Compare Tim Russert's babyfood questioning of Obama on Rezko to Russert's hardball with Giuliani on Bernard Kerik on 'Meet the Press':
MR. RUSSERT: Tony Rezko, who is he?
SEN. OBAMA: He is a developer in Illinois. He was a friend of mine for, for over 10 years. He was, he was a supporter of Democrats and Republicans back in Illinois. He was indicted recently for issues completely unrelated to me, but obviously it’s a source of concern because he’s not only a friend but also a supporter of my campaign.
(Right off the bat, Russert lets Obama frame the issue.)
MR. RUSSERT: Another issue where your judgment has been questioned, Bernard Kerik, your police commissioner. Here’s how the Daily News reported it: “Bernard Kerik lied, schemed and sold out the city—all under the nose of his mentor and pal, presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani."
(Russert frames the issue: Giuliani's judgment. He doesn't let Giuliani frame Kerik. Russert tells us who Kerik is):
"That is the stark portrait painted in the 16-count indictment unsealed in Federal Court. The indictment charges Kerik with conspiracy, tax fraud, making false statements.”
Russert quotes the Daily News on Kerik. Why not quote the New York Times, which referred to Rezko as a 'collector of politicians' in June, 2007?
With Giuliani, we hear the specifics of the Kerik indictment. Nowhere in the Obama interview do we hear just what Rezko was indicted for. When Giuliani tries to limit the discussion to his years as mayor (implying it's old news), Russert won't let him get away:
MR. RUSSERT: But that was for policeman commissioner. When you recommended to the president of the United States in 2004 that Bernard Kerik be the secretary of homeland security...
As to any ongoing relationship Obama and Rezko:
MR. RUSSERT: Is he still your friend?
SEN. OBAMA: You know, I have not talked to him since he got into trouble with the law.
MR. RUSSERT: Period.
Russert actually puts his own exclamation point on Obama's statement! (He also passively accepts Obama's frame of Rezko as just his 'friend.' What's wrong with friendship, after all?) But the question isn't whether Obama the Presidential candidate is 'still friends' with an indicted slumlord. The question is what contact they had when Obama was in the legislature.
Imagine if he had asked Giuliani "is Kerik still your business associate?", to which Giuliani answered "no, I severed all ties after he was indicted and I announced for the Presidency," and Russert said, 'okay, it's not an issue then. Why are we talking about this?"
Nowhere in the Obama interview does Russert ask about or mention that 'developer' Rezko was a slumlord who profited from government subsidies. He doesn't ask Obama how Rezko became his 'friend.' He doesn't ask about any contact between Obama and Rezko when Obama was in the state legislature, or relations between Obama's law firm and Rezko. Nor does he tie in Rezko to their earlier discussion of Obama's distinction between taking money from state and federal lobbyists.
On the Obama-Rezko land transaction:
MR. RUSSERT: ...and that he was always there to be very helpful to you at certain times. And when you bought property adjacent to each other, you bought land from him to expand your backyard.
(Oh, he was 'always there for you.' (What is this, a Lionel Ritchie song?) Can you believe the language Russert uses? They were just 'friends', grilling hot dogs in Obama's 'backyard'. He was 'very helpful.' He was 'always there.'
OBAMA: "This was a above-the-board market-based transaction."
(Russert doesn't follow up on the favorable terms of the 'market-based transaction.')
If you want some competent journalism on who Tony Rezko is, it's here at Taylor Marsh.
Andrew Sullivan hard at work on a remake of 'Dynasty.' I don't think he's convincing:
SULLIVAN: "In the first Clinton term, we had an unprecedented situation where a woman elected to nothing and with no Cabinet rank was given responsibility for the entire healthcare system. She was accountable largely to a man she was married to - not the American people."
I thought the spin was 'she just served tea to ambassadors.' Guess that wasn't working--since it was self-evidently false. She wielded power on the level of a Chief of Staff. If she hadn't wielded that power effectively, being Bill's wife would not have protected her. The Clintons are adults about these kind of things.
First Ladies Reagan, Bush, or Carter couldn't flex the muscle Hillary did if they wanted to, and they didn't want that power because they couldn't handle it. It's about Hillary's mountain of talent. Bill didn't see any reason to waste it.
Lastly, she was accountable -- to Harry and Louise.
SULLIVAN: "But the trouble with such an arrangement is not its tabloidy and democratically primitive charms. It is its under-appreciated threat to democratic accountability and even the Constitution."
I wish the sky would hurry up and fall already.
SULLIVAN: "In fact, the way in which he has dominated and controlled the narrative of the Clinton campaign since Iowa suggests that if his wife wins the Oval Office, she will largely have him to thank."
1. Hillary dominated the narrative post-Iowa, not Bill. 2. So why is Obama making Bill an issue? It only gets Bill more press. 3. The reverse was true in '92; he largely has her to thank for his election.*
I don't know what Michelle Obama or Elizabeth Edwards are up to -- I doubt they're less active than Bill. They just can't command the same media attention as Bill, or as Hillary in '92.*
Is it just because Bill's a former President, or because he's a natural-born superstar like his wife? Oprah isn't a former President, she's a natural-born superstar. I doubt the 1st George Bush could have 'driven the narrative' during Jr.'s 2000 campaign -- first, he's boring and second, he went out on a loss. It's not Bill's fault he's a winner.
SULLIVAN: "To understand how this power is exercised, we are compelled to understand the personal emotional dynamics of a marriage."
With the gay marriage disaster of 2004, Sullivan and the gay community proved we don't know squat about the dynamics of straight marriage. We toyed with cultural forces we didn't understand, it exploded in our faces and set us back a quarter of a century. The last thing anyone needs to listen to is Sullivan's analysis of the relationship between a man and a woman.
SULLIVAN: "And so legitimate scrutiny can be shrouded by claims of marital privacy and privilege (as it has been before)."
Clintons and marital privacy?
SULLIVAN: "Instead, we now have to grapple with re-electing him to a third (and even fourth) term via his wife ... the last two weeks have shown beyond any doubt that this is indeed what is going on."
Full circle. She's back to serving tea while Bill runs the White House. Who thinks that amazon bruiser we saw slapping Mr. Law Review around on the stage in Las Vegas will be putty in Bill's hands? I'm more concerned about Obama's unnamed Chief Operating Officer (Shadow President). Obama's admitted he won't be running things.
Anyway, here's the game: First draw media attention to Bill. Then equate the media attention you create with an 'unconstitutional third term.' An unconvincing twist on the 'straw man' tactic. As for the power of former Presidents, in retrospect, who would object now if George Bush had followed the counsel of his former President father' on Iraq?
SULLIVAN: "There is no reason a constitutional republic should be forced to sacrifice its principles this way."
I agree we shouldn't be forced. Nobody's trying to. We can vote and decide for ourselves.
To his credit, Sullivan does track the crystal-clear dividing line in this primary: Abstraction (Sullivan/Obama) or down-to-earth reality (the Clintons)? Talk or Action? What takes priority? Decide, then vote. _______________________ Remember Gary Hart -- torpedoed by a picadillo in '88? What was so different in '92? Hillary Clinton, that's what. I remember -- clear as crystal -- the image of them sitting together -- you could sense her spine was belted with steel. She was different. She was a power spouse! Her presence said 'Grow up!' She didn't forgive him. She believed Bill's talents and economic agenda took hard-nosed priority over his faults. Voters followed her lead. He would not have become President without her.
Pretzel logic is on overdrive going into Super Tuesday. William Greider admits that 'politics ain't beanbag: "That's what politics is always about. Tough, even nasty conflict is educational, also entertaining."
Then proceeds to blame the Clintons for being good at 'tough conflict':
"The one-two style of Clintons, however, is as informative as low-life street fighters. Mr. Bill punches Obama in the kidney and from the rear. When Obama whirls around to strike back, there stands Mrs. Clinton, looking like a prim Sunday School teacher and citing goody-goody lessons she learned from her 135 years in government."
All he's saying is politics is rough and the Clintons are really good at it. All the candidates have spouses who campaign for them. Grieder blames the Clintons for being better than the competition.
"I thought Obama did quite well in response, looked strong and stayed in character. But we shall see. He was compelled to play defense and to hope the audience recognized foul play. It's possible the Clintons won on points, simply by making Obama look like a confused young man who had to keep repeating what he had actually said."
Is he talking about the debate? Maybe Obama saw Bill up on the stage in Las Vegas but all I saw was Hillary. This just reads like Obama' gone cross-eyed in the heat. And does Grieder not remember just two weeks ago when Obama/Edwards doubled-teamed Hillary and she won the debate anyway.
Yes, the Clintons are good -- better than anyone on the Repub side. They beat the crap out of Newt Gingrich and they'd have beaten Karl Rove.
I like Rich Lowry. He's a conservative hit man, but not a total tool like Tucker Carlson. He's trying to wave Big Dog off Bambi's ass. I don't agree with most of Lowry's piece. But he gets in some nice zingers like:
"If the dignity of the office meant so little to him, why should the dignity of the former office restrain him at all?" Good one.
"Clinton has usually delivered his anti-Obama broadsides in a state of red-faced near-rage .. What he is displaying is the face of aggrieved entitlement,"
That's just Lowry's guess. As long as we're guessing, my guess is Bill is pissed to see Obama getting a free ride from the press like no modern politician ever has--least off all Bill and Hillary Clinton. If there's anything that sends people into red-faced rage, it's blatant favoritism.
Entitlement? The Clintons have scrapped tooth and nail for their wins. In '92, Bill didn't win a primary until Georgia. He was declared dead after the Gingrich 1994 sweep. Governor Bill won in Arkansas, then got beat, then came back to win again. Hillary was getting the Last Rites just two weeks ago. Premature mambo dancing on Clinton tombstones is an annual ritual, as regular and silly as the Super Bowl half-time show. Yes, people who have paid their dues tend to get pissed off when they see someone else not paying their dues. Now Ted Kennedy, there's entitlement.
"It can’t be long before the Clinton team uses Obama’s relationship with a shady Chicago developer named Tony Rezko to try to make him seem as if he’s running the most corrupt political operation since, well, the 1996 Clinton re-election campaign."
Lowry tries the Shaheen maneuver to tag both Democrats. Nice try, but not even the Clintons could make Obama look dirtier than Bushco.
"He is running against Hillary, and therefore interposing himself between the Clintons and the object of their ambitions. This makes him as much fair game as Newt Gingrich, Paula Jones, or Ken Starr."
Don't see how you can put Paula Jones in the same category as the Speaker of the House and Special Prosecutor--that's pretty one-dimensional. I don't see how you fault Bill Clinton for treating a political rival like a political rival? Again, there's this unspoken assumption the Clintons are not supposed to treat Obama as they would a white political rival. That's more insulting to Obama than anything the Clintons have done.
"It’s hard to be hopeful at the same time you’re in a war of words with an ex-president who is willing to use any cheap and dishonest argument at hand."
Who in the upper echelons of world power isn't willing to use any cheap and dishonest argument at hand? Lowry debunks the entire premise of the Obama campaign. Doe-eyed hope dies a cruel death to reality.
Most of the attacks from Clinton are fair game. But there was one line from Bill that showed him raring to go into Clinton Scorched Earth Mode (run for your lives), and yes, I hope he doesn't go there: "They think they're better than you." That's Big Dog in the pit, ready to put Newt Gingrich in his grave. Down, Big Dog, down.
Betsy's Page thinks the Lowry piece is keen. "The Clinton camp decided her negatives are a given and that most people have already factored those in to their decisions."
Count me in on that. The Founders factored Clintonism into the Presidential equation when they drafted the Constitution. That document is a blueprint for channeling the talents of brilliant, flawed leaders like Bill Clinton, Nixon, and yes, Hillary. From the Federalist Papers:
"If men were angels, they wouldn't need a government. If they were governed by angels, they wouldn't need a Constitution."
There's the most succinct statement in defense of the Clintons. Right there in his Memorandum in support of the Constitution, James Madison blows away the premise of Obama '08. We are not and never will be governed by angels.
The silliest thing I hear is all this stuff about Big Dog overshadowing Hillary. He didn't even overshadow her when he was President. Nobody can overshadow Hillary Clinton. She's the most intriguing personality in the world.
With all this, all the bad things I say (not about Obama, but about his premature presidential run), I give him a world of credit for going into the pit with Hillary and Big Dog -- the fiercest one-two punch in the game, the Bonnie and Clyde of American politics. Hillary will toughen him up with a string of respectful, instructional beatings, and he'll very well make a great President in the future. Obama is worlds and worlds above Rudy Giuliani -- who ducked Hillary in 2000, ducked Huckabee in Iowa, who ducks anyone he can't bully.
Kudos to The Kid. If I was up there against Hillary, they'd carry me out on life support. If all goes as I hope, I think I'll be an Obama-maniac in 2016.
Obama and his defenders keep saying 'Bill is distorting Obama's record on the war." But they don't say what that distortion is. And Obama isn't vocally defending his war voting record. He just keeps repeating that the Clintons are distorting that record.
Obama: "When Senator Clinton says -- or President Clinton says -- that I wasn't opposed to the war from the start or says it's a fairytale that I opposed the war, that is simply not true." That's not what the Clintons say. They say he hasn't done anything to oppose the war except give a speech back in 2002.
Bill says he gave a great speech on the war in 2002. Then he took the speech off his website. That's a fact. Obama's explanation: the speech was 'dated' in 2003. That's the Clinton point: If it was dated in 2003, it's even more dated in 2008. The Clintons: Obama's whole candidacy is premised on the 2002 speech. Did he do anything else to oppose the war besides make a speech -- we already know he gives good speech. Why don't we know what else he did? We know about Hillary and SCHIP.
Obama says he was a community organizer. That's just a job title. Technically, Bayard Rustin was a community organizer. But if Rustin were running for President, he wouldn't go around repeating his job title. He'd say "I organized the March on Washington, dammit!"
Two weeks ago the New York Times ran a specious editorial claiming that Hillary Clinton implied Martin Luther King "needed a white man's help." She never said that, and House Ways & Means Chairman Charles Rangel called the Times's argument "absolutely stupid."
But now Obama needs Ted Kennedy to help him handle Big Dog? Do I have to say it?
Apparently I do. The image of white-maned white man Ted Kennedy coming to a black candidate's aid in the middle of a hot campaign -- do I have to say it?
Apparently I do. First Obama invokes conservative figurehead Ronald Reagan to support his own figurehead presidency--he'll 'set a vision' for Zbigniew Brezinski, and Zbiggie will actually execute policy. Set a vision, okay. Then a bunch of white men--including Emblematic Democratic Loser Tom Daschle*--tell Big Dog Clinton he's playing too rough with the black guy. That image screams out 'Obama needs the white man's help' a lot louder than Clinton's straightforward facts about the MLK-LBJ partnership.
Jon Alter writes "There is little precedent for a former president's engaging in intra-party attacks." What does precedent have to do with this election? First viable woman candidate -- unprecedented. First viable black candidate -- unprecedented. First Former First Lady running for President -- unprecedented.
And first time the party leadership ever stepped in to tell one campaign not to play so rough with the other. What precedent is there for that? Did the RNC tell Bush to lay off the rumours about McCain's illegitimate baby? Did Kennedy tell Obama's communication director Bob Gibbs to lay off linking Howard Dean to Bin Laden? Did Kennedy tell Axelrod to stop blaming Hillary for the Bhutto assassination? Did the DNC tell Obama to stop repeating the Republican talking point ("The Democrats voted for the War")? Did Kennedy tell Obama to stop sucking up to Ronald Reagan's ghost?
I just can't escape the feeling that if John Edwards were in a tight head-to-head with the Clintons, everyone would see how non-Presidential Edwards would look if the party elders stepped in and told the Clintons to back off. "Oh, Not so harrrrrd! That's hurts."
It says a lot about Obama that he would accept this patronizing gesture from Ted Kennedy. I love Ted Kennedy, by the way. But Big Dog respects Obama's manhood more than Ted Kennedy does. _______________ *I think Daschle is having flashbacks to the Republican rough-housing he was no match for. All he could say was 'that's outrageous, that's outrageous.' My most shame-filled moment as a Democrat was watching Repubs swat our Majority Leader, Ken Griffey-style, right out of the Senate. Memories of Daschle are among the biggest reasons I support Hillary. She knows how to fight and she knows how to win.
Sure it's easy to say now, but Hil missed a zinger last night. While Obama goes on some lengthy explanation of what he really meant about Reagan, Hil could have said.
"Save it for the classroom, Barack. You invoked a conservative icon who was a figurehead because you're running as figurehead. And as for what I was doing during the Reagan years? I was fighting Reagan head-to-head to protect Legal Services for the poor. When Reagan tried to transfer the $300 million legal services budget--money I fought to get under Jimmy Carter--into defense spending, I fought him as Chairman of the Legal Services Corporation. Not only did I fight him, I beat him. I don't just talk about progressive policies, I know how to defend progressive policies from attack by conservative extremists like Reagan whose ghost you conjure up to support your figurehead campaign. Thanks to my successful fight with President Reagan, freezing tenants who don't have heat--like the tenants of your Chicago slumlord buddy Tony Rezko--who was financing your campaign instead of payng for heating oil--those freezing tenants can go to Legal Services and force slumlords like your buddy Rezko to turn on the heat. Snap!"
Over at Frameshop, Jeff Feldman sees rights through:
"the problem with Obama's comment about Reagan was less that he praised the icon of the Republican Party than the inability of anyone to understand what Obama meant.
When questioned by Clinton on his Reagan comment, Obama clarified by saying that Reagan should be noted for his ability to convince Democrats to vote for policies they did not think initially that they would support. The clarification only made the original statement more vague."
Exactly why Obama's self-comparison to Reagan was bogus. He's a great orator, but he's not a Great Communicator. Voters (both for and against the Gipper) knew exactly what Reagan meant ('welfare queens, evil empires') -- which is why so many bloggers saw through Obama's doe-eyed distortion of what Reagan stood for.
And if no one understands what Obama means, how would this 'vision' thing work out in his figurehead presidency? He gives a vision (doe-eyed platitude) to his advisors (the Democratic equivalents of Dick Cheney, Don Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz --ambitious much?). Then the advisors execute his incomprehensible vision according to their own ambitions and agendas.
"Even when you discuss war, the frame of reference is always Viet Nam. That's not my frame of reference. My frame of reference is 'what works.' Even when I first opposed the war in Iraq, my first line was 'I don't oppose all wars, I just oppose dumb wars' specifically to make clear that this is not just some anti-military '70's love in approach."
Is he saying Viet Nam wasn't a dumb war? Is he saying peace activists resisted the Viet Nam War as some knee-jerk anti-military reflex? Is he saying the Nam-era Anti-War Movement doesn't meet the "What Works" test? He implies all of this, but he couldn't possibly mean such factually indefensible things. His gratuitous swipe at the hippies may reflect an irrational bias against them--the kind of ugly bias Nixon exploited in his 'Silent Majority' speech ('dirty hippie freaks').
You might say he's admitting he's not a serious anti-war activist, that he's a 'latte activist'--'all talk' on Iraq as the Clintons suggest. I say that because a serious anti-Iraq War activist would look to the successful Nam Anti-War Movement precisely to learn what works! (Just as Gay Rights activists studied the Civil Rights Movement to see what works, and AIDS activists learned from lesbian feminists what works.) But most likely, Obama the bogus Uniter/Race-Baiter just felt like a gratuitous generational swipe at those silly hippies in the middle of his necrophiliac love-in with Reaganomics.
What doesn't work is 'latte activism.' From Nixon's viewpoint, it would have been a grave mistake to withdraw too quickly from Viet Nam, sending a 'sign of weakness' to lunatic aggressors in the Communist bloc -- a viewpoint vindicated by Osama Bin Laden's deranged misreading of the American backbone. But it wasn't the job of anti-war activists to see Nixon's viewpoint, or the Pentagon's viewpoint, any more than it's a boxer's job to empathize with his opponent. It was their job to fight the fucking war.
In 2004, when we were trying to stop George Bush in New York, I met many young anti-war activists--kids in their twenties in Queer Fist and Indymedia. They talked just like Nam-era activists! At one action meeting, a young woman excitedly announced a rumor that The Weathermen were resurfacing to stop Bush. She didn't have to tell any of her post-boomer peers who the Weather Underground were. To them, the Nam-era Peace Movement isn't an embarrassment, a cliche or a generational relic. It was all about 'what works.'
It worked even better than is credited. How many anti-war protestors know they helped Nixon make peace with Communist China? Under pressure from the 'Movement', in '69 Tricky Dick announced the Nixon Doctrine--basically no more Viet Nams: "That Asian nations should not depend on the US for their security but should strengthen their own defense capabilities." This construed a passive-aggressive threat to China if Japan re-armed to offset America's reduced military presence in Asia. With Soviet hostility on one border and the specter of a re-armed Japan potentially encircling China with enemies, Mao could not afford a third enemy in the U.S. -- Mao was compelled to meet with Nixon, while Nixon was compelled by the Movement to project less American power into China's space. Furthermore, Nixon was compelled to make peace with China (1972) before withdrawing from Nam under Movement pressure (1973) -- to mitigate the 'sign of weakness' he feared would encourage future aggression. The Viet Nam Peace Movement also contributed to peace with China. Peace through Peace -- it works!
So Obama should show those silly old hippies a little more respect. To do that, he'd have to examine his bias against 'hippies' -- you know, the kind of biases Nixon tweaked in his 'Silent Majority' frame. Or Obama might just cook up his own "Silent Majority' speech as he hedges on 'the surge is working.'
Eriposte voices our growing disgust with the media while debunking media spin that blacks voting for Obama in Nevada or South Carolina somehow means we won't turnout for Clinton in the general.
Repubs and the media would love to recreate the 2001 Mayor's Race in NYC. Liberal Mark Green lost to total unknown Mike Bloomberg in heavily Dem NY after race problems crept into the primary between Green and popular hispanic Fred Ferrer. Offensive flyers went out from Green staffers linking Ferrer with Rev. Sharpton. (Green denied knowing about it -- I believed him.) It wasn't the flyers. I voted for Green in the primary, Ferrer in the run-off, and Bloomberg (my only Repub vote ever) in the general. By the general I was so mad at Green I would have voted for Giuliani. I went as far as to write the Bloomberg campaign outlining how to use race to beat Green -- a man I'd always admired and saw as a liberal ally, both to black voters and the Percy Sutton black Democratic machine in New York.
Was it all about race? Green made the mistake of going negative with a 'stressor' ad the night before the run-off so Ferrer couldn't respond. It was a sneak attack on Ferrer a week after the sneak attack on 9/11--awful timing. I was so stressed out already that an ominous voice-over (the world will end if Ferrer wins) flipped me out, and enough blacks and Latinos to cost Green the general. Also, liberal Green tacked right on racially divisive issues: Al Sharpton/police brutality. Green also punked out when Giuliani (whom blacks despised in the extreme and were salivating to be rid of) tried to overthrow term limits after 9/11 and install himself as Mayor In Perpetuity.
So it wasn't just the rough campaign stuff with Ferrer. As long as the Clintons don't tack right on black issues, they can survive a slugout with Obama. But watch third party Bloomberg -- he finessed this angle perfectly, right into the Mayor's Office. I'd add that Chuck Schumer knows this game inside out as well, and will advise the Clintons if they need any advice (which they don't).
The bottom line is blacks don't fear payback from the Clintons if we vote with pride for Obama. Under Giuliani, black New Yorkers officially did not exist after voting against Rudy 97%--and Rudy wasn't really viewed as racist, just a petty, vindictive fascist. I have no doubt Hillary will consider blacks her constituents, no matter how we vote. Blacks know that, and that's important.
And Big Dog will say, 'hey, I treated Obama like a man. I didn't patronize him with kid gloves, I fought him just like I'd fight any white rival." Blacks recognize the patronizing 'pat on the head' from phoneys like Tim Russert. We understand users like Chris Matthews and Andrea Mitchell. Big Dog can cast the rough stuff as a sign of respect--and we'll understand. We'll come around just fine for the general.
10-K (that's me) is a digital animator, web developer and novelist. I live in New York. I play piano and guitar. Elsewhere on the net I'm known as kanaan and whoframedrudy. My politics are open. I'm creative director of Teknotikon Studio.