Friday, November 21, 2008

Missing Trees for Forest in Auto Maker Bailout

For the past week, the heads of the three largest auto makers in the United States have made their way to and from the halls of the United States Congress desperately seeking a financial aid package to help bail them out of their financial woes. Critics of the bailout argue that bailouts are wasteful and rarely do more than prolong the inevitable collapse. Supporters argue that, despite the repugnance of providing a bailout to yet another sector of the U.S. economy, a bailout is preferable to a collapse of the auto industry.

Clearly, both sides have it wrong in this issue, at least as far as the bottom line is concerned.

Those arguing in favor of a bailout--led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Senator Carl Levin (D, CA), and some venerable Republican members of Congress--argue that failing to provide a bailout will result in massive unemployment, not only in the automobile production business, but also in related fields, most notably among businesses that provide parts to the big three.

After listening to the appeals of the CEOs of the big three auto makers, Pelosi and Senate Majority leader Harry Reid (D, Nev.) rebuffed calls for immediate legislative injection of liquidity into the auto industry, opting, instead, to draft a list of conditions that the big three must first meet before Congress will entertain such overtures. Those conditions, though not yet public, are said to focus on CEO pay and bonuses, government interest on loans, government oversight of the industry, and a requirement that the big three jointly and individually draw up plans for righting their businesses.

Opponents of the bailout argue that now is the wrong time to provide assistance for an industry that began showing signs of wreckage many years ago and that has steadfastly refused to adapt to a changing environment in which higher gas mileage and alternative fuel-sourced cars are both more sensible and in greater demand. These opponents largely argue that the big three failed while others, most notably Honda and Toyota, forged ahead, allowing them to remain viable in the new world order.

Proponents of the bailout thus contend that, given the likely harm to workers, a bailout probably is inevitable, but that the terms ought to be favorable to the party providing the bailout. Opponents, meanwhile, generally argue that Congress ought to take a pass on the opportunity to bailout a failing industry, allowing the wheat to fall from the chaff.

While the two primary sides to the bailout debate offer sensible points in support of what appear to be their final positions on the matter, neither side is both looking at the practical problems suggested by the big three failings and addressing those problems.

Contrary to what opponents of a bailout suggest, a failure of the big three is more than a mere market correction. Tens of thousands of jobs will be imperiled by the collapse of the big three with the majority of those losing their jobs going first to the unemployment line and the public dole and then who knows where when the benefits run out. While Darwinians might have little sympathy for those trained in nothing other than riveting auto panels to an auto's frame, they ought at least to have some concern for what becomes of tens of thousands of people who have no job and no legal source of income. Clearly, outright opponents of a bailout of the big three have some things to consider before making their absolute statements against the bailout.

Similarly, proponents of the bailout of the big three have questions that they ought to be asking of their own position. For, as they took turns deriding the CEOs of the three auto makers for flying corporate jets to Washington, they failed to recognize the primary issue is not whether the big three survive, but how those whose livelihoods are attached to the success of the big three will make do should the big three go under.

What members of Congress ought to be discussing right now is not how to save the big three, but how to ensure that if and when any or all of the big three succumb to their own shortsightedness and greed, those who depend on the big three for their livelihoods do not go down with the ship.

How does that happen? That part is actually fairly simple and, though expensive, no more expensive than what the big three is now proposing as a bailout, with future pleas certainly in the offing.

The answer is that, rather than provide the big three with bailout money, Congress ought to put money into an interest bearing trust to invest in the aftermath of a possible collapse of the U.S. auto industry. The funds from the trust will be used to ensure that non-executives, who rely on the big three for an existing pension plan and health plan, retain those benefits if and when their company ceases to cover those benefits. The trust also will be used to extend unemployment benefits for workers laid off of work as a result of the downsizing or bankruptcy of any of the big three, with the condition that workers of non-retirement age obtain retraining in a viable field.

The solution is not a perfect one as, more likely than not, it will include considerable waste and bureaucracy. But it is far preferable to simply doling out money to an industry that has been sinking for some time with the objective of propping up companies rather than focusing on the harms that would result were the companies to fail. This is particularly true when one considers the outsourcing that has become the hallmark of the big three.

The guess here is that Congress is neither far-sighted nor brave enough to allow the big three to fail while saving only those left in the wake.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Correcting An Egregious Misnomer

Convinced that Senator John McCain will lose to Senator Barack Obama in this year's presidential election, Republicans have already begun casting their net on the reasons for the defeat. The real reasons--a disastrous run by arguably the most incompetent President in the modern era, a war in Iraq that continues to siphon money from the domestic economy, and a deepening recession--so far have fallen outside of this broad net. Instead, Republicans are trotting out the same tired excuses for their failures--the media hate Republicans, illegal voters pushed Democrats over the top, and too many intelligent people voted.

Now, Republicans are adding another herring to the fish stew. In addition to the prevailing excuses, Republicans are floating the notion that Senator Obama is winning because he is black. Yes, because he is black.

Could anything be more absurd? Unlikely.

In a country in which black people were disenfranchised until only recently, in which the Ku Klux Klan still sports a following, in which the incarceration rate for blacks is nearly twice that of similarly charged white defendants, Republicans are lamenting that Senator Obama, should he win, will have won largely through the help of votes of sympathy? This might be the single most disingenuous political argument ever trotted out to the American public. And that's saying a mouthful.

The argument that Senator Obama has gained an advantage due to his race is not a new one, of course, having first reared its image during the Democratic primaries. That's when current Obama supporter, then Senator Clinton strategist, Paul Begala, suggested that Senator Clinton was the victim of voter desire to support a black man over a white woman.

Despite the irony of Begala's statements in the face of his own candidate receiving massive support from women who, as black voters undoubtedly hoped to do with Obama, wanted to break a political barrier for a previously maligned group, at least Begala's comments could be taken with a grain of consideration. After all, it was conceivable that some Democrats, perhaps even many, supported Senator Obama over Senator Hillary Clinton due to their desire to support the first black male candidate for President. Perhaps. And perhaps many of those in that camp were even white voters. Again, perhaps.

To contend, however, that a significant percentage of voters in the Presidential election are supporting Senator Obama over Senator McCain because of their desire to put a black man in the White House is off the range. And one need not even know much about final numbers to know that this is the case.

Black voters typically vote 90% Democrat. That trend appears to be holding in early returns today, with Senator Obama probably picking up some votes from Blacks who might not otherwise have voted. Those are not the voters to whom Republicans refer, however, probably because, even if these voters support a Black candidate in greater numbers than they would a white candidate, making the argument that Black voters turned out to support a Black candidate offers little traction in the realm of political subterfuge.

Instead, what Republicans who are promoting this argument seem to be suggesting is that white voters--moderate white voters who otherwise would have voted Republican--are voting for Senator Obama because he is Black. That defies logic; it defies the history of moderate voters; and it defies common sense.

If Senator Obama wins this election, as it appears that he will, Republicans would be best served looking inward toward the rightward lurch of the Party--a lurch that prompted the placement of Governor Sarah Palin on the ticket and fomented a campaign geared toward policies that seem very similar to those that have entrenched the United States in the position as that of an outsider in an international system that otherwise looks upon the United States for leadership.

If Senator Obama wins today, it is because Americans viewed him as the best option for delivering the nation from an era in which Republicans not only failed to deliver what they promised to deliver, but failed to acknowledge the true failures so that they can be rectified going forward. That, despite a campaign when it was not only permissible, but strongly advisable, to run from the Republican platform of the past eight years. If you cannot cut the cord on disastrous policies under such circumstances, it is difficult to understand when one can. And if Republicans insist on making an Obama victory a history of "lovin' the Black man" it will be a history that the Grand Ole Party will be destined to relive.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

McCain-Palin Getting Mavericky by Invoking Politics of Nixon-Rove-Bush

The American Heritage Dictionary, a source that even Sarah Palin would have a difficult time condemning as anti-American, defines "maverick" as "one who refuses to abide by the dictates of [their] group; a dissenter." As Karl Marx did with Hegel's philosophy, Palin has turned the definition of "maverick" on its proverbial head, declaring herself and John McCain to be mavericks as a consequence of their eschewing of moderate politics for the adoption of the politics of the far right--or, worse yet, no discernible governing philosophy at all.

At the beginning of the final month of campaigning, with the McCain-Palin ticket floundering, Governor Palin ratcheted up her sophomoric campaign stump pablum by injecting into the monologue accusations that Barack Obama is anti-American and a terrorist sympathizer.

The tactic is not new, of course, dating back at least to the 1940s when Republicans, weary of their long run outside the White House, groped for a fear tactic that would play to the uninformed.

In the 1940s and 1950s, Republicans, led by congressional candidate then Vice Presidential candidate Richard Nixon, propagated the notion that the country was being undermined by communist subversives in the democratic White House. In the absence of cable television and internet, two prodigious means for responding to unfounded political attacks, Nixon and other Republicans were able to paint Harry Truman, Adlai Stevenson, and other respectable politicians as un-American.

Nixon continued with this ploy in 1960, when he unsuccessfully ran for President against John Kennedy and, again, when running for President against Hubert Humphrey in 1968 and when attempting to dismiss Daniel Ellsberg's revelation of the Pentagon Papers.

From 1968 to 1992, Republicans controlled the White House for all but the four years of the Carter Administration. That control led to an abatement of sorts of the type of desperate campaigning that Nixon had championed within his Party for nearly four decades.

That changed in 1992 when, saddled with a bad economy, George H.W. Bush found himself mired in a tight race against a theretofore unknown in Bill Clinton. Late in the campaign, desperation oozing from his every pore, President Bush referred to Governor Clinton and his running mate, Senator Al Gore, as "those two clowns," and referred to Governor Clinton as "Bozo the Clown."

The tactic backfired for President Bush for several reasons. First, it came too late in the campaign to be effective. Second, it came off as a subjective, non-substantive criticism. And, third, President Bush did not provide substantive follow-up.

Republicans learned their lesson eight years later, however, when George W. Bush ran against Vice President Gore. Republicans, led by campaign strategist Karl Rove, pounded on the theme that Vice President Gore was going to milk the rich and give to the undeserving poor, that Gore was a "tree-hugger." "Watch your wallet!" was the rallying cry for Republicans and it worked because Vice President Gore refused to respond to the rallying cry and even fed the notion.

In 2002, Republicans again relied on the anti-tax rallying cry, despite sponsoring a candidate committed to policies that effectuated significant tax increases for the vast majority of Americans, and enlisted the aid of media conglomerates such as Rupert Murdoch's Fox Network to paint John Kerry as un-American. "Is John Kerry too French?" Fox reporters repeatedly asked as they led into their "news" of the day.

Not only was Kerry not "too French" he was and remains not at all French, in any sense of the word. But, understanding the willingness of Americans to dislike the French and for many of those same Americans to dislike anyone who does not share their same unfounded bigotries, FOX and the Republican Party, led by Karl Rove, were able to perpetuate an image of Senator Kerry as un-American. That Senator Kerry failed even to attempt to repudiate the association further reinforced the notion.

Borrowing from the Nixon-Rove line of campaigning that undermined the candidacies of Stevenson, Humphrey, Gore, Kerry, and others, Governor Palin, clearly at the behest of Karl Rove and his associates, continues to suggest that Senator Obama is un-American, calling into question his acquaintanceship with Bill Ayers, a 1960s radical. Though Senator Obama's association to Mr. Ayers is limited to his inclusion on a public education board on which Mr. Ayers also serves and to one campaign event at Mr. Ayers' home nearly forty years after Mr. Ayers' radical activities--activities that both Mr. Ayers and Senator Obama have denounced, Governor Palin continues to rely on this limited and contemporary association to portray Senator Obama as un-American and as a terrorist.

That's Nixon-Rove politics. It's the politics of fear-mongering over the politics of substance. And it is far from a "maverick" style of politics.

Where Governor Palin deserves some credit for being a maverick is not in how she or her running mate are conducting their campaign, but in her affiliation with a Party seeking independence for the State of Alaska. The Alaskan Independence Party, a Party with whose members Governor Palin clearly has palled around, given that her husband is an on-again, off-again member of the Party and that Governor Palin, herself, has attended several Party conventions as a speaker, represents the type of anti-Americanism for which Governor Palin is so far reaching to associate Senator Obama in a last, clearly desperate attempt to win a losing proposition.

If there is any anti-American sentiment at the top of the campaign tickets this election year, that sentiment seems far more compelling coming from the Palins' association with the Alaskan Independence Party than does it coming from Senator Obama's meager connection to a reformed radical. That's not what McCain-Palin-Rove want voters to believe, but, as Senator McCain is wont to say, "the proof is in the pudding."

Redefining the

Monday, October 13, 2008

Poor Judgment Likely Seals McCain Defeat

The contrast between his own public pronouncements in response to the moronic would-be voter in Lakeville, Minnesota and the comments emanating from the mouth of his embarrassing vice-presidential selection, Sarah Palin, would be enough to lead most thinking voters to conclude that John McCain either is rudderless or duplicitous in his campaign for President. But Senator McCain has opted to make the point even clear enough for his own base to see through.

As Senator McCain aides rushed to get to the public the video of Senator McCain correcting a woman who does not trust Barack Obama because "he's an Arab," his campaign--not the Republican Party, but his own campaign--continued to run ads suggesting that Senator Obama is the very embodiment of the uniformed Lakeville voter's, and, presumably, many other Republicans' worst fears. The implication in Senator McCain's most frequently running ads is that Senator Obama, though not an Arab, is either a terrorist or a terrorist sympathizer.

While Senator McCain and his aides insist that they are turning the page on this disingenuous campaign theme--a theme that is failing miserably even by the candidate's own polling statistics--Governor Palin continues to tour the country promulgating the view that Senator Obama is in bed with terrorists intent on destroying the United States.

Fortunately for Senator Obama and his presidential ambitions, Senator McCain appears neither to have the inclination nor the ability to reign in his "maverick" (read embarrassing) running mate.

Senator McCain has only one hope for winning this election. And that hope is tied to a string of decisions that he must make at this point in his campaign to save what has been the most poorly executed campaign since the evangelicals hijacked the campaign of Senator Bob Dole. As with many of his campaign miscues, however, Senator McCain appears intent on riding this out without either admitting or correcting his mistakes before they cause his candidacy to become the least competitive presidential bid since that of Walter Mondale.

Should Senator McCain any longer care to win the election, however, there is one thing that he must do and do immediately. That one thing, of course, is to admit that his decision to cave into the demands of the Karl Rove-led faction of his Party--a faction that ought to be well out of favor by this point--was a mistake.

The conventional wisdom in presidential elections is that the selection of a vice-presidential candidate is a non-issue on election day, save for the possible influence that that candidate might have in securing votes in that candidate's home state. Sarah Palin's inclusion on the McCain ticket is threatening to add a corollary to that axiom, however.

Speaking in cliched generalities, stoking divisiveness, baiting hatred, and offering no semblance of intelligent insight on any subject, Governor Palin has made a caricature not only of herself but also of the McCain candidacy. While Senator McCain has made numerous and severe errors in judgment during this campaign, including his continuing attempts to position himself as a Washington outsider despite his nearly three decades in the Senate and his attempt to portray himself as a leader on the financial crisis while offering a bailout to bankers and financial firms most intrinsically associated with Washington cronyism that created the current economic turmoil, his gravest error in judgment was selecting an unfit and uniformed running mate.

For Senator McCain to mount a credible campaign starting in the final three weeks of the election cycle seems improbable, particularly given the ineptitude that has characterized this campaign from the beginning when Senator McCain failed to parlay his three-month lead in securing the nomination into voter support. But, if he is to have any hope of winning the election, the time for making sound decisions begins now. And the most important step, though only a first step, is to replace Governor Palin with someone known for understanding the economy.

One suspects that those hoping for a turn-around in the polls are not holding their breaths.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Simple Solution to Credit Crunch

Most Americans, at one time or another, have faced some form of credit crunch. The response has been to seek funds. Some have taken on more work, others have opted for loans or handouts.

Today, the U.S. Government comes hat in hand in the face of one of the nation's most dire credit crunches. This credit crunch, however, is not the result of government largess, but of Wall Street fraud and gross miscalculation.

President Bush's response to the crisis, while finally candid as to the scope of the problem, is woefully short on ensuring responsibility on the part of those largely responsible for the current economic mess. Initially, Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, the man who floated into Washington beneath the winds of a $40 million per year Wall Street parachute, requested $700 billion in taxpayer money to bail out Wall Street friends and foes alike, with only the slightest of oversight of the disbursal and use of the funds by anyone other than the recipients of those funds. Even the President blushed.

Concerned with decreasing poll numbers, Senator John McCain road to the rescue, chiding Mr. Paulson for his initiative and calling for "change." When pressed during a meeting with President Bush, top congressional leaders, and Senator Barack Obama as to what ought to be included in the unprecedented bailout, Mr. McCain had no answers. All Mr. McCain knew was that he should not attend a debate in Mississippi on Friday without an agreement in place, an agreement that he hoped to delay long enough to postpone what is certain to be an unflattering debate for the Arizona Senator.

Ditto the Republicans in the House of Representatives. Clearly intent on attempting to portray McCain as thoughtful and themselves as opposed to a mess largely of their anti-regulatory making, Republicans in the House threw a hissy fit in a White House meeting on the bailout plan that left fellow Republicans embarrassed and Democrat Barney Frank ironically finding himself defending a cowering President Bush from members of his own party.

The White House debacle left Paulson pleading with Mr. Frank not to reveal the events of the meeting in public, the President looking anything but Presidential, and Mr. Obama looking like the most astute of the two presidential candidates offered by the two-party system, if only by default.

Sophomoric and churlish behavior aside, those debating the terms of what is certain to be a financial bailout of Wall Street appear close to what should be an obvious resolution to this fiasco. But they appear intent, as well, on leaving out key components and caveats to a successful plan.

Rather than requiring that there be no golden parachutes for officers of firms benefiting from this government bailout, the Paulson plan should require that
  • those receiving bailout funds repay the funds within two years
  • those receiving bailout funds repay the funds with interest no less than that paid by AIG for its own bailout arrangement with the federal government
  • those receiving bailout funds pay a penalty for late payments
  • those receiving bailout funds have their interest rates increase upon the making of late payments
  • re-payments on the bailout loans be deposited in a secured, interest-bearing account and credited to the American taxpayers
  • the government receive a one-third stock interest in all companies receiving bailout funds
The bailout plan would thus offer both credit for the market, thereby addressing the liquidity issues purportedly at stake in this crisis, and an incentive for those receiving funds to remedy their ills in short order. It also would provide two opportunities for taxpayers to recoup funds loaned, with stock interest in the debtor firms mitigating the harm caused by those firms failing to repay their loans.

What this bailout would not do is limit officers' pay. By steering clear of this provision, the bailout plan would ensure that qualified and motivated individuals engineered the recoveries of the firms that we purportedly need to have recovered.

It's a plan that could work and should work, but, of course, it is also a plan subject to the whims of political winds. And that, despite the unlikeliest of marriages between the Democratic left and the Bush Administration, might mean that it is far more than that for which we should hope.

Silver Lining in Economic Cloud

If there is one silver lining in the current cloud shrouding the United States it is that it is that that cloud has arrived at a time when two candidates are vying to fill the seat of a failed eight-year Presidency. And, under that cloud, both candidates have had an opportunity to show what makes them more or less presidential than the other.

With the direst financial crisis to hit the United States since at least the 1970s wending its way through the economic system, many American voters will be casting a ballot for President for the first time ever with something truly tangible at stake. In previous years, networks such as FOX have been able to paint the Democratic candidate as "too French" or "too green," in a coordinated, and successful, attempt to lead the voting public to vote for the Republican candidate. This year, MSNBC initially shot back at FOX, pounding the image of McCain as "too old" to lead.

Finally, it seems, Americans have had enough of being led around by the collar and have tuned out the usual suspects in search of more intelligent reporting on the campaign. At least that's what the polls suggest, as Americans now list their primary concerns being not the tired old concerns of the far left and right, but the future of the U.S. economy, writ large, the status of health care, and the U.S. commitment to Iraq.

Finally, it seems, Americans understand that there are important issues with which the President must deal. And finally, it seems, Americans are considering electing someone informed enough at least to deal with these issues.

After eight years of impotency in the Oval Office, no pun intended, there might well be a silver lining after all to the current economic turmoil.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Playing A Losing Hand

Putting words into politicians' mouths long ago became a cottage industry with the end game having little, if anything, to do with what a politician actually says and everything to do with getting an opposition politician elected. Fortunately, the current candidates for President of the United States, Republican Senator John McCain and Democratic Senator Barack Obama, have done enough talking, if only barely so, to permit an analysis of their positions without guessing too much.

In this installment of RWB, we look at McCain's platform. At first blush, it's neither pretty nor very useful for a country more in need of considered analysis of real problems than of trite, pat responses to pressing problems.

With a five-month head start on Mr. Obama in his campaign for the White House, Mr. McCain has had ample opportunity to define himself as a leader ready to solve the serious problems facing the United States. Unfortunately, though Presidential candidates rarely speak to the specifics of their platforms until after the nominating convention, Mr. McCain has taken this standard to the extreme.

Initially, Mr. McCain was mum on nearly every subject of importance to the American public, save his commitment to keeping U.S. troops in Iraq until the end of time. The gamble that Mr. McCain was playing with this ploy was that the war in Iraq would be the defining policy issue in the November election. Of far less significance, he too gambled, would be the issues that he largely has ignored, issues such as health care reform, alternative fuels, and the economic recession.

Mr. McCain gambled. Mr. McCain lost.

On his website, Mr. McCain cursorily addresses the energy crisis facing the United States. Not surprisingly, the Senator has one meaningful solution to breaking the U.S. of its dependence on Middle East oil. That solution, of course, is off-shore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Mr. McCain argues that off-shore drilling will supply the United States with 55,000 barrels of oil a day. That's the extent of the basis for Mr. McCain's "energy policy."

Allowing Mr. McCain his pre-convention brevity, what should be disconcerting to the Senator is the Energy Department's recent release of data regarding Americans' gas consumption in 2008 versus 2007. The study paints a picture not only of significantly decreasedconsumption but also suggests the preposterousness of Mr. McCain's attempt to fashion an energy policy around off-shore drilling.

The Energy Department reports that Americans drove 12 billion fewer miles in June of 2008 than they did in June of 2007. Not coincidentally, Americans reduced their daily oil consumption by 800,000 barrels in the first half of 2008. That reduction has reduced global demand for oil and helped ease the price of a barrel of oil $30 in the past month.

Given these numbers, Mr. McCain's dilemma should be evident. As he crafts an energy policy around off-shore drilling with an optimistic production projection of 55,000 barrels of oil per day, simple changes in driving habits, alone, have reduced U.S. daily oil consumption by nearly 20 times that figure. By pandering to the public on a platform of finding oil at home as the solution to the U.S. energy crisis--rather than finding and funding alternatives to oil--Mr. McCain is offering a policy that is infinitely worse than what we currently have. Offering a panacea will only drive consumers back to square one without resolving any of the underlying problems, and it will do so at the risk of drilling in unstable areas.

As only very much of an afterthought, Mr. McCain suggests that we need to look at alternative fuel options. But, as if to put a fine point on his lack of imagination and weddedness to staying the old course, he simply cannot resist lumping into this category of "alternative fuel" options, the by-product of off-shore drilling, off-shore oil. It would be comical if it were not so tragic.

As for Mr. McCain's other policy initiatives, it appears there are none. Not even Iraq seems any longer to be a key component of Mr. McCain's campaign, as the Senator works feverishly to distance himself from an increasingly unpopular Bush Administration. For a candidate with a long advantage over his opponent, Mr. McCain, thus, truly has done very little with a lot--not exactly an enticing prospect after eight years of even less.

Up Next: Obama's Pre-Convention Speak.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Voters Ready to Eschew False Light

Remember when the Administration of George W. Bush first took office amidst promises that the "adults" were in charge? Seems like a long time ago. Remember when they repeatedly failed to deliver on promises of professionalism and accountability? That seems both long-standing and fresh.

With disastrous decision following disastrous decision flowing from the White House, 2008 would seem to be precisely the worst time for the Republicans to run a political campaign for the White House featuring more sophomoric ads portraying the democratic candidate in unflattering terms. But that all seems lost on a Republican Party strategy team that continues to impress upon an increasingly alert constituency that it cares more about building straw-men rather than establishing a meaningful dialogue on the many significant issues facing the United States.

The Republicans, of course, have many issues from which to select. They could discuss Iraq, health care, government waste and corruption, or numerous other issues that the current administration either has created or made infinitely worse. Those all would be welcome talking points for presumptive Republican presidential nominee, John McCain.

Instead of discussing adult issues at a time when the country most desperately needs such discussion, however, Mr. McCain has adopted campaign methodology too-long promoted by Karl Rove and company; it is a decision that almost certainly will spell defeat for Mr. McCain in November.

By attempting to paint presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama in a false light, rather than focusing on the substantive policy differences between Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama, the Republicans are making clear that they believe both that their candidate is the weaker of the two candidates on substantive issues and that the voting public, if not inundated with distractive ads, will see the candidates for what they are and vote for Mr. Obama.

We've seen this song and dance many times in the past and, unfortunately, to great effect for the Republicans. Al Gore was going to shut down all non-ecobusinesses in the U.S. and raise taxes; John Kerry was going to force everyone to hug trees and raise taxes; Obama, we are told, will be far worse. This is a different era, however--a point apparently lost on those currently fashioning the Republican talking points.

With the recent revelation that Iraq is growing rich at the expense of the American taxpayer and the current administration's farcical call for Russia to retreat from Georgia under the principle of sovereignty of nations, it is, of course, difficult for Mr. McCain to continue to campaign on his commander-in-chief platform when he is lockstep with the President on Iraq. But there are those other issues, issues upon which the nation will turn dramatically over the next decade.

The quandary for Mr. McCain is how to extricate himself from those calling the shots for the Party. The sad answer for Mr. McCain is that appears to be too late for such considerations. And so Mr. McCain latches on to the antics.

For eight years, Americans have wallowed in their razor thin decisions in 2000 and 2004. As they attempt to make silk out of sow's ear after such carnage, they are left to decide between two candidates who have taken far different approaches in their campaigns. While Mr. McCain has allowed the Republican Party to co-opt his campaign, Mr. Obama continues with his theme of solving problems. No greater disparity is evident than in the ads that the two candidates currently are running. As Mr. McCain focuses on casting Mr. Obama in negative, even false light in his ads, Mr. Obama has countered with policy-oriented ads. After eight years of false light, the voting public appears finally ready to demand better.

Up Next: Defining Sovereign Rights.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

President Bush Past the Expiration Date

It was bad enough when, under the pretext of snuffing out weapons of mass destruction, President George W. Bush thrust the United States into a war in Iraq that now appears virtually intractable.

It became worse when, with no plan beyond the site of the air carrier deck, Mr. Bush declared "mission accomplished" when the mission clearly was nowhere near accomplished, no matter how inadequately the Bush Administration had set forth a mission statement.

It became worse yet when the Administration, the Administration that, upon taking control of the White House, announced that "the grownups" were in charge, outed an active CIA operative over a petty squabble with the operative's spouse.

Yes, as far back as 2003, the United States' predicament with the current occupant of the White House was dire. But Mr. Bush's Tuesday press conference--his first since April as he attempts to stay out of the news and out of the minds and hearts of voters--sent a signal to all Americans that the days of 2002 were indeed heady compared to the days of 2008. And, more significantly, the press conference serves as exhibit A as to why the United States ought to amend the U.S. Constitution to allow for mid-term removal of Presidents.

Lame duck presidents are something up with which Americans have had to put since the passage of the twenty-second Amendment to the Constitution in 1951. That Amendment stipulates that "No person shall be elected to the office of the President more than twice." The twenty-second Amendment was passed in response to the four-term presidency of FDR, who was so riddled with complications from polio that he was barely able to finish out a third term, let alone make much of a go of his fourth term.

Though the twenty-second Amendment clearly was an attempt to rid the U.S. system of an echo of a monarchical system, it had the unfortunate lasting detriment of imposing upon the U.S. electorate what has come charitably to be known as the "lame duck" presidency for any President elected to a second term. This has been particularly true of second-term Presidents in a divided system.

Since the passage of the twenty-second Amendment, five U.S. Presidents have been elected to a second term after serving one full term. Of the five, four finished their second term, with all four facing a congress controlled by the opposing party in their final term in office.

Until George W. Bush stepped back into the White House for a second term, a case could be made that, despite factors working against them, all three previous "lame duck" Presidents at least managed some progress, with Eisenhower, facing Soviet aggression and inheriting a military-industrial complex that he failed to conquer, arguably having the least amount of success.

Despite Eisenhower's difficulties, the former WWII General nevertheless stands, along with Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, as among the most popular Presidents in U.S. history at the time of leaving office. Unfortunately, for reasons that history will support, the current Bush President cannot and will not be able to make the same statement.

Poor policy and lack of forthrightness with the American public notwithstanding, Mr. Bush's second-term offers a vivid portrayal of why the U.S. system requires amending. For not only is Mr. Bush the principal behind numerous failed policies of action and inaction, he is also now challenging what is plain for all to see. Such stubbornness has made any traction on the myriad difficult issues facing the United States virtually impossible. Mr. Bush's Tuesday press conference, merely belies such intractability.

Attempting to allay public concerns about what appears to be a quickly degenerating U.S. economic condition, Bush began by recounting a tale that may or may not actually have occurred. ""I happened to witness a bank run in Midland, Texas, one time," Bush told reporters. "I'll never forget the guy standing in the bank lobby, saying, 'Your deposits are good. We got you insured. You don't have to worry about it if you got less than $100,000 in the bank.' The problem was, people didn't hear."

That statement typifies the daftness that appears to run rampant in the current White House. Taking Mr. Bush's own story at his word leaves us with no useful parable. Regardless of whether people heard what the Midland banker was saying, the bank's accounts were insured by the FDIC for accounts up to (rather than less than, as Mr. Bush suggested) $100,000. For the vast majority of Americans, that is the concern.

Clearly, Mr. Bush's concern rests with the proprietors of the bank who brought the bank close enough to the precipice of ruin to induce a run. The bank's failures are apparently lost on Mr. Bush, however, as he laments the downfall of Indymac rather than the significant inconvenience to Indymac's customers and the loss of savings for those with greater than $100,000 invested with Indymac who receive assurances from Indymac just three days prior to the bank's failure that the bank was in good shape.

Also lost on Mr. Bush is what his current proposal to bail out Fannie May and Freddie Mac entails. Mr. Bush contends that the floating of sweetheart Federal Reserve Loans to the two mortgage houses and the federal government's purchase of substantial stock interest in Fannie May and Freddie Mac do not constitute a government bailout of the lenders as both would remain "publicly held" entities. That's not even double-speak, it's simply obtuse.

Mr. Bush cannot call the Government's measures a "bail-out," of course, because, in the Republican lexicon, bail-outs are what Democrats provide. Republicans, meanwhile, let the chaff fall from the wheat--or so we are led to believe.

After more inane comments, Bush took to the stump to chide Democrats for their partisanship, blaming nearly all of the country's current problems on Democrats and accepting none of the blame at his doorstep or at the doorstep of the Republican Party that has controlled the federal government for six of the past eight years.

For a President that once took a shine to President Harry Truman's pronouncement that the buck stops with the President, this President clearly is more talk than action. And that, along with Mr. Bush's virtual inability to garner support or momentum for any meaningful program, calls for a change in command. Unfortunately, the current system requires us to languish under what is surely the lamest of lame ducks in the modern U.S. presidency.

Next: Is Hillary Still Stumping?

Move Over Mr. Carter

Whatever benefit Senator John McCain garnered from Senator Barack Obama's recent missteps, he almost certainly has lost in recent days--and then some. Despite an opening to show the U.S. electorate that his experience on a wide range of issues is what better qualifies him rather than Mr. Obama to serve as President, Mr. McCain continues to beat the tired drum of war while ignoring mounting domestic issues.

On Tuesday, Mr. McCain once again sounded the war cry, declaring "I know how to win wars. And if I'm elected president, I will turn around the war in Afghanistan, just as we have turned around the war in Iraq, with a comprehensive strategy for victory."

Mr. McCain's statements came in the wake of the FDIC's takeover of Indymac, revelations that the federal government is offering a bail-out of mortgage lenders Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae which, combined, hold nearly three trillion dollars worth of U.S. mortgages, continuing erosion of consumer confidence, and testimony by Federal Reserve Chairman, Ben Bernanke, that the U.S. economy faces more trying times over the next year, with inflationary pressures and negligible growth portending ominously for consumers and investors, alike.

While Mr. McCain forges ahead with his campaing philosophy of painting all issues in the cloak of national security and foreign policy, there seems to be no remedy in the McCain platform for dealing with domestic issues. From inflated commodities prices to high energy prices that will not even meet out their greatest burden until the chilling days of winter, Mr. McCain's singular response is that he is most equipped to win wars.

The difficulty for Mr. McCain, of course, is that, while he once stood as a dependable moderate in the Senate, often defying instructions from a belligerent Bush Administration, he now has asserted himself squarely into the Bush camp on both foreign and domestic policy. Like George W. Bush, Mr. McCain has championed the extension of Mr. Bush's tax cuts and off-shore drilling while crusading not only for the current policy in Iraq but for an even greater influx of U.S. troops into the region. None of these measures, however, stand as paramount to most Americans as they might have just six months ago when gas prices were raging wildly upward, government revenues were not in rapid decline, and more thoughtful voices had yet to suggest that the time was nigh for a more international solution to the problems in Iraq and Afghanistan.

As the 2008 election draws ever near, with four of the United States' top mortgage lenders teetering on the brink of collapse, the stock market in a nine-month tailspin, an ethanol policy that is choking consumers, and Iraq not even making front-page news, Mr. McCain is not only in peril of losing whatever claim to being the more prepared President he might once have held, he is fully in danger of becoming the most irrelevant candidate for presidential office since Jimmy Carter lost to Ronald Reagan in 1980.

Up Next: Time for Some British Flavor in American Politics.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Opening The Door

In his latest gambit to garner more of the electorate, U.S. Senator and presumptive democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama, has made what might well prove to be a fatal election error. Making a pitch to solidify the southern black vote and perhaps add some Christian conservatives to his base, Mr. Obama has decided to make faith a cornerstone of his campaign.

The issue has been addressed here before, but, what's new is that nothing is new--at least not anything positive for Mr. Obama.

In fact, at this point, the only true positive to come out of Mr. Obama's faith-based campaigning has been to the advantage of Senator and presumptive republican presidential nominee, John McCain.

Prior to calling for greater faith-based initiatives should he attain the oval office, Mr. Obama was regarded as a religious person from a left-wing Church. Now, he is regarded as a religious opportunist by his long-time detractors and as a traitor by some long-time supporters.

The differing views on Mr. Obama's call for increased faith-based initiatives are not surprising--at least not to those outside of camp Obama. Those Democrats who find salvation outside of religious institutions view Mr. Obama's pronouncement with broad skepticism, recalling similar programs by Presidents Reagan, Bush and Bush and how those programs were used to gloss over problems that such programs are ill-equipped to address. For these Democrats, what is disconcerting is not so much that Mr. Obama values faith and organized religion, but that he possibly values both at a cost to more pressing concerns, such as how to deal with faltering banks, a weak economy, looming international issues, and the war in Iraq.

Like these democratic skeptics of Mr. Obama's call for increased funding for faith-based initiatives, conservatives who favor faith-based initiatives as a stepping stone to breaking down the vestiges of the wall separating church and state--at least in so far as that wall pertains soley to Judeo-Christian faiths--have little more than contempt for Mr. Obama. In Mr. Obama's faith-based platform, Christian conservatives see a Democrat attempting nothing more than to connive otherwise Republican voters.

It's a lose-lose proposition for Mr. Obama, yet he continues to play the game--and without even the prospect of being able to claim that he is doing what is right as the entire matter is fraught with subjectivity.

Worse yet for Mr. Obama is that his pandering undoubtedly has improved Christian conservatives' views of Mr. McCain. Long viewed with suspicion for bucking orthodoxy and refusing to participate in the right-wing's assault on Americans' religious sensibilities, Christian conservatives no doubt now consider Mr. McCain a solid ally--if for no other reason than that he has never wavered in his position on religion, except, perhaps, to drift modestly toward the right on religious wedge issues such as abortion and stem cell research.

If Mr. Obama loses the 2008 presidential election, he may well have his determination to court the religious right to blame. And, in an election that will be tighter than most now are predicting, it is not difficult to imagine such a scenario playing out.

Up Next: More Surrogating.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

While the Electorate Slept

At the outset of the Republican and Democratic primaries in 2007, it seemed as though things could not get any worse for the American electorate. Stuck with a lame duck President who had shown no inclination or ability to resolve the United States' most pressing problems, Americans turned away from George W. Bush in droves, driving the woeful President's approval ratings to levels not seen since Harry S Truman found himself battling recession, the Soviets, and his own missteps in Korea. It seemed only Jimmy Carter had reason to beam. But the Democrats at least had reason to hope.

As 2007 gave way to 2008 and Senators John McCain and Barack Obama closed in on their Parties' respective presidential nominations, there even seemed to be some promise that, for the first time in many election years, Americans would benefit from a campaign between two candidates more interested in core issues than in political rhetoric.

Mr. McCain took the first shot at dashing those hopes with the introduction onto the scene of political surrogate and top adviser Charlie Black. Mr. Black's comments that the Republicans would have benefited in 2008 by another terrorist attack and that Mr. McCain, in particular, would be the beneficiary of such an attack, were a not so subtle attempt to keep Americans thinking that a Democratic President would curl up in the fetal position if confronted by terrorist threats--never mind that Republicans continue to borrow their tough talk talking points from the likes of notable Democratic Presidents Harry Truman and John F. Kennedy, all the while glossing over equally famous though more notorious statements by Mrs. Bush and Bush, and entirely ignoring any Republican President--including Ronald Reagan.

Some commentators have suggested that Mr. Obama got his quid pro quo by way of former Hillary Clinton supporter, retired General Wesley Clark. Appearing on Face the Nation, Clark fielded questions from host Bob Schieffer (interview). In response to Mr. Schieffer's insinuation that Mr. McCain has presidential qualifications due to his experience as a fighter pilot in Viet Nam, Mr. Clark replied that he did not think that piloting a fighter plane and getting shot down bore Presidential credentials.

Mr. Schieffer, apparently suprised at a turn away from the anticipated script, could only muster up a feeble "Really?" in response--quite an embarrassing display for such a seasoned newscaster.

Mr. McCain's supporters, as well as reporters bent on showing that they have no preferences in this campaign--nor, apparently, any concern over truly pressing issues that seem to be going unaddressed at this point in the campaign--lambasted Clark for questioning Mr. McCain's military experience (criticism of Mr. Clark).

Mr. Clark's critics missed the point of Mr. Clark's comments, of course, either intentionally or dim-wittedly (see, e.g., CNN's continuing embarrassment). The point, as Mr. Clark made abundantly clear earlier in the interview, was not that Mr. McCain did not have presidential credentials to which he could point. Nor was the point that Mr. McCain did not face hardships in Viet Nam. Instead, the point was that Mr. McCain's experiences in Viet Nam do not, as Mr. McCain continues to suggest, necessarily qualify him to be the President of the United States.

The problem for Mr. McCain--the one that Mr. Clark hit on and that Mr. Schieffer was too slow to pick up on--is that Mr. McCain has become a one-trick-pony. And he has done so by choice.

Unwilling to venture into areas that will lead Americans to probe his true merits for being President, Mr. McCain has elected to cloak himself in his war experiences as the beginning and end of his qualifying experiences to serve as the President of the United States. As the campaign season progresses, that simply will not do. Even swift-boat Republicans understand that much.

Mr. Clark's comments were right on point. So too, however, were Mr. Obama's, when the presumptive Democratic nominee for President implicitly disavowed Mr. Clark's comments and praised Mr. McCain's perserverance as a P.O.W., commitment to the United States, and service as a respected U.S. Senator. Mr. Clark's comments were correct and accurate, but they were not words that Mr. Obama could endorse in the sound-bite form that they had become.

While Mr. Obama was distancing himself from Mr. Clark's comments on Mr. McCain, the electorate once again was being steered--by the candidates as well as by leading news outlets--to focus on the rhetoric rather than each candidate's as yet murky platforms. That's the kind of poor reporting that has cost the United States at least eight years of sound leadership.

And if that were not cause enough for anxiousness among the electorate, other recent developments ought to be. With Mr. Obama making faith-based issues the core of his early platform and Mr. McCain committed to spending nearly one-sixth of a bloated budget on the war in Iraq, it might be difficult for anyone to vote for either candidate in a year in which both candidates appear eminently more qualified than the man who they plan to replace.

Up Next: If You Think It's Butter. . .

Monday, June 23, 2008

Same Old Republicans

The ploy has not changed, only the characters and the level of purported dismay after the fact have. On Monday, presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain conjured up his most aggrieved expressions, acting chagrined in the wake of yet another jarring comment from his top adviser, Charlie Black, long known for promoting the politics of fear mongering.

Reportedly making an off-the-cuff, unrehearsed comment, Mr. Black stated that a terrorist attack against the United States would be to the advantage of the Republican Party and, in particular, would bolster Mr. McCain's White House aspirations. On a previous occasion, Mr. Black had noted that Americans' concerns over domestic terrorist attacks had kept the Republican Party vibrant despite critical Party policy short-comings elsewhere.

Informed of Mr. Black's remarks, Mr. McCain did his level best to sound dismayed. "I cannot even imagine what he had in mind in saying such a thing," Mr. McCain replied. "I completely disagree with that sentiment."

For his part, Mr. Black acted apologetic and stated that he regretted his comments and should not have made them.

Lest anyone be fooled, however, there is nothing but pure calculation both behind Mr. Black's statements and Mr. McCain's remarks. Mr. Black, following the tried and true Republican formula of creating an issue and bandying it about for public consumption, acted no differently in this case. Realizing that Americans had become calloused to the Bush Administration's repeated efforts to use terrorist threat level warnings for political leverage, Mr. Black changed tactics ever so slightly this time around, merely putting out the prospect of a future attack and using that prospect to cloak presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama in the fallout.

Mr. McCain, too, followed script, acting the innocent despite the fact that Mr. Black, his top adviser, is widely known for such political gamesmanship--the benefit and harms to the public be damned. Nowhere in his response to Mr. Black's statement did Mr. McCain challenge the underlying attack that Mr. Black's statement made against the Democrats' ability to respond to terrorist threats. And therein lies the rub.

Like the White House's current attacks against former Bush Press Secretary Scott McClellan's accusations that the Bush Administration sold the American public a bill of goods in an attempt to rush the United States into an unnecessary war in Iraq, Mr. McCain is not attacking the message, but is, instead, attacking the messenger--or at least the messenger's logic in making such statements.

The difference in the two scenarios, however, could not be more dramatic. In Mr. McClellan's case, attacking the messenger comes off as sophomoric. In Mr. Black's case, Mr. McCain's toothless, coddling response comes off as supportive of a message that Mr. McCain has enunciated in different form at every stop of his campaign against Mr. Obama.

While a segment of the American public will forever cave to the politics of fear, Republicans might well discover, albeit too late, that the majority of voting Americans have grown weary of the Republican boogeyman.

Up Next: All Over the Map.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Perfect Storm?

Democrats running for U.S. President just cannot seem to control their impulses. And, yet again, such impulses just might cost them an election that otherwise shouldn't even be close.

Despite a flailing economy and the war in Iraq, presumptive Democratic nominee, Barack Obama, appears intent on resorting to the Democratic politics of the 1970s rather than transforming the Party platform to one that not only eschews the politics of division but one that moves the nation forward.

For Democrats, Mr. Obama's comments since receiving the Party's implicit nomination for President two weeks ago have to be at least mildly disconcerting. Prior to claiming the Party's nomination, Mr. Obama spoke most often about what he was not. He was not, he contended, a divisive candidate. And he would not, he vowed, rely on wedge issues in his campaign.

So far, Mr. Obama largely has stuck to his pledges, but, with the natural progression of his general campaign into the realm of policy details, Democrats certainly have to be wondering if, despite yet another campaign year in which Democrats ought to be the beneficiary of a perfect political storm set to undertake Republicans, Mr. Obama is on the verge of altering the course of that storm in the direction of the Democrats.

At a June 16th rally in Flint, Michigan, Mr. Obama sounded the Luddite alarm. "Globalization and technology and automation all weaken the position of workers," he stated, arguing that the government must play a strong role in wealth re-distribution from the wealthy to the poor.

For Democrats, what is most disconcerting about Mr. Obama's current campaign rhetoric is that, despite indications that most American voters have two primary concerns--how best to extricate ourselves from Iraq and how to rejuvenate the economy--Mr. Obama is using his campaign stump to campaign on issues that remain wholly secondary to this electorate.

Health-care reform, tax tables, and open markets are, to be certain, concerns of many Americans and are related to the broader issues facing the United States, but they ought not be the focus of Mr. Obama's campaign. By making these issues the center-piece of his stump speeches, particularly when it means getting off message on how to deal with economy and Iraq, Mr. Obama is veering in the direction of Al Gore's ill-fated run for President.

Only slightly less troubling for Democrats is the fact that Mr. Obama's few comments on Iraq appear to lend credence to opponent John McCain's self-proclaimed strength in this campaign--that Mr. Obama is inadequately prepared to deal with the crisis in Iraq.

One might be able to overlook Mr. Obama's Flint, Michigan comments as poorly thought-out pandering to a gathering of largely unemployed auto-workers in one of America's poorest cities, if only there seemed to be less conviction behind the statements.

While globalization, technology, and automation might very well weaken the position of some workers, each offers benefits to workers not heretofore realized.
The question, therefore, ought not be whether we return to a 1920s era of high tariffs, limited international trade agreements, and support for dismantling of technology, but how we move forward in a World that, with or without the United States, will be moving on with trade agreements and ever-improving technology.

Up Next: McCain Working Hard to Undermine His Few Advantages.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Correcting What Should Be Recent History

Historical accuracy has rarely been a strong suit in American politics, particularly in the modern era when Bill Clinton was able to sell himself as a liberal, John McCain is able to pass himself off as a conservative, and George W. Bush has been permitted to draw one comparison after another between himself and Harry S Truman.

Nowhere has an attempt at historical revisionism been so crudely foisted upon the American public, however, than has been the attempt to characterize Hillary Clinton's failed bid to secure the Democratic Party's nomination for President as squarely the consequence of sexism. The clamoring has become almost deafening, with NBC's Katie Couric, among other devoted Clinton supporters, insinuating, if not outright contending, that Ms. Clinton had the nomination stolen from her by a sexist media feeding a sexist voting public.


When the election cycle began in earnest in 2007, Ms. Clinton was the presumed Democratic front-runner for the Party's presidential nominee. Who said so? Virtually everyone and every media outlet. Lat June, on MSNBC, one of the networks that Ms. Couric singled out for rebuke this week, Newsweek's Howard Finneman referred to Ms. Clinton as "a front-runner who deserves to be the front-runner." Chris Matthews did not disagree.

As Fall rolled around, writers for CNN, the Washington Post, and the New York Times were extolling the virtues of the front-running Ms. Clinton. In a piece acknowledging Ms. Clinton's front-runner status, David Broder wrote of the Senator's intelligence, loyalty, and bond with her husband, former President Bill Clinton.

There was no discussion from anyone covering the Democratic nomination process who did not clearly endorse whomever the Republican Party nominee would be that Ms. Clinton was unfit to be President because she was a woman. Not only was there no such discussion, there was not even a whiff of an insinuation. About the only meaningful criticism levied against Ms. Clinton at the time was the thought stated by Adam Nagourney of the New York Times that Ms. Clinton was relying too much on the policy of triangulation--hardly a misogynistic claim.

Up until the Iowa caucuses, in which Ms. Clinton finished a disappointing third behind Mr. Obama and Senator John Edwards, Ms. Clinton continued to receive highly favorable press coverage both as a candidate and as a person. As the New Hampshire primaries neared, however, Ms. Clinton, in desperate need of a rebound victory to stabilize her lagging fund-raising efforts, suddenly changed campaign tactics, thus raising some eye-brows.

Exuding a cheerful hubris prior to the Iowa caucuses, Ms. Clinton was brought to tears on the eve of the New Hampshire primaries. Given the tough exterior that she had shown prior to Iowa, many understandably wondered whether Ms. Clinton's show of emotion was genuine.

Despite suspicions about whether Ms. Clinton's tears were genuine or merely part of the political brinksmanship perpetrated by Ms. Clinton's advisors who, after Iowa, had been lecturing Ms. Clinton to "show her soft side," no credible media outlets used the opportunity to espouse sexist rhetoric. In fact, most media outlets even carried the New Hampshire story in full, including the embarrassing planted question intended to suggest that being a woman on the campaign trail poses nearly insurmountable challenges ("How did you get out the door every day? Who does your hair?"), without even giving the premise of Ms. Clinton's self-arranged Portsmouth, N.H., event a second thought.

All presidential candidates should be so fortunate.

On the day of the New Hampshire primaries, Gloria Steinem penned an op-ed column in the New York Times entitled "Women Are Never Front-Runners." Though Ms. Steinem asserts midway through the column that she makes no claim as to whether a member of a minority race or a woman faces the greater hardship in campaigning for President, the entirety of her column clearly cuts against that contention. Ms. Steinem notes that black men have had the vote longer than women, contends that a black man faces less obstacles than would a black woman (a seeming non-sequitor in this race), and claims that males have inherent advantages.

Allowing Ms. Steinem such a forum to espouse unsubstantiated claims in favor of Ms. Clinton on the basis of gender at such a delicate moment in the nominating process suggests two things. First and foremost, it indicates that Ms. Clinton, as late as January, enjoyed the media support of one of the most widely circulated papers in the world. Second, it showed that Ms. Clinton and her supporters were already poised to play the gender card if that is what it would take to overcome Mr. Obama's lead.

When Ms. Couric and numerous others in Ms. Clinton's throng of supporters finally realized the end was nigh, charges of sexism undermining Ms. Clinton's campaign rang fast and furious. In her June 3rd address in which she failed to acknowledge Mr. Obama's delegate victory, Ms. Clinton called on her supporters to fight against the sexism that was keeping her from winning the nomination. She essentially reiterated that theme in her "suspension" speech the following Saturday in Washington, D.C.

There are two substantial issues here, neither of which have anything to do with what derailed Ms. Clinton's campaign. The first is that, while Ms. Couric certainly has been able to identify two sexist commentators in Rush Limbaugh and Tucker Carlson, identifying sexism in the media is not the same as identifying sexism as an explanation for Ms. Clinton's defeat.

As leading shills for the right-wing of the Republican Party, Mr. Limbaugh and Mr. Carlson will and have said whatever is necessary to undermine a Democrat. That they made sexist remarks about Ms. Clinton--just as they have slandered Mr. Obama along racial and religious lines--is, therefore, not a surprise. But, in an Earth to Ms. Couric and those espousing the sexism line moment, Mr. Limbaugh, Mr. Carlson, and their supporters did not determine the Democratic nominee for President. Instead, that honor went, not coincidentally, to Democrats. And there is zero evidence that sexism within the Democratic Party is what cost Ms. Clinton the nomination--not statistically, not anicdotally, not at all.

To insinuate the Ms. Clinton lost the nomination due to sexism thus misses both the source of the sexist remarks to which Ms. Couric and others have pointed and, more unfortunately, the real reasons for Ms. Clinton's collapse, beginning, though certainly not ending with Bill Clinton's campaign antics and Ms. Clinton's aura of entitlement.

A second issue centers on why Ms. Clinton and her supporters continue to perpetuate the sexism claims, with the New York Times running a prominant article in the paper's June 13th edition again raising the charge. Most likely, the reason is that Ms. Clinton and those who support her still harbor hopes that Ms. Clinton will ascend to the Presidency of the United States, either this election or in 2013.

By perpetuating the sexism claims, Ms. Clinton has a built-in explanation for why she failed to succeed in obtaining the Party's nomination in 2008. In a party that is all about introspection, that might be enough to gain Ms. Clinton the added sympathy next time that most candidates for the office of President never enjoy.

Of course, the entire ploy could just as easily backfire on Ms. Clinton and her supporters, as it could make those within the Democratic Party who supported her despite concerns about her forthrightness switch their allegiances to another Barack Obama--or a Claire McCaskill--or a John McCain.

Up Next: So Much Time, So Little Work Actually Done.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Illogical Campaigning to the Margins

With less than five months remaining until the Presidential election, both presumptive nominees for their Parties' endorsement for President, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican John McCain, leave a great deal to be desired with respect to specific agendas. The more that is learned of each candidate's positions, however, the more disconcerting things become.

When the presidential nomination process began, each of the two main political parties knew exactly where they stood in the public eye. The Republicans understood the challenges that its nominee would confront set against the backdrop of what can only be regarded as the single most failed two-term presidency in U.S. history. With even the most ardent Republican hard-pressed to identify a single successful Bush Administration policy, the Republican nominee was certain to face an uphill battle for election.

In 2007, the Democrats were conversely downright giddy about their prospects for capturing the White House in 2008. With gas prices approaching three dollars per gallon across the country, oil company executives sheepishly defending record profits while excusing their refusal to invest profits in infrastructure, the U.S. still bogged down in a war in Iraq, President Bush's hand-picked Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke voicing concerns over a possible recession, and the greed of over-reaching home buyers meeting the greed of Wall Street, Democrats were already measuring for drapes in the White House.

As the nomination process lurched forward, Republicans whittled down their leading candidates for the Party's nomination for President to a religious fundamentalist who preached a return to the Old Testament, a Mormon who had changed his views on abortion over time and made the unfortunate decision of selecting to help run his campaign a political caricature in Larry Craig, and a Vietnam war veteran, John McCain.

After much angst, Republicans plugged their noses over Mr. McCain's frequent dances with the Democratic devil, opting for the more centrist Senator from Arizona. Mr. McCain's nomination became all but sealed when Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney conceded the nomination at the end of January.

While the Republicans were ending early what should have been a much more fiercely competitive nomination process, the Democrats continued with one of the more staunchly contested nominating processes in the modern era. With far more experienced contenders such as Christopher Dodd and Joseph Biden failing ever to gain any meaningful traction, and Al Gore content to remain in the book-selling business, Democrats found themselves with two equally financed and supported candidates, Hillary Clinton and Mr. Obama.

Ms. Clinton entered the nomination contest with a substantial lead over all of her Democratic competitors in funding, media support, Party support, and even a set of rules devised, in large part, by her own campaign operatives and supporters. Ms. Clinton had such tremendous advantages at the outset of the primaries that she was comfortable announcing that she would have the nomination sewn up by Super Tuesday.

Then Mr. Obama began picking up some heavy-weight support--first from likely suspects like Oprah Winfrey, then from former Clinton supporters, like Maria Shriver, Caroline Kennedy, Bill Richardson and Senator Ted Kennedy. The seismic shift in the political landscape was too much for Ms. Clinton's husband, former President Bill Clinton, to concede and Mr. Clinton's sometimes bizarre, often boorish campaign-trail behavior seemed the final nail in Ms. Clinton's nomination coffin.

The result for Democrats was a tightly contested nomination battle that endured well past its maturation date, forcing Mr. Obama to campaign for the Party's nomination into June while his counter-part, Mr. McCain had the luxury of preparing, even beginning his campaign for the White House in February.

The result of the nominating process is that Americans are left to choose between two candidates that have yet to put forth a concrete plan for dealing with Iraq or the economy. For Mr. McCain, the only excuse for such a lack of a coherent agenda is that he ultimately intends to unveil his plan to stay the course. With four months to do nothing but prepare his campaign for the election and facing overwhelming issues which American voters want to hear clear plans for resolving, Mr. McCain's current plan to maintain the Bush tax cuts, ride out the war in Iraq and, seemingly, do little else, is unacceptable.

Also unacceptable, however, are Mr. Obama's current ideas for dealing with Iraq and the economy. Mr. Obama has made clear his interest in removing troops from Iraq. But that position differs from Mr. McCain's only if Mr. Obama explains how, short of securing Iraq under U.S.-friendly Iraqi leadership, the U.S. will extricate itself from Iraq any quicker than under Mr. McCain's proposal.

On the economic front, Mr. Obama leaves as much to be desired as does Mr. McCain. Unlike Mr. McCain's apparent absence of a domestic economy agenda, however, Mr. Obama's short-coming rests not with his lack of a plan but with his seemingly unworkable agenda.

In Mr. Obama's world, the middle class ceases to exist at an income level of $200,000. It is at that point that Mr. Obama has proposed rolling back any tax cuts made during the Bush Administration.

Forgetting for a moment the issue of essentially raising taxes during an economic downturn, there is the greater issue of grasping the reality of what Mr. Obama proposes to do. By repealing tax cuts for those earning over $200,000, Mr. Obama would be raising taxes not merely on individuals who earned $200,000 in their white-collar jobs, but also on small businesses--even those not taking advantage of LLP and LLC designations and flow-through tax benefits.

Thus, while presidential elections generally are all about running to the middle, the current campaigns offer two candidates intent on running to the extremes of their Parties' bases at a time when all indices call for a push to the middle--an ironic twist in U.S. politics.

Up Next: Hillary Clinton's Loss Offers Lessons for Presidential Candidates. Plus, stopping the madness--a call for an end to the incessant and unwarranted hyping of Chelsea Clinton as a future presidential hopeful.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Two Candidates In Need of Tea Leaves

This column was to have been about presumptive Democratic Party presidential nominee Barack Obama's mandate. But, with Mr. Obama and his presumptive Republican opponent for President, John McCain, treading heavily through the nation's heartland this week, mandates already seem to be an afterthought for these two candidates. And neither appears well-served by their actions.

On Monday, Mr. McCain did his level best to sabotage his own campaign, wedding himself as closely to failed and suspect Republican policies as possible. Mr. McCain's solutions for solving the nation's economic woes were front and center this week.

Responding to growing concerns about the nation's faltering economy, Mr.McCain had three suggestions--drill for more oil in the United States, rely on nuclear power, and impose a moratorium on the national gas tax. None of these solutions is likely to play well to the majority of the electorate already suspicious of an eight year run of a President and Vice-President with far too close of ties to the oil industry and far more concerned about green issues than Mr. McCain or most of his elderly cohorts seem to understand.

Mr. McCain's simple solutions to complex problems suggest that the elder statesman is relying far too heavily on what he thought worked in the past rather than providing foresight for future policy. His continued support for the gas tax moratorium suggests as much while further indicating that Mr. McCain has no real solution regarding the gas crisis.

Responding to criticisms of his moratorium proposal, Mr. McCain stated: "Talk to somebody who owns a couple of trucks and makes a living with those trucks. Ask them whether they'd like to have some relief — 18 1/2 cents per gallon for gasoline and 24 1/2 cents for diesel. They say it matters."

The problem with Mr. McCain's argument, as most economists have been quick to point out, is not that a savings of 18-24 cents per gallon of fuel would be unwelcomed by those buying gas. Rather, the problem is that any consumer savings would be fleeting as lower prices would lead to increased demand and, in short order, the same high prices that we currently have. Elimination of the gas tax thus would have no net effect on the price at the pump while substantially reducing government revenue at a time when federal, state, and local governments already are feeling pinched.

Regarding the use of nuclear power, Mr. McCain, whose backyard currently houses the single most controversial nuclear landfill on the planet in Yucca Mountain, commented that "[n]uclear power, for all kinds of reasons, needs to be part of the solution." Mr. McCain did not specify any of the reasons, implying that he believed that everyone clearly understood the reasons.

Not to be outdone by Mr. McCain's bold attempt to go where everyone has gone before, Mr. Obama began his presidential campaign by going, or promising to go, everywhere. Today, it was the economy. Next week, it will be overhauling the education system. The next week, health care.

A wise political historian once suggested that the first 100 days of a presidency are the most telling of the prospects of the President in office. For, during the first 100 days, the President has both an opportunity and a platform to lay out a vision for the next four years in office.

The wise President, it has been shown, will focus on a few key issues. Not even in office yet, Mr. Obama appears intent on focusing on several hundred key issues. That might seem ambitious to some, but, for the initiated, it is a foolhardy recipe for failure.

Up Next: What They Ought to be Saying. Plus, can McCain Win?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Clinton Persists With Permanent Campaign

On Saturday, Hillary Clinton delivered a speech to her supporters in Washington, D.C. The speech, billed as a concession speech, was anything but. Instead, the New York Senator pledged support for Barack Obama, called on her own supporters to ensure Mr. Obama's election, and added several messages that undermined her stated aim.

At the fore of her speech, Ms. Clinton did a nice job stating what she should have stated some time ago. Namely, she used the opening of her speech to congratulate Mr. Obama on his campaign, to pledge support for Mr. Obama, and to call on her supporters to unify to ensure that a Democrat is elected to the White House in 2008.

After this opening, however, Ms. Clinton's speech devolved into less of a rallying cry for Mr. Obama and more of a pitch for her supporters to keep her in mind--possibly even in this election cycle.

By suggesting that Mr. Obama has benefited from privilege ("Mr. Obama has lived the American Dream") while she has struggled in ways with which Mr. Obama cannot relate ("we have yet to shatter the hardest of glass ceilings") and noting her commitment to her "18,000,000 supporters," Ms. Clinton used her speech to continue lobbying for support for the Party's nomination for President.

Ms. Clinton's supporters undoubtedly will brush aside such a suggestion, noting the opening to Ms. Clinton's speech, but such a denial would ignore the overal impact of the speech. Ms. Clinton clearly tells her supporters never to back down, never to quit, and never to admit defeat. That certainly comes off as a not-so-veiled overture to her supporters to make their own decision on whether to continue to support her or to switch to Mr. Obama.

Ms. Clinton also devoted a substantial amount of her speech to what can only be viewed as an on-going campaign. Unfortunately, as she has done so often during the current campaign when the going got tough, Ms. Clinton reverted to the politics of division, rallying around gender rather than focusing on substantive issues.

To be certain, Ms. Clinton noted the various topics on which Democrats and Republicans most commonly differ, but the gist of her speech became the sentiment that it was about time to have a woman in the White House. Sadly, too many of Ms. Clinton's supporters actually find that the overriding issue.

For those still convinced that Ms. Clinton intends to do all that she can to unite the Democratic Party--something that she had called upon those in the Party to do at the outset of the primaries and caucuses--there is the matter of Ms. Clinton's decision not to concede at this point. Instead, Ms. Clinton has opted merely to suspend her campaign without releasing her delegates to Mr. Obama.

The consequences of Ms. Clinton's decision could be profoundly negative for Mr. Obama as it will make fund-raising more difficult for him and force him to campaign in states and cities that would be less tenuous were Ms. Clinton to make a public showing of transferring her delegates--particularly delegates from major cities--to Mr. Obama. By going to the Convention with delegates in hand, Ms. Clinton signals that those delegates and the people whom they represent ought still be wary of Mr. Obama--and that they ought still to consider whether she might actually be the best candidate for the office of President.

Up Next: Coleman All But Ensured of Re-Election in Minnesota

Friday, June 6, 2008

Too Little Ado About Something?

As the Minnesota DFL Party holds its nominating convention this week, questions are mounting whether the Party will continue to turn a blind eye in the direction of a Senatorial candidate that has become untenable as a contender against Republican incumbent Norm Coleman. The bigger question, however, is how the DFLers ever managed to mangle things so badly to begin with.

Two weeks ago, an operative in Mr. Coleman's re-election campaign camp produced a column for which Al Franken, the current front-runner for the DFL Party's endorsement for U.S. Senator, had offered his thoughts on sexually related matters. No matter one's views on the subjects about which Mr. Franken opined, the content of the article clearly fell outside the bounds of what the average voter could be expected to take in good humor at the polls.

The revelation raised eyebrows among DFLers who were convinced that Mr. Franken was the Party's best prospect for defeating an incumbent who has changed allegiances with the Bush Administration more times than John Kerry changed his vote on funding for the war in Iraq.

The initial revelation was disturbing to DFLers. Mr. Franken deflected criticism within the Party and from Republicans by noting that the comments were part of who he has been--a frank, blunt, though often merely satirical muse--and arguing that the Republicans were making much ado about nothing. The explanation seemed to mollify DFLers who were intent on seeing through Mr. Franken's nomination so close to the nomination deadline and with no well-established candidates left in the chase.

New revelations this week about Mr. Franken's past satirical work raised more than just eyebrows, however, with leading members of Minnesota's congressional DFL delegation strongly hinting at the obvious--that Mr. Franken's body of work, no matter how satirically intended--did not stand the test required of DFL nominees.

The second of Mr. Franken's cited works brought to light this week was most damning for Mr. Franken as it included suggestions for an SNL skit in which a network anchorwoman would be raped. Mr. Franken suggested the raping of anchormen, as well, but the gender neutral violations appear to be lost on the DFL.

The Minnesota DFL has no option at this point but to nominate someone other than Mr. Franken, as nominating Mr. Franken simply would appear too hypocritical given the Party's long history of advocating for women's rights and supporting legislation such as the Violence Against Women Act. That might not be fair to Mr. Franken, who argues that his words are being taken out of context and out of their proper historical backdrop, but it is the field that the DFL has sewn. And now the DFL must find a new candidate or risk essentially conceding the Senatorial election--an election that the DFL expected to win just two months ago--to a candidate that the Republican Party, until recently, viewed as vulnerable.

Mr. Franken, of course, is no less to blame for his predicament than is the DFL Party which seemed far too eager to rush a somewhat unvetted politician through the nomination process. Not only has Mr. Franken had issues with his word choice, he also has had tax problems, a failed political radio experiment, and relishes living in the politics of the 20th Century, preferring divisiveness over coalition building. That's not good for Minnesota or the Nation.

What's most puzzling about the recent revelations regarding Mr. Franken's past is not what Mr. Franken said or that the DFLers remain uncertain at this late point how to respond, but that the Republican operatives who brought the stories to light did so prior to the nominating convention. There is far too much time remaining in the current election cycle for the DFL to find a more compelling candidate than is Mr. Franken. And if they do, they will have the Republican Party to thank for outing Mr. Franken early, rather than late, in the process.

Up Next: Barack Obama's mandate. Plus, What she said.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

In For A Penny Not For A Pound

Hillary Clinton's campaign advisors and Ms. Clinton herself continue to make unwanted noise within the Democratic Party. And, once again, the noise being heard is precisely the opposite of the talk that should be emanating from the Clinton camp.

In a Wednesday press release, Ms. Clinton announced that she would be giving a speech on Saturday regarding her candidacy for President. In the release, Ms. Clinton suggested that she would be using the speech to thank those who supported and worked on her campaign and to endorse Barack Obama as the Democratic Party's nominee for President.

That would have been a good starting point for Ms. Clinton on Tuesday evening when, despite having several weeks to digest the reality that she could not overtake Mr. Obama in the race for delegates, she, instead, opted to use the platform of a pre-announced speech to further her campaign designs.

But what would have been a good starting point on Tuesday evening was not even that by Wednesday. And when Ms. Clinton made clear that, while she would be endorsing Mr. Obama she would nevertheless not release her pledged delegates, it became evident that Ms. Clinton remains in denial, at the least.

The only conceivable advantage that Ms. Clinton stands to gain by refusing to release her pledged delegates is that she would be the presumptive front-runner for the Party's nomination for President should something happen to Mr. Obama between now and the time that the Party holds its nominating convention. For Ms. Clinton's supporters, that slender reed of hope might be some solace.

The rest of the Democratic Party, meanwhile, is left to guess at how a candidate that ran on a platform of party unity is now doing everything in her power to ensure that the Party remains divided. And the longer this drags on, the worse it will become for all involved.

Though, prior to Tuesday night, it was unlikely that Mr. Obama would have even offered the VP role to Ms. Clinton, it is now a near certainty that no such offer will be forthcoming.

In the final analysis, Democrats and, in fact, all Americans probably ought to feel fortunate that the primaries fell as they did. On the Republican side, John McCain perservered despite an unpopular message, thwarting candidates bent on reverting the United States rule by the Old Testament. Given his campaign, there is little question but that McCain will stick to his word.

Like McCain, Obama rose from well behind in the polls, ultimately overtaking a well-financed and well-connected Ms. Clinton. From the moment he began campaigning from the rear to unofficially receiving the Democratic Party's nomination, Obama has remained steadfast in his campaign message of disentangling the United States from the war in Iraq and working to unite rather than divide.

Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama thus offer Americans a choice of two candidates who appear both scrupulous and well-meaning. It will be left for the voters to determine which candidate's policies are better suited for the current climate.

In stark contrast to Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama stands Ms. Clinton, who first supported penalties against Michigan and Florida--but refused to take her name off of the ballot in Michigan, then strenuously opposed the penalties when they appeared to be to her disadvantage, spoke about unifying when she had the lead, but resorted to division when she fell behind, and now refuses to do what others before her have done--concede defeat for the good of the whole.

Whatever prospects Ms. Clinton had for being named the Party's VP surely are gone. But her recent boorish behavior makes even her future within the Party virtually nil. That, too, might be a good thing for America.

Up Next: Earth to Minnesota DFLers. Plus, Obama's mandate.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Hillary Not A Dream VP

For the past six months, the buzz within and among certain Democratic circles has been that Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama would make an unbeatable dream team in the 2008 presidential election. That buzz, clearly initiated by Ms. Clinton's supporters, never gained any traction within Mr. Obama's camp, particularly since the view of those perpetuating the notion was that Mr. Obama would be on the undercard of such a ticket.

In the past two weeks, things have changed rather dramatically. Though most informed observers long ago noted that the math did not add up to a nomination for Ms. Clinton, it was not until two weeks ago that Ms. Clinton's camp seriously began considering the possibility that she might lose in her nomination bid.

The Clinton camp's revised assessment of the political landscape has led to renewed calls from Clinton supporters for what they refer to as a "Dream Ticket." The difference now is that Ms. Clinton would be the undercard with Mr. Obama on top.

For some--mostly supporters of Ms. Clinton--such a ticket would indeed be the ideal pairing of candidates in this election season. The theory floated by advocates of such a pairing is that Ms. Clinton's addition to the ticket would bring both experience and votes into the fold.

Despite the lure of possibly adding 18,000,000 voters to the vote tally in November, however, this is one offer that Mr. Obama most assuredly should decline.

The warning signs for Mr. Obama are everywhere. To begin with, it is not at all clear why someone who purports to be a get-it-done person in the U.S. Senate would wish to serve in one of the least useful political positions in the U.S. As Senator, Ms. Clinton could continue to push for the health care reforms for which she purports to have had gained support in congress. With Ted Kennedy's future in the august body in doubt, there would be no more important role for Ms. Clinton to fill than as mantel bearer for the Kennedy-wing of the Democratic Party.

While Dick Cheney has carved out a niche for himself as Vice President, a niche the likes of which none of his predecessors every even remotely approached in terms of scope and power, such a role simply would not be available under an Obama Presidency that appears committed to at least a modicum of transparency and has the ability to lead from the top.

Even if there were a significant role to be played by Ms. Clinton as a Vice President, however, the addition of Ms. Clinton to an Obama Administration would be fraught with peril for Mr. Obama. Setting aside some of the bizarre things that occurred to high-ranking officials during the Clinton Administration, Mr. Obama surely would have to maintain a keen vigilance against what one would presume to be a frustrated, power-hungry Vice President. Adding Ms. Clinton to the ticket would be the equivalent of Harry Truman having added James Byrnes to the top of his ticket. It simply would not play well for the President.

And if Ms. Clinton would have difficulty accepting a subservient role in the White House, imagine the difficulties that Mr. Obama would face having to confront a meddling former President walking through the corridors of the White House on a daily basis. Republicans would have nothing on Mr. Clinton in the realm of making life purposefully difficult for Mr. Obama.

While having Ms. Clinton as a Vice President is fraught with peril for Mr. Obama, there appears to be no meaningful upside to such a move and at least one far superior option.

Although Ms. Clinton, her advisors, and her coiterie of well-healed supporters already have begun lobbying for Ms. Clinton's inclusion on the Obama ticket--with Lanny Davis even stating that Mr. Obama's failure to include Ms. Clinton on the ticket would result in the loss of support from many of those who supported Ms. Clinton in the primaries (and, presumably, the few who supported her in the caucuses)---there is scant historical evidence to support the contention that the move is necessary for Mr. Obama to win the election.

Moreover, Mr. Obama has a far superior alternative to Ms. Clinton as a running mate. While Ms. Clinton represents established politics and hails from a state almost certain to vote democrat in November and would bring the baggage of divisiveness and campaign trail vitriol to the ticket, John Edwards would be a friendly, reliable running mate for Mr. Obama and would help off-set fears in some quarters about having a black man in office. Edwards would also help solidify at least portions of the South and stand as a moderate voice of inclusion on the campaign trail.

By contrast, Ms. Clinton virtually could be counted on to muse about "what should have been" as she campaigned on behalf of Mr. Obama. And, even more certainly, she could be counted on to invoke the politics of divisiveness, as she did on two fronts during what should have been a concession speech on Tuesday night when she not only continued to divide the Democratic Party but also disingenuously portrayed the "deserving America" as one that has no place for hard-working CEOs, good politicians, honest brokers, or Republicans of any stripe. That's not what Mr. Obama represents and it is something the supporters of which his ticket ought not now pander. Even Ms. Clinton should understand this.

Ever filled with a sense of entitlement, however, Ms. Clinton and her top aides have decided to hold out on conceding the nomination until they get what they want. It is a decision that could make what should be a runaway November victory for Mr. Obama as close as either of the past two elections. In the long run, it would be a fatally flawed decision for Ms. Clinton who most assuredly could kiss good-bye any future political aspirations outside of New York.

Up Next: Obama's Mandate