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                                       politics + culture

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Sunday Morning at the California Democratic Party Convention

It's 8:30 and the temperature outside the convention hall is starting to heat up (metaphor alert, it's actually chilly) in anticipation of the final morning of the convention. San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris will speak for Senator Barack Obama. President Bill Clinton will speak on behalf of his wife, Senator Hillary Clinton. There's also the final chapter in the Leno/Migden endorsement saga which, I am assuming, was pushed to the convention at large with the gathering of some 600 petition signatures by Leno supporters last night.

The graphics in the main hall are branded with the theme of Democrats "Making History" and featuring somewhat blurred photographs of Democratic icons like Cesar Chavez, Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Harvey Milk, Robert F. Kennedy, Shirley Chisholm and Thomas Jefferson interspersed with photographs of Senators Clinton and Obama. This can create some interesting juxtapositions of speakers and background graphics.

Yesterday featured speeches by notables Jerry Brown, John Garamendi, Gavin Newsom and Willie Brown. Willie Brown's speech was notable for its call to party unity and following the rules. It was well received by many in the hall.

Today's final session will pack some drama...and (some likely idle) speculation of last minute special guest...????

Saturday, March 29, 2008

California Democratic Party Convention: San Jose

Calitics is doing an admirable job of 'on the fly' coverage of the California Democratic Party Convention in San Jose. I'm trying to add comments there as I can.

I will add some reflections here and at Calitics as the convention progresses.

Friday, March 21, 2008


-via dday at Calitics, "a shock to the conscience":

Governor Bill Richardson Endorses Obama

Link here.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Barack Obama: on RFK and Unity in Indiana

Link to Robert F Kennedy speech.

Friday, March 14, 2008

the key word is seems

It strikes me that people don't know Jeremiah Wright. And a person you don't know, we all know, is so much easier to mistrust. Someone you haven't heard speak for longer than 10 second clips run back to back is so much easier to vililfy and hate. Here's Jeremiah Wright from before he was so much in the news:

Barack Obama speaks out about Reverend Wright

Meet Obama's Pastor: Reverend Otis Moss

Monday, March 10, 2008

YouTube Video: Women for Obama

Saturday, March 08, 2008

3AM Irony

From a Seattle TV station comes this news:

Thursday night, the Knowles family of Bonney Lake, Wash., watched the John Stewart Show and saw the ad for the first time.

"I looked and saw a girl that looked like my sister and we rewound it and sure enough it was my sister," said Brady Knowles.

The first girl in the ad is young Casey Knowles. It's stock footage from 8 years ago when she worked as a TV extra - footage owned now by Getty Images and used by the Clinton campaign.

But they couldn't have picked a more unwilling star.

"It's really sort of ironic that my image would be used to advocate for Hillary when I myself do not," said Casey.

She may only be 17, but Casey has some very strong political opinions. She turns 18 - legal voting age - in April, in plenty of time before the general election.

"It's perfect timing because I have a candidate that I really identify with," she said.

"I've been campaigning for Barack Obama for a few months now," she said. "I was actually a precinct captain at the caucuses a few months ago. I attended his rally a few months ago and I'm a very, very avid supporter."

The Knowles family admit they have no control over how the footage is used. And while they see the humor of it all, they are mildly annoyed.

Maher to McAuliffe: "Okay"

Terry McAuliffe is Senator Clinton's campaign chair and former head of the DNC. I'm not a fan of Maher. I'm also not a fan of returning McAuliffe anywhere near control of the Democratic Party.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Marc Ambinder crosses the line

I understand that it's important for journalist/bloggers to convey that the information they are privy to is truly "inside," hence we'll sometimes get instances where a blogger will characterize, generally, what "people they are talking to" are saying.

However, I think Marc Ambinder stepped over the line today, and inserted himself into the Democratic nomination race in a way that crossed a basic line of journalistic ethics...moving himself from honest reportage and into the territory of innuendo.

Let's start with taking a look at what Marc Ambinder said:

I speak daily with aides, senior and junior, from both Clinton and Obama campaigns, and I can say, without revealing confidences, that the level of personal antipathy they express, the level of complete distrust, is extreme and in many ways alarming. One public example: when Obama's chief counsel, Bob Bauer, crashed a conference call held by Clinton advisers on Tuesday night.

The stress created by the interpersonal tension, and by the long hours, is taking a heavy toll. Many of the public faces you associate with your favorite campaign have worked 16 hours a day since January 3 with, maybe, three days off.

If Clinton wins the nomination, there will be many Obama staffers, particularly mid-to-high-ranking aides, who will refuse offers to help with the general election. The walk-away rate will be unprecedented.

That statement moves from the informative (both sides express distrust), to the explanatory (long hours take a toll), to a one-sided and unethical assertion as fact couched in a barbed hypothetical (Obama staffers will refuse to help with the general election.)

I have no problem with Marc's first two paragraphs there. I don't know how he can, however, given those two paragraphs, support making the assertion he makes in his final paragraph. His stage-setting in the first two paragraphs, in fact, would indicate that private, off-the-record conversations with aides on either side of this nomination struggle are frankly not good indicators of what they will do down the road, at all. In fact, everything that Marc is telling us in the lead up to his hypothetical assertion points against that.

Now, if Marc wants to write a story with that "refuse to help" assertion as the lede, he is welcome to do so. But, and here's my point, he's going to have to have some on-the-record basis for doing so, because what he's given us now is strictly off-the-record hearsay. And, yeah, that's unethical. In particular, it's unethical to leap from the insidery "the campaigns are tired and mistrustful" to the blanket assertion that one side's aides won't work with the other side's as a point of fact. Finally, if what Marc is saying in the first two paragraphs is true, I find it hard to believe that either side would be eager to go on the record as willing to work the other right now.

Now, Marc Ambinder's reporting has had a distinctly pro-Clinton angle at times (promoting a right-wing distortion of an Obama video clip on the front page of his blog w/o comment and having later to correct the record), so a pro-Clinton slant is no surprise. But that doesn't excuse what is a clear lapse in journalistic ethics. Scene-setting from off the record impressions is fine and welcome; stepping beyond that is unethical.

Marc Ambinder owes the Obama campaign a retraction and a clarification. And the Obama campaign should make Marc off limits at this point until he does just that. He crossed the line.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Bill Bradley: quote of the day

I think Barack Obama has a much stronger chance of beating John McCain in the general election. I think Hillary is flawed in many ways, and particularly if you look at her husband's unwillingness to release the names of the people who contributed to his presidential library. And the reason that is important -- you know, are there favors attached to $500,000 or $1 million contributions? And what do I mean by favors? I mean, pardons that are granted; investigations that are squelched; contracts that are awarded; regulations that are delayed.

-Bill Bradley, March 6th, 2008

Gail Collins: Next up...Pennsylvania!...except it's not.

Gail Collins waxes enthusiastic about the state of the Democratic primary race in today's New York Times:

It’s all up to Pennsylvania!

Yes folks, over the next seven weeks — the amount of time it takes a normal country to conduct an entire national election — we will be obsessing about the critical upcoming Pennsylvania primary. Harrisburg! Altoona! The Poconos! Did you know that in the Poconos, some hotels have bathtubs shaped like hearts or Champagne glasses? We actually plan on bringing that up a lot.

Fast forward to Pennsylvania! Or...check that. Not so fast.

Wishing it so does not make it so. Like her candidate, Senator Hillary Clinton, Gail Collins has left Wyoming's March 8th caucus awarding 18 delegates and Mississippi's March 11th primary awarding 33 delegates off the lede. Neglecting some states has been the Achilles heel of the Clinton campaign. For Collins to perpetuate this wishful thinking version of the Democratic nomination process is typical.

Collins doesn't seem to care that she's left Mississipi entirely out of her op/ed. And she shows that it's easier to degrade caucuses (which were the tool, btw, Mondale used to fend off Gary Hart in 1984) than for Clinton to compete in them:

Cheers to Obama, who is caucus king thanks to the way he has mobilized his ultra-enthusiastic supporters. But if I were a superdelegate forced to choose between two attractive candidates, I’d look for the one who won the big primaries where people were actually encouraged to vote.

However, Super Delegates, as Jonathan Alter reports, aren't going to have the luxury of writing off states that Gail Collins does (and at this late date, after that strategy has failed Clinton, that's unforgiveable rhetoric from Collins or any Clinton supporter). Alter writes:

I've asked several prominent uncommitted superdelegates if there's any chance they would reverse the will of Democratic voters. They all say no. It would shatter young people and destroy the party.

The Democratic nomination is a contest for pledged delegates by pre-agreed rules. Super Delegates, as Alter notes, will respect those rules and respect the delegate counts. By dint of a fawning beltway and New York press corps that ignores the clear math, Senator Clinton lives to campaign another day after her popular vote wins in Texas, Ohio and Rhode Island left her further, not closer, to closing the delegate margin with Senator Obama. (What Collins does not note in her Op/Ed is that those wins netted Clinton as few as a four delegate advantage...a net that Obama could well make up in Wyoming and Mississippi.)

Collins is writing off Wyoming and Mississippi, following the lead of the Clinton campaign, and that doesn't make much of a case to the Super Delegates. Everyone knows that the General Election isn't going to feature any gimmes. Only one candidate has run hard in every state contest by the rules agreed to ahead of time. Only one candidate has marshaled their resources to compete everywhere there was to compete.

Added to Obama's commanding delegate lead, that nationwide campaign makes a pretty powerful Super Delegate argument, too.