Saturday, August 23, 2008

Biden for VP

As the world now knows, Barack Obama has chosen Joe Biden as his VP running mate. Biden is a fine choice. A safe choice. But I didnt' think he was the best choice.

I sent the following email (I've edited out references to other VP contenders) to a friend yesterday before the Biden choice was confirmed:
Just wanted to get this thought out there before it becomes moot tomorrow. Obama is announcing his vp pick tomorrow. In my opinion, there is one guy who is the obvious choice, and would be an absolute grand-slam...but he's apparently not even on the radar screen.

New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson.

What does Richardson give Obama?

1. He's a connected, inside-the-beltway, exceptionally experienced - and an "outsider."

If Obama chooses Biden - who is fine - he's getting an almost 40-year veteran of the Senate. There goes the "change" theme. ... Richardson spent eight years in Washington in the Clinton Admin, and was in leadership of the Democratic party prior to becoming Governor. He has the connections, understands the inside game, has a national name, can raise money --- and as Governor of New Mexico, has a legit claim to being an outsider that can reinforce a change message. Perfect.

2. He brings boatloads of experience and the "resume."

What's Obama's biggest alleged weakness? His resume. He doesn't have the "experience" necessary. (Off topic - Yeah, right. Go look at Bush the Lesser's "experience" prior to running on his daddy's name. Go look at Reagan's "experience." Or JFK.) Badda-bing. Problem solved. Richardson - even though he is governor of New Mexico - may have the most foreign policy experience of any "name" democrat right now outside of Biden. He negotiated with North Korea, Iraq/Sadaam Hussein. World leaders know and respect him. He was clear in opposition to Iraq. He served as Energy secretary in the Clinton admin. What are the four biggest issues of this campaign (probably): 1. Economy; 2. National Security; 3. Health Care; 4. Energy. Obama is lights out on 1/3, Richardson is lights out on 2/4. It is a perfect complementary fit...AND he doesn't serve as a glaring signpost to Obama's alleged weakness. You select Biden - who has little directly going for him other than foreign policy expertise - and what that primarily does is show voters that Obama is sensitive to foreign policy as a weakness. ... Richardson reinforces that area, but is much more well rounded (pun intended) so that he doesn't accentuate it as a weakness of Obama's. Perfect.

3. He is geographically targeted to states that are close and Obama needs.

Biden is from Delaware. Yawn. It always votes democrat. It's close to Virginia, but he's not going to move Virginia. .... What does Gov. Richardson bring? He pushes New Mexico in safely Dem territory. He *likely* solidifies Colorado as Blue, and may just put Nevada out of reach. He will also genuinely puts places like Montana, South Dakota, Missouri, Indiana, North Carolina, etc. in better position - why? He's a gun-toting, pro-gun, anti-gun control Democrat. Don't find many of those. He is really liked and respected in the west because he's willing to take on the national party on guns. That will help in those other generally red states too. Perfect.

4. He isn't a white guy.

.... Biden [is]. He solidifies a hispanic base that - at least the media reports - is having some trouble coming around to Obama, and sees McCain as the moderate he was before the lust for the Presidency got to him. If he was to really push up the hispanic vote, he could make Florida a lot closer than it is now and, again, really help in Colorado and Nevada. Perfect.

5. He brings the Clinton supporters around.

Biden... - none of them are an overt olive branch to those Clinton supporters that are still (irrationally) irritated that Obama won the nomination. Richardson is. He has a long history with the Clinton family, and in the Clinton Admin. He is still close to him, her, and a lot of the key players from that era. He could be seen as the olive branch without actually nominating Hillary (which just can't be done). Perfect. (By the way - my gut feeling is that this is also the very reason he was never considered - he too much a Clinton choice, and Obama's people wanted a clean break.)

In every way conceivable, Richardson would be a perfect compliment to Obama on the democratic ticket. And he, apparently, wasn't even considered.

It just doesn't make complete sense to me that Gov. Richardson wasn't considered. That said, Joe Biden is a very solid choice. My concern, of course, is that Biden acts as a bright red flag pointing out Obama's "weakness," rather than reinforcing his general message. We'll see.

Biden was probably my third choice in the Democratic primaries behind Obama/Hillary (tie for first) and Richardson (which explains why I would have preferred him as VP).

It's a solid ticket. Still underdogs, but solid. 70+ days to go...

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Profoundly distorted...

A friend recently asked me what I thought about the "Obama issue." The answer: I don't think of it much or much of it.

The fact is, I don't have much of an opinion on the whole Obama-flap. I think this is/has been little more than a media-created non-story. The Clinton's have convinced much of the press that they have been to easy on Obama, so they are searching for something to smear him with.

I didn't get to see the entire 'A More Perfect Union' speech, although I read the transcript. The speech itself was courageous and genuinely exceptional. Just an all-time great American Speech. He said exactly what is truth - we all know folks who are good, nice, "non-overtly-racist" people...who when pressed, when frustrated, or just because they are from another generation drop some really horrific phrases or stereotypes on occasion. Then, of course, it's uncomfortable and awkward...but you don't necessarily throw that person under a bus because they are not perfect.

Kind of like he mentioned, I know "older" people whom still sometimes refer to "black-town" or "the blacks" or something ridiculous like that. That does't mean that I completely abandon a relationship with such people. I just think they are unenlightened and insensitive. Recently, I met a guy in the airport while I was waiting on a plane. We talked about work, kids, even church stuff. He seemed a really nice, family guy. Then later, the conversation turned to politics and in discussing Clinton/Obama he said something about how he didn't want to see either one of those "types" of people - a woman or a minority - become President. ... Okay, awkward. But that doesn't mean that I unloaded on the guy right there or self-righteously refused to talk to him anymore. I just think he's wrong and comes from a profoundly distorted perspective.

My family goes to what would generally be considered a very conservative church and a lot of the things that people in my church believe - both religiously, and socially/politically - I don't support, or believe in, or adhere to. Even some things that have been said from the pulpit, I squirm at and feel completely uncomfortable with. But we still go to church there because on the whole the "core" beliefs are shared. Our family has found a place there. My son has friends, we have friends, we are involved with the youth group, etc. We believe that it is the church family for our family. Just because something gets said, or just because a leader in the church has an 'opinion' that I disagree with doesn't mean that I'm going to disassociate myself from my church. I may well think they are wrong and/or nuts and/or misinformed, but I'm going to keep showing up and, yes, making my contribution each Sunday.

He also addressed the flip side of that issue:
Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience -- as far as they're concerned, no one handed them anything, they built it from scratch. . . . So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college . . . when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

[These resentments have] helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns -- this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

He was brave enough to acknowledge the resentments and "profoundly distorted views" on both sides, while urging America to transcend. It was a great speech.

That doesn't, however, mean this should have been a front-page story in the first place. Oh, No!!! Someone Obama knows said some atrocious things some years ago!!!! That has never happened to a politician, or anyone else, ever!!! [Yawn]

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The "epic downdraft" to come...

In TX-7, right-wing Rep. John Culberson (R) has acknowledged what could be "an epic downdraft that defeats every Republican in Harris County unless we work hard to correct these problems."

True, that is primarily just a standard political line to scare the base into giving money to the campaign...but maybe this year it proves to be true.

For the first time since first being elected in 2000 Culberson faces both a competent and well-funded opponent.

Michael Skelly is a great candidate who has substantive plans on the issues that affect our district (energy, health care, education, transportation, etc.), perspective and judgment to be a leader on national issues (Iraq, economy, national security, etc.), and has the vision to step to the fore in the House and be a leader.

John Culberson is a party-special-interest-loyalist and one of the biggest Bush-supporters in Congress. He has no vision to be a leader on issues important to our district. On his own website, Culberson states that he has no energy policy (a critical issue in Houston and the 7th District) but rather that the 2005 energy bill solved all the problems there were. Of course, that was before $100 oil/$4.00 gas, etc. Culberson just doesn't get it. Culberson has no transporatation plan other than cars, cars, and more cars. He has radically opposed investment in Houston's public transportation infrastructure to reduce congestion, improve commute times, and reduce environmental impact. In fact, Culberson's website says TODAY that his plan for transportation in the 7th Dist. is "working with Majority Leader DeLay and other members of the Texas delegation." Culberson just doesn't get it.

Other than these homages to the past-days of Republican history, Culberson has no vision for an energy plan for America. Michael Skelly does -
Michael Skelly built a leading wind energy company right here in Houston. In order to build that company, he had to understand the entire energy equation. The energy business fuels the world economy, and energy is at the heart of many of the pressing issues of our day—national security, global warming, the economy, and the strength of our currency. Michael Skelly understands how important it is to think strategically about energy. It’s what has made his wind energy company successful. Right now, the country’s energy sources come disproportionately from areas of political instability, and it’s urgent that we replace our dependence on foreign oil with sustainable energy from a broader variety of sources. As a country, we need an energy strategy that balances the long term with immediate problems, and we need to change our energy policy sooner rather than later so that business people can make the right investment decisions. For all those tough choices, Washington will need our city. Houston is the energy capital of the world, and it’s vital that our representative in Washington understand energy so the rest of the country can benefit from our expertise.

Other than somehow still relying upon scandal-ridden Tom Delay, Culberson has no vision for a transportation plan for Houston and the 7th Dist. Michael Skelly does -
In the energy business, Michael Skelly oversaw infrastructure investments worth several billion dollars. He knows what it takes to carry out complex projects, and he will use that experience to improve Houston’s transit system. Most Houstonians spend endless hours in traffic every day because they have no other choice. Michael Skelly is committed to working with Mayor White and other elected officials to reduce traffic and gridlock. Houston needs a complete transit system—not just roads and highways, but also buses, urban rail, and commuter rail—options that will cut air pollution and decrease commutes so that people can spend more time with their families. Michael Skelly will make sure Houstonians can choose whether to drive, ride the bus, or take the train.

Culberson does not even have any reference on his website to policies for health care, the economy, or national security. The 7th District deserves better.

The 7th District is a diverse and robust part of Houston ranging from Jersey Village in the Northwest, through the Memorial area, Bellaire, West University, and into the Montrose area of mid/near-town. It is a district that should have a leader with clear policies that will make an impact on the important issues facing it, and have the perspective and judgment to take leadership on natonal issues. What we do not need is a party-man, Bush-buddy, career politician.

Best of all, Michael Skelly is not just a good alternative to Culberson, he is a proven leader with a record of entrepreneurship, job creation, getting things done and solving problems. Skelly looks like just what the 7th District needs.

Related posts:

Michael Skelly for 7th Cong. Dist. of Texas...

Friday, March 14, 2008

The right of the people to be secure... their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by an Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be searched.

So says the 4th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, ratified in 1791.

For about 210 years of our nation's history, the 4th Amendment meant pretty much what it said: the people are protected from unreasonable government prying into their personal effects without a court-ordered warrant authorizing a search.

For the last five or six years, however, the 4th Amendment has been undercut, trampled on, or simply ignored - and today it seems as if these once hallowed words have little to no meaning.

Two stories this week bring the current government's abandonment of the 4th amendment to the fore.

First, the dazzling downfall of former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer. Although I don't think it need be said, let me say it anyway: Spitzer's conduct was unjustifiable, it was unquestionably wrong, and it was inexcusable. I do NOT defend him. He broke the public trust and clearly broke the law. His resignation was inevitable and justified.

I am not, however, writing about Spitzer's conduct. Instead, a part of the story that has been lost in the salaciousness is how our government "stumbled" upon the scandal.

According to two sources ... Spitzer hit the federal radar when a bank reported to the Internal Revenue Service that a significant amount of money had been suspiciously transferred from one account to another.

The IRS, upon investigating the matter late last year, found that the accounts were connected to Spitzer, the sources said. The IRS contacted the FBI, which joined the case to investigate the possibility of government corruption.

New "counter-terrorism" banking laws require banks to report certain account activity to the government - specifically the IRS:
Federal law requires a banking institution to file a Suspicious Activity Report when the institution suspects a transaction is linked to a federal crime.

More specifically, the banks are required to report to the IRS any transactions totaling $5,000 or more if the transactions "involve potential money laundering or a violation of the Bank Secrecy Act." The act requires businesses to keep documents that are useful for identifying and investigating money laundering.

Ummm...does anyone else but me recognize something incredibly important missing in those sentences? How about a warrant? These laws REQUIRE financial institutions to report activity that no one has probable cause to get a search warrant to look at. Yet, no one seems to be remotely concerned.
Sources said Spitzer allegedly was moving money between several of his own accounts, and investigators think he may have been shuffling money to hide his behavior from his wife.

US law requires banks to report an individual moving money between several of his own accounts, without a warrant, and somehow that is supposed to not be a violation of the 4th amendment. This is appalling. What about this: a private citizen moves money around between several of her/his own accounts because she/he was hiding from their spouse the fact that they were surreptitiously participating in - - - a fantasy baseball league that they didn't want to tell their spouse about.* The bank would be forced to give that information to the government. No probable cause, no laws broken, no description of place person or thing to be searched - nothing. How can anyone argue that that is reasonable, or that our government is respecting our right to be secure in our person, houses, papers, and effects?**

Secondly, President Bush continues to expressly mislead the American people about the new FISA (Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act) legislation:
[President] Bush appeared on the White House's South Lawn yesterday to demand House passage of the Senate legislation, warning lawmakers that "voting for this bill would make our country less safe. . . . The American people understand the stakes in this struggle. They want their children to be safe from terror."

Balderdash. Ridiculousness. Rubbish.

The conflict about passage of this bill centers primarily on granting retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that turned over private user information to the government without warrant. This is not the primary focus of my post, but it simply underlines the point I am trying to make. Some of these companies looked at the government request and said - "that's nice, if you can get us a warrant, we'll get you the information." Others simply turned over the data without a warrant. Those companies now face lawsuits seeking to enjoin further activity without warrant. It seems only common sense to allow these companies to make their arguments and let a Court decide if they - or the government - broke the law in turning over such information without a warrant.

Just as important, if not more so, is the fact that in fighting on this new FISA legislation, what the Bush Administration is attempting to do is be able to look at my (and your) private information without our authorization, and without a warrant. Could there be a more clear violation of our 4th amendment rights? It is patently unreasonable to garner the private data of hundreds of thousands of law-abiding citizens without probable cause. In addition, the FISA courts are - as they absolutely should be - essentially rubber-stamp courts. If the government as any information that remotely indicates probable cause, the FISA courts will authorize warrant. That is the way it should be. I am not arguing that the FISA judges should not grant argument is that our government should not be allowed to randomly search our private effects without probable cause.

I am outraged that this government is so cavalierly throwing the basic rights of the people out the window - and all the while arguing that we are in mortal danger if we don't allow it. The Bush government says "If we can't monitor your bank records, the terrorists will get you...if we can't monitor your communications, the terrorists will attack."

Well, I for one reject that unconstitutional fear-mongering, and more and more law-abiding American citizens have to start recognizing when our rights are being stripped away.

If our Constitution and the 4th amendment mean anything anymore, then these types of unreasonable government searches without probable cause have to be eliminated.

* - due credit for this example goes to the movie "Knocked Up." I didn't particularly care for this movie as a whole (although it seems to be quite popular), but the side story about the marriage of the sister-in-law of the main character was really, really good. To me, the unquestionably funniest (and frankly, truest) part of the movie was when the sister-in-law became convinced that her husband was cheating. She follows him out one night when he said he would be working. Instead, she follows him to another person's home. She bursts into the house searching for him and whomever he was cheating with and what does she find --- he's at a fantasy baseball draft!!! Essentially, he plays fantasy baseball but he knew that his wife would think that so juvenile and would be unhappy with him spending time away from her and the kids for a fantasy draft, so instead he told her he was working. Classic.

** - I recognize that a statutory exception might be possible for public officials in order to fend off corruption/bribes/etc. Such a statutory exception would indeed be reasonable as a limited and specifically identified target of the searches with some probable cause about the use of funds by a public official. As far as I am aware, no such statutory exception exists.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Wall Street Journal seems to get it...

...although the rest of the Right has not come around yet. This opinion column from Tuesday's Wall Street Journal says exactly what I've been thinking for the last two weeks - Obama and the Power of Words

Here are a few excerpts, but read the whole thing:

"For those who have abandoned hope, we'll restore hope and we'll welcome them into a great national crusade to make America great again!"

So Ronald Reagan proclaimed on July 17, 1980, as he accepted his party's nomination for president at the Republican National Convention in Detroit, Mich.

Earlier that day, the New York Times ran a long profile of Reagan on its front page. The author, Howell Raines, lamented that the news media had been unsuccessful in getting Reagan to speak in anything other than "sweeping generalities about economic and military policy." Mr. Raines further noted: "political critics who characterize him as banal and shallow, a mouther of right-wing platitudes, delight in recalling that he co-starred with a chimpanzee in 'Bedtime for Bonzo.'"

Throughout his campaign, Reagan fought off charges that his candidacy was built more on optimism than policies. The charges came from reporters and opponents.
Are Republicans making the same mistake with Barack Obama?

For months now, Hillary Clinton has suggested that Mr. Obama is all rhetoric, no substance. This claim, or some version of it, has been at the center of her campaign since November. One day after losing to him in Wisconsin and Hawaii -- her ninth and tenth consecutive defeats -- she rather incredibly went back to it again. "It's time we moved from good words to good works, from sound bites to sound solutions," she said -- a formulation that could be mistaken for a sound bite.

As she complained about his lack of substance, tens of thousands of people lined up in city after city, sometimes in subfreezing temperatures, for a chance to get a shot of some Mr. Obama hopemongering. Plainly, her critique is not working.

And yet, Republicans are picking it up. In just the past week, conservative commentators have accused Mr. Obama of speaking in "Sesame Street platitudes," of giving speeches that are "almost content free," of "saying nothing." He has been likened to Chance the Gardener, the clueless mope in Jerzy Kosinski's "Being There," whose banal utterances are taken as brilliant by a gullible political class. Others complain that his campaign is "messianic," too self-aggrandizing and too self-referential.

The past week or two, right-wing radio has been asking Obama supporters to call in - then proceed to "marginalize" them by saying that there is no "substance" only rhetoric.

They are essentially acting like Hillary-lite. That is exactly how Sen. Clinton has tried to oppose Obama for the past three months now.

We see how well that has worked.

Inspiration is substance. Hope is substance. The fact that people want to be involved in their communties in a grassroots manner is substance. The thought of having political discourse that is above "how can I defeat my opponent" and instead says "how can I make my community better" is substance. That is the meat that makes people take action.

Clinton/Conservatives try to attack Obama as having failed to provide more and more detailed programs. Oh, he has programs, and he had details. But what I want in a President - and what I think America wants in a President - is not a manager to dig down and do the grunt-work. I want a leader with a vision of where America needs to go. A vision of a greater America. And, maybe most importantly, a vision of how Americans - all of us - can be a part of taking us there.

Or to put it in his words:

"We're not looking for a chief operating officer when we select a president," he said during a question and answer session at Google headquarters back in December.

"What we're looking for is somebody who will chart a course and say: Here is where America needs to go -- here is how to solve our energy crisis, here's how we need to revamp our education system -- and then gather the talent together and then mobilize that talent to achieve that goal. And to inspire a sense of hope and possibility."

That is substance.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Michael Skelly for 7th Cong. Dist. of Texas...

Those of us who live in the 7th Congressional District of Texas were hoping for a good candidate to vote for in 2008 - it looks like we've found one:

Michael Skelly for Congress

Skelly is is a successful energy entrepreneur - focusing on green energy - with a track record in building businesses. Skelly serves on Houston Mayor Bill White's Green Building Advisory Committee, is a longtime member of the board of the American Wind Energy Association, and has served on the boards of several other nonprofits and companies.

Mr. Skelly seems an exceptional candidate. The 7th Congressional District - and the entire Houston area - suffers from the staid, Bush-buddy, career politician John Culberson. Culberson simply does not meet the needs, nor the demands of such a vibrant, growing district.

What does the 7th District need? We need real answers to real transportation challenges. We are growing, growing, growing - and we need new solutions, not the same old re-tread stop-gaps favored by Culberson and his cronies and contributers. Skelly can provide new perspective, highlighted by a career in green energy and green city planning, that can truly lead on these local issues in the national Congress.

We need actual oversight over the outrageous handling of the war in Iraq and the mind-numbing spending in Congress. I don't care if the majority party is Democratic or Republican - we need someone who will bring a prudent approach to management, spending, and accountability. Culberson is merely a rubber-stamp for Bush mismanagement and wasteful spending. Skelly will provide an business-builders accountability and oversight - understanding how to lead on spending and efficiency.

We need genuine leadership on important energy issues facing our entire nation - and hit home right here in the 7th District with high gas prices, utility prices, and so many energy workers/businesses/executives. Culberson has never led on energy, in fact, he has been a stumbling block to creating a 21st Century energy policy. Skelly will be a leader on energy - maybe THE leader on energy in Congress. He knows how green energy works, he has made it work, and he can make it work for the entire nation. He can lead on creation of a national energy policy that moves our nation forward, make us a world-wide leader, and will create thousands and thousands of new jobs, even as so many of our traditional manufacturing jobs fade into the past.

Jim Henley was a good candidate in 2006. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Henley and found him to be a good candidate. It will be interesting to see if Mr. Henley decides to run again this year, after putting up a strong fight - for being such an underdog. If so, I would hope that the primary victor would be made that much stronger going to battle against the entrenched, well-funded, and national-party protected Culberson.

But for now, Michael Skelly is not just a good alternative to Culberson, he is a leader with a record of entrepreneurship, job creation, getting things done and solving problems.

Skelly looks like just what the 7th District needs.

Here is some media:
Houston Business Journal - Energy entrepreneur leaves business to pursue politics

Houston Chronicle - Energy exec Skelly vies to unseat Culberson

And some blog opinion:
Off the Kuff - "Skelly will make for an interesting candidate in this district. He's a businessman with a background in energy, and should be able to run as a technocrat, which I think will be appealing to the mostly well-educated constituency in CD07. Being well-funded won't hurt, either..."

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


...That's it. Wow. Clinton's win tonight is the biggest political story of my lifetime.


Grace and legacy...

If today's New Hampshire primary is as bad for Sen. Hillary Clinton as it looks like it could be - say a double digit loss to Sen. Obama - the next weeks/months will be highly instructive as to the genuine nature of the Clinton's.

I am not embarrassed to admit that I am one of the three people left (it sometimes seems) that believes the Clinton's are genuine. That they strive and live for public service. And they are more interested in the future of America than in amassing power. Maybe I am naive, maybe I am simple. But, in some ways, I have to believe that they are sincere.

I grew up in small towns in Arkansas. I came from no connections and no family name. My parents were teachers and I grew up middle-class/lower middle-class. The story of Bill Clinton is the great America dream. A boy with no name, no connections, no money, from no where of import - works hard, studies hard, and makes it. I have always seen a tiny bit of myself in that story. In the summer of 1991, I attended Boy State in Arkansas - and that weekend, while Gov. Bill Clinton was campaigning in New Hampshire and other places in anticipation for the 1992 election, I must have seen the Boy State picture of the young-Bill Clinton shaking the hand of President John Kennedy 50 times. I also grew up watching Hillary Clinton work on important causes long before there were any cameras or press people following her around. She didn't do it to seek power or fame, she worked because children and other folks needed help.

I always felt a connection to that story. I never had much, but (at least, I would say so myself) I worked hard, had a great first-career, began a wonderful family, went back to law school and had some success, and am basically living my life's dreams right now. In my own way, I made it. Just like the Clinton's made it. And yes, there are flaws and failings. For all of the mythology and inspiration of the story of Bill Clinton - which I am in awe of, there is also the character flaws and poor personal judgment - which I also know is true. And yet...

I have never bought in to the right-wing created charicature of Bill and Hillary Clinton. Manipulative, cold, calculating, out for nothing save more power. It's such an easy story, and the media has beaten us over the head with it for so many years now that - because perception is reality - it is accepted as true. But I've never bought it. They are vilified because they win. They are vilified because they exposed the falsity of conservative politics - that you don't have to use fear to win, that you can balance budgets while increasing social responsibility, that you can balance free markets and reasonable regulation - the list goes on and on. They were successful, so the right-wing had to paint them as monsters in order to offset the success. They are power hungry. They are manipulative. They mercilessly pounce on anyone who dares oppose them - and leave a trail of broken careers, hopes and dreams in their wake. But that is not what I see.

What I see are a supremely politically gifted, exceptionally intelligent, and improbably resilient couple. I see two people who - instead of pursuing lucrative careers in the private sector with those prestigious degrees they gained - choose to devote their lives to public service. State government service, children's defense, federal government service - the list goes on. They have lived lives of public service. I can't imagine that this was the easiest way of getting ahead - because my supposition is not that their primary motivation was to get ahead - rather to serve America.

But maybe I'm just naive.

I think that we'll find out for sure over the next month or so.

If indeed Obama wins NH today by double digits, I think he is without doubt in the driver's seat to be the Democratic nominee this year. How will the Clinton campaign respond? Although this may be an over-simplification, there are basically two options:

1. She can close this campaign with grace, work to unify the party, and both Hillary and Bill can take comfort and encouragement in the fact that Obama really is the continuation of the Clinton legacy. He is the new generation taking the torch from the last - as JFK spoke of so many years ago. Although for me, it seems too soon for such a generational shift in leadership, I was astounded to hear Jonathan Alter last night on the Charlie Rose Show mention that it has been 16 years since Clinton won in 1992, and it was 15 years between the death of Franklin Roosevelt in 1945 and the election of John Kennedy in 1960.

Obama is, in many ways, the political descendant of the Clinton's. Unity, hope, fresh perspective. An understanding that ideological division is not what makes America great, but rather pragmatic ideas that work. That's what the Clinton's were in the 90s - a shift away from cold, trickle-down theory toward tangible, pragmatic action. Bill Clinton won because he was able to "re-find" those "Reagan Democrats," he appealed to Democrats, Independents, and moderate Republicans. That is Obama today. His new vision for America embraces progressives but reaches out to and welcomes those independents and Republicans who really are looking for a third-way. He is now the torch-bearer.

But that has to be very hard for Sen. Clinton (and the former President) to accept - because I'm sure they still believe they have so much service yet to give to America. But, if Obama does win big today, it likely means the Clinton era is ending, and a new generation begins. If Hillary accepts this gracefully, and pours herself into completing a positive campaign, unifying the party, I think it will do wonders to cement the legacy of public service that defines Bill and Hillary Clinton. Yes, she needs to continue in the campaign - if Obama stumbles, she needs to be the alternative (not John Edwards). But she needs to continue with grace, dignity, and with party-unity being the higher calling. She can go back to her work in the Senate with her legacy intact, if not strengthened.


2. She can prove the right-wing critics right. She can go desperately negative. She can fight and scratch and claw her way back into contention on Feb. 5. This might actually "work" in the sense of winning her the nomination. She might be able to sling enough mud to pull him back to the field and make him beatable. But it will lose the general election - so many Americans are energized and uplifted by Obama, that they would react strongly negatively to her. And, maybe more importantly, it will crystallize the legacy of Bill and Hillary as exactly what they are characterized as - power-hungry, manipulative, and with their own personal glory above that of their party and country.

Maybe none of this will apply. Maybe she'll surprise tonight and lose by 5 or legitimately right back in it, and run her campaign on to victory. But if she is well-beaten tonight - I think we will really learn a lot about the true nature of the Clinton's.

Maybe I'm naive.

I really, really hope not.

UPDATE: Here is Alter's piece in Newsweek that he referenced last night on Charlie Rose: How Tomorrow Became Yesterday.

The 16 years since the Clintons grabbed control of the Democratic Party is the same amount of time that elapsed between the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945 and John F. Kennedy's Inauguration in 1961. It's a longer period than many of us would care to admit. Kennedy operated "in the shadow of FDR," as the historian William E. Leuchtenberg put it, and he updated the New Deal to the New Frontier. But Kennedy's main argument was that "the torch has been passed to a new generation." So it is today, with the aging baby-boom generation—symbolized by the Clintons—under pressure to move aside.


...I think not. Yesterday afternoon driving home from work I was listening to right-wing radio. In, literally, less than 15 minutes on two different shows, I heard three right-wing commentators use the word "narcissism" to describe Hillary Clinton's emotional moment yesterday. Three in less than 15 minutes. The first two came from the guest host of the Hugh Hewett show and his guest, Bill Kristol at around 6:10-12. The host said that he thought it was just an example of Clinton narcissism, and Kristol popped up and said great minds must think alike because he was on FoxNews earlier and had made the comment there that he felt this was simply the narcissism of Hillary Clinton. Then, at 6:17-20 Michael Savage made almost the same comment, chalking the moment up to "Clinton narcissism."

The right wing is nothing if not disciplined and on-message.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Let's HOPE this is a Beginning of something big...

It is an exceptionally good night to be a Democrat. I have no idea if these types of voter turnout numbers can be maintained, but if so, it's the beginning of something big. And something great for America.

Congratulations to Sen. Obama. As long as I'm at it, congratulations to Sen. Edwards, Sen. Clinton, Gov. Richardson, Sen. Biden, and Sen. Dodd. The absolute '27 Yankees of political lineups.

Also, congratulations to Gov. Huckabee - I've never really hid my respect for him. I think he is genuine. I respect that - it doesn't mean I agree with everything he does, but the way he demonstrated that genuineness without organization and money can still overcome calculation and millions has my respect.

On to NH, and (hopefully) to more and more people coming on board the progressive bandwagon. There is still a long way to go, and now it will be much more interesting with Obama and Hillary going head to head.

It is an exceptionally good night to be a Democrat.