Saturday, April 26, 2008

The New Debate Over Debates

The Clinton campaign is publicly 'challenging' Sen. Obama to another debate before the May 6th contests in North Carolina and Indiana. The two candidates have previously met in 21 nationally televised debates including 4 exclusive debates. Clinton is calling for a Lincoln-Douglas style 90-min debate with no moderators.

Speaking from the stump in South Bend, Indiana, Sen. Clinton made her cowboy-esque challenge: “So here’s my proposal: I’m offering Senator Obama the chance to debate me one-on-one, no moderators. Just the two of us, going for 90 minutes, asking and answering questions. We’ll set whatever rules seem fair.”

Sen. Obama indicated on FOX News Sunday that he would not accept a debate before the May 6th primaries. “I’m not ducking. We’ve had 21 (debates), and so what we’ve said is, with two weeks, two big states, we want to make sure we’re talking to as many folks possible on the ground taking questions from voters,” he said, so no debates.

The Clinton campaign formalized the challenge in a letter from campaign manager Maggie Williams to the Obama campaign. Obama strategist David Axelrod responded: “I think if Lincoln-Douglas had debated 21 times, I don’t think there would be much appetite for another Lincoln-Douglas debate.”

The debate challenge is a part of Clinton's most recent strategy; playing the fighting hawk. Despite Sen. Clinton's $10 million day of fundraising immediately following the Pennsylvania primary, her campaign is still facing significant financial woes; a debate is millions of dollars worth of free advertising. As she is getting out spent, but also, out fundraised, in both Indiana and North Carolina, the campaign has turned to desperate measures.

This is not the first time Sen. Clinton has resorted to the aggressive desperado challenge to a debate. After losing 9 straight contests in February, Clinton revved up the tough talk, demanding a debate before the Feb. 19th contests in Wisconsin and Hawaii.

Sunday Talking Heads Preview

This Week with George Stephanopoulos
--Sen. Evan Bayh, D- Ind., Clinton Backer
--Fmr. Sen. Tom Daschle, D-S.D., Obama Backer
--Rep. Artur Davis, D-Ala., Obama Backer
--Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Texas, Clinton Backer

Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace
--Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill.

Face the Nation with Bob Schieffer

--Chief Strategist David Axelrod, Obama Campaign
--Communications Director Howard Wolfson, Clinton Campaign

Meet The Press with Tim Russert
--DNC Chairman Howard Dean

Graceful Departure

As the Clinton portrays herself to voters as the continually respawning terminator of politics, the fighter that never quits; it has many within the Democratic party, well, down right scared. While she may be able to effectively portray her determination as a merit to the voters, party elders are concerned her determination will result in the termination of the Democratic party.

The prospect of a brokered convention scares everyone. However, solving the issue behind closed doors in the month following the final June 3rd contests posses its own problems too.

Obama supporter and Missouri Rep. William Lacy Clay (pictured left) called on Sen. Clinton to do what is right in order to ensure a united Democratic front: “If you have any, any kind of loyalty to the Democratic Party, perhaps you need to rethink your strategy and bow out gracefully in order to save this party from a disastrous end in November.”

Clinton's moment to bow out 'gracefully' has come and gone, but each day the destructive terminator trudges on is a blow to the Democratic party.

May 6th is the golden opportunity for Clinton to get out. She is guaranteed a big loss in North Carolina where 115 delegates are at stake. Indiana remains a horse race, but with only 72 delegates at stake, Sen. Obama will be the one on May 7th netting more votes and delegates (and, likely, more superdelegates). Considering Clinton most win 70% of the delegates in ALL remaining contests, a loss on May 6th, the two largest contests remaining, means only one thing: she must bow out.

The determined beast that she is, everyone knows she will march forward if she wins Indiana, even if its only by 1 pt. But what if she loses Indiana?

In a series of radio interviews, Sen. Clinton declined to acknowledged she would exit the race upon a loss in the Hoosier State:

In satellite interviews with television stations in Indiana and Kentucky, Clinton three times sidestepped questions about whether she would remain in the race if she lost Indiana's May 6 primary.

"We have a long way to go," Clinton told a Louisville station when asked if she would campaign in Kentucky if she lost Indiana. "I'm looking forward to coming up to Kentucky." The Bluegrass State holds a primary on May 20.

Pressed on the question, she said, "Well, I don't make any predictions or speculate on things that haven't happened yet."

Asked a similar question by a station in Evansville, Ind., she hewed to her message and avoided future commitments. "I'm thinking about how I'm going to do well in Indiana," she said.

Oy vey!

Ad Watch: Clinton

Clinton has a new 30 second TV spot focusing on gas pries that will be airing in the Hoosier State.

A Day In The Life ~ Saturday, April 26th

-- 10:30 am ET: Attends event with voters, Marion, IN
-- 2:15 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Anderson, IN

-- 10:00 am ET: Attends rally with voters, Fort Wayne, IN
-- 2:00 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, South Bend, IN

-- 11:45 am ET: Attends event with voters, Junction City, OR
-- 1:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Albany, OR
-- 3:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Monmouth, OR
-- 4:45 pm ET: Attends event with voters, McMinnville, OR
-- 7:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Oregon City, OR
-- 8:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Portland, OR


-- No public events scheduled

-- 1:30 pm ET: Addresses Nevada Republicans on behalf of McCain at the state convention, Reno, NV

Friday, April 25, 2008

Sealing the Deal

In classic MSM short-sighted fashion, many political commentators jumped on the "Why can't Obama close the deal?" story in the wake of the Pennsylvania primary.

It is often overlooked that Clinton was up by nearly 25 pts only 2-3 weeks prior to the Pennsylvania primary.

The New Republic's Jonathan Chait sees the flip-side: Why can't/couldn't Clinton close the deal?

For all of Hillary's brand recognition, institutional advantages (including the ferocious support of a former president), fund-raising head start and inherent appeal to the party's core constituency (working class white women), she finds herself on the ropes, in debt and having to go hugely negative just to stay alive. Does any sane Democrat really think that this is a viable alternative to Obama?

Chait has more on what's seriously wrong with the "Why can't Obama close it?" argument:
First, you can't automatically assume that any constituency that didn't support him in the primary also won't support him in the general election.


[The] assumption that a candidate's primary base will be the same as his general election base strikes me as seriously flawed. If Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, will her electoral base consist of blue-collar whites? No, it will be highly similar to Obama's, with a major reliance on minorities and white liberals. As my colleague Chris Orr has just burst into my office to point out -- don't be alarmed, he does this several times a day -- right now Obama is having a hard time winning blue collar whites on the economy in large part because he has an opponent with a virtually identical economic platform. When he has an opponent who's tethered himself to President Bush's highly unpopular economic policies, winning over blue collar whites on the economy will get a lot easier. Extrapolating from primary dynamics to general election dynamics is very dicey business.

The media has been obsessing over Obama's electability problem in a vacuum. But the Real Clear Politics poll average still has Obama performing a bit better than Clinton versus McCain -- and this is after several weeks when Obama suffered his worst two moments of the campaign, and the Republicans have been concentrating all their fire on him.


There has been obsessive media analysis of the demographic groups that support Clinton but might not vote for Obama. It's a fair point. But, given that Obama is running better than Clinton in trial heats, then the groups that would vote for Obama but not Clinton must be at least as numerous.


I agree that Obama will have a tough go of it against McCain. But the Clinton campaign has been marshaling the electability argument not as a reason for Democrats to feel glum about their inevitable nominee, but as a reason for superdelegates to flock to her. Their argument doesn't work if Clinton is even weaker than he is.

...all very valid points.

The Indiana Horse Race

A new Indianapolis Star/WTHR poll out today shows a dead-heat in Indiana. The poll has Obama with a statistically insignificant 3pt lead over Sen. Clinton in the Hoosier State.

Sen. Barack Obama holds a narrow lead over Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton in Indiana, with the outcome of the May 6 primary likely in the hands of a large number of undecided voters, according to a new Indianapolis Star-WTHR poll.

The poll showed that Obama -- helped in particular by strong backing from black voters -- is leading Clinton 41 percent to 38 percent among likely Democratic primary voters. But given the poll's margin of error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points, this race is either candidate's to win or lose.

Among Hoosiers who said they would vote in the general election -- a statewide sample of voters with a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percentage points -- Obama beat McCain 49 percent to 41 percent. Clinton broke even with McCain, with both backed by 46 percent of those polled.

And, by 49 percent to 35 percent, Democratic primary voters said Obama is the candidate best able to win in the general election.

The poll found that voters age 18 to 35 favor Obama over Clinton 48 percent to 34 percent, while the oldest voters, age 55 and older, prefer Clinton 43 percent to 32 percent.

Obama is winning urban and suburban voters, 47 percent to 33 percent, while Clinton wins the rural areas by more than 2-to-1: 55 percent to 20 percent.

Clinton is doing well among white women, who back her 48 percent to 29 percent. Among all women, though, Obama is slightly edging her out 41 percent to 40 percent.

Among voters who back Obama, 6 percent said it's because they don't believe the nation is ready for a female president. Among those supporting Clinton, 7 percent said it's because they don't believe the nation is ready for a black president.

A Day In The Life ~ Friday, April 25th

-- 6:15 pm ET: Attends town hall meeting with voters, Kokomo, IN
-- Plays 3-on-3 pick-up basketball game with local students, IN
-- 4:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Fort Wayne, IN

-- 8:30 am ET: Attends event with voters, Jacksonville, NC
-- 2:15 pm ET: Attends town hall meeting with voters, Bloomington, IN
-- 7:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Gary, IN
-- 8:30 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, East Chicago, IN

-- 10:45 pm ET: Attends event with voters, North Bend, OR

-- 3:00 pm ET: Addresses college class, Little Rock, AK
-- 3:45 pm ET: Holds media availability, Little Rock, AK
-- 6:15 pm ET: Holds media availability, Oklahoma City, OK

At the White House and Beyond. . .

-- 8:45 am ET: Signs the Presidential Proclamation in Honor of Malaria Awareness Day, Washington, DC
-- 9:20 am ET: Delivers remarks on economic stimulus package checks, Washington, DC
-- 11:00 am ET: Visits Northwest Boys and Girls Club, Hartford, CT
-- 1:25 pm ET: Attends David Cappiello for Congress and Connecticut Victory 2008 luncheon, South Kent, CT

-- 1:30 pm ET: Delivers remarks at reception for Rep. Jeff Miller and NRCC, Fort Walton Beach, FL

Thursday, April 24, 2008

UPDATE: Zimbabwean Election

Zimbabwe opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai was the "clear" victor of last month's poll, a top US envoy says. BBC World has more HERE.

Related stories on Once Told:

Breaking the Influence of Special Interests in the UK

The Democratic contest in the US has brought the influence of special interests into the national spotlight. Most commonly, Barack Obama will reference the oil and drug companies strangle hold on US national politics. However, special interests are certainly not an issue unique to American politics.

In the UK, the case in question involves a corruption inquiry into a case between the Saudi Arabia and UK's British Aerospace Engineering Systems, BEA. Under suspicions that BEA had paid off the Saudi government in order to secure the arms bid, Britian's Serious Fraud Office, SFO, launched an investigation into the deal. However, shortly there after, the case was dropped when the Saudi government threatened to discontinue sharing intelligence information with the British government.

BBC World reports:

On Thursday judges said the decision to halt the inquiry represented an "abject surrender" to pressure from a foreign government.

Lord Justice Moses said that the SFO and the government had given into "blatant threats" that Saudi co-operation in the fight against terror would end unless the probe into corruption was halted.

Mr Clegg has written to the prime minister, saying the inquiry should be re-opened and a "full inquiry" be carried out into how it came to be dropped in the first place.

He also says Gordon Brown has backtracked on plans to reform the role of the attorney general in the draft Constitutional Renewal Bill and urges a rethink.

And he asks the prime minister to update Parliament on the progress of other anti-corruption investigations involving Britain - including a separate US probe into BAE.

"How can Britain stand up to corruption and bribery abroad if we are not spotless at home?," he said.

The SFO said national security would have been undermined by the inquiry and SFO director Robert Wardle has said he took the decision to drop it independently and did not coming under any political pressure.

Former Foreign Office minister Dennis MacShane told BBC Radio 4's Today programme the ruling appeared to undermine Parliament.

He called for a debate on "whether the government of the day can take decisions in what it perceives to be the national interest".

And the debate ought to be an interesting one. With the lack of Arabic speaking (not to mention Arabic-looking) British operatives in the region, there is no doubt that the Saudi's provide much needed intelligence to the UK government. However, for the UK to cancel a serious corruption inquiry at the mere mention of the Suadi's denying intelligence information speaks volumes to the Saudi influence over domestic politics (and the US-Saudi relationship is no different).

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair has received much criticism for his decision to terminate the corruption probe. Per Al Jazeera News:
Critics have attacked Tony Blair, Britain's former prime minister, for saying it was right to halt the investigation, which he said would have damaged Britain's national security if it went ahead.

In the earlier ruling high court judges said the fraud authorities and the government had caved in to threats made by Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former ambassador to the US and now head of Saudi Arabia's National Security Council, that Saudi Arabia would drop a multibillion pound contract for Typhoon Eurofighter jets.

A $40bn deal for 72 Typhoons was signed in September.

The House of Lord's appeal is now expected to be heard towards the end of this year though no date has yet been fixed.

[UPDATED 12:05 pm ET] UK-Saudi Arms Deals Timeline courtesy of BBC World:
  • 1985: Britain signs deal to sell 72 Tornados and Hawk jets to Saudis
  • May 2004: Guardian reports MOD police are investigating £60m payments made during deal
  • Nov 2004: BAE confirms it is being investigated by SFO, but denies wrongdoing
  • 1 Dec 2006: French firm Dassault in talks to sell the Rafale, a rival to Eurofighter, to Saudi Arabia.
  • 14 Dec 2006: MPs told SFO probe has been stopped
  • 17 Jan 2007: OECD anti-bribery group has "serious concerns" about the decision
  • June 2007: BAE says it is being investigated by US justice department
  • April 2008: High Court rules the SFO acted unlawfully

The Silent War

(Source: Al Jazeera News)
Since 1983, Sri Lanka has been consumed by an ongoing Civil War. The war is being fought between the Tamil separatists to the Northeast and the Sinhalese Sri Lankan government. The fighting has been on and off much much of the 2 decades. Perhaps the 'routine' nature of the prolonged war explain away its lack of coverage in the media, but once again, things have flared up and the crisis deserves attention.

BBC World reports that in a mere 11-hours of fighting on Wednesday, hundreds were left dead with hundreds more missing and wounded. Both sides reported conflicting stories of success as journalists are denied access to the conflict torn Northwest region and unable to verify either account:

The military said 43 soldiers died and 33 were still missing, but insisted the offensive was a success.

More than 100 rebels were also killed in fighting which ended after 11 hours on Wednesday, the military said.

The rebels put their losses at 16. They said they had killed more than 100 soldiers and wounded about 500.

Al Jazeera News reports that hospitals in and around Colombo (the capital) have been filled with wounded soldiers.

As the Tamils maintain a firm hold on the Northwest region of the country and the Sinhalese government shows no signs of devolving any degree of autonomy to the Tamil rebels, it is unlikely that the violence will end any time soon. It will likely continue in its current state: heated violent clashes on the front-line followed by retreats and temporary silence. Both sides displayed signs of national unity following the December 26, 2004 tsunami that devastated much of the coastal land in the Southeast-Asian oceanic region. However, as the urgency of tending to the destruction left behind by the tsunami faded, so too did signs of reconciliation and peace.

The Intermperate Candidate

Some recommended reading from The Nation's Robert Scheer. Great summary of the tactics being used by the Clinton regime, I mean, campaign.

The Intemperate Candidate
By Robert Scheer
The Nation

How proud the Clintonistas must be. They have learned how to rival what Hillary once termed the "vast right-wing conspiracy" in the effort to destroy a viable Democratic leader who dares to stand in the way of their ambitions. The tactics used to kneecap Barack Obama are the same as had been turned on Bill Clinton in earlier times, from radical-baiting associates to challenging his resolve in protecting the nation from foreign enemies. Senator Clinton's eminently sensible and centrist--to a fault--opponent is now viewed as weak and even vaguely unpatriotic because he is thoughtful. Neither Karl Rove nor Dick Morris could have done a better job.

On primary election day in Pennsylvania, even with polls showing her well ahead in that state, Hillary went lower in her grab for votes. Seizing upon a question as to how she would respond to a nuclear attack by Iran--which doesn't have nuclear weapons--on Israel, which does, Hillary mocked reasoned discourse by promising to "totally obliterate them," in an apparent reference to the population of Iran. That is not a word gaffe; it is an assertion of the right of our nation to commit genocide on an unprecedented scale.

Shouldn't the potential leader of a nation that used nuclear bombs to obliterate hundreds of thousands of innocent Japanese employ extreme caution before making such a threat? Neither the Japanese then nor the Iranian people now were in a position to hold their leaders accountable, and to approve such collective punishment of innocents is to endorse terrorism. This from a candidate who attacked her opponent for suggesting targeted strikes against militants in Pakistan and derided his openness to negotiations with other national leaders as an irresponsible commitment on the part of a contender for the presidency.

Clearly the heat of a campaign is not the proper setting for consideration of a response to a threat from a nation that is a long way from developing nuclear weapons. Obviously the danger of Iran's developing such weapons can be met with a range of alternatives, from the diplomatic to the military, that do not involve genocide and at any rate must be considered in moral and not solely political terms. Or is it base political ambition that would guide Clinton if she received that middle-of-the-night phone call?

If so, it cannot be assumed that Hillary Clinton as President would be less irrationally hawkish and more restrained in the unleashing of military force than John McCain. The latter, at least, has personal experience with the true, on-the-ground costs of militarism gone wild. Yes, I know that McCain still holds out the hope of winning the Iraq war that both he and Hillary originally endorsed, but for Clinton to raise the rhetoric against Iran in the midst of a campaign is hardly the path to Mideast peace, whether it concerns Israel or Iraq. It is bizarre that a politician who bought into the phony threat about Iraq's nonexistent WMD arsenal now plays political games with the alleged threat posed by Iran.

The war has accomplished only one major change in the configuration of Mideast power: Iran now holds uncontested supremacy as the region's key player. Whatever chance there is for stability in Iraq now depends on the blessings of the ayatollahs of Iran, whose surrogates were put in power in Baghdad as a consequence of the American invasion. It is totally hypocritical for Clinton or McCain to now talk about getting tough with Iran over the nuclear weapons issue, when both contributed so mightily to squandering US leverage over Tehran.

To meet that potential nuclear weapons threat from Iran requires a serious, non-rhetorical, multinational response that makes clear that no nation has the right to obliterate the population of another, and that nations, even our own, that claim that right should be challenged as unacceptably barbaric. Instead, Clinton played into the thoughts of fanatics throughout the world who believe that might makes right and who take the United States--which spends more on its military than the rest of the world combined (including many billions on new sophisticated and "usable" nuclear weapons)--as both their enemy and an example to emulate.

What better argument do the ayatollahs need to justify their obtaining a nuclear "deterrent" than that the possible leader of the first nation to develop nuclear weapons, and the only one to ever use them to kill people, now threatens the people of Iran with obliteration?

And this spicy quote from Bill becomes increasingly relevant as the races trudges on:
Bill Clinton: “Now one of Clinton’s Laws of Politics is this: If one candidate's trying to scare you and the other one's trying to get you to think; if one candidate's appealing to your fears and the other one's appealing to your hopes, you better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope. That's the best.” [campaign rally, 10/25/04]

A Day In The Life ~ Thursday, April 24th

-- No public events scheduled, Chicago, IL

-- Attends event with voters, Jacksonville, NC
-- 4:15 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Fayetteville, NC
-- 8:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Asheville, NC

-- 8:15 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Baton Rouge, LA

At the White House and Beyond. . .

-- 10:20 am ET: Delivers remarks at the White House Summit on Inner-City Children and Faith-Based Schools, Washington, DC
-- 1:15 pm ET: Meets with the President of the Palestinian Authority, Washington, DC
-- 3:20 pm ET: Speaks to members of the Wounded Warrior Soldier Ride, Washington, DC

-- 7:15 pm ET: Attends working dinner for Mahmoud Abbas, Washington, DC

-- 10:30 am ET: Reports on the President's Malaria Initiative, Washington, DC


-- 10:00 am ET: Releases new home sales figures for March, Washington, DC

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Morning After

While the media hysteria over Clinton's "triumphant comeback" wages on, the New York Times Editorial Board, who has previously endorsed Sen. Clinton, puts last night's contest into perspective:

The Pennsylvania campaign, which produced yet another inconclusive result on Tuesday, was even meaner, more vacuous, more desperate, and more filled with pandering than the mean, vacuous, desperate, pander-filled contests that preceded it.

Voters are getting tired of it; it is demeaning the political process; and it does not work. It is past time for Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton to acknowledge that the negativity, for which she is mostly responsible, does nothing but harm to her, her opponent, her party and the 2008 election.

If nothing else, self interest should push her in that direction. Mrs. Clinton did not get the big win in Pennsylvania that she needed to challenge the calculus of the Democratic race. It is true that Senator Barack Obama outspent her 2-to-1. But Mrs. Clinton and her advisers should mainly blame themselves, because, as the political operatives say, they went heavily negative and ended up squandering a good part of what was once a 20-point lead.

On the eve of this crucial primary, Mrs. Clinton became the first Democratic candidate to wave the bloody shirt of 9/11. A Clinton television ad — torn right from Karl Rove’s playbook — evoked the 1929 stock market crash, Pearl Harbor, the Cuban missile crisis, the cold war and the 9/11 attacks, complete with video of Osama bin Laden. “If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen,” the narrator intoned.

If that was supposed to bolster Mrs. Clinton’s argument that she is the better prepared to be president in a dangerous world, she sent the opposite message on Tuesday morning by declaring in an interview on ABC News that if Iran attacked Israel while she were president: “We would be able to totally obliterate them.”

By staying on the attack and not engaging Mr. Obama on the substance of issues like terrorism, the economy and how to organize an orderly exit from Iraq, Mrs. Clinton does more than just turn off voters who don’t like negative campaigning. She undercuts the rationale for her candidacy that led this page and others to support her: that she is more qualified, right now, to be president than Mr. Obama.

Mr. Obama is not blameless when it comes to the negative and vapid nature of this campaign. He is increasingly rising to Mrs. Clinton’s bait, undercutting his own claims that he is offering a higher more inclusive form of politics. When she criticized his comments about “bitter” voters, Mr. Obama mocked her as an Annie Oakley wannabe. All that does is remind Americans who are on the fence about his relative youth and inexperience.

No matter what the high-priced political operatives (from both camps) may think, it is not a disadvantage that Mr. Obama and Mrs. Clinton share many of the same essential values and sensible policy prescriptions. It is their strength, and they are doing their best to make voters forget it. And if they think that only Democrats are paying attention to this spectacle, they’re wrong.

After seven years of George W. Bush’s failed with-us-or-against-us presidency, all American voters deserve to hear a nuanced debate — right now and through the general campaign — about how each candidate will combat terrorism, protect civil liberties, address the housing crisis and end the war in Iraq.

It is getting to be time for the superdelegates to do what the Democrats had in mind when they created superdelegates: settle a bloody race that cannot be won at the ballot box. Mrs. Clinton once had a big lead among the party elders, but has been steadily losing it, in large part because of her negative campaign. If she is ever to have a hope of persuading these most loyal of Democrats to come back to her side, let alone win over the larger body of voters, she has to call off the dogs.

On the one hand, Sen. Clinton has spat at calls for her to drop out, accusing her esteemed Democratic colleagues of 'disenfranchising' voters in the remaining states yet to hold contests. Meanwhile, the ENTIRE basis for her continued candidacy rests on her malicious intent to bring down Sen. Obama's reputation in flames through a barrage of character attacks with the hope that the superdelegates come in at the end of it all and overturn the will of the people, thus disenfranchising voters in EVERY state. It's pure hypocrisy. Or, to quote the all-wise Jackie Chiles: "It's lewd, lascivious, salacious, outrageous!"

A Day In The Life ~ Wednesday, April 23rd

-- 12:45 pm ET: Attends town hall meeting with voters, New Albany, IN
-- Attends to Senate duties, Washington, DC

-- 7:00 am ET: Appears on the Morning Shows
-- 12:45 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Indianapolis, IN

-- 1:45 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Hillsborough, NC
-- 3:15 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Elon, NC
-- 5:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Asheboro, NC
-- 6:45 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Thomasville, NC
-- 9:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Statesville, NC

-- 11:00 am ET: Attends town hall meeting with voters, Inez, KY
-- 1:15 pm ET: Holds media availability, Inez, KY

At the White House and Beyond. . .

-- 11:05 am ET: Attends congressional gold medal ceremony honoring Dr. Michael Ellis DeBakey, Washington, DC
-- 2:10 pm ET: Participates in photo opportunity with recipients of the Baldrige National Quality Award, Washington, DC
-- 3:35 pm ET: Speaks on National Small Business Week, Washington, DC

-- 2:00 pm ET: Meets with Mahmoud Abbas, president of the Palestinian Authority, Washington, DC

-- Releases existing home sales figures for March

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Clinton Wins Pennsylvania

9:06 pm ET: The AP and a host of TV Networks have called Pennsylvania for Clinton.

According to the ABC News count at this moment Clinton has won 54% of the vote and Obama has won 46% of the vote with a mere 7% of precincts reporting.

The margin of victory is likely to shrink for Clinton as the night goes on. Philadelphia, an Obama stronghold, will be one of the last places to report votes.

Also, despite Clinton winning the state, Obama could put up a much better fight for the delegates. Pennsylvania weights the delegate distribution by county according to how the district voted in the 2004 presidential race and the most recent gubernatorial election. According to most accounts, Obama is most likely to win the heavily weighted districts.

Lastly, let's put the night into context.

Where will Clinton be is she ends up with a 10pt margin (the margin will most likely be under 10)?

Even if she won ALL of the remaining contests by a 30pt margin, 65-35, (something she has not done in ANY state) she would still trail Obama in the delegate count (and that is including the current superdelegate count), per Slate's Delegate Calculator.

To quote my coworker: "This whole race is really a sham; a complete PR fabrication, and it could cost the Democrats the White House."

I will provide a more thorough recap of the night along with a look at the road ahead for the Democrats tomorrow.

Ad Watch: Clinton

Again, looking past Pennsylvania on primary day, Clinton has a new 60 second TV spot out in North Carolina.

Zimbabwe: 'The Fierce Urgency of Now'

(Source: NY Times)

Recall the ongoing controversy over Zimbabwe's March 29th presidential election:

Now recall the ongoing protests that have consumed what was suppose to be the 'celebratory' torch run for the Olympics being held in China this summer.

What do they have in common? Well, the vast majority of the protesters cite China's abusive relationship with Tibet as the motivating cause for their actions. In a close second is China's questionable relationship with the tyrannical Sudanese government and their aid to genocide. Both are noble causes. BUT, in both cases, the response is reactionary. Protesters have the opportunity to be proactive in their stand against the corrupt foreign policy dealing of the Chinese government.

As BBC World and Al Jazeera News are reporting that the standing Mugabe administration's oppression of the opposition and its supporters is teetering on genocide, the Chinese government is attempting to push through an arms shipment to the very same, oppressive Mugabe regime.

The New York Times Reports:

As protests intensified across southern Africa against the delivery of a shipment of Chinese-made arms to Zimbabwe, the Chinese government said Tuesday that the ship carrying the arms — owned by a large state-owned company, COSCO — may return to China because of problems delivering the goods.

South Africa’s High Court Friday barred transport of the ammunition, rockets and mortar bombs across South Africa from the port of Durban to landlocked Zimbabwe after an Anglican archbishop argued they were likely to be used to crush the Zimbabwean opposition following a disputed Mar. 29 election.

South Africa’s dock workers also said through their union they would refuse to unload the shipment, a call backed up by the country’s powerful coalition of trade unions. On Friday, the ship, An Yue Jiang, left Durban for the open seas and on Tuesday South Africa’s Ministry of Defense said it lay somewhere off Africa’s west coast.

It is important to note, the Chinese government has merely suspended the shipment of the arms because they could not physically transport them to landlocked Zimbabwe against the will of South Africa's High Court; they did not abort the arms transaction because of benign concerns of aiding an oppressive government in the untold killings of thousands.

To often we read about these cases AFTER the fact. Rwanda came and went. People said it all happened to fast for the international community to take notice. Sudan came. It was commonly referred to as "genocide in slow motion." Still, a lack luster response, at best, from the international community. Unrest in Zimbabwe is on the way (arguably, already here): how do WE (in the international community) want to feel when we look back on TODAY? Hopefully, on that fateful day in the future, we will not be subject to such regretful phrases as "could have, should have, and would have."

As Dr. King said in his famous 1967 anti-war sermon: "We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now."

Ad Watch: Clinton

Already looking past Pennsylvania, the Clinton campaign released an ad shceduled to air in the Hoosier State focusing on jobs.

Coverage from the Ground

Get a taste for the coverage in Pennsylvania on D-Day in the Keystone State.

Democrats take final shots as Clinton, Obama blanket the state
Clinton's Day: 'This is a turning point election in our history'
Obama's Day: 'Not itsy-bitsy change but real change'
The Primary Arrives: What voters need to know today
Trail Mix: Notes from the campaign trail

Today, voters in Pa. will have their say
'It's going to be close,' Obama says
Yes, we can, and more, Clinton says
Election officials gird for a hectic day

Clinton offering 'solutions' for state
Obama keeps focus on vision for U.S.
Expected record turnout means state voters should come early

State may be climactic for candidates
Election workers brace for onslaught
Area pivotal for Clinton

Ad Watch: Obama

On Monday, the Obama campaign released this ad, "What it Takes," in the ongoing ad battle that ensued over the final weekend in Pennsylvania.

A Day In The Life ~ Tuesday, April 22nd

Polls Open: 7:00 am ET
Polls Close: 8:00 pm ET
Delegates at Stake: 158


-- 8:30 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, Philadelphia, PA

-- Spends the morning with Michelle in Pittsburgh, PA
-- Spends the afternoon with Michelle in Philadelphia, PA
-- 8:30 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, Michelle, and John Mellencamp, Evansville, IN


-- 11:30 am ET: Attends event with voters, Youngstown, OH
-- 12:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Youngstown, OH
-- 1:15 pm ET: Holds media availability, Youngstown, OH

Monday, April 21, 2008

Ad Watch: Ohio Dems

The battle for the battle ground states is already under way. The Democratic Party of Ohio released their first radio ad assailing McCain for being "more of the same."

Listen to the ad below:

The Ohio Democratic party provides line-by-line support for their claims HERE.

Ad Watch: Clinton

Clinton has a new ad out suggesting Sen. Clinton is the only candidate tough enough (i.e. Obama is too weak) to handle the pressing issues facing our country. The ad is titled, "Kitchen."

The Obama camp has responded in a release simply by quoting Bill Clinton, himself:

Bill Clinton: “Now one of Clinton’s Laws of Politics is this: If one candidate's trying to scare you and the other one's trying to get you to think; if one candidate's appealing to your fears and the other one's appealing to your hopes, you better vote for the person who wants you to think and hope. That's the best.” [campaign rally, 10/25/04]

MediaMatters: Capital Gains Tax

MediaMatters investigates the claims of Charles Gibson's question on the capital gains tax in last Wednesday's ABC debate. See Gibson's question here:

Media Matters reports:

During the April 16 Democratic presidential debate, co-moderator and ABC World News anchor Charles Gibson asserted of capital-gains tax cuts that "in each instance, when the rate dropped, revenues from the tax increased. The government took in more money. And in the 1980s, when the tax was increased to 28 percent, the revenues went down." Gibson later asserted that "history shows that when you drop the capital-gains tax, the revenues go up." In fact, Dean Baker, co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, asserted in an April 17 American Prospect blog post addressing Gibson's statements: "[T]he evidence that a capital gains tax cut raises revenue is rather dubious, since most of the apparent increase is likely due to timing: investors delay selling stock when they know a tax cut is imminent. After the cut takes effect, they then declare their gains and pay taxes at the lower rate." Indeed, a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) Revenue and Tax Policy Brief states that "[r]ising gains receipts in response to a rate cut are most likely to occur in the short run" and that investor responses to capital-gains tax cuts in the short term can "mislead observers."

From the CBO brief:

Because taxes are paid on realized rather than accrued capital gains, taxpayers have a great deal of control over when they pay their capital gains taxes. By choosing to hold on to an asset, a taxpayer defers the tax. The incentive to do that -- even when it might otherwise be financially desirable to sell an asset -- is known as the lock-in effect. As a consequence of that incentive, the level of the tax rate can substantially influence when asset holders realize their gains, as can be seen particularly clearly when tax rates change. ... For instance, the Tax Reform Act of 1986 boosted capital gains tax rates effective at the beginning of 1987. Anticipating that increase, investors realized a huge amount of gains in 1986. Then, in 1987, realizations fell by almost as much, returning to a level comparable to that before the tax increase.


The sensitivity of realizations to gains tax rates raises the possibility that a cut in the rate could so increase realizations that revenue from capital gains taxes might rise as a consequence. Rising gains receipts in response to a rate cut are most likely to occur in the short run. Postponing or advancing realizations by a year is relatively easy compared with doing so over much longer periods. In addition, a stock of accumulated gains may be realized shortly after the rate is cut, but once that accumulation is "unlocked," the stock of accrued gains is smaller and realizations cannot continue at as fast a rate as they did initially. Thus, even though the responsiveness of realizations to a tax cut may not be enough to produce additional receipts over a long period, it may do so over a few years. The potentially large difference between the long- and short-term sensitivity of realizations to tax rates can mislead observers into assuming a greater permanent responsiveness than actually exists.

Because of the other influences on realizations, the relationship between them and tax rates can be hard to detect and easy to confuse with other phenomena. For example, a number of observers have attributed the rapid rise in realizations in the late 1990s to the 1997 cut in capital gains tax rates. But the 45 percent increase in realizations in 1996--before the cut--exceeded the 40 percent and 25 percent increases in 1997 and 1998 that followed it. Careful studies have failed to agree on how responsive gains realizations are to changes in tax rates, with estimates of that responsiveness varying widely.

In its conclusion, the CBO brief states that "the relationship of realizations and receipts to gains tax rates is neither predictable nor obvious."

Addressing Gibson's question in an April 16 entry on's Fact Checker blog, Post staff writer Glenn Kessler cited the CBO brief and wrote: "Charlie Gibson twice challenged Obama on the question of why he might consider raising capital gains taxes when, he claimed, cuts in the tax always results in increases in revenues. Gibson must be unduly worried about his stock portfolio. Gibson is right that a cut in capital gains taxes results in a brief increase in revenue, but that's only because stockholders decide to unload some stocks they have held in the new tax regime; there is less incentive to sell the stock if you know the rate is going to soon drop." In a New Republic blog post about Gibson's question, Jonathan Cohn quoted Brookings Institution economist Jason Furman as follows: "Joint Committee on Taxation and Treasury both score raising capital gains taxes as raising revenues. There is some behavioral response but much of that is timing and doesn't affect the medium-to-long term revenue loss." According to Cohn, Furman stated that "the experience after the 1997 cut and the 2003 cut is not a meaningful way to assess the impact of capital gains tax cuts on revenues because so many things were happening simultaneously."

Further, the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimated that the 2006 extension of the 2003 cuts on capital-gains taxes would result in decreased revenues of $20 billion over 10 years.

In addition, numerous economists have said that cuts in capital-gains taxes do not pay for themselves, let alone increase revenue. In an article published in the Journal of Public Economics, N. Gregory Mankiw -- former chairman of President Bush's Council of Economic Advisers -- and Matthew Weinzierl asked, "To what extent does a tax cut pay for itself?" Mankiw and Weinzierl concluded, "In almost all cases, tax cuts are partly self-financing. This is especially true for cuts in capital income taxes" [emphasis added]. Discussing those findings in a 2007 blog post, Mankiw noted, "Matthew Weinzierl and I estimated that a broad-based income tax cut (applying to both capital and labor income) would recoup only about a quarter of the lost revenue through supply-side growth effects. For a cut in capital income taxes, the feedback is larger -- about 50 percent -- but still well under 100 percent." A May 17, 2006, Knight Ridder Newspapers article citing Mankiw's study noted that "paybacks of 50 ... percent still mean a net revenue loss for the Treasury." The article also reported, "Treasury Secretary John Snow conceded Tuesday that the much-touted tax cuts for capital gains and dividend income don't drive today's strong economy. Asked by Knight Ridder if the tax reductions paid for themselves, Snow acknowledged that they don't."

Violent Outbreak in Somalia

Somalia has been consumed by violence and power struggles since it broke its colonial ties to Italy and Britain back in 1960. Somalia has faced continual internal strife as warring factions battle for power. In addition to the internal chaos, Somalia has had a difficult relationship with neighboring Ethiopia, going back over four decades. As in most regions of Africa, the post-colonial borders were drawn very rapidly and often led to hotly contentious geographic battles between neighboring countries.

As of recent, the Ethiopian government has actively engaged in helping the transitional Somali leadership to combat the Islamist-led insurgency. The Somali government has very little military strength and often relies on the more advanced Ethiopian military.

This weekend saw a flare up in the violence. Al Jazeera News reports that 81 have died in violent clashes in the country's capital, Mogadishu. Local residents of Mogadishu became angered with the Ethiopian-backed transitional government today, when 10 were found dead inside a Somali moque. BBC News reports:

Six of the dead are religious leaders from the Tabliq Sufi sect, which is not involved in the conflict.

Prime Minister Nur Hassan Hussein says the government was defending itself during the weekend clashes.

But locals accused the Ethiopians of shelling the residential areas of Hurwa and Yaqshid in north-eastern Mogadishu, after they came under attack.

Among those killed was a seven-year-old girl, while a local resident said he had seen the bodies of two Ethiopians and one government soldier.

"The government is sorry about the fighting and loss of innocent civilian lives," Somalia's prime minister said on Sunday.

"Our aim is to restore law and order through reconciliation and peaceful means, but that does not mean our troops and those of our ally Ethiopia will not defend themselves as they come under constant attack."

The UN says that more than half of Mogadishu's population has fled recent fighting in the city.

The Ethiopians intervened in 2006 to help government forces oust Islamists who had taken control of much of southern Somalia.

The country has not had an effective national government since 1991.
When you couple the ongoing violence with the current food crisis, Somalia faces humanitarian catastrophe. The Guardian reports:
Crisis, emergency, disaster; words used liberally over the past 17 years that Somalia has been without a government. But most Somalia experts agree: things have never been this bad.

A brutal guerrilla war, three years of drought, hyperinflation and restricted aid agency access that compares only to Iraq have pushed the country to the brink. Philippe Lazzarini, the UN's head of humanitarian affairs for Somalia, this week said that a "massive, massive crisis" was brewing, with 2.5 million people needing food or other assistance.

"We are on the eve of what triggered the massive international intervention [the disastrous US-led relief operation] in 1992," he said.

Asha Haji Elmi, who heads the Mogadishu-based Save Somali Women and Children project, said the humanitarian need and security situation was "unprecedented", with a complete culture of impunity among all sides to the conflict.

Dennis McNamara, who works at the Swiss-based Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue, said a new international approach was needed to help a country that was "beyond a failed state". All the warring parties, including the Islamist "Al Shabab" movement, recently given terrorist status by the US, need to be engaged.

"Somalia has been in the international community's 'too hard to solve' basket for more than a decade," said McNamara. "Unless we act now it is headed towards the catastrophe basket as well."
Just a reminder, while there is no evidence US was involved in any of the weekends events, the US military has played a rather significant role in the country over the last couple years:

Jan. 9, 2007: U.S. Strikes In Somalia Reportedly Kill 31
June 2, 2007: US 'bombs Somali targets'
March 3, 2008: US bombs Islamist town in Somalia

Coverage from the Ground

Get a taste for the coverage in Pennsylvania on the eve of Tuesday's Keystone State primary.





Tough Times

Dan Wasserman ~ Boston Globe

A Day In The Life ~ Monday, April 21st

Pennsylvania primary is tomorrow.

-- 12:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Blue Bell, PA
-- 6:00 pm ET: Attends event with Michelle and voters, McKeesport, PA
-- 9:30 pm ET: Attends rally with Michelle and voters, Pittsburgh, PA

-- 9:00 am ET: Attends rally with voters, Scranton, PA
-- 1:30 pm ET: Attends rally with Bill and voters, Pittsburgh, PA
-- 5:15 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, Harrisburg, PA
-- 10:00 pm ET: Attends rally with Chelsea, Bill, and voters, Philadelphia, PA

-- 10:00 am ET: Attends event with voters, Greensburg, PA
-- 11:45 am ET: Attends event with voters, Arnold, PA
-- 1:30 pm ET: Attends rally with Hillary and voters, Pittsburgh, PA
-- 5:15 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Ebensburg, PA
-- 10:00 pm ET: Attends rally with Chelsea, Hillary, and voters, Philadelphia, PA

-- 9:45 am ET: Holds media availability, Selma, AL
-- 3:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Thomasille, AL

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Ad Watch: DNC

The DNC has a new ad out today hitting Sen. McCain on his perceptions of the economy. The DNC plans on making a 'sizable cable buy' for the ad.

Ad Watch: Clinton vs. Obama

Both campaigns have headed south in the final throws of the Pennsylvania push. Clinton and Obama has launched negative ads in the Keystone State. Whoever said the prolonged contest isn't hurting the Democrats should think twice.

Sen. Clinton's ad, "Answer"

Sen. Obama's ad, "Exactly":

The Best of Rummy

By now, everyone is familiar with 'Bushisms.' However, BBC World puts together a hilarious audio clip show of former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's 'unique way with words.' Listen to the audio HERE.

A Day In The Life ~ Sunday, April 20th

-- Attends church service in Lebanon, PA
-- 12:20 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Reading, PA
-- 7:00 pm ET: Attends rally with Sen. Casey and voters, Scranton, PA


-- 1:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Bethlehem, PA
-- 4:30 pm ET: Attends rally with Re. Murtha and voters, Johnstown, PA
-- 8:00 pm ET: Attends rally with voters, State College, PA

-- 11:30 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Millvale, PA
-- 4:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Milford, PA
-- 6:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Tobyhanna, PA
-- 9:00 pm ET: Attends event with voters, Essington, PA

-- Appears on This Week with George Stephanopoulos

At the White House and Beyond. . .

-- 7:30 pm ET: Arrives at John F. Kennedy International Airport with Mrs. Cheney, New York, NY
-- 8:10 pm ET: Delivers remarks at the farewell ceremony for Pope Benedict XVI, New York, NY