Monday, March 31, 2008

One for the Ages: Mellon-Scaife Likes Hillary

In the hope-springs-eternal-or-is-it-just-another-conspiracy category, this just in about one of the Demonizers-in-Chief of the 1990's.

Here's the report in today's New York Times:

March 31, 2008
Rosy Words for Clinton by ’90s Nemesis


To Bill and Hillary Rodham Clinton, Richard Mellon Scaife qualifies as a charter member of the “vast right-wing conspiracy,” having bankrolled an elaborate multimillion-dollar campaign throughout the 1990s to unearth damaging information about the couple.
But in a striking about-face, Mr. Scaife now says he has changed his mind — at least about one half of the duo.

“I have a very different impression of Hillary Clinton today,” he wrote in an opinion article published Sunday, amid her campaign for president. “And it’s a very favorable one indeed.”

For the complete story go to: Rosy Words for Clinton by ’90s Nemesis

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bill Clinton's McCarthyism? Not Likely

General Merrill McPeak went over the line this weekend when he accused former President Bill Clinton in engaging in McCarthyism for his comments regarding what a general election between Hillary Clinton and John McCain could be like.

“I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country,” Clinton said in Charlotte, N.C. “And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics.”

According to General McPeak:

“It sounds more like McCarthy. I grew up, I was going to college when Joe McCarthy was accusing good Americans of being traitors, so I’ve had enough of it.”

In a subsequent comments, with Barack Obama by his side, General McPeak used different language (see video) but didn't back off. Although Obama didn't comment, his presence when McPeak modified his comments lends tacit support to them. Judge for yourself: see
Weekend Video.

McPeak is off base. While clearly promoting his wife, Clinton here seems to be talking about a campaign based on issues, without the politics of personal destruction. For a brief common sense commentary on this see:
The Carpetbagger Report. One caveat. Clinton's comments can appear more negative in the context of other campaign statements and activities, most notably the exploitation of post-9/11 fear with the red phone ad of Hillary Clinton's campaign. Still, "McCarthyism" is a very serious charge and it should be used with the kind of care and proof that General McPeak lacks in this instance. He should prove it or withdraw it and apologize.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

FOX Smears, The Networks Follow

Where have the attacks on Barack Obama for his association with Rev. Wright come from? Below is an excerpt from Move0n. org arguing that mainstream media questioning of Obama followed a systematic attack by Fox News.

According to

"Reporters like NBC's Tim Russert focused on the "Reverend Wright controversy" only after FOX and other right-wing media did. It happens over and over: FOX airs a right-wing smear and the mass media repeat it. Film director Robert Greenwald just released a short video called FOX Attacks Obama: Part 2 which shows how it happens. We are launching a petition demanding the big networks stop parroting FOX and distracting Americans from real issues. We'll hand-deliver your signatures to major media outlets next week. Watch the video, and sign the petition, here: Fox Attacks Obama Part 2.

The petition, which we're launching with Greenwald's Brave New Films, says: "FOX is a Republican mouthpiece, not a legitimate news organization. Real news organizations must reject FOX's smears of Barack Obama, not parrot them and distract Americans from the pressing issues of the day." The more signatures we deliver, the bigger the impact—so please tell your friends.

"Defense of Democracy" Smears New Dem Reps

The Foundation for the Defense of Democracy is running ads linking opposition by freshmen Democrats in Congress to the recently defeated "Protect America Act" (intelligence surveillance without a warrant) with support for terrorism and Osama Bin Laden. Here are excerpts from the Washington Independent's story on this. To read the whole story go to: "'Bipartisan' Think Tank Attacks Democrats."

"Walz is a Democrat from Minnesota's first congressional district. The ad flashed his face about 16 seconds after it showed bin Laden's. Similar ads ran in the TV markets of Carol Shea-Porter of New Hampshire's first district; Ron Klein of Florida's 22nd district; Tim Mahoney of Florida's 16th district; Chris Murphy of Connecticut's 5th district; and Joe Courtney of Connecticut's 2nd district. All are Democrats. Now their faces appear beside bin Laden's."

"The organization is using fear mongering for political purposes and worse, their scare tactics have the effect of emboldening terrorists and our enemies abroad by asserting our intelligence agencies are failing to do their job," Brazile said in a statement released Monday night and highlighted by Matt Stoller on the liberal blog Open Left. "I am deeply disappointed they would use my name since no one has consulted me about the activities of the group in years." Schumer and Engel resigned on Friday. "While I remain committed to the proud cause of defending our nation's democratic principles, I can no longer support an organization that has ventured so far afield from that goal," Schumer said in a statement released Tuesday. [Rep. Jim] Marshall resigned Tuesday evening. Democratic sources who declined to be named said Marshall was "appalled" by the ad."

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama's Speech on Race and Reverend Wright

Senator Barack Obama today gave the most important speech given on race in America in memory, by any American who can command a national audience.

The speech is not perfect. It was prompted by his need to defend himself because of his close association over two decades with Reverend Jeremiah Wright Jr., his pastor, the man who married him and baptized his children. It does not fully address or allay concerns raised about that association. It may also have been the perfect political speech given the predicament Obama finds himself in. Some might be troubled by his use of his grandmother in the speech for political or even educational purposes.

Nevertheless the speech is brilliant and could potentially have historic consequences not just in this campaign, but for the nation's future. If a potential political crisis provoked it--so be it--no presidential candidate--no leader-- in memory has said anything like it. And Obama refuses to demonize. His instead is a call for deeper understanding based on the reality of race in America and how race is used politically. Obama focuses us clearly on what kind of conversation about race we as a nation need to have. For that and for the words he delivered, Obama deserves great credit and our thanks. If you missed it, you can see it and/or read it now at:

For clips of Rev. Jeremiah Wright, Jr. that are mainstays in criticism of Obama see: Black in America or Not God Bless America

For a very perceptive column by Maureen Dowd, in which she uses her intelligence and wit to do more than ridicule her target see: Black, White & Gray.

Time to Play: Name Obama's Religion?

CNN has a feature on its website called "Time to Play Name Obama's Religion." The idea is to show that a large number of people don't know the religion of Senator Barack Obama. The real point is that some Americans are unaware that Obama is a Christian and is not a Muslim.

There's nothing wrong with having accurate information about candidates. Yet why is there so little attention to the obvious implication that if he were a Muslim this would (and should?) disqualify him from the Presidency.

To see the CNN feature go to: Time to Play: Name Obama's Relgion.


Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Spitzer: Demonized? Demonizer? Or Someone Who Simply Got What He Deserved?

Is former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer a victim of demonization and/or was he someone who sometimes demonized others? Or did he simply get what he deserved?

"What goes around comes around?"

One Daily Demonizer reader said: "On the one hand he is a victim of demonization, on the other there he was a demonizer himself. Not that corporate crime is not real, but often for him it seemed to be a matter of evil people with little consideration by him of a system and a kind of corporate ethos that promoted such behavior. An editor of the Village Voice on CNN today quoted a line Spitzer apparently said to a target of investigation when encountering him at a convention to the effect he looked forward to driving a spike through his heart."

For two views that suggest he is a simple victim of dmonization, pure and simple, see articles on:

Republican Dirty Tricks: "Was Spitzer Targeted?" by Paul Campos.

Prostitution is not relevant to public duties and responsibilities: "Spitzer’s Shame Is Wall Street’s Gain" by Robert Scheer.

In decidding whether Spitzer was demonized, however, at least two critical counter-issues should be considered.

1. Political hypocrisy may not be grounds for impeachment but it is certainly fair game for very strong criticism. Whatever the morality and legality of what he did, was he simply a hypocrite in the way he prosecuted others for crimes, including sex traficking that he also took part in? To get at this question we need also to ask: was the kind of sex trafficking he prosecuted different in kind from the kind he used? For commentary relevant to these questions see: "Foes of Sex Trade Are Stung by Fall of an Ally."

2. Should we consider prostitution and involvement with the prostitution industry simply another example of sex between "consenting" adults that therefore should be a purely private matter? On issues relevant to this point, see: "The Myth of the Victimless Crime" by Melissa Farley and Victor Malarek.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Daily Kos Readers and Obama's Religion Response

Curious about reaction to issues raised in the last post, The Religious Smear Against Obama, we put the question out in a comment and a poll on the Daily Kos asking whether readers thought Obama's responses had been proper. (To see the last post, go to: The Religious "Smear" Against Obama)

The responses to the (very unscientific) poll were interesting. For a liberal blog it was striking that very few thought Obama should attack the integrity of the religion question itself. Moreover, in the comments of readers to the poll and the blurb with which we introduced the poll, almost everyone discussed Obama's responses only in strategic terms and almost no one discussed their propriety.


Senator Obama's response to questions about whether he is a Muslim should be to:

Not dignify the question with an answer: 2% or 2 votes

Say only that whether one is Muslim is irrelevant to election as
President: 6% or 6 votes

Say that he is a Christian and also say that whether one is
Muslim is irrelevant to election as President: 52% or 46 votes

Only say that he is a Christian: 24% or 21 votes

Say that he is a Christian and clearly reject the idea that he is a Muslim: 13% or 12 votes

To see reader commentary and the poll itself go to: tdeluca at Daily Kos

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Religious "Smear" Against Obama

One of the lines of "swiftboating" attack against Senator Barack Obama has been the showing of pictures of him in traditional clothing (actually, nomdadic Somali elder costume, including turban) while visiting Kenya, being sure to include and emphasize his middle name "Hussein", and falsely claiming that he's a Muslim.What makes each of these a smear is not the literal claim or picture itself--leaders often wear traditional costume when visiting another country--but why it is used and what it is deployed to explicitly suggest about Obama in the post 9-11 world of American politics, given his background and his race.

It is noteable, however, that the response of the candidate and the campaign on religion is simply to strongly deny that Obama's a Muslim, without rejecting the premise of the question: that religious affiliation could be a disqualification for the office of the Presidency. For example, according to Naomi Klein, Obama said to one Christian News reorter: “I’m not and never have been of the Muslim faith." He hasn't even given a Seinfeldesque: "I"m not a . . . not that there's anything wrong with it."

The question of Obama's response has not been treated much in the media, but Naomi
Klein takes it up in "Obama Being Called a Muslim is Not a Smear." Although Klein uses her argument as a lens to view our entire relationhip with the Muslim world, wrongly in some places, the central point about religion and our domestic politics is well worth considering.