was that he never adequately grasped the race question, although at least his heart seems to be in the right place. The Clintons, on the other hand, much to their great shame have been practicing the politics of racial division and racial opportunism for decades. They need to be stopped, and fortunately for our country, the Obama movement has emerged to stop them.
-- Paul B]

Can We Still Build One America? Yes We Can
Ben Brandzel
Huffington Post, 2/12/08

(Note: I was the former Director of Online Engagement for John Edwards for President. The following reflects only the personal views of the author, and in no way represents the views of John Edwards, his campaign, nor anyone else currently or formerly affiliated with his campaign.)
The first time I spoke to John Edwards about joining his campaign, I mentioned the Wellstone quote that's in my email signature, 'Politics isn't about big money or power games; it's about the improvement of people's lives.' His voice brightened considerably. "That, right there," he said, "is the point of this campaign." I believed him. I gave up everything and moved to Chapel Hill. And that remained the point of our campaign for One America through the very end.

Now I, like many Edwards people, face a choice we never wanted, but we cannot ignore. We must decide after John, which remaining candidate is the best bet to finish what we started -- making real improvements in the lives of the people who really need it?

After many conversations, comparisons, and soul searching, my personal answer, and my advice to other Edwards believers wrestling with the same question, is Barack Obama. Here's why:

The Issue

Throughout the campaign, John Edwards talked about ending poverty in America as the moral challenge of our generation. For me, this was always at the heart of our effort to build One America. And no issue better represents our fierce commitment to look out for one another, not because it's politically popular, but because it's just the right thing to do.

So which candidate would be most likely to fulfill the dream of ending poverty in our time? It can't be about simple agreement. Surely, both candidates would flip a switch to end poverty right now, if they could. No, it's about priority. Changes this big require leaders to put it all on the line and inspire a nation to stand up and join them. So the real question is: Who is more willing to put this cause front and center, and who is more able to get the job done?

I'm a web guy. So I went to the campaign websites to see what they had to say. Here's what I found:

The Commitment

Obama lists "poverty" on his main issues list, which is accessible from any page on his site. It links to a dedicated page that names the problem of 37 million Americans still trapped in poverty, and offers a 15 point anti-poverty agenda to solve it.

Obama's proposals run the gamut from familiar progressive pillars like indexing the minimum wage to inflation, all the way to innovative new projects like replicating the highly successful "Harlem Children's Zone" in 20 high risk neighborhoods across the country.

His agenda includes plans for creating entry level jobs, reducing recidivism, anti-poverty tax reforms, pre-natal care for at risk populations, urban community development funds and significant rural investment.

Hillary, unfortunately, does not list poverty (or any equivalent) amongst her major issues. Nor, as far as I can tell, does the word "poverty" appear on any of her policy pages. I don't doubt for a moment that Hillary genuinely cares about poor people. But how can you lead a nation to combat a problem you don't even mention?

Because there is no "poverty" issue page, an apples-to-apples comparison of their agenda is tough. Hillary's "Strengthening the Middle Class" page, presumably the closest thing, has nine proposals. But if you take out items that either affect poverty only incidentally (like "Returning to fiscal responsibility") or explicitly aren't about the poor, (like "Lowering taxes for middle class families") you're left with only five points. And that's counting three proposals, ("Hillary's Innovation Agenda," a "Strategic Energy Fund" and "Confronting growing problems in the housing market") which might very well help reduce poverty, but they don't mention how, or seem explicitly designed to even try.

I'm not a policy expert, and I'm not qualified to parse the details. But I do think there's a clear difference in priority here. And while the details of plans will invariably change, core commitments will not. Obama comes out ahead.

The Record

Another way to tell what a candidate will prioritize in the future is what they've chosen to prioritize in the past. As a voter I can't know either candidate personally or fact-check the mountains of he-said-she said on every side. So once again, I went to the websites to let the candidates speak for themselves.

Obama's poverty page references his work in the Illinois legislature expanding tax credits for the poor and fighting for affordable housing. Hillary's site makes no coherent case for her record on poverty, but does frequently reference her accomplishments on some important relevant issues, such as children's health care.

It's perhaps even more instructive to look back at the choices they made before they knew anyone was looking, and how they talk about those choices now.

Obama's "Meet Barack" page describes his first job as a Chicago community organizer as a choice to "improve living conditions in poor neighborhoods plagued with crime and high unemployment." It goes so far as to say Obama chose a career in politics specifically as a long term strategy to "truly improve the lives of people in that [poor] community and other communities." In the list of overall issues he works on now, the very first is: "the poverty exposed by Katrina". Not bad.

"Hillary's Story" also shows admirable commitment. It describes how she ran a legal aid clinic for the poor when she first arrived in Arkansas, and that Carter appointed her to the board of "the United States Legal Services Corporation, a federal nonprofit program that funds legal assistance for the poor."

The distinction here is somewhat subjective. To my mind, Obama's career choice was likely more deeply formative, more comprehensive as an anti-poverty strategy and more noteworthy in its lack of connection to routes towards traditional success. But honestly, they both deserve real credit, and the fact that both major contenders for the nomination began their careers in these ways makes me proud to be a Democrat. Onward.

The Movement

If the candidate's commitment and record tell us who is most willing, how can we evaluate who is most able? From where I sit, both Hillary and Obama appear to be both highly intelligent, competent people. But as John Edwards so often reminded us, no president can end poverty on their own. Transformational change of that magnitude requires an equally large movement of people fighting to make it happen. So who is building that movement?

Again, I'm a web guy. If you look at the numbers, they both have passionate grassroots support, but the difference is clear. Obama supporters have created 9x more local groups, 10x more national groups, and 15x more personal blogs. Obama's web traffic, donors, and online to offline volunteers smash all records. And I can tell you, there's no technology or trick to generate that kind of energy -- it just has to be real.

But this goes beyond the numbers, and yes, far beyond the web. After all, Barack Obama isn't John Edwards, and I can't know if he'll actually put ending poverty at the top of his agenda. But by inspiring millions of people to believe in their own power to create change, I do know his campaign is laying the groundwork for those of us who will.

The Future

We always thought of winning the presidency as merely the first step in a generational effort to build One America -- and so it remains. We must keep speaking out, organizing, and fighting at every opportunity -- in every town hall, statehouse, Congressional house and the Whitehouse until poverty is history and the dream of One America becomes reality.

And right now, I believe we have to pick our best hope for a president who will be a partner in that effort. If Hillary is nominated she will deserve our vigorous support. But because of his commitment, his record, and his unique ability to swell our ranks with people fired up and ready to begin the struggle of a lifetime, I believe Barack Obama is that best hope.

So, can we still build One America? Yes. Yes we can.

Edwards Should Follow His Heart, Not His Ego

Editorial | Edwards should follow his heart, not his ego, as he prepares to endorse, 2/14/o8, Op-ED

Love is a very fickle emotion. During most of the 2008 presidential primaries, former Sen. John Edwards was cordial, even affectionate towards Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). It was assumed that the eventual backing of Obama by Edwards was a virtual certainty.

But the enthusiastic endorsement that once seemed a sure thing has recently become a question of if, not when. Sen. Hillary Clinton's (D-N.Y.) aggressive courtship of Edwards seems to have made him forget that he spent most of the campaign calling her a "corporate Democrat" and the defender of a corrupt system. He even refused to commit to backing her if she were to become the Democratic nominee.

By his own admission, he is now "torn" between the candidates; in re-examining both, he says, he is attracted not only to Clinton's policy portfolio but also to her long track record as a first lady and as a senator - a record that he used to say made her part of the problem.

What could possibly have changed Edwards' mind?

In an article by ABC News, aides and associates of Edwards stated that the senator "does not want to back a losing candidate and neither does he want to join a bandwagon." In addition, he knows that a Clinton endorsement would carry the most weight, "since it would be more unexpected and would provide a jolt of energy to a campaign that is suffering a rough patch."

Well, he could just decline to endorse, right? Not this guy. Edwards is eager to play a prominent role in the nomination fight and is "mindful that his backing would only carry weight if it comes relatively quickly - before the March 4 primaries in Texas and Ohio, which could effectively settle the nomination fight," the ABC article said. The speculation is that an endorsement from Edwards could be rewarded with the post of attorney general in a Democratic administration.

So the populist former senator who declared that he would never sell out the have-nots of America is basing his endorsement on how much media attention and power he could gain for himself; that is, how to get the most bang for his endorsement buck. For those Americans who supported (or just plain liked) Edwards, this comes as a particularly painful blow because it seems to expose him as the preening, unscrupulous opportunist that all his foes have said he is.

Of course, he has not sold out yet, and he may not. But here is something he should keep in mind as he weighs his decision: It is not an appealing thought for most Americans that the person in charge of our legal system would start every case by asking, "What's in it for me?"

Why would Americans want an attorney general who does not have the decency to pick a candidate based on his or her merits, platform or ability to lead this country? No matter who Edwards chooses, his decision should be based on who he feels would make the best president rather than who can bring him the most personal power.

The American people are looking for the defiance that the former senator showed on the stump, the compassion for the have-nots, and the urgent and passionate desire for change. It is worrying that, compared to some television appearances and a shiny new office in the White House, those things might not measure up.

So as Valentines Day passes and March 4 grows nearer, Edwards has a choice to make. We urge him to follow his heart - not his ego - as he chooses who to endorse.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

94,000 missing votes in Los Angeles

About Those 94,000 Votes Missing in L.A. County’s Democratic Presidential Primary Totals

By Paul Hogarth

While Hillary Clinton won last week’s California primary, the gap would be narrower if we counted every vote. But in Los Angeles County, the Registrar of Voters disqualified 94,500 ballots from “decline to state” (DTS) voters – because most did not fill an extra bubble to say they were voting in the Democratic primary. These voters requested a Democratic ballot, were given a ballot with only Democratic candidates listed, and a manual re-count would clearly indicate who they meant to vote for. But if they didn’t check the extra bubble, the machine did not pick up their vote – a fatal design flaw beyond any voter’s control. To not count these votes would violate state law, as well as the California Constitution – which requires every vote to be counted. With the close delegate count at stake – along with overwhelming proof that non-partisan voters favored Barack Obama – it is incumbent on L.A. County to count every vote, and to do it now.

Last week, 189,000 “decline-to-state” (DTS) voters in California’s largest County participated in the presidential primary – a 20% increase in turnout over 2006. Each party can choose whether to allow DTS voters in their primary, but only two have done so: (a) the Democratic Party, and (b) the American Independent Party – an ultra-right, nativist party. For a DTS voter to participate, they had to request a ballot in one of these two parties. An overwhelming number picked the Democratic ballot, as poll workers were required to keep track by marking it in the voter rolls.

But here’s where it got tricky. As the sample ballot shows below, DTS voters who got a Democratic ballot were given a list of the presidential candidates. But directly above (and in smaller font), they were also told to mark a bubble that they were voting in the Democratic primary. According to the election machines, 94,500 DTS voters who asked for such a ballot did not pick a candidate. While some may have abstained, it’s clear that a solid majority were disqualified simply because they did not fill in that extra bubble.

Was filling the bubble necessary to prevent DTS folks from voting in more than one primary? No. If you asked for a Democratic ballot, you only got a list of Democratic candidates – and so could not possibly vote in the American Independent primary. From the voter’s mindset, taking that extra step appeared redundant – assuming that they even noticed the fine print in the first place. Given the circumstances, most probably did not see it at all.

It turns out the bubble was there for mechanical reasons – due to a fatal design flaw in the voting machines that was beyond any voter’s control. The optical scanners were only set up to read your choice if you filled in the bubble, because each candidate was then boiled down to a number. If, for example, a DTS voter picked candidate #10 without filling in the bubble, the machine wouldn’t know whether to count Democrat Hillary Clinton – or Diane Beall Templin of the American Independent Party. So they would just say that the voter picked no candidate.

Machines are not humans, so it’s easy to see how they couldn’t catch that problem. But a hand count could determine what the machines did not – basic voter intent. When we learned in 2000 about Palm Beach’s infamous “butterfly ballot,” everyone was sure that Holocaust survivors did not vote for Pat Buchanan – including Buchanan himself. But there was no way to definitively prove that they meant to vote for Al Gore – and the remedies under law were not clear. Here, it’s just a question of getting enough human beings to sort through the 94,500 ballots – and determine which candidate they picked.

So far, the L.A. County Registrar of Voters only agreed to do a sample hand count of 1% of the “unmarked” ballots. But that's illegal, because the State Constitution requires them to count them all. Proposition 43, which passed in 2002, gave each California voter the constitutional right to have their vote counted. And California Elections Code Section 15701 says that even if it takes longer than a statutory deadline, the county can ask for an extension.

“It’s not good enough to do a 1% count,” said Rick Jacobs, chair of the Courage Campaign. “The statute is very clear – all votes have to be counted.” The Courage Campaign, a political non-profit based out of Los Angeles, alerted the Registrar of Voters about this ballot problem on the eve of the primary – and have hired attorneys to enforce the law if necessary. 20,000 people have signed their online petition since Thursday, and State Senator Dean Florez has demanded hearings in Sacramento.

These votes must be counted – for legal reasons, moral reasons, and (yes) political reasons. Barack Obama has wide appeal from unaffiliated voters who joined the Democratic Party to vote for him in the primary, so it’s fair to assume that the bulk of these voters are his. Counting these votes won’t change who won California, or even Los Angeles – as Hillary Clinton won the County by almost 170,000 votes. But in the critical delegate race that may go down to the wire, these 94,500 votes could make a real difference in several Congressional Districts.

“It is a basic issue of trust,” said Jacobs. “Are we going to tell people that their votes didn’t count – when an unprecedented number of independents turned out to participate in the presidential primary? It’s simply a question of voter rights.”

Voters were outraged in 2000 that Florida couldn’t get its act together in the general election – besides the blatant chicanery that the President’s cronies were involved in. But the “butterfly ballot” in Palm Beach County only affected 19,000 voters. Here we have a fatal flaw in L.A. County that disenfranchised 94,000 people. And with the delegate count as close as it is, like Florida it could prove decisive in picking the next President.

It’s not a question of introducing legislation to prevent this matter from happening again -- the law already requires it. These votes are just sitting here – and the Registrar must do a hand re-count to determine what voters really meant. It isn’t rocket science, or even brain surgery. It's democracy.

Paul Hogarth is the Managing Editor of Beyond Chron, an alternative online daily newspaper, with whose permission this article is republished.

Posted on California Progress Report.
Guess who gained from these missing votes.

For the Record: John Edwards on Hillary Clinton & Corporate Democrats

[Note: I concur with Mark Eades' analysis below. As a progressive and a loyal Edwards supporter for the past five years, I will consider it nothing less than an act of treason to the progressive cause if Sen. Edwards endorses the corporate Democrat, Hillary Clinton. Based on everything I know and believe about John Edwards, these rumors about him possibly endorsing Sen. Clinton are baseless. In the end he will do the right thing, place the interests of our party and our country above his own personal interests, and endorse Barack Obama. That's my story and I'm sticking to it. : )
-- Paul B]

Wednesday, February 13, 2008
Diary Entry by Mark C. Eades

Amid renewed talk of a John Edwards endorsement for Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton come disturbing rumors also that the former progressive candidate for president might actually be thinking about endorsing Clinton. While Mr. Edwards considers his options, it seems worthwhile to consider also what he has said about Clinton and other "corporate Democrats" in the past, and the degree to which a Clinton endorsement from him now would constitute an act of unforgivable hypocrisy.

Like Barack Obama, Edwards has energetically campaigned against the Washington system of entrenched interests and insider entitlement that Clinton represents to Edwards' own supporters as well as to Obama's. In the course of his presidential campaign Edwards frequently reminded us how deeply embedded in that corrupt system Clinton and her campaign actually are. As ABC News reported in October 2007, for example, Edwards called Clinton a "corporate Democrat" and compared her campaign strategist Mark Penn to the infamous Republican strategist and Bush aide Karl Rove, drawing attention to Penn's lobbying ties to such corporate villains as Blackwater USA (as president and CEO of Burson-Marsteller and its lobbying subsidiary BKSH, Penn has worked with Blackwater as well as with oil and tobacco companies; and has assisted corporations in impeding union organizing efforts, about which labor leaders have expressed "distress" to the Clinton campaign). Edwards' opinions on Clinton are also clear in comments from the campaign trail quoted by Mother Jones in November:

"Do you really believe that if we replace a crowd of corporate Republicans with a crowd of corporate Democrats that anything meaningful is going to change...? The presidential candidate who has raised the most money from Washington lobbyists is not a Republican. It's a Democrat. The candidate who has raised the most money from the health industry - insurance companies and drug companies - is not a Republican. It is a Democrat.... And the candidate who has raised the most money from the defense industry is not a Republican. It is a Democrat. And all those descriptions fit the same candidate. They're all Senator Clinton."

Progressives will never forgive John Edwards if he helps Hillary Clinton try to derail the best opportunity for real change we've had in America for forty years. To back Clinton now for the sake of his own political prospects would be rightly seen by progressives as a sell-out and a betrayal of the highest order. Out of respect for John Edwards and his record on behalf of the progressive cause, I will assume that this is not what he intends to do. Mark C.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Obama and Clinton Foreign Policy advisors

By Stephen Zunes

Foreign Policy in Focus
February 4, 2008

Voters on the progressive wing of the Democratic Party are rightly
disappointed by the similarity of the foreign policy positions of the two
remaining Democratic Party presidential candidates, Senator Hillary
Clinton and Senator Barack Obama. However, there are still some real
discernable differences to be taken into account. Indeed, given the power
the United States has in the world, even minimal differences in policies
can have a major difference in the lives of millions of people.

As a result, the kind of people the next president appoints to top
positions in national defense, intelligence, and foreign affairs is
critical. Such officials usually emerge from among a presidential
candidate's team of foreign policy advisors. So, analyzing who these two
finalists for the Democratic presidential nomination have brought in to
advise them on international affairs can be an important barometer for
determining what kind for foreign policies they would pursue as president.
For instance, in the case of the Bush administration, officials like
Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, and Richard Perle played a major role in
the fateful decision to invade Iraq by convincing the president that
Saddam Hussein was an imminent threat and that American forces would be
treated as liberators.

The leading Republican candidates have surrounded themselves with people
likely to encourage the next president to follow down a similarly
disastrous path. But what about Senators Barack Obama and Hillary
Clinton? Who have they picked to help them deal with Iraq war and the
other immensely difficult foreign policy decisions that they'll be likely
to face as president?


Senator Clinton's foreign policy advisors tend to be veterans of President
Bill Clinton's administration, most notably former secretary of state
Madeleine Albright and former National Security Adviser Sandy Berger. Her
most influential advisor -- and her likely choice for Secretary of State
-- is Richard Holbrooke. Holbrooke served in a number of key roles in her
husband's administration, including U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and member
of the cabinet, special emissary to the Balkans, assistant secretary of
state for European and Canadian affairs, and U.S. ambassador to Germany.
He also served as President Jimmy Carter's assistant secretary of state
for East Asia in propping up Marcos in the Philippines, supporting
Suharto's repression in East Timor, and backing the generals behind the
Kwangju massacre in South Korea.

Senator Barack Obama's foreign policy advisers, who on average tend to be
younger than those of the former first lady, include mainstream strategic
analysts who have worked with previous Democratic administrations, such as
former national security advisors Zbigniew Brzezinski and Anthony Lake,
former assistant secretary of state Susan Rice, and former navy secretary
Richard Danzig. They have also included some of the more enlightened and
creative members of the Democratic Party establishment, such as Joseph
Cirincione and Lawrence Korb of the Center for American Progress, and
former counterterrorism czar Richard Clarke. His team also includes the
noted human rights scholar and international law advocate Samantha Power
-- author of a recent New Yorker article on U.S. manipulation of the UN in
post-invasion Iraq -- and other liberal academics. Some of his advisors,
however, have particularly poor records on human rights and international
law, such as retired General Merrill McPeak, a backer of Indonesia's
occupation of East Timor, and Dennis Ross, a supporter of Israel's
occupation of the West Bank.


While some of Obama's key advisors, like Larry Korb, have expressed
concern at the enormous waste from excess military spending, Clinton's
advisors have been strong supporters of increased resources for the

While Obama advisors Susan Rice and Samantha Power have stressed the
importance of U.S. multilateral engagement, Albright allies herself with
the jingoism of the Bush administration, taking the attitude that "If we
have to use force, it is because we are America! We are the indispensable
nation. We stand tall, and we see further into the future."

While Susan Rice has emphasized how globalization has led to uneven
development that has contributed to destabilization and extremism and has
stressed the importance of bottom-up anti-poverty programs, Berger and
Albright have been outspoken supporters of globalization on the current
top-down neo-liberal lines.

Obama advisors like Joseph Cirincione have emphasized a policy toward Iraq
based on containment and engagement and have downplayed the supposed
threat from Iran. Clinton advisor Holbrooke, meanwhile, insists that "the
Iranians are an enormous threat to the United States," the country is "the
most pressing problem nation," and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad
is like Hitler.


Perhaps the most important difference between the two foreign policy teams
concerns Iraq. Given the similarities in the proposed Iraq policies of
Senator Hillary Clinton and Senator Barack Obama, Obama's supporters have
emphasized that their candidate had the better judgment in opposing the
invasion beforehand. Indeed, in the critical months prior to the launch
of the war in 2003, Obama openly challenged the Bush administration's
exaggerated claims of an Iraqi threat and presciently warned that a war
would lead to an increase in Islamic extremism, terrorism, and regional
instability, as well as a decline in America's standing in the world.

Senator Clinton, meanwhile, was repeating as fact the administration's
false claims of an imminent Iraqi threat. She voted to authorize
President Bush to invade that oil-rich country at the time and
circumstances of his own choosing and confidently predicted success.
Despite this record and Clinton's refusal to apologize for her war
authorization vote, however, her supporters argue that it no longer
relevant and voters need to focus on the present and future.

Indeed, whatever choices the next president makes with regard to Iraq are
going to be problematic, and there are no clear answers at this point.
Yet one's position regarding the invasion of Iraq at that time says a lot
about how a future president would address such questions as the use of
force, international law, relations with allies, and the use of
intelligence information.

As a result, it may be significant that Senator Clinton's foreign policy
advisors, many of whom are veterans of her husband's administration, were
virtually all strong supporters of President George W. Bush's call for a
U.S. invasion of Iraq. By contrast, almost every one of Senator Obama's
foreign policy team was opposed to a U.S. invasion.


During the lead-up to the war, Obama's advisors were suspicious of the
Bush administration's claims that Iraq somehow threatened U.S. national
security to the extent that it required a U.S. invasion and occupation of
that country. For example, Zbigniew Brzezinski, national security advisor
in the Carter administration, argued that public support for war "should
not be generated by fear-mongering or demagogy."

By contrast, Clinton's top advisor and her likely pick for secretary of
state, Richard Holbrooke, insisted that Iraq remained "a clear and present
danger at all times."

Brzezinski warned that the international community would view the invasion
of a country that was no threat to the United States as an illegitimate an
act of aggression. Noting that it would also threaten America's
leadership, Brzezinski said that "without a respected and legitimate
law-enforcer, global security could be in serious jeopardy." Holbrooke,
rejecting the broad international legal consensus against offensive wars,
insisted that it was perfectly legitimate for the United States to invade
Iraq and that the European governments and anti-war demonstrators who
objected "undoubtedly encouraged" Saddam Hussein.

Another key Obama advisor, Joseph Cirincione of the Carnegie Endowment,
argued that the goal of containing the potential threat from Iraq had been
achieved, noting that "Saddam Hussein is effectively incarcerated and
under watch by a force that could respond immediately and devastatingly to
any aggression. Inside Iraq, the inspection teams preclude any
significant advance in WMD capabilities. The status quo is safe for the
American people."
Read the complete article at
Foreign Policy in Focus
February 4, 2008

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Time for the Peace Movement: Hayden

After Super Tuesday, Time for Peace Movement to Get Off the Sidelines
by Tom Hayden

With Iraq a key issue and the Democratic primaries unresolved, isn’t it time for the peace movement to get off the sidelines and become more engaged? Shouldn’t we be doing everything possible to make the candidates compete for the peace vote? Think of the battlegrounds ahead where the peace vote is up for grabs: Washington on February 9, Maryland and the District of Columbia February 12, Wisconsin February 19, Rhode Island, Vermont and Ohio on March 4, and other states like Oregon and Pennsylvania through May.

On one side it appears that the pro-Democratic groups with millions of dollars are sitting out the primaries, saving their energy for the coming battle with John McCain. That plan just got delayed for many weeks as the primaries go on. On the other side are the grass-roots peace coalitions that generally forsake political engagement and busy themselves with plans for civil disobedience while 13 more states are voting.

Meanwhile hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of voters will make up their minds on which of the candidates is best on ending the Iraq war with little involvement by peace activists in the debate.

There are differences that matter between Clinton and Obama, not as great as between the Democrats and McCain, but significant nonetheless. They are these:

Obama favors a 16-18 month timeline for withdrawing US combat troops. Clinton favors “immediately” convening the Joint Chiefs to draft a plan to “begin” drawing down US troops, but with no timetable for completing the withdrawal.

Obama opposed the measure authorizing Bush to designate Iran’s Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization, widely regarded as an escalating step towards another war. Clinton voted for the authorization.

Obama opposed the 2002 authorization for war that Clinton voted for. Clinton still calls that decision a “close call” and refuses to say it was a mistaken vote.

It’s true that both candidates support leaving thousands of “residual” American troops behind for a likely counterinsurgency conflict that we should all oppose. Peace activists should demand a shift to peace diplomacy beginning with a US commitment to end the occupation and withdraw all troops.

But Obama’s position is clearly better than Clinton’s, and both candidates should be encouraged to see that the strongest anti-war position wins votes. The primaries are probably the last opportunity to push for a tougher stance, before the debate shifts to criticizing McCain/Lieberman/Podhoretz/Petraeus and whomever else in the general election. If one is a Clinton supporter, she should be pressured to keep catching up with Obama’s positions. Instead, she is floating a demand to make Bush bring any Washington-Baghdad military pact before Congress, which is a fine idea but avoids whether and when to end the occupation. If you are an Obama supporter, he should be pressured to connect the drain of the Iraq War on our economy and any possibilities for funding national health care. The point is to push the peace position forward on the promise of winning close primaries.

If nothing is done now by the peace movement, consider this scenario: with Bush promising to withdraw 25,000 troops this summer, Gen. Petraeus comes to Washington in March or April to announce “progress” in Iraq with lavish media attention. If MoveOn, perhaps understandably, avoids direct engagement with the general, which peace advocates will step in? Will Obama or Clinton or the Out of Iraq Caucus be prepared to confront him with an educational counter-offensive, or will McCain obtain a polished halo for being the Petraeus candidate? These are deadly serious questions. Is anyone discussing them?

In the immediate context, it seems to me that a group like MoveOn has to consider whether its endorsement of Obama now deserves a blast of anti-war energy in places like Seattle, Baltimore, Madison, Vermont, suburban Ohio, Providence, and Portland. Television, radio and media advertising still can be purchased for peace voices. Progressive Democrats at the grass-roots level might flood these decisive areas with questions to the campaigns and informational leaflets designed to educate swing voters. Signs and banners asking “Peace By When?” might be seen at rallies and media events.

The new reality is that the primaries will grind on, the percentages will remain extremely tight, and the Iraq War can be made into a tipping issue over which the candidates compete. It takes a peace movement now.

Tom Hayden is the author of Ending the War in Iraq [2007].

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Large Latino Vote gave Clinton the win

Many people had already voted absentee. Some 7 % voted for Edwards. Progressive Latino groups worked for Obama.
Clinton Win in California Larger Than Polls Predicted Because of Huge Latino Turnout

By Frank D. Russo
The California Field Poll released on Super Bowl Sunday before Super Tuesday’s presidential primary had a 2 point spread between Hillary Clinton at 38% of the vote and Barack Obama at 36%, with a pretty large 18% of likely voters being undecided. The actual results being tabulated right now, with 96.7% of the precinct votes counted and perhaps as many as 2 million vote by mail votes and other not yet tabulated, have a 9.5% spread with Clinton getting 51.9% of the vote and 42.4% voting for Barack Obama.
...The single biggest difference in the makeup of the electorate was the 20% share of voters Field expected to be Latino and the 29% share reflected in exit polls. Major news organizations use the same data in these exit polls on California and you can read them on CNN’s site.
Latinos in California voted overwhelmingly for Clinton and accounted for a greater segment of the vote. Also, if you look at the exit poll data and compare it with the Field Poll, blacks which were expected to be 12% of the vote in the Democratic primary (a reasonable assumption since although they are 6% of the state’s population, they are mostly Democrat) only turned out at a 6% share of the vote.
Read the entire report at California Progress Report

Saturday, February 2, 2008

How Edwards Advanced the Democrats' Debate

Published on Saturday, February 2, 2008 by The Boston Globe
by Derrick Z. Jackson

The wisps of the John Edwards campaign were visible at the beginning of Thursday night’s debate between Democratic presidential candidates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. Obama led off by saying that Edwards “did such an outstanding job elevating the issues of poverty and the plight of working families all across the country.”

Clinton added that John and Elizabeth Edwards reminded the nation “that in this land of such plenty and blessings, there are still 37 million Americans who are living below the poverty line and many others barely hanging on above.”In saying she believed “absolutely passionately in universal healthcare,” Clinton again referenced Edwards. “If you don’t start by saying you’re going to achieve universal healthcare, you will be nibbled to death,” she said. “And I think it’s imperative that as we move forward in this debate and into the campaign, that we recognize what both John Edwards and I did, that you have to bite this bullet.”

Obama said both he and Edwards were linked in a mission on congressional ethics. “I think that a lot of issues that both Senator Clinton and I care about will not move forward unless we have increased the kinds of ethics proposal that I passed just last year - some of the toughest since Watergate - and that’s something that John Edwards and I both talked about repeatedly in this campaign. That’s why I don’t take federal PAC and federal lobbyist money.”

From that point, the strands of Edwards’s populism dissipated into relative Democratic bliss. It was refreshing that Obama and Clinton toned everything down in a race where acrimony was burning bridges to the voters. But the compliments to Edwards are more complicated than the pleasantries.

If, as the stereotypes of this campaign go, Obama represents transformative hope and Clinton represents international Rolodex Day One experience, Edwards significantly tapped into a critical segment of Democratic voters who smoldered with how the world’s richest nation fell so far behind on healthcare and its standard of living and lurched into an unnecessary war whose tragedies will haunt us for decades.

In apologizing for his vote to give President Bush the authority to go to war in Iraq, he exhibited a humility that the nation desperately needs from the Oval Office. He moved both Obama to more pointedly point out what is “personal” about this campaign and Clinton to say what she is “passionate” about.

He hurt his common man image with the fancy haircut, house, and hedge funds, but ultimately he had credibility in saying the race was personal in a way that Obama or Clinton are fortunate enough not to have felt. A man who has had to bury a son and has a wife with inoperable cancer could not be running for president for pure ego.

Most important, the Edwards campaign was a reminder that any true change will not be easy. Some people snickered when he talked of an “epic battle” ahead and declared that he would confront Congress with a declaration of healthcare war (”If you don’t pass universal healthcare by July of this year, July of 2009, I will use every power I have to take your healthcare coverage away from you”). Many pundits and politicians wrote off his speeches as too angry.

The more accurate assessment is that Edwards’s anger - whether you believed it or not - may have just helped forge a more focused Democratic Party. Why else would Obama and Clinton play nice in the Los Angeles debate? They got the message that there is much more to lose that is greater than their individual campaigns.

In Iowa, where he finished between winner Obama and third-place Clinton by getting 28 percent of caucus support, Edwards was successful in charging, “Senator Clinton defends the system and says it’s OK to take lobbyists’ money.” He cut into Obama’s support with a more declarative position on Iraq, saying he would immediately withdraw 40,000 to 50,000 troops.
Actually, I am not so sure about the poverty stuff since the last time the Democrats had the White House under Bill Clinton, little was done to stop the exploding wealth gap in this nation. But Edwards gave it a fighting chance of being taken seriously.

In November, Lee Mickey, a 71-year-old retired Iowa “farm wife,” said she liked Obama’s hopeful message but found Edwards’s edge “very, very necessary.” Whoever wins the nomination, Obama or Clinton, will need that edge.

Derrick Z. Jackson’s e-mail address is
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