“Hard” Questions

The above interview, which involved Campbell Brown questioning McCain campaign manager Tucker Bounds, caused McCain to cancel a planned interview with Larry King. The reason cited by McCain’s camp? “A relentless refusal by certain on-air reporters to come to terms with John McCain’s selection of Alaska’s sitting governor as our party’s nominee for vice president.” But the interview sees Brown simply trying to find out about Sarah Palin, while Bounds repeatedly declares that she has as much experience as the competition. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. And here, questioned by Brown, Bounds cannot produce a single example to support his claim. And he’s their manager! The “relentless refusal” here doesn’t come from Bounds, but from McCain’s people. If they cannot be bothered to prove their argument, then they have no business presenting their impudent claims before the American people.

Barack Obama, by contrast, will be appearing this Thursday on FOX News’s The O’Reilly Factor.

So here we have one presidential candidate incapable of answering the most basic of questions and the other quite willing to appear on a talk show that is biased against him. While McCain certainly showed courage as a POW, it is quite evident that he is unwilling to evince one scintilla of this same valor in the present day. And if McCain truly believes that talking to Larry King, one of the most softball interviewers on television, represents a difficulty, then how can he be seriously expected to deal with the considerably greater challenges that may await him in the White House?

Amy Goodman, Democracy Now! Producers, AP Photographer Arrested

The Washington Post is reporting that Democracy Now! radio host Amy Goodman was arrested in St. Paul after inquiring with the police over the arrest of two Democracy Now! producers Sharif Abdel Kouddous and Nicole Salazar. Goodman and her producers were in St. Paul to report on the Republican National Convention. Goodman was held in custody for three hours, and Goodman has claimed the Secret Service ripped off her press credentials to get on the floor of the Republican National Convention. Meanwhile, the two producers are still being held in custody. (An audio file of the arrest can be found here. In addition, The Uptake has a camera view from another angle.)

Also arrested (in a separate incident) was Associated Press photographer Matt Rourke. While the charges against Goodman, Kouddous, and Salazar are uncertain, Rourke was charged with a gross misdemeanor riot charge.

Glenn Greenwald has more, writing:

Beginning last night, St. Paul was the most militarized I have ever seen an American city be, even more so than Manhattan in the week of 9/11 — with troops of federal, state and local law enforcement agents marching around with riot gear, machine guns, and tear gas cannisters, shouting military chants and marching in military formations. Humvees and law enforcement officers with rifles were posted on various buildings and balconies. Numerous protesters and observers were tear gassed and injured.

Let us be clear on this. This goes well beyond Josh Wolf refusing to turn over evidence. Journalists who had the decency and the effrontery to ask hardball questions were prevented from conducting their work. None of these people were causing a riot. They were in St. Paul doing their jobs. They were there talking to people and reporting the news. Their collective right to be there, which was confirmed by their press credentials, is protected by the First Amendment. If the St. Paul Police Department does not come clean with details and specific allegations, then it is up to the American public to ensure that the police who arrested these journalists are levied with the appropriate penalties.

[UPDATE: Democracy Now has issued a press release indicating that Kouddous and Salazar have been released. Goodman was charged with obstruction. According to the press release, Kouddous and Salazar were charged with felony riot charges.]

Play

Is Hillary Finished?

Liveblogging the elections.

12:18 AM: Listening to WIBC-FM feed. Indiana remains close, with Hillary ahead by only two percentage points. Gary, Indiana remains the big mystery. Hillary has just announced that she will not appear at any public event tomorrow. Does a public event entail a media appearance? Will Hillary concede?

12:22 AM: Gary, Indiana Mayor Rudy Clay’s prediction: “Barack is winning precincts 297 to eight and 153 to two and all that. Gary is going to be a big plurality for Barack Obama, a big plurality.”

12:25 AM: 92% Indiana precincts now reporting, still 51-49. Clinton 588,823 to Obama 568,156. Still waiting on the big bag from Lake County. From WIBC: “The national media is seeing a county that’s just starting to release numbers.” Some playful banter from these guys on the radio, who are marveling over how they’re now the center of attention and how the outside media doesn’t understand Indiana politics. It sure as hell doesn’t involve “hanky-panky.”

12:30 AM: Some additional numbers put Clinton in front. “Gary ain’t come in yet.”

12:33 AM: A report from the Terre Haute Tribune Star, where I am now looking out for a basement. Obama volunteer Casey Chatham began volunteering about a week and a half ago. He spent $57 to FedEx his absentee ballot from Nairobi.

12:35 AM: Also in the Tribune Star: considerable phone mobilization from the Clinton camp.

12:40 AM: Hillary had given a victory speech, but then the numbers began coming in from Lake County. Then there was the mysterious cancellation of public events. 95% of the vote now in, difference now 15,000 votes. Looking for corroboration of this.

12:42 AM: The Oregonian does the math.

12:44 AM: Marc Ambinder offers smart advice. (via Daily Kos)

12:45 AM: It appears that the clock on my computer is a few minutes off. Pardon any chronological confusions as these reports continue. I don’t think I can go to bed until Lake County comes in.

12:47 AM: More info on Hillary’s “declaration of victory.”

12:50 AM: Obama needs to win the remaining precincts by 69% in order to win. But the WIBC guys insist that because these precincts are based in Gary, Indiana, this could happen. Some specific info being blogged here.

12:51 AM: Lake County: 316 out of 561. Obama 46,759 to Clinton 25,100. Wow, this could happen!

12:52 AM: NWI: “We’re updating as fast as we get the results from inside the Lake County Government building.” Keep hitting F5, folks. Keep hitting F5. And thanks to the NWI’s dutiful reporting.

12:54 AM: NWI: Still 7,000 absentee ballots to count. All of Gary’s results in.

12:55 AM: Associated Press: “The northwest Indiana county is the state’s second-most populous with nearly 500,000 people. It had reported no results as of 11 p.m. Eastern Time. A large number of absentee ballots and a record turnout delayed the tallies, and polls there close an hour later than much of the state because Lake is in the Central time zone.”

12:57 AM: I highly recommend the WIBC feed if you’re a political information junkie. These guys are tracking all news updates in real time and providing specific sources. (And there’s some good radio from Indiana!)

12:59 AM: Globe and Mail: “The most unfortunate aspect of the much-maligned Lake County keeping Indiana interesting past midnight is that a completely befuddled Larry King has been forced to take the air while the results are still in question…..Update: After about eight minutes of airtime, Larry King appears to have been sent home in favour of more Anderson Cooper. Although it’s entirely possible Larry is still talking, and they just haven’t told him he’s off the air.”

1:02 AM: Video of Hillary’s “victory.”

1:08 AM: New Jersey Star-Ledger: “The divide feeds the Clinton argument that Obama can’t win in November unless he can convince white voters and those further down the income and education scale — the so-called ‘Reagan Democrats’ — that he understands their needs. It prompted Paul Begala, a longtime Clinton supporter, to complain on a television panel show last night that Democrats ‘can’t win with eggheads and African-Americans.'”

1:10 AM: Slideshow of Indiana voters.

1:12 AM: How Obama Beat the Line.

1:13 AM: WIBC on why we’re in a holding pattern. “We’re up to 98% in Lake County and yet we’re still at 95% in Indiana.” 99%, Clinton 51, Obama 49.

Looks like it’s over. Indiana for Clinton.

Final Thoughts:

Clinton was dealt a major blow tonight. The only way that Clinton was able to win Indiana — and this was a slim victory at best — was through a campaign that involved saying damn near anything and using any slimy tactic in the book to win a vote. These are the actions of a political scum. Nixon is now widely regarded as one of the great American scumbags of all time. But let’s not forget. Nixon’s scummery still nabbed 68.7% of the popular vote in 1972. You could argue that it was George McGovern. But let’s not underestimate the way the casual American voter relates to scums or elects a President based on whether he’s the right guy to have a beer with. I am not certain just what dipsomaniac cachet Clinton has, but let’s not entirely rule it out.

Obama demonstrated that his base is quite strong, that he can maintain momentum based on a more ethical campaign. But was it Hillary hatred or hope that did the trick in North Carolina? It remains to be seen whether Obama’s North Carolina victory will translate into a movement against McCain in November, should he succeed in securing his presidential nomination. The theory of whether Obama has the ability to “close the deal,” however, is beginning to lose credibility. Even with all the superdelegate vagaries, it appears mathematically probable that he will be the Democratic frontrunner.

But it still remains a horror franchise with an endless stream of sequels. Hillary is Jason from Friday the 13th. She’s a candidate who doesn’t understand that she’s dead, but who continues to hack away at any innocuous ideal resembling a few kids fornicating in the forest. Despite skillful attempts at killing her off, she cannot be murdered. Perhaps she’ll succeed in massacring the remaining Democratic ideals before being confined to a space station. Or maybe we’ll all lose interest in the franchise.

The big question mark over Clinton’s head is why she canceled her public appearances today. Whether for health reasons or general fatigue, this is a catastrophic decision on her part. This is no longer a campaign in which you take a day off.

It suggests, by and large, that Clinton herself is the one here who is unable to close the deal, or come anywhere close to offering a fair one. But she’s tried every trick in the book and it’s still not working. If she doesn’t win this, and it looks increasingly likely that she won’t, there will be long memories and many pissed off people remembering what she did to split the Democrats. She could be as much of a political pariah as George Bush is likely to be, come January 2009.

Hillary’s Tears, Our Tears

hillary.jpgLorrie Moore’s naive essay on Hillary Clinton not only demonstrates the unspoken precept that skilled fiction writers are sometimes remarkably simplistic when they write about politics, but deploys the same scripted liberalism that every progressive is now expected to chant to peers in coffeehouses. The formula, it seems, boils down to this: Hillary Bad, Obama Good.

Now I’m not exactly a Hillary lover. Clinton waffled from a 1993 universal health care plan which mandated all employers to provide health care for employees to her latest “universal” plan, which shifts the mandatory financial burden to individual citizens. But a proper universal health care program is single-payer, regulated by the government, and doesn’t abdicate the spoils to HMOs. Clinton is also the senator who received the most money from HMOs in the 2008 election cycle. (Obama was second.)

Like every good left-leaning American, I have been seduced by the seemingly limitless reserves of Obama’s charisma: his smooth handling of Bill O’Reilly’s arrogant attack dog antics, his adroit response to anti-abortion protesters, insert your magical Obama moment here.

The man is slick. Slicker than Bill Clinton. I firmly believe that he can be the next President. He looks good. Too good.

In comparing Obama with Clinton, Moore writes that “unlike her, he is original and of the moment. He embodies, at the deepest levels, the bringing together of separate worlds. The sexes have always lived together, but the races have not.”

wecandoitreal.jpgI wonder if Moore remains aware that, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, women earn 77 cents for every dollar their male counterparts make. (The disparity, incidentally, is better in Washington, DC, where women make 91 cents to the male dollar. This may explain why Capitol Hill remains somewhat out-of-touch on this issue. An Equal Rights Amendment may provide succor to these problems.) Or maybe Moore remains unaware that young women are earning degrees at a higher rate than men do.

This certainly doesn’t reflect a case where the sexes “have always lived together.” Unless, of course, we’re talking garden-variety cohabitation. And while Obama may talk the talk, I fail to see how Obama’s legislation record brings together separate worlds in any way that is substantially different from Hillary Clinton. The oft bandied boast is that Obama was not Senator in 2002 and therefore unable to vote for the congressional resolution authorizing Bush to use force in Iraq. But what’s not to suggest that within this climate of fear, Obama wouldn’t have done so? (The record demonstrates that John Edwards also voted for it. Kucinich and Paul did not.)

The distinction then is predicated on retroactive speculation. Which is a bit like seriously considering the ridiculous question Bernard Shaw asked of Michael Dukakis during the 1984 Democratic presidential debates: “Governor, if Kitty Dukakis were raped and murdered, would you favor an irrevocable death penalty for the killer?” Kitty Dukakis was not raped and murdered. Obama was not Senator during 2002. Nonetheless, it is an American political tradition to rate presidential candidates according to what they may have done under certain circumstances, as opposed to a more reasonable survey of what they are likely to do based on their past records.

So ultimately the difference between Obama and Clinton comes down to charisma. To watch Obama in action is to experience the most pleasant and capable of political machines. He’ll jazz up a crowd in minutes and give them the fleeting sense that they can change the world. But who is the wizard behind the curtain? Progressives — including myself — were so eager to fixate upon Karl Rove, but why do we fail to apply the same standards to those who run Obama’s campaign?

Last week, Hillary Clinton welled up on camera and was roundly ridiculed. The question arose over whether this was sincere. Cruel YouTube parodies surfaced soon after. For some, the tears confirmed the inevitable. Here are some of the YouTube comments:

I really feel that Hillary Clinton is a worhless [sic] piece of shit.

i hate this woman

This bitch won because she got on national television with her fake crocodile tears in front of million of viewers.

Yea what a fucking cow. She should be making pizza.

This is a very EVIL fricken human being…She should be ashamed of herself! If she had any heart at all she would finally tell the truth!

Go and fuck Bill.. instead of cheating people

Hillary Clinton is a worthless piece of shit.

And so on.

This was not, however, a Muskie moment, even if an op-ed columnist like Newsweek‘s Karen Breslau was keen to dredge up the droplet that careened down Muskie’s cheek and sealed his political fate. Until the primary results dictate otherwise, Clinton is still very much in the game.

What was not factored in Breslau’s article was the double standard with regard to gender. I find myself being one of the few who remains suspicious about never seeing a gaffe from Obama. Real humans screw up. But presidential politics demands perfection or, as Bush’s two victories confirm, a guy you can drink a beer with.

The cult of personality remains so seductive that even adept writers like Moore offer this foolishness: “it is a little late in the day to become sentimental about a woman running for president. The political moment for feminine role models, arguably, has passed us by.”

On the contrary, the present political moment is very much about whether a president has the right to appear sentimental before the cameras, which in turn is very much predicated upon whether the candidate is a man or a woman. It does not matter what Hillary Clinton’s positions are. What matters most of all is whether or not the “bitch” or “the worthless piece of shit” fabricated her tears.

The question we should be asking is just why these gratuitous issues of telegenic interpretation are deflecting more pressing concerns, such as platforms and positions, and why even the best of us are happily swallowing the bait.