05/01/2008 - 7:24pm
It was fun hearing the prototype for Barack Obama, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, on the radio today giving the standard democrat lament about how all this focus on Pastor Wright constricts critical issues talk. Patrick, who appears once a month on WTKK in Boston with hosts Jim and Margery, was elected 18 months ago as the "Yes We Can" candidate, refusing to lay out any policy specifics, instead talking about the Power of Hope.

This twisted logic of the issues argument frustrates those who are still using their heads, but for the choir, provides a sentence to repeat that makes them feel justified in feeling indignant. It's like all the Bill Clinton supporters, whose true contempt for the Clintons is revealed now by their zealous attempts to save Obama from Hillary, ran around saying that Bill was only lying about sex. Repeat utter nonsense enough times, and it starts to feel like an argument.

For those who feel pulled by the issues argument, consider this:
  1. Barack says there's no need for any more debates, as he's already faced Hillary 21 times. Enough with the issues, his actions say. Even if you want to argue that in the last debate it took 45 minutes to get to the issues, my answer would be, "fine. If talking about the issues is so critical, we can do it after the character questions."
  2. Candidates for President lie about what they believe to fit the political imperatives, like Barack did about Reverend Wright. To try to get a sense of what a president will do in office, you look at the candidates' record. For example, President Clinton's time in Washington was very similar to his leadership in Little Rock. Since Barack has virtually no record to look back on, each stone we can turn provides important insights into who he is and what sort of leader he would be if he wins his first management job ever.
  3. Character is critical in a president, much more important than what he says about the issues. Just look at all the problems the country went through under Bill Clinton due to his character flaws. And Clinton's strength as president, his supporters argue, was his competence, not how he fought for liberal causes. Character, competence, experience - these are qualities we want to investigate, and hearing about the differences between Barack's and Hillary's health care proposals is hardly going to be of any importance when the final legislation is written. We know they're both eager to get universal health care that's government run.
Please explain all this to Scot Lehigh, an often good columnist for the Boston Globe who made the very same ridiculous point yesterday in his column entitled "Let's focus on Obama's views, not Wrights:

What's really relevant here is not what Jeremiah Wright says but what Barack Obama believes.
And in his remarks yesterday, Obama said unmistakably that Wright does not speak for him.

So we trust what he says, Scot, when this is a position that he's evolved into under political pressure and contradicts common sense? These liberal newspapers are without conscience in shilling for candidates.
Fair-minded people should judge him on his own beliefs - and not on the rhetorical sins of his former pastor.
But Scot, how do we learn what he believes when we can't trust what he says? Aren't there lots of old sayings about judging a man by who he hangs with?
05/01/2008 - 2:30pm
The former head of the DNC, who endorsed Hillary on the day she announced for President, has now flipped to Barack in an attempt to influence the vote in Indiana on Tuesday. Joe Andrew, who was given his DNC job by Bill Clinton, says he wants to stop the hemorrhaging:
Andrew said in his letter that he is switching his support because "a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote to continue this process, and a vote to continue this process is a vote that assists (Republican) John McCain."
If he'd left it at that it would have been fine. But then Andrew tried to make the case that voters should throw their support behind the campaign that is imploding instead of the one that is surging. His justification is bizarre:
Andrew said the Obama campaign never asked him to switch his support, but he decided to do so after watching Obama's handling of two issues in recent days. He said Obama took the principled stand in opposing a summer gas tax holiday that both Clinton and McCain supported, even though it would have been easier politically to back it. And he said he was impressed with Obama's handling of the controversy surrounding his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
"Yeah, that's it, Barack's handling of Jeremiah Wright has been so impressive, that's what I'll say, that's the ticket."
Other party leaders are encouraging superdelegates to pick a side by late June to prevent the fight from going to the national convention in August. Andrews wrote in his letter that he is calling for "fellow superdelegates across the nation to heal the rift in our party and unite behind Barack Obama."
What's really going on? Andrew is a super delegate from Indianapolis. He's calculating that Barack is going to get the nomination despite being a damaged candidate, and this is his chance to gain favor with the nominee. If he waits, he loses the leverage of next week's primary and becomes just another of the 200 Super D's who aren't going to commit until events play themselves out. That's no way to win a job in a new administration.
05/01/2008 - 4:22am
Barack is no longer an angel sent from God. Going forward, he will have to campaign for President in the same manner as other candidates, standing on planet earth:
Fifty-one percent of Democratic voters say they expect Mr. Obama to win their party’s nomination, down from 69 percent a month ago. Forty-eight percent of Democrats say Mr. Obama is the candidate with the best chance of beating Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, down from 56 percent a month ago.
So says the new CBS/New York Times poll.

And in another piece of evidence that campaign story lines change as suddenly as the rate of global warming, only 56% of democrats say their party is united, while:
60 percent of Republicans see their party as unified, a striking turnaround from the Republican turmoil at the start of the primary season.
Ain't it amazing what some honest reporting can do to a presidential race.

Hillary, meanwhile, is closing fast in North Carolina, having pulled to within 10 points in one study:

PPP (Public Policy Polling) numbers illustrate that, over the course of six polls the organization conducted among North Carolina voters, Obama's lead shrank from 18-25 points in the previous five polls to just 12 points in the most recent poll, released April 28. In this most recent PPP poll, Obama leads Clinton 51% to 39%. In fact, the previous PPP poll, taken on April 19-20, showed Obama 25 points ahead of Clinton, 57% to 32%.

An ARG poll from March 29-March 30, 2008 showed Obama up over Clinton 51% to 38%. ARG now (April 26-27) shows Clinton only 10 points behind Obama, 42% to 52%.
In Indiana, polls showed the democrats tied before the vote in Pennsylvania last week:
But recent polls conducted within the last 4-5 days show Clinton in a statistically significant lead although the margin is small. Data from American Research Group shows Clinton ahead by 5% points. SurveyUSA is the only poll that has Clinton leading by 9% points. Only Research 2000 shows an even race between the candidates even in recent polls.
04/30/2008 - 7:34pm
The LA Times ran a story on Sunday about Barack pushing for a grant on behalf of client who had been paying him $8,000 a month as a retainer when he was a broke state senator who had just lost a bid for Congress.
A few months after receiving his final payment from EKI, Obama sent a request on state Senate letterhead urging Illinois officials to provide a $50,000 tourism promotion grant to another Blackwell company, Killerspin.
But it gets worse:
The day after Obama wrote his letter urging the awarding of the state funds, Obama's U.S. Senate campaign received a $1,000 donation from Blackwell.

Obama's presidential campaign rejects any suggestion that there was a connection between the legal work, the campaign contribution and the help with the grant.
Of course.

Hope, it seems, is expensive.
04/30/2008 - 12:30pm
Barack Obama made a deal with the devil when he joined the church of Reverend Jeremiah Wright. He got a political career in exchange for turning a blind eye to the devil behind the pulpit.

When Wright's opinions became front page news in mid-March, Barack did his best to distance himself from the comments without distancing himself from the devil. He was keeping his part of the deal.

But with his re-emergence over the weekend, the devil went too far. Wright confirmed for the world that Barack had covered-up for him when he reiterated the comments that had supposedly been taken out of context. The funny thing about Reverend Wright is, the more context he's given, the worse he looks.

On Monday, Wright essentially called Barack a liar:
“Politicians say what they say and do what they do based on electability, based on sound bites, based on polls,” Wright said to the National Press Club.
Barack hadn't distanced himself for real, said Wright, he had just pretended to for political reasons. That was not something that Barack could allow to stand, nor was he inclined to. Barack's co-conspirator had turned on him. Barack's chickens were coming home to roost.

Now we know, despite both men's attempts to mislead us, that Pastor Wright believes what he believes. Barack was forced to do what he should have done in mid-March, but lacked the leadership skills to do - to stand up and say this guy is a nut, and I severe all ties. "I don't know how I missed it for all these years," he should have said back then, "but I did, I missed it, and I'm embarrassed."

Instead, he said:
I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
That paragraph reeked at the time - but the stench it leaves now is unshakable.

Watch out black community. What out grandma.

The reason yesterday's press conference can't put this story to rest is that in terms of Reverend Wright's comments, there was nothing new yesterday other than a political imperative. All of the comments that Barack listed as being problematic from Wright's weekend media foray were repeats, blasts from the past, his greatest hits.

So when Wright said Barack was being politically expedient in what he said about him before, he's been proven correct. The whole race speech in Philadelphia was a ruse, a distraction, to take America's eye off the ball.

The trick failed, and Barack was forced to do yesterday, for political reasons, what he didn't have the backbone to do 6 weeks ago.

"I actually did vote for Pastor Wright before I voted against him."

Here we go again.
04/29/2008 - 8:14pm
Throwing his grandmother under the bus didn't do the trick. Today Barack threw his favorite Pastor under the bus. He should have let his grandmother be and gone after Reverend Wright in the first place.

In an early afternoon press conference, Barack said he was outraged by Reverend Wright's comments yesterday. What took him so long? There was nothing new during Wright's talk yesterday. Rational Americans have been outraged by Wright from the first time they heard his voice:
Obama said, "I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened by the spectacle that we saw yesterday."
But a man with leadership instincts would have walked away from Wright years ago, and certainly wouldn't have stumbled around looking for excuses for the angry Preacher, finally settling on deflecting the focus with a race speech on March 18 instead of dealing with Reverend Wright head-on.

Barack looks more pathetic everyday... more like John Kerry all the time.
04/29/2008 - 7:40pm
Last time Reverend Wright threatened to destabilize the Obama campaign, he changed the subject to one of race.

Now, the Reverend is back, proving that Barack was deflecting - this is about how radical and contemptuous of this country Barack is that he sat around for 20 years listening to a guy who hates America.

Politico.com is reporting in a rather incoherent posting, and Drudge is linking, that Barack said at a campaign event that he's going to give another Wright speech.

A 'big press conference' on Wright

Obama is asked about Wright by a woman in Winston-Salem who tells the audience to watch his PBS interview, which will quell their concerns.

"I’m going to be having a big press conference afterward to talk about this Obama says, then refers back to a story the woman told about a mother having to borrow month to get to work.

"This is diverting attention from the first story that you told," Obama says.

04/29/2008 - 4:13pm
The New York Times goes front page today with an attempt by TV reporter Alessandra Stanley to minimize the effect of Jeremiah Wright by turning him into Billy Carter. President Carter's brother happily played the family's black sheep when he realized he could turn his red neck status into money via exploits like Billy Beer.
Mr. Wright revealed himself to be the compelling but slightly wacky uncle who unsettles strangers but really just craves attention.
He's just a silly, endearing old guy who you have to chuckle at, isn't he? This attempt to gloss over the impact and importance of Reverend Wright is cynical and completely off the mark.

Wright is important for two reasons - first, for the reason he claims - he is our conduit to the "black church" in America, and now that the door has been opened, the nation gets to see the racism and contempt for the country that is routine behind those doors.

Second, Wright is important because he provides a vivid opportunity to see the core discomfort with this country that is foundational for liberals. Many of the Wright views, outrageous to most, elicit only shoulder shrugs from the liberal establishment. Move-on.org has no problem with his statements, as his name doesn't even appear on the site's front page today. The dailykos.com angle is "Still bashing Obama on Fox."

Yup. Its all the Fox News Channel's fault.

The outrageous portrayal of Wright that Barack and Wright have both claimed was the result of poor context has now been shown to be entirely accurate, not the result of a sound bite war against him.

Wright gave context to those sound bites yesterday when speaking to the National Press Club yesterday in Washington:

But for the third time in four days, Mr. Wright made a high-profile public appearance to discuss and repeat some of his more controversial statements, this time at the National Press Club in Washington. Mr. Wright suggested that the attacks of Sept. 11 were at least in part a response by terrorists to terrorism practiced by the United States abroad. “You cannot do terrorism on other people and expect it never to come back on you,” he said.

He stood by his suggestion that the United States might have invented H.I.V., the virus that causes AIDS. He defended the Rev. Louis Farrakhan — whom he referred to at times just by his first name — noting his large appeal among African-Americans.

In his appearance Friday with Bill Moyers (what a poor excuse for a journalist this guy is), Reverend Wright was presented in context from the same sermons that were so upsetting out of context. Moyers was apparently biased enough to think that showing a longer segment would make things better, but my blood was boiling watching this:

As for context, Bill Moyers played a long clip from the post-9/11 "America's chickens are coming home to roost" sermon. Wright said that America had taken its land by terror from the Indians; had enslaved Africans; had bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki (weren't we in a death struggle with Japan, which had attacked Pearl Harbor?); had bombed Iraq, Sudan and Panama; and had backed state-supported terrorism against the Palestinians.

Remember Barack's first, half-back statement rejecting Wright's comments when the clips hit the news cycle in mid-March? These are from the Keith Olbermann interview:

But these particular statements that had been gathered* are ones that I strongly objected to and strongly condemned. Had I heard them in church, I would have expressed that concern directly to Reverend Wright. So, I didn't familiar with these until recently.

But I have to say that the comments that have been played are ones that are contrary to what I believe,** what I think of this country, the love that I have for this country and, you know, are ones that anger and distress me.

But Wright cannot be pushed into the closet as a familial embarrassment. While the news stories of recent days try to make this look like bad news for Obama because Wright is stealing the news cycle, its much worse than that. It demonstrates clearly, as does Barack's friendship with William Ayer, that Obama is quite comfortable traveling in the circles that these guys travel in, and we can rightly infer that he's quite comfortable with their disdain for this country.

This is Barack's problem with Reverend Wright. The record is clear - there's no where to hide.

* "that had been gathered" - This phrase kills me - it shows Barack trying to confuse with odd tenses as well as putting himself into the position of being victimized by those who did the gathering, rather than being a victim of his own poor judgement.

** "the comments that have been played are ones that are contrary to what I believe." Again, some tricky use of the language to make it appear, quite falsely we now know, that these clips are anomolous outrages rather than the standard Wright radicalism.
04/29/2008 - 1:12pm
Trying to move toward putting the issue to rest, Barack put more mileage between himself and Reverend Wright on Monday:
"He does not speak for me," Obama said. "He does not speak for the campaign, and so he may make statements in the future that don’t reflect my values or concerns," the senator told reporters who strained to hear him on the loud tarmac.
Okay. We know who we're not supposed to see as a reflection of what Obama thinks. At the same time, the Boston Globe points out that Barack doesn't speak that well for himself. How's this for a Barackian title:

"On affirmative action, Obama intriguing but vague"

This is Barack in a nutshell, and this is why the Harvard crowd finds him so appealing. He knows you can impress left wing loons at places like the Globe by saying nothing, but doing it in a lovely manner. Being articulate, for them, is an end unto itself, rather than a tool one can use to say something!
So when ABC's George Stephanopoulos, in the waning minutes of the Pennsylvania debate, asked Obama for his views about affirmative action, Obama's answer was a microcosm of the strengths - and some of the recently apparent weaknesses - of his campaign: The Illinois senator's reply was intriguing but fuzzy, responsive to voters' underlying concerns but not really specific in policy terms.
The Globe feels obliged to call Barack's response to the question "A fine answer." Judge for yourself:

Obama began, "Well, I think that the basic principle that should guide discussions not just of affirmative action, but how we are admitting young people to college generally, is how do we make sure that we're providing ladders of opportunity for people? How do we make sure that every child in America has a decent shot in pursuing their dreams?"

Acknowledging that "race is still a factor in society," Obama nonetheless suggested that his own daughters, who've had "a pretty good deal," might not be deserving of special treatment.

But he added: "I still believe in affirmative action as a means of overcoming both historic and potentially current discrimination, but I think that it can't be a quota system and it can't be something that is simply applied without looking at the whole person, whether that person is black, or white, or Hispanic, male or female. What we want to do is make sure that people who've been locked out of opportunity are going to be able to walk through those doors of opportunity in the future."

Very fine, eh? Really grabbing the issue by the you know what's and carrying it away from the hazards of the old kind of politics to the safety of hope. The Globe isn't being critical, really - it provides cover by saying that Ronald Reagan had the same ability and used it often. Instead, it offers a warning for Barack, pointing out that some 'bitter' voters might actually want to know something about what he has in mind for the country:
But as Hillary Clinton seems to have discovered, Obama's references to values and principles may be elevating, but to some voters - particularly skeptical blue-collar types - they can also be distancing. In Pennsylvania, Clinton took to reciting various specific programs, from special education to veterans' benefits, to point up the contrast between her groundedness and his high-mindedness.
Can you believe they called the bitter class skeptical blue-collar types. Are they coining a new phrase? Is this like calling immigrant farm workers wet-backs?

This is the tripe that the intelligentsia offers up on a candidate with no experience and no record of leadership when he won't outline specific policy ideas in a debate, then refuses to do any more debating. Imagine what they'd say about a republican who did this.
04/28/2008 - 8:44pm
Dan Balz of the Washington Post makes a good argument that runs counter to mine, below, suggesting that there's no way that the return of Wright was coordinated with the Obama campaign:
Wright's speaking tour was clearly not authorized, sanctioned or prepped by the Obama campaign. Wright is speaking for himself, not for Obama, defending the traditions of the black church, which he sees as totally misunderstood by white America, and his own reputation. He has been dismissive of Obama -- describing him pejoratively as a politician who distanced himself from his pastor merely for political reasons.

Barack, he points out, can't afford to put it in neutral and coast to the nomination.
The last thing Obama should want is to back into the nomination. He can do that by winning those states where the demographics favor him -- North Carolina and Oregon, for example -- and by playing the numbers game in the other states by assuming a respectable showing will prevent Hillary Clinton from overtaking him in the battle for pledged delegates.
Good point. Barack wants to go into the convention in August with a good head of steam and his wheels on the track. Reverend Wright isn't helping.

However, Wright had to reemerge eventually, and its much better for Barack to go through this now than in October.
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