I’d call this the last act of a desperate woman. Neither Barack Obama nor Hillary Clinton present themselves as the person most people would want answering the phone at the White House in the middle of the night. In fact, the Democrats have done their best to minimize the threats to the US, especially since it became clear that John McCain — with his decades of work on military policy — would be the Republican nominee.
Does anyone remember the line that the “war on terror” was just a bumper sticker?
John McCain could simply clip off the last ten seconds of this ad and run it for the general election — no matter which Democrat won the nomination. I can’t wait for the pushback against Hillary for this ad.
After reporting on Barack Obama’s dance with the Canadians on NAFTA yesterday, Canadian broadcaster CTV got accused of perpetrating a smear against the Democratic front-runner. They insisted that Obama meant every word he said about overturning the free-trade treaty, and that no one had contacted the Canadian diplomatic corps to reassure them that it was mere demagoguery. CTV responded today by naming names — and suddenly the Obama campaign has grown quiet:
The Obama campaign told CTV late Thursday night that no message was passed to the Canadian government that suggests that Obama does not mean what he says about opting out of NAFTA if it is not renegotiated.
However, the Obama camp did not respond to repeated questions from CTV on reports that a conversation on this matter was held between Obama’s senior economic adviser — Austan Goolsbee — and the Canadian Consulate General in Chicago.
Earlier Thursday, the Obama campaign insisted that no conversations have taken place with any of its senior ranks and representatives of the Canadian government on the NAFTA issue. On Thursday night, CTV spoke with Goolsbee, but he refused to say whether he had such a conversation with the Canadian government office in Chicago. He also said he has been told to direct any questions to the campaign headquarters.
CTV didn’t stop there. They also announced that their sources, at “the highest levels of the Canadian government”, reconfirmed the story to CTV. One of their primary sources provided a timeline of the discussion to CTV. Contrary to some reports, CTV has not retreated at all from this story. Jim Geraghty notes:
I realize Obama’s campaign can still claim that one of his advisers went rogue in contacting the Canadians about his NAFTA rhetoric, but to me, this is game, set and match to CTV. … If Goolsbee had not talked to officials in the consulate, it seems likely that his answer would have been, “No, I didn’t talk to them.”
Who is Austin Goolsbee? According to this press release from last September, Goolsbee serves as the Senior Economic Advisor to the Obama campaign. He was highly touted by Obama in his visit to Iowa in that month, when he showed his intellectual chops by bringing Goolsbee along with a raft of other advisers, in part to show that he wasn’t a political lightweight.
It will be rather hard to distance himself from Goolsbee at this point. If Goolsbee spent time reassuring the Canadians sotto voce that Obama was merely demagoguing on NAFTA, then voters need to understand that the supposed “new politics” of Obama smells very similar to that of the same old lies and empty rhetoric we have heard from the Beltway for decades. And without that “new politics”, Obama is nothing more than an empty suit with a pleasant voice.
Cross-posted at Hot Air.
UPDATE: ABC also gets some refusal to confirm or deny from both Goolsbee and the Canadian diplomat in question, Georges Rioux.
The Economist takes a look at Obamanomics, and it sees William Jennings Bryan and class warfare. Instead of offering hope, Barack Obama offers the same fear- and envy-based tactics on which populism has always thrived. While Democrats have often used these tactics in primaries, the Economist worries that Obama might try to govern based on these promises:
FOR a man who has placed “hope” at the centre of his campaign, Barack Obama can sound pretty darned depressing. As the battle for the Democratic nomination reaches a climax in Texas and Ohio, the front-runner’s speeches have begun to paint a world in which laid-off parents compete with their children for minimum-wage jobs while corporate fat-cats mis-sell dodgy mortgages and ship jobs off to Mexico. The man who claims to be a “post-partisan” centrist seems to be channelling the spirit of William Jennings Bryan, the original American populist, who thunderously demanded to know “Upon which side shall the Democratic Party fight—upon the side of ‘the idle holders of idle capital’ or upon the side of ‘the struggling masses’?”
There is no denying that for some middle-class Americans, the past few years have indeed been a struggle. What is missing from Mr Obama’s speeches is any hint that this is not the whole story: that globalisation brings down prices and increases consumer choice; that unemployment is low by historical standards; that American companies are still the world’s most dynamic and creative; and that Americans still, on the whole, live lives of astonishing affluence. …
If he were elected president, backed by a Democratic Congress with enhanced majorities, Mr Obama might well feel obliged to deliver on some of his promises. At the very least, the prospects for freer trade would then be dim.
The sad thing is that one might reasonably have expected better from Mr Obama. He wants to improve America’s international reputation yet campaigns against NAFTA. He trumpets “the audacity of hope” yet proposes more government intervention. He might have chosen to use his silver tongue to address America’s problems in imaginative ways—for example, by making the case for reforming the distorting tax code. Instead, he wants to throw money at social problems and slap more taxes on the rich, and he is using his oratorical powers to prey on people’s fears.
Many people have compared Obama to Ronald Reagan in his ability to promise “morning in America,” but they have focused only on the most superficial part of the Reagan revolution. Reagan didn’t cast himself as the agent of hope, but appealed to the hope within Americans that they could lift up the country, and not the other way around. He focused on the hope of the individual as the true agent of change, and not the despair of the collective that required government intervention.
The rhetoric has given us nothing really new. It has the same populist ring to it that we have heard since before collectivism got entirely discredited in the latter 20th century. It’s simplistic calls to soak the rich and redistribute the wealth, to impose economic isolationism, and to prey on the fears of the working class by casting globalization as an unmitigated evil.
The Economist acknowledges that Democrats usually drop the populism when it comes to general elections. That was certainly true of Bill Clinton, who made the NAFTA deal that his wife routinely disparages on the stump now. It would most likely be true with Hillary, but Obama has no track record on which to gauge this. Given that the only basis for analysis is Obama’s rhetoric, it’s hard to judge him as anything other than the fear-mongering populist he has become on the campaign trail.
Black superdelegates report harassment, intimidation, and namecalling in attempts to get them to change their votes. Has this come from the vaunted Clinton machine, desperately attempting to pull out a miracle win? No — it comes from affiliates of the Barack Obama campaign, which hardly needs the hard sell (via Memeorandum):
African-American superdelegates said Thursday that they’ll stand up against threats, intimidation and “Uncle Tom” smears rather than switch their support from Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton to Sen. Barack Obama.
“African-American superdelegates are being targeted, harassed and threatened,” said Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II (D-Mo.), a superdelegate who has supported Clinton since August. Cleaver said black superdelegates are receiving “nasty letters, phone calls, threats they’ll get an opponent, being called an Uncle Tom.
“This is the politics of the 1950s,” he complained. “A lot of members are experiencing a lot of ugly stuff. They’re not going to talk about it, but it’s happening.”
After civil rights icon Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) switched his support from Clinton to Obama earlier this week, other black superdelegates have come under renewed pressure to do a similar about-face. A handful have bowed to the entreaties in recent weeks, including Georgia Rep. David Scott, but many say they are steadfast in their support for Clinton and resent strong-arm tactics to make them change.
This ugliness is the inevitable product of the Democratic delegate structure. One has to remember that the superdelegates comprise 20% of the total delegates, and that they are almost all public office holders. Their votes will determine the nominee, not the popular vote in the primaries and caucuses — and their constituents will hold them responsible if they vote in opposition to them.
For a candidate who supposedly wants a new kind of politics, this looks a lot like an older version that we thought we’d left behind. Obama’s supporters, at least, don’t seem to have much problem playing the race card with the superdelegates. That might work in the Democratic primaries, but this naked power play with identity politics will diminish his prospects in a general election, and it won’t help other Democrats, either.
It portends ugly divisions for the party in July, when they meet for the convention. Only an early withdrawal by Hillary Clinton will avoid it, and at the moment that doesn’t look likely. She’s leading in both Ohio and Texas in some polls, although in Texas she’s slipped behind Obama in most. If she stays in the race, the ugliness will only increase, and the bitterness will not easily fade.
The Democrats need to overhaul their delegate system, or put the pretense of a popular nomination process aside. They cannot expect people to sit idle as their elected representatives gainsay their will at the ballot box, and the superdelegates won’t stand for it again after this, either. They have to run for re-election in these districts and states, and getting called an “Uncle Tom” doesn’t make for a great campaign slogan.
Jack Jacobs at MS-NBC wonders who Barack Obama has as his military advisers. Based on his answers at the debate, Jacobs suggests replacing them at the first opportunity. No one expects a presidential candidate to be an expert on ground combat, but at the very least candidates can hire a few:
But last week, during his debate with Clinton, Obama tried speaking about substance when he mentioned the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and he displayed an astounding ignorance of the military instrument. He said that an anonymous U.S. Army captain told him that his infantry platoon was split and sent to different areas of operations; that they were lacking vehicles; and that they had insufficient ammunition to fight.
Although problems do occur in combat situations to be sure, none of what Obama related makes any sense and is, according to people with whom I spoke, untrue. Units the size of platoons are not sent to separate theaters, ammunition has been plentiful, and an investigation indicates that the unit in question was missing only one of its Humvees, all to no peril of the unit. ….
Politicians rely heavily, on almost every subject, on advisors to get them educated and keep them current. And nobody really expects Obama or Clinton or even McCain, who was a Navy aviator, to know anything about ground combat. But one does expect the candidate to employ advisors who know what they are talking about and to prevent their candidate from embarrassment.
While Obama has attracted money, notoriety and delegates, he has yet to attract military advisers who know what they are doing.
It helps to understand the macro concepts as well. When Obama talked about our military “air raiding villages and civilians” in Afghanistan, he showed a remarkable disengagement from the actual events in a theater even he calls critical to the war on terror. The use of close air support in fighting Taliban attacks derailed their last spring offensive, and it helped kill some of their highest-ranking leaders.
Obviously, his advisers either haven’t improved since then, or they haven’t been replaced with people who know what they’re doing. Democrats can be forgiven for their continued support of Obama, however, because the alternative doesn’t appear to be much of an improvement. Hillary Clinton has shown the same kind of diffidence to military strategy and policy as Obama, even though she has better sense about making sweeping pronouncements on the subject.
John McCain should focus on this gap, and based on his rapid-fire engagement with Obama on al-Qaeda in Iraq yesterday, he looks ready to do so. McCain may have served as a naval aviator, but he has also served on the Armed Services Committee for years. He knows a platoon from a battalion, and he knows the structure, purpose, and strategy for the American military better than most of the people in and out of Washington. Wartime is not the moment for apprenticeship at the highest level of command, and McCain needs to remind America of that truth.
The staff at the New York Times has burned the midnight oil trying to find ways to derail John McCain’s campaign. After endorsing him in the primary, the paper then ran an unsubstantiated smear against him as a philanderer. Now they ask whether he is eligible for the office, given his birth in the Panama Canal zone while his father served the country:
The question has nagged at the parents of Americans born outside the continental United States for generations: Dare their children aspire to grow up and become president? In the case of Senator John McCain of Arizona, the issue is becoming more than a matter of parental daydreaming.
Mr. McCain’s likely nomination as the Republican candidate for president and the happenstance of his birth in the Panama Canal Zone in 1936 are reviving a musty debate that has surfaced periodically since the founders first set quill to parchment and declared that only a “natural-born citizen” can hold the nation’s highest office.
Almost since those words were written in 1787 with scant explanation, their precise meaning has been the stuff of confusion, law school review articles, whisper campaigns and civics class debates over whether only those delivered on American soil can be truly natural born. To date, no American to take the presidential oath has had an official birthplace outside the 50 states.
“There are powerful arguments that Senator McCain or anyone else in this position is constitutionally qualified, but there is certainly no precedent,” said Sarah H. Duggin, an associate professor of law at Catholic University who has studied the issue extensively. “It is not a slam-dunk situation.”
It’s a slam-dunk to the millions of military families whose service to this country should have left then with no doubts about their children being relegated to second-class citizenry. They sacrificed enough for their country without having to sacrifice the futures of their children. Any other conclusion would amount to a penalty for military service on those who did not volunteer.
The Founding Fathers recognized this. They passed a bill in 1790, three years after the adoption of the Constitution, which made clear that “natural born” applied to children born of American citizens “outside the limits of the United States”. That law remains in effect and has never been challenged. At the least, it speaks to the intent of the founders when they used the term “natural born” in the Constitution.
It’s beyond absurd to argue that John McCain doesn’t qualify to run as an American for the presidency. The candidate or party that files a lawsuit to challenge him on this point runs the risk of alienating a large swath of the public who have served this nation in uniform, in diplomacy, and in government.
Besides, if the Times thinks this to be an issue, then why did they endorse McCain in January? Didn’t they bother to do their research on him then?
Minnesota Governor Tim Pawlenty has a high profile when it comes to potential running-mate options for John McCain. Pawlenty endorsed McCain early and stuck with him during hard times midway through 2007, and his center-right governance of blue-state Minnesota shows some real political talent. However, even Minnesotans question his conservative mien, and Robert Novak today reports that the unease extends to some of Pawlenty’s colleagues:
Minnesota’s Republican governor, Tim Pawlenty, carefully prepared his plan for controlling greenhouse gas emissions to present it at the annual winter meeting of governors in Washington. That effort coincided with Pawlenty’s fast-rising prospects to become Sen. John McCain’s choice for vice president. But behind closed doors, governors from energy-producing states complained so vigorously that Pawlenty’s proposal was buried.
Pawlenty’s position as chairman of the National Governors Association may prove to be his undoing. While party insiders sing his praises as ideal to be McCain’s running mate, leading conservative Republican governors have been less than pleased with him. Pawlenty has collaborated with the association’s Democratic vice chairman, Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell, on a fat economic stimulus package as well as the energy proposal.
Hours after Pawlenty’s energy plan was derailed, McCain himself was privately urged by GOP governors not to appear to be anti-coal or anti-oil. The upshot of a busy Saturday at the J.W. Marriott Hotel downtown was that Pawlenty came across as somebody considerably different from what McCain needs to calm conservatives. He left the nation’s capital as a less attractive vice presidential possibility than he was when he arrived.
Pawlenty has a tough job here in Minnesota, and he has chosen his fights carefully — a little too carefully for some of the state’s conservatives. He has survived a Democratic upsurge in 2006, holding onto his office by 20,000 votes. That forced Pawlenty to work more with the political opposition, including a hike in cigarette taxes, supporting a smoking ban in restaurants and bars, public financing for the Twins baseball stadium, and repudiating his earlier no-taxes pledge with the Taxpayers League.
None of this has endeared him to the state’s conservatives, nor has his flirtation with global-warming activists. The latter has extended that unpopularity to other Republican governors, which creates a big problem for John McCain. He will need the strong and public support of the dwindling number of GOP governors if he expects to unify the party. They have strong influence in their own states and can transmit enthusiasm or apathy to the Republican establishments there — and McCain can’t exactly count on grassroots efforts to bolster him among conservatives.
If Novak reads the temperature correctly, McCain can’t afford Pawlenty as a running mate. That would tend to point towards Haley Barbour or Mark Sanford as alternate choices. Either would work, and both would substantially raise his stature among conservatives. Of the two, Sanford would be the wiser choice. He seems more temperamentally suited to McCain — a pork fighter who has an independent, libertarian streak. Sanford could present a winning profile to those who want a strong candidate for 2012 or 2016, and who could appeal to independents and moderates as well as conservatives.
Michael Bloomberg has decided not to run for president, but he will likely decide on an endorsement in the next few weeks. The mayor of New York City opts out in today’s New York Times, but he makes clear that he will remain engaged as an independent voice — and that he’s looking to see which candidate displays that kind of party-independent leadership:
I believe that an independent approach to these issues is essential to governing our nation — and that an independent can win the presidency. I listened carefully to those who encouraged me to run, but I am not — and will not be — a candidate for president. I have watched this campaign unfold, and I am hopeful that the current campaigns can rise to the challenge by offering truly independent leadership. The most productive role that I can serve is to push them forward, by using the means at my disposal to promote a real and honest debate.
In the weeks and months ahead, I will continue to work to steer the national conversation away from partisanship and toward unity; away from ideology and toward common sense; away from sound bites and toward substance. And while I have always said I am not running for president, the race is too important to sit on the sidelines, and so I have changed my mind in one area. If a candidate takes an independent, nonpartisan approach — and embraces practical solutions that challenge party orthodoxy — I’ll join others in helping that candidate win the White House.
Independence in political approach sounds terrific — but it has become more of a fetish than a real platform. Especially with Bloomberg, it descends into platitude when it doesn’t get accompanied by a defined set of policies. What constitutes independent thought? What policies does it entail? Or is it just another way of saying, “Why can’t we all just get along?”
It sounds like “hope and change”, and we already have that platitude in buckets for this cycle.
Bloomberg himself turned out to be more or less a liberal statist as mayor, with the questionable exception of law and order. The man who banned restaurants from using trans-fats doesn’t qualify as a moderate, at least not any more. He has governed the Big Apple as a typical center-left Democrat would, still a large improvement over the doctrinaire liberal David Dinkins, but more a return to Ed Koch, without the humor.
So who would get Bloomberg’s support? Given this essay, one can easily predict Barack Obama. It won’t make much difference that Obama’s agenda doesn’t show a whit of independence from the Democratic Party platform; Bloomberg wants platitudes, and Obama produces them prodigiously. Bloomberg’s talk about unity and change fits nicely with Obama’s campaign rhetoric.
However, Bloomberg as kingmaker will be much less effective than Bloomberg as candidate. If he ran as an independent, Bloomberg could use as much of his own money for the race as he liked, and he has tons of it. He could drop a billion dollars and make himself at least into the Ross Perot of 2008, and he might even win a couple of states, which Perot couldn’t do. He can’t drop that kind of money into someone else’s campaign, though he could prove a highly successful fundraiser. It will not have anywhere near the impact of his own candidacy, and what’s more, it will reduce his profile as an “independent” the moment he signs onto either a Democratic or Republican campaign.
Of course, Bloomberg can always change his mind, claim to be disgusted at the tenor of the campaign, and launch his own bid for the presidency. He could wait until the conventions to do that and catch the other campaigns flat-footed. He would have learned that much from Ross Perot.
Barack Obama has joined Hillary Clinton in trashing one of her husband’s major economic and diplomatic achievements on the stump. He has told Americans that he rejects NAFTA, the program that created a free-trade zone out of North America, hoping to ride protectionist fever to the White House. However, the man who runs as a different kind of politician has a different kind of message to Canadians about NAFTA:
Barack Obama has ratcheted up his attacks on NAFTA, but a senior member of his campaign team told a Canadian official not to take his criticisms seriously, CTV News has learned.
Both Obama and Hillary Clinton have been critical of the long-standing North American Free Trade Agreement over the course of the Democratic primaries, saying that the deal has cost U.S. workers’ jobs.
Within the last month, a top staff member for Obama’s campaign telephoned Michael Wilson, Canada’s ambassador to the United States, and warned him that Obama would speak out against NAFTA, according to Canadian sources.
The staff member reassured Wilson that the criticisms would only be campaign rhetoric, and should not be taken at face value.
Reportedly, lower-level Hillary staffers gave the same kind of warning to Canadian representatives, but Team Hillary flatly denies it. The same cannot be said for Obama’s campaign. They called the warning “implausible” but didn’t deny it.
If true, this would show Obama as the worst kind of demagogue. It would mean he’s telling people what they want to hear while rejecting it himself, or alternately that he has begun his diplomatic relations with Canada by lying to them. Either way if true, it paints a disturbing picture of the kind of politician Obama really is.
In case the Democrats don’t realize it, Canada is our most important trading partner — and they rely on NAFTA heavily. Canada is the number one importer for oil, followed by our other NAFTA partner Mexico. If we junk NAFTA, it will create a fairly large diplomatic rift and ripples throughout our economy. Instead of making us more popular in the world, the Democrats will start making us less popular on our own continent and alienate our closest friend, as well as damage all three economies.
Perhaps that’s why Obama’s campaign didn’t want the Canadians to take him seriously. Unfortunately, a lot of Americans are taking him seriously, even if Obama apparently doesn’t return the favor. (via CapQ reader Mark)
Not much to add to this video from our friends at Eyeblast. Jesse Jackson gets asked to comment on Michelle Obama’s assertion that she is proud of her country for the first time, and can’t quite grasp the question:
Mostly, the clip is fun for watching Jackson splutter. He actually makes it worse by getting it wrong twice, and then trying to avoid the real meaning by shifting to Bill O’Reilly’s idiotic use of the term “lynch”. Chris Matthews seems amused as well.