Saturday, August 30, 2008

Democrat rivalries just papered over

Leftists are driven by hate and they have always hated one-another most of all

By Maureen Dowd

I've been to a lot of conventions, and there's always something gratifyingly weird that happens. Dan Quayle acting like a Dancing Hamster. Teresa Heinz Kerry reprising Blanche DuBois. Dick Morris getting nabbed triangulating between a hooker and toes. But this Democratic convention has a vibe so weird and jittery, so at odds with the early thrilling, fairy dust feel of the Obama revolution, that I had to consult Mike Murphy, the peppery Republican strategist and former McCain guru. "What is that feeling in the air?" I asked him.

"Submerged hate," he promptly replied.

There were a lot of bitter Clinton associates, fund-raisers and supporters wandering the halls, spewing vindictiveness, complaining of slights, scheming about Hillary's roll call and plotting trouble, with some in the Clinton coterie dissing Obama by planning early departures, before the nominee even speaks. At a press conference with New York reporters on Monday, Hillary looked as if she were straining at the bit to announce her 2012 exploratory committee. "Remember, 18 million people voted for me, 18 million people, give or take, voted for Barack," she said, while making a faux pro-Obama point. She keeps acting as if her delegates are out of her control, when she's been privately egging on people to keep her dream alive as long as possible, no matter what the cost to Obama.

Hillary also said she was happy about the choice of Joe Biden because he added "intensity" to the ticket. Ouch. She added insult to injury by coming out Tuesday night looking great in a blazing orange pantsuit and teaching the precocious pup Obama something about intensity and message. She thanked her "sisterhood of the traveling pantsuits," and slyly noted that Obama would enact her health care plan rather than his.

She offered the electrifying fight that the limpid Obama has not - setting off paranoia among some Democrats that they had chosen the wrong nominee or that Obama had chosen the wrong running mate. "It makes perfect sense that George Bush and John McCain will be together in the Twin Cities because these days they are awfully hard to tell apart," she said.

Afterward, some of her supporters began crying, as they were interviewed by reporters, saying that her speech had proved that she would make a better president than Obama. And, as one said, she would only give him "two months" to prove himself. Ed Rendell, the governor of Pennsylvania, compared Obama to the passive-aggressive Adlai Stevenson and told The Washington Post that Obama gives six-minute answers and "is not exactly the easiest guy in the world to identify with."

At a meeting of the Democratic women's caucus Tuesday, 74-year-old Carol Anderson of Vancouver, Wash., a former Hillary volunteer, stood in the back of the room in a Hillary T-shirt and hat signed by Hillary and "Nobama" button and booed every time any of the women speakers mentioned Obama's name. She's voting for McCain and had nothing nice to say about the Obamas. What about the kids, I asked. "Adorable," she agreed. Well, I said, Michelle raised them. "I think her mother does," Anderson shot back, adding: "I wonder if Michelle would give the Queen one of her little knuckle punches?"

Bill's pals said he was still gnawing at his many grievances against the younger version of himself he has to praise Wednesday night; the latest one being that the Obama folks, like all winners, wanted control over Bill's speech, so that he did not give a paean to himself and his economic record, which is what he wanted to do, because he was incensed that Obama said a couple critical things about his administration during a heated campaign. Finally, Obama had to give in on Monday and say he would allow the ex-president to do exactly as he likes, which is what he usually does anyhow.

Obama's pacification of Bill made his supporters depressed and anxious that he was going to be a weaker candidate than they had hoped and fearful that, as in Obama's favorite movie, "The Godfather," every time Democrats try to get away, the Clintons pull them back in.

And Democrats have begun internalizing the criticisms of Hillary and John McCain about Obama's rock-star prowess, worrying that the Invesco Field extravaganza Thursday, with Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi, will just add to the celebrity cachet that Democrats have somehow been shamed into seeing as a negative.

So that added to the weird mood at the convention, with some Democrats nitpicking Obama's appearance, after Michelle's knock-out speech and the fabulously cute girls, with a reassuring white family in a town he couldn't remember at one point. They wondered why he wasn't wearing a tie, fearing he looked too young, and second-guessed Michelle's green dress, wondering if it clashed with the blue stage, and fretted that there wasn't a speaker Monday night attacking McCain and yelling about gas prices. "I'm telling you, man," said one top Democrat, "it's something about our party, the shtetl mentality."


Barack Obama's same-old political promises

Barack Obama is as skilled an orator as any politician in recent American history. With 75,000 adoring supporters cheering him along on Thursday night, his acceptance speech was always guaranteed to be a triumph. He could have read out the contents of the Denver metropolitan phone book and the crowd would have gone wild. So what mattered about his performance was not the inevitably enthusiastic reaction from the loyal Democrats gathered in Denver's Invesco Field, but how far it advanced his presidential campaign with a more doubtful public watching at home.

That was why his speech last night was very different from the sort of lyrical orations that have characterised his campaign so far. It was a much more traditional political speech, less lofty, more focused, less general talk of hope and more old-fashioned bashing of the opposition.

As a result, it risked undermining Senator Obama's message so far that he stands for a different kind of politics, one able to transcend political divisions. While it addressed many of the problems that have weakened his campaign in recent weeks, it may in the end have done some new damage: perhaps Senator Obama is just another politician after all.

In this set-piece event he was trying to meet several objectives. His first job was to introduce himself. As astonishing as it may sound, given that he has been running for president for 20 months, most Americans still don't really know much about Senator Obama. The television audience - at an estimated 30 million or more - would be the largest that had ever seen him, and for the vast majority of them it was an opportunity to size up this man who has emerged onto the political scene so suddenly.

He spent much time talking about his background and his roots and emphasising of course that it was a true, if not a typical American story. In the process he was trying to show empathy with ordinary Americans. His campaign has been criticized as being bloodless, aloof, too vague for a country which many people feel has lost its way. So on Thursday night he skillfully interwove his own life story with the struggles of ordinary Americans. "I see in the faces of those young veterans who come back from Iraq and Afghanistan I see my grandfather, who signed up after Pearl Harbour, marched in Patton's army," he said.

He was also eager to attack John McCain, his Republican opponent, demonstrating that the Democratic candidate can go in for the kill if he needs to. He repeated the now familiar Republican claim that Sen McCain was campaigning for George Bush's third term. It's a favourite Democratic talking point to note that as a senator, John McCain has voted with President Bush 90 per cent of the time. "Senator McCain likes to talk about judgment but really, what does it say about your judgment when you think George Bush has been right ninety per cent of the times."

Senator Obama also sought to allay fears he lacks the experience and stature necessary to be commander-in-chief. He insisted that his decision to oppose the Iraq war and his support for stronger US efforts in Afghanistan qualified him to be a better commander-in-chief than his opponent.

In all of these objectives, Senator Obama doubtless went some way towards reassuring voters. But the biggest weakness of the speech may have been in its very attempt to address the criticism that his campaign lacks substance. Senator Obama has been urged to talk less in general terms about change and more about what policies he would pursue in office. On Thursday night he certainly delivered. He reeled off a long and at times numbing list of policies he would implement: tax reductions for working families, tax increases for companies that move operations overseas, support for clean-energy technologies, more money for education, a plan for health care coverage for all Americans.

The first problem with this list is not its newness but its familiarity. It is the same old promises politicians - especially those of the left - have made for decades. The second problem with this list is that if it were ever to be implemented it would cost a fortune in taxes. Senator Obama promises to avoid that with the usual politician's claim that he will wipe out wasteful spending in government. This is bogus and rather than restoring faith in politics as Senator Obama pledges, it only increases cynicism about politics. The gap between Senator Obama's promises and the reality of politics in America may be getting too wide.


Biden's Bishop Will not Permit Him, Even if Elected VP, to Speak at Catholic Schools

In an interview with Bob Krebs, the Communications Director for the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, to which Senator Joseph Biden belongs, Krebs confirmed that Biden's Bishop will not permit the Senator even if elected Vice President of the United States of America to speak at Catholic schools.

When asked for the Bishop's take on Senator Biden and his stand in favor of abortion, Krebs directed to Bishop Michael Saltarelli's 2004 statement on 'Catholics in Political Life' which, said Krebs, "very plainly states Bishop's position in this matter." In that document Bishop Saltarelli notes that, in line with the US Bishops Conference policy, "Our Catholic institutions will not honor Catholic politicians who take pro-abortion legislative positions or invite them to speak at our functions or schools." called the diocesan communications director a second time to ask if that specific ban on speaking at Catholic schools or Catholic functions would apply to Biden, even if he became the Vice President. Krebs replied, "I would say that as long as Senator Biden's stated position on abortion remains the same then it would apply to Senator Biden whether he was a Senator or the Vice President of any type of public figure."

In the same 2004 document, Bishop Saltarelli singled out Catholic politicians like Biden who claim a personal opposition to abortion but that they could not impose their faith's beliefs on others. Wrote the Bishop: "No one today would accept this statement from any public servant: 'I am personally opposed to human slavery and racism but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena.' Likewise, none of us should accept this statement from any public servant: 'I am personally opposed to abortion but will not impose my personal conviction in the legislative arena.'" In the document, Bishop Saltarelli does not rule out refusing communion to pro-abortion politicians but does say that he much prefers "active engagement and dialogue". He notes that he does not expect priests and others administering communion to withhold it from politicians. "That is ultimately my responsibility," he said.

The Associated Press reports that Biden received Communion last Sunday at his local parish of St. Joseph on the Brandywine near his home in Greenville, Delaware. Denver Archbishop Charles Chaput commented to AP that Biden should not present himself for Communion given his public support for abortion. Biden "has admirable qualities to his public service," Chaput said in his statement. "But his record of support for so-called abortion 'rights,' while mixed at times, is seriously wrong. I certainly presume his good will and integrity - and I presume that his integrity will lead him to refrain from presenting himself for Communion, if he supports a false 'right' to abortion."


'Obama plans to disarm U.S.!'

Candidate pledges on YouTube clip to gut military spending, research

A video the Barack Obama campaign produced last year to solicit the endorsement of an Iowa-based advocacy group has generated more than 3 million page views on YouTube, fueled by chain e-mails claiming the clip is evidence the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee intends to disarm the U.S.. Florida's St. Petersburg Times received an e-mail that warned of Obama's plan to "unilaterally disarm our nation" and stated, "You do not have to check Snopes to determine if this is true or false. ... Watch and listen to Obama's own words."

WND also received an e-mail suggesting the Democratic National Committee is supposedly pressuring YouTube to remove the video clip before it leaks out to too many viewers and damages Obama's chances of winning the presidency.

The video, however, was originally posted on YouTube by the Obama campaign itself on Oct. 22, 2007, and has been seen – in its various repeat appearances on the site – well over 3 million times.

Does it give evidence of a plan to disarm the U.S.? In the clip, Obama pledges to "cut tens of billions of dollars" in defense spending, "cut investments" in missile defense systems and "slow our development of future combat systems." You can view the candidate's promises in his own words and full context below:

In addition to budget cuts and curtailing weapons research and development, Obama concludes the video by pledging to refrain from developing new nuclear weapons, to negotiate with Russia to take intercontinental missiles "off hair-trigger alert" and to "achieve deep cuts in our nuclear arsenals." Whether such promises constitute an endangering level of disarmament or not is a subject hotly debated on YouTube itself. One viewer commented, "How will you 'protect the American people' without a powerful defence (sic)? R & D is mandatory to keep ahead of the threats, and develop new and better ways to support and protect our troops when they go in harms (sic) way." Another viewer agreed with Obama's plan, saying, "Wow. So that's where all my money is going. . Man we are over-kill when it come (sic) to producing a lot of weapons for this country."

Obama originally made the video clip to garner the endorsement of Caucus4Priorities, an Iowa-based group that would likely agree with the latter viewer that advocates shifting federal funds from defense spending to social programs. The Democratic candidate thanked the group in the video's opening remarks. The video was made last October as Obama was attempting to win Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucus. Obama pulled ahead of Hillary Clinton and John Edwards to win the caucus but lost the Caucus4Priorities endorsement, as the organization backed Edwards instead.


Juan Williams' Plea To Obama

Juan Williams has an eloquent - although, I'm afraid, futile - plea to Obama to, finally, "take a stand" on race issues. After paying hopeful homage to the promise he sees in Obama's biracial background, Williams writes:
Yet given this central racial dynamic, it is incredible that on any issue of racial consequence Mr. Obama has become a stealth candidate. It is arguably smart politics not to focus on potentially controversial racial issues when you are a black man running in an election with an electorate that is more than 75% white. But how is it possible that Mr. Obama, as he rises to claim the mantle of Dr. King before 75,000 people and a national TV audience of millions here tonight, remains a mystery on the most important civil rights issues of our day?

Mr. Obama is nowhere man when it comes time to speak out on reforming big city public schools, with their criminally high dropout rates for minority children. He apparently refuses to do it for fear that supporting vouchers or doing anything to strengthen charter schools will alienate vote-rich unions. His rare references to the critical argument over affirmative action -- an issue that is on several state ballots this fall -- give both opponents and supporters reason to think he might be on their side. He has had little if anything to say about the persistent 25% poverty rate in black America.

The only speech Mr. Obama has given on race came after his minister's racist rants became public. In that celebrated talk he defended Rev. Jeremiah Wright, while at the same time distancing himself from the rants. That quick escape did not work, because Rev. Wright continued to spew vitriol - threatening the campaign with questions about whether Mr. Obama subscribed to the same angry, anti-American views. It was only rational for voters to ask how he could have kept silent in the face of the minister's sermons over 20 years.

Time and again, the man who draws so openly on King's legacy refuses to sacrifice an iota of possible political support by taking a principled stand on matters of racial justice that King said are matters of right and wrong. Instead, Obama makes cryptic or general comments that leave his position on important racial issues ambiguous or unknown.

This plea, as I say, is eloquent, but it is also, I believe, based on a sense of Obama that derives much more from hope than clear analysis. On the most fundamantal "matter of right and wrong" that are at issue today - whether it is fitting and proper for the state to treat some people better and others worse because of their race - Obama's position is neither ambiguous nor unknown.

Williams' hopes and pleas to the contrary notwithstanding, Obama has been far more clear and uncompromising on this issue than on just about anything else: from his time in the Illinois legislature until today (we'll see about tonight's speech), he has never encountered a race preference policy or program that he opposes. And he has supported these programs actively, not passively. For example, he went into Michigan and made an ad opposing the ultimately successful Michigan Civil Rights Inititative, and he has made it clear that he opposes similar initiatives that would prohibit race preferences that will be on the ballots of several states this fall.

One of the reasons Williams' plea sounds so forlorn is that he's been making it, to no avail, for so long. Last fall, for example, he endorsed Obama in a New York Times OpEd, arguing, based on his ever-present hope but no evidence, that Obama "is asking voters to move with him beyond race and beyond the civil rights movement to a politics of shared values." As I wrote at the time, criticizing that piece,
Perhaps Williams is right. Perhaps Obama does represent the Great White, or Black, hope of moving beyond race. But at this point in the race I'm afraid that Obama may be speaking "color lines" rather than providing a bridge across the color line and hence that Williams may be engaging more in wishful thinking than astute analysis....

I believe there is a way that Williams could be right, that there is an opening for a black politician to appeal to blacks and whites to unite around shared values, but so far I have not been convinced that Obama is willing or able to do that, although there have been one or two encouraging hints. One of the most fundamental values that blacks and whites share, at least on one level, is a lingering attachment to the principle that has been discarded both by black "civil rights" leaders and white elites in academia, the media, and large corporations: the old core value holding that people should be treated "without regard" to race, creed, color, or national origin. (I continue to wait, in vain, for the day some brave journalist will ask Democratic presidential candidates whether or not they believe in that principle.) ....

I believe "shared values" do indeed provide a bridge that can unite the races, but, so far at least, it has proved to be a bridge too far for Obama to cross.

Let's see whether he crosses it tonight in his speech to the masses from the set that looks like a Greek or Roman temple. Don't hold your breath.


Gallup: Obama Losing Support Among Conservative Democrats

The Gallup daily tracking poll indicates that Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has been losing support among conservative Democrats as his presidential race with Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has tightened into a dead heat.

In June, according to Gallup, Obama enjoyed the support of 71 percent of conservative Democrats. As of August 24, according to the same poll, Obama's support among conservative Democrats had dropped 8 points to 63 percent.

At the same time, Obama has also been losing support among moderate and liberal Republicans. In June, Obama had the support of 10 percent of Republicans. In mid-July, that support was up to 11 percent. As of August 24, according to the Gallup tracking poll, however, only 7 percent of Republicans said they supported Obama.

"Within the Democratic Party, Obama's losses are primarily evident among the relatively small group that describes its political views as conservative," said Gallup's poll analysis by Lydia Saad. "The 63% of conservative Democrats supporting Obama over McCain in Aug. 18-24 polling is the lowest Obama has earned since he clinched the Democratic nomination in June."

"The 78% of Democrats backing Obama from Aug. 18-24 ties for the lowest seen since early June," said the poll analysis. "The 7% of Republicans for Obama is the lowest to date (since the start of Gallup Poll Daily tracking of the Obama-McCain race in March)."

In the overall race, according to the Gallup daily tracking poll through August 26, Obama leads McCain 45 percent to 44 percent. The poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 2 points.