Why Michigan and Florida Cannot Be Counted

April 5, 2008

Hillary continues to beat the drum for the DNC to recognize the illegitimate Michigan and Florida primaries. Here’s why it just can’t happen, at least not without a “re-vote”: the Florida and Michigan primaries didn’t reflect the votes of an informed electorate. They weren’t fair measure of how legitimate primaries would have gone.

In state after state, the longer voters have to get to know Obama, the more they like him, and the better he does. The problem is that Obama didn’t campaign in Florida and Michigan because he pledged not to do so. As a part of that pledge, he and every other major Democratic candidate except Clinton took their names off the ballot in Michigan. Yes, Hillary went back on her pledge.

You can be sure that if Obama thought there were the slightest risk that these states’ primaries (and/or the popular vote totals from those primaries) would be counted toward his nomination, he’d have spent time and effort allowing those voters to get to know him. And in that case, you can bet he’d have done much better than he did, if not beaten Hillary outright, especially in Michigan. As it was, for Hillary, the vote totals reflect a throw-back to the days when she could sail by on name recognition alone, without facing the scrutiny a fair competition can bring

So that neatly wraps up why it isn’t “right” that the FL & MI primaries be counted as they voted. But what about the “rules”?

From a rules perspective, Beth Fouhy’s AP article nicely encapsulates the crux of the issue: that the Florida and Michigan primaries were “nullified after they were moved into January in violation of national Democratic party rules. The party voted to strip both states of their delegates and all the candidates, including Clinton and rival Barack Obama, signed a pledge not to campaign in either state.”

The party voted to do one thing, and Hillary is now pushing to have them reverse that decision simply because it is in her political best interest. After the election, what other rules would she happily controvert to fit her political agenda? Do we want another Bush administration? We’re supposed to be rolling back the damages of the past seven/eight years, not continuing on with more of the same.

What’s right should count. Unfortunately, it can’t always. When it can’t, we have only the rules to fall back on. Shame on Hillary.


The Differences

April 4, 2008

From a policy perspective, Hillary and Obama are more alike than different. However the leadership, style (and substance!) differences seem enormous. For some time I’ve suspected that one huge difference between these two candidates, once elected, would be the conduct and tenor of their administrations.

The Clinton campaign is said to be a tumultuous organization, with dissent, back-biting, internal competition, etc. Now we have news that Hillary’s “Chief Strategist”, Mark Penn, has admitted to having meetings to work toward passage of a trade agreement which his own candidate opposes. Chief Strategist. Penn is one of the two or three most senior members of the Clinton campaign. It’s an extremely chaotic organization, and it’s a preview of what you can expect from a Hillary administration.

Obama’s campaign, by contrast, is extremely well organized, focused, coordinated, and usually very much on message. This, despite the fact that it’s a remarkably decentralized organization.

Draw your own conclusions as to what we could expect from these different candidates after the election.

The L Word

April 2, 2008

The public is catching-on to the fact that Obama is a liberal, and there is a presumption in the media (e.g., the Wall St. Journal) that this will work against him in the general election, that Americans still treat “liberal” as a dirty word.

The negative association with this word is going to change over the course of an eight year Obama presidency, just as it drifted out of favor during Reagan’s eight years, when (typical GOP tactic) they started simply using the word as a negative label, treating the negative connotation as a given, and thus creating it.

But give Obama a chance, and in the American zeitgeist the thinking will go, “Obama is a liberal? But we love Obama… I guess we don’t hate liberals after all”.

Indeed, Bush has already gotten the ball rolling, doing much to de-stigmatize the “liberal” label by virtue of his presumed position as a conservative (he really isn’t one, by the way). That Bush is presumed to be conservative allows Americans to call into question their knee-jerk affiliation with that side of our political continuum.

Another portent to a shift in favor for the word liberal includes the fact that there is now a market for books with titles like Why We’re Liberals (Eric Alterman, from Viking) and The Conscience of a Liberal (Paul Krugman, from W. W. Norton & Company).

Alterman book image krugman book cover

All it takes to complete the L word’s makeover is a single, unifying leader who isn’t afraid to wear the liberal mantle. I think Obama’s up to the task!

Obama is the Real Rocky

April 1, 2008

It’s amusing that Hillary should cast herself as Rocky in the primary fight, rather than Obama. But who is the real underdog?

  • Coming into the primary, Hillary had national recognition and was the  front-runner for the nomination—the presumptive nominee, in fact.
  • Hillary inherited a battle-tested political machine, veterans of two previously successful national campaigns.
  • She has the financial support of the Democratic party’s heaviest donors.
  • She has a husband, wildly popular among Democrats, stumping for her every day, often playing the role of hatchet-man.
  • Somehow, she claims inheritance of Bill Clinton’s political legacy—a net benefit in the Democratic primary process—and enjoys the use of his name.

Now lets look at Obama.

  • Obama is an African American. Notwithstanding Ferraro’s ridiculous comments, this cannot be seen as an advantage—certainly not in a national political campaign.
  • He has a name that bends the ear of middle-American voters, and a middle name which he shares with one of the United States’ biggest enemies of the last 50 years.
  • He had to build his campaign team from Hillary and Edwards’ leftovers.
  • He had to find his funding from the populace, rather than from political elites.

Given this, it’s clear who is Rocky and who is Apollo Creed; who is David and who is Goliath. In no way can Hillary realistically cast herself as an underdog. She’s had more personal and political advantage than any candidate in recent history, except possibly Reagan going into his second term.

Absurd. Americans should scoff at this ridiculous, flimsy construction.

Bush First Pitch—Boo!

March 31, 2008

Does anyone else out there feel, as I do, that Bush probably worried a lot less about being booed as he marched onto the field than looking like he can’t throw a baseball? Self-image comes way before public opinion for him, no?

The Sober Reality for Clinton

March 21, 2008

There’s a fantastic article on Politico, commenting on the media’s failure to adequately report the harsh reality of Clinton’s delegate situation.

The reality is she really cannot win this nomination. The odds of it happening are minuscule. I can understand her hanging around waiting for Obama to implode in scandal, or have a heart attach or something, but I’m not sure why she needs to pull-down the party while she hangs around.


  • Clinton would need between 63 and 65% of all remaining pledged delegates in order to win the majority of pledged delegates. She may win that big in some states (maybe, in some), but she’s not winning that margin of all remaining delegates.
  • If the superdelegates were to break ranks with the votes of the electorate, the party would simply collapse with ourtrage. So getting the superdelegates to override a majority of pledged delegates is also highly unlikely.

So why the hell is Clinton being so aggressive? Could it be, per my post of a couple of weeks ago, that she plans to trash his candidacy and then step in and claim that he can’t win because his candidacy has been trashed? Does she have some secret, surprise cache of as-yet undeclared superdelegates she’s sitting on, to announce after a big win in Pennsylvania?

No. My theory is this: the Clinton campaign isn’t looking at this rationally at all. They hear that the math makes it impossible, but they just can’t face reality. I think Hillary actually thinks she can campaign her way to the nomination, when the grim truth is that she can only get there with a spectacular Obama flame-out. And no, the Wright thing doesn’t even come close to qualifying. She’d need a Spitzer-like shocker.

If Obama doesn’t win the election in 2008 I’ll be blaming Hillary, not dirty GOP tactics or Nader. Obama should be traveling overseas and meeting with foreign ministers. Our nightly newscasts should show Obama being greeting by adoring throngs of Europeans, and Asians, and Africans. He should be meeting with soldiers and hammering-home his economic plan. Instead he spends his time fighting-off Hillary while abiding by his own pledge to run an honorable campaign. Meanwhile, Hillary runs the least-honorable campaign by a Democrat in recent history, and cries foul every time Obama defends himself.

I’m losing patience. Others are too.

Music Discovery: Bon Iver

March 20, 2008

What will my eleven week-old think of me when he’s a music-obsessed teen and learns that, even though I hold a degree in music, I never seem to listen to it much? Poor kid will be disgusted with me, and rightly so. Perhaps as disgusted as I was with my parents, who had a lovely stereo system but owned only “Sgt Peppers” and the entire Herb Alpert catalog—and never listened to either.

Right or wrong, I’m blaming my musical complacency on lack of “discovery”. The few times I’ve been excited about music again (music other than my own compositions, that is) has been when I discovered something new. So I’ve decided to go hunting for new music because I have no intention of being as out-of-it as my own parents were, and it won’t be that long before my son grows old enough to realize how out-of-it I currently am.

So I’m taking the Wit Happens blog readers along for the ride. Here we go!

I find a lot of interesting new-to-me music via the KEXP song-of-the-day podcast. Recently in their feed:Bon Iver (on MySpace, and bio here).

Bon Iver

Bon Iver (pronounced eevair, as in French for winter, intentionally misspelled) is the brain-child of Justin Vernon, and emerged from his spending a Thoreauan, isolated winter in northern Wisconsin as he faced-down some inner turmoil. Rather than simply “hibernate”, which had been the original plan, he recorded nine songs, which he released as the Bon Iver album For Emma, Forever Ago.

The first song, Skinny Love, is just beautiful. An mp3 is here (can’t vouch for its legality). You can also stream the song on his Virb page, and his MySpace profile. His album, For Emma, Forever Ago, is on Jagjaguwar records, and is available digitally on Amazon, as is the CD.

For Emma, Forever Ago, album cover

A trained musician such as myself should be well capable of explaining why a piece of music appeals to him. Over the years I’ve drifted further and further away from music that appeals to me intellectually, and back toward music that appeals on a visceral level. That was going to be how I avoided the question of why I like this piece of music, because I honestly didn’t have it in my really analyze this piece of music. Seems at odds with the spirit of the song, anyway. But then I learned the back story of Justin Vernon and his isolated winter, and the appeal began to make sense even without an analysis of the music. I’ve been most prolific with my own songwriting (and most successful) during introspective times of my life, when I’ve intentionally isolated myself. I’m not going to compare my own music to this one song or album, but at least the motivation and the recording style are familiar to me. Maybe that’s why this song reaches me.

Purists who get off on hearing the imperfections of hand-crafted recordings—first-take kind of stuff, complete with creaks & pops—will love this album. So will people who get off on super-promising “freshman” releases… you know, people who love to be disappointed by sophomore releases.

Anyway, please enjoy this song, Skinny Love, and check back soon for other “discoveries”, new and old. Meanwhile, here’s Justin Vernon performing Skinny Love at the Bowery Ballroom:

Obama “More Perfect Union” Speech – Winner

March 18, 2008

Obama’s “More Perfect Union” speech was strong. I still think it’s best for his campaign if the discussion isn’t about race, but if it must be—and it feels like certain parties are determined that it will be, then this was a great way to handle it. Obama has a way of positioning himself above the fray. Compared to this speech, any race-related bickering, or questions about Obama’s former pastor, looks petty and meaningless. On balance, this will be good for Obama’s campaign. More importantly, it’ll be good for America. This was a discussion American needed to hear, and Obama might be the only person who could have delivered it.

Hillary More Polarizing Than Bush

March 18, 2008

I’ve posted recently on how the issue of race is a damaging topic to the Obama campaign, and how Hillary exploits this—either instinctively or, probably, as an explicit campaign tactic. For the past several weeks, as a result of Hillary’s efforts and those of other Obama-detractors, race has been the primary focus of the public discourse in the Democratic race. This doesn’t work in Obama’s favor.

One of the reasons I can’t stomach Hillary, outside of her ugly campaign tactics, is the fact that she represents more of the same bitter, partisan division we’ve seen since Bush won the nomination in the 2000 race… and before, when Bill Clinton was in office.

My distaste for the Bush administration stems almost entirely from its polarizing effect on us, the electorate. (Note: that’s just the source of my “distaste” for the administration. The source of my burning resentment is all policy-driven).

Hillary, hated at least as much by the right as Bush is hated by the left, continues the polarization that started with Bill and has become progressively sharper with every election since then. However, one can make the argument that she is even more polarizing than Bush, since she is determined to polarize her own party, as well as the electorate in general.

Every time I see her disingenuous smile, that fake laugh, I get the same visceral, angry feeling which had hitherto been reserved for our evil, corrupt, war-criminal president. If Hillary were the nominee, I still don’t think I could vote for McCain, but I honestly can’t see myself caring enough to go the polls for Hillary.

Olbermann’s Special Comment on Hillary

March 13, 2008

Olbermann’s “special comment” about the Clinton campaign this evening offers no real, long-term help for Obama. As I wrote last night, the more the discussion is about politics and about race, the worse it is for Obama and thus, the better for Hillary.

Obama needs to get back to his staples: talking clearly and eloquently on subjects that resonate with the not-yet-jaded, or even with those of us who want to be less jaded. One of the most remarkable things I’ve noted about Obama is his ability to stay above the fray. He’s got to get back into the inspiration business and get off defense. If he has to, he can mention the latest attack, deflect it with a wave of his (as he does so well), and move on to something that drives up his “positives”. People eat that up!