Commentary Magazine


Topic: Mark Penn

Journolisters Risked Their Integrity

When you read those who were part of the now infamous Journolist group — hundreds of mostly liberal journalists and academics who joined an online listserv — they present their discussions as inoffensive, unexceptional, and even high-minded. Here’s how Time‘s Joe Klein describes Journolist:

[Ezra Klein and I] became friends and he asked me to join his list-serve–which, he said, would be the kind of place to have the sort of creative discussion we’d had over breakfast. It turned out to be exactly that…and more, a place to chat about music and sports, a place to meet some spectacularly smart academics I’d not met before–and, not least, a chance to interact with the latest generation of opinion journalists, most of whom didn’t have a very high opinion of me…. These conversations were private, as most good ones are. We were taking risks, testing our ideas against others…

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When you read those who were part of the now infamous Journolist group — hundreds of mostly liberal journalists and academics who joined an online listserv — they present their discussions as inoffensive, unexceptional, and even high-minded. Here’s how Time‘s Joe Klein describes Journolist:

[Ezra Klein and I] became friends and he asked me to join his list-serve–which, he said, would be the kind of place to have the sort of creative discussion we’d had over breakfast. It turned out to be exactly that…and more, a place to chat about music and sports, a place to meet some spectacularly smart academics I’d not met before–and, not least, a chance to interact with the latest generation of opinion journalists, most of whom didn’t have a very high opinion of me…. These conversations were private, as most good ones are. We were taking risks, testing our ideas against others…

It sounds positively Platonic: great minds gathering to discuss great issues of the day. Iron sharpening iron. Who could object? And then, thanks to the groundbreaking work of the Daily Caller, we have the chance to read what Journolisters actually wrote. Creative and spectacularly smart things like this:

LAURA ROZEN: People we no longer have to listen to: would it be unwise to start a thread of people we are grateful we no longer have to listen to? If not, I’ll start off: Michael Rubin.

MICHAEL COHEN, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Mark Penn and Bob Shrum. Anyone who uses the expression “Real America.” We should send there a** to Gitmo!

JESSE TAYLOR, PANDAGON.NET: Michael Barone?  Please?

LAURA ROZEN: Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich (afraid it’s not true), Drill Here Drill Now, And David Addington, John Yoo, we’ll see you in court?

JEFFREY TOOBIN, THE NEW YORKER: As a side note, does anyone know what prompted Michael Barone to go insane?

MATT DUSS: LEDEEN.

SPENCER ACKERMAN: Let’s just throw Ledeen against a wall. Or, pace Dr. Alterman, throw him through a plate glass window. I’ll bet a little spot of violence would shut him right the f*** up, as with most bullies.

JOE KLEIN, TIME: Pete Wehner…these sort of things always end badly.

ERIC ALTERMAN, AUTHOR, WHAT LIBERAL MEDIA: F****** Nascar retards…

Ah, but there’s more.

NPR producer Sarah Spitz wrote that that if Rush Limbaugh went into cardiac arrest, she would “laugh loudly like a maniac and watch his eyes bug out” as Limbaugh writhed in torment.

Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Jeremiah Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote — “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”

Bloomberg’s Ryan Donmoyer adds this: “You know, at the risk of violating Godwin’s law, is anyone starting to see parallels here between the teabaggers and their tactics and the rise of the Brownshirts? Esp. Now that it’s getting violent? Reminds me of the Beer Hall fracases of the 1920s.”

And, of course, there is Fox News. “I am genuinely scared” of Fox, wrote Guardian columnist Daniel Davies, because it “shows you that a genuinely shameless and unethical media organisation *cannot* be controlled by any form of peer pressure or self-regulation, and nor can it be successfully cold-shouldered or ostracised. In order to have even a semblance of control, you need a tought legal framework.”

“I agree,” said Michael Scherer of Time. “[Roger] Ailes understands that his job is to build a tribal identity, not a news organizations. You can’t hurt Fox by saying it gets it wrong, if Ailes just uses the criticism to deepen the tribal identity.”

I understand people speaking candidly in e-mail exchanges and wanting to create a group of like-minded people to exchange ideas. And I accept that Journolist was started with good intentions. But somewhere along the line, it slipped off track.

What we had were journalists creating a “community” in which we see expressions of hatred that are both comically adolescent and almost psychopathic. We have them endorsing slander of innocent people simply because they hold a different point of view, comparing the Tea Party movement to Nazism, and participating in a post thread with the subject, “The line on Palin.” And we have journalists endorsing a “tough legal framework” to control what a news organization says.

What we have, in short, is intellectual corruption of a fairly high order. From what we have seen and from what those like Tucker Carlson and his colleagues (who have read the exchanges in detail) say, Journolist was — at least in good measure — a hotbed of hatred, political hackery, banality, and juvenile thuggery. It is the kind of thing you’d expect to hear from troubled, towel-snapping junior high boys. (It’s worth pointing out that if a principal got a hold of e-mails like the ones produced by Journolist, he would punish and probably suspend the offending eighth graders.)

Journolist provides a window into the mindset of the journalistic and academic left in this country. It is not a pretty sight. The demonization and dehumanization of critics is arresting. Those who hold contrary views to the Journolist crowd aren’t individuals who have honest disagreements; they are evil, malignant, and their voices need to be eliminated from the public square. It is illiberal in the extreme.

Some Journolist defenders argue that what has been published doesn’t capture the true nature of what went on at Journolist and that the published exchanges were taken out of context. The Daily Caller’s Tucker Carlson has a reasonable response:

So why don’t we publish whatever portions of the Journolist archive we have and end the debate? Because a lot of them have no obvious news value, for one thing. Gather 400 lefty reporters and academics on one listserv and it turns out you wind up with a strikingly high concentration of bitchiness. Shocking amounts, actually. So while it might be amusing to air threads theorizing about the personal and sexual shortcomings of various NewRepublic staffers, we’ve decided to pull back…. Anyone on Journolist who claims we quoted him “out of context” can reveal the context himself.

That is a fair challenge. If Journolist turns out to differ substantially from its portrayal, Journolisters should release the full exchanges. Ezra Klein, David Corn, Jonathan Chait, and Joe Klein have all offered defenses, though their efforts range from feeble to pathetic. (It was really and merely “an argument between moderate and left-wing journalists,” Chait assures us.) Assuming that Journolisters cannot provide a stronger defense, other members of the fourth estate should be troubled by what has been uncovered. After all, it is the probity of their profession that is being stripped away.

Those who participated in Journolist undoubtedly hope this story will fade away and be forgotten. I rather doubt it will. It is another episode in the long, downward slide of modern journalism. “We were taking risks,” Joe Klein writes in his own defense. And the Journolist participants surely were — not intellectual risks but risks with their integrity — and several of them have been caught dead-to-rights. “Broken eggs cannot be mended,” Lincoln said. Neither can some broken reputations.

In many respects, the whole thing is dispiriting. On the other hand, it has had a clarifying effect. It turns out that the worst caricatures of liberal journalists were not, at least in the case of some, a caricature at all.

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A Game of JournoList Chicken

Tucker Carlson at the Daily Caller is sitting in the catbird’s seat. He has reams of JournoList e-mails revealing how vicious the blogospheric left is. They wish their opponents dead (Rush Limbaugh). Their contempt for conservatives runneth over. And they plainly are all on the same “team” — plotting, delegating, and coordinating their cheerleading for the Obami, as well as attacks on Obama’s opponents. Moreover, we now have a great mystery, a sort of D.C. parlor game: what else does Carlson have?

“Journalists” — what do we call such people (undercover activists)? — and their editors are waiting for shoes to drop. A case in point: Ben Smith ran a story on the potential involvement of Politico reporters. I then spotted in one of the Daily Caller’s releases the name Laura Rozen, who covers foreign policy for Politico. Her use of a blind quote to relate an accusation of “dual loyalty” against Dennis Ross was widely criticized in a range of Jewish and conservative publications.

A sample via Daily Caller:

Nov. 5

ALYSSA ROSENBERG, GOVERNMENT EXECUTIVE: I’ve gotta be all non-partisan on GovExec, so I hope you’ll all indulge me a minute here. On Monday night in Manassas, the band warming up the crowd before Obama arrived played “I Need You To Survive.” I think the core lyrics are pretty good statement of principles for progressives, especially going forward from a victory like this one:

It is his will, that every need be supplied.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.

I pray for you, You pray for me.
I love you, I need you to survive.
I won’t harm you with words from my mouth.
I love you, I need you to survive.

It is his will, that every need be supplied.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.

A lot of horribly ugly stuff got repudiated tonight. But it doesn’t end here. We need to keep making the case to the folks who disagreed with us, the folks who booed McCain during his concession speech tonight.

MATT DUSS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: [Mccain aide] Randy Scheunemann Fired [last week]

LAURA ROZEN, MOTHER JONES (NOW POLITICO): Can you imagine if these bozos had won?

Nov. 7

LAURA ROZEN: People we no longer have to listen to: would it be unwise to start a thread of people we are grateful we no longer have to listen to? If not, I’ll start off: Michael Rubin.

MICHAEL COHEN, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Mark Penn and Bob Shrum. Anyone who uses the expression “Real America.” We should send there ass to Gitmo!

JESSE TAYLOR, PANDAGON.NET: Michael Barone?  Please?

LAURA ROZEN: Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich (afraid it’s not true), Drill Here Drill Now, And David Addington, John Yoo, we’ll see you in court?

I e-mailed Ben and asked if Rozen didn’t “count” because these comments predated her employment by Politico. He promptly answered that he hadn’t seen this particular e-mail and would have included it and asked his editor about it if he had. He directed me to Jim VanderHei, who asked if I had seen any Rozen JournoList comments after she was hired by Politico. I answered that we were all dealing with what Daily Caller was doling out. He provided this explanation of Politico’s  approach to this issue:

We have an unmistakably clear rule that anyone hired here check their ideology at the door. That means no political contributions or activism — and no partisan comments on air, on Twitter, on Facebook, in print, anywhere. We recognize the people we hire are not dull, blank slates — and that everyone has personal opinions. What we demand is that those opinions remain personal (and private) once hired — and that they fully understand we are a nonpartisan media outlet. We have hired some people with partisan backgrounds and had great success in getting them to go through ideological detox and become straight news reporters. The Laura Rozen emails the Daily Caller reported on pre-dated her work here. I have not seen any emails she wrote as a POLITICO employee that trouble me.

This raises at least two issues. First, it seems that the JournoList participants now have a very high standard of objectivity to maintain, especially if they now want to act as real reporters. Are they really checking their ideology at the door, or are they tipping the scales? The problem with baring one’s partisan views — especially ones so personally vindictive — is that it creates a cloud of doubt about everything you write. Second, VandeHei and every other editor with a JournoList participant is now waiting to see if there are any other e-mails that “trouble” them. If more pop up, will heads roll?

I use Rozen as an example, but the problem is far wider. The Washington Post has been mute. What if anything do they do about Ezra Klein? (Maybe if they were aware of his hyper-nasty attacks on the right, the Post editors wouldn’t have taken his recommendation on Dave Weigel.) The JournoList crowd have done a bang-up job of undermining not only their own credibility but also that of their employers. (Even those who are opinion writers are revealed not to be principled purveyors of ideas but meanspirited attack dogs.) How widespread the damage is has yet to be determined.

Tucker Carlson at the Daily Caller is sitting in the catbird’s seat. He has reams of JournoList e-mails revealing how vicious the blogospheric left is. They wish their opponents dead (Rush Limbaugh). Their contempt for conservatives runneth over. And they plainly are all on the same “team” — plotting, delegating, and coordinating their cheerleading for the Obami, as well as attacks on Obama’s opponents. Moreover, we now have a great mystery, a sort of D.C. parlor game: what else does Carlson have?

“Journalists” — what do we call such people (undercover activists)? — and their editors are waiting for shoes to drop. A case in point: Ben Smith ran a story on the potential involvement of Politico reporters. I then spotted in one of the Daily Caller’s releases the name Laura Rozen, who covers foreign policy for Politico. Her use of a blind quote to relate an accusation of “dual loyalty” against Dennis Ross was widely criticized in a range of Jewish and conservative publications.

A sample via Daily Caller:

Nov. 5

ALYSSA ROSENBERG, GOVERNMENT EXECUTIVE: I’ve gotta be all non-partisan on GovExec, so I hope you’ll all indulge me a minute here. On Monday night in Manassas, the band warming up the crowd before Obama arrived played “I Need You To Survive.” I think the core lyrics are pretty good statement of principles for progressives, especially going forward from a victory like this one:

It is his will, that every need be supplied.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.

I pray for you, You pray for me.
I love you, I need you to survive.
I won’t harm you with words from my mouth.
I love you, I need you to survive.

It is his will, that every need be supplied.
You are important to me, I need you to survive.

A lot of horribly ugly stuff got repudiated tonight. But it doesn’t end here. We need to keep making the case to the folks who disagreed with us, the folks who booed McCain during his concession speech tonight.

MATT DUSS, CENTER FOR AMERICAN PROGRESS: [Mccain aide] Randy Scheunemann Fired [last week]

LAURA ROZEN, MOTHER JONES (NOW POLITICO): Can you imagine if these bozos had won?

Nov. 7

LAURA ROZEN: People we no longer have to listen to: would it be unwise to start a thread of people we are grateful we no longer have to listen to? If not, I’ll start off: Michael Rubin.

MICHAEL COHEN, NEW AMERICA FOUNDATION: Mark Penn and Bob Shrum. Anyone who uses the expression “Real America.” We should send there ass to Gitmo!

JESSE TAYLOR, PANDAGON.NET: Michael Barone?  Please?

LAURA ROZEN: Karl Rove, Newt Gingrich (afraid it’s not true), Drill Here Drill Now, And David Addington, John Yoo, we’ll see you in court?

I e-mailed Ben and asked if Rozen didn’t “count” because these comments predated her employment by Politico. He promptly answered that he hadn’t seen this particular e-mail and would have included it and asked his editor about it if he had. He directed me to Jim VanderHei, who asked if I had seen any Rozen JournoList comments after she was hired by Politico. I answered that we were all dealing with what Daily Caller was doling out. He provided this explanation of Politico’s  approach to this issue:

We have an unmistakably clear rule that anyone hired here check their ideology at the door. That means no political contributions or activism — and no partisan comments on air, on Twitter, on Facebook, in print, anywhere. We recognize the people we hire are not dull, blank slates — and that everyone has personal opinions. What we demand is that those opinions remain personal (and private) once hired — and that they fully understand we are a nonpartisan media outlet. We have hired some people with partisan backgrounds and had great success in getting them to go through ideological detox and become straight news reporters. The Laura Rozen emails the Daily Caller reported on pre-dated her work here. I have not seen any emails she wrote as a POLITICO employee that trouble me.

This raises at least two issues. First, it seems that the JournoList participants now have a very high standard of objectivity to maintain, especially if they now want to act as real reporters. Are they really checking their ideology at the door, or are they tipping the scales? The problem with baring one’s partisan views — especially ones so personally vindictive — is that it creates a cloud of doubt about everything you write. Second, VandeHei and every other editor with a JournoList participant is now waiting to see if there are any other e-mails that “trouble” them. If more pop up, will heads roll?

I use Rozen as an example, but the problem is far wider. The Washington Post has been mute. What if anything do they do about Ezra Klein? (Maybe if they were aware of his hyper-nasty attacks on the right, the Post editors wouldn’t have taken his recommendation on Dave Weigel.) The JournoList crowd have done a bang-up job of undermining not only their own credibility but also that of their employers. (Even those who are opinion writers are revealed not to be principled purveyors of ideas but meanspirited attack dogs.) How widespread the damage is has yet to be determined.

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Worst press secretary in recent memory? Chris Cillizza says he is at least the winner of the “worst week” designation: “It took only 17 words ['there is no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control' of the House] for White House press secretary Robert Gibbs to set off the circular firing squad. … Republicans, meanwhile, could barely contain their glee at seeing their message — ‘We can take the House back, really, we can’ — seconded by the official White House mouthpiece.”

Worst Middle East diplomacy rebuke to date? “Fatah spokesperson Muhammad Dahlan announced that Fatah had rejected the U.S.’s offer Saturday to broker direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

Worst political advice to Obama? Mark Penn suggests: “Between now and the midterms, the administration has to focus on what it can do to provide a sense of economic recovery. Perhaps the best arena for that is in an energy bill that creates a wide array of incentives to produce new forms of energy.” You understand how Hillary lost the nomination.

Worst column ever from James Fallows? He hopes Dick Cheney recovers so he can change his mind and undermine all his prior views.

Worst political problem for Obama? Howard Fineman says it’s the loss of independent voters: “The Democrats’ support among this group has fallen to as low as 35 percent in some polls. The reasons are clear. They do not believe that Obama’s actions have produced results — and for these practical voters, nothing else matters. The $787 billion stimulus bill is widely regarded as an expensive, unfocused dud, even when measured against the cautious claims the Obama camp originally made for it. Health-care reform remains, for most voters, a 2,000-page, impenetrable, and largely irrelevant mystery. The BP oil spill has hurt Obama’s ability to fend off GOP charges that he’s ineffective as a leader.”

Worst thing Israel could do regarding Iran? In a definitive analysis of Israel’s options, Reuel Marc Gerecht argues it would be to do nothing: “Without a raid, if the Iranians get the bomb, Europe’s appeasement reflex will kick in and the EU sanctions regime will collapse, leaving the Americans alone to contain the Islamic Republic. Most of the Gulf Arabs will probably kowtow to Persia, having more fear of Iran than confidence in the defensive assurances of the United States. And Sunni Arabs who don’t view an Iranian bomb as a plus for the Muslim world will, at daunting speed, become much more interested in ‘nuclear energy’; the Saudis, who likely helped Islamabad go nuclear, will just call in their chits with the Pakistani military.” The best option, of course, would be for the U.S. to act, but that seems unlikely.

Worst time to have an electoral wipe-out? In a Census year: “Big Republican gains in November [in state legislative races] could have lasting consequences. Legislators elected in the fall will redraw congressional boundaries next year. Control over the redistricting process could sway outcomes in dozens of districts over the next decade. ‘If you’re going to have a good year, have it in a year that ends in zero,’ says Ed Gillespie, a former Republican Party chairman who is heading up the GOP’s state-level efforts this year.”

Worst Justice Department in history? No contest. The latest: “One of the nation’s leading producers of X-rated videos, John Stagliano, was acquitted on federal obscenity charges Friday afternoon after a series of stumbles by the prosecution. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ordered the acquittal of Stagliano and two companies related to his Evil Angel studio on a defense motion before the defense presented any rebuttal to several days of evidence from the Justice Department. Leon called the government’s case ‘woefully lacking’ or ‘woefully inadequate,’ depending on whose account you follow.”

Worst press secretary in recent memory? Chris Cillizza says he is at least the winner of the “worst week” designation: “It took only 17 words ['there is no doubt there are enough seats in play that could cause Republicans to gain control' of the House] for White House press secretary Robert Gibbs to set off the circular firing squad. … Republicans, meanwhile, could barely contain their glee at seeing their message — ‘We can take the House back, really, we can’ — seconded by the official White House mouthpiece.”

Worst Middle East diplomacy rebuke to date? “Fatah spokesperson Muhammad Dahlan announced that Fatah had rejected the U.S.’s offer Saturday to broker direct talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”

Worst political advice to Obama? Mark Penn suggests: “Between now and the midterms, the administration has to focus on what it can do to provide a sense of economic recovery. Perhaps the best arena for that is in an energy bill that creates a wide array of incentives to produce new forms of energy.” You understand how Hillary lost the nomination.

Worst column ever from James Fallows? He hopes Dick Cheney recovers so he can change his mind and undermine all his prior views.

Worst political problem for Obama? Howard Fineman says it’s the loss of independent voters: “The Democrats’ support among this group has fallen to as low as 35 percent in some polls. The reasons are clear. They do not believe that Obama’s actions have produced results — and for these practical voters, nothing else matters. The $787 billion stimulus bill is widely regarded as an expensive, unfocused dud, even when measured against the cautious claims the Obama camp originally made for it. Health-care reform remains, for most voters, a 2,000-page, impenetrable, and largely irrelevant mystery. The BP oil spill has hurt Obama’s ability to fend off GOP charges that he’s ineffective as a leader.”

Worst thing Israel could do regarding Iran? In a definitive analysis of Israel’s options, Reuel Marc Gerecht argues it would be to do nothing: “Without a raid, if the Iranians get the bomb, Europe’s appeasement reflex will kick in and the EU sanctions regime will collapse, leaving the Americans alone to contain the Islamic Republic. Most of the Gulf Arabs will probably kowtow to Persia, having more fear of Iran than confidence in the defensive assurances of the United States. And Sunni Arabs who don’t view an Iranian bomb as a plus for the Muslim world will, at daunting speed, become much more interested in ‘nuclear energy’; the Saudis, who likely helped Islamabad go nuclear, will just call in their chits with the Pakistani military.” The best option, of course, would be for the U.S. to act, but that seems unlikely.

Worst time to have an electoral wipe-out? In a Census year: “Big Republican gains in November [in state legislative races] could have lasting consequences. Legislators elected in the fall will redraw congressional boundaries next year. Control over the redistricting process could sway outcomes in dozens of districts over the next decade. ‘If you’re going to have a good year, have it in a year that ends in zero,’ says Ed Gillespie, a former Republican Party chairman who is heading up the GOP’s state-level efforts this year.”

Worst Justice Department in history? No contest. The latest: “One of the nation’s leading producers of X-rated videos, John Stagliano, was acquitted on federal obscenity charges Friday afternoon after a series of stumbles by the prosecution. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon ordered the acquittal of Stagliano and two companies related to his Evil Angel studio on a defense motion before the defense presented any rebuttal to several days of evidence from the Justice Department. Leon called the government’s case ‘woefully lacking’ or ‘woefully inadequate,’ depending on whose account you follow.”

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Flotsam and Jetsam

Another culture — not American — is where you should look for evil, says one of the savviest conservative observers. Back with a bang, she takes issue with Brent Bozell’s invocation of “Satan” to describe American culture: “I, too, believe in evil, and I’d say Satan’s found a far more mellifluous laughing-ground among the Muslims, who please themselves to bury women up to their heads and stone them to death for ‘adultery,’ murder their own daughters for ‘mingling,’ and practice forms of human sacrifice—selling their sons to Pashtun pedophiles, for one, or celebrating their childrens’ deaths in suicide bombings, for another. To name just a few of the ways Islam holds the Satan laugh hand at the moment. So enough with the wah, wah, wah, Brent. Bad as it may be here at culture-rotten central (or not), it’s worse out there among the practitioners of the culture and religion of peace.”

Another terrible ambassador nominated, this time for Turkey. Elliott Abrams explains: “”Especially in 2005 and 2006, Secretary Rice and the Bush administration significantly increased American pressure for greater respect for human rights and progress toward democracy in Egypt. This of course meant pushing the Mubarak regime, arguing with it in private, and sometimes criticizing it in public. In all of this we in Washington found Ambassador [Francis] Ricciardone to be without enthusiasm or energy.” And he was publicly insubordinate.  Other than that, great pick — who can wait in line behind Robert Ford to be confirmed.

Another reason not to take the UN seriously: “When the results of the international investigation into the sinking of the South Korean ship the Cheonan were released in May, the U.S. State Department was adamant that it believed North Korea was responsible — and that the country would have to face some actual punishment for killing 46 innocent South Korea sailors. … Fast forward to today, when the United Nations released a presidential statement which not only does not specify any consequences for the Kim Jong Il regime, but doesn’t even conclude that North Korea was responsible for the attack in the first place.” But the UN is certain the flotilla incident is all Israel’s fault.

Another inconvenient truth for the left: “The Obama administration would quickly send home six Algerians held at the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but for one problem: The men don’t want to go. Given the choice between repatriation and incarceration, the men choose Gitmo, according to their lawyers.”

Another awkward moment for Jewish groups. Obama declares that Israelis don’t like him because of his middle name; American Jewish leaders are mute. But Rep. Peter King isn’t: “‘That’s a terrible cheap shot. … And if he wants to get cute about it, King Hussein of Jordan was one of the best allies Israel ever had.’ … But his middle name ‘has nothing to do with it,’ King said. ‘The fact is that his policies from day one have had an anti-Israel overtone. … He has no one to blame but himself. He should forget his name — that’s just a cheap game and he should knock it off.’”

Another reason to dump Michael Steele: Haley Barbour could take over and would do a boffo job.

Another “Huh?” Clinton moment: he is officiating at the wedding of New York Rep. Anthony Weiner and a Hillary aide. Is he really the guy you want to lead the recitation of your wedding vows?

Another sign of the inherent good sense of the American people: Mark Penn, on the result of a survey for the Aspen Festival of Ideas, writes: “The poll suggests that, while the public may be dissatisfied with recent administrations and the partisan political environment, they remain reasonably satisfied with the governmental framework set out in the Constitution. By 64 to 19 they endorse the system of checks and balances as necessary to prevent one branch from dominating the Government. Freedom of speech was seen as far and away the single most important right guaranteed by the Constitution, and, as a corollary, only 28 percent believe the press has too much freedom.” I guess they don’t buy the suggestion that we are “ungovernable.”

Another outburst – and a reminder that the idea of engaging Iran is ludicrous: “Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad questioned the historic dimensions of the Holocaust but rejected the label of an anti-Semite, the Fars news agency reported Friday. …  Ahmadinejad had earlier sparked international fury by calling for the eradication of Israel from the Middle East and its relocation to Europe or North America and by describing the murders of 6 million European Jews by Germany’s Nazi regime as a ‘fairy tale.’ He said Thursday that the Holocaust was an excuse for Israel and the West to take land away from millions of Palestinians and give it to Israel.” You know the last world leader to argue that the Holocaust was the rationale for creation of the Jewish state was… Barack Obama. Just saying.

Another reason to rethink lifetime Supreme Court appointments: at the Aspen Ideas Festival, “Justice Ginsburg said, ‘I am so glad that Elena is joining us.’ … Calling herself a ‘flaming feminist,’ Ginsburg said, ‘we will never go back’ to the days when abortion was illegal.” Since her mind is closed and her bias is evident, she should recuse herself from gender-discrimination and abortion cases.

Another culture — not American — is where you should look for evil, says one of the savviest conservative observers. Back with a bang, she takes issue with Brent Bozell’s invocation of “Satan” to describe American culture: “I, too, believe in evil, and I’d say Satan’s found a far more mellifluous laughing-ground among the Muslims, who please themselves to bury women up to their heads and stone them to death for ‘adultery,’ murder their own daughters for ‘mingling,’ and practice forms of human sacrifice—selling their sons to Pashtun pedophiles, for one, or celebrating their childrens’ deaths in suicide bombings, for another. To name just a few of the ways Islam holds the Satan laugh hand at the moment. So enough with the wah, wah, wah, Brent. Bad as it may be here at culture-rotten central (or not), it’s worse out there among the practitioners of the culture and religion of peace.”

Another terrible ambassador nominated, this time for Turkey. Elliott Abrams explains: “”Especially in 2005 and 2006, Secretary Rice and the Bush administration significantly increased American pressure for greater respect for human rights and progress toward democracy in Egypt. This of course meant pushing the Mubarak regime, arguing with it in private, and sometimes criticizing it in public. In all of this we in Washington found Ambassador [Francis] Ricciardone to be without enthusiasm or energy.” And he was publicly insubordinate.  Other than that, great pick — who can wait in line behind Robert Ford to be confirmed.

Another reason not to take the UN seriously: “When the results of the international investigation into the sinking of the South Korean ship the Cheonan were released in May, the U.S. State Department was adamant that it believed North Korea was responsible — and that the country would have to face some actual punishment for killing 46 innocent South Korea sailors. … Fast forward to today, when the United Nations released a presidential statement which not only does not specify any consequences for the Kim Jong Il regime, but doesn’t even conclude that North Korea was responsible for the attack in the first place.” But the UN is certain the flotilla incident is all Israel’s fault.

Another inconvenient truth for the left: “The Obama administration would quickly send home six Algerians held at the military detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, but for one problem: The men don’t want to go. Given the choice between repatriation and incarceration, the men choose Gitmo, according to their lawyers.”

Another awkward moment for Jewish groups. Obama declares that Israelis don’t like him because of his middle name; American Jewish leaders are mute. But Rep. Peter King isn’t: “‘That’s a terrible cheap shot. … And if he wants to get cute about it, King Hussein of Jordan was one of the best allies Israel ever had.’ … But his middle name ‘has nothing to do with it,’ King said. ‘The fact is that his policies from day one have had an anti-Israel overtone. … He has no one to blame but himself. He should forget his name — that’s just a cheap game and he should knock it off.’”

Another reason to dump Michael Steele: Haley Barbour could take over and would do a boffo job.

Another “Huh?” Clinton moment: he is officiating at the wedding of New York Rep. Anthony Weiner and a Hillary aide. Is he really the guy you want to lead the recitation of your wedding vows?

Another sign of the inherent good sense of the American people: Mark Penn, on the result of a survey for the Aspen Festival of Ideas, writes: “The poll suggests that, while the public may be dissatisfied with recent administrations and the partisan political environment, they remain reasonably satisfied with the governmental framework set out in the Constitution. By 64 to 19 they endorse the system of checks and balances as necessary to prevent one branch from dominating the Government. Freedom of speech was seen as far and away the single most important right guaranteed by the Constitution, and, as a corollary, only 28 percent believe the press has too much freedom.” I guess they don’t buy the suggestion that we are “ungovernable.”

Another outburst – and a reminder that the idea of engaging Iran is ludicrous: “Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad questioned the historic dimensions of the Holocaust but rejected the label of an anti-Semite, the Fars news agency reported Friday. …  Ahmadinejad had earlier sparked international fury by calling for the eradication of Israel from the Middle East and its relocation to Europe or North America and by describing the murders of 6 million European Jews by Germany’s Nazi regime as a ‘fairy tale.’ He said Thursday that the Holocaust was an excuse for Israel and the West to take land away from millions of Palestinians and give it to Israel.” You know the last world leader to argue that the Holocaust was the rationale for creation of the Jewish state was… Barack Obama. Just saying.

Another reason to rethink lifetime Supreme Court appointments: at the Aspen Ideas Festival, “Justice Ginsburg said, ‘I am so glad that Elena is joining us.’ … Calling herself a ‘flaming feminist,’ Ginsburg said, ‘we will never go back’ to the days when abortion was illegal.” Since her mind is closed and her bias is evident, she should recuse herself from gender-discrimination and abortion cases.

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The Most Transparent Politician Ever?

Hillary Clinton has some grounds to be peeved. She, after all, was scolded by the Obama camp for months for failure to reveal all her tax records, the Clinton library records, and the White House logs. Barack Obama painted her as the captive of corporate lobbyists. It was shooting fish in a barrel–the public had had enough of the Clintons’ shenanigans and the press was mercilous in debate grillings and coverage.

But really is Obama any better? The Obama camp has played “count the lobbyists” for weeks, trying to convert John McCain into a stooge for special interests (which will surprise the business community which is none too thrilled to have someone as the Republican nominee who is so enamored of regulation). But in just one week we learn that Obama’s Puerto Rico campaign director is a lobbyist and David Axelrod apparently has his own roster of clients, although he desperately spins to avoid the title of “lobbyist.” (Didn’t Hillary take some flak for Mark Penn’s lobbying business?) And Obama hasn’t exactly given up closed-door fundraisers.

So is Obama any better on the lobbyist and openness front than Clinton? Well, he is less experienced and never made his way to a position where–for example–he took a healthcare task force deep undercover. In other words, his trail is not as long. But as the facts dribble out, it is not clear he is any more committed or able to rid himself of the “sins” (imagined or real, depending on your perspective) which he used to bring down Clinton.

Whether this apparent hypocrisy will hobble him to any degree in the general election remains to be seen. We will have to see if Jonathan Last was right when he penned that “Hypocrisy is the last great sin.”

Hillary Clinton has some grounds to be peeved. She, after all, was scolded by the Obama camp for months for failure to reveal all her tax records, the Clinton library records, and the White House logs. Barack Obama painted her as the captive of corporate lobbyists. It was shooting fish in a barrel–the public had had enough of the Clintons’ shenanigans and the press was mercilous in debate grillings and coverage.

But really is Obama any better? The Obama camp has played “count the lobbyists” for weeks, trying to convert John McCain into a stooge for special interests (which will surprise the business community which is none too thrilled to have someone as the Republican nominee who is so enamored of regulation). But in just one week we learn that Obama’s Puerto Rico campaign director is a lobbyist and David Axelrod apparently has his own roster of clients, although he desperately spins to avoid the title of “lobbyist.” (Didn’t Hillary take some flak for Mark Penn’s lobbying business?) And Obama hasn’t exactly given up closed-door fundraisers.

So is Obama any better on the lobbyist and openness front than Clinton? Well, he is less experienced and never made his way to a position where–for example–he took a healthcare task force deep undercover. In other words, his trail is not as long. But as the facts dribble out, it is not clear he is any more committed or able to rid himself of the “sins” (imagined or real, depending on your perspective) which he used to bring down Clinton.

Whether this apparent hypocrisy will hobble him to any degree in the general election remains to be seen. We will have to see if Jonathan Last was right when he penned that “Hypocrisy is the last great sin.”

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They Just Might Blow It

Hillary Clinton just jettisoned strategist Mark Penn from her campaign because Penn dared contemplate free trade. For a candidate who tries to sell herself as an extension of the Clintonian 90′s, such vigilance against centrism, financial or otherwise, speaks to a strange state of affairs for Democrats. Of course, Hillary and Obama have adopted rabidly anti-free trade postures. Why are these two candidates competing for the affections of the far Left when one of them will have to go up against a Republican centrist who garners praise from Democratic voters?

In the 2004 Presidential election, Democrat John Kerry made the fatal mistake of substituting outrage for ideology. Hoping to coast into the White House on a wave of anti-Iraq War sentiment, Kerry ran almost exclusively against George W. Bush, with no real positive policy vision of his own. Among Democrats, he wasn’t alone in thinking he had done all that was required to become president. On the eve of the election, Jimmy Breslin wrote of Kerry’s imminent victory, “I am so sure that I am not even going to bother to watch the results tonight.”

But Breslin was wrong and the results were indisputable: Bush and the war would have a second term. Amazingly, the failure wrought by Kerry’s method of campaign-framing didn’t deter Democrats. In the 2006 congressional races, Democrats once again failed to convey a chosen ideological path. There was no clear indication of an affinity for Clintonian centrism or for progressivism. Democratic Congressional hopefuls ran simply as the GOP alternative. They talked up small-ticket items like a raise in minimum wage, and offered a watery mash-up of ideologies in the form of the “first hundred hours” contract. This time it worked. 2005 saw the dashed hopes of the “Arab Spring.” By 2006, anti-Iraq and anti-Bush sentiment was strong enough to deliver a Democratic thumpin’ to Capitol Hill Republicans. The Democratic Party Leader may have been Howard Dean, but the pitch—to the extent there was one—was “blue dog” compromise. In short, the Democrats remained ideologically rudderless.

Having got Congress back without recourse to an ideological framework, Democrats saw no reason not to continue in this mode. Which brings us to 2008. Without ever having resolved the centrism-progressivism question, the Clinton-Obama race was to be determined by an issue outside of political ideology—namely, identity. It has become the white woman against the black man: as everyone repeatedly points out, their policy differences are incremental. Moreover, these policies are surprisingly far to the Left. This is because the Democrats, since 2004, have not figured out how to sell themselves to the general electorate. They are now playing endlessly to their own. In the identity battle–and in the overall warfare of this Democratic primary–Obama has all but won. While his impending victory has nothing to do with political ideology, the candidate himself comes equipped with a strong adherence to far-Left principles. This is how the Democrats have ended up with the most liberal potential presidential nominee since World War II.

The problem with this scenario is that modern Democratic presidents have come to office as centrists. Most of the Democrats who voted for Bill Clinton are more closely aligned with John McCain than with Barack Obama. If anything, the sudden shock of a far-Left liberal will scare a Democrat-inclined voter who’s never had to commit to a delineated political ideology. This is to say nothing of Republican voters and independents. Additionally, Barack Obama’s Iraq plan, when you try to nail it down, is no clearer today than John Kerry’s was four years ago. As brutal as this primary has been, the Democrats’ work is still all ahead of them.

Hillary Clinton just jettisoned strategist Mark Penn from her campaign because Penn dared contemplate free trade. For a candidate who tries to sell herself as an extension of the Clintonian 90′s, such vigilance against centrism, financial or otherwise, speaks to a strange state of affairs for Democrats. Of course, Hillary and Obama have adopted rabidly anti-free trade postures. Why are these two candidates competing for the affections of the far Left when one of them will have to go up against a Republican centrist who garners praise from Democratic voters?

In the 2004 Presidential election, Democrat John Kerry made the fatal mistake of substituting outrage for ideology. Hoping to coast into the White House on a wave of anti-Iraq War sentiment, Kerry ran almost exclusively against George W. Bush, with no real positive policy vision of his own. Among Democrats, he wasn’t alone in thinking he had done all that was required to become president. On the eve of the election, Jimmy Breslin wrote of Kerry’s imminent victory, “I am so sure that I am not even going to bother to watch the results tonight.”

But Breslin was wrong and the results were indisputable: Bush and the war would have a second term. Amazingly, the failure wrought by Kerry’s method of campaign-framing didn’t deter Democrats. In the 2006 congressional races, Democrats once again failed to convey a chosen ideological path. There was no clear indication of an affinity for Clintonian centrism or for progressivism. Democratic Congressional hopefuls ran simply as the GOP alternative. They talked up small-ticket items like a raise in minimum wage, and offered a watery mash-up of ideologies in the form of the “first hundred hours” contract. This time it worked. 2005 saw the dashed hopes of the “Arab Spring.” By 2006, anti-Iraq and anti-Bush sentiment was strong enough to deliver a Democratic thumpin’ to Capitol Hill Republicans. The Democratic Party Leader may have been Howard Dean, but the pitch—to the extent there was one—was “blue dog” compromise. In short, the Democrats remained ideologically rudderless.

Having got Congress back without recourse to an ideological framework, Democrats saw no reason not to continue in this mode. Which brings us to 2008. Without ever having resolved the centrism-progressivism question, the Clinton-Obama race was to be determined by an issue outside of political ideology—namely, identity. It has become the white woman against the black man: as everyone repeatedly points out, their policy differences are incremental. Moreover, these policies are surprisingly far to the Left. This is because the Democrats, since 2004, have not figured out how to sell themselves to the general electorate. They are now playing endlessly to their own. In the identity battle–and in the overall warfare of this Democratic primary–Obama has all but won. While his impending victory has nothing to do with political ideology, the candidate himself comes equipped with a strong adherence to far-Left principles. This is how the Democrats have ended up with the most liberal potential presidential nominee since World War II.

The problem with this scenario is that modern Democratic presidents have come to office as centrists. Most of the Democrats who voted for Bill Clinton are more closely aligned with John McCain than with Barack Obama. If anything, the sudden shock of a far-Left liberal will scare a Democrat-inclined voter who’s never had to commit to a delineated political ideology. This is to say nothing of Republican voters and independents. Additionally, Barack Obama’s Iraq plan, when you try to nail it down, is no clearer today than John Kerry’s was four years ago. As brutal as this primary has been, the Democrats’ work is still all ahead of them.

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A Mistake Hillary Could Not Afford

As the Jeremiah Wright scandal was breaking, I speculated that trouble of this sort for her rival was precisely the reason Hillary Clinton was staying in the race for the Democratic nomination — that the longer the primary season extended, the more chances there would be for Obama to stumble, and that she would be there to seize the baton and run for the finish line. But of course, the longer the primary season, the more chances there are for Hillary Clinton to stumble as well. And the difference between Obama and Clinton is that he can stumble and still win because he’s in the lead. She can’t afford to stumble at all if she is trying to gain on him.

And stumble she has. Her bizarre lie about the nonexistent sniper fire that threatened her in Bosnia was the first nail. The hurried departure of her chief campaign strategist, Mark Penn, is the second. It makes perfect sense that Penn has been defenestrated for doing something entirely sensible — meeting with representatives of a U.S. ally, Colombia, that wishes to pursue a closer trade relationship with us. Colombia is not only a friend of the United States; it is engaged in a battle with the worst player in the Americas, Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, which is trying to destabilize it. But because Hillary is engaged in a gross act of deception toward Democratic primary voters on the matter of free trade — which she has decided to oppose solely for P.T. Barnum reasons even as she would surely support it for every good reason once in the White House, — Penn had to go and go fast.

Whatever kind of error this was — Penn’s for taking the meeting, Hillary for employing Penn, or Hillary for chucking Penn out the door now when she might have done it more profitably two months ago once it became clear his strategy for her nomination had failed utterly —  it’s one error too many for her. How can she make the case that she is a better candidate in the general election than Obama if she can’t go five days without making a major blunder on the campaign trail?

She can’t.

As the Jeremiah Wright scandal was breaking, I speculated that trouble of this sort for her rival was precisely the reason Hillary Clinton was staying in the race for the Democratic nomination — that the longer the primary season extended, the more chances there would be for Obama to stumble, and that she would be there to seize the baton and run for the finish line. But of course, the longer the primary season, the more chances there are for Hillary Clinton to stumble as well. And the difference between Obama and Clinton is that he can stumble and still win because he’s in the lead. She can’t afford to stumble at all if she is trying to gain on him.

And stumble she has. Her bizarre lie about the nonexistent sniper fire that threatened her in Bosnia was the first nail. The hurried departure of her chief campaign strategist, Mark Penn, is the second. It makes perfect sense that Penn has been defenestrated for doing something entirely sensible — meeting with representatives of a U.S. ally, Colombia, that wishes to pursue a closer trade relationship with us. Colombia is not only a friend of the United States; it is engaged in a battle with the worst player in the Americas, Hugo Chavez’s Venezuela, which is trying to destabilize it. But because Hillary is engaged in a gross act of deception toward Democratic primary voters on the matter of free trade — which she has decided to oppose solely for P.T. Barnum reasons even as she would surely support it for every good reason once in the White House, — Penn had to go and go fast.

Whatever kind of error this was — Penn’s for taking the meeting, Hillary for employing Penn, or Hillary for chucking Penn out the door now when she might have done it more profitably two months ago once it became clear his strategy for her nomination had failed utterly —  it’s one error too many for her. How can she make the case that she is a better candidate in the general election than Obama if she can’t go five days without making a major blunder on the campaign trail?

She can’t.

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Hillary’s To-Do List

The MSM is convinced that Barack Obama “solved” his Reverend Jeremiah Wright problem and that his lead in the pledged delegate count, coupled with the failures of Michigan and Florida to agree on re-vote procedures, have doomed Hillary Clinton’s chances for the nomination. But there are weeks of primary races yet to go and all the decisive superdelegates have yet to commit to a candidate. So, although the MSM is ready to write her epitaph, Clinton still has an opportunity to halt the Obama coronation. How?

Her main task is to force regular primary voters and superdelegates to consider what would befall the Democrats if Obama can carry, at most, 30% of the white vote in the general election. That was roughly his total in Ohio and Texas (among Democratic primary voters) before the Wright revelations. In large measure she can accomplish this by an overpowering victory in Pennsylvania and by driving his vote among white, working-class voters downward. Hence, we saw junkyard dog Bill Clinton muse that a Clinton-McCain race would see two candidates that “love their country.” This is a swipe at Obama’s patriotism aimed squarely at those working class voters who don’t much appreciate Michelle Obama’s lack of pride in her country or Obama’s disparagement of Americans who wear a flag label pin.

Clinton would also do well to respond to Obama’s successful countercharge that her “experience,” especially in foreign affairs, is negligible. (The release of the White House schedules, as one might expect, did not show her to be in the Situation Room or negotiating with foreign leaders.) She might start by explaining what she learned (e.g. the necessity of using force at times, for example in Bosnia) rather than fabricating what she did. There is something to be said for observing firsthand the realities of threats to America. Her mistake was to pad her résumé.

Clinton might also seek to address the perception (deserved) that she surrounds herself with incompetent and mean-spirited flunkies whom she cannot manage. What to do? A thorough housecleaning of her campaign staff and a dismissal of the hapless Mark Penn might help.

Finally, Clinton might further deflate the Obama balloon by questioning his political courage. (The netroots are already miffed that he voted to continue Iraq war funding despite his stated misgivings about the war.) She has already planted the seeds: What about all those “present” votes in the Illinois state senate? Rather than criticize his speeches as empty rhetoric, Clinton would do better to characterize them as a poor substitute for courageous stands and a proven track record of bucking the status quo. That line has the advantage of provoking worries among the Democratic base (is he really going to stand up to Republicans and fight for the our agenda?) and suggesting to independents (who might be decisive in the remaining open primaries) that Obama is a follower, not a brave maverick.

At the very least, some of these steps might slow down the media rush to crown Obama.

The MSM is convinced that Barack Obama “solved” his Reverend Jeremiah Wright problem and that his lead in the pledged delegate count, coupled with the failures of Michigan and Florida to agree on re-vote procedures, have doomed Hillary Clinton’s chances for the nomination. But there are weeks of primary races yet to go and all the decisive superdelegates have yet to commit to a candidate. So, although the MSM is ready to write her epitaph, Clinton still has an opportunity to halt the Obama coronation. How?

Her main task is to force regular primary voters and superdelegates to consider what would befall the Democrats if Obama can carry, at most, 30% of the white vote in the general election. That was roughly his total in Ohio and Texas (among Democratic primary voters) before the Wright revelations. In large measure she can accomplish this by an overpowering victory in Pennsylvania and by driving his vote among white, working-class voters downward. Hence, we saw junkyard dog Bill Clinton muse that a Clinton-McCain race would see two candidates that “love their country.” This is a swipe at Obama’s patriotism aimed squarely at those working class voters who don’t much appreciate Michelle Obama’s lack of pride in her country or Obama’s disparagement of Americans who wear a flag label pin.

Clinton would also do well to respond to Obama’s successful countercharge that her “experience,” especially in foreign affairs, is negligible. (The release of the White House schedules, as one might expect, did not show her to be in the Situation Room or negotiating with foreign leaders.) She might start by explaining what she learned (e.g. the necessity of using force at times, for example in Bosnia) rather than fabricating what she did. There is something to be said for observing firsthand the realities of threats to America. Her mistake was to pad her résumé.

Clinton might also seek to address the perception (deserved) that she surrounds herself with incompetent and mean-spirited flunkies whom she cannot manage. What to do? A thorough housecleaning of her campaign staff and a dismissal of the hapless Mark Penn might help.

Finally, Clinton might further deflate the Obama balloon by questioning his political courage. (The netroots are already miffed that he voted to continue Iraq war funding despite his stated misgivings about the war.) She has already planted the seeds: What about all those “present” votes in the Illinois state senate? Rather than criticize his speeches as empty rhetoric, Clinton would do better to characterize them as a poor substitute for courageous stands and a proven track record of bucking the status quo. That line has the advantage of provoking worries among the Democratic base (is he really going to stand up to Republicans and fight for the our agenda?) and suggesting to independents (who might be decisive in the remaining open primaries) that Obama is a follower, not a brave maverick.

At the very least, some of these steps might slow down the media rush to crown Obama.

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No Country For Old Politics

ABC news reports: “MoveOn.org, which has endorsed Barack Obama for president, is encouraging citizens to develop 30-second pro-Obama television ads which will be judged by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Oliver Stone, multiple Grammy-winner John Legend and others.” Oh, my. My first thought: how happy must this make John McCain? In fact, I’m not so sure this isn’t a SNL parody or a sly gag by the RNC. MoveOn.org and Oliver Stone lining up behind Obama? If you are an aspiring filmmaker, do you play for Stone’s vote with a wild conspiracy piece tying the JFK assassination, 9/11, and Mark Penn together? (If the winning film stars Reverend Jeremiah Wright, we’ll know this is really Karl Rove oppo work gone wild.)

On a slightly serious note, isn’t this starting to look like a pattern for Obama? Already identified with a wife and minister who think America is mean and racist, Obama would do well to get back in the mainstream of American values and not associate himself with organizations and people who have made a career of denigrating America and ingratiating themselves with America’s enemies. It probably is not a good idea to have as the contest sponsor the group whose idea of effective political advertising is a full page in the New York Times vilifying an Amercian general with a second grade pun ( “General Betray-Us”) . And does Obama really want as an ad judge the film director who hobnobbed with Hugo Chavez (and defended FARC) and made a fawning documentary about Fidel Castro? And you wonder why Obama is losing the lunchpail Democrats.

ABC news reports: “MoveOn.org, which has endorsed Barack Obama for president, is encouraging citizens to develop 30-second pro-Obama television ads which will be judged by Ben Affleck, Matt Damon, Oliver Stone, multiple Grammy-winner John Legend and others.” Oh, my. My first thought: how happy must this make John McCain? In fact, I’m not so sure this isn’t a SNL parody or a sly gag by the RNC. MoveOn.org and Oliver Stone lining up behind Obama? If you are an aspiring filmmaker, do you play for Stone’s vote with a wild conspiracy piece tying the JFK assassination, 9/11, and Mark Penn together? (If the winning film stars Reverend Jeremiah Wright, we’ll know this is really Karl Rove oppo work gone wild.)

On a slightly serious note, isn’t this starting to look like a pattern for Obama? Already identified with a wife and minister who think America is mean and racist, Obama would do well to get back in the mainstream of American values and not associate himself with organizations and people who have made a career of denigrating America and ingratiating themselves with America’s enemies. It probably is not a good idea to have as the contest sponsor the group whose idea of effective political advertising is a full page in the New York Times vilifying an Amercian general with a second grade pun ( “General Betray-Us”) . And does Obama really want as an ad judge the film director who hobnobbed with Hugo Chavez (and defended FARC) and made a fawning documentary about Fidel Castro? And you wonder why Obama is losing the lunchpail Democrats.

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Time To Crow

The Hillary Clinton team together with Senators Evan Bayh and Chuck Schumer held a press call to tout the results from last night. Both senators echoed the same theme: as voters get “serious” (that word was used multiple times), they will come around to Clinton. Schumer bluntly added, “You never count her out.”

In answers to questions, campaign head Mark Penn, advisor Harold Ickes, and spokesman Phil Singer wanted to get out several messages:

1) Barack Obama has yet to be vetted and, as Penn noted, “just a couple of days” of hard questions led to a dramatic decrease in his poll numbers. (There was much encouragement to look at the Obama team’s “puzzling” answers to NAFTA-gate and get “just some basic information” about Tony Rezko.)

2) They repeatedly rebuffed any questions about a VP spot for Clinton, saying she was focused on winning.

3) They again seemed to minimize states like “Idaho, Nebraska, and Kansas,” which Obama has won, but which the Democratic nominee is unlikely to win in November. They termed upcoming Wyoming and Mississippi “challenging.”

4) Ickes is pushing undeclared superdelegates to come their way, or, at the very least, to “stand back” and see what else comes to light about Obama.

5) Clearly, they see this as a key moment in the race. Ickes declared they “turned a corner” after a “dry spell.”

Just one more observation: These folks seem to think the world of Republicans, how tough they are, how effective they are in dishing dirt and how hard they will be in a general election. Who knew?

The Hillary Clinton team together with Senators Evan Bayh and Chuck Schumer held a press call to tout the results from last night. Both senators echoed the same theme: as voters get “serious” (that word was used multiple times), they will come around to Clinton. Schumer bluntly added, “You never count her out.”

In answers to questions, campaign head Mark Penn, advisor Harold Ickes, and spokesman Phil Singer wanted to get out several messages:

1) Barack Obama has yet to be vetted and, as Penn noted, “just a couple of days” of hard questions led to a dramatic decrease in his poll numbers. (There was much encouragement to look at the Obama team’s “puzzling” answers to NAFTA-gate and get “just some basic information” about Tony Rezko.)

2) They repeatedly rebuffed any questions about a VP spot for Clinton, saying she was focused on winning.

3) They again seemed to minimize states like “Idaho, Nebraska, and Kansas,” which Obama has won, but which the Democratic nominee is unlikely to win in November. They termed upcoming Wyoming and Mississippi “challenging.”

4) Ickes is pushing undeclared superdelegates to come their way, or, at the very least, to “stand back” and see what else comes to light about Obama.

5) Clearly, they see this as a key moment in the race. Ickes declared they “turned a corner” after a “dry spell.”

Just one more observation: These folks seem to think the world of Republicans, how tough they are, how effective they are in dishing dirt and how hard they will be in a general election. Who knew?

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The Road Ahead

Hillary Clinton faces likely losses in Wyoming on Saturday and Mississippi next week. The former is a function of her team’s utter inability or unwillingness to devote time and money to winning small caucus states. Would it kill them to do some direct mail? Or maybe send the candidate to these places? Apparently it would. (Query whether now wouldn’t be a good time for Clinton to demonstrate her management skills and show a determination to “be herself” by dumping Mark Penn, who seems to delight in telling the media he is not responsible for much of anything.)

Beyond that looms the large prize of Pennsylvania, where Hillary currently leads and also enjoys the support of Governor Ed Rendell. That will be where she makes her final push to shove Barack Obama off his pedestal and demonstrate that only she can win the big races. Between now and then expect her to set out to prove he cannot take a punch–by, of course, throwing a lot of punches at him.

Hillary Clinton faces likely losses in Wyoming on Saturday and Mississippi next week. The former is a function of her team’s utter inability or unwillingness to devote time and money to winning small caucus states. Would it kill them to do some direct mail? Or maybe send the candidate to these places? Apparently it would. (Query whether now wouldn’t be a good time for Clinton to demonstrate her management skills and show a determination to “be herself” by dumping Mark Penn, who seems to delight in telling the media he is not responsible for much of anything.)

Beyond that looms the large prize of Pennsylvania, where Hillary currently leads and also enjoys the support of Governor Ed Rendell. That will be where she makes her final push to shove Barack Obama off his pedestal and demonstrate that only she can win the big races. Between now and then expect her to set out to prove he cannot take a punch–by, of course, throwing a lot of punches at him.

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Lots Of Blame To Go Around

This, in the latest of the “what went wrong?” stories, is a helpful guide to the many errors and faults of Clinton campaign guru Mark Penn, famed for perfecting the art of micro-trending (i.e. slicing and dicing the electorate to cobble together a winning coalition of support). Was it that we all “misunderstood” her (i.e., she really did care about big ideas) or that the media was too harsh? That’s Penn’s take. More realistically, the Clinton team utterly missed the biggest “trend” of all: this was a “change” election. And with a candidate who never connected with voters (“Being human is overrated,” Penn joked) they went from inevitable to desperate in less than a year.

But there is a bigger point here than just confirmation of Penn’s ineptitude. (And, yes, the incompetence of Harold Ickes and others who failed to organize and compete in caucus and Red states is equally to blame.) Hillary Clinton has never overseen a large operation successfully. For all of her talk that she would be “ready on day one,” the only instances of her managerial efforts–the health care task force and her own campaign–indicate she is neither a good judge of talent or a savvy strategist. In that regard, her claim to greater “experience” seems weak indeed.

This, in the latest of the “what went wrong?” stories, is a helpful guide to the many errors and faults of Clinton campaign guru Mark Penn, famed for perfecting the art of micro-trending (i.e. slicing and dicing the electorate to cobble together a winning coalition of support). Was it that we all “misunderstood” her (i.e., she really did care about big ideas) or that the media was too harsh? That’s Penn’s take. More realistically, the Clinton team utterly missed the biggest “trend” of all: this was a “change” election. And with a candidate who never connected with voters (“Being human is overrated,” Penn joked) they went from inevitable to desperate in less than a year.

But there is a bigger point here than just confirmation of Penn’s ineptitude. (And, yes, the incompetence of Harold Ickes and others who failed to organize and compete in caucus and Red states is equally to blame.) Hillary Clinton has never overseen a large operation successfully. For all of her talk that she would be “ready on day one,” the only instances of her managerial efforts–the health care task force and her own campaign–indicate she is neither a good judge of talent or a savvy strategist. In that regard, her claim to greater “experience” seems weak indeed.

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Hillary: Microtrending

In her opening statement, Hillary Clinton shows the influence of her chief strategist, Mark Penn. She says something about child health, something about veterans’ care, and my guess is throughout the debate she will attempt to make other targeted points to different Texas audiences. Penn is the author of a book called Microtrends, in which he claims that the secret to success is to find small markets, target them, and try to corner them one by one. So if you hear her talking about oil lease insurance for suffering Bay City wildcatters, you’ll know why.

In her opening statement, Hillary Clinton shows the influence of her chief strategist, Mark Penn. She says something about child health, something about veterans’ care, and my guess is throughout the debate she will attempt to make other targeted points to different Texas audiences. Penn is the author of a book called Microtrends, in which he claims that the secret to success is to find small markets, target them, and try to corner them one by one. So if you hear her talking about oil lease insurance for suffering Bay City wildcatters, you’ll know why.

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Still More Clinton Collapse

As things get desperate, the Clinton campaign is taking on Brittany Spears-like media undulations. Fox News reports that former Bill Clinton advisors James Carville and Paul Begala have been added to Hillary’s team.

Carville and Begala will serve as top strategists on politics and communication and likely overshadow the current role of Mark Penn, Hillary’s senior strategist, and Patty Solis Doyle, Hillary’s current campaign manager.

Yet, when contacted, Carville had this to say:

Fox was, is and will continue to be an asinine and ignorant network. I have not spoken to anyone in the Clinton campaign about this. I have not done domestic political consulting since President Clinton was elected. I’m not getting back into domestic political consulting. If I do go back, it would be safe to say that I’m the biggest liar in America.

Hail Marys, rumors, and denials. The machine that turned image management into religion and redefined spin has lost control. If Carville and Begala do come back it should be noted that Hillary can’t very well continue to call herself an agent of change by bringing in the old guard to steady the ship.

As things get desperate, the Clinton campaign is taking on Brittany Spears-like media undulations. Fox News reports that former Bill Clinton advisors James Carville and Paul Begala have been added to Hillary’s team.

Carville and Begala will serve as top strategists on politics and communication and likely overshadow the current role of Mark Penn, Hillary’s senior strategist, and Patty Solis Doyle, Hillary’s current campaign manager.

Yet, when contacted, Carville had this to say:

Fox was, is and will continue to be an asinine and ignorant network. I have not spoken to anyone in the Clinton campaign about this. I have not done domestic political consulting since President Clinton was elected. I’m not getting back into domestic political consulting. If I do go back, it would be safe to say that I’m the biggest liar in America.

Hail Marys, rumors, and denials. The machine that turned image management into religion and redefined spin has lost control. If Carville and Begala do come back it should be noted that Hillary can’t very well continue to call herself an agent of change by bringing in the old guard to steady the ship.

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More Clinton Collapse

ABC News has video of a run-down, rambling Bill Clinton unloading on Barack Obama. When asked about Hillary strategist Mark Penn’s premature claim that Obama got no “bounce” coming out of Iowa, the former President came close to a meltdown.

“Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairytale I’ve ever seen,” he said. Which explains exactly why he and Hillary are so unable to cope with the Obama phenomenon: they had thought they had foisted the biggest fairytale upon the American public. As it turns out, the Clintons are being out-Clintoned. Bill went on:

The idea that one of these campaigns is positive and the other is negative when I know the reverse is true and I have seen it and I have been blistered by it for months is a little tough to take. Just because of the sanitizing coverage that’s in the media doesn’t mean the facts aren’t out there.

Sanitizing coverage? This from the man whose perceived right to perjury launched an entire political force—moveon.org. At some point, the Clintons’ lurid exit from the world stage will cease to be delicious, but not quite yet.

Slate, by the way, has some valuable counterpoints to these Clinton claims.

ABC News has video of a run-down, rambling Bill Clinton unloading on Barack Obama. When asked about Hillary strategist Mark Penn’s premature claim that Obama got no “bounce” coming out of Iowa, the former President came close to a meltdown.

“Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairytale I’ve ever seen,” he said. Which explains exactly why he and Hillary are so unable to cope with the Obama phenomenon: they had thought they had foisted the biggest fairytale upon the American public. As it turns out, the Clintons are being out-Clintoned. Bill went on:

The idea that one of these campaigns is positive and the other is negative when I know the reverse is true and I have seen it and I have been blistered by it for months is a little tough to take. Just because of the sanitizing coverage that’s in the media doesn’t mean the facts aren’t out there.

Sanitizing coverage? This from the man whose perceived right to perjury launched an entire political force—moveon.org. At some point, the Clintons’ lurid exit from the world stage will cease to be delicious, but not quite yet.

Slate, by the way, has some valuable counterpoints to these Clinton claims.

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NEW HAMPSHIRE: Hillary Against Lobbyists for Drug Companies?

Clinton likes to accuse her opponents of having staff members who are “lobbyists for the drug companies.” It’s a specious, meaningless charge. But shouldn’t someone point out that Mark Penn, chief Hillary strategist, is also CEO of Burson-Marsteller, the PR firm for Wyeth, Pfizer, Amgen and hundreds of other corporations? I don’t see anything wrong with Mark Penn’s career, but the depth of her phoniness is breathtaking.

Clinton likes to accuse her opponents of having staff members who are “lobbyists for the drug companies.” It’s a specious, meaningless charge. But shouldn’t someone point out that Mark Penn, chief Hillary strategist, is also CEO of Burson-Marsteller, the PR firm for Wyeth, Pfizer, Amgen and hundreds of other corporations? I don’t see anything wrong with Mark Penn’s career, but the depth of her phoniness is breathtaking.

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