Friday, April 25, 2008

Ralph Reed's demeaning political thriller

So Christian Coalition honcho Ralph Reed has a book coming out. It's a political thriller about presidential politics, set in a world that could only be concocted by (and that really has been concocted by) Republicans. Dark Horse is a novel about sleazy high-level Democrats who are locked in a procedural squabble over their presidential nominee, while the Republcian incumbent vice president is assassinated by terrorists (of course) and is succeeded by a weak, controversial black Republican replacement who is promptly attacked by the religious right.

Enter Bob Long, the moderate governor of California (of which party, the review doesn't say,) who is a true independent and, better still, newly come to Christ. Governor Long launches a third-party campaign for the White House and stands a good chance of winning. Will Long become the Christ-loving independent president? You'll have to read the book when it comes out on June 3. (Hint: he's newly come to Christ.)

Publisher's Weekly has this to say about Reed's first novel:

"Women characters are either wives with drinking problems, tarts who use sex to get ahead professionally (but not that far) or VP candidates chosen purely for show, who are belittled behind the scenes for lack of experience and 'lightweight' intelligence. Democrats are drunks who play dirty and bloody each other’s noses."

I don't know if I'm going to bother reading it. If I do, it'll only be if I can get it at my local library. There's no way I'm giving this yutz any money.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

After Pennsylvania, Obama's still winning

So anyone who watched MSNBC (or any other news outlet) last night saw Hillary Clinton giving a triumphant speech to her jazzed supporters in Philadelphia and an optimistic Barack Obama giving a passionate speech to his supporters in Evansville, Indiana. Clinton won the Pennsylvania primary by 8.5%, according to the Pennsylvania Secretary of State, though the returns were incomplete at the time of Clinton’s victory speech last night, so she claimed at 10% victory. She also claimed that it looks like it’s curtains for Obama, or at least that she’s catching up to him in the primary race. But the fact is that there are still reasons for Democrats to be hopeful that Obama will come out on top, no matter what Clinton says.

1. Barack Obama cut Clinton’s approval in Pennsylvania by more than half. After the March 4 primaries in Texas and Ohio, Hillary Clinton enjoyed a 26% lead over Barack Obama among Pennsylvania Democrats. Over the past seven weeks, Senator Obama erased that number by 17½%—testimony to his strength as a candidate and his ability to campaign.

2. Obama’s trending up, Clinton’s trending down. If you look at the numbers in Pennsylvania and nationwide, Barack Obama’s approval has been going up over the past two months, while Hillary Clinton’s has been going down. While Hillary’s national approval led Barack Obama’s by nearly 10% back in February, that lead has flipped to a 50%-40% lead in Obama’s favor as of this week. He’s gaining among almost all demographics—his numbers increasing among blue-collar voters, the uneducated, Catholics, women—all groups that Clinton had previously led in.

3. Clinton’s negatives are on the rise. With every negative ad that Clinton runs, Obama is knocked down a peg or two, but that results in Clinton getting knocked down a couple pegs more. While this will no doubt help McCain in the fall, it’s keeping Clinton from advancing in the primaries, and earning her resentment among voters and superdelegates.

4. Superdelegates continue to break for Obama. Since March 4, Hillary Clinton has picked up twelve superdelegates, but Barack Obama has picked up 84 of them, many of which actually switched from supporting Clinton to Obama. Obama’s latest superdelegate gain is Governor Brad Henry of Oklahoma, who had previously stated that he intended to stay out of the contest until the convention in Denver this August. Clinton still leads in overall superdelegates, but the trend is that any superdelegate who decides to break his or her neutrality is more likely to break for Obama and not for Clinton. There’s no reason to think this will change.

5. Clinton can’t catch Obama in pledged delegates. Even though Clinton won Pennsylvania by 8.5% last night, this single-digit victory still only netted her 9 delegates (give or take a couple—her actual number will be computed later, but it won’t be much more or less than 9.) Clinton would have to win all the remaining primary contests by more than 70%, and no reasonable person would suppose that either Clinton or Obama could pull that feat off.

All this is not to say that Clinton’s continued vicious attacks on Obama won’t just hand ammunition to the McCain campaign and turn voters off of the Democratic Party at a time when the Democrats are poised to win with strong margins not seen since 1964, but the fact remains that Obama is still the most likely Democratic nominee—even if Hillary Clinton destroys him and effectively hands the presidency to John McCain.

The question that I’m sure is on everyone’s minds is this: considering that Hillary Clinton is the wife of the most popular Democratic president of the past forty years, and considering that she’s had years to line up support for her presidential run, and considering that she’s long had greater name recognition than any of the candidates, why can’t she close the deal?

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Good weather for Pennsylvania primary

They're calling for mild weather across Pennsylvania today, from Erie to Philadelphia, from Stroudsburg to Pittsburgh. This usually translates to high turnout. Like in 2004, when Arlen Specter faced a primary challenge, his reëlection bid was saved at the last minute when the predicted rain failed to materialize, thus boosting turnout and helping him swamp Pat Toomey, his Republican challenger.

Heavy numbers of new voters probably will help Obama, but we'll see. Lord, I hope it does. I just want this thing to be over, so Obama can start landing punches on McCain.

I have bowled in Pennsylvania. I know that neither Obama nor Clinton would be anything but risible if they turned up in the Thorton Hall bowling alley in Sharon or Buzzy's in Hermitage. And I don't care. My best game ever was something like 180, which was unusually good for me. I usually land in the 120s or so. Bowling, whisky and beer are a lifestyle near and dear to we Pennsylvania natives. So's Polish sausage and rye bread. But considering that the last decent bowler we had in the White House was Richard Nixon, well... maybe that's not such a good metric to base your vote for president on.

Still, one thing I'm nervous about is how 160,000 Republicans switched their registrations to Democratic last month. As much as I'd like to read that as a groundswell of movement from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, I'm sure that's not the case. Much of this is no doubt voters who just wanted to have a say in the primary, and since the Republican nomination was already wrapped up, they're voting to choose their favorite Democrat, too, thus giving themselves more of a real choice in November. But how many of these are mischief voters, registering as Democrats just to vote for the weakest Democratic candidate? Comedian Rush Limbaugh has encouraged voters to do this very thing through his "Operation Chaos" campaign of messing with Democratic elections, and this tactic did wind up influencing the primaries in Mississippi, Texas and Ohio last month. Of course, that also wound up denying many of these Republicans to vote in other primary elections, which wound up giving more support to the weaker Republican candidate in Mississippi's conservative First District, and might result in electing a Democrat there this year.

Hopefully "Operation Chaos," in all its undemocratic glory, won't screw up the Democratic primary in Pennsylvania this time, or any of the other nine primaries yet to come. But think about it: if Rush Limbaugh of all people is telling you to vote for Hillary Clinton, shouldn't that alone give you pause for whatever reason?

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Pittsburgh Tribune endorses Hillary Clinton

So Richard Mellon-Scaife's Pittsburgh Tribune Review endorsed Hillary Clinton for president today.

Well, that's not exactly true. The Tribune endorsed Clinton in the Democratic primary—as to the presidential contest, dollars to doughnuts they'll be endorsing McCain. But that's to come later. For now, the Tribune is endorsing the wife of the president they accused of murdering Vince Foster back in the 1990s, a woman they have spent well over a decade slinging mud at, demeaning, attacking, demonizing. In fact, the Pittsburgh Tribune does the same thing to all Democrats, and to Democratic presidential candidates in particular. It's no wonder they'd want to boost the candidate who has the least chance of winning, if nominated.

Of course, the "endorsement" spends a lot of time knocking down Barack Obama, which is obviously the whole point of "endorsing" Clinton in the first place. It dredges up the Reverend Wright business, of course, and tries to hang on Obama his observation that Pennsylvanians might be bitter for having been told to vote for candidates who in turn deregulated industry in ways that cost them their very jobs. Mellon-Scaife pretends that Obama has less experience than Clinton, even though his "endorsement" points out that Obama spent eight years in the Illinois State Senate before his three years in the U.S. Senate—as opposed to Hillary Clinton's mere seven years in the U.S. Senate.

Perhaps the grossest smear that Mellon-Scaife makes against Obama is the link he tries to create between the senator and Mayor Richard Daley's "old-line political machine." What's glaringly wrong about this is that when Barack Obama first came to Chicago to work as a community organizer in the early 1980s, he threw in with Chicago's newly-elected mayor, Harold Washington. Mayor Washington got elected by challenging the Daley machine, which by definition puts Obama on the other side of the Daley machine. But this is why Hillary Clinton coined the term "vast right-wing conspiracy" with Mellon-Scaife himself in mind: he works to smear all Democrats as identical, and insists on blurring all Chicago Democrats with the corrupt politics of forty years ago with any modern reformers there might be out there today. It's harmless for them, too, since no Republican is going to win any kind of election that depends on his winning Chicago in the first place.

Finally, did you notice the headline? Referring to the "Democrat primary"? It's Democratic. The Democratic primary. To say "Democrat" when you mean "Democratic" is to talk like Senator Joe McCarthy (R-WI), who did that to make the point that he felt that Democrats aren't Democratic. To abandon the word "Democratic" is to throw in with that right-wing piece of scum. Or with Mellon-Scaife. Whatever.

So Hillary Clinton scored an endorsement no Democrat should want. This isn't a sign of political courage. It's a sign of political desperation.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Disastrous Democratic debate last night

Since I had to work late, I had to miss it. Apparently the 21st debate between the Democratic candidates was peppered with all kinds of tabloid questions about Obama's minister and his, um, "connection" to a member of the 1960s radical Weather Underground group, whom Obama met in 1968—at the age of eight. There were lots of commercials, too.

All reviews have been to the tune of this being a wreck, of ABC News having disgraced itself. Keith Olbermann and Chuck Todd discuss the ABC debate at the link below. It's about eight and a half minutes, and Keith is as insightful as ever.

I wish I'd caught this train wreck. I hoped this crap wouldn't start this soon, but it has. I figured more of this would come from the McCain campaign than the media, but apparently the media have decided to do McCain's dirty work for him. Does it matter that George Stephanopoulos used to work in the Clinton White House? I'm thinking that maybe it does.

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Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pope Benedict visits Indiana, Confederate States of America

At least, that's what it looks like. Behind the pope are the flags of Indiana and the Confederate States. Next to His Holiness is some idiot in a suit. What's with the Confederate flag?

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Joe Lieberman Zells out

Senator Joe Lieberman (CfL—CT) might be speaking at the 2008 Republican convention. Lieberman, a former Democrat, endorsed John McCain for president earlier this year. Lieberman is being chosen to show that McCain has the ability to reach across the aisle. Which is really stupid, since Lieberman isn't exactly on the other side of the aisle anymore, is he?

In similar news:
—Pope Benedict is expected to speak in a Catholic Church
—Reverend Hagee is expected to speak at an anti-Catholic church
—Ted Nugent is expected to bring his gun into a church

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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Pennsylvania looms large

It seems that Chris Matthews and every other Pennsylvania-born pundit is touting his or her birthplace as an indicator of a birthright to comment intimately on what’s going on with the looming Pennsylvania primary. So, since I was born and raised in Pennsylvania, I might as well weigh in, since I'm not sure my opinion will ever matter more.

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama have been crisscrossing the Keystone State ever since the last primaries ended in Mississippi on March 11. Conventional wisdom has it that Clinton’s going to win big in Pennsylvania, and that Obama might as well give up. This might have been true a couple of weeks ago, but the fact that the Obama campaign has been spending more time in the state indicates that they might know something that the media aren’t hep to. It seems that Obama is making a play for Pennsylvania, a state he previously seemed more inclined to give up on.

The first myth that needs to be cleared up is that Pennsylvania is a state. That’s not true: it’s actually three states—East, West and Center—or, as I like to call them, Greater Philadelphia, Greater Pittsburgh, and Alabamastan, respectively. Let’s take a closer look.

Greater Philadelphia is obviously the city of Philadelphia, its surrounding counties, and the outer reaches of the state all the way up to Scranton and Stroudsburg, maybe reaching as far west as Hershey. This part of Pennsylvania is essentially an East Coast state, and if it were a state by itself, it would be as reliably Democratic as neighboring New Jersey or Maryland. Philadelphia County, which comprises most of the urban population, is a regular city, with a large, Democratic-voting black population. Its suburbs are more moderate, and are more prone to compliment Philadelphia's direction that oppose it.

Greater Pittsburgh is the western part of the state, roughly west of Altoona and north to Erie. It's less populous than Greater Philadelphia, but since its population tends to swing Democratic or Republican, it can pull the state into the red in any given election, though Pennsylvania hasn't gone Republican in a presidential election since 1988. It's always close, though. Greater Pittsburgh is the eastern edge of the old Rust Belt, which once relied on heavy industry, manufacturing steel and cars and mining coal. It's socially conservative and economically liberal, like West Virginia to the south, which makes this region especially tricky.

Alabamastan is the vast, sparsely-populated section in the middle, which is as reliably Republican as Alabama. Heavy turnout in Alabamastan would be good for the Republican candidate, but he'd still have to rely on pulling some votes closer to either of the cities. That's Arlen Specter's magic formula for getting reëlected year after year in this state. That and maintaining an image that he's much more moderate than his Bush-fueled voting record would indicate.

A month ago, all the polls were saying that Pennsylvania was Clinton's, that her 20-point lead in the Keystone State was insurmountable. Over the past month, that lead dropped steeply in most polls, so now the polls are all over the map. Some have Clinton at a 20-point lead again, while some put her at as little as a 5-point lead. Clinton is being hurt, no doubt, by the fact that the insurmountable math behind her winning is, well, insurmountable.

The idea that much of Pennsylvania is really Clinton country is nuts. A big difference between Pennsylvania and other primary states is that its primary is closed—you must be a registered Democrat in order to vote in its primary. Obama, who culls much more support from independents and Republicans than Clinton does, is at a disadvantage. Obama would win an open primary in Pennsylvania, and his chances at winning the state in the general election against John McCain are much better than Clinton's would be.

That said, the Obama campaign seems to be focusing on about ten of Pennsylvania's 67 counties: Pittsburgh's Allegheny County, Penn State University's Centre County, the Scranton area, and the counties surrounding Philadelphia. The rest of the state, which probably wouldn't even think of voting for Clinton in the general, is being ceded to her in the primary. I'm sure Obama could make a difference if he'd take a swing up the west, putting in appearances in Sharon and Erie, and maybe some across the central part of the state, buzzing Harrisburg, Williamsburg and York. That would cause real electricity across swaths of the state that usually feel (and usually are) ignored by presidential candidates.

In the final accounting, it looks like Clinton will win Pennsylvania. But the Democratic system is proportional, not winner-take-all, which is designed to winnow things down to the strongest candidate for the general, as opposed to the Republican system which effectively awards the nomination to the candidate who's strongest with the party's elites. If the Democrats had a winner-take-all system, Clinton would probably be the nominee by now, but Obama's incremental victories, winning widely in some places and narrowly in others while losing big in only a couple of states, proves his viability for the general, and that he'd be a better candidate than Clinton. If Clinton doesn't win Pennsylvania by the 20-point margin she'd been able to claim there for much of this year, she's effectively lost. Of course, if Obama actually wins Pennsylvania, we'll see Clinton dropping out not soon after. But that, while not impossible, is not especially likely.

The end is right around the corner, folks. Give this until May 3, when Indiana and North Carolina hold their primaries. I predict that Clinton will have a surprisingly poor showing in Indiana and will drop out then. Hopefully I'm wrong and she's out right after Pennsylvania, allowing the party to get ready for the general election and start beating up on McCain rather than on other Democrats. After all, isn't hope a big part of what this election's about, anyway?

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Monday, April 14, 2008

Obama and the "bitter" flap

Can someone help me parse the "bitter" flap over Barack Obama? Specifically, I want to understand what the problem is with this statement:
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. And it's not surprising then 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 Barack Obama (D-IL), April 2008
The Clinton campaign is saying that this statement offends small-town Pennsylvania voters somehow, and offends small-town voters everywhere. Now I realize that Senator Clinton is kitchen-sinking Senator Obama, throwing everything at him and hoping that something, anything, does damage, but this is ridiculous.

Maybe it's because I was born and raised in a small town in western Pennsylvania, but I don't think that anything Obama said in that statement is offensive. Jobs really are drying up out there; these communities have little to hope for anymore. Ronald Reagan came in and basically broke the back of American industry, throwing the entire Rust Belt out of work. It's been 27 years since Reagan was elected, and things haven't gotten better in Pennsylvania or anywhere in small-town America. President Clinton pushed for NAFTA which didn't help anyone but the owners of those corporations who wanted to see their share prices go up while they were cutting jobs and lowering production—a formula that doesn't make a lick of sense no matter how you look at it. If your economy and your way of life has been getting destroyed for almost three decades by both Republicans and Democrats, why wouldn't you be bitter?

Please go, Senator Clinton. You can't win the nomination, and you won't. You're only hurting our nominee and guaranteeing a third Republican term. We don't need that. Give it up and go back to New York already. You're adding absolutely nothing to the debate.

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