History Is Weird

Planet Hillary

There’s that famous proverb, often cited to Benjamin Franklin, but apparently much older. It goes something like:

A little neglect may breed mischief …

for want of a nail, the shoe was lost;

for want of a shoe the horse was lost;

and for want of a horse the rider was lost

Stop Hillary by Doug Henwood

Anyway, I was ruminating as I drifted off to sleep that if Hillary Clinton hadn’t run against Barack Obama in 2008, she would have probably been elected over Trump in 2016. The 2008 Democratic Primary was bitter, and Clinton (and Bill Clinton, fwiw) and her team went “scorched earth”, refusing to concede until the bitter end. I can’t be alone in remembering I was less than enthusiastic about her in 2016 because of what happened in 2008.

Texans for Hillary

Also, because Obama wanted to “unify” the Democratic Party, he appointed Ms. Clinton as Secretary of State. I doubt she was top of his list when he started his presidential bid. Secretary Clinton famously made an enemy of Russia’s leader, Vlad Putin, so much so that Putin threw caution out of any available windows, and interfered in small and large ways in the 2016 presidential contest.

Clinton narrowly lost to Trump, by a few thousand votes in a handful of states. One wonders…

Hillary Clinton Adopts Alien Baby - Official Photo

Media, Hillary and Sarah Palin

“Why Obama Won: The Making of a President 2008” (Greg Mitchell)

I thought this was a big turning point in the 2008 election as well:

worst mccain photo

Greg Mitchell writes:

But I believe that a true turning point — though rarely noted — actually came in the summer, at the Democratic convention in Denver. No, it was not the general good vibes about Obama, the ringing speeches by Teddy, Michelle, Bill and Hill, and by the candidate himself.

Rather, it was the electronic media’s overblown coverage of the allegedly widespread threat by female Hillary delegates, and other Clinton fans, to bolt Obama in favor of McCain.

As you recall, the dissidents, known as “PUMAS,” got massive face time on TV and, it was said, they represented just the tip of the iceberg. And it was said (by commentators, not just by the new pro-Hillary media stars), that women, particularly older ones and suburban/blue-collar types who had voted for Hillary in the primaries, would likely abandon the Democrats in November.

There was no firm evidence for this, of course – and few pundits, on TV and in print, seemed to notice that the same few disgruntled Hillary delegates appeared on all of the shows. No matter. Obama’s possible defeat because of the possible defections was widely predicted.

Why did this matter, since the mass defections never happened? Especially since here and elsewhere at liberal political blogs no one ever took the threats seriously?

Because John McCain and his people bought it, hook, line and sinker, as I explain in my book Why Obama Won. This explains the sudden (though often ill-explained) rise of Sarah Palin to the top of their VP list. The McCainites saw an opening – which really wasn’t there – and went completely overboard. Not only did a female VP suddenly look like a great idea, but one who would have extra appeal to the particular type of Hillary primary voters so hyped by the media.

[Click to continue reading Greg Mitchell: One Year Ago, A Turning Point in 2008 Campaign: The Media, Hillary and Sarah Palin]

Too busy/lazy to look right now, but while the television yammers were seemingly fixated on the Public-Unity-My-Ass story, the blogs were a lot more skeptical of the Hillary-brigade.

Why Clinton Lost

I read Howard Wolfson’s confession last Sunday, and burst out laughing. No wonder Clinton lost, Drudge is no longer relevant, if he ever was, but Wolfson and Penn et al, were still obsessed with Drudge’s nonsense.

Imperial Men's Wear

By the end of the campaign, I was seeing the Drudge siren in my sleep. As people in politics know all too well, Matt Drudge, the Internet provocateur who runs the Drudge Report Web site, posts a flashing siren whenever he wants to alert readers to major campaign news or rumors. The siren haunted my dreams and was always in the corner of my eye — except when it was in plain sight, on my computer screen, signifying success or, more often, terrible failure and impending doom. As soon as that siren started flashing, instant messages would pop up, just below the siren, one after another — each one beginning with “Seen Drudge?” until my entire computer screen was filled with instant-message boxes illuminated by the light of Drudge’s siren. It might have been beautiful if it hadn’t been so frightening.

HOWARD WOLFSON (communications director for Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign)

[From The Screens Issue – Moments That Mattered – NYTimes.com]

Clinton deserved to lose, in other words.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton

More on the point of Clinton’s alleged baggage: after all the concern trolls1 in the media gnashing their collective teeth over Clinton and his conflicts of interest, turns out to be not worth concern.

Barack and Hillary wonder about Swank Franks

Whether Obama’s appointments make sense can only be judged when those he has chosen have an opportunity to perform — a caveat that applies to Clinton along with all the others, from Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff to Eric Holder as attorney general. But it should now be clear that the president-elect does not share the jaundiced view of the Clinton administration — or the Clintons — held so insistently by some of his own supporters.

For one thing, it should be plain that the exhaustive “vetting” process brought to bear on Bill and Hillary Clinton, and especially on his foundation and his business dealings, must have revealed nothing of grave concern to the Obama transition officials assigned to examine him. If it is true, as reported, that he will no longer accept certain speaking engagements that might pose an appearance of conflict with his wife’s position, that would be appropriate. It is equally likely, however, that the good work of his foundation will continue, since the Obama administration could scarcely wish to deprive a million or more impoverished people of the medicine and care that the former president has brought to them.

It will be interesting to see whether those who have raised the darkest suspicions about the former president will accept the benign assessment conferred on him by Obama.

[From Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Get over it, Clinton haters | Salon ]

Yeah, don’t hold your breath.

  1. a term referring to those who pretend to worry about an issue, but are actually arguing from the other side. Explained more fully here []

When did experience become a flaw?

Lest we forget, the national media will be looking for any controversy to build their coverage of the new administration around. If there isn’t any drama, they will manufacture it.

Jamison Foser of Media Matters writes:

Midway through Bill Clinton’s first year as president, Time magazine reported that among the new president’s problems was “a staff that has almost no White House or executive experience,” pointing to then-political director Rahm Emanuel as a prime example.

Fast-forward 15 years: President-elect Barack Obama has chosen Emanuel to serve as his chief of staff. With years of high-level White House work under his belt, not to mention the connections and clout that come from having been one of the most powerful members of Congress, it would be quite a stretch to say that Emanuel lacks the experience to effectively serve Obama. So this time, some in the media have a different complaint. As CNN’s Anderson Cooper put it, Emanuel is “probably the ultimate Washington insider. … [T]he critics will say, well, look, if Obama is talking about change, why is he having a Washington insider?”

So: Emanuel was insufficiently experienced to serve as political director in 1993 — and now we’re to believe that he’s too experienced in Washington to serve as chief of staff? What gives? Was there a brief window in 2003 in which Emanuel’s level of experience was just right? Or is there something strange about the media’s assessment of President-elect Obama’s staffing decisions?

That Time assessment of Emanuel in 1993 was not unique. For 16 years, there has been near-universal agreement that the Clinton administration’s early struggles (real and perceived) were in large part due to a lack of White House and Washington experience on the part of Clinton’s staff.

[Continue reading Media Matters – Media Matters: When did experience become a flaw?]

Just like the public vetting of the Clintons, which turned out to be mostly based on allegations that there was dirty contributions to Bill Clinton, any little angle will be relentlessly hyped. Is it too soon to write off the corporate media?

Waxman Should Head Energy Panel

Henry Waxman should succeed John Dingell – even though the Congress usually rewards longevity over competence. Dingell has been a member of Congress since 1955, but things have changed since then, and Dingell hasn’t. Dingell is part of the reason you can rent a Ford in Europe that gets 45 mpg, and cannot rent a comparably fuel-efficient Ford in the US.

Formal and solemn revocation

California Rep. Henry Waxman won backing from a key group of Democrats in his bid to unseat Michigan Rep. John Dingell as chairman of the powerful House Energy and Commerce Committee.

At stake is the direction of crucial legislation during a period of solid Democratic control of Congress. The committee’s mandate is broad, with oversight of everything from climate change to health care to telecommunications.

The Democrats’ Steering and Policy Committee, which helps allocate committee memberships and chairmanships, voted 25-22 Wednesday to nominate Mr. Waxman for the post. The full House Democratic membership will decide Thursday whether to heed the panel’s recommendation.

The starkest difference between the men may concern so-called greenhouse gases, which trap the sun’s heat in the atmosphere and contribute to global warming. Mr. Waxman favors stricter and faster regulation of such emissions than Mr. Dingell, who has been one of the auto industry’s staunchest allies in Congress. His ouster from the chairmanship would be a major setback for Detroit’s auto makers at a time when they are seeking assistance from Washington.

[From Key Group Backs Waxman to Head Energy Panel – WSJ.com]

Of course, the chairman hasn’t yet been rewarded; I am sure Dingell has plenty of favors to call in among the Congress members who are about to vote. Let us hope that Waxman presents a better case to those same members. From my perspective, Waxman is better fit with President-elect Obama. Danny Davis, are you listening?

Lieberman Needs to Be Kicked to the Curb

Joe Lieberman (Loser – Connecticut) suddenly realized words matter.

Sen. Joe Lieberman pleaded with Democratic bosses Thursday to keep his job as chairman of the Homeland Security Committee after stumping ceaselessly for GOPer John McCain.
It may be too late for Lieberman (I-Conn.), a former Democrat, whose non-stop campaigning for McCain angered President-elect Barack Obama, insiders confirmed to the Daily News.
“You don’t run around the country campaigning for McCain and saying you’re afraid the Democrats will get a 60-seat [filibuster-proof] majority, and then beg to keep your chairmanship,” said a senior Democratic source.

[From Joe Lieberman begs to keep chair of Homeland Security Committee]

Harry Reid is not impressed either:

Reid offered Lieberman a chance to stay in the Democratic caucus, keep his seniority, and become the chairman of some other committee. Lieberman thinks that’s “unacceptable” and reportedly “begged” to stay on as chairman of Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

Bayh thinks this is about “revenge or retribution.” It’s not. For that matter, it’s only partly about holding Lieberman accountable for his betrayals. This is actually about a specific power Lieberman is intent on keeping for a specific reason.

This seems to be routinely overlooked, but take a moment to consider what the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs actually does: it’s the committee principally responsible for oversight of the executive branch. It’s an accountability committee, charged with investigating the conduct of the White House and the president’s administration.

As chairman of this committee for the last two years, Lieberman decided not to pursue any accusations of wrongdoing against the Bush administration. Lieberman’s House counterpart — Rep. Henry Waxman’s Oversight Committee — was a vigilant watchdog, holding hearings, issuing subpoenas, and launching multiple investigations. Lieberman preferred to let his committee do no real work at all. It was arguably the most pathetic display of this Congress.

And yet, now Lieberman acts as if keeping this chairmanship is the single most important part of his public life. Why would he be so desperate to keep the gavel of a committee he hasn’t used? I’ll let you in on a secret: he wants to start using the power of this committee against Obama.

Lieberman didn’t want to hold Bush accountable, but he seems exceedingly anxious to keep the committee that would go after Obama with a vengeance, effectively becoming a Waxman-like figure — holding hearings, issuing subpoenas, and launching investigations against the Democratic president.

Lieberman doesn’t care about “reconciliation,” he cares about going after a Democratic administration. Why else would he fight diligently to be chairman of one committee instead of another?

[From The Washington Monthly]

Apparently, the vote is going to be extended out to the full caucus, and the Democratic Party better do the right thing, and kick Lieberman out on his droopy-dog keister. The difference between 57 votes and 58 votes is not significant enough to matter.


People who met Barack Obama before he ran for President were almost universally impressed with his demeanor and intelligence.

Fist Bumps

William Finnegan of The New Yorker writes:

In the spring of 2004, Jan Schakowsky, a Democratic congresswoman from Evanston, Illinois, told me a funny story about startling President Bush during a visit to the White House. She was wearing a big, blue “OBAMA” button. This was in the early days of Barack Obama’s campaign for the U.S. Senate. Bush “jumped back, almost literally,” Schakowsky said. “And I knew what he was thinking. So I reassured him it was Obama, with a ‘b.’ And I explained who he was. The President said, ‘Well, I don’t know him.’ So I just said, ‘You will.’”

I included this anecdote in a Profile of Obama, a piece that probably served to introduce him to many readers—this was before his breakout speech at the 2004 Democratic Convention. What I didn’t include was something else Schakowsky said. “I think he’s got it,” she told me. “He can go the distance. He could be the first black President.” The quote was too bald, too broad, too bannerlike. Lots of other people in Illinois, including some Republicans, talked up Obama’s extraordinary promise, his possible future on the national stage, and I did use some of those remarks. But just coming out and saying “first black President” felt not only absurdly premature but like bad juju. The road from here to there—or there to here, as it’s turned out—was long and unknowable and not to be glibly compressed.

[From Online Only: The Distance – The New Yorker]

The joy of Obama’s victory has not yet worn off. I’m sure that once Obama actually begins to govern, I’ll be disappointed in his center-left positions, but to be honest, I’d much rather have a center-left president than a rabidly conservative one.

Mr. Finnegan’s longer profile of Obama is quite interesting reading, take a glance for yourself.

Hack It Up

Still-President Bush will be stuck in our collective craw for another 70 some days.

Hack it Up

Hack it Up

Pat Bagley
[From Salt Lake Tribune Home Page – Salt Lake Tribune]

If we’re lucky, Bush will accept an early buyout, with full pension of course, and leave the White House sooner than that.

Chicago Officials Want to ride on Obama Coattails

Hey, why not? Not sure exactly what specific benefit to the city we can expect, but we can hope nonetheless

Killing People Is Rude

President-elect Barack Obama will be the first White House occupant in years to hail from a major city, which is stirring hopes that he’ll deliver a boost to urban areas.

Chicago-area governments, like cities and states across the nation, are facing budget crises and cuts in federal money as the economy slumps and revenues fall. Officials said they hope an Obama administration will help improve the situation despite the grim federal financial picture. Businesses of all sizes hope to capitalize — as does the effort to lure the 2016 Olympics to Chicago.

Mr. Obama “has lived and worked in a city and understands the urban issues,” said Mayor Richard M. Daley. “He understands how important education is — it’s the cornerstone of building our cities. He doesn’t need to be educated about urban America. He’s already educated.”

Federal funds for urban programs were slashed during the Bush administration. The financial crisis is further straining city budgets, pushing them to look toward

plus there is this more important aspect

Chicago’s hopes aren’t confined to government. Second City, Chicago’s popular sketch-comedy theater, expects to see an increase in ticket sales, particularly from overseas visitors who planned trips after seeing thrilling scenes from Grant Park.

“Barack has been our meal ticket for two years,” said Second City Vice President Kelly Leonard. “Being a Chicago institution, it can only mean good things for us.”

A Second City show that ran last year called “Between Barack and a Hard Place” was the best-selling show ever for the theater. Mr. Leonard has aspirations of bringing the troupe to Washington for a special performance. “Our goal is to be the official sketch comedy troupe of the White House,” he said.

[From Chicago Officials Hope a Favorite Son Can Lift City’s Fortunes, Lure Olympics – WSJ.com]

[Digg-enabled link to article for non-WSJ subscribers]

Click here for some other posts discussing the 2016 games

McCain First, Second, And Always

John McCain could have been expelled from the Senate for ethics violations, but was able to quash and obfuscate the investigations, at least until the statute of limitations expired. Sahil Mahtani has an extensively researched article in The New Republic

Yet the Ethics Committee’s was not the only investigation into the scandal. There were two other probes at the time that got barely any public attention–both of which largely focused on McCain himself. These were probes into illicit leaks about the proceedings of the Ethics Committee–leaks that repeatedly benefited McCain and hurt his Keating Five colleagues. One of those senators described the leaks at the time as a “violation of ethical behavior at least as serious as anything of which we senators have been accused.”

The leaks, if they were coming from a senator, were also illegal. All five senators–including McCain–had testified under oath and under the U.S. penal code that the leaks did not come from their camps. The leaks were also prohibited by rules of the Senate Ethics Committee; according to the rules of the Senate, anyone caught leaking such information could face expulsion from the body. These, then, were not the usual Washington disclosures: Discovered, they could have stopped the career of any Washington politician in his tracks.

The two investigations into the leaks suggested McCain’s involvement but were officially inconclusive. New evidence, obtained in recent weeks, again points back to the McCain camp. The investigator of those leaks now says that he does not doubt that they came from McCain or his team. A reporter who possessed evidence in the Keating case now says he believes that McCain was the source and got away with it. Finally, a senator who has emerged as a key backer of McCain’s presidential campaign turns out to have authored a letter stating flatly that McCain was the source of the damning leaks. Put together, a large record of evidence now points in the direction of Senator McCain. Far from McCain’s reputation of putting “country first,” these leaks depict a formidable politician willing to go through great lengths to maintain his standing. More than McCain’s relationship with Keating, it is the story of the Keating investigation leaks that voters should know.

[From McCain First, Second, And Always]

McCain leaked to incriminate the other four Senators, and exonerate himself. Classy.

The Senate Ethics investigation into the Keating Five scandal would last over a year, between 1989 and 1991. But before the actual hearings even began, carefully timed leaks featuring information from Committee deliberations–which were secret–began to appear. Committee members were privy to the information that was ending up in the leaks, but so were the five senators and their staffs, who received Committee documents in order to safeguard their due process rights.

The leaks had instant impact. One source close to the case described them as “backfires lit in the beltway press and in the states where the five senators were from.” There were nine in all, some correct, some incorrect. Almost all of them–eight to be precise–either exonerated McCain or implicated the other senators.

Essentially, the leaks deflected public attention away from McCain and toward his colleagues. One leak, the week of DeConcini and Riegle’s appearances before the Committee in October, 1990, described the probe against them as having “broadened,” and accused Riegle, then Banking Committee chairman, of improper regulatory intervention. Neither part was true, yet the leak ricocheted in the press instantly. One headline from the Washington Post blared, “Panel Reveals Riegle-Keating Meetings; Senator Said to Have Maintained Contact After Start of S&L Probe,” and another from the Los Angeles Times read, “Panel Action is Seen as Prelude to a Full-Scale Investigation of Sens. Cranston, DeConcini and Riegle.” Meanwhile, approval ratings for Riegle and DeConcini began to tank in their home states. Later on, the leaks investigation would conclude that the leak “[could] only be described” as an attempt to “influence the deliberations on DeConcini and Riegle.”

Read more

Rashid Khalidi and modern-day McCarthyism

Eric Alterman discusses the latest McCain smear: namely that Obama and Rashid Khalidi were at a dinner party, five years ago. Terrifying news I know, but what else does McCain have to run on? Not much apparently.

This pathetic effort should, in a normal world, be laughed off the airwaves and news pages. First and most importantly, Khalidi is not someone that anyone should be ashamed to know. He is a noted and well-respected Palestinian scholar. Michael Hudson, director of the Centre for Contemporary Arab Studies at Georgetown, describes Khalidi as pre-eminent in his field, a courageous scholar and public figure. John McCain apparently thought so too at one point, since the International Republican Institute, with McCain at the helm, gave Khalidi’s Centre for Palestine Research and Studies a $448,000 grant in the late 1990s.

No concrete offence of Khalidi’s has actually been alleged, so far as I’m aware, except that he once served as spokesman for the PLO, which Khalidi denies. Still, McCain made this stunning comparison on Wednesday: “If there was a tape of John McCain in a neo-Nazi outfit, I think the treatment of the issue would be slightly different,” he said in an interview with Hispanic radio stations.

This modern-day McCarthyism seems to rely much more on the fact that Rashid Khalidi’s name is Rashid Khalidi than any concrete allegations of wrongdoing. And the haphazard insinuation that maybe Ayers was there too is a transparent attempt to bait the Times into releasing the tape. The McCain people must know that a journalist cannot and will not burn a source. “The Los Angeles Times did not publish the videotape because it was provided to us by a confidential source who did so on the condition that we not release it,” said the newspaper’s editor, Russ Stanton. “The Times keeps its promises to sources.”

Perhaps Sarah Palin is actually ignorant enough about journalism to believe the foolish charge she utters when complaining: “It must be nice for a candidate to have major news organisations looking out for their best interests like that. Politicians would love to have a pet newspaper of their very own.” But surely Goldfarb, who left the Weekly Standard to join McCain’s campaign, knows better, and is playing the dim bulb for purely political purposes.

[From Eric Alterman: McCain’s attacks on Obama and Rashid Khalidi is modern-day McCarthyism guardian.co.uk ]

Way to keep it classy, John.

The Real Plumbers

The real plumbers are those few right wingers who will not give up: looking for any filth that might successfully percolate on Drudge or similar places, smearing Obama.

Wading for a few minutes through the sewage of these Web sites reminds me uncannily of the time I’ve spent having political discussions in certain living rooms and coffee shops in Baghdad. The mental atmosphere is exactly the same—the wild fantasies presented as obvious truth, the patterns seen by those few with the courage and wisdom to see, the amused pity for anyone weak-minded enough to be skeptical, the logic that turns counter-evidence into evidence and every random piece of information into a worldwide conspiracy. Above all, the seething resentment, the mix of arrogance and impotent rage that burns at the heart of the paranoid style in politics.

The problem isn’t lack of education—it’s that of a self-isolating political subculture gone rancid.

[From Interesting Times: George Packer: Online Only: The New Yorker]

I shudder to think of what these losers will be doing in the first year of an Obama administration. I thought the Clinton pillory was bad enough.

The Most Liberal Senator

Unless you are brain dead, or work for the National Review1, you wouldn’t ever claim that Barack Obama is the most liberal Senator2.

How Liberal Interest Groups Rate the Senators (2007)

Many interest groups rate senators on how they vote. Well-known groups that issue such ratings include Americans for Democratic Action (a progressive group) and the American Conservative Union (a conservative group). In the table below, we give the ratings of seven such groups and the mean value for each senator. However, the ratings are not completely independent. Usually senators who get a good rating from the ADA get a bad rating from the ACU and vice versa. If we used four progressive groups and four conservative groups, every senator would probably get a score of 50%–not very interesting. To avoid this problem, we have only used (relatively) progressive groups. If you are a progressive, a senator with a high score is a good senator (supports everything progressive). If you are a conservative, a senator with a low score is a good senator (opposes everything progressive). In this way the differences between the senators stand out clearly. The table below is sorted on mean rating.

[From How Liberal Interest Groups Rate the Senators 2007 ]

The .csv file is here, if you want to do your own sorting.

Per my quicky analysis, there is no way anyone can claim with a straight face that Obama is the most liberal Senator. Liberals such as myself have to come up with other reasons for supporting Obama – which, for the record, isn’t that hard to do – but liberal support isn’t because Obama is a Paul Wellstone acolyte. The numbers agree.

Some number crunching:

Per ACLU: Obama is 21st.
Per ADA: Obama is 46th.
Per CDF: Obama is 57th.
Per LCV: Obama is 50th.
Per NAACP: Obama is 3rd.
Per NARAL: Obama is 4th.
Per SEIU: Obama is 27th.

Ballot - Touchscreen Page 1

  1. kind of the same thing, I guess []
  2. unless you are running on the Republican Party ticket, or brain dead. Sort of the same thing, again []