May 27th, 2008 by Rightsideup

CNN reports that Bill Clinton has been talking up a conspiracy against his wife in the Democratic primary:

“I can’t believe it. It is just frantic the way they are trying to push and pressure and bully all these superdelegates to come out,” Clinton said at a South Dakota campaign stop Sunday, in remarks first reported by ABC News.

Clinton also suggested some were trying to “cover up” Sen. Clinton’s chances of winning in key states that Democrats will have to win in the general election.

” ‘Oh, this is so terrible: The people they want her. Oh, this is so terrible: She is winning the general election, and he is not. Oh my goodness, we have to cover this up.’ ”

Clinton did not expound on who he was accusing.

I love that last line – you can almost hear the sneer from CNN.

Apparently, whereas Hillary found a vast right-wing conspiracy against her husband, he’s now returning the favor and calling out a vast (presumably) left-wing conspiracy against her. He appears to have bought in (or is doing a credible job pretending to have bought in) to the nonsense the campaign has been clinging to about her winning the popular vote (which he bizarrely calls “winning the general election”) which is no longer true even if you include the currently excluded Florida and Michigan results.

Now, I’ve argued before that there are reasonable arguments for her staying in the race, and I do think the media loves to push a winner over the top – enjoying the power it’s so far been largely unable to display in this election cycle. But I don’t think anyone even in our Obama-phile media is covering anything up here. Facts are stubborn things and the way things are going at present it really does seem impossible for Hillary to win. And this just adds further fuel to the fire around Clinton’s personality as an increasingly angry and bitter man who is frustrated at his inability to get his wife elected.

May 7th, 2008 by Rightsideup

So, everyone wants Hillary to get out, and understandably so. She’s losing in such a way that it’s hard to see how she could come back. There are good arguments for dropping out now to allow the party to “heal” etc. But I think there are good reasons why she should stay in, which she could still deploy.

Look at what’s happened these past few weeks, which wouldn’t have happened if the Democratic race was sewn up. Obama’s Wright problem has been highlighted. His Michelle Obama problem has been highlighted. His “bitterness” / elitism problem has been highlighted. His inability to stay on message when going off script has been highlighted. None of that would have happened these last few weeks if there hadn’t been an intense fight going on on the Democratic side.

Why is that a good thing? Because all of these things would otherwise have come up in the general election. And why is that important? For two reasons. First, because these things coming up now means that our 24/7 news cycle burns them out as topics of conversation in a very short period. Yes, they’ll still be there to talk about later but they won’t have the same punch. And, if those concerns really are big, the Democrats get to really see them and chew them over while they still have a choice about whether he’s the candidate for them.

McCain’s baggage and Clinton’s baggage has been out there for so long that this part of the process doesn’t make that much difference at this point. But Obama is so untested and so relatively unknown that it’s actually really important for the Democrats to have this time to get to know their (presumptive) candidate. So, for all the Hillary is supposedly preventing Obama from taking on McCain head to head, I think she’s actually doing the Democrats a lot of good, and they should actually in a perverse way be grateful that Hillary’s as sore a loser as she is.

April 17th, 2008 by Rightsideup

As in almost every election cycle recently (or so it seems) there have been allegations from some quarters that there is little to separate the candidates on the issues, and this is one of the reasons why people aren’t engaging in the process more. There’s always some truth in this, and certainly (for all Barack Obama’s protestations to the contrary) all candidates and both parties are more or less equally guilty of playing the game of politics as usual.

But it is worth remembering that there are real and significant policy differences between the major candidates and especially between the two major parties, and pointing out what these are. This, after all, is what we’re all fighting for.

So, what are we fighting for?

  • Taxation – the Democrats want to revoke the Bush tax cuts and generally raise taxes, with the only significant difference being how open they are about the latter aim. Certainly the increases in spending they propose must lead to increases in taxation, but they’d rather leave the voters to connect those dots themselves than spell it out for them.
  • Foreign Policy – the Democrats are essentially embarrassed for America and want to make things right with the rest of the world. Rather than believe that the US needs to act in its own interests, they believe it needs to do what will make the rest of the world happy. This means mea culpas over Iraq and Afghanistan and a speedy withdrawal from the former regardless of the consequences to the US or Iraq itself.
  • Judges – at least in theory, John McCain would appoint the kind of judges Bush has to the Supreme and lower courts – that is, strict constructionists who will not read the constitution’s aura to find new “emanations” and “penumbras” containing hitherto hidden meaning justifying massive increases in governmental power. These judges would further continue to take the court in the direction it has been going in the last several years on abortion, finding room for more restrictions on it and perhaps eventually overturning Roe vs. Wade and leaving individual states to determine their own abortion laws.
  • Healthcare. Here, the Republican position is essentially to do nothing to change the current system, which has flaws but consistently provides higher standards of health care to the vast majority of Americans than citizens of any other country enjoy. Democrats, of course, want to effectively nationalize healthcare and turn the American system into a more expensive version of Britain’s National Health Service, with bloated bureaucracies and massive waiting lists coupled with second-world care.

These are, I think, the four key reasons why anyone who supports the Republican position on these issues needs to be actively engaged with the electoral process and committed to getting John McCain elected. The economy is a red herring as an issue, other than as it relates to tax policy. Education is another where there is little daylight between the positions of the candidates or parties. But these issues ought to get Republicans energized and invested in the process, because if they don’t win there will be a significant negative impact on our economy and way of life.

April 5th, 2008 by Rightsideup

What is it with the Democratic candidates and trade agreements? Although both of them are reportedly against elements (or all) of NAFTA, and criticize most others, they have both now had senior advisers talking up such agreements to foreign governments. In Obama’s case, of course, it was the advisor who told the Canadian government that Obama didn’t really mean what he was saying about NAFTA and that they shouldn’t take it too seriously. It still isn’t 100% clear whether he was acting on his own or on behalf of the campaign – but it is clear there was a disconnect between his own beliefs and those of the candidate.

And then this week we had a similar situation with Clinton. Mark Penn, a lobbyist who advises Clinton, reportedly met with the Colombian government to promote a trade agreement that Clinton opposes. In his case, he was at least clearly promoting the agreement in his capacity as a lobbyist and not as a Clinton staffer, but there is once again a massive disconnect between the candidate and the adviser.

On the one hand, this suggests some laxity on the part of the candidates in choosing their advisers on these topics. On the other, it suggests that even prominent people within their campaigns disagree with them about their positions on these trade agreements. Is it really that hard to find an adviser who holds similar positions on these issues? And if so, isn’t that a sign that the candidates’ views are dangerously at variance with what the best minds think about trade agreements? Should the candidates perhaps be revisiting their views on these issues and moderating their criticisms? If not, then they should at least replace these advisers with ones who will parrot their union-driven, economy-destroying opposition wholeheartedly instead of undermining and contradicting their positions.

March 31st, 2008 by Rightsideup

Just saw a poll on the CNN site. Looks like the Bosnia thing (and one or two others) have really hurt Hillary’s reputation for trustworthiness:


What’s more surprising is that Obama and McCain are even in this, even though Barack has undoubtedly been much worse in trying to pad his resume and make his achievements sound more grandiose than McCain has. Arguably, McCain has the opposite problem – over-honesty about his weakness in financial matters, for example. But I guess that can be put down to partisanship as much as anything else. Obviously this isn’t scientific – it’s just an online poll with self-selection and no attempt to make the result representative, but it’s telling nonetheless.

March 26th, 2008 by Rightsideup

Carl Bernstein is guest blogging on Anderson Cooper’s site (and in typical CNN.com fashion it’s not really obvious that it’s not Mr 360 himself from the word go). His subject is Hillary’s lack of candor, in light of the Bosnia / Tuzla story this week. The most striking thing about the piece is how hard Bernstein seems to find it to call Hillary a liar. He goes out of his way to avoid this construction, using almost comically contorted language and double negatives to make it implicit but never explicit, mostly quoting from his own biography of Hillary. Some samples:

Since her Arkansas years [I wrote], Hillary Rodham Clinton has always had a difficult relationship with the truth… [J]udged against the facts, she has often chosen to obfuscate, omit, and avoid. It is an understatement by now that she has been known to apprehend truths about herself and the events of her life that others do not exactly share. ” [italics added]

“Almost always, something holds her back from telling the whole story, as if she doesn’t trust the reader, listener, friend, interviewer, constituent—or perhaps herself—to understand the true significance of events…”

“Hillary values context; she does see the big picture. Hers, in fact, is not the mind of a conventional politician,” I wrote in A Woman In Charge. “But when it comes to herself, she sees with something less than candor and lucidity. She sees, like so many others, what she wants to see.”

The book concludes with this paragraph:

“As Hillary has continued to speak from the protective shell of her own making, and packaged herself for the widest possible consumption, she has misrepresented not just facts but often her essential self. Great politicians have always been marked by the consistency of their core beliefs, their strength of character in advocacy, and the self-knowledge that informs bold leadership. Almost always, Hillary has stood for good things. Yet there is a disconnect between her convictions and her words and actions. This is where Hillary disappoints. But the jury remains out. She still has time to prove her case, to effectuate those things that make her special, not fear them or camouflage them. We would all be the better for it, because what lies within may have the potential to change the world, if only a little.”

What’s behind this? Is Bernstein really worried that he’ll be sued for using the obvious word to describe this obvious behavior? Or did he get just enough cooperation from Clinton and her people in writing the book that he couldn’t go the whole hog?

The most invidious thing about all this, though, is his assertion in the third-to-last paragraph quoted above that in being an inveterate liar, Hillary is really just like the rest of us: “She sees, like so many others, what she wants to see.” No, Mr Bernstein: the rest of us may not see clearly some of our shortcomings, encumbered with beams in our eyes that obscure our self-image. But the rest of us do not stretch that lack of clarity about who we really are to invent from whole cloth stories about our past or entirely distort versions of our personal histories when speaking in front of the national news media. That honor is Hillary’s alone.

March 26th, 2008 by Rightsideup

According to a new Gallup poll, just over a quarter (28%) of Clinton supporters say they will vote for McCain rather than Obama if she doesn’t win. By contrast, just 19% of Obama supporters say they will support McCain. As with any poll, especially one taken so far ahead of the event it relates to, this must be taken with a large dose of salt, but it’s educational nonetheless.

Allahpundit over on Hot Air suggests that this is a measure of “sore-loserness” but I think that misses the point. The point is that there are at least two reasons why someone willing to vote for Clinton would be more likely to switch to McCain than someone who wanted Obama. The first is that, for those few people who can accurately place all three candidates on a traditional left-right spectrum, Hillary is closer to McCain than the comparably more left-wing Obama.

The second, though, and one more likely to be at play here, is that those favoring a serious candidate will prefer both Clinton and McCain over the less substantive Obama. While Clinton has of late taken to embellishing her own credentials she has overall focused far more on specifics and has a greater record on which to draw than does Obama. It’s likely that voters favoring experience and substance shy away from Obama and prefer Clinton to McCain by a greater or lesser margin.

Allahpundit goes on from his initial premise that this is about Hillary supporters being sorer losers to suggest that they key to keeping these numbers high is to make those supporters as sore as possible. But I think the correct strategy would actually be to continue to highlight Obama’s lack of substance, which is behind at least some Democrats’ distrust of him.

March 25th, 2008 by Rightsideup

The recent Obama’s pastor furore has reminded everyone again how disingenuous candidates can be when they set their minds to it. It’s particularly ironic when it involves Obama because he claims to be so much above the fray, but the fact is that they all do it. They mock their competitors and seek to discredit them when they make mountains out of molehills, but then turn around and do exactly the same thing back.

Obama’s pastor problem is a problem, because he chose this man, sought his advice and blessing, and maintained a close personal asssociation with him over the years. But it was easily fixed, and by all accounts his race speech was impressive in the way it dealt with the issue (some voters have apparently not responded so well). But whether it’s this issue, or Hillary’s Geraldine Ferraro problem or now her Bosnia problem, or McCain’s Iran gaffe, everyone gleefully makes much of the shortcomings of other candidates but wails with false pain when the same dirty tricks are played on them.

These issues only really matter if they tell us something fundamental about the candidate that we didn’t already know, or only suspected. The Jeremiah Wright problem had legs because it belied Obama’s contentions that he is not running on race or on a racial platform or as the candidate or representative of a particular race, and yet there is a suspicion that he is more militant than he lets on. This is also the reason why his wife’s remarks have been so well covered – they reinforce this perception too.

The Clinton Ferraro issue didn’t matter because no-one really associated the views expressed by Ferraro with Clinton. But the Bosnia scam did because it played to a suspicion people have about Clinton: that she will say and do anything to get elected, and that she is desperate to build a false foreign policy resume by reference to the times she accompanied her husband on overseas trips. Almost entirely lacking in her own experience, she must rely on his, but can only do so by exaggerating her role in past events. The Bosnia comments – so easily disproved in this age of online video – were unwise precisely because they revealed more to us about her character than she wanted to.

For the same reason, McCain’s Iran comments didn’t matter, because no-one doubts that this man knows foreign policy. He is returning from his eighth visit to Iraq and famously served in the armed forces himself many years ago. This was an anomaly and not a revelation, and that’s the difference. But all candidates always act as if every indiscretion or revelation were an anomaly, which discredits their claims even when they’re reasonable. But there’s no real hope of any change in that department soon, unfortunately.

March 4th, 2008 by Rightsideup

So, Hillary Clinton was on the Daily Show last night. And John Stewart opened the interview as follows:

John Stewart: Senator, let me get right into this. This election is about judgment. Tomorrow is perhaps one of the most important days of your life. And yet you have chosen to spend the night before talking to me. As a host, I’m grateful, but as a citizen I’m frightened. Your response?

Hillary: It is pretty pathetic…

Now both John Stewart’s line and hers got a good response from the audience. But aren’t both actually pretty close to the truth? Shouldn’t we be worried that this is how a candidate chooses to spend the last few hours before a major election? And isn’t it a bit pathetic that she does? At least with Leno (and possibly Letterman) you get tossed softballs. But Stewart’s whole point, as Hillary pointed out, is to “make fun of” his guests (same goes for Stephen Colbert). Is there any way you can win in that situation? Is there any way you actually get something positive out of that experience that helps you in your campaign?

There was at least a certain cool factor to Bill playing his saxophone on the late night circuit. But what does Hillary get out of this? And it’s not Hillary alone – anyone without a great on-the-spot comic brain and good one-liners well prepared and well delivered is going to flounder and come out second best on a show like this. The deck is stacked against the guest and in favor of the host just as much as tables in Vegas or Atlantic City. It really does say something about the candidates’ judgment (and desperation) when they’re willing to do it anyway.

February 26th, 2008 by Rightsideup

The Times has a ridiculous piece with this ridiculous image as the banner, suggesting that the fact that Clinton is carrying on and apparently in denial about the fact that she is about to lose makes her somehow soldier-like. The following quote is illustrative:

If she is not temperamentally suited to reckon with the possibility of losing quite yet, advisers say, she is also a cold, hard realist about politics — at some point, she is known to say, someone will win and someone will not.

“She has a real military discipline that, now that times are tough, has really kicked into gear,” said Judith Hope, a friend and informal adviser to Mrs. Clinton, and a former chairwoman of the New York State Democratic Party. “When she’s on the road and someone has a negative news story, she says, ‘I don’t want to hear it; I don’t need to hear it.’ I think she wants to protect herself from that and stay focused.

Firstly, as James Taranto points out in Monday’s Best of the Web column, there are at least a couple of things in here which seem to suggest something other than military toughness – the fact that she is not “temperamentally suited to reckon with… losing” and that when she is faced with bad news she simply says, “I don’t want to hear it”. The latter is particularly reminiscent of the worst facets of our current president, and I’m really not sure we need that again. For all that people worried about Romney’s tendency to want to wallow in facts, at least there was no suggestion he wanted to avoid negative ones. Then there’s the fact that her “cold, hard” realism boils down to a recognition that, in an election, “someone will win and someone will not.” What startling insight! It would be worrying indeed if she didn’t acknowledge this fact, although it appears she doesn’t yet acknowledge that, in the end, “he will win and I will not.”

Of course, given what we know the liberal media and politicians think of soldiers (“You, uh, get stuck in Iraq“), perhaps this makes more sense than it at first appears… But this has to be one of the worst puff pieces in recent memory. And all apparently for nothing, unless the Times has another McCain-style smear article up its sleeve for release the day before Ohio and Texas vote.