Tuesday, April 01, 2008
Hillary is becoming the George Bush and Joe Lieberman of the Democratic Party.
Huffington Post March 31, 2008
For politicians who see campaigns as a war for personal gain, truth is always the first casualty. Reality is nothing but a tool to be bent and distorted to the candidate's will, regardless of the long-term costs to that candidate's party, her nation, or the values she claims to represent.
But the fact that truth is the first casualty doesn't make it the last. The Clinton campaign, reeling from the disclosure of lies about Bosnia and Northern Ireland, is pressing on with arguments for her nomination -- arguments that are not only illogical, but are likely to cause further lasting harm to the Party's prospects in November.
How illogical are those arguments? Well, let's see ... Sen. Clinton was quoted this weekend saying that it would be profoundly antidemocratic to resolve the nomination fight before the last primaries are conducted. She used language that suggested that accepting the numerical inevitability of the process beforehand would be downright un-American. She said that "some folks" want to "stop these elections," adding:
"I thought we of all people knew how important it was to give everybody a chance to have their voices heard and their votes counted."
And yet most nomination battles are resolved well before the last set of primaries is held. That's why Michigan and Florida broke party rules and jumped the line, an action that threatened to disenfranchise voters in late primaries whose states had abided by the rules. If Sen. Clinton is so intent on being fair to late-primary voters, she should be condemning the rule-breakers who tried to prevent them from "having their voices heard and their votes counted" -- especially since she herself agreed, along with Sen. Obama, not to participate in their primaries.
But no. Instead, says Sen. Clinton, "We cannot go forward until Florida and Michigan are taken care of, otherwise the eventual nominee will not have the legitimacy that I think will haunt us," said the senator from New York. "I can imagine the ads the Republican Party and John McCain will run if we don't figure out how we can count the votes in Michigan and Florida."
What do those comments, so contradictory to one another, have in common? Only two things: They are in Sen. Clinton's self-interest, and they are profoundly damaging to the party's chances of winning the presidency. She has exercised the "nuclear option": She's saying that a process that isn't retrofitted to maximize her chances isn't valid or legitimate. She even invites the Republicans to make ads around that theme. And her refrain that "we" must "count the votes" is specifically designed to evoke memories of the stolen 2000 election, a sore subject that is likely to alienate Florida voters in November.
The surreal thing about all of this is that Sen. Clinton and her staff would be making the exact opposite argument if it helped her chances. Everybody knows that. Others have had the same reaction to her campaign's phone-in press conferences that I have: They're exercises in politics as virtual reality. Her staffers make arguments they don't believe. What's more, you know they know you know they don't believe it.
One pill makes you larger ...
That's why the Bosnia and Northern Ireland whoppers shouldn't have been a surprise. A campaign that views the truth in such elastic terms -- extreme even by the standards of American politics -- is capable of saying pretty much anything. That's why the candidate who claimed she was best-qualified to answer a 3 AM phone call tried to excuse her misstatements with the explanation that she was sleep-deprived -- even though that's a common condition when receiving 3 AM phone calls. (And even though she repeated this particular "misspeaking" several times, embellishing as she went along.)
And yet, in the middle of the flaps over her truthfulness, her campaign went after Obama over the supposedly false claim that Obama was a University professor. In claiming he was merely a "lecturer" (it turns out he's been a Senior Lecturer, which equates to professorship), they actually used the phrase "details matter."
Gotta give 'em credit for nerve, if nothing else. A candidate who's been padding her resume since the get-go, with the willing cooperation of the media she claims is an enemy, now says that "details matter." And we're not talking about the harmless fibs all candidates tell -- that she's named after Sir Edmund Hillary or that Barack's parents met at the Selma march -- but tall tales that make more of her claims of experience than are reasonable.
She repeated the Bosnia fable, elaborating with each re-telling, even after Sinbad and others have challenged her version of it. Commenters from Frank Rich to Nora Ephron have asked why. The answer to that is simple: Because it serves her self-interest, and until now the press let her get away with it.
Oh ... and so much for being "fully vetted." How many more Tuzlas are waiting to appear in her carefully crafted story? (And we haven't even seen those tax returns yet ...)
After pumping up her Ohio numbers with tales of her opposition to NAFTA -- and a lie about Obama and the Canadians -- it turns out that she campaigned for NAFTA's passage. She says she privately opposed it. Even if that's true -- which we can't know -- this is the candidate who says people should be judged on their "deeds," not their "words."
She turned a social visit to a women's center in Northern Ireland into a watershed moment that brought peace to a warring people - a total falsehood that denigrates the hard work of Northern Ireland's woman peacemakers.
Josh Marshall and others have commented on the increasingly tortured logic used to support her claims of legitimacy. The ritual recitation of her advisors' byzantine logic is becomingly increasingly meaningless. If the only way to consider her the "winner" was to count the votes of anemic Virgos who cast their ballots by the light of the full moon, that's the argument they'd be making.
She really only has -- or had -- one valid reason to stay in the race: To be the solid, reliable alternative should scandal or missteps seriously threaten Obama's viability in November. The problem is, she's made so many missteps of her own that she's no longer a good alternative should the front-runner stumble. She undercuts her own arguments that the race should go on by behaving in a reckless fashion that wounds the party itself. What's more, she has undiplomatically trampled sensitivities in both Bosnia and Northern Ireland (Clinton advisor jamie Rubin offended Protestant leaders in Northern Ireland defending her tall tales, while Bosnians -- including the little girl who read her a poem -- expressed outrage at her exploitation of their suffering).
In short, the Clinton campaign's reckless spree is damaging their party, and even the nation's diplomacy. That's why so many party elders are asking her to step down.
In typical Clinton fashion, she and Bill may rant and rage that this situation is the result of an unfair press, "Judases" insufficiently grateful for their (tax-funded) largesse, or a world that's insufficiently responsive to their desires and whims. But the real truth behind her candidacy's implosion is much simpler:Details matter.
Lou Dobbs is a Joke. Please CNN, take this fucking fossil off the Air. Lou says "Cotton... (picking?)" black politicians shouldn't talk about race.
The Washington Independent
Monday 31 March 2008
No repercussions in "60 Minutes" blackout case, even if politics at play.
Last month, as 10.5 million Americans were watching a "60 Minutes" episode implicating the Bush administration in an alleged conspiracy to prosecute political opponents, television viewers in Huntsville, Ala., found something different: a black screen.
The rare event - occurring at WHNT-TV, Huntsville's CBS affiliate - aroused the suspicions of Democrats and media watchdogs, not least because the segment focused on the corruption-related imprisonment of a leading state Democrat, former Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman. Friday, Siegelman was released on bond pending an appeal, vaulting his saga into the national spotlight, and signaling that his charges of a politically motivated prosecution - the same charges many Alabamans missed on "60 Minutes" - could ultimately exonerate him.
The Federal Communications Commission has launched an official inquiry into the blackout. But legal experts say that, even if WHNT acted purposefully, and for the most naked political reasons, the station could at worst walk away with a slap on the wrist. In fact, they say, years of deregulation have left broadcasters with broad freedoms over the content they air, and their reasons for doing so.
(Matt Mahurin) "If they say, 'Look, we're owned by conservative Republicans and we don't want to show something that makes the party look bad,' they can do it," said Michael Botein, director of the Media Law Center at New York Law School. "There are almost no rules today."
Andrew Jay Schwartzman, president and CEO of the Media Access Project, a nonprofit First Amendment watchdog group, said that Reagan-era deregulation could, indeed, allow broadcasters to black out programs of their choosing. Even if WHNT is found to have acted "for the most nefarious reasons," Schwartzman said, "it's not at all clear that any violation of any FCC regulation was involved."
The controversy stems from a Feb. 24 "60 Minutes" episode suggesting that the Bush administration had for years conspired to pin corruption charges on Siegelman, a popular Democrat in a largely Republican state. Central to CBS' investigation was Dana Jill Simpson, an Alabama lawyer who claimed to have done "opposition research" for the Republican Party. In 2001, Simpson told CBS, then-senior White House advisor Karl Rove asked her to get evidence of Siegelman cheating on his wife.
It was not the first time Rove had targeted Siegelman, Simpson said. "I had other requests for intelligence before." Through a lawyer, Rove denied the allegations, CBS reported.
In 2004, the administration brought one of its several long-running investigations against Siegelman to court, charging the Democrat with involvement in a Medicaid-scam. The judge dismissed the case for lack of evidence.
In 2006, the Justice Dept. brought a new case against Siegelman. This time the charge was bribery for accepting $500,000 from a health company executive in support of a lottery campaign the governor had pushed. In exchange, the executive was given a seat on a hospital regulatory board. A jury found Siegelman guilty, and he was sentenced to seven years in federal prison - a case currently under appeal.
CBS' Siegelman segment ran for 13 minutes of the hour-long news program. In Huntsville, the blackout lasted 12 minutes, coinciding directly with that story.
WHNT first claimed the blackout was the result of a faulty feed originating with CBS in New York. A more thorough investigation, station officials later said, revealed that the trouble was a local equipment failure preventing WHNT from receiving the CBS signal - a situation remedied 12 minutes into the Siegelman segment. In response to local complaints, WHNT re-ran the segment four hours after it was initially scheduled, and again the following evening. But the re-runs did little to cool the suspicions of Democrats. FCC Commissioner Michael Copps, a Democrat, pushed hard for an official inquiry, which was initiated nine days following the blackout.
Legal experts and media watchdogs say that blackouts of such length are extremely rare, particularly during peak viewing hours.
"Blackouts, of some duration, probably happen all the time," said Aaron Craig, communications director of Free Press, a non-partisan media reform group. "Now, do they happen during prime-time, when the story is focused on potential corruption in the same state? At best, it's an unfortunate coincidence."
Botein agreed, saying that the sophistication of today's broadcast equipment - combined with the commercial appeal of the program in question - makes such a coincidence highly unlikely.
"A show like '60 Minutes' gets incredible ratings," Botein said. "A 12-minute blackout? - It'd never happen. They'd lose half their audience."
The rare incident caught the attention of Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), who sent a Mar. 5 letter to FCC Chairman Kevin Martin, a Republican appointed by President George W. Bush, wondering "whether the nature of the content played a role" in the blackout. Kerry asked that the full results of the FCC inquiry be shared with Congress.
Kerry's suspicions are not without merit. While WHNT is owned by Oak Hill Capital, a Texas-based private equity firm with a long history of support for Democratic candidates and causes, the day-to-day operations are run by a newly created Oak Hill venture called Local TV LLC. Based in Kentucky, Local TV is headed by Robert Lawrence, a long-time GOP supporter whose many political contributions include $2,000 to the Bush campaign in 2004, and $7,000 to the Republican National Committee in 2000.
Local TV's previous CEO, Randy Michaels, a controversial figure who once headed the radio division at Clear Channel Communications, the nation's largest radio conglomerate, also has a long history of ties to conservative figures. Michaels is credited with discovering the popular conservative talk show host Sean Hannity in the early 1990s. He also signed enormous radio deals with Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura Schlessinger, two powerhouses on the conservative talk-radio circuit.
WHNT General Manager Stan Pylant said the FCC inquiry will reveal that there was no political foul play on the part of the station. "Indeed, the record will show that our team worked quickly to get CBS back on the air that night," Pylant said in a Mar. 7 statement.
In any case, experts say there is little the FCC can do regardless of the inquiry's conclusions. "While the First Amendment protects not only one's right to say what he or she has to say, it also protects one from being required to say something," Miriam Smith, professor of broadcast and electronic communication at San Francisco State University, said in an e-mail. "WHNT cannot be forced to engage in speech they do not wish to make."
Media experts say that a former federal regulation, the Fairness Doctrine, would have given the FCC greater punitive powers in this case. That rule required broadcasters to air stories of public importance, regardless how controversial, and also mandated equal time for opposing views.
The Fairness Doctrine was repealed in 1987, during a period of widespread deregulation under the Reagan administration. A congressional effort to prevent the repeal was vetoed by President Ronald Reagan. A 1991 attempt to reinstall it also failed, this time under veto threat from President George H.W. Bush.
What remains relevant is a federal requirement that broadcasters serve the public interest. If the Huntsville blackout is found to be politically motivated, then the FCC, currently composed of three Republicans and two Democrats, could deem it an act of censorship. This would be a taken into consideration when the station's license came up for renewal, which happens every eight years. License revocations are rare, however. Experts say it would require a years-long pattern of censorship - not just one event.
"In this case, they're certainly not going to pull their license over it," said Clay Calvert, communications professor at Pennsylvania State University and co-author of Mass Media Law, the nation's top-selling undergraduate communications law textbook. "At most, it might merit a warning."
Considering the partisan make-up of the FCC, it might not even merit that. The commission's "notice of inquiry" falls short of an investigation. And if Martin, the panel's Republican chairman, accepts the station's claim that the trouble was strictly technical, then the process could end there.
Kerry said his pursuit of the story will hinge on the FCC's actions. "[T]he FCC should carry out a full investigation before we take any further action," he said in an e-mail. "If the FCC fails to do so, then we will have to make a decision about further congressional action."
The FCC launched its inquiry on Mar. 4. WHNT has until Apr. 3 to respond. Mary Diamond, an FCC spokeswoman, declined to say whether the agency has received a response. Messages left with the station Friday were not returned.
Meanwhile, last week was doubly eventful for Siegelman. First, the House Judicial Committee on Thursday requested his temporary release to allow his testimony in Washington on events leading to his conviction. A day later, an appeals court secured his release on bond pending an appeal.
In his first interview after his release, Siegelman gave no indication of easing his campaign to tie Rove to his conviction.
"His fingerprints are smeared all over the case," he told The New York Times.
Sunday, March 30, 2008
The U.S. has stepped up its involvement in the intra-Shiite militia fighting in southern Iraq in recent days, air bombing several targets. The Bush administration is supporting the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council (ISCI) and the Badr militia, which are aligned with the Iraqi government, against Muqtada al Sadr’s Mahdi Army.
On Fox News Sunday today, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said the U.S. support was necessary to tame Iranian influence in Iraq:
Graham is trying to oversimplify the situation. In reality, the U.S. is helping bolster Iran’s influence by injecting itself into this fight. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) explained:
Now we have a battle with militias who are operating outside the government. … We must win this fight. The militias that we are fighting are backed by Iran. So this is an effort by Iran to destabilize Iraq.
The Iranians have close associations with all the Shia communities, not only with Sadr but also Hakim. … The notion that this is fight by American allies against Iranian-inspired elements is not accurate.
Ray Takeyh of the Council on Foreign Relations noted the ISCI “was essentially created by Iran, and its militia, the Badr Brigade, was trained and equipped by the Revolutionary Guards” — which the Bush administration calls a “terrorist” organization.
Journalist Gareth Porter added the Badr militia is the “most pro-Iranian political-military forces in Iraq.” In fact, ISCI leader Abdul Aziz al-Hakim “met with [Iranian Revolutionary Guard] officers to be his guests in December 2006, apparently to discuss military assistance to the Badr Organisation.”
Graham, underscoring his cluelessness about the situation on the ground right now, added that “the Badr brigade is not the problem.” Graham seems to be supporting an effort to fight Iran by supporting Iran.