Archive for the ‘2008 Presidential Primaries’ Category

Hillary Clinton and 1960s Radicalism

April 28, 2008

Remember my post on Hillary Clinton’s vulnerability to charges of radicalism after the last Democratic debate?

Now I’m joined in that thought by former 1960s radical Tom Hayden. Here’s what he writes in The Nation:

“Hillary is blind to her own roots in the sixties…She was in Chicago for three nights during the 1968 street confrontations. She chaired the 1970 Yale law school meeting where students voted to join a national student strike again an “unconscionable expansion of a war that should never have been waged.” She was involved in the New Haven defense of Bobby Seale during his murder trial in 1970, as the lead scheduler of student monitors. She surely agreed with Yale president Kingman Brewster that a black revolutionary couldn’t get a fair trial in America. She wrote that abused children were citizens with the same rights as their parents.

Most significantly in terms of her recent attacks on Barack, after Yale law school, Hillary went to work for the left-wing Bay Area law firm of Treuhaft, Walker and Burnstein, which specialized in Black Panthers and West Coast labor leaders prosecuted for being communists. Two of the firm’s partners, according to Treuhaft, were communists and the two others ‘tolerated communists’.” 



Pennsylvania Primary: After Action Report

April 23, 2008

I have to give great credit to Suffolk University’s David Paleologos for once again nailing the PA primary result.

This is my third experience of being in a state the night prior to an election and experiencing the tremendous enthusiasm around Barack Obama, only to see him lose. Hillary Clinton may not pull passionate supporters at rallies in such large numbers as Obama, but her people come out and vote on election day.

I’m starting to think that members of the media are mislead by these exuberant events. Obama supporters, to be sure, are the most likely to go to rallies and then to vote on election day. And, if you are a passionate Obama backer, you are likely to go to a rally to be part of the Obama experience. But few observers ever consider the people who don’t go to Obama rallies when he’s in town. The people who don’t show up aren’t necessarily Obama voters, and reporters don’t interview them .

Also to my comments about the Jewish community. According to Andrea Mitchell today on MSNBC, the Jewish community in Pennsylvania was divided on its support, as I suggested it would be.

Bill Clinton Hits Squirrel Hill JCC

April 22, 2008

Pittsburgh is unique for having the second-highest percentage of its Jewish population living within its city limits. The greatest number of those Jews live in Squirrel Hill, a graceful neighborhood of tree-lined streets, single-family homes as well as a commercial district with shops and coffee shops. I’d analogize the neighborhood to Brookline.

As I arrived at the Jewish Community Center to observe the balloting, I spotted a number of television live trucks parked alongside the building. Inside Michael Bartley, a WQED reporter, was interviewing voters for a report that was going to be fed to Lehrer News Hour.

I quickly learned that Bill Clinton had just left. The whole building, which he wasn’t permitted to enter, was buzzing about his visit.

I view the visit as an effort to solidify support among older Jewish Americans, some of whom are still put off by Barack Obama. I wouldn’t over value this because I spotted several Obama supporters at the location.

Inside I overheard several political conversations. One man did say “he speaks more like a preacher than a politician. That shows the influence Reverend Wright had on him.” But then his friend cautioned him not “to make too much of it.”


Counting on Casey

April 22, 2008

I spent some time talking to Robert Casey, a pro-life Democrat who is doing everything he can to get Barack Obama elected. Here’s my column in the New York Sun.

“If Barack Obama is to win Pennsylvania today or in November as the party’s eventual nominee, it will be, in part, due to the work of a Pennsylvania senator, Robert Casey Jr.

The image of Mr. Casey, standing atop a Scranton hill wearing a windbreaker and speaking in favor of Mr. Obama, is being shown in heavy rotation in western Pennsylvania for a television ad. The emphasis of the ad is on the presidential candidate’s ability to revive the economy and unite the country.

Mr. Casey, who was elected as a senator in 2006, is a pro-life Democrat. His support of Mr. Obama shows that the Illinois senator can reach beyond the support of African-Americans and white liberals. On Friday, Mr. Casey stood on stage at a rally outside Heinz Field in Pittsburgh with former members of the Pittsburgh Steelers who played in the 1970s and early 1980s, when they won four superbowls. The popularity of the team during that time made it possible for Pennsylvanians to transcend ethnic, religious, and political divides.

‘This crowd is young and old and white and black and focused on the future,’ Mr. Casey said to cheers from the audience as he stood beside legendary running back Franco Harris.’ “

PA Primary: The Expectations Game

April 22, 2008

Reporting from Pennsylvania, I attempt to survey advocates and political analysts on the expectations game in The New York Sun.

The Clinton campaign is arguing that because Barack Obama outspent it here by a 3 to 1 margin, Hillary Clinton only needs to win the state outright. Most people I talked said she needed a win in the high single digits or double digits, although a new Suffolk University poll suggests she may get that. 

Here’s a flavor of the story: “At stake today is the future of the Democratic nominating contest in which voters have been casting ballots for nearly five months, as well as the political fate of a New York senator who has been in the national limelight for 16 years. If Mr. Obama wins or loses only by a slight margin, money could dry up for Mrs. Clinton, a reality that could mean the end of her campaign. A sizeable victory for her, on the other hand, could propel her forward and represent the third major contest, after Texas and Ohio, during which Mr. Obama has failed to seal the deal with Democratic voters.

This primary, a Des Moines Register political columnist, David Yepsen, pointed out in an interview, is best thought of as analogous to the Iowa caucuses, where expectations mean more than the actual results.

Though Mrs. Clinton held a 20-point lead in some Pennsylvania polls six weeks ago, observers say she could certainly bill a 10-percentage-point win as a triumph, considering that Mr. Obama has spent millions more dollars on advertising in the state. ‘Perception-wise, if these polls hold up that would be a pretty decisive win with being outspent,’ the director of Suffolk University’s political research center, David Paleologos,  said. ‘I think it’s on to Indiana.’

A former chairman of the Democratic National Committee, Steven Grossman, who is a Clinton super-delegate, said that a big win would cut into Mr. Obama’s popular vote advantage and help with fundraising. ‘It keeps her legion of smaller contributors energized and continuing to fund her.’

A supporter of Mr. Obama who is president of New Future Communications, Jamal Simmons, said ‘if the race is closer than 10 points that will be a blow to the Clinton campaign and people will begin to call for her to lower the rhetoric, take down some of the negative ads and run on her issues, otherwise she will just start to look like a sore loser.’

‘Anything short of her Ohio victory margin [10 points] will leave Clinton in a weak position to prevent a further and more accelerated erosion of support among super delegates,’ a Brookings Institution senior fellow, Thomas Mann, said. ‘If Obama wins or loses narrowly, I suspect he will have a majority of delegates in two weeks, with his harvest in North Carolina and Indiana and a rush of support from uncommitted superdelegates.’ “

PA Primary Update: Millvale

April 21, 2008

Yesterday my reporting took me to the Western Pennsylvania community of Millvale. Millvale lies only minutes from the heart of Pittsburgh, but its distance across the Allegheny River makes this compact former industrial town feel much farther away.

The big issue in town is flooding, which has contributed to pervasive job loss. Local officials present said Senator Clinton understood the needs of a small town like this more than her opponent, Mr. Obama.

Bill Clinton showed up for a campaign event at the old St. Ann’s Church. It looks like one of the many proud old Catholic and Orthodox churches that dot this area, but is now a night club, Mr. Smalls Funhouse, owned by members of the jam band Rusted Root. The church is now a club because the area’s dwindling population has meant the consolidation of parishes.

Clinton spoke for just over ten minutes. His was a classic political stump speech. “If you’re hearing somebody say you better quit because you can’t win, it’s because they’re afraid you will win,” he said.

After the crowd poured out of the church, onlookers lined up along the hilly street adjacent to it to catch a glimpse of him leaving. He exited wearing glasses but quickly took them off when he noticed there was such a large crowd waiting. He gave them the classic Clinton, bit lip and thumbs up. Then before he got in his vehicle he crossed the street to hug 85-year-old May Mayhugh, standing out on her porch. Mayhugh who had just gotten out of the hospital.

“I have prospered under Bill Clinton, and I’ll be happy to have another Clinton in the White House,”  Millvale’s mayor, Vincent Cinski, said after Clinton had departed. 

It’s important to point out that despite the economic plight of Millvale, it has a branch of the fabulous Pittsburgh chain of diners, Pamela’s, famous for the breakfast and pancakes. But due to the observance of Passover, I have no report on this PA food find today.


Philadelphia Debate: Whose Radical Links?

April 17, 2008

Flower Child

Last night was another debate that failed to live up to expectations. Barack Obama failed to give an adequate answer on his relationship with William Ayers, a former member of the Weather Underground. While the acts of terrorism Ayers was implicated in may have taken place when Obama was a tyke, this does not excuse him for enlisting his support.

Obama, however, did show fierce competitiveness when he pointed out that Bill Clinton had himself pardoned a former member of the Weather Underground. Had Obama wanted, he could have continued to raise the entire issue of Bill Clinton’s actions in 1999 and 2000, including commuting the sentences of several former members of the FALN, a Puerto Rican radical group, which like the Weather Underground was responsible for bombings in Clinton’s adopted hometown, New York City as well as the pardoning of the unsavory financier, Marc Rich, who has been linked to unsavory regimes in Iran and Iraq

Since Clinton herself opened the door to this line of inquiry, Obama could have also asked her to respond to this painstakingly-detailed report by Josh Gerstein in The New York Sun about her legal work on behalf of radicals, such as the Black Panthers and other as a law student. Clinton certainly didn’t position herself last night as the flower child she was back in the 1960s.

Hillary Clinton’s Next Argument

April 3, 2008

Wilson Franklin Roosevelt

The New York Sun this week unveils a new design for its website and my column appears on it today.

If Clinton stays in the race past the Pennsylvania primary, I believe she’ll start to invoke the tough convention fights faced by both Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt. While it’s a given that the conventions of the early 20th Century were much different than today, it’s still worth pointing out that both these Democratic stars faced contentious and lengthy convention fights. Wilson’s nomination took an eye-popping 46 ballots and even Roosevelt, who went into the 1932 convention as the favorite, need four ballots and a break for delegates to sleep, to win the nomination. If these conventions did no harm to either of these candidates, the Democratic Party or their ultimate presidency’s, then Clinton can make her case to stay in the race today.

Here’s a line about the potential value of Roosevelt and Wilson to her campaign: “They will be the best kind of friends for her, because unlike living former allies, such as Governor Richardson, who endorsed Mr. Obama, they can’t, as dead men, prevent the Clintons from speaking in their name.”

Seth Gitell on NECN NewsNight

March 27, 2008

Gitell on NewsNight Watch me on NewsNight. The other guests are Michael Graham of FM 96.9 Talk and Reverend Evan Hines of Roxbury’s Eliot Church.

Barack Obama’s Race Speech

March 18, 2008

So far, I’m amazed about the level of honesty in Barack Obama’s speech on race. He, dangerously, I believe, gave his true feelings about Jeremiah Wright, attempting to explain why he stuck with him despite his incendiary comments and positions. It is a raw speech, delivered with anger and some trepidation. He was helped by his work as a writer, citing passages from his first book, Dreams from My Father. He completely rolled the dice with this speech — not given, I’d point out, with his usual pseudo-Martin Luther King cadence.

Obama also alluded to the phrase “audacity of hope,” which he took from one of Wright’s sermons.

Here’s a link to a transcript of the speech, thanks to Drudge.