Monday, March 31, 2008

Politics and Poetry

Maya Angelou introduces her celebration of Hillary Rodham Clinton with a stanza from Dr. Angelou's famous poem.
You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise

More local media coverage of Senator Clinton

Senator Clinton has been knocking herself out visiting communities in Indiana, and now Kentucky.

These visits show why Senator Clinton will make a great candidate to defeat John McCain. First, there is Senator Clinton's incredible energy and stamina. Second, the visits reveal Senator Clinton's attitude that every vote is worth fighting for and fighting for in person. Third, the content of what she says to people is encouraging, not because it is full of jingoism or bravado masquerading as patriotism. In the tradition of Franklin Delano Roosevelt - himself an inveterate in-person campaigner, Senator Clinton talks about the better reality that is the United States some of the time and how to make that reality more robust and more available. She does not kid herself or the voters about the difficulty of achieving a better economy, better health care, better foreign relations. But she is optimistic. Senator Clinton believes - and demonstrates - that with hard work, truly unexpected triumphs can be had.

That's a message that resonates with me. It appears to be playing well with the voters in the remaining primary states too.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Politicians and Pundits: Character, Learning, and Policy

Some columnists and op-ed writers remind me of George W. Bush. They will not base their evaluations and appraisals on evidence, let alone weighty evidence (or, as lawyers say, the most probative evidence). Others differ. In Pennsylvania, for example. And in New York.

What I find most noteworthy about this sort of coverage is the way it connects a candidate's knowledge and policies with her temperament and character. People know (or refuse to know) things in part because of their dispositions toward learning. Some folks like to learn and use their knowledge to structure detailed policies; some folks don't have the patience for that. Likewise, people's approach to policy - formation, but more importantly, implementation - also starts from how they like to approach situations in general. Some people approach reach out specifically to those who they might have reason to fear. Others prefer to build their own crowd and use it to oppose people who might not want to see their policies implemented.

This is true of each of us. Our dispositions and character traits make use differently effective in different contexts. But not all dispositions and character traits are created equal. For example, in a political leader, the tendency to ignore evidence and make decisions based on faith or hope can be deadly - at least for others. Witness George W. Bush and John McCain vis-a-vis Iraq.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Real Party Politics: Part 1

As a student of politics and American history, I personally look forward to a Democratic National Convention where the convention actually matters, that is, a party convention that chooses the the party's nominee. In the past few election cycles, neither party's convention has been especially interesting because neither party had enough depth to field more than one very strong candidate. When that happens, one candidate has the nomination locked up going into the convention, which then becomes anti-climactic window-dressing , as will be the case with this year's coronation of John McCain as heir to George W. Bush's throne - and to W's policies regarding the war in Iraq (stay forever, who cares?) and the economy (do nothing, rich people will be fine, and as for everybody else...wait, there IS anybody else?).

It has become cliche to say it, but whether you prefer Hillary Rodham Clinton or Barack Obama to be the final candidate, this year's Democratic field started with a strong group and now includes two possible nominees both of whom have galvanized the rank and file, brought new voters into the process, and made politics a passion for many people who never paid it much mind before. Two very powerful candidates with virtually equal measures of large support, neither of whom is going to nor should drop out of the race: when that's the situation, the fight goes to where it should: the party convention, when insiders (governors, senior party officials, former presidents and vice-presidents) and relative outsiders (most of the delegates) have to work together to select the nominee. They use all the tools of democractic politics: procedural maneuvers, ballots, discussions, speeches, surprise announcements, and, I am sure, a cigar or two. Politics as it should be.

(Newsweek actually covers the ins and outs well, with examples from both Republican and Democratic party conventions where conventions mattered.)

Friday, March 28, 2008

Reading/viewing roundup

Some recommendations:

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Realistic but Positive: Terry McCauliffe's remarks on 3/26/08

I mentioned in a previous post that Terry McCauliffe made some interesting remarks at a recent reception. Here's a quick summary:

  • Stop watching the cable news channels. They are not reporting the real situation, but, unsurprisingly, doing whatever they need to do to general audience share.
  • The Clinton campaign intends to fight for each and every delegate, and will certainly remain in the race through Puerto Rico, the final primary (pending any changes in the Michigan/Florida situation).
  • The Democratic Party - and the superdelegates - cannot afford to ignore the primary voters in Michigan (about 600,000 plus) or Florida (approximately 1.8 million), because the general election cannot be won without deep voting by Democrats in those states.
  • If a week in politics is a lifetime, then the time between now and the Democratic Convention is many generations. Nobody knows what is going happen between now and then, what the facts will be then, what considerations will be in play.
  • [Speaking with real fervency]: He, McAuliffe, has worked with the Democratic Party for 30 years [amazing, since he isn't a day over 29, and no nobody paid me to say it!], and he chaired the DNC during the days of Bill Clinton who had at that date more slung at him than any recent candidate. But now, in the face of much more incoming than Bill confronted, Hillary Rodham Clinton has proven to be "the most resilient politician", McAuliffe has ever seen.
  • Voters respond to this.
  • Don't kid yourself: it is going to be a dogfight until the convention.
  • For Senator Clinton to prevail, she needs to take Pennsylvania by as wide a margin as possible. McAuliffe predicts between 10 and 20 points, and says that is sufficient to galvanize volunteers, donors, and voters in all the remaining contests. And Senator Clinton must win as convincingly as possible in all of those.
  • They expect to do well, comparatively, in North Carolina and while a win there is unlikely, it does not appear impossible.
  • Highest praise for Ed Rendell [again, spoken with extra fervency]
  • Praise for many others, including Evan Bayh, for their loyalty and counsel.
  • It is crucial that as many people as possible make phone calls to Pennsylvania, volunteer there and in the states after that. Signs everywhere please.
Interestingly, McAuliffe did not speak much about a need for funds, although the campaign must keep raising money. Senator Clinton, who also made remarks at the reception, was the one who referred to this and asked all those at the reception to reach out to new donors. She was charming in her request saying she understood that people are worn out and so it is harder to raise money now than it was back in September, but she stressed the need to continue the upward trend on online contributions.

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Thursday, March 27, 2008

A truly fun and interesting event.

Yesterday, after the spirited rally at D.A.R. Constitutional Hall, Senator Clinton and Chelsea came to a smaller event that the student I assisted - Brian Elworthy, a rising progressive politician in his own right - and I attended. The host of the event is a remarkable woman - has been involved in politics since Estes Kefauver "brought her to Washington, DC" (her words) and she "never left" (also her words). Some pictures - fyi, the young man is Brian, and the other man is Terry McAuliffe, Senator Clinton's campaign manager, who made terrific, realistic remarks about why and how Senator Clinton can win the nomination, while acknowledging that this will be a fight to the finish. Which is, as I keep saying, what politics is all about!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

One simple reason... (plus a few others)

Senator Obama should not withdraw from the fight for the Democratic Party nomination. Senator Clinton should not withdraw either. Same reason applies to both: each has millions of supporters, who have voted and donated , and either may succeed in gaining the nomination. For either candidate to drop out now would betray all of those people. Betrayal is wrong. It is also imprudent at time many of the most engaged Democrats, regardless of their preferred candidate, are already angry with the DNC.

Nothing catastrophic about a fight to and even at the convention, as long as the fighting is reasonably fair. Historically, that sort of fighting is more typical than not. It took four ballots for FDR to secure his first nomination for president, in large part because of geographical sectarian division in the Democratic Party. FDR had no problem going on to beat the pants off Hoover.

There were no public cries that John Nance Gardner or FDR (the two top fighters for the nomination) should step aside. Now, after FDR secured the nomination, he reached out to his opponents within the party to ensure a unified front for the general election. THAT is what the eventual winner of this year's nomination contest should be able to do: he or she must have the skills to get past even bitter fights to build winning coalitions.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

So, what is Howard Dean doing this week?

In an effort to try to figure out what I am missing about the confusing Dr. Dean, I did some research to see what he is doing to ensure that the Democratic Party ends up with decent process for selecting its nominee; with money to fund the Party apparatus that is especially crucial if the Party intends to stick with Dean's own very expensive "50 state strategy"; and - one can only hope - with a nominee who can effectively beat John McCain.

  • On the public front, Dean gave a speech in Wisconsin at a state Party event, urging Party members to remember to vote for either candidate in the general election.
  • Acting more privately, Dean is trying to make nice to Latinos because he has apparently just realized that they are going to be major players in the general election.
This just is not leadership. Dean cannot raise funds or unite Democrats with tepid talk, public or private. He needs to face the real problem: until the rank and file is confident that the Michigan and Florida delegations will be seated, they are not going to unify - or donate to the DNC.

Meanwhile, David Brooks at the New York Times is back to telling Senator Clinton, who is raising more money than ever, that she should just scoot over and make room for Senator Obama. Could this be because Mr. Brooks, an avowed Republican, does not want John McCain to have to face Hillary Rodham Clinton in November?

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News coverage from smaller outlets

All politics is local - Thomas "Tip" O'Neill, longtime speaker of the house

Here is some coverage of Senator Clinton from Pennsylvania, and here an endorsement by a group in Philadelphia. Here is Pittsburgh coverage that includes some substantive remarks by the Senator, particularly on social security. More and more from Philadelphia.

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Event on religion and politics

I will write substantively on the use of biblical allusions later, but wanted, for now, to let people know about the following event.

Thumpin’ It:
The Use and Abuse of the Bible in
Presidential Politics

Wednesday, March 26, 2008
Doors open at 7:00 pm
Gaston Hall, Healy Building
Georgetown University

Monday, March 24, 2008

Working to fix the economy

A number of people who have been reading this blog have written to say that they are not sure if any of the candidates for president truly appreciate the extent of the country's economic situation. As an academic, some of my research focuses on the systemic and pervasive forces that have made the U.S. economy vulnerable to unfettered rent-seeking by powerful financial institutions. No candidate can, on the stump at least, go into the matter in academic detail. But Senator Clinton has been addressing the issue, both as a sitting Senator and as a leading Presidential Clinton. She's been working in the Senate and with federal policy makers since early in 2007 on the subprime mortgage problem. Today, Senator Clinton announced a Day One working group to confront the problem when (smile) she assumes office in November. On the campaign trail, Senator Clinton brings the issue to the personal level - take a look, and then read on.

The macroeconomic and regulatory issues plaguing the U.S. economy go beyond the mortgage crisis. But focusing on that problem makes it possible for politicians to get the attention of the big financial players in order to address the more complicated and fundamental dysfunctions that have led to to the subprime mortgage crisis. Delicate balances have to be struck to prevent a real crisis, such as preserving the value of the dollar versus freeing up inter-bank overnight lending or avoiding moral hazard while prudently prevently bank collapses.

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Sunday, March 23, 2008

More on delegate math...and a just a bit about process

Ultimately, the question of who will be the Democratic Party nominee will turn on a number of factors, with the issue of who has more elected pledged non-superdelegates come June being only one. But because many media stories do seem to be suggesting that the math settles the outcome it is important to note that a) the math is more complicated than most coverage suggests and b) what one makes of the process that occurred to reach the outcome in elected non-superdelegates. Given the DNC's current disregard of two populous states important to winning the general election, one might question the relevance of the non-superdelegate count, particularly if the popular vote runs in the opposite direction.

As for the superdelegates, I believe their role is to exercise independent judgment, but many people believe that representativeness calls for the superdelegates who hold elective office to vote according to how the voters in their bailiwicks voted. For example, Bill Richardson would, on this argument, have an obligation to cast a vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton despite his recent endorsement of Senator Clinton. Likewise for John Kerry and Ted Kennedy. For kicks, see how voting according to this principle turns out.

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Howard Dean: enigma wrapped in a riddle...

I find Howard Dean puzzling. I always did, even pre-primal-scream. He has always seemed imperious and angry to me. When he was made head of the Democratic National Party, I realized it was because he seemed to be a terrific fundraiser, but, as it turns out he tends to be a terrific fundraiser for himself and/or when he's coming at the task as an "outsider."

No good fundraiser would allow the Michigan/Florida situation to have gotten to this point. Now Democrats from across the country want contributions they made to the DNC returned. They feel ripped off, by a party leader who seems to be failing in all aspects of his job. Some examples:
  • Dean is not running the party so that once a nominee is chosen by a process that reasonably reflects the will of ALL the voters the party's base will come together around whoever is selected.
  • Dean has Democrats of all kinds swearing they will not give money to the Party. This is a real problem for the party, not so much for the presidential candidate selected, but for the full slate of Democrats who will be running in the fall. State and local candidates rely on Party infrastructure to bolster and bulwark their own runs for office. This cannot be done by a Party that is neither a robust nor well-funded.
As noted in the Atlantic Journal Constitution, at this point the fate of the nomination process may come down to the Party's Credentials Committee (!), because Dean's failure to resolve the seating of Michigan and Florida by this time makes it likely that that Committee will have to decide the fate of those delegations. Forget about superdelegates - it simply does not get any more backroom than this.

So, Howard Dean, who rose to popularity because he was supposedly refreshingly transparent and open, is leading the Party right into a convention that may strike many rank and file Democrats as unacceptably unrepresentative and even rigged. Howard Dean, who got his job because of his talents as a fundraiser, is driving away donors to the Party.

I don't think either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama should withdraw from the race for the nomination. But why aren't more people asking Howard Dean to step down from a job he seems unwilling or unable to perform? While this measure probably would not be practical at this point, it still seems Democrats should be asking Mr Dean this question. It might jolt him into better performance - or provoke another primal scream?

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Gratitude to those helping a young person meet Senator Clinton

People can be astonishingly responsive and generous. Not 15 minutes ago I put out a request to total strangers - online community at Taylor Marsh's site - to help me sponsor a student to meet Senator Clinton. Already it looks like one person responded - boosting the effort to reach $1000. We are just about half-way there. If anybody else can help, all contributions through March 25, via this link - - will go to the sponsorship effort.

I'm just wowed by the person who has already helped.
An update: In the effort to purchase a ticket for my student, the range of contributors is really compelling. The current contributions range from $20 to $100, including money from a total stranger who has been reading my blog (!), to a contribution from a member of the House of Representatives to somebody on a very fixed income to young peers of Brian's to another student of mine. Now, I know I must to round up another $510 simply so I can communicate to all these people that THEIR contributions to my student's ticket paid off!

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A word about "vendors" and campaign costs

A number of people have been asking me about "vendors", because Senator Clinton's balance sheet shows she has debt to vendors. Vendors are service providers. In this case typical vendors are caterers, car valet services for donor events in residential neighborhoods. It is typical for campaigns to use the dollars they have now to pay for more campaigning and then later to complete payment to service providers (generally, some payment is made now, so that providers keep providing!). Bottom line: this is regular business practice, allocating cash flow strategically. No effort to avoid paying bills in full.

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News coverage from smaller outlets

It is easy to overlook the fact that most people get their news from local sources, local newspapers, radio, and television. It is important to pay attention to the writers and commentators who work for such operations, because they are often the best barometers of a region or state is reacting to a candidate. Consider Indiana. Or West Virginia.

More from Indiana. "Street Interviews" in Indiana.

Update: Indiana again! And again.

News item roundup

I will be updating this during the next few hours so check back for more...

Senator Clinton is receiving major money via small dollar on-line contributions, reports the New York Times today. See too this article about women, money, and some shattered glass in the ceilings of major foundations.

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Friday, March 21, 2008

Some news and editorials of interest

I found it especially interesting that today The Washington Post, not a particularly Clinton friendly venue, published an editorial arguing "voters in Florida and Michigan should not be excluded from the presidential primary" and pointing out any number of equitable approaches to seating the Florida and Michigan delegations. Today's Post also includes a column by Charles Krauthammer discussing Obama on race.

Then, some coverage from outside the Beltway indicates huge support for Senator Clinton in Indiana and Pennsylvania - states important in the general election. Nancy Pelosi, Howard Dean: are you listening? (Nancy may be too busy with the Dalai Lama - no criticism of him intended.)

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Funny Math

There is an odd misperception that somehow it is now impossible for Senator Clinton to overtake Senator Obama in nonsuperdelegates unless Michigan and Florida are included. This is just false. WITHOUT COUNTING Michigan and Florida, as of today, Senator Clinton is behind in delegates by 118. In the upcoming contests 845 delegates are at stake. Note, Senator Clinton does not need to win every last remaining delegate to end up in the lead. Particularly if she does well in Pennsylvania, as it appears she will, and she gets the bulk of that state's 179 delegates, it is anybody's guess where the delegate count will end up. Then, there are the 18 delegates currently pledged to John Edwards. Edwards may well release them, and who knows which way the will go come convention time. Certainly some and possibly a majority will vote for Senator Clinton.

As usual, I don't understand why the media does not explain and publicize these mathematical truths. But I thought I'd make my own small effort to do so.

UPDATE: Slate, not a site friendly to Clinton, has an interesting online tool so you can do your own projections regarding delegates.

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Wednesday, March 19, 2008

No comparison!

I am a long-time reader and fan of the New York Times. Often they cover complicated stories deftly yet deeply. But I find the Times' editorial judgments related to Senator Obama genuinely confusing. After Senator Obama's "race speech" on Tuesday, the NYT published an editorial
lauding Senator Obama and explicitly comparing him not only to Abraham Lincoln and FDR, but more specifically comparing Senator Obama's speech to John F. Kennedy Jr.'s famous one discussing the relationship between his Catholicism and his politics.

But to liken these speeches is to miss the point made in each. In his address, JFK made it clear that he distinguished between his Church and the state, between his religious affiliation and his politics, and that as a politician he did not answer to his Church. In his address, Senator Obama objected to some statements of his pastor but explicitly refused to draw the religion/politics distinction JFK did. On the contrary, for better or for worse, Senator Obama reaffirmed his commitment to his Church and to his spiritual advisor Reverend Wright, and the role both have played and still play in his political thinking. Indeed, Senator Obama emphasized that according to his experience of "the black experience" - Senator Obama's phrase, not mine - church, pastor, and politics are all woven together.

Make what you will of Senator Obama's outlook on his politics and his religious affiliation. What puzzles me is the fact that the New York Times, which often includes excellent writing, published an editorial that suggests its authors had not comprehended the words of either JFK or Senator Obama. I expect more from the Times.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Back to basics: in a democracy candidates are allowed to run

Some of Senator Obama's supporters, commenting on Senator Clinton's efforts to support a re-vote for Michigan, make a demand that shocks me every time I see it: they demand that Senator Clinton withdraw from the nomination process.

It is entirely irresponsible for a supporter of either candidate in the closely contested Democratic nominate to suggest that the other candidate should withdraw.

The last time I checked democracy itself demands competing voices and personalities.

Meanwhile - and apologies for playing the same song again - the DNC, as a national organization, should be ensuring that Democrats in Michigan and Florida are heard, in accordance with the preferences they have expressed or, if possible, that they would express in a revote. Abdication of this responsibility to rank and file Democrats is not helping either Senator Obama or Senator Clinton.

A continuing failure by the DNC

Today, the DNC's general counsel told the Associated Press what he told me when I contacted him regarding a) the need for the DNC to get out in front and LEAD on the matter of seating Florida and Michigan at the convention and b) that I would not donate money to the party unless and until they demonstrated they could achieve this. According to the AP story, Mr. Sandler basically disavowed any responsibility the National Party has to to the voters in state primaries; he emphasized the National Party's right to make and enforce its own rules.

But NOBODY is questioning the National Party's right to do that.

As any attorney knows, processes and rules sometimes have to be revisited and revised even midstream particularly if such processes and rules are working AGAINST the very end they were meant to achieve. The DNC added some states to early voting schedule to ensure wider participation and greater representation in the nominee selection process. Note the goal: wider participation, greater representation.

The candidates themselves respected the DNC's orders regarding Michigan and Florida: they did not campaign in those states. Senator Obama, like Senator Clinton, allowed his name to appear on the Florida ballot. Unlike Senator Clinton, he chose to withdraw his name from the Michigan ballot. DNC rules permitted either option for each candidate.

The people who are now being most heavily penalized by the DNC are NOT the candidates. No, it is the voters in Michigan and Florida who, with no other option to make their preferences known, voted in the primaries their states held. Participation. What the DNC said it wanted. A northern "rustbelt" state and a southern state with an extremely diverse population. Representativeness. What the DNC said it wanted.

Equity and justice demand that the DNC get over the mindless "rules are rules" position. Either seat the delegations as the people voted or make a repeat possible. The DNC exists to solve problems and provide solutions facing Democrats as a whole. All Democrats are being injured by the current failure of leadership by the DNC.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Politics IS a contest, nobody is entitled to elected office

Throughout this primary season, I have worked hard to support my preferred candidate, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, without tearing down any of her opponents. But that does not mean that I fail to recognize that elections are contests, and involve winning and losing. All candidates who meet the minimum requirements under law and Democratic Party rules are eligible to compete, to compete as long as they want to, and to compete with effectiveness if they have the necessary resources and support.

Occasionally, it appears that these points are lost on some people. For an example, listen to Matthew Iglesias talking to MSNBC, who seems to be suggesting that Senator Clinton does not have the right to remain in the race.

Senator Clinton has millions of supporters, so many that Senator Obama CANNOT win the nomination even if he were to win every remaining state primary or cause. If the price of unity is bullying the opposition to be quiet and get out the way, that price is too high - it defeats the value of a democratic (small) d nominating process altogether.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Democratic National Party, ours, warts and all

Many Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters - including me - are extremely frustrated with the Democratic National Party, Howard Dean, and Nancy Pelosi. Some folks - not including me - have started to feel that Hillary should run as an independent, either because the DNC leadership seems so ineffectual in performing basic party functions or because they fear that the current fight between two Democrats will end up making ANY Democrat too unable to beat John McCain.

There are several problems with these lines of thought, although I can see how people start down them. First, no independent can possibly defeat a Republican candidate, and particularly one as skillful as John McCain as positioning himself as simultaneously a "maverick" and someone who intends to carry on Bush policies on Iraq and in other matters. It will take an establish political party - that is, the Democratic National Party - to provide the resources and infrastructure to beat John McCain.

Moreover, it strikes me Hillary Rodham Clinton, who has been a proud Democrat for her entire adult life, would not step away from the DNC, even if the DNC has not stood by her. After all, Senator Clinton knows more than a little about loyalty and staying power even when those virtues are put to the test. She is also a capable politician who understands that once she becomes the nominee, the DNC will close ranks around her.

So I would urge my fellow Clinton supporters to write to Howard Dean and to Nancy Pelosi, without venom, but certainly with passion, and explain what you think our preferred candidate needs and deserves from the national party at this point. We should educate the DNC, not reject it.

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The "paper of record"?

What has become of the New York Times? After devoting significant coverage to the remarks that led to Geraldine Ferraro's having to distance herself from the Clinton campaign, the Times has barely touched on the unfolding developments regarding Senator Obama's 20 year spiritual adviser, the Reverend Wright and the unfolding developments regarding Senator Obama's almost-as-long association with indicted real estate developer Rezko. While I'm no believer in the faux-neutrality of on-the-one-hand/on-the-other hand journalism, the Times is not performing up to basic standards of good journalism. In the past two days, Senator Obama himself has given extensive interviews about Rezko and made a number of statements about Reverend Wright. Some of the most admirable Obama supporters have printed their unhappiness with the Senator's explanations of his involvement with and knowledge of both Rezko and Wright; other supporters have gone on record accepting what Senator Obama has said.

This certainly sounds like a news story to me, one that the New York Times would generally be giving prominent coverage. I have long defended the Times against those that say it lacks independence from any number of constituencies or call it elitist. But that does not mean that I will defend it against plain old journalistic failure.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

A comment on Orlando Patterson in the NYT

In the March 11 edition of the New York Times, Harvard sociology professor Orlando Patterson interprets the Clinton campaign's "3 a.m." ad as part of a pattern of demonizing black men going back to the days of the Ku Klux Klan.


In his article, Professor Patterson claims disappointment that Senator Clinton has, as he put it, chosen to go negative. Is he also disappointed in Senator Obama's similar moves in that direction? The more I read his words, the more I hear the message "Women have to be extra-nice, all the time, no matter what."

Professor Patterson also expresses concern that two children in the ad appear "vaguely Hispanic" and none seem to be black. But what would he make of an ad that depicted Senator Clinton explicitly watching over black families? Could that not be interpreted as a patronizing attempt to be "the Great White Hope"? Certainly, Professor Patterson does not expect every campaign ad by each candidate to always include blacks and white; and it is a surprise to read him suggesting that including Hispanics is a sign of racial prejudice rather than inclusiveness.

Finally, as Professor Patterson acknowledges, he does not know whether the Clinton ad intended any racial subtext. I wonder, is he also confused as to whether Senator Obama's talk of the "okey-doke", "hoodwinking" and "bamboozling" in South Carolina and Mississippi has a racial subtext?

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Volunteering for Senator Clinton in Texas

Below is a collection of correspondence I sent to friends, family, and associates while on my trip to Texas for its primary and caucus, where I served on the "legal team".

1. final pre-Waco missive, just some bits and pieces

Fri, Feb 29, 2008 at 8:59 PM

Hello friends, friends of friends, associates, and colleagues,

I am packing for Waco, with a departure tomorrow a.m, where, as most of you know I will be campaigning for Senator Clinton. Packing is a challenge in itself since it is now 38 degrees in DC and 74 in Waco, and I don't remember what 74 feels like. Plus, the forecast for while I'm there runs from 50 degrees to 80. Hmmm...I hope this is where years of higher education are about to pay off.

I conferred with the campaign today regarding my fundraising: I have raised $650 of the latest $1000 I need (many of you have helped me get this far - thank you!). If I achieve the total goal before March 3, I can sponsor a student or former student to attend a reception with a number of senators (Cantwell, Whitehouse, Stabenow) at an ambassador's residence here in DC. The $1000 would entitle me to attend the reception and an event with Senator Clinton, and although I would enjoy meeting the senators tremendously, I have students who need that opportunity more than I do, which is why I asked the campaign if I could "split" the benefits of making my goal. Bottom line: if I raise another $350 by March 3, I can send a student to the reception and I can meet with Senator Clinton again. If you have been thinking of donating, please do: and if you can find a friend to go online and toss in $5.00 so much the better!

A quick word on the Clinton/Obama contest: some people think it is divisive and costly. I see it differently. While there will be wounds to be healed after the nominee is selection process is complete, the vibrancy of this contest is exciting. People are involved, galvanized. Sure, the discussions are sometimes silly - but hey, this is a democracy and it includes ALL kinds.

I've tried to spare you plugs for Senator Clinton because those to whom I am writing read and think about politics enough to know most of what there is to know. But I have to say that seeing how her ads and remarks and speeches in Texas have shifted gears to play up her strengths without being particularly derogatory toward Senator Obama reinforces my confidence that she has the savvy and skill to win a race against John McCain.

Meanwhile going into March 4, please note the following. Out of the over 2000 already committed delegates, Senator Clinton is behind by exactly 99. That is nothing. She is setting up offices in Wyoming and has a big advance team in Pennsylvania (staffers and volunteers) - she has the money and she really may win Texas and Ohio.

I will attempt to keep you posted from Waco - I will keep you on this list unless you ask met to take you off - which will not offend me in the least. I plan to drive by W's ranch and say "Bye-bye" whenever I can!

Off to stare at the closet some more...

2. first report from Texas

Sat, Mar 1, 2008 at 6:52 PM

Hello all:

Let's get the boring fundraising update out of the way: I've got somewhere between $300 and $400 left to raise. Here's the link: - you know what to do!

Landed at Dallas-Fort Worth airport a couple of hours ago, and had a couple of terrific emails from a few of you, including a communication from a student who knows somebody in the Clinton campaign with ties to Texas, e-introducing me. This has led to a pending change in something a little different than putting up yard signs (which I would gladly do, but apparently some think I may be better suited to tasks that require explanation and public speaking ... can't think why...after all, I'm so handy!).

I think only a few people on this list know that I am, by birth, a
Texan, and again, not everybody on this list knew my mother, who died in 2000. If
you did know Patti, you will immediately appreciate why being in
Texas now, where she started me off -with a crucial assist from my father, of course - makes Patti leap to my mind.

For one thing she would have been totally excited about the various escapades and opportunities I am having. But more interestingly, she would have been so moved by the various sorts of support many of you have been giving me. She would, of course, also be telling me that she was worried that I was pressing too hard on the fundraising front,
asking if I thought I was being polite enough, and generally making meanxious WHILE urging me on. Were I to point out the perversity of this, she would say - not entirely in jest- that as my mother it was her job to build my character by making things a bit perverse. And I would retort that I was pretty sure I was already enough of a character!

I think my mother would have herself supported Hillary for the nomination. Senator Clinton's long and effective devotion to children, to all the things important for them - education, economic solutions directed toward people trying to be good parents, affordable
high-quality healthcare etc etc - would have earned my mother's support. After all my mother taught schoolchildren for close to 40 years of her life, 30 or so devoted to teaching learning disabled and/or emotionally disturbed middle-schoolers (!!).

This just in from the person who is setting me up to work to my full potential while I'm here:

Am hearing from reliable sources from my hometown of Lubbock that many Republicans are voting in the open primary there for Hillary.
Also, here are some early voting totals from the major counties in Texas. Bexar (San Antonio), Hildalgo (Rio Grande Valley), and El Paso had great turnout!

Best to all of you.


3. Hillary, the military, and Texans; a little bit of news about Heidi

Sun, Mar 2, 2008 at 10:06 AM

Dear everybody:

I want to help disseminate some information about the support Senator Clinton is getting from military heavyweights. As I meet people here (I'm about to go do more of that, by speaking at a church (!)), especially people from outside of Dallas, I realize how much they want to see Hillary win. Non-urban areas of Texas have, historically, had large numbers of enlistees in the military. You do find yourself talking to people who have been in Iraq or have children in Iraq. These people are certainly not overall pacifists: but they are sick about the way the Iraq operation was planned and executed, and angry that President Bush duped people into the WMD myth.

Yesterday, I was able to tell them about General Shelton's endorsement of the Senator. General Shelton is among the twenty "flag officers" who have endorsed Hillary Clinton. The most interesting thing about the reactions I got was that these men and women felt that Senator Clinton would be much more effective at building and maintaining the modern military than JOHN McCAIN! One man said to me that while he had to respect McCain's own military service, he didn't think that the "local kids" would put their trust in McCain enough to carry on the "Texas tradition" of joining up in large numbers.

Now, I know that economic circumstance, as much as anything, have prompted young Texans to enlist. Personally, I believe Senator Clinton's policies will lessen economic pressures to enlist so that choice will be more freely made. But in any event, we do need a military, one with high morale, led by somebody who has unequivocally rejected torture as a war tactic, and somebody who has the trust of the top brass. That's Senator Clinton. To read General Shelton's endorsement and see the full list of flag officers who have endorsed Senator Clinton you can go to this link:

I must go drink coffee and then head out to "meet, greet, and speak". On the fundraising front, a current student of mine, who I expressly told NOT to donate any more dollars toward my goal because I felt that so many people I know could spare the money more easily, went ahead and donated $25 dollars any way! This means I need only raise another $75 by March 3 to hit my mark. If just several people who read this can go online at and donate $20 I'll be across the finish line.

Best to all of you,

4. Texas Primary Eve

Tue, Mar 4, 2008 at 12:36 AM

Hello everybody,
Texas Primary Eve and I am simultaneously keyed up and exhausted. I spent much of this afternoon and evening getting my brief for tomorrow. Things are sufficiently wild down here that I, as a member of the "legal team", will spend tomorrow patrolling key polling stations in the Dallas area to take the pulse and let the campaign know where they need to send extra volunteers or where there seem to be "irregularities." Then, tomorrow night, I truly morph into George Mitchell and will be sent to one of the spots where the campaign expects the most contentious caucuses, in the Dallas area, to take place.

I've been on a conference call with Clinton's top legal advisers in D.C. and Austin, reviewing DNC rules and other polling and caucus related matters relevant to the 350 lawyer-volunteers here in Texas (that's counting both in-staters and out-of-staters). I have also continued to have a few sidebar exchanges with two of the more senior Clinton folks, and this is how, I think, I have ended up with the assignment to rove 8 key precincts in Dallas and nearby tomorrow. The campaign thinks that the winner will be determined by roughly 40 precincts, some in Dallas and some in Houston. Of course, "the winner" may actually walk off with fewer delegates than "the loser" - because one can win the popular vote but because of the weighting system lose in the delegate count - but both Senator Obama's and Senator Clinton's campaigns care more about the monicker "winner" - although of course if either is the "loser" but has more delegates s/he will spin it as though s/he is the "winner." Oy veh - as we say down here in Texas.

Meanwhile, it is currently 30 degrees in Dallas and closer to 60 degrees in DC, so the weather makes no more sense than the Texas Democratic Party rules! Fortunately, I feel able to adapt to both.

Most humorous moment of the day: a whispered conversation in Neiman Marcus with a salesperson who will vote for Hillary but says she can't say anything in the lunchroom because everybody else who works at the store is - gasp - a Republican.

I may run out of steam to report tomorrow, but I will certainly send a post-trip message to you all.

Good night!

5. Hillary and Heidi on Election Day midafternoon

Tue, Mar 4, 2008 at 5:54 PM

Dear all,

If you want to see Senator Clinton in action, this is the best video I've seen, Hillary in Beaumont yesterday, after starting in Toledo, OH at about 5:30 a.m. to meet people coming off the night shift at an auto factory:

I started my own day today at 6 a.m. - not a prime-Heidi-time, as many of you know - because the polls opened at 7 in Texas and I wanted to make my first round of "observer" stops during the pre-work voting period. Before I get to some highlights of my day so far, however, I want to note some news phoned in by my most excellent sister-in-law, who has been working hard for Hillary in San Antonio, where she and my brother-in-law and niece live. She reports loooonnnng lines at the Democratic polling stations she and her friends went to.

I started my day at a polling station with long lines, one southeast of Dallas. All was orderly, some people were talking about returning to caucus tonight. That spot is not at all a well-off area (to say the least) so of course the polling station was undermanned, and I was extremely impressed with the local official running the scene. No infringements of rules (as has been reported in more well-off suburbs around Dallas), everybody treated respectfully, helped to understand complicated paperwork and procedures. I was able to lend a hand with explanation process. Of course, at the polling station I did not say one word about my preferred candidate (no electioneering within 100 yards of the polling station), and I didn't care. An older woman told me this was the first primary she'd ever voted in, usually just votes in the general election. I asked if she was returning for the caucus that night (additional delegates are assigned then), and, like so many Texans, she said she didn't know what the caucus was for. I had the chance to explain, explain what she should do later this evening, and I think she might just attend!

I thought I'd let the names of the polling sites I've visited speak for themselves, to give you a flavor of Texas once once is right out of downtown cities.

Forrester Field House
St. Luke's Community United Methodist Church
St. Pius Church (a Catholic church)
Bryan Adams High School
Bethel Lutheran Church
David Burnett Elementary School
Multiple Careers Magnet Center

Must eat now, and get back out there later!

6. joy! and gratitude! and respect for Senator Obama's supporters too!

Wed, Mar 5, 2008 at 9:34 AM

Dear all,
I had an amazing experience attending a caucus last night. But I want to say right up front that one of the greatest parts of that experience, in a Dallas precinct that, as a result of the caucus, will be sending 5 Clinton delegates to the convention, and 4 Obama delegates (that close!) that things ran smoothly and appropriately and that people from both camps acted with dignity and respect for one another.

You know though that for me, Senator Clinton's wins in Texas, Ohio, and Rhode Island (some of you know I went to Brown as an undergraduate, and I had no fear that the state was in the good hands of the people of Rhode Island) are just thrilling, on many, many levels. Senator Clinton has been by choice for nominee for a long time, for reasons personal, political, and pragmatic. So here it is:


What incredible times we are going through. I am so glad I decided to journey to Texas (and lucky that the prima-caucus was scheduled for the Law Center's spring break), and so appreciative of the assistance and support from all of you.

I may send one final "post-Texas" missive, so I won't keep popping up in your email inboxes with Clinton related messages. And forgive this, but if you are at all inclined to donate even five more dollars to the campaign, they will need it, for Pennsylvania and beyond. Here's the link:

In closing, I just want to reiterate that I think the Democratic nominee, whoever that is at the end of the National Convention, will be BETTER positioned to win in November because of the excitement of this nomination process and because each candidate is learning something from the others' supporters - learning what Americans want in and expect of their President.

Best to each and every one of you,

who cannot help but think of the phrase, "Hillary Rodham Clinton, 44th President of the United States"
6. Fwd: Texas appreciation [nothing to do with fundraising!]

Sat, Mar 8, 2008 at 6:28 AM

This message just arrived, from the chair of the caucus I observed. I am so moved by it. And I would not have been able to serve as I did without the support of those who were part of my "Texas trip" email list. I wanted you to see what you made possible.

Best to all, H.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: [caucus chair]
Date: Sat, Mar 8, 2008 at 2:12 AM
Subject: Texas appreciation
To: [HLF]

Heidi, you were like an angel who showed up at our precinct. I cannot tell you what relief I felt knowing that we wouldn't get too far away from the intent of the meeting with you advising us.

Not only had I never chaired a precinct meeting, I had never been an election judge or even worked an election. Having to close the polls with all of the mumbo jumbo involved with securing the vote was chaotic. None of my workers had ever done it before either. Frankly, I have great compassion now for the Florida folks who were accused of mishandling the votes. Believe me, I am still waiting for the Election Police because I have no great feeling that we did everything that was supposed to be done. We just did the best we could. Trying to do both at the same time--impossible and criminal that a neophyte would be asked to do so without any technical assistance on certifying the votes and closing the polls. I hate not doing things "right."

But, you made the precinct responsibility so much less stressful. You quietly, patiently, and calmly handled the few situations that threatened to get out of hand; i.e., "iodine." Both groups appreciated your bipartisan advice.

I am also passing this thanks and appreciation along to the Clinton campaign. I still think that the stars were aligned correctly for a few minutes that night.

I have recently retired after 39 years in public education, as a teacher, principal and central office administrator. Agreeing to the jobs on March 4 was part of my resolve so say "yes" more than "no" to opportunities. Mostly, it has resulted in lots of new adventures and meeting some neat people. Although I will never again do both things at the same time, I am so very glad I had the experience and meeting you was a highlight. Precinct chair was a piece of cake compared to election judge. Also, from the horror stories I heard at the Democratic Party headquarters, we have a remarkably friendly precinct.

Unfortunately, the meeting didn't reflect the ethnic diversity of our neighborhood. White, upwardly mobile mid 30 year olds seemed to dominate, didn't they? The neighborhood is changing but still has a number of Hispanics who struggle economically. But, I know as an educator that, as a group, Hispanics tend not to participate in such activities. So, it wasn't a surprise that they didn't come to the caucus. Their voice was not heard. We also have a pretty liberal group of people in our precinct, unlike the majority of Dallasites and Texans. All in all, it was an enjoyable experience. I hope you found it so, too.

If you ever come back to Dallas, please let me know. I would love to take you to dinner, for a drink, or a tour of the Kennedy Assassination site, just about our only tourist attraction other than Six Flags. Seriously, I would like to have an opportunity to once again thank you. Besides, I could just tell that you are the kind of person I would like to know. I admit to being a snob for smart, "with-it" people. You more than qualify.

[name redacted by HLF], Democratic Precinct Chairperson