Saturday, 7 June 2008

John McCain: Really Creepy

At the bottom of the web page on which John McCain asserts his staunch determination to overturn Roe V. Wade, one also finds these words:

The Greatest Honor is to Serve the Cause of Human Dignity

There is no greater nobility than to sacrifice for a great cause and no cause greater than protection of human dignity.

Decency, human compassion, self-sacrifice and the defense of innocent life are at the core of John McCain's value system and will be the guiding principles of a McCain Presidency.

"To sacrifice for a cause greater than yourself, and to sacrifice your life to the eminence of that cause, is the noblest activity of all."

I have to say, I have no idea what he is talking about here, but it seriously creeps me out. In the context of talking about abortion rights, and considering that we have had people with very similar views on both abortion and sacrifice actually bombing clinics in the recent past, isn't this wording (to say the least) provocative?

Policy Focus: Women's Issues

After this long primary season, we may all feel like we know everything there is to know about the Democratic candidate, but in reality Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton shared so many policy views in common that there was no in depth analysis of the his proposals. Now that we are entering the general election, the situation could not possibly be more different - there is an enormous difference between John McCain's positions and Barack Obama's.

Each week of the campaign, I'd like to highlight a different area of Barack Obama's policies. This week, in tribute to Hillary Clinton's record breaking campaign, I would like to focus on women's issues.

From the first moment a woman dared to speak that hope - dared to believe that the American Dream was meant for her too - ordinary women have taken on extraordinary odds to give their daughters the chance for something else; for a life more equal, more free, and filled with more opportunity than they ever had. In so many ways we have succeeded, but in so many areas we have much work left to do. ~ Barack Obama, Speech in Washington, DC, 11/10/05

Firstly, Barack Obama is a a strong advocate for a woman's right to choose.

At this link you can see him addressing Planned Parenthood last year:

In the video he gives a detailed critique of recent supreme court decisions that have failed to properly consider the scientific evidence in favor of women's right to choose, and that he sees as condecending - he points out that Justice Kennedy simply assumes a woman will regret her decision without supplying any evidence in support of this.

Towards the end, he starts to speak about broader women's issues as well, saying:

But most of all I'm here as a candidate because there are these two little girls that I try to tuck in every night - and it's harder during the campaign season - whose futures depend upon us creating a more equal society. I want my daughters to grow up in a country where they have the exact same opportunities as Americas sons. I want Sasha and Malia to dream without limit.

You can read more about Barack's policies towards women's issues on this page:

I will be highlighting different aspects of his policies towards women in the coming days.

But I also want to say a words about John McCain and his policies towards women.

John McCain does not have a section on his website focussed on women. He does, however, have a page labelled "Human Dignity and the Sanctity of Life". The first paragraph on THAT page is the following statement:

John McCain believes Roe v. Wade is a flawed decision that must be overturned, and as president he will nominate judges who understand that courts should not be in the business of legislating from the bench.

Thank You Hillary

This afternoon Hillary Clinton suspended her campaign and threw the full weight of her support behind Barack Obama, saying:

"I ask all of you to join me in working as hard for Barack Obama as you have for me."

She also said:

I've had a front-row seat to his candidacy and seen his strength and determination, his grace and his grit. In his own life, Barack Obama has lived the American dream," she said. "He has dedicated himself to ensuring the dream is realized."

I endorse him and throw my full support behind him. The Democratic Party is a family and now it's time to restore the ties that bind us together, and to come together. We may have started on separate journeys but today our paths have merged.

Senator Obama released the following statement:

Obviously, I am thrilled and honored to have Senator Clinton's support.

But more than that, I honor her today for the valiant and historic campaign she has run. She shattered barriers on behalf of my daughters and women everywhere, who now know that there are no limits to their dreams. And she inspired millions with her strength, courage and unyielding commitment to the cause of working Americans.

Our party and our country are stronger because of the work she has done throughout her life, and I'm a better candidate for having had the privilege of competing with her in this campaign. No one knows better than Senator Clinton how desperately America and the American people need change, and I know she will continue to be in the forefront of that battle this fall and for years to come.

I have to heartily agree that Senator Clinton has made Barack a better campaigner and a better candidate. I also salute her as a woman who has inspired millions of Americans, who has given her life to public service, and who is singularly dedicated to improving the day to day lives of all Americans.

And so, we thank you Hillary. For your lifetime of service, and for your very gracious and warm remarks today.

Friday, 6 June 2008

Race Doesn't Matter. OK, It Does a Little

The fact that Barack Obama is African American (in the most literal sense, half African and half Kansan) has always been incidental to my persona support for him. Like many, I see him as primarily an excellent politician, a strong candidate and a purveyor of good ideas about policy (especially foreign policy). Although I don't think I completely agree with the crowds in South Carolina who chanted "race doesn't matter" - I thought it mattered in the same way his time in Indonesia mattered. As just one part of his story.

So why then do I find myself constantly getting choked up when I read articles like this?

Yet the amazing thing isn't that there were instances of overt, old-style racism
during this campaign, it's that there were so few. The amazing thing is that so
many Americans have been willing to accept -- or, indeed, reject -- Obama based
on his qualifications and his ideas, not on his race. I'll never forget visiting
Iowa in December and witnessing all-white crowds file into high school
gymnasiums to take the measure of a black man -- and, ultimately, decide that he
was someone who expressed their hopes and dreams.

Martin Luther King dreamed of a day when "all gods children" would be judged "not on the color of their skin, but on the content of their character."

The idea that we live in that day - that farmers in Iowa and steelworkers in Missouri and ranchers in Texas looked at this man and asked not "can I vote for someone who looks like this?" but rather, "does this man have the vision, the judgement, the talent and the dedication to represent me?" is amazing. That they answered, "Yes he does" has shaken me up a little.

It doesn't matter that he is black for how good a president he would be. But that it doesn't matter, matters enormously.

Obama Bans Lobbyist & PAC Donations to the DNC

Yesterday, Barack Obama and Chairman Dean announced a bold new policy for the Democratic National Committee. In line with the restrictions he has imposed on his own campaign, as the new leader of the Democratic Party Obama has new declared that special interest money is not welcome at the DNC.

There are two important and impressive factors to note in this decision:

1) Obama has quickly and decisively set his mark on the Democratic Party. Traditionally, the Presidential Nominee becomes the de facto leader of the party, and remains so either until defeat or through the Presidency. That Obama has moved so quickly after seizing the nomination to make a significant change within the DNC shows that he is completely ready to take charge. On the other hand, he is not making change just for the sake of it - he has also indicated that he is happy for Dean to remain as Chairman, something that makes a lot of sense given the synergies between Dean's 50-State strategy and Obama's own plan to compete in a much broader swathe of the country.

2) With this move, partly a symbolic sacrifice (lobyists only contribute a very small part of the DNC's funding) and partly real pain (PACs are large givers to the party) Obama has made it clear that his expects the Party to reflect his core message - a new kind of politics, strong ethical standards and a move away from Washington insiders. He has also innoculated himself against accusations of hypocracy later on - since the DNC will provide major support to the campaign, if he had not imposed this rule Republicans could have claimed he was having it both ways.

This is an impressive start. But remember, without lobbyist and PAC donations to rely on that only leaves Barack with one remaining source of funds. You. Don't let him down.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

What Hope Means

I've been meaning to try and pin down in words just why it is that I see the strong generational divide between Democrats as being not just demographic but ideological - and why I think it is a good thing. Matthew Yglesias puts it very well in this post when he writes:

It's a fundamentally bold, hopeful brand of politics. And I think it's no coincidence that that theme's been at the center of his campaign. Relative to Clinton, you see two people with similar policy agendas. But Clinton comes from a school of politics that says liberalism can't really win on the questions of war and peace, identity and authenticity, crime and punishment. It says that we live in a fundamentally conservative nation, and that the savvy progressive politician kind of burrows in and tries to make the best of a bad situation. It's an attitude very much borne of the brutally difficult experience of organizing for McGovern in Texas and running for governor in Arkansas at the height of Reaganism. Relative to McCain, Obama thinks it's possible to accomplish things in the world. He thinks the United States faces a lot of serious international challenges, but doesn't see them as primarily driven by menacing and implacable foes. Obama thinks that a combination of visionary leadership and shrewd bargaining can greatly improve our ability to tackle key priorities without any great expenditure of our resources.

All in all, the pessimist in me sees it as an approach to politics designed to set us up for a hard fall when it fails. But in a deeper sense I find it incredibly appealing. To me, it's incredibly frustrating to hear that ideas "can't be done" not because they won't work, but because people know -- just know -- that they're not politically possible, even though they're things that have never been tried. I think almost every worthwhile accomplishment of progressive governance -- from the UN and NATO and the NPT to Medicare and Medicaid and Title I school aid to the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act to the ongoing feminist revolution that's completely transformed American society in a generation and a half with no sign of slowing down -- is the kind of thing that before it happened, a lot of people would have said that it couldn't happen. And of course sometimes the pessimists are right, but unless you sometimes assume they're wrong then nothing's ever going to happen.

Essentially, the Party need people who can say "hang on a minute, sometimes these big ideas don't pay off, be sensible and focus on what you can get done," but they ALSO need the idealists who say, "I will keep pushing for what I believe in no matter what." Ultimately politics is always a difficult balance between these two forces, but I think Democrats recently have been in danger of worshipping at the altar of pragmatism as, ironically, it's been the Republicans who have been willing to go hell for leather to push their (very bad) ideas. I'd be happy to see that change, partly because I think that's what America is looking for right now - real leadership.

Hillary Clinton Will Concede to Obama this Saturday

An e-mail was sent to Hillary Clinton supporters last night in which she announces her intention to support Obama now that he is the Democratic nominee. She will hold an event on Saturday to thank her supporters and formally concede the nomination. Her full e-mail is below.

It is worth saying; as proud as I am of our victory in this primary, the competition between Barack and Hillary was never an argument over profoundly different policy prescriptions for America. Had Hillary Clinton been the nominee, and had she won the presidency and delivered her agenda - it would have looked a lot like Barack's.

Now that Barack is the nominee, and assuming that with the full support of Hillary and a united Democratic party he wins the presidency, many of the issues that Hillary Clinton believes in and advocates for will benefit just as much as if she had been the nominee herself.

On the other hand, if John McCain wins the presidency because Democrats are divided, Hillary Clinton will be the loser far more than she is today, because not just herself but all of her most cherished ideas will be set back. She doesn't want that any more than we do.

Dear XXX,

I wanted you to be one of the first to know: on Saturday, I will hold an event in Washington D.C. to thank everyone who has supported my campaign. Over the course of the last 16 months, I have been privileged and touched to witness the incredible dedication and sacrifice of so many people working for our campaign. Every minute you put into helping us win, every dollar you gave to keep up the fight meant more to me than I can ever possibly tell you.

On Saturday, I will extend my congratulations to Senator Obama and my support for his candidacy. This has been a long and hard-fought campaign, but as I have always said, my differences with Senator Obama are small compared to the differences we have with Senator McCain and the Republicans.

I have said throughout the campaign that I would strongly support Senator Obama if he were the Democratic Party's nominee, and I intend to deliver on that promise.

When I decided to run for president, I knew exactly why I was getting into this race: to work hard every day for the millions of Americans who need a voice in the White House.

I made you -- and everyone who supported me -- a promise: to stand up for our shared values and to never back down. I'm going to keep that promise today, tomorrow, and for the rest of my life.

I will be speaking on Saturday about how together we can rally the party behind Senator Obama. The stakes are too high and the task before us too important to do otherwise.

I know as I continue my lifelong work for a stronger America and a better world, I will turn to you for the support, the strength, and the commitment that you have shown me in the past 16 months. And I will always keep faith with the issues and causes that are important to you.

In the past few days, you have shown that support once again with hundreds of thousands of messages to the campaign, and again, I am touched by your thoughtfulness and kindness.

I can never possibly express my gratitude, so let me say simply, thank you.


Hillary Rodham Clinton

Obama and McCain Both Speak. You Be the Judge

Last night Barack Obama spoke from the stage of the St Paul Convention Center - from the very same room where John McCain will speak during the Republican National Convention later this year.

Or at least, he is supposed to. But if I were John McCain, after watching Barack fire up a crowd of thousands with an extraordinary, gracious and powerful speech, I think I would blush to appear on that same stage. Especially considering McCain himself, though undoubtably a decent man, is distinctly soporific in his own speaking style, as you can witness in his "pre-buttal" to Obama.

Even Fox News was brutal in pointing out the rhetorical awfulness of McCain's speech, especially compared with the way Obama soared.
We can beat this guy in November. We've got to, cause I can't stand four more years having to leave the room whenever the President goes on TV.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Victory for Obama - and For America!

For my thoughts, see last night's post.

I'll be away from the computer all day today for a work function (it's National Temporary Workers Week, you know!) but will give further thoughts later tonight. For now - let's all just spend a moment to reflect on how much we have achieved and how far this country has come. I'm humbled and delighted - and grateful to all of you for all you've done. It turns out, yes we REALLy can!

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Blast From the Past: Part 2

This e-mail was sent by me to my growing e-mail list on January 20th. Again, I still stand by these thoughts...

Dear Friends,

In all the ups and downs of this Presidential primary, it is so easy to get caught up in thinking only about the “horse race” elements of the campaign, losing sight of the larger picture. It occurs to me that I may be guilty of that myself lately. In my delight with Obama’s Iowa win and my optimism about his good showing in Nevada and New Hampshire, perhaps I haven’t talked enough about the reasons I decided to support him in the first place. And so, with your indulgence, here’s my concise case for Obama:

Experience: Barack Obama has by far more experience delivering results for progressive values than any other candidate who remains in this race. His time as a community organiser in Chicago taught him first hand what it takes to break the cycle of poverty and to create opportunity for those who need it the most. These lessons have underpinned everything Barack Obama has done since then – including his decision to study at Harvard Law school (where he became the highly respected editor of the Harvard Law Review) so that the poor communities on the South Side of Chicago could have an advocate with the same level of establishmed credibility as some of those who worked against them.

In the Illinois State Senate he worked tirelessly on progressive issues, for instance earning a 100% rating on choice issues from Planned Parenthood, and became a leading advocate for the reform of the criminal justice system and of government ethics reform (a concern that he carried over into the US Senate). He was consistently able to deliver groundbreaking legislation on these key issues, typically through a process of active outreach that brought warring parties together to move beyond entrenched interests and pass controversial legislation with a broad majority. Obama has far more time in elected office than Hillary Clinton, and he has used that time effectively.

And this is not even to consider Obama’s personal life experience, which has undoutedly colored his view of the world and points to his extraordinary personal qualities. Abandoned by his father at the age of two, he seems to have overcome bitterness. Living in Indonesia for four years as a child he seems to have integrated well, playing barefoot in the streets with local children. Transferred to a nearly all-white community and raised by his Kansan grandparents he struggled with his identity but emerged with a thoughtful, reflective understanding of America’s cultural conflicts.

Judgement: Obama has applied that same thoughtfulness and judgement to all the major decisions he has been called upon to make in public life. He spoke out actively against the war in Iraq back in 2002 and has been consistent in opposition ever since . Many people advised him that this position was “political suicide” considering the national mood at the time – and Obama was himself engaged in a difficult race for the Democratic nomination to US Senate at that point. Nevertheless he made perfectly clear his strong opposition to the then-immanent war, clarifying it was a “dumb war” – a war in which, he claimed, American troops would be bogged down for decades with no prospect of ultimate victory. A war that would poorly serve America’s strategic interests in the world and would lead to tragic and unnecessary loss of life for American troops and Iraqi civilians alike. Ask yourself: how does that assessment stand up today?

But Obama’s good judgement has not been limited to Iraq – throughout his career he has been willing to take tough and unpopular stances, and to rethink Washington conventional wisdom. Witness, for example, his policy of ending the ban on family travel to Cuba. With the powerful Cuban –American community lobbying for the ban, no serious presidential contender has dared to oppose it for decades. But Obama argues that a policy which has been in place since the Eisenhower administration without achieving any noticable impact, while penalising many Latino families, is long overdue for a rethink.

Or, look at Social Security. Hillary Clinton has attacked Barack Obama for proposing to raise the cap on Social Security payments, as if any improvement to Social Security’s financial prospects is somehow a victory for the right wing (?). But Obama’s proposal, to raise the cap so that people making more than $97,000 per year still pay some proportion of their income towards shoring up social security, is an excellent, progressive idea that will improve financial security for millions of middle and working class Americans by taxing those who can well afford to pay more . Sadly, it seems that Washington conventional wisdom, even within the Democratic party, is hostile to progressive ideas; all the more reason we should be glad that Barack Obama has the judgement to look beyond it.

Inspiration: And finally, there’s the element of Obama’s appeal that isn’t entirely rational. I make no apologies for the fact that Barack Obama simply inspires me. Like millions of Americans, I watched his 2004 convention speech with astonished admiration. But that was only the beginning – since then I have been blown away by speech after speech. I have been humbled and impressed by the way he has conducted his campaign so far; steering away from personal attacks but making a strong, consistent case that Democrats can best capture this moment of opportunity by inviting all Americans to share it. Simply put, Barack Obama inspires and excites people.

Like many of you, I have been feeling pretty downcast about my country for the past few years. I’ve been horrified to watch the Bush administration lead the country in an abandonment of everything that I thought we stood for. By contrast, Barack Obama reminds me of a time when, whatever our disagreements with our government might be, we could be proud of the things America stood for. This feeling of mine, and this skill of Obama’s may be insubstantial, but it is not trivial – it affects our ability to influence foreign governments and our ability to bring the country together to solve our big domestic problems. It allows Democrats to begin the process of reaching out to Independants and even Republicans to persuade them not only that our candidate is worth voting for but that our ideas are worth implementing. In my view, there is no other candidate in this race who shows anything like Obama’s potential to do this.

Best wishes,


Blast From The Past: Part 1

OK, I can't help myself. I've been searching through my e-mails re-reading the messages I have sent out about Barack, and I just had to share a couple things with you.

This is the first e-mail I ever sent about the campaign in which I contacted all my personal Democrats Abroad contacts to tell them of my support for Barack and why (and letting them know that Michelle Obama is coming to London for an event).

The e-mail is dated September 17, 2007.

I still stand by everything I say here:

Dear Friends,

Like all of you, I've been following the Democratic Primary race extremely closely. I'm thrilled to see that we have so many great candidates in the race, and I can see real strengths in almost all of them. But I think I lot of you know that I gave my heart away early in the race to the Senator from Illinois. However, until today, I've hesitated to get heavily involved in his campaign directly - I'm a loyal Democrat and primaries sometimes make me uncomfortable. I don't like to see my people attacking each other.

But Barack Obama surprised me. He's run a smart, positive campaign that has carved out a new vision for America's place in the world. It's the sort of campaign that I really want to be involved in - and I am not impressed by the pundits who seem to think the race is over before it's even started. This time around I want us to actually nominate the most electable person available to us, and while she has my respect and admiration, I do not believe the Senator from New York is that person.

I'd love to talk to you all a bit more about it - but in the meantime I wanted to give you a heads up on what I think is a really great opportunity for those of us overseas to get a taste of what is going on back home. Michelle Obama is coming to London to raise money and speak to supporters on October 15.

As you may know, Michelle is an amazing woman - with a very successful career of her own - and a terrific public speaker who has a very human and interesting story to tell about her husband's campaign.

You can read more about her here:

[further event information removed]

If you would prefer not to receive any more of these types of e-mails, please do let me know and I'll make sure you are taken off my list. On the other hand, if you know of any other Obama supporters (US voters only please!) in the UK, please feel free to forward this message on to them - or let me know who they are and I'll get in touch.

This is already the most exciting election of our lifetime - and it's still 14 months away! Look forward to working with you all to ensure a Democratic White House in 2008.

With kind regards,


Jimmy Carter to Endorse Obama

The only OTHER Democratic president of my lifetime so far (I was born in the midst of Watergate) has announced that he will Endorse Barack Obama tomorrow.

Carter told The Associated Press on Tuesday: "The fact is the Obama people
already know they have my vote when the polls close tonight."

Thanks Jimmy.

The End of the Endless Primary

Well, I don't know about you but the 5 months between the Iowa primary, on January 3, and the very last two states to vote today, June 3, have seemed like years.

There's been ups, downs, and in betweens. Revelations, accusations, and recrimations. It seemed like everything in the world turned upside down every day, except the one thing that matters, perhaps, most of all - our candidate. Standing in the midst of the maelstrom Barack Obama held firm to his vision for this campaign, stuck strongly to his message of change and a new politics. He insisted that calling for robust negotiations with our adversaries was not a "gaffe" but that forgetting how many troops we have in Iraq IS.

When the media desperately tried to goad him into attacking his opponent - a respected member of his own party - he refused to play that game. But, equally, he wouldn't back down for one moment to the argument that the only experience a President needs is experience playing the same old Washington games.

When John McCain and Hillary Clinton both pushed a gas tax holiday that was designed to help them through the election rather than helping America solve it's energy crisis, Barack stood up for the difficult right thing rather than the easy cynicism.

At the toughest point in his campaign, he spoke out with honesty and sensitivity about race in America and transformed a dialog that had been stuck in a cycle of accusations and bitterness.

By the time we wake up tomorrow morning, South Dakota and Montana will have reported their results. They are the last two states to vote in this primary - yes, even this year's endless primary will end.

Tonight, Barack Obama is getting a rash of Super Delegate endorsements. It looks likely that by this time tomorrow moring the votes of these final two states, supplmented by today's flood of endorsements, will put Barack Obama past the "magic number" of 2118 delegates to become the Democratic nominee for President.

I have been proud of him every single moment of this campaign. And proud to be a part of it. By tomorrow morning, I expect that I will be able to say at last that I am proud of my party for choosing an extraordinary new leader.

How Politics Destroys Religion

I found this story of Douglas Kmiec - a Republican, Catholic and private citizen who has endorsed Barack Obama for President deeply sad. Kmiec, who strongly disagrees with Obama in that he personally opposes abortion and has worked to overturn Roe Versus Wade, spoke out in favor of an Obama presidency.
In an interview over the weekend, Kmiec argued that 35 years after Roe,
opponents of abortion need to contemplate whether "a legal prohibition" of
abortion "is the only way to promote a culture of life."

"To think you have done a generous thing for your neighbor or that you
have built up a culture of life just because you voted for a candidate who says
in his brochure that he wants to overturn Roe v. Wade is far too thin an
understanding of the Catholic faith," he said. Kmiec, a critic of the Bush
administration's Iraq policy, added that Catholics should heed "the broad social
teaching of the church," including its views on war.

What I find so terribly sad about this is that a Catholic priest recently refused to offer Communion to Kmiec on the basis of his endorsement of Obama.

This is a position - the use of Catholic Communion as a weapon against Democrats - that we will surely see more of in this race, having caught a taster of this strategy in 2004 against (Catholic) John Kerry. I find it terribly sad, not because of any harm done to the Obama campaign - I think this incident only serves to highlight the support Obama enjoys from thoughtful religious people such as Kmiec - but for the harm it does to religion in America.

There are countless fine moral judgements that individuals need to take in their political decision making. How can we account for the loss of so many lives in Iraq? How much responsibility for easing the burden of the poor should be born by the taxpayer? If one candidate disagrees with you about one moral issue you feel strongly about and the other disagrees with you on another, what criteria should you use to choose between them?

The whole principle of a free society is to understand that well intentioned people can agonise over these issues and for good reasons come to opposite views on them. For citizens of faith, they ought to be able to address these questions within their own church communities - and if they cannot, if instead they are rejected despite their very best efforts to live up to their own community's ideals, ultimately the church will no longer provide them the moral guidance that they seek.

It is worth saying that a very similar dynamic is responsible for Obama's reluctant decision to leave his own church after so many years. I look on it more in sorrow than in anger.

Wise Words from Congressman Wexler

If you are not a complete political junkie (like me) you may or may not be aware of Congressman Robert Wexler, of Florida. But, I highly commend his recent words about Barack Obama - spoken at a meeting of his Florida constituents, the majority of whom voted for Hillary Clinton.

"I support Barack Obama because he showed better judgment on the Iraq War, because he has remained more forcefully against it. I support him because of his stand on ethics reform, and commitment to engaging our enemies. I support him because he speaks truth to power. He spoke in front of a largely Cuban-American organization in Miami. Everyone has told this organization the same thing for 40 years. 'We're going to continue the embargo against Cuba, no monetary remittances there, no anything.' Whether or not it works, that's all any politician dares to say. Obama suggested to them we engage with Raul Castro, and take steps towards ending the embargo. Obama told a crowd in Detroit that we should increase fuel efficiency standards, and he told members of Martin Luther King's church in Atlanta that we all share some of the blame for some of the race problems in America today."

Monday, 2 June 2008

John Edwards' Special Message to the Obama London Group

Tonight I had the rare and truly delightful opportunity of seeing John and Elizabeth Edwards at a small private event here in London. Having always liked the Edwards tremendously, and having caucused for him very actively back in 2004 I was especially thrilled to have the chance to tell him so in person. (And I should have included him in my initial list of possible VPs, although he didn't really indicate one way of the other if he'd be interested in that...)

The event was closed to the press, and I want to respect the right of the Edwards to keep any specific comments they made private, however I can tell you that they were both warm, funny and down to earth people who are smart about both politics and policy. Elizabeth in particular, who I've always admired for her healthcare advocacy and just for being so comfortable in her own skin, displayed a charming combination of smarts and caring.

I'll give you a particular example because it tickled me - at the end of the event both of them very graciously paused to take photographs with each of the event volunteers, including myself (and two very smart young kids). After the first round of pictures was taken without a flash, they insisted upon taking another to make sure we got one with a flash. And then after THAT they insisted on taking another one with me because they didn't think the flash had gone off on mine.

Now I have a habit of carrying my handbag around with me at all times, because I'm paranoid about it having been robbed or pickpocketed no less then 4 times in London. Elizabeth, however politely suggested that I put it down for the final picture, "you'll regret it later if you don't". And she was, of course, totally correct. (Of course, once I wasn't carrying my handbag anymore I didn't know what to do with my arms, but that's not her fault!)

I told John that I have a large group of Obama supporters here in London and asked if he had any special message for them.

"Just tell them we're gonna win," he said, with a bit smile on his face.

So there you go - a special message of victory to Obama London from John Edwards.

Why Doesn't Hillary Just Drop Out?

So I'm starting to get people writing to me and commenting on the blog to wonder why Hillary "doesn't just drop out now". And to these people I would like to say I understand your frustration but - take a deep breath.

Until Saturday afternoon, it was perfectly possible (though unlikely) that the Michigan and Floriday delegations would be seated in full - changing the overall math significantly. As soon as that happened, she went straight in the primary in Puerto Rico where she was expected to - and indeed did - win (although in a primary with extremely low turnout). Now she is one day away from the very last two primaries of the year. Why on earth would she drop out now, having come this far?

So that's why she's not dropping out, and there doesn't have to be anything nefarious about it. It may be frustrating for us to see the primary go on this long, but keep in mind that it is DOUBLY frustrating for all her supporters, who are combining the stress we all feel with what must be a building sense of disappointment.

We're only a few days away from a resolution, let's chill out until then, OK? We need every voter, and that means if and when we are victorious we need to be gracious about it

Remember, winning the primary is not our goal. Winning the PRESIDENCY is our goal. Step by step, one day at a time.

But, yes we can.

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Rules and Bylaws Committee

Yesterday the Rules and Bylaws Committee, tasked with ensuring the Democratic Party conducts its operations within the standards set by its own rules, met in Washington, DC to decide the fate of the Michigan and Floriday delegations.

Fairly early on in the day, they arrived at a compromise on how to resolve the Florida delegates, but the Michigan question took quite a bit longer. The final decisions, passed unanimously in the case of Floriday and by a 2/3 majority in the case of Michigan, are as follows:

1) Florida: the entire delegation will be seated and the votes will be allocates as they were cast. However, the value of each delegate will be cut in half so that each delegate will cast a half vote. This results in Hillary achieving a net gain of 19 delegates.

2) Michigan: again, the entire delegation will be seated, and each delegate will cast a half vote.
However, since it was impossible to determine how the voters might have cast their ballots in a full election (remembering that Barack Obama, John Edwards, and Bill Richardson had all chosen to remove their names from the ballot in compliance with their understanding of the party rules), the Committee heard many proposals for how the delegates could be awarded to candidates. In the end, they accepted the proposal of the Michigan state delegation itself, which suggested that the delegates be split 59-69 in favour of Hillary Clinton. Once accounting for the half votes, this would wind up with 34.5 for Hillary and 29.5 for Barack - a total gain of 5 delegates for Hillary.

So, we have arrived at a solution. Both solutions were voted for in large numbers by Hillary Clinton's supporters on the Committee (who significantly outnumbered Obama supporters there). Both solutions were supported by the leadership of the states in question. Both solutions ahve the support of the Obama camapaign, even though they cause him to lose delegates.

Harold Ickes, from the Clinton campaign has said that Hillary reserves the right to challenge this result at the convention. However, it's unclear whether she will ultimately chose to do this. Especially since, unlike the standing Rules committee which is weighted towards her supporters, the Convention Credentials committee will contain a majority of Obama supporters.

I think it is fairly safe to say that the Michigan and Florida delegate problem has been resolved.

Is it a perfectly fair solution? In my view, it is not. Those voters who in good faith chose not to participate in an election that they were told would not count have been left out unfairly. It is by no means certain that Hillary Clinton would have won in Michigan if Barack's name been on the ballot in the first place. In both states, there is no way of knowing what the outcome would be if both candidates had actually campaigned in the states - Barack has significantly improved his numbers in every state he has actively campaigned in so far.

HOWEVER, as I have said before - a perfectly fair resolution was not possible at this point in the process. This is a resolution arrived at within the rules after careful deliberation, with the input of both campaigns and the states in question. It honors the voters of these states but still applies a penalty for the state's non-compliance.

Barack Obama is down 24 delegates today. But he still leads in the pledged delegates. He still leads in super delegates. He still leads in states won. He still leads in the popular vote (by almost every measure of counting).

Neither candidate achieved the best possible outcome at the Rules and Bylaws Committee yesterday. However, it may be that we have achieved the best possible outcome for the country - the chance to put all this behind us.