Latest headline from Ms-NBC:

Ms-NBC “First Read” headline:


The Clinton machine is like the Bush machine: not only do the people running it have no honor, no conscience, and no sense of limits, they have no sense of humor. Clinton operatives, like Bush operatives, simply have no idea when they’re saying things that don’t pass the giggle test. The notion of accusing Obama of “negative campaigning” after openly announcing their intention to “throw the kitchen sink” at Barack Obama is truly Rovian in its audacity.

Are you experienced?

Does spring break in Cabo count as foreign-policy experience?

That Clinton’s latest claims to greater foreign-policy experience than Obama are risible is reinforced by a campaign conference call with the press [audio clip]:

“What foreign policy moment would you point to in Hillary’s career where she’s been tested by crisis?”

Silence on the call. You could’ve knit a sweater in the time it took the usually verbose team of Mark Penn, Howard Wolfson and Lee Feinstein, Clinton’s national security director, to find a cogent answer. And what they came up with was weak—that she’s been endorsed by many high ranking members of the uniformed military.

None of the Final 3 has the demonstrated foreign-policy experience to inspire confidence in how he’d perform as Commander-in-Chief. Of this year’s crop of aspirants, only Bill Richardson did (and his campaign belied that experience). Coming into office, neither Bush 43 nor Bill Clinton did. Demonstrated experience is a plus, but not a prerequisite. Temperament, mastery of the issues, intellect, and judgment all matter. The best experience is already having been President, which wasn’t sufficient to warrant Bush’s re-election in 2004. Only positions with some substantial decisionmaking authority in foreign-policy crisis management count—Assistant Secretary of State or Defense on up, ambassador, 3-star in a regional UCC, and suchlike. (Don’t hold me to those cutoff levels.) Maybe CEO of a multinational oil company, or head of an IGO. (Don’t hold your breath.)

Attending prime ministers’ funerals, taking a Rhodes Scholarship, or going to elementary school in a faraway land does not constitute experience. Sitting on the Armed Services or Foreign Affairs Committees may reflect or contribute to mastery, but it’s not executive experience. Surviving a POW camp speaks to character and may impart a degree of wisdom, but it’s not executive experience. Serving in the Peace Corps, ditto.

Relevant experience is no guarantee of success as president, and inexperience doesn’t condemn a novice president to failure. There are plenty of other criteria by which to judge the candidates. Their advisers, for one.

Update: So much for my clever heading.

This may cause a little discomfort

Obama is right to propose federal spending on electronic medical records.

I don’t suppose a single vote on March 4 or November 4 will depend on the issue of electronic medical records. But I’ll write about them anyway:

  • It’s an important issue for health care;
  • There’s a clear difference between HRC and Obama on the matter;

    and Yanks have the bonus of

  • A costly British fiasco to jeer at.

The idea of a comprehensive national system of electronic medical records (EMR) is that clinical notes, and the associated data files from scans and tests, would be kept by all medical providers in the country in electronic form, in standard formats, and exchanged securely by standard protocols. This article by Robert Charette has more.

If you can get EMR right, as the Veterans Administration, the Mayo Clinic, the Regenstrief Institute in Indianapolis, and Finland seem to have done, there are great benefits in continuity and quality of care. Suppose you need treatment from unfamiliar doctors or nurses, for example in ER, if you have a medical problem while travelling, or when shifts change in a hospital. In these unsettling environments an accessible digital health record can improve and speed up diagnosis, avoid duplicate tests, and reduce medical errors. But what the USA has today is a vast patchwork of incompatible systems. There is a nice little federal initiative called the NHIN puttering away to develop standards for a national system, but obviously you don’t get implementation for a trivial $61m a year.

The three main Democratic candidates based their health care proposals on Jacob Hacker’s plan but Hacker was silent on EMR. HRC and Obama do mention it in their programmes, so briefly that I’ll just quote them:

Continue reading “This may cause a little discomfort”

Another fake scandal

Newsday goes after HRC for serving as a court-appointed attorney for the indigent defendant in a rape case 40 years ago.

Newsday breaks a major campaign scandal:

As a court-appointed defense lawyer for an indigent defendant in a rape case, Hillary Rodham Clinton did her job, and did it well.

I’m shocked &#8212 shocked! Obviously, Newday is right to imply that she should have considered her likely political future and committed malpractice. Surely we wouldn’t want to have someone as President willing to face up to unpleasant responsibilities.

A Clean Hit

The Huffington Post is asking readers whether Hillary Clinton’s mocking of Barack Obama at a recent Rhode Island campaign stop will help or hurt her campaign. Since I’m about as far as possible from the median voter, I try to not offer opinions on these things. Readers can judge for themselves.

I’m an Obama supporter, and thus not very sympathetic to the Clinton campaign. But it seems to me that this is a pretty clean hit, as far as campaigns go. All Clinton is doing is questioning whether Obama’s strategy of unity is realistic. She’s also ridiculing the whole world view that informs it. But that’s what campaigns do. Saying that your opponent is naive is pretty mild stuff.

This is particularly important for Obama supporters. Obama’s arguments for a new politics do not imply that you shouldn’t criticize your opponents: instead, they say that criticisms should be accurate and not personal. As is traditional, the MSM simply refuses to understand this. There’s nothing wrong with “going negative” if it’s accurate, not personal, and newsworthy. There’s nothing wrong with saying that John McCain’s campaign is run by lobbyists, that his best political friends are lobbyists, that he favors all of George W. Bush’s policies, that he wants to keep us in Iraq for 100 years, that he wants to raise taxes (by removing the health insurance deduction) and that his policies would literally deprive millions of Americans of their health insurance (again, by removing the deduction).

We need to be prepared for this because the Obama Campaign is going to go negative on McCain&#8212at least I hope so. There’s a lot to be negative about.

Ridicule is also important. Jonathan Kulick and I disagree on this: I think that ridicule is a very powerful and very legitimate strategy when your opponent’s politics are, well, ridiculous. McCain should be ridiculed.

Lost in space

To the moon, Hillary!

An hour ago, if you’d asked me what are Obama’s and Clinton’s positions on the manned space program, I’d have said that I don’t know, but I’d guess they’re both for it, as are all politicians who aren’t scientists or libertarians.

A little investigation shows that it’s somewhat more nuanced than that (and, I now see, an issue that’s been well covered despite my inattention). Clinton may have pandered to the Houston Chronicle, or maybe not—it’s not pandering if you sincerely support the policy in question, on its merits, regardless of the audience you’re addressing

Challenged by an audience member over her stated support for a “robust” manned space program, Mrs. Clinton said that the International Space Station and missions to the Moon or Mars were the sort of projects that do or would spark the “imagination” and excite people about science, research and the future.

That said, she noted that the manned space program “wouldn’t be at the top of my priorities.” A moment later she called it a secondary priority,” and added, “I have not bought into President Bush’s emphasis into going to Mars.”

The candidates’ policy particulars don’t differ on much more than funding for Constellation (the return-to-the-moon program). I prefer Obama’s approach and rhetoric, but I don’t hold out much hope that he’ll be able to fix NASA; I am confident that neither would inject nonsense about Mars into a SOTU address.

Bizarro world

What if Hillary had been born a poor black child in Mississippi?

Most of the alternative history that I’ve seen concerns long-ago events—“what if Gavrilo Princip had missed?” I was a lousy historiography student, and I don’t know where the profession comes down these days on ineluctable tides vs. contingencies, but I’m partial to great-man theories (now I’ve blown my chance at an invitation to Howard Zinn’s dinner party). Obama and Clinton aren’t yet and may not be destined to be great wo/men of history, but it’s hardly inevitable that they’ve come even this far. Scott Simon wonders what if Clinton had run for the Senate in Illinois in 1998? Or if Obama had headed to New York after law school? We might all be in the grips of an Evan Bayh vs. Mark Warner race to the finish.

Update: It seems that little depended on Gavrilo Princip’s marksmanship:

In “Hit or Miss? The Effect of Assassinations on Institutions and War,” Olken and Jones looked at the effects of political assassination, using a strict empirical methodology that takes into account economic conditions at the time of the killing and what Olken calls a “novel data set” of assas­sination attempts, successful and unsuccessful, between 1875 and 2004.

Olken and Jones discovered that a country was “more likely to see democratization follow­ing the assassination of an autocratic leader,” but found no substantial “effect following assassinations—or assassination attempts—on democratic leaders.” They concluded that “on average, successful assassinations of autocrats produce sustained moves toward democracy.” The researchers also found that assassinations have no effect on the inauguration of wars, a result that “suggests that World War I might have begun regardless of whether or not the attempt on the life of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914 had succeeded or failed.”

Quick quiz …

Which candidate is against the use of cluster bombs?
Which candidate was just endorsed by David Obey, the liberals’ liberal?

… just to keep you doing the reading.

As between (in the blue corner) the Democratic Presidential candidate with experience who knows how to get things done and fights all things conservative and Republican tooth and nail, and (in the red corner) the naive and irresponsible peddler of false hope whose uplifting rhetoric reveals an unwillingness to take tough stances and conceals a secret admiration for Republican ideas, which one:

* Voted to ban the use of cluster bombs?

* Just got the endorsement of the Old Washington Hand and echt-liberal former Edwards backer who chairs the House Appropriations Committee?

Awwwww…. you peeked, didn’t you?