Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Kucinich Speaks, Nobody Listens

The major media -- except for Keith Olbermann -- didn't mention it. Even its most devoted supporters doubt it can have the intended effect. But just the same, on Monday night, Dennis Kucinich stood before his colleagues in the House of Representatives and spent nearly five hours reading a thirty-five-count Articles of Impeachment against George W. Bush.

Earlier on Monday, Rep. Robert Wexler of Florida had announced that Scott McClellan would testify before the House Judiciary Committee on June 20. "This will be the first step," Wexler wrote to supporters, "in what we hope will be ongoing and deepening examinations of the stark evidence and charges against both President Bush and Vice President Cheney." Tuesday morning, Wexler joined Kucinich as co-sponsor.

The admirably thorough Brad Friedman has the full text of Kucinich's resolution, video from C-SPAN, and more.

"We've waited seven years to find one Member of Congress brave enough to stand up for our Constitution," said Bob Fertik of democrats.com. "...Some might question why Congressman Kucinich has done this now. My question is why 434 other Congress members have not done it before."

Indeed. With the Democratic leadership in both the House and the Senate consistently opposing any suggestion of impeachment or investigation, this has always been a longshot. Now, with the general election raging around us, it's even less likely that Democrats will want to get bogged down in -- you know, justice.

What should be a longshot is the continued presidency of a criminal. Kucinich's thirty-five articles cover all the bases, and it could even be argued that they ought to be whittled down to the best twenty-five or thirty. It's a list no president should be able to get away with, yet this one has. There is no valid argument for defying the framers' wishes and allowing Bush to continue, yet there he is, inexplicably, on the sunny side of the bars. Why is Bush immune?

Speaking to Olbermann last night, Newsweek's Howard Fineman observed that Americans seem to be able to tolerate only about "one impeachment per generation;" perhaps if Clinton had not been impeached, there would be more of an appetite for impeaching Bush. If this is the reason, it's the saddest statement yet about what our politics has become. Clinton was impeached over nothing, over a technicality, relating to a personal sexual indiscretion with almost no victims; Bush's crimes have actually violated American and international law. Clinton's was a crime of the body; Bush's crimes have body counts.

What's more, the Clinton impeachment really was a political witch hunt, while the grounds for Bush's impeachment are of dire consequence for our republic.

The memory of the Clinton impeachment is part of what makes the Bush impeachment seem so necessary: If that guy was impeached for that, then of course this guy has to be impeached for this. So it's doubly painful to think that the events of 1998 rule out justice in 2008.

For what it's worth, the American people are otherwise in the right place on these issues. During the impeachment ordeal of his second term, Bill Clinton enjoyed an amazing 73% approval rating. Ronald Reagan never reached 73% at any time in his presidency. George W. Bush languishes in history's ashtray at 32%.

Kucinich is expected to force a vote today. Sadly, we can anticipate the small number of congressional representatives who will be brave enough to sign on.

This is our failure.

Noah

Monday, June 09, 2008

Herpes Tonight!



You may wonder why I blogged so little last week, as history unfolded. I was in Los Angeles, of all places, working on a great show with a great friend and a great performer, frequent NERO FIDDLED cast member Corey Moosa.

Last year in New York, the Immediate Theater Company premiered Herpes: A Corey Story at HERE Arts Center. This year, the revamped show, now called Herpes Tonight!, runs through June 28 at the Lounge Theatre in L.A., and if you're going to be in that strange place at this strange time, I highly recommend it.

Visit the show's official website for tickets, pictures, and more information.

My first theatre experience in California was wonderful. And it's good to be back in New York.

More soon.

Noah

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Yes



It was one of the most important nights in the history of the nation; it was one of the most important nights in the history of the world. It was a triumphant rebuke to the waning political era personified by George W. Bush; it was an inspiring flight toward the dream personified by Martin Luther King. We the people of the United States of America, in order to form a more perfect union, have been given an opportunity to heal.

Barack Obama is the presumptive Democratic nominee for President of the United States.

The easy part is over.

Noah

Sunday, June 01, 2008

The Home Stretch

Well, thank goodness that's over with.

I refer, of course, to Saturday's DNC rules and bylaws committee meeting, which was not even good television, but which did at least make official what everyone knew was going to happen and what nobody is exactly pleased with. The full delegations of Florida and Michigan will be seated at the convention, and each delegate will get half a vote.

Hillary Clinton received a net gain of 24 delegates more than Barack Obama, who is now leading by roughly 175 delegates. The new "magic number" of delegates needed to win the nomination is 2,118. Delegate estimates vary (as always), but Obama now has about 2,052 (27 more than the original magic number of 2,025) to Clinton's 1,877. The 66 delegates Obama needs to seal the deal will probably be his by Wednesday.

It began with a motion to seat the entire Florida delegation with full votes; this was defeated, 15 to 12. The eventual Florida agreement passed with 27 in favor and one abstention. The Michigan compromise passed 19 to 8.

Unable to stop spouting positive spin, even though it has long since passed into the realm of wild fancy, Howard Wolfson said, "It’s like one of these days when we have two contests and he wins one and we win one." No, it's like yet another one of these days when Barack Obama has already won, but we all sit here patiently waiting for it to dawn on Hillary Clinton.

Obviously, it already has, which is part of why the campaign's public display of denial has worn so thin. The New York Times says that "despite the fireworks, Mrs. Clinton’s associates said she seemed to have come to terms over the last week with the near certainty that she would not win the nomination." According to these "associates," write Nagourney, Hulse, and Zeleny, "the most likely outcome was that she would end her bid with a speech, probably back home in New York, in which she would endorse Mr. Obama."

That wasn't the feeling you got from the hardcore Clinton supporters who converged on Saturday's meeting to pose arguments normally associated with Karl Rove and Ann Coulter.

In a staggering violation of the democratic ideals it purports to represent, the Clinton campaign continues to argue that while the half-vote solution is fair in the case of Florida, it was not so in Michigan. They actually think that because Obama honorably removed his name from the ballot, he should get 0% of the "uncommitted" vote. That Hillary Clinton and her minions can paint their desperate grasp for unearned power as a historic civil rights struggle (complete with fallacious comparisons of the Florida/Michigan issue and the theft of the 2000 election) is bad enough. That they can argue this point while simultaneously touting election results in which their opponent was not on the ballot is more hypocrisy than anyone should forgive.

The Clinton campaign says, "We reserve the right to challenge this [Michigan] decision before the Credentials Committee" at the convention in August. When this right was reserved at the meeting by the increasingly unstable Harold Ickes, Clinton supporters began screaming, "Denver! Denver! Denver!" That's a great idea. Or we could just inaugurate John McCain right now.

Barack Obama is that much closer to the finish line. "Make no mistake about it," writes Congressional Quarterly's Craig Crawford. "The decision rendered today...showed that Barack Obama has displaced Hillary Rodham Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, as boss of the party."

Noah

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Can't Get There From Here

It seems like ages since Tim Russert told us that we knew who would be the Democratic nominee. It has actually been three weeks. The Clinton campaign is going to continue until it stops, and questions about whether it should or shouldn't have mostly faded into acceptance. There was a time when a Clinton victory seemed inevitable. It's as touching as it is frustrating that now, with defeat inevitable, Senator Clinton keeps hammering away.

It's fine that she's still in the race; she has every right. But her campaign continues to be troubling. She's still implying that Obama -- our all but presumptive nominee -- cannot win the general election. "We have not gone through this exciting, unprecedented, historic election, only to lose," she told supporters in Montana on Tuesday. At the same rally, she erroneously claimed that "every analysis, every bit of research, and every poll that has been taken" showed her to be the stronger candidate.

One day earlier, in South Dakota, Bill Clinton went even further. Without specifying who he was mocking, the greatest American president of my lifetime said: " 'Oh, this is so terrible: The people, they want her. Oh, this is so terrible: She is winning the general election, and he is not. Oh, my goodness, we have to cover this up.' " She is winning the general election is a mystifying pronouncement; the suggestion of a cover-up is bizarre.

Against the backdrop of this Clinton campaign, the regrettable R.F.K. assassination remark assumes unusual proportions. As disturbing as the reference itself was the deception that surrounded it: She was supposedly using the assassination as a chronological signpost, to remind us that the 1968 primaries were still going on in June, but Robert Kennedy had only been in the race for 82 days. She also asserted that the 1992 primaries were undecided in June, but, as Bill Clinton correctly wrote in his memoir My Life, "the fight for the nomination was effectively over" on April 9.

These falsehoods are hardly malicious, but in bending history to demonstrate her point, Clinton is counting on us not to know better. Under the spin and vigor, we find a pretty flimsy argument, supported by exaggerations, distortions, and accusations. Instead of convincing us that the nomination is still an open question, the Clinton campaign is convincing us that there is no reasonable argument left.

At the Rules and Bylaws Committee meeting this coming Saturday, the DNC will seek to resolve the Florida and Michigan problem, but insiders foresee no possible resolution that puts Clinton ahead. On Sunday, Puerto Rico will hold its primary, and on Tuesday, Montana and South Dakota. And that will be all. After June 3, if Obama has not yet reached the required number of delegates, superdelegates will probably put him over the top; he has been racking up a steady stream of superdelegate endorsements, and he is reportedly saving them up.

It will be nice when this particular race is over. I'm looking forward to the unity and reconciliation promised by both sides of our divided party. Wherever they may land, I await the old feeling that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are on the same side.

Noah

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Wexler: McClellan's Book Strengthens the Case for Impeachment

Obama: If Elected, I Will Overturn Bush's Unconstitutional Executive Orders

I can't wait to do what Barack Obama is always saying we're going to do: Turn a page and write a new chapter in American history. This election year, more than looking forward to any one thing, I am simply looking forward. But it would be an awful mistake to abandon, with the end of the Bush regime, the effort to bring Bush and company to justice for their crimes against democracy and humanity. That Bush and Cheney have not been impeached, convicted, and removed from office is one of the historic failures of the American people their government.

House Judiciary Committee member Congressman Robert Wexler (D-Florida), who has lately been the loudest congressional voice for impeachment -- of Cheney, mostly -- notes in an e-mail to supporters that Scott McClellan's new book (see previous entry) presents "significant news" which "directly impacts our push for Impeachment Hearings and a possible Inherent Contempt charge for Bush Administration officials such as Karl Rove."

Wexler specifically cites McClellan's assertion that Rove, Scooter Libby, and the creature lied about their role in the outing of Valerie Plame ("actions easily amounting to obstruction of Justice"); and the "coordinated effort...to use propaganda to pump up the case for the Iraq war and hide the projected costs of the war from the public."


"Scott McClellan must be called to testify under oath before the House Judiciary Committee to tell Congress and the American people everything he knows about this massive effort by the White House to deceive this nation into war.

"Last week, a subpoena was issued for Karl Rove to testify before the Judiciary Committee. It appears he will take every legal action to block this subpoena. The truth is that Congress has the right – and obligation – to hold him accountable now - not months or years from now. It is long past time to pass Inherent Contempt and bring Rove, Libby and others before Congress.

"...I believe that it is the duty of Congress to pursue impeachment whenever there's significant evidence of wrongdoing, be it by Republicans or Democrats, regardless of the timing of elections or the current political environment.

"Some of you have written me demanding that I deliver hearings or impeachment. As hard as I have been fighting for this cause, I cannot make impeachment happen by myself. What I can do, and what I have been doing at every turn, is trying to communicate two simple messages to my colleagues:

• the serious allegations of wrongdoing and the clear-cut rationale for impeachment hearings; and

• the fact that the public will support our efforts when Congress boldly acts on the side of justice and accountability.

"Unfortunately, to date, these arguments have not been enough to convince even a majority of the liberal and progressive Members of Congress to support impeachment hearings. In addition, the leadership of the Democratic Party in Congress genuinely feels that pursuing impeachment will jeopardize our congressional agenda and threaten gains in the November elections. Although I genuinely disagree with this view, to date I have been unable to convince them to change this policy.

"...This new evidence from Scott McClellan could be the tipping point – but we must move quickly. I will use the McClellan admissions to help convince my colleagues that we must hold impeachment hearings."


A promising development, as noted here last month, is that Barack Obama has expressed willingness, as president, to investigate the actions of the Bush administration. He told the Philadelphia News:


"What I would want to do is to have my Justice Department and my Attorney General immediately review the information that's already there and to find out are there inquiries that need to be pursued. I can't prejudge that because we don't have access to all the material right now. I think that you are right, if crimes have been committed, they should be investigated. You're also right that I would not want my first term consumed by what was perceived on the part of Republicans as a partisan witch hunt because I think we've got too many problems we've got to solve.

"So this is an area where I would want to exercise judgment -- I would want to find out directly from my Attorney General -- having pursued, having looked at what's out there right now -- are there possibilities of genuine crimes as opposed to really bad policies. And I think it's important-- one of the things we've got to figure out in our political culture generally is distinguishing between really dumb policies and policies that rise to the level of criminal activity. You know, I often get questions about impeachment at town hall meetings and I've said that is not something I think would be fruitful to pursue because I think that impeachment is something that should be reserved for exceptional circumstances. Now, if I found out that there were high officials who knowingly, consciously broke existing laws, engaged in coverups of those crimes with knowledge forefront, then I think a basic principle of our Constitution is nobody above the law -- and I think that's roughly how I would look at it."


Moving forward will do us little good if we do not correct the mistakes of the past.

Sign Wexler's petition to impeach Cheney here.

Donate to his campaign here.

UPDATE, 5/29: Here's what Obama said yesterday at a fundraiser in Denver: "I would call my attorney general in and review every single executive order issued by George Bush, and overturn those laws or executive decisions that I feel violate the constitution."

Noah

McClellan Spills Over

Among the many wondrous and delightful aspects of the Bush administration coming to an end is the inevitable flood of tell-all books. The deluge is about to officially begin, on Monday, with the publication of What Happened: Inside the Bush White House and Washington's Culture of Deception. This apparently scathing indictment of the administration's handling of Iraq, Katrina, and the CIA leak scandal is written by...former White House press secretary Scott McClellan!?

Wow. McClellan, when he was sweating and stammering behind the podium in the press room, sometimes seemed like the one true believer. He's been a part of Bush's inner circle since Texas and the 2000 campaign. He's the last guy you would have expected to stand up (eventually) and tell the truth against the regime.

Being Bush's press secretary must be the worst job in the world, and the strain of that unforgiving and unforgivable position often registered in McClellan's demeanor. During his most contentious exchanges with reporters, he seemed tortured, an uncomfortable little guy torn asunder by the struggle to spin. We now learn that he was tortured, so to speak.

The book may be the result of a crisis of conscience, or a crisis of bank account; it may reflect McClellan's desire to put himself on the right side of history. The question he must answer -- and for all I know he does, somewhere in the book -- is why now. Presumably, McClellan could have told the truth years ago.

He may have been afraid of retribution, though; certainly the Bush machine is efficient at dispensing with its political enemies. Karl Rove -- who was recently issued a subpoena by the House Judiciary Committee for just that -- talked about the McClellan book last night on Fox News. "This doesn't sound like Scott. It really doesn't," Rove said. "Not the Scott McClellan I have known for a long time." Rove added that the book "sounds like somebody else; it sounds like a left-wing blogger." Now, I doubt it's that good.

Culled from the coverage of The Washington Post and Politico, here are the passages from McClellan's book which are getting around:

"As press secretary, I spent countless hours defending the administration from the podium in the White House briefing room. Although the things I said then were sincere, I have since come to realize that some of them were badly misguided."

"The president had promised himself that he would accomplish what his father had failed to do by winning a second term in office. And that meant operating continually in campaign mode: never explaining, never apologizing, never retreating. Unfortunately, that strategy also had less justifiable repercussions: never reflecting, never reconsidering, never compromising. Especially not where Iraq was concerned."

"A more self-confident executive would be willing to acknowledge failure, to trust people's ability to forgive those who seek redemption for mistakes and show a readiness to change."

"Over that summer of 2002, top Bush aides had outlined a strategy for carefully orchestrating the coming campaign to aggressively sell the war. . . . In the permanent campaign era, it was all about manipulating sources of public opinion to the president's advantage."

"I still like and admire President Bush. But he and his advisers confused the propaganda campaign with the high level of candor and honesty so fundamentally needed to build and then sustain public support during a time of war. . . .In this regard, he was terribly ill-served by his top advisers, especially those involved directly in national security."

"If anything, the national press corps was probably too deferential to the White House and to the administration in regard to the most important decision facing the nation during my years in Washington, the choice over whether to go to war in Iraq.

"The collapse of the administration’s rationales for war, which became apparent months after our invasion, should never have come as such a surprise. … In this case, the ‘liberal media’ didn’t live up to its reputation. If it had, the country would have been better served."

"History appears poised to confirm what most Americans today have decided: that the decision to invade Iraq was a serious strategic blunder. No one, including me, can know with absolute certainty how the war will be viewed decades from now when we can more fully understand its impact. What I do know is that war should only be waged when necessary, and the Iraq war was not necessary."

"One of the worst disasters in our nation’s history became one of the biggest disasters in Bush’s presidency. Katrina and the botched federal response to it would largely come to define Bush’s second term. And the perception of this catastrophe was made worse by previous decisions President Bush had made, including, first and foremost, the failure to be open and forthright on Iraq and rushing to war with inadequate planning and preparation for its aftermath."

"I had allowed myself to be deceived into unknowingly passing along a falsehood. It would ultimately prove fatal to my ability to serve the president effectively. I didn’t learn that what I’d said was untrue until the media began to figure it out almost two years later.

"Neither, I believe, did President Bush. He, too, had been deceived and therefore became unwittingly involved in deceiving me. But the top White House officials who knew the truth — including Rove, Libby and possibly Vice President Cheney — allowed me, even encouraged me, to repeat a lie."

"There is only one moment during the leak episode that I am reluctant to discuss. It was in 2005, during a time when attention was focusing on Rove and Libby, and it sticks vividly in my mind. … Following [a meeting in Chief of Staff Andy Card’s office], … Scooter Libby was walking to the entryway as he prepared to depart when Karl turned to get his attention. ‘You have time to visit?’ Karl asked. ‘Yeah,’ replied Libby.

"I have no idea what they discussed, but it seemed suspicious for these two, whom I had never noticed spending any one-on-one time together, to go behind closed doors and visit privately. … At least one of them, Rove, it was publicly known at the time, had at best misled me by not sharing relevant information, and credible rumors were spreading that the other, Libby, had done at least as much. …

"The confidential meeting also occurred at a moment when I was being battered by the press for publicly vouching for the two by claiming they were not involved in leaking Plame’s identity, when recently revealed information was now indicating otherwise. … I don’t know what they discussed, but what would any knowledgeable person reasonably and logically conclude was the topic? Like the whole truth of people’s involvement, we will likely never know with any degree of confidence."


Noah

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

A Tangled Webb

Guest-blogging for The Atlantic's Matthew Yglesias, Kathy G (who usually blogs at The G Spot) makes several convincing arguments against Jim Webb as a running mate for Barack Obama.

Citing Ezra Klein ("If President Obama wants to get anything done, he'll need a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate. It would not be wise for him to choose a red state senator, because who knows if another Democrat could be elected to that seat?") and Alex Massie (Webb is "hopeless on the campaign trail"), Kathy G is quite convincing. Webb "basically became a Democrat the day before yesterday," she writes, explaining some of his more right-wing views and statements.

Webb, Kathy G reminds us, referred to liberals as "cultural Marxists," and to Affirmative Action as "state-sponsored racism." He wrote in 2004 that John Kerry "deserves condemnation for his activities as the leader of Vietnam Veterans Against the War," which "became the darling of the anti-war movement and the liberal media." And he glowingly endorsed Mark Moyar's Triumph Forsaken, a right-wing revisionist history of the Vietnam war which apparently asserts that the war was just and would have been a shining victory for America if liberals hadn't campaigned so hard for surrender.

Kathy then works her way up to the best and biggest strike against Webb: His "truly horrible record on women's issues."

Forgive me for quoting such a large chunk of Kathy G's article, but the point is too important, and too well-made, to paraphrase.

"In 1979, in an infamous article in The Washingtonian magazine called 'Women Can't Fight,' Webb argued that women were biologically unsuited to combat and didn't belong in the military academies. He said that the mere presence of women was 'poisoning' the environment for male cadets. He also

'declared that no senior female in a leadership position at the academy won her rank by merit, thereby impugning the accomplishments of every female midshipman and throwing fuel on the smoldering resentments of a vocal minority of disgruntled midshipmen.'

"Webb's writings on women did a hell of a lot of damage. It gave invaluable ammunition to the enemies of women's presence in the military and helped stall and perhaps even roll back women's progress there. Kathleen Murray, a 1984 academy graduate who went on to become a commander in the Navy, said of Webb's screed: 'This article was brandished repeatedly. [Men] quoted and used it as an excuse to mistreat us.' Her observation is confirmed by this post, which contains devastating testimony by women in the military about the effect Webb's writings had. For instance, here is what Commander Jennifer Brooks, USN(retired) had to say:

'I was 19 years old and in my second year at the Academy when the Webb article came out. I was devastated to be told by a war hero that the Academy should be shut down rather than accept me, and that my very presence was responsible for the degradation of the military. As a best selling author, James Webb knew the power of words, and to describe the Naval Academy as "a horny woman’s dream" was inexcusable. My mother read that.'

'I joined the Navy to serve my country. It was unbelievably demoralizing to be painted as a pampered slut who was taking up classroom space and pre-destined to endanger the lives of the brave young men around her.'

"You may say, well, that was way back in the 80s and late 70s. He's changed since then, right? But that is not exactly clear. At a 1991 convention of naval aviators called Tailhook, 83 women were reported to have been sexually harassed or assaulted by military personnel. From the beginning, Webb's concern for the victims was merely perfunctory. But he gave many speeches and wrote many articles vociferously defending the accused. In a 1992 article in the New York Times, he called the investigation of Tailhook a 'witch hunt.' In a 1997 article he wrote for the conservative Weekly Standard, he was highly critical of what he termed 'ever-expanding sexual mixing' in the military and he referred to feminist efforts to improve the status of women in the military as merely 'salving the egos of a group of never-satisfied social engineers.'

"And yes, once again he brought up Tailhook, and once again he showed himself more concerned with attacking feminists than with securing justice for the victims: 'Events such as the 1991 Tailhook debacle have been seized upon and used by feminists to attack the military culture and bring about major concessions.' Indeed, as late as the time this book was published (2004), Webb, according to the author, 'persists in refusing to blame the Navy and Marine Corps officers who participated in the abuses of Tailhook, who failed to raise a hand to stop them and stonewalled the investigation that followed.'

"To be fair, Webb, who is pro-choice, has kinda sorta apologized for his past writings and statements on women in the military. He termed the infamous Washingtonian article an 'overreach.' Um, that's putting it mildly."

As I've said before, after defeating Hillary Clinton, Obama is going to have to work extra hard to get the support of her most devoted female supporters. This is my principal argument against the "unity" Obama/Hagel ticket some have proposed. There is room for bipartisan cooperation on many fronts, but Obama absolutely should not have a pro-life running mate.

Webb is pro-choice, but his record on women in the military (and some of the outrageous statements that have come along with it) is bad, bad news. As an article in today's Los Angeles Times predicts, "the next president...almost certainly will face the question of women in combat."

John McCain, the article notes, does not appear to support equal rights in the military. In 1973, after his release from the "Hanoi Hilton," he gave an interview in which he said that women should never be allowed in combat. That was a long time ago, and he had just been tortured for five years. But in 1991, after the Gulf War, when Congress tackled the question of whether female pilots should be allowed to fly combat missions, Senator McCain spoke out against it. "This nation has existed for over 215 years," he said. "At no time in the history of our nation have women been in combat roles." (One can think of many other conventions of the eighteenth century which no longer apply.)

The L.A. Times article says, "McCain's aides said only that he stood by his past positions, suggesting that he would resist pressures for change."

So there is no question that this issue is going to come up. And in my mind, there's no question that Jim Webb, for all his strengths, is absolutely the wrong choice for Obama's ticket. One of the most compelling argument against John McCain is that he's too military to be president. We don't need our ticket weighed down by someone entrenched in the same narrow worldview.

Next!

Noah

McCain's Condescending Campaign

It's been clear for some time that John McCain's repeated promises to run "a respectful campaign" are as useless and empty as other promises made by prominent members of his party. McCain himself may well refrain from the nastiest kind of mudslinging, but he can't control the 527s who have already begun the "swift-boating" process. And McCain himself comes awfully close to disrespectful with his ongoing implication that Obama is an inexperienced kid who doesn't know anything.

"I have the knowledge and the experience and the judgment to lead this nation," McCain said last Thursday. "My opponent does not." The remark was noteworthy for being the first time McCain has referred exclusively to Obama as "my opponent," leaving no room for the possibility that Obama won't be the Democratic nominee.

He continued:

"I admire and respect Senator Obama. For a young man with very little experience, he's done very well. I appreciate his very great lack of experience and knowledge of the issues. He's been very successful.

"So don’t get me wrong, I admire and respect Senator Obama. But he does not have the knowledge, background, or judgment to lead this nation in these difficult and challenging times. And I do. And I will keep this nation prosperous and secure."

As everyone pointed out at the time, McCain was obviously borrowing a page from the book of Reagan, who said, in his second 1984 debate with Mondale, "I want you to know that also I will not make age an issue of this campaign. I am not going to exploit, for political purposes, my opponent's youth and inexperience."

Needless to say, McCain lacks the charisma necessary to pull off this kind of line, and needless to say, Reagan himself came off sounding like the doddering asshole he was. And every time the Republicans lavish praise on the memory of Ronald Reagan, there are merely underlining the fact that their current president is now an almost universally despised failure, whose support has become a political death sentence.

Speaking to the Associated Press yesterday, McCain continued to attack Obama as a neophyte:

"He really has no experience or knowledge or judgment about the issue of Iraq and he has wanted to surrender for a long time. If there was any other issue before the American people, and you hadn't had anything to do with it in a couple of years, I think the American people would judge that very harshly...

"For him to talk about dates for withdrawal, which basically is surrender in Iraq after we're succeeding so well is, I think, really inexcusable...

"I go back every few months because things are changing in Iraq...I would also seize that opportunity to educate Senator Obama along the way."

Yes, we know all about Senator McCain's little jaunts to Iraq. My favorite was last April, when he strolled through a Baghdad market, seeking to correct the problem that Americans weren't getting, in his view, "a full picture" of Iraq's road to recovery. McCain declared the Shorja market perfectly safe and much improved. Rep. Mike Pence (R-Indiana), who accompanied McCain on that trip, said it was just lovely: "Like a normal outdoor market in Indiana in the summertime." NBC News then told us that on McCain's "stroll" through the market, he was accompanied by "100 American soldiers, with three Blackhawk helicopters, and two Apache gunships overhead." McCain wore a bulletproof vest. Ah, just like Indiana in the summertime!

The next day, twenty-one Iraqis were abducted from the market and murdered.

As a candidate for the presidency, McCain can be expected to tout his supposed strengths and broadcast his opponent's supposed weaknesses. But he is woefully tone deaf these days. When McCain snipes at Obama, he sounds angry, nasty, and bitter, not like a leader or a president.

He says Obama "really has no experience or knowledge or judgment about the issue of Iraq." Now, given McCain's military background, maybe he can make an argument for "no experience." Unlike McCain, Obama has never personally attacked innocent civilians in a foreign land on which war was never declared. Unlike McCain, Obama has never told reporters, "I hate the gooks. I will hate them as long as I live."

But to say that Obama has no knowledge or judgment is just an insult, and an empty one. Unlike McCain, Obama has had the judgment to oppose the war -- a judgment which aligns Obama with, and McCain against, the majority of the American people. Obama also has the knowledge to speak intelligently and coherently about the situation in Iraq, while supposed expert McCain has repeatedly confused Sunnis with Shiites and Iran with al Qaeda.

After Obama criticized McCain's position on the new G.I. Bill on Saturday, McCain growled, "I take a back seat to no one in my affection, respect and devotion to veterans."

That's easy enough to say, but if it's true, then where is McCain's reasonable explanation for supporting a less generous benefits package? McCain seems unwilling even to debate the issue -- at least with someone so youthful and inexperienced as Barack Obama. He sounds like an irritated old man, eager to dismiss the young upstart as unqualified to criticize him. The truth is that America has grown and changed in ways that John McCain cannot fathom, or overcome.

Noah

Thursday, May 22, 2008

A SUBPOENA FOR KARL ROVE!

Last Thursday, Politico's Ryan Grim overheard House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers tell someone, "We're closing in on Rove. Someone's got to kick his ass."

"Asked a few minutes later for a more official explanation, Conyers told us that Rove has a week to appear before his committee. If he doesn't, said Conyers, 'We'll do what any self-respecting committee would do. We'd hold him in contempt. Either that or go and have him arrested.'

"Conyers said the committee wants Rove to testify about his role in the imprisonment of former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman, among other things.

"'We want him for so many things, it's hard to keep track,' Conyers said."

Today, Conyers issued a subpoena to Karl Rove. (Brad Blog has the full subpoena and related documents.)

The Judiciary Committee wants Rove to answer questions regarding the Siegelman case (in which Rove put a political opponent in prison for two years on a trumped-up charge) and the politically-motivated firing of nine U.S. attorneys in 2006. Rove must respond to the subpoena by July 10, but he's unlikely to do that, in which case, maybe, just maybe, Karl Rove will be arrested!

Imagine if that came to pass. Imagine if there were video of Karl Rove being apprehended and cuffed and marched off to the pokey! We could make an endless loop and watch it repeatedly from now till the Obama inauguration. We could watch it in slow motion. We could set it to music.

Apparently thinking along these very lines, the White House dismissed the subpoena as "political theatre."

Rove -- like fellow criminals Harriet Miers and Josh Bolten -- has offered to speak to the Judiciary Committee, but not under oath, and not on video, and with no notes or transcript. This is the way the Bush administration likes to testify. It's the way Bush and Cheney insisted on speaking with the 9/11 Commission, and the only way they were willing to do it.

"Mr. Rove voluntarily offered information that was requested," said Rep. Lamar Smith of Texas, the ranking Republican on the committee, "but Judiciary Committee Democrats refused his offer, proving once again that they are not really interested in the facts." Obviously, just the reverse is true: By refusing to speak on the record and under oath, Karl Rove has made a tacit admission of guilt and deception.

"Committee Republicans," sniffed Smith, "will accept Mr. Rove's offer of voluntary information, choosing responsible oversight over partisan games."

"It is unfortunate that Mr. Rove has failed to cooperate with our requests," John Conyers coolly said in a written statement. "Although he does not seem the least bit hesitant to discuss these very issues weekly on cable television and in the print news media, Mr. Rove and his attorney have apparently concluded that a public hearing room would not be appropriate. Unfortunately, I have no choice today but to compel his testimony on these very important matters."

Someone's got to kick his ass.

Noah

To the Convention?

Yesterday, Hillary Clinton indicated that she is willing to go all the way to the convention with her argument that the Florida and Michigan delegations should be seated based on the existing votes. She told the Associated Press that she would support any decision the states made, even if they appeal an unfavorable DNC rules committee decision to the convention: "Yes I will. I will, because I feel very strongly about this."

Later the same day, Clinton pollster Geoff Garin told MSNBC that the Clinton campaign could continue even after the last primaries are over. "There are enough uncommitted delegates left for either candidate to earn a majority," Garin said.

By the end of the day, though, the campaign seemed to be walking those statements back -- or maybe not. "Our hope and expectation is that there will be a fair and reasonable settlement of these issues before the convention," an anonymous senior Clinton adviser told Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post. "We are not looking for a fight, simply a solution that respects the voters from Florida and Michigan who cast their ballots in good faith."

This statement can be taken both ways. The campaign's "hope and expectation" is that it will be unnecessary to take the fight to Denver in August, but those hopes and expectations are based on reaching "a solution that respects the voters from Florida and Michigan who cast their ballots in good faith." In other words, Clinton has no intention of going all the way to the convention, unless of course the DNC declines to fully seat delegations determined by elections in which Obama did not campaign or advertise, and in the case of Michigan, was not even on the ballot.

In Boca Raton ("mouth of the rat") yesterday, Clinton went farther than ever in painting the Florida and Michigan question as a civil rights issue:

"Here in America, unlike in many other nations, we are bound together, not by a single shared religion or cultural heritage, but by a shared set of ideas and ideals, a shared civic faith, that we are entitled to speak and worship freely, that we deserve equal justice under the law, that we have certain core rights that no government can abridge, and these rights are rooted in and sustained by the principle that our founders set forth in the Declaration of Independence."

That's nice. But here in America, unlike in many other nations, our elections are about choice, i.e., more than one candidate on the ballot. Try to imagine Clinton making the same argument if Obama had been the known quantity at the outset, and won a majority of Florida's invalid vote, and Michigan's. If she's willing to compare the Florida and Michigan situation to the recent election in Zimbabwe, we can assume she's willing to say anything to win, even if that is impossible.

We have often asked: Where was the outrage last year, when the DNC's decision was made? It certainly wasn't coming from the Clinton campaign. Still the far-and-away frontrunner, Clinton signed a pledge not to campaign in the two states. According to the Times, she signed this pledge "hours after" Obama and Edwards.

On September 1, Clinton campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle issued a statement:

"We believe Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina play a unique and special role in the nominating process. And we believe the DNC’s rules and its calendar provide the necessary structure to respect and honor that role. Thus, we will be signing the pledge to adhere to the DNC approved nominating calendar."

On October 11, 2007, Clinton said on National Public Radio, "It's clear this election they're having [in Michigan] is not going to count for anything." When asked why she didn't join Obama and Edwards in removing their names from the ballot, she explained, "I just personally did not want to set up a situation where the Republicans are going to be campaigning between now and whenever, and then after the nomination, we have to go in and repair the damage to be ready to win Michigan in 2008."

Clearly, now that she is no longer the frontrunner -- and now that she has virtually no chance of securing the nomination -- Clinton is singing a different tune. But it's still highly unlikely that this goes to the convention. A "knowledgeable source directly involved in the negotiations" of the DNC rules committee told the Huffington Post that the May 31 meeting is likely to result in a decision "'to cut the delegations in half with full votes' for each of the remaining delegates. Florida is then expected to ask the committee to modify its ruling 'to allow all the delegates to go with a half vote each.'" (The full delegations would result in a net gain of 56 delegates for Clinton; the half-split compromise would give her 16 or 20.)

If Clinton does not concede after the final primaries on June 3, I believe superdelegates will sign on with Obama in sufficient numbers to make the question irrelevant. Already, he is within 70 delegates of the nomination; by June 3, he will be even closer.

So the contested convention doesn't strike me as a likely scenario. But Clinton's continued argument about Florida and Michigan, along with her continued implication that Obama is a deeply flawed candidate, amounts to a vote of no confidence in Obama's candidacy in the general election. Saying she considers herself the better candidate is one thing. But now she seems to be saying that if the full Florida and Michigan delegations are not seated, based on the votes that were cast, then the results (and Obama's impending victory) are illegitimate.

Music to John McCain's ears.

Noah

30% of Kentucky Democrats

MSNBC's Norah O'Donnell on Hardball, and The Washington Post's Eugene Robinson on Countdown, made a very interesting point yesterday about Obama's supposed problems with white, working class voters who didn't go to college.

The first important point is that it's not quite true. Obama does have a problem getting the support of these voters in the Appalachian states, but has scored heavily with the same demographic group in other states, like Wisconsin, Oregon, and Iowa. And losing Kentucky and West Virginia in November hardly spells electoral doom for Obama.

Much was made of an exit poll indicating that 30% of Kentucky Democrats would vote for John McCain if Obama is the nominee. But as O'Donnell and Robinson note, in 2004, 30% of Kentucky Democrats voted for Bush!



Noah

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Surprise! The Race Continues

Hillary Clinton has had her expected win in Kentucky, and Barack Obama has had his expected win in Oregon. Barack Obama has also had his other expected win -- a majority of pledged delegates. In another jackhammer of a victory speech, Clinton insisted that she was "winning the popular vote," and said she was "more determined than ever to see that every vote is cast and every vote is counted."

It is true that the candidates have avoided attacking each other the last week or so. But really, Obama has genuinely refrained, and indeed could not even think of attacking Clinton at this point unless she said something truly awful. Clinton is still attacking him indirectly, with her continued insistence that she is the superior nominee. She doesn't say "Shame on you, Barack Obama" anymore, but she does constantly imply that it would be a grave mistake to nominate him.

In each candidate's victory speeches, the respectful acknolwedgements are getting sweeter and more conciliatory. "I commend Senator Obama and his supporters," Clinton said last night. "And while we continue to go toe-to-toe for this nomination, we do see eye-to-eye when it comes to uniting our party to elect a Democratic president in the fall." Speaking to supporters in Iowa (a poetic full circle, almost), Obama sang Clinton's praises: "In her thirty-five years of public service, Hillary Rodham Clinton has never given up on her fight for the American people, and I congratulate her on her victory in Kentucky. Senator Clinton has shattered myths and broken barriers and changed the America in which my daughters and your daughters will come of age, and for that we are grateful to her."

At this point it goes without saying that the race continues. The attitude of everyone on Earth, we should note, seems to be Fine, let it continue. We're close now anyway. And it will be fun to hear Clinton say that nobody can win the White House without Puerto Rico.

At this particular moment, there vaguely seems to be a Clinton pitch for V.P. in the air. Twice today I have heard Terry McAuliffe say that the Democrats will have a better chance of winning in November "with Hillary at the top of the ticket," taking her presence on the ticket as a foregone conclusion. It also seems that if Clinton had no interest in being Vice President, she would say so.

Before things got ugly, I was a huge supporter of the so-called Dream Ticket, but lately it hasn't looked so good. It's hard to imagine Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Bill Clinton avoiding a destructive power struggle. Obama has done a good job characterizing Clinton as "old politics," and she has obligingly fit the part.

On the other hand, it would be a nice way to heal the split in the Democratic Party. If everyone who voted for either Clinton or Obama in the primaries votes for Obama on November 4; and if everyone who voted for McCain, Romney, or Huckabee in the primaries votes for McCain on November 4; then on January 20 we will witness the historic inauguration of President Barack Obama.

Noah

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

"That will be an important day."


SISK PREDICTS: Obama will win. NOAH PREDICTS: Clinton wins Kentucky by 20
points or more; Obama wins Oregon by 20 points or more.

Less than two weeks ago, an unnamed senior advisor to the Obama campaign told Politico, "On May 20 we're going to declare victory."

When asked by Brian Williams whether he would declare victory on May 20, Obama said, "That will be an important day. If at that point we have the majority of pledged delegates, which is possible, then I think we can make a pretty strong claim that we've got the most runs and it's the ninth inning and we've won."

Today is that important day, and even if Obama is thumped by Clinton in Kentucky, and even if he wins Oregon by a smaller margin than expected, he is likely to emerge from this evening's contests with a pledged delegate majority. "This is nowhere near over," insists Hillary Clinton. It actually is near over, but not quite. After tonight, Obama will still be slightly short of the 2,025 delegates required to seal the nomination, and that's another thing, mister. "None of us is going to have the delegates we need to get to the nomination," says Clinton, and she doesn't think 2,025 is enough, either, because of the Florida and Michigan question.

Earlier this month, when the rumors of a May 20 victory declaration were floated, Obama campaign manager David Plouffe said, in a memo to superdelegates, "[we] believe pledged delegates is the most legitimate metric for determining how this race has unfolded. It is simply the ratification of the DNC rules -- your rules -- which we built this campaign and our strategy around."

Yesterday, Clinton communications director Howard Wolfson issued a memo denouncing Obama's plan to declare victory as "a slap in the face to the millions of voters in the remaining primary states and to Senator Clinton’s 17 million supporters." The title of the memo -- "Mission Accomplished? Not So Fast" -- implicitly compared Obama's conduct of his campaign with George W. Bush's conduct on the war. Stumping in Mayfield this weekend, Clinton told supporters that those who foresee an Obama victory "don't want Kentucky to vote."

In recent days, Obama has refined the message, and it appears he will not declare tonight that he has won the nomination. "We will declare that we have the majority of pledged delegates," he told reporters in Kentucky last week. Two days ago, he added that "until those pledged delegates actually commit to us, we won't have achieved that number yet."

Despite Clinton's ongoing tenacity ("She has been relentless," Obama told supporters this weekend), the showdown does seem to be cooling. The Washington Post perceives a "ceasefire" between the two campaigns, and today we have learned of Al Gore's upcoming unity event.

At the end of this month, Gore will host what Talking Points Memo describes as "a major fundraising event uniting top Hillary and Obama donors on behalf of the Democratic National Committee." The event, which donors will pay $28,500 each for the privilege of attending, may be the most encouraging sign yet that the two sides of the Democratic Party's recent split will come together as they prepare for the general election. Last week, when John Edwards endorsed Obama, everyone wanted to know what was taking Al Gore so long. But now, because of his status in the party, Gore is in a unique position to act as a uniter, and it's a position he could not gracefully assume if he had endorsed one candidate or the other.

Noah

Is McCain Too Military to be President?

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Louisiana) recently suggested that John McCain is too military to be president.

This comes to us from the Des Moines Register:

"Republican presidential candidate John McCain's family background as the son and grandson of admirals has given him a worldview shaped by the military, 'and he has a hard time thinking beyond that,' Sen. Tom Harkin said Friday.

"'I think he's trapped in that,' Harkin said in a conference call with Iowa reporters. 'Everything is looked at from his life experiences, from always having been in the military, and I think that can be pretty dangerous.'

"Harkin said that 'it's one thing to have been drafted and served, but another thing when you come from generations of military people and that's just how you're steeped, how you've learned, how you've grown up.'

"...He said that 'I just want to be very clear there's nothing wrong with a career in the military' and that he has friends who are generals and admirals who have served the country well.

"'But now McCain is running for a higher office. He's running for commander in chief, and our Constitution says that should be a civilian,' Harkin said. 'And in some ways, I think it would be nice if that commander in chief had some military background, but I don't know if they need a whole lot.'"

Historically, there does not seem to be a correlation between military and presidential greatness. Some of our best presidents served in the military (Washington, Truman, Kennedy), and some of our best presidents did not (Jefferson, F.D.R., Clinton). Some of our worst presidents served in the military (Pierce, Andrew Johnson, Ford, Nixon), and some of our worst presidents did not (Hoover, Harding, Taft). There are also gray areas. One of our best presidents, Lincoln, served briefly in the Illinois State Militia; one of our worst, George W. Bush, momentarily pretended to serve in the Texas Air National Guard.

Writing for The Christian Science Monitor, Linda Feldmann reminds us that "before McCain ever had a notion of going into politics, he was a military man." McCain was "born on a military base in Panama, the son and grandson of Navy admirals, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, and a 23-year veteran of Navy service;" he is "steeped in military culture."

McCain's Senate career began ten years before he was elected to the Senate; in 1977, Feldmann writes, he "was assigned to be the Navy's liaison to the Senate, a position his father once held." Moreover, McCain's only executive experience to date has been in the military; after Vietnam, he briefly served as commander of Replacement Air Group 174 in Jacksonville.

I agree with Senator Harkin, and I share his wariness of career soldiers running the executive branch. The framers knew what they were doing when they decided that a civilian should be commander-in-chief.

The military, probably by necessity, is our least democratic institution. Politics, in a democracy, is the art of compromise, of debate, of the balanced distribution of power. The military is just the opposite -- it's a culture of following orders, of power at the top, of unquestioning obedience to leadership. A candidate's military service might speak to his devotion to his country, and that's not nothing. But it's hard to imagine what skills acquired on the battlefield would find useful application in the Oval Office, or even (as General Wesley Clark has suggested) the Situation Room.

We've always accepted the idea that there's a natural evolution from "war hero" to president. Perhaps we have not looked closely enough at the flawed logic behind this assumption. Our next president, we know, will not have had much executive experience in either government or business. Would you rather see America led by a man whose early career was spent dropping bombs on North Vietnam, or working as a community organizer on the south side of Chicago?

Noah

Friday, May 16, 2008

Obama and Choice

On Wednesday, NARAL endorsed Barack Obama for president, inducing the tremendous ire of Hillary Clinton's most vigorous supporters. Almost instantly, NARAL's blog on the subject was flooded with thousands of comments denouncing the endorsement. (As I write this, the NARAL blog has exceeded its bandwidth and is unavailable.)

Criticism poured in from elsewhere in the women's rights establishment, catalogued by Sam Stein of the Huffington Post. NARAL's own Washington branch issued a press release: "We strongly disagree with [the] decision to endorse at this time. To endorse Obama at this point in the race is an unconscionable slap in the face to Senator Hillary Clinton." Elizabeth Malcolm, the head of Emily's List, said in a statement that it was "disrespectful...to not give [Clinton] the courtesy to finish the final three weeks of the primary process." Martha Burke, former chair of the National Council of Women's Organizations: "It feels like they are abandoning a known ally for a less committed candidate because they want to jump on a bandwagon. I think the pro-choice community should stick by a woman who has stuck by them."

I can see their point, or at least part of it. If NARAL had endorsed Obama a while back, that would have been one thing. A certain part of Clinton's core following still would have been deeply upset, but that's okay. Endorsing Obama now, with the death knell of the Clinton campaign ringing in the air, does seem, to use NARAL D.C.'s phrase, a slap in the face. If they were going to wait this long, they could have waited a few more weeks and endorsed him after he became the official nominee.

But some among the outraged have taken their disappointment to an absurd and possibly harmful level.

Marcia Pappas, the head of NOW's New York chapter, "would not even commit to supporting the Illinois Democrat in the general election," Sam Stein writes. "We certainly know that John McCain is not good on women's rights and we hope that Barack Obama is better on it," Pappas said, "but it remains to be seen when we have a candidate who did not stand firm when he could have done so." And the Ohio-based group of Clinton supporters who call themselves Clinton Supporters Count Too (!) is actually launching an attack campaign against Obama in the general election. Led by Cynthia Ruccia, 55, and Jamie Dixey, 57, the group seeks to establish a coordinated effort to damage Obama among pro-choice voters in the swing states in November.

Declaring herself "thrilled" with what she perceives as society's rejection of racism, Cynthia Ruccia laments that "it's been open season on women, and we feel we need to stand up and make a statement about that, because it's wrong." She intends to make this statement by helping to elect a Republican president. When pundits call for Clinton to exit the race, Ruccia says, women are "being told to sit down, be quiet, get with the program, and take a back seat." Actually, what everyone is being told is that one candidate is about to win, and the other is about to lose; it is a mathematical certainty, and to simply assert its truth is not necessarily an act of gender bias.

Despite what the Clinton campaign is always saying, I don't think there is a deafening chorus of voices demanding that she exit the race, at least not publicly, in the mainstream media. Some have called for her to step aside -- George McGovern most prominently -- but it seems to me that the media and Washington establishments have mostly been respectful of Clinton's continued campaign for the nomination. The prevailing attitude on MSNBC, on CNN, on the editorial pages of the New York Times and the Washington Post, is that "we know who the nominee is going to be" (Tim Russert, 5/6/08), but that "it would be inappropriate, awkward and wrong" to be anything but "appropriately deferential" to Clinton (Senator Claire McCaskill, 5/8/08).

But to Cynthia Ruggia, it is not possible that one strong candidate has narrowly defeated another. Rather, "our party has been witness to the most outrageous display of misogyny and sexism in modern campaign history," and "if Senator Barack Obama is our party's candidate, we will actively campaign against him." Another member of Clinton Supporters Count Too, Mary E. Davis, told the Columbus Dispatch, "One candidate is well-qualified. The other candidate is not well-qualified, but the qualified candidate happens to be a woman. I will take four years of John McCain rather than have a candidate not prepared."

Not well-qualified? Not prepared? Not preferable, from a women's rights perspective, to John McCain?

Barack Obama, like Hillary Clinton, has never scored below a 100% rating from NARAL on reproductive rights issues. John McCain, on the other hand, has received a 0% rating every year since 1999. (10% in 1998; 5% in 1993; 10% in 1992; 0% every other year since 1987, when he was first elected to the Senate.)

Feminists who oppose Obama often attempt to paint him as spineless on the issue of choice by citing two things he said at the April 13 "Compassion Forum." On the subject of Roe v. Wade, Obama said, "We will continue to suggest that that's the right legal framework to deal with the issue." And on the question of whether life begins at conception, Obama said he wasn't sure, but that "there is something extraordinarily powerful about potential life, and that that has a moral weight to it that we take into consideration when we're having these debates."

Personally, I would have preferred for him to say, "I unequivocally support every woman's right to choose, under any circumstance, and although the mysteries of life remain mysterious, I believe that legal life begins when you are born." I'm sure NARAL, NOW, and Clinton Supporters Count Too would have preferred that as well. That's the way we feel about it. But we are not running for president. Obama's obvious desire to seek common ground with the opposition, or at least to have a dialogue and understand each other, manifests itself in more nuanced statements than activists like to hear. But what Obama said, and what is clearly true, is that he supports Roe v. Wade and choice.

Barack Obama has voted to teach the use of contraceptives in public schools, to provide free contraceptives to low-income women, to expand federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. He has voted no to defining unborn fetuses as eligible for SCHIP, to prohibiting minors from seeking abortions across state lines, to parental notification laws, to banning late-term abortions. His 100% rating from NARAL is complemented by a 0% rating from the National Right to Life Committee.

Of course none of this diminishes the equally unimpeachable record of Hillary Clinton on these issues, and of course her roots in the fight for women's rights are deeper. Many champions of women's rights are understandably and rightfully loyal to Hillary Clinton, who is a hero; I would expect them to support her to the end and beyond. And that's great. And to be crushed at her defeat. And that's fine. But Obama will obviously be a pro-choice president, and those who suggest otherwise are engaging in exactly the kind of desperate, deceptive snarking that has helped to sink the Clinton campaign.

NARAL is a political action organization. NARAL's advocacy can affect policy far more effectively if the President of the United States is in its corner. NARAL endorsed Obama because Obama is going to win the nomination, and if he wins the presidency, that will be good news for everyone who cares about a woman's right to choose. The endorsement itself points to Obama's inevitability. "We are confident that Barack Obama is the candidate of the future," it says. "Americans have been fortunate to have two fully pro-choice candidates in the race for the Democratic nomination. But only one can go forward to the general election."

It's not as though NARAL's national leadership had been on the fence this whole time. Back in January, when the Clinton campaign accused Obama of being iffy on abortion rights, NARAL defended him, asserting its confidence in his pro-choice platform.

Still, they might have held their endorsement, until Obama becomes the official nominee, any minute now. If they had, though, I doubt that Cynthia Ruccia and Jamie Dixey, of Clinton Supporters Count Too, would feel any more counted. They are so enraged at Clinton's sad impending loss that they would put their very cause at stake; they would support a 0% pro-choice candidate over a 100% pro-choice candidate, to make a point about who they preferred in the primaries.

In the wake of their press release, yesterday they began to make the media rounds. Their first stop was The O'Reilly Factor.

Noah

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Noah Reads "400 Years in Manhattan"

As you may know, I recently published my first book. Based on the show of the same name, 400 Years in Manhattan: A Tour Guide's History is the story of one remarkable island, and one remarkable tour guide. You can order the book now for a mere $14.99, and if nothing else has yet convinced you, I'm sure you'll want to buy a copy after watching this fascinating promotional clip.



Noah

Monday, May 12, 2008

But Don't Call It Racism


NOAH PREDICTS: Clinton wins West Virginia by more than 15 points, and fewer than 30.

Tuesday's West Virginia primary is going to be a bit of a drag. We know who the nominee is going to be; we know who will need 270 electoral votes in November. And we're going to have to watch him lose, probably by a considerable margin, to the loser.

And yet, it might be worse if Clinton dropped out of the race. The Los Angeles Times' Don Frederick and Andrew Malcolm suggest, intriguingly, that Obama is better off losing to a candidate who's still campaigning.

"...With [Clinton's] name still on the ballots, she'd be very likely to win in West Virginia anyway. And maybe Kentucky too, given the demographics in both places. And possibly Puerto Rico as well.

"How would that look if at the end of the Democratic race the winning candidate with clearly the most delegates and popular votes went down to defeat against a candidate who isn't in the contest anymore? Ouch! That would tend to overshadow his expected wins in Oregon and Montana."

All of this points to the question of why West Virginia and Kentucky are considered out of Obama's reach, and why most polls show Clinton leading in those states by around thirty points.

"No Democrat has been elected to the White House without carrying West Virginia since 1916," writes Andrew Ward of the Financial Times, "yet Mr. Obama appears to have little chance of winning there in November."

"West Virginia is hostile territory for Mr. Obama because it has few of the African-Americans and affluent, college-educated whites who provide his strongest support. The state has the lowest college graduation rate in the U.S., the second lowest median household income, and one of the highest proportions of white residents, at 96 per cent.

"...Most people questioned said they mistrusted Mr. Obama because of doubts about his patriotism and 'values,' stemming from his cosmopolitan background, his exotic name and the controversy surrounding 'anti-American' sermons by Jeremiah Wright, his former pastor. Several people said they believed he was a Muslim -- an unfounded rumor that has circulated on the internet for months -- despite the contradiction with his 20-year membership of Mr. Wright's church in Chicago. Others mentioned his refusal to wear a Stars and Stripes badge and controversial remarks by his wife, Mich­elle..."

At the indispensible electoral-vote.com, Andrew S. Tanenbaum adds:

"West Virginia is a state tailor-made for Hillary Clinton. There are no rich people, no creative types, few blacks, and few liberals. There are a lot of relatively poor people and some blue-collar workers. The state ranks last in the nation in median household income and has the lowest percentage of the population with a college degree of any state in the country. Only two cities (Charleston and Huntington) have 50,000 people and only six cities have 20,000 people or more."

We have seen Obama do quite well in states with very small African-American populations (Iowa, Colorado, Utah), but not in the southeast. He's won southern states with large numbers of black voters (Alabama, Louisiana, South Carolina, Mississippi) and/or liberal voters (North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland). But he is said to be doomed in West Virginia and Kentucky, which have neither.

"I'll be very blunt," says Research 2000 pollster Del Ali. "Even if there wasn't a Reverend Wright controversy, I think Obama would have a tough time in Kentucky, for obvious reasons."

Is it because he's tall?

Noah