The truth is Obama has no secret plan for Iraq. Interviews with nearly two dozen foreign policy and military experts, as well as Obama's campaign advisers, and a close review of Obama's own statements on Iraq, suggest something more nuanced. What he is offering is a basic vision of withdrawal with muddy particulars, one his advisers are still formulating and one that, if he is elected, is destined to meet an even muddier reality on the ground. Obama has set a clear direction for U.S. policy in Iraq: He wants us out of Iraq; but he's not willing to do it at any cost--even if it means dashing the hopes of some of his more fervent and na?ve supporters. And, when it comes to Iraq, whatever the merits of Obama's withdrawal plan may be, "Yes, We Can" might ultimately yield to "No, we can't."Why does this cheer me up? Because the article suggests that Obama and his advisors might actually let, you know, facts on the ground influence their decision-making. Which is how it should be. Anyone who tells you they have a foolproof Iraq plan to put in place nine month from now is lying to you.
Republican John McCain made a risky argument in a hard-hit Ohio steel town Tuesday, telling residents that free trade can help solve their problems. That is a tough sell in communities that have hemorrhaged jobs as manufacturing moved overseas and cheap imports flooded the market. But McCain insisted that free trade is the solution and not the cause. "The biggest problem is not so much what's happened with free trade, but our inability to adjust to a new world economy," McCain said during a town hall-style meeting at Youngstown State University. "I think the answer is to understand that, free trade or not, we are in an information and technology revolution," he said. "So we want people to be part of that revolution, and we've got to be part of that new economy, rather than try to cling to an old economy." (emphasis added)Bonus points to McCain for the use of the word "cling." Hat tiip: TNR's Michael Crowley, who observes, "On the one hand you have to admire McCain's refusal to pander. On the other you have to wonder if he's commiting electoral suicide."
A) Gun-toting, small-town Jesus-worshippers are so bitter that they don't watch cable news outlets; B) Gun-toting, small-town Jesus-worshippers are so bitter that they aren't likely to show up as "likely voters" in a poll; C) Gun-toting, small-town Jesus-worshippers are so bitter that their phone service has been cut off; D) Gun-toting, small-town Jesus-worshippers are so bitter that they dislike Hillary Clinton even more than Barack Obama; E) The commentariat is elitist and out of touch with what engages gun-toting, small-town Jesus-worshippers.
Mr. [Mark] Penn, who has kept his job atop the global PR giant Burson-Marsteller to the chagrin of other officials in the Clinton camp, met with Colombia's ambassador to the U.S. a week ago to discuss the firm's contracted effort to sell the U.S.-Colombian trade pact -- which Sen. Clinton opposes, as The Wall Street Journal reported last week. After that came to light, Mr. Penn apologized and called the meeting an "error in judgment" -- which in turn upset the Colombians, who on Saturday terminated Burson-Marsteller's contract. Late yesterday, the campaign said Mr. Penn asked to "give up his role as chief strategist" but that he and his political-consulting firm "will continue to provide polling and advice.".... Today, Mr. Penn's association with the campaign could raise questions about Sen. Clinton's commitment to trade policy two weeks before the key Democratic primary in Pennsylvania, where, as the Journal reports, trade issues are likely to count for a lot. But it's the reminder of how much candidates are being sold that could resonate more than the doubts that many industrial workers have about trade accords.A bitter irony of this latest kerfuffle is that this will likely be the most prominent mention of Colombia during the presidential campaign -- just as the NAFTA imbroglio will have been the most prominent mention of Canada. Just to repeat myself:
I've said it before and I will say it again: Democrats cannot simultaneously talk about improving America's standing abroad while acting like a belligerent unilateralist when it comes to trade policy.
In sharp contrast to views recently expressed by Vice President Cheney, a new poll finds that an overwhelming majority of Americans believe government leaders should pay attention to public opinion polls and that the public should generally have more influence over government leaders than it does. Eighty-one percent say when making "an important decision" government leaders "should pay attention to public opinion polls because this will help them get a sense of the public's views." Only 18 percent said "they should not pay attention to public opinion polls because this will distract them from deciding what they think is right." When ABC News correspondent Martha Raddatz cited polling data showing majority opposition to the Iraq war, Cheney responded, "So?" Asked, "So--you don't care what the American people think?" he responded, "No," and explained, "I think you cannot be blown off course by the fluctuations in the public opinion polls.".... When Americans are asked whether they think that "elections are the only time when the views of the people should have influence, or that also between elections leaders should consider the views of the people as they make decisions," an extraordinary 94 percent say that government leaders should pay attention to the views of the public between elections. (emphasis added)Wow, so let me get this straight -- when asked by pollsters whether polls are important, the American people agreed? Seriously, the question, as phrased, is only slightly less biased than the following possible substitutes:
A) "Do you think the people's voice should be heard by politicians -- or are all y'all really just a bunch of morons?" B) "Dick Cheney is a complete f%$#ing &%$hole who once shot someone in the face and probably likes to eat newborns. Do you think that anything he says is true, like, ever?" C) "Which society would you prefer: one in which leaders responded to the will of the people, or one in whch leaders ignore public sentiment and send in jack-booted thugs to break up any demonstration, thus evoking Nazi Germany?"If you look at the actual results, it's clear that PIPA simply cherry-picked responses to an old (January) poll and released them to embarrass Cheney (and say that, "hey, polls matter!!"). I'd find the exercise much more persuasive if the questions weren't so loaded. For example, did PIPA ask whether either the Supreme Court or the Federal Reserve should respond to public sentiment when they make their decisions? When that 3 AM phone call comes in, should the president immediately put a poll out to calculate a response? I'd actually be interested in serious polling on the tradeoffs between expertise and democracy. This PIPA exercise is pretty much completely unserious. In the 5 1/2 years of this blog, I don't think I've ever defended Dick Cheney, but in this case he's right and PIPA is, well, stupid. Of course leaders should not respond to every poll fluctuation on an issue. That's called leadership. Now let me stress here that Cheney's response is still disingenuous, because polls on Iraq have not "fluctuated" so much as "sunk like a crater after recognizing that victory ain't gonna happen." Still, PIPA's press release doesn't rebut Cheney -- it only shows how it's possible to frame poll questions to get any kind of response you want.
I should add that, based on what I've heard while here [with Bill Richardson], it's pretty damn obvious that Richardson would like to endorse Obama.The New York Times, today:
Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, who sought to become the nation?s first Hispanic president this year, plans to endorse Senator Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination on Friday at a campaign event in Oregon, according to an Obama adviser.
McCain is an instinctive regulator who considers business a base pursuit.I was fortunate enough to chat with Virginia yesterday, and during the chat, an interesting question arose: if McCain is an insinctive regulator, but appoints those less inclined to regulate, which policy wins out?
Obama took note of Clinton's repeated attacks and said the vice president's primary role would be to take over if the president died or was incapacitated. "If I'm not ready, how is it that you think I would be such a great vice president? Do you understand that?" he asked. Asked about the contradiction of touting Obama as a vice presidential candidate while condemning his ability to lead, Clinton spokesman Howard Wolfson implied there was still time for Obama to prove himself before the Democratic Party convention in Denver in August. "We do not believe Senator Obama has passed the commander in chief test," Wolfson said. "But there is a long way to go between now and Denver."This begs the question... what, exactly, is required to pass that test? How do the next five months on the campaign trail provide such an opportunity [Wait, Obama won Mississippi? He's definitely commander-in-chief material!--ed.]? In one way, this is a typical bit of grade-Z spin. In another way, however, it does shed an interesting light on the Clinton campaign's mindset about politics. As the Chicago Tribune's Mike Dorning and Christi Parsons reported, Hillary Clinton's fabled experience in international relations is pretty weak beer. The implicit message of her campaign, however, is that Clinton has faced greater trials and tribulations in the political arena for 15 years -- and that experience translates into preparation for foreign affairs. Clausewitz famously said that war was politics by other means. Hillary Clinton's zero-sum tactics in the past week suggest an inversion of Clausewitz's dictum. For Clinton, politics is simply war by other means. This might actually work. Clinton, by throwing out her steering wheel, might actually scare enough superdelegates into following her. But it's really becoming more difficult with each passing day to distinguish Hillary's mindset from George W. Bush.
Early this month, Mr. Clinton called Mr. Richardson and insisted on seeing him face to face. Mr. Richardson said he could not make it unless Mr. Clinton came down to New Mexico to watch the Super Bowl on television with him, which Mr. Clinton rearranged his schedule to do.... The Bills watched the game in the Governor?s Mansion, Mr. Richardson rooting for New England, Mr. Clinton for New York. They smoked cigars, drank wine, devoured barbecued spareribs, chicken wings and shrimp. They talked politics only at halftime.From Dan Balz, "Influential Democrats Waiting to Choose Sides," Washington Post, March 9, 2008:
"I'm thinking of changing my phone number," joked [Pennsylvannia representative Mike] Doyle, who had supported New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson but is now uncommitted. He said he got a surprise call from Bill Clinton on Super Bowl Sunday while cooking osso buco for his family. (emphasis added)Just what was Bill Clinton doing on Super Bowl Sunday? There's clear photo evidence to support Richardson's version of events -- but I have no reason to believe Doyle is lying. This apparent paradox contained within the spce-time continuum raises a whole bunch of reasonable questions:
1) Do the laws of physics make it possible for Bill Clinton to cook osso bucco at location A and then watch the Super Bowl in location B? 2) Who the hell cooks osso bucco for a football game? Which menu would you prefer to consume during the Super Bowl? 3) Has Bill Clinton been cloned? 4) Have the Clintons discovered time travel? Did Bill first chow down with Richardson, and then travel backwards in time to cook osso bucco for Hillary and Chelsea?Your intrepid blogger will try to get answers to these vital questions when he crosses paths with Richardson over the next few days. [Good... it's clear you need a few days in the sun--ed.] UPDATE: A concerned reader e-mail to suggest that I'm misreading Balz's account -- that it was Doyle who was cooking osso bucco for his family, not Clinton. Hmmm.... this does makes temporal and logical sense, but it's not as much fun as my interpretation of the (not artfully worded) sentence.
1) Chief economic advisor Austan Goolsbee gets into trouble for saying or not saying things to a Canadian consular official about NAFTA; 2) Foreign policy advisor Susan Rice, responding to the Hillary ad on national security, tells MSNBC's Tucker Carlson ?They?re both not ready to have that 3 a.m. phone call.? -- not the most comforting way to frame the argument. 3) Foreign policy advisor Samantha Power gets into hot water for thinking she was off the record speaking to The Scotsman's Gerri Peev: EaThe Scheiber effect: correlation or causation? You be the judge. However, if I were on the Clinton or McCain campaign teams, I'd be wanting to say as far away from Noam Scheiber as humanly possible. The curel irony, of course, is that Goolsbee, Rice, and Power did nothing to suggest they would be bad policy advisors. Indeed, all three of them appear to have proffered candid and correct (well, maybe not the "monster" line" advice. It's just that they committed Michael Kinsley-style gaffes.rlier, clearly rattled by the Ohio defeat, Ms Power told The Scotsman Mrs Clinton was stopping at nothing to try to seize the lead from her candidate. "We f***** up in Ohio," she admitted. "In Ohio, they are obsessed and Hillary is going to town on it, because she knows Ohio's the only place they can win. "She is a monster, too ? that is off the record ? she is stooping to anything," Ms Power said, hastily trying to withdraw her remark. Ms Power said of the Clinton campaign: "Here, it looks like desperation. I hope it looks like desperation there, too. "You just look at her and think, 'Ergh'. But if you are poor and she is telling you some story about how Obama is going to take your job away, maybe it will be more effective. The amount of deceit she has put forward is really unattractive."
Dianne Feinstein onto the Fox News Sunday-morning talk show to promote the idea that Hillary should not be forced out, regardless of the results of Tuesday?s primaries, simply because she?s a woman. ?For those of us that are part of ?a woman need not apply? generation that goes back to the time I went out to get my first job following college and a year of graduate work, this is an extraordinarily critical race,? the senator said. With Obama saying the hour is upon us to elect a black man and Hillary saying the hour is upon us to elect a woman, the Democratic primary has become the ultimate nightmare of liberal identity politics. All the victimizations go tripping over each other and colliding, a competition of historical guilts. People will have to choose which of America?s sins are greater, and which stain will have to be removed first. Is misogyny worse than racism, or is racism worse than misogyny? As it turns out, making history is actually a way of being imprisoned by history. It?s all about the past. Will America?s racial past be expunged or America?s sexist past be expunged?This leads to a central irony about this campaign. I don't doubt that Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have suffered a multitude of small slights in their professional and personal lives because of their gender or race. However, if you think about this as a contest to see who has suffered the greatest because of their identity, it's not even close. The candidate who has suffered the most in his lifetime is.... John McCain. As an individual, he has paid a much higher price for his identity as an officer in the United States military than Obama or Cinton has individually paid for their race or gender. And there's simply no way to spin it otherwise. As a collective entity, of course, African-Americans and women have white males beat on the suffering front. It is interesting, however, that the avatars of identity get all jumbled up once we look at the candidates' individual biographies.
It's no longer a question of what Hillary herself thinks?she wants to stay for the duration, a close friend of hers tells me?but whether and when the leaders of the Democratic Party unite, publicly and privately, to tell her to get out if she wants to have a future leadership role in her own party. As my colleague Jon Alter convincing showed today?calculator in hand-there is just no way, barring some kind of cataclysmic event, that Clinton can overtake Sen. Barack Obama in pledged delegates. Obama won't have enough of them to clinch the nomination on that basis alone, but she can't catch him.... [I]f Clinton continues to the next stage-if the results tonight allow her to fend off those telling her to quit?the next round is going to be a lot nastier. It's going to get into Obama's South Side Chicago roots; into some of the wilder statements of his longtime minister, Jeremiah Wright; and into the not-so-sly raising of doubts about Obama's religious beliefs. Does Hillary really want to go there? Maybe not, which is why I think some of her own supporters (and maybe even some of her own campaign aides) would just as soon that this thing end tonight.Here's the thing, though -- I think the mainstream media has underestimated the number of core Hillary supporters who would be unbelievably pissed by the optics of the Democratic "establishment" -- read, mostly men -- telling Hillary that her time on the stage has ended. Trust me, these people do exist, and they exist in significant numbers. So my prediction is that any kind of stage-managed effort by the Democratic Party leadership to nudge Hillary Clinton aside will end in disaster. Either Clinton will refuse the overtures, declaring herself to be a "fighter" for the upteenth time -- or she will step aside in such a way that it costs Obama significant slices of the Democratic demographic come November. UPDATE: Wow, CNN's numbers are screwy on Texas. As of 8:45, Obama and Clinton combined have nearly 800,000 votes, with less than one percent reporting. Unless the illegal immigration and ballot fraud problems are a lot worse than I thought, those vote counts are way too high.
Obama is hoping to appoint cross-party figures to his cabinet such as Chuck Hagel, the Republican senator for Nebraska and an opponent of the Iraq war, and Richard Lugar, leader of the Republicans on the Senate foreign relations committee. Senior advisers confirmed that Hagel, a highly decorated Vietnam war veteran and one of McCain?s closest friends in the Senate, was considered an ideal candidate for defence secretary. Some regard the outspoken Republican as a possible vice-presidential nominee although that might be regarded as a ?stretch?. Asked about his choice of cabinet last week, Obama told The Sunday Times: ?Chuck Hagel is a great friend of mine and I respect him very much,? although he was wary of appearing as though he was already choosing the White House curtains.... Obama believes he will be able to neutralise McCain by drawing on the expertise of independent Republicans such as Hagel and Lugar, who is regarded by Obama as a potential secretary of state. Larry Korb, a defence official under President Ronald Reagan who is backing Obama, said: ?By putting a Republican in the Pentagon and the State Department you send a signal to Congress and the American people that issues of national security are above politics.? Korb recalled that President John F Kennedy appointed Robert McNamara, a Republican, as defence secretary in 1961. ?Hagel is not only a Republican but a military veteran who would reassure the troops that there was somebody in the Pentagon who understood their hopes, concerns and fears,? he said.Now besides the virtue of poking Paul Kruigman with a sharp stick, I have to think that this is just one of those "let's have some fun with Fleet Street" moments in an otherwise exhausting campaign. To be sure, I suspect Obama actually will appoint at least one Republican to an important Cabinet department -- but there is zero chance of both Hagel and Lugar becoming cabinet secretaries in an Obama administration. There are simply too many Democrats who desire high-ranking positions at the Pentagon and Foggy Bottom for this to happen. Not to mention the fact that if Obama is smart, he wants Hagel and Lugar exactly where they are. They might be Republicans, but they are also GOP Senators willing to "do business" with an Obama administration in the Senate. Unless the fall election is a complete blowout (a possibility to be sure), these politicians are scarce commodities.
As a management question, the problem with being the president is that one cannot anticipate what important issues will arise in the future. No one thought terrorism would be the paramount foreign policy problem during the 2000 campaign. I guarantee you there are issues that will not be talked about during this election year, but will dominate the presidency in 2009 and beyond. Perhaps the best experience to be president, then, is the ability to successfully cope with the uncertain and the unknown. Of course, some managerial experts would not call that "experience." They would call it "judgment."Go check it out! UPDATE: I do find this post from the Hotline to be particularly interrstin on this point:
Responding to the release of HRC's new TX TV ad, which asserts in no subtle terms that only she has the experience to deal with a major world crisis, and, relatedly, to keep your children safe, Slate's John Dickerson asked the obvious question: "What foreign policy moment would you point to in Hillary's career where she's been tested by crisis?" he said. Silence on the call. You could've knit a sweater in the time it took the usually verbose team of Mark Penn, Howard Wolfson and Lee Feinstein, Clinton's national security director, to find a cogent answer.
A) Who was the most irritating member of Clinton's cabinet? Just nod your head if It was Albright. B) How many wings did you and (Bill) Clinton down watching the Super Bowl? C) You've served as a U.S. Representative, Ambassador to the United Nations, and U.S. Secretary of Energy. How cheesed off are you, Dodd and Biden when Hillary starts touting her experience?Readers are encouraged to post other good questions in the comments.
1) How, exactly, does the political leadership of Canada and Mexico feel about this whole NAFTA renegotiation business? Are they real big fans of this idea? 2) The following excerpt is from Hillary Clinton's intervention during the Farrakhan dust-up:[O]ne of the parties at that time, the Independence Party, was under the control of people who were anti-Semitic, anti- Israel. And I made it very clear that I did not want their support. I rejected it. I said that it would not be anything I would be comfortable with. And it looked as though I might pay a price for that.... And there's a difference between denouncing and rejecting. And I think when it comes to this sort of, you know, inflammatory -- I have no doubt that everything that Barack just said is absolutely sincere. But I just think, we've got to be even stronger. We cannot let anyone in any way say these things because of the implications that they have, which can be so far reaching. (emphases added)Could the mainstream media ask Senator Clinton the following two questions:a) How did rejecting the Independence Party (whose candidate won less than one percent of the vote) pose a risk to your 2000 Senate campaign? b) How, exactly, do you propose not letting, " anyone in any way say these things because of the implications that they have"?
I just think, we've got to be even stronger. We cannot let anyone in any way say these things because of the implications that they have, which can be so far reaching (emphasis added).Um... as a really big fan of that whole first amendment thingmabob, let me suggest that at president, Hillary Clinton damn well should "let anyone in any way say these things." 10:13 PM: Wow. Did Hillary Clinton just say that rejecting an anti-Semitic party endorsement was going to put hurt her 2000 Senate campaign at risk.... in New York?!! That is just so politically brave of Hillary Clinton. 10:08 PM: Russert tells Obama, "You have to react to unexpected events in this campaign." I half-expect him to then leap over the table, stab Obama with a shiv, and then say, "like that!!" 10:05 PM: And at 65 minutes, my Russert allergy kicks in. 10:01 PM: Obama's response to Clinton's "fighter" point on health care is pretty sharp. His counterpunching has definitely improved over the course of the campaign. 9:57 PM: Hillary gets off a good line in response to her Obama-mocking: "It's hard to find time to have fun on the campaign tail." 9:49 PM: A sign of growing debate fatigue -- I welcome the commercial break. Hmmm.... must consult doctor about Abilify.... 9:45 PM: I can't tell whether Russert is more obsteperous towards Clinton in his questions... or if Clinton is so used to Russert that she feels she has to interrupt him to make her point. Neither of them looks particularly good during these exchanges, however. 9:40 PM: I do hope that the general election debates are at this level. Clearly, these two are disagreeing, but on the whole it's been at a pretty high level. The resolution of today's McCain-Obama dust-up is encouraging here. 9:39 PM: Josh Marshall: "you've clearly got both of them right on their game tonight. These are both just incredibly accomplished sharp people and both at the top of their game." 9:34 PM: Sullivan is right: "[H]e seems like a president. She seems annoyed." 9:27 PM: I'm glad that the first thing Hillary Clinton will do to improve America's image abroad is inform Canada and Mexico that we'll withdraw from NAFTA unless we renegotiate the trade deal. That'll do wonders. UPDATE: Oh, goodie, Obama agrees. Excuse me while I go bang my head against a wall. [UPDATE: Hey, shouldn't someone call Obama for flip-flopping on withdrawing from NAFTA?] What I find so fascinating is that both Obama and Clinton are saying that NAFTA benefited some parts of the country but not others. This is undoubtedly true, but the policy response to that is not to renegotiate NAFTA -- tougher labor and environmental standards won't affect Ohio's economy. The answer is to expand trade adjustment assistance programs within the United States. 9:19 PM: Did Hillary Clinton actually complain that, "I keep getting asked the first question" and then reference Saturday Night Live?! And she says that Obama isn't tough enough for the general election?! You got to be f***ing kidding me. UPDATE: The Clinton campaign is apparently obsessed with SNL. 9:17 PM: Just 16 minutes on health care, and no applause -- yay, MSNBC!! 9:11 PM: Hillary's giving a good rebuttal on health care -- but at the beginning of her answer, she seemed to iply that it's perfectly fine to use attack mailers on other, lesser subjects -- but it's different with health care. 9:08 PM: I continue to be impressed with Obama's improvement over the arc of these debates. 9:03 PM: Health care is a passion of Hillary Clinton? Who knew? After the debate, MSNBC will be airing its 14-part series, The Passions of Hillary Clinton. 9:01 PM: Oh, MSNBC gets immediate bonus points ffrom your humble blogger for not bothering with the walking-out portion of the debate. 8:00 PM: The debate starts in an hour. In the meanwhile, to liven things up, consider the following drinking rules while watching this debate:
There are two kinds of people who get involved in politics--those who care about the substance of policy, and those who want to get White House Mess privileges, or as a consolation prize become media celebrities. The first kind--the policy people--will be loyal to a politician as long as he or she is trying his or her best to achieve the shared policy goals. The second kind--the spinmasters--will be loyal to a politician as long as he or she is a winner who favors them. If a politician stops looking like a winner, or if a politician starts favoring others for what they hoped would be their west wing job, they will jump ship as fast as they can--and you will start seeing the "infighting" stories. The moral? A politician with an ideological policy compass is best off not hiring spinmasters as his or her senior aides. Hire people who care about the substance of policy instead.I see what Brad's getting at, but in the context of a presidential campaign, methinks Brad is being a bit simplistic. Policy wonks can act strategically as well -- they just act strategically a little earlier in the process. Let's formalize this.
Let win = p(candidate) = ex ante probability of a candidate winning an election Let policy = 1/the square of (wonk's ideal policy point - candidate's preferred policy point) = the ideological proximity between candidate and staffer A wonk will maximize his/her utility by maximizing win*policy.So, when a wonk is choosing which campaign to join, ideology undoubtedly plays a role. So, however, does the assessment of the candidate's chances of victory. Indeed, as I've blogged before, one of the striking aspects of foreign policy wonks is that they've been surprisingly good at picking winners. A policy wonk will
They were devotees of the cult of Clinton. Greg Craig was Bill Clinton's lawyer, defending him on TV against impeachment charges. Susan Rice was a prot?g?e of Madeleine Albright, the 42nd president's secretary of State. Anthony Lake was Clinton's personal foreign-policy consigliere, his first-term national-security adviser. Now, however, Craig, Rice and Lake are all top advisers to Hillary Clinton's main rival, Barack Obama. In an increasingly bitter fight for the best and brightest policy advisers of Clinton's presidency, these defectors are aggressively recruiting junior- and midlevel officials from his administration. That's provoked anger in Hillary's camp?and, Obama aides charge, threats of retaliation if she wins the nomination. "The word some people are hearing is, 'You're making a big mistake. If Barack Obama wins, he'll welcome all into his administration. But if Hillary wins, that's not going to be the case'," says a midlevel Obama adviser who would speak about infighting only on the condition of anonymity. The main Hillary enforcer has been Richard Holbrooke, Bill Clinton's former U.N. ambassador (and an aspiring secretary of State), says a senior adviser to Obama, who would also discuss personnel matters only anonymously. "I have had at least two people directly tell me they had been told by Holbrooke if they went with Obama, the Hillary people would not forget and forgive," says the adviser, refusing to identify them.]UPDATE: Over at The New Republic, Noam Scheiber suggests that Obama's strength in policy wonks comes not from ideology, but from choosing people more open to ideological diversity than the Clintons:
In some respects, the sensibility behind the behaviorist critique of economics is one shared by all the Obama wonks, whether they're domestic policy nerds or grizzled foreign policy hands. Despite Obama's reputation for grandiose rhetoric and utopian hope-mongering, the Obamanauts aren't radicals--far from it. They're pragmatists--people who, when an existing paradigm clashes with reality, opt to tweak that paradigm rather than replace it wholesale. As [Richard] Thaler puts it, "Physics with friction is not as beautiful. But you need it to get rockets off the ground." It might as well be the motto for Obama's entire policy shop. The Clintonites were moderates, but they were also ideological. They explicitly rejected the liberalism of the 1970s and '80s. The Obamanauts are decidedly non-ideological. They occasionally reach out to progressive think tanks like the Economic Policy Institute, but they also come from a world-- academic economics--whose inhabitants generally lean right. (And economists at the University of Chicago lean righter than most.) As a result, they tend to be just as comfortable with ideological diversity as the candidate they advise.
Asked by my colleague Glenn Kessler whether he would ever consider issuing a signing statement as president, Sen. McCain was emphatic: "Never, never, never, never. If I disagree with a law that passed, I'll veto it." The comment brought to life the question of whether President Bush's aggressive defense of presidential prerogatives will outlast his administration. Bush has been heavily criticized by lawmakers and others over his extensive use of signing statements, in which, rather than veto a bill, he makes it clear he will not be bound by what he considers unconstitutional provisions included by Congress. All three of the leading presidential contenders have suggested they would take a different approach than Bush: What's striking is that McCain appears perhaps even more radical than his Democratic rivals in adopting a seemingly ironclad refusal to issue signing statements. If he truly were to follow that approach, it would represent a sharp break in presidential practice, according to lawyers on both sides of the ideological divide. Responding to a questionnaire late last year by the Boston Globe, Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) and Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) made clear their view that Bush has gone too far in issuing signing statements -- but that there are circumstances in which such statements are necessary. "The problem with this administration is that it has attached signing statements to legislation in an effort to change the meaning of the legislation, to avoid enforcing certain provisions of the legislation that the President does not like, and to raise implausible or dubious constitutional objections to the legislation," Obama answered. But, he added: "No one doubts that it is appropriate to use signing statements to protect a president's constitutional prerogatives." In her own Globe questionnaire, Clinton made a similar point about legal issues. "I would only use signing statements in very rare instances to note and clarify confusing or contradictory provisions, including provisions that contradict the Constitution," she wrote. "My approach would be to work with Congress to eliminate or correct unconstitutional provisions before legislation is sent to my desk."This is of a piece with what McCain said late last year.
[T]he public this year will probably not vote itself into a much better or even much different economic policy. To be sure, the next president ? whoever he or she may be ? may well extend health care coverage to more Americans. But most of the country?s economic problems won?t be solved at the voting booth. It is already too late to stop an economic downturn. Health care costs will keep rising, no matter who becomes president or which party controls Congress. China is now a bigger carbon polluter than the United States, so don?t expect a tax or cap-and-trade rules to solve global warming, even if American measures are very stringent ? and they probably won?t be, because higher home heating bills are not a vote winner. A Democratic president may propose more spending on social services, but most of the federal budget is on automatic pilot. Furthermore, even if a Republican president wanted to cut back on such mandates, the bulk of them are here to stay.... [I]f you?re still worrying about how to vote, I have two pieces of advice. First, spend your time studying foreign policy, where the president has more direct power, and the choice of a candidate makes a much bigger difference. Second, stop worrying and get back to work. (emphasis added)
9:46 PM ... That was an interesting final moment to end on for Hillary. Candy Crowley is on CNN now saying how it was a good connect moment for HIllary, which I suspect it may have been. But we all do remember that those words were borrowed from Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign, right?Right. UPDATE: Politico's Ben Smith picks up some more lifted lines.
1) Matthew Yglesias beat me to the punch on this point -- it's a bit strange for McCain to critique Obama for saying the U.S. should unilaterally use force against terrorists in Pakistan on the same day the Washington Post reports that the U.S. is using unilateral force against terrorists in Pakistan. 2) On MSNBC, Howard Fineman reported that the Clinton people were delighted that McCain went after Obama. Over at TNR, Christopher Orr ponders whether this really works to Clinton's advantage: "the more McCain treats Obama as his general-election foe, the more the public (and Democratic voters) may begin to think of Obama as his general-election foe, which could be more bad news for Hillary Clinton." I'd go one even further. If John McCain is making the same criticism of Obama as Clinton -- flowing rhetoric but no experience and weak on national security -- then Hillary Clinton becomes superfluous in this campaign. Obviously, Clinton and McCain differ on policy, but does anyone seriously think that Hillary Clinton can credibly claim to be more experienced than John McCain? Would Clinton try to argue that McCain wasn't ready to be commander-in-chief from day one? Why does Clinton need to be in the race if McCain is parroting her line of attack?POSTSCRIPT: Mickey Kaus relates a possible anti-momentum theory that could help Clinton:
Hillary does best when Democratic voters sense she's about to get brutally knocked out of the race, as in New Hampshire. That prospect taps a well of residual sympathy for a woman who has devoted her life to politics, etc. But when Hillary is triumphant she seems arrogant and unbearable, and voters feel free to express those perceptions at the polls. It follows that Hillary will do better in the crucial states of Ohio and Texas if she loses in Wisconsin and has her back to the wall.The problem with this logic is that.... if it were true, she would have actually won Wisconsin. Clinton's back was already against the wall after eight straight losses, and there had been a week for these losses to sink into the electorate. The cable nets delighted in discussing her massive losses in the Potomac primaries. That combined with more favorable demographics should have pushed her to victory in the Badger state -- and yet it didn't. ANOTHER POSTSCRIPT: Jamal Simmons observes the eerie similarities between the 2008 campaign and the fictional 2006 campaign that played out on The West Wing. My only quibble -- Hillary Clinton isn't Abby Bartlett -- she's John Hoynes. LAST POSTSCRIPT: Worst... surrogate... ever: The most painful part is the background derisive laughter you can hear at the tail end of the clip.
Mr Obama is a paradox, as yet unresolved. His plan and his votes in the Senate show that he is a liberal, not a centrist. And he is no wavering or accidental liberal. His ideas are of a piece. He sees ? or convinces people that he sees ? a bigger picture. And yet this leftist visionary is pragmatic, non-ideological and accommodating of dissent. More than that, in fact, he seems keen to listen to and learn from those who disagree with him. What a strange and beguiling combination this is. It makes him an electrifying candidate ? one the Democrats would be crazy not to nominate ? but also, to be sure, a gamble. If Mr Obama is elected, it might turn out that there is no ?there? there. Indecision, drift and effete triangulation are one possibility. Equally disappointing would be if the office wore away the pragmatism and open-mindedness, to reveal an inner dogmatist. Perhaps, though, Mr Obama really can transcend Washington?s partisan paralysis and build support for one or two big important reforms ? starting with healthcare. Voters (and commentators) have the better part of a year to decide whether this pushes the audacity of hope too far.Now, on the one hand, Steve Chapman soothes my anxieties here when he compares Clinton's mortgage plan with Obama's:
Obama is not a staunch free marketeer, but he grasps the value of markets and shows some deference to economic laws. Clinton, however, tends to treat both as piddly obstacles to her grand ambitions. You don't have to take that from me. Some on the left see the Illinois senator as suspiciously unenchanted by their goals and methods. Robert Kuttner, an economics writer and co-editor of The American Prospect, scorns Obama's advisers as "free-market guys who want to use markets to somehow solve social problems, which is like squaring a circle." New York Times columnist Paul Krugman denounced Obama because his health-care and fiscal stimulus plans "tilted to the right" and concludes Obama is "less progressive" than Clinton. If progressive means issuing dictates that prevent informed people from entering into mutually agreeable and economically valuable transactions, that is undoubtedly true. Many liberals prefer to rely on command and control. Nowhere is the contrast between the Democratic contenders more vivid than on how to deal with the fallout from the epidemic of mortgages gone bad. Clinton has a stunningly simple solution, as stated in one of her TV ads: "freeze foreclosures" for 90 days and "freeze rates on adjustable mortgages." Those are a perfect answer, assuming this is the question: How can the government reward irresponsibility, discourage mortgage lending and increasing the cost of financing a home?.... Obama is not willing to let this turbulent market sort itself out without the intervention of government, but he offers nothing remotely as alarming as Clinton's dual freeze. Among his main proposals are tougher enforcement of laws against fraud and deception and mandates for "easy-to-understand information" for borrowers -- ideas few advocates of economic freedom would find objectionable. More important than what he advocates is what he doesn't. His chief economic adviser, Austan Goolsbee of the University of Chicago, told me that Obama thinks "we shouldn't have a blanket policy of bailing out everyone." In formulating remedies, Goolsbee said, "you have to think how not to reward bad behavior."On the other hand, we get to what Obama is saying right now, and I start to get very worried. The Financial Times' Edward Luce explains:
Barack Obama on Monday made an aggressive pitch at Ohio?s blue-collar workers by proposing a ?Patriot Employers? plan that would lower corporate taxes for companies that did not ship jobs overseas. The proposal, which came two weeks before the critical Ohio primary and just before on Tuesday?s nominating contest in Wisconsin, is the most radical any presidential candidate has put forward so far to mitigate the perceived effects of globalisation on US manufacturing.... Mr. Obama?s plan met instant scepticism from otherwise sympathetic Democratic economists who said it would require a large regulatory apparatus to put into practice. They also said that companies could ?game the system? by spinning off overseas subsidiaries in order to reduce the offshore-onshore workforce ratio. ?I would say that this plan is borderline unimplementable,? said a Democratic economist in Washington. ?It is also puzzling. Normally presidential candidates only come up with plans that are unrealistic when they are losing. But Obama is now the favourite.?Clive Crook, correctly, concludes that this plan is, "on its economic merits, remarkably stupid." And I haven't even gotten to Obama's NAFTA-bashing. So what's a possible Obama cultist to think? I can offer four words of solace in considering whether to embrace a President Obama:
1) Part of this is the remaining primary schedule. Wisconsin, Ohio, and Pennsylvania are all fertile ground for economic populism, and this is presumably why Obama has been tacking in this direction. As John Broder and Jeff Zeleny point out in today's New York Times:[B]oth candidates appear to be looking for ways to avoid taking positions that would give them problems in the general election or expose them to a business backlash.... ?Revolutions in communication and technology have made it easier for companies to send jobs wherever labor is cheapest, and that?s something that cannot be reversed,? Mr. Obama said. ?So I?m not going to stand here and say that we can stop every job from going overseas. I don?t believe that we can ? or should ? stop free trade.?2) Chapman is still right -- compared to Hillary, Obama remains the more market-friendly candidate. Indeed, this might even remain true if Obama is compared to McCain. The latter's first instinct on other issues (campaign finance) has been to regulate. 3) One wonders if, right now, Obama wants conservative criticism. Assuming he manages to continue his victory streak, this allows Obama to counter-punch while still being on top. This subtly signals to other Democrats that a) he really is a Democrat; and b) Hillary Clinton's not the only only one taking pot-shots from the right. 4) Matthew Cooper makes an excellent point in Portfolio -- if one judges economic competency based on how one runs a campaign, then Obama deserves superior marks:Obama's sheer abilities as a C.E.O. haven't received much attention. There was no reason to think that a lawyer who had never run anything larger than a Senate office would really have been able to build such an amazing campaign organization. Yes, he was a community organizer, but you wouldn't expect orchestrating street protests to necessarily translate into assembling a machine that stretches from coast to coast and spends tens of millions. One benefit of the endless primary season is that it tests not just the mettle of candidates but also that of their organizations. Obama's campaign is a testament to his abilities. It's flexible. It's fast. And it got built quickly, unlike the Clinton machine, which has been assembling itself for years, like a conglomerate that keeps acquiring new companies. (Disclosure: My wife is a senior adviser to Clinton.) Unlike other insurgent campaigns that have found themselves suddenly within striking distance of the nomination, Obama's rose in a way that was simultaneously revolutionary and orthodox. On the orthodox side, he actually raised the money and secured the endorsements and built the ground operation. Unlike, say, George McGovern or Jimmy Carter, who defeated established front-runners to win the Democratic Party's nomination but faced frantic, last-minute, anybody-but movements led by party elders determined to snatch it from them, Obama did it the old-fashioned way, only in record time. Mitt Romney is the businessman in this race, but Obama may just turn out to be the real C.E.O.Contrast this with the Clinton campaign, which seems uninformed about the rules in Texas and couldn't name enough delegates in Pennsylvania. Indeed, is it wrong to compare Clinton's "shock and awe" approach to the primaries with prior uses of that tactic.
Senator John McCain?s presidential campaign said Thursday that it stood by a year-old pledge made with Senator Barack Obama that each would accept public financing for the general election if the nominee of the opposing party did the same. But Mr. Obama?s campaign refused to reaffirm its earlier commitment. The McCain campaign?s latest stand on the issue was first reported Thursday by The Financial Times. On Tuesday, one of Mr. McCain?s advisers told The New York Times that the campaign had decided to forgo public financing in the general election, an awkward admission for a senator who has made campaign finance reform a central part of his political persona. That adviser was speaking on the assumption that Mr. Obama, who has broken all records in political fund-raising and is currently drawing more than $1 million a day, would find a way to retreat from the pledge in order to outspend his opponent in the fall by far. Under public-financing rules, the nominees are restricted to spending about $85 million each for the two-month general election campaign, far less than what Mr. Obama might be able to raise on his own. On Thursday, in an effort by the McCain campaign to speak with one voice and put the onus for abandoning the system on Mr. Obama, several McCain advisers called on him to make good on his pledge. Mr. Obama was the candidate who proposed the pledge in the first place, in February 2007, a time when he was not raising the prodigious sums he is now. Mr. McCain, co-author of the McCain-Feingold act of 2002, which placed new restrictions on campaign financing, was the only other candidate to take Mr. Obama up on his pledge.At first blush, I think this is a double-edged sword for both candidates. For McCain, proposing this reminds everyone of McCain-Feingold and potentially neutralizes Obama's fundraising power. On the other hand, McCain-Feingold hasn't really worked out as envisaged, and it's a major sore point with conervatives. For Obama, accepting McCain's proposal would remind everyone that it was Obama who came up with the idea in the first place. It would also allow him to blunt McCain's attempt to woo back independents who have shown a liking for Obama. On the other hand, Obama's fundraising capabilities are quite prodigious. Furthermore, accepting now leaves him open to charges of taking the nomination for granted. If you're Obama, do you accept the dare?
It would be insane to waste time and energy worrying that somewhere, doubtless in a high-tech subterranean lair, Republican masterminds are cackling over their diabolical plot: The use of reverse psychology to lure unsuspecting Democrats into nominating Barack Obama, an innocent lamb who will be chewed up by the attack machine in the fall. Mwa-ha-ha-ha-ha! Or maybe Republicans are using double super secret backward reverse psychology to exploit the Democratic Party's congenital paranoia: Let's say nice things about Obama so Democrats think we really want to run against him, and that will make them play into our hands by nominating Hillary Clinton, who so energizes the Republican base that we can actually win an election that we ought to lose. Cue another round of deranged mad-scientist laughter. Amazingly, those are the kinds of things you hear Democrats saying out loud these days. Let me suggest that the party has enough to think about without dreaming up dilemmas.... Enough with the Dr. Evil routine. I think there's a simpler reason that so many Republicans speak admiringly of Barack Obama and say he would be the tougher candidate to run against. Obama disagrees with conservatives without demonizing them. He even invites Republicans to join him in building the post-partisan America he envisions. Hillary Clinton, author of the phrase "vast right-wing conspiracy," is more confrontational, to say the least. Democrats can and should argue about which approach is better. But they should worry about their own strategy -- and not obsess about Republican mind control.
a) Caucuses don't really count as much as primaries because, "the caucus system is undemocratic and caters mostly to party activists." b) The superdelegates -- which consistIn the comments, someone please logically reconcile those two statements. [But isn't Obama equally contradictory by making the reverse of both arguments?--ed. Actually, no. I think the Obama campaign's argument is that because of turnout, the caucus states have largely reflected the will of the voters -- and therefore superdelegates should simply follow suit in making their decisions. I think that's consistent -- but I'm willing to be corrected in the comments.] UPDATE: It's been pointed out in the comments that a lot of elected officials are also superdelegates. I was assuming that any elected Democrat is a de facto party activist (they're not mutually exclusive categories), but others might not make the same distinction. That said, looking at this list of superdelegates, I do believe a healthy majority of them consist of party activists of one stripe or another. ANOTHER UPDATE: Over at Slate, Christopher Beam takes a closer look at the superdelegates:
onlyprimarily of party activists -- should not follow the primary results but instead, "should make an independent decision based on who they thought would be the strongest candidate and president."
Clinton and Obama are fairly close among governors (10-10, respectively), senators (12-9), and congress members (71-58). It?s among DNC officials that Clinton really takes the lead, with 125 to Obama?s 57.5. In other words, Clinton?s sway appears to be much stronger among party hacks than among elected officials (emphasis added).This reinforces the logical conundrum -- is there any way Clinton can reconcile her spin on the caucus states and the superdelegates? Hat tip: '08 Guru
The job of the vice president has changed, thanks to Clinton's decision to pick Al Gore in 1992 and Bush's decision to pick Dick Cheney in 2000. These men, at the time they were picked, were extraordinarily well respected; and they went on to have greater responsibilities than previous vice presidents. I think voters now expect vice presidential nominees to pass a higher bar. They can't be picked solely to win a state or lock down a constituency. They have to be plausible presidents. I expect that consideration will be even more important given McCain's age. And I'm not sure that Huckabee can clear that bar.I have really mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, Huckabee is clearly not ready for prime time as a president, and based on his foreign policy views, I want pretty far away from the corridors of power. On the other hand, the ratcheting of the VP bar creates a different problem -- instead of a buffoon or a lightweight, you have a talented, ambitious politician placed in an ambiguous position. This means presidents need to give them something to do in terms of policymaking. And, frankly, the results have ranged from unproductive (negotiating a global warming treaty that had zero chance of ratification; outsourcing government) to destructive (screwing with the foreign policymaking process). The paradox is that an ideal vice president should be ready to be president from day one. At the same time, such a person -- in order to take the job -- requires major policy bailiwicks to tide him or her over. I'm not sure what the right mix is for a VP selection, but I don't think either the "true lightweight" or "ambitious heavyweight" molds works terribly well. Anyone have any suggestions? UPDATE: Over at the Monkey Cage, Lee Sigelman crunches some numbers to try and divine who the actual VP picks might be for the donkey side.
Ted Kennedy, Patrick Kennedy, Caroline Kennedy, John Kerry, and the African-American "establishment" in the Deep South: so much for the Kennedy's pull with either Massachusetts voters or the Hispanic community [UPDATE: Hmmm... Matt Yglesias makes a convincing case that the endorsements had some pull in Massachusetts.] And so much for the endorsements of the "establishment" African-Americans in the South swaying the black community. Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and James Dobson: so much for their pull with conservative votersSo it's a Super Wednesday for me. [Wait, what about bad political prognosticators?--ed.] Oh, I'm always a loser in that category
Daniel W. Drezner is professor of international politics at the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University.