Wednesday, May 28, 2008
The party originally penalized the two states for holding their primaries earlier than party rules allowed and said no delegates from the two would be seated at the convention. Obviously, the party wants the two states there somehow--it is a national party and they are big states--but the question has been how. Clinton "won" both primaries; in fact, Obama wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan; he had his name taken off when the party asked candidates not to campaign in the states. Clinton's name stayed on, and so of course she "won." But it seems a little much to award her all the delegates, given that history.
But Clinton fights on. She drew criticism--unfair, I think--for mentioning Robert Kennedy's 1968 campaign by way of saying that her campaign is not unusually long. Lots of intelligent people--including the editor of this column--thought she was somehow raising the memory of Kennedy's assassination as something that might happen again, to Obama. I didn't read it that way, but many did. She might instead have recalled Edward Kennedy's race against President Jimmy Carter in 1980. That went on into the convention itself. I remember placards "Free the Carter 2000," in reference to delegates pledged to Carter. They weren't freed, of course, and he was renominated, only to lose to Ronald Reagan.
And of course Clinton has every right to hang in there this time. Obama may have some awful secret that comes out before the convention. It's unlikely, of course, but you never know. Donna Rice appeared out of nowhere and ended Gary Hart's 1988 campaign. Weird things can happen.
So hang in there as long as you want to, ma'am. Hope springs eternal, as they say.
Monday, May 26, 2008
America did that most successfully at the end of World War II when Congress passed the GI Bill of Rights. Thousands of returning vets who could never have afforded college suddenly could. I went to college starting in 1948 and the campuses were still crowded with vets. The Bill paid full tuition and a living allowance. It did other things too--vets bought houses under liberal mortgage plans funded by the bill, and so on. It was a piece of social legislation which, in fact, transformed the country.
WW II was a war we had to fight, of course. The Japanese attacked us and, as Bill Mauldin, the cartoonist whose Willie and Joe were the best known soldiers of the war, once told me, "We had to kill Hitler." I agree. Now we are fighting in Iraq, a war I've never thought we needed to have. I have absolutely no idea why President Bush invaded Iraq and I'm not sure he does either
But vets are coming home from that war, now in its sixth year, longer than WWII, and Congress is considering a new GI Bill. Its Senate sponsors are two Vietnam vets, Jim Webb of Virginia and Chuck Hagel of Nebraska. It would do pretty much what the WW II Bill did, pay full tuition and other expenses at a public university for veterans who have served in the military for at least three years since 9/11.
The President? He's against it on the grounds that, according to the New York Times, it "is too generous and may discourage reenlistment...." Well, Mr. President, so what? These veterans volunteered in wartime, knowing that they risked their lives. You, sir, don't hesitate to ask more and more billions to continue the war you started, so why not some benefits for the people who've had to fight it?
The House and Senate have passed slightly different versions of the bill, but both by margins large enough to override a presidential veto. So, its chances are good. Happy Memorial Day, Mr. President.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
John and Robert Kennedy, it always seemed to me, were restless in the Senate. Sure, you could vote and make speeches and affect legislation. They both, I thought, wanted to be in charge of something so they ran for president. One made it; the other was murdered trying.
Edward Kennedy, the youngest brother, took over John's seat as soon as he was old enough--thirty. A family friend kept it warm during the wait. Ted Kennedy was elected in 1962 and he's been there ever since, longer than anyone except Robert Byrd of West Virginia who was probably standing there waiting when they first brought the desks into the Chamber.
And the youngest Kennedy likes the Senate. I mean, you'd have to, to stay there that long. He likes it and he's been good at it--always an excellent staff, had an influence on a lot of legislation. John McCain said, on learning of Kennedy's brain tumor diagnosis, "I have described Ted Kennedy as the last lion in the Senate...because he remains the single most effective member...if you want to get results." He is a liberal, of course, a spokesman for liberal causes, but one who was always willing to work with Republicans to achieve a common goal.
A very effective senator, and, when he ran in 1980, a very ineffective presidential candidate. I think he only did it because it was what the Kennedy men did. When CBS's Roger Mudd asked him on camera why he wanted to be president, the answer was, to put it kindly, hard to understand. Something about natural resources, I remember that.
I don't think we've ever had a political dynasty quite like the Kennedys. Sure there have been other families--several Roosevelts were in politics one way or another. But none of them turned into rock stars. The Kennedys did, whether it was Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis telling Theodore White about Camelot, or Robert Kennedy in 1968 breaking the news of Dr. Martin Luther King's assassination to a mostly black campaign crowd: "I too had a bother who was killed by a white man," or whatever your favorite memory of the brothers is.
We've been lucky, I think, to have had them around all these years.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Back in 1956, Egypt's then president, Gamal Abdel Nasser, announced he was nationalizing the Suez Canal. Britain, France and Israel thought that was a very bad idea and sent troops to prevent the Egyptians from seizing the Canal. The President of the United States, Dwight Eisenhower, thought that was a very bad idea and told them, without sending a single soldier, to stop it. Britain, France, and Israel stopped and withdrew their troops.
That was then, a time when the U.S. had real clout in the world. This is now. President Bush, on his Middle Eastern trip, urged the Arab countries to adopt democracy and women's rights. "Too often in the Middle East," he said, "politics has consisted of one leader in power and the opposition in jail. The time has come for nations across the Middle East to abandon these practices and treat their people with the dignity and respect they deserve." I doubt if anyone paid any attention.
If the Saudis, for instance, have suddenly started treating women as equals--letting them drive cars, for instance--I missed it. Countries in the Middle East, as elsewhere, will do what they think it's in their interest to do, without asking advice from Washington.
Israel lives and is sixty years old. That's an achievement and the U.S. has helped it to happen. The Palestinians do not have a country and continue to suffer. That's a failure, but fixing it will require Israel to give up territory it won in the 1967 war and that's not likely to happen, however much the U.S. urges them to do it.
Israel has never confirmed nor denied that it has nuclear weapons, but a lot of people, including me, think it does. And no one can doubt that it's government will use them if the Arabs seem like they are winning a new Middle East war.
There are just no easy fixes for this. The U.S. can't tell other countries what to do anymore. That time is past.
Friday, May 16, 2008
Wednesday, May 14, 2008
Clinton won everybody. 59% of the men, 71% of the women. 69% of the whites, and they were 95% of the vote. Obama usually wins young people, but Clinton in West Virginia carried every age group, winning 57% of those under thirty. Obama often carries better educated voters, but Clinton won 54% of the college graduates. She won every income group; she won whether you thought the most important issue was the economy, or Iraq, or health care. She won...well, you get the idea.
Maureen Dowd reports in the New York Times that more than half of West Virginia voters said they would be dissatisfied if Obama were the nominee. Obama is ahead in delegates and all that, but these results must worry Democrats because West Virginia is usually thought of as a swing state. These numbers, like earlier numbers from swing states Ohio and Pennsylvania, suggest that Obama, if he's the nominee, may have real trouble convincing working-class whites that he ought to be president.
The remaining primaries--Kentucky is next week--aren't likely to change that impression. John McCain has reason to smile this morning.
Obama isn't the nominee yet, of course, and you have to remember that the superdelegates, unlike those chosen in primaries and caucuses, aren't bound to either candidate. Sure, lots of them have announced support for him or her, but they can change their minds four times a day if they feel like it. If the West Virginia numbers make them uneasy, some of them may feel like it.
We'll probably know once the primaries end (yes, they really will end) in early June. But for now, the fat lady is still waiting for her cue.
Monday, May 12, 2008
Wednesday, May 7, 2008
Barack Obama carried North Carolina comfortably, by fourteen points. Hillary Clinton carried Indiana narrowly, 51--49. Obama told a crowd in Raleigh, N.C. that he is "less than 200 delegates away" from securing the nomination. But he has very real problems, and they come down to one word: race.
Senator Clinton carried the white vote in both states among both men and women. About one in seven whites told the exit poll that race was important to them. Six in ten of them in North Carolina, eight in ten in Indiana, voted for Clinton.
And those who support one of them don't much like the other one. The poll showed that nearly two-thirds of Clinton's voters said they'd be dissatisfied with Obama as the nominee. A third of Clinton's backers said they'd vote for Republican John McCain over Obama in the fall.
And it works both ways: about 60% of Obama's voters said they'd be dissatisfied with Clinton as the nominee, and about 20% said they'd vote for McCain if she were the nominee.
What happens now? It will be hard for Clinton to catch up in delegates in the remaining primaries; there aren't that many left. She is urging that the party count the delegates elected in Michigan and Florida. They held their primaries earlier than party rules allowed and were told their delegates would not be seated at the convention. Clinton won both states; Obama wasn't even on the ballot in Michigan. The Democrats have a meeting scheduled later this month to consider what to do.
Sir Winston Churchill made a speech during the dark days of World War II in which he said, "We shall fight in the streets, we shall fight in the hills, we shall never surrender." He is supposed to have added after the mikes were off--this is such a good story it's probably not true, "We shall hit them over the head with beer bottles because that's about all we'll have left by then." So if you see Hillary striding about holding a beer bottle, it may be part of her "look like one of the guys" strategy, but she may also be looking for an Obama backer to thump.