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      A religion is an ideology with supernatural elements. We consider it OK to criticize Marxists or capitalists or libertarians or monarchists, but we tend to shy  away from saying that a religion has bad elements. The Hindu caste system is evil. It needs to end, and it needs to end today. If The Laws of […]
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Week in Review

Match with deathI’m no chess master. In fact, my dad taught me to play chess, or actually, I was his guinea pig and he tried out the crafty moves he’d read about in his chess books on me. Not a good way to introduce a kid to chess. After teaching me the basic moves, he set out to check me in as few moves as possible. I gave it three games and then gave up in disgust. It was like David against Godzilla, definitely not a fair fight.

But this campaign season shows us two clever campaigners and experienced chess players. I leave Edwards out of this because he seemed to have put so much stock in getting the white, male, southern vote that he played it like he was the real inevitability candidate. And everyone knows the story of The Ant and the Grasshopper.

Anyway, I have no great knowledge of chess but I can figure out who benefits from the recent media narratives and can work my way backwards to see who might have started the stories going. Let’s look at a couple of them.

  • Over the top media narrative focussing on negativity and division: Advantage Obama. As the New York Times stated in its endorsement of Hillary, Obama is a bit of a cypher:

    The sense of possibility, of a generational shift, rouses Mr. Obama’s audiences and not just through rhetorical flourishes. He shows voters that he understands how much they hunger for a break with the Bush years, for leadership and vision and true bipartisanship. We hunger for that, too. But we need more specifics to go with his amorphous promise of a new governing majority, a clearer sense of how he would govern.

    It’s no accident that Obama zealouts around the blogosphere seem to have so many different and sometimes contradictory impressions of what Obama is all about. Some Democrats see him as the most progressive of candidates while some independent minded supporters see him as more bi-partisan and Republican friendly. And many other supporters just like the whole Change! aspect of his campaign and don’t see how the two other positions could be at odds with each other.

    This is no accident. Barack Obama is a Tofu Candidate who absorbs the flavor of whatever you throw at him. Or more likely, he’s like an elephant in a country full of blind men. Each one of them feels a different part of the whole and then draws conclusions based on that part. Obama benefits from keeping things amorphous. If he keeps eluding getting pinned down on what his actual political philosophy is, his supporters can keep attributing their best aspirations to him. So, stories that continue to distract from defining him are favorable to him. That’s why he’s been trying so hard to take out the Big Dawg who is calling attention to Obama’s praise of Ronald Reagan. That spotlight on Obama is screwing up with his “glass darkly” strategy. He said too much about Reagan and that hurts him with true progressives who came of age during the Reagan adminstration, just in time to see Pell grants vanish, tax breaks disappear and punitive harshness descend on the working class. Does Obama really want that bright light shined in his direction as he tries to appeal to swing voters? I’m thinking, no. The less definition of his political position, the better so the greater incentive to start media distractions.

  • Taking out the Big Dawg: Advantage Obama and the Republicans. There is no question that Bill Clinton is a huge asset to his wife. Jonathan Alter talked about this on Morning Joe on Monday. As Alter pointed out, the Big Dawg allows Hillary to be in two places at one time. Realistically, Obama can’t expect Hillary to go spouseless through the election cycle. No one is asking Michelle Obama or Elizabeth Edwards to STFU. On the other hand, Bill is former president and his opinions matter a great deal. So, it’s really important to Obama that Bill’s every word is discredited. He has to be made to be seen as overly harsh. That’s kinda easy because Bill’s stature is so huge that any negative he says is magnified. But that’s not enough. Obama has to make it look like Bill’s legacy is tarnished by having his lofty statesmanship image involved in dirty, scrappy politics. This is ridiculous and the Big Dawg knows it but the media seems to be hyping this angle. And the reason the media is glomming onto is is because if Hillary is the nominee in the fall, they can extend pounding on the Big Dawg as an unfair advantage when the GOP nominee starts complaining. They can roll out Obama’s complaints about Big Dawg’s aggressiveness and “false” statements against Hillary. Of course, this can also backfire on Obama because in the event that Obama is the nominee, he couldn’t have a better ally than Clinton to campaign for him. It’s a bit of a scorched earth strategy on Obama’s part. I would proceed cautiously.
  • The Introduction of Race: advantage Obama. Obama needs the momentum of winning big in South Carolina. The majority of Democratic voters in South Carolina are black. These voters would have been the natural constituency of Hillary had Obama not entered the race. With Obama in the race, it is definitely *not* in the interest of Hillary to piss these voters off. Now, we all know that the Clintons don’t have a racist bone in their bodies. But the racial tension was easy to manufacture by the Obama team because even the most innocuous statements can be twisted to mean something they don’t. Personally, I don’t think there is anything wrong with people stating that Obama’s drug use may be used by Republicans against him. But the faux outrage that followed such statements by the Obama campaign gave the media something to talk about. So, Obama wins this round because he has managed to twist every critical analysis of this experience, background, history, political philosophy into a racially charged interrogation. African-Americans have been innoculated against Clinton through identity politics thereby nearly guaranteeing a bounce for Obama out of South Carolina.  Update: Ok, this charge by Bob Herbert is silly.  Hillary has absolutely NOTHING to gain by introducing a racial angle into this campaign.  Alienating African-Americans is something she can’t afford to do in a close primary contest.  She benefits if she makes Obama look young, inexperienced, unready and immature.  And *maybe*, if you cross your eyes and squint, it would be possible to twist that narrative into a racial charge but the only one who benefits from the twisting, is OBAMA.  Someday, we are going to get to the bottom of all these nasty little blog posts.  I’m going to predict that Obama’s camp, or Republicans hoping to smear Clinton, were behind it all.
  • The feisty, combative SC debate: Advantage Hillary and Edwards. I think the strategy going into the debate was for Hillary and Obama to squabble and make Edwards look presidential in comparison. That would make Edwards look like a decent alternative to those progressives who might have been leaning towards Obama. Obama also does not shine in the debate format but Clinton and Edwards do very well. They both have a more extensive knowledge base and greater confidence that comes with command of the facts. Obama’s inexperience really shows in comparison. So, baiting him in debate and further undermining his confidence really caught him off-guard and he had a deer-in-the-headlights look throughout. On the other hand, Edwards looked responsible and level-headed. Hillary neutralized her liability as a woman in a fairly conservative state by taking on both men and not backing down. The effect can now be seen as more voters move into Edwards’ column in South Carolina. That takes some of the huge lead away from Obama and softens his bounce and momentum coming out of SC. Hillary sacrifices South Carolina for Florida where she can win big going into SuperDuperTuesday.
  • Advocating for Michigan and Florida delegates: Advantage Hillary. I’m sorry, I completely understand why Michigan and Florida wanted to move up their primary. I think Howard Dean really screwed up with the primary free-for-all this year. My state votes on Feb. 5 and I’m grateful I don’t have to wait until June 5. But the way states apportion delegates in the early states and *which* early states there are, means that our primary season is going to drag out a lot longer than it should at great expense in money that should be saved for the general. Plus, there is the possibility that Republicans will use the time to sow more division in our ranks by infiltrating lefty blogs and insinuating that McCain is an acceptable alternative to Hillary. Let’s go with regional primaries in 2012 and ask Iowa and New Hampshire to just sit on their hands for one election cycle. We’ll call it an experiment. But what about MI and FL delegates *this* year? Are the voters of those two states to be disenfranchised because they wanted to have some influence? Sure. They violated the rules. They can’t change the rules in the middle of the game. But they are still going to vote and the candidate who shows she is on their side by saying their votes should count will accumulate a lot of positive mojo. And THAT is important for getting a bounce out of Florida because that primary happens shortly before SuperDuperTuesday. The timing is crucial here because a big win in Florida, a huge state with many hispanic voters is going to be a bellwhether for California. So, Hillary gets a big bounce here, cancelling out the South Carolina finish and positioning her well into February 5.
  • Obama’s lack of support for Hillary post nomination: Advantage Hillary. I think this is going to come back to bite him. I think there is a lot of Republican psy-ops on the web, messing with our head to make us believe that Hillary is unelectable. This is ridiculous. I think Hillary is the ONLY person who can beat the Republicans precisely because the Big Dawg knows more about the executive office than anyone else. Also, she’s smart as all get out and she is more solidly a Democrat than McCain is a Movement Conservative. You know what you’re getting with Clinton. She doesn’t have to change her message at all going into the general. There are many demographic trends that will favor her. If she makes an inspired VP choice she is going to come out of the nomination like gangbusters. She will be the Change! candidate in one of the most profound ways because we have never had a woman lead our country and now will be our chance to find out what that’s like. Finally, the economy will have the starring role this fall and McCain openly admits that he has no talent in that area. There is going to be $250 million dollars filtered into the GOP PR machine. I just can’t see Obama withstanding the tsunami that is headed towards him. But Hillary has polished her unflappability and she’s definitely unleashed her passion. She will be formidable in the fall, no matter who the GOP roll out. But if Obama acts like a spoiler and withholds his support out of a fit of pique and some idea that he can influence the fall election by diluting a strong Democratic message, he will be remembered as another Nader. Forget ever running for president again. Enjoy a senatorial career, that is, if the voters of Illinois ever forgive him for throwing a lifeline to the Republicans for four more years.

So, there you have it. That’s my view from my living room in NJ. Next week, I hope to be working out of the Trenton Clinton Headquarters and I’ll have a better idea of what’s happening on the ground in NJ.

Stay tuned…

    Hillary cheats in SC by using her gender, Obama camp claims

    Nathor-Nile River GoddessObama’s camp is pre-emptively accusing the Clinton campaign of using Hillary’s gender as an incentive to females to vote for her.

    “It’s totally unfair of Senator Clinton to exploit her gender. It put Obama at a disadvantage in South Carolina due to his penis. That is why he lost next week.”, David Axelrod said in advance of Clinton’s victory. When it was pointed out that the Democratic South Carolina primary hasn’t occured yet, Mr. Axelrod responded, “Exactly. This is why we are wasting no time in filing our complaint with the South Carolina Democratic party in advance. This kind of political scheming on the part of Senator Clinton can not stand.”

    The Obama campaign has filed complaints in all of the states where the primary or caucus process has resulted in a win for Senator Clinton. They have declined to pursue charges in Iowa even though Axelrod asserts that, in retrospect it is clear that Clinton deliberately lost in order to lull the Obama camp into a false sense of security.

    “They are master political schemers. Everybody says so”, Axelrod continued. “Chris Matthews has been following their dirty tricks for years. But I never expected that she would deliberately appeal to females in order to eek out her win next week. She’s crossed the line this time. We intend to file charges of cheating in all of the other states, starting with her wins in NY, NJ and CA on SuperDuperTuesday. ”

    Axelrod pointed to the fact that Obama had completely sewn up the African-American vote by taking the high road in his accusations of racism against Clinton’s organization. It was a forgone conclusion that Obama would assume the mantle of the most disadvantaged candidate in this campaign. But the polls started to turn in Clinton’s favor when a viral distribution of one of John Lennon’s and Yoko Ono’s songs from the seventies took the internet by storm.

    “She’s already got a former president’s support, years of service and she talks like a policy wonk “, said Axelros, frustrated. “She should stop using her gender to put herself so far ahead and learn to pack a lunch like the rest of us.”