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January 25, 2008


Wait a sec--did Illinois NOW really refuse to endorse Obama over Allan Keyes? If so, what the hell are they smoking? If not, what are people talking about re: 2004?

John Miller: "I will probably vote for her if she is the nominee, but it will be with the recognition that for at least 8 years, we will live in the same atmosphere of mistrust of the WH."

Well, yeah -- that's what you're supposed to do, John -- regard ALL elected officials with mistrust, ALL THE TIME.

It is the duty of the Patriot to protect his country from its government.
~Thomas Paine

Apparently so, Katherine.

Nice post, Hilzoy, and generally a good discussion. A question for the peanut gallery. If HRC becomes the candidate, and Bloomberg enters the race, how does that change your vote?

I voted for Perot, mostly as a protest, and thus "threw my vote away". (I live in Ohio, so I guess my vote actually matters, eh?) But I still feel good about that vote; if nothing else I think it gave the professionals of both parties a moment of concern, and anything that gives powerful people a moment of concern is a good thing.

In the same way I'm thinking I might vote for a third party candidate again.

What bothers me about all this is how much the Times' Paul Krugman seems to be toeing the Clinton line on all of this.

It is the duty of the Patriot to protect his country from its government.
~Thomas Paine

"The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help'"
~St Ronnie

b.t.w., ObWi is the 2nd hit on Google for those particular nine words.

In the e-mail example you are condemming Clinton as by taking a paragraph from an article without any mitigation that might be derived from the entire context.

Yes, quite right. There *might* be a larger context in which the sense that hilzoy takes from Clintons words is "mitigated".

So, what's that larger context? Are you aware of one that actually exists and can be shared with the rest of us, or is this larger context merely hypothetical?

Here is the way this works. If you want to baldly accuse someone of lying, while simultaneously being taken seriously, you have to at least *demonstrate the thing that is false*.

The mechanics are not difficult to master:

1. Tell us what the person said
2. Tell us what part of it was not true
3. Demonstrate, through some kind of tangible evidence, how and why the statement was not true.

That still leaves aside any kind of proof that the "liar" intended to deceive, versus just being factually mistaken, but we can leave that for lesson two.

First, we'd all like to see what it was that hilzoy said that was inaccurate.

Thanks -

well Hilzoy, it seems to me you are so fixated on finding blame that you are truly unable to see the bigger picture.

Obama while seeking the endorsment of a bunch of republicans, while simultanously seeking the votes of democrats, said:

'...the republcan party was the party of ideas....they challenged conventional wisdom..'

His words enraged democrats all across the country.

That's the context.

It did not take Hillary Clinton to twist his words into something they were not. His words clearly gave the nod of approval to republican ideas.

Note that he was talking about republican ideas over the last 10 to 15 years, well after Reagan was off doddering in dementia. The reagan era was over, the Clinton era had begun.

But according to Obama it was the republicans that had the good ideas. That's what the the average democrat heard him say and that's what Clinton held him accountable for.

But Hilzoy, I realize know none of this is going to convince a sometimes seeker of nuance.

And what's this about VietNam? I don't have time to research what you may be talking about, as I have to go pick up my son early today. Semester end, I think.


Hillary chose to use IllinoisNow's position even though there is no QUESTION that Obama voted present based on the Illinois' Planned Parenthood's desired strategy. Hillary also knows what the effect was.

Hillary isn't some blogger who is depdendent on google searches and reading tea leaves. She is an extremely savvy politician with a great deal of resources behind her. She has a staff. She has staff members whose only job is to do research on their opposition.

To suggest that she doesn't know the reason for Obama's present votes defies credulity.

Hillary's campaign has made a choice. They decided they are going on the offensive and back to what they do best. Attacking opponents and complaining about how the big bad MSM is out to get them.

Ken, thanks for providing a glimpse into the future of internal democratic debate if Hillary is the nominee. Your dystopian street theater stands as a warning to us all.

ken: now that I understand the basis on which you called me a liar, I will treat your future moral pronouncements with all the careful attention they deserve.

russell, read the article. It is not as damning as Hilzoy falsely leads one to believe.

Nuance, baby, nuance.

Gotta go get up my son. Later all.

Ken. Keep saying black is white and white is black.

You'll reap the just and correct fruits of your efforts.

His words enraged democrats all across the country.

What? Clinton and her supporters(i.e. Big Tent Democrat) were enraged. Who the heck else was enraged?

"the republcan party was the party of ideas....they challenged conventional wisdom.."

But according to Obama it was the republicans that had the good ideas.

Do you understand the difference between explicit and implicit statements? How bout implication and inference? Do you also realize that a direct quote requires an EXPLICIT statement not an implicit one?

His words clearly gave the nod of approval to republican ideas.

You've been running this trope out for a week now. I don't care what you inferred from his statements. You are quite clearly biased and as such you will pull the most negative inference you can. What you publicly make a statement you can't use inference as evidence.

Oh, Ken....

When people keep asking you to lay out your charges and detail them, not once, but multiple times, it is common courtesy to do just that.

The nuance from your repeated refusal to do that is quite...negative.

Well, its a good thing Obama has all the progressive blogs defending him because the true stories about him are just coming to light. I wonder how many of you will be willing to admit you made a mistake.

CW, if I lived in a state that where the election had any chance of being close, I would never vote for a third-party candidate under our current system, unless I truly believed there was no difference between the Republicans and the Democrats -- something I am far from believing.

Since I actually live in the place in the United States with the least suspenseful electoral-vote outcome, and it makes no difference whether the Democrat gets 90 percent of our vote here or only 70 percent (which would be inconceivable), I suppose I might consider a third-party vote under some bizarre set of circumstances even while supporting Clinton. That would depend on having a third-party protest candidate that was actually saying something worth voting for, and I can't see how Bloomberg could fit into the role.

I did vote for Nader in 2000, because I believed Gore didn't deserve to get 90 percent of the vote in DC after the Clinton-Gore administration had done nothing on DC voting rights. I regret that now, even though it was purely symbolic, because Nader is not someone I want to encourage.

This time I want the Democrats to win with a significant popular vote majority and the most votes ever cast for a US presidential candidate. It's essential right now that the Republican Party be repudiated as strongly as possible, regardless of the Democratic candidate. So I can't really foresee voting for anyone other than the Democrat.

"Well, its a good thing Obama has all the progressive blogs defending him because the true stories about him are just coming to light. I wonder how many of you will be willing to admit you made a mistake."

Please elaborate....

Please elaborate....


A) This is a troll infestation...


B) This is a Typical Political Hack infestation.

Beginning to thing that we don't need either...

Hillary chose to use IllinoisNow's position even though there is no QUESTION that Obama voted present based on the Illinois' Planned Parenthood's desired strategy.

To suggest that she doesn't know the reason for Obama's present votes defies credulity.

Well, yes, it would defy credulity. Nobody's asking you to believe it.

I am trying (unsuccessfully, apparently!) to point out that Illinois NOW did choose against endorsing him in 2004, and they also chose to back HRC in this race. Their stated reason is that she is more reliable on the issue of choice.

What I can't figure out is why her campaign is not allowed to point this out without being accused of rank Rovian tactics.

If Illinois NOW had not done and said what they did in fact do and say, then you could accuse her of distorting Obama's record. But they did, and they gave a reason. Sorry, but I don't see how this is Rovish.

hitchhiker: I'm fine with her campaign pointing that out. I am not fine with them implying that Obama's 'present' votes implied not a disagreement between two completely pro-choice groups over legislative tactics, but a lack of commitment to women's right to choose.

Mark F: “Bill and Hillary are going after people who either don't like blacks, don't trust them, or don't think a black man could beat the Republicans. It's a filthy tactic because it relies, essentially, on racism.”

Mark – you be the racist, dude. A not too bright one, to boot.

These people Bill and Hillary are going after who don’t like or trust blacks, do they include former New York Mayor David Dinkins, and House Ways and Means Chairman Charles Rangel, or Stacey Jones the Benedict College Dean, or Bernice Scott, the Richland Virginia County Councilwoman, all of whom endorsed her today, at a gathering in Columbia, S.C.? (in case you don’t know, they’re all black Americans)

What about the 30% of registered black Democrats, who still support Hillary as of today’s poll, are they all black racists too?

And by the way, Mark, Bill Clinton didn’t claim he was “America’s first black president,” – that was a title given him by Toni Morrison, the black Nobel Prize-wining author, who wrote that "Clinton displays almost every trope of blackness: single-parent household, born poor, working-class, saxophone-playing, McDonald's-and-junk-food-loving boy from Arkansas."

And by those standards, Bill Clinton shares more in common with American Blacks than Obama: a half-white half-black kid from Hawaii (except for the few years he lived in Jakarta with his Indonesian step-father)raised in comfortable middle-class surroundings in Honolulu by loving, supportive white grandparents’s after his biological black father dropped him and his white mother like hot potatoes.

Wonderful post, Hilzoy. Thanks for speaking up so clearly.

I think part of the divide between those of us who are appalled by the Clintons' tactics and those who aren't is the question of how important the nature of the political process itself is, relative to the particular policies that it produces at a given moment. To some people, especially the ideologically committed, the process doesn't matter much, so long as it produces the results they want. But for many of us, the process is important in and of itself. This is especially true for independents, because (since we're not 100% committed to the ideology of either side) it's harder for us to see how the end could justify the means.

I know that the political process can seem unimportant, compared to things like Supreme Court justices or universal healthcare, and it can be very tempting to resort to lying or distortion in order to, say, avert a disastrous war in the Middle East. But I still think it's short-sighted. When we lie and distort, we weaken the political discourse of the country, with longterm results. And in the longterm, a less thoughtful public discourse is more likely to produce bad policies. (Think of some of the bad policies that we have now, and the dumbed down public discourse that allowed them to become law.)

I'm a grad student and I spend a lot of time studying the collapse of the Roman Republic. And I'm constantly struck by this: the fall of the Roman Republic was not caused by any particular policies or laws, or by the election of certain people, but rather by changes in the _tactics_ that were used to enact policies and laws, and elect magistrates. When nearly all elections were preceded by bribery and followed by lawsuits, and bloody precedents of mob or military violence had been set, in order to achieve political goals, it became impossible for the Republic to survive. Obviously, I'm not saying that the US is in such dire straits. (Why do I find myself adding, under my breath, '...yet.'?) But I do think that we need to recognize the importance of a healthy political process.

Like most countries, we have a set of rules that govern how officials are elected, what they do, and how laws are passed. The ones that are set down in writing are called the Constitution. But there are others, based on precedent, common practice and tradition (like, say, the filibuster rule) which form a sort of informal constitution, which is also vitally important to the healthy functioning of our country. Because this informal constitution is so heavily influenced by precedent, it matters when a candidate can use Rovian tactics and win as a result. In effect, it changes our 'informal constitution'. (Another example of such would be the precedent set by having an election determined, indirectly, by the Supreme Court.)

That is why, even though I think many of the Republican candidates are pretty much insane, and I think the Republicans generally deserve a massive kick in the posterior right now, still, depending on which Republican was the nominee, I might actually vote for him if Hillary was the Democratic nominee. (Obviously if it's, say, Giuliani, I'd have to vote for pretty much anyone in order to stop him; I think he might actually kill other world leaders if we sent him to summits.) But if it were Hillary v. McCain and McCain ran a decent, truthful campaign and Hillary behaved as she has been behaving.... Well, I'm not sure how I would vote, but I know what it would come down to for me. I'd have to ask myself whether I was willing to weaken the longterm health of the US democracy (both through dynasticism and through damage to our political discourse) in order to make it less likely that we would invade Iran or some other country under a president McCain.

I would still agree with more of Hillary's policies than McCain's. But I also care deeply about the health of the political process in this country. I think Rovian campaign tactics ultimately spell disaster for our system's ability to function (as Hilzoy has so eloquently shown), and I think the only way to stop Rovian tactics is to punish any politicians who use them. And unfortunately, I think the only punishment that certain shameless politicians would understand would be a loss of votes.


If we're talking about how NOW acted toward Obama in 2004, surely this is relevant?

What Hilzoy said. I have absolutely no problem with Hillary pointing to NOW supporting. I find that about as surprising as the sun rising in the morning but I have no problem with that.

I do have a problem with an email that says ""The difference between Hillary's repeatedly standing up strong on choice and Obama's unwillingness to vote 'yes' or 'no' is a clear contrast, and we believe the voters in New Hampshire deserve to know this difference," the e-mail stated. "We support Hillary Clinton because she never ducked when choice was at stake.""

This was an email written by the Clinton staff and signed by various women in New Hampshire.

And apparently Katie Wheeler, the NH head of NARAL, had a problem with the email when she found out the truth...

""It should never have gotten to the point where anyone thought Obama was not pro-choice," said Wheeler, a founder of the New Hampshire chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "I don't think the Clinton campaign should have done that. It was divisive and unnecessary...I think it was a mistake and I've spoken to the national [Clinton campaign] and told them it caused problems in New Hampshire, and am hoping they won't do it again.""

If IllinoisNOW wants to oppose Obama, that's their choice. I don't care about them. I care about someone trying to become President of the United States who willfully distorts things.

Fuck Hillary Clinton. Enough said.

JustMe: the posting rules prohibit profanity. Thanks.

I'm not sure exactly what "wine-track" means, but it's hard for me to fit a reasonable interpretation of that phrase around either Dean or Tsongas.

russell, I'm sorry I wasn't clear. I'm referring to an analysis of Democratic primaries that distinguishes between with "wine-track" candidate and the "beer-track" candidates, with the observation that the "beer-track" candidates have almost always beaten the "wine-track" candidates. In this case, "wine-track" and "beer-track" aren't descriptions of the candidates - they're descriptions of each candidate's *supporters* (and, on that basis, I think Dean and Tsongas fit).

hilzoy, I don't think there's much daylight between you and me on this . . . I agree that HRC's campaign has tried to make something out of not much; I disagree that anything she did falls to the level of a lie. In fact, I think that you kind of did what you're accusing HRC of.

She conveniently left out the mitigating circumstance--that Planned Parenthood claims it had talked Obama into those "present" votes. You conveniently left out a mitigating circumstance--that Illinois NOW had stated outright that they were not buying that story and preferred Clinton because she's more reliable than he is on the issue of choice.

If there's disagreement between NOW and PP about what happened and why (and there seems to be), then that's what the discussion should be about.

Not HRC = Karl Rove.

"F**k Hillary Clinton. Enough said."

Figuratively or literally?

The only problem kate is that planned Parenthood is a credible source for what happened (since they were actually involved) and NOW was not.

"Well, I think they deserve some credit for appointing the highest-ranking minorities in U.S. history."

Nonsense. Men have always been appointed to the highest ranks since the beginning of the Republic.

zmulls: "There was an open convention in 1960, and in 1968 (when one of the leading candidates was assassinated), but not really since then."

Hubert Humphrey had sufficient delegates to get the nomination prior to the start of the 1968 convention; it wasn't an open convention. I'm afraid that's just wrong.

In 1960, Kennedy crushed the opposition in the primaries (a rather different system then than it was now, to be sure). Although Kennedy came into the convention a few votes short of securing the nomination, the actual voters had made overwhelmingly clear that JFK was their choice; although there was a wavelet of support from delegates nostalgic for Stevenson, and some handfuls for Humphrey and Johnson, and therefore it's technically fair to call the 1960 convention "open," there really wasn't serious doubt as to who the nominee would be.

The last really open Democratic convention was, of course, 1956, when it really wasn't clear if it would be Sen. Estes Kefauver (the eventual Veep nominee), Albert Gore, Sr., Stevenson again, or the long-shot newcomer, JFK. (unlikely, put a reasonable choice for Veep then, if he'd sought it, which he wisely did not).

Just for the record.

russell, I'm sorry I wasn't clear

Hey ravi, no worries. Thanks for the explanation. I hadn't heard the term "wine-track" before, now I see where it's coming from.

Are there any Democratic figures anywhere who are considered to be "beer-track" by the powers that be?

Thanks -

Speaking of Clinton tearing apart the party.

Russell, I think Ravi's point is that Obama is wine track and Hillary is beer track.

Hi, I recently discovered your blog, and it's quickly becoming a favorite. I thought I'd add my $0.02...

Lies don't just hurt the democratic process. Sliming an opponent's record and muddying the issues (and having his/her own record slimed) hurts the candidate who wins by doing it. A president who engages the public's hopes, asks them to choose between different, clearly laid out directions for the country, and then wins will be a very powerful president. S/he will have created a large (hopefully over half the country), energized, and loyal base that can be called upon to put allies in Congress and put constituency pressure on Congress. In contrast, a president who wins by being the least worst option faces an uphill struggle to build popular support for his/her proposals, and s/he will have a harder time overcoming resistance.

This creates the classic prisoner's dilemma for candidates. The winning candidate would be best off if both candidates ran clarifying campaigns (which mean engaging the other side hard, but fairly), and worst off if they both run slimy campaigns. (I think the losing candidate is better off in the clarifying scenario than the slimy one, too). But if only one person runs a slimy campaign, s/he is more likely to win, so the equilibrium outcome is that both run a slimy campaign.

The good news is that the prisoner's dilemma is so common that there's a lot of research (particularly game theory) on how to overcome it. For example...

1) Changing the payoff structure: most likely by making it so arguments that boil down to "my opponent is slimy" don't work. One possibility is having a more wonkish electorate, but I think an easier one might be a media (or opposing campaign) push to disqualify all charges that can't answer the question "what does this have to do with what so-and-so will do as president?"

2) Threats: for example, signaling that if the other side distorts a candidate has something fairly substantial to whack them with, but s/he won't do it until they distort. Perhaps it could be something along the lines of attacking the smear itself as reflecting badly on the opposing candidate's willingness to sacrifice the country's health for their own gain. Threats work particularly well in a repeated game.

I know there are many more, but that'll do for now.
P.S. What's the story behind the mascot? The caption is hilarious.

I think this will hurt HRCs candidacy:

Hilzoy's not the only one who has noticed all this. Plenty have, and plenty are upset. It does no good to have other Democratic faithful come out in the MSM and calling her a liar, which is now happening.

The manifest degree of contempt for voters has disillusioned a lot of people who supported her in part because they saw her as above that sort of thing.

And while for a while she was doing a great job establishing an independent identity for herself apart from WJC, that's all gone down the tubes these last few weeks.

I'm encouraged by the number of people who are noticing:

(a) just how Bush-esque HRCs tactics are
(b) how selfish these moves are, with respect to the unity of morale of the party
(c) how the Dems are taking a good thing (Obama) and just killing it

As for (c), this is how institutions and powered interests destroy good things and reform in this country. They sully it. They kick up mud. They confuse people. They scare people.

Hillary is beer track.

Now I'm really confused. I thought Hillary was the uber-liberal?

It is, really, hard to keep up without a scorecard. Modern politics is obviously too many for me.

Thanks -

ken: now that I understand the basis on which you called me a liar, I will treat your future moral pronouncements with all the careful attention they deserve.

That's just cold, Hilzoy. That's just cold. I laughed out loud when I read that.

russell: Are there any Democratic figures anywhere who are considered to be "beer-track" by the powers that be?

Powers that be: Yes, Zed.

KCinDC: Russell, I think Ravi's point is that Obama is wine track and Hillary is beer track.

Bass Ackwards IMO.

I think Hilary is coffee, Obama is wine, and Edwards is beer. Romney is urine, Giuilani is liquid excrement, and McCain is thin vomit. You can drink them all, but people generally know which they prefer.

now this is some bare-knuckle politics.

HRC is utterly without honor.

More on the beer/wine tracks.

I agree, cleek.

Looks like John Kerry is pulling a Hilzoy as well and criticizing Clinton for abusing the truth.

KCinDC wrote:

We reject that premise [that it takes lying to win elections and win legislation], just as we reject that it takes torturing people in secret prisons to protect us from terrorism.

That analogy is merely begging the question.

There's a very clear empirical case that torture does not in fact protect us from terrorism. There is no such empirical case that lying does not aid you in winning electoral and legislative battles. In fact, I am arguing that experience and history would argue that lies and distortions are key to political victory.

Politicians lie because they want to win elections. Politicians historically and currently lie a lot because it helps them win elections.

Now if you are arguing that it is morally troublesome, regardless of lying's efficacy, then that's an entirely different argument altogether, which has nothing to do with the pragmatics of lying.

Kevin continues:

Exactly how far are you okay with Hillary taking Rovian tactics?
It depends. There are limits. I wouldn't for example advocate that Hillary torture people or break the law in order to win elections. Rather I expect her to deploy power to achieve progressive goals.

The following scenario is what I am talking about; one that I'd imagine would be very likely.

Hillary realizes that if we don't pass an environmental bill in the next few years catastrophic global warming will occur. In the long run it would be in our country's economic, social and political interests (as well as moral) to pass such a bill. However, it’s a well known fact that Americans are not willing to do anything that could potentially raise the price of energy (particularly gas) because it would require some short term economic sacrifice on their part.

She also considers that the Republican party has and will endlessly demagogue the costs of this to the American consumer in the correct belief that it would stall such legislation. Therefore, she decides to communicate a message that distorts the true costs of her legislation in order to get it passed into law.

From what I am understanding you, Hilzoy, and publius saying is that such tactics would not be necessary and even if they were they shouldn't be used.

I think the first premise is clearly and empirically untrue and I think the second premise is morally obtuse. I'd rather have San Francisco and New Orleans above water at the cost of some lies, than under water due to dedication to the Truth.

Hillary HAS 4 CORNER
Obama is far more EVIL than a False God, for Google
cut back my Site from 34,000,000 to 4,000,000 in 1 night
for the above Statement. 1 Day 1God exists only as Evil.
I thought Google was free of such evil bias, predjudice and shenanigans that block real truth from being known.
Once before, Google cut back my site from 89,000,000 to
34,000,000 in a single act for something I said, that/s Evil
Google is ONENESS EVIL as I
experienced and you can see.

now this is some bare-knuckle politics.

Aaaand... that's where I officially get off the wagon. Distorting someone's record is normal, albeit lousy, politics. Inflating trivia to major issues, ditto.

But "stealing" delegates, and breaking one's word in order to do so, and effectively disenfranchising voters - who would have voted for Obama or Edwards or someone else if given the chance - is so low-down, scummy, bad faith-y, and just plain bad I'm really taken aback by it.

Oh, if only Clinton was devoting that much focused Machiavellianism to things like FISA, or net neutrality, or market reform, or *anything* other than her own candidacy.

KC, heh. it's hard to keep up.

ken's right about the TimeCube, though.

If that was really ken, it's good to know he has a sense of humor. I'd guess it was someone else, though.

Joseph, I'll let Hilzoy and Publius answer for themselves, but I don't believe that trying to outlie and outslime the Republicans is going to win elections for us. It's just going to make our political environment work better and better for Republicans. What works for them doesn't necessarily work for us, and may even work against us.

So I reject that the means are necessary, I doubt that the means are effective in reaching the desired ends, and I know that the means are immoral.

There's a very clear empirical case that torture does not in fact protect us from terrorism. There is no such empirical case that lying does not aid you in winning electoral and legislative battles. In fact, I am arguing that experience and history would argue that lies and distortions are key to political victory.

Actually, the knock on torture, is that despite it's perceived short term gains, it is extremely damaging in the long term. And I would say the exact same of lies and distortions in pursuit of political and legislative ends. Such tactics in the long run will only destroy the support for the very principles you'd like to see pursued.

Here's a simple parallel I've used as an example with my Iraq War-supporting friends, most of whom supported the war to depose a disgusting tyrant in Saddam, regardless of the reasons stated by the Bush Administration. These few friends of mine pretty much all despise Bush, but they still appreciate the fact that Bush at least pursued their preferred strategy. My comment to them is that Bush did more to destroy the credibility of their argument then any anti-war protester ever did. Getting rid of horrible cruel dictators like the Hussein family, is and should forever be a noble cause. But because of this administration's bumbling effort and petty partisan tactics, that argument will be sullied for generations.

An old Buddhist saying goes:

When the wrong man pursues the right means, the right means work in the wrong ways.

Hillary is the wrong man.

If they really feel that she is the best qualified, with the best policy proposals, then why lie? Are they afraid that they may lose if they don't?

Yes. The Clintons want to win whether their policy proposals become the most popular or not. Apparently, they also want to win badly enough to do so by finagling the rules about delegates. If I didn't recall George McGovern and the fight over the winner-take-all California delegation in 1972, I might be outraged.

I think that it is for candidates to decide first what tactics will help them to win, and then whether those tactics are morally acceptable to them. Hopefully, not all are: killing off one's opposition, for instance, ought to be beyond the pale.

It is for citizens like me to decide what to make of their choices. I have no problem at all with some forms of compromise. If Candidate X voted for the Bridge to Nowhere in exchange for a vote on, oh, universal health care or a really good bill to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and that vote was needed to get the good bill to pass, fine. I don't grudgingly tolerate that; I'd make the same choice, and defend it.

I have a big problem with this, since I think it's both odious and corrosive of democracy. I will, as I said, support HRC, if she is nominated. Until then, I will hope for something better. Because we. as citizens, do not have to just sit around bemoaning the state of politics today; we can do something about it.

And Ara: it's a side of me that I hope I didn't let out in class... :)

More on the beer/wine tracks.

Thanks KC. Here's my favorite comment from the link:

Is there a magic box somewhere that just churns this tripe out?

I'm still trying to get my head around Dean and Tsongas as "wine-track", though. Have any of these pundits ever been to Vermont or Lowell?

Thanks -

E. J. Dionne's column today regarding Reagan and Clinton seemed sensible to me, and on topic.

hilzoy: No, you never did. Frankly, your patience both in class and on this blog amazes me.

There is just an avalanche of negative stories out there today about the Clinton campaign. Much of it from people taking the point of view of disenchanted sympathizers, and that is the *worst* kind of publicity to have. I wonder if this is going to move the polls any. Or maybe it moves the polls too late, and she squeaks by Feb 5th only to be walking wounded in the general by March.

It was claimed that the media was hostile towards Clinton for misting up in NH. And that the state's women rushed to her side. Clinton cut a sympathetic figure. That was the story, at least. Who seems like the bully and who seems like the victim now, just a few weeks later?

and, let me retract my comment from the other day where i suggested that even though HRC might not be an angel, at least she's a fighter - and that as long as she's fighting ostensibly on the right side, she's better than nothing. and, let me amend my comment from above, where i suggested that all politicians are liars and that shouldn't be surprised at their lying. if this Michigan primary thing turns out to be as bald-faced as it looks right now, come Nov, i'll be voting for ... well, no not a Republican, but ... nobody, i suppose.

right now, HRC looks nightmarish.

"Politicians lie because they want to win elections. Politicians historically and currently lie a lot because it helps them win elections."

I'm not so sure they don't also lie simply because an awful lot of them are sociopaths, and as such are simply indifferent to whether anything they say is true or not. Often leading them to lie in circumstances where the truth or simple silence might better serve them.

Like sincerity, morality is something your average politician strives to simulate, since they don't have the real thing, only a desire to exercise power over others.

One more thing: this change from Clinton was entirely a reaction to Iowa (and, I think, a somewhat panicked reaction, because it will hurt her long term). A month ago, WJC was happier talking about his philanthropy than his wife's candidacy. Now, not a day goes by without a new snarky comment from him about Obama. What changed? Iowa. The Clintons went into attack mode. No more serene frontrunner. What does it say about either their sense of entitlement (that they were willing to stoop this low) or their judgment (that they were willing to hit the panic button and hurt themselves long-term) that the campaign has made this about-face? And what would it say about an HRC presidency?

You know, I hate to say it, but its really up to Obama to respond to these attacks. I want a Democratic candidate who shows that they can respond to vigorous and even unfair attacks. Maybe we shouldn't need for a candidate to be a street fighter but that's the world we live in.
Hilzoy's view of politics as a dignified tea party in which each party never ever says anything that isn't 100 per cent fair and balanced is a wonderful vision, but US politics is simply not like that- and never was. check what the opposition said about Thomas Jefferson in his presidential campaigns, and you'll understand that the Clinton's attacks are fairly tame by comparison.
I especially don't want a Democratic candidate like John Kerry, who looked pretty good and ran a clean, upstanding campaign- but collapsed in a heap when the Repubs hit him with one, solid punch- the Swift Boat stuff . OK, its true that the punch was below the belt, but that just proves my point- if you are going to fight with someone who fights dirty, you better be ready to defend and even respond in kind, if you have to.
In the long run, Obama and Hillary need to toughen up, so throwing a few elbows now is actually good for whoever will be the candidate in the long run.

stonetools: I do not believe that politics is a tea party. I have been observing politics since I was a wonky little kid back when Nixon was President, after all.

What I do believe is that lies of this kind are subversive of democracy, and that we should not accept them, any more than we just accept high murder rates ("hey, life can be rough"), or our spouse's infidelity ("boys will be boys..."). They get away with this because we accept it. We don't have to.

Stonetools, I think Hilzoy addressed your point in Fighting Fire With Fire". It's true that our candidates need to be able to withstand dirty fighting. That doesn't mean that they themselves need to fight dirty.

I agree with you that Obama needs to be able to respond effectively to the Clintons' attacks, but that doesn't mean that the Clintons are any less slimy for making them.

You know, I hate to say it, but its really up to Obama to respond to these attacks. I want a Democratic candidate who shows that they can respond to vigorous and even unfair attacks. Maybe we shouldn't need for a candidate to be a street fighter but that's the world we live in.

From where I'm sitting right now, Obama's doing a great job responding. Not only has he clearly gotten inside the Clintons' heads to the point where they're overreaching like crazy, he's had everything but the kitchen sink thrown at him in an effort to get him off message, and for the most part he's parried every single attack and made it look effortless.

I mean -- the primaries have been dirty so far; the fact that you perceive that Obama is still clean says something, because it's not as if all attacks against him just fizzled out of their own accord; or, if that is what happened, that certainly doesn't speak well of the Clinton campaign's political skill, does it?

Although it's clear he's had to make a few adjustments to a truly national campaign, at some point the assessment of Obama as a neophyte has to be matched up with the results. From November onward, he's more or less schooled Hillary, Bill, their advisors, and their "years of experience" at every turn.

-- As I think I mentioned elsewhere, this move with the delegates is a gamebreaker for me (and many other people, I expect) if there's not some serious backpedaling or explanation. It's either an unbelievably inept political and PR miscalculation, an unacceptably unethical power grab, or both.

In either case, I'm no longer willing to accept the narrative that the Clinton campaign is more experienced and savvy -- much smaller errors have been deadly to Democratic candidates in the last two elections, and pulling something like this in the general election would be suicidal. I'm beginning to worry more about Clinton being able to handle Obama than the other way around.

Great post, Hilzoy.

If politicians don't tell the truth, there is another option besides ordinary citizens becoming political junkies: the media could do its job! There is an unfortunate and surprising reticence on the part of reporters to label politicians as liars. A few are pointing out some inconsistencies between what is and what Hillary says, and some managed to catch on after Rudy Giuliani's claims became unbelievable even to the most blinkered partisan. But there is still this tendency for the media to present both sides of an issue in an ostensibly balanced way (Something like this: "Al Gore and the IPCC claim that there are dangerous levels of greenhouse gases. Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil, claims otherwise). The problem rests not only with mendacious politicians but with the misguided and pussillanimous political press for not calling out lies when the pols utter them.

The more I think about the delegate-grab, the angrier it makes me.

Clinton's excuse/justification is that she wants Michiganders and Floridians to be part of the process - OK, why wait until now to say so? It's like when the Clinton campaign tried to game the system in Nevada, by suddenly discovering - only after a major union endorsed Obama - that letting casino workers caucus in the casinos was somehow unfair to non-casino workers.

I'm going to call her campaign HQ and let them know this is a deal breaker for me, not just in the primaries but maybe in the general. It stinks to high heaven, it treats voters like pawns whose Constitutional rights only get protected if it serves Clinton's interests, which is pretty much the Bush-Cheney point of view.... I get more livid the more I think about it.


Clinton's excuse/justification is that she wants Michiganders and Floridians to be part of the process - OK, why wait until now to say so?

I'm amazed at the people trying to spin this as some sort of savvy political move.

Point 1: The PR upside here is minimal at best. The only potential upsides are:

Upside 1:
(A) If the nomination is close enough that the Michigan and Florida delegates would be determinative; AND
(B) They actually get those delegates.
(C) The net gain out of the 4,025 total delegates (313 pledged delegates at most) isn't offset by any potential backlash amongst the superdelegates (796), by voting in other states, or by (and this is big in my mind) by Edwards' delegates -- I have a feeling that he will not be happy about this.

Upside 2:
If the Clinton campaign gets some positive press out of making the Michigan and Florida votes count, either in the primary or the general. More on that in a moment.

The potential downsides here strike me as enormous.

Downside 1:
This has a very good chance to piss a lot of people off. Aside from that one Detroit News article and some buzz from one or two blogs that I've never seen utter a single negative word about Hillary, you can practically hear people's jaws hitting the floor. Some big-name bloggers who've clearly been trying to stay neutral -- e.g. Josh Marshall, emptywheel (!) -- were clearly appalled by this. I've already seen a number of people who I argued with pretty vigorously about the Reagan issue say, "OK, nevermind."

Downside 2:
In the event that the scenario in Upside 1 above comes about, the Party would be in chaos. Like, 1968 all over again. Even if the move won Clinton the nomination, there's no way that it doesn't end up losing her support from some very important segments of the base in the general.

Downside 3:
The delegates are a double-edged sword. Unless they get seated and they'll make a difference, she's courting votes that, as of now, don't count for anything. If they do end up counting for anything, they end up pissing people off mightily. There's no way to come out of it with a win.

Even if Mark Penn isn't the complete putz he appears, I can't see how any polling or predictive scenario could justify a move like this given the uncertain payoff.

Downside 4:
It was pretty clear already that the delegates were going to be seated at the convention and would support a delegate, and that this issue was going to be addressed again. Most of the damage from the debacle had already been done. As emptywheel points out, tossing gasoline on this fire actually makes the putative problem of the primaries being screwed up worse, not better.

Now, all that aside, there are a whole bunch of other reasons why this is just a dumb move on face:

Dumb Move 1: The timing is moronic.

(A) Doing this after the Michigan primary makes it look like she's trying to steal votes. (Even if she's not, this is what it looks like.)

(B) Doing this before the Florida primary telegraphs their intent to the Obama campaign. Clinton is also way ahead in Florida, and Obama and Edwards are still on the ballot there, so the potential benefit of this move seems marginal at best.

(C) Doing this after Super Tuesday would've at least made sense as far as having a better idea of whether the delegates would matter.

(D) Doing this before the Michigan primary, or even waaaay back when the delegate decision was first made, would have at least made the "making the votes count" line make a little sense.

(E) Seriously, why do this now? The day before the SC primary and before Super Tuesday? Why? What are they thinking?

Dumb Move 2: This is totally off-message.

(A) The Clinton campaign was already complaining about Obama's national ad buy that happened to run in Florida before this. Not only does this moot that criticism, it makes them look like hypocrites. And again, this was in the last week -- the timing is unbelievable.

(B) It reinforces the narrative of Clinton as unfair and underhanded, which is exactly the message the Obama campaign has been pushing in the last week.

Dumb Move 3: This is totally disingenuous. As of now, the only justification I've heard from the Clinton campaign and those who seem to support this move is that it can be construed as support for the Michigan and Florida voters. Problems with this response:

(A) Clinton, like all the other candidates, has ignored Michigan and Florida so far. If you're not even going to the states, it's hard to argue that you think the voters are being unfairly excluded. If this was really true, they should have at least campaigned in those states or raised more than a token word of protest about this issue earlier on, and they shouldn't have been criticizing other campaigns for advertising in those states. (See Dumb Moves 1 and 2.) There was no setup for this spin -- just a single press release. The way this was done potentially makes it look like completely insincere pandering to the Florida voters -- even if it doesn't end up being perceived that way, it could easily have been done in a way that at least appeared to be more genuine.

(B) The Clinton campaign's entire justification for staying on the ballot in Michigan when pressed was that it didn't matter one way or the other. Now, not only does that look like a trick, but it puts lie to the argument that they're arguing for fair representation -- if the Michigan delegates are counted, the Obama and Edwards supporters' votes won't be represented.

(C) The bottom line is that there were a million ways to handle this, and in the abstract the problems with counting the Michigan and Florida delegates are very real. But if that was the real concern, I honestly can't think of a worse possible way to achieve the goal. If there had been any warning that the Clinton campaign was going to do this, I could maybe see this as an anti-disenfranchisement move. Just dropping a press release -- particularly after that snafu in Nevada -- is just... seriously, isn't the Clinton campaign supposed to be savvy? Unless I'm missing some sort of reverse-double-headfake that Mark Penn came up with, I just don't see any reason to do this, and even less reason to do this in the way that they did. It's totally mind-boggling.

When Clinton says she wants Michigan voters' votes to count, keep in mind that she was the only one on the ballot. She'd only be enfranchising her supporters in Michigan.

Oops, forgot to label the other two points. Maybe I should just stick to bulleted lists.

Oh, I also forgot: why release this on a Friday, at the end of the news cycle, before a primary you're not expected to win? Clearly message control wasn't part of the calculus here.

(I see Adam made the same point moments before I posted me comment.)

"me comment"? What am I, a chimney sweep?

"me comment"? What am I, a chimney sweep?

Or a pirate.

I vote chimney sweep. Better background music.

That was the worst English accent in the history of bad English accents.

I vote chimney sweep. Better background music.

OK, look. Let's compare and contrast

Sorry Jes, but IMVHO there is just no contest here.

Plus, you know, sweeps get no rum.

Thanks -

cleek: i'll be voting for ... well, no not a Republican, but ... nobody, i suppose

You know things are bad when cleek and I are basically aligned…

(BTW dude – you didn’t tell me how much damned spam the ACLU would send me!)

Hilzoy, you and Publius are the 2 bloggers I most respect out there, but I disagree about voting for the Clintons in the GE. We've had 8 years of people who use the Constitution to line the bird cage when they run out of newspaper. I *won't* vote for someone who thinks the rules are for suckers. I'd rather have an honest conservative with integrity than someone who will sell out everything I believe in when its to their short-term advantage.

Not saying I can find the above mentioned conservative, but then I'll just stay home from the election and watch HBO for another 4 years.

Well. I called Hillary HQ in Virginia. I told them that after defending her for 15 years, and trying to defend her during this primary campaign, I no longer could defend her, would not vote for her in the primary, and would not vote for her in the general. I made it clear that the Michigan-Florida delegate bait-and-switch was the deal breaker for me.

The woman I spoke to made sure she knew what, exactly, I was upset about. It seems she was keeping track. But she didn't ask me for my name or anything.

I think - think, mind you - the campaign is getting enough flack about this that they're paying attention to it. I don't know if that means they're spooked by it yet.

At TPM, there's a reasonable argument for how this helps Clinton. I hope that it's turning people off, but it's hard to tell how it's playing with people outside the blogs.

Anyone have TPM's email address? I can't set up my Mac email account (it won't connect to the mailserver for some reason), and I can't get the form without the connection.

I want to let them know that, IMO, the "deep strategy" the TPM article references does not in any way make the delegate-grab tactic better or reasonable. It only emphasizes how Clinton regards the delegate, and the voters electing them, as pawns.

CaseyL, if you hover over the link and look down at the status line (or right-click and look at the properties), you can see that it's "talk at".

Also, when I write "reasonable" above, I was referring to the argument for how this helps Clinton politically, certainly not to the disgusting tactic itself.

Thanks, KCinDC!

This is very clearly another attempt to do exactly what Hilzoy was writing about--blatantly cheat in a way that only people who are political junkies will understand.

The Clintons don't care that it is going to piss off the political junkies, because they think that the little old white lady they are counting on most won't notice. They are certain that the black people and political junkies will come back to them in the general election just like gay people did after the Defense of Marriage Act betrayal, so they feel that a scorched earth campaign against Obama can't possibly hurt them--complete with attempts to implement mid-stream changes in the rules in Nevada, Michigan and Florida (so far).

This is exhibit #54,742 about how important it is that election rules be made BEFORE you know exactly who they will help. Clinton was fine with the Nevada, Michigan and Florida rules so long as she believed it would help her. It is only now that there is some risk that the rules won't help her that she is willing to shred them. This is exactly the lack of respect for the rule of law which a certain current President has.

"I want to let them know that, IMO, the 'deep strategy' the TPM article references does not in any way make the delegate-grab tactic better or reasonable."

It seems incredibly unlikely to me that that wouldn't have already occurred to Marshall, and impossible that lots of people haven't already made their opinion on that clear to him.

I'm a bit puzzled as to why anyone would think it was necessary to point the notion out to Josh Marshall, though. It wasn't an editorial; it was a quote speculating on the reasoning behind the move. Condemnation isn't mandatory in news reporting.

And Marshall has already made it pretty clear in earlier posts what he thinks of Clinton's move.

I'm a bit puzzled as to why anyone would think it was necessary to point the notion out to Josh Marshall, though. It wasn't an editorial; it was a quote speculating on the reasoning behind the move. Condemnation isn't mandatory in news reporting.
I thought it was useful; it answered the question I had above as to what the possible strategic value of this move could be. I simply couldn't see any rational reason to make it. I still think it was a stupid move -- strategically and ethically -- but the rationale Josh quoted is at least a plausible reason to make it.

I just wanted to say two things:

1) Firstly, I very much appreciate (and agree with) your thoughts regarding the dirty underbelly of snide political digs - "slipped in" - enough to tarnish someone's credibility but not quite enough to be "too" damaging (widely, publicly) to the slinger.

2) Ironically, the mention you give in your footnote summing up why you wouldn't cast a vote for McCain (while I'm sure there's much more going into it for you than just this) is also a big of mud that's been slung - out of context, and of course not by you. See this article pointing out how that statement was latched onto inappropriately by the Dems in order to discredit McCain:

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