Hilzoy on Hillary and Rwanda

HRC seems to be fibbing about her role in the Rwandan crisis. No wonder Samantha Power, who literally wrote the book on that crisis, should think of the world “monster” in describing HRC. And no wonder HRC and her minions were so eager to keep throwing mud at Power even after she had resigned. The truth hurts.

Hilzoy of Obsidian Wings has a long, careful, devastating piece on Hillary Clinton’s claims to have urged action to stop the Rwandan genocide. To sum up Hilzoy’s conclusions: she’s not convinced, she’s not impressed, and she’s not pleased. Hilzoy goes through the published record and finds zero evidence of any action by HRC: not just no contemporaneous record, but no mention in Bill Clinton’s memoirs, Hillary Clinton’s memoirs, or Madeline Albright’s memoirs.

Here’s Hilzoy’s conclusion:

The US didn’t just fail to intervene in Rwanda. Our government urged the withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping forces that were on the ground protecting Rwandans, for no better reason than to keep the Belgians from looking like cowards. It refused to jam the radio station that was passing on instructions for genocide. It blocked further efforts to reinforce the peacekeeping forces there. It also failed to do any of the much smaller things that might have shown that our government was not wholly indifferent to the people of Rwanda who were, at that time, being hacked to death with machetes.

It’s worth bearing this background in mind when you hear Hillary Clinton claim that she advocated military intervention in Rwanda. If you don’t, you might think: well, it’s perfectly comprehensible that she might have argued for military intervention but failed to convince her husband. After all, military intervention in another country is a big deal, not to be undertaken lightly. And it’s easy to imagine Hillary Clinton being in favor of it, and her husband reluctantly concluding that it just wasn’t something he could do.

It’s a lot harder to imagine that while Hillary Clinton was advocating military intervention, she not only failed to convince her husband to send troops, but also failed to convince him, for instance, not to advocate the withdrawal of most of the UN peacekeepers, or that he really ought to order the Pentagon to jam Radio Milles Collines. If she was doing her best behind the scenes, and failed to accomplish even this &#8212 if, despite her best efforts, she couldn’t persuade her husband not to advocate withdrawing UN peacekeepers just to provide cover for the Belgians &#8212- then we really need to ask how effective an advocate she really is, especially since no one except her husband, in full campaign mode, seems to remember her efforts at all.

Of course, I think it’s a lot more likely that she either didn’t advocate action on Rwanda at all, or did so only in passing. If so, this would have to be the definitive example of her attempt to claim responsibility for everything good that happened during her husband’s presidency, while disavowing all responsibility for his mistakes. This was, in my opinion, the most shameful moment of the Clinton administration. It ought, by rights, to have a place in Hillary Clinton’s “thirty five years of experience working for change.” Or perhaps she might claim that she wasn’t that interested in foreign policy at the time, or that for whatever reason she just didn’t pick up on the genocide in Rwanda until it was too late to act. That would at least be honest.

But if, in fact, Clinton missed the chance to urge her husband to help stop the Rwandan genocide, then she should not pretend that she was, in fact, right there on the side of the angels all along. That’s just grotesque.

All this gives an extra piquancy to the Samantha Power flap, since Power cut her policy eyeteeth on the Rwandan crisis, and won a Pulitzer prize for her book laying bare the feckless indifference to genocide that characterized the Clinton Administration. That makes it less surprising that the word “monster” should come to mind when Power thinks of HRC, and also less surprising and that HRC and her minions should be so eager to piss on Power’s political grave.

Wyoming results

An 18-point win for Obama, on a turnout 10x that of four years ago.

UPDATED See below

With two small counties (both surrounded by Obama territory) yet to report, Obama has an 18-point lead in Wyoming.

Turnout is an order of magnitude greater than four years ago.

Delegates should split 7-5, as expected, leaving the math unchanged.

And it looks as if the “kitchen sink” effect is starting to fade, or the pushback is starting to work. Both Gallup and Rasmussen tracking results, which switched from Obama up a few points to Clinton up a few points between Friday and Wednesday, are now back to even. No bounce from winning Ohio and Texas.

Update Teton County came in 80-20 for Obama. His final overall margin was 23 points, and might wind up +4 rather than the +2 previously estimated. If so, The Math just got that much harder for the Clinton campaign.

Apparently losing by 23 points counts as winning in Hillaryland: Maggie Williams says she’s “thrilled.” Just imagine how happy she’ll be when Obama clinches the nomination.

Meantime…

McCain surrogate launches full-throated attack on Obama’s heritage. Will the Clinton campaign be smart enough to respond?

The other half of the Senator McClinton tag-team is back on the “Obama is a Muslim” theme. Looks as if Sen. McCain either can’t control his wingnut supporters or doesn’t really want to.

If the managers of the Clinton half of the team were half as smart as they think they are, she’d be out there with a full-throated denunciation and a demand that the McCain half of the team give Rep. Steve King the heave-ho. Or would that be too rude to her “good friend,” the one who’s ready to be Commander-in-Chief on Day One?

Here’s the relevant part of the text:

I don’t want to disparage anyone because of their, their race, their ethnicity, their name – whatever their religion their father, father might have been.

I’ll just say this: that when you think about the optics of a Barack Obama potentially getting elected President of the United States — and I mean, what does this look like to the rest of the world? What does it look like to the world of Islam?

And I will tell you that, if he is elected president, then the, the radical Islamists, the, the al-Qaida, and the radical Islamists and their supporters, will be dancing in the streets in greater numbers than they did on September 11….

It does matter, his middle name does matter. It matters because they read a meaning into that in the rest of the world, it has a special meaning to them. They will be dancing in the streets because of his middle name. They will be dancing in the streets because of who his father was and because of his posture that says: Pull out of the Middle East and pull out of this conflict.

So there are implications that have to do with who he is and the position that he’s taken. If he were strong on national defense and said “I’m going to go over there and we’re going to fight and we’re going to win, we’ll come home with a victory,” that’s different. But that’s not what he said. They will be dancing in the streets if he’s elected president. That has a chilling aspect on how difficult it will be to ever win this Global War on Terror.

Of course, Obama has been saying precisely that the reason to get our troops out of Iraq is to be able to win a victory over the terrorists in Afghanistan, but you wouldn’t expect Rep. King to notice that.

The truth hurts

Hillary Clinton’s handlers have been padding her foreign-policy resume. Her purported advocacy of action by the US to stop the Rwandan genocide left no trace in any contemporary record, and isn’t mentioned in her memoir, in her husband’s, or in Madeline Albright’s.

There won’t be much joy in Hillaryland over this Marc Cooper column on Samantha Power, Hillary Clinton, and the Rwandan genocide.

As with NAFTA, HRC claims that she opposed the (in)actions of her husband’s administration. But (in the immortal words of Colombo) “there’s just one thing”: although both Clintons and Madeline Albright have written memoirs since, there’s no mention in any of them of any attempt by HRC to spur action about Rwanda, and no evidence that such action was ever seriously considered by the Clinton Administration.

Actually, it seems that HRC and her handlers have been doing more than a little bit of resume-padding with respect to her “experience” in foreign policy.

Update The Rwandan genocide turns out to be one of the many things Hilzoy knows about. Here’s her take on the story:

If Hillary Clinton did press for military intervention in Rwanda, her advocacy left no trace in the world. I have read quite a lot about the Rwandan genocide and the US reaction towards it, and Hillary Clinton’s involvement comes as news to me. I just went through my various books on the Rwandan genocide (there are eight), and she is not mentioned in any of them.

[snip] (Lots and lots of detailed evidence.)

The US didn’t just fail to intervene in Rwanda. Our government urged the withdrawal of the UN peacekeeping forces that were on the ground protecting Rwandans, for no better reason than to keep the Belgians from looking like cowards. It refused to jam the radio station that was passing on instructions for genocide. It blocked further efforts to reinforce the peacekeeping forces there. It also failed to do any of the much smaller things that might have shown that our government was not wholly indifferent to the people of Rwanda who were, at that time, being hacked to death with machetes.

It’s worth bearing this background in mind when you hear Hillary Clinton claim that she advocated military intervention in Rwanda. If you don’t, you might think: well, it’s perfectly comprehensible that she might have argued for military intervention but failed to convince her husband. After all, military intervention in another country is a big deal, not to be undertaken lightly. And it’s easy to imagine Hillary Clinton being in favor of it, and her husband reluctantly concluding that it just wasn’t something he could do.

It’s a lot harder to imagine that while Hillary Clinton was advocating military intervention, she not only failed to convince her husband to send troops, but also failed to convince him, for instance, not to advocate the withdrawal of most of the UN peacekeepers, or that he really ought to order the Pentagon to jam Radio Milles Collines. If she was doing her best behind the scenes, and failed to accomplish even this — if, despite her best efforts, she couldn’t persuade her husband not to advocate withdrawing UN peacekeepers just to provide cover for the Belgians — then we really need to ask how effective an advocate she really is, especially since no one except her husband, in full campaign mode, seems to remember her efforts at all.

Of course, I think it’s a lot more likely that she either didn’t advocate action on Rwanda at all, or did so only in passing. If so, this would have to be the definitive example of her attempt to claim responsibility for everything good that happened during her husband’s presidency, while disavowing all responsibility for his mistakes. This was, in my opinion, the most shameful moment of the Clinton administration. It ought, by rights, to have a place in Hillary Clinton’s “thirty five years of experience working for change.” Or perhaps she might claim that she wasn’t that interested in foreign policy at the time, or that for whatever reason she just didn’t pick up on the genocide in Rwanda until it was too late to act. That would at least be honest.

But if, in fact, Clinton missed the chance to urge her husband to help stop the Rwandan genocide, then she should not pretend that she was, in fact, right there on the side of the angels all along. That’s just grotesque.

Opportunity knocks

Looking forward to Obama’s anti-torture speech.

Barack Obama’s speech on overriding President Bush’s veto of the torture bill can be a turning point in this campaign. John McCain is for torture, as long as it’s practiced by the CIA rather than the military. Hillary Clinton, who knows as all of us do that the Bush Administration has been using waterboarding, still isn’t sure whether it’s been practicing torture.

Only one candidate left in the race stands for human decency on this issue, and fortunately he’s the most eloquent politician of our lifetimes. The hour is ready for the man.

Question for Hillary Clinton

Does Hillary Clinton think that someone who believes that the CIA should employ torture is fit to be Commander-in-Chief?

1. Barack Obama supports the anti-torture bill that George W. Bush says he will veto.

2. John McCain voted against it.

Which of them is ready to be Commander-in-Chief?

If you answer to that question is “John McCain,” then is it your opinion that someone who supports torture is fit to command the armed forces that fly the Stars and Stripes?

Hilzoy asks a related question: If Hillary really believes that Obama is not ready to be Commander-in-Chief and John McCain is, does she intend to vote for McCain in November if Obama becomes the Democratic nominee?

Wheels coming off?

Well, at least a couple of lug nuts in the gutter. The Power episode is a complete screwup; as far as I can tell, everyone who’s touched it f__ed the goat.

First, Power. She’s been a reporter and knows you can’t go off the record backwards, and when you talk to a reporter you have to think before you speak.

Next, Gerri Peev. She’s apparently unclear on the difference between what one should do and what one may do without actually getting in trouble. She also appears to be in business for herself, clearly besotted being interviewed on MSNBC today. Her original story is in any case no masterpiece of reporting, including in the second par the remarkable sentence “…Power…let slip the camp’s true feelings about the former first lady.” How she could assess the true feelings of the entire Obama operation, or what such a vague phrase actually means anyway, is not revealed.

Every reporter faces times at which it’s necessary to distinguish between the facts and the truth, and here her clear responsibility was to kill the slip of the tongue and let the story carry the gist of Power’s views another way. She might recover and be a real reporter, or she might decide it’s better to be Gerri Rivera; it certainly pays better. Given that “newspaper” is used to describe UK dailies only for want of a better word, we shouldn’t expect much. It’s sad when a kid faces a tough fork in the road and chooses the wrong path, but it happens. Tucker Carlson landed on her with all four feet and good for him; she played lawyer and further established her modest professional insight. This kind of reporting doesn’t help people understand the candidates and this issues; it does the opposite because it drives political discourse further into recitation of rehearsed sound bites.

Power did the right thing to offer to resign, but Obama or some blindsided staffer did the wrong thing, and this is the big deal in this sad history: he (or she) accepted the offer. Why is this such a bad move? Because it throws real talent out the door, and because it will ripple through the whole organization, making everyone go in the “watch your back and hold your tongue” business instead of the “get the candidate nominated” business, and these are in no way the same.

This interview blurt was a mistake, and everyone makes them. It was not a mistake typical of Power or indicative of general bad judgment; it was the kind of mistake smart people learn a lot from. To fire people for this kind of thing embodies one of the worst and most destructive theories of leadership and management, which is that you can fire and threaten your way to success. This is the management of people insecure about whether they have any real authority and too lazy to do the real work. It doesn’t work, of course, partly because of the poisonous effect on everyone not fired yet, and partly because the best you can do after firing a good person is to hire someone who hasn’t had the chance to make that mistake yet, and especially hasn’t learned what the person on her way out the door has most assuredly learned. If you think your new person is less likely to make that mistake than the one who’s licking her wounds and thinking very hard about how to not screw up again, you will eventually learn to think differently.

Oh yeah, Hillary blew it too. She might be president someday and very anxious to recruit the best people to help her deal with a complicated and scary world, not to mention leading a big team. She missed a chance to get out front and say “I know Samantha Power is a really smart person and a heavy hitter in her field. She misspoke and I know she doesn’t really mean it; we all say things we regret. Let’s move on.”

[Thanks: the foregoing is partly informed by some conversation on an off-the-record writers’ listserv.]

The Math

If Obama wins by 10-point margins in Mississippi, Wyoming, North Carolina, South Dakota, Montana, Oregon, and Guam, splits Indiana and Michigan, and loses by 20-point margins in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Kentucky, Florida, and Puerto Rico, and HRC picks up all the Edwards delegates, Obama would still need less than one-quarter of the remaining uncommitted superdelegates to deny him the nomination. Seem hard to you? Me neither.

UPDATED; see below

Is Hillary Clinton (1) running a good-faith attempt to win the nomination or (2) merely trying to wreck Obama’s chances against McCain so that either Obama’s support will break before the convention or, if he does get nominated, he will lose and she can run in 2012? A little bit of calculation suggests that the correct answer is (2).

NPR tots up the delegate count from Tuesday and reports that HRC gained eight delegates net out of the 370 at stake: nine in Ohio, five in Rhode Island, and four in the Texas primary, minus pickups for Obama of three in Vermont and seven in the Texas caucuses. That’s a little worse for Obama than the net-four that the Obama camp calculated yesterday, but still doesn’t do much to close Obama’s pledged-delegate margin (144 now v. 152 before Tuesday, according to NPR).

Meanwhile, the final results of the California primary have now been certified. Clinton’s popular-vote margin shrunk from the 9.4% reported at the time to 8.9%, and the delegate count, previously estimated at 207-163 (Clinton + 44) turns out to be 203-167 (Clinton +36), a net swing of eight for Obama. That neatly wipes out Clinton’s Tuesday-night gains, bringing Obama’s margin back to 152. (“Unpledged Add-On Delegates,”, (UADs) 76 people who are selected in various ways in various states. In caucus states, they’re mostly selected at the state convention, which means that they’re almost certain to go to whoever won the caucuses. Right now, it looks as if Obama will wind up about +14 net (45/31) among the UADs, and that edge isn’t recorded in the published superdelegate counts.

That brings the curent totals to O 1626, C 1491, with 2208 (of 4415) needed to nominate assuming Florida and Michigan are seated. Obama, then, needs 582 (45%) of the 1298 yet to be determined: from states that have voted but still have delegates to award at state conventions (about 68), from states yet to vote or re-vote (881), about 318 ex officio super-delegates who have yet to announce, and John Edwards’s 32 delegates.

If the 68 to be awaded at state conventions split evenly, giving Obama 34, and all the Edwards delegates vote for HRC, Obama’s magic number goes down to 548 of the remaining 1198.

And some of the states still on the calendar are clearly Obama territory: Mississippi (33), Wyoming (12), Guam (4), North Carolina (116), South Dakota (16), Montana (16), Oregon (52). (You can probably add Indiana (72) and Michigan (128) to that list.) So HRC would have to win big, where she wins at all, to catch up. But Obama has yet to lose a state, other than Arkansas, by as much as 60/40: not even New York.

To stretch a point, let’s give Obama only 55% in the states with his name on them, an even split in Indiana and Michigan, and give Clinton 57% (14-point margins) in (Pennsylvania (158) and Florida (185) and 60% (20-point margins inWest Virginia (28), Kentucky (52), and Puerto Rico(56).

On those assumptions, Obama gets 7 in Wyoming, 18 in Mississippi, 68 in Pennsylvania, 2 in Guam, 33 in Indiana, 50 in North Carolina, 11 in West Virginia, 19 in Kentucky, 26 in Oregon, 8 in Montana, 7 in South Dakota, 64 in Michigan , 80 in Florida, 65 in Pennsylvania and 22 in Puerto Rico, for a total of 480.

Then he would only need 64 of the 318 unannounced ex-officio superdelegates. That’s about 20%. Even if you award Clinton 20-point wipeouts in Pennsylvaia and Florida, that only means Obama needs 75 of 319, or 24% of the remaining superdelegates.

Does that sound hard to you? Me neither.

Since Super Tuesday, Obama has gained a net of 53 “supers,” and HRC has lost a net of one. Se picked up not a single new supporter after Tuesday night, which suggests she has no one in the bank. And in real life Obama’s pledged-delegate edge is likely to be larger, not smaller.

For Clinton to pick up 76% of the remainder isn’t just “running the table”: it’s shooting the moon.

So the immediate answer to the question “What should Obama do in response to what happened on Tuesday?” is “Keep on keepin’ on.” He should campaign mostly against McCain, and against the Bush-McCain-Clinton axis that got us into the war in Iraq. And he should stay in character.

Obama is never going to win a mud-fight with people who think that mud-slinging is “the fun part.” But he doesn’t have to.

Update The above has been modified to fix the arithmetic and tighten some of the assumptions.

Wyoming came in as expected, +2, for Obama. (There seems to be some chance that it could actually wind up +4.)

Congressman-Elect Foster, who just won the Denny Hastert seat with Obama’s support, presumably adds one to his superdelegate count.

Update March 11 Mississippi came in with 19 rather than 18. If Spitzer resigns, that takes one super from Clinton and balances out Foster, leaving the same total number of delegates. But RCP now has Clinton at 247 supers rather than 242.

So (assuming Spitzer is out) then HRC has gained 3 delegates net (5 new supers minus one in Mississippi and one for Spitzer) and Obama two delegates net, compared to the previous calculation. In the base case, he would need 62 of 313 remaining uncommitted ex officio superdelegates, still just under 20%.

Update 3/21: A reader points out that the above counts Pennsylvania twice. Sorry for the error. Of course the apparent elimination of Michigan and Florida makes the math that much less plausible from Clinton’s viewpoint.

Old ladies at war

An ode of thanks to the now old lady warriors of WW II.

A ramble on the occasion of International Women’s Day, March 8

Last November my aunt Diana died of a heart attack: still in her crumbling home in London Metroland, by her well-maintained garden, in full possession of her faculties, at the age of 92 91. Pat and I went to the funeral, and stayed with Diana’s friend and neighbour Hilary, a contemporary who complains she can only face two hours London driving at a time; and we learnt of Hilary’s war.

This post is about the stories of five old ladies in WWII: or rather of the young women they were. I will use only their first names to protect their privacy.

Continue reading “Old ladies at war”

More praise for Hillary Clinton

Hillary has kind words for the man who called her daughter an ugly bastard. Truly, she must be a saint!

Boy, am I outdoing myself in magnanimity today! Here’s a second time I get to say something nice about Hillary Clinton. Not only is she consistent (in not criticizing bigot Pastor John Hagee after slyly promoting bigotry herself) but she’s generous of spirit, even across the partisan divide.

As “Devilstower” of DailyKos points out, Hillary is prepared, like a true Christian, to forgive those who have trespassed against her. Back when Hillary’s daughter Chelsea was still a teenager, John McCain told a “joke” about how Chelsea was an ugly bastard.

A normal human being might have resented that. Not HRC, though; Hillary calls John McCain her good friend.

The patience of a saint!