December 15th, 2006

Early Obama Meet-Up Confirms Obama Rule; Event Crashed by Wild Kids in Jammies; Authorities Credit Feet in Pajamas with Holding Noise Level Down

by Philip Baruth

So as regular readers know, VDB has been intrigued by the notion of an Obama candidacy for months now, not simply because of who and what Obama is, necessarily, but because of the way Americans react to what they believe him to be.

They react more like, well, Americans.

Obama, Sanders, Welch, Bullhorn

His visit to UVM’s Ira Allen Chapel was the highlight of the 2006 House race, with hundreds of people turned away even from the overflow areas.

VDB was at that event, and it was unprecedented: people clinging desperately to sills outside the tall windows, banging their hands on the glass during pauses in the man’s speech.

And from it, we developed the Obama Rule: Expected Turnout for any Obama event, when multiplied by a factor of 3, gives a pretty accurate forecast of Actual Turnout.

And last night pretty much cemented our mathematical thinking on the subject.

The Very Early Obama Meet-Up was scheduled for 6, at the Euro Gourmet Cafe on Main Street in Burlington. And ordinarily you’d want to show up at 6:15, in order to avoid being the first to arrive and stand awkwardly with hands in pockets.

But this time, we decided to take one for the team, and be the first to arrive on purpose, and make others feel to home. In the holiday, as well as the Obama, spirit.

Scratch that plan: at 5:55 it was hard to find a chair, with nearly 20 people already warming seats, sipping drinks, deep in discussion about class-action legislation and the Bankruptcy Bill.

By 6:15 we had 30 people packed into the back of the Cafe, and the woman who runs the place, Anita Selec, was moving lepinja and spanikopita at a pretty brisk pace.

You had to admire the can-do attitude: Anita found out about the meeting only when activists started streaming in the door, and she had a massive group of Italian emigres coming in at 8.

Euro Gourmet CafeBut without missing a beat she began to evangelize for Obama, whenever she picked up the phone, or sold someone a block of feta. “Oh yes, and we have the Obama-rama going on in the back,” she’d offer, along with the newly-installed wi-fi system, and the belly dancing on the 13th of January.

And as we went around the room and talked about why we were there, it was clear that more than anything the answer was atmospheric, and spiritual, and emotional: we were almost to a person hard-core political types looking for some spark of inspiration.

A way to light a fire under 2008, a clean-burning fire.

Everyone claimed still to be a skeptic, to need more convincing about an Obama candidacy, but everyone was open about yearning to be convinced, needing a source of Hope.

And of course, kids in jammies don’t help, if you’re trying to avoid having your heart warmed.

elijah, the LordNow, VDB broke from the Lutheran Church in a schism of one back in 1974. At issue was one of the Miracles of Elijah, in which the Lord sends bears to maul a group of children who have mocked Elijah for being bald.

Our minister said it was to be taken symbolically. A symbol of what, VDB wanted to know.

No logical answer was forthcoming.

But last night, we began to see that deep in the depths of our political junkiedom still lies a need for some sort of more open, less cynical community, the sort people say they find in their churches.

And that’s what seemed to animate the meet-up last night, as much as anything: the need to keep hope alive, the need to foster goodness, the need to infuse the American body politic with a morality based in justice, rather than judgement.

Felt good, in a word.

Oh, and plans were laid, and soon a blog will be born unto Vermont. More details as they become detailed.

Many more.

December 14th, 2006

The Altogether Predictable Return of One Christopher Potter Stewart

by Philip Baruth

Any ironic/insider political blog worth its salt is committed to delivering you the goods throughout the election cycle — from the early organizing, to the hotly contested primaries, all the way to the bitter, booze-fueled fubar that is Election Night itself.

tiny bushBut VDB has always aimed to go a step beyond: we continue our coverage, long after the GOP have taken their thumping, and the klieg lights have gone dark.

Because junkies need. End of justification.

And so we brought you the post-election post-mortem with Carolyn Dwyer, in an attempt to backlight one of the most intriguing Congressional races in recent memory.

Today, we bring you a story from the other side of the 2006 House race, a story about a young guy from Brattleboro named Christopher Potter Stewart.

If that name rings a bell, but you need another hint, try this: plagiarism.

Bingo — Stewart was the staffer let go from the Rainville campaign, after blogger Julie Waters traced some of the policy statements he had compiled to other politicians. Hillary Clinton most notable among them.

And of course cribbing is a no-no. But for Republicans, cribbing from Hillary is tantamount to wiping up cat vomit with the flag.

VDB’s acquaintance with Stewart goes back well before the plagiarism incident, however.

In a May 19 post called “Rainville’s First Black Op,” we told a funny little anecdote about a Rainville operative showing up at a Welch event with a hand-held tape recorder. When pressed for his journalistic connection, the guy offered a vague cover story, and then vamoosed.

And Welch staffers got a beautiful little shot of the get-away vehicle, which pretty much removed all doubt.

the get-away car

Of course, the operative behind the wheel was Chris Stewart. And it turned out he had a decent sense of humor: he liked the “black op” post, and emailed to suggest that we sit down for coffee, though everything discussed would be on deep background.

The agreement was simple: he’d explain to me why Martha Rainville was the “real deal,” and I’d explain to him that a lot of Americans were being methodically converted into crimson fragments in Baghdad and Tikrit.

In spite of his fondness for the cloak-and-dagger — and his unfortunate tendency to shave an ethical corner here or there — Stewart turned out to be a very decent sort. No hard-core ideologue, he seemed to have a genuine desire to imagine and understand the opposing point of view.

And he had a fine sense of humor, which VDB values in the people whose campaigns we skewer.

Of course on some things we could simply never agree. When the Rainville and Welch camps settled on a schedule of 14 debates, for example, it seemed clear that one side or the other would benefit overwhelmingly from so very many public face-offs.

My take was that Rainville had hemmed herself in so unnecessarily on so many crucial issues — Speaker Hastert, Rumsfeld, the efficacy of phased withdrawal — that 14 debates would be about 13 too many for her. Welch would beat her like a dusty rug, repeatedly.

martha, in camoBut Stewart, as with all the Rainvillians, had a touching faith in Martha’s personal charisma.

As far as he was concerned, more debates simply translated into more Martha. And more Martha could only be a good thing.

It was a disagreement carried out very good-naturedly, over the course of several early-morning coffee runs, over the course of several months.

Of course, when the plagiarism scandal erupted, Stewart was fired within hours — and had re-located to New Hampshire within days. And that was the end of our Starbucks background sessions.

But here’s the irony: having been laid low by a blogger in the 2006 cycle, Stewart has turned blogger himself, with an eye on 2008. Green Mountain Politics is classic Stewart, coming at the issues from multiple ideological perspectives, caution thrown flamboyantly to the wind.

The site’s tag-line is slyly self-referential: “You Can Always Eat Lunch In This Town Again.”

Because that’s another thing GMP promises: you always get a healthy side-helping of Stewart with your Stewart. We’ll be linking to it here, for old time’s sake.

Check it out, and make up your own mind. The current post makes pretty decent reading: it’s the story of how Stewart blew his psychological screening at the CIA, by calling Dick Cheney “a loon.”

Note to Julie Waters: You might need to clear the next few weeks on your calendar. Something’s come up.

December 13th, 2006

With A New Wave Curling in the Queen City, The Stop-Obama Crowd Gets Ugly

by Philip Baruth

Required reading for tomorrow night’s Early Obama Meet-up in Burlington: the first of many handfuls of well-timed mud.

Obama, Sanders, Welch, Bullhorn

And not silly-mud, like the Obama/Ahmadinejad meme, but Chicago-mud, like this tale of one Tony Rezko:

“It seems that Obama and his wife closed last year on a $1.65-million house on the city’s south side on the same day that Rezko closed on a $625,000 vacant lot next door. Then Obama paid Rezko $104,000 to buy part of the lot. Well, none of that seems terribly unusual to me, except maybe the part about Obama paying his landscaper to mow Rezko’s yard and Rezko agreeing to pay for a $14,000 fence along their property line.

“The problem is that during this period, Rezko came under grand jury investigation.”

The Post’s Howard Kurtz slings the mud in the name of condemning it, here.

December 13th, 2006

The New Way Forward — Shut Your Pie Hole, Or Everyone In the Region Dies

by Philip Baruth

Who’s up for a wider regional conflict in Iraq? The Saudis are now officially Ready to Party.

bush, as el diablo“WASHINGTON, Dec. 12 — Saudi Arabia has told the Bush administration that it might provide financial backing to Iraqi Sunnis in any war against Iraq’s Shiites if the United States pulls its troops out of Iraq, according to American and Arab diplomats.”

In addition to unlimited cash, the Saudis have more indirectly threatened “massive intervention,” as well as a manipulation of oil prices that would “devastate” Iran’s economy.

One can only suspect — given that Dick Cheney went into a mind-meld with the Saudis only days ago — that this series of hair-on-fire warnings has been issued with tacit US support.

When Bush rejects troop pull-outs and solid time-tables — and politely tells the ISG to shove it — it will be useful to have the Saudis playing Bad Cop.

But if anyone had any doubts about the stakes in this thing, doubt no longer: Bush and Cheney are prepared to escalate the conflict dramatically, regionally, rather than take a loss.

The New Way Forward, indeed.

December 12th, 2006

Obama Goes to New Hampshire; Fox News Goes for the Jugular; Teachout and Jensen Go for the Early Organizing Gold

by Philip Baruth

Josh Marshall has his finger on the latest with Obama: apparently Fox intends to make nudge-nudge comparisons between the Illinois Senator and various Muslim villains a staple of its 2008 election coverage.

barack obamaIf you’ve missed the back-story here, it’s short but sweet: Obama’s middle name is “Hussein,” and he is a registered Democrat. And it doesn’t take a towering intellect like Brit Hume to figure out what that means — clearly Obama is a stalking horse for terrorist interests world-wide.

Damn their heartless yet diabolical ingenuity!

Can’t believe Fox would go so far so soon? Suffice it to say that what began days ago as snide allusions to Obama’s middle name morphed yesterday into a full-scale comparison between Obama and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

That would be the same Ahmadinejad currently chairing a Holocaust-denial conference in Tehran.

Upon what is this shocking comparison based? Neither Obama nor Ahmadinejad wear ties with their sport coats.

No joke.

Which VDB was devastated to learn, because if the truth were known, that is our preferred mode of light formal attire too.

carville, welch, vdb

Peter Welch, before he was a Congressman; James Carville before he was openly recognized as a jealous, scheming prick; and VDB, gloating, in full Terrorist regalia

Which can only mean that beneath the veneer of progressive optimism, VDB is itself a sinkhole of violent teeth-gnashing terrorism.

We know, we know: it’s silly stuff. But make no mistake: it is no accident that this “Obama/Hussein/Ahmadinejad” meme bubbles to the surface as Obama is drawing raves in New Hampshire.

But to our muttons: the real purpose of this post is to point out that there is something positive happening on the Obama front, here in Vermont, this Thursday night.

Zephyr Teachout and Neil Jensen have organized a very, very early Obama meet-up, to discuss a potential candidacy and how Vermont might get organized.

It promises to be the sort of meeting that morphs very quickly into a something like a movement, and that’s always a brilliant thing to see, no matter who you favor at this early point in the cycle.

And if the Obama Rule holds true (Expected Turnout x 3 = Actual Turn-out) then this meeting should be a very interesting cup of coffee indeed.

the line, Ira Allen Chapel

The details: Thursday, December 14, 6 pm, at the Euro Gourmet Market & Cafe on Main Street in lovely downtown Burlington.

VDB will be writing up the event, but we could certainly use a roving photographer. If you have a camera, and the savvy to email photos into Central HQ, drop a line and we’ll talk details.

As Bill Murray framed it in Caddyshack, “There won’t be any money. But when you die — on your deathbed — you will receive total consciousness.”

So you’d have that going for you. Which is nice.

Obama, Sanders, Welch, Bullhorn

December 11th, 2006

The Vegetarian VDB Sit-Down with Welch Campaign Manager Carolyn Dwyer

by Philip Baruth

Carolyn Dwyer on the 2006 Congressional Election

The Back-Story: Of Welch and Waffles

Almost exactly a year ago, I sat down with Congressman-elect Peter Welch for the first in VDB’s series of candidate interviews, that one at Henry’s Diner in Burlington, over eggs and Belgian waffles.

Of course, Welch was merely a candidate then, and not necessarily looking like the odds-on favorite. Burlington Progressive David Zuckerman was threatening a credible third-party challenge, and Adjutant General Martha Rainville was coyly stretching out the “exploratory phase” of her campaign for maximum dramatic effect.

The state’s major media outlets — when they weren’t busy inflating the Zuckerman boomlet — were bobbing their heads in agreement over Rainville: Welch would have a very tough time against the charismatic and telegenic General, they argued, partially because she was extremely charismatic and telegenic, but also because people genuinely liked her and also she looked fantastic on television.

And so we ate waffles, Welch and I.

rummy, now long goneAnd I remember being struck with his immediate, yes-or-no answers to what I thought were my four toughest questions: Yes on complete troop withdrawal within a year’s time, yes on firing Rumsfeld immediately; no to both permanent bases and torture, always and forever.

That was about all I needed to hear in late 2005.

And I remain convinced that those four positions — stripped to their most binding formulations, and delivered with passion and conviction — eventually won the election for Welch.

Those four positions, and Carolyn Dwyer, of course.

Conventional wisdom holds that even a great campaign manager can’t win an election for you — but a bad one can lose it. And maybe in the other forty-nine states that’s more or less true.

But Carolyn Dwyer has taken the Vermont statewide campaign to an entirely new level of play: nearly flawless execution, marked by unusual discipline and relentless offensive momentum. The mere report that Welch had hired Dwyer buoyed his stock in the media for weeks.

But the true measure of Dwyer’s mojo is this:

During coffee with one of Rainville’s senior staffers, I mentioned that it had been a tough few weeks for their campaign — what with the plagiarism scandal and then the Foley/Hastert scandal — and the staffer just nodded glumly over his coffee.

But when I mentioned the smooth sailing Welch had been enjoying, the Rainville guy suddenly fired up: “Well, yeah, of course — he’s got Carolyn Dwyer running the campaign!”

And he said it like that was cheating, somehow.

So, having begun this past election cycle eating eggs with the Welch campaign, I felt that the only way to achieve real classical narrative closure would be to end it in the same quiet, atherosclerotic way: another sit-down, this time with Carolyn Dwyer, for a post-election post-mortem.

But at the Oasis Diner, rather than Henry’s. Just to keep it even more real.

Vegetarian Burgers, Sharp-eyed Critique, and the Explosive Ethical Question of Cheesecake

the elusive Carolyn DwyerCarolyn Dwyer is a unique mixture of introvert and extrovert. A tall, imposing figure, she also has the capacity to fold into herself a bit somehow, to seem suddenly smaller and less intimidating, vulnerable even.

She can and will track down the managers of opposing campaigns and deliver a stinging rebuke when she feels they’ve gone back on their word, or taken the low road. But she speaks lovingly and at great length about her “magical” staff, and the chemistry they developed over the course of the cycle.

She is “press shy,” she insists, and speaks softly. Until she begins processing strategy, that is.

Then Dwyer’s words begin to stream so fast that even a momentary glitch in attention leaves the listener paragraphs behind her current thought.

Like most longtime campaign types, she can shift gears in the blink of an eye: deliver a long, nuanced critique of her opposition, and then rattle off the script of a sixty-second commercial that might have turned Rainville’s numbers around.

martha, in camoAnd that is the $64,000 question, for me at least: what went wrong for Rainville, who looked so very good on paper?

Dwyer feels that the race was all but won and lost in the six weeks between Rainville’s announcement and the end of the legislative session in Montpelier, when Welch was still serving as Senate President Pro-Tem.

Internal Welch polling showed Rainville up by nearly ten points following her announcement, with “favorables through the roof” — a set of numbers I’d never gotten wind of during the campaign. Rainville had the chance not only to define herself clearly, but to define Welch during that interval.

When she failed to do so, she became the object of ultimately withering scrutiny: with regard to her fund-raising, her use of Guard personnel for campaign work, etc.

But that early paralysis isn’t the only thing Dwyer sees as having doomed the opposition.

Day-to-day execution never came together for them, apparently, even with regard to the simplest details. After calling a press conference to tout their clean campaign challenge, the Rainville camp faxed Dwyer a two-page copy of the pledge — but it arrived only as two blank pages, which Dwyer promptly delivered to reporters as a symbol of Rainville’s sincerity on the issue.

dwyer, againOf the pledge itself, which would have held Welch to the $1 million dollars he had already raised, Dwyer was and is deeply skeptical: “It was an acknowledgment that she couldn’t raise any money.”

Of course, more than anything it was Rainville’s tortured positions on the War and Rumsfeld that “put her in a horrible impossible box.”

But Dwyer can’t resist working that Rubik’s Cube herself, even now. “She should have come out in those first six weeks with a strong, clear position on the war. Instead, she stood by the President, stood by Rumsfeld and stood out of step with the majority of vermonters.”

In an anti-war year Rainville continued to salute — and lost by nearly 9%.

That would be the same 9% lead she initially enjoyed over Welch, of course. Talk about classical narrative closure.

Another little known fact: Dwyer points out that in a race where gender was a significant issue, the Welch leadership team was composed of “women and Andrew [Savage, Communications Director]. Manager, field director, finance director, comptroller and scheduler all women. Yet the paid staff was divided equally by gender. Unusual to have a woman campaign manager, much less a staff that is half women.”

Unusual indeed. And undeniably effective.

The Welch campaign’s least likely ethical conundrum?

After weeks of bad press involving checks from PACs associated with Tom Delay and Roy Blunt, Martha Rainville decided to try turning the tables: her campaign launched a critique of Welch, pointing out that he had accepted a small amount from Rahm Emanuel.

mmm, cheesecakeIt was a weak counter-punch — Delay was under indictment, and Emanuel was the head of the DCCC, and in no legal trouble of any sort — but the Rainville camp just happened to throw it on the same day that Emanuel mailed the Welch camp a cheesecake.

The excellent expensive very creamy sort of cheesecake — as a way of saying keep up the good work.

According to Dwyer, there was a hurried brainstorming session in her office about the possible ramifications of eating the cheesecake. Heated arguments pro and con. Could this be the micro-issue that crippled a campaign loping to victory?

Finally, the decision was made to snarf the cheesecake.

Dwyer tells these sorts of stories fondly, with the relaxed style of a winning campaign. But not every topic goes down easily, even now, weeks out from the race.

Mid-way through her vegetarian burger, and fully worked up, for instance, Dwyer can’t resist listing and popping a series of persistent myths about the election: that the race was very close (“When is 9 points anything other than a comfortable win?”), that Rainville lost because it was a bad year for Republicans (“This was a year when Douglas and Dubie took over 50% of the vote”), and that Rainville ran a “good” campaign (“Just because you don’t go negative doesn’t mean you ran anything like an effective campaign”).

The final myth? That Rainville is nice-nice.

“She never conceded,” Dwyer says, raising her eyebrows significantly. Even hours after all the major networks had called the race overwhelmingly for Welch, no phone call came in from Rainville.

Well after 10 pm, with the window for local television coverage pressing, Dwyer eventually put in a call herself to a Rainville staffer. More time passed.

Finally, at the last moment, Rainville did call back for Welch, but managed to leave Welch wondering when he hung up the phone whether the race was actually over or not.

“It was a jag move,” Dwyer says, shaking her head.

A jag move? Like a tweak, a poke in the eye with a sharp stick?

“Yeah,” Dwyer explains, “a jag move. A low-rent move. Like if you’re drinking water, and your friend’s drinking vodka, and you switch glasses when they’re not looking and then you drink their vodka. And they’re stuck with the water. That’s a jag move.”

Even the memory of it seems to tick Dwyer off a bit, so much so that her eyes take on a sudden, faintly predatory light.

And I realize that this may in fact be the single-most enduring lesson of the 2006 Vermont election cycle: win or lose, you jag-move Carolyn Dwyer at your peril.

[This piece appeared first in The Vermont Guardian.]

December 9th, 2006

Carolyn Dwyer on the 2006 Election (Or, Why There’s No Photo With This Post)

by Philip Baruth

If there is an untold story in this past election, its name is Carolyn Dwyer. Analysts on both sides of the aisle credit Dwyer with running one of the sharpest, most disciplined state-wide campaigns in modern memory.

2006 Readers Choice AwardAnd Dwyer’s effectiveness is only enhanced by her knack for avoiding the spotlight herself. There is no photo accompanying this post for good reason.

That’s mystique, people.

But Dwyer was good enough to sit down for a long lunch this past week, and take us through the Congressional campaign from her unique front-row perspective.

Very intriguing, if VDB does say so VDB’s own self.

You can find the piece, “Anatomy of a Jag-Move: Carolyn Dwyer on the 2006 Congressional Election,” at the Vermont Guardian, beginning today. And as per usual, it will materialize on VDB this coming Monday.

But why wait? This is America, after all.

bush, scheming to avoid blame

December 8th, 2006

Welch Transition Team Takes Savage Turn

by Philip Baruth

Excellent word out of the Congressional transition team: Andrew Savage will continue to function as Welch’s Communications Director in D.C.

Smart move, Peter. Very smart.

McKenna, Savage: Just Two Guys

Anyone who operated with or around Savage during this past cycle knows that he was born for this sort of work: undeniably brainy, disarmingly affable, and able to map out a complex, changing political situation on the fly — and speak to it in a way that will advance his candidate’s agenda.

Some Communications Directors — if they were to meet their opposition counterpart at a parade in Brandon, say — would look daggers at the guy, and stomp off.

Not Andrew. His solution when he encountered Rainville’s Communications Director Brendan McKenna working the opposite side of the parade?

Cross the street, close in for the hug, and cue the photographer.

And as Brad Pitt told Geena Davis in Thelma and Louise, that shit cannot be taught.

Vaya con dios, Andrew.

December 7th, 2006

The Serial Killing of Hillary Rodham Clinton: How and Why She Is Doomed in 2008

by Philip Baruth

I’ve followed the Clintons closely for about fifteen years now. Really closely, you could say.

bill and hill, in the old daysBy really closely, I mean I’ve read well over forty books about them, as well as every press account and journalistic chin-puller I could get my hands on. Written a novel about Bill Clinton, and reviews of each of their very bad autobiographies.

Finally, while I was writing The X President, a friend donated money to the Clinton Library in my name, which means that somewhere in Little Rock there is a small hunk of granite engraved with the words, “Philip Baruth — Burlington, Vermont.”

Not necessarily proud of any of this. But it is a fact: I know something about the Clintons.

And any student of the couple knows what will happen to Hillary during the 2008 cycle. Four words: She will be humiliated.

That last word, humiliated, I choose very carefully. Because the story of Hillary’s public life, especially as it intertwined with her husband’s career, has been one of prodigious success and promise, dashed by periodic, meditated cruelty on the part of the press and the voting public.

It is a psychological dynamic that has far more to say about America than about Hillary Clinton, but it is real, and it hasn’t diminished in force since she left the White House.

Far from it.

pat oliphant

In Little Rock, Hillary was always perceived as Bill Clinton’s pushy-lawyer wife. And so, following Clinton’s first-term repudiation as Governor, he convinced Hillary to adopt the Clinton name for the re-election bid.

There were many other factors, from registration taxes to chicken sewage, but the “Taming of Hillary” was a key part of the “Shaming of Bill” narrative Arkansas voters ratified when they returned Clinton to the Governor’s mansion.

Precisely the same dynamic marks Clinton’s first two years in office. Hillary assumes a historic position as head of the Health Care effort; she wows Congress with her know-how. And the country absolutely revels in seeing it rejected, and the Clintons humbled in 1994.

As per the Arkansas make-over, Hillary comes back tamed, and Bill comes back shamed, and they win in 1996.

The interesting blip in this cycle is, of course, the public’s reaction to the Lewinsky scandal. They supported Clinton throughout, by a two-thirds majority, but only because the GOP under Gingrich represented such an unsavory alternative.

bill, hill

Still, they wanted Clinton shamed, and impeachment (minus conviction) provided that, in historic terms. But what to do with Hillary? She was the Faithful Wife, and Clinton had already humiliated her.

Short answer: reward her with a Senate seat. That condenses and simplifies a very complex psychological and electoral process, but the statement is correct in the meat of it. Hillary’s abilities had never been in doubt, only the extent of her pride.

With her humility assured, New York voters felt comfortable elevating her — in her own right — to a position of great political power.

But if and when Hillary pulls the switch on a Presidential run, the original dynamic will reassert itself, and in spades: Hillary’s greatest ambition will need to be balanced by her greatest humiliation to date.

st. hillaryThe Humiliation (let’s go ahead and capitalize) will be of an order exceeding Dean’s death-by-a-thousand-screams. And the events themselves will be shaped by the logic of the public’s need for that humiliation.

For instance, will Hillary flame-out in the primaries, or during the general election cycle? Answer? Whichever would be more humiliating.

Right. Hillary will go down in the primary cycle, at the hands of activist Democrats themselves, her people, her base. This the press will read as deep and thrilling Greek tragedy. (You can already see this in the breathless press accounts of the way in which Obama might steal Hillary’s African-American constituency out from under her.)

Do I believe this? Yes. Am I happy about it? No. Because the serial hunting of Hillary is an expression of the worst American impulses, our obsession with personalities and the childish cruelty built into our current journalistic institutions.

Disturbed children run over rabbits with lawn mowers, and pour gasoline on the family cat. And we are disturbed children in America, a good part of the time, sitting in dark rooms with our sugary drinks, watching and cheering as the thing on the screen suffers.

In short, if Hillary flies, we will torture her and pull off her wings. It’s who we still are.

hillary, in a nice clean shot

December 7th, 2006

Iraq Study Group Punts; Welch Recovers

by Philip Baruth

This morning, the Iraq Study Group released its much-hyped, yet blindingly anti-climactic report. Peter Welch responds today as follows:

“Regrettably, the commission falls short of providing the necessary leadership to move our Iraq policy in a new direction by not recommending a timetable for a staged troop withdrawal. Such a timetable, complete with clear expectations of the Iraqi government, is critical to changing course.

“The people of Iraq must now step up and assume responsibility over the future of their country. It is not the job of the American military or the American taxpayer to referee an ongoing civil war.”

welch, obama

What a difference an election makes. The official response, had Rainville pulled it out in the end:

“Regrettably, the commission falls short of providing the necessary leadership to move our Iraq policy in a new direction by not recommending a temporary boost in our current force levels, as has been suggested recently by Senators McCain and Lieberman.

“Only by securing Baghdad with overwhelming force can we create the conditions under which the Iraqis can assume responsibility over the future of their country.”

« Previous Page — Next Page »