Thursday, January 24, 2008

January 15-23, 2008

Think About It

(Before it's too late)

I want to speak directly to supporters of Hillary Clinton. No, not speak... plead.

I remember the last time I wanted to reach out and shake a bunch of fellow progressives. It was back in 2000 when Ralph Nader was running for President. A lot of what Ralph was saying was true and attractive to long-suffering progessive voters. Meanwhile, Al Gore, had picked the worst possible moment in history to have an identity crisis and was proving to be a disappointment as a candidate -- to say the least.

Nevertheless many of us worried that Ralph could sap just enough votes from Gore to toss the election to Bush. And, with a little help from the Supremes, that's precisely what happened.

I have that same fear again. If McCain ends up the GOP candidate, rather than the more clearly flawed Romeny or Giuliani, Hillary Clinton will not sashay to the coronation she had once envisioned. Instead her built-in high negatives will drive many independents back into the GOP camp and she will re-energize a currently dispirited GOP rank and file.

Worse yet, Democratic voters, many of of whom simply cannot stomach Hillary Clinton, will simply not vote if their only choice is between John McCain and Hillary Clinton.

That's all it would take to tip the "Red state/Blue state" calculus to a McCain victory next November. And if that happens, and we end up with another Republican in the White House a year from January, the blame for that will lay directly in the laps of those of you who have been hypnotized into making Hillary the Democratic party nominee. Yes it will. And then, like those Nader voters of 2000 your only comfort will be your self-serving belief  that, "at least I did the right thing," even if contributed to the wrong outcome.

If that does not convince you that Hillary is a bad bet, ask yourself the following question:

What serious  person would serve as Vice President in a "Billary" administration?

I keep hearing Hillary supporters suggesting that a dream ticket would be a Hillary/Obama or Hillary/Edwards ticket. What are you guys smoking?  Edwards and Obama are serious fellas. Neither would want to serve four years as window-dressing while Hillary and her defacto VP, Bill, run the country from the White House family quarters.

Can you imagine that? Try. Because if you can get your heads around that one you will understand that Hillary Clinton is the worst possible of choices. Already we are seeing hints of the spousal dynamic that would play out if Hillary and Bill end up back in the White House. It will be four years of Bill and Hillary against -- everyone else, including members of their own party.

Just last week both Rahm Emanuel and James Carville -- both longtime Clinton loyalists, got into shouting matches with Bill over his bellicose defense of Hillary. Reportedly each man told Bill, in no uncertain terms, that he was splitting the party, alienating black voters and scaring the hell out of wavering white voters.

To paraphrase Bill's response, according to reports, "Bite me! Mind your own damn business."

Well, this IS your business. It's all our business. We've just paid a staggering price for ignoring these same warning signs eight years ago. Are Democrats really going to make that mistake again? 

I have warned from the start that there are only two possible outcomes if Hillary Clinton becomes the nominee of her party:campaign for President: She could lose, or she could win. Either outcome would thrust our already battered and exhausted nation into another four years of division and animus -- not to mention reruns of the "As The Clinton's Turn," spousal soap opera.

So, Hillary Supporters, think again. The nation would move forward under a President John Edwards. And the nation would be elevated by a President Obama. But a President Hillary Clinton would mean trading divisive George W. Bush for an equally divisive Hillary R. Clinton.It would mean four more years of Washington food fights. Four more years of the now all-too familiar,"your-mother's-so-fat" levels of debate. And four years of watching Hillary act like Margaret Thatcher on the world stage while channeling Eleanor Roosevelt here at home -- a schizophrenic balancing act even a shape-shifter like Hillary Clinton won't be able to pull off.

But so far that argument has not seemed to dissuade Hillary's supporters. So let me just leave you with this little mental exercise:

Our nation's founders didn't create the vice presidency as a ceremonial post. They lived in a time when folks regularly dropped dead at relatively young ages. So our founders created the post of vice president as a kind of constitutionally empowered spare, should something prevent the president from completing a full term in office.

So, if nothing else convinces you to reconsider your support of Hillary, close your eyes and try to imagine the kind of doormat of a person required to serve as vice president in a Hillary/Bill administration.

Then ask yourself if that's the kind of person you want as president-in-waiting. You should do this because voters certainly will imagine just that as their finger hovers over the candidate's name in the voting booth next November.


January 18, 2008


To: William Jefferson Clinton

From: Those of us with a memory

Yo, Bill;

Listen big guy, we really need to talk.

Over the last few weeks we've seen you lose your cool as you campaign for your wife.

Knock it off!

You need a long overdue reality check, dude. You are the last person in the country who should be indignantly lecturing anyone. Why?

Oh, let us count the whys:

1) In part -- how large a part we can argue another time -- the presidency of George W. Bush is your fault. That's right, your fault. By the time your second term was over your juvenile, self-indulgent, adulterous behavior had rendered you so radioactive Al Gore was unable to leverage the many positive things you did while in office. Your embarrassing behavior nearly got you impeached, invigorated the sheep on the religious right, virtually handing the keys to Oval Office to the Neo-cons we've had to endure for the past seven years.

Deny that at your own peril, Bill. Bush's margin of "victory" in 2000 says otherwise. No reasoning person could believe that tens of thousands of folks who would have voted for Gore didn't because of the stain (pun intended) your behavior left on the Clinton/Gore administration.

2) Your misbehavior also served to lower the bar to the US Presidency. Your behavior so diminished the grandeur of the office of President of the United States that a half-wit blowhard like George W. Bush suddenly became electable. He wasn't electable because he offered solutions, vision or substance, but  because he reassured voters he'd "restore dignity to the Oval Office."*

*(Translation: "I won't get hummers in the Oval Office from bimbo-interns.")

3) In late 1993 I was covering the White House for Mother Jones magazine for a story on campaign finance reform. I was invited to interview your point man on that issue, Michael Waldman. (Read that story here) Reforming the corrupt campaign finance system had been a central plank of your campaign and hopes were high that someone was finally going to do something about it. But when I got to the Executive Office Building to interview Mike I found his office empty. When I inquired where he was I was told he had been taken off campaign finance reform and transferred to the administration's current priority -- getting NAFTA passed. I could not even talk to Mike because he was sequestered in the White House "NAFTA War room."

So, great. We didn't get campaign finance reform but we did get NAFTA. Have you checked lately how that's worked out? Not well. Not well at all. We've taken note of that.

4) Hillary's failed healthcare reform efforts were directly related to the above. Even after NAFTA passed you guys didn't return, in any real way, to campaign finance reform. Why? And you guys also didn't return, in any real way, to healthcare reform either. Why? Because the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries let you know they'd gotten "the message."

What message?

The message that, if power in Washington is about anything, it's about the protection rackets. Big healthcare got that message and started paying you guys protection money. Proof? Today your candidate-wife is among the top beneficiaries of healthcare and pharmaceutical money in this campaign.

Coincidence? Forget about it. No one is going to buy that after one look at the hard (money) facts.  Any reasonable observer will conclude that that's why you two lost interest in reforming either the campaign finance system or national healthcare. As a result you and Hillary never took another real swipe at the healthcare/pharmaceutical industries.  And thanks to that no fewer than 10 million additional Americans are today without healthcare coverage.

Sure, you did a lot of good things during your two terms. You balanced the budget, fairly taxed the rich and left a surplus in the bank for the next guy. Had you not disgraced yourself during your second term you'd have every right to wag your finger and lecture others.

Instead you acted like a horny teenage boy, treating OUR Oval Office as though it was a private booth in some seedy porno shop. Then, when caught, quite literally with your pants down, you looked the whole world in the eye, your nose turned monkey-butt red, you shook your finger in our faces  -- and you lied.

True, unlike the lies of our current President, your lies didn't directly get anyone killed. But a reasonable argument could be posed that, in the run of events since, your lies did get people killed.  President Al Gore would not have taken us into Iraq. And, had Gore been able to enthusiastically associate himself with the sound economic and domestic policies of the Clinton/Gore years, he would have won the 2000 election -- likely with by a healthy margin to boot.

But Gore couldn't associate himself with your good deeds without being tarnished by your personal flaws. So we got George W. Bush -- and all the misery that has followed, and will follow for years, maybe decades, to come.

So, Bill, knock off the self-righteous crap. And stop popping off at reporters and commentators just because they refuse to obediently accept your first explanation of things you'd prefer not discussed during this campaign -- like your wife's attempt to suppress the youth vote in New Hampshire and the minority vote Nevada. Yes she did.

Put the anger away.  And don't you dare wag that finger in our faces again. You sir, live in a glass house -- and you've been pushing your luck. Knock it off. Knock it all off.

Thank you for your immediate attention to this matter.

Must Watch Video of the Day

January 17, 2008

A 2-Step Solution

to Reverse the Bush Recession

Washington seems to have discovered what we've been talking about here for over three years -- that the Bush tax cuts for the rich didn't work as advertised. Of course, we knew they wouldn't work when they were passed way back in 2001

As I've written so many times my fingers cramp just thinking about it... economies are not stimulated from the top down, but from the bottom up -- by consumers, not producers. Very little of the money generated by tax cuts for top earners ever trickles down in ways that result in higher earnings and spending by consumers. 

In reality it works exactly the other way. Cut the payroll tax for working Americans. That immediately puts more money in the hands of people who are already having trouble making ends meet. Consumers spend most or all that extra money in each paycheck. That in turn generates more demand for goods and services, which spurs hiring at the companies that produce them. Those companies then have to hire more workers to profit off that increased demand, resulting in additional workers getting the benefit of the payroll tax cut, who spend that extra money. As companies profits increase due to increased consumer buying power, tax revenues will begin to refill federal coffers gutted by the Bush tax cuts.

All of which creates a self-sustaining virtuous cycle that benefits everyone up and down the food chain.

Now that we're in a mess that could have -- and should have -- been avoided, everyone in both parties is looking for a way out. And once again, everyone, in both parties, are getting it wrong.

Just look at some of the numbskull proposals being floated.

The Republican solution is another shot of the dog that bit us. They're using looming economic gloom to fear-monger us into agreeing to make the Bush tax cuts of 2001 permanent.  Of course that's so predictable from the party that fear-mongered us into other disasters  like wiretaps, Gitmo and torture. Now they are trying to scare us into setting those tax cuts for the rich into stone before the GOP gets kicked out of town next January.

Democrats have been no less predictable. Their solution is to just start handing out cash in the form of $300 to $600 one-time handouts to every taxpayer.  That's not going to solve anything. It will pay one month's heating bill for a working family in Detroit. Then what? It's a non-solution masquerading as a solution by candidates afraid of being accused of waging "class warfare" by opposing GOP attempts to make the Bush tax cuts permanent.

Democrats learned this little trick from Bush. He used the same trick back in 2001. He handed out the  same kind of "feel-good" money then to make us feel like we were getting a piece of his $1.4 trillion tax cuts. That was our piece... a one-time $300 to $600 check -- actually more a morsel than a piece -- suckers.  The biggest beneficiaries of Bush's tax cuts have been the top 1% of the nation's earners.

Estimates from the Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation indicate that the cost of the tax-cut provisions the Tax Policy Center has analyzed would be $3.4 trillion over the 2008-2017 period, if these provisions are extended. Applying the Tax Policy Center estimates of the share of the tax cuts that would go to each income group to the CBO/Joint Tax Committee estimates of the tax cuts’ cost shows:

    * From 2008 through 2017, households with annual incomes of more than $1 million — a group that comprises the highest income 0.3 percent of the population — would receive $739 billion in tax cuts.  This represents 22 percent of the total value of the tax cuts over the period.

    * More than $1 trillion in tax cuts would go to the top 1 percent of households, a group with annual incomes above $400,000 in 2007.  The highest income 1 percent of households thus would receive nearly one third of the tax cuts’ total value.

    * The bottom 60 percent of households would receive 12 percent of the tax cuts’ value, or well under half the amount that would go to the top 1 percent.  (See Table 1; for year-by-year detail, see the appendix tables.) (Source)

So here's how we fix that "mistake" and, at the same time, revitalize the American economy. Don't reach for a pen and note pad, because this is so simple you could write the whole economic plan on the back of a matchbook:

1) Revoke the Bush tax cuts for the top 1%

2) Shift those cuts to reduce the payroll tax by the same amount.

That's it. A two-point economic stimulus package that will pump $1 trillion into the pockets of American consumers. And, rather than that money flowing into family trusts and other paper investments, it will get spent, piece by orderly piece, each week, every week, forever. So, if congress is itching to make a tax cut permanent, that's the one -- a payroll tax cut.

The beneficiaries of the Bush tax cut had their chance to prove the trickle-down theory, and failed -- just as they failed the last time it was tried by Ronald Reagan. Both attempts left America saddled by back-breaking deficits and debt. Both attempts enriched the already enriched at the expense of middle class working Americans.

They had their chance. Now give trickle up economics a chance. Revoke the Bush tax cuts for the top 1% and give them to working Americans.

Then, just so they feel like they're getting a piece of this new action, send each of America's top 1%  earners a government check for $300 as their share of our economic stimulus package -- with  our compliments.

January 14, 2008

 Sharper than a Serpent's Tooth

Let me start out by saying this column is going to really piss some people off. But I am calling it how I see it. And this is how I see it.

A couple of hundred years ago, back in the old South, white folk made a distinction between "good" negroes and the not-so-good negroes. "Good" negroes stayed in line, were deferential to whites and didn't make trouble. Those were the negroes whites assigned jobs in and around their houses, rather than in the fields. They even had a term for them -- though I have to clean it up a bit: "house negroes."

White's of the old South took it for granted that their house-servant slaves were grateful, loyal and even held genuine affection for their masters. So it was a rude awakening when, after Lincoln freed the slaves, those freed house servants packed up and left to strike out on their own.

Many whites were genuinely surprised, even hurt that their former servants, nannies and groundskeepers had turned their backs on them.  

A kind of grieving process then played out. First many former white slave owners were hurt at what they felt was a shocking display of ingratitude. Then came  dismay. After all, who was going to raise the kids, cook and clean now?

Then, as that reality sunk in, they became angry, striking out, saying and trying whatever they could to assure that lives of freedom their former servants sought would be as miserable, unfulfilling and unsuccessful as possible.

That was then. Now, 150 years later, we're watching a similar drama play out on the political stage.

The Clintons and their institutional Democratic Party old guard shocked, insulted, even hurt that black Americans might prefer upstart Barack Obama over the next in line, Hillary Clinton. The national Democratic Party machine had other plans for this election cycle. Democratic Party insiders were fixing to put the first white woman in the White House, not the first black man.

But then guess who came to dinner. Barack Obama, a smart, attractive and inspirational young black man stepped up and announced he'd like a shot too. Imagine their chagrin when blacks, joined by millions of white Americans, started voting for the black guy.

Until then the Democratic Party pointed with pride at the Obama candidacy as proof that the party was more racially open than the all-white GOP line up. That all changed when people actually started voting for him in alarmingly high numbers. Particularly worrisome was the growing number of black voters switching from Hillary to Barack.

No machine Democrat was more hurt and dismayed by this turn of events than the party's heir apparent,  Hillary Clinton. After Barack Obama beat her in Iowa, she let go of the hurt and moved straight on to anger. It was time to remind African-American voters not only which side their bread has been buttered on, and just who had buttered it "for them" in the first place.

"Dr. King's dream began to be realized when President Johnson passed the Civil Rights Act," she said, adding that "it took a president to get it done." (Hillary Clinton)

What she left out of that remark was inferred;  "and it took a white, Democrat President to get it done for y'all."

The same week Hillary dropped that bomb husband Bill took his own swipe, describing the Obama phenomena "the biggest fantasy I've ever seen."

The Clintons realized that they were losing their grip on a constituency they believed they owned. So Hillary quickly put her remaining black supporters front and center to put a black face back on the Clinton campaign, and to defend both her and Bill from the black backlash their remarks last week caused. 

Black Entertainment Televsions Founder Slams Obama

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Robert L. Johnson, the founder of Black Entertainment Television, who is campaigning today in South Carolina with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton, just made a suggestion that raised the specter of Barack Obama’s past drug use. -- And to me, as an African-American, I am frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues since Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood –­ and I won’t say what he was doing, but he said it in the book –­ when they have been involved.”(Full Story)

During those remarks -- which, had they made by a white businessman, would have caused a monumental uproar -- Hillary Clinton sat on stage expressionless. Had she disagreed with the thrust of Johnson's remarks she could have disassociated herself from them. But she didn't. Instead, when he was done she applauded and hugged him.

And why not. After all, he, a successful black man, had just  reinforced the subliminal message her campaign would not dare articulate itself. A message that went something like this:

    * - While blacks have moved into the American mainstream, they largely have white Democrats, like Hillary and Bill, to thank for it. 

    * - And that while blacks have made a lot progress over the years, they are still not "ready" to run the nation. 

    * - And, in case that didn't get you back on the Democratic Party plantation, remember  -- Obama was a druggie when he was younger.

Deeper in the bowls of the Clinton campaign, where hurt has turned to anger, a more dangerous strategy was emerging -- one designed to send a message to white Democratic voters.  If you thought only Republicans like Karl Rove still played the racist card, forget about it. When the chips are down -- and they are down now for Hillary Clinton -- the Clintons and their surrogates know how to push those buttons too.

 Many pundits wondered why the Clintons would risk alienating the black community on the eve of the South Carolina primary with their slaps at MLK and Obama. Others suggested that Bill told Hillary she needed her own Sister Soulja moment to show white voters, particularly in South Carolina, that she is not in the pocket of African-American interest groups.

And, in the process, also rekindle white working class fear and resentment towards a black candidate. Such a tactic might also appeal to the now disaffected working class Reagan Democrats who, after years of being screwed blue by the GOP were looking for a "safe" Democrat to vote for next November.

So last week the Clintons pulled out all the stops, sending their surrogates out to spread their subliminal-message attacks against Obama. Democratic New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo waded in on Hillary's behalf last week as well, using language that could hardly have been accidental from a guy whose father is one of America's great orators:

"It's not a TV crazed race. Frankly you can't buy your way into it," Cuomo said, according to Albany Times Union reporter Rick Karlin. "You can't shuck and jive at a press conference," he added. "All those moves you can make with the press don't work when you're in someone's living room."

"Shuck and jive" is a term once used to describe blacks behaving innocently in the presence of an white authority figures, so as to lie and get out of trouble.

(Irony alert: Of course Hillary Clinton is married to the biggest shuck and jive artist ever to grace the Oval Office -- as displayed in his greatest hits -- "Now listen to me. I did NOT have sex with that woman...." and the all time classic -- "it depends what the meaning of 'is' is." It's a political art form  Hillary herself is no stranger to. Just ask her to explain her vote to give George W. the right to attack Iraq and her more recent vote on Iran if you want to hear some world class shucking and jiving. But I digress.)

Nothing happens by accident in a Clinton campaign. Last week was all about raising doubts about Hillary's young black opponent. More and more black voters are -- if you'll excuse the term -- taking a shine to Obama. The national polls show voters moving his way, at her expense

When things go wrong in a Clinton campaign the first thing they do is crunch and dissect the numbers. They now know that if Hillary is going to have a chance at beating Obama, they will have to beat him ---beat him up. They will have to say and encourage others to say, whatever it takes to scare as many of their now wavering black supporters back onto the Clinton plantation.

But they also know that many black Americans, likely a majority, will jump at the chance to make history. Not the first white woman President kind of history, but the first African American President kind of history. So, the numbers say to they also need to round up enough white voters to dilute Obama's surge among African Americans.

And how do you convince whites to shun a black candidate? Well some whites are already so inclined. For the rest the Clintons understand they need to cunningly leverage old racial stereotypes in order to raise doubts about Obama's character and abilities. To do that requires great skill and even greater deception and deceit. It requires a social/political witch's brew of connivance and hypocrisy:

    *  Repeatedly chant "he's not ready."

    *  Add a dash of "they (black Americans) couldn't have done it if we white liberals hadn't done it for them."

    *  Throw in some racially evocative slang like,  "He's just shuck and jiving you."

    *  Drop reminders, as Clinton campaign manager, Mark Penn did on Chris Matthew's show of past drug use while denying it matters:  "We are running a clean campaign," Penn told Matthew's, "We are not, for example, going to bring up Sen. Obama's former cocaine use."

    *  Wink and nod to white voters that Hillary is one of them and not in the pocket of African-American interest groups.  And what better way to do that than to diminish the role of Martin Luther King.

Are the Clinton's really that ruthless, that cunning, that conniving?

Yes. Yes they are. You can bet the plantation on it.