Wednesday, September 17, 2008

"Drill, baby, drill"? Nice try, you lying fucks.

Significant factors that must be considered in the discussion about lifting the ban on new offshore oil drilling in the United States:

1--Domestic oil refineries are running at capacity--the ones that are even being used. A lot of them have been shut down, and the oil companies have given every indication of wanting to shut down MORE. See, the thing is, increased refining capacity increases the supply of available gas at any given time, which drives down the per-unit price. This is BAD for oil companies, you know? After all, if they're running more refineries at greater overhead cost and the result is that gas is cheaper, they lose assloads of profit. So when people talk about drilling offshore, this is a crucially important reality that they're ignoring.

2--There are existing offshore leases that are not being used. The amount is at least 50 million acres. New drilling is expensive, and it takes a long time to set up. If yet more offshore areas are opened up for oil leases, plenty of people have pointed out that it would take 10 years to actually find the oil supplies available, drill for them, and start pumping them out of the ground. And there isn't all that much oil there, so it wouldn't be like a huge supply of new oil hitting the market. It would be a tiny increase in available oil, with enormous potential for increased environmental pollution, and all of this when the refineries are running at capacity anyway, so what would we even do with all that oil?

3--The Republicans don't want you to consider this, but if they open up offshore facilities for oil drilling by private, for-profit oil companies, and those oil companies are already running available domestic refineries at capacity, what's going to happen with that oil? Are they gonna put it in cold storage to sell to Americans slowly over the next however long? Nope. They're gonna sell it to whoever wants it. And China wants a lot of oil right now. They've got way more capacity to buy up an increased supply of it than we do. So what will happen is that that oil will hit the world market and most of it will be bought up elsewhere. So yes, domestic gasoline supplies will continue to come from middle eastern sources, and the oil drilled in America will ironically end up sold mostly in foreign nations. We could only stop this by nationalizing our domestic oil production a la Venezuela and selling gasoline through the government. That kind of blatant socialism would be wonderful and save everyone in America a lot of money, but it will NEVER NEVER HAPPEN. EVER.

4--Keep in mind that, even if you ignore my previous caveats about how increased domestic oil production wouldn't really have any effect on refined gasoline supply in America, gas prices will continue to be set by the global market. If you can get $4 for gas in America, why the fuck would you want to decrease prices? Keep the prices high, and increase profit! At this point, we'll never see gas under three bucks again, I don't think. Hell, the companies could drop the average price of a gallon to $3.50 right now and we'd all think it was a fucking bonanza after what we've been paying for the last year. So really, as long as people keep buying the more expensive product, no amount of drilling or supply-increase is ever going to lower the price. The laws of supply and demand only work to the extent that increased supply can drive the price down to a point that people will pay it. Once a price is found that the market will bear, what reason does anyone have to find a lower price? Especially when the alternative is increased profit?

Don't buy into it, people. It's a bunch of fucking oil company hype.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sarah Palin? Are you kidding me?

Bringing this blog back on at least a trial basis. If I keep using it, I might make it a more public affair, but right now, no one really needs to know, especially since this is just a repost of something I posted on a message board.

Palin Disclosures Raise Questions on Vetting

"Aides to Mr. McCain said they had a team on the ground in Alaska now to look more thoroughly into Ms. Palin’s background. A Republican with ties to the campaign said the team assigned to vet Ms. Palin in Alaska had not arrived there until Thursday, a day before Mr. McCain stunned the political world with his vice-presidential choice. The campaign was still calling Republican operatives as late as Sunday night asking them to go to Alaska to deal with the unexpected candidacy of Ms. Palin."

Looking like the vetting process really was a lick-and-a-promise sort of thing, but I gotta say: most of what they're turning up now don't seem like things that matter. I'd quote from the article, but it'll be long if I do, so here's a bullet-point list of what they've got listed:

--Bristol's pregnant, obv.
--Palin's husband got a DUI 22 years ago
--Palin has hired a lawyer for her ethics investigation
--Palin was a member of the Alaska Independence party for 2 years in the mid-90s

Now, that last one seems pretty wack to me, but I don't really understand how the rest of this stuff matters all that much. Her husband's DUI was a long-ass time ago. If he's around her age, that means this was in his early 20s. A lot of people do stupid shit like drive drunk and get busted when they're 23 or so years old. Should it really matter when they're twice as old and haven't done it since? Also, why is Bristol's pregnancy anyone's business, really? The Obama campaign said it was a family matter, and I agree. Plenty of 17 year old daughters have gotten pregnant over the years, and you gotta figure that most of their parents were dismayed when it happened. I don't think it necessarily reflects on the parents; more on the state of teenagers in general. They're horny, they're not particularly aware of consequences, they make rookie mistakes. Big deal. And finally, getting a lawyer for an ethics investigation? Isn't that something that people are advised to do as a matter of course, whether they are guilty or innocent? Why is this a big deal?

What I think all this bullshit does is detract from the more important issue here, which is that Sarah Palin's politics are right-wing enough to border on extremist, and they also appear to be poorly thought out from some of the explanations she's given for them. I don't really care about bogus issues of character that don't really pertain to whether or not she's a good VP candidate--I feel like the media should be focusing on what she actually believes, and perhaps even more importantly (and definitely just as important) her lack of any real experience in politics beyond being the mayor of a 10,000-population town in rural Alaska. This might have been a really good idea in the short term for the McCain campaign--bring in some fresh face no one has ever heard of, shake everything up, dominate a few news cycles--but in the long run, it's not a serious VP pick AT ALL, and everyone will figure this out! They really blew it here. Going for a predictable, boring, and rather neutral pick like Mitt Romney might not have dominated the news this way, but in the long run it would have been way smarter. And what I don't get is why THAT, and not all this silly lifestyle bullshit that doesn't amount to much, is not the dominant point of the coverage.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Lies, all damned lies.

Let's start with the obvious one: President Bush on giving up golf. In an interview with that was also carried as a video feed on (where I first saw it), Bush talked about how he'd stopped playing golf in recent years due to his feeling that it "sends the wrong signal" for the mothers of deceased Iraq War veterans to see him playing golf while we're at war. He characterized this as an act of solidarity with those mothers of veterans and anyone else who has suffered as the result of said Iraq War. When asked when he had made this decision, Bush pointed to the Aug. 19, 2003 bombing in Baghdad that killed U.N. envoy Sergio Vieira de Mello as his reason, saying that he was informed about it while on the golf course and, at that point, decided "it just wasn't worth it anymore."

OK, the obvious question raised by all this, that I thought of as soon as I heard it: why wouldn't Bush have trumpeted this sacrifice during his first term? Sure, he didn't bring it up, and it might have been awkward if he had. But considering that, back in 2003, he had Jeff Gannon operating within the White House press room, and undoubtedly had other ways (Fox News, perhaps?) to get softball questions lobbed to him that he could knock out of the park, it seems that he had every opportunity to advertise this "sacrifice" back when it could have helped him, when he was running for re(?)-election in 2004. But that didn't happen. And I found myself wondering--why? Why are we just hearing about this now, after five years?

Well, there's an easy answer, one I first heard about from Keith Olbermann in his special comment from last night's episode of "Countdown": Bush was lying. First, by saying that his decision to stop playing golf happened in the wake of the De Mello killing: there's ample reportage to indicate that he played golf at least twice after the De Mello killing, as recently as Oct. 13, 2003, two months later. And the second part of the answer is even more damning. Olbermann mentioned it, and Al Kamen of the Washington Post confirms it: In late 2003, President Bush was plagued by a persistent knee injury that forced him to undergo surgery, after which he had to permanently give up running. No one can be absolutely sure that his post-surgery recovery program also forced him to give up golf, but considering that the De Mello-related explanation has been proven incorrect, and that only two months separate Bush's last recorded golf game and that knee surgery, it's entirely possible that this was the culprit. Furthermore, as has been pointed out in many places, Bush's commitment to solidarity with the troops has not stopped him from taking more vacation time than any other president in U.S. history. So obviously, it's not just his concern for the troops that keeps him from playing golf. After all, once he's on vacation, who cares what exactly he's doing with it? Is sitting in the afternoon sun drinking a mint julep on the veranda in Crawford (not that I can prove Bush has ever done THAT either) somehow easier for the mother of a deceased veteran to see?

So the question remains, why would Bush say the whole thing in the first place? After all, the fact that he either didn't remember when he stopped golfing or remembered but chose to lie about it should indicate that it wasn't an incredibly planned-out response. And knowing how Bush typically operates--not in a smart way, but definitely in a manner that indicates a certain amount of animal cunning--I'm thinking he just got a surprising question and decided to think on his feet and come up with a way to spin the answer in his favor. It could have worked, too, if it weren't for those pesky, meddling AP cameras. Makes you wonder how many other times he's done this same sort of revisionist history on other actions and motivations of his at other points during his presidency.

Let's talk about another lie, while we're here: this one from John McCain. Plagued throughout his presidential campaign by a tossed off remark that came during a New Hampshire campaign stop in which he proposed staying in Iraq for up to 100 years, McCain has apparently grown tired of being hammered about this point. Today, in a policy speech that basically amounted to a bunch of vague bullshit about what he's gonna do in his first term (without boring anyone with a single pesky detail about how he's actually gonna accomplish any of this), McCain proposed that major U.S. combat forces will come home from Iraq by 2013. Now, let's leave aside the fact that this sounded an awful lot like a timetable--I don't even want to imagine what Mitt Romney screamed at his TV when he saw it--and talk about what this actually represents: John McCain moving to the left in order to defuse the favorability of his Democratic opponents. After all, didn't he just give a speech about solving the problem of climate change a few days ago? The ramifications are unmistakable--McCain has realized that, if he wants to win this election, he's going to have to at least attempt to defuse some of the biggest Democratic talking points.

But listen, just between you and me? I think he's lying. Maybe not about the climate change thing; McCain has always been pretty outspoken about this particular issue, and I guess it's believable that at least one political stance that he held during his "maverick" period actually stuck around. But about the Iraq war thing--oh, definitely lying. First of all, he seems to think (and said as much in the speech) that we can maintain a presence in Iraq that is small and not involved in combat operations--presumably similar to our current presence in South Korea. Now, I'm hardly the only one out there who finds this plan to be unworkable, to say the least. Plenty of people seem quite aware that any ongoing U.S. troop presence in Iraq is going to be subject to constant attacks by insurgents or terrorists or whatever you want to call them. Think Northern Ireland in the 70s, if you're having trouble conceptualizing what I'm talking about.

But hey, let's put that aside too. Let's look more at the fact that McCain follows his assertion that the Iraq war will be won by 2013 with the assertion that Osama Bin Laden will be captured or killed. I guess it's not beyond the realm of possibility; after all, the reason George W. Bush didn't ever capture Bin Laden is because he blatantly didn't try. By October 2002, he claimed in a press conference that he "didn't think about him [Bin Laden] anymore"--how's that for some Bush-style solidarity with the 9/11 victims and their families? Cute, huh? So granted, if McCain makes an honest effort, he just might be able to capture and/or kill Bin Laden, despite his 7-year head start (Hint: he's in Pakistan). But the important thing to understand here is that McCain isn't talking in this speech about what he THINKS he can accomplish in his first term. This speech is about what he HOPES to accomplish. What we're seeing here is John McCain's own personal letter to Santa, done up all in ribbons and bows and presented to the United States of America as if the letter requesting the presents is the same as the presents themselves. Well, I for one am not buying it. To me it all sounds like, in the words of Perry Farrell, "a big fat fucking lie."

One more lie, and we're back to Bush for this one: "Some seem to believe we should negotiate with terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. We have heard this foolish delusion before. As Nazi tanks crossed into Poland in 1939, an American senator declared: 'Lord, if I could only have talked to Hitler, all this might have been avoided.' We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history." President Bush said that today to Israel's parliamentary body, the Knesset. And we all know what he's implying--that Obama's desire to reach for a diplomatic solution to our current conflict with Iran is the same as Chamberlain's meeting with Hitler in 1938. Which is, of course, bullshit. Joe Biden came out and called it as such, saying that Bush's comments were "outrageous, for the president of the United States to go to a foreign country, to sit in the Knesset and make this kind of ridiculous statement." And damn if Biden isn't right smack dab on the money, especially considering that Bush chose to violate Godwin's law in perhaps the least appropriate place in the whole world--Israel, the country that was created at least partly as an apology from the civilized world to the Jewish people. I doubt the Israeli people will speak as one on this issue, but I can't imagine that at least some of them were more appalled at Bush's tossing around of loose talk about the perpetrator of the Holocaust in connection with a partisan political dispute in his own country, half a world away. As Biden further pointed out tonight in an interview on Chris Matthews' "Hardball", both Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates also believe that diplomacy with Iran should be attempted, and attempted NOW. By calling this sort of thing "appeasement", Bush equally dismisses Senator Obama and members of his own cabinet. Of course, when later asked during a press conference, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino denied that the remark was intended to reference Obama, a chickenshit move if there ever was one, not to mention a further lie (because Ms. Perino, none of us were born yesterday). Meanwhile, John McCain was at least not afraid to say what Perino wouldn't come out with. Here's a bunch of bullshit on the issue from McCain: "This does bring up an issue that we will be discussing with the American people, and that is, why does Barack Obama, Senator Obama, want to sit down with a state sponsor of terrorism? It shows naivete and inexperience and lack of judgment to say that he wants to sit down across the table from an individual who leads a country that says Israel is a stinking corpse, that is dedicated to the extinction of the state of Israel. My question is, what does he want to talk about? [...] Peace through strength is the way we achieve peace in the world. That's the point. I will debate this issue with Senator Obama throughout this campaign." This article doesn't have the full quote, but I saw it on TV and McCain referenced Neville Chamberlain by name. On "Hardball" tonight, Chris Matthews had a rather ugly screaming match with a conservative talk radio guy, I forget his name (and I'm not looking it up--this entry has too many hyperlinks as it is), who could not explain what it was about Chamberlain's appeasement of Hitler that was wrong. Eventually, Matthews explained it himself--Chamberlain gave away half of Czechoslovakia to Hitler--and used this to make a very valid point: that the problem that can occur with talking to enemies is when you give in too much to their demands. As Obama has often pointed out, his talking to Iran is merely a first option, not a last resort. If talking is not enough to reach an acceptable agreement, then fine, we move towards other, more militaristic options (if that is what becomes necessary). But by refusing to try any talking (other than propagandistic sabre-rattling in speeches that the Iranian leaders watch on TV just like we do), we eliminate a possible solution without ever testing its viability. As Joe Biden pointed out elsewhere in that "Hardball" interview, what Bush is denouncing with respect to Obama and Iran is something that he used to very beneficial results in discussions with Libya and North Korea during his time in office. So what makes the difference? What is it about the Middle East that incites only sabre-rattling from Republicans (including John McCain--or did you think that "peace through strength" meant something other than using threats of war to avoid war?)? I don't know, but I don't personally believe that these separate sets of rules for different regions of the globe serves anyone's purpose.

Unless, of course, there's oil in Iran.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

John Hagee apologizes to Catholics (but not to gays).

Yahoo news reports that "Hagee's support for McCain has drawn cries of outrage from some Catholic leaders who have called on McCain to reject Hagee's endorsement", and that Hagee has attempted to heal this rift by writing the following to William Donohue, president of the Catholic League for Civil and Religious Rights: "Out of a desire to advance a greater unity among Catholics and evangelicals in promoting the common good, I want to express my deep regret for any comments that Catholics have found hurtful."

And you know, that's great and all, but what bugs me is that he has taken great care to do this while conspicuously ignoring the outcry against his anti-gay remarks that occurred after Hurricane Katrina. Yahoo mentions this too, but barely. 21 paragraphs in, we get the following commentary on this issue: "Hagee is no stranger to provocative remarks. On National Public Radio in 2006, he said Hurricane Katrina was God's judgment because "New Orleans had a level of sin that was offensive to God." He has written that the feminist movement represents "a rebellion against God's pattern for the family." On Tuesday, the Democratic National Committee said that considering those and other comments McCain still should renounce Hagee's endorsement." I find it interesting that it takes this long for the article to even bring up the other controversial remarks that Hagee has made. Maybe they're just trying a little too hard for objectivity, but I feel like the tone of the article treats the anti-Catholic remarks as something for which an apology is needed, while the anti-gay and anti-feminist remarks that are glossed quickly over in paragraph 21 of a 24 paragraph article are treated more like something that certain fringe groups (like the Democratic party, every gay person, every feminist, and every person who knows and loves someone from either or both groups--hardly seems fringe to me, but what the fuck do I know?) have a problem with, but are not at all definitively established as hurtful and unacceptable slurs. Is this the level of discourse that we've reached in 2008? A level so rudimentary that, while race and creed are off-limits as factors for judgment, gender and sexual orientation are not? I suppose we saw a little bit of this when Hillary Clinton took some obviously sexism-fueled heat at certain points in her campaign, but it's not as if her womanhood was the only thing to criticize her for (oh, far from it). And she kind of ruined her own standing as a potential victim with her recent comments about how her support base is "white Americans".

So what are we left with? A (vaguely) liberal female candidate who isn't above playing the race card? A conservative political party who want to be regarded as viable in the 21st century but who won't repudiate anti-gay hate speech (Andrew Sullivan--who is actually trending liberal lately anyway--and the Log Cabin Republicans be damned)? Barack Obama is fond of saying that "the American people are smarter than that", and giving all of us credit for being tired of negativity and distractions. Well, for god's sake, I hope he's right, because there's sure going to be plenty of negativity and distraction thrown his way before all this is over. Meanwhile, John McCain can seek the endorsement of a televangelist who hates gays and feminists and expect minimal backlash. It doesn't exactly leave me feeling inspired.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

The race card.

I've been thinking today about Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana, their status in the Democratic primary elections, and what race may have had to do with Hillary Clinton's ability to hang on for this long. And I've come to the conclusion that Hillary was lucky that these states were placed at the points they occupied in the primary elections. What's more, I think it was race that made these rust belt states work in Clinton's favor.

It's been weird to me to watch the mainstream news media dance around concerns of race. They'll poll by demographics and make comments like "it's been tough for Obama to bring working class whites over to his side", but they don't really want to discuss why. They can show us numbers that indicate that race was a factor for the predominantly white electorate in those rust belt states, and that the majority of white voters who indicated that race was a factor in their decision broke heavily for Clinton. So they'll give us 2, and then give us 2 more, but we have to do the math and come up with 4 on our own.

4 in this example equals "racism". Yes, I said it, and yes, I think it's an important factor that needs to be discussed. I'm disappointed in the media for not engaging in discussion, but it's a sensitive topic, and I guess in a race that brought us Obama's Philadelphia speech on race relations, I can't really complain that it's being completely ignored. But if you ask me, not enough is being said.

So here's something I want to say: this presidential campaign between Barack Obama and John McCain has the potential to be a referendum on American racism as it stands at this point in our history. Which is not to say that if John McCain wins, America is a racist country. But it is to say that the tone of the campaign, and the things that either do or don't bring Obama down, will tell us something.

Let's get back to the rust belt. Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Indiana. All states that went for Clinton in varying amounts. James Carville's famous quote about Pennsylvania, that it's Philadelphia at one end, Pittsburgh at the other, and Alabama inbetween, is appropriate here. One thing that that quote doesn't explain about that state is this--in Alabama, as in any Southern state, any former slave state, there's a relatively large amount of working class blacks. I am a resident of Virginia, and I've been seeing it all my life. I grew up in a tiny little town, and there were sections of the town that were populated by nothing but black people for blocks and blocks. Left over from segregation, no doubt--and hey, this was rural Virginia in the late 70s and early 80s; for all I know, de facto housing segregation was still in place. There were certainly towns and entire counties in the area around where I lived then, and where I live now, that were and are predominantly black. Charles City and King And Queen counties, both about an hour's drive east of my current location, are heavily black. Same with Calverton and Catlett, towns in the same county where I was born. You aren't going to find any places like this in Pennsylvania.

In states like Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, Obama's had no trouble handily winning the Democratic primaries. This is because he's had that rural working-class black population to count on. Bill Clinton may have inadvertently handed him this demographic with his tossed-off comparison of Obama to Jesse Jackson in South Carolina, but whatever the reason, black voters have been going for Obama at margins of 90% or higher. In a state like Virginia, or North Carolina, this has been enough to more than compensate for the racist whites who turn out to vote for Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries. Of course, here in the south, most of those racist whites have been Republicans for quite a while anyway, so Obama will have a huge influx of them to contend with in the general election, most of whom were voting for Mike Huckabee when the primaries were held down here in the South.

Of course, they might have all gone out to vote for Huckabee in the rust belt too, if it weren't for the fact that the Republicans had a presumptive nominee long before the Democrats got there. I don't know, I'm probably throwing around too many variables anyway. But my real point here is this--without racist whites being balanced out by black voters who break heavily for Obama, rust belt states will tend to favor Clinton. They'll also probably tend to favor McCain in the general election, assuming those people bother to go out and vote--and that's an open question. People who'd prefer Clinton to McCain, who more have a problem with Obama being a black president than his being a liberal, populist president, are probably not going to see John McCain as a much better option, and they may not bother to go out and vote at all.

Whatever they do, the fact is that it will be hard for Obama to carry rust belt states where racist white people are a significant factor, and unlike in the southern states where there are also plenty of racist white people, there aren't a lot of black people excited about getting to vote for a black president to balance them out. So Obama may lose rust belt states that are more likely to go in the Democrat column if Hillary Clinton is the nominee. There aren't that many states like this, though. West Virginia and Kentucky, sure. And Indiana, Pennsylvania, Ohio... OK, now we're done. If he loses them all, that's 65 electoral votes lost. That's not an insignificant number. But he probably won't lose them all, and Hillary Clinton probably wouldn't have won them all.

Regardless, whether Obama wins or loses these states, if he wins the presidential election--and he's certainly got a good chance, considering the mood of the electorate this year--it will prove something to everyone who questioned whether Obama was handicapped by his inability to win over a large amount of working class whites: that no one needs to court the votes of racist white people.

I'd really like to believe that, 40 years after the assassination of Martin Luther King, that racism is a fringe belief, that nobody except whackjobs really lets someone's race influence their judgment of that person. I know I'm probably not right, and I know that the mainstream news media pretending that I am right, and that such a topic therefore need not be addressed, will not necessarily make it so. But I know that if Obama is to win the presidential election, it will have to be because racist white people who can't stand the thought of the president not sharing their skin color are not enough of a factor to give the election to John McCain. As I said back at the beginning, it's definitely possible for Obama to lose without racism having lost the election for him. But he can't win unless the forces of racism are too insignificant to stop him. And I do so want to believe that they are.

Time alone will tell.

All over but the shouting.

So last night pretty much marked the end of Hillary Clinton's campaign, or at least the end of her as a viable candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination. Whether she'll hang on for another couple of weeks or even months remains to be seen, but with Obama's decisive victory in North Carolina and near-steal of Indiana from her at the last minute, he gained enough of an advantage both in delegate count and popular vote that it's become impossible for Hillary to make a convincing argument to the superdelegates as to why she should be the one they support. I'm sure we'll see more superdelegates making their way into the Obama camp over the next few days, and now that it's become public knowledge that Clinton lent her campaign an additional $6.4 million last month on top of the $5 million she lent it earlier in the year, it's obvious that she's having to struggle just to stay alive.

Now the discussion is once again about Hillary becoming Obama's running mate. I have no idea if this discussion is actually affecting the decisions of the Obama campaign, but I for one certainly hope that it's not. A lot of what makes the Republican party want to run against her so bad this year is her associations with Bill Clinton and the divisive politics of the 90s and the Clinton era. They feel like they can bring out a lot of their base that may otherwise stay home due to their lack of support for John McCain by having Hillary Clinton to vote against. If Barack adds her to his ticket, he resurrects a lot of that animosity that will otherwise die if he's the Democratic nominee. Furthermore, by positioning himself as the candidate for change, as the candidate who cares about populist issues that have been left behind by the politics of the last 20 to 30 years, Obama has had occasion at times to go after both the Reagan/Bush/Dubya legacy AND that of the Clintons. This is fair, if you ask me, because the Clintons definitely represented a more "lifestyle" approach to liberalism, in which they backed socially liberal causes like abortion and gay rights, but took a more pro-business stance than the party of Roosevelt and Kennedy had ever been comfortable taking in the past. The idea of the Democrats supporting NAFTA just like the Republicans was, if not quite a betrayal of their traditional working class base, certainly a different prioritizing than had previously existed in the party. Ross Perot was the only one who ever talked sense about NAFTA back in the early 90s, and time has proven him right. So now, Obama can disassociate himself with the causes of the rich lifestyle liberals who Clinton represented in the 90s, the ones who made money by sending working class jobs overseas and condemning the workers of states like Ohio to the dead-end job purgatory they live in now (making it truly ironic that voters like that seem to be one of Clinton's strongest bases in primary voting). But he can't do that with Clinton on the ticket.

And to that point: I'm certainly hoping that this general election race in the fall sees Obama reaching for those populist issues, bringing concern for everyone in the country and not just the rich back into the national public debate. In the 90s, and continuing up through 2004, we saw both the Democrats and the Republicans courting big business as an economic platform. Both parties were adamantly in favor of the interests of the moneyed class, and neither party gave a damn about the economic concerns of those who were less well off. Granted, there was the attempt by the Clintons to create a national health care policy, but they handled it so badly that the Republicans were successful in spinning it to make it look like "the government telling you what doctor you can see" instead of "the government helping you to be able to see a doctor at all", which is what it was.

And of course, we all saw what happened to the Democrats when they shifted the debate to issues of lifestyle and away from the types of concerns that actually impact people on a day to day basis. Working class voters, who are more likely to be socially conservative, saw that they had no one to vote for who would care about their economic interests. So, all things being equal, they cast a vote against the godless latte-drinking big city elitist liberals. They voted for laws against gay marriage, and restrictions on abortion, and anything that struck them as "Christian", regardless of the fact that the Republicans were even quicker to move their jobs overseas, leave them with the military as the only option, and then send them to the Middle East to die for cheap oil (that hasn't really even been that cheap). At least they could agree with the Republicans on SOMETHING.

Obama has taken back the Democratic ability to say to the voters with populist economic concerns: "Look, I agree with you about important issues." This is something Hillary Clinton has been notably unable to do. She's tried on issues of free trade, by pretending she never really liked NAFTA--a policy she vigorously supported right up until she started running for president--and she's tried to make herself seem like a candidate that will help the working folks out during the recession, but only by adopting the same sort of flawed thinking that has led George W. Bush to mail everyone checks (and vastly increase the national debt) in an effort that will undoubtedly fail to stave off the recession for more than a week or two. A gas tax holiday? Never mind that it was John McCain's idea in the first place--even ignoring that, it's a dumb idea. It creates more problems without solving the problem it's meant to address. Best case scenario, we'd have 3 months of gas prices being 10 cents a gallon lower than they would be anyway. And guess what--10 cents off $4 isn't really much at all. Besides, as Barack Obama pointed out during his vocal and principled opposition to this tax holiday, he voted for a similar holiday during his tenure in the Illinois state senate, and saw the gas companies merely increase their prices to be in line with where the prices would be were the gas tax still in place. So consumers paid the same price, but instead of the money going towards government, it went to oil companies and their profit margins.

I'm getting a bit afield of my point here, but it all supports the same larger argument--having Hillary Clinton on Barack Obama's presidential ticket might seem like a good idea from some angles, but on the whole, it's just going to create the same sort of bad situation that would exist if she herself were running for president. If the roles were reversed, there'd be every reason in the world for Hillary to take on Obama as a vice presidential candidate, in order to reap the profits of his grassroots approach and huge support base in the area of younger voters and independents--as well as African-Americans, of course. But since a lot of what has led Obama to win the nomination has been the contrast he established between himself and Hillary Clinton, all he'd do by turning around and adding her to the ticket is make himself seem more like her. And for both the new voting base he's created and the Republicans who will be contemplating whether to vote for John McCain in the fall, this is the worst step he could take.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Hillary's lucky.

Last night, while talking to a girl at a party, the subject of the presidential election came up. Admittedly, this is the kind of subject I should stay away from when talking to girls at parties, but no one has ever accused me of being socially adept. Anyway, when I stated that Obama has the Democratic nomination pretty much locked up, and that, short of a miracle, even the superdelegates would not be enough to flip things Hillary's way, she was very surprised. Based on the media coverage in recent weeks, she was assuming that Hillary would get the nomination for sure. And this girl wasn't stupid--indeed, based on our conversation I got the impression that she was quite an intelligent person. Obviously, she wasn't as well-informed about the election as I am, but not everyone who is smart follows this stuff as closely as I do, and someone who follows it more in passing could certainly be forgiven for thinking that things were a lot closer than they are. This is one of the many ways that the news media treats the public like idiots. Not all the time, of course--there are plenty of stories out there about how Obama's pledged-delegate lead is practically insurmountable--but the headlines ignore this fact in order to create drama and grab ratings, and in so doing, misrepresent the facts in order to make their stories better. This is how the media treatment of the public as if they're idiots becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy; when you report the news as if to idiots, it doesn't give the smarter people the opportunity to grasp nuances of the stories--nuances that as a rule are left out.

I wanted to talk about the fact that Hillary Clinton was incredibly lucky to have Pennsylvania be the state that restarted the primary votes after a six-week break; this concept was foremost in my mind when I created this blog a few days ago. I nearly decided to forget about the whole thing, since it took a few days to get the opportunity to write about it, but after talking to that girl at that party last night, I realized that a lot of people don't know the real story about that situation. Not that I'm flattering myself that anyone actually reads this thing, especially since it's only existed for a few days, but I wanted to go ahead and put this stuff out there, so that on the off chance that someone stumbles across it, it'll be available for them to read.

So, let's get into it. First and foremost, it's important to understand that Hillary Clinton was always going to win the Pennsylvania primary. It's a state in which people register by party and are then restricted to voting in the primary of their own party. So, Republicans and independents, groups that typically break heavily in Obama's favor when they vote in the Democratic primaries, were restricted from participation. Obama's campaign did as much as they could to help people registered as independent or Republican switch their registration in time to participate in the Democratic primary, but considering the fact that a lot of people see their registration status as too important to change just for one primary, this was never going to have that much of an impact.

Another important factor--other than Florida, Pennsylvania has the oldest average age of any state's population in the country. It's been shown over and over again during this primary season that Obama's strength is primarily with the youth vote. A state without all that many young people wasn't going to do as well for him, and Pennsylvania's one of the most lacking-in-youth states in the country. Plus, older people who are Democrats at all skew more towards Hillary Clinton. I tend to attribute this factor more to older women who want to vote for a female presidential candidate and don't think they'll live long enough to vote for another one after Hillary, but there are other factors here. Hillary is of an older generation than Barack Obama, who is only 45--the same age Bill Clinton was when he was elected in 1992. And while I don't like to figure that race plays much of a part in people's decisions on who to vote for president in the year 2008, the fact is that older white people are more likely to balk at voting for someone from a racial minority than younger people are. Since Pennsylvania is both older and whiter than average, it only stands to reason that Obama would have more hurdles to overcome here than in a lot of other states.

Hillary Clinton's campaign has used Obama's loss in Pennsylvania to portray him as someone who "can't close the deal", who can build up plenty of momentum but always gets derailed at the moment when he should be able to finally take the definitive lead. This line of argument ignores two really important points, and the fact that the cards were always stacked against Obama in Pennsylvania is only one of them. The other is that Obama, without a doubt, DOES have a definitive lead in the delegates needed to gain him the nomination. Hillary's 30-delegate lead where superdelegates are concerned doesn't even begin to cut significantly into Obama's 150-delegate lead in pledged delegates. And in order for Hillary to cut into that lead, she'll need either 65% or more of the votes in all 9 of the states and territories left to cast their votes in the Democratic primary--which she won't get--or 65% or more of the remaining uncommitted superdelegates to go her way--which, again, won't happen, especially since Obama does have such a dramatic lead in the popular vote and in pledged delegates.

Would Hillary's campaign be able to argue that Obama was unable to "close the deal" if the first state to vote after the 6-week break was North Carolina? Certainly not--right now, Obama enjoys a 10% lead in North Carolina, and will likely win this state no matter what Hillary Clinton's campaign does. So, were this to have happened on April 22nd instead of May 6th, when it's going to happen, would it have shown that Obama COULD close the deal, where the Pennsylvania results didn't? No, of course not. The fact is, Obama closed the deal a while ago. He doesn't need to show anything else to make it obvious that he is the candidate that has secured the necessary delegates to win the Democratic nomination. At this point, as Paul Westerberg once said, it's all over but the shouting. Obama's loss in Pennsylvania did nothing to change that. It may have made Hillary look better in the press than she would have had she taken a loss, but that improvement in appearance is so much smoke and mirrors, and it'll be shown as such within the next month.