Apr 29, 2008

Hillary Clinton is from (fill in primary state here)

After her ad about a Scranton cottage "with no heat or indoor shower," the New York Senator reminds she is actually from Indiana-bordering Illinois.

Help or hurt?

The editorial board of the Washington Times says that Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour told them that he is too conservative to be John McCain's running mate.

Perhaps they are paraphrasing him, because Barbour is never quoted as explicitly saying so in the interview.

Apr 28, 2008

What New York Democrats will be overheard asking

How do you dispute charges like these without looking like you're defending Eliot Spitzer?

Lightly commits

The Boston Globe editorial board knocked Hillary Clinton yesterday for comments she made with regard to Iran launching a nuclear attack on Israel. Originally she said such an act would garner "massive retaliation," following it up with this statement to ABC's Chris Cuomo:
I want the Iranians to know that if I'm the president, we will attack Iran [in the event they launch a nuclear strike against Israel]. In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.
The Globe points to chiding reactions from around the world, disappointed that Clinton would publicly make such a commitment.
While Clinton has hammered Obama for supporting military strikes in Pakistan, her comments on Iran are much more far-reaching. She seems not to realize that she undermined Iranian reformists and pragmatists. The Iranian people have been more favorable to America than any other in the Gulf region or the Middle East.

A presidential candidate who lightly commits to obliterating Iran - and, presumably, all the children, parents, and grandparents in Iran - should not be answering the White House phone at any time of day or night.
But can America reasonably sit by while Israeli civilians are being annihilated? Absolutely not. While it should not be voiced, what other reaction could possibly be taken?

Apr 27, 2008

Time traveler

Ryan Lizza writes about one of the strangest developments in the 2008 campaign: Bill Clinton's inability to adapt to today's political media.
“It’s like he’s been plucked out of time and thrown into the middle of this entirely new kind of campaign,” the adviser told me. Jay Carson, a senior Clinton campaign official and Bill’s former spokesman, said, “Because of the way he is covered, the only thing anyone ever sees is fifteen seconds that is deemed by the pundits to be off message.”

Who sets the table

In making a point about how issues get lost in the fray, Gwen Ifill points to Obama's big flaw in Pennsylvania:
One of the most amazing things about Pennsylvania is ... how much Barack Obama, in trying to chase after voters in places like Scranton and Steelton, where I once lived, I'm telling you, he wasn't going to win in Steelton and only made one big appearance in Philadelphia, where his base was. His theory, up until now, had been, "Run up my numbers in the places where I'm strong." But he only, Friday night before the election, made--had a big--one big rally in Philadelphia, while the Clintons were running rings around him in the suburbs, where he was supposed to be strong, and he didn't do as well as he was supposed to. So there's something--it, it seems like that campaign gets thrown off balance when Hillary Clinton sets the table for where they ought to be and what they ought to say.

Violence at the center of the world

The images coming out of the attempt on Afghan President Hamid Karzai's life on a stand at a military parade commemorating the defeat of the Soviets are strangely familiar, reminiscent of the assassination of Chechen President Akhmad Kadyrov.

Kadyrov died in 2004 because of a bomb planted in a concrete pillar underneath his seat at a parade celebrating the defeat of the Nazis. Karzai and his party were fired upon by small arms and RPGs, killing three, including a 10 year old boy.

Blair thinks Labour bound for defeat

A new book from a close confidant of Tony Blair says that the former prime minister does not believe his successor Gordon Brown can defeat Conservative Party leader David Cameron.
“But Gordon? ’He can’t defeat Cameron,’ Tony told me. Blair believed Cameron had major strengths - political timing, a winning personality and a natural ability to communicate to Middle England that Gordon would be unable to match,” he added.
A Blair spokesperson denies the comment, but public sentiment seems to confirm he would say such a thing.

Cuba meddling in domestic politics

The Cuban government has allegedly sought to to normalize its relationship with the United States by tarring Cuban-American politicians in scandals.

Apr 24, 2008

Olmert's vacation

The New York Times reports that Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert is likely passing word to the Syrians that he's willing to withdraw from the Golan Heights in exchange for peace between the two nations.

The same article also notes that Olmert is currently vacationing with his family and friends in a cabin on the Golan.

Is that his version of John Kennedy sending Pierre Salinger out to buy all the Cuban cigars in Washington D.C. the night he ordered the trade embargo?

Apr 23, 2008

So why is McKinnon still with McCain?

"I would simply be uncomfortable being in a campaign that would be inevitably attacking Barack Obama." - Top John McCain media strategist Mark McKinnon on February 13, explaining why he would leave the Republican's campaign if Obama became the Democratic nominee.

These ads were not made by McCain, but they are from an organization he's directly linked to and arguably the nominal head of.

If McKinnon is true to his word, he should leave now; yet he's rolling along -- quite literally -- on McCain's bus in Kentucky.

"In the Bush campaign we used to say that we won the campaign in 2000 and 2004 between March and June," McKinnon told Time earlier today. "And I think the way things are going we could say that McCain won this election between March and June."

Well if it's over by then, why ever leave?

Apr 22, 2008

A liability

Bill Clinton, yesterday on WHYY :
INTERVIEWER: “Do you think [comparing Barack Obama's South Carolina victory to that of Jesse Jackson's] was a mistake, and would you do that again?"
CLINTON: "No. I think that they played the race card on me. And we now know, from memos from the campaign and everything, that they planned to do it along."
Today, to NBC/National Journal reporter Mike Memoli:
NBC/NJ: “Sir, what did you mean yesterday when you said that the Obama campaign was playing the race card on you?”

CLINTON: “When did I say that, and to whom did I say that?”

NBC/NJ: “On WHYY radio yesterday”

CLINTON: “No, no, no. That’s not what I said. You always follow me around and play these little games, and I’m not going to play your games today. This is a day about election day. Go back and see what the question was, and what my answer was. You have mischaracterized it to get another cheap story to divert the American people from the real urgent issues before us, and I choose not to play your game today. Have a nice day.”

He goes on, but does it really matter?

Search engine informational warfare

Via Mike Allen:
Someone bought TuckerBounds.com for $10.19 yesterday. Hint: It wasn't Tucker Bounds.
If this is a Google-bomb/AdWords-driven spokesman watchdog group, then... wow.

If 2006 was a precursor, it looks like this will be the year of full-blown search engine informational warfare.

Politics and pro wrestling

Whatever gets people voting, right?

Apr 21, 2008

Kids today

Older members of the Senate are finding that their stature is not translating into electoral cakewalks. Rather, most are facing tough fights.

In New Jersey, 84* year-old Frank Lautenberg will have to fend off a well-funded Democratic primary challenger in Rep. Rob Andrews, 51, before the likely GOP nominee, former Rep. Dick Zimmer, 64, who is no political novice.

And earlier today in Alaska, Democrat Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich, 46, officially announced he will take on long-time Republican Sen. Ted Stevens who, on election day, will be two weeks away from turning 85. This will likely be the most significant challenge Stevens has ever faced, given his age and recent corruption investigations into his home and his family.

The next oldest Senators, John Warner, 81, and Pete Domenici, 76, chose not to stand for reelection.

Then again, 72 year-old Senators Pat Roberts and Elizabeth Dole look strong in their re-election prospects, as do Oklahoma Sen. Jim Inhofe, 73, and Missouri Sen. Thad Cochran, 71.

*Unless otherwise noted, these are the ages they will be on November 4, 2008.

Quick-draw response teams

Chuck Todd, on the message machines:
For all the recycled Clinton-Obama bickering this past weekend -- over health care, who’s being more negative, and who’s saying nice things about Republicans or using GOP talking points -- Democrats should be encouraged by what they're seeing in terms of the general election, at least when it comes to the blocking and tackling of politics. Their rapid response teams of both these campaigns are well oiled and battle tested. And as Newsweek reported, Team Obama is expanding its rapid response squad for the general. But the same can’t be said for team McCain, which isn’t quite sure whether its opponent will be Obama or Clinton and which hasn’t engaged in all-out political fight since Florida back in January.

Snow on CNN

Just in time to pick apart the results from the Pennsylvania primary, Tony Snow has joined CNN.

Perhaps he and MSNBC's David Gregory can square off for old time's sake.

On Hillaryland

It's hard to know how much to believe when reading a behind-the-curtain piece like today's Michelle Cottle on Hillaryland.

If true, the take away from this article is how wily Mark Penn has been at keeping the deck stacked against his colleagues in Clinton headquarters.

Oil woes

The price of oil hit a new high today at $117.40 per barrel in the New York Mercantile Exchange.

Fears are being stoked by an apparent rocket attack on a Japanese tanker off the coast of Yemen, rebels attacking a Nigerian pipeline last week, and an impending labor strike in Scotland that threatens to reduce world supply by 200,000 barrels per day.

Barring the Scottish news, the question must be whether the most recent news of the market's volatile relationship between attacks and price inspire more violence to affect supply?

CBS debate axed

It looks like Katie Couric won't get the debate her network so desperately wanted for her.


This ad is dripping with the Penn*-driven 'experience' message. Guess someone's not so sidelined after all.

*That's Mark, not the state.

Apr 18, 2008

Stay classy, John McCain

While a tenth of the electorate falsely believes that Barack Obama is a secret Muslim, John McCain is fundraising off the specter of fear Obama would be an agent for the Palestinian terror organization Hamas, even impugning his theme of 'change.'
Barack Obama's foreign policy plans have even won him praise from Hamas leaders. Ahmed Yousef, chief political adviser to the Hamas Prime Minister said, "We like Mr. Obama and we hope he will win the election. He has a vision to change America."
What McCain doesn't want his supporters to know is that today Obama received the endorsement of former Georgia Sen. Sam Nunn -- an endorsement that shows it is Obama who has done more to fight the terrorist threats against our homeland.

Nunn is co-chairman and C.E.O. of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an organization with the mission to bring together people with different ideological views to close the gap between the global threats from nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. It's a phenomenal group, combining science and diplomacy, working with allied and even not-so allied nations to track down and destroy dangerous materials, while bringing much needed attention to the most overlooked front in our struggle against large-scale terrorism.

Obama understands the magnitude of the threat and has taken action. Last summer, the Lugar-Obama nonproliferation initiative secured a $48 million funding increase to destroy conventional weapons stockpiles, seek to intercept weapons of mass destruction and respond to proliferation emergencies. It's a small step, but a good signal to the priorities he would set as president.

Troopergate truth

This was in New York magazine a week ago: the real Darren Dopp, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's top aide who lost his job over last summer's Troopergate scandal.

Turns out Dopp was selected as the fall guy for what was represented to him as a slap on the wrist, brief suspension. He soon found himself a target in a criminal investigation and wide ridicule -- including from within the Spitzer administration (“They’re shooting you in the back,” Attorney General Andrew Cuomo told him).

Ultimately Dopp had to decide whether he would "be a fall guy or a rat." He ended up becoming both, when he told investigators that Spitzer personally authorized the leak of Joe Bruno's travel expenses to the press, saying, "Shove it up his ass with a red-hot poker.”

A truly enlightening -- and sad -- story for anyone who followed the events as they unfolded.

Bob Reich to endorse Obama

Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich is set to endorse Barack Obama today.

Why Obama, and why now?

"I saw the ads," he said.

Not a neophyte

It's tough to take the kind of lumps Obama has been taking, but it's even harder so when you're ideologically aligned with the person who's attacking you. Obama can't say that Hillary Clinton is trying to distract people from the issues, since they agree in how to solve them.

So this sentence in Patrick Healy's Times article this morning should be encouraging to a lot of superdelegates.
Until the nominating fight ends, Mr. Obama said, he is “trying to show some restraint.” He added, “I won’t have as much restraint with the Republicans."

Apr 16, 2008

Fretful five becomes four

Rep. Andre Carson, who recently succeeded his late grandmother Julia in Indiana's Fifth, is endorsing Sen. Barack Obama.

Will he also come out to support Evan Bayh for the number two spot?

Hagel, Bloomberg in Denver?

The what is likely inevitable appearance of Connecticut Sen. Joe Lieberman at this summer's Republican National Convention will mean the Democrats will want to pull out their own aisle-crosser to keynote.

Sen. Jim Webb may seem a little too Democratic these days, but outgoing Nebraska Sen. Chuck Hagel or New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg might seem like the right guys for the job. Bloomberg less so, because he could be jockeying for a 2012 run, and Hagel more so because he, like Lieberman, is a distinctive for his position on the Iraq war.

Apr 15, 2008

Brown in eight

Get to know Mr. Gordon Brown, Prime Minister of Great Britain, in an eight minute interview with Time magazine.

Gore vs. Clinton 2000

On CNN's forum on faith Sunday night, Hillary Clinton put down the candidacies of Al Gore and John Kerry saying, "We had two very good men and men of faith run for president in 2000 and 2004, but large segments of the electorate concluded that they did not really understand or relate to or frankly respect their ways of life."

This bothered E.J. Dionne.
That "frankly" is the most appalling word in the whole sentence. And never mind that Al Gore ran 360,000 votes ahead of Senate candidate Clinton when both were on New York's ballot in the 2000 election.

Passing the buck getting worn

McCain makes another national security gaffe. Had he not paid attention, or was he falling back on a familiar ploy: 'When in doubt, pass the buck to Petraeus.'
Speaking Monday at the annual meeting of the Associated Press, McCain was asked whether he, if elected, would shift combat troops from Iraq to Afghanistan to intensify the search for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

"I would not do that unless Gen. [David] Petraeus said that he felt that the situation called for that," McCain said, referring to the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Petraeus, however, made clear last week that he has nothing to do with the decision. Testifying last week before four congressional committees, including the Senate Armed Services Committee on which McCain is the ranking Republican, Petraeus said the decision about whether troops could be shifted from Iraq to Afghanistan was not his responsibility because his portfolio is limited to the multi-national force in Iraq.

Perhaps a bit of both.

Judis exaggerates Barack Obama's electoral death

Respected Democratic political scientist John B. Judis has an article in The New Republic which seems to say that Barack Obama surely cannot win the presidency against John McCain -- especially after his San Francisco comments.
To win in November, a Democratic presidential candidate has to carry most of the industrial heartland states that stretch from Pennsylvania to Missouri. That becomes even more imperative if a Democrat can't carry Florida--and because of his relative weakness in South Florida, Obama is unlikely to do so against McCain. Ruy Teixeira and I have calculated that in the heartland states, a Democratic presidential candidate has to win from 45 to 48 percent of the white working class vote. In some states, like West Virginia and Kentucky, the percentage is well over a majority.
He then describes the three models of candidates needed for a Democrat to win over these voters: The Unacceptable Republican (someone they couldn't have a beer with), The Acceptable Democrat (whose social positions don't frighten them), or The Empathetic Democrat (someone who feels their pain).

According to Judis, the first two options are out of the question in '08 for both Democrats, and the third model? He thinks Hillary's got Obama beat there.

The flaw is that Judis bases his argument for an "adequate" 43 to 44 percent share of the white working-class vote to win a national majority on numbers that he and Teixeira crunched in the summer of 2007. The huge numbers Democrats have racked up around the country in the 2008 contests -- largely due to Obama increasing the turnout among African Americans, the young, and suburban professionals -- proves the pie has expanded since their calculations. White working class voters will still be a major part of the Democratic majority come November, but their share might not be as large as he thinks.

Judis should also reconsider his proposal that Hillary is more able to connect with working class whites than Obama. After all, the country knows more about his battle with the Clintons than how he was raised by a single mom and Midwest grandparents or how he just finished paying off his student loans a few years ago. Hillary also keeps Mark Penn on her staff, who Judis and Teixeira used as a prime example of those who blamed Al Gore's 2000 loss on his pursuit of white working-class voters. If she goes on to the nomination, he will surely be back at the message helm.

In that very same book, they also note how Republicans have become clumsier in using race to divide the electorate, and how Democrats' updated positions on affirmative action (as Obama proposes to make it more needs-based than race-based) and similar issues have caused blatant racially-charged attacks to backfire. So Judis might take his own observations into consideration on whether Obama's skin color will be that much of a hindrance.

To paraphrase Mark Twain, the reports of Barack Obama's electoral death are greatly exaggerated.

Senor gets burned

Dan Senor made news when he said on This Week that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was putting out political feelers to get her the number two spot on John McCain's ticket.

But yesterday, she told the AP, “I don’t want to be, don’t intend to be, won’t be on the ticket.”

Apr 14, 2008

Reactions to Hillary's "bitter" borne PA ad

Another hit from Marc Ambinder:
A Republican could easily run this ad.

To which the Clinton campaign will say: "Exactly!"

To which the Obama campaign will say: "Exactly!"

And Arianna Huffington had this nice quip: "She's burning down the village to save it -- or to prove that she would make the best fire chief."

Bayh blocker

David Mark of Politico looks into the 'fretful five' uncommitted Democratic House members from Indiana. The article is pretty bland, taking a while to get to its best point: Evan Bayh is for Clinton, thus,
A vote for Obama, then, might be perceived as a vote to thwart the national aspirations of the state’s most popular Democrat.

Third termers

New rumors appear in this morning's New York Times suggesting that Mayor Michael Bloomberg is ruminating a third mayoral term. Currently he and 36 members of the New York City Council are term-limited from seeking re-election, with Speaker Christine Quinn being one of them.

The mayor has been an opponent of a term limits repeal, vetoing a bill a few years ago, but as the article says, the prospect of a third term could keep his political clout from declining. A repeal could find some friendly support in city government, too. Surely Quinn doesn't want her sun to set on a sour note. Another term could be just what Quinn for Mayor '09 '13 needs.

Elsewhere, outgoing Russian President Vladmir Putin has been offered the helm of the majority United Russia party, which will expand his powers from the Prime Ministership, and possibly set the stage for his return to the presidency for a third term at a future date.

Apr 13, 2008

Clark's VP prospects

Lawrence O'Donnell reminds us this morning that he was the first of the pundit class to predict Wesley Clark would be the '08 Democratic vice presidential nominee. This self-congratulating is in response to Bob Shrum bringing it up on Meet the Press.

Clark has been a good surrogate for Clinton, and stayed out of the muck enough to keep himself viable for Obama. As for someone who could unite Democrats after what has been a bitter fight, his political identity within the party may be too dependent on the Clintons for him to branch out to Obama supporters; and vice versa, leave him not enough of a leader with Clinton people to bring them back Obama.

Apr 12, 2008

Quinn '09 really, really dead

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn held a press conference yesterday to announce her plan to provide more transparency to the council's dispensation of funds. Revelations that Quinn's office assigned money to fictitious groups so it could later go elsewhere sans oversight has seriously damaged her 2009 mayoral hopes.

The Friday event was meant to get the plan out there to provide swift* action without keeping the story alive, but it was not meant to be. The lede went to news that Quinn has hired a criminal defense lawyer at taxpayer expense(!) to represent her during the investigations of these questionable spending practices.

*Swift-ish.... It's been well over a week since the scandal broke.

Apr 11, 2008

Rove, Bush 41 for Vice President Romney

Karl Rove and George Herbert Walker Bush are supporting Mitt Romney's bid to be John McCain's VP, sources tell John Heilemann of New York magazine.

One to watch: street money

The Los Angeles Times reports that Obama is refusing to disburse the traditional "street money" in his Pennsylvania primary campaign.
Flush with payments from well-funded campaigns, the ward leaders and Democratic Party bosses typically spread out the cash in the days before the election, handing $10, $20 and $50 bills to the foot soldiers and loyalists who make up the party's workforce.
Watch where this goes.

Apr 10, 2008

Carter and Hamas

It sounds as if former President Jimmy Carter likely to meet with leaders of Hamas during his trip to Syria sometime next week.

This would come as a new Israeli study finds the terrorist organization gearing up for new attacks through a broad military buildup, largely orchestrated from their base in Damascus with Syrian and Iranian money and weapons.

On political cliches

Marc Ambinder amuses:
Back when Ida Tarbel was writing, said conspiracy actually existed, and yet I bet she managed to avoid ever putting the adjective "big" next to the noun "oil."

Petraeus not interested in public office

Four-star Army Gen. David Petraeus tells NBC's Brian Williams that he will "never" run for public office.

The New Jersey native delivered the Sherman statement last year when Fox News' Mike Wallace asked him if he were interested in the Republican nomination for vice president.

Battling for McCain

Two articles out today discuss rival factions competing for dominance in John McCain's camp.

'Papa John' by Jason Zengerle of The New Republic discusses infighting in McCain's core campaign structure, with the antagonists being former top aide John Weaver and current campaign manager Rick Nelson.

And Liz Bummiller and Larry Rohter's New York Times piece, '2 Camps Trying to Influence McCain on Foreign Policy,' pits realist Henry Kissinger against neoconservative Bob Kagan.

The former explains a lot and really speaks for itself, while the latter fight is much more volatile at this point. Remember back to August of 2006, it was thought that Robert Zoellick was going to be the big thinker behind McCain's candidacy. Now he's at the World Bank trying to help deflate food prices.

Matthews unleashed

Trying to staunch some of the pageview buzz hemorrhaging from Patrick Gavin's leaked copy, the New York Times Magazine released its lengthy profile of Chris Matthews yesterday as a preview -- three ahead of schedule.

It's long enough to want to wait to read it in print.

Apr 9, 2008

Violence as Nepal tries to reorganize

Like its campaign season, it seems Election Day in Nepal will not be bloodless. Eight are reported dead in separate incidents on election eve.

The Maoist rebels who terrorized the monarchic government laid down their arms under U.N. supervision to take on the United Marxist Leninsts in electing delegates to a constitutional convention, but violence was not left behind. Several election season killings were noted in this morning’s New York Times, including a death-by-boulder assassination attempt.

The front-page article suggests the conflicted feelings toward bringing terrorists into the system rather than continuing to pursue them into the Nepalese wilderness. That the elections are free and fair, as well as how the parties abide by their results will be the indicators of whether a peaceful resolution can be found.

The NewsHour effect

Florida Republican Adam Putnam and California Democrat Xavier Becerra disagreed over Iraq in a civil debate moderated by Gwen Ifill on NewsHour this evening. It was subdued as conversations go, and downright comatose by cable news standards.

Becerra is not as familiar a face, but Putnam has been a political talk show regular in his role as chair of the House Republican Conference. It was certainly a different side of Putnam tonight. What is it about NewsHour that causes members of Congress to stop shouting and walking all over each other's thoughts to actually have a debate?

The 'once-it's-settled' bump

Chuck Todd sure is a smart guy. He plots McCain's course to victory in a column, predicting a huge Democratic bump -- "like post-convention" -- once their nominating contest is complete. The sooner he can prepare the pundits to absorb this as something that is expectable, the better he will fare.

But then it's a matter of survival, and the numbers are important.
If McCain’s is hanging in, behind by 10 or so points, then it is clear he will have a shot. If the bounce pushes the Democratic nominee to as much as a 15 point lead, it may be very demoralizing to the GOP.

Gregory's rising star

Per Patrick Gavin's advance copy of this weekend's New York Times Magazine profile of Chris Matthews:
Friends say Matthews is wary of another up-and-comer, David Gregory, who last month was given a show at 6 o'clock, between airings of "Hardball." It is a common view around NBC that Gregory is trying out as a possible replacement for Matthews.
The silver-haired Gregory carries a lot of stature for someone who is only 37 years old. Forget Matthews, he's probably going for Russert's job.

Only one outlet for negativity in PA primary

The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Both candidates want to damage the other's popularity, but are afraid to use the weapon that really gets results: the hard-edged, 30-second attack ad with grainy black-and-white images and an announcer reciting the worst things about an opponent.
Given the Clinton camp's recent troubles, Obama hasn't needed much help lately. But Clinton?

Lanny Davis on the op-ed page of the Wall Street Journal:
I have tried to get over my unease surrounding Barack Obama's response to the sermons and writings of his pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago. But the unanswered questions remain.

I am a strong supporter of and a substantial fundraiser for Hillary Clinton for president (though in this column I speak only for myself). I still believe she should and will be the Democratic nominee. But if Sen. Obama wins the nomination, he needs to understand that this issue goes well beyond Clinton partisans.
Both via Mark Halperin.

Apr 8, 2008

CBS-CNN deal could shape Face the Nation

According to the New York Times, CBS is in talks with Time Warner to combine its news resources with CNN.

This is certainly good for CNN’s roster of pundits (read: Anderson Cooper) interested in succeeding Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation.