Friday, May 30, 2008

Wake me when it's over

Democratic Party leaders are finally mobilizing to bring the long nominating contest to a close. Whether they can get Clinton to abandon her campaign is questionable: she has been talking about taking her argument over Florida and Michigan to the credentials committee. (A professor of mine used to say, "When it doubt, pack the credentials committee.") Still, if Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid lean on enough superdelegates to put Obama over the top without however many delegates from Florida and Michigan remain unseated after tomorrow's rules committee meeting, Clinton's campaign will increasingly be seen for what it has been for weeks: a sad, desperate effort driven by the candidate's ego.

What seems to be overlooked--by Clinton and most of the MSM--is the way that her campaign is both a sign and a cause of her defeat. The way in which she has consistently tried to move the goalposts, her shameless embrace of any useful tactic, the repeated "slips of the tongue" are symbolic and symptomatic of the difference between Clinton and Obama--between the same old tired politics and a transformational candidate. I suppose it's not surprising that Clinton would not realize that it was her strategy that doomed her, because there was no way that her approach to politics could compete with the message that Barack Obama personifies.

Don't confuse me with facts

TPM's Election Central analyzes the turnout in the Florida and Michigan primaries and finds--surprise, surprise--that in this year of record participation in Democratic nominating contests, those two states lagged well behind the rest of the country.

What does this mean? As TPM points out, for one thing, it shows that those primaries were not very representative of the states' voters. Which makes it harder to swallow the Clinton "count every vote" line. Not that that was ever more than political expediency, or should I say desperation?

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Department of Clear Thinking

Sign in the window of the Suffolk University Law School bookstore:



Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Law? We don't need no stinkin' law!

Democratic Party lawyers have issued a 38-page opinion concluding that not more than half of the disputed delegates from Florida and Michigan can be seated at the party's convention in Denver. This would be a decent compromise--better, actually, than allotting Obama delegates that he did not actually win, especially in Florida where his name was on the ballot.

Despite this legal opinion--and it is only an opinion by the party's lawyers--we may confidently expect the endlessly cynical Clinton campaign to continue it's recently-discovered dedication to pure democracy by calling to "count every vote." Never-you-mind that Hillary agreed that none of the votes in Florida and Michigan should count, because those states flouted party rules.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day

On this Memorial Day, I've been thinking about the people who are generally ignored on this holiday: men and some women who died from accidents or disease while serving our nation. Their deaths--and there have been thousands and thousands of them in our history--were just as tragic as the passing of anyone killed in action at Saratoga, Belleau Wood, Guadalcanal, St. Lo or Hue. On some level, their deaths may be more tragic, because they did not die as heroes--except, perhaps, to those who loved them. Yet they served their nation every bit as well as those who stood against the British regulars at Bunker Hill or died at the seawall on Utah Beach. Let's include them when we celebrate our veterans.

Thursday, May 22, 2008


The Times cites research suggesting that aging brains aren't weakening, they may actually be processing more information than younger ones.

TONE is, naturally, happy to hear this.

Jim Webb for VP?

Jim Webb on Obama's problem in Appalachia. A smart, thoughtful and tough guy. He would certainly put the Old Dominion into play, if not in the Democratic column, and could be a help in nearby North Carolina and West Virginia as well.

Those Israeli appeasers

Uh, oh. Shrugging off W's counsel about not talking to your enemies lest you become another Neville Chamberlain (though it was Mr. Straight-Talk McCain who injected the name of the British Prime Minister into the debate), Israel is about to start negotiations with Syria.

Conventional wisdom, wrong again

The NYT has a front-page story on the way that many Jews are said to be uncomfortable with Obama. To me this is reminiscent of the stories a few months ago, about how he was running behind Clinton among African-Americans. (Remember that far back?) Here's a prediction: by November, Obama will have a large lead among Jewish voters. Not as large as his majority among blacks--there are, regrettably, a number of Jews who have forgotten their past and become Republicans--but still a solid one.

Forgotten but not gone

As Hillary Clinton plays out the string, she becomes increasingly tiresome. Her campaign's repeated attempts to change the goalposts are transparently silly. Her late discovery of sexism in the campaign is merely desperate. And her threat to take the issue of the Florida and Michigan delegates to the floor of the convention is a study in hypocrisy that only underlines why--although they agree on so much--she and Barack Obama are so far apart in stature and their approach to governing.

(As Keith Olbermann pointed out last night, four years ago, when Michigan Democrats threatened to jump the primary gun, then-Democratic National Chairman Terry McAuliffe (now a top-ranking Clinton advisor and spokesperson) told Sen. Carl Levin, "the only way you'll see the convention is on television." Terry's singing a very different tune today.)

The bright side of this depressing, prolonged endgame is that it will undoubtedly make it easier for many who supported Hillary to switch to Obama without guilt. Indeed, by the time Election Day comes around in November, I suspect that many of them will find themselves exhilarated by the chance to cast a ballot for him.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


In 1962, when Ted Kennedy first ran for the Senate, my family opposed him. Who did he think he was, this 30 year-old with no experience and no claim to the office apart from the fact that his big brother Jack was the President (and a former holder of the office he now sought)? The nerve of him! We supported Eddie McCormack, nephew of John McCormack, not yet Speaker of the House, and the state's attorney-general. We sure knew how to pick 'em.

The Senate pretty much came to a stop yesterday, when word spread that Ted had been diagnosed with a brain tumor. I understand that Robert Byrd (D-W.Va) broke down, and John Warner (R.VA), a friend for four decades, was visibly shaken.

The press has commented about Ted's many friendships across the aisle; his relationship with Orrin Hatch (R-UT)--a political odd couple if there ever was one--is well-known This morning on NPR I heard Lindsay Graham say that working with Ted reminded him about the way he learned the Senate was supposed to be in 9th grade. He was right--Ted Kennedy's relationship with other senators of both parties is the way things used to work in the world's greatest deliberative body.

Ted Kennedy is really a throwback to the senators who were truly national figures in the 19th Century. He has not been the most powerful person in the Senate, but he has been its most influential member. He can stand alongside Daniel Webster, Henry Clay and John C. Calhoun in the chamber's Pantheon.

The tumor that was diagnosed over the weekend will almost certainly end Ted Kennedy's Senate career, even if he survives it. When he leaves the Senate floor for the last time, there will be a lot of space in the chamber, for a giant will have departed.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Good for the Jews?

Tom Friedman shows how any debate about the candidates' support for Israel is bogus; American support for Israel is rock-solid. But Friedman--who has been very good on the issue of Israeli-Palestinian peace--fails to follow the logic of his own argument and point out that McCain's intent to remain in Iraq indefinitely would "stay the course" that has weakened the nation so grievously over the past six years. And it would hurt Israelis and Palestinians who long for peace.

Friday, May 16, 2008


Obama responds to smears from Bush and McCain:

From his press conference later in the day:

We have not seen a presidential candidate of such stature--for either party--since JFK. Maybe since FDR

The same old slime

Do you think that American diplomats should be operating the way they have in the past, working with the Palestinian government if Hamas is now in charge?
They're the government; sooner or later we are going to have to deal with them, one way or another, and I understand why this administration and previous administrations had such antipathy towards Hamas because of their dedication to violence and the things that they not only espouse but practice, so . . . but it's a new reality in the Middle East. I think the lesson is people want security and a decent life and decent future, that they want democracy.
OK, who said that? Barack Obama? NO! John "Straight-Talk" McCain, in an interview with James Rubin of SkyNews two years ago. Rubin recounted this in WAPO today.

This comes after the President--in a speech to the parliament of an allied nation (Israel)--likened Obama to the appeasers of the 1930's in a reference so thinly veiled that Salome would have refused to wear it. And after McCain, just in case anyone was so obtuse as not to get Mr. Bush's message, compared Obama to Neville Chamberlain, the British Prime Minister who (along with Eduard Daladier, premier of France) abandoned the Czechs to Hitler.

The Republicans have been the party of utter shamelessness for as long as I can recall, but this double-team smear reaches a new level, especially so early in the campaign. It is a sign of how nasty things are likely to get this year, but it is also likely to rebound against the GOP among many millions of Americans who are tired of this kind of politics, especially given where it has got the nation today. Perhaps even more important to the outcome of the November election, McCain's hypocrisy will dent, if not deflate, his reputation as a straight-talker. As my pappy used to say, "When a man tells you how honest he is, keep your hand on your billfold."

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

What to do about Burma

As you surely know, the Burmese government has blocked almost all foreign aid to the millions of people hurt by last week's cyclone. What should be done about that?

The United States is in a unique position. It has the air- and sealift capacity to get supplies directly to the people affected. Still, to do so without permission from the Burmese junta would violate international norms (and probably international law). Such a step would bring criticism from other nations concerned that we might intrude on their sovereignties in some way. But then there are all those people dying and threatened with disease.

Were I in the Oval Office, I should be sorely tempted to tell the Burmese generals that we are going to deliver aid directly to those affected, and that if they order their armed forces to shoot at our planes and ships, we shall shoot back.

This would, of necessity, be a much more limited form of relief than would be ideal. It would involve airlifting supplies, mainly by helicopter, into areas devastated by the storm. Parachute drops might go into some locations. (The Navy has a helicopter-carrier in the area; land-based cargo planes would have to come from much farther away, and our airlift capacity has been greatly degraded by the demands of Iraq and Afghanistan.) If the Navy could get an LSD (landing-ship-dock) or amphibious assault vessel close by, supplies might be ferried ashore. But to quiet critics and limit any violation of international law, Americans should be virtually forbidden from actually setting foot on Burmese soil (except, perhaps, to permit sailors and Marines to carry goods from helicopters and landing craft and put them down for the local people to take away.).

Surely, this grandstanding move--and that's what it would be--would have much less effect than an organized and sustained effort with the cooperation of the military government. No roads or bridges would be rebuilt. No hospitals would be staffed. Distribution beyond the point of landing would be in the hands of the locals; in many areas--most or perhaps all of them--the military would step in. Even if the government did not take over, there might be chaos, corruption or violence among the recipients. But people are dying and the world is standing by while one of the most brutal and corrupt regimes on earth blocks the aid they need to survive. At some point, humanity has to step in.

Let me admit that this would be by no means a purely humanitarian gesture. It would showcase the US as the world's super-power--the only nation that could carry out this kind of effort on short notice. It would undermine the Burmese generals--perhaps even more if they step in to block distribution of food and medicine delivered to villages and piled on beaches than if they let the local people deliver it. And yes, certain other regimes around the world would be put on notice that there comes a point when repression of their own people grows too great for the world to stand. That last would open up all sorts of debate--those of us against the Iraq war objected to Bush's proclamation that we were going into that country to liberate its people--but still it is a declaration that should be made: there is some brutality, corruption and disregard for humanity that the world will not ignore.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Wednesday, May 07, 2008


Now that the campaign for the Democratic nomination is over, we'll have some time to look elsewhere before the fall campaign heats up.

And speaking of the fall campaign, The Arizona Republican, John McCain's hometown newspaper, explodes the myth that he's a Republican maverick.

Prediction: McCain's Teflon shield will gradually flake off and voters will see him for what he really is. (What he really is is not all bad, but it's not the image he likes to project, either.)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The first victims

Today we got to see the Indiana voter ID law in action. And who were the first victims? Hard to say, but among them were 12 nuns. Yep, 12 nuns.

The nuns were elderly, in some cases disabled. So in that respect, not so far from what the Supreme Court was warned would happen.

Sometimes, as Dickens wrote, "The law is a ass."

Monday, May 05, 2008

Just thinking

If Hillary Clinton can't carry Guam, how can she expect to carry the country?

No apology

At least not from me.

So on Friday I go to create a post and, lo and behold, I discover that Google, which hosts this blog, had "locked" TONE, because it has "the characteristics of a spam blog." Huh? Spam? Junk, maybe. Drivel, perhaps. But spam????? As if Google knows spam when it sees it. (Hit the "next blog" button at the top of the page a few times and see what's out there.

Anyway, this seems to be cleared up now, and I hope to post regularly.