Thursday, March 27, 2008

March 13-26, 2008

Dick Cheney Strategy

After being pounded by the Obama folks for months to open her records as First Lady being held under seal at the Clinton Library, Hillary dumped 11,000 pages on us yesterday. That's out of an estimated two million pages that remain under seal.

The records released yesterday were of her personal schedules. Schedules would, one would assume, show with whom she met, for how long they met, why and where they met. One would assume.

Hillary likes to point out that, seven years after Dick Cheney met with oil company executives to develop America's energy policies, we still don't know the names of those who gave us $4 a gallon gasoline and record oil company profits.

Then yesterday Hillary tore a page right out of Cheney's hide-the-pickle playbook.

"Over time, Clinton's schedules offer less and less information. In 1993, her first year as first lady, the records include the names of people she met with. But federal archivists blotted out those names, citing privacy issues. In spring 1994, Clinton's schedulers appear to have stopped including names -- so her days are filled with one "private meeting" after another, with no mention of whom she met with or why." (LA Times)

For example, on Jan. 28, 1994, the names of the participants in a 10 a.m. meeting with her at Bally's Resort & Casino in Las Vegas had been erased. Why? Inquiring minds would like to know why the names of individuals who met with the First Lady of the United States of America, had to be obliterated from a public record.

Simple logic, and my decades as a reporter, tell me that the answers to that question fall into a very narrow range of possibilities:

  • - She was up to no good
  • - The individuals she met with were up to no good
  • - The individuals she met with were, themselves, no good
  • - All the above
But wait, there's more:

"Sometimes, even the names of people getting their pictures taken with Clinton were removed. So it is not known who had a photo op with her at 2:45 p.m. on March 10, 1994, in the White House Map Room."

Some folks wanted to have a photo taken with the First Lady of the United States of America, for reasons of their own.

But the former First Lady of the United States of America apparently does not want us to know who those persons were. Why?

Again the possibilities are limited:
  • - The person she was photographed with is now in trouble with the law
  • - A more recent photo of the person she was photographed with can now be viewed on the FBI "Most Wanted" web site.
  • - The person she was photographed would cause embarrassment for her as a candidate for President of the United States.
Am I being too cynical?

Fine. Then you give me the innocent explanation, because I sure the hell can't think of one.

Then there are all the entries in her schedule that give us no information whatsoever, with entries like these:

In later years, the records are even more spare. On June 25, 1997, for example, Clinton is shown as having taken part in three successive meetings in the White House residence, stretching from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. They are labeled simply "private meeting."


On Feb. 12, 1999 -- the day the Senate voted down her husband's impeachment -- she blocked off an unusually long appointment on her daily schedule from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. under the entry: "PRIVATE MEETING/Residence/NO PRESS/NO WH PHOTO.

Now, I can imagine situations where it would be none of our damn business what she was doing or with whom the First Lady of the United States of America was meeting with or why.
  • - She was meeting with her private physician to discuss her own personal health
  • - Her plastic surgeon had dropped by to give her botox injections to remove the worry lines caused by her husband's misbehavior(s).
  • - She was having an emergency session with her shrink-- for the same reason.
Those are the kinds of really private, entirely personal, stuff.

Even First Lady's have a personal life that, from time to time, require private moments.

For example, on July 20, 1993, Hillary Clinton was staying at her mother's house in Little Rock when she got word that friend and aide Vince Foster had committed suicide. Her schedule for the next two days is virtually empty even though they were among the most frenetic and emotionally fraught of her White House time.

I understand. I not only understand. but I'm sympathetic. One of her closest friends had just committed suicide. Hillary was in mourning. That's the kind of stuff really is none of our damn business.

But Hillary was First Lady of the United States of America. She was living on the public dole, doing the public's business. Ninety nine percent of what a President and First Lady do while in office is the public's business -- because it is public business.

All those "redactions" in her public schedule bode ill for our democracy should she become our next President. She will not only bring those habits to her new job, but many of the very people who implemented them during her terms as First Lady:

"The schedules also show the depth of Clinton's attachment to a small cadre of "Hillaryland" aides who have followed her on to the campaign. In the 1990s, most White House days began with a 15-minute meeting that included Patti Solis Doyle, Clinton's first presidential campaign manager, and Maggie Williams, who replaced Solis Doyle at the helm earlier this year. (Newsday)

Back in my day it was the press' job was to assure that the public's business remained public. I hope the media will insist that Hillary either fill in the blanks in the records she released yesterday, or supply explanations for why each of those erased names, reasons and photos should remain secret.

Otherwise all we will be doing next November if Hillary is the Democratic choice, is trading Cheney/Bush secrecy for Hillary secrecy.

What a choice.

What a Bitch

In 1932, Edward Angly published a short book filled with optimistic forecasts about the economy offered by President Herbert Hoover and his associates. The sarcastic title of his book was, "Oh Yeah?."

I've found myself echoing that title almost every day of late as I listen to President Bush and his associates try to reassure us that things are not as bad as they seem. Oh Yeah?

Anyway, as you may know by now I am a real history whore. Maybe that's why, as I enter the final third of my life, I fell like I'm living a social/economic and political version of the movie, Ground Hog Day. Wave after wave of Deja vu sweep over my conscious hours. Wars, greed, famine, self-indulgent political leaders, economic disparity and "trouble in the financial markets."

Been there. Done that, and done that, and done that, and done that. It's as though society is little more than an software program stuck in a loop, and no one around to hit the "ESC" key.

Ah, but there I go, diverging again. My purpose this morning was actually to just dip back into that loop and copy and paste a few lines of code from the past and compare them with the code that's running today to test my theory.

So, thanks to Edward Angly we can compare President Hoover's take on things then to President Bush's take on things now. (You won't be surprised, but you may be amused... and then worried.)

"Unemployment in the sense of distress is widely disappearing. . . . We in America today are nearer to the final triumph over poverty than ever before in the history of any land...There is no guarantee against poverty equal to a job for every man. That is the primary purpose of the economic policies we advocate:
August 11, 1928—Herbert Hoover, speech accepting the Republican nomination, Palo Alto,California.

"Losing a job is painful, and I know Americans are concerned about our economy; so am I. It's clear our economy has slowed, but the good news is, we anticipated this and took decisive action to bolster the economy, by passing a growth package that will put money into the hands of American workers and businesses."
(President Bush, March 7, 2008 on news that the economy lost 63,000 payroll jobs in February.)

“Prosperity is no idle expression. It is a job for every worker; it is the safety and safeguard of very business and every home. A continuation of the policies of the Republican party is fundamentally necessary to the future advancement of this progress and to the further building up of this prosperity.”
October 22, 1928—Herbert Hoover, Campaign Address, Madison Square Garden

"The economic team reports that our economy has a solid foundation, but that there are areas of real concern. Our economy is still creating jobs, though at a reduced pace. Consumer spending is still growing, but the housing market is declining. Business investment and exports are still rising, but the cost of imported oil has increased."
Jan. 18, urging Congress to quickly pass an economic-stimulus plan.

“The outlook of the world today is for the greatest era of commercial expansion in history. The rest of the world will become better customers.”
July 27, 1928—Herbert Hoover, Speech at San Francisco

"In the long run, we can be confident that our economy will continue to grow, but in the short run, it is clear that growth has slowed....This economy of ours is on a solid foundation, but we can't take economic growth for granted."
Jan. 4 after meeting with the President's Working Group on Financial Markets.

“Any lack of confidence in the economic future or the basic strength of business in the United States is foolish.”
November, 1929—Herbert Hoover

"'Every time, this economy has bounced back better and stronger than before,. In the long run, we can be confident that our economy will continue to grow."
March 14, 2008 -- President Bush.

“Definite signs that business and industry have turned the corner from the he temporary period of emergency that followed deflation of the speculative market were seen today by President Hoover. The President said the reports to the Cabinet showed that the tide of employment had changed in the right direction.”
January 21, 1930—News dispatch from Washington

"I hope you're confident about our economy. I am. We've got some short-term issues to deal with. Fourth quarter growth slowed. In other words, there are signs that our economy are slowing. We're in challenging times. But another thing is for certain — that we've taken strong and decisive action."
Jan. 30 at the Robinson Helicopter Co. in Torrance, Calif.

“While the crash only took place six months ago, I am convinced we have now passed the worst and with continued unity of effort we shall rapidly recover. There is one certainty of the future of a people of the resources, intelligence and character of the people of the United States—that is, prosperity.”
May 1, 1930—Herbert Hoover, Address at annual dinner of the Chamber of Commerce of the United States

In the long run, Americans ought to have confidence in our economy. I mean, there are some anchors that promote long-term -- that should promote long-term confidence.
First of all, the unemployment rate is relatively low. We're an innovative society with a flexible economy. There's a lot of research and development being spent here in America. There are new technologies being developed. Productivity is on the rise. We have a strong agricultural sector. The small-business sector is vibrant.
President Bush -- Florida March 17

“During the past year you have carried the credit system of the nation safely through a most difficult crisis. In this success you have demonstrated not alone the soundness of the credit system, but also the capacity of the bankers in emergency.”
October 2, 1930—Herbert Hoover, Address before the annual convention of The American Bankers Association, Cleveland

"I understand there's short-term difficulty in the credit markets," Bush said. "But I want people to understand that in the long term, we're going to be just fine."
President Bush -- March 17, 2008 -- Florida

“Economic depression cannot be cured by legislative action or executive pronouncement.”
December 1930—Herbert Hoover, Message to Congress

"If we were to pursue some of the sweeping government solutions that we hear about in Washington, we would make a complicated problem even worse. "As we take decisive action, we will keep this in mind: When you are steering a car in a rough patch, one of the worst things you can do is overcorrect and end up in the ditch."
President Bush -- March 14, 2008

“On September 8, I requested the governors of the Federal Reserve banks to endeavor to secure the co-operation of the bankers of their territory to make some advances on the security of the assets of closed banks or to take over some of these assets... Such a measure will contribute to free many business activities and in a measure reverse the process of deflation involved in the tying up of deposits.”
October 1931—Herbert Hoover

"The United States is on top of the situation. We obviously will continue to monitor the situation and when need be, will act decisively, in a way that continues to bring order to the financial markets.
Prisdent Bush -- March 17, 2008

“The depression has been deepened by events from abroad which are beyond the control either of our citizens or our government.”
October 18, 1931—Herbert Hoover, Radio address at Fortress Monroe, Virginia

"Over the past seven years, this system has absorbed shocks — recession, corporate scandals, terrorist attacks, global war. Yet the genius of our system is that it can absorb such shocks and emerge even stronger."
President Bush -- Feb. 13, 2008 in signing an economic stimulus package of tax rebates for families and businesses.

The Politics of Complexity

I just finished listening to Barack Obama's speech.

It boils down to this: The politics of simplicity vs. The politics of complexity.

Traditional politicians, on both the right and left, prefer the politics of simplicity: The simplicity of racial stereotypes. The simplicity of religious stereotypes. The simplicity of economic choices -- free enterprise or socialism. The simplicity of social class.

Obama knows better. When it comes to human beings, and the social systems we create, nothing is simple. The complexities are deep and they are wide. They are also stunning in richness and variety.

The American black experience is as rich and deep, fruitful and tragic, as any of those who came, willingly or otherwise, to this country.

The white experience too is filled with its own complexities, fruitful and tragic.

For two centuries now, we've stumbled along parallel paths, the same in many ways, different in significant ways. Thanks to the efforts of some who went before us, men and women who understood this complex relationship, those two paths have begun to merge...not yet one, but closer. The politics of simplicity wants that never to happen. Because the day it does the politics of simplity loses a powerful wedge of division and distraction.

The traditional politics of the right would have us believe white America is somehow burdened, even threatened, by changing ethnic and cultural demographic trends.

Traditional political hacks on the left would have us believe that the root of all that ails us can be found in corporate board rooms.

Both views are simplistic to the extreme, simple to use in speeches. and simple ways to get media attention. They are simple ways to cast doubt. Simple ways to divide rather than unite. Soundbite politics is the politics of simplicity.

But there's nothing simple about Iraq, or the deteriorating environment, or the now internationlized nature of the economy, or what currently ales it. Each of those issues is made up of billions of moving parts. The complexity of any one part of any one of those issues is mind-numblingly complex. And only those willing and able to see, accept, process and deal with such complexity can address them.

But simplicity works better than complexity for politicians. Forget all that complexity they say. Make your choice based on the simple problems and all that so-called complexity will take care of itself.

Politicians of simplity want us to focus on the simple-minded things:

Obama doesn't wear a flag lapel pin and doesn't put his hand over his heart when the national anthem is played."

Focus instead on the simplistic remarks by his former pastor, Rev. Wright.

Focus instead on a candidates religion... is he Christian or maybe a closet Muslim?

Focus instead on whether a candidate is black, or white, "enough."

Focus instead on whether a candidate is for or against certain medical procedures, rather than whether all Americans can even afford any significant medical procedures.

Obama was right when he said, in his speech today, that this is rare opportunity to turn our backs on the politics of simplicity and embrace the politics of complexity. Because we will never solve the complex problems facing America and the world with the simpleminded politics of the past..and present.

The only question now, is are we, all of us, mature enough to eschew the politics of simplicity and embrace the far more difficult, but certainly more productive, politics of complexity?

It's up to us now. It's up to you.

*(If you missed the speech you can watch it here)

The Good
The Bad & The Ugly

What are you going to do if Hillary Clinton succeeds bagging the Democratic Party nomination for President by playing dirty.

I've begun thinking about that more and more over the last couple of weeks. The Clintons have built their entire political lives on the premise that, if they can't win pretty, they'll settle for winning ugly.

Which is why things have gotten so ugly lately. Once it became clear she could not beat Obama in a fair fight they switched tactics. IED's (Insinuations, Exaggerations and Distortions) are now the weapons of choice for the Clinton campaign. Hardly a day goes by now when one of these IEDs doesn't explode into the news.

"Is Obama a Muslim." Hillary was asked on 60-Minutes. "No. Not as far as I know," she replied.


"Obama is not ready to become Commander-in-Chief," Hillary warns then coyly adds, if voters on the fence pick her, she'd consider putting Obama a heartbeat away from becoming Commander-in-Chief.


"I have crossed the threshold and met the national security test to be Commander-in-Chief," Hillary says. "John McCain has also met that test. Obama gave a speech."


"The reason Obama has gotten where he is today is because he's black," pronounced Clinton supporter and finance committee big shot, Geraldine Ferraro.


BTW -- that was not the first time Ferraro set off a racial IED in the midst of a presidential primary.

A Ferraro flashback
"If Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race," she said.

Really. The cite is an April 15, 1988 Washington Post story (byline: Howard Kurtz), available only on Nexis.

Placid of demeanor but pointed in his rhetoric, Jackson struck out repeatedly today against those who suggest his race has been an asset in the campaign. President Reagan suggested Tuesday that people don't ask Jackson tough questions because of his race. And former representative Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that because of his "radical" views, "if Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race."

Asked about this at a campaign stop in Buffalo, Jackson at first seemed ready to pounce fiercely on his critics. But then he stopped, took a breath, and said quietly, "Millions of Americans have a point of view different from" Ferraro's.

 Discussing the same point in Washington, Jackson said, "We campaigned across the South . . . without a single catcall or boo. It was not until we got North to New York that we began to hear this from Koch, President Reagan and then Mrs. Ferraro . . . . Some people are making hysteria while I'm making history." (

A few weeks back Bill Clinton detonated an almost identical Jesse Jackson IED. Coincidence? No way...


Can you imagine!
I never thought I'd see a leading Democrat dip back to the tactics of the dark days when racist Democrats ruled the segregated South, playing the fears of whites against the hopes of blacks. Disgusting.

But insurgencies are, by necessity, ugly business. Inevitably there will be collateral damage. Innocents will be hurt. The means are ugly, but the ends will make amends --we are assured. Once they win, the insurgents promise, they will get rid of the bad and the ugly and herald in the good.

Hillary holds up her role as First Lady as the reason she's "ready to lead from day one," and there may be some truth in that. Among the things she learned during those days was how run parallel political and insurgent actions. She learned this when husband Bill helped negotiate a settlement in Northern Ireland. While the Irish Republican Army conducted the ugly part of their insurgency the leader of its political arm, Sinn Fein, Gerry Adams, stayed above it all making nice in Parliament. When his IRA fighters blew something, (or someone) up, Adams would bemoan the violence, even condemn it. Then he'd offer his political solutions/demands.

Likewise, each time one of her campaigner sets off an IED aimed at Obama, Hillary denies her campaign is behind it. If the uproar is loud enough, she even condemns it. Then she makes nice, assuring everyone that all she really wants is peace and reconciliation -- on her terms, of course.

Will she stop these IED attacks? Well, (have you ever noticed when on the spot Hillary always begins her response with "well.") Well, she'd just love to stop that kind of stuff, but -- she quickly adds -- she can't because, "you know, it's a free country and people have a right to say what ever they want."

But does she agree with the things people speaking on her behalf are saying? Well, of course not. "Well, I certainly don't agree with everything people who say the support me say," she demurely adds.

In other words, stop the IEDs -- "no way, Jose." Because this is all she's got left. Obama has already won the hearts and minds of the majority of Democratic voters. If she stops the IEDs now Obama would have a nearly unobstructed path to the nomination. She's can no longer count on just slowing him down, she's got to stop him. She needs to wound him so badly he can no longer win.

There's two ways to get this nomination: win it fair and square, or finagle it. Since she can no longer win, she's now onto finagling. Which means encouraging her surrogates to keep planting IEDs while she works the political angles -- Super-delegates, seating Michigan and Florida delegates, etc.

Meanwhile out on the field of battle her surrogates have turned to the nuclear option -- or as her own spokesmanr and snake turned snake charmer, Howard Wolfson describe it, "the kitchen sink strategy."

Call it what you like, boiled down to its essence it can be summed up as, "an IED a day keeps the nomination away" -- from Obama.

Sure it's dirty fighting. And sure, if successful it will leave the Democratic Party looking like Beirut on a bad day. And sure her victory would only reinforce the very kind of politics that have torn the nation apart since Newt Gingrich and his kind marched to power. And sure an ugly Clinton victory risks outraging Obama supporters to such an extent many will not even show up to vote in November, virtually guaranteeing another four years of GOP rule.

But those probabilities appear not to matter to Hillary Clinton. If she can't have the prize she'll make sure her opponent inherits a scorched political landscape; a party in disarray. a fractured party embroiled in a very un-civil war. It could even mean the end of the Democratic Party as a force in progressive politics -- not that the party has been much of a force in that direction anyway. But at least it would end the pretense.

Then there's African American voters who will feel betrayed, snookered and humiliated by the party they've supported through thick and thin for decades. And all those young Democrats, new to the process, who will retreat into cynical complacency. And why not? Why participate in a process where the best values and behavior are routinely trumped by the worst values and behavior?

So, have you been thinking about it too? About what you're going to do on election day next November if your choice is between the Republican version of Mr. Magoo and the Democrat's version of Imelda Marcos?

Whatya gonna do? Now would be a good time to think about it, so maybe, just maybe we can avoid such an unpalatable, unhelpful, unacceptable choice.