Friday, February 29, 2008

Most important news story of the decade?

AFP, the French news agency, reports that J. Craig Venter, one of the world's leading geneticists, expects to produce fuel from genetically-engineered organisms that eat global-warming villain CO2 and expel methane. "We have modest goals of replacing the whole petrochemical industry and becoming a major source of energy,"Venter is quoted as saying. He expects to be producing what he calls fourth-generation fuel in 18 months; presumably, the initial output will be tiny, if not minute.

Apparently, one of the challenges facing production of usable amounts of fuel is getting sufficient carbon dioxide out of the air.

The AFP article does not state whether the use of such organisms would materially slow or even stop the increase in greenhouse gases; to this non-scientist, the process of using harmful emissions--CO2--to produce fuel that is then consumed and produces more CO2 sounds like a perpetual-motion machine. Still the idea is exciting, and the concept of replacing fossil fuels with renewables is probably necessary to long-term human progress.

Are you working for free today?

Today is leap day. The BBC notes that if you are on an annual salary (or a monthly one for that matter) and you are at work today, you are working without additional compensation, i.e., for free.

Britain's National Trust has given its employees the day off. (I wonder if that applies to the custodians? And the executives, for that matter.)

So, if your employer is not so enlightened as the National Trust, and you're working today, take the weekend off.

(Editor's note: TONE is working today, likely for no pay--i.e., on a case that will pay only if we win--and will be working for much of the weekend as well. TONE's employer--himself--is obviously not enlightened, not smart, or both.)

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Obama gets the question

US Magazine asks, "Boxers or briefs?"

And Obama hits it out of the park:

"I don't answer those humiliating questions. But whichever one it is, I look good in 'em!"

As we've been saying for months, a new kind of candidate.

Cat Blogging

The lovely Diane took these yesterday.

Here's Sassy, acting as a paperweight on Diane's desk. Diane suggests she's absorbing knowledge through her paws, but I think the message is, "Aunt Diane, why aren't you playing with me?"

Miah was just settling in for a nap when Diane decided to make the bed

Spring will be a little late this year

Meteorological spring starts on March 1st (which also happens to be my brother, Laurence's, birthday). This being leap year, we'll have to wait an extra day.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Increasingly desperate, the Clinton campaign suggests that Obama is constitutionally barred from serving as President

(For those not up on the Constitution, the President is required to be native-born.)

A new kind of Democrat

As you may have heard, the Right--now thoroughly scared by the phenomenon that is Barack Obama--has been questioning his patriotism. Rather than concentrating on the scurrilous attacks, I'd like to fasten on his responses.

To accusations that he shows a lack of patriotic fervor by not putting his hand over his heart when the national anthem is played, he pointed out, "that would disqualify about three quarters of the people who have ever gone to a football or a baseball game.” To the kind of criticisms that Republicans are starting to lob over his positions on the war in Iraq and the Global War on Terror, he said that he looked forward to a debate with the representative of a party whose President failed to send enough body armor for the troops, that did not give proper care to wounded benefits and that engaged in illegal wiretapping. “We’ll see what the American people’s definition of patriotism is,” Obama said in Lorain, Ohio.

Barack Obama is not one of those Democrats who get defensive about foreign policy, national security and defense. The Republicans need a whole new playbook, and I'd bet they haven't even started to think about writing one.

Change they can believe in

A new poll finds that more than a quarter of adult Americans have left their childhood faith for another faith or no faith at all.

I find this interesting, because I have never thought of leaving my "faith," Judaism. Not that I have ever been observant: I consider myself religious, but not devout. I am not sure if I am an agnostic. (Yes, you read that right.) But being a Jew is more than prayers or even a belief in God. Isn't that true of all religions? Indeed, isn't that why we differentiate between religion and theology? Being a Jew, to me, is an approach to one's existence; praying is distinctly secondary.

My non-Jewish friends (some of my best friends are non-Jews) are often surprised when I point out that Jews argue with God; this seems to be foreign to their concept(s). Remember the biblical story about how God ordered Abraham to sacrifice Isaac? What most people don't fasten on is that Abraham argued long and hard with God about the command. Only when God made it clear that he would brook no resistance did Abraham pick up the knife; as we know, having tested Abraham, God then relented. Sometimes, Jews argue with God and win. When God spoke to Moses from the burning bush, he asked who he should tell the Israelites had sent him to them. God answered in words that meant, "I have always been who I am," which the rabbis interpreted to mean "I have been with you in your slavery to the Egyptians, and I shall be with you in your slavery in the years to come." Moses argued that the Israelites should not be told that they would be enslaved in the future, and God agreed, saying that Moses should only say that he who had been with them in their slavery in Egypt had sent the prophet to them.

This is only one tiny part of Judaism--we don't have time even to begin a discussion of Jewish culture (hint: chicken soup is only the beginning). I am certainly no expert, not on theology or on chicken soup.

To most, I am sure I appear to be a very assimilated Jew; to some members of my own extended family, I am an apostate. They may all be right. But I am also convinced. For me, not for you. I hope, dear reader, that you are convinced in your faith, or lack of one.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Tolling the knell

The New York Times blows taps for Hillary Clinton's campaign. On the front page of the Sunday edition, no less.

TONE doesn't claim to be objective in this race, but isn't a story of this type likely to affect the outcome? Is that really a proper function for the newspaper of record? Or, indeed, for any news outlet. Isn't the outcome supposed to be determined by the voters?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

A new issue

The Supreme Court, in a near-unanimous decision (only Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented) has ruled that FDA approval of a medical device shields its manufacturer from lawsuits over safety defects.

Interesting: as the lovely Diane pointed out to me this morning, the FDA does not actually test for safety; it tests for efficacy, with safety concerns a distant second. And, as has become increasingly clear, the FDA has lessening interest in testing for either.

So, here's a new issue for the Democrats: Reverse the Supreme Court's decision through a new law, passed by Congress and signed by a Democratic President. Wonder if it will show up in tonight's debate.

Dusted Up

The New York Times dusts up John McCain with a story about a possibly "inappropriate" relationship with a lobbyist before his 2000 campaign. The Times is more than a little coy about the nature of the relationship, but that's to be expected. Josh Marshall has some of the story-behind-the-story at TPM; apparently, lawyers were involved.

Frankly, I don't care about Sen. McCain's personal life, and I doubt that TONE's readers do, either. It seems to me that the real story The Times is telling is about the nature of American political life, and the near-impossibility of an office-holder not having his or her actions influenced by "lobbyists" in a way that could be suspect.

(I put "lobbyist" in quotation marks, because that's become a word like "linked," as in "linked to al Qaeda," that's have lost most of its meaning. If you or I get a chance to speak to a congressman about a piece of pending legislation, that's lobbying. If a lawyer goes to a congressional office to talk about the details of a bill, that's lobbying. But is it the same kind of lobbying that takes place on a corporate plane, out on the golf course or at a dinner when legislators are being wined and dined? Few people even try to draw distinctions any more.)

We can do a lot to clean up Washington; Sens. McCain and Obama have already done good work in this respect; for one thing, it's illegal to have dinner with a lobbyist who's paying. But they system is never going to be clean as a hound's tooth. As the old saying has it (he says, neatly mixing metaphors), the two things you don't want to watch being made are sausages and laws.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

17 points

That wheezing sound you hear is the Clinton campaign getting oxygen through a ventilator after having been thumped by 17 points in Wisconsin yesterday.

One interesting note: I believe that in all of the 10 straight contests he has won, Obama has outperformed the polls by 5-10 points or more. I don't know if that says something about his strength or the pollsters.

(Obama also rolled in Hawaii.)

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Fidel Castro resigns

Fidel Castro, emulating William Tecumseh Sherman, has announced that he will not aspire to nor accept a new term as Cuba's president.

What many Americans don't realize is that Castro would not be able to serve out a full term. He's term-limited. The Cuban constitution limits a president to 50 years in office.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Is this all there is?

The Clinton people have been hammering at Barack Obama for using lines from his friend Deval Patrick, governor of Massachusetts, in a speech to Wisconsin Democrats over the weekend. (Patrick says, no problem, and no attribution needed.)

Who cares?

Here's what's interesting about this incident to me: The Clintons have been saying that Hillary is best equipped to be the nominee, because she's been under the gun of the Republican attack machine and knows how to take their fire. But if this is all she and her campaign can find to fling at Obama, maybe the Republican attack machine will find there's no ammunition in a fight against the Illinois senator. Either that or the Clintons haven't learned as much from the last 16 years as they say.

Ready on day one?

Hillary Clinton has been running a competence campaign. As she puts it, over and over, she'll be ready on day one. Maybe, but her campaign has only recently learned of the arcane rules for delegate selection in Texas, one of the states that form her latest firewall.

I've always thought that one of the good things about our campaign system (there have to be SOME good things, right?) is that it gives us a preview of how well the candidate would perform in the Oval Office. Not knowing the rules this late in the game is not something that inspires confidence.

W's congressman endorses Obama

It's true: Rep. Chet Edwards (D-TX), whose 17th district includes the Bush ranch in Crawford, has endorsed Barack Obama.

Courting Edwards

TPM Election Central reports that Hillary Clinton has done a better job of courting John Edwards than Barack Obama has. Maybe one reason is that she needs a big endorsement more than Obama.

Problem for Edwards: If he endorses Clinton, he loses credibility what what political base he's got. Will anyone really believe that after he allied himself with Obama as the candidates for change, he really believes that Clinton can carry that mantle?

What would an Edwards endorsement get Clinton? He dropped out of the race ages ago. OK, it was two weeks. But in the campaign, that's a couple of ages.

We don't do stuff like that

I didn't read the News of the Week in Review in yesterday's NYT until last night, so I did not get to post on this earlier.

Morris Davis, Colonel in the Air Force and until recently chief prosecutor of the military commissions at Guantanamo Bay, wrote an important piece, "Unforgivable Behavior, Inadmissible Evidence." The article is especially powerful coming from the prosecutors' side.
TWENTY-SEVEN years ago, in the final days of the Iran hostage crisis, the C.I.A.’s Tehran station chief, Tom Ahern, faced his principal interrogator for the last time. The interrogator said the abuse Mr. Ahern had suffered was inconsistent with his own personal values and with the values of Islam and, as if to wipe the slate clean, he offered Mr. Ahern a chance to abuse him just as he had abused the hostages. Mr. Ahern looked the interrogator in the eyes and said, “We don’t do stuff like that.”
How times have changed. Read the whole article here.

Further thoughts

Last night I posted a long rumination on the current state of the Democratic race. In all of my maunderings, I neglected to mention another factor that is likely to play against Clinton's strategy of stringing things out to the convention in hopes that she'll win by relying on superdelegates and delegates from Florida and Michigan. Democrats are increasingly concerned that they will continue to fight while the Republicans coalesce around John McCain. The party decides its nominee first (in fact, if not in form) is said to have an advantage in the final campaign.

If Obama does well in Wisconsin tomorrow, and keeps it close in Texas and Ohio on March 4th--thus pretty well assuring that he will have the most elected delegates at the convention--pressure will build on superdelegates to move toward him so that the party can get beyond internecine battles and unite to win the White House in Novembe

Sunday, February 17, 2008


On Friday, Jeff Zeleny and Patrick Healy of The New York Times reported that Cong. John Lewis (D-GA) had said that he was going to cast his vote as a superdelegate to the Democratic National Convention for Barack Obama. That made a lot of people sit up and take notice because Rep. Lewis, a hero of the civil rights movement who suffered grievous injuries in the 1965 march on Selma, Alabama, had endorsed Hillary Clinton early in the presidential race.

After the article appeared, the Congressman's office issued a confusing statement appearing to cast doubt on some of it, but the important part is what the statement did not say: The Congressman has not denied that he intends to vote for Obama at the convention.

John Lewis is a highly-respected Congressman, a leader of the Black Caucus, and one of the most prominent black figures on the political scene. His announcement will give cover, if any is needed, to many black officials who backed Hillary Clinton at a time when no one thought Barack Obama had a chance, and are now facing pressure from the fact that 80-90 percent of black voters are backing the Senator from Illinois.

But Lewis' statement is even more important. He gives powerful weight to those who say that the superdelegates need to go along with the voices of the voters, raised in caucuses and primaries across the nation. In other words, that the superdelegates need to rally around the candidate with the most elected delegates to the convention.

Most sources agree that it is very unlikely that Clinton will have as many elected delegates as Obama. She is presently about 100 behind; that margin is likely to increase on Tuesday, when Wisconsin holds its primary and Hawaiians go to caucuses. (If Obama wins Wisconsin by double digits, the Clinton campaign will be on life support.)

Clinton seems to have all but conceded that she will not have the most elected delegates at the convention: Today, CBS reported that the campaign said that she expects to win with the delegates from Michigan and Florida. The problem--as you have no doubt recognized--is that the party has ruled that those delegates will have no votes, because their states broke party rules by holding primaries in January. The Clinton people have been saying for some weeks that they want the delegates seated. And that may happen--but only if Obama would win nonetheless or after a brutal, party-splitting fight at the convention.

The Clinton attempt to seat the Florida and Michigan delegations is both a sign of desperation and another example of the win-at-all-costs (or "it's-all-about-me") style that has alienated many thousands of Democrats. You could make an argument that the Florida delegates should be seated--a whole lot of Florida Democrats went out to vote, and they had a choice between Clinton, Obama and Edwards. And none of the candidates campaigned actively in the state. That, however, was a distinct advantage for Clinton; in every state, the numbers for her and Obama have narrowed--at least until they have widened for him--as the primaries or caucuses approached. Why not? Her name-recognition dwarfed his until recently.

But how do you seat Florida without seating Michigan? Obama and Edwards took their names off the ballot in the Wolverine State. Clinton ran against "uncommitted." (She still lost Detroit.) Arguing for seating the Michiganders is merely an attempt to save Clinton's ambition.

So, we're in or very close to the endgame--at or near the point where the nomination is Obama's to lose, where only a major gaffe that turns off voters in the three biggest states remaining (Ohio, Texas and Pennsylvania) in massive numbers, and justifies most of the uncommitted superdelegates in turning from him, will deprive him of the crown.

(Of course, every other prediction this year has proved wrong. Why not this one?)

Friday, February 15, 2008

In memoriam

Jess Cain died yesterday. For those of you who did not listen to AM radio in the Boston area, Jess was a pillar of morning radio from the late 60's t0 1991. Always cheery, with a great sense of humor that never had to descend to the prurient to be funny. His ditties like the immortal, "Fly Me to Methuen" (to the tune of "Fly Me to the Moon") and "Take My Hand, I'm a Stranger in Framingham" ("Stranger in Paradise") still live for those who chuckled over them many years ago.

Jess was an 18 year-old sergeant at the Battle of the Bulge, under a company commander named Audie Murphy. According to Jess, Murphy did not like him, but his buddies would say, "Aw, Jess, after the war you're going to be a star on Broadway, what's he going to do?" Murphy, the most decorated American soldier in WWII became an actor of sorts, starring in his life story ("To Hell and Back") and numerous westerns. On the other hand, Jess Cain went to New York and appeared on Broadway in "Stalag 17." He remained an actor, appearing in summer theatre and other productions during his radio career.

I can tell you from personal experience that Jess was not just going through the motions on stage. During my theatrical career, the less said about which the better, I was involved in a non-profit theatre that organized a festival of one-act plays at the Hasty Pudding Theater, in Cambridge, Massachusetts. One of our angels was the Oscar-winning actor Cliff Robertson, who wrote a short play for the festival. Cliff could only do one week of the two-week run; Jess Cain did the second week. Jess was at least as good as Cliff Robertson, maybe better.

Jess Cain retired in 1991. I was in New York from mid-1987 to early 1991, so I did not hear him for the last few years of his radio career. Still, he'll live on as one of the personalities of a time that, if not quite the golden age of the medium in the 1930's and '40's, still has a glow.

We'll miss you, Jess, but we'll smile when we think of you.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

It's gonna get nasty

The Clinton campaign campaign will go after super-delegates even if that means overriding the will of Democratic delegates.

Not surprising, given the Clinton style.

Actually, there is something to be said for some super-delegates who can bring their close acquaintance with the candidates and with politics. Those would be Democratic elected officials: senators, congressmen, governors, and a few "heritage" delegates--former presidents and perhaps presidential candidates. But many of today's super-delegates are members of the Democratic National Committee. Giving them the right to nominate a presidential candidate smacks of old-fashioned bossism.

Clinton's strategy is born of the sudden desperation of her campaign. She risks a great deal, because many super-delegates are likely to move to Obama if he continues to win primaries and caucuses. Today, a New Jersey super-delegate switched from Sen. Clinton to Sen.Obama.

Land of the Free

Home of the brave.

Nichlas Kristoff explains just what is being done in our name. You've read about it before, but read this and let your outrage rise again.

Straight talk?

John McCain voted against the Democratic-sponsored bill that outlaws waterboarding and other torture techniques. The bill restricts the CIA (and, presumably, other secret government agencies) to techniques approved in the Army Field manual.

This is the same Sen. McCain who courageously--as we were supposed to believe--spoke out against torture in Republican debates a few months ago.

Remember that the US Army interrogates prisoners to learn about threats to troops in close combat. S0 we why would we expect that soldiers' would know how to question people?

Further traducing his oath of office, Mr. Bush is certain to veto the bill.

The non-denial denial

The Justice Department--in the person of the acting chief of the Office of Legal Counsel--told a House committee that waterboarding is not legal. Wow.

But look closely at the testimony of Stephen Bradbury, who's nomination as permanent chief of the office is being held up by Senate Democrats:
The program as it is authorized today does not include waterboarding,
and later,
There has been no determination by the Justice Department that the use of waterboarding under any circumstances would be lawful under current law.
So, what did he really say? That waterboarding is not legal today. The Justice Department could decide tomorrow (or tonight) that the technique is legal. In other words, Bradbury said nothing at all.

This is a classic non-denial denial, beloved of the Watergate gang: appearing to deny something, but not actually doing it. But why should we be surprised?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Our august judges

In an interview with the BBC, Justice Antonin Scalia suggests that torture is relative. "You can't come in smugly and with great self satisfaction and say 'Oh it's torture, and therefore it's no good'," he said. The Justice went on, "Is it really so easy to determine that smacking someone in the face to determine where he has hidden the bomb that is about to blow up Los Angeles is prohibited in the constitution?"

To some of us, yes.

This kind of arrogant pronouncement on issues that are or may soon be before the court is not new with Justice Scalia, a man whose idea of judicial restraint does not include circumspection.

Nor is it especially surprising that he would take a cavalier view of police brutality--the Justice is certain that he will never be the man in the back of the police station.

(Forty or more years ago, my brother lived next to a police station in Albany, New York. On weekends in warm weather, he could hear the sounds of the cops beating up people.)

What is surprising is that the Justice would display ignorance of the basic provisions of the Constitution. If the interviewer is to be believed, Justice Scalia does not know the difference between the 8th Amendment, which forbids cruel and unusual treatment after conviction, and the 5th Amendment, which protects us against forced self-incrimination. Is this an error by a British journalist unfamiliar with our written constitution. Or is it a revealing comment by a man who ultimately believes in a government of men, and not of laws?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Sauve qui peut!

All of a sudden, Hillary Clinton has her back against the wall. Even the Times paints her as being in tough straits.

Observation: If Obama does not sweep today's Potomac Primary, or even if the margin in Maryland and Virginia is less than double digits, tomorrow some pundits will have him on the ropes.

What November 4th is all about

Monday, February 11, 2008

Watch this

Some people are saying that Obama would have trouble with the Republican attack machine. Maybe. But John McCain may have problems, too. Take a look

Another sad story

Just after posting the last story, we learned of the death of Tom Lantos (D-CA), the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress.

Lantos, a voice for the disenfranchised during his many years in Congress, had assumed chairmanship of the House Foreign Affairs Committee a year ago, after Democrats took a majority. He had said a month ago that he would not seek re-election, having been diagnosed with esophageal cancer. Now his voice is stilled, except in the hearts of those who remember him.

Update, Steve Clemons has an interesting personal account of his dealings with Tom Lantos, and of Lantos' late shift on how to approach the Middle East.

Sad Story

Stalin said, "One man's death is a tragedy, the death of a million is a statistic." That is all too true, and I've never understood why, except that in the story of a single human being we can comprehend the sorrow and loss, while when the numbers rise they become just figures on a page or a screen.

These musings are prompted by the story of a bride who died in her husband's arms during the first dance at their wedding.

(One of the things that made me respect George C. Marshall, chief of staff of the US Army during WWII, was that when he sent the strength figures to FDR, he made sure the casualties were typed in a different color because, as he said, otherwise they became numbers.)

Virgins back Obama

How could I resist a headline like that? (Apparently, many, many headline-writers did, because I haven't seen it anywhere.)

As you've probably heard, Barack Obama made a clean sweep over the weekend, winning caucuses in Washington (state--DC votes in a primary tomorrow that he will also win), Nebraska, Maine and the aforementioned Virgin Islands, and the Lousiana primary. And he won by large margins--2-1 in Washington and Nebraska, more than 20 points in Louisiana, 19 points in Maine and, get this, he got 90 percent of the vote in the Virgins!

After the Potomac Primary tomorrow (DC, MD and VA), Obama is likely to be 8 for 8 since Super Duper Tuesday. Next week, Hawaii holds caucuses and Wisconsin a primary. Given that Obama was born in the Aloha State and spent part of his formative years there, he's expected to win. (And then there's the fact that he's won all but one caucus state.) He's also apparently favored in Wisconsin (for one thing, it borders Illinois). Which means that he could be 10-for-10 going into the important contests in Texas and Ohio in early March. In which case, we'll get to see if momentum means anything in the Democratic race. (Someone in baseball said, "Momentum is tomorrow's starting pitcher.")

(I've seen a lot of attention to the older and working-class Democrats in Ohio, but remember that there are a whole lot of colleges and universities in the state, too. And substantial numbers of black voters.)

Friday, February 08, 2008


According to Time:
Sen. Barack Obama would fare slightly better than Sen. Hillary Clinton in a head to head match-up with Sen. John McCain if the general election were held today, a new TIME poll reveals.
Actually, it's more than slightly better: Obama beats McCain 46 percent to 41, McCain and Clinton tie at 46. And many other polls have shown the same thing recently.

The Time story goes on:
The difference, says Mark Schulman, CEO of Abt SRBI, which conducted the poll for TIME, is that "independents tilt toward McCain when he is matched up against Clinton But they tilt toward Obama when he is matched up against the Illinois Senator." Independents, added Schulman, "are a key battleground."

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Let me get this straight

Attorney General Michael Mukasey, in testimony before the House today, said that the Justice Department will not investigate waterboarding, even though the administration has now admitted that at least three suspects were subjected to what the press delicately calls "simulated drowning," or of warrantless wiretapping. And the reason? Because Justice had previously said that the techniques were legal.

David Kurtz, on TPM, said it best:

We have now the Attorney General of the United States telling Congress that it's not against the law for the President to violate the law if his own Department of Justice says it's not.

So much for a government of laws and not of men.


We're not going to have Mitt Romney to kick around any more.

How the mighty are fallen

Some stores in New York City are accepting euros.

A small sample

Hillary Clinton has been telling the press that her experience under fire--i.e. in the sights of the GOP attack machine--makes her the best candidate to face the Republican nominee in November.

In case you've mercifully been able to forget what those attacks are like, The New Republic, which I always thought of as a kind of Clinton/DLC/Republican-Lite outlet, has a small, very small sample of some of the material we're sure to see highlighted if Sen. Clinton is the Democratic nominee.

Working for change

TONE was not the only one to wonder where Hillary Clinton got $5 million to lend to her campaign. When asked by reporters, Mrs. Clinton said only "It was my money," or words close to that. (I was listening to NPR as I cleaned out the cats' litter box, so I didn't note it down.)

Pretty good answer, actually.

In any case, it's now apparent that during those 35 years that Hillary was working for change, she wasn't working for small change.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Marching on

Looking for the silver lining from a disappointing Super-Duper Tuesday, I think of the Army of the Potomac, in the first two years of the Civil War. The Army suffered defeat after defeat: the First and Second Battles of Bull Run, the Peninsula Campaign, Fredricksburg, Chancellorsville. But it was never destroyed and its soldiers learned to march by marching and to fight by fighting. By the middle of 1863, the Army of the Potomac was the equal of Lee's Army of Northern Virgina. Then came Gettysburg.*

Barack Obama's campaign started with little in the way of money or organization; few of its members had the experience of working together. In this, it was much unlike the Clinton operation. Aided by the candidate's charismatic personality, the reputation earned in his spellbinding speech at the 2004 Democratic convention and burnished by a couple of best-sellers, the Obama campaign proved adept at raising money--competing with or surpassing the Clinton efforts consistently during 2007. Obama even won the first skirmish in Iowa.

Then came New Hampshire--somewhat like the Union Army that marched to Bull Run in its finery, accompanied by the cream of Washington society, eager to watch the rebels be vangquished, Obama and his people swept into New Hampshire on a huge Iowa Bounce. But the Clinton people, and the citizens of the Granite State, delivered a nasty surprise. The came the dust-up in Nevada. South Carolina was an Obama triumph (think Antietam), but Super Tuesday saw almost all of the high-profile states--New York, California, New Jersey, Massachusetts--fall to Clinton.

Yet Obama and his campaigners can say that they have withstood all that the Clinton people have thrown at them, and they are still standing. Indeed, NBC says that Obama has more committed delegates than Clinton. He has shown the resilience to come back from defeat. The candidate, who often seemed too laid-back and theoretical during the summer, has sharpened his message and is thoroughly comfortable with his stump speech. He is in a strong strategic position--he's got more money than the Clinton campaign, and in the next week he should do well--or better--in contests in Louisiana, Washington, the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia.

All analogies are flawed, and this one may well prove to be inaccurate. The Clinton people might learn from what has happened; Obama and his campaign could make serious, even fatal mistakes. But in the meantime, it's turned into a hell of a fight.

*Historical note: Contrary to popular opinion, Gettysburg did not decide the Civil War. The battle that did that was Vicksburg, the siege of which ended the day after Pickett's charge. Gettysburg decided that Lee's second (and last) invasion of the North would not succeed--that the war would not end in July 1863. This has nothing to do with the foregoing; I just wanted to set the record straight.

Power of the people

talkingpointsmemo's front page tonight:

Barack Obama has raised over MILLION TO OWN
$4 millon since the polls CAMPAIGN
closed last night.

(Update, as of 8:00 AM, Thursday, Feb. 7th, the Obama campaign says it has raised $6.8 million since the polls closed on Super Tuesday. Wow!)

Monday, February 04, 2008

She's done it again

Those who thought Hillary Clinton cold and calculating have her wrong. They just haven't known how to get her to show her emotional side to show. All it takes to get Mrs. Clinton to tear up is the approach of an important election.

The McCain question

With each passing day, it becomes more likely that John McCain will be the Republican nominee. A small part of me welcomes this--Sen. McCain is certainly the best of the Republican candidates to serve in the Oval Office. At the same time his election would be a terrible thing--it would continue our disastrous involvement in Iraq indefinitely and institutionalize many of the most odious features of Bush administration policies, domestic and foreign.

So, which of the Democrats would be strongest against Sen. McCain? To me, this is an easy question to answer: Barack Obama.

With Obama against McCain, we have youth against age. (Note to readers: the writer is a lot closer to Mr. McCain's age than to Mr. Obama's.)

With Obama against McCain we have a man who was against the war from the beginning against one who thinks we should stay in Iraq if it takes 100 years.

With Obama against McCain, we have a candidate who wants to move beyond the partisanship of the past two decades (and more) against a man who has participated in and profited from that partisanship.

With Barack Obama as their candidate, Democrats will have a man who has already proved his appeal to independent voters and even Republicans. Sen. Clinton, in contrast, arouses the ire of many independents and even Democrats who say they will refuse to support her. (TONE knows a liberal lawyer, someone who represents workers and supported John Edwards, who says vehemently that he will vote for McCain rather than Clinton.) Hillary Clinton has the highest negative rating of any major candidate in recent memory, and political professionals take it as an article of faith that it is far, far easier to improve one's positive rating than to bring negatives down.

Barack Obama will unite Democrats and independents. Hillary Clinton will unite Republicans.

The choice is clear.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Thoughts far, far away

It's halftime at the Super Bowl, but my thoughts are divided. While I am watching the game, I am also thinking about my daughter Hillary, who is in Chad. As you probably know, "rebels" have been attacking the capital, N'Djamena. (I put "rebels" in quotation marks, because some sources assert that they are agents of the Sudanese and that the rebellion is an extension of the conflict in Darfur. However, the government of president Idris Deby has faced internal resistance several times in recent years.)

So far, from what we can learn, the remote eastern town where Hillary is based, Bahai (spelled Bahay on Maporama), has not been threatened, although the BBC reported an attack on Adre, a town about 300 km of Bahai.

Yesterday, Hillary's mother forwarded an email message from her, prefaced by this from Hillary:
ADVANCE NOTICE:  When you read this message, please do NOT worry!  We
are absolutely fine out here in the middle of nowhere hinterlands of
Eastern Chad, with nary a problem in sight. Contingency plans are
being made should anything change. But, please, no panicking!
This is so typical of Hillary, who has worked in Thailand, Cambodia and Burma to make the world better. Slim as a pencil, she's tough as iron. She has been doing the sort of thing her father wanted to do in a younger day--but she has far more courage than I. She's also a much better writer.

I'm not going to quote her entire message here, because I don't have her permission, but I don't think she'd object if I shared what she said about what the cold is like in the desert:
It is shockingly cold here now and though temperatures don't drop as low as they would in the U.S. or Europemid-winter, the wind rips through you. Nothing is constructed forcold weather—I don't think Chadians even know what insulation is—so being inside is just as bad as being out, and sometimes worse. I know now what it means to be chilled down to your bones: a cold that works its way under your skin, into every part of you, and settles in for the duration.

Tonight we sit in front of the TV wearing every available layer of clothing: long underwear, flannel shirt, wool sweater, heavyweight fleece and cashmere socks. We're huddled under thick Chinese blankets, the weighty velveteen kind slung over beds all across Asia (and Chad, too, apparently), awaiting each newsflash for word of any changes in the situation.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

A note to our readers

Some of TONE's loyal readers, noting the absence of posts for the last week, have inquired about the cause. No crisis, simply the effects of trying to practice a little law, campaign work (Super Tuesday is, well, Tuesday) and have some life. TONE will be back soon. Maybe I'll blog during the Super Bowl (which, with the campaign, comes as something of an afterthought.)