Thursday, January 31, 2008

Did Bush Approve Use of Waterboarding? Mukasey Won't Say No.

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 354

In testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, Attorney General Michael Mukasey refused to deny whether the President of the United States had authorized the use of waterboarding in specific instances.

According the UK news site Guardian Unlimited, Mukasey's non-denial occurred during an exchange with California senator Dianne Feinstein:

When Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein asked if the current path to authorising waterboarding - a request from the CIA director, followed by approval from the attorney general, followed by consultation with the president - had applied in the past, Mukasey said yes.

"I should take a step back," he then added. "I'm not authorised to say what happened in the past, but I was told this wasn't news."

Feinstein pointed to the Bush administration's reported admission that the CIA waterboarded at least three senior members of al-Qaida. Given that the outlined process for authorising the tactic would have involved Bush, she repeated, "Did the president approve that?"

Mukasey declined to answer the question.

I believe I understand the basics of the legal concept of sovereign immunity, but it is increasingly difficult, as an American citizen, to explain to friends from other lands - rogue state hotbeds of Anti-Americanism like Canada and the United Kingdom - why it is that our leaders should not be subject to trial as war criminals when subjects like this arise. I say this not to make an argument in favor of war crimes prosecution for American elected officials, but rather to oppose any practices which even suggest that such a thing might be justified. It is deeply disappointing that that no one in the United States government will, nor apparently can, categorically deny that this nation engages in torture.

On a related note, the same hearing yesterday also produced an interesting exchange between Mukasey and Delaware senator Joe Biden on when the attorney general believes the use of torture to be warrented. Quoting from a piece TPM ran yesterday:

Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE) said that he'd been getting the impression that Mukasey really thought about torture in relative terms, and wanted to know if that was so. Is it OK to waterboard someone if a nuclear weapon was hidden -- the Jack Bauer scenario -- but not OK to waterboard someone for more pedestrian information?

Mukasey responded that it was "not simply a relative issue," but there "is a statute where it is a relative issue," he added, citing the Detainee Treatment Act. That law engages the "shocks the conscience" standard, he explained, and you have to "balance the value of doing something against the cost of doing it."

What does "cost" mean, Biden wanted to know.

Mukasey said that was the wrong word. "I mean the heinousness of doing it, the cruelty of doing it, balanced against the value.... balanced against the information you might get." Information "that couldn't be used to save lives," he explained, would be of less value.

Biden responded, "You're the first I've ever heard to say what you just said.... It shocks my conscience a little bit."

In its coverage of yesterday's hearing the Associated Press reports:

Mukasey, in his third month at the helm of the Justice Department, said he would feel tortured if he, himself, were waterboarded. But he staunchly avoided debating during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing whether waterboarding is legal. Instead, he echoed the Bush administration's long-standing denial of identifying how al-Qaida detainees have been questioned by CIA interrogators.

Waterboarding involves strapping a person down and pouring water over his cloth-covered face to create the sensation of drowning.

''Would waterboarding be torture if it was done to you?'' asked Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass.

''I would feel that it was,'' Mukasey said.

Thank you, Mr. Attorney General. You may step down.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Of Missing Persons

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 355

John Edwards withdrew from the race for the Democratic presidential nomination today. In leaving the field to Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Edwards joins Joe Biden, Chris Dodd, and Bill Richardson in the ranks of former candidates. All of these men, now gone from the race, nevertheless left an indelible imprint on its terms of debate: Joe Biden on foreign policy generally, and Iraq in particular; Chris Dodd on restoring civil liberties and the rule of law; John Edwards on poverty; Bill Richardson on diplomacy and the environment. Every one of them had the courage of their convictions, and, in spite of a mass media that continually focused on prematurely simplifying the campaign to a two-person horse race, made their impact nonetheless, oftentimes through the simple act of refusing to go quietly.

And the supporters of these departed candidates are now left to sift through their feelings, their policy priorities, their character judgments, and to pick whom to now support between two candidates not of their original choosing. It is an uncomfortable and difficult process. My own chosen candidate, Joe Biden, left the race nearly a month ago, and I am nowhere near settled on whom to eventually give my allegiance.

But in Iowa, we were the luckiest of voters, because no matter who we may have originally supported, as Iowans we had the luxury of working for, speaking for and voting for the person we viewed as the most qualified to lead this nation out of the dark night of the past seven years. We had the luxury of participation without compromise. No one else can claim that privilege. And that is a shame.

Readers of this blog will know that I was never a John Edwards supporter. I never felt that John Edwards possessed the ability to bring people together that will prove so crucial in healing our country and helping it move forward again. But when I think of the race without John Edwards, without the last member of the non-hundred million dollar club, I feel a bit sad. Because now there are only two voices left to speak.

Eventually, of course, we'll be down to one voice. And Democrats will rally behind our nominee with energy and commitment that will propel our candidate to an historic victory in November.

Just give us a minute.

Everybody Needs a Hobby: Nader Forms Exploratory Committee

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 355

This is not a joke. Well, okay - it is a joke, but I am not making it up: Ralph Nader today announced that he has formed a presidential exploratory committee. Nader's got a web site and everything, so, gosh, he must be serious.

The political landscape trembles.

New Obama Ad: "Caroline"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 355

The Obama campaign has debuted a new ad. The 30-second spot, titled "Caroline," follows up last Sunday's endorsement by Caroline Kennedy-Schlossberg, daughter of the late President John F. Kennedy.

The ad began running yesterday in New York City, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco and Los Angeles and on cable nation-wide.

If nothing else, this ad should win an award for film editing. The way in which the lead-off footage of President Kennedy transitions to Barack Obama walking into the ad at about the 8 second mark is simply breathtaking.

Clinton, Obama Issue Statements on Edwards' Withdrawal

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 355

The campaigns of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama issued statements today regarding the decision of John Edwards to withdraw from the race for the Democratic presidential nomination.

Hillary Clinton

John Edwards ended his campaign today in the same way he started it - by standing with the people who are too often left behind and nearly always left out of our national debate.

John ran with compassion and conviction and lifted this campaign with his deep concern for the daily lives of the American people. That is what this election is about - it's about our people. And John is one of the greatest champions the American people could ask for.

I wish John and Elizabeth all the best. They have my great personal respect and gratitude. And I know they will continue to fight passionately for the country and the people they love so deeply.

Barack Obama

John Edwards has spent a lifetime fighting to give voice to the voiceless and hope to the struggling, even when it wasn’t popular to do or covered in the news. At a time when our politics is too focused on who’s up and who’s down, he made a nation focus again on who matters – the New Orleans child without a home, the West Virginia miner without a job, the families who live in that other America that is not seen or heard or talked about by our leaders in Washington. John and Elizabeth Edwards have always believed deeply that we can change this – that two Americas can become one, and that our country can rally around this common purpose. So while his campaign may end today, the cause of their lives endures for all of us who still believe that we can achieve that dream of one America.

Thoughts on the Florida Primary

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 355

McCain goes up big, Giuliani goes down hard, Romney goes on life support, and Clinton goes to Fantasy Land. Here are some morning after thoughts on the Florida primary.

John McCain

John McCain has got to be feeling good this morning. After wins in New Hampshire and South Carolina showcased strength with independent voters, last night's win in the "closed" Republican-only Florida primary showed that John McCain is at least viable with the GOP base. That combination, plus the thus-far unique phenomenon of consecutive primary wins on the Republican side, puts McCain at the front of the field.

The fact persists, however, that the Republican base remains fundamentally uneasy at various points with every GOP candidate this time out. And for conservative true believers, the expected endorsement as early as today of John McCain by Rudy Giuliani, viewed by many of the GOP faithful as ideologically suspect for his record of supporting abortion rights, gun control and gay rights, certainly won't make McCain any easier to picture as the ever longed-for heir to Ronald Reagan. For that reason, McCain's win in Florida, while significant for him and for the entire GOP field, nevertheless comes off feeling a little light, more in the nature of a coin-toss than a groundswell.

Which may sound like quibbling and sour grapes to some. And that may be true, but it is pretty much all that keeps Mitt Romney going at this point.

Mitt Romney

The question for Mitt Romney now is whether he's got any cards left to play in this race. So far, he's flipped ideological stances on major issues like abortion rights, continued to grapple with how best to explain his faith to a fundamentalist Christian GOP base that views Mormonism with deep suspicion, and has poured tens of millions of dollars of his own money to keep his presidential campaign afloat. Nothing has worked to this point, and only a win in Michigan, where his father was a hugely popular governor, has kept Romney's candidacy alive.

So it's hard to see what will turn things around for Romney at this point. The obvious thing to try is going hugely negative on McCain in the Super Tuesday states, but doing so becomes a question of glass houses, since McCain has shown himself to be no pushover on that front, often giving as good as he gets when it comes to slinging mud.

Rudy Giuliani

"New York - if I can make it there, I can make it anywhere..."
~ John Kander & Fred Ebb, "New York, New York"

These lyrics from the old Frank Sinatra chestnut can be said to articulate Rudy Giuliani's rationale for seeking the Republican nomination for president more clearly than "America's Mayor" ever managed to do himself.

Most politicians are in continual danger of crossing the line from hyping their own image to actually believing in it themselves. In Giuliani's case, that dose of kool-aide took hold long before he threw his hat in the ring for the 2008 nomination contest, and it showed from the very beginning. Iowa? Too small, too unfamiliar and too retail to matter. New Hampshire? We hope we'll get some votes there, but we don't expect to win (see Iowa). South Carolina? The same. But Florida? Ah, Florida...that's where it's going to be different. Closed primary, big media market, lots of retirees from New York, high name other words, all the makings of a Giuliani electoral triumph, setting the stage for a national turnaround on February 5.

That didn't happen, obviously. Notwithstanding the presence in Florida of all the factors just listed, Rudy Giuliani never troubled himself to do what candidates should have lasered into their foreheads as Job One: focus on voters, organize supporters, and go local. As a result, Rudy found himself talking past voters, his eye always on the ever-forthcoming National Campaign, and ultimately, his longed-for political cage match in the Fall with arch-enemy Hillary Clinton.

As an aside, it is worth noting that the same fate that befell Rudy Giuliani on the Republican side might as easily have befallen Barack Obama on the Democratic side. The difference is that Obama managed to take the hype around his candidacy and convert it from a personal talisman to a launching pad for a broad-based movement, and, crucially, built the political organization required to capitalize on that.

Ultimately, Rudy Giuliani always put more faith in the media than he ever did in the electorate, and it was his undoing.

Hillary Clinton

"Victory in Florida," proclaimed the title of an email the Clinton campaign sent to supporters this morning. This in spite of the fact that there was virtually no campaign waged in Florida by Barack Obama, out of adherence to the early state pledge all Democratic candidates (Clinton included) signed last year. But that isn't mentioned in the email, nor was the other minor detail that not a single delegate was awarded last night, due to DNC sanctions imposed on the Florida Democratic party for moving its primary earlier in the calendar than allowed by party rules. All mere quibbling, the Clinton campaign insists: people voted for Hillary in Florida yesterday, and a win is a win is a win.

Except when it isn't, of course.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich, before he abandoned his longshot presidential bid to focus on his longshot reelection bid, would often send out emails claiming victory in this or that self-selecting on-line "primary." Hillary Clinton, claiming "wins" in Michigan and now Florida, skirts awfully close to that same line this morning. Such claims reek of desperation, and reinforce one of the major criticisms of her to be found across a broad spectrum of media and public opinion: that winning is the only thing that matters to Hillary Clinton.

Edwards to Quit Race Today

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 355

The Associated Press is reporting this morning that John Edwards will quit the presidential race today after Saturday's electoral death-knell in his home state of South Carolina.

According to AP, Edwards will announce his withdrawal at an event in New Orleans at 1:00 PM EST today.

I'll be back with more thoughts after the announcement.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Web Stats: Bush Tanks There, Too

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 356

Following President Bush's last State of the Union address last night, the overwhelming bulk of post-speech commentary in the media (old and new) has been to the effect that everyone - Congress, the press, the vast majority of the American public - has already put this administration in the rear-view mirror and is focused on the question of who will be the next occupant of the oval office.

To be sure, I agree with this assessment, but I've also been curious to see if there would be any way to substantiate it. And so, being, y'know, me, I went hunting today for some numbers to back up or refute the conventional wisdom. And sure enough, the answer, like so many things these days, is to be found on Google.

I decided to punch in a trend search comparing search volumes for President Bush, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, and just to provide a baseline for comparison, ultimate political botnet hit-bait Ron Paul. The search compared Google volumes over the past 30 days. The result: Bush comes in dead last. Dead last. Granted, the numbers available today run only through January 26, when Obama stormed to a landslide victory in the South Carolina, and so does not include data for the immediate aftermath of the State of the Union, traditionally an annual high-water mark of Presidential media coverage. But still. President Bush comes in last.

The picture below tells the story. The trend line legend is:
blue = Barack Obama
red = Hillary Clinton
goldenrod = John Edwards
violet = Ron Paul
green = George W. Bush

So, yes, based on these trends, the American people have clearly stopped paying attention to this president in favor of the next president, whomever that turns out to be.

I'll run another trend line in a few days time to track any changes between last Saturday and the last night's State of the Union. Watch this space!

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Other Clinton

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 357

When he came into office 15 years ago, Bill Clinton was on a mission to make his mark in history by reforming American government and reinvigorating a languishing economy. But notable missteps on health care and gays in the military contributed to a repudiation at the polls in the 1994 congressional mid-terms, which seemed to refocus Clinton's remarkable political skills. Bill Clinton presided over the longest peacetime economic expansion in our nation's history, turned record budget deficits into record surpluses, lifted millions of families out of poverty, and stepped in to prevent genocide in the heart of Europe.

And then the mischief set in. Somewhere along the line, being a successful president wasn't enough to hold Bill Clinton's attention, and he dallied his way into impeachment over a liaison with White House intern Monica Lewinsky; in so doing, President Clinton effectively sacrificed the last half of his second term, and the many things he might have achieved in that time, to the full-time pursuit of his own survival in office. Arguably, Bill Clinton didn't have a lot of choice in the circumstances. But the circumstances were largely of his own making, and he bears responsibility for those years of missed opportunity.

As a result, when he left office 7 years ago, Bill Clinton was on a mission to redeem his place in history by becoming a global elder statesman (if that term was to be applied to someone of Clinton's age at the time) in the Jimmy Carter mold. After his relief work following the Asian tsunami, he seemed poised to succeed, and his place in the public mind, if not quite yet in history, was looking more solid than at any time in his political career. When Hillary Clinton won election to the Senate, and then declared her candidacy for president, at least part of the excitement many felt about her was that she would bring Bill Clinton along as part of the package. And in the early going, during last spring and summer, Bill Clinton seemed to justify that esteem, making elevated speeches in support of Hillary which included the disclaimer, "I'm not here to say anything bad about anybody." People didn't just buy that, they loved it, and Bill Clinton's post-presidential stock took another jump upwards.

And then the mischief set in. Somewhere along the line, the prospect of becoming a globally beloved elder statesman wasn't enough to hold Bill Clinton's attention, and when a third place finish in Iowa and a squeeker of a win in New Hampshire reduced Hillary Clinton from inevitable nominee to candidate on the brink, Bill Clinton cast aside the unfamiliar role of political second fiddle for the evidently more comfortable role of full-time, fully engaged surrogate candidate.

There is no question that Bill Clinton is an effective campaigner. The question, rather, is how much tolerance there will be within the Democratic party and the public at large for the spectacle of former president as political wartime consigliere. This is a political calculation as high in risk as it is in potential benefit, and as such requires more careful management than Clinton's campaign has so far given it. It is always possible, of course, that no one, with the possible exception of Senator Clinton herself, is in any position to handle Bill Clinton; in that case the entire enterprise turns on the political, and, perhaps more certainly, and therefore more unsteadily, the personal judgment of Bill Clinton himself.

It will be intriguing to observe the choices Bill Clinton makes in the
next few days' worth of campaigning in the run-up to Super Tuesday. On the one hand, we might see the Bill Clinton of 1995, carefully charting a way back to the top after some harsh political reversals. On the other hand, we could see the Bill Clinton of the second term, squandering all that he has and might yet become because of impulses to misjudgment that he simply cannot resist.

No one, including, I suspect, Bill Clinton himself, fully knows how this dynamic will play out in the coming days. But if the campaigns in Nevada, and especially South Carolina, give us any indication, it may be time for the former president to exit the stage while some opportunity to do so gracefully still exists.

Friday, January 25, 2008

New Obama Ad: "Need"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 361

Barack Obama has put up a new ad in Connecticut. The 30-second spot, titled "Need," features Obama speaking throughout the ad, both directly to the camera and in voice-over. The ad's focus, following the recent trend from both the Obama and Clinton campaigns, is on the economy.

Here's the script:

Obama: “I’m Barack Obama, and I approved this message.”

Obama: “This administration has further divided Wall Street from Main Street. You got C.E.O.’s who are making more in 10 minutes than ordinary workers are making in a year.

“The bedrock, the foundation of our economy, is our workers. And the middle class have been treading water or worse. My plan says: ‘Let’s return some balance to our tax code. Close these corporate loopholes the lobbyists put in, and let’s make sure that tax breaks are given to people who really need it.’ ”

And here's the video:

There's a PowerPoint-ish feel to this ad, which may indicate that the Obama campaign is using it to try to reinforce its message their candidate offers solid policy thinking, and not just stirring rhetoric. This is not home ground for Obama, and ads like this, running in Connecticut, may signal the near-term direction of his ad message in larger markets like New York City, California, and his native Illinois. In any event, making the case that Obama is the candidate of solutions, and not just "hope," while undoubtedly the right direction for the campaign to take, also clearly indicates that it is playing defense at the moment, attempting to counter Hillary Clinton's recent success in setting the policy agenda.

NY Times Endorses Clinton, McCain

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 361

The New York Times editorial board has published its endorsements for president, selecting Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

Good luck to you, NY Times - the same choices worked out really well for the Des Moines Register...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Kucinich Calls it Quits

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 361

The following press release from Dennis4President hit the inbox a little bit ago:

Kucinich calls news conference for noon Friday 
to discuss status of Presidential campaign

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Thursday, January 24, 2008

CLEVELAND, OH - Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich has called a news conference for noon on Friday, January 25, at the International Laborers' Union (Local 310) hall at 3520 Euclid Avenue, to announce plans for "transitioning out of the Democratic Presidential primary race."

No further comments will be forthcoming from Kucinich or his Presidential campaign until tomorrow's news conference.

# # #


New Edwards Ad in South Carolina: "Native Son"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 361

John Edwards has started airing a new ad in South Carolina. Titled "Native Son," the 90-second spot is a faux movie trailer, complete with an "In a world..." narrated beginning.

The fact that John Edwards feels the need, just two days before the South Carolina primary, to run an ad reintroducing himself to the state where he was born relieves me from any necessity of further comment.

Here's the script:

NARRATOR: In a world where candidates are many, one man stands apart from the crowd.

EDWARDS: When people say to me, 'why are you running for President of the United States,' I can say it in one sentence. I'm running for President of the United States because I want everyone in America to have the same chances that I've had.

NARRATOR: Born to humble beginnings in South Carolina, he spent his life fighting against the rich and powerful to help the kind regular people he grew up with.

SUPPORTER: Give 'em hell, Johnny.

EDWARDS: Oh, I will.

NARRATOR: Now we have the chance to let him bring that fight to the White House, to rescue a nation hijacked by special interests and deliver it back to the hands of the people.

EDWARDS: The strength of America's not just in the Oval Office, the strength of America is in this room, right now. It's the American people, the incredible capacity of the American people to do great things. And we need you. Your country needs you.

NARRATOR: From the people that want to end this senseless war, comes the story of the man who will bring you stronger schools, smart trade and universal health care. Starring South Carolina's native son, John Edwards. On January 26th, choose a brighter future – John Edwards for President.

EDWARDS: I'm John Edwards, and I approve this message.

And the video:

New Clinton Ads: "Warned," "Falling Through"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 361

Hillary Clinton has put up new ads in seven states today. One, titled, "Falling Through," is a 30-second spot airing in Massachusetts, Missouri, Oklahoma and Tennessee, depicting Hillary Clinton addressing voters about her economic proposals in a town hall-like setting.

Another 30-second spot, titled "Warned," is running in Connecticut, Missouri, New Mexico and Utah, and features a narrated script running over footage of Clinton interacting with voters. The subject is, once again, the economy.

Both are effective ads for Clinton, inasmuch as they help her exploit her polling lead over Barack Obama on economic issues, and help to further distance her presidential campaign from foreign policy issues like Iraq and Iran, which have proved to be problematic for her. Indeed, it could be said that Wall Street, in riveting everyone's anxiety by taking the world economy on a roller coaster ride for the past week or so, has arguably done as much, or more, to aid Hillary Clinton's presidential ambitions than it ever did to aid George W. Bush in his. Give Clinton credit for capitalizing on that turmoil with these ads; it's a smart campaign move.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

New Edwards Ad: "What Happened?"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 363

John Edwards is putting up a new TV ad in the run-up to the South Carolina primary. The 30-second spot, titled, "What Happened?," throws some bombs at Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, painting them as Washington sell-outs.

But, really, isn't anybody at the Edwards campaign paying attention to how ads like this play? "What Happened?" could easily be the tag line to John Edwards' entire disastrous month of January, and the tone of the ad comes across as more swan song than anything.

Anyway, here's the script of the ad:

Narrator: One gets more money than anyone from drug companies.
The other one takes more money than anyone from Washington lobbyists.
What's happened to the Democratic Party?
Whatever happened to the party of the people?
Good question.

The only one who's never taken a dime from PACs or Washington lobbyists
Who knows we've been ignored too long.
Who knows that rebuilding the middle class is more important than politics.
Our John Edwards.
The only one.

John Edwards: I'm John Edwards and I approve this message.

And here's the video:

Monday, January 21, 2008

Post Nevada Thoughts: What Happens in Vegas Stays in Vegas?

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 364

Nevada had its turn in the nominating contest spotlight this past weekend. The results indicate that the Democratic race remains wide open going in to South Carolina this weekend, race and gender remain live and dangerous wires, and there is no one on the other end of the line when it comes to labor endorsements and electoral victory. Here are some thoughts on these things and more.

Hillary Clinton

Okay, Hillary, you can exhale now. Sort of. Clinton turned out more supporters on Saturday than Barack Obama...and still won fewer delegates. But in terms of electoral narrative, if not electoral math, Hillary won the Nevada caucuses, which allows her to claim momentum with back-to-back wins over Obama. And momentum, of course, ties in to inevitability, the story line that the Clinton campaign has longed to emphasize from the beginning.

But Clinton's campaign, as enormous and well-funded as it is, has always been oriented more toward withstanding siege than launching assault. This week's campaign in South Carolina will tell much of the tale as to whether the Clinton operation can be as nimble going into the heart of the primary calendar as it has been pertinacious in the early contests. If not, then February 5 likely becomes for them an exercise in containing a once-again surging Barack Obama, rather than a march to victory.

Oddly enough, I think Hillary Clinton understands this dynamic and has internalized it. The question is whether the candidate herself can convey that message across all the layers of her vast campaign in the few days left before the South Carolina vote.

That will turn out to be a big part of the story going in to Saturday. Stay tuned.

Barack Obama

In the wake of losses in New Hampshire and Nevada, the Obama campaign finds itself in urgent need of a message makeover. It isn't that "hope" and "change" have stopped resonating with the electorate since the Iowa caucuses on January 3. Rather, Obama's signature themes have been overtaken by bedrock pocketbook concerns that, to many voters, makes the "old politics versus new" argument seem like an abstraction in comparison.

The trick for Obama now is to marry specific, credible proposals, especially on the economy and housing, to his mainstay themes in a way that effectively counterpunches the Clinton campaign's policy initiatives and drives home the message that new leadership and new political thinking are the best means of delivering concrete results to the country.

Race & Gender

The question for both Senator Clinton and Senator Obama now is whether the tactical ugliness indulged in by both during the run-up to Nevada's caucuses can be left behind in the West as the campaign swings to the Deep South state of South Carolina and its primary this coming Saturday, and then moves to the national canvas on February 5.

The answer is problematic. Ours is a culture with a collective memory capable of retaining only two things: one, the latest escapades of Britney and Paris; and two, every last detail of every statement ever made by anyone, anywhere and at any time on the subjects of race and gender. These are among the hottest of hot button issues, and if American socio-political history teaches anything, it is that hot buttons tend to get pushed, hard and often, sometimes merely because they're there.

It was probably inevitable that race and gender controversy would arise in the course of an historic campaign between the first credible woman and African-American presidential candidates. That being the case, one would have hoped that the Clinton and Obama campaigns would have given a bit more thought on how to more effectively navigate those hazards. In any case, the Nevada campaign has put those hot buttons on the table, and it will be difficult now for the candidates to keep them out of play going forward.

Labor Endorsements

One thing that is clear coming out of Nevada is that, in terms of securing victory in any of this cycle's nominating contests, endorsements from organized labor mean nothing. This is not to say that labor unions are suddenly irrelevant in Democratic politics. Far from it. Unions can channel money and boots on the ground in support of their chosen candidates quickly, effectively, and with unquestionable impact on behalf whomever they endorse. But the ability of unions to monolithically deliver the votes of its members to its endorsees - a far different matter - is all but nonexistent. Culinary Workers and Obama? SEIU and John Edwards? And, for that matter, harking back to Iowa, IAFF and Chris Dodd? The same story, all the way around. The message to candidates this cycle is don't count on a labor endorsement automatically turning into labor votes at the polls.

John Edwards

Based on the fact that the candidate left Nevada the day before the caucuses, I think it is fair to say that the Edwards campaign didn't think they had a legitimate shot at winning in the Silver State. But I don't think they expected a defeat of the magnitude John Edwards experienced on Saturday.

As I wrote following the New Hampshire primary, John Edwards would, by virtue of being the third wheel in the race, find himself in the middle of the two-person campaign he's been aiming at for months should defeat or other misfortune befall either Clinton or Obama. The key, of course, is to remain a credible candidate in the meantime, and that means staying genuinely competitive (i.e., tallying 15% or better) in every contest along the way.

Coming in with just 4% support in Nevada undermines the entire rationale for Edwards continuing his White House bid. A respectable showing in South Carolina this week, where Edwards was born and where he has been counting on doing well since the start of his campaign, now appears increasingly unlikely. This raises two questions for John Edwards: how can he keep his campaign alive after this Saturday, and, overwhelmingly more to the point, why should he?

I think John Edwards is staying in the race, for however long he continues to be able to do that, no longer in hope of securing the Democratic nomination. Rather, I believe that the rationale for a continued Edwards candidacy is based on Clinton and Obama coming out of the primaries in a near deadlock in terms of delegates won. In that event, a handful of delegates controlled by John Edwards puts him in the position of virtually nominating the candidate he prefers, on whatever terms he dictates.

Any such hope is pure fantasy, of course, both in expectation of a deadlocked convention and the ability of Edwards' delegates to swing it one way or the other. There is, at least at this point, no indication that Edwards' delegates will be decisive in determining the Democratic nomination any more than delegates pledged to Kucinich or Gravel (should there be any) would be. And that fact in itself reveals the crossroads at which the Edwards campaign now stands: absent a big win on Saturday, John Edwards will find himself playing in the same political league as the other also rans in this campaign. Ugly choices await.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Advice for Primary Voters

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 370

Ron Klain has a terrific op-ed piece in the New York Times today on the subject of electability. Klain's article points out a number of difficulties inherent in basing one's choice of candidate in a primary election on prognostications about how they will fare against the other party's candidate in the general election, and, along the way, throws in some sage advice for primary voters.

Aside from the dubious practical problems with picking candidates based on electability, there are other concerns too. When I was supporting Senator Joe Biden earlier this year, I often had people say to me, “I think Joe Biden would be a great president, but I won’t vote for him, because he can’t win.” In this way, electability becomes a tautology: voters won’t support a candidate who isn’t electable, and he isn’t electable because voters won’t vote for him.

It's a fair question, but, no, it wasn't just the pro-Biden quote above that got me. The most compelling argument in the piece follows.

More philosophically, an excessive focus on electability diminishes the franchise. Taking something as sacred as your presidential preference and turning it into an act of political prognostication cheapens your choice: being a voter is a more important job in our system than being a pundit or a consultant. Why should you cast your vote based on how you think others will vote (even if you could guess that accurately)? Why should their choice matter more than your own?

Yes, ultimately, presidential campaigns are about winning: a candidate who does not win cannot achieve policy changes or make the country a better place. And being mindful of the consequences of our votes is important, as many people who voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 — only to put George Bush in the White House, instead of Al Gore — have painfully learned.

But Klain's real gem is at the conclusion of the article, and goes to the heart of what primary elections are (or should be) all about.

If you want to back a winner in 2008, focus on persuading your neighbor to come over to your choice, instead of guessing how he will vote.

I could not agree more. The study of politics - things like polling, punditry and commentary (even on blogs like this one) - is to democracy as astronomy is to space travel: observation, rather than participation. Both may be necessary to their respective pursuits, but neither one will get you anywhere on its own. Involvement is the distinguishing factor.

If you care about who wins the next election, then ride the rocket: suit up, strap in, and hit the blast off switch. Don't settle for watching through a telescope.

Monday, January 14, 2008

iPol Plus One

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 371

Happy birthday to us! Today marks the one year anniversary of iPol's first post. From the midst of the A-list star-studded gala marking this auspicious occasion - well, okay, not...but I can honestly say we're giving last night's Golden Globes a run for their money where star power is concerned - I'd like to thank our readers for coming along with us through a year's worth of politicking in the heartland and beyond.

iPol's original mission was to chronicle, for myself as much as anyone else, the political spectacle leading up to the Iowa caucuses, and capture just the tiniest bit of what it's like to be at the center of the political universe for while. While the campaign spotlight has moved on now, no other place in the country will have the extended opportunity to meet, question, challenge, fawn over, and generally poke and prod the candidates in quite the same way, and certainly not for the same amount of time, that Iowa has had. I have been so lucky to be here, to have seen so much first hand and be a part of making the first binding decisions about who will be the next President of the United States. I have taken that seriously, out of respect for the fact that very few people are afforded the same opportunity; at the same time, I've tried not to take things so seriously as to prevent iPol from being a fun read. I like to think that I've succeeded in both informing and entertaining all of you.

In any case, my thanks to the readers who have been kind enough to spend a little time here with me, for your unflagging interest in what makes part of our political process tick, for your often insightful comments and feedback, and, I am sure, your frequent patience with this site and with me. It has been, and continues to be, a very rewarding experience, and I hope you feel the same.

Here's to the year to come, as well as the year just past. Cheers!

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Kucinich and Michigan

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 372

Dennis4President is at it again. This time it's Michigan.

Readers may recall that at the height of caucus leapfrog frenzy last year, all Democratic candidates withdrew from the Michigan primary ballot except Hillary Clinton and Chris Dodd, in avowed adherence to the Democratic National Committee's judgment that the state party had violated the national party's rules in holding its primary too early in the calendar. It turned out, however, that for whatever reason, the Kucinich campaign, while protesting that it tried to withdraw from the Michigan ballot, actually missed the dealine to file its paperwork, and, wouldn't you know, remained on the ballot for the primary.

Here's the Kucinich campaign's press release, dated October 9, 2007:

Kucinich withdraws from Michigan Democratic primary ballot

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - Tuesday, October 9, 2007

DOVER, NH - The Kucinich for President campaign announced this afternoon that it has filed an affidavit with the Michigan Secretary of State's office officially requesting that the name of Ohio Congressman and Democratic Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich be withdrawn from the Michigan Democratic primary ballot.

The sworn statement requesting withdrawal was submitted via fax by Kucinich National Campaign Manager Mike Klein shortly before today's 4 p.m. deadline.

At the same time, the Kucinich campaign issued the following statement on behalf of the candidate, who is campaigning in Arizona today:

"We signed a public pledge recently, promising to stand with New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, and the DNC-approved 'early window', and the action we are taking today protects New Hampshire's first-in-the-nation primary status, and Nevada's early caucus."

The statement continued: "We support the grassroots nature of the New Hampshire, small-state primary, and we support the diversity efforts that Chairman Dean and the DNC instituted last year, when they added Nevada and South Carolina to the window in January 2008. We are obviously committed to New Hampshire's historic role."

Klein, who recently moved to Dover, NH to run the national Kucinich campaign, added, "We will continue to adhere to the DNC-approved primary schedule."


Or not.

Tonight, the Kucinich campaign issued another press release which - and tell me if you didn't see this one coming - appeals to supporters to "Help Dennis Win Votes in Michigan." Seriously. Here's the statement from the Kucinich campaign:

Michigan can make a big difference to this campaign. We need to get our people to the polls on Tuesday and you can help, no matter where you live.

We are asking supporters to call a small list of Michigan voters and urge them to get out and vote for Dennis. If you already have an account, please log in. If you are new to this effort, just go to: and register at the bottom of the page. A script and instructions will be provided.

There are only three active candidates on the Democratic primary ballot - Dennis Kucinich, Hillary Rodham Clinton and Mike Gravel. So please do your best to convince people that a vote for Dennis is a real vote for change.

Thank you for everything you do. Every effort, every contribution, no matter how small will help.

Strength through Peace,
The Kucinich Calling from Home Team

### [emphasis added]

This incident is absolutely classic Dennis Kucinich: protestations of righteous intent, and then, when he thinks he can get away with it, a cynical move like this that shows just how driven by a craven need for attention - in this case, the possibility of headlines following a second-place finish behind Hillary Clinton in Michigan, where, golly gee gosh, in spite of all his many efforts, his name still appears on the ballot - his repeated presidential bids really are.

I can hardly wait to see the Kucinich campaign's and supporters' defense of yet another "principled stand" by Dennis4President. The comment lines are open!

Friday, January 11, 2008

New Clinton Ad: "Listen"

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 374

Hillary Clinton has launched a new ad in Nevada and South Carolina. Titled "Listen," the 30-second spot intersperses scenes of Clinton interacting with voters and excerpts of her victory speech in New Hampshire.

The script for the ad is as follows:

[Clinton] “Over the last week I listened to you and in the process I found my own voice.

You helped remind everyone that politics isn’t a game.

This campaign is about people. About making a difference in your lives.

It’s time we had a president who stands up for all of you.”

“I’m Hillary Clinton and I approved this message.”

And here's the video:

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Richardson's Farewell (and non-endorsement)

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 375

As widely reported yesterday, Bill Richardson has dropped his bid for the White House. With Biden, Dodd and now Richardson out of the race, I fear that it's so long policy, hello 24/7 celebrity from here to the finish line.

Here is the text of Richardson's withdrawal email, sent to supporters earlier today:

It is with great pride, understanding and acceptance that I am ending my campaign for President of the United States. It was my hope that all of you would first hear this news from me and not a news organization. But unfortunately, as with too many things in our world today, it's the ending of something that garners the most intense interest and speculation.

I knew from the beginning that this would be an uphill climb. When I entered the campaign, it was clear that we, as Democrats, had the most talented field of candidates in my lifetime running to change the direction of our country. And in the end, one of them will.

Despite overwhelming financial and political odds, I am proud of the campaign we waged and the influence we had on the issues that matter most to the future of this country.

A year ago, we were the only major campaign calling for the removal of all of our troops within a year's time from Iraq. We were the only campaign calling for a complete reform of education in this country, including the scrapping of No Child Left Behind. And we were the campaign with the most aggressive clean energy plan and the most ambitious standards for reducing global warming.

Now, all of the remaining candidates are coming to our point of view. I am confident that the next President of the United States will implement much of what we've been urging for the last twelve months, and our nation and world will be the better for it.

There are so many of you who gave so much to this campaign. For that, I will be forever grateful. Running for president has been, at times, humbling and at other times, exhilarating. I have grown and learned a great deal from the experience, and I am a better person for it.

Also, because of your close friendship and support throughout the ups and downs of what is a very grueling and demanding process, I have never felt alone.

Running for president brings out the best in everyone who graces the stage, and I have learned much from the other candidates running. They have all brought great talents and abilities to the campaign.

Senator Biden's passion and intellect are remarkable.

Senator Dodd is the epitome of selfless dedication to public service and the Democratic Party.

Senator Edwards is a singular voice for the most downtrodden and forgotten among us.

Senator Obama is a bright light of hope and optimism at a time of great national unease, yet he is also grounded in thoughtful wisdom beyond his years.

Senator Clinton's poise in the face of adversity is matched only by her lifetime of achievement and deep understanding of the challenges we face.

Representative Kucinich is a man of great decency and dedication who will faithfully soldier on no matter how great the odds.

And all of us in the Democratic Party owe Senator Mike Gravel our appreciation for his leadership during the national turmoil of Vietnam.

I am honored to have shared the stage with each of these Democrats. And I am enormously grateful to all of my supporters who chose to stand with me despite so many other candidates of accomplishment and potential.

Now that my time in this national campaign has come to an end, I would urge those who supported my candidacy to take a long and thoughtful look at the remaining Democrats. They are all strong contenders who each, in their own way, would bring desperately needed change to our country. All I ask is that you make your own independent choice with the same care and dedication to this country that you honored me with during this campaign. At this time, I will not endorse any candidate.

Now I am returning to a job that I love, serving a state that I cherish and doing the work of the people I was elected to serve. As I have always said, I am the luckiest man I know. I am married to my high school sweetheart. I live in a place called the Land of Enchantment. I have the best job in the world. And I just got to run for president of the United States.

It doesn't get any better than that.

With my deepest appreciation for all that you have done,


Governor Bill Richardson
The Governor's Mansion
Santa Fe, New Mexico

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

AP: Bill Richardson to Drop Out

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 376

The Associated Press is reporting that New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is dropping his presidential bid following disappointing back-to-back fourth-place finishes in Iowa and New Hampshire.

According to the report, Richardson will announce his decision tomorrow. No word yet on whether the Governor will endorse another candidate at that time.

You Only Live Twice: Clinton, McCain Win New Hampshire

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 377

"Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated."
~ Samuel L. Clemens, 1897

Politicians love to quote this line any time they or their favored causes pull back from the brink of failure. There have been few occasions in recent American political campaigns, however, when the quote has applied so readily as it does this morning to the revived fortunes of Hillary Clinton and John McCain.

Both McCain and Clinton have been declared dead in the course of this campaign, McCain in the spring and summer of 2007, and Clinton less than 24 hours ago. And yet, thanks to the voters of New Hampshire, both are very much alive today. Here's a look at some things worth noting about what happened in last night's New Hampshire primary.

- Undecideds: in the final 72 hours of the campaign, those who waited until the last minute to make up their minds went as much for Clinton as they did for Obama. This was as decisive as anything else in determining the outcome, as it made up for any loss of support Clinton may have experienced in the aftermath of her defeat in last week's Iowa caucuses.

- Independent voters: New Hapshire voters registered as Independents broke for John McCain, siphoning those votes away from Barack Obama. This may have been because national security was perhaps the biggest issue on voter's minds, nudging them towards the hawkish McCain, or perhaps was merely driven by the horse race. As Bill Bradley observed over at Pajamas Media, "It may well be that expectations of a sizeable Obama win, in virtually every poll, led more independents to vote for McCain, feeling that the real contest was on the Republican side."

- The women's vote and the Bill factor: much is being made in the media of the fact that women broke decisively for Clinton and against Obama in New Hampshire, countering a nearly opposite trend from last week's Iowa caucuses. Similarly, some are smirking that Hillary Clinton would be out of the race this morning but for the exertions of her husband. Let me caution against interpreting this result as either some sort of electoral chick flick or the tale of a damsel in distress rescued by a Knight in Shining Armor. Both ideas are as wrong about Hillary Clinton as they are insulting to the voters of New Hampshire.

While more women voters supported Hillary Clinton than Barack Obama yesterday, I've seen no evidence to support the inference some are making that they did so based primarily on gender identification, and it strikes me as pretty silly to suggest so.

As to Bill Clinton's role in the New Hampshire campaign, of course any candidate - Hillary included - would rather have the support of a uniquely gifted campaigner who is also a hugely popular former president than not. And while drawing parallels with Bill Clinton's "comeback kid" second place finish in New Hampshire in 1992 is proving irresistible for many, such comparisons are entirely specious. Yes, New Hampshire is indisputably friendly territory to the Clintons, but there is again no evidence to support the suggestion some are making that Clinton rode to victory on her husband's coat tails. For one thing, it defies logic that anyone should win any election anywhere based on their relation to someone else who finished second there more than a decade before. Hillary Clinton first became known to New Hampshire voters, of course, through Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign there. But the Clinton campaign fashioned New Hampshire as its Granite Firewall months ago, and Hillary has worked hard to make her own name there ever since. New Hampshire voters cast their ballots yesterday for Hillary, not Bill.

John McCain's connection to New Hampshire, incidentally, is arguably much stronger than Hillary Clinton's, winning here as he did against George W. Bush back in 2000. McCain succeeded in tapping the residue of that success, which helped him enormously in yesterday's voting.

The real question now is where Clinton and McCain go from New Hampshire this morning. McCain goes on to Michigan, another state he won eight years ago, to battle putative native son Mitt Romney. Hillary Clinton, while unquestionably resuscitated by last night's win, remains a candidate on the edge, with far from certain prospects in Nevada and South Carolina. The reality is that Hillary Clinton must make fundamental shifts in both tactics and strategy if she hopes to fulfill her ambition to become the next president. It is key that Clinton and her enormous but to this point less-than-agile campaign actually put into practice her pledge that, "we’re going to take what we’ve learned here in New Hampshire and we’re going to rally on and make our case."

So now we have a race with no frontrunner in either party. McCain's victory revives his campaign, but it does not reshape the Republican field. After consecutive losses in Iowa and New Hampshire, states that were the cornerstones of his electoral strategy, Mitt Romney's candidacy is reduced to the absolute necessity of winning in Michigan, which, with his name recognition (Mitt's father George was Governor of Michigan) and his vast personal fortune committed to the race, he may well do. Mike Huckabee remains today what he was yesterday, the uncertain hope of the tottering religious right. And lurking in the swamps of Florida and the airwaves of the Super Tuesday behemoths is Rudy Giuliani, who has made token nods at best to the small states of the early contests. And on the Democratic side, Barack Obama comes out of his three point loss in New Hampshire diminished but little, if at all. A week ago, few would have predicted he would do so well as he did last night in New Hampshire, and he retains full capacity to continue to scare the life out of the Clinton campaign every time he utters the word "change."

And I thought this campaign was going to stop being fun when it left Iowa!

Monday, January 7, 2008

Thoughts on New Hampshire

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 378

I finally got a chance last night to watch a recording of the ABC/WMUR/Facebook debate. Here are some quick thoughts, combined with general observations about the post-Iowa state of things.

Hillary Clinton

With a stinging third place finish for Hillary Clinton in Iowa still very fresh in the public mind, Saturday's debate presented Clinton with a unique opportunity to show a watching world what, if anything, she learned from the first electoral setback of her career. Unfortunately for Clinton, what the audience saw was a hunkered down candidate, gritting her teeth through what she too-evidently views as a mercifully abbreviated campaign in yet another pesky small state of negligible importance and counting the days until she can wage the sort of media-driven national campaign she would clearly be more comfortable running. She appeared neither relaxed, nor reevaluative, nor inclined in the slightest to do a single thing differently today than she was doing a week ago. Cranky and on defense, Clinton appeared more primed for an argument than prepped for a debate.

Which, I think, reflects the state of things within the Clinton campaign generally, and raises the question: did you guys have no Plan B? Did no one in the Clinton campaign ever once raise a hand and posit a couple of What Ifs: What If one day the sun did not rise in the East, What If the birds did not fly south for the winter, and What If Hillary Clinton actually lost in Iowa? As it is, Hillary Clinton and her campaign have responded to last Thursday's result with increasingly negative attacks/drawing sharp distinctions (take your pick) on Barack Obama, while simultaneously trying to outdo him at promoting "change" as a campaign mantra. Three words on Hillary Clinton: in deep trouble.

John Edwards

The quickest of scans through posts on this site tagged "John Edwards" will reveal that I am not his biggest fan. So sit down before you read this next part: I think John Edwards won the debate Saturday night. Edwards won not because of any brilliant answers, per se, although his "she didn't make these kinds of attacks when she was ahead" molotov at Hillary Clinton was hands-down the best line of the night. No, John Edwards won at St. Anselm because of what that debate revealed about his strategy coming out of Iowa.

Saturday night saw John Edwards punching away at his mainstay populist themes and steering pretty clear of directly hitting either Obama or Richardson, keeping himself focused on attacking a newly vulnerable Hillary Clinton. Politically, this is absolutely the right course of action for John Edwards on a number of levels.

Placing second in Iowa after four years of non-stop campaigning here was almost as bad for John Edwards as placing third was for Hillary Clinton. But with the race now indisputably a three-way contest between himself, Obama and Clinton (sorry, Governor Richardson), Edwards is clearly now focused on simply hanging in there through February 5 and beyond in the near-certain knowledge that either Obama or Clinton will drop out at some point, which then injects Edwards into the center of the two-person race he's been positioning himself for since at least the middle of last summer when he decided it was no more mister nice guy and went angry populist. John Edwards now doesn't have to win anything to achieve his central strategic goal for at least the next two months. All he has to do is stay competitive until one or the other of his principal opponents drops. That is brilliant strategic political thinking from John Edwards, which leaves me nearly as impressed as I am surprised.

Barack Obama

Saturday night was one of Barack Obama's more comfortable debate performances, I thought. He finally found his voice on health care, dealing effectively with Clinton's charge that his plan is "not universal," which will pay dividends for him as the campaign progresses. I also found fascinating the way in which Obama made tactical alliance with John Edwards in response to some of Clinton's points. That tactic makes Obama and Edwards seem collegial and of good will, while leaving Clinton looking isolated and shrill. There's not much that Clinton can do in response, save to cry foul for "piling on," which, you may recall, served her poorly in Iowa. But the next time you hear Hillary Clinton and her campaign complaining that Obama is getting a free ride in the media, know that this is part of what she's talking about.

Bill Richardson

Let's save lots of keystrokes for everyone right now and simply admit that Bill Richardson has won the Likability Primary coming out of Iowa. And then let's save further untold keystrokes by admitting that's the only primary he's likely to win this year.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Post Hoc, Ergo Propter Hoc

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 380

Thursday's caucus already seems as though it took place a year ago. And while my preferred candidate Joe Biden is now out of the race, the race continues, as does this page.

Lots of emotions about Thursday's outcome, and interested readers can click over to Pajamas Media, where I've jotted down some thoughts about it all; feel free to leave comments either here or there. You can also listen in on an interview I did on New Year's Day with XM Satellite Radio's Channel #130, POTUS '08 (my part starts about 16 minutes into the show). Later this weekend, I'll also be putting up a quick take on the outcome and what I think it means, so stay tuned.

In the meantime, there's tonight's debate in New Hampshire. Unlike Iowa's leisurely year at the center of the political universe, the Granite State gets the entire campaign blasted at it in warp speed over the course of less than a week. Have fun, guys!

I'll be back later tonight with some thoughts on the debate.

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Biden Campaign: No Caucus Deals

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 382

I've seen some speculation on this around the b-sphere and want to put any deal rumors to rest. Here's a press statement from the Biden campaign on caucus deals.


Des Moines, IA(January 3, 2008)– Biden for President Iowa State Director Danny O’Brien issued the following statement:

“There are no discussions underway and there will be no deal with any campaign. We believe Sen. Biden is strong enough on his own. Everyone knows that Sen. Biden is a popular second choice for the supporters of all the other campaigns. We remain confident that Sen. Biden will surprise folks this evening.”


The Only Voice That Matters

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 382

Tonight is caucus night in Iowa. After a full year of campaigning, speeches, debates, rallies, endorsements, house parties, phone banking, canvassing, ad buys, robocalling, polls and punditry upon punditry upon punditry, tonight the voters of Iowa finally have their say.

For a full year in advance of your voting tonight, people have been telling you what this campaign is about and who the frontrunners are. But tonight, forget Matthews, and Russert, and Stephanopoulos, and Yepsen. Forget ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox, and NBC. Tonight, they don't matter. Tonight, they listen to you. As an Iowa voter, here is what I say to the pundits, and to my neighbors and fellow caucus-goers across the state tonight.

Tonight I stand with Joe Biden. All of our candidates on the Democratic side are good candidates, committed to moving our country forward once again after the fear and drift of the Bush-Cheney years. Tonight I stand with Joe Biden because after meeting all the candidates, examining their records and proposals, and weighing who is most likely to prevail against the Republican nominee in the fall, I have come to believe that Joe Biden is not just one good candidate among several, but the best candidate, and by a wide margin.

Name recognition is not experience. Money is not leadership. Celebrity is not vision. Where other candidates have voiced a commitment to ending the war in Iraq, Joe Biden has crafted a plan, and then worked with his colleagues on both sides of the aisle in the Senate to see it pass overwhelmingly. Time and again throughout the campaign, Joe Biden has been proven right on issues ranging from Iraq and Pakistan abroad to civil liberties and the rule of law here at home. And the other candidates have recognized this, saying time and again "Joe is right," and "I agree with Joe."

And, in talking with other voters across Iowa, I know many of them agree with Joe, as well. Again and again I've heard, "I really like Joe Biden, but I'm going to caucus for someone else because they have a better chance at winning Iowa." Although I strongly disagree about Biden's chances in Iowa, I understand why people have said this. It isn't easy to buck the influence of millions of dollars of advertising and countless polls and pundits. To Iowa voters who feel they would prefer to vote for Joe Biden tonight, if only they thought he could win, I say this.

Your heart is with Joe Biden, but your vote is with another candidate whom everyone says will do well in the caucuses. If that is true, if other candidates are somehow destined to do well regardless, then what do they need you for? If that is true, then go with your gut. Follow your heart. Stand with Joe Biden tonight. Because tonight no one can tell you what to do. Tonight all the pollsters and pundits await in silence for the sound of your voice. Tonight they listen to you. Listen to your heart; that is the only voice that matters tonight. Tonight, stand with Joe Biden.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Joe Biden's Closing Argument

Days Until Bush Leaves Office = 384

One of the best things about being a Biden supporter in this campaign is knowing that when it comes to making a case in his support, no one does better than the candidate himself. With that in mind, and with the Iowa caucuses taking place tomorrow evening, here is the closing argument in favor of Senator Joseph R. Biden of Delaware to be the next President of the United States.

Folks, now everyone is talking about this race being about either experience or change. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s about so much more than that. If it’s about experience, I win. If it’s about change, I can say, I think without equivocation, I’ve engaged in and I’ve generated more change in the attitude of the Democratic Party than anybody running. ...

But folks, it’s not about change or about experience. It’s about action. Action. Because, ladies and gentlemen, the next president of the United States is going to have no time. Unlike any other president, any other transfer of power, when the baton is handed from George Bush to the next president, you don’t have to imagine what the crises are that the next president of the United States is going to face. You know what they are.

Here is my final plea.

I want all the caucusgoers in this great state to close their eyes and imagine: If their candidate is president of the United States, not in a year but this very instant, are they confident that they have the sure-footedness, the steady enough hand to know exactly what they would do in Pakistan? To know exactly what they would do — not generically — exactly what they would do in Iraq? Exactly what they would do with the totalitarian tilt of Putin? Know exactly what they would do this moment where the relationship with China is fraying in a way that could become dangerous? Are they ready? Are they smarter than their secretary of state?

Because, ladies and gentlemen, they are going to have to act.

~ Joe Biden, January 1, 2008, Des Moines, Iowa

And finally:

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