Monday, August 18, 2008
The Clinton Coup
The Obama campaign was in full spin mode this week touting its decision to allow Hillary Clinton to have a roll call vote at the convention so her delegates can register their support of her. "It's an olive branch that we think will pay dividends in party unity," one Democratic congressman told me. I'm not so sure. Many Clinton supporters will be appreciative of the symbolic gesture, but others such as those who unofficially call themselves Pumas (Party Unity My Ass) may see it as an opportunity to make more trouble for Mr. Obama both on and off the convention floor.
"The one thing that Obama should never have agreed to is a roll-call vote with Hillary Clinton," says Jeff Birnbaum, a Washington Post columnist. Mr. Birnbaum nonetheless admits to being "so grateful that we are going to have a story, which is Hillary Clinton's attempt tacitly to take over the Obama victory, and that [story] will go through virtually every day of the convention" given how frequently Bill and Hillary Clinton are scheduled to appear before delegates.
Indeed, the Clinton people I spoke with appear emboldened by the Obama concessions. They have already secured language in the Democratic platform denouncing the mainstream media for its "sexist" coverage of the Democratic primaries. You can bet one of the few genuinely newsworthy stories the hordes of reporters in Denver will chew on is just how much Hillary Clinton is supporting Barack Obama -- and how much merely laying groundwork for a comeback effort in 2012 if he loses in the fall.
Darragh vs. the Obama Bots
If he can't face down the Pumas, how will he ever face down Putin? That question may have been in the back of a few Democratic minds last week, but Hillary Clinton's fans were all smiles over their success in rolling a possible president-to-be before he ever takes office. "We're very happy with the news," Darragh Murphy, executive director of PumaPAC, tells us. "This is the first time in six months the DNC has stood up for the Democratic process."
"Puma" in her case stands for People United Means Action," though Ms. Murphy is happy to acknowledge the more common pre-existing meaning ballyhooed in the blogosphere (see here). She says the group has gathered 10,000 members and more than a million page views just since its launch in June. An early John Edwards supporter -- "to my everlasting shame at this point," she says -- Ms. Murphy has enjoyed her own meteoric rise to fame. We reached her by phone yesterday just as she was coming from an appearance on "Hardball."
A product of the Dorchester section of Boston, "I've always been a Democrat," she says. "But the most I'd ever do come election time would be to hold a sign at the Rotary." That hasn't stopped some from noticing that she voted for John McCain in the 2000 GOP primary and muttering about suspect motives. "People try to paint me as a Republican," she sighs.
How much Mr. Obama should worry remains to be seen. The New York Observer recently surveyed several wealthy Clinton backers like Lady Lynn Forester de Rothschild who claim to be committed to making the case for Hillary in Denver. Ms. Murphy says her own members are "hoppin' mad" and "convinced" that Mr. Obama's nomination is "coming from above," forced down the throats of the Democratic rank-and-file by Howard Dean.
"Fall in line, get on the Obama train, go to the Obama indoctrination session and don't mention Hillary Clinton" is the message Ms. Murphy says the DNC leadership is pushing. "The Obama campaign has become a movement of transcendence that is practically religious, with a wave of money and religious fervor taking over the party."
Ms. Murphy happily acknowledges hosting "secret" strategy sessions in a northern Virginia hotel last weekend, shielded from infiltrators she calls "Obama Bots." But she says any protests in Denver are intended to be peaceful. "Who knows what will happen on the convention floor? Many of our members hope there will be a spark of some kind."
Obama must convince America he's one of us
By Ruben Navarrette
During his vacation in Hawaii, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama eats shave ice, part of the local cuisine in his native state. While vacationing in his native Hawaii, Barack Obama said he wanted to enjoy some local cuisine - a plate lunch, shave ice, the noodle dish Zip Min - and relax with a little bodysurfing "at an undisclosed location."
Good for him. Obama needed the rest and refueling. He has a lot of work to do at the Democratic National Convention, which begins Aug. 25. The presumptive presidential nominee has at least three herculean tasks awaiting him in Denver.
First, he has to win over the Hillary holdouts, especially those women over 50 who think he's more style than substance and insist that he got this far only because the male-run media sabotaged the first woman with a serious shot at the White House. Those women treat Obama like the flashy pretty boy they warned their daughters about. Some of them want to put Hillary's name in nomination at the convention and demand a roll-call vote.
Next, Obama needs to use the convention to dispel lingering doubts about who he is and where he would lead the country, if elected. That is the one thing missing from an otherwise well-run campaign. Maybe Obama is too cerebral and needs to show more emotion. And, as Bill Clinton and George W. Bush did in their election campaigns, he needs to let down his guard and invite us into his private life. It could make him more likable - and more real.
The exotic candidate
Finally, Obama must again confront a suspicion that he probably thinks he dispelled months ago when he disowned the Rev. Jeremiah Wright and his Trinity United Church of Christ. Not a chance. Many Americans still have an unfortunate and unfounded prejudice about Obama not being "American enough." Background too exotic. Name too foreign. Religion too cloudy. It all plays into the fear that Obama cannot be trusted because, supposedly, his allegiance lies elsewhere.
It gets absurd in a hurry. Even Obama's choice of vacation spots makes him suspect, according to a nearly incoherent Cokie Roberts on ABC's "This Week." While the journo-pundit was graciously willing to acknowledge that "Hawaii is a state," she also insisted that Obama's vacation there "has the look of him going off to some sort of foreign, exotic place" - this from a woman who should know better because she grew up in the wonderfully foreign, exotic city of New Orleans.
Mark Penn speaks the same code. A recently surfaced memo that Hillary Clinton's former chief political strategist sent to the candidate in March 2007 shows that Penn was more than ready to launch a cultural strike against Obama. That meant playing on people's fears and painting Obama as someone "who is not at his center fundamentally American in his thinking and in his values." Such creepiness makes you wonder whether Penn has any values.
Note the irony. All this talk about Republicans allegedly playing the race card against Obama, and it was a Democratic operative who was ready and eager to do some real damage by dabbling in demagoguery and dropping "the American card."
Cultural, racial insecurity
Minorities should remember the Penn memos, especially since - according to new population projections by the U.S. Census Bureau - they will soon be coming into greater prominence. The Census estimates that minorities will be the majority in America by 2042, or eight years ahead of earlier projections. Such a dramatic change on the horizon was bound to stir fears, and it has. Check out the immigration debate, which is fueled not by concerns over border security or economic competition but by insecurities over the changing face and the shifting culture of America.
Penn wanted to tap into that insecurity with his evil plan to paint Obama as a foreigner and Hillary Clinton - even though she rejected that advice - made a play for it with her comments to USA Today about how she did better than Obama with "hardworking Americans, white Americans." It's an insecurity that lets some people think a person of color born into less-than-privileged circumstances, who studied hard, took risks and lived the American Dream, is somehow less American than someone else. And it's an insecurity Obama must confront in Denver once and for all.
To do that, he has to continue hammering away at what being an American means to him and how his life story, and America's story, go together like, well, a plate lunch and shave ice.
National 'gay' leaders credit Obama for Dem's pro-homosexual platform
'Unprecedented partnership' nets new 1sts for LGBT community
The release of the proposed platform for the Democratic Party's national convention has leaders of homosexual advocacy groups thanking presidential candidate Barack Obama for helping create a platform that aligns with "lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender" (or LGBT) activists' vision of American values. "It is a forward-looking platform in so many areas, including those relating to LGBT people," said Rea Carey, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, in a released statement. "For the first time the platform explicitly calls for an end to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity."
"The 2008 Democratic National Platform will be a guiding document for policy and legislation that embodies the values of our Party," said Jon Hoadley, executive director of the Stonewall Democrats, a network of homosexual activists named after violent pro-homosexual demonstrations that began at New York City's Stonewall Inn in 1969. "These advancements in our Party's binding document are thanks to the work and input of LGBT delegates, Senator Obama and his campaign, LGBT advocates, and Stonewall Democrats across the country," Hoadley said.
The Democratic National Platform, called "Renewing America's Promise", was submitted and made public on Aug. 7 by the Platform Drafting Committee, chaired by Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano. The full text of the platform can be read here.
According to the homosexual news site Temenos, two members of the LGBT community played a key role in drafting the platform: U.S. Rep. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Diego Sanchez, director of Public Relations & External Affairs for the AIDS Action Committee, the first-ever transgender member of the Platform Committee.
While the platform itself does not use the terms "gay" or "homosexual," it contains language clearly advocating positions long called for by homosexual advocates. For example, in the opening paragraph of a section called "A More Perfect Union", the platform states: "Democrats will fight to end discrimination based on race, sex, ethnicity, national origin, language, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, age and disability in every corner of our country, because that's the America we believe in" (emphasis added). Later in the same section the platform states, somewhat ambiguously, "We support the full inclusion of all families in the life of our nation, and support equal responsibility, benefits, and protections."
The application of that sentence specifically to homosexual unions is made clear, however, by the two sentences that immediately follow it: "We will enact a comprehensive bipartisan employment non-discrimination act. We oppose the Defense of Marriage Act and all attempts to use this issue to divide us."
The federal Defense of Marriage Act, passed in 1996, allows states where homosexual marriage is not recognized to disregard those unions performed in other states that do perform 'gay' marriage. It also forbids the federal government from treating same-sex relationships as marriages, even if considered so by an individual state.
Even if the platform doesn't specifically mention the LGBT community, the clarity of its intent and application was not lost on Joe Solmonese, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign, the largest LGBT lobbying group and political action committee in the nation. "The 2008 Platform reiterates and strengthens past support for legislation that would protect our community, including calls for the passage of hate crimes and comprehensive employment discrimination legislation, and the repeal of the discriminatory 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' policy in our nation's military," Solmonese said in a released statement.
Solmonese added, "The platform also supports the full inclusion of same-sex couples and their families, with equal rights, benefits and responsibilities. For the first time, the platform opposes the discriminatory Defense of Marriage Act, which bars federal recognition of even those same-sex couples legally married under state law. "The platform also supports other issues of importance to for GLBT, and all Americans, including a call for a national strategy to combat HIV/AIDS, support for fair and impartial judges not driven by ideology, and requirements that faith-based programs not use federal dollars to discriminate."
Obama says pointed abortion query "above his pay grade" (!)
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama side-stepped a pointed query about abortion on Saturday by "mega-pastor" Rick Warren during a televised forum. Asked at what point a baby gets "human rights," Obama, who strongly supports abortion rights, said: ". whether you're looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity . is above my pay grade." He went on to reiterate his view that it was important to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies.
Republican presidential candidate John McCain, who followed Obama onto the stage of the nationally televised event, was more blunt and more emphatic. He said a baby's human rights began "at the moment of conception . I have a 25-year pro-life record."
Both candidates were vying for the "faith vote," in particular the one in four U.S. adults who count themselves as evangelical. Obama took questions first from Warren and McCain followed. The two shared the stage together briefly.
Some centrist evangelicals have said they appreciate moves by the Democratic Party to "soften" the edges of its pro-choice stand by stressing the need to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies and abortions - and by also working harder in areas like adoption. But for many conservative evangelicals - a key part of the evangelical base - life begins at conception and the argument ends there. The issue remains one of the most divisive and partisan in America - as Obama and McCain highlighted on Warren's stage.
McCain on Obama: 'The taxman cometh'
Heading into the televised Saddleback Civil Forum tonight, Sens. John McCain and Barack Obama are waging a less civil duel on paid television, with McCain rolling out a new ad today calling Obama the "taxman'' and Obama accusing McCain of reading from the same economic book as President Bush, paying the price of a costly war. "Celebrity, yes... Ready to lead, no,'' says the female narrator of the new McCain ad today. It warns that Obama's taxes "could break your family budget.'' With a nod to both Eugene O'Neill and the Beatles, the McCain ad warns of Obama: "The Taxman Cometh.''
Obama has acknowledged that it will take higher taxes to pay for the health care coverage that he is proposing for all Americans, but vows to tax wealthier Americans more while offering the middle class and lower-income taxpayers a break. McCain, who has opposed federal funding of prescription drugs under Medicare and proposes tax incentives to help uninsured people find health care, has pledged to avert new taxes during his term as president. Obama supports a windfall profits tax on the oil industry, promising to use the money for middle-class tax relief. McCain opposes such a tax.
The contrast is one of the key divisions that McCain hopes to exploit during a campaign which he maintains will reveal "stark'' differences between the two. "The press warns,' the taxman cometh,''' says the narrator, quoting from the Wall Street Journal. Calling Obama's plans a "recipe for economic disaster,'' it cites the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "Higher taxes, higher gas prices, an economic disaster... "That's the real Obama.''
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