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Wednesday, November 12, 2008


This article suggests Clinton knows it's over:
Mrs. Clinton's associates said she seemed to have come to terms over the last week with the near-certainty that she will not win the nomination, even as she continues to assert, with what one associate described as subdued resignation, that the Democrats are making a mistake in sending Mr. Obama up against Senator John McCain.

Mrs. Clinton has kept her counsel about what she might do to draw her campaign to a close and when she might do it. Her associates said the most likely outcome is that she will end her bid with a speech, probably back home in New York, in which she would endorse Mr. Obama. Mrs. Clinton herself suggested on Friday that the contest will end sometime next week.

Still, she has signaled her ambivalence about the outcome, continuing to urge superdelegates to keep an open mind and consider, for example, the number of popular votes she has won. Gov. Phil Bredesen of Tennessee, a superdelegate who has been at the forefront of calling for uncommitted Democrats to make a choice soon after the last vote, said in an interview that Mrs. Clinton called him last week and urged him to "keep an open mind until the convention."

Assuming Mr. Obama reaches the total number of delegates and superdelegates he needs to secure the nomination in the coming week, Mrs. Clinton will be faced with three options, associates said: to suspend her campaign and endorse Mr. Obama; to suspend her campaign without making an endorsement; or to press the fight through the convention. Several of Mrs. Clinton's associates said it was unlikely she would fight through the convention, given the potential damage it would do to her standing within the party, which is increasingly eager to unify and turn to the battle against Mr. McCain.

Mrs. Clinton would almost surely face the defection of some of her highest-profile supporters, as well as some members of her staff. She would no doubt also face anger from Democratic leaders as she contemplates a return to the Senate and, potentially, another run for the White House.

Mr. Obama has already turned his campaign away from Mrs. Clinton to face Mr. McCain. Mrs. Clinton is barely mentioned by Mr. Obama anymore, and his schedule is now focused as much on general election battlegrounds as it is on the remaining primaries. Mr. Obama is planning to mark the final election night of this primary season in St. Paul.

"That's where the Republican convention is going to be," said David Axelrod, the campaign's chief strategist. "It seems like a good place to start the discussion about which direction we're going to go as a country."

Similarly, Mrs. Clinton and her aides have all but stopped their attacks on Mr. Obama. The once vigorous Clinton war room has gone into a slumber, stirring back to life only when a controversy erupts, as when Mrs. Clinton came under attack for mentioning the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy in June 1968 in explaining why she staying in the race.

Indeed, the talk in Mrs. Clinton's headquarters has turned from the primary to more mundane matters: the next job, who Mr. Obama might hire from the Clinton campaign, and even where to go on vacation.

While there is tension and sore feelings on both sides, Mr. Obama has directed his campaign aides in all departments to begin reaching out to their counterparts in the Clinton camp.

One of Mrs. Clinton's chief strategists, Howard Wolfson, hinted that she was not inclined to carry the battle to the convention.

"Our focus is on securing the nomination for ourselves in the near term," he said. "I don't think anybody is looking toward the convention to end this process."

overheard outside the DNC Rules and Bylaws committee: "What Howard Dean is doing now at the DNC is worse than slavery."

I found this interesting:

Howard Dean delivered some strong words in his opening remarks at Rules and Bylaws, telling an anecdote about his bitter, hard-fought loss in 2004.

"I was very very angry at my party for some of the things that had been done," Dean said, going on to recall getting a phone call in the middle of the night from Al Gore, to whom Dean ranted and raved about his loss.

"What do I owe the Democratic Party?" Dean recalled telling Gore. "Why should I be a Democrat after what the party did to me?"

According to Dean, Gore responded: "Howard, you know, this is not about you. It's about your country."

"Nobody could have said that to me except for Al Gore," Dean continued, since Gore had had the presidency snatched from him by "five intellectually bankrupt Supreme Court justices who did the wrong thing."

"This is not about Barack Obama," Dean went on, speaking about the current primary. "This is not about Hillary Clinton. This is about our country.

The DNC put out a web ad featuring McClellan

Looks like our gov't is pushing to hold 9/11 trials in the final weeks before the election.

Dan Froomkin posts excerpts from McClellan criticizing the media in the run-up to the war as well as responses from media figures. He then offers this helpful reading list:

In May 2004, the editors of the New York Times acknowledged:

[W]e have found a number of instances of coverage that was not as rigorous as it should have been. In some cases, information that was controversial then, and seems questionable now, was insufficiently qualified or allowed to stand unchallenged. Looking back, we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge.

In August 2004, Washington Post media critic Howard Kurtz examined his own paper's coverage, and concluded:

An examination of the paper's coverage, and interviews with more than a dozen of the editors and reporters involved, shows that The Post published a number of pieces challenging the White House, but rarely on the front page. Some reporters who were lobbying for greater prominence for stories that questioned the administration's evidence complained to senior editors who, in the view of those reporters, were unenthusiastic about such pieces. The result was coverage that, despite flashes of groundbreaking reporting, in hindsight looks strikingly one-sided at times.

Michael Massing ruthlessly dissected the press's failures in February 2004 in the New York Review of Books:

Beginning in the summer of 2002, the "intelligence community" was rent by bitter disputes over how Bush officials were using the data on Iraq. Many journalists knew about this, yet few chose to write about it….

The nearer the war drew, and the more determined the administration seemed to wage it, the less editors were willing to ask tough questions. The occasional critical stories that did appear were… tucked well out of sight.

In his book, "Now They Tell Us," Massing writes that journalists were far too reliant on sources sympathetic to the administration and that those with dissenting views were shut out. As a result, coverage was highly deferential to the White House. At his publisher explains, Massing's "detailed analysis demonstrates, pre-war journalism was also deeply flawed, as too many reporters failed to independently evaluate administration claims about Saddam's weapons programs or the inspection process."

Greg Mitchell's new book is a collection of essays he wrote for Editor and Publisher during and after the run-up to war. Its title is: "So Wrong for So Long: How the Press, the Pundits--and the President--Failed on Iraq."

PBS's Bill Moyers devoted an entire show in April 2007, entitled Buying the War to answering these questions:

How did the mainstream press get it so wrong? How did the evidence disputing the existence of weapons of mass destruction and the link between Saddam Hussein to 9-11 continue to go largely unreported? What the conservative media did was easy to fathom; they had been cheerleaders for the White House from the beginning and were simply continuing to rally the public behind the President — no questions asked. How mainstream journalists suspended skepticism and scrutiny remains an issue of significance that the media has not satisfactorily explored. How the administration marketed the war to the American people has been well covered, but critical questions remain: How and why did the press buy it, and what does it say about the role of journalists in helping the public sort out fact from propaganda?

Take a trip back in time and check out Janeane Garofalo calling bullshit before it was cool. (vid) As she herself was quick to point out, she and a few other celebrities were placed in the ridiculous situation of being the only people on the air speaking against the war before it started. This was partly because so few Democratic politicians had the guts to oppose the war, but there were some (Ted Kennedy, for one). But the networks, especially Fox, preferred to book celebrities to give the opposing point of view. It made it that much easier to discount their views. Garofalo knew full well that it was a set up, but figured it was better than having no dissenting opinions at all expressed on the air. I listened to her radio show occasionally when she had it and I've heard her say many many things I don't agree with, but she definitely deserves credit for putting herself out there when it was a very unpopular thing to do. Thanks Janeane!

On the other hand if you missed Thomas Friedman's gem of an explanation as to why we had to go to Iraq be sure to check it out. (vid) That clears up everything!

Obama responds to that other UCC preacher:

Obama released a statement this afternoon saying he was "deeply disappointed" in Father Pfleger.

"As I have traveled this country, I've been impressed not by what divides us, but by all that unites us. That is why I am deeply disappointed in Father Pfleger's divisive, backward-looking rhetoric, which doesn't reflect the country I see or the desire of people across America to come together in common cause," Obama said in a statement first posted by the Chicago Sun Times.

Pfleger issued this response: "I regret the words I chose on Sunday. These words are inconsistent with Senator Obama's life and message, and I am deeply sorry if they offended Senator Clinton or anyone else who saw them."

Checkout the "unedited" version of Pfleger's comedy stylings

an article on McCain's "web gap" mentions that "Real McCain" video I sent out a week or so ago:

The newsreel of McCain lowlights has zoomed up the YouTube charts in the last week, with more than 1.5 million views. "John McCain's YouTube Problem Just Became a Nightmare" is the video's title, which might be dismissed as partisan hype but for one thing: It's true.

The presumed Republican presidential nominee is taking a serious drubbing on YouTube, the most popular video-sharing service on the Internet and the virtual town square for millions of new young voters.

Search "John McCain" on YouTube and you'll find the latest broadside, by Brave New Films of Culver City, and a lot more that's not good for a candidate who's built his reputation on constancy and authenticity.

There's McCain stumbling over a debate question and, worse, his cringe-worthy answer wickedly paired with the hapless Miss Teen USA contestant who went blank on a query about Americans and geography.

There's McCain seemingly on the verge of swallowing his tongue, so great is his discomfort when Ellen DeGeneres asks him why women like her shouldn't be allowed to marry other women.

Here are some excerpts from an interesting profile of Pelosi in the New Republic:

Don't let the perky-grandmother-in-pearls schtick deceive: Nancy Pelosi is not a woman who responds well to threats or disrespect in any form. For years, she has struggled to be taken seriously--dismissed, variously, as a rich dilettante, a lefty crusader, and a smiley, wide-eyed dingbat. Chronic underestimation, say those close to her, has chafed but has also helped Pelosi fuel her rise with a blend of political cunning, hard work, and raw will. The seventh child and only daughter of a Baltimore machine politician, she was weaned on a vote-counting, constituent-tending, brutally pragmatic brand of politics, the fundamentals of which still guide her. As do early lessons about how to survive as an ambitious woman in a man's world. And, despite her revolutionary, smash-the-china image, Pelosi is a savvy institutionalist who amassed power in part because of her intimate understanding of the House's rules, quirks, and mores.

Now, having smiled, sweated, and strategized her way to the top, the speaker is savoring her burgeoning reputation as a power broker and all-around political badass. While she may not be the person who killed the Bush presidency (that honor goes to the president himself), Pelosi has of late emerged as the chief figure propelling his slide into political oblivion-- blocking his bills, stiff-arming his congressional compatriots, and reminding everyone of how lame the duck has become. In much the same fashion, her status as party eminence has been burnished, particularly on the left, by her tie-ups and stare-downs with Team Hillary. Thwarting the will of both an opposition president and the most fearsome political machine in her own party, Pelosi is now being touted as one of the most powerful speakers in modern history. It is a particularly sweet victory for a woman who has spent her political career striving to prove she can hold her own with the big boys.


Pelosi is a meticulous vote-tracker, has an encyclopedic knowledge of the bills wending their way through committee, and keeps tabs on the political pressures confronting her flock. Her chief of staff, John Lawrence, explains: "She knows what the members need. She knows what the members want. And she knows the difference between the two." Seeking a member's support, the speaker will corner him in the halls and call him at all hours to let him talk until his concerns are conveyed if not resolved. "She has the patience of Job in doing that," says Rangel. She is also a master of the political grace note: remembering birthdays, sending out handwritten thank yous, inquiring after family members. All of this fund-raising, favor-granting, ego-stroking, and information-gathering comes in handy when it comes time to whip votes and forge compromises. By knowing everything about her members, Pelosi is better positioned to control them.

And make no mistake: Control is very important to Pelosi. Among staff, she has a reputation as a micromanaging control freak, with a sharp tongue and zero patience for team members who screw up. To her caucus, meanwhile, Pelosi made immediately clear that she planned to fully exercise the power of her office. Her decision to adhere to the Gingrich-era term-limiting of committee chairmen outraged some of the House's most senior eminences but has enabled her to demand far more obeisance than past Democratic leaders have received. (Caucus unity, she informs me, "is the most elegant message we can send.")

At times, this has meant launching a direct assault on a member's authority, as when she created a select committee on global warming over the objection of Energy Chairman John Dingell, with whom she has long feuded over fuel- efficiency standards. At others, she simply ignores proposals that don't fit her vision. (Think Ways and Means Chairman Rangel's tax-reform package.) Occasionally, Pelosi's heavy hand raises eyebrows, such as her booting fellow Californian Jane Harman off the Intelligence Committee, despite Harman's qualifications and high profile on the issue. And some complain that (like her mother) Pelosi nurses a grudge-holding tribalism. "She overpersonalizes everything," gripes one House Democratic aide. Her insistence on backing longtime ally John Murtha for majority leader over one-time whip rival Steny Hoyer was seen by many as a leadership failure that inflicted unnecessary bruises. But, overall, party members seem impressed by Pelosi's ability to make tough decisions and "herd the cats." Lauds a senior Senate aide who works closely with her, "The speaker has brass balls."

Of course, being a woman in a testosterone-heavy institution has its drawbacks: As Dick Armey memorably told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2002, "One of the reasons Nancy's abilities are not appreciated is that she is a beautiful woman." But possessing the proverbial "woman's touch" is also part of Pelosi's political arsenal, helping her twist the arms of some of Congress's grumpiest old bulls without putting them on the defensive. (A certain Ways and Means Committee chairman is said to be highly susceptible to her charms.) Some colleagues have described Pelosi's tough-love leadership style as "maternal." Others think it flows more from her upbringing. "She just knows how to schmooze these guys," says the speaker's communication director Brendan Daly, who posits that having "five older brothers helps." Barney Frank offers a more pointed analysis: "Nancy is a very smart woman who used to be a very smart girl at a time when smart girls were told that if they were too smart they would scare away the boys." Now, he adds, no matter how tough Pelosi has to be, in private she has "a manner" that helps soothe ruffled feathers. One leadership aide recalls a meeting in which a disgruntled committee chairman threatened to oppose a bill; Pelosi rose slowly from her seat and delivered a low-key but sternly disappointed lecture on the need for chairmen to set a unifying example. (The chastened member wound up supporting the bill.) Emily's List president Ellen Malcolm has dubbed Pelosi's expression in such situations "The Grandmother Look."

This look--in fact, the whole maternal role--is key to Pelosi's political identity. Pelosi may be tough, even feminist, but not in the in-your-face '70s way that Hillary Clinton is often associated with. She has never downplayed her femininity and is known for her Armani suits, Tahitian pearls, and oh-so-girly chocolate habit.

The pronounced femininity works because it is naturally who she is, but it is also savvy politics: Such self-marketing undermines GOP efforts to paint Pelosi as a left-wing extremist out of touch with mainstream values. The speaker makes frequent reference to her years as a stay-at-home mom, while staffers and colleagues are quick to attribute leadership tricks and personal ticks to her time in the domestic trenches. Following Pelosi's swearing in as speaker, the media was awash in photos of her, gavel in hand, surrounded by her grandkids as well as the children of other members. She looked deceptively like your garden-variety grandma--albeit vastly better coiffed.

Life at the top, of course, is never easy. Her rookie year, Pelosi drew fire from all sides: from the left for being a politics-as-usual sellout, from the right for being a partisan defeatist, and from the entire chattering class for being outplayed by Republicans. Even as colleagues gave her good reviews for holding the caucus together and passing several bills (including ethics reform, a minimum-wage increase, and a bump in student aid), the press and blogosphere deemed her a grave disappointment for letting Republicans kick her around on all the really meaty issues like children's health care, stem-cell research, and, most notably, Iraq.

Then came spring, and, thanks to a series of high-profile clashes, Pelosi now finds herself being talked about like a cross between Tip O'Neill and Margaret Thatcher. She continues to hold the line against Republican efforts to grant telecom companies immunity from wiretapping lawsuits. She regularly blocks the minority from amending bills--recently sending Minority Leader John Boehner into a rage on the House floor. ("[T]he majority has an obligation to treat the minority with respect!" he bellowed.) She has postponed consideration of many spending bills altogether until a new president takes office. And, in mid-April, she led her caucus in a vote to derail the president's efforts to force consideration of a free-trade agreement with Colombia. Then she gleefully rubbed Bush's nose in the defeat at a post-vote press conference. Decrying Pelosi's iron grip on the gavel, columnist Robert Novak dubbed her "Czar Nancy. " A once-mocking press now marvels at her facility for hardball, even as the liberal blog Daily Kos recently cheered, "This is what congressional spine looks like."


And so, at long last, Pelosi is getting props from across the political spectrum as a power player. The Iraq war still rages, congressional Republicans still have the numbers to scuttle most Democratic legislation (though Pelosi always has one eye on fattening her governing margin come November), and whether Pelosi is leading her members in a sensible direction depends on your political perspective. But, for now, Madame Speaker has quieted the speculation that she lacks the skill, the smarts, and, most importantly, the cojones to lead her caucus.

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