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Sunday, November 9, 2008


Ok, I'm going to be a bit cavalier here and hopefully not piss off jimbo.... I've been emailing both Jimbo Holden and Sara Hartman for a couple months now with links and some of my own 'political commentary,' but I've used blind CC's just to keep things simple (basically I was saving time, haha) but you both know each other and now I've told Diana Romer I would include her in on these emails... so now I think the best thing is to just open it up to conversation. After all we all know and like each other, so why not?

So, here's where I risk annoying Jimbo, I'm including his email to me about his current state of mind regarding the race. I think he/you has some good observations, so I'd like to respond. First, though, Diana you may want to check out the last couple links I sent to bo and sara which inform what jimbo's talking about:

>>an interesting post.

>>getting ugly

Ok, so here's what Jimbo had to say, and then I'll put my thoughts below his...

- Hide quoted text -
On Jan 15, 2008 5:26 PM, James Holden < > wrote:
Y'know, all of this just makes me think that Edwards is smart to be staying in for as long as he can. He's never too far behind as it is, and eventually - soon, I think - people are going to get sick of this shit, and start looking for an alternative. Of course, that sort of dynamic happens all the time in politics, and I'm sure Hilary and Obama know it. Probably has something to do with the 'truce.'

But honestly, I'm already feeling exhausted by the two of them. I still like Obama, though I think the substance issue is valid at times. But in moments of doubt, I've been opting for one quality above all others: intelligence. After the past eight years - I don't know - it just seems like our most pressing need in a president. I know Hilary is smart, and so is Edwards, but Obama gives all indications that he is brilliant, and intellectually capable enough to reason an path through the massive pile of shit storms that wait for him on the oval office desk. Hilary would probably manage alright too, but doing so with a predefined toolbox of reactions and procedures. Edwards, though, is looking better and better all the time to me. He's got the brains, but without that toolbox.

Moreover, he's not talking so endlessly about this notion of national reconciliation, which is what I'm getting tired of hearing about from Hilary and Obama. I mean, I suppose it makes us a better country, to hold hands with each other and all, but haven't the past eight years been just a little too terrible and unfair to so immediately forgive simply because they're almost over? Eight years of rape and pillage by the Republican party should be forgotten for the sake of 'moving forward.' And does that even require unity? Did the GOP have any real trouble getting things done without the dem's cooperation? I think we could move forward just fine by railroading our own legislation through congress - just like they did - for a few years before we even begin to acknowledge their existence. Truth be told, I'm not ready to make nice to anybody on the right who supported this administration (99% of them), from the eldest senator to the average jackass on the street.

I realize that to win the general election, campaigning on unity is probably the best way to go, but I do wonder. I think a lot of people could agree that the past eight years have been a spectacular, extraordinary disaster, and as such change the rules of the game. Angry/passionate didn't work in '04 (Dean), but neither did sober/unifying (Kerry). I know that the Clinton/Obama campaigns of unity are safe strategies born out of public exhaustion of the endless litany and Bush/Cheney lies, but now there's 4 more years of crimes for a democratic candidate to synthesize into a catchy campaign. And I don't think the public would be so averse to a campaign that rehashed those crimes this time around if it were done just a little more skillfully. For that reason, I still haven't disavowed Edwards. At least he acts pissed off.

I know I said that I believed Obama would be capable of handling the full brunt of the Republican smear machine in the general election, but I'm becoming slightly less certain the longer he handles Clinton's attacks by taking the high road. I don't know - I'm petrified of having a Kerry debacle, although I can't see Obama being that passive. Edwards has been through it though, and I think the way he's running his campaign (on the attack, I suppose) shows it.

Oh, and I still think Hilary is utterly unelectable.


P.S. I wrote this in fits and starts throughout the day. I'm sending it before I check it for coherency and flow.

Good points, all. I just finished watching the Dem debate in LV and, as usual, my strongest impression was that we have three incredibly strong candidates. This debate was especially interesting because those three were the only ones on stage (since everyone else has dropped out). Edwards is a very strong candidate: I will admit that when he starts talking I can often see the manipulative trial lawyer of my parents fever dreams, but often by the time he's finished he's sold me. Watching the debate for almost every question Obama and Hillary would give great answers, and then Edwards would give a similar answer except he would invariably turn it up a few notches. He always takes it to the next level.

It really shows a fighting spirit which I really appreciate... but here I want to address Jimbo's idea that, to crudely paraphrase, payback is owed. I believe that payback is owed, or more precisely that we should set to work fixing this country with the same urgency and determination that the Republicans had when they set to driving this country off a cliff... but I would also like to throw another idea out there... what if Obama actually understands the fight that awaits the next President and recognizes that the only chance of accomplishing our objectives is to not only win the Presidency but also improve our position in the House and Senate. I feel confident that an Obama candidacy would do more for 'down ticket' races than Clinton. (That's largely a function of the Repubs having already had 8+ years to Smear HRC, when they'll have less than a year to work on BO. Enough to do plenty of damage - see : Kerry, JF- but negative opinions of HRC are solidified, and yes that is largely a function of sexism- but it is a reality)

But my main point is that perhaps Obama may be just playing politics, in a good way. Perhaps he is trying to put together a winning campaign, to perhaps be followed by a different governing strategy. Of course there's always a danger in thinking candidates mean something other than what they say. (It's tendentious enough believing what they say! Speculation beyond that should be highly suspect, haha)

In terms of intelligence I honestly couldn't say who is the smartest. At risk of seeming wishy-washy I'll just say I think they're about equally intelligent, but that their intellects are honed in different directions: Obama is very 'big picture' in a way that would be a mistake to characterize as just rhetorically inspiring. The guy can ground intellectual policy positions in human values in an incredibly adept way. HRC is into the minutiae, and is good at showing her (real) proficiency with a range of topics, while Edwards is able to tap into the emotions of people to inspire action for change. It's textbook trial lawyer stuff, but if it actually works I'm all for it!

One thing going for Edwards is that stylistically he is very similar to FDR: He wants to take the battle to the big special interests, etc. Obama and Clinton talk about reconciliation. If either of them actually believe they can reconcile the forces of opposition within this country they are fools. I know HRC doesn't believe that (she's been there), and I don't believe BO actually thinks that, just because I think he's smart, so how could he? But I do worry. One thing about Edwards, he's made clear he expects an onslaught. He's right.

I was basically agnostic on Iowa, although I did hold out hopes that Clinton would finish third (which were answered). If Edwards would have won I would have had to really think hard about who to support. But Obama won and so I felt like, ok, he's my guy. He's the one who will beat Clinton.

And I LIKE Clinton. I've watched almost every Democratic debate this year and every single time I've come away liking her more. She's smart as fuck, and she's even likable. The problem with her though, is (in my opinion) she's had her idealism drained out of her. She's been calculating the ends versus the means for so long that she's lost sight of what she was setting out for in the first place. But really I only mean that in comparison to both of her rivals. I mean, the Republican side is an absolute horror show, EVERY ONE. John McCain says our country should stay in Iraq a hundred years. Ron Paul wants to get rid of the National Reserve so we can have another Great Depression (not to mention ditching the post office, etc.) And those are the GOOD ones. I don't want to even contemplate a Guiliani administration. Bottom line this country CANNOT deal with another Republican administration.

So Nevada's coming up soon and although it doesn't have a lot of delegates at play it will be hugely important in terms of momentum I think for the Democrats. Each of the three candidates has a shot at winning. I always thought an Iowa victory was a prerequisite to an Edwards victory, but a victory in Nevada could reverse his fortunes. If he doesn't win in Nevada I think it's over for him. If he stays in it's because he thinks it would benefit him or his ability to affect the party's platform. This is just me talking, and I'm no political analyst, but it's just logical: a huge amount of votes are at stake on Feb 5, but if Edwards hopes to win those he has to show he's a viable candidate, by winning somewhere. Clinton and Obama are both very popular in SC (where Edwards was born). Nevada's Edward's last/best chance of getting some momentum.

A win in Nevada for either Obama or Clinton would be huge as it would be a sort of 'tie breaker.' Right now I believe Obama's leading in SC: A Nevada win would solidify that win and almost guarantee two wins immediately prior to the big Feb 5 elections. A Clinton win could put SC back into play, and at the very least (if she lost SC) would put Clinton and Obama "tied" (at least in terms of competitive States won) right before Feb 5.

This week I've had such mixed feelings: I do believe all three candidates are extraordinarily good politicians, which is a fortunate relief from what has been a stream of qualified but politically awkward candidates (including my now belatedly beloved Al Gore). But while I thought a longer primary process (as opposed to the quick, overwhelming victory) would be good for the candidates and good for the party I now worry that things could get uglier. I lot of vile stuff has been put out there, not by the candidates themselves but by surrogates (which of course is always an issue: 'is it so-and-so speaking at behest of the campaign, or of their own free will?' who can ever know?)

And Jimbo I want to reply to another one of your points: that Obama isn't responding to Clinton's attacks aggressively. More precisely he hasn't responded forcefully to statements made by Clinton supporters. Those comments had a racial connotation that I found very odious. Ironically some of them were launched by African-Americans. There are two ways to look at them: either Clinton had the misfortune of having many high profile, racially insensitive supporters (some of whom were themselves black), or her campaign intentionally sent out supporters to make race an issue. Either way one of the most damaging things that could Obama could do would be to angrily denounce racist tactics. It would ensure his defeat. Obama's smart enough to know this and not got there, but many of his supporters can't resist responding angrily. If you can turn Obama into Jesse Jackson you've won. I think this is one reason Obama offered a 'truce.' All the bullshit was knocking him off message in a way that could only be harmful.

Anyway I just hope we can keep it civil and stay united and beat the hell out of the Republicans in '08. As I consider the candidates that is the ultimate consideration for me.


ps. Jimbo I hope you don't mind me sharing your email, but I'm sure Sara and Diana will be interested.

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