SWARNS (2/2/07): ''When you think of a president, you think of an American,'' said Mr. Lanier, a 58-year-old barber who is still considering whether to support Mr. Obama. ''We've been taught that a president should come from right here, born, raised, bred, fed in America. To go outside and bring somebody in from another nationality, now that doesn't feel right to some people.''But Obama is an American, we noted.. He does come from right here in America; he isnt from another nationality in the most literal sense of that term. He was born in America; he was raised, bred, fed here, except for a four-year period (ages 6-10) when he lived in Indonesia. No one had to go outside and bring him in in any clear sense of those terms.
E-MAIL: To be a bit more fair to Swarms, she identifies Obama as "American-born" in the paragraph before she quotes the barber, Mr. Lanier. However, she sets up the quote, in a way that strikes me as very odd, by bringing up Debra Dickerson's recent article in Salon that claimed Obama isn't really "black." She sets up the quote by implying that it will speak to this same concern, that Obama is not a descendent of slaves and doesn't share the African-American experience. In fact, her article seems to hinge on her looking for this same viewpoint in the workaday African-American community. Mr. Lanier's quote does not have anything to do with that subject, instead laying out a string of misconceptions that, as you point out, Swarms does not address directly.We dont agree with all of that, but we certainly agree with the statement weve highlighted. When our analysts showed us the quote from the barber, we read through from there to see if Swarns adequately addressed his misstatements. We didnt notice what shed already written. Of course, the statement that Obama is American-born doesnt speak to the barbers full string of claims. But we definitely should have noticed Swarns statement. Very stupid—this time, by us.
MOSK (2/5/07): Of the 2008 Democratic presidential contenders who voted to give President Bush authority to wage war in Iraq, only one will have no chance to make a very public U-turn when resolutions opposing the president's new war plan come before Congress in the coming days.Only one will have no chance to make a very public U-turn? Thats barely decipherable—and when its deciphered, it doesnt make much sense. Is some Democratic contender going to make a very public U-turn in the Senate next week? If a U-turn means a 180, its hard to imagine who that would be. For example, Hillary Clinton voted yes on the war resolution, but that was in October 2002. She has long since disowned the wisdom of the war itself, and of Bushs latest strategy. Ditto Senators Biden and Dodd, who also voted to give President Bush authority to wage war in Iraq.
That one is John Edwards, the former North Carolina senator who showed again yesterday that he will find other venues to parlay his Senate vote into an extended mea culpa.
MOSK: Some believe that kind of introspection has helped Edwards build a bridge to the most vocal anti-Iraq-war quarters of the Democratic Party and may help distinguish him from one of his chief rivals for the party's nomination, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (N.Y.).Clinton has not retracted her vote, Mosk says—penning the latest fuzzy, misleading account of Clintons stance on her vote.
During yesterday's broadcast, Edwards said he believes that "anybody who wants to be president of the United States has got to be honest and open, be willing to admit when they've done things wrong."
"If she believes that her vote was wrong," Edwards said when asked about Clinton, "then, yes, she should say so. If she believes her vote was right, then she should defend it."
Clinton has not retracted her vote to authorize the war, saying "there are no do-overs in life." But she has made no secret of her distaste for the war.
Clinton has not retracted her vote? The formulation makes little sense. After all, how does a senator retract a vote? Has Edwards somehow retracted his? No, Mosks construction doesnt make clear sense. And it takes the place of real information about the things Clinton has said.
Has Clinton ever retracted her vote? We dont really know what that means—nor does any other Post reader. But guess what? Clinton did say, in August 04, that there would have been no basis for the war if wed known there were no WMD. And in repeating that statement last month, she also said that she wouldnt have voted for the war resolution if shed known there were no such weapons. But most Post readers dont know these facts—because reporters like Mosk keep refusing to report them. Theyre too busy typing novels, built around colorful constructs.
Tomorrow, well discuss this matter in more detail—and well even start ranking the major Dem candidates. (Weve decided to adjust our focus a tad.) But note well: If we want a Democrat to get elected in 08, we have to knock down the various themes which will be used to defeat them. In the case of Clinton, many scribes are eager to type a favorite story: Hillary Clinton hasnt renounced/retracted/apologized for her vote. They just keep churning these fuzzy constructs—and in the process, they fail to report the things she has actually said.
In our view, Clintons vote on the war resolution was one of the worst votes in Senate history. But our last Dem nominee cast the same vote (as did Edwards), and we correctly trooped off and voted for him. Its dishonest to punish Clinton for her vote by refusing to let voters know what she has later said about it. So yes: Reporters need to tell the public what Clinton has actually said about her vote. They need to stop writing their novels. (Edwards role in pimping this theme will also be discussed here tomorrow. Bill Bradley did this sort of thing—and helped send Bush to the White House.)
For ourselves, we want Clinton, Edwards or Obama elected. And we want the voters to get real facts—not a bunch of murky constructs from a gang of script-ridden reporters. Has Clinton retracted her vote on the war resolution? Mosks formulation makes little real sense—and it takes the place of actual facts, which seldom get to the voters.
THREE PINK SHEETS TO THE WIND: Chris Matthews capped a kooky week on Friday evenings Hardball. He spoke with Clinton adviser Ann Lewis—and a favorite topic seemed to come flooding back into his mind. With apologies for the length of the excerpt, note how often this deeply strange man popped a favorite question:
MATTHEWS (2/2/07): Is Bill Clinton going to be a problem in this campaign?Several points:
LEWIS: Absolutely not.
MATTHEWS: Is he going to behave himself?
LEWIS: Bill Clinton has been around—in the first place, hes been around the world saving lives.
MATTHEWS: Is he going to behave himself?
LEWIS: Hes going to do what he does best.
MATTHEWS: Is he going to behave himself—
LEWIS: Yes, he is.
MATTHEWS: —and not cause a publicity that gets her embarrassed?
LEWIS: He goes out—you go ask Chuck Schumer and Rahm Emanuel how often they asked Bill Clinton to go out there and campaign for Democratic candidates.
MATTHEWS: I know he does a lot. Hes a multi-tasker.
LEWIS: He did it because people want to see him.
MATTHEWS: Because hes a multi-tasker! Hes going to behave himself, right? No bad publicity? Did you see that story in the New York Times, though, a couple months back about Bill Clinton better watch it? Front page, top of the fold? He better watch it?
LEWIS: You couldnt miss it. And I was interested to see that that was the most important news that the New York Times could have, was to try a write a story about peoples private lives. But you know what? At the end of the day, you read the story, it said theres no there there. Guess what? Thats the story, folks! Theres no there there.
MATTHEWS: So you think the New York Times is going to stop writing about this?
LEWIS: No. I think Bill Clinton is going to continue doing his work, going around the world, saving lives—
MATTHEWS: So hes going to behave himself.
LEWIS: Hes going to be out on the campaign trail—
MATTHEWS: And hes going to behave himself so Hillary can be the first woman president.
LEWIS: Youre all going to be applauding—
MATTHEWS: I think itd be great for the country if we were not once again distracted—
LEWIS: So do I.
MATTHEWS: —by what you call private life. And I think the way to avoid getting distracted is to have nothing there to distract us.
LEWIS: Well, I agree with that. But we just spent how many minutes of this segment—three minutes?—talking about there should be nothing to distract us. Why dont we stop talking about it and talk about the issues?
MATTHEWS: Well, because I want to have some assurances from people that I trust and like to spread the word that—
LEWIS: Why dont you watch—
MATTHEWS: —he better watch it.
LEWIS: —what hes been doing? Why not see what he`s done for the last—
MATTHEWS: I am watching, unfortunately. Anyway, thank you, Ann Lewis.
MILBANK (2/3/07): Yesterday was the first cattle call of the Democratic presidential campaign and—holy cow!—these candidates can moo.Good God, what an idiot! The war continues to rage in Iraq. The threat of a war with Iran is apparent. But so what? When Milbank attended Fridays DNC conclave, he showed up with his stopwatch in hand and proceeded to time all the speakers! With apologies to those with IQs above 9, here were his next three paragraphs:
MILBANK (continuing directly): Each candidate has been given seven minutes to speak," announced Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean before the first of six Democratic candidates took the stage at the Hilton Washington. He further announced that an "official timekeeper" will hold up warning and "time's up" signs. "After 10 minutes, wild gesticulations will take place," he threatened.This was the sole topic of Milbanks sketch. (He also noted that Dodd appeared in his Phil Donohue hairdo, a tribute to his regent, Maureen Dowd.) He discussed the minutes-and-seconds of every speaker, even criticizing Harry Reid for breaking the seven-minute limit—while noting that Reid was not technically under the seven-minute rule. (Take the word technically out of that sentence and Milbank has stated a fact.) In closing, he turned to Hillary Clinton—and showcased his skill with percentages:
This quaint exercise in Democratic Party discipline lasted about, well, seven minutes. The first candidate, Sen. Chris Dodd (Conn.), took the floor for 20 minutes and 15 seconds, ignoring Dean's hovering, the removal of Dodd's image from the projection screens, and the fact that he drew applause for saying "Let me conclude." Former senator John Edwards (17:40) wasn't far behind, trailed by Sens. Hillary Clinton (16:12) and Barack Obama (15:30).
The closest to the limit was Rep. Dennis Kucinich (12:38), but this was probably because the audience treated his appearance as a chance to start conversations or to visit the restrooms.
MILBANK: After the Kucinich intermission, Clinton greeted the crowd with an announcement: "I'm here to start a conversation with our country." A couple of audience members took that offer seriously, and, eight minutes into Clinton's speech, began heckling her about Iraq. This made Clinton's speech louder, not shorter. "I've been fighting for more than 35 years," she said after talking for more than 13 minutes.Ha ha ha ha ha ha! Whew! That was the end of his sketch.
The timekeeper stood up and raised the red sign. Dean rose from his chair and stood at Clinton's shoulder. The candidate, having used 230 percent of her allotted time, surrendered the microphone.