Wednesday, February 27, 2008

The Defining Moment

I was reminded of the Kennedy-Nixon debates watching Hillary and Obama last night. Nixon the experienced one, vs. Kennedy the smooth, good-looking Golden Child. There was a moment in one of the 1960 debates when Nixon was clumsily trying to make a point. The camera shifted to Kennedy, and you see him laughing at his opponent. The same thing happened last night, at 6:45 of this clip.

And he was laughing because he knew that in his reply he would be able to make Hillary seem silly, as indeed he did. He deftly made her seem petty, and even a bit silly, so the audience stated laughing. Hillary tried humor too. At the opening of the debate - alluding to the SNL skit that mocked the media's favoritism towards Obama - she said: "Maybe we need to see if he needs another pillow." That got groans from the audience.

She's tried everything in the last week, and nothing has worked. As Maureen Dowd says:
After saying she found her “voice” in New Hampshire, she has turned into Sybil. We’ve had Experienced Hillary, Soft Hillary, Hard Hillary, Misty Hillary, Sarcastic Hillary, Joined-at-the-Hip-to-Bill Hillary, Her-Own-Person-Who-Just-Happens-to-Be-Married-to-a Former-President Hillary, It’s-My-Turn Hillary, Cuddly Hillary, Let’s-Get-Down-in-the-Dirt-and Fight-Like-Dogs Hillary.

And it is all because she has no genuine voice, and the voters know it.

Here is something else worth reading. A long essay by Sean Wilentz that makes a strong case that that it hasn't been the Clintons who have been race baiting during the past few months - it has really been the Obama campaign.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

And the Strategy Du Jour is . . .

Heavy-handed and inept sarcasm. She'll keep trying things to see what sticks!

This one is just hilarious - whoever did this has a bright future in negative ads.

Seeing the Clintons for What They Are

Frank Rich aptly points out the ineptness of the Clinton campaign:

This is the candidate who keeps telling us she’s so competent that she’ll be ready to govern from Day 1. Mrs. Clinton may be right that Mr. Obama has a thin résumé, but her disheveled campaign keeps reminding us that the biggest item on her thicker résumé is the health care task force that was as botched as her presidential bid.

Mark Steyn points out that the democratic "star system" that gave Bill his chance in 92, poorly servers Hillary. She is up against an even bigger star:

The Clintons turned the Democratic party into a star vehicle and designated everyone else as extras. But their star quality was strictly comparative. They had industrial-strength audacity and a lot of luck: Bill jumped into the 1992 race when A-listers like Mario Cuomo were too cowed by expert advice that Bush Snr. was unbeatable. Clinton gambled, won the nomination and beat a weak opponent in a three-way race, with Ross Perot siphoning votes from the right. He got even luckier four years later. So did Hillary when she embarked on something patently absurd — a First Lady running for a Senate seat in a state she’s never lived in — only to find Rudy Giuliani going into instant public meltdown. The SAS, Britain’s special forces, have a motto: Who dares wins. The Clintons dared, and they won — even as almost everyone else in their party lost: senators, congressmen, governors, state legislators. Even when they ran into a spot of intern trouble, sheer nerve saw them through. Almost anyone else would have slunk off in shame, but the Clintons understood that the checks and balances don’t add up to much if you’re determined not to go: As at that 2000 convention speech, they dared the Democrats not to cheer.

So she doesn't have much to go on, except the Clinton's proven willingness to do anything to hold onto power. So I don't count her out.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

It Takes a Village . . .

. . . of pandering politicians to get a reaction like that from a child.

Thanks, AverageBro, for the image

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Don't Write Them Off

So Obama beat Hillary like a rented mule in Wisconsin. She's clearly losing her core constituencies - just barely beating Obama among woman, and losing among men 2-1. No surprise there - why would any wage-earning man trying to support a family vote for someone that wants to "go after their wages" to subsidize Hillarycare for non wage-earners?

Hillary was the "presumptive nominee" just two short months ago, and she is supposed to be a smart, savvy politician. But the way she has squandered her lead, she seems like the 2007 Mets in their division race last September.

The conventional wisdom says that Texas and Ohio are the Clinton's last chance - their "firewall" - to stop the Obama tsunami. And I see a number of columns today that say she is all but beaten. If she doesn't win a decisive victory in those two states, the pressure on her to withdraw will start to become unbearable. The superdelegates will want to avoid a bitter floor fight that might split the party as badly as it was split in 1968. In addition, such a floor fight may risk alienating African Americans from their historic allegiance to the Democratic party. This would fatally wound the Democratic party, since the party hasn't won a plurality of the white vote since - 1964! So the scenario has superdelegates switching to Obama to avoid a nasty, divisive floor fight.

But all of these scenarios have a fatal flaw - they assume the Clintons have loyalty to the party, and they assume a sense of honor and dignity that they completely lack. Party loyalty meant nothing to Bill when he voted for welfare reform. And when he championed NAFTA. And especially when he subjected the party to the nasty impeachment battle - a battle that cost the Democrats the election in 2000.

Hillary knows this is her only chance, because the probability of Bill avoiding some personal scandal for 4 more years is effectively zero. So Bill and Hillary will get as nasty and as dirty as they need to be. They will have no problem going negative against Obama. I think we can expect:
1) Clinton spokespeople to start emphasizing Hillary's long standing patriotism, in order to draw attention to Michelle Obama's gaffe. Some September 11th commercials might serve nicely here.
2) You will start hearing a lot more about Obama's church - and the Rev. Wright.
3) We can safely expect another crying incident from Hillary, in order to make gender an issue again.
4) And I owe the Anchoress for this one: we might expect Bill to get sick all of a sudden. Some recurrence of his heart problems from a few years ago. This accomplishes two things. It gets Bill off the campaign trail, and it makes Hillary's tearful determination to continue campaigning seem more heroic.
5) And all the while, the Clinton library slush-fund will be used to pay off some superdelegates, and to chase down dirt on those who won't be bought.

No. As I've said before, they won't go gracefully, and they will not hesitate to destroy the party in their desperation to hold on to the only thing that means anything to them - power.

And if she does all this, and loses? Hillary will divorce Bill within a year, because she won't bank her Senate seat on his continued good behavior.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Comparing Bush and Roosevelt as War Leaders

World War II - the "Good War" - has an iconic place in our history, and because of this we tend to see it as a model for how wars should be fought. Never undertake a "war of choice" and always start with a clear declaration of war. Americans aren’t good at the muddled, balance-of-power wars that Europeans specialized in before the 20th century. World War II lacks the bitter feel of Korea and Vietnam. We don't do "limited wars" very well - as a religious people, we yearn for an all-out crusade against evil incarnate, and World War II was the perfect model of that.

Roosevelt also has an iconic place in our minds, but I think this is solely because he was commander-in-chief during the war. The New Deal was a complete failure - unemployment in 1939 was 17%. Beating Hitler, sending the unemployed overseas, and women working double-shifts in munitions factories formed his legacy. If he didn't go for a third term he'd be remembered for soup kitchens, bank robbers roaming the plains, and trying to pack the Supreme Court.

Some claim that Bush "should have known" about 9/11. While anything Bush should have known Clinton should have known as well (especially since the World Trade Center was attacked early in his administration), there is a better case that Roosevelt knew Japan would attack in the Pacific. Note I said better case than Bush but neither case is strong - I'm no conspiracy theorist.

Bush is said to have had it in for Iraq from the moment he took office, and seized on 9/11 as an excuse. That Roosevelt was spoiling for a fight with Germany is clear. Long before Pearl Harbor, Roosevelt chartered military staff talks with Britain, planning our European and Pacific strategies. Lend-lease tied us to Britain as well as putting the still-unemployed back to work. Well before Pearl Harbor, we had US ships escorting convoys halfway across the Atlantic. Recall that we were brought into World War I because of submarine attacks in the Atlantic.

The American people were overwhelmingly isolationist - so much so that Roosevelt, an accomplished politician if nothing else, knew that it would take an attack on America to gain our participation in the war. And we were by no means sympathetic in general with Britain - there were too many German and Irish Americans to make that issue clear before late 1940.

Propaganda? Using an attack by one enemy (Al-Queda) as an excuse to start a campaign against another country (Iraq)? The first massive ground and naval action after Pearl Harbor was an attack against . . . French North Africa. Ahh, but you say: Germany declared war against us! I recommend a fascinating, little known book called Hitler Attacks Pearl Harbor. It is a detailed study of US media coverage immediately before Pearl Harbor, and the month after it. The author makes the claim that the German declaration of war changed nothing. Even in its absence we still would have focused most of our war effort against Germany, because that was what we had been planning (with Britain, in secret) all along. There were stories in the media that Japan was incapable of such an attack. There were editorials that claimed they must have had the assistance of German planning, German planes - even German pilots! It puts the run-up to the Iraq war to shame.

Bush's assault on civil liberties and Guantonimo? Roosevelt had internment camps for US citizens on US soil.

What about Bush's obsequious "alliance" with the tyrannical, repressive Saudis? Think of all the pleasant, warm chats Franklin had with Joe Stalin.

Notwithstanding the above, there are good reasons for the actions that Roosevelt took. But there are good reasons for the things that Bush did as well. Americans would do well to recall that he does not bare sole responsibility for this. The war against Saddam was overwhelmingly popular as the tanks were steaming into Baghdad. We were in crusade mode then, but as things became muddled we deny ourselves, and act like Bush did this alone. As if there were hundreds of thousands of protesters who were barricaded in the streets of this country while the statue of Saddam was pulled down in Baghdad.

I think history will see Bush in a better light that he is seen now. I'm in only partial agreement with him on Iraq. Dragging Saddam out of his hole was the best possible lesson that leaders - no matter how many bunkers, guards, and palaces they have - should think twice before lending support to those who would attack us. When an attack on our soil kills more Americans than Pearl Harbor, a disproportionate response (like invading North Africa with the same number of troops that we sent to Iraq) is warranted.

But we should have left Iraq long ago. We don’t need an empire, and when I see the imperial temple we're building in the Green Zone, I'm afraid that's the path we've taken.

Monday, February 4, 2008

She's Going Back to Her Well of Tears

Hillary is starting to cry again. Funny how deeply emotional she gets whenever the polls turn against her. One commenter on the story nailed it:

I wish Hillary would have teared up when Monica Lewinsky's life was ripped apart. Or maybe when she told her supporters that she would garnish anyone's payroll check who refused to join in her Universal health care plan. Or maybe shed a tear for Paula Jones who her surrogates referred to as trailer trash.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Hillary Wants to Garnish Wages

She says that "going after peoples wages" is one of the ways of dealing with people who won't buy Hillarycare. Of course she says she'll make it "affordable" but what that means is:

1) Illegal immigrants can't "afford" anything in her eyes (even though many make enough cash to send $20 billion home ) - so they'll get the same care as everyone else, and pay nothing. Even more incentive to come here, and less incentive to become legal and became W-2 serfs like the rest of us. Cash is King!

2) Of course single mothers can't "afford" to pay the full amount, so they'll get a free ride too. Why get married? Why stay married? Why even bother to have a job? - especially when your ex-husband's or ex-lover's W-2 can be garnished on top of what gets taken out for child support.

Some questions naturally come to mind, hard questions that none of the plans dare to address honestly.
1) Is dental and orthodontic care covered?
2) How about mental health care? Wellbutrin, Prozac etc, for people that feel anxious or depressed? Or for people that just feel unhappy?
3) Will universal health care pay for medical marijuana?
4) How about fertility treatments - the UK is considering paying for surrogate parenting.
5) How about abortions?
6) How about Viagra? Birth control?
7) How about affirmative action for health care? With scarce resources and past injustice, why not take race, ethnicity and gender into account when allocating expensive treatments? If race can be a factor in university admissions, why can't it be a factor in arranging heart transplants? Lawyers and courts will love this one!
8) For a married, working couple that refuses to buy insurance - which spouse gets their wages taken?
9) What about civil unions - whose wages get taken?

Regarding 1) and 2) on Billary's website, they have separate plan descriptions for different groups of constituancies. Apparently Hispanics need dental care . . .

Through the Health Choices Menu of Senator Clinton’s plan, all Americans will be able to choose and afford an insurance plan that covers mental health services and dental care in most cases, just like the plans available to Members of Congress.

. . .while women really, really need mental health care (their plan says nothing about dental care)

Major depression and dysthymia, a type of mood disorder, affect twice as many women as men, regardless of racial and ethnic background or economic status.13 The plans in the new Health Choices Menu, which provides the high quality care that Members of Congress receive, cover mental health care services to the same extent that they cover physical illnesses.

Woman, are, of course, special. They get an explicit promise of coverage, and they don't even need a job:

Under the American Health Choices Plan, every woman will be covered regardless of employment or marital status.

. . . and an explicit promise that marriage is irrelevant (for women, anyway):

Women will receive a refundable, income-contingent tax credit that ensures that they never have to decide between paying their health premiums and providing for their children’s basic needs.

Affirmative action in health care policy is the natural next step, considering that the plan is - at its inception- already balkanized. It is nothing more than a medley of policy treats that are promoted specifically as a means of addressing past bias against favored groups. Ethic groups are promised that there will be subsidized training for health care providers to learn their native language - and also be taught to "respect cultural differences." Note that the ethnically and racially targeted plan descriptions promise to "Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care", while the plan description targeted to women promises to "end the persistent disparities in health outcomes between women who have access to health care and those who do not." Apparently Billary doesn't want to let woman know that their care might suffer to make things better for minorities. Why be realistic? - it is all politics.

I've checked the plan descriptions for women and Hispanics. Each highlight the areas where the current system is unfair to the group in question. Now, you would think that one unfairness in the current system is that the life expectancy for men is 5.6 years less than women. Think that's a serious problem? Bill and Hillary could care less. Note that their "plan to fight cancer" mentions mammograms and pap smears - not a word about prostrate cancer. Woman and Hispanics get their own plan description, along with Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders - but men don't warrant a plan description of their own.

The reason men don't warrant their own plan description is simple. We'll wind up with a health care system that is all about providing special services to favored constituencies, and the responsibility to pay for all of this - whether through taxes or the wages that Hillary garnishees - will be borne primarily by men.

Despite my libertarian leanings, I support universal health care. I agree with Michael Moore when he wonders why, if we can provide free health care to prisoners in Guantonimo, why we can't provide the same for Americans? So I support basic, routine and catastrophic health care for all American citizens. Not dental care, not mental health care. Preventative care - yes. But if you are unhappy in life, or frustrated about the hand that you've been dealt, see a counselor or a clergyman - not a doctor (unless you want to pay out of pocket). Health care should be paid by tax dollars and administered by a politically independent body whose governors are appointed to lifetime tenure. Since governments are always less efficient than the market, we'll have lower quality health care, on average, and higher costs in total.

But it will be fairer, and more humane.