And the painted ponies go up and down

Obama’s half-sister seems ok. Hillary’s brothers are classic presidential siblings.

Hillary doesn’t have just the novel Bill-in-Kazakhstan problem, which Mark relates. She also has the all-too-familiar Billy/Neil/Roger problem.

Of course, as do most interesting stories, this one involves the country of Georgia (where I live, and where Kazakhstan is the largest investor). Or, rather, an autonomous fief, run by a chess-enthusiast warlord, Aslan Abashidze, who was in league with Hugh and Tony Rodham. And instead of uranium, hazelnuts.

It’s far too involved a tale for me to summarize, so check it out here , here,

here, or here.

Afterword: Shortly after taking office in 2004, freedom-agenda poster child Mikheil Saakashvili deposed Abashidze and sent him packing to Moscow, but without his 80 dogs. Abashidze’s main backer is a fugitive from Georgia and Russia, and a business partner of Rupert Murdoch’s.

“I’m always proud of Wal-Mart”

That’s the voice of Hillary Clinton, speaking as a Wal-Mart board member in 1990.
Now she says she’s learned better.

Ouch!

This is bad:

“I’m always proud of Wal-Mart and what we do and the way we do it better than anybody else,” [Hillary Clinton] said at a June 1990 stockholders meeting.

This is worse:

In a campaign speech last year in New Hampshire, Sen. Clinton said, “Now I know that Wal-Mart’s policies do not reflect the best way of doing business and the values that I think are important in America.”

“Now I know”? What has changed at Wal-Mart since 1990, except for the better?

Kennedy’s endorsement, Obama’s SOTU response

Three excellent speeches, two by Obama, one by Ted Kennedy. EMK’s is a corker: he systematically destroys every Clintonian talking point against Obama.

Three excellent speeches today on behalf of the Obama campaign: Ted Kennedy’s endorsement, Obama’s response to Kennedy, and Obama’s response to the STFU … sorry, that should be SOTU. (I get confused sometimes.)

Full texts at the jump (including Obama’s response to EMK). Links to the videos:

Kennedy

Obama’s response to Kennedy

Obama’s response to Bush

The striking thing about Kennedy’s speech was the way he rebutted, point by point, each of the Clinton attack lines:

* “He is a fighter who cares passionately about the causes he believes in, without demonizing those who hold a different view. He is tough-minded, but he also has an uncommon capacity to appeal to ‘the better angels of our nature’.”

* “We know the true record of Barack Obama. There is the courage he showed when so many others were silent or simply went along. From the beginning, he opposed the war in Iraq. And let no one deny that truth.

* “In Barack Obama, I see not just the audacity, but the possibility of hope for the America that is yet to be.”

* “What counts in our leadership is not the length of years in Washington, but the reach of our vision, the strength of our beliefs, and that rare quality of mind and spirit that can call forth the best in our country and our people.”

* “Let us reject the counsels of doubt and calculation. Let us remember that when Franklin Roosevelt envisioned Social Security, he didn’t decide—no, it was too ambitious, too big a dream, too hard. When John Kennedy thought of going to the moon, he didn’t say no, it was too far, maybe we couldn’t get there and shouldn’t even try.”

* “I know that he’s ready to be President on day one. And when he raises his hand on Inauguration Day, at that very moment, we will lift the spirits of our nation and begin to restore America’s standing in the world.”

* “There was another time, when another young candidate was running for President and challenging America to cross a New Frontier. He faced public criticism from the preceding Democratic President, who was widely respected in the party. Harry Truman said we needed ‘someone with greater experience’—and added: ‘May I urge you to be patient.’ And John Kennedy replied: ‘The world is changing. The old ways will not do…It is time for a new generation of leadership’.”

Obama’s response to Kennedy showed him at the top of his stump-speech game. His response to Bush ought to reassure anyone who suspected he might be reluctant to hit the Republicans hard:

Tonight, for the seventh long year, the American people heard a State of the Union that didn’t reflect the America we see, and didn’t address the challenges we face. But what it did do was give us an urgent reminder of why it’s so important to turn the page on the failed politics and policies of the past, and change the status quo in Washington so we can finally start making progress for ordinary Americans. Tonight’s State of the Union was full of the same empty rhetoric the American people have come to expect from this President.

Continue reading “Kennedy’s endorsement, Obama’s SOTU response”

Exegesis Saves

Sometimes a penny is just change.

I’m not much familiar with the New Testament, so Mark’s query about the significance of “3.01” didn’t ring any bells. So I scanned through the various chapters 3, verses 1 to see if anything suggested itself (with this handy search tool). Quite a few seemed possibly apt, if unlikely, depending on the donor’s intent. My favorite candidate:

Remind believers to willingly place themselves under the authority of government officials. Believers should obey them and be ready to help them with every good thing they do. (Titus 3:1)

Barack Obama and the Widow’s Mite

In which I engage in textual criticism concerning St. Barack’s Epistle to the Charlestonians.

Some of us compulsive textual critics have been puzzling over this passage from St. Barack’s Epistle to the Charlestonians:

But here’s what I know. I know that when people say we can’t overcome all the big money and influence in Washington, I think of the elderly woman who sent me a contribution the other day — an envelope that had a money order for $3.01 along with a verse of Scripture tucked inside. So don’t tell us change isn’t possible.

So what was the “verse of Scripture”? A Kossack commenter finds what must surely be the right passage: the parable of the Widow’s Mite (Mark 12:41-44).

And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.

And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.

And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:

For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

Meanwhile, a reader answers my query about the significance of $3.01, which I imagined might point at the verse:

The significance of the amount isn’t a particular verse of scripture. I thought it was an amazingly subtle little joke. If someone buys something for $3.01, you are going to have to make change.

Update

I think my reader is right. But if he is, we need a stronger word than “subtle.”

Another reader prefers the simpler-is-better approach:

Based on absolutely no facts, I’m going to guess that the supermarket where she bought the money order doesn’t sell them for $3 or under.

Second Update (From the department of “duhhhhh….:”):

Another reader provides what must surely be the answer to the puzzle: $3.01 is what you have left when you buy a money order for $5 and the service fee is $1.99.

Obama’s speech

I think he nailed it.

This was his last national hook-up before Hyper Tuesday, so he needed a home run. I think he just hit one.

Sounded magnanimous in victory, even drew a cheer for his opponents from the crowd. Reminded them that we’re going to have to come together in November, no matter who the nominee is. Then gave a quick review of his best attack lines against HRC, framing her as the agent of the status quo and himself as the agent of change.

But there are real differences between the candidates. We are looking for more than just a change of party in the White House. We’re looking to fundamentally change the status quo in Washington — a status quo that extends beyond any particular party. And right now, that status quo is fighting back with everything it’s got; with the same old tactics that divide and distract us from solving the problems people face, whether those problems are health care they can’t afford or a mortgage they cannot pay.

Lots of effort to de-racialize the result (against the tide of the mass media, which stressed the racial element over the 2-to-1- stomping element). Then the combination punch:

The choice in this election is not between regions or religions or genders. It’s not about rich versus poor; young versus old; and it is not about black versus white.

It’s about the past versus the future.

Lots of process and unity talk, mixed with (admittedly abstract) references to key domestic issues. And then back to the well-told anecdotes and “Change – Hope – Yes we can!”

Overall, maybe not quite as strong as the Iowa speech, but well into the top decile of Obama’s range, which means that it was a much better speech than anyone else running this year could deliver.

Full text at the jump. Video here (I hope.)

Footnote query He told a story about an old woman who’d sent in a money order for $3.01, “with a verse of Scripture tucked inside.” Maybe the point was just that she was poor and pious, but is the number supposed to point to a specific verse?

Update A reader answers the question:

The significance of the amount isn’t a particular verse of scripture. I thought it was an amazingly subtle little joke. If someone buys something for $3.01, you are going to have to make change.

If this is right &#8212 and I have to admit that it sounds right &#8212 that joke is somewhere west of “subtle.”

Meanwhile, a Kossack commenter finds the right passage, Mark 12:41-44, the parable of the widow’s mite:

And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much.

And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing.

And he called unto him his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury:

For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living.

Continue reading “Obama’s speech”

Playing the race card

Bill Clinton plays it, hard and crudely.

Well, this one wasn’t hard to call, though I’d expected a little bit more subtlety:

Bill Clinton: Race, gender key in S.C.

By CHARLES BABINGTON, Associated Press Writer

DILLON, S.C. – Bill Clinton said Wednesday he expects blacks to vote for Barack Obama and women to vote for Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the dynamic may cause his wife to lose the South Carolina Democratic presidential primary Saturday.

Racist? You tell me. The message is clear: Obama is going to win South Carolina, but that won’t really count, because he’ll be doing it with the votes of black folks. (Maybe those ballots ought to count only as 3/5ths of a vote each?)

The basic fact of the contest is that if it becomes racial, Obama loses, while if it becomes gendered, HRC wins. It would have required patriotism, decency, and attention to the paramount goal of beating the Republicans for the Clintons to refrain from playing the race card. Apparently those qualities are in short supply.

Update A pro-Clinton reader furiously accuses me of inventing the racist edge to Bill Clinton’s remarks. So let’s hear from his old adviser (and Trent Lott’s), Dick Morris, who is surely an expert on the workings of Bill Clinton’s mind and on the political uses of racial prejudice:

How Clinton Will Win The Nomination by Losing South Carolina

Hillary Clinton will undoubtedly lose the South Carolina primary as African-Americans line up to vote for Barack Obama. And that defeat will power her drive to the nomination.

The Clintons are encouraging the national media to disregard the whites who vote in South Carolina’s Democratic primary and focus on the black turnout, which is expected to be quite large. They have transformed South Carolina into Washington, D.C. — an all-black primary that tells us how the African-American vote is going to go.

By saying he will go door to door in black neighborhoods in South Carolina matching his civil rights record against Obama’s, Bill Clinton emphasizes the pivotal role the black vote will play in the contest. And by openly matching his record on race with that of the black candidate, he invites more and more scrutiny focused on the race issue.

Of course, Clinton is going to lose that battle. Blacks in Nevada overwhelmingly backed Obama and will obviously do so again in South Carolina, no matter how loudly former President Clinton protests. So why is he making such a fuss over a contest he knows he’s going to lose? Precisely because he is going to lose it. If Hillary loses South Carolina and the defeat serves to demonstrate Obama’s ability to attract a bloc vote among black Democrats, the message will go out loud and clear to white voters that this is a racial fight. It’s one thing for polls to show, as they now do, that Obama beats Hillary among African-Americans by better than 4-to-1 and Hillary carries whites by almost 2-to-1. But most people don’t read the fine print on the polls. But if blacks deliver South Carolina to Obama, everybody will know that they are bloc-voting. That will trigger a massive white backlash against Obama and will drive white voters to Hillary Clinton.

(Emphasis added.)

Obama and the telecom amnesty bill

It’s no secret that Barack Obama’s candidacy is on the ropes. Yes, he’s likely to win, and win big, in South Carolina, but he’s likely to do so by winning an overwhelming volume of African-American votes while HRC and John Edwards split the white vote. I doubt that reporters will need the guidance they’re certain to get from the Clinton spin control team stressing that Obama has become the new Jesse Jackson, fundamentally “the black candidate” for President. His appearance on national TV Saturday night, in the midst of a sea of black faces, will just reinforce that message. None of that is likely to give his campaign the boost it needs to get back into competition on Hyper Tuesday.

[Yes, it’s possible that there will be a revulsion against Clintonian tactics, such as Bill’s “hit job” reference today. But I’m not betting on it. If someone says that Bill Clinton’s using a phrase suggesting violence with reference to Barack Obama was one more dog-whistle appeal to the racism of white and Latino voters, all the Clintonites will react with mock horror and complain that Obama is racializing the campaign again. The basic fact Obama confronts is that if the campaign becomes racial, he loses, while if it becomes gendered, Hillary wins. Not a good hand to play, once the Clinton machine decided to bring up race and gender at every opportunity.]

So how does he change the topic? And how does he refute the absurd charge that he is more sympathetic to Reaganism and less opposed to the last seven years of abuse of Presidential power than HRC? (Only Hilzoy seems to be paying attention to the fact that Clinton, but not Obama, uses Republican weasel-words about torture.) “I did not say nice things about Reaganism.” “Did too!” “Did not!” “Did too!” is not a winning debating strategy, despite the fundamental falsehood of the Clintonite attack. (No one in the mainstream press, or in blogland, has picked up on my demand that HRC produce the “exact quote” she promised.)

So here’s a proposal, for what it’s worth:

Harry Reid, having let the Republicans hold up every legislative proposal the Democrats wanted with purely “paper” filibusters, has now decreed that if Chris Dodd wants to stop the telecom-amnesty bill he’s going to have to mount a “live” filibuster. What would happen if Barack Obama announced Saturday night, or even tomorrow, that he was going to fly directly from his South Carolina victory celebration back to DC to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with Dodd against executive-branch lawlessness? (Obama, like Clinton, is already on record supporting Dodd against the Cheney-Reid axis.)

Yes, that would take him off the campaign trail for a while. But I bet he could get more, and more favorable, free media from the Senate floor than he could from the tarmac somewhere in California. And it would leave HRC with the option of joining him &#8212 making Obama look like the leader and HRC the follower &#8212 or remaining on the campaign trail herself, dramatically illustrating the difference between patriotic leadership and raw ambition.

Looks to me like a plan with a big upside and a small downside.

Style, substance, and “kumbaya”

Obama is committed to making major progressive change, and hasn’t promised conservatives and moderates anything else. All he’s promising is not to act like a left-wing Ann Coulter and tell people that conservatives smell funny and run over little old ladies for sport.

In the matter of Barack Obama and the “all this kumbaya stuff,” it seems to me that Kevin Drum, along with most of the commentariat, confuses style with substance. It’s not that I don’t think style is important: on the contrary. But they’re not the same thing. Barack Obama promises a less divisive style of politics, and of governing. He isn’t going to try to convince all non-conservatives that conservatives are personally and morally repulsive. (He probably doesn’t even think that’s true.)

But Obama is not committed to a “moderate” or “centrist,” or even an incrementalist, administration. I don’t expect him to try to launch a second New Deal, because I don’t think the votes would be there in Congress, but if he did he wouldn’t have to eat a single word he’s said so far in the campaign.

* Obama is committed to getting out of Iraq.

* Obama is unequivocally committed to ending torture (which Hillary Clinton for example, isn’t), and has actually done something about it.

* Obama wants to reduce the number of black people in prison and thinks mandatory sentences unduly impinge on judicial independence. (And the Hillary folks have put out the word that he’s “soft on crime.”)

* Obama wants to raise taxes on the rich to pay for social programs for the poor. In the same interview where he dared to mention Republican ideas without spitting, thus drawing the fury of the Clintonites, Obama specified tax-cutting as an idea that had been tried and found wanting. (Hillary Clinton, in the meantime, says she’s against lifting the payroll tax cap because people shouldn’t have to “send more of their hard-earned dollars to Washington.”)

* Obama wants to make sure that the full burden of globalization doesn’t fall on workers in import-substitutable industries.

He’s not hiding any of that: it’s all completely up front.

Nor is Obama committed to being nice to conservative politicians or power centers. (He’s not the candidate looking to do a deal with Rupert Murdoch.) He hasn’t forgotten the lessons of community organizing. He proposes to give the drug companies and health insurers a seat at the table in working out a health-care plan. But he also proposes to put C-SPAN cameras at that table, and make them negotiate in public, so that everyone can see if they’re being obstructionist. If you think about it, that’s a pretty nasty tactic. It might even work.

So what is the “kumbaya” promise? Merely to treat conservatives and their ideas without contempt, and to give a fair hearing to the claim that this or that cherished liberal policy may be past its “use-by” date. (For example, he thinks that race-based affirmative action needs to morph into class-based affirmative action; his daughters, as he says, are socially positioned to compete on their own merits without any special edge.)

I simply can’t track Kevin’s notion that Obama is either sincere about “kumbaya” (in which case all of us progressives will get screwed) or insincere (in which case the conservatives will get screwed). He’s perfectly sincere about wanting to make major progressive change without using demonization as a primary political tactic. And I think he’s sincere about getting beyond the “liberal conservatism” that defends to the death everything that was ever called a liberal program.

But all he’s promising conservatives is R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Insofar as they’re deeply committed to conservative policies (rather than conservative values) he fully intends to screw them. He’s just willing to kiss them first. And tell them how much he loves them afterwards.

“If we are honest with ourselves”

Obama frankly denounces black anti-Semitism, homophobia, and immigrant-bashing. He also takes a swipe at Reagan’s “welfare queen” nonsense. Don’t expect his critics to notice, though.

Barack Obama, from the pulpit of the Ebenezer Baptist Church

It’s not easy to stand in somebody else’s shoes. It’s not easy to see past our differences. We’ve all encountered this in our own lives. But what makes it even more difficult is that we have a politics in this country that seeks to drive us apart — that puts up walls between us.

We are told that those who differ from us on a few things are different from us on all things; that our problems are the fault of those who don’t think like us or look like us or come from where we do. The welfare queen is taking our tax money. The immigrant is taking our jobs. The believer condemns the non-believer as immoral, and the non-believer chides the believer as intolerant.

For most of this country’s history, we in the African-American community have been at the receiving end of man’s inhumanity to man. And all of us understand intimately the insidious role that race still sometimes plays — on the job, in the schools, in our health care system, and in our criminal justice system.

And yet, if we are honest with ourselves, we must admit that none of our hands are entirely clean. If we’re honest with ourselves, we’ll acknowledge that our own community has not always been true to King’s vision of a beloved community.

We have scorned our gay brothers and sisters instead of embracing them. The scourge of anti-Semitism has, at times, revealed itself in our community. For too long, some of us have seen immigrants as competitors for jobs instead of companions in the fight for opportunity.

This ought to make the people who have accused Obama of being soft on Jew-baiting, gay-baiting, and Reaganism ashamed of themselves. But it won’t.

Continue reading ““If we are honest with ourselves””