Can John Edwards Pass the Leadership Test?

John Edwards ran a campaign of integrity and ideas, which he and his supporters can be very proud of. He spoke for a tradition of populist progressivism, which long has had too few advocates. He spoke of a need to change America, to change America’s priorities. But now that he has bowed to the inevitable fact that the Democratic Presidential candidate will be Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama, the question becomes, “Can John Edwards pass the test of leadership?” Can he provide direction to the 15% of Democrats who supported him in the primaries? Can he use this moment in time, this opportunity, to advance the causes he believes in? Can he support the candidate who more closely represents his ideals, or will he be cautious, unwilling to choose, unwilling to lead?

There can be no doubt that ideologically John Edwards stands closer to Barack Obama than to Hillary Clinton. This was evident in the Democratic Presidential debates. Despite the successes of Edwards and Obama in life and politics, both are true political outsiders—mavericks in a sea of conventional wisdom. Indeed, the Clintons not only represent the status quo, they embody one of the Americas John Edwards so eloquently described—the well-connected, powerful, prosperous America which is doing well, which has benefited by globalization, which has secure jobs. This is the America the Clintons courted and pandered to during Bill Clinton’s presidency, and which they continue to represent. This is the America of special interests, which is as comfortable with the Clintons as with Republicans. But it is not the other America that John Edwards spoke so passionately about.

Certainly, there must be the temptation for Edwards to step back and let the two remaining combatants battle it out. This path offers Edwards the easy option of hedging his bets, perhaps in the hope that he will retain credibility with the ultimate winner and be able to advance his issues, and, dare I say it, his own interests after the election. On examination, however, this path offers Edwards nothing at all. Let’s assume—and I think it is a fair assumption—that, for the reasons stated above, there is no chance Edwards would endorse Clinton and that the choice he faces is endorsing no one or endorsing Obama. If he stands mute and Clinton wins, she will owe him nothing and she will not even be interested in his concerns; the best he will get is a courtesy lunch or a sub-Cabinet position in a non-critical department. On the other hand, if he fails to help Obama now, when help is most important, the leverage he will have with a victorious Obama would be much diminished than what it is now—such is the essence of politics, a brutal blood sport. On the other hand, should Edwards see the wisdom of endorsing Obama now, his leverage would be greater than it will ever be and he can deal for commitments to support his poverty agenda, and perhaps even for an important position in an Obama Administration. Surely I am not the first to think of John Edwards as Attorney General and if Obama were to make such a commitment, it would be no sell-out of values because John Edwards not only is eminently qualified to be AG, he may well be the most qualified Democratic attorney in America to be AG in a Democratic Administration.

I supported John Edwards in the 2004 Democratic primaries and donated to his campaign this time around. I have watched him grow in stature as a politician since the day in June 2003 when he appeared at an event at my house to explain to me and 75 other Democrats who he was and what he stood for. He ran a great campaign in 2004 and he ran a better one this time, but it was just not to be. But having come as far as he has come, he is not done. He owes it to his supporters, to progressive Democrats, to all Democrats, and to all the voiceless people he speaks for to provide leadership and direction about what direction this country should go and who should lead them as the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008. Silence, or none of the above, should not be an option.

Hillary Clinton Is Trying to Drive Democrats Into a Dead End on Foreign Policy

In recent weeks, Hillary Clinton has increased her attack on Barack Obama, arguing that foreign policy experience is essential to “being ready on Day One.” Clinton thinks this argument will bring her closer to the presidency, but she is actually painting herself, and Democrats, into a corner in the general election, for, whatever one may think about her or Senator Obama’s foreign policy credentials, they certainly are less than John McCain’s. Democrats cannot run the general election campaign on the question of who has more foreign policy experience, or experience, in general, because the answer to those questions will be John McCain, even though most of his foreign experience is military. The Democratic campaign will have to be about which candidate has demonstrated the best judgment in foreign affairs, not who has the most experience. Which one endorsed and supported the greatest foreign policy fiasco in modern American history? Which continued to support this war long after every possible justification for it had collapsed? Whose belligerent statements would increase the chance of war with Iran? In answering these questions — the questions Democrats will have to emphasize in a campaign against McCain — Hillary Clinton doesn’t fare so well.

First of all, it is not clear where Hillary derives the foreign policy “experience” advantage she claims, if not her eight years in the White House as First Lady. But when did the American Presidency become a monarchy? When did the First Lady role morph into the Queen? No First Lady, including Hillary, has been tasked with foreign policy assignments. As First Lady, the main purpose of her foreign travel was to engage in ceremonial events. There was nothing wrong with that, of course, but being hostess or guest at dinner parties is not “Commander-in-Chief” experience any more than Senator Obama’s experience living abroad is foreign policy experience. In fact, it can plausibly be argued that living in a foreign country, which Senator Obama has done, provides a deeper understanding of how the rest of the world thinks than bopping into a country for a day or two to schmooze with a Saudi oligarch. If her foreign policy role was more than that, why has she refused to release her White House papers so voters could see evidence of what her “experience” claims are based on?

Whatever her actual level of “experience,” since entering the U.S. Senate, Senator Clinton has been one of the most hawkish of Democrats, including, of course, her vote for the October 2002 Iraq Resolution which led to war with Iraq. She and Bill have tried to explain that vote on the grounds that President Bush’s true intentions, and the debacle Iraq would soon become, were “unknown and unknowable.” These claims cannot withstand scrutiny, however. Long before October 2002, there were abundant reasons not to trust anything Bush/Cheney said about Iraq. Long before October 2002, there existed a large body of scholarship that detailed the regional and religious conflicts that would erupt in Iraq if Saddam were removed. Two of the best predictors of the fiasco that Iraq would become, were President George H.W. Bush and his National Security Advisor, Brent Scowcroft, both of whom had written well-known articles and memoirs about why Baghdad should not be invaded — in the case of Scowcroft, in a New York Times Op-Ed shortly before the vote on the Iraq Resolution. And these warnings were not lost on the large majority of Democrats in Congress; in fact, 148 Democrats in Congress (125 in the House and 23 in the Senate) saw through the smoke and mirrors, accurately perceived that Bush/Cheney would use the resolution to invade Iraq, and voted against the resolution. Hillary Clinton missed all the clues, took the Republican bait, and made one of the worst foreign policy decisions in modern American history. As recently as December 2005, Senator Clinton wrote a letter to her constituents defending her war vote. While she now favors troop withdrawals, her turn against the war followed the opinion of a majority of Democratic voters by more than two years. Is following public opinion the type of leadership that “experience” produces? If it is, maybe we need less of it.

Hillary Clinton fell into the same hawk trap by voting for the Kyl-Lieberman resolution [Senator Obama opposed it], which labeled part of the Iranian national army, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, “a terrorist organization.” Aside from the fact that Iran has played a very cautious role in Iraq and seeks a long-term accommodation with the U.S. in Iraq, labeling the Iranian Revolutionary Guards a “terrorist organization” establishes the pre-conditions for a military attack on Iran, just as Bill Clinton’s call for “regime change” in Iraq was the predicate for attacking Iraq. Once Democrats, like Hillary Clinton, label part of the Iranian Army a “terrorist organization,” how can they complain when Bush attacks the Guards without appearing weak on “terrorism.” The Clintons play chess one move at a time; they simply are no match for Republicans, who see the whole board and plan several moves ahead.

The problem of Clinton’s poor instincts on foreign policy is compounded by the hawkish foreign policy advisors she has surrounded herself with, the most important of which are Madeleine Albright, Richard Holbrooke, Lee Feinstein and Sandy Berger. Former Secretary of State Albright is the person who Colin Powell’s Chief of Staff, Colonel Lawrence Wilkerson, once said, “She never met a military option she didn’t like. When I worked at Defense, she used to scare us.” When Colin Powell urged the new Clinton Administration not to bomb Bosnia too hastily, she countered, “What’s the use of having his superb military that you’re always talking about if we can’t use it?” “I thought I would have an aneurysm,” Powell would later write.

Perhaps an even more problematic member of the Clinton foreign policy team is Richard Holbrooke, who Clinton insiders say would be the most likely Secretary of State in a new Clinton Administration. Holbrooke certainly is not short on foreign policy experience, having been an Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Ambassador to the U.N., but his track record should cause all progressives concern. Holbrooke, described by pundits as, “The raging bull of U.S. diplomacy,” cultivated and supported Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos, supported Indonesia during its brutal occupation of East Timor and backed the generals behind the Kwangyi massacre in South Korea. He supported Bill Clinton’s signing a bill calling for “regime change” in Iraq — the predicate for the Bush/Cheney led invasion. Thanks to Richard and Bill, Bush and Cheney were able to say “regime change in Iraq is American policy.” In his last press conference as U.N. Ambassador, Holbrooke called Saddam Hussein, “a clear and present danger at all times,” and said the incoming Bush Administration, “will have to deal with this problem.” Supported by this push from the Clintons, Bush/Cheney and the neo-conservatives were only too happy to oblige. As late as December 2005, with the Iraq War collapsing around Bush/Cheney, when asked what he recommended in Iraq, Holbrooke responded, “I’m not prepared to lay out a detailed policy or strategy.” Holbrooke provides lots of experience and a great resume, but outstandingly bad judgment.

Lee Feinstein is rumored to be in line for the critical position of National Security Advisor in a new Clinton Administration. Like many Clinton foreign policy advisors, Feinstein enthusiastically supported invading Iraq and in April 2003, shortly after the invasion, confidently assured CNN that, “U.S. forces over time will find weapons of mass destruction and also find evidence of programs to build weapons of mass destruction” in Iraq, even when it was becoming apparent they would not. Feinstein expanded his theories of unilateral, pre-emptive intervention in an article he co-authored in Foreign Affairs, where he championed the “duty to prevent.” He argued that the U.S. should try to build coalitions, but that it can attack sovereign nations without support from allies. He went even further, arguing that Bush’s controversial, and internationally illegal, doctrine of preemptive war “does not go far enough.” The logic of his argument would be that his concept of widespread violations of international law is crucial to strengthening international law. We see, once again, that deep foreign policy experience is serving the Clinton advisors so well.

Other top Clinton foreign policy advisors, such as Kenneth Pollack, Jack Keane and Michael O’Hanlon, strongly supported President Bush’s troop surge in Iraq. This could be why, during Bush’s recent State of the Union address, when Bush claimed that the surge was a success, Clinton stood and cheered while Obama remained seated and silent.

It should be noted that not every one of Clinton’s foreign policy advisors is a stone-cold hawk. General Wesley Clark and former ambassador Joseph Wilson have nuanced understandings of foreign policy, and neither supported the war in Iraq. Clark, in particular, understands not only the uses of military power, but also its limitations. I hope he will serve an important role in the next Democratic Administration, regardless of who wins the presidency. Experience is not always disabling.

In contrast to Senator Clinton, in the critical months prior to the launch of the war in 2003, with public opinion running strongly in favor of invading Iraq, Obama openly challenged the Bush Administration’s exaggerated claims and astutely predicted that a war in Iraq would lead to an increase of Islamic extremism, terrorism and regional instability, as well as a decline in respect for America throughout the world. Obama is a case study of good judgment trumping a resume.

While nearly all of Senator Clinton’s stable of foreign policy advisors were strong supporters of Bush’s invasion of Iraq, almost every one of Senator Obama’s foreign policy team opposed the U.S. invasion. Obama advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter’s National Security Advisor, warned that the international community would consider invasion of a nation which posed no threat to the U.S. would be an illegal act of aggression. Bzezinski said “without a respected and legitimate law-enforcer, global security could be in serious jeopardy.” Another key foreign policy advisor to Senator Obama, Joseph Cirincione, argued that containing Saddam already had been achieved, saying, “Saddam Hussein is effectively incarcerated and under watch by a force that could respond immediately and devastatingly to any aggression.”

While Senator Clinton and most of her advisors have been strong supporters of virtually unlimited defense spending, some of Senator Obama’s key advisors, like Lawrence Korb, have expressed serious concerns about the enormous waste from excessive defense spending. While most of Senator Clinton’s advisors, like Madeleine Albright and Sandy Berger, have been strong supporters of globalization, some even being architects of it, Senator Obama’s advisors have raised questions. Susan Rice, an Obama advisor and an expert on Africa in the Clinton Administration, has emphasized how globalization has led to uneven development that has contributed to destabilization and extremism.

Stephen Zunes, a foreign policy analyst for Foreign Policy in Focus, comparing Senators Clinton and Obama, has written:

On balance, it appears likely that a Hillary Clinton administration, like Bush’s, would be more likely to embrace exaggerated and alarmist reports regarding potential national security threats, to ignore international law and the advice of allies, and to launch offensive wars. By contrast, a Barack Obama administration would be more prone to examine the actual evidence of potential threats before acting, to work more closely with America’s allies to maintain peace and security, to respect the country’s international legal obligations, and to use military force only as a last resort.

For those voters who want American foreign policy to continue to trend in the direction of muscularity and intervention, they have their candidate — Hillary Clinton. For those who want change in American foreign policy, who think American militarism and interventionism need to be scaled back, Senator Obama, and his foreign policy advisors, appear ready to begin those changes.

Hillary is Nasty But She is Not Tough

Hillary Clinton’s current ads seek to portray her as the tough leader who is ready on Day One to handle crises. Borrowing from a line made famous by Harry Truman, the tag line trumpets, “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.” The sub-text, of course, is that she will dish out a full plate of heat and if Obama can’t respond on her gutter level, he can’t handle heat.ᅠ

The truth is almost exactly the opposite. Hillary is nasty, but she is not tough. In fact, Hillary is a classic whiner. She and Bill whine about everything that doesn’t go well for them. Unlike Harry Truman, who also said, “the buck stops here,” she and Bill accept responsibility for nothing and blame others, especially the media, when things go wrong or their deceptions are exposed.ᅠ

Hillary and Bill whine about Democratic Party activists, young voters, running as a female, the media in general, the media catching her fabricating her history (bringing peace to Ireland, opposing NAFTA, facing sniper fire in Bosnia, etc.), the appeal of hope, Obama’s eloquence, money, donors, Democratic Party rules. Last week, Hillary blamed the “activist base” of the Democratic Party — and MoveOn, in particular — for many of her electoral defeats, claiming, without a shred of evidence, that activists had “flooded” state caucuses and “intimidated” her supporters. Rather than accept responsibility for her campaign’s well-documented failure adequately to plan for the caucus states, and despite her repeated claim she is the candidate “ready on Day One,” she attacked core Democratic Party supporters. Rather than take responsibility for her inability to inspire the activist base with her ideas, she whined about their support of a more thoughtful, inspirational candidate. Candidates normally celebrate high levels of voter activism in the primaries, knowing these activists will work for the party’s nominee in the general election, but Hillary is willing to burn the peasants in order to win the village for herself.

Hillary and Bill whine about young voters. Last week, Bill said in Pennsylvania that young voters are easily fooled and older voters are wiser — too wise to be fooled by Obama’s inspiring rhetoric. Of course, he forgot to mention that the most well-educated voters — young and old — heavily favor Obama over Hillary. Most candidates, and both political parties, yearn for support from young voters because young voters represent not just the present, but also the future. And, certainly if young voters were supporting Hillary, she wouldn’t be whining about them. But since she is not very good at inspiring young voters, she chooses to whine about them. Thankfully, she has not yet proposed raising the voting age to 60, but that could be next.

Hillary whines about being a female candidate, as though it’s harder to be female in America than black. Said Hillary, “It’s hard. It’s hard being a woman out there.” [Add some tears and the picture is complete] Her surrogate, Geraldine Ferraro, even made the wholly implausible claim that the only reason Obama was succeeding was his race — a claim Hillary never repudiated. Of course, at the same time the Clintons whine about misogyny, they argue to super-delegates that Obama is not electable because he is black and that, as a woman, she is the electable candidate. Neither Bill nor Hill can explain why all the white male Democratic Presidential candidates are out of the race. Could it be that Obama has demonstrated qualities to voters that the others lacked? Could it be that Obama has come from more than 20 points behind in just a few months because he offers qualities, such as hope and honesty, which voters, by large pluralities, think Hillary lacks?

Hillary frequently whines about the media not being “fair.” This is an old Clinton complaint, going back to her stone-walling about Travelgate, Whitewater and the revelations of Bill’s many sexual shenanigans. How unfair of the press to remember that she supported NAFTA, falsely claimed to have been a key negotiator in peace talks in Ireland, and lied about her Bosnia trip.

Caught dead-on lying about being under “sniper fire” as she landed in Bosnia — when absolutely no danger existed — she claimed she simply had “misspoke” [seven times?], then claimed she was tired by “lack of sleep,” then Bill chimed in to attack the media for even covering the story. This was all taking place as she asserted her competence to answer that mythical 3 am phone call. So if we believe the Clintons, her “lack of sleep” caused her to fabricate a story about landing in Bosnia into hostile sniper fire and risking her life like a seasoned military veteran, but this fabrication should be disregarded because, despite her history of sleep deprivation, if a crisis occurs at 3 am, we can trust her to be awake and alert and respond truthfully and with good judgment. With leadership like this, we’ll all be awake at night.

Hillary whines about Obama’s inspiration and eloquence. Hillary whines about the very nature of hope. Despite the Clintons’ history of playing the Hope Card (we all remember Bill’s 1992 campaign biopic, “The Man from Hope”), when the other guy is offering it, all of a sudden, hope is suspicious. In fact, it is downright delusional. “I could stand up here and say, let’s get everyone together, let’s get unified and the sky will open, the light will come down, celestial choirs will be singing, and the world will be perfect,” she said in mock sarcasm of Obama’s message of conciliation and hope.

Hillary whines about the fact Obama has engaged more donors and raised more money than she. Of course, she didn’t think it was unfair in 2007 when she had twice as much money as any other candidate. But as soon as she fell behind, Little Miss $100+ million War Chest was whining about being outspent. But isn’t the ability to inspire donors and raise money part of being a successful presidential candidate? Isn’t that a measure of electability, not something to be disdained?
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Hillary now is whining about Florida and Michigan, piously claiming that failing to seat delegates from those states would be fundamentally undemocratic. But when the Democratic National Committee’s rules panel declared Florida’s accelerated primary date was not permitted under party rules, all of Hillary’s 12 representatives on the 30 member rules panel voted for Florida’s full disenfranchisement, which, under party rules, applied to Michigan, as well. In October 2007, when she was far and away the Democratic front-runner, Hillary told a New Hampshire public radio audience, “It’s clear this election [Michigan] is not going to count for anything.” Oh, the sting of hypocrisy, but rather than accept responsibility for the obvious — that she supported the very rule she now attacks — she plays the “poor me” card and digs the Democratic Party into a deeper hole.

Do we want a whiner to be President? Commander-in-Chief? Do we want to live through more chapters in the never-ending, but never-changing, Clinton Drama of Blame, Attack and Half-Truths? Or do we prefer a president who has demonstrated candor, who is willing to treat voters like adults, who takes responsibility for his behavior and offers thoughtful commentary on serious issues — as Obama did with his former pastor? Do we want a president who behaves like a mature adult or someone whose emotional intelligence is on the level of a spoiled, whiny teenager?

Please, No Obama/Clinton Nightmare

Now that it is apparent to all, except perhaps Hillary Clinton and some of her die-hard supporters, that Barack Obama will be the Democratic presidential nominee, the drumbeat for a “dream” ticket [Obama/Clinton] is starting. But before this goes too far, we need to ask, whose “dream” are we talking about? Our Republican opponent’s dream or ours?

John McCain is in deep trouble, and not just because of the legacy of George Bush. He is in trouble with much of the Republican base, particularly the religious Right, who never have trusted him. It is no accident that turnout in nearly all Republican primaries has been low, that McCain’s fundraising has been dismal and that in the North Carolina and Indiana primaries, nearly 25% of Republican voters voted against him, despite the fact that he clearly will be the Republican nominee.

While McCain was the strongest in a weak field of Republican candidates, his candidacy clearly is not galvanizing conservatives. There is only one candidate who can do that: Hillary Clinton. To the conservative base of the Republican Party, she is the Democratic demon and the candidate the Republicans’ want to face. She is Rush Limbaugh’s candidate of choice. She is the candidate who the Right would use to raise money and turn out volunteers. She is the only potential Democratic VP who would build Republican enthusiasm and inspire the grassroots Republican campaign.

She also is the candidate who consistently measures the highest “unfavorable” ratings of anyone who ever has run for the presidency. In an ABC News poll, Clinton polls 54 percent unfavorable; perhaps even worse, 58 percent of voters say she is not honest and trustworthy. Both Clintons stand out for the amount of voter antipathy they attract: Thirty-nine percent of voters have a “strongly unfavorable” opinion of Hillary Clinton; only 22 percent have a “strongly favorable” view. Thirty-four percent are strongly negative on Bill Clinton and 51 percent have an “unfavorable” opinion of him. And Hillary’s low-road campaign has had an impact: 41 percent of Democrats and Democratic-leaning voters describe the tone of the Democratic campaign as “mostly negative,” and by nearly a 4 to 1 margin, 52 percent to 14 percent, blame Clinton. Is taking baggage like this into the general election anyone’s “dream” but a Republican’s?

Worse than Hillary’s high unfavorables, a Obama/Clinton ticket would create a continuing crossfire — not between McCain and Obama, but between Obama and Clinton. Every one of Clinton’s interactions with the media would feature questions like, “Do you still think Barack Obama lacks experience to be Commander-in-Chief?” “Do you still think Obama is an elitist?” “That he doesn’t understand the problems of the white working class?” “Do you still think his past association with Reverend Wright is very troublesome?” Obama would be asked, “During the primary campaign, your VP said your healthcare plan sucked? Was she right? Does it suck?” “Do you want to obliterate Iran, too, like your vice-president?” And, when the press wasn’t asking these questions, John McCain would ask them. Or, maybe we all could be reminded of Bill’s talk of a Clinton v. McCain contest, where we would have a campaign of “two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country,” unlike Obama. Even worse than this scenario, Barack Obama would be cast in the position of having to defend his own VP’s past attacks on himself. By doing so, he would not simply look like a hypocrite, he would, in fact, be a hypocrite — thus putting into jeopardy his coin of the realm, his honesty and integrity. The general campaign wouldn’t be about Obama v. McCain, it would be Act Two of a very bad marriage, with Obama sacrificing his integrity trying to explain away his own VPs past attacks on him. If you think her snarky, negative primary campaign was a thing of the past, think again because the Republicans and the press would offer us deja vu all over again. Lost in this dialogue of the past would be Obama’s opportunity to explain how he wants to take America into a more productive future.

Those who “dream” of an Obama/Clinton ticket also fail to recognize something significant: Hillary has been a lousy candidate. I used to think that Al Gore and John Kerry ran the worst campaigns for president ever, but Hillary’s ineptitude set new records. Five months ago, Hillary had a 20+ point lead in Democratic polling, the greatest name recognition of any candidate, the most money, support from a popular former Democratic president who was actively campaigning for her, nostalgia for the Clinton era of “peace and prosperity,” a ton of endorsements, the aura of “inevitability” — and she squandered it all with an inexorable series of misjudgments, abetted by her, Bill’s and her campaign’s unrelenting arrogance. By contrast, Obama ran down and exposed the dinosaur for what it was not simply with a brilliantly executed campaign, but with a core understanding that voters were tired of the type of old-style politics and old-style campaigning Bill and Hillary so ably represent. Why should he now forge an alliance with one of the most ineffective old-style campaigns ever, not to mention take on the Big Dog [Bill] as his new pal — in this case, an uncontrollable pal who would try to run not only Hillary’s campaign, but Obama’s, as well? This is my definition of a Living and Breathing Nightmare — one with plenty of 3 am calls from Bill! Even worse than sharing a campaign with Bill and Hill, allying with the Clintons would undermine the very essence of the Obama message — that real change is needed in Washington. It would be seen as completely inauthentic, the worst type of marriage of convenience. And unlike the shotgun marriage JFK made with LBJ, Hillary brings nothing to the table; unlike LBJ, she can’t bring a swing state into the Democratic column. Obama could win New York with Daffy Duck as his VP.

Then there are the revelations to come. Does anyone think that a man with a documented 30-year history of philandering with a long list of bowling alley queens has magically stopped playing the field, or that the Republicans will not exploit this? Does anyone think the Republicans will not exploit Bill’s fundraising associations with some of the questionable people who have given him millions for his library and foundation in favor of his deal-making with oil oligarchs, or exploit his 11th hour pardons of some pretty disreputable characters, including two convicted bomb-carrying members of the Weather Underground? How much more baggage can Hillary sustain?

There are, of course, many strong Vice-presidential candidates for Obama to choose from. In light of Clinton’s and McCain’s challenging Obama’s national security credentials, a VP such as General Wesley Clark, Senator Jim Webb or Governor Bill Richardson would add substantial national security/foreign policy heft. General Clark is our last successful commanding general and a smart, attractive spokesperson. He comes from the Clinton camp, but is no hawk like Hillary; Clark understands not only the uses of military power, but also its limitations. He would fit well with the new direction in foreign policy we hope a President Obama would take the country, as well as add great credibility to new security initiatives. Jim Webb, a former Secretary of the Navy, has been perhaps the most out-spoken and effective critic of the War in Iraq and Bush/Cheney foreign policy belligerence. He won in Virginia, a swing state, against all odds and an incumbent Republican, and is a great campaigner. Governor Richardson has spent most of his adult life working in the foreign policy arena, he is a popular governor in a swing state and is a Hispanic to boot — a near-perfect trifecta of qualifications. He also has an incisive sense-of-humor, which politics and political combat could use a bit more of. Ohio Senator Sherrod Brown is another VP possibility many have mentioned positively.

And, there are solid women VP candidates: Senator Claire McCaskill won her Senate seat in Missouri, a swing state in any Presidential election; she has a tough law and order background as a former Attorney General, and is smart and articulate. Kansas Governor Kathy Sibelious has proven to be an effective governor who works well with the opposition and knows how to win in a Republican state.

This short list certainly is missing many other potentially good candidates, but the point is simple: There is no dearth of qualified VP candidates for the Democrats and there is no reason to take on the baggage and negatives of the Clintons, let alone try to work closely and cooperatively with them for 4-8 years.

Hillary, Bill and surrogates like James Carville have graphically challenged Obama’s toughness, even his “cojones.” I recognize that Obama is a conciliator, but conciliation should not come at the cost of getting rolled by the Clintons. That first act of a Demcratic Presidential candidate would show strength to no one [including the Clintons] at a time when voters still need to be convinced that Obama not only is an inspiring leader, but a tough and strong leader, as well.

Secret Clinton Memo Revealed

I am a close personal friend of Mark Penn and Harold Wolfson. Recently, I was permitted to read, but not copy, a secret campaign memo co-authored by Hillary and Bill Clinton addressed to their demoralized campaign staff. The memo lays out many possible paths to victory still remaining in the Democratic nomination process for Hillary. My best recollection of this memo is as follows:

1. Assassination is still on the table, but it is only one possibility out of many. In light of the public furor in response to Hillary’s assassination comments, for the time being this possibility will be de-emphasized.

2. Astrophysicists are predicting an increase of meteor showers between now and the Democratic Convention. It is possible that a small meteor could hit Barack Obama in the temple at any time.

3. The most common place where people suffer fatal injuries is in their bath tub and shower. Obama is rumored to bathe every day.

4. It has been reported that Obama likes tofu; it is a little-known fact but many people have died choking on tofu.

5. We are engaged in secret conversations with George Bush and Dick Cheney to encourage them to move up the Iran invasion date from mid-October to the first week in August. We will jump all over this issue in support of the invasion and our brave troops. America likes invading other countries. That peacenik wimp Obama won’t stand a chance.

6. Obama uses an airplane to fly to many of his campaign appearances. With the soaring price of jet fuel, there is a chance his plane will run out of fuel in-flight. It is not a glider.

7. Obama plays basketball every morning. It is possible, even likely, that he could suffer serious damage to his knees and not be able to walk between now and November without a walker or wheelchair. No one wants a President in a wheelchair. We know there is the precedent of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, but that was before TV.

The Obama campaign only appears to be strong. Obama actually is quite vulnerable, as this memo has made clear. This is no time to feel bad, be nice or stop attacking [pandering to voters is still OK]. We are in this to WIN so stop grousing about the crappy campaign you all think we have run, think like a pit bull, not a poodle, buck up your spirits and your rhetoric and continue to ATTACK!

What Next for Democrats?

The first thing Democrats need to do is stop feeling sorry for themselves and stop issuing idiotic statements like the one they issued today that they cannot “mathematically” do anything. They still control the Presidency and have large majorities in the Congress. With a bozo who won the Presidency with a minority of votes and thin majorities in Congress, the Republicans in 2001-6 still aggressively pushed their agenda. “Mathematics” didn’t stop the Republicans and there is no reason for the Democrats to act impotent and paralyzed now.

What could they do to turn momentum in their favor?

1. Pass the House’s $154 billion job creation bill. Find more TARP money to add to the House bill. Talk about job creation every day.

2. Pass Obama’s proposed bank tax. Talk every day about excessive bonuses, how the banking industry failed America and how Republican economics collapsed the economy and transformed a $250 billion federal surplus in 2000 into a $1.3 trillion deficit in 2008.

3. Order the Department of Justice to investigate the financial manipulations and inept regulation which led to the financial collapse for possible criminal violations. The conflicts-of-interest were rampant; surely, there must be criminal violations somewhere in this gigantic mess of profiteering and greed.

4. Publicize the hearings and findings of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission and develop legislative proposals to rein in Wall Street and prevent their gambling with our money. Point fingers and assign blame and if some of the blame touches Clinton, Summers and Geithner, be honest about it. The public sees too little honesty from politicians. Use the findings to dump Summers and Geithner.

5. Make the federal foreclosure agency work to reform mortgages [it has been close to dysfunctional for nearly a year]. It is estimated that between 20-25% of all mortgages now exceed the value of the properties. There are tens of millions of homeowners who need help and most of them vote.

6. Pass the Consumer Protection Agency and blame every politician who opposes protecting consumers for being tools of banks. Get Elizabeth Warren on TV every day. Have her make the State of the Union speech. 🙂

7. Fire Tim Geithner and Larry Summers. Replace them with Joe Stiglitz and Elizabeth Warren. Withdraw Ben Bernanke’s nomination for the Chair of the Federal Reserve and replace him with Paul Volcker.

8. Pass healthcare reform with a public option and the surtax on the wealthy and no excise tax through reconciliation. Bend the reconciliation rules as much as necessary and let the Republicans howl. There is no judicial review and the public doesn’t give a shit about the nuances of Senate procedures, they just want to see action. Accuse the Republicans of being pawns of the insurance companies.

9. Announce that the Democratic Party will stop accepting donations from the banking and insurance industries and demand that the Republican Party do the same. They won’t, of course, which would provide many opportunities to accuse the Republicans of being the party of the banks and insurance companies — the message would be, “If you want to empower banks and insurance companies, vote Republican.” Whatever money the Democrats give up by this gesture would be more than made up by a surge of small donations, a surge in integrity and a surge in credibility.

I’m sure I am missing many other good ideas, but this list would keep the Democrats busy for at least a few months.

The United States of eBay

We all know what America’s biggest problem is, right? You thought it might be healthcare, climate change, the economy, financial regulation, immigration reform? Well you were wrong! Corporations don’t have enough influence on government. They don’t have a strong-enough voice. Those 57,642 paid corporate lobbyists in Washington DC spending $140 million every day lobbying Congress just aren’t getting their messages across strongly enough. And then there are those messy elections where voters think they have the right to exercise some control and even donate money to candidates.

So, today the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that corporations have unlimited free speech rights under the Constitution and can put unlimited amounts of money [money which originates from you, of course] behind the candidates and issues they support. So much for citizen-based democracy, but maybe that’s a good thing.

But why just let corporations buy off the President and Congress with campaign donations and corporate-funded campaigns? Why not let them BE the President? I mean, why not just cut out the middle men?

And if corporations can name every stadium in America, why not let them just buy the country? We could be the Petco United States. Or the United States of eBay. I mean, Meg Whitman is running for Governor of California in an attempt to make California the California of eBay. Why stop there?

Are Dogs Worse than SUVs?

As a dog owner, I read with interest Time to Eat the Dog, a book by Robert and Brenda Vale. The book argues that the carbon impact of a dog is double that of an SUV, that a typical dog eats 360 pounds of meat and 200 pounds of cereal a year and that it takes two acres to grow the food for just one dog. Dogs also attack wild animals, so, according to the book, the best pet is a chicken, which serves a dual purpose because chickens lay eggs, or rabbits “provided you eat them.” Of course, if you eat your dog, you get a dual purpose, which I guess explains the book’s title.

There really is no need to forsake dogs and the solution to the carbon dog footprint problem problem is obvious: environmentalists need to give up their big dogs and turn to small dogs to save the planet. Take me, for example. I own a 3-pound toy poodle. I guarantee that a 3-pound dog leaves very small footprints, carbon or otherwise, yet provides the companionship of bigger dogs. And, to date, my 3-pounder, Moxie, has not brought down any deer, elk or bears, although the coyotes in my neighborhood are terrified whenever Moxie walks onto the porch. In short, the time is at-hand to begin cross-breeding dogs for smallness.

But why stop with dogs? If we encouraged large humans to cross-breed with dwarfs and midgets, and if we got a little help from genetic engineers, I think we are capable of producing a race of 60 pound humans. Just think of the advantages: 60 pound people would consume a quarter of the food of typical obese Americans; cars could be half the size and 2-lane highways could immediately become 4-lanes; planes could carry twice as many people; two small people could share one coach seat; two small people could share one bag of pretzels. The upside is almost unlimited.

In fact, let’s start the cross-breeding with the authors of the book, Time to Eat the Dog. We already know their brains are only half the size of normal brains.