A final word on the Debate

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Having won both High School and College Student Government elections, I am struck by the unoriginal observation that running for President these days bears an uncomfortable resemblance to the shallow preening and empty symbolism employed by children trying to impress and influence each other.   

The so-called mainstream press has labeled Hillary and Barack the cool kids to be admired and emulated because they possess magical leadership qualities that are nothing more than cynical pronouncements about how much money they’ve raised. 

Eight years ago, we were right where we are now and the belated love the press corps has found for Al Gore after five years of the mess in Mesopotamia was non-existent.   Eight years ago, former Senator Bill Bradley was keeping pace with Al Gore’s fundraising.  Eight years ago, Bill Bradley was speaking with true candor about a great many issues with a forthrightness altogether lacking in our distinguished former Vice President.  Bradley twisted a rhetorical knife in Al Gore’s gut at Iowa’s Black and Brown forum over racial profiling.  He made the point that Al Gore had the power to get Clinton to act in a way nobody else could.   

Bill Bradley spoke about the racial divide and the racial disparities in our nation with an eloquence and conviction that Gore didn’t.  None of it mattered in the end.  Gore out organized Bradley and wiped the floor with him on Super Tuesday, blowing him away in a front loaded calendar from coast to coast.  That’s what Hillary is fixing to do with the “Safe Negro” formerly known as Barack Obama.   

The game is rigged for the organization candidate and Hillary is the organization candidate.  The stumblebum, tone-deaf days of the listening tour are over. Hillary got her shit together and she’s kept it together. There won’t be any mistakes from here on out. It’s one thing to speak to an advanced crowd of 10 or 20 thousand, its another to turn the same folk out to vote for you.  That’s the difference between a movement and a machine.  Hillary has a machine and it’s programmed to crush Obama’s aspirations like a steamroller and to leave him broken and alone licking his wounds.  

The Clintons have never and will never lose a national election-period.  It is not going to happen.  Barack Obama will not be asked to join Mrs. Clinton’s ticket no matter what Mr. Bruce and others have speculated.  I think it will cause her profound problems in the black electorate. It will if we haven’t all fallen asleep. It should because most of us are in the profound grip of the delusion that the President is something other than the chief guardian of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. A black man cannot flip that script no matter what magical powers we believe him to wield. The genius of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy is that we are all its servants, no matter how we resist.

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Cindy Sheehan arrested in capitol protest

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Hat tip: WASHINGTON (AP) — Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested Monday at the Capitol for disorderly conduct, shortly after saying she would run against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the California Democrat’s refusal to try to impeach President Bush.

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Anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan says “Impeachment is not a fringe movement.”

Sheehan was taken into custody inside Rep. John Conyers’ office, where she had spent an hour imploring him to launch impeachment proceedings against Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney. Conyers, D-Michigan, chairs the House Judiciary Committee, where any impeachment effort would have to begin.

“The Democrats will not hold this administration accountable, so we have to hold the Democrats accountable,” Sheehan said outside Conyers’ office after the meeting. “And I for one am going to step up to the plate and run against Nancy Pelosi.”

Sheehan and about 200 other protesters had walked to Conyers’ office from Arlington National Cemetery. She said Conyers told her there weren’t enough votes for impeachment to move forward on the issue.

Forty-five of Sheehan’s fellow protesters also were arrested. Capitol Police spokeswoman Sgt. Kimberly Schneider said that after they are processed, the arrested activists could each pay a $50 fine to be released.

“Impeachment is not a fringe movement, it is mandated in our Constitution. Nancy Pelosi had no authority to take it off the table,” Sheehan told her group of orange-clad activists before they began their march from the national cemetery.

Sheehan, whose 24-year-old son, Casey, was killed in Iraq, has been saying for two weeks that she would seek to oust Pelosi from office by running against her as an independent in her San Francisco district if Pelosi didn’t change her mind by July 23 on trying to impeach Bush.

Conyers introduced a bill last term calling on Congress to determine whether there are grounds for impeaching Bush. Pelosi has steadfastly dismissed any talk of impeachment, saying Democrats should focus their efforts on ending the war in Iraq.

CNN Debate Tonight

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The first of six officially sanctioned Democratic debates will be held tonight with CNN and Youtube as co-sponsors.  Tonight’s debate will be availble in its entirety on this space as soon as Youtube makes it available and I can put it up.  

The pundit class has been chattering actively that its put up or shut up time for Barack Obama.  Senator Clinton continues to solidify her poll numbers even as Obama outraises her.   She, however, has plenty of cash to end his Presidential aspirations and enough street cred with African American women to prevent him from solidifying and expanding his base with black folks.  Mama is perfectly positioned to take her place as the head of the Clintonista’s in this era of dynastic politics.

It would take a pretty big applause line and counterattack on Obama’s part, and a weak comeback on Hillary’s, to make this debate seem more than routine.   I’m not looking for any surprises.   Debate time commences in less than one hour.  Stay tuned here for a re-cap.

UPDATE: the debate has been lively and intersting. The questions sent in via Youtube have been excellent.  From Reparations to Iraq, from Same-Sex marriage to Darfur, they have truly been great.  Gravel drew some blood from Obama pointedly revealing the fact that despite Obama’s good government spiel, he has the CEO of foreign owned UBS bank bundling contributions for him.

Obama also dodged the reparations question deftly as did Edwards-Kucinich came out for it strongly.   Edwards stumbled on the same-sex marriage question by a North Carolina minister and they had the minister in the audience do a follow up and said that he didn’t really answer.

Senator Gravel’s point about following the money in this race is important and it says more about the state of our democracy than we think.  In 2008, a candidate willing to raise money under federal campaign finance guidelines to receive matching funds cannot win the Presidency.  The state of our Union is rotting from the inside out and an honest candidate willing to rise or fall by trusting the people cannot be elected.

New California PAC launched to promote Obama

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The website for Vote Hope 2008 has the look and feel of Barack Obama's official page, but the group is a political action committee trying to garner votes for Obama in California.

WASHINGTON — The website has the look and feel of Barack Obama’s official page, and the headline says it all: “Bank it for Barack.” The site asks for contributions of up to $5,000 per person to help the Illinois Democrat win the crucial state of California.

The effort employs a tactic that could transform the way campaign-related money is collected and spent in presidential campaigns .

The group sponsoring the Web page is not Obama’s campaign, but an independent political action committee called Vote Hope 2008, which says that its goal is to help Obama become president and that it will spend $2 million to get out the vote for him.

Federal law prohibits political action committees, or PACs, from spending more than $5,000 in support of a candidate.

But Vote Hope’s founders argue that this restriction does not apply to their group because they do not plan to coordinate their spending with Obama’s campaign. Thus, there’s no limit to what they can spend promoting him, they said. What’s more, the group said contributors who have given the maximum $2,300 individual do nation to Obama’s campaign can give $5,000 to Vote Hope 2008, the maximum individual donation to a PAC.

Vote Hope then would spend these donations promoting Obama, giving donors a way to nearly triple their maximum contribution to Obama’s cause. The implications are potentially dramatic, according to campaign finance specialists, especially if other PACs follow Vote Hope’s example for Obama or other candidates.

“I haven’t seen another one like this,” said Kent Cooper, a former Federal Election Commission official and co founder of PoliticalMoneyLine, a nonpartisan group that tracks money and politics. If the group is able to raise money successfully, it could be copied by others and that in turn “would create a wide new avenue for campaign-related cash.”

The pro-Obama PAC was set up by a group of liberal activists, including Steve Phillips, a former president of the San Francisco Board of Education and son-in-law of Herb and Marion Sandler, who are high-profile backers of Democrats.

Bill Burton, Obama campaign spokesman, when asked about the effort, distanced the campaign from Vote Hope 2008, saying: “We appreciate the tremendous grass roots. But if people want to help out our campaign, we prefer they would do it directly through our campaign.”

The creators of Vote Hope consider themselves pioneers, working to find a way to elect Obama in a state that they say will be crucial for Obama but that has not received as much attention as early-voting states such as New Hampshire, which has a tentative primary date of Jan. 22.

California has moved its primary to Feb. 5, but the state is so expensive for campaigns that many candidates are putting off major expenditures there. That is where Vote Hope sees its opening: It wants to tap donors who have already given the maximum to Obama’s campaign in order to raise more money to help the senator win in California.

“The combination of unbridled grass-roots volunteer energy and an unprecedented number of maxed-out donors this early in the calendar makes something like Vote Hope possible in states that are expensive to organize and have a large donor base,” said Vote Hope spokeswoman Jenifer Fernandez Ancona.

She said the group will help elect Obama by working to “identify infrequent voters in communities of color and young people in California” and getting them to vote. Vote Hope said campaign finance laws allow a PAC to solicit individual donations of up to $5,000 and then to spend unlimited funds on Obama as long as certain conditions are met.

The rules say that donors to PACs cannot “give with the knowledge that a substantial portion will be contributed to, or expended on behalf of, that candidate.” The same rule says, however, that such donations are permissible if donors don’t retain control over how the money is spent.

Vote Hope maintains that because its donors can’t specify how their money will be spent, these contributions to the PAC are legal. “Everything Vote Hope is doing is above board and permissible under the law,” said Vote Hope’s lawyer, Joseph M. Birkenstock, who served from 1998 to 2003 as chief counsel for the Democratic National Committee.

The Globe interviewed a number of specialists in campaign finance who said they could think of no other example of a major PAC being set up specifically to work for the election of a candidate during a presidential primary, aside from PACs set up to draft candidates or established by the politicians for themselves.

“It is a novel idea that hasn’t been utilized in this fashion before that I’m aware of at the presidential level,” said Keith Davis of Huckaby Davis Lisker, a firm that works with Republican campaigns on compliance with federal election law.

“If it works, then, obviously, there will be a lot of people who try to do the same thing . . . in both parties,” he said. “The same structure could be used for House and Senate campaigns.”

Davis and other specialists said a key question is whether enough people who have contributed the maximum $2,300 to Obama’s campaign will also want to contribute $5,000 to Vote Hope for the organization to meet its $2 million goal. Ancona said the group has raised $108,000, and “there are more than enough donors in California who are inspired by Vote Hope’s strategy to get us” to $2 million.

Separately, Vote Hope has set up what is known as a 527 organization, which can collect unlimited funds from individuals but is not allowed to support a candidate directly. Both Vote Hope groups have the same name, which has led to some confusion, including reports that a few wealthy individuals are contributing large amounts to a Vote Hope 527 formed to elect Obama.

In fact, the organizers said, only the PAC will work explicitly for an Obama victory by getting Californians to register and vote by mail starting Jan. 9 , and have 500,000 Obama votes “in the bank” by the primary on Feb. 5.

Vote Hope is distinct from PACs set up by many candidates. For example, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney established his federal Commonwealth PAC and state affiliates prior to announcing his candidacy. He used those PACs to travel and support other candidates. Funds from such PACs cannot be transferred to Romney’s campaign.

According to the Romney campaign, there does not appear to be an independent PAC working on behalf of Romney in the way that Vote Hope is helping Obama. But campaign specialists said that could change quickly if Vote Hope’s tactic proves viable. 

Obama feeds labor a line

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Hat Tip:  By MIKE GLOVER, Associated Press Writer/photo by jay mallin

Democrat Barack Obama is telling union activists he would walk a picket line as president if organized labor helps elect him in 2008.

The Illinois senator also criticized President Bush’s policies toward working people.

`We are facing a Washington that has thrown open its doors to the most anti-union, anti-worker forces we’ve seen in generations,” Obama said in remarks prepared for delivery Saturday night. “What we need to make real today is the idea that in this country we value the labor of every American.”

Obama was scheduled to speak to Iowa’s largest union representing more than 20,000 state workers.

Four other Democratic presidential candidates have courted activists at the annual convention of Council 61 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

Like his rivals, the Illinois senator challenged Bush’s labor policies and said he was committed to union causes.

“I stood on the picket line and marched with workers at the Congress Hotel in Chicago last week,” Obama said. “I had marched with them four years earlier and I told them when I left that if they were still fighting four years from now, I’d be back on that picket line as president of the United States.”

In his prepared remarks, Obama cited his years as a community organizer in Chicago. Because of that experience, Obama said he has closer ties to people who are struggling. He asked union activists to keep that in mind in choosing a candidate to support in January’s Iowa caucuses, which begin the presidential nominating process.

“So I want you to remember one thing, because you’ll hear from a lot of candidates between now and January,” Obama said. “When I talk about hope, when I talk about change, when I talk about holding America up to its ideals of opportunity and equality, this isn’t just the rhetoric of a campaign for me, it’s been the cause of a life — a cause I will work for and fight for every day as your president.”

Obama portrayed himself as a political outsider, saying it takes a new figure in Washington to break the gridlock.

“We’ve heard promises and slogans about change before,” said Obama. “The road to Washington is often paved with good intentions, but it always ends in the same divisive, polarizing politics that’s blocked real progress for so many years.”

The union plays an important role in Iowa Democratic politics. In addition to campaign money, the union’s endorsement brings into play a legion of talented organizers throughout the state.

Former Sen. John Edwards, Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chris Dodd and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson also spoke to the union leaders.

Dodd, D-Conn., told delegates at a lunch that he had supported labor issues during his 30-plus years in Congress and urged them to consider backing candidates not now in the top tier of the crowded field.

“I hope over the next 180 days you’ll give us all a chance to be heard,” Dodd said. “I know I’m not as well known as some of the people you’ll be seeing, nor am I as well-heeled financially.”

I am so tickled that the laughter is hard to stifle.  The idea of a sitting President walking a picket line is almost radical.   Barack has clearly veered off his mainstream talking points and will be reigned in any minute now.   If he keeps trying to steal Edwards’ applause lines, he might actually become a progressive and then his money will dry up.

Sheila Dixon removes Baltimore Police Chief

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Bowing to the political and empirical reality that the time had come to install new leadership at the helm of the beleaguered Baltimore Police Department, Mayor Sheila Dixon asked for the resignation of Baltimore Police Chief Leonard Hamm and pledged a national search for his replacement.   The latest citywide poll expressed no confidence in the past leadership of the Baltimore Police Department and Mayoral opponents Jill Carter and Keiffer Mitchell, have both called for substantial changes in the direction and leadership of the Department. 

Delegate Carter has been explicit, “In the past five years our city has moved from officers on the streets to watching crime take place through a closed-circuit television system. Drive through some of the city’s worst neighborhoods and the only police presence you will see is a flashing blue light attached [to] a police camera mounted on a light pole. The net result has been a sky rocketing murder rate and crime statistics that lead the state.”

Councilman Mitchell has been equally blunt, “In the last six months, 146 people have been murdered in our city and our citizens have lost faith in the interim-Mayor’s ability to address this crisis. As we slip back to the days of 300 murders per year, residents have been waiting to see her offer the leadership needed to stop this wave of violence. Instead, the interim-Mayor has only offered slogans, PR stunts, and failed plans. While the voters will have a chance to hold her accountable in September, we cannot wait that long to address this crisis.”

“So, the time has come for a change of leadership at the police department. Today, I am calling for Police Commissioner Hamm to step down.”

With the resignation of Hamm, the commencement of a national chief search, and a refocusing of police priorities, Mayor Dixon has stepped up to the plate and offered more than “slogans, PR stunts, or failed plans.”   She has offered the leadership Baltimoreans have been asking for and she has acknowledged their legitimate concerns by acting decisively.  Her recent actions confirmed my initial impression that the Mayor has the experience, vision, and integrity to lead, and reinforced my opinion that Baltimore needs to continue giving Sheila Dixon a chance to make the city the best it can be-they won’t be disappointed.    

Obama leading McCain and Romney 47% to 38%,

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Hat Tip: Rasmussen Reports

The latest Rasmussen Reports national telephone poll finds Illinois Senator Barack Obama (D) with a nine point lead over Arizona Senator John McCain (R). It’s Obama 47% McCain 38%. That’s little changed from a month ago and the fourth straight monthly poll in which Obama has enjoyed an advantage over McCain. For the two months before that, they were tied.

McCain has had a terrible month of July including a shocking report that his campaign was nearly out of money, staff defections, and declining poll numbers. Among those seeking the Republican nomination, he is currently in fourth place in the Rasmussen Reports daily Presidential Tracking Poll. Early in the month, his favorability rating fell to 44% and, for the first time ever, a larger percentage offered an unfavorable opinion of the Senator. Polling released this week showed that McCain’s decline has stopped for the moment–45% now have a favorable opinion of him while 46% hold an unfavorable view.

Last December, McCain had been viewed favorably by 59% of voters. As recently as two months ago, 55% had a positive assessment of the Senator from Arizona.

As McCain seeks to keep his campaign afloat, he does so with a tremendous disadvantage—40% of Republican voters have an unfavorable opinion of him. No other candidate in either party approaches that level (the closest is former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, viewed unfavorably by 31% of Republicans).

Obama is now viewed favorably by 54% of voters nationwide and unfavorably by 37%. He remains in second place among those seeking the Democratic Presidential nomination. Obama and New York Senator Hillary Clinton are clearly in a league of their own at this point in the nomination process.

McCain also trails Clinton and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards in general election match-ups.

Obama leads Romney and is in close races with Republican frontrunners Fred Thompson and Rudy Giuliani.