Thursday, April 10, 2008

Once More in to the Breach

Any blog post can cover only so much stuff. Some issues were left out for the sake of brevity. At the time those items did not seem germane to the main thrust of the post. Plowing through the responses, it seems that some people have gotten off the track and way into the weeds to ride their favorite hobby-horses.


As best as possible, let us go once more into the breach dear friends.

On the Edwards point, please return to the article gentle reader. Specifically the idea that he was the last real Progressive left standing. Of all the Democratic candidates Edwards was the only one with a Progressive-Populist campaign theme that had a real shot at the nomination. Yes Dennis Kucinich had the actual Bona Fides as the real, real Progressive but, well; he was Dennis Kucinich who gets visited by aliens who are trying to get Shirley McClain’s autograph. Gravel was a real spark-plug too, but he had the same chance of getting elected as president as does Osama Bin Laden.

There is a disconnect between the Edwards Senatorial career and his “One America” advocacy. In the Senate he was a DLC stalwart. Once out office he got religion and moved to the left. Looking at his life story one can say getting out of the Senate liberated him. He got to pursue the things that really mattered to him. Or maybe he was blowing smoke. His Senate votes were horrible.

What you can say is that Edwards was the man that brought health care front and center. Edwards was the only person talking about economic justice and a fair shake for the working stiff. He was the “angry” populist. Time and time again Barack and Hillary were forced by Edwards to get off personalities and get into substance. In short he kept Obama and Clinton honest. Both are much better candidates because of John Edwards.

As for Hillary being more “Authentic” than Barack, meh. She is a politician- authenticity is verboten. Do you really believe that she saw a real need for a constitutional amendment against flag burning? As smart as she is, do you really believe that bought the hog-slop that Cheney was peddling pre-Iraq invasion? Our gal Taylor saw through that bill of goods and she didn’t even have the ability to get at secret documents. The Iraq vote by Hillary was a political calculation that did not pay off. She would have much better off if she had found a way to say she was sorry about the vote. A simple “At the time I voted with my constituents, Remember 9/11 happened in my state” would have sufficed. Instead she went into full Tarzan yell on the Senate floor backing W’s lies to the hilt. (Tarzan Yell? OK, OK, she went into full Jane yell; is that better?) Does any one doubt that someone as wonky as HRC would not been able to cut through the tissue of lies that was the case for invasion?

We need to get off this “authenticity” kick with our politicians. Authentic people get creamed in elections. Authentic people tell you what you don’t want to hear. Neither Barack nor Hillary could get elected as dog catcher if they were truly authentic. Hillary’s ace in the hole is her competence. That is the meme that should have pushed since day one all the way back in Iowa. It is a really hard sell, like telling a five year old to eat their broccoli. That is why Senator Hope is ahead, he is offering us a reprieve- a big ice cream sundae of good feeling and post-partisanship.

But back to authenticity and Barack, his is much odder story. Part of Barack story is his search for authenticity. In a very odd way both of his autobiographies are honest in that regard. The man was really trying to become an authentic black, whatever that means. That is why he stayed at Trinity for so long. Quite simply it was Barack saying “yes I am a brother.” How much was done as political calculation and how much out of an honest need for Barack to belong is anyone’s guess. Reverend Wright filled some deep seeded need in Obama, that church filled a need. He stuck with that church for twenty years, he stuck with the preacher.

In a strange way; this is actually admirable- to a point. A more cynical man would have tossed Wright to the wolves as soon as he got into Springfield. The politician in Obama knew that Wright would be a drag on him sooner or later. If Barack was as calculating as some think, he would have flushed Wright in the Senatorial election at the latest. Barack held on to Wright as long (and possibly longer) as he could. Religion is a deeply personal matter; faith is a deeply personal matter; it is a matter that every individual must decide for themselves. While the political aspects of Wright’s ministry are toxic to a fault, only his parishioners know of his spiritual effect.

You may have walked out on Wright because of “God Damn America” others would have stayed. We all have different hot buttons. In certain places in the USA there is no love for the status quo. In certain places there is nothing but contempt for a structure that looks like it is out to screw you over. In these places there is anger at past wrongs, anger at a government that fails to serve desperate needs, anger at a system that consistently crushes the small hopes and dreams of disenfranchised people. To these people the rah-rah patriotism many Americans indulge in is a cruel joke. Wright tapped into that anger. It isn’t pretty folks but it is out there.
Wright is toxic though, that much is true. More toxic was Barack’s beating about the bush about what he heard or may not of heard whilst possible napping in the pews. The man knew he had to deal with Wright sooner or later; he really should have had it gamed out before hand. Instead he flipped and flopped like a fish trying to slip off a boat and back into the water. Lucky for him Tuzla came into view.

Sorry folks, Tuzla was bad ju-ju for HRC. There was Hillary’s story and then there was the freaking tape. The meme about Hillary being a serial liar was already out there. Chris Mathews and the he-man-woman-haters were just itching to play gotcha with Hillary on any type of mis-cue. And Hillary fell right into their laps. She stated that they ducked the ceremony and dashed into humvees to escape fire. It did not happen that way. She got flowers, she got read a poem. At best she exaggerated what happened at Tuzla, at worst it was a deliberate lie- a tall story to boost her case or how experienced she is. You have the right to your own opinions but not to your own facts. The second fact is that Tuzla pushed Wright off the front page. Joined with the Health Care tragedy that was, then wasn’t and then was again it reinforced the meme of Clinton prevarication. By the time the essential truth about the tragic death of that young woman came out, the damaged to Hillary was already done. Please people, could someone not have done a simple fact check on the story before flogging it? At best this is proof positive that Mark Penn should have been shot out of cannon months ago. At worst it strikes at the core of Clinton’s argument for president, that of competence. It is quite a simple argument, if she can’t competently run a campaign, why should we trust her to competently run the nation?

If she is going to get past Obama, Hillary needs to answer that question. Her campaign has got to right itself. Obama is closing in for the kill in Pennsylvania. He is tossing money into the state like there is no tomorrow. And there might not be one for Hillary if she does not shift expectations. Her team has got to lower expectations of her victory. Murtha said 10% that needs to be corrected. The meme has to be 5% is good when you are being out-spent three-to-one. Hillary fans are pushing it for all its worth but Hillary has got to put that dog out to hunt like yesterday. Like it or not Murtha set an expectation, and we all know that the he-man-women-haters club will hold Hillary’s campaign to that expectation. The Obama partisans have been baying for Clintons to get out since, what, Iowa? Definitely since when she got her clocked cleaned in February.

It shows what a tough as nails woman Hillary is that she survived that awful month to fight again in Texas and Ohio. February put her behind, she probably can not catch up to Barack in delegates, and she might just pass him in vote total, maybe. Her best hope is to stress competence. Pull out those generals and other high mucka-mucks and get them out there and talk about Hill the Wonk. Have economists brag on her deep knowledge of the economy, have security types talk about her strategic vision. Simple message-“Hillary has got this governing thing down; Obama-who knows? McCain?! Are you out of your mind?”

That is the distinction between Hillary and Obama. Obama and Hillary are a wash as far as left/right go. Domestically Obama is to the right of Hillary; Foreign Policy has them flipped-at least in the public eye.
Obama does have the magic amulet of “the speech” to ward off the Zombies of Iraq policy. Lucky Barack he did not have to vote in the well of the US Senate. Hillary has stuck her foot in this mud-puddle twice. She voted for the war and she voted for Kyl-Lieberman. Obama has been all over the map; first proposing tea with the Iranians then proposing to invade Pakistan. Lucky Barack, folks still see him as the anti-war candidate. He even got a pass on his non-vote on Kyl-Lieberman. If Hillary had dodged that vote like Barack did she would have been tarred and feathered.

Back to left/right/center and what constitutes the center these days. In today’s political climate Richard Nixon would be a progressive Democrat. Chew on that for a while. That is how far Regan, Bush Sr., Clinton and Bush Jr. have dragged us to the right. Bill Clinton was the best Rockefeller Republican to hold office except for Nelson himself. Even Carter was a bit squishy on FDR – LBJ values. At least Ted Kennedy thought so. Now you see Ted pushing the next great Rockefeller Republican in Democrat clothing: Barack Obama. So much for “Liberal Lions;” payback is much more important for Irish pols like Ted Kennedy than principals.

Hillary, as sound as she is FDR values, is not too much better. There is still far too much triangulation and timorousness with the Clinton crowd. In the present economic situation the public is hungry to hear the old time FDR religion. She needs to go after McCain with both guns blazing. She should steal a page from Barack and start talking about we, and less about me. Like Bush Sr. she does have a vision problem. She needs to get out of the weeds every so often and express the overarching theme. Hint it is not experience, it is not competence, it is the program of John Edwards- hard work needs to be rewarded. She needs to put out her life story; that of a daughter of the middle-class who worked hard and succeeded but never lost touch with her roots. That is the story that beats the story of John McCain and Barack Obama- both recipients of great privilege and charmed lives. That is how she gets around the Limbaughs, Hannitys, Olbermanns, Mathews and Russerts. In short she and her husband need to stop worrying about what the Republicans or the Obamacans will do to them. They need to put out their case, their passion, their vision.

Lastly just a little about the Latino vote. McCain is not getting it-period. The Nativists in the Republican Party have totally poisoned that well. While McCain did try to pass a reform bill with Ted Kennedy, the vicious anti-brown coalition in the Republican Party deep-sixed the bill and forced McCain to back peddle. McCain is now on record as wanting to build a wall on the US-Mexico border. The Latinos have seen into the black hearts of the conservative base and have fled to the Democrats. In California we have seen this particular movie before. San Diego politician Pete Wilson tried to use the fear of the brown race to gin up votes in the Golden State. The anti-immigrant hysteria worked for an election cycle or two- then came the blow-back. California is now bluer than blue thanks to the Latinos yanking the lever for the Democrats. Notice that the Republican Governor of California is an immigrant? It is no accident - that is the only way the Elephants could live down the Pete Wilson legacy. What is past is prologue; Mucho Macho Minute Men have scuppered the Latino vote for Republicans for a generation. Latinos are not voting for McCain in the General; the trick is to get them out to vote for the Democrats. Clintonistas rejoice; your gal is deeply loved in the Latino community. Obamacans; get to work; it is an uphill struggle for this section of the electorate if you get the nod.
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