Monday, February 11, 2008

Quotes From Around Yon Blogosphere

There's an obvious response to charges that Hillary Clinton’s campaign is in trouble, as evidenced by the decision to replace campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle with another longtime aide, Maggie Williams — Clinton is hardly the first to make this kind of change.

Last summer, with his campaign faltering badly, John McCain replaced more of his senior staff, but he went on to benefit from the reorganization and is now the presumptive GOP nominee. Four years ago, not long before the Iowa caucuses, John Kerry changed campaign managers, and went on to win the Democratic nomination. In the spring of 2003, Howard Dean dropped his first campaign manager to hire Joe Trippi, who went on to help propel Dean into the top tier of Democratic candidates.

The point is, plenty of campaigns have made these kinds of changes, and gone on to do very well. It need not be seen as a sign of disaster. There is, however, one big difference — major staffing changes by McCain, Kerry, and Dean all came very early on in the nominating process. They were struggling before voters were weighing in and while there was still plenty of time to correct flaws in the campaign’s strategy.

The Clinton campaign's switch, then, is qualitatively different — swapping campaign managers after 32 states have already hosted primaries or caucuses is harder to dismiss.


If Hillary wins the nomination, why would she want to pick a silver-tongued partner who overshadows her every time he opens his mouth? Why would she want to trump her own narrative, about breaking the gender barrier, with an arguably more compelling narrative, about breaking the racial barrier? Besides, why would Obama want to be her understudy? Perhaps the worst job in the world, aside manning a highway toll booth, would be vice president in Hillary's White House - because you'd actually be the number-three official, with Bill as number two. Meanwhile, if Obama was the nominee, why would Hillary want to play second fiddle? She has already spent decades as backup to a charismatic male, so what's the upside of potentially spending yet another eight years waiting her turn?

John McCain isn't a perfect candidate; far from it. He's the one who has attracted the most votes from the Republican coalition, though, and the various coalition factions have failed to produce anyone better. Being a bitter ender will take the party to a bitter end. It's time to start working within the McCain team to increase our influence, rather than engage in fantasies about magic candidates and marginalizing the movement.


"I think the mistake that I made is to think that I was a spouse like any other spouse who could defend his candidate," Bill Clinton told a TV reporter in Maine. "I think I can promote Hillary but not defend her because I was president. I have to let her defend herself or have someone else defend her."

We are back to the meaning-of-is era with the former president redefining the charges and evading answers. In the uproar over his behavior on the campaign trail, no one begrudged him the right to "defend" his wife.

What was in question was his distortion of Barack Obama's anti-war positions ("fairy tale") and his attempt to pass off Sen. Clinton's loss as a racial aberration by citing Jesse Jackson previous victories in South Carolina.

Her campaign has promised a new, improved Bill Clinton, but apparently we will get only the post-Monica version, admitting nothing and still trying to slide away from the consequences of his behavior.


Romney always seemed surprised, and a little hurt, by the very clear contempt the other Republican candidates had for him. He didn’t see himself as a compulsive panderer with no central core. He was a businessman, solving problems. Running for president was no different from manufacturing kitchen flooring, only somewhat more tiring. If your sales department told you that the clients would like your tile better if it was green instead of blue, you changed the color. You weren’t flip-flopping; you were responding to the mandate of the marketplace.

We’re going to miss him — and Rudy and Fred, too. They came into the race to great fanfare, then turned out to be some of the least appealing candidates for high office this side of Ahmad Chalabi.


Though it sends a good message for MSNBC to suspend David Shuster for saying that Hillary Clinton was "pimping out" her daughter, I'm always a little frustrated to see gaffes punished while systemic biases go unnoticed. The casual lens of cynicism that the media affixes before analyzing Hillary Clinton's every moment and movement is much more offensive than Shuster's indelicate language. The Romney Brothers toured the country for their father, John McCain's daughter has an official campaign blog. Those are signs, of course, of a tight-knit family. Change the last name to Clinton, however, and it's no longer a daughter loyally campaigning for her mother, but a manipulative, controlling politician cynically deploying a child to further her own political ambitions. That underlying framework is where the media's most pernicious sexism and misogyny take residence -- Shuster's point was a perfectly mundane expression of that sentiment, save for his use of the word "pimp." His language, as we're seeing, will be punished. But so far as I can tell, there'll be no reevaluation of the worldview that led to the comment.


Conventional media wisdom is already solidifying that John McCain's greatest political asset is national security. This is a completely bizarre proposition given that there is no politician who has been more mindlessly supportive than McCain of endless war in Iraq, one of America's most unpopular wars in its history. Only in Media World could undying support for an extremely unpopular war be considered a political asset.

Beyond Iraq, McCain is as pure a warmonger as it gets in the American political mainstream. He is supported by the most extreme neoconservative ideologues, such as Bill Kristol, John Bolton and Joe Lieberman, precisely because they perceive, correctly, that he would be the candidate most likely to enable their paramount dreams of endless Middle East war. The virtual certainty that McCain will ensure the endless occupation of Iraq and, worse, will inevitably provoke more American wars, ought to be considered his greatest political liability, not his greatest asset.


[C]an we stop limiting Obama’s future by comparing him to Jack Kennedy? (I’m an early offender.) J.F.K. was a mediocre President. For two and a half years his position on civil rights was legalistic—he stood up for enforcing court orders—until the dramatic images from Birmingham in May 1963 forced him to describe the issue as a moral one. The civil-rights bill he then introduced into Congress stood little chance of passing partly because Kennedy was unwilling to spend the huge amount of necessary political capital. For those who believe he was on his way out of Vietnam when he was assassinated, how to explain the dramatic coup three weeks before his death that overthrew the government of Ngo Dinh Diem and pulled the U.S. ever deeper into the quagmire? Kennedy’s main domestic accomplishment was a tax cut; his main foreign accomplishment was avoiding nuclear war over Soviet missiles in Cuba (his finest hour).

. . . Kennedy's inspirational value lay entirely in his rhetoric and style. And because he caught the spirit of his times, he helped set loose social forces that far exceeded any concrete achievements of his Presidency. The question for anyone weighing whether to vote for Obama is not if he would be as good a President as Kennedy. I'd like to think he would be better. The question is whether these are again times when an inspirational figure can change the country simply by being in the White House.


Predictions are a mug's game, but I was right about the Super Bowl, so I thought I might go on record with mine. I think Hillary Clinton's going to win this thing. I think the college educated men who dominate punditland have spent a lot of time missing the fact that there actually are enthusiastic Clinton fans out there -- they're just mostly working class women and thus mostly not in the room when this CW gets hashed out. On top of that, I think Clinton's succeeded in managing the expectations savvily. If she wins anywhere at all between now and March 4, that counts as a win for her, then Ohio is mildly favorable ground for her and Texas is extremely favorable ground. That, I think, will seal it for her as the anti-Obama backlash brewing in the press hits full stride.


Hillary and Bill Clinton are not nearly as wealthy as, say, Mitt Romney, but her recent $5 million emergency loan to her own presidential campaign has made one thing clear: the Clintons are doing just fine, thanks.


It's not just the possibility that McCain made some sort of deal with his captors in Vietnam and is actually a Manchurian Candidate that makes conservatives not trust him. McCain has consistently been soft on illegal immigration, the most important issue to conservatives today. Although McCain now says he realizes that Republican voters want border security first, he seems reluctant to support rounding up millions of illegal immigrants and deporting them and throwing thousands of people who employed them in jail, which is what most conservatives want. Although McCain has done some pandering to conservatives in this campaign, earning an endorsement from the late Jerry Falwell, for example, unlike Romney he seems to feel really bad about it, which worries us about his sincerity. McCain needs to show that he really has had a change of heart on immigration, perhaps by calling a Hispanic reporter "Macaca," for example.


Cartoon by Ben Sargent/Universal Press Syndicate

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