"Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn't mean politics won't take an interest in you”

Pericles



Saturday, April 12, 2008

Pat & Hillary, Sitting in A Tree, KAY, EYE, ESS, ESS, EYE, AND GEE

I'm spewing my no foam, low fat latte across the computer screen this morning.

Pundits are swarming like hungry sharks, accusing Barack of elitist condescension toward small town America. I'm watching conservative populist Pat Buchanan on MSNBC trumpeting the same -crap- talking points Hillary Clinton is using in her newly revised stump speech. Does anyone in Hillaryland see ANYTHING WRONG WITH A DEMOCRATIC POLITICIAN cozying up to Pitchfork Pat, for chrissakes???

Small town America has suffered for decades with few answers coming from our leaders in Washington. The Free Trade agreements pushed by the Clinton and Bush Administrations (Hillary may hear "Ka-Ching," but small-town Americans hear Perot's infamous "sucking sound") have accelerated the Heartland's economic decline.

As The Boss sings, "these jobs are going, boys and they ain't coming back..."



This latest media feeding frenzy over our presidential contest is diminishing BOTH Democratic candidates and threatens to result in a fratricidal outcome. The "chum" this weekend (full quote included, bolded section is the sound-bite focused on by Clinton, McCain and the "media"):

You go into some of these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton administration, and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. So it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”


Senator Obama's use of the word "bitter" may have been a miscue. But for Clinton to seize upon a word and divert attention from the real debate about lost jobs, economic dislocation and healthcare only aids McCain's general election chances.

It's clear Clinton and McCain don't understand the realities of 2008: When over 80% of respondents say they believe this country is "ON THE WRONG TRACK" most Americans are bitter about what has happened to this country.

And, I've got news for you: it's not just about lost jobs.

It's about shredding the Constitution. It's about warrantless wiretaps and granting the telecoms retroactive immunity. It's about an ill-advised war with no end in sight. It's about $4.00/gallon gasoline when oil companies make record profits. It's rampant foreclosures and a bailout of Wall Street while Main Street continues to suffer.

This is why Americans - in small towns and big cities - are angry.

I shudder to think what may happen to this nation if you take away the one thing we have left:

HOPE.

Baracky vs. Apollo Clinton

The democratic nomination battle in a three-minute short, bobbleheads and all:


Friday, April 11, 2008

The Incredible, Shrinking Ex-President

In the closing months of his presidency, the subject of Bill Clinton's "Legacy" and the paramount concern he supposedly placed on how history would regard him was a common media talking point.

He had survived a scathing partisan battle and left the White House with a higher approval rating than he had at the start of his second term. Despite an all-encompassing impeachment and a few minor mini-scandals (last minute pardons of a wealthy fugitive and the "plundering" of the White House come to mind), the Clinton brand was strong and durable enough to propel his wife to victory in the race for RFK's New York Senate seat and positioned the president as a powerful and influential force on the world stage.

The Clinton Brand isn't what it once was.

At the end of March 2008, a majority of Americans viewed the former president unfavorably. His wife's presidential campaign has brought out the worst in the former president. As her chief surrogate (and attack dog) he has left many wondering, "What happened to the sharpest political mind the Democratic party has seen in a generation?" Was it all an illusion built by a sophisticated political marketing machine?

Today, Ambinder pronounces:

"The debate about his political legacy is effectively over, and no one but a handful of prominent Democrats will argue that his presidency was salutary for the Democratic party."

On David Gregory's new MSNBC Show, the panelists discussed (video below) the fallout from Bill's latest misstep - resurrecting the Tuzla story and blaming the media's unfair treatment for his wife's floundering campaign. But, Chuck Todd disagrees and points the finger right back at Bill:


"Every time you see him. (Don't) forget - elections are never about the past. They're always about the future. And every time you see him, you never think about the future. And I think that's the fundamental sort of message problem that the Clinton campaign has because Obama seems like the future...and Bill Clinton's - just - aura says, "The Past."

- snip -

"That's been the issue that the Clinton campaign hasn't really grasped that well. It's this. How much credibility damage that Bill Clinton did to the Clinton Brand over that long period of time between 1998 and the end of his presidency."




Todd (and Newt's former toady, Tony Blankley) believe Clinton may not have survived if there had been a 24/7 news cycle in 1992. The YouTube Age has rewritten political campaigning. Anything and everything can come back to haunt you. Just ask George Allen.

But, I'm still wondering, "Was he ever the sharp political practioner of the Clintonista iconographers?"

And the Buck Stops...

The FAA's recent rediscovery of it's regulatory role has caused endless headaches for the nation's air travelers this week. But I have to say that this is refreshing. Wonder if anyone named Bush or Cheney may have been paying attention?

Thursday, April 10, 2008

PA Republicans: Amnesty for Party Deserters

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - Richard Mellon Scaife's scandal-mongering "newspaper" reports the PA Republican Party is launching an aggressive "Come Back to the Party" campaign to woo wayward Republicans. Gotta love the fact the state party is forced to spend its limited resources on rebuilding in a formerly competitive presidential swing state.

Keystone State Dems are unconcerned about the GOP re-recruitment effort. They're confident the nearly one million voter advantage (they've added over 300K voters since last fall, according to the PTR article) they now hold over Republicans makes Pennsylvania a deep blue state in November's elections.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The GOP Playbook: "Mommy vs. Daddy"

Former Clinton strategist and pollster Dick Morris (the one who departed the Clinton inner circle before Mark Penn and has a long history as a hatchet man for the Republicans) has a revealing article in The Hill discussing a recent Gallup poll in which he selectively distorts the numbers to push the "Obama is weak/McCain is strong" narrative into the Beltway consiousness.

This poll was released by Gallup in mid-March under the headline, "Perceived Honesty Gap for Clinton Versus Obama, McCain." The pollsters summarized their findings as follows:


It is clear that voters are able to distinguish among the three major presidential candidates and rate some areas as strengths and some areas as weaknesses for each. Clinton would appear to have more weaknesses in the public's eyes than McCain or Obama, though that might reflect the fact that she is a better-known figure (and has lower favorable ratings). Currently, she holds a significant lead over Obama on only 2 of the 10 character dimensions evaluated here (strong and decisive leader, and having a clear plan for solving the country's problems) and McCain on one (clear plan). Despite this, she remains competitive with McCain in general-election matchu.ps and she has held off Obama's attempts to wrap up the Democratic nomination

Morris chose to focus on the secondary headline, "McCain most likely to be viewed as a strong leader" and push this as the narrative. Just as the Rove Republican smear machine labeled Kerry as a "flip-flopper" in the spring of 2004, the 2008 strategy is to define Obama as weak and indecisive. It is important to understand this effort is already well underway. Morris even admits the Right needs to soften him up now for the general election campaign: "the pressure the right brings to bear on him will cause him to appear weak in the face of attacks."

But a close look at the numbers doesn't show a huge difference between Obama and McCain at this stage of the campaign. Let's look at the numbers Morris is using. According to Morris:

Obama won:
• Cares about the needs of people like you, 66% to 54%
• Shares your values, 51% to 46%
•Understands the problems Americans face in their daily lives, 67% to 55%

McCain won:
• Is a strong, decisive leader, 56% to 69%
• Is honest and trustworthy, 63% to 67%
• Can manage the government efficiently, 48% to 60%

Neither won:
• Has a clear plan for solving the country's problems, 41% to 42%
• Has a clear vision for the country's future, 67% to 65%
• Would work well with both parties in Washington to get things done, 62% to 61%
• Is someone you would be proud to have as president, 57% to 55%



The toe-sucker didn't indicate what the MoE was on this poll. It's plus or minus 3%, which means the separation between Obama and McCain on the "honest and trustworthy" and "shares your values" traits are statistically insignificant.

These numbers fit into one of Morris' favorite memes: Democrats are the (empathetic) Mommy Party and Republicans the (efficient) Daddy Party. The conclusions he draws are selectively simplistic and spun to fit into his oft-stated worldview. Morris goes once step further, diminishing Obama's general election chances and elevating McCain's by pulling out the Republican trump card, 9-11:

in an age of terrorism, weakness is a capital crime. McCain needs to base his campaign on establishing Obama’s weakness and his own strong leadership by comparison.
Morris's analysis depends on spinning these numbers in three subtle (yet sinister) ways. Ignoring the positive, redefining the term "weak" and exaggerating the negative.

Ignoring the Positive: At this stage of the campaign, both candidates have a positive national image. Morris fails to note that both Obama and McCain exceed 50% on all but two questions. Obama almost cracks the 50% threshold on efficient management while McCain is only slightly under that mark on the "shares your values" question. Both fall short on the same question: Neither is viewed as having a clear plan for the country's future.

Redefine "Weak:" Fifty-six percent say Obama is a decisive leader and sixty-five percent says he has a clear vision for the country's future. Only in the view of a GOP-spinmeister could Obama's respectable and competitive numbers translate into being "weak."

Exaggerate the Negative or How deep is that "Strength"? Additionally, the points that McCain has "won" are likely to be very much in play once the Democratic nomination battle is settled and the Democrats turn their unified energies to McCain. It will be a Democratic priority to morph McCain's steadfastness into Bush's seven years of stubbornness. The Dems will also make the argument that the neocon laissez-faire economic ideology embraced by McCain simply amounts to four more years of Bush's disastrous domestic policies. Once this happens, I cannot see McCain maintaining a significant advantage on the leadership or management questions. Conversely, can anyone see McCain closing the gap on the "empathy" questions once the general election campaign is underway?

Morris fails to consider the dramatic changes underway within the 2008 electorate and dismisses the 2006 results. He basically admits the only path to a GOP presidential victory depends on convincing a majority of voters that foreign threats are more important than domestic economic concerns. Will the Republican Party be successful once again playing the politics of fear?

Perhaps counter-intuitively to progressive activists, Morris is correct in stating Iraq may be McCain's strongest (and perhaps only) winning general election issue. This is why Obama doesn't want to be talking about Iraq 24-7 in the summer and fall. He should (and I believe he will) focus on the economy.

McCain's March Deposits: $15M

While the MSM frets over the potential divisiveness of the Democratic Party's never-ending nomination fight, the Republican Party continues to struggle to close the "enthusiasm gap" with the Democrats.

The latest omen: The WSJ reports presumptive GOP nominee John McCain raised a paltry $15 million in March. This is far smaller than the enormous mountains of cash raised by the Democratic contenders (Obama's $40M+; Hillary's $20M). McCain is succeeding at gathering the party faithful (Bush '04 donors are now giving) to his cause. But how can that be a good thing when the Democrats are attracting money (and votes!) from indies, young people, and new voters at unprecedented rates?