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US Primaries

Michael Park is a Webdiary stalwart, though sadly an infrequent visitor of recent time. However, knowing his interests, I summoned up courage to ask him to write something on the US Primaries; the following (in my opinion) excellent presentation of the history of the Primaries is the result. Thank you, Father Park, I think this is your first piece for Webdiary, and hope that there are many more to come. I also asked for a brief biography, and a photograph - the only problem was that I couldn't decide which to use, so when in doubt ... (the background is a tribute to what he confessed to consuming earlier this afternoon).

Meanwhile, Michael can speak for himself:

Originally trained as a teacher in junior high school English/history but didn't pursue it as a career. I am a partner in a personnel company that provides staff to the warehousing and distribution sector. My days seem spent reading and deciphering employment agreements, awards and negotiating the industrial relations swamp.
 
I have a consuming interest in history - particularly ancient history which I have written on Ancient Warfare (go buy it) - and have read anything from Aristotle to Thucydides and much in between. Unfortunately that which is "consumed" is often the Rectory funds in order to maintain a mini Library of Congress on the subject area.
 
Married to the Lady Rector and with two precocious postulants for whom, along with decent red, I have a distinct soft spot,  I enjoy catching most anything from barra to blurters on fly, lure and, most often, black beer. Indeed, it might be argued that I do most anything with black beer or a red: the evidence is irrefutable.

Primaries

by Michael Park

“In every American election there are two acts of choice, two periods of contest, the first is the selection of the candidate from within the party by the party; the other is the struggle between the parties for the post.”

James Bryce, American Commonwealth.

Estes Kefauver, the Senator from Tennessee alternately seen as a maverick populist or something of a buffoon, entered the 1952 Democratic National Convention a reasonably confident fellow. Having entered every primary Kefauver had garnered 64% of the primary votes cast. Although he did not have the total delegate strength to carry the convention on his own – two thirds being the required majority – he could reasonably expect to bring that populist perception, bolstered by the primary results, to bear and garner those delegate votes required to elevate him to the party’s nomination. Unfortunately for Kefauver the party, it seems, was firmly in the buffoon camp when it came to its assessment of the Senator for it duly drafted and anointed the erudite and charming Adlai Stevenson. Stevenson, of course, was annihilated in the subsequent Presidential poll by General Eisenhower, the political cleanskin and all round hero, who hadn’t even been in the country until the last week of the primaries and had been entered by “friends”.

Earlier, in 1932, Franklin Roosevelt had gone into that year’s quadrennial convention armed with a majority of the Democratic primaries: he had entered all the majors in an effort to stymie his erstwhile mentor Al Smith. That achieved, he was still short of the required majority of two-thirds and would need one or more of the other candidates to “release” their delegates to him. Smith was never likely to agree and so Roosevelt enlisted William Randolph Hearst, a key supporter of John Nance Garner who held the delegates of Texas and California, to negotiate on his behalf. Garner, having been promised the Vice Presidency, duly agreed and his delegates got Roosevelt over the line on the fourth ballot.

To those grown used to the “modern” party National Conventions – over-hyped showcases of back-slapping and gratuitous grandstanding where the future saviour of the American republic, known well before the event, is introduced to the faithful – this would all seem odd. What is not always realised is that the primary system was not always as we now have it. Nor was it always as important and all-consuming as it now is. It would surprise more than few to know that John Kennedy, that near mythical presidential prince charming, only entered seven primaries in 1960 (less than half). He achieved the nomination on the back of his charming, if not to say handsome, television presence and conspicuous quantities of Kennedy cash. More importantly, he achieved it because the party was convinced he was a winner – any Roman Catholic that can carry Protestant West Virginia must have something going for him. In the end, the party “hard heads” decided.

It was, in fact, the party which decided, for the greater part of the twentieth century, who would grab the nomination. This was done on the floor and in the smoky backrooms of the convention centre and involved negotiations featuring much trade in political favour and patronage. Although it was the delegates to these conferences – as today – whose votes were counted, it was the political powerbrokers and moneyed interests, the oligarchs, who pulled the strings and struck the deals. The candidature might not be won until several ballots had been called – as many as forty-six in Woodrow Wilson’s 1912 nomination.

This was the motivation behind the drive, present since Teddy Roosevelt’s disastrous tilt against Taft in 1912, to democratise the system; to open the selection process up and make it more visible and transparent. In the nation described as the “most democratic on Earth” it was felt to be somewhat incongruous that the party “oligarchs” could decide who would and who would not be the party’s candidate. Much better, the argument went, to allow the party members to directly vote on their own choice of candidate in a free exercise of democratic principle.

Not unexpectedly it was the Democrats, as a result of their 1968 convention, that moved to “enshrine” this idea by making the results determined by the primaries binding. The McGovern-Fraser Commission, in essence and among other things, mandated that the result of the party’s primaries would be binding upon the delegates so selected. Once a delegate was elected, he was legally bound to honour the candidate he stood for in the primary with his vote at the convention. This is how matters, largely, stand today. I say “largely” for there is a minefield of minutiae in the system which involves: caucuses (more below); voters being limited to the one party’s primary or being able to vote in either party’s or both; what determines their right to participate and “independents” allowed a vote in a Democratic primary to enumerate a few. As well candidates, prior to the convention, might be allowed to screen and remove delegates they consider “unreliable”.

Nothing terribly unusual for a nation that gave the average citizen a direct vote for the presidency and then decided it would be much better that a “college” of the more “genteel class” should be placed between the unwashed and the actual electing of that President. Thus we have a system whereby the winner of the popular vote can – and has – been discarded by college vote (1824, 1876 and 2000).

As for the “modern” primary system, McGovern set the pattern by competing in all his party’s primaries in 1972 and, although going down to the wire in California, took both the numbers and the nomination. McGovern was unelectable, as the election proved, but the party power brokers – who’d not ever likely have favoured McGovern with the candidature – could do little about it. Jimmy Carter, taking the 1976 Democratic nomination and enshrining in the process what has since become the textbook method, firmly entrenched the popular primary as the way to candidature. The Democratic Party apparatus seeking to prevent further “McGoverns” now has a number, near enough to twenty percent, of “superdelegates” who are not beholden to any candidate. These are the elected party officials, members of congress and of the Party apparatus. In other words, the power brokers.

The overwhelming importance of the current primary system and its effects are difficult to overstate. A candidate’s presidential campaign now runs for two years. Lest this be thought just a recent thing, Jimmy Carter began his run at the first primaries of ’76 a year before in 1975. He was not on any radar and was thus in no position to poll ignominiously. He didn’t, quite the opposite in fact, and the rest is history. The importance of those early primaries is just as great now. A bad showing in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire can derail a campaign before it gets going. The money required to sustain such a campaign, plus the subsequent presidential tilt, borders on the obscene. Although due to inordinate sums spent on television, other media, consultants and jetting abut the states; the length of a primary campaign is, in large part, the reason for that spending. Stalling in the early primaries almost always means waving future funding goodbye.

The early primaries have another effect: that of disenfranchising many due to the fact that the candidate is known – almost without fail – by late February or March each election year. The effect of this is a mad rush by states to slate their primaries as early as possible so as not to be rendered useless or unnecessary.

The current primary season, whilst evidencing all of this, promises more. The Republican candidature is, minus something disastrous befalling McCain, largely decided. My premature congratulations to him – my respect he’s always had. Its only interest now is to see who has anything worth bargaining with – for the minors – at the convention to come. Hence my concentration, in this piece, on the Democratic side of things: for here is a contest.

In a flurry of steam and whistles, the Clinton campaign train hit the hustings. The punditry promptly anointed Hillary favourite for the Democratic nomination. This was based on the absolutely cogent grounds that the campaign brought not only experience to the fight but, more importantly, a bevy of bills: folding, fulminating and philandering. As well the other fellow was a relative “newbie” (and not white). Obama, the “African American” candidate and not exactly cash shy, was expected to put up a spirited fight but largely surrender his momentum and – a fortiori – his ongoing funding come the “Super Tuesday” results that would see the dominant Clinton campaign emerge with the lion’s share of the result. Things have not gone to plan. Clinton was far from dominant on the Tuesday in question. Instead Obama did exactly what he had to do: firmly establish his credentials as a contender who was not about to wander off into the night. Since then he has skewered the Potomac primaries. Clinton, in what must be read as a panic move, has dismissed her campaign manager.

We have a race. The New York Times currently (Thursday night, Feb 14th) has Obama up 916 delegates to Clinton’s 885. This is a “conservative” estimate as the Times does not count the “results” of caucuses. This is because delegates so elected are not necessarily bound to the candidate and may vote differently at the national convention. That aside, this is a humdinger of a primary race. Both candidates need to attain – as long as the sanctions against Florida and Michigan stand – 2025 delegates to be “safe”.

There are still available some 1,312 delegates in contests yet to be had and Ohio (161), Texas (228), Pennsylvania (188) and Nth Carolina (134) will be crucial. A 60/40 split of the total number leads to interesting mathematics. Neither candidate will reach that magical figure – sans the “unbound” caucus votes. The “superdelegates” have always voted in favour of the clear frontrunner. Then again, there has always been such a candidate. What if, at the close of this primary season, there is no undisputed “frontrunner”? What if the convention is confronted by two candidates, bruised but not yet broke, who were yet to establish an uncontested primacy?

Then the party functionaries come to the fore and the caucus delegates, not necessarily “pledged”, will be courted on the floor. Then the deals will be done and political favours won. This will be little different – aside from the legislated smokeless rooms – than those done by FDR, Wilson or Stevenson. I for one, should it come down to it, will be a fascinated observer. Such political theatre has been sorely lacking in national conventions for far too long. Such interest in a primary season too.

Clinton is likely, one thinks, to continue her way in the south and take the majority in Texas. That said, Texas is, always, Texas. And Obama is, in my opinion, resurgent. That may be due to my view that we do not need another Clinton – and especially a Hillary – in the White House.

It most likely won’t happen – that return to the world as pictured by James Bryce in his American Commonwealth.  But I sincerely hope it does.

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Poll: 81 percent of Americans think the're on the wrong track

In the poll, 81 percent of respondents said they believed “things have pretty seriously gotten off on the wrong track,” up from 69 percent a year ago and 35 percent in early 2002.

Although the public mood has been darkening since the early days of the war in Iraq, it has taken a new turn for the worse in the last few months, as the economy has seemed to slip into recession. There is now nearly a national consensus that the country faces significant problems.........

A majority of nearly every demographic and political group — Democrats and Republicans, men and women, residents of cities and rural areas, college graduates and those who finished only high school — say the United States is headed in the wrong direction.......

More broadly, 43 percent of those surveyed said they would prefer a larger government that provided more services, which is tied for the highest such number since The Times and CBS News began asking the question in 1991. But an identical 43 percent said they wanted a smaller government that provided fewer services.

Looks like Bush and his Republican team are in big trouble as the US takes a turn to the left. 

The Wager

Choose the red Mr Park.

The most colourful candidate

The current score in Texas is 92 all, with 9 to be decided (according to Real Clear Politics at the time of posting). Since caucus votes seem to come in last, and Obama has a clear lead in caucuses, it is likely that Obama will win the delegate count for Texas. My prediction is that the final result for semi-super Tuesday will be a massive swing of about 9 to Clinton.

I've been doing some rough calculations based on the RCP figures and assuming that the remaining pledged delegates split 50/50 and the declared super delegates keep their word. On that basis, the undeclared super delegates would have to split roughly 111/233 (68%/32%) to Clinton for her to get up. If the pledged delegate split continues at the current 53/47, Clinton would need 74% of the undeclared super delegates.

I'm doubtful that the Clintons have sufficient callable debts to make up the gap, particularly given the other considerations that will influence the super delegates. Considerations like which is most electable, and the same thing cynically: which is likely to contribute to the continued prosperity of the super delegate. Considerations like avoiding the appearance of going against the popular will in smoky back rooms. Possibly even which would best lead the country. If it was the NSW Labor Right, Clinton would be a shoo-in, but it isn't.

The polls putting McCain ahead probably favour Obama. With Clinton, some of the ordinary voters wanting a new direction will go for McCain, and some of the religious Right will turn out just to defeat a Clinton. Obama, on the other hand, would get most of the new direction voters and not energise the religious sufficiently to overcome their distaste for McCain.

That's what the super delegates will be weighing up, along with their debts to the Clintons. And if Obama does get up in November, then Clinton voters have paid off a debt that couldn't be enforced, and missed out on creating a credit with the new administration.

It will come down to who the super delegates think is most likely to be elected in the circumstances. At the moment, that looks like Obama. The most colourful candidate.

It will come down to who

It will come down to who the super delegates think is most likely to be elected in the circumstances.

Indeed Mark. And the hope of my piece: bring it on. Let's see a real convention - well, at least in the old fashioned sense.

As far as Texas goes, the NYT (which I've found to be the more "conservative" in its delegate count) has given Hillary a pledged count "victory" of four. It is yet to call the caucus results of 67 delegates (where Obama leads 56.2% to 43.7%). In any case, these are not "bound" in the strict sense.

Fact remains that Hillary is on earthquake prone ground and the tremors are spreading. She should have had it sewn up by now. The party elite are now looking to who will win them an election.

That is not Hillary.

Not Even Close

 Michael Park

Given the blacksmith’s anvil of the Bush presidency securely strapped to his right leg, McCain will need any and all help he can muster.

McCain isn't linked to Bush- that's just Dem wishful thinking, thinking that would be suicidal to take into the election. McCain is a centrist independent that has made a political life out of being maverick. Something that was once viewed as a negative now has become a huge positive. It is even unlikely that some sections of the GOP (religious right) will even support him (not a bad thing).

Personally I think concerning ones self about Clinton supporters giving Obama their support is misplaced. Clinton will be the Democratic nomination in 2008. This thing is headed for floor deals and favors called in - "institution Clinton" is so far ahead in these stakes it is hardly worth the discussion. She can also rightly claim to having taken the largest states.

This election will be won by the person claiming the center. Neither Clinton nor Obama with their ridiculous left wing populism stand a chance of doing this. That sort of populism goes down well at Dem conventions and that is as far as it goes. This election is shaping up more and more as Bush versus Dukakis as each day passes.

The Republicans are a sorely tarnished conveyance. The "Dems doing what they do best" sounds like optimism to me, Mr Morrella.

Optimism? The field of 2008 candidates is woeful. There is no reason at all for any "optimism".

In a pig's...

McCain isn't linked to Bush- that's just Dem wishful thinking...  

Pig's arse. McCain is linked to Bush via his unqualified support of the Iraq war. McCain has embraced both the war and the surge. He voted for it and he voted against any timetable for withdrawal. He also voted for the "surge".

McCain has been, as you say, a "maverick". His stands on same sex unions, stem cell research, abortion and campaign finance - to name a few - do nothing for his appeal to republicans. This , though, is the man who a number of Republicans - enough to have tipped out of the 2000 primary race - were quite happy to believe was "unstable"; whose wife was a junkie; who was addicted to prostitutes and whose adopted daughter was the product of an affair with - OMG - a black.

Now, you'd think having worm that from the Bush campaign that McCain would find little redeemable about the president. not so. In his gushingly patriotic intro of Bush at the 2004 convention, McCain included the following: 

He promised our enemies would soon hear from us. And so they did. So they did...

He ordered American forces to Afghanistan and took the fight to our enemies, and away from our shores, seriously injuring al Qaeda and destroying the regime that gave them safe haven...

After years of failed diplomacy and limited military pressure to restrain Saddam Hussein, President Bush made the difficult decision to liberate Iraq Those who criticise that decision would have us believe that the choice was between a status quo that was well enough left alone and war. But there was no status quo to be left alone. The years of keeping Saddam in a box were coming to a close. The international consensus that he be kept isolated and unarmed had eroded to the point that many critics of military action had decided the time had come again to do business with Saddam, despite his near daily attacks on our pilots, and his refusal, until his last day in power, to allow the unrestricted inspection of his arsenal...

And this President will not rest until America is stronger and safer still, and this hateful iniquity is vanquished. He has been tested and has risen to the most important challenge of our time, and I salute him… 

I salute his determination to make this world a better, safer, freer place. He has not wavered. He has not flinched from the hard choices. He will not yield. And neither will we...

I believe as strongly today as ever, the mission was necessary, achievable and noble. For his determination to undertake it, and for his unflagging resolve to see it through to a just end, President Bush deserves not only our support, but our admiration.

That effusive embrace of Bush foreign policy will not go down well with an electorate fed up to the eye teeth of Iraq, surges and more blood on the Mesopotamian sand. He will need to repudiate his core belief to win those who oppose and will - a fortiori - vote against that policy.  

Father Park

A Decorated War Hero

Michael, I think you're overstating McCain's linkage to Bush through the war. My recollection is that he was a vocal critic of the conduct of the war, from fairly early on up till the "surge". Since then he has been a vocal supporter of the surge.

It seems that a very common view of the war among US voters is that getting rid of Saddam was a good thing, but Bush really screwed up. Until he got rid of Rumsfeld, called in Petraeus and ordered the surge. Now things are going a lot better. And we support our troops!

That is exactly the line that McCain is selling, from his position as a decorated war hero. He would have got it right, from the start (he's a decorated war hero). The logic is a bit dodgy, and he needs to carefully target any comments about a hundred-years war, but it is going to win him a lot of votes.

One group it will win votes from is the disillusioned military and their families (quite a lot, I'd think). It is one area where voters would switch from Obama to McCain. Without McCain, Obama wins them because of his opposition to the war from the start. Factor in McCain, though, and it changes. McCain validates their experience in a way that Obama can't hope to. He makes them feel proud again.

I think you're

I think you're overstating McCain's linkage to Bush through the war...

Not really. He is - as was Kerry - tainted by the congress of 2000-2004. He voted for the war and his only real disagreement was that the US did not go in with enough men. Hence his support for the surge. In his 2004 intro of Bush he claimed that even if Hussein had no arsenal he will have had....at some time soon one imagines.

Most of all, he was an integral Republican in that "war" congress. All who were are saddled with it - Hillary included. I would not have been surrpised had the Dems drafted Gore on that basis (and the gripping political theatre that is their primary race).

Father Park

A poll.

I had seen a poll a week or so ago which had McCain leading either Democrat contender. There is a new poll out.

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain trails Democrats Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama in hypothetical matchups, according to a Washington Post-ABC News poll released on Wednesday.

Illinois Sen. Obama leads McCain by 12 percentage points -- 52 percent to 40 percent; New York Sen. Clinton leads McCain by 6 points -- 50 percent to 44 percent, the poll found.

McCain, an Arizona senator, has turned his attention to the November 4 general election after clinching his party's nomination on Tuesday night. Clinton and Obama are still locked in a close battle for the Democratic nomination.

McCain, endorsed by U.S. President George W. Bush, fares poorly against Clinton and Obama among Americans who disapprove of the president and Americans opposing the war, The Washington Post said.

About two-thirds of Americans disapprove of the way Bush is handling his job and think the war was not worth fighting, the newspaper said.

Age might be another obstacle for 71-year-old McCain, who if elected would be the oldest first-term president.

Polls vary so we can watch out for the variations or consistent pattern.

 

Never Was Going To Be Easy Beating A War Hero

David Roffey, the Dums are now out and about doing what they do best; tearing themselves apart. The Clinton result was the worst possible result for them. This highly expensive and bitter war will continue on for a few months yet - giving more and more help to the McCain camp. Money from the street that was sitting on the sidelines should now begin pouring into the McCain campaign. There are opinions out there that this race will not even be close (easy McCain victory) - I'm tending to agree more and more with such opinions. For the life of me I can't see where either of the other two divisive candidates will get the votes.

The Massacre Is In

John McCain (for good or bad) will easily be the forty-fourth President of the United States of America.

Ye Massacre is OUT

I think we can safely place this alongside Malcolm's "John Howard will win both houses" as a premature ejaculation. McCain may yet win, but there's a lot of not so easy road to get there.

PS, given the preliminaries from the Tx caucuses, it's still possible that Clinton will finish her great victorious day slightly further behind Obama than she was at the start ... Her 'victory' in the Tx primaries got her a knockout 3 more delegates than his, Vermont and RI more or less cancel out, and her 12 delegate lead in Ohio could be negated by a big lead for him in the caucuses.

Heraclea and Asculum primaries

... given the preliminaries from the Tx caucuses, it's still possible that Clinton will finish her great victorious day slightly further behind Obama than she was at the start ... Her 'victory' in the Tx primaries got her a knockout 3 more delegates than his, Vermont and RI more or less cancel out, and her 12 delegate lead in Ohio could be negated by a big lead for him in the caucuses...

Indeed David.

Back in 280 BCE a Macedonian/Epirote army, lead by an Epirote king, faced a Roman consular army near Heraclea in Italy. At day’s end the Romans had withdrawn having lost near to 7,000 soldiers in the fighting – largely due to elephants which they’d not seen before. Months later the Romans met the victor of Heraclea in the field at Asculum. The result, indecisive and terribly bloody, saw the Romans withdraw to their camp having suffered near on 6,000 dead. The Epirote king had lost 3,500 (one of the ancient historians, Dionysius, claims a total of over 15,000 dead between the two). On being backslapped for his marvelous “victory” the Epirote king, Pyrrhus, remarked: "If we are victorious in one more battle with the Romans, we shall be utterly ruined."

Stay with me here…

Hillary is history: she should've had this nomination in the bag before now.

A scraping "victory" in Texas where her margin is near shaved ham thin when it should have been (and was going to be weeks ago) something approaching a double-decker Mama Cass club sandwich  is nowhere as big as her campaign is making out. Obama still leads the delegate count by near on a hundred.

Hillary might well sport that satisfied campaign smile and declare "victory" on the day. That's what candidates do. Outside of campaign bluster, one should see this “victory for what it is. On the day 444 delegates were up for grabs. The NYT has not yet allocated the 67 delegates from the Texas caucuses and, anyway, in the legal sense they are not truly “bound”. Of the 307 pledged delegates the NYT has given away as won Hillary has lost 144 and Obama has lost 163. Put another way, she has taken 15 on the day more than Obama.

I suspect her campaign manager, after her “victory” speech, might well have recalled Pyrrhus: “If we are victorious in one more battle with Obama, we shall be utterly ruined.”

This highly expensive and bitter war will continue on for a few months yet - giving more and more help to the McCain camp.

Given the blacksmith’s anvil of the Bush presidency securely strapped to his right leg, McCain will need any and all help he can muster.

There was a "feeling out there" that the Australian electorate was sick to death of polls and was leading Newspoll and others a merry dance. The only merry dance was that performed by the victors: as the polls had suggested.

The Republicans are a sorely tarnished conveyance. The "Dems doing what they do best" sounds like optimism to me, Mr Morrella. As David has noted, there is a way to go yet and the Dems will get behind Obama when he scores the nomination.

A measure of where the GOP is at will be how long it takes them to shove the fact that in electing the Democratic candidate they are electing a black.

Father Park

Toss a coin to lose

In one corner we have a right wing muslim apostate. In the other, a right wing christian deceiver. Waiting to challenge the winner, a right wing christian warlord. The only one to benefit? Yahweh the mythical god of war and his ongoing reign of destruction.

Pennsylavania 65000....

And so the waggon rolls on.... to Pennsylvania.

Clinton's campaign train, its steam and whistles lacking oxygen and coal, has picked up enough of both to stave off relegation to the political Powerhouse Museum. The Texas vote is on a  knife edge at present: Obama in the caucuses - 56.2 / 43.7; Clinton in the primaries - 50.4 / 47.7. Regardless of whether she takes the vote in Texas, Hill and Bill will still (oh dear) trail Obama on delegate count. The difference will be that the mathematics will no longer be impossible - as it would have been had she lost badly in either Ohio or Texas.

It will still be very difficult though.

A loss in Pennsylvania of any significant size and - to continue with Bernie Taupin's words - Obama will become "the main express" with the superdelegates trending toward him. That is likely occurring now.

For Clinton and the white House, it will become a case of "this train don't stop there anymore".

After that alliteration as performance art above, it's time for the club and black beer methinks...

Father Park

Civil liberties a reason to barrack for Obama.

Mr. Obama made his name in the Illinois Legislature by championing historic civil liberties reforms, like the mandatory recording of all interrogations and confessions in capital cases. Although prosecutors, the police, the Democratic governor and even some death penalty advocates were initially opposed to the bill, Mr. Obama won them over. The reform passed unanimously, and it has been adopted by four other states and the District of Columbia.

In the Senate, Mr. Obama distinguished himself by making civil liberties one of his legislative priorities. He co-sponsored a bipartisan reform bill that would have cured the worst excesses of the Patriot Act by meaningfully tightening the standards for warrantless surveillance. Once again, he helped encourage a coalition of civil-libertarian liberals and libertarian conservatives. The effort failed when Hillary Clinton joined 13 other Democrats in supporting a Republican motion to cut off debate on amendments to the Patriot Act.

This is an extract from a piece in The New York Times by Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University, who is the author of The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries That Defined America.

As the race for the Democrat nomination moves into its last days, Barack Obama seems to be the true reformer that is needed. An ideal democratic ticket would be Obama for president and Clinton for vice president. A perfect team with vision, courage and experience.

In raptures.

More from Glenn Greenwald on McCain/Hagee and related matters.

The McCain/Hagee story is growing, though still not as much as it ought to. My new friends from the Catholic League emailed earlier to advise that Bill Donohue was being interviewed for tonight's program of The Situation Room on CNN. Blogs at The Washington Post and ABC News today covered the growing scandal from the anti-Catholic bigotry perspective, with the latter actually featuring the unbelievably inflammatory You Clip -- found by Ann Althouse, which I posted yesterday and which is now being distributed by the Catholic League -- of a shirt-sleeved Pastor Hagee spewing the creepiest, most hateful bile imaginable about Catholicism ("This is the Great Whore of Revelation 17").

As The Post noted, Catholics United, a less reactionary group than the Catholic League, has now also denounced McCain's warm embrace of Hagee and demanded that he repudiate his endorsement. Thus far, it is Hagee's anti-Catholicism which is being featured -- largely because when Bill Donohue issues press releases, the media jumps to cover it. While that angle has substantial political ramifications -- Karl Rove identified the Catholic vote in 2004 as the most vital to the GOP's electoral successes -- the reality is that Hagee's hateful and twisted extremism extends far beyond that realm. In sum, John McCain has aligned himself with one of America's purest -- and most powerful -- haters, and that ought to be the story here.

If course if Hagee got what he wanted it would not be just Americans who should be concerned.

Unequal treatment.

A piece by Glenn Greenwald on the responses to support of candidates. There are worrying inconsistencies.

One of this week's hysterical press scandals was that Minister Louis Farrakhan praised Barack Obama's candidacy even though Obama had previously denounced numerous Farrakhan remarks and the Obama campaign did nothing to seek out the Farrakhan praise. Nonetheless, Tim Russert demanded that Obama jump through multiple hoops to prove that he has no connection to -- and, in fact, "rejects" -- the ideas espoused by Farrakhan deemed to be radical and hateful.

Yesterday, though, the equally fringe, radical and hateful (at least) Rev. John Hagee -- a white evangelical who is the pastor of a sprawling "mega-church" in Texas -- enthusiastically endorsed John McCain. Did McCain have to jump through the same hoops which Russert and others set up for Obama and "denounce" Hagee's extremism and "reject" his support? No; quite the opposite. McCain said he was "very honored" to receive this endorsement and, when asked about some of Hagee's more twisted views, responded: "all I can tell you is that I am very proud to have Pastor John Hagee's support."

Proud? What of?

* The End Times -- Rapture -- is imminent and the U.S. Government must do what it can to hasten it, which at minimum requires: (a) a war with Iran and (b) undying, absolute support for a unified Israel, including all Occupied Territories (hence, Joe Lieberman's love affair with them). From Christian Palestinian Daoud Kuttab in The New York Times (h/t PZ Meyers):

A small minority of evangelical Christians have entered the Middle East political arena with some of the most un-Christian statements I have ever heard. . . . [Rev.] Hagee, a popular televangelist who leads the 18,000-member Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, ratcheted up his rhetoric this year with the publication of his book, "Jerusalem Countdown," in which he argues that a confrontation with Iran is a necessary precondition for Armageddon (which will mean the death of most Jews, in his eyes) and the Second Coming of Christ. In the best-selling book, Hagee insists that the United States must join Israel in a preemptive military strike against Iran to fulfill God's plan for both Israel and the West.

Hagee believes that "the president's support for Israel fulfills a biblical injunction to protect the Jewish state," which "will play a pivotal role in the second coming." These views are not unrelated to Hagee's support for McCain. Quite the contrary; Hagee cited McCain's so-called "pro-Israel views," his belligerence towards Iran, and his social conservatism as reasons for the endorsement. And in critical contrast to Obama and Farrakhan, McCain actually seems to share some of Hagee's more twisted views, as evidenced by McCain's joyful singing about dropping bombs on Iran.

Would be an interesting platform - the usual "chicken in every pot" type of promises with the extra inducement of the end of the world.

A plus ca change piece from DemocracyNow! - Jeremy Scahill on Clinton and Obama and contractors in Iraq.

So, in some cases, not much change is to be expected.

Neocontinuity and "I'll have what he's having".

Jacob Heilbrunn asks Will the Real Neocon Please Stand Up?

The Romans called it haruspicy—trying to divine the future by studying animal entrails. Judging by the records of American presidents, attempting to predict their foreign policy stands based on what they say during the election campaign may not be a much more scientific approach. President Bush promised humility and denounced nation-building in 2000. Bill Clinton said he would focus like a laser on the economy and ended up devoting much of his second term to foreign affairs, including waging war in the Balkans. In 1968 Richard Nixon said he had a plan to exit Vietnam and four years later ran for reelection as a war president. Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt said that they would never—well, you get the idea. A cynic might even speculate that it’s safest to expect the very opposite of the policies that the candidate is espousing.

To be fair, this is supposed to be a time of heady optimism since the candidates haven’t become sullied by actually having to govern. The Democrats can guarantee full health care for everyone even if there’s no money in the federal kitty to pay for it. Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) can talk about making nice with the likes of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. And Senator John McCain (R-AZ) can offer all kinds of promises about reviving American might and prestige abroad, that he’ll get right what the Bush administration got wrong, even as he threatens to become the Bill Clinton of the GOP, forced to suppress his own "bimbo eruptions."

But with all the talk of reform and change and boldness, might there be less of it in 2008 than anyone is currently anticipating, regardless of who is elected? Might even the doctrinal movement that guided the Bush administration continue to exercise an outsized influence on the next one? Might one clue to where the candidates are headed even be determining who is the most neoconservative of the bunch? Might there, in fact, be neocontinuity?

We'll come back to the "heady optimism" shortly.

Glenn Greenwald on how Obama deals with slimy right-wing attacks.

By far, the most significant pattern in how our political discourse is shaped is that the right-wing noise machine generates scurrilous, petty, personality-based innuendo about Democratic candidates, and the establishment press then mindlessly repeats it and mainstreams it. Thus, nothing was more predictable than watching the "Obamas-are-unpatriotic-subversives" slur travel in the blink of an eye from the Jack Kingstons, Fox News adolescent McCarthyites, and Bill Kristols of the world to AP, MSNBC, and CNN. That's just how the right-wing/media nexus works.

Far more notable is Barack Obama's response to these depressingly familiar attacks. In response, he's not scurrying around slapping flags all over himself or belting out the National Anthem, nor is he apologizing for not wearing lapels, nor is he defensively trying to prove that -- just like his Republican accusers -- he, too, is a patriot, honestly. He's not on the defensive at all. Instead, he's swatting away these slurs with the dismissive contempt they deserve, and then eagerly and aggressively engaging the debate on offense because he's confident, rather than insecure, about his position:

About not wearing an American flag lapel pin, Obama said Republicans have no lock on patriotism.

"A party that presided over a war in which our troops did not get the body armor they needed, or were sending troops over who were untrained because of poor planning, or are not fulfilling the veterans' benefits that these troops need when they come home, or are undermining our Constitution with warrantless wiretaps that are unnecessary?

"That is a debate I am very happy to have. We'll see what the American people think is the true definition of patriotism."

Now back to that "heady optimism" and the Crawford Caligula gives a pep talk. 

WASHINGTON — President Bush predicted Monday that voters will replace him with a Republican president who will "keep up the fight" in Iraq. "I'm confident we'll hold the White House in 2008," Bush told donors at the Republican Governors Association annual dinner, which raised a record $10.6 million for GOP gubernatorial candidates.

"And I don't want the next Republican president to be lonely," Bush said. "And that is why we got to take the House, retake the Senate, and make sure our states are governed by Republican governors."

What has he been snorting? And $10.6 million raised? Looks like his audience joined in. Must be really good stuff. Of course, it could be a case of him having to sound upbeat.

Or have the party apparatchiks told him that have added more to their election fixing bag of tricks?

"Something is happening here ..."

Chris Floyd on the inevitability of empire. The header is a hint, but here is more:

But on that Nashville night, Dylan – loquacious, and probably libated – was doing a lot of his old tunes, including the surreal send-up of conventional wisdom, "Ballad of a Thin Man."  In that song, the hapless, clueless "hero" – the now iconic Mister Jones – is shown at one point handing in his ticket "to go see the geek." Even back in 1978, I was old enough to know what a geek really was, but Dylan obviously thought that most of the audience wouldn't get the reference; the word was fast losing its specificity, and was by then mostly used as a vague synonym for "nerd" or some other socially awkward person. So before playing the song, Dylan launched into a long, rambling story about "the carnivals we used to have in the Fifties," and how they all had a "geek" – someone who would bite the head off a live chicken, then proceed to eat the rest of the dead, bleeding, flapping carcass in front of the paying customers. It used to cost just a quarter to see the geek in the old days, Dylan said, "although it probably costs five dollars now."

Today of course, in our glittering 21st century of ubiquitous, 24-hour, multi-platform media access, we can watch geeks for free: all we have to do is turn to the latest reports on the presidential campaign. There we can see the revolting but fascinating spectacle of freakish characters willing to do just about anything – gnaw off a chicken head, lie like a dog, pander like a door pimp, crawl on their bellies to tongue a corporate boot, turn themselves inside out and shake their innards at the camera – to grab our attention and please the carnival's owners. We are also subjected to endless exegesis of every aspect of the geeks' performance: "Wasn't it wonderful how Obama nipped that chicken neck so expertly? Did Hillary do enough to win back the crowd when she slurped down the heart and the liver the same time? Should she have tried to get the gizzard in too? And what about McCain's trouble getting that right wing down his throat? Let's see what our expert analysts have to say. Over to you, Bill Kristol and James Carville…."

But while the feathers fly and the fan dancers trot across the electoral stage, the deadly, democracy-killing business of empire-building grinds on behind the gaudy scenes. And not a single one of the top troika are taking a stand against it; indeed, all of them have made their commitment to American military dominance of the planet – and their proud refusal to take any option "off the table" in world affairs – crystal clear. What we are seeing now – and what we will see when the race narrows down to just a pair of geeks chomping at the chicken – is simply a debate over the best way to keep the empire in fighting trim while gussying up some of the ham-handed excesses of the past few years.

There is a line  in the film I'm Not There from the outlaw on Chicken Town:

Trouble was I'd grown partial to the place, with its sudden smell of fear and thrill of waiting up for the end of the world.

In the meantime we'll soon know how good an actor you have to be to play Bob. Go Cate!

Not the only one?

G'day Craig, is OBL the only one who wants the long war to continue? Some might suggest that he's been "kept alive" to serve that very purpose.

There is the "he's a Muslim" claim as well.

Not satisfied with the "He's black" targeting, there is the Muslim angle as well as being anti-Israel

Fox News has an "interesting" poll

The results are in from the latest FOX News survey, and we now know the answer to the most important question of the race: "Who is Usama Rooting For?":

Who does Usama bin Laden want to be the next president? More people think the terrorist leader wants Obama to win (30 percent) than think he wants Clinton (22 percent) or McCain (10 percent). Another 18 percent says it doesn’t matter to bin Laden and 20 percent are unsure.

This is not a joke.

What next? The mind boggles.

Who does OBL want to be the next president?

My answer would be: John McCain.

That way the long war will continue, and, as was the central thesis of Adam Curtis' The Power of Nightmares, the overstatement of the power of OBL will also continue.

Fleshing out the Obama-assassination meme

The Obama-assassination meme quite obviously has some concrete basis in real concerns for the safety of the candidate, who would be like a red rag to a bull for some 'elements' in the US polity.

Recalling the 'race' riots in LA over the bashing of Rodney King by LA's finest, the consequences for 'race' relations in the States of even an unsuccessful attempt on BHO's life could be quite explosive.

Not wanting to dwell too much on such concerns, but one shudders to think of it.

Oh McCain, you've done it again.

As I raised the matter in my previous post, he is a collection of stories in John McCain's alleged doings and inconsistencies.

Glenn Greenwald on a serious inconsistency

McCain speaks: "I’m the only one the special interests don’t give any money to." Really?

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, McCain has taken nearly $1.2 million in campaign contributions from the telephone utility and telecom service industries, more than any other Senator. McCain sides with the telecom companies on retroactive immunity.

McCain is also the single largest recipient of campaign contribution by Ion Media Networks — formerly Paxson Communication — receiving $36,000 from the company and employees from 1997 to mid-year 2006.

Has Obama any ties? 

Barack Obama, hoping to shore up major victories in the delegate rich states of Texas and Ohio early next month, is going after Hillary Clinton's ever-dwindling base of working class voters. The Illinois Senator is hoping to stimulate their passion for his campaign by proposing to stimulate the weak economy by spending $210 billion on new jobs. Obama says his government sponsored employment program would allocate $150 billion over 10 years to create 5 million jobs in environmental industries.

Sounds Keynesian enough. Obama would couple his lavish government spending with investments from the private sector to produce work for many of America's underemployed. The number of jobs he seeks to create is significant to be sure, but the real question is in what "environmental" capacity would these so-called "green collar" jobs be created? Many critics argue that Obama's plan doesn't exactly create jobs, but only redistributes money from one part of the economy to another. Even so, there may be far more sinister tenets to Obama's economic plan.

Unfortunately the Obama campaign is light on the details of his stimulus program, only referring to these government gigs as working to develop more environmentally friendly energy sources. At face value this may all sound like a noble venture -- one greens and others concerned with the environment might consider getting behind. But given Obama's track record, voters can't be too certain his plan is all that "green". In fact it may be just the opposite, for the senator's ties to the nuclear industry are stronger than any other candidate in the hunt for the White House this year.

Not promising if an accurate account. Truly green credentials needed.

Who to bomb and preconditions for "change".

Ignoring the sex scandal surrounding the leading Republican candidate for the moment - which is subject to claim and denial and does it really matter unless you are a Republican and the accused is a Democrat occupying the White House? Then you would make the issue on of trust "He lied ...". Ironic given the lying the US into a war of aggression comparison.

On the subject of war, John McCain is concerned about an opponent's views on bombing. Given that McCain is increasingly looking like an escapee from a Monty Python sketch ("Where haven't we bombed) McCain's concerns might seem odd. Glenn Greenwald explains

John McCain on Barack Obama, yesterday:

In Ohio, Mr. McCain sharpened his attacks on Mr. Obama, accusing him of wanting to bomb Pakistan and of announcing it ahead of time to the rest of the world.

"That's naïve," Mr. McCain said at a news conference in Columbus. "The first thing that you do is you make your plans and you carry out your operations as necessary for America's national security interests. You don't broadcast that you are going to bomb a country that is a sovereign nation."

"You don't broadcast ..." All together now - "Bomb, bomb, bomb ..." The article has more.

We have discussed the necessity for change in the US, here is an article about the preconditions for something more than just change.

You ain't seen nothing yet.

The more Obama wins the more attention he attracts. Serious and constructive analysis of his policies? Well, maybe not. Glenn Greenwald on what is coming out and what is in store.

The most interesting and potentially most significant aspect of Obama's convincing win last night is that it came after a week in which -- really for the first time -- he was targeted from all political and media corners with a relentless stream of the strain of petty though toxic trash which has dominated our political discourse and elections for decades now. And it didn't really seem to have any impact at all.

Over the last week, we learned that: (a) Obama is a closet socialist as evidenced by the Che Guevara picture a volunteer posted on a campaign office wall; (b) Obama's wife, Michelle, is both self-absorbed and subversive, as she secretly hates the U.S. and will only believe it's a good country if her husband becomes President; (c) Obama is a thief and a plagiarist; and,

(d) in one of the most repulsive screeds in memory, courtesy of National Review's Lisa Schiffren, former Dan Quayle aide, the fact that Obama's parents are a mixed-race couple strongly suggests they were probably Communists, because who else, besides Communists, would marry outside of their own race? She cited an equally repellent article by AIM's Cliff Kinkaid, entitled Obama's Communist Mentor, which "reveals" that "through Frank Marshall Davis, Obama had an admitted relationship with someone who was publicly identified as a member of the Communist Party USA."

Most importantly of all, the guardians of our political discourse -- the Chris Matthews and Howie Kurtzs and Mark Halperins and The Politicos, all of whom dwell in Matt Drudge's kingdom -- traffic almost exclusively in puerile, vapid fixations with these types of petty conflicts and substance-free controversies. They're the decadent ringleaders of the freak show which dominates our political discourse and dictates the outcome of our elections.

And in the red corner - Justin Raimondo Why is John McCain Running Against Robert A. Taft?

John McCain loves reporters, and the feeling is mutual: after all, he's great copy, has a fantastic narrative, and is always eager to make their jobs easier by giving them plenty of good quotes to chew over. The latest installment of the longest love affair in American politics appears in the New Yorker, in Ryan Lizza's "On the Bus," wherein McCain talks about everything under the sun: the campaign ("I just had my interrogation on Russert. It's a good thing I had all that preparation in North Vietnam!"); his recent contretemps over the Iraq "timetable" issue with Romney; and what he's reading these days – David Halberstam's The Coldest Winter, an account of the Korean War and the politics surrounding the darkest days of the Cold War.

"It's beautifully done. It's not just about the war, but it's a very good description, whether you agree with it or not, of the political climate at that time – the split in the Republican Party between the Taft wing and the Eisenhower wing, and Harry Truman's incredible relationship with MacArthur. At least half the book is about the political situation in the United States during that period – the isolationism, who lost China, the whole political dynamic. That's what I think makes it well worth reading."

McCain has "isolationism" on his mind, as well he might: over 60 percent of the American people want out of Iraq, and they have no appetite for the new wars that McCain clearly sees on the horizon. Indeed, in a recent outburst he declared:

"It's a tough war we're in. It's not going to be over right away. There's going to be other wars. I'm sorry to tell you, there's going to be other wars. We will never surrender but there will be other wars. And right now – we're gonna have a lot of PTSD [post traumatic stress disorder] to treat, my friends. We're gonna have a lot of combat wounds that have to do with these terrible explosive IEDs that inflict such severe wounds. And my friends, it's gonna be tough, we're gonna have a lot to do."

Ah, but some people don't see this horror as inevitable – those dreaded "isolationists," whom McCain hates and fears. As Lizza puts it: "McCain has decided that it's the isolationists – a group that he defines broadly, and which includes the Left and the Right – who are the real threat."

Of course, there is no such creature as an "isolationist": no one advocates putting the U.S. in a box, cutting off trade and cultural relations with the rest of the world, and going the way of the Hermit Kingdom. "Isolationist" is a vintage smear word, used by the War Party since time immemorial to characterize its opponents as addle-brained cranks. Any and all advocates of a non-militaristic policy of peaceful engagement with the world will inevitably be tarred with the I-word, and there's no way around it. The War Party, with its media connections and virtual monopoly on mainstream outlets, will see to that.

"... the ecstatic and psychopathic". Seen that before.

He's black.

Unless the wheels fall off Obama's primaries campaign, it is highly likely that he will be the Democratic nominee come August. Has it been tough so far? Not really. Clinton's campaign has been, well, inept. Particularly for one with such "experience".

It will become extremely tough once the conventions are done and dusted though. The Dems have, so far, resorted to plagiarism and lack of substance attacks. Expect that to change markedly come September.

The GOP will have no qualms turning this into a "Black for President" theme. The organisation that destroyed the current Republican hope, McCain, in 2000 will not let the black stop them. Those who though nothing of alleging the McCains' adopted Bangladeshi daughter was the result of an affair with a black woman; that painted McCain's wife as a serial drug abuse and McCain himself as alternately homosexual and a cavorter with prostitutes as well as mentally unstable are hardly likely to let the "soft-cocks" in the party wring their hands over the word "black".

That goes double for his middle name Hussein.

The "swift-blacking" of Barrack Hussein Obama might top those South Carolina/Virginia primary campaigns of 2000.

Back to the issue at hand.

Michael, perhaps you'd be more interested in material on the progress of the primaries than in handing out unwanted advice. Here are two on Clinton v Obama:

David Corn

Edward McClelland.

Oh dear

I didn't think I was quite so direct about your "unwanted advice" Bob. Then again, this is not my "front room" either.

Thanks for the links - as per usual - though I do have my own sources. David Corn not withstanding.

Time for bed. As I can't fit shoes under the base, I doubt I need look for unmentionables. Interesting how they task people around these parts though...

I meant ...

Michael Park, I assume you realised I meant time, not young. I blame the painkillers. I hope I wasn't too abrupt - have done so much on the US that yours comments were very old hat. And I still blame the painkillers. Not much work (avoid using the word troll, they are on my mind) needed to read today's links if you wish. And it does look increasingly like Clinton has made a mess of it (PM Carpenter is looking good) and Obama is rolling along. Still, wait and see.

And one day comes the reckoning.

...avoid using the word

...avoid using the word troll, they are on my mind...

I rarely avoid using any word that might convey meaning or illustrate a point, Bob.

The reduction of vocabulary to a minimum, producing a near functional illiteracy, is the bane of the present.

Perhaps you should give less thought to those you "see" giving rise to the above comment. God knows - if they exist - they love your rises.

Father Park

More on the candidates.

It's the right to rule, David.

Like the Bushes, the Clintons seem to believe they have some special entitlement to the White House, and thus whatever they do to get there is justified. The two ruling families function with a monarchical air that is unique – or foreign – to the American experience.

George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush have enjoyed wearing baseball caps emblazoned with “41” and “43” respectively, signifying their numerical claims on the U.S. presidency. It is still not known what articles of clothing the Clintons might embroider with “42” and “44.”

But like the Bushes, who bullied their way back into the White House by shutting down vote-counting in Florida in December 2000, the Clintons also seem to view their claim on the presidency as a right. Any serious challenger must be treated as a pretender guilty of the crime of insolence.

So, even as Hillary Clinton’s cornerstone argument – her “ready on Day One” superior management skills – has crumbled amid the wreckage of her inept campaign, she sends her surrogates out to attack Barack Obama over trivial matters, like whether he adopted a rhetorical argument that his friend, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, once used.

PM Carpenter has more on Clinton. 

Life is cruel. Politics is crueler. But perhaps the cruelest: the irony of failure via the certitude of success.

 

If you're a regular reader of this column you probably noticed that for some time I have written under the presumption of Barack Obama as the Democratic nominee. Some have seen this as jumping the gun -- that all is not yet doom for Hillary Clinton, and there are yet decisive dramas to be played out, today, in two weeks, and in two months. So be patient, these some have advised or scolded.

 

But, if I may: It wasn't I who jumped the gun. It was Clinton.

 

For too long, and way too early, she was absolutely sure of prevailing in the primary season, for who would successfully challenge the all-powerful and party-loved Clintons? She would flick away internal opposition like so many gnats -- "It will," as she commanded last year, "be all over by Feb. 5th " -- so the selection process was a mere warm-up. The only real work would be in the general.

 

Nowhere was this more evident than in two incurable miscalculations hatched and executed as supreme cleverness: the tragic one of her Iraq war vote and the relatedly foolish one of her schmoozing with the conservative media. Both, as we and she now know, came back to bite her in the derrière.

On the Republican side

WASHINGTON—The good news for Republicans is that they have a big head start in the Fiesta of Forced Smiles—the post-primary, pre-convention phase of the presidential campaign in which former opponents and party elders pledge their support for the presumptive nominee in a photogenic show of unity.

The bad news is that the likely nominee, John McCain, intends to run on positions that most voters reject.

Don't mention the war, but ... 

As the race for the United States presidential nominations progresses, the stances of and attitudes towards both Republican and Democratic candidates continue to bring up causes for concern, in terms of their past behavior, current appeal and general trustworthiness.

Republican Mitt Romney's exit has practically assured Senator John McCain's victory in his party. While we might expect McCain's narrow-mindedness and pro-war rhetoric to make him an uncontested darling of conservatives, the doubts that remain about his credibility -- and the seemingly absurd accusations by some that he is more liberal than Democratic liberals -- highlight two disturbing trends.

The first is the extent of the moral corruption among many Republicans that would enable viewing McCain as a liberal. Then again it might be a fair assessment in the context of Armageddon enthusiast, Mike Huckabee, surpassing expectations on Super Tuesday. The rise of the former Arkansas governor -- highlighting the growing power of fundamentalist evangelical Christians -- should have been picked up as an alarming trend by Americans, but the media was largely unmoved.

The second is that making such comparisons between McCain and Democratic nominees doesn't necessarily point to a lack of judgment in characters. Clinton's hawkish foreign policy views would indeed qualify her as a faithful follower of the warmongering policies of Bush himself.

More military spending - how would George Washington feel about it? A view.

A few years ago I visited the Huntington Library in San Marino, where, among other things, I saw an original manuscript of an annual budget for the federal government, which George Washington had submitted to Congress.

The most interesting feature of this document was the appropriation for what in those less-euphemistic times was called the Department of War. As I recall, it included salaries for 18 employees.

This reminded me that Washington, like most members of America's founding generation, was at best ambivalent about the idea that the United States should maintain any sort of standing army (this wariness is reflected in the controversial first clause of the Second Amendment, regarding the need to maintain "a well-regulated militia.").

Washington was both an accomplished general and an eminently realistic politician, and even in the late 18th century he recognized that a permanent professional military was becoming a necessary evil of the modern nation-state. But that didn't mean he was happy about the fact.

"... the acquisition of unwarranted influence ...". Past presidents are often praised but too often ignored.

Obama for Tx & Oh ?

Looking at Obama's 58% or so in the preliminaries for Wisconsin (78% of precincts counted at this point), I'm thinking he can maybe win Texas and Ohio, and stop all this superdelegate debate. Not, of course, that that would stop the Clintons claiming victory.

Texas Primary

Polling in Texas is essentially line ball. It will be most interesting. Nothing short of a comprehensive Clinton victory will do for the Hillary camp. Ditto Ohio.

It is, seemingly, all too late. Obama best start adding up his I.O.Us.

Shame, I'd have liked to see the haggling take place.

Bob, I'm pleased you're across all this: accordingly I shall cease wasting my "young". Also, I'm not much for trolling threads for links.

Fish I will, on occasion, troll for.

Father Park

Big sticks - it's their way.

Craig posed a question about Republicans and their big stick fixation. There is an interesting two part article on US attitudes to terrorism and war by David Young. Part 1. Part 2. Also see my Monday and Tuesday posts on "Last Hurrah".

Michael Park, you could have saved yourself some young - my reading on the US political system did not start with the Crawford Caligula but goes back over four decades and includes some formal study on the matter. So you weren't telling me anything I did not know.

I am also aware of what LBJ achieved. That, however, is a separate issue to where RFK might have gone. 

As to Obama - others suggested on this thread what might happen to him.  Less dramatically, there are constraints of the system and its vested interests to contend with. Mark saw the point I was making about Obama, but others have not. See also my previous posts - and linked material.

Gang Bang McCain

"What is it with Republicans and their big bloody sticks?"

I think it's called compensation or something like that, Craig.

The Yankee punter may be a little weary of boys and their sticks by now; McCain after all is prepared to roger all and sundry for 100 years or more, at least that's what the Dems can keep reminding the punters of come election time.

Fiona: I'm so glad that you said this, Justin - saves me from unpleasant accusations were I to have mentioned boys' toys.

How Right is McCain?

Pete Du Pont has a go at answering the question for the Wall Street Journal:

Add it all together and John McCain is mostly conservative, but he is also much like Theodore Roosevelt. Teddy Roosevelt commanded the Rough Rider soldiers in the Spanish-American War. As president he was resolute, industrious and not particularly patient ... He encouraged insurrection in Panama so he could build the canal, and built and sent around the world the Great White Fleet, the largest Navy America had ever had, to make clear to the world that we were leaders and meant business.

And Roosevelt's favorite saying was "Speak softly and carry a big stick," which sounds pretty much like the modern John McCain.

All of which leads me to ask another question: What is it with Republicans and their big bloody sticks?

Cutting through.

Thank you Mark, for getting the point. No, I am not all that confident about the change occurring - just think back to the optimism over the Dems winning majorities in the mid-terms and look at what they've done. Or rather haven't done. 

Elsewhere I have linked articles about the advisers to the candidates - all pretty much same old, same old. Time for someone to break out but there are forces (party power brokers, etc) who will try to prevent it. One big step would have been impeaching Bush and Cheney but that has not happened.

Justin raised the matter of Diebold - and there have been reports of some strange results in the primaries. Just another way of ensuring no one rocks the boat.

The natural reading

Am I the only one who read Bob Wall's comment as saying that electing Obama is the best chance for the USA to avoid electing a puppet? Richard's comment at the time puzzled me a bit.

Here's what Bob said regarding Obama:

A change is needed else it is a long, complex and expensive way to pick the next puppet
The natural reading seems to me that a change (Obama) is needed, otherwise zillions is invested in electing another puppet of Big Business & the Party apparatus - whether Clinton or McCain (though McCain is also fairly independent of his Party's apparatus).

Not only is that the natural reading, but it accords with what is publicly known. The Democratic Party powerbrokers mostly favour Clinton over Obama - and many owe their positions to Bill. Corporate donations to the Democrats also seem to favour Clinton, while Obama is largely funded by individual donations. (I don't know if that is documented, but it's certainly the appearance.)

I think this reading is a bit more optimistic about Obama escaping puppethood than Bob intended, but it is clear that Obama has significantly fewer debts to be called in than Clinton - at least on the public record.

Speaking as a Kennedy myself

Bob, hello. If you feel Barack Obama is a Kennedy "puppet", or any kind of "puppet", why do you "favour" him as a Presidential candidate?

Also, wouldn't you say that remarks like 'Well, sort of, though I wouldn't drink coffee that pale.' demeaning? Or Evan calling him "a black(-ish) American"?

As I said, would you call Michael Mansell a "black(-ish)" Australian? Because he's "pale"?

Also, I find the open speculation about Obama being assassinated disturbing at least. And as for RFK being assassinated, that was by Sirhan Bashira Sirhan who seems to have killed RFK for the latter's support for Israel.

By the way, who remembers this:

“John Wilkes Booth, Lee Harvey Oswald, John Hinckley Jr. — where are you now that we need you?” (October 23, 2004, The Guardian)?

Justin Obodie, regarding your remark that you "don't think any of the popular contenders for the American crown have what it takes to turn the ship around, bad stuff for the next few years or even decades. Methinks the world will continue to disconnect itself from America until such time as they base their economy on sound, transparent and prudent principals."

You might find this surprising, then: "Since 2005 the US foreign deficit has decreased $100 billion."
 
I wouldn't mind betting that the devaluation of the US dollar will further see the US deficit decline over time, so it's not beyond the realm of possibility at all that Barack Obama could preside over very different terms of trade.

Play the game ... or ...

Michael, you will see from my Calling the tune post that I was referring more generally than a specific claim of the Kennedys being behind Obama. Focusing on one particular candidate diverts from the bigger picture and the vested interests and corruption that beset DC.

If there is sufficient substance in Obama to carve his own path then suggestions have been raised as to what might happen to him. And that kind of talk takes me back to JFK, MLK and RFK - the last being perhaps the death of hope for America's future.

Of the contenders I do favour Obama (any other left handers here?) as having possibilities - if partly for the thought that perhaps Mel Brooks might make a film of him becoming president. The title Blazing White Houses comes to mind. A scene ... grizzled old denizen of DC pointing at a distant approaching figure and stuttering in his genuine Beltway idiom:

The president's a n-n-n- ...

Well, sort of, though I wouldn't drink coffee that pale.

If there is sufficient

If there is sufficient substance in Obama to carve his own path then suggestions have been raised as to what might happen to him. And that kind of talk takes me back to JFK, MLK and RFK - the last being perhaps the death of hope for America's future.

Bob, I doubt it makes any difference who takes the White House, people will be owed: they always are and they always have been. That was the import of the piece with respect to the “democratising” of the process. The candidate is now running – for his party’s nomination – for a year at least. The sums required for a successful candidacy are now, quite simply, enormous. This in large part due to the nature of the process that sees inordinate TV spending and constant jetting about of candidate’s retinue around the country. Those contributing do so for favour: political favour and access.

To think this is only the case nowadays though is to have a Pollyanna view of times past. This existed, indeed was entrenched, in the days of Wilson’s nomination and FDR’s. It was as bad (or worse) in the previous century at times.  The moneyed interests had their say. Then those interests, the oligarchs, and the party big boys (occasionally the same critters), Havanas protruding from thin lips, struck the deals that gifted the nomination. The price was the same as today: influence, favour and access.

I’d be interested in exactly what you mean by “suggestions have been raised as to what might happen to” Obama should he “carve his own path”. As opposed to whose path?

You and I might share certain views about RFK. The rhetoric was strong and there is always a sense of promise unfulfilled about a person cut down prematurely. That agreed, it can be easy to be carried off by it.

It is often forgotten that for all the talk and towering Kennedy rhetoric it was Johnson who saw the programme through congress that the Kennedys largely only ever talked of. The Civil Rights Act, conceived by the Kennedy administration, was finished and pushed by Johnson. That done he set about a revolution in education when he drafted and had congress pass the cleverly conceived the “Elementary and Secondary Education Act” in 1964. He followed that, later that year,  with the Higher Education Act and then Medicare. He then topped the lot with the voting Rights Act of 1965. His speech to congress, selling his legislation, had lines that RFK will have struggled to beat

The command of the constitution is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong – deadly wrong – to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country. There is no issue of states rights or of national rights. There is only the struggle for human rights.

He will though, of course, forever be linked with the war he inherited from the Kennedys: Vietnam. That will come down to his mistakes there as much as theirs.

We will not ever know what sort of president RFK might have been had he taken Nixon in ’68. Certainly not anywhere near as “mean spirited”, suspicious or “unstable” as was Nixon at his worst. The doubt will always have been RFK’s acumen in the area of foreign affairs.

All of which leads me to ask another question: What is it with Republicans and their big bloody sticks? 

There was, Craig, much more to Teddy Roosevelt than “speak softly and carry a big stick”. It would not do to look beyond caricatures though…

Will Obama survive long enough to run?

Evan, I would call Obama coloured, but never ‘black’.

As to whether he is a ‘puppet’, he certainly doesn’t come across as a  puppet to me. I saw an interview with his wife recently, and she certainly doesn’t come across as puppet, either.

Rudd has done far better than I anticipated. Not as well as I’d like, but that was never going to happen.

I have the impression that  there is much more substance to Obama.
Hilary only has her ego and all consuming ambition to lose whether or not she gets to be president.

Obama has put his life on the line. I’d put money on his not surviving long enough to run.

Fiona: That's a thought that has been bothering me for some months, Peter. Let's hope that we are both wrong.

Obama's safety

According to Time's David Crary, many African-Americans are fearful for Mr Obama's safety. Crary also notes that:

Obama received Secret Service protection last May — the earliest ever for any presidential candidate. At the time, federal officials said they were not aware of any direct threats to Obama, but Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin — who was among those recommending the Secret Service deployment — acknowledged receiving information, some with racial overtones, that made him concerned for Obama's safety.

Thanks to Peter Hindrup for bringing this article to Webdiary's attention.

Calling the tune.

Such an expensive system and such wealthy and powerful groups who like to call the tune. More plutocracy than democracy. So, Richard, whoever gets to occupy the WH will owe people.

At least there is no J. Edgar "Nice little black cocktail number" Hoover around. Or is there?

Death by a thousand votes

NY Times 16 Feb 08:

"Black voters are heavily represented in the 94th Election District in Harlem's 70th Assembly District. Yet according to the unofficial results from the New York Democratic primary last week, not a single vote in the district was cast for Senator Barack Obama.

That anomaly was not unique. In fact, a review by The New York Times of the unofficial results reported on primary night found about 80 election districts among the city's 6,106 where Mr. Obama supposedly did not receive even one vote, including cases where he ran a respectable race in a nearby district."

Well it looks like the Repubs may leave it up to Diebold to do him in.

A significant difference?

Peter, I agree with your assessments of the candidates - if there is any hope for a change it would through Obama. Here is an article that compares the Hillary and Obama. It ends with a significant difference.

A change is needed else it is a long, complex and expensive way to pick the next puppet.

Richard:  Bob, you're not the first person I've heard use the word "puppet" in reference to Obama.  There's more than a few people that seem to think the Kennedys are pulling the strings.

The Grand Old White Party Confronts Obama

From Frank Rich in the New York Times:

The Grand Old White Party Confronts Obama

Mr. Obama’s ascension hardly means that racism is kaput in America, or that the country is “postracial” or “transcending race.” But it’s impossible to deny that another barrier has been surmounted. Bill Clinton’s attempt to minimize Mr. Obama as a niche candidate in South Carolina by comparing him to Jesse Jackson looks more ludicrous by the day. Even when winning five Southern states (Virginia included) on Super Tuesday in 1988, Mr. Jackson received only 7 to 10 percent of white votes, depending on the exit poll.

Whatever the potency of his political skills and message, Mr. Obama is also riding a demographic wave. The authors of the new book “Millennial Makeover,” Morley Winograd and Michael D. Hais, point out that the so-called millennial generation (dating from 1982) is the largest in American history, boomers included, and that roughly 40 percent of it is African-American, Latino, Asian or racially mixed. One in five millennials has an immigrant parent. It’s this generation that is fueling the excitement and some of the record turnout of the Democratic primary campaign, and not just for Mr. Obama.

Prepare for a rout, just as in 2007 for the Liberals...

Informative, thanks

Thanks for the refresher!

I had an American Boss during Kennedy's run up to the presidency, who was a passionate supporter and I got a solid grounding in the arcane system.

For mine either Hillary or McCain would be more of the same — disastrous!

Obama may also be a disaster, but he is the only one that offers any hope of change.

In my view the US will never regain its position in the world. The more documentation comes to light, the more evidence there is that the US has never been worthy of the adulation that some have accorded it.

Looking at the recent efforts of the US, who would want anything to do with anything that they had to offer?

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