“Crackpots don’t make good messengers”

For the record, I have no intention of voting for Ron Paul in the General election (though depending on how the GOP primary rolls out, I might consider crossing over to vote for Paul in the MI primary, for similar reasons as I voted for John McCain in the 2000 primary: because I knew my vote wouldn’t matter in the Democratic primary and I hoped a McCain win might slow down George Bush’s momentum and focus some attention on campaign finance reform, McCain’s signature issue at the time).

I don’t want Ron Paul to be President and, for all my complaints with Obama, he is a less bad presidential candidate than Paul.

But that’s an entirely different question then the one Kevin Drum purports to address with this post:

Should we lefties be happy he’s in the presidential race, giving non-interventionism a voice, even if he has other beliefs we find less agreeable? Should we be happy that his non-mainstream positions are finally getting a public hearing?

Drum doesn’t actually assess the value of having a non-interventionist in the race, or even having a civil libertarian in the race (which he largely dodges by treating it as opposition to the drug war rather than opposition to unchecked executive power), or having a Fed opponent in the race.

Instead, he spends his post talking about what a “crackpot” Paul is, noting (among other things), that Paul thinks climate change is a hoax, thinks the UN wants to confiscate our guns, and is a racist.

Views, mind you, that Paul shares in significant part with at least some of the other crackpots running for the GOP nomination.

Of course, Paul does have views that none of the other Republicans allowed in Presidential debates share. And that’s what Drum would need to assess if he were genuinely trying to answer his own question: given a field of crackpots, several of whom are explicit racists, several of whom make claims about cherished government programs being unconstitutional, most of whom claim to believe climate change doesn’t exist, is it useful that one of the candidates departs from the otherwise universal support for expanded capitulation to banks, authoritarianism, and imperialism? Read more

Do Iowans Care More about Family and Christmas than GOP Primary Reality Show?

Today is the day of the year when a bunch of Big 10.2 teams get thumped in bowl games. As such, it is a key part of the holiday season for college football fans, including those who live in the Midwest.

Tomorrow is the day of the Presidential electoral season where a few hundred thousand Iowans go to caucuses and exercise a unwarranted amount of control over who our next President will be.

Mind you, last Friday was the day when both Iowa and Iowa State got thumped in bowl games, but if these Iowans are Sugar Bowl fans, tomorrow is also the day when people stay home to watch the game rather than get herded around a crowded room for several hours. (The caucus was just one day later, on January 4, in 2008, though bowl games were skewed earlier because of the calendar.)

The juxtaposition of the heart of bowl season with the IA caucuses shows that we’ve arrived at that state invoked so often by those raising concerns about the logical outcome of the Mutually Assured Destruction on primary timing of the last decade or so: when the holiday season basically became campaigning season (though some raise the specter of pre-Christmas votes, too).

Isn’t it about time that some of the bajillions of reporters on the ground in Iowa do some reporting on whether or not this is good for democracy? Rather than tracking granular differences in polling numbers or thinking of different ways to say “Santorum Surge,” couldn’t some of these reporters interview Iowans–those caucusing as well as the majority who won’t caucus–to find out whether they paid more attention to their family’s regular Christmas celebration or the political circus being staged around them?

I don’t doubt that the volatility in polls this year stems, in significant part, from the terrible candidates in the GOP field; none of them, it seems, can survive the scrutiny of a few weeks. But I also wonder whether the timing plays a part. That is, it’s likely that a goodly number of likely caucus goers haven’t been concentrating all that much on whether Newt will force their grand kids to quit school and instead take a unionized janitor’s job, whether Mitt will outsource their jobs, and which of them are promising to start a war with Iran. The Des Moines Register’s highly respected poll says 41% of those polled may change their mind. Isn’t it possible that these citizens who have been entrusted with such power over our political system simply have been doing what the rest of us have been, enjoying one of the only weeks of the year when we get to spend extended time with our families?

Maybe it’s time we actually figured out whether waging an electoral campaign as if it were background Christmas Muzak is good for democracy.

Florida Joining Re-awakening? GOP Voters Against SS-Medicare Cuts, Tea Party Chides Scott Over Ethics

The elections from earlier this week may well go down in history as a watershed event in which voters finally began to understand, and then to overwhelmingly reject, the most extreme elements of Republican views that take the “pro-life” movement into a completely indefensible realm, demonize collective bargaining and promote institutional racism. Developments reported today in Florida indicate that this re-awakening may be spreading, with a survey of Republican voters indicating that they favor withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and Iraq over cuts to Social Security or Medicare when reducing the deficit and with the Tea Party scolding Governor Rick Scott over his failed campaign promises to institute ethics reforms.

Note first the remarkable result in Ohio.  In a state that provided Barack Obama an election margin of only 51% to 47% over John McCain in 2008, the restrictions on collective bargaining by public employees put in place by Governor John Kasich and a Republican legislature were voted down by a margin of 61% to 39%:

With a beer in his hand and a smile on his face at the We Are Ohio celebration at the Hyatt Regency, Ohio Democratic Chairman Chris Redfern said public workers should not be the scapegoats for the state’s economic problems. “That is the lesson John Kasich must remember after tonight, and if he doesn’t, he’ll be a one-term governor.

“If you overreach, the people will respond. There is no one tonight who could suggest this was about Democrats versus Republicans,” Redfern said, noting the wide margin of defeat. “This is literally about what is right and what is wrong, and what Ohioans feel is important.”

The outcome of the so-called “Personhood Amendment” in Mississippi is no less striking.  In one of the most conservative, anti-abortion states in the nation (won by McCain 56% to 43% in 2008), we learned that just as Kasich and his cronies over-reached on collective bargaining, the Pro-Life movement over-reached in Mississippi, as the measure was defeated 58% to 42%:

Objectors also raised the specter of legal challenges. Most of all, many said, the amendment allowed no exceptions for abortions in cases of incest or rape – a claim not disputed by proponents, who are trying to end abortion in the state.

In a statement from the anti-initiative group Mississippians for Healthy Families, spokeswoman Valencia Robinson said, “… (W)e were successful because Mississippi voters ultimately understood that there is no contradiction in being pro-life and standing in opposition to an initiative that threatened the health and very lives of women.”

And in Arizona, voters recalled Russell Pearce, the author of SB 1070, the “papers please” extremist anti-immigration bill.  Pearce lost to a more moderate Republican by a margin of 53% to 45%: Read more

Commercializing Campaign Ads: California Roll For Mayor

We have an interesting phenomenon underway here in Phoenix – the outright commercialization of political campaign ads. It is the handiwork of a Scottsdale sushi restaurant, Stingray Sushi. In short, a corporation is using a political race as a straight up advertising vehicle for their product, without officially supporting or donating to either candidate. The ploy started off just riffing on hot button political issues such as:

“Bill Clinton Likes My Sushi”
“Larry Craig Likes Our Bathrooms”
“Blagojevich is the Best Tipper”

Stingray then morphed into playing off of a local initiative drive on the ballot. But now they have stepped square into a heated political race between competing candidates.

The current, and heaviest manifestation of this novel activity by Stingray to date, is the current Phoenix Mayor’s race, which will be decided on November 8. The race itself is supposedly non-partisan, however it pits longtime uber-Republican operative Wes Gullett, who was the chief of staff for disgraced (and convicted) Governor Fife Symington and has served in several administrative and campaign capacities for John McCain over the years, against a moderate, but fairly clear Democrat, former City Councilman Greg Stanton.

If the question is “is this legal”? Yes, it appears to be quite legal under both state and federal campaign law, although Stingray has had to put stickers on their signs advising that it is “Not authorized by any candidate or candidate’s campaign committee.”

The ad campaign is the brainchild of a local ad and political consultant by the name of Jason Rose. I will have to give Jason credit here, it is pretty inventive and has certainly captured the imagination of Phoenix residents. Everybody has seen them, even my high school daughter talks about them. My wife thinks they are hilarious catch phrases now. Anytime I mention politics, she blurts out “Mayors Are Yum Yum!”.

Now, here is the better question – where does this go from here? Stingray is playing both sides of the electoral race fence in this campaign, but it is hard to believe others necessarily will do the same. Will bigger corporations exercise their right to free political speech decreed in Citizens United by branding themselves to a particular candidate? Is it a good thing to have electoral races clouded by raw corporate advertising pitches as opposed to actually taking a side?

I honestly do not know the answers to the questions raised, not the plethora of others that arise from this ad campaign. But I doubt it is a one off deal, you can expect to see other similar ad campaigns attached to elections in the future. What do you think??

Brian Williams, Meet Cameron Todd Willingham

Pretty much everyone seems to have waken up this morning still aghast at the wild applause Rick Perry got last night for his boast about the number of people he has executed.

It is disgusting.

But Brian Williams, who otherwise did a decent job as moderator, failed miserably here. How do you ask this question and not mention Cameron Todd Willingham?

Not only did Governor Perry deny Willingham’s appeal for clemency even though an expert arson investigator had rebutted all the solid evidence in the case, Perry fired investigators who were about to provide Willingham’s innocence.

Perry killed an innocent man and then engaged in a cover-up to hide that fact. The story of Cameron Todd Willingham deserves to be a central issue in Perry’s campaign.

Yet Williams–even while he exposed Republicans as blood-thirsty kooks–failed to even mention Willingham’s name.

Obama’s Re-Election Campaign: Destroying the Country to Save It

Much of the discussion about this Jeff Zeleny piece has focused on Obama’s apparent consideration of cutting regulations that “affect the economy.”

The president intends to offer at least some progressive proposals to help regain a fighting posture that he has not had since the health care debate, but a provision is also being discussed to place a new moratorium on some regulations that affect the economy, excluding health care and financial rules. The proposals are likely to infuriate an already unhappy Democratic base. [my emphasis]

Greg Sargent suggests we ought to wait to see precisely what Obama means by this; I agree, not because I have any faith in Obama, but because the syntax of this line is so strange. Does Zeleny mean “moratorium on new regulations”? A “moratorium–does that mean temporary or permanent–on existing regulations”? Who is doing the discussing here, Mr. Passive Voice Journalist?

In short, I think Zeleny has failed his job as stenographer.

Which is why I’m even more intrigued by this passage.

The Republican candidates, collectively and in distinctive ways, continue to cast him as the foil against whom they ran so successfully in 2010: a big-government liberal who has expanded regulations, created uncertainty for business and failed to revive the economy, with millions more Americans out of work than when he took office. They portray him as an unsteady leader who is unequipped to turn around a country in economic crisis. [my emphasis]

Again, the meaning here is unclear: Who is the “they” here? Does Zeleny mean to invoke the themes all Republicans used to run against Obama in 2010? Or just the ones running for President. I’m not sure Ron Paul “ran against” Obama in 2010, though Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry did. Both complained about health insurance reform, but largely in terms of “freedom” and (particularly in the case of Perry the separatist, state’s rights), not regulations. Perry complained about emissions restrictions, which is certainly a regulation, but Obama’s already caved on that front.

Both Bachmann and Perry got caught hypocritically replying on government pork while attacking Obama’s stimulus bill, and it’s fair to say that Perry used stimulus funds to balance TX’s budget, and given the number of government jobs TX has relied on, it’s therefore safe to say Obama’s stimulus created jobs Perry is taking credit for.

And both Bachmann and Perry called Obama a socialist.

But the theme ignores one of the big things Republicans, as a whole, ran against Obama on in 2010: “cutting Medicare” (in the health insurance reform).

Which makes me wonder whether this interpretation of the 2010 election is Zeleny’s … or the Obama team’s?

It seems a critical issue because some seems to have simplified the reasons for the Democrats’ shellacking in 2010, particularly given that voters still largely blamed Bush for the economy in 2010 (though they’re doing so less now).

In any case, if Obama thinks he can embrace policies that will stop two fools who called a President who has coddled banksters “a socialist” from repeating that claim–if Obama believes that spoiling our air and water will make Bachmann and Perry be nice to him–it’s simply not going to work.

But I do worry that’s what he has in store.

Attacking Romney Rather than the People Looting our Economy

This Politico story–“revealing” Obama’s campaign plan to brand Multiple Choice Mitt as “weird”–has gotten a lot of attention in the twittersphere.

Barack Obama’s aides and advisers are preparing to center the president’s reelection campaign on a ferocious personal assault on Mitt Romney’s character and business background, a strategy grounded in the early stage expectation that the former Massachusetts governor is the likely GOP nominee.

The dramatic and unabashedly negative turn is the product of political reality. Obama remains personally popular, but pluralities in recent polling disapprove of his handling of his job and Americans fear the country is on the wrong track. His aides are increasingly resigned to running for reelection in a glum nation. And so the candidate who ran on “hope” in 2008 has little choice four years later but to run a slashing, personal campaign aimed at disqualifying his likeliest opponent.

[snip]

The onslaught would have two aspects. The first is personal: Obama’s reelection campaign will portray the public Romney as inauthentic, unprincipled and, in a word used repeatedly by Obama’s advisers in about a dozen interviews, “weird.”

“First, they’ve got to like you, and there’s not a lot to like about Mitt Romney,” said Chicago Democratic consultant Pete Giangreco, who worked on Obama’s 2008 campaign. “There’s no way to hide this guy and hide his innate phoniness.”

A senior Obama adviser was even more cutting, suggesting that the Republican’s personal awkwardness will turn off voters.

“There’s a weirdness factor with Romney and it remains to be seen how he wears with the public,” said the adviser, noting that the contrasts they’d drive between the president and the former Massachusetts governor would be “based on character to a great extent.”

Now, no matter how reprehensible this campaign strategy is (particularly for the way it feels like Mormon-bashing), and for all Politico probably feels it has “won the morning” by printing it, both are missing something.

This campaign has already been in place.

A significant chunk of the tweets the Michigan Democratic Party sends out, for example, focus on Romney–showing Obama leading him, playing up GOP opposition to him, dissing his fundraising, recalling his stance on the auto bailout, branding his appearance in MI his “hypocrisy tour,” pitching other states’ anti-Mitt swag. While it has gotten better of late, for a while the MDP focused more on Romney-bashing than on Rick Snyder-bashing–which of course meant no one was attacking Snyder’s plan to tax seniors to pay for a tax cut for businesses.

Now, I understand MI may have a particularly driving reason to do this. Not only might Mitt’s ties to MI give him a critical edge over Obama that could flip a crucial swing state. But even at the primary level, MI’s cross-over voting might mean if Democrats support Romney, it could make a significant difference in him winning the Republican primary.

Yet, again, this early focus on Mitt has distracted from where I would like Democratic messaging to be targeted–not only on Snyder, but on the businesses that have looted our country. I would suggest this might explain why MI Dems have such little confidence in their party right now.

Obama may feel like he needs to call Mitt names to win re-election. But if that’s the sole purpose of the Democratic Party between now and then, it will leave a vacuum precisely where the most important messaging needs to be.

DSK Case Collapse: Lawyers, Phone Calls & Money the Shit Hits The Fan

It is not often you see the total implosion of a major criminal case in quite such a spectacular fashion as we have witnessed with the Dominique Strauss-Kahn (DSK) case in the last 24 plus hours. As I said Thursday night when the news first broke of the evidentiary infirmities in relation to the putative victim were first made public in the New York Times; there is simply no way for the prosecution to recover, the criminal case is dead toast.

Today, the letter from the Manhattan DA’s Office to DSK’s attorneys detailing the Brady material disclosures gutting their victim’s credibility was made public. It is, to say the least, shocking. But what has transpired since then has been nothing short of stunning.

As expected, DSK had his release conditions modified to OR (own recognizance) and all restrictions, save for not leaving the United States, removed. If you do not think that is a crystal clear sign of just how much trouble the prosecution is in, then you do not know criminal trial law.

But the process of dismissing the case cannot take too long, DSK’s attorneys simply will not sanction that and, trust me, they have already mapped out an attack strategy should they need it. My guess is there will be a blitzkrieg should there not be a dismissal by next Wednesday. and if they did not have enough ammunition as of last night, the clincher was revealed late Friday night.

Once again, the breaking story comes from the New York Times:

Twenty-eight hours after a housekeeper at the Sofitel New York said she was sexually assaulted by Dominique Strauss-Kahn, she spoke by phone to a boyfriend in an immigration jail in Arizona.

Investigators with the Manhattan district attorney’s office learned the call had been recorded and had it translated from a “unique dialect of Fulani,” a language from the woman’s native country, Guinea, according to a well-placed law enforcement official.

When the conversation was translated — a job completed only this Wednesday — investigators were alarmed: “She says words to the effect of, ‘Don’t worry, this guy has a lot of money. I know what I’m doing,’ ” the official said.

It was another ground-shifting revelation in a continuing series of troubling statements, fabrications and associations that unraveled the case and upended prosecutors’ view of the woman. Once, in the hours after she said she was attacked on May 14, she’d been a “very pious, devout Muslim woman, shattered by this experience,” the official said — a seemingly ideal witness.

Little by little, her credibility as a witness crumbled — she had lied about her immigration, about being gang raped in Guinea, about her experiences in her homeland and about her finances, according to two law enforcement officials. She had been linked to people suspected of crimes. She changed her account of what she did immediately after the encounter with Mr. Strauss-Kahn. Sit-downs with prosecutors became tense, even angry. Initially composed, she later collapsed in tears and got down on the floor during questioning. She became unavailable to investigators from the district attorney’s office for days at a time.

Now the phone call raised yet another problem: it seemed as if she hoped to profit from whatever occurred in Suite 2806.

Game. Set. Match. There is so, so, much more of course (really, read the whole sordid set of facts) that absolutely guts any possibility of proceeding with the woman as a criminal victim against DSK but, Read more

Netroots Nation: Marcy Wheeler Introduces Guest of Honor Russell Feingold

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As most of you know by now, Netroots Nation 2011 is in full swing in the beautiful hamburg of Minneapolis Minnesota. Earlier today, our own Jane Hamsher appeared front and center with Dan Choi on a DADT panel. Tonight FDL takes center stage again, in a big way, with our own Marcy Wheeler having the distinct pleasure of introducing the guest of honor for the main festivities for the evening, Senator Russell Feingold.

Russ Feingold is a hero, and for good reason, to progressives. Russ was one, if not the only one, of the Democratic Senate, make that Senate as a whole, who really stood up for civil liberties in the face of the bipartisan onslaught that has occurred over the last decade, both under George Bush and Barack Obama.

So, please join me, Firedoglake, Netroots Nation, and the progressive enterprise as Marcy Wheeler welcomes one of us: Senator Russell Feingold. The video is a live stream of the event, I am not sure when Marcy and Russ will be up.

Obama Misses the Lesson in NY-26

Congratulations to Kathy Hochul, who rode a disciplined campaign against Paul Ryan’s plan to privatize Medicare to victory in a Republican Congressional district tonight.

There’s a lesson here. Republicans voted on Ryan’s shitty plan. Which allowed Democrats to highlight how shitty it, and Republicans, are. And … Victory!!!

Obama, however, seems to be missing that lesson:

I want to extend my congratulations to Congresswoman-elect Kathy Hochul for her victory in New York’s 26th Congressional District. Kathy and I both believe that we need to create jobs, grow our economy, and reduce the deficit in order to outcompete other nations and win the future.  Kathy has shown, through her victory and throughout her career, that she will fight for the families and businesses in western New York, and I look forward to working with her when she gets to Washington.

One corner of real America just made it very clear they don’t want anyone messing with Medicare. And yet Obama’s off negotiating just that, rather than making it clear that Republicans want to hold Medicare hostage along with the rest of the government.

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