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February 12, 2008

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Also, she didn't read the NIE made available to senators.

And as for the later excuse that she thought Bush was going to go back to the UN, well, did you really trust George Bush that much?

Poor judgment all around.

obviously she has Senate experience, but if Hillary Clinton has experience in the White House, then so does Laura Bush. does anyone think Mrs. Bush is qualified ? is Clinton's experience different ? how ? examples, please. a list of accomplishments, if it's not too much trouble.

Come on, Mark and Hilzoy, Hillary's got a LOT of sandbags to fill in Texas and only 21 days to do it...

I'm not inclined to be as hard on Clinton for today's absent vote. Her vote wouldn't have carried the amendment and she did at least release a statement that she was opposed to telecoms immunity. Campaigning in Texas probably is more important to her at this time. And it's not as if Obama hasn't missed his share of Senate votes (especially in 2007 when he was campaigning all over the place).

The truth is, there are plenty of other reasons to oppose a Clinton nomination, not the least of which is the foreign policy crew she's gathered around her (Michael O'Hanlon? Please). Hell, most of these people supported the Iraq War. And that she had to seek advice from top generals on whether she should oppose torture ... well, need I say more?

For Obama's part, his foreign policy advisors almost all opposed the war. And there are some pretty impressive people: Richard Clarke, Samantha Power.

So while I can forgive Clinton her absense from the Senate today, she's still the neocon lite.

Am I the only one perpetually wracked with dread that, as Obama ascends, an RFK-type assassination seems more and more inevitable? There are just so many racists, bigots, white-supremacists, neo-Nazi, redneck yahoos in this country for whom the concept of a black president is so anathema, so unthinkable, so repellant as to incite them to murder. Every time I see Obama working a crowd, I have to fight off visualizing the image of a gun-wielding hand emerging from the crowd, two shots... etc.

Hil, as the smartest person I know, do you actually think the most clenched members of this country's racist asshat faction would ever allow Obama to reach (or if he does, remain in) the Presidency?

And do you actually think the Secret Service can protect him?

Like many, I've been a fan of Obama since 2004.

Knowing all I do about the above-referenced faction, now I'm just terrified for him.

Speaking of mistakes (expensive ones):

No one could have predicted Barack Obama’s sudden rise, though the Clinton campaign was slower to recognize it than most. Solis Doyle’s failure is another matter. As much as Clinton touts her own “executive experience” and judgment, she made Solis Doyle her campaign manager because of Solis Doyle’s loyalty, rather than her skill, despite a trail of available evidence suggesting she was unsuited for the role.

Who does that remind you of? Anyone we know? Oh, yeah.

Rather than punish Solis Doyle or raise questions about her fitness to lead, Clinton chose her to manage the presidential campaign for reasons that should now be obvious: above all, Clinton prizes loyalty and discipline, and Solis Doyle demonstrated both traits, if little else. This suggests to me that for all the emphasis Clinton has placed on executive leadership in this campaign, her own approach is a lot closer to the current president’s than her supporters might like to admit.

Interesting read.


Interesting note from my polling place today, well actually the parking lot:

Republican presidential supporters: 0
Obama supporters: 0
HRC supporters: A bunch

Strictly based on people grouped around signage, carrying signs, handing out campaign material, etc.

"No one could have predicted Barack Obama’s sudden rise, though the Clinton campaign was slower to recognize it than most."

This is even stupider than it looks. It would be just not-smart to say "I could never have predicted this." That just means you weren't paying attention, or are somewhat dim.

To say "I doubt think anyone could have predicted this" would be outright stupid, because then you're not recognizing that you're not the brightest candle in the candleabra, and at least having the self-awareness that other people are capable of doing better than you ware.

To say no one could have predicted Obama's rise, it's outright impossible, is to on top of that add surety to your outright stupidity, and then trump it with complete blindness to the world around one's self, in which countless people wrote pieces touting Obama as a potential Presidential candidate while he was running for the Senate.

That's an impressive achievement in the annals of stupidity.

This article doesn't exactly inspire confidence, but I don't really want to pile on Clinton, not least because I think that the fates will smite my candidate (at the polls! take a deep breath, xanax; I'm not immune to those thoughts but I really think they're overdramatic, & the Secret Svc. knows what it's doing).

But can we acknowledge the following? Barack Obama is a smart politician executing a smart campaign strategy, & running his campaign organization, very well indeed. Giving a great speech is an essential ingredient in this, but is very far from the only one.

...I'm sure Clinton's 35 years experience and legendary ability to work for change would've come in real handy.

About as handy as Obama's legendary judgment on Kyl/Lieberman.

"Giving a great speech is an essential ingredient in this, but is very far from the only one."

I don't know if you've noticed today's new line Dean Barnett is trying out, which is that Obama is just a puppet who is no good without a teleprompter.

Unlike, I guess, George W. Bush, who is so inspirational when ad libbing, or Ronald Reagan, who wrote all his own lines.

They have teleprompters at Ebenezer Baptist Church, do they?

The whole "Conservation of Values" thing certainly is ludicrous, but there's a small amount of logic to it. When you're looking at politicians who have made it to the pinnacle of their profession you think that they must have done something very impressive to get there. If they're charismatic you may think that's what got them there, and they may not have had to rely on their intelligence and policy knowledge as much. When you see someone there that isn't charismatic you think they must really know their stuff and got to where they are by working their ass off every day and being better at it then the rest. Or they married someone that was. (Ok that was a slightly cheap shot...)

It may not be something people consciously decide on, but the sense is definitely there.

Gary, shouldn't the Annals of Stupidity be capitalized, if it's the name of a journal? And where do I click to subscribe?

Hilzoy, you've raised the point that I like to scream about sometimes: It is not, in fact, surprising that I'm so smart once you take my looks into account--because the two things have nothing to do with one another! The funny looking kid with the thick glasses wasn't smart because she was an ugly duckling, either. Independent variables.

My mom is a psychotherapist who works on sibling dynamics with adults in their workplaces, because her employer is a consulting firm that found these are the dynamics that often drive our actions. She says that Obama is now the smooth talker and Hillary is the smart kid, and that those roles are what they should play up because trying to break them open is pointless.

If anyone wants a classic example of how to diplomatically describe a transition of authority, check Maggie William's version of what she was brought in to do on the Clinton campaign after New Hampshire, but prior to her formally becoming campaign manager yesterday over Patti Solis Doyle:

[...] Then there's Maggie Williams, who refers to herself simply as a "utility player." But no one on Team Hillary questions that she is far more than that. Having served as chief of staff to both Hillary (in the White House) and Bill (at his foundation), Williams has the trust of both the former president and the aspiring one. Hillarylanders point to her as one of the candidate's closest confidantes, the person who "sees into Hillary's soul," "knows what makes her tick," and is arguably more of her "peer" than many other members of the inner circle.

When I asked Williams about her new role, she downplayed it, explaining that she will be doing a little of everything but nothing of note. And, above all, no matter what I may have heard, in no way has she been brought in to manage the team. Her friend Solis Doyle, she said, continues to make all the decisions befitting a campaign manager. As for her broader impact on the office, Williams demurs, "There are so many people over here that I don't think people have even noticed me."

It's almost a thing of beauty in its diplomatic phrasing, isn't it?

I have been baffled, too, by the otherwise intelligent people who have convinced themselves that Clinton is the fighhter against the righh tfor their values and Obama is the compromiser. it makes no sense, is an entirely fact free, but i guess it show that Clinnton has learned the Rove tricks well.

I think that her support, besides the people who donn't know much and haven't thought much about what thhey know, is comprised of a sort of identity politics. Not gender identity, I think that a lot of people who watched the righhtwings target her and Bill saw themselves as targets too (as they were), so now they project onto Hillary thheir own desire to fighht back. They aren't seeing her history or her behavior. They aare seeing her as a projection of their own revenge fantasies. The ladies at my caucus certainly were like that. Annd they feel that Obama is snatching away their chance to kick R butt.

"I think that a lot of people who watched the righhtwings target her and Bill saw themselves as targets too (as they were), so now they project onto Hillary thheir own desire to fighht back. They aren't seeing her history or her behavior. They aare seeing her as a projection of their own revenge fantasies. The ladies at my caucus certainly were like that. Annd they feel that Obama is snatching away their chance to kick R butt."

It's just opinion, and thus not very provable -- although polling can give clues -- but that seems very plausible to me.

Regarding the FISA votes, is anybody at all surprised that Congressional Democrats, time after time after time, fail to do anything about Bush's expansions of Executive power? When have Congressional Democrats EVER tried to beat back expansions of power?

They might find the exercise of expanded power by particular Republicans objectionable, but in the back of their minds always lurks the thought: "After the next election, it will be a Democrat wielding that power. And they'll do good with it. Better preserve it."

This mindset never fails to astound me. If a Democrat is in office, expand the power they can exercise. If a Republican, the same, because a Democrat will follow them. The thought that maybe forging swords for your guy to swing is a bad idea, because you might get cut when your foe picks it up, is just alien to them.

With all due respect, I don't think your self-identification as middle-aged would correspond well with Mr. Dionne's definition (nor with mine, in which you are still among the young, if not feckless.) I know numbers of the well-heeled liberal variety of whom he speaks. It's not to say that they are right that they assess the candidates on a basis - maybe false, maybe not - of the perceived length of their putative public life. That is just to say that there are Clinton partisans who have opinions too, and that's what makes a horse race.

wonkie--I agree. Not among a majority of democratic voters or Clinton supporters, & you could call it projecting their "righteous anger" onto her rather than "revenge fantasies," but I think she is benefiting from that.

it makes no sense, is an entirely fact free

Well, Hillary does have a better health plan from a progressive perspective, and her plan to make tuition more affordable beats Obama's. There are actual nuts and bolts issues that middle and lower middle class people consider important where she has more to offer.

The thought that maybe forging swords for your guy to swing is a bad idea, because you might get cut when your foe picks it up, is just alien to them.

As opposed to Republicans who...?

Regarding the FISA votes, is anybody at all surprised that Congressional Democrats, time after time after time, fail to do anything about Bush's expansions of Executive power? When have Congressional Democrats EVER tried to beat back expansions of power?

I'm going to go out on a really fragile limb here and reply, "When the Democratic-led Church Committee, in response to abuses of the intelligence community by the Nixon administration which included spying on Americans in exactly the way telecoms are accused of now, helped to create FISA and the whole goddamned set of laws the telecoms are accused of breaking in the first effing place."

You might want to, you know, learn things before you talk about stuff, Brett. It might be illuminating.

"Well, Hillary does have a better health plan from a progressive perspective"

If you factor in the realities of Congress, no. I don't just mean: he'll do better in Conngress. I mean: I think their goals are shared, it's a question of political strategy, & it's a wash. Whether a mandate is good or bad POLICY depends on what the rest of the plan looks like when it gets through Congress.

BTW, OCSteve, please call your Senator, Barbara Mikulski, and thank her for voting with the Republicans on the Dodd amendment. She struck a real blow for justice there.

I disagree, and I think that Krugman, Ezra Klein and others have argued quite persuasively that starting point matters.

Further, attacking Hillary's plan using GOP talking points makes any chance of getting mandates enacted almost impossible.

He's not just silent on mandates, he's attacking them vigorously. But I'm supposed to believe that he's going to do a 180 and start pushing for them once elected?

Also Katherine:

Your point may or may not be valid (I tend to disagree with it), but I raised that point to rebut the argument that support for HRC is necessarily "fact free." I think that is just flat out wrong when there are very good "fact based" reasons to support her if health care and other domestic issues are your priority.

Even if you think, for legislative reasons, that her plans won't pass, they are still better plans on paper. Which is a good fact based reason to support her.

If those priorities are important to you, and Obama's positives don't outweigh those concerns for you.

Katherine, another take on Barnett. Note that that's a longtime fiercely conservative blogger writing.

Oh, lordy, it's now complete. Barnett offers his swill and who's here to chug it down, but Jake Tapper.

I remember when Tapper used to write for Slate, years and years before he and ABC met; I wonder just when he had the brain injury.

Eric--note: I am not just saying "they're good policy but we can't get them through Congress." I am saying: "whether they are good or bad policy depends on the subsidies, cost control measures, & quality of the gov't plan we can get through Congress, & all of that is much more important than the mandate."

Then there's the unknowns of the plans themselves: her enforcement mechanism, his alternative for dealing with the free rider problem.

Krugman has lost credibility with me on this since I caught him actively misrepresenting an article by Jon Gruber. I trust Klein as far as: if their plans were to be passed, hers is a bit better. But his political read seems all wrong to me.

I think you can make a case for her here, but I am bewildered as to it NOT being swamped by other factors if you care about foreign policy & Iraq & human rights at all. Though, I know a lot of smart, informed, committed, etc. people who think otherwise. I just utterly, utterly don't get why.

I thought Tapper worked for Salon, Gary?

I see they've called Va. for Obama. I know that McCain really is the presumptive nominee & Obama really is in a tough fight but boy, you wouldn't know it from the results since last Saturday.

Tapper, for some reason, deleted my comment from earlier today, where i told him what i thought of his reporting skills. what a wimp.

Eric--Presidents don't write legislation and I could write a list of well mmore than thirty legislative initiatives to benefit the lower middle class and poor whichh were written by Obama annd are currenntly in the works. But you could look it up too on Thomas.

Katherine i agree that the anger is righhteous. I suppose i used the words "revenge fantasies" because I ennttertain myself with them routinely. But i don't think the woman who voted for the iranresolutioon and skipped the FISA vote is goinng to translate my righteous wrath into a revenge fantasy of driving the righhtwing to the margins of ouur politics. And I think Obama can.

Raw Story has Maryland and DC for Obama as well – based on a significant margin in exit polls.

Also:

…Obama also took 58% of the female vote in the state [VA]. And 67% of voters who described themselves as "Conservative" voted for Obama…

"I was really, really proud to be the first Hispanic woman to run a presidential campaign and particularly proud of the way Hispanics turned out and they turned out for Hillary," Solis Doyle added, "There was no pressure and while I'm sad not to have the role, I am so happy to be able to be home more with my kids."

Wanted to spend more time with the family.

If you make the decision to play identity politics, it is a really, really expensive mistake to replace your Hispanic campaign manager with a black campaign manager ahead of the Texas primary.

Is she so out of touch to think that this would not turn off the one demographic that is voting for her? I used to think that she was shrewd, I’m starting to think that there is a situational awareness problem. It’s bizarre.

Oh to be a fly on the wall during the tirades tonight.

But i don't think the woman who voted for the iranresolutioon and skipped the FISA vote is goinng to translate my righteous wrath into a revenge fantasy of driving the righhtwing to the margins of ouur politics. And I think Obama can.

reading this, (Obama, 2005) it sounds like he might try to marginalize the absolute crazies on the right, but it also sounds like he wants to work with the middle.

so, based on that, i don't see him driving the right into the wilderness. much to the sadness of my own revenge fantasies.

Eric Martin: Some of us oppose mandates because of our own experience as needy people trying to receive the affordable version of expensive-to-the-end-user benefits, and others' experience likewise. I'm not going to refight the battle here, but while I have the utmost respect for Krugman's work and agree with him completely on the desirable end state, there are objections I just don't ever see addressed from mandate supporters.

Eric,

There really is some disagreement about mandates, even in the progressive community, for many of the reasons Obama points out. They aren't just right wing talking points. They are legitimate concerns about mandates and their effect on people and policy. Just because Krugman doesn't care about them doesn't mean they don't exist.

"I thought Tapper worked for Salon, Gary?"

Yeah, Salon.com, not Slate; thanks for catching that.

Xanax:

Your fears for Obama are shared and addressed in a post and thread over at "Taking It Outside".

It meanders but see what you think.

Sorry, xanax, the post is entitled "Darkest Fear" dated Feb. 5.

So, are you all really telling me that if it was Edwards and Obama that had mandate plans and Hillary didn't, and those mandate plans were endorsed by Gruber, Krugman, Klein, etc., that you would all be criticizing Obama's plan and endorsing Clinton's?

Somehow, I find that extremely implausible. Personally, I would combine his foreign policy with her domestic policy. I think that is the best overall progressive formula.

Also, Bill: Obama's plan has mandates too - for children. Her plan, though, does more to make all mandates affordable to those with less means. It would not crunch people that can't afford it, and Obama's could actually be as onerous for people with many children because it doesn't go as far on the affordable/subsidized front.

Yes, Eric, that's just what I'm saying. I think mandates are a bad idea.

Here, let me explain the problem. This is a thing poor people learn fast about any service that has a cost set with the general public in mind, and some sort of relief available to those poor enough. What nearly inevitably happens is that you have to pay the full amount up front, now. Your relief will be awkward and often humiliating to apply for, it's very likely that officials will make mistakes in processing your claim, and help will arrive late, usually in installments, and often less than you were originally promised. There are wonderful exceptions, but the principle turns up again and again, in both public and private charity.

There are precisely two ways to avoid it.

First: remove the cost to the end user altogether.

Second: establish a schedule of fees in which the up front fee itself is adjusted to suit the circumstances of the needy and enforce this brutally. Experience tells me, as it probably tells Gary and Hilzoy and others, that nothing short of harsh discipline and regular firings is actually likely to do the job. And that's really very hard to get out of civil services.

What happens in practice when there are large mandatory fees is that people who simply can't have that money up front try to dodge it as best they can. It's why would-be renters squat instead, and why people try to make do without heating or cooling, and so on. And as a matter of public health in an age of new epidemics, we really don't want people avoiding health care any more than they do already.

This is not an unsolvable problem, but it's something that has to be addressed before some of us will ever feel comfortable supporting a health care mandate. If it doesn't deal with the experience of so many other charges, it won't do the job for those who need it most - in fact it'll make it worse for them.

Oh, gosh, you're right, Phil: Several decades ago there was an exception to the behavior I made reference to. My bad.

So you think that John Edwards just didn't have the best interests of working/poor Americans in mind when he designed his plan?

And you think that Gruber, Klein etc are all just wrong? Despite their extensive scholarship?

Also, the urban institute?

http://www.prospect.org/csnc/blogs/ezraklein_archive?month=02&year=2008&base_name=do_individual_mandates_matter

"Oh, gosh, you're right, Phil: Several decades ago there was an exception to the behavior I made reference to. My bad."

Brett, you asked: "When have Congressional Democrats EVER tried to beat back expansions of power?"

Snark is uncalled for when someone answers your question with an on-point answer. Unless you have more to go with it.

What particular decade is mentioned is also entirely irrelevant to your question.

This sort of response when someone makes a fair point to you, even with a little snark, isn't persuasive. Snark goes over better when someone is right, and less so when it's all you've got.

"What particular decade is mentioned is also entirely irrelevant to your question."

To be ultra clear, you don't get to write "When have Congressional Democrats EVER," putting the "ever" in childish caps, and then try to make fun of someone because their answer is "thirty years ago."

If you didn't want to ask about "ever," you didn't have to. If you didn't think writing the word in ALL CAPS made it REALLY EMPHATIC, you didn't have to.

Trying to make fun of someone because their response was the absolutely relevant writing of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which, incidentally, is so ancient that I was only a mere child of 19 when it passed, 30 years ago, when you're so het up to know EVER, is... not something that would impress you if someone made that response to you, would it?

Eric, I think all these people mean well and know a lot but are underestimating the probable burden of a particular system. It's easy to do when you're not dependent on it - my own political views started drifting toward a conviction in the desirability of a strong safety net precisely as I had more experience of how this one works. And reasonable people of good will can disagree about means without being villains.

Note that Krugman and Edwards both think universal single-payer coverage is desirable. So do I. What's at stake here is what to do as compromise measures. Why is it a shock to you that someone might find a particular compromise less appealing than others?

But Bruce, are you really suggesting there will be less avoidance under a voluntary system rather than mandates?

Also, the voluntary system can create a negative opt-in that burdens any system and makes it overly costly. The urban institute and Jon Gruber do a very good job of laying out the problems of a voluntary system. Also: your analysis assumes much about Hillary's plan that isn't necessarily supported by the details of...well, her actual plan. Edwards' plan too. Both do much to lower the mandatory costs that you assume will be large and up front.

And for the record Bruce: I have, at various times in my life, relied heavily on safety net programs - including food stamps and welfare. I am well aware of how they work.

Eric, look, it's very simple. I'm saying "I've been screwed by up-front charges too many times. I think a system can be designed that compensates for the problems. But I've looked over these proposals and don't find the kind of rock-solid assurance I think is necessary. So please, expand some. I'd like to take more steps, and can be convinced, it's just that what I'm seeing right now does not convince me."

People of good will sometimes become convinced of things they later regret. I used to be a libertarian. Edwards let himself be pulled into supporting the Iraq war. It happens. The fact that a whole lot of smart people with (I genuinely believe) good intentions support something doesn't make it good. (For what it's worth, I'd have chosen Edwards, if I lived in a state with an earlier primary. I think that overall he's significantly better on social justice than either Obama or Clinton. This is, again, about compromise measures.) I could be wrong right now. Scratch that, on at least some things I am wrong right now. But what I'd like is something other than "all these smart guys say you're wrong" or "go read this proposal which turns out to have very little to say about the problem of timeliness of relief payments".

There is, I should note, a ton of good stuff in each of the candidates' plans. I'd rather have them enacted than not. I'm not competent to assess a lot of the details. I just have this once particular concern that I wish I could get better answers for; I keep asking in hopes that I will. Someone out there's gotta know, darn it. :)

A point made by Brian Wetherson at Crooked Timber is that the Australian experience is a real world example that lack of a mandate does not doom the system.

"I don’t know what the force of that ‘cannot’ is supposed to be, but I know it isn’t historical impossibility. Australia for several decades did just the thing Ezra thinks that you can’t do. It had community rating of health insurance, and it didn’t have health insurance mandates. This was true of the periods 1953-1975, and again from 1981-1984. At other times it had compulsory universal basic health insurance. The system wasn’t perfect, bringing in compulsory public health insurance was a very good thing, but it wasn’t as bad as anything I’ve seen in America, and nor was it somehow an impossibility."

Obama is, as has been noted, is "Articulate" and "Clean", congenial, an inspiring speaker with a spiritual appeal. Kind of like Mike Huckabee. But neither are predictable because they don't have much history in national politics. Even on the state level, Obama has all those "Present" votes.

Republicans seem to trust the "dirty" old man (lots of history and dirt on him) more than the attractive newcomer, and Dems go the opposite way (does that make Hillary a dirty old woman?) So I guess conservatives are a bit more cautious.

RE: Thullen @ 8:33 - Thanks for the reference to TIO. Though the writing in your 01:08:39 post on 2/6 reminds me of Pete Hamill's liner notes on the back of Blood on the Tracks, little - up to and including Katherine's admonition to take a deep breath and her reassurance that the Secret Service knows what it's doing - is going to erase that awful image that keeps haunting me about what's in store for Obama at the hands of America's racist lunatic fringe. I also don't think, should the worst happen and Obama becomes a martyr (hasn't that word just morphed horribly in the last half-decade?) that his policies will be automatic shoo-ins. Horrible as it sounds, I'm not at all convinced he'll be around long enough to fully clarify his positions and lay out his plans. [/wild speculation]... with apologies to G. Farber.

I pray that - on this one - I'm even more wrong than I generally am.

Oh, and xanax: I think I can only hope that the Secret Service knows their stuff.

Andrew Sullivan posted a letter (originally from Salon, I think) from someone who saw Obama in Bangor last Saturday. It mentions the security issue. It's a little worrisome...I suppose those of us who believe in praying should, and the rest of us can just hope and keep our fingers crossed?

Letter here.

Hil: Well, hope is a wonderful thing... in fact, Obama's all over it.

xanax: I just have no idea about assassinations. I mean, no one has made a serious attempt on Bush, right? And yet one was made on Gerald Ford, of all people. Predicting the actions of nutcases is beyond me. Thus, my earlier 'throwing up my hands' response: I do worry about it, but hoping that the Secret Service is good seems like all I can do.

"And yet one was made on Gerald Ford, of all people."

Two. Sara Jane Moore and Squeaky Fromme.

Indeed. Has no-one seen Assassins?

And they weren't just random nutcases, acting with no rhyme or reason whatever, unconnected to their era.

I've repeatedly made the point that the violence and revolutionary fervor of the late Sixties and early Seventies made the U.S. extremely dramatically far a far more divided country then than during the G. W. Bush era.

The attempts on Ford were the tail end of that. Moore was a Marxist SLA-admiring revolutionary nutbar, not just a non-political nutbar.

Squeaky Fromme was, of course, a Mansonite, also hardly detached from her era and its poltics.

None of which means that anyone couldn't try to assassinate anyone, today. But I wouldn't regard Moore or Fromme as some sort of purely random shake of the dice; they were entirely products of their specific era.

Gary: yes, but for my money, trying to figure out who, exactly, either a Mansonite or an SLA admirer would go after -- in any terms more specific than "The Establishment" -- would be pretty hopeless. Not because they were detached from the era and its politics, but because in both cases, the politics were pretty detached from reality.

And we haven't even gotten to Hinckley yet...

Andrew Sullivan posted a letter (originally from Salon, I think) from someone who saw Obama in Bangor last Saturday. It mentions the security issue. It's a little worrisome...I suppose those of us who believe in praying should, and the rest of us can just hope and keep our fingers crossed?

I saw that too, and the first feeling I had (when the person went out of their way to mention "no Secret Service") was a little shudder... then I thought that it was weird that they'd even point it out... then I thought what hilzoy just voiced -- no one's gone after Bush, and for that matter I'm not really clear on how the Secret Service guys are supposed to stop snipers anyway -- I'm sure that whatever they do, it probably doesn't involve standing next to the candidate anyway, so it's hard for me to crank myself up into a state of worry about it.

But in the end, I thought: what the heck, he's brave just to be running in this race, let alone speaking outside in the cold in a megaphone. I'm letting myself be emotionally blackmailed by the fact that he's black and he's an inspiring leader. There's something wrong about that.

I can be concerned about assassins, but I'm not going to tacitly reward nutcases by letting them make me paranoid, particularly when I'm not even sure if they exist. Barack's a big boy and to the extent he might be in danger, I respect his bravery. That's all I really need to know.

preemptive clarification for Gary: what I wanted to say was "detached from reality" was not the politics of the era as a whole, but the politics of the individual would-be assassins, which were connected to, but of course nutty fringe variants of, the politics of the era.

"And we haven't even gotten to Hinckley yet..."

Hinckley seems -- to my limited knowledge, not having made a detailed study of him -- one of the rare cases of a truly nonpolitical assassin.

Unless wanting to impress Jodie Foster somehow counts as politics.

Arthur Bremer is out of jail these days, incidentally, and in a halfway house, I mention while we're talking about attempted assassins. He tried to kill Nixon first, but decided it was impossible, and switched to Wallace as the easier alternative.

I think anyone going after Obama would have to be pretty professional, and more likely to succeed if there were a whole team of such, which isn't apt to be the case with people motivated purely out of racism alone.

I think it is important to note that one of the SLA's early victims was Marcus Foster, Oakland's first black superintendent of schools.

True, all, no one's gone after Bush. That we know of. Yet. But what violent internal, home-grown semi-organized enemies does GWB have that could possibly compare in capacity for violence, vitriol, racism, proclivity for irrational acts and bile-spewing hatred to the White Supremacists, the Neo Nazis, skinheads of all stripes and the KKK... any of whom could pop up at a rally and...

You know what... I'm going to stop this line of thinking.

I basically agree with Adam (that Obama's courageous), and with hilzoy that there's every reason to be hopeful. Hand wringing over the worst of the what-ifs is just pointless.

Carry on.

"no one's gone after Bush"

I can recall quite a few incidents of people going over the fence at the WH, actually, and those are just the ones reported in the press.

The Secret Service investigates a lot of threats, and details plenty of people briefly, without it making news. That no one has been dramatically prevented in the act hardly means that no one has tried.

It's not the sort of thing the Secret Service likes to encourage reporting on.

"and details plenty of people briefly"

"detains," drat it.

By "no one's gone after Bush" I just meant, Gary, that in the 8 years of his presidency, we've not been made aware of either a serious attempt on his life or any viable threats to it. And there certainly hasn't been anything we'd consider a close call. At least not that anyone's talked about or reported on.

"and details plenty of people briefly"
Pimp my ride meets Alias, I presume.

Oh, gosh, you're right, Phil: Several decades ago there was an exception to the behavior I made reference to. My bad.

Does "EVER" now not include "several decades ago," or can I just construe this as an admission that you done screwed up?

LJ wins the Internet and I can go to bed now.

Well, you got me there, Phil, should have said something about "during the lives of most people now living", or some such, so ancient history couldn't be brought up to slap me down.

Dragging this thread back to hil's actual post, word on the street is that the respected antiwar Democrat Chafee talked to was his fellow Rhode Islander Jack Reed.

Yeah, Brett, the Church Committee included such well-known dead people as Gary Hart, Walter Mondale, and Howard Baker. But by all means keep digging.

I live in the part of CT that's right next to Hillary's neck of the woods and thus I am privileged to hear coverage of both Hillary and Lieberman on our local NPR stations all the time. I suppose I should have been taping them or something so I could link to their quotes. I can't tell you the number of times that I've heard Hillary triangulate around Iraq, Iran, etc. She and Joe line up together so often, it's not funny. It usually ends with me yelling at the radio.

The point is that being wonkish and detailed and earnest still doesn't mean you have good judgment. And that's the point that I think Sen. Chafee's recitation makes crystal clear.

Hyperbole aside, Brett's right. The current generation of Dems, or anyway enough of them to sink any bill, have not been interested in curtailing executive power. It's nuts, but there it is.

One reason I'm backing Obama is the faint hope that a former Constitutional Law scholar will actually give a s**t about these issues, since Congress clearly doesn't.

Brett Bellmore: "Well, you got me there, Phil, should have said something about 'during the lives of most people now living", or some such, so ancient history couldn't be brought up to slap me down.'

And yet, FISA was written 30 years ago, and is the topic of discussion, so unless you're planning on killing half the planet's population off, that wouldn't have changed anything.

As I pointed out, twice, at length.

I take this as an indication that there's no point in responding to queries from you, since you'll merely be abusive and non-responsive when given an honest answer to what was taken to be an honest question, but obviously wasn't. Noted. If anyone stops bothering to respond to you, don't wonder why.

Well, you got me there, Phil, should have said something about "during the lives of most people now living", or some such, so ancient history couldn't be brought up to slap me down.

There were Congressional Democrats in Sumeria?

I take it as an indication that the people who wrote it aren't in control of the Democratic caucus in Congress anymore, and haven't been for a long while, and thus are irrelevant to contemporary poltical discussion. Parties change, and not always for the better.

It's been a long while since a functional majority of the Democratic party in office had any interest in curtailing governmental power, no matter how abusive. They're too taken with the idea that a Democrat might want to exercise it some time, to deny it to Republicans.

There were Congressional Democrats in Sumeria?

[insert Robert Byrd joke here]

Brett's take is interesting to me because while our Republican president was taking this extraordinary power, I couldn't believe the Republicans in Congress would just go along with it. I kept thinking - this is crazy - no one person should have this kind of power - do these people really want Hillary to be able to do anything she wants if she wins?

But, apparently it was the Democrats all along who could have stopped Bush.

Thanks for straightening me out on that one, Brett.

I don't think that was his point...

It's certainly true that Democrats could have done a LOT more to stop it. And it surely is up to Democratic voters to elect people who would stop it.

Gwangung,
I don't think I misunderstood his point at all. Brett said 'The thought that maybe forging swords for your guy to swing is a bad idea, because you might get cut when your foe picks it up, is just alien to them.' is exactly what I thought about the Republicans. Weren't they in a far better position the first six years of GWB horror to do something about this presidential power expansion?

I don't think I misunderstood his point at all. Brett said 'The thought that maybe forging swords for your guy to swing is a bad idea, because you might get cut when your foe picks it up, is just alien to them.' is exactly what I thought about the Republicans. Weren't they in a far better position the first six years of GWB horror to do something about this presidential power expansion?

Except a) a lot of these powers were begun during the Clinton years and b) that the Dems didn't fight that hard during 2000-06 against the increased use of these powers doesn't give them a lot of credit.

Coming into this thread late, I have a thought on the "Law of Conservation of Virtues." I think the reasoning behind such a notion that the good-looking kid must not be smart, or at least probably isn't smart, as to do with a poor understanding of or lack of consideration for probability.

Being good-looking is not the norm, which is why it's recognized as being special. The same goes for being smart, or whatever uncommon quality you might come up with.

When you take two not-so-probable things and consider the chances of their both occuring at the same time, the overall probability is the product of the probabilities of the two things, assuming they're independent of one another. So two 1-in-10 things occuring has a 1-in-100 chance of happening.

This creates the illusion for people that, since you know one of the 1-in-10 things has occurred, there must be a 1-in-100 chance of the other happening. It's the kind of thing that makes people say innumerate things about the "Law of Averages" and other such nonsense.

Since there are so fewer people who are both smart and good-looking than there are people who are one or the other, the smart guy must have less of a chance of being good looking than someone picked at random, right? Well, no.

If I flip a coin five times and come up with heads all five times, it has no bearing on the probability of heads coming up a sixth time. For an ideal coin, the chances of flipping six heads in a row is 1 in 64. But, once you've got the first five heads, the sixth still has a 1 in 2 chance of coming up. (1/2)*(1/2)*(1/2)*(1/2)*(1/2)*(1/2) = 1/64, but each flip is still a 1-in-2 proposition, even the sixth one.

That's what I think is going on. People see an unlikely combination and assume it's unlikely because one attribute must come at the cost of another, when it's really just a product of the chances of two not-so-probable things happening together.

I take it as an indication that the people who wrote it aren't in control of the Democratic caucus in Congress anymore, and haven't been for a long while, and thus are irrelevant to contemporary poltical discussion.

Ah, I see. So, next time you use the word "ever," you don't literally mean "ever." Can you give me the list of other words you might use which don't literally mean what every other English-speaking person understands them to mean? Or, alternatively, could you write with a little more clarity so as to save yourself future embarrassment of the same sort?

Good call, xanax. A reasonable possibility it’s unreasonable to fret over. Not that no doubt many aren’t thinking much the same. When you consider all possibilities you are prudent; when you allow yourself to be driven to anxious distraction by vaguely formed fears you are properly seen as paranoid.
It’s odd the way in which it seems the administration is encouraging our paranoia and manipulating it and so reinforcing and amplifying what we understand to be the terrorist objective: Fear. Not unlike the nurturing of terrorist activity in Iraq and Afghanistan. The logical paranoid conclusion is that OBL is working with GWB in partnership or as an employee. But logic is rendered illogical. Conundra rampant and that seems to be their forté from ‘Justice’ to ‘Defense’ to ‘Budget’, sowing confusion in broadcast fashion. Indian pedicab driver to my friend asking for a reason: ‘Initially there is no logic, madam.’
I think I may be more anxious about what GWB/DC might pull out of their sleeves between Now and Then. Power mad with a taste for Apocalypse with a large team of corrupt officials ready to act? Nervous Nellies, have we got a deal for you!
Now that’s paranoid.
Again, I love how this site draws a generally more measured and informed crew, much less given to flame and snark, Really appreciate Gary’s efforts to calm the breast-beating.

Brett was plainly exaggerating for effect, and in the context of this discussion it didn't even occur to me that he wasn't just questioning whether the Bush era congressional Democrats EVER, etc. And having to go back more than a dozen Congresses ago to the Church committee -- hello -- emphasizes the point he was making. But if pissy and hyper-literal does it for you ...

All Brett needed to say was something along the lines of: "Fair enough, I exaggerated (or forgot). A generation or two ago the Democrats did in fact take such supervision seriously, as you [Gary] note. What happened to them since?" Concedes the specific, re-emphasizes the general (current), and gets marks for having some sense of humility and perspective. Possibly even opens the door to the interesting question of just when (and why) the Democrats in Congress lost their balls.

Instead he bitches about "ancient history" and all the people who weren't even ALIVE when this happened. Poor baby.

And then Sally P. comes along and accuses his critics of being "pissy"!!! Welcome to golden showers, honey.

"A generation or two ago the Democrats did in fact take such supervision seriously, as you [Gary] note."

Phil, actually.

But I had the same thought as regards what Brett could have replied with to come out as quite reasonable, without having lost serious ground.

Instead he went with undermining what credibility he had.

But, what the heck; maybe he was having a particularly bad day. Maybe he's had a whole lot of them. Maybe he'll suddenly find a chest of buried pirate clue treasure tomorrow. One never knows.

regarding attempts on the Executive, there *was* that guy who touched Cheney on the shoulder while calmly disapproving of the Iraq War ...

"But, what the heck; maybe he was having a particularly bad day. Maybe he's had a whole lot of them."

Yup, spending the 'better' part of a decade severely clinically depressed did a real number on me. Memory like swiss cheese, short attention span, poor impulse control... Bet it knocked 20-30 points off my IQ. My whole life since then has been one long "bad day".

My advice to anybody who's depressed: Get immediate treatment. Sustained depression actually causes brain damage, that you never fully recover from.

Brett: in your last comment, the one about clinical depression, I assume you are talking about yourself, in which case you have my deepest sympathies, and my best wishes for your speedy recovery.

On the off chance that you were talking about someone else, though, you should be aware that saying things like that about other commenters flatly violates the posting rules, and will not be tolerated.

??? What part of "a real number on ME ... MY whole life" was unclear???? I think I probably wouldn't have used the "M" words if I'd been talking about somebody else, I'm not that damaged...

Thanks for the sympathy. The recovery is in progress, but all the lit says it will be the work of many years. Fair enough, I didn't end up this way in a day.

Seriously, though, if somebody of your acquaintance is down, and stays that way for a long, long time, don't just shrug it off, like everybody I knew did. Nobody got me help, if I hadn't developed arthritis, and SAMe didn't have anti-depressant effects, I'd still be sunk in that mire. Or maybe dead, your life expectancy when you can't pass a bridge abutment without fighting the desire to steer into it ain't all that long.

Brett: I'm glad you got help. It's a terrible thing.

My comment was prompted in part by confusion as to the attempt to which you were being purely sarcastic, and in part by the fact that someone else took it as directed to him- or herself, in ways that seemed to me not entirely unreasonable. (I think I can say this safely, since there are several commenters in this thread who have acknowledged having problems with depression.)

Sorry if I mistook what you were saying.

oops, attempt = extent. (How did that happen? Must drink more coffee.)

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