Lessig on Obama

31 March 2008

Really Low Information Voters

From the Associated Press:

WASHINGTON — One in 10 voters believes Barack Obama is Muslim, a mistaken impression that lingers across party lines, a poll showed Wednesday.

Fourteen percent of Republicans, 10 percent of Democrats and 8 percent of independents mistakenly think he is Muslim, according to a survey by the nonpartisan Pew Research Center. Just over half of each group correctly identified him as Christian, while about a third said they don't know his religion.


Conservatives, less educated voters and white evangelical Protestants are likelier to believe Obama is Muslim, as are people from the South, the Midwest and rural areas, the poll showed. Nearly a quarter of white Democrats with unfavorable views of Obama say he is Muslim though overall, blacks are about as likely as whites to hold the misconception.

Things like this worry me about our Democracy.

David Cay Johnston Interview

60 Minutes: Nightmare At Guantanamo Bay

Bill Moyers: Newark Mayor Cory Booker

29 March 2008


Leahy Calls for Hillary to Quit

28 March 2008

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee (and occasional voice actor for Batman projects), recently said this on public radio:

"There is no way that Senator Clinton is going to win enough delegates to get the nomination. She ought to withdraw and she ought to be backing Senator Obama. Now, obviously that's a decision that only she can make frankly I feel that she would have a tremendous career in the Senate."

Meanwhile, Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey just announced his endorsement of Barack Obama, and Howard Dean is calling on the Democrats to wrap this thing up before the convention:
"There is no point in waiting," Dean said, adding that despite the newly-found superiority in Democratic organization over the Republicans, "that all doesn't make any difference if people are really disenchanted or demoralized by a convention that's really ugly and nasty."

UPDATE: Freudian slip.

News Around the World

Here is the lede:

An 81-year-old Australian man has shot himself dead with an elaborate suicide robot built using plans he downloaded from the Internet.

Flashback: Lawrence Lessig in 2004

The Federal Budget

The Government Accountability Office has put out a citizen's guide to the financial state of the country. It's a quick 12-page read and is available here (pdf). They use the word "unsustainable" more than once.

Really Low Information Voters

Something from this new Pew poll struck me as really weird:

nearly a quarter of white Democrats (23%) who hold a negative view of Obama believe he is a Muslim.
Come on, people. That's still way too high. "Less educated and older white Democrats" have to get their statistically significant act together.

UPDATE: There's also this:
"White Democrats who hold unfavorable views of Obama are much more likely [...] to disapprove of interracial dating"

Obama Speech: "Renewing the American Economy"

27 March 2008

Full text

Graph: National Debt

26 March 2008

As I've said more than once before, even McCain's economic advisers acknowledge that McCain's plan "will make deficits expand." He's basically passing the bill to future generations (failing to acknowledge that this will result in higher taxes in the future in order to pay off our debt - currently at $9 trillion - with interest). On the other side of the fence, even the Wall Street Journal (grudgingly) notes that Obama's plan "adds up" (article available here, though you need either a subscription or access to Lexis).

UPDATE: I'll see if I can find one that compares Democratic/Republican Congresses, too. But what I see in this graph is a government where the two parties worked together to pay off our WWII debts until the Reagan years, where we had steep tax cuts coupled with spending increases, and then again in the George W. Bush years, where we had similar tax cuts coupled with spending increases.

PBS Documentary on the Iraq War

25 March 2008

Watch it here.

Five Ways Clinton Leads Obama

Cameron crunches the numbers and discovers that Clinton is actually leading the race by several highly reliable metrics. If you like thorough and detailed electoral erudition, I suggest that you check it out.

Obama Releases Tax Returns, Demands Hillary Release Hers

From TalkingPointsMemo:

This is pretty funny. Hillary spokesperson Phil Singer blasted out an email at 11:23 insisting that Obama release his tax returns for back years,

Exactly two minutes later, at 11:25, Obama spokesperson Tommy Vietor emailed out word that Obama had posted his tax returns for 2000-2006 on his campaign web site. Turns out the Obama camp has been planning this for some time.

You can view them here.

In pure political terms, this will obviously give more political potency to the Obama camp's efforts to make Hillary's failure to release her returns a key issue in the campaign. The Obama camp is now free to beat this drum between now and mid-April, when the Hillary camp has promised to release hers.

Indeed, the Obama campaign is already calling on Hillary to follow suit. “Senator Clinton can’t claim to be vetted until she allows the public the opportunity to see her finances," Obama spokesperson Robert Gibbs says, in a reference to the Hillary camp's frequent claim that Obama has not been thoroughly "vetted" in advance of the general election.

Overall, the tax returns themselves drop no major bombshells. I'm sure that people will try to spin it to fit into their narratives (FOX News contributor Michelle Malkin, for example, reports that "capitalism helped make them rich," mentions Rev. Wright a lot, and suggests that Michelle Obama is anti-capitalism or something), but it basically just paints a picture of a guy who didn't earn a lot at first (coming from a public service job and a gig teaching at the University of Chicago), and then saw a big increase in royalties from book sales as he exploded onto the national scene. The increased wealth came with increased charitable donations. Basically, it's nothing surprising.

I'd also like to say that the comments section at TPM has been particularly hilarious this election season.

UPDATE: Clinton's refusal to release her tax returns until three days before the Pennsylvania primaries is beyond ridiculous. M.S. Bellows suggests that you xerox your tax returns and send them to Hillary to show her how easy it is to do.

Graph: McCain's Tax Cuts

McCain's plan will put the United States another $3 trillion in debt. When McCain himself is dead and gone, the rest of us are going to be paying a whole lot of interest on our national debt (which is currently around $9 trillion) to China and Japan. Rather than discussing pastors and passports, I'd like to see more journalists start covering how incredibly irresponsible McCain's economic plans are.

(via American Prospect)

UPDATE: As I said before, even McCain's economic advisers acknowledge that McCain's plan "will make deficits expand." He's basically passing the bill to future generations (failing to acknowledge that this will result in higher taxes in the future in order to pay off our debt - with interest). On the other side of the fence, even the Wall Street Journal (grudgingly) notes that Obama's plan "adds up" (article available here, though you need either a subscription or access to Lexis).

Kevin Drum on John McCain's "Cred"

24 March 2008

Chuck Todd had some very revealing comments about the media's coverage of John McCain the other day, in the wake of John McCain's repeated claims that Iran has been training al Qaeda troops and sending them into Iraq:

Even if he gets dinged on the experience stuff, "Oh, he says he's Mr. Experience. Doesn't he know the difference between this stuff?" He's got enough of that in the bank, at least with the media, that he can get away with it. I mean, the irony to this is had either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama misspoke like that, it'd have been on a running loop, and it would become a, a big problem for a couple of days for them.

Kevin Drum responds at the Washington Monthly:

Let's recap. Foreign policy cred lets him get away with wild howlers on foreign policy. Fiscal integrity cred lets him get away with outlandishly irresponsible economic plans. Anti-lobbyist cred lets him get away with pandering to lobbyists. Campaign finance reform cred lets him get away with gaming the campaign finance system. Straight talking cred lets him get away with brutally slandering Mitt Romney in the closing days of the Republican primary. Maverick uprightness cred allows him to get away with begging for endorsements from extremist religious leaders like John Hagee. "Man of conviction" cred allows him to get away with transparent flip-flopping so egregious it would make any other politician a laughingstock. . . .

Remind me again: where does all this cred come from? And what window do Democrats go to to get the same treatment the press gives McCain?

The most under-covered of these, I think, was McCain's dishonest campaign tactics against Mitt Romney in the days leading up to the Florida primaries.

Everything Must Go!

Kmiec Endorses Obama

23 March 2008

Douglas Kmiec is a former Romney adviser who was previously co-chair of the Romney campaign's committee on courts and the constitution. He's also a constitutional law professor, and has headed the Office of Legal Counsel for Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush. Today, he announced his support for Sen. Barack Obama. It's an interesting read.

Change Congress

Fear and Loathing

In his 1973 book Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, Hunter S. Thompson made the following observation:

The most consistent and ultimately damaging failure of political journalism in America has its roots in the clubby/cocktail personal relationships that inevitably develop between politicians and journalists. When professional antagonists become after-hours drinking buddies, they are not likely to turn each other in. . . . especially not for 'minor infractions' of rules that neither side takes seriously; and on the rare occasions when Minor infractions suddenly become Major, there is panic on both ends.
Now watch this video by John McCain's daughter:

I hope that the press will point out that McCain doesn't know whether or not contraceptives help stop the spread of HIV, that his tax plan will put us further in debt at a time when the fastest growing expense in the country is interest on that $9 trillion debt, that he has said wildly inaccurate things about the economy, that he has said outright false things about who is contributing money to his campaign, that he lied about Mitt Romney during the debates, that he supports comically ineffective abstinence-only programs, etc.. But I predict that they'll be more likely to cover the "I'd like to have a beer with him" aspect. Granted he is a very likable guy, but I'm feeling a considerable amount of fear and loathing at the idea of 8 more months of campaign coverage (to the exclusion of real policy discussion).

(h/t Glenn Greenwald)

UPDATE: There's also this from Bob Somerby, recounting a birthday party for John McCain back in 2004 attended by Tim Russert, Chris Matthews, Barbara Walters, Charlie Rose (say it ain't so, Charlie!) and all the other major media figures. Does anybody else think that this is kinda inappropriate?

UPDATE II: Even McCain's economic advisers acknowledge that McCain's plan "will make deficits expand." On the other side of the fence, even the Wall Street Journal (grudgingly) notes that Obama's plan "adds up" (article available here, though you need either a subscription or access to Lexis).

Hillary Clinton Under Sniper Fire

22 March 2008

This is how Hillary Clinton described her 1996 trip to Bosnia:

I certainly do remember that trip to Bosnia, and as Togo said, there was a saying around the White House that if a place was too small, too poor, or too dangerous, the president couldn't go, so send the First Lady. That’s where we went. I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.

Below is the shocking footage of Sen. Clinton in a mad dash from her airplane, under heavy sniper fire from Bosnian super-soldiers.

(h/t Matthew Yglesias)

: Sinbad himself remembers that fateful day in Tuzla: "I think the only 'red-phone' moment was: 'Do we eat here or at the next place.' "

Chris Wallace Takes FOX & Friends to Task

21 March 2008

FOX News host Chris Wallace took his colleagues to task today on FOX & Friends:

Hey listen, I love you guys but I want to take you to task if I may, respectfully, for a moment. I have been watching the show since 6:00 this morning when I got up, and it seems to me that two hours of Obama bashing on this typical white person remark is somewhat excessive and frankly I think you’re somewhat distorting what Obama had to say.
You may remember that this is the same FOX & Friends that falsely spread the whole "Obama-attended-a-radical-madrassa" smear.

But wait. It gets better.
Far be it for me to be a spokesman for the Obama campaign, and I will tell you that they would laugh at that characterization, but you know, the fact is that after giving a speech on race earlier this week, on Tuesday, he gave a major speech on Iraq on Wednesday and a major speech on the economy yesterday. And so, I think they would say that in terms of deflecting attention away from the issues people really want to hear about, maybe it’s the media doing it, not Barack Obama.
Even Chris Wallace can see this for what it is. Rather than discussing these issues like adults, the people at FOX & Friends persist on hanging onto every little sound byte and playing on racial tensions in a completely counter-productive fashion.

(h/t Think Progress)

Obama Speech: "The Cost of War"

20 March 2008

Full text

State of the Media

19 March 2008

Pew releases an annual State of the Media report, and this year's is pretty grim. Particularly interesting is its report on Cable News reporting (see Punditry). As a citizen, things like this make me upset:

Collectively, the broad range of domestic issues including the environment, education, transportation, development, religion, domestic terrorism, health care, race -- everything but immigration -- made up 13% of the time on cable (compared with 26% on network evening news). The three topics of celebrity, crime and disasters, in contrast, accounted for 24% of cable's time.

To put that into perspective, if one were to have watched five hours of cable news, one would have seen about:

* 35 minutes about campaigns and elections
* 36 minutes about the debate over U.S. foreign policy
* 26 minutes or more of crime
* 12 minutes of accidents and disasters
* 10 minutes of celebrity and entertainment

On the other hand, one would have seen:

* 1 minute and 25 seconds about the environment
* 1 minute and 22 seconds about education
* 1 minute about science and technology
* 3 minutes and 34 seconds about the economy
* 3 minutes and 46 seconds about health and health care

As Matt Nisbet points out, "If you watch FIVE HOURS of Cable News, expect to find ONE MINUTE of coverage devoted to either science or the environment." And this is just for 2007. I imagine that campaign coverage (see campaign strategy coverage) has skyrocketed since then.

UPDATE: Meanwhile, John McCain is throwing a private party at his home for all the cable news journalists where he cooks them ribs. In return, they excuse him from tough coverage.

UPDATE II: Not surprisingly, the public is unhappy with the news media.

UPDATE III: As Glenn Greenwald reminds us, "we have the worst, sleaziest press corps possible". After legitimately asking for, and eventually receiving, Hillary Clinton's records as First Lady does ABC News scour them for substance? No:

The full headline reads: "Hillary Was in White House on "Stained Blue Dress" Day." It seems as if our television journalists have been replaced by high-school gossips. Rather than looking through the records to evaluate them substantively, they rush to sex it up however they can. It's really despicable.

UPDATE IV: As Glenn Greenwald also reminds us, Brian Ross (who just brought us this deplorable "journalism" from ABC) was also making the rounds several years ago shrieking that Saddam Hussein was behind the anthrax attacks. Ross still has not apologized for his false scare-mongering.

These are the gatekeepers. This is the filter that the most important stories in the country have to go through before you see them. I'm normally a good-humored guy, but it seriously upsets me to take a step back and see how awful our procedures are for getting substantive information out to citizens and voters.

UPDATE V: I suggest that anyone concerned with Brian Ross's awful "journalism" send him an email here. Or, as Susie Madrak points out, you can leave him a voicemail at his phone number (212-456-7612) - just don't harass him personally.

Huckabee Defends Wright

Obama Speech: "The World Beyond Iraq"

I'll post the video when it's available, but the full transcript can be found here.

UPDATE: Here is a clip.

UPDATE II: Here is the full video (click the picture).

Barack Obama's Speech on Iraq War, National Security @ Yahoo! Video

UPDATE III: Youtube finally has the whole speech up.

Straight Talk - Part IV

Thankfully, Lieberman was there to whisper the correct answer into McCain's ear after he had gotten it wrong several times at a news conference. He quickly backed up and replaced "al Qaeda" with the word "extremists."

Part I: "I'm the only one the special interests don't give money to." False.
Part II: "
Every time in history we have raised taxes it has cut revenues." False.
Part III: McCain accuses Romney of going out of his way to provide taxpayer-funded abortions to Massachusetts. False.

Obama Speech: "A More Perfect Union"

18 March 2008

Full Text

What I liked most about this speech was its indictment of our political discourse and the tendency to boil complex issues down to fast and easy soundbytes that we can all raise our voices and argue over. If you've got 40 minutes to spare, I suggest that you watch the whole thing.

UPDATE: This is a great quote:

We can play Reverend Wright’s sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she’s playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we’ll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, “Not this time.”

UPDATE II: Right out of the gate, we still have to put up with these headlines.
CNN: Obama: Constitution stained by 'sin of slavery'
ABC: Obama: Pastor Has Distorted View, But He Is Family to Me
FOX: Obama Condemns Pastor, But Won't 'Disown Him'
MSNBC: Obama: Racial anger is 'real'
CBS: Obama Urges End To "Racial Stalemate"
None of these does justice to the content of the speech itself. Again, I recommend listening to it all the way through.

UPDATE III: The American Enterprise Institute's Charles Murray weighs in at the National Review here:
I read the various posts here on "The Corner," mostly pretty ho-hum or critical about Obama's speech. Then I figured I'd better read the text (I tried to find a video of it, but couldn't). I've just finished. Has any other major American politician ever made a speech on race that comes even close to this one? As far as I'm concerned, it is just plain flat out brilliant—rhetorically, but also in capturing a lot of nuance about race in America. It is so far above the standard we're used to from our pols.... But you know me. Starry-eyed Obama groupie.
For those not familiar with Murray, that last line was sarcastic.

UPDATE IV: Highlight reel here. Reactions here and here.

UPDATE V: Another important aspect of this speech is that it treated the voting public as adults in the way it discussed the issue of race. Rather than using simple sound bytes and misdirection, Obama substantively evaluated the issue, identified the valid concerns of the many different sides, and really broke it down in an understandable fashion. Contrast that with Sen. Clinton's radio ads mischaracterizing Obama's statements about Ronald Reagan and Republicans in general. Or her demonstrably false claims about Obama's Social Security position. As a voter, I constantly get the impression that Sen. Clinton is just trying to mislead me. That's particularly the case whenever her pollster Mark Penn opens his mouth.

What has always appealed to me most about Sen. Obama is the procedural change he plans to bring. When it comes to federal budget issues, Obama wants to bring back PAYGO rules so that we're not just borrowing money and adding to our national debt without any way of paying for it. On issues of transparency and accountability, his Ethics Bill has done more than any other candidate in the field and perhaps more than any other sitting member of Congress. Even when it comes to the way that we discuss issues, Obama's technique and maturity is head-and-shoulders above the rest of the field (compare that with McCain's awful dissembling over Romney's positions at the January debates).

UPDATE VI: Cameron Fredman has a great annotated version of the speech for those of you out there with short attention spans.

UPDATE VII: Jon Stewart: "And so, at 11 o’clock am on a Tuesday, a prominent politician spoke to Americans about race as though they were adults."

My New Governor

17 March 2008

Financial Market Turmoil

This Week's Links




Election 2008:

A Guided Tour to the Federal Budget Crisis

15 March 2008

The Washington Times


Taxi to the Dark Side

13 March 2008

Democracy Inaction

Kriston Capps makes an interesting point about ballot placement and the recent wave of presidential primary voting:

The contest attracted an unprecedented number of new voters and Democratic Party registratants. However, the hype didn't do much to enlighten the issues surrounding the other twenty contests on the ballot. “The level of ignorance was astonishing,” says Grant. Grant—who lost the primary to Larry Joe Doherty—explains that new voters who showed up at polls to affirm their support for either Clinton or Obama were not necessarily aware that other contests were even at stake. Those new voters ticked off the first name to appear in each of the nonpresidential contests, claims Grant, lending weight to candidates whose names appear first in the alphabet. And in the end, D comes before G. Alpha-deficient Grant explains that there was a striking difference between results at those polls where the Doherty and Grant campaigns supplied literature and those that went unstaffed.
I have to say, just as the article highlights, that part of the problem is a lack of available information and local media. The last time I voted, it was downright difficult to find information about the local contests and the candidates' stances and qualifications. Now that I'm registered in a big city, it will probably be easier. But surely, in the Internet age, there has to be some sort of resource...

(via Matthew Yglesias)

UPDATE: Of course I'd still like to see some data to back up the whole alphabet-bias thing, but it sure as hell sounds plausible.

UPDATE II: Commenter (and UT Austin shirt-wearer) Lee points out that ballot ordering in Texas is not simply alphabetical, but rather random (or possibly different on a county-by-county basis). The idea that people tend to tick off the first name on a ballot is still possible of course, and appears to actually be backed up by data. Stanford psychology professor Jon Krosnick has studied just this issue, and found that it can sometimes be a big help.
Candidates listed first on the ballot get about two percentage points more votes on average than they would have if they had been listed later (flipping a 49 to 51 defeat into a 51 to 49 victory). In fact, in about half the races I have studied, the advantage of first place is even bigger — certainly big enough to win some elections these days.

Torture and Democracy

Anonymous Philanthropist Donates Kidneys to Hospital

11 March 2008

Anonymous Philanthropist Donates 200 Human Kidneys To Hospital

Obama Memo on Clinton and "Experience"

Former Clinton administration State Department official (and current Obama foreign policy adviser) Greg Craig just released this memo from the Obama campaign:

To: Interested Parties

From: Greg Craig, former director, Policy Planning Office, U.S. State Department

RE: Senator Clinton's claim to be experienced in foreign policy: Just words?

DA: March 11, 2008

When your entire campaign is based upon a claim of experience, it is important that you have evidence to support that claim. Hillary Clinton’s argument that she has passed “the Commander- in-Chief test” is simply not supported by her record.

There is no doubt that Hillary Clinton played an important domestic policy role when she was First Lady. It is well known, for example, that she led the failed effort to pass universal health insurance. There is no reason to believe, however, that she was a key player in foreign policy at any time during the Clinton Administration. She did not sit in on National Security Council meetings. She did not have a security clearance. She did not attend meetings in the Situation Room. She did not manage any part of the national security bureaucracy, nor did she have her own national security staff. She did not do any heavy-lifting with foreign governments, whether they were friendly or not. She never managed a foreign policy crisis, and there is no evidence to suggest that she participated in the decision-making that occurred in connection with any such crisis. As far as the record shows, Senator Clinton never answered the phone either to make a decision on any pressing national security issue – not at 3 AM or at any other time of day.

When asked to describe her experience, Senator Clinton has cited a handful of international incidents where she says she played a central role. But any fair-minded and objective judge of these claims – i.e., by someone not affiliated with the Clinton campaign – would conclude that Senator Clinton’s claims of foreign policy experience are exaggerated.

  • Northern Ireland:

Senator Clinton has said, “I helped to bring peace to Northern Ireland.” It is a gross overstatement of the facts for her to claim even partial credit for bringing peace to Northern Ireland. She did travel to Northern Ireland, it is true. First Ladies often travel to places that are a focus of U.S. foreign policy. But at no time did she play any role in the critical negotiations that ultimately produced the peace. As the Associated Press recently reported, “[S]he was not directly involved in negotiating the Good Friday peace accord.” With regard to her main claim that she helped bring women together, she did participate in a meeting with women, but, according to those who know best, she did not play a pivotal role. The person in charge of the negotiations, former Senator George Mitchell, said that “[The First Lady] was one of many people who participated in encouraging women to get involved, not the only one.”

News of Senator Clinton’s claims has raised eyebrows across the ocean. Her reference to an important meeting at the Belfast town hall was debunked. Her only appearance at the Belfast City Hall was to see Christmas lights turned on. She also attended a 50-minute meeting which, according to the Belfast Daily Telegraph’s report at the time, “[was] a little bit stilted, a little prepared at times." Brian Feeney, an Irish author and former politician, sums it up: “The road to peace was carefully documented, and she wasn’t on it.”

  • Bosnia:

Senator Clinton has pointed to a March 1996 trip to Bosnia as proof that her foreign travel involved a life-risking mission into a war zone. She has described dodging sniper fire. While she did travel to Bosnia in March 1996, the visit was not a high-stakes mission to a war zone. On March 26, 1996, the New York Times reported that “Hillary Rodham Clinton charmed American troops at a U.S.O. show here, but it didn’t hurt that the singer Sheryl Crow and the comedian Sinbad were also on the stage.”

  • Kosovo:

Senator Clinton has said, “I negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo.” It is true that, as First Lady, she traveled to Macedonia and visited a Kosovar refugee camp. It is also true that she met with government officials while she was there. First Ladies frequently meet with government officials. Her claim to have “negotiated open borders to let fleeing refugees into safety from Kosovo,” however, is not true. Her trip to Macedonia took place on May 14, 1999. The borders were opened the day before, on May 13, 1999.

The negotiations that led to the opening of the borders were accomplished by the people who ordinarily conduct negotiations with foreign governments – U.S. diplomats. President Clinton’s top envoy to the Balkans, former Ambassador Robert Gelbard, said, “I cannot recall any involvement by Senator Clinton in this issue.” Ivo Daalder worked on the Clinton Administration’s National Security Council and wrote a definitive history of the Kosovo conflict. He recalls that “she had absolutely no role in the dirty work of negotiations.”

  • Rwanda:

Last year, former President Clinton asserted that his wife pressed him to intervene with U.S. troops to stop the Rwandan genocide. When asked about this assertion, Hillary Clinton said it was true. There is no evidence, however, to suggest that this ever happened. Even those individuals who were advocating a much more robust U.S. effort to stop the genocide did not argue for the use of U.S. troops. No one recalls hearing that Hillary Clinton had any interest in this course of action. Based on a fair and thorough review of National Security Council deliberations during those tragic months, there is no evidence to suggest that U.S. military intervention was ever discussed. Prudence Bushnell, the Assistant Secretary of State with responsibility for Africa, has recalled that there was no consideration of U.S. military intervention.

At no time prior to her campaign for the presidency did Senator Clinton ever make the claim that she supported intervening militarily to stop the Rwandan genocide. It is noteworthy that she failed to mention this anecdote – urging President Clinton to intervene militarily in Rwanda – in her memoirs. President Clinton makes no mention of such a conversation with his wife in his memoirs. And Madeline Albright, who was Ambassador to the United Nations at the time, makes no mention of any such event in her memoirs.

Hillary Clinton did visit Rwanda in March 1998 and, during that visit, her husband apologized for America’s failure to do more to prevent the genocide.

  • China

Senator Clinton also points to a speech that she delivered in Beijing in 1995 as proof of her ability to answer a 3 AM crisis phone call. It is strange that Senator Clinton would base her own foreign policy experience on a speech that she gave over a decade ago, since she so frequently belittles Barack Obama’s speeches opposing the Iraq War six years ago. Let there be no doubt: she gave a good speech in Beijing, and she stood up for women’s rights. But Senator Obama’s opposition to the War in Iraq in 2002 is relevant to the question of whether he, as Commander-in-Chief, will make wise judgments about the use of military force. Senator Clinton’s speech in Beijing is not.

Senator Obama’s speech opposing the war in Iraq shows independence and courage as well as good judgment. In the speech that Senator Clinton says does not qualify him to be Commander in Chief, Obama criticized what he called “a rash war . . . a war based not on reason, but on passion, not on principle, but on politics.” In that speech, he said prophetically: “[E]ven a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences.” He predicted that a U.S. invasion of Iraq would “fan the flames of the Middle East,” and “strengthen the recruitment arm of al Qaeda.” He urged the United States first to “finish the fight with Bin Laden and al Qaeda.”

If the U.S. government had followed Barack Obama’s advice in 2002, we would have avoided one of the greatest foreign policy catastrophes in our nation’s history. Some of the most “experienced” men in national security affairs – Vice President Cheney and Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and others – led this nation into that catastrophe. That lesson should teach us something about the value of judgment over experience. Longevity in Washington, D.C. does not guarantee either wisdom of judgment.

  • Conclusion:

The Clinton campaign’s argument is nothing more than mere assertion, dramatized in a scary television commercial with a telephone ringing in the middle of the night. There is no support for or substance in the claim that Senator Clinton has passed “the Commander-in-Chief test.” That claim – as the TV ad – consists of nothing more than making the assertion, repeating it frequently to the voters and hoping that they will believe it.

On the most critical foreign policy judgment of our generation – the War in Iraq – Senator Clinton voted in support of a resolution entitled “The Joint Resolution to Authorize the Use of U.S. Military Force Against Iraq.” As she cast that vote, she said: “This is probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make -- any vote that may lead to war should be hard -- but I cast it with conviction.” In this campaign, Senator Clinton has argued – remarkably – that she wasn’t actually voting for war, she was voting for diplomacy. That claim is no more credible than her other claims of foreign policy experience. The real tragedy is that we are still living with the terrible consequences of her misjudgment. The Bush Administration continues to cite that resolution as its authorization – like a blank check – to fight on with no end in sight.

Barack Obama has a very simple case. On the most important commander in chief test of our generation, he got it right, and Senator Clinton got it wrong. In truth, Senator Obama has much more foreign policy experience than either Bill Clinton or Ronald Reagan had when they were elected. Senator Obama has worked to confront 21st century challenges like proliferation and genocide on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He possesses the personal attributes of a great leader -- an even temperament, an open-minded approach to even the most challenging problems, a willingness to listen to all views, clarity of vision, the ability to inspire, conviction and courage.

And Barack Obama does not use false charges and exaggerated claims to play politics with national security.

I was going to write an entry on just this topic, but it looks like they beat me to it.

Ridiculous Campaign Coverage

10 March 2008

This is how CNN covers the most important issues in America:

That's right. One long, tortured analogy comparing the candidates to King Kong and Godzilla. Complete with shaky graphics, as if due to nearby monster footsteps. The comparison made no sense. No substantive issues were covered.

You might remember that Wolf Blitzer has previously covered the candidates by investigating who is a cat person and who is a dog person.

The inescapable conclusion is that CNN thinks we're all idiots.

UPDATE: Here is the video itself.

Barack Obama Ethics Reform Speech

Part I:

Part II:

Part III:

NPR: The Long Arm of the Law

08 March 2008

3A.M. Ad Tested

07 March 2008

Olberman on Clinton and "NAFTA-Gate"

Keith Olberman on Hillary Clinton

Howard Wolfson Will Say Anything

06 March 2008

Clinton adviser Howard Wolfson was recently answering questions on a conference call about Hillary Clinton's refusal to release her tax returns. In a dizzying display of spin, he accused Obama of "imitating Ken Starr" simply by asking for the tax returns (so that Sen. Clinton can be properly vetted).

This is particularly disingenuous coming from Wolfson, due to this episode from Hillary Clinton's 2000 Senate bid:

"In recent months, the team has been trying to focus public scrutiny on Lazio. Wolfson himself, along with a Democratic State Committee member dressed as Uncle Sam, showed up at a Lazio event in Harlem in August, taunting Lazio with the first lady's New York property tax returns and challenging him to release his returns. In any other campaign, it might have been the candidate who seized such a photo op; but with his boss invested in preserving her dignity, it occasionally falls to Wolfson"
Was it a Ken Starr-like attack back then, too?

UPDATE: Andrew Sullivan has more here. It seems that the Clinton campaign reflexively defends itself by accusing its questioners of being a part of the "right wing conspiracy."

This Week's Links

05 March 2008




Glenn Greenwald on The "Rezko" Game

I've said this plenty of times before, but Glenn Greenwald's column at Salon should be required reading for everyone, everywhere, every day. Today, he looks at The "Rezko" Game and how the innuendo has been flying around without any substance to back it up.

One could read literally thousands of news accounts about the "Whitewater scandal" and never encounter a single, specific charge of impropriety. The word simply stood for a series of confusing, complex, boring financial transactions that were combined with dark and vague innuendo which, repeated enough, led to a "where-there's-smoke- there's-fire" presumption of guilt. Slothful journalists could not get enough of the tactic because tossing "Whitewater" around required no real work, active investigation or critical thought -- the mortal enemies of most establishment reporters -- but instead was just a cheap and easy way to imply that they were pursuing some sort of scandal.

"Rezko" is the Whitewater of the Obama campaign. It's almost impossible now to find an article or news account about Obama that doesn't include some dark reference to the "Rezko" affair, always with the suggestion or even overt claim that it's reflective of some serious vulnerability, some suggestion of wrongdoing and corruption. But what is it? The reporters throwing the word around quite plainly have no idea.

Having paid only casual attention to it in the past, I spent several hours yesterday morning reading every "Rezko" article I could find in an attempt to understand as much as possible about the allegations. The point isn't that there is no credible evidence of any wrongdoing on the part of Obama, although that's unquestionably true. It's far beyond that. There aren't even any theoretical allegations or suggestions as to what he might have done wrong at all. The person who is accused of wrongdoing is Tony Rezko, in matters inarguably having nothing to do with Obama. Nobody claims otherwise (although many try to imply otherwise).

The only substantive connections Obama and Rezko have is that the latter was a contributor to Obama's campaign and was a partner in a standard residential real-estate purchase which nobody suggests, at least in terms of Obama's conduct, was anything but above-board. But Rezko himself has a sinister-sounding, villain-like last name and is of Syrian origin, which, for multiple reasons, helps build the shallow media drama.

But Obama isn't even accused of -- let alone proven to have engaged in -- any wrongdoing at all. I spent many years litigating all sorts of civil cases involving financial transactions like these. Few things are easier than concocting some nefarious angle to innocuous real estate transactions, yet they can't even do that here. Despite that, the "Rezko" innuendo lurks and grows and clearly isn't going anywhere.

What I find most peculiar is that now it is the Clintons themselves who are playing The Rezko Game. It seems that ever since their string of losses in February, they can't make it through a conference call without saying things like this: "We urge Senator Obama to release all relevant financial and other information related to indicted political fixer Tony Rezko." It is maddeningly obvious that they are simply smearing innuendo around wherever they can, in a last-minute attempt to shift whatever press coverage they can to Rezko (notice that they never allege any kind of wrongdoing - there is none - but rather just hector the press to "start asking questions" and just hector Obama to "start answering questions").

I hope that he starts responding to this by calling it out for what it is.

Are You Experienced?

04 March 2008

Related Reading:
Clinton's "35 Years of Change" Omits Most of Her Career (McClatchy D.C.)
What Experience? (Talking Points Memo)
Foreign Policy Pushback (TIME)
Bill Richardson Criticizes "3AM Ad" (The Huffington Post)

Olberman on Clinton's 3A.M. Advertisements

Canadian Embassy Debunks False Obama Story From CTV

03 March 2008

Here is the official statement from the Canadian embassy:

Washington, D.C., March 3, 2008 — The Canadian Embassy and our Consulates General regularly contact those involved in all of the Presidential campaigns and, periodically, report on these contacts to interested officials. In the recent report produced by the Consulate General in Chicago, there was no intention to convey, in any way, that Senator Obama and his campaign team were taking a different position in public from views expressed in private, including about NAFTA. We deeply regret any inference that may have been drawn to that effect.

The people of the United States are in the process of choosing a new President and are fortunate to have strong and impressive candidates from both political parties. Canada will not interfere in this electoral process. We look forward, however, to working with the choice of the American people in further building an unparalleled relationship with a close friend and partner.

Keep in mind that Hillary Clinton herself has been circulating this false story:
"It raises questions about Senator Obama coming to Ohio and giving speeches about NAFTA and having his chief economic adviser tell the Canadian government that it was just political rhetoric," Clinton told reporters. "I don't think people should come to Ohio and tell the people of Ohio one thing and then have your campaign tell a foreign government something else behind closed doors. That's the kind of difference between talk and action and that I've been pointing out in this campaign."
Maybe now she'll stop.

Just to remind everyone, Clinton has consistently misrepresented Barack Obama's positions throughout the primary process. She has distorted his ethics reform bill, his position on the PATRIOT Act, his Rezko ties, his "present" votes, his position on abortion, his position on NAFTA, his position on Social Security, his statements about diplomatic preconditions, and his position on the Iraq war. Basically, everything.


UPDATE II: Nope. Even when it is conclusively disproven, Clinton will push this false idea onto the voters of Ohio. At this point, I don't really see how I could ever vote for Sen. Clinton. Why isn't the media making a big deal over the fact that she's blatantly misinforming voters? For all the whining over how hard the media is on her, I don't see them calling her out on this in any meaningful way.