Here Comes the Push Back

25 01 2008

Karen Russell blogging for the Huffington Post did not minced words when addressing the Clinton campaign’s full throated attacks on Barack Obama.

For months, we saw “the inevitable frontrunner” running a tight and disciplined campaign. Then as Obama rose in the polls, suddenly Hillary and her surrogates started dropping a series of “misunderstood” slurs. They fit a familiar pattern, “smear, play dumb, own up and apologize”. Rinse, lather and repeat.

We are supposed to believe that as Obama gained ground on Clinton that it’s just mere coincidence that Clinton surrogates painted Obama as a risky “shucking and jiving”, “roll of the dice”, “cocaine-loving”, “drug-dealing”, “Reagan-loving”, “closet-Muslim” , “fairytale-living”, “establishment”, “less black than President Clinton” “rookie”?

We are supposed to believe that these are isolated “mistakes”. Remember these are the people who went after Senator Obama’s kindergarten record and then tried play it off as a joke.

Now it appears that “Trasher-in-Chief” Bill is in charge of keeping the “fun” going. Apparently, the Clinton campaign figured out that having Hillary taking the cheap shots at her opponents made her less “likable”

And now it seems as if some of the push back has been resonating in the media.

Perhaps, the Clinton folks will recognize they are overplaying their hand.

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Immigration and the Wide Net Strategy

25 01 2008

In the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, aggressive enforcement of immigration laws has been conflated with counterterrorism efforts. Anti-immigrant legislation and the race-baiting rhetoric by elected officials and pundits alike have contributed to confusing real looming national security threats such as terrorism with the spike in undocumented immigration. But nowhere is this shift more evident than in the rhetoric and the professed policy aims of many of the Republican candidates for president. For example, Mike Hucabee warns his supporters on his campaign site:

In this age of terror, immigration is not only an economic issue, but also a national security issue. We must know who is coming into our country, where they are going, and why they are here. All those who are caught trying to enter illegally must be detained, processed, and deported.

Not to be outdone Mitt Romney claims on his site, “The increasing tide of illegal immigration has eroded Americans’ faith in the rule of law, put great pressure on our health and education systems, and compromised our national security as our ability to secure our border is questioned around the world.” Fred Thompson and Duncan Hunter, both of whom recently dropped out, also adhere to the same talking points.

Guiliani desperate to dodge the “mayor of a sanctuary city” label, has proposed a plan that includes monitoring the presence of all immigrants and even tourists admitted into the United States.

But none of the candidates have mentioned or emphasize the role of intelligence gathering in deterring genuine threats to public safety that’s presumably the result of a broken immigration system. All of the top GOP Presidential contenders, with the possible exception of McCain, are focused on crafting harsher immigration laws with enforcement standards that make it harder for people to come here legally or become legalized. But still fail to address how to target real terrorists.

As counter intuitive as this sounds, however, terrorists are not going to be stopped by harsher immigration laws. They are more than capable of adapting to the changes. As the Immigration Immigration Law Foundation notes:

We must accept the reality that harsher immigration laws would not have stopped the terrorists. Al Qaeda has shown a rare diligence and capacity to comply with the laws, or at least to appear to comply with them. For example, there were indications in the early 1990s that terrorists were trying to use the asylum system to gain entry to the United States.

When the U.S. Government became aware of this and started detaining asylum applicants who were suspected terrorists, the terrorists switched their tactics and began using tourist and student visas. More recently, they have been recruiting American citizens, who cannot be excluded from the United States no matter how harsh our immigration laws. As immigration laws change, terrorists simply adapt.

(More after the jump)

Read the rest of this entry »

We Need Comprehensive Immigration Reform Now

25 01 2008

Does it really have to come to this?


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Reaganite Narratives and Liberal Discontent

22 01 2008

As Paul Krugman recently pointed out narratives do matter. This is especially true of narratives that purport to be rooted in political history. For example, liberal Democrats tend to view the FDR and his New Deal legacy as a vindication of an activist government. Conservative Republicans believe that President Regan ended the Cold War and exhibited moral clarity in his judgment.

In a recent interview with the Reno Gazzette- Journal, Obama touched on these very themes and how certain political figures in our history took advantage of key moments to advance very different narratives of American society. He pointed to presidents such as John F. Kennedy and Ronald Reagan who imposed an agenda after recognizing the mood of the country seemed to be opening to the charting of a new path. Needless to say such figures come along once a generation and their influence last about just as long.

(Watch the video in its entirety here. The section in question begins around the 18 minute mark.)

As I listened closely to his remarks, I must confessed that I winced knowing that it was going to be a campaign issue since people will twist and distort the words of their opponents for political gain. It is politics after all.

His rivals and other detractors have already pointed such remarks to suggest that Obama is not as progressive as he comes across. It’s amazing how a moment of intellectual honesty can inspire such enmity. Obama was not praising Reagan’s actual policies or his vision for the country.

If anything it seemed as Obama was hinting at, though granted not explicitly stating, how the Gipper managed to exploit the backlash against civil rights and discomfort at the size of the government better than nearly anyone else in his party and sell his ideas to the country. If there is any real admiration expressed for Reagan by Obama, then its probably for his ability to take advantage of a unique moment in time, not his politics.

But by the same token, I can understand any partisan Democrat getting upset that one of their candidates for the presidency is saying any thing complimentary about Ronald Reagan. After all, his policies did not improve the economic situation of the most impoverished in the U.S., he was not only hostile to progress on civil rights, but also subtly race baited to achieve his majority.

Reagan and his cohorts ambition of challenging conventional wisdom manifested itself in undoing all the hard won victories of the labor rights, civil rights, and women’s right movement. Liberals have every right to want to see Obama unequivocally state his vigorous disagreement with the so-called Reagan revolution if the Illinois Senator does in fact objects to their aims.

Of course, on the campaign trail no debatable historical observation will go unpunished. President Bill Clinton, the elder statesman turned attack dog, ripped into Obama for his seemingly flattering remarks of Reagan by saying

I can’t imagine any Democrat seeking the presidency would say they were the party of new ideas for the last 15 years. But it sounded good in Reno I guess,” he said. “So now it turns out you can choose between somebody who thinks our ideas or better or the Republicans had all the good ideas.

Perhaps, you could see this coming considering that Bill Clinton probably felt as if his presidency was being diminished by an upstart. Predictably enough, it also served as the prelude for Hillary Clinton criticism of Obama during last night’s debate in South Carolina.

Watch it.

I understand the desire to draw distinctions to illustrate policy differences and or even ideological dispositions. But this was just an attempt to go negative during the debate with no particular purpose other than to paint Obama as a Republican in liberal clothing, which will only resonate with the Paul Krugman’s of the world.

The only purpose this exchanged served was to reveal the simmering rage and animosity that exists between Clinton and Obama in a debate devoid of any real policy questions. Clinton comes across as hackish and Obama as the angry black man, both of whom eager to sling mud at each other. If we see more of this kind of tit for tat, voters will be turned off and the Democrats will still look like the party that cannot get its act together.

Democrats need to carry women and black folk by wide margins to take back the White House.

Does it really have to be this way?

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“Look at Me Generation” and Political Activism

21 01 2008

NYT Laugh Lines blogger Streeter Seidell on why “the look at me” generation isn’t as politically active as their baby boomer generation once were.

It’s easy to be politically active when you’ve got nothing else to do. Your TV was nowhere near as entertaining as ours (Spoiler Alert: Gomer Pyle does something dumb in tonight’s episode) and only NASA had satellite radio back then. We live life as if in an all-you-can-eat buffet of distraction. How are we supposed to find the time to protest when HBO just put the next episode of “The Wire” on demand?

I can definitely sympathize.

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No Bradley Effect in Nevada?

20 01 2008

Few people will pay any attention to the distinctly different results of the final tally of the Nevada Democratic caucus last night and the initial polling predictions. According to the Reno-Gazette Journal poll, it was a near statistical dead heat, with John Edwards at 27 percent, Obama at 30, and Madame Inevitable at 32 among 500 likely caucus goers. But looking at the final results last night Madame Inevitable got 50.7 percent to Obama’s 45.2, while Edwards pulled in a meager 3.8 percent.

Now with the popular portrayal of the Democratic primaries as a series of two person contests, I don’t expect these disparities to be widely discussed on the morning talk shows or on the front pages of the Times. But it should give some election watchers some pause? Perhaps, I am not well versed enough in the Nevada viability rules in each of the precincts, but going from 27 percent to barely scratching 4, should warrant some discussion. In fact, I cannot help but think that if Obama performed even 5-8 percentage points poorer than the polling predicted, much less have the 3.8 percent showing, people would be saying the Bradley effect did him in again.

Though he certainly did lose in Nevada, Obama, and Clinton for that matter, he did perform much better than initial polling indicated, which suggests we should at least refrain from presuming that the Bradley effect will doom Obama’s chances of getting into the White House as so many people seemed to imply after his New Hampshire loss.

In short, the Bradley effect refers to a phenomenon in which white respondents overstate their support for a black candidate in opinion surveys to avoid seeming bigoted, but once they’re within the privacy of the voting booth cast a ballot for a different candidate, usually a white one. The phrase was coined in 1982 when Tom Bradley ran for governor of California consistently led by a considerable margin in the polling even up to the eve of the election, but lost narrowly to a white opponent.

And, given Obama’s post-Iowa bounce in the polls in the Granite state, which had him ahead by a good margin, yet still losing to Madame Inevitable by 2 or 3 percentage points, I could understand how so many people believe the Bradley effect played a key role in the outcome.

No black candidate, even Obama, is automatically immune to the Bradley effect. And its entirely possible that there maybe some convincing evidence of it at work in some of the primaries. But the chattering classes, including among Obama’s supporters, should be aware that they are simply kneecapping the Illinois Senator by hastily attributing any lost no matter how narrow to the prejudicial judgments of certain voters without knowing the data or really examining the campaign’s outreach effort on the ground.

But by irresponsibly speculating that a black man can never be president because there are too many racist white folk out there simply undercuts Obama’s argument that he is in fact the most electable Democrat in the field. Plus, it also does not jibe well with his showing in his 2004 Senate race.

As I noted in a previous post, “Barack Obama picked up more votes in Southern Illinois, a predominately white region well-noted for its history of racial violence against African-Americans, than George W. Bush” did in his 2004 reelection bid.

Another word on polls. I, like many lay people who blog in their jammy jams, believe that some polls are useful and some are not. Some are in line with what make sense and some are not. Some are accurate and some are not. On this blog I have pointed to a number of polls that I think are worth paying attention, but they frequently only offer a snapshot of what people are thinking, or more precisely put, vague impressions of certain respondents at that particular moment. Few are meant to be terribly definitive. And, in Obama’s case, are also unlikely to capture the full range of his broad base of support given how he is drawing on a pool of young, independent, first-time, and even Republican voters, since most pollsters survey registered partisan voters.

Interestingly enough, there is no word or phrase referring to black candidates who manage beat the polling data other than “historic.”

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Interesting Suggestion

20 01 2008

The Obama campaign recorded what they claim to be smearing robo calls made on the eve of the Nevada Democratic Caucus. In the audio clip below the recording repeatedly mentions Obama’s middle name, which is Hussein, and lies about Obama’s ties to lobbyists.

The recording informs potential voters that “Barack Hussein Obama says he doesn’t take money from Washington lobbyists or special interest groups but the record is clear that he does.” The very brief call ends by saying, “You just can’t take a chance on Barack Hussein Obama.”

Listen to it.

As a means of neutralizing the intended race baiting of incessantly referring to Obama’s name, Glamatron at Daily Kos has an interesting suggestion.

One of Obama’s strongest assets is his sense of humor and his easy way of joking around with the press. I suggest that in some high profile speech this week, he should mention all the other candidates only by their full names: beginning, middle, last. He could refer to “John Sidney McCain” and “Willard Mitt Romney.” Not everyone could do this without seeming snitty and small, but I know Obama could turn it into a winking joke, so that any time anyone had the audacity to say “Barack Hussein Obama” they would be met with only a snicker.

Better yet… he could jokingly, winkingly give everyone the middle name “Hussein.”

Hillary Hussein Clinton.
John Hussein Edwards.
Fred Hussein Thompson.

Hey, who could take umbrage? Hussein is a very common name in some cultures. If we’re all so beautifully tolerant and it doesn’t matter what name you have, then it doesn’t matter, right? If it’s not a hindrance, it’s not a hindrance right? We are all Marshall. We are all Barack Hussein Obama.

Maybe its worth a shot.

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