March 2008 Archives

The Billarys Say "McCain's The One!"

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At precisely 4:24 this morning, I was visited with an insight that underscored just what both Barack Obama and the Democratic Party are actually up against. Again taking advantage of their complete willingness to do the utterly unthinkable in order to get what they want (eventually, at least) the Billarys have decided that if they can’t deny Obama the nomination, they will at least deny him the presidency. They have reached this decision, I believe, not simply because they’re sore losers, which, God knows, they certainly are, but from a cold calculation that, if Oby is to be the nominee, Hillary’s still white-hot presidential ambitions are ultimately better served by seeing John McCain win in November rather than “her opponent,” as ol’ Bill slyly denotes him when he suggests that Obama comes up short in the patriotism department compared to McCain and Ms. Bill.

It’s all so startlingly simple that I’m sure this has occurred to a zillion other folks. If Oby wins, unless he’s unspeakably awful, he’s a shoo-in for re-nomination in 2012. If he is unspeakably awful, he’s probably soiled the nest for his would-be Democratic successor. On the other hand, if Oby isn’t elected this fall, Hillary has full-blown “I told you so” rights, and four years to lay a huge guilt trip on her party for withholding what was rightly hers this year, before graciously agreeing to accept its nomination in 2012. By that time McCain will make Methuselah seem prepubescent, and given his recent slip-ups, he might actually get confused and endorse Hillary himself. This scenario explains why, short of telling the truth, of course, the Billarys would rather do just about anything other than speak ill of Johnny Mac these days. In fact, Bill’s got such a case of McCain fever that if the two ever got off to themselves, the good senator would be well advised to have his suit cleaned immediately, just in case.

You may well scoff at such conspiratorial thinking, but if you think the Billarys are above such nefarious behavior, I‘ve got news for you: “THEY AIN’T ABOVE NOTHIN’!” We’re talking about people who lie with absolute aplomb not only purposefully but sometimes simply for the pure hell of it, just to see if they can get away with it, even when, as my mama used to say, “the truth would suit better.” Recall here Hillary’s recent account of her bravery under sniper fire in Bosnia. If you saw the video, you also saw that she was lying with such conviction and sincerity, that even though you already knew better, you could have sworn you were there with her, ducking the bullets zipping just overhead.

“What of party loyalty?” you ask. “What of it?” the Billarys respond. Ms. Clinton has hardly established herself as much of a Party girl, Democratic or otherwise. It has finally dawned even on self-absorbed New Yorkers that Hillary had about as much real interest in representing them in the Senate as Bill would have had in making out with Eleanor Roosevelt.(or vice-versa, for that matter) New York was simply the best launching pad for her presidential campaign. If Arkansas has as many people with as much money, she would just as soon senator-ized for them for a few years. (Some misguided concern for fairness forces me to point out that, if Oby goes to the White House, his career as a senator from Illinois will be effectively be “one and done.”) In raising a bodacious $20 million-plus war chest for her 2006 senatorial re-election bid against a no-way-in hell Republican opponent, Miss Hillary gobbled up dollars that might have gone to other truly needy Democratic candidates while, padding her 2008 coffers and scoring major intimidator points among prospective rivals for the Demo presidential nod.

At this point, certainly, the real beneficiary of the Billarys’ balls-out trashing of Obama would appear to be John McCain. The latest national polls show him leading Oby by nine points and Hillary by five. Meanwhile, among Dems,“her opponent” has regained a slight lead over the Bosnian war hero. The not-quite-right Rev. Wright doubtless has something to do with Oby’s skid, of course, and it’s too soon to tell whether he will become less burdensome as time passes. Meanwhile, McCain’s beloved “surge” appears to be slipping into reverse. A hundred years, huh, John? Regardless of what happens from here on ,one thing at least seems likely. If Barack Obama is elected in November, neither he nor his party will have to worry about sending any thank-you notes to the junior senator from New York and her former first-Bubba spouse.

The Politics of Candor v. The Politics of Race

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Anytime someone says It’s time we had a “candid conversation” about something, I instinctively cringe, recalling the fiasco of trying to talk to our adolescent son about sex or numerous horror stories about those dreadful “couples-encounter” sessions that, I’m convinced, ultimately enrich more divorce lawyers than marriages. Hence, it’s always an apprehensive moment when I get word of an impending free and frank discussion of race, a topic that Barack Obama has done his best to avoid throughout what, to date, at least, has been a remarkably successful campaign. When I first read the text of his speech, which he apparently wrote himself, I was overwhelmed by its exceedingly skillful conjoining of eloquence and truth. Barack Obama is one more sensitive and thoughtful dude, just the sort, unfortunately, who, up to now, hasn’t had a prayer of winning the presidency for more than a generation. His remarks had the ring both of courage and conviction when he spoke to blacks about whites:

"Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. ... They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. ... 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.”

No black public figure in recent memory has shown such empathy with blue collar whites or at least dared to articulate it this straightforwardly. I’m not completely sure how this is going to play with some of those whites, however. Sometimes people who complain of being misunderstood are not particularly appreciative when someone appears to understand them better than they might understand themselves.
Anyone familiar with the history of southern politics surely knows Obama spoke the truth when he confronted this country’s politicized obsession with race:

“We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism.(i.e., the politics of the Billarys) We can tackle race only as spectacle-as we did in the OJ trial-or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina--or as fodder for the nightly news. 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.”

It is, of course, in Obama’s interest to see the politics of race put aside, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t right about why it should be put aside. It’s at this point, however, where I think this speech--or any speech he might have given short of admitting that he should have openly repudiated Rev. Wright and departed Trinity Church a long time ago--probably fell short of the mark politically for a lot of white Americans.

I don’t question the sincerity of Obama’s explanation that he could no more disown Rev. Wright than he can
“.disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother -- a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.”

I get this completely. I have lifelong friends whose racial views sometimes make me uncomfortable as well. That said, I’m not sure everybody is going to buy the analogy between Rev. Wright and Obama’s granny, who, after all, never stood up before thousands of people to bitterly and passionately express her negative views on black people. In truth, it’s hard to say whether, had he even been so inclined, Obama would have scored that many recovery points with whites by totally ditching the hatemongering Rev. at this point. This is probably a case where the political damage is too “done” to be undone. Despite their incredibly low bottom line, even the Billarys may have trouble figuring out how to capitalize further on this setback, but though Hillary’s best strategy is probably to hold back, as we all know, that ain’t exactly her style. There are no such restraints on the Repubs, however, and though McCain will probably steer clear of it, that ‘rhoided-up rhino, Rush Limbaugh and others his ilk who want desperately to run against Hillary in the fall are already having a field day. Certainly, we may be assured that Rev. Wright’s sermons will indeed be talked about “every day between now and the election.” Not only that, but the most offensive clips from the sermons will doubtless also appear in a video montage with Michelle Obama’s remarks about finally being “proud” of America and perhaps even that seemingly ubiquitous photo of Sen. Obama standing with his arms by his side during the National Anthem while Sen. Clinton and others hold their hands over their hearts. The politics of paranoia isn’t any fairer or more civilized than the politics of race, after all.
Johnny Mac, meanwhile, is cruising along, his gloomy message, summarized by Pat Buchanan as “The jobs aren’t coming back, and the immigrants aren’t going home, but there will be war” largely unscrutinized by a distracted electorate. For Barack Obama, it remains only to, in LBJ’s words, “hunker down like a jackass in a hailstorm” and hope the hailstorm subsides before inflicting irreparable damage. Having given one of the finest and potentially most significant speeches on race in America since the death of Rev. Martin Luther King, he may well have secured his place in history. Whether what he said will be well enough understood and widely enough accepted in his own time to secure his place in the White House remains to be seen.

Race: It's Not Just For Republicans Anymore!

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For all the ballyhoo about the big Billary bounceback, after the Wyoming caucuses, the Mississippi primary, and the final tally showing that, delegate-wise, Texas was actually just a draw, the knife fight and stomping contest otherwise known as the race for the Democratic presidential nomination stands roughly where it did on March 4. By my admittedly shaky calculation, if the Billarys capture 55 percent of the remaining pledged delegates, they would then still need to shanghai two-thirds of the 343 uncommitted superdelegates in order to claim the nomination. I’m not smart enough to see how they can pull all of this off, but I am too smart to say they can’t.
If sheer audacity counts for anything, they probably will. Despite her disadvantageous position, both the Billarys indicated last week that she might be willing to take on that promising though inexperienced young opponent of hers as a running mate. This offer to be "number two" to someone currently running "number two" to him probably smelled like "number two" to Obama, especially after Ms. Clinton knowingly gave the Republicans first-class, sound-byte fodder for the fall by suggesting that he was less qualified for the presidency than either she or Senator McCain. Presumably in a Clinton-Obama administration, she’d always be available to answer the red phone at 3 a.m. He’d be relegated to sharpening the pencils, under appropriate supervision, of course.
Touting her foreign policy bona fides, Ms. C also took credit for helping to bring peace to Northern Ireland in 1995, a claim that struck the former first minister of Northern Ireland described as “a wee bit silly,” given that her role was mainly that of “cheerleader” at the proceedings. (Well, Ol’ Bill always had a thing for cheerleaders, didn’t he?) Likewise, Senator Clinton is fond of patting herself on the back for that other time in 1995 when she boldly “spoke truth to power” at that Women’s Conference in Beijing by cataloguing a list of abuses to women around the world. She portrays herself as really angering the misogynist Chinese establishment on this occasion, but since she didn’t even mention China in her speech, it’s hard to know whether “power” was even listening when “truth” was spoken. In any event, here we have it: the two crowning achievements of her foreign policy experience, both equal parts fabrication and exaggeration.
Now comes Geraldine Ferraro, big-time Billaryite and Fritz Mondale’s running mate on the crash-and-burn 1984 Democratic ticket, insisting that Barrack Obama is where he is only because of what he is—a black man. No woman, white or black, would be so “lucky” sez Ms. Ferraro. (Note to Gerry: I don’t know that I’d ride that pony too hard. You weren’t exactly on the ticket in ’84 because of your brains or your popularity, Girlfriend!) When pressed to separate herself from Ferraro and her remarks, Ms. Clinton would only say that it was “unfortunate” that supporters of both camps had become a little overzealous at times. Although Ferraro ultimately resigned from Clinton’s finance committee, in doing so she was combative rather than apologetic, firing back at critics that she was tired of seeing anyone who criticized a black man being labeled a racist and charging that she was being attacked simply because she was white. Commentators suggested that Ferraro was clearly venting the anger and frustration of Ms. Clinton’s hard-core middle-aged white women supporters, but her sentiments are also likely to resonate with the blue-collar white voters of Pennsylvania in general, a number of whom don’t particularly cotton to the idea of black people moving into their jobs or their neighborhoods. James Carville wasn’t telling the Republicans anything they didn’t already know back in 1991 when he famously described Pennsylvania as Pittsburg in the West, Philadelphia in the East, and Alabama in between. In no small measure, the three Republican presidential victories of the 1980s were a register of how well the old racially coded “southern strategy” worked as a national strategy as well.
The liberal punditry has expressed puzzlement at Senator Clinton’s rather dismissive reaction to Ferraro’s outburst, but among hardened political cynics, for whom the Billarys are poster Boy-Girl, it’s not all that difficult to understand. Hillary got about 10-12 percent of the black vote in Mississippi and roughly the same in Ohio. No matter how polarizing, anything that can tap into white anger and frustration stands to help her more than it hurts. That she is cutting into the party’s chances in the fall with every such action is of no apparent concern to her. In the past the Republicans have benefited enormously from playing the race card against the Democrats. Now they stand to benefit from the Democrats playing it against each other. It’s no wonder that 24 percent of the Billarys’ votes in the Mississippi Democratic Primary came from members of the other party. The Democrat they most love to hate is the best thing they've got going for them right now.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been warning folks who were already making plans for the Obama inaugural that the Billarys are like the cinematic monster-fiend who, despite being decapitated, eviscerated and incinerated, rises from the depths just before they roll the credits for one last savage swipe at the noble but naive folks who are joyously celebrating its demise. On the morning after the Texas and Ohio primaries, I’m guessing they finally get the message. The Billarys will be around when the cockroaches and rats have long since given up the ghost, making one last pitch, spinning one last sorta-truth. The pundits seem to think that the Texas and Ohio results suggest that the Billarys “kitchen sink” assault on Oby has finally gained some traction, and there’s surely some truth to this. However, I began to pick up on a sense of some bumpy air ahead for the Obama squadron back on Feb. 24 when I read Nicholas Kristof’s NYT op-ed piece on “Obama’s Kenyan Roots.”
In the course of telling the remarkable story of “Mama Sarah,” Oby’s stepgranny, who lives in a house without electricity or running water--thank God, though, she does have a cell phone with solar charger—and other Kenyan relations who are sky-high about their kinsman’s presidential prospects, Kristof offered these tidbits about Sen. Obama’s father and grandfather:
Mr. Obama’s late grandfather is said to have been the first person in the area to wear Western clothes rather than just a loincloth. For a time he converted to Christianity and adopted the family name Johnson.
Later he converted to Islam, taking four wives. Senator Obama’s father, who apparently converted to Catholicism while attending a Catholic school, was also polygamous in keeping with local custom, taking an informal Kenyan wife who preceded Mr. Obama’s mother but remained a consort, according to accounts by local people and the senator himself.
The father, also named Barack Hussein Obama, was as much of a path breaker as his son. He went from herding goats in Kogelo to studying in Hawaii and at Harvard, even if his career as an economist was frustrated in part by ethnic rivalries.

As I read this, I was asking myself, “Did the Billarys by any chance suggest that Kenya was a great place to visit this time of year?”

Kristof was surely correct in observing that “If we call ourselves a land of opportunity, then Mr. Obama’s heritage doesn’t threaten American values but showcases them,” but he is surely a prospect for beachfront property in the Nebraska sandhills if he thinks that a lot of folks who are not terribly reactionary by most objective standards aren’t going to give a second thought to the prospect of electing a president whose grandpa was a Muslim polygamist who even hung out with somebody wearing a loincloth.
Even amid his fog of liberal delusion, Kristof confessed to worrying “that enemies of Senator Obama will seize upon details like his grandfather’s Islamic faith or his father’s polygamy to portray him as an alien or a threat to American values.” Thanks to you, Nicky Boy, Oby’s enemies don’t even have to concoct something to use against him. They can simply cite the New Yawk Times. Sure enough, the photo of Obama in a turban surfaced about this time. Then there was the hate-radio dude railing against “Barack Hussein Obama,” an incident that ultimately worked to the advantage of Clinton and (because of his swift, strong response) McCain, no matter how you slice it. As the still-presumed nominee, Oby now has to fight a two-front war against Johnny Mac and the Billarys, while facing the prospect of tougher questions about his association with some pretty sleazy Chicago types. The persistent buzz that Oby himself is really a Muslim (which Steve Croft helped to legitimize by asking Ms. Clinton about it on “60 Minutes” last week) is bound to prompt more serious scrutiny of his actual affiliation with the controversial Africentric Trinity United Christian Church in Chicago, an affiliation that, at best, ill comports with his efforts to portray himself as a race-transcendent candidate.
The upside for Oby is that no math exists that will allow the Billarys to come to the convention with more pledged delegates than he has. The potential downside for the Democratic Party is that if he does not succeed in the remaining primaries in reversing the impression of lost momentum, the superdelegate lean might start to shift back Billary-ward. At this point, a number of Obama’s highly energized black supporters might have a hard time accepting Hillary as the nominee under any circumstances, but with the Hillary as a brokered nominee, the Dems can probably expect the lowest black turnout in many moons. If the rap on Oby has been that he hasn’t been tested or hasn’t shown his mettle under fire, he’s about to get his chance. The drug-crazed porker, Rush Limbaugh, urged Republicans in Texas to cross over and vote for Hillary Clinton, explaining “I want Hillary to stay in this…. We need Barack Obama bloodied up politically, and it's obvious that the Republicans are not going to do it and don't have the stomach for it.”l The Repubs may think they will benefit from a bloodied Obama, but if he emerges from the next few weeks unbowed, he may well be an even more formidable opponent than the one who already seems to have Rush doubling his oxycontin intake.

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