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

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Hillary Takes the Low Road

"You take the high road, I'll take the low." Those were Hillary Clinton's sentiments in what should have been a concession speech on Tuesday night. Rather than conceding defeat to Barack Obama, however, Ms. Clinton elected to use the well-coordinated media event to trot out her well-rehearsed rationale for being the Democratic Party's nominee in the 2008 Presidential election.

Among her advantages over Obama, Ms. Clinton points to her lead in vote tally among those voting in primaries, the votes of roughly 18,000 million voters who, according to Ms. Clinton, "will be disenfranchised" if she does not receive the Party's nomination, and the pirating of delegates due her from the Michigan and Florida elections.

By Ms. Clinton's reckoning, the only thing standing in the way of her nomination for president by the Democratic Party is the inability of those who do not support her to support her. That's all.

Even assuming Ms. Clinton is correct in each of her assumptions, her conclusion clearly is flawed. Even by her math, Obama has won the nomination. And he has done so in spite of having to play by the rules largely written by Party members--people like Ms. Clinton's top campaign advisor, Harold Ickes, who, as a sitting member of the DNC's Rules and Bylaws Commission, voted in favor of the rules applied to punish Michigan and Florida for holding primaries too early.

A sparsely more careful examination of Ms. Clinton's claims suggests the utter folly of her basic assumptions.

Most fatally flawed is Ms. Clinton's bizarre assertion that she has earned the Party's nomination on the basis of having a greater primary vote total. Mr. Ickes leads the charge on this front, noting that the last candidate to receive the Democratic Party's nomination while receiving fewer primary votes than a democratic competitor was Hubert Humphrey. "And we all know what happened in that election," Mr. Ickes disengenuously chided.

There is a great deal of history that one needs to cover regarding how primaries were handled prior to and after the 1968 conventions--far more than there is space for in this column and far more than Mr. Ickes would ever care to have rehashed for those to whom he has made this preposterous pitch. In short, it was a different era in presidential politics and one not worthy of comparison to the present environment--on any level.

A more fatal flaw with Ms. Clinton's primary vote argument, however, rests with what the argument fails to reconcile. For, while Ms. Clinton received more votes from those voting in primaries, the final tally reflects only votes cast in primaries. By Ms. Clinton's logic, and contrary to her stated qualms about "not counting all the votes," those voting in caucus states have no vote. That's not only a disservice to Mr. Obama, who faired much better in caucus states than did Ms. Clinton, it is also, presumably, if one takes Ms. Clinton at her word, an injustice to those who voted in caucus states.

Ms. Clinton's nominating math becomes murkier yet when one considers that, by design and definition, the Democratic Party nominates its presidential candidate on the basis of delegates--not on the basis of popular vote. And while the suspect injection of super delegates into the process--a creation largely the doing of people such as Mr. Ickes, Mr. Clinton, and Mr. McAuliffe, all strong Clinton backers--provides some delegates the opportunity to allocate their support to the candidate that boasts the better or more significant popular support, even the majority of super delegates--widely aligned with Ms. Clinton at the start of the campaign--now support Mr. Obama.

The short story is that Ms. Clinton had an opportunity on Tuesday night to foster party unity--something about which she has professed to value as much as sound policy. Instead, she opted to continue her campaign and to do so by perpetuating the same rationale that she has fallen back on since first realizing that she will not have the support of delegates to receive the Democratic Party's nomination--math that, even when accurate, does not support her claim to deserving the Party's nomination over Obama.

In taking the low road, in causing further instability for the Democratic Party, Ms. Clinton has fed fuel to the fire of her base, doing nothing to discourage the movement to write in her name in the general election or to "sit out the election." All of which stands as Exhibit A as to why Ms. Clinton failed to obtain the Party's nomination in spite of starting with a tremedous lead and all of the advantages. While Mr. Obama has managed to maintain a decorum and pledge of inclusiveness, Ms. Clinton has harkened back to the politics of divisiveness--the last vestiges of a defeated party.

Up Next: Dream Ticket No Dream Ticket.