A more frequent publishing of Rich Galen's take on politics, culture and general modern annoyances. This is in addition to MULLINGS which is published Mondays, Wednesdays & Fridays at

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Thompson Campaign Ends

  • At about 2 PM Eastern yesterday, Fred Thompson made it official when he had the campaign press shop issue the following statement:
    "Today I have withdrawn my candidacy for President of the United States. I hope that my country and my party have benefited from our having made this effort. Jeri and I will always be grateful for the encouragement and friendship of so many wonderful people."

  • Like the campaign itself, the statement was brief, unambiguous, and dignified.

  • At the time, I was having lunch Christine Byun. the ABC producer who had followed the Thompson campaign from the beginning. Our Blackberries began to wheeze and buzz at the same time with the news of the statement and we swung back into full work mode immediately: She calling her desk for instructions, me answering calls from reporters demanding to know why I hadn't told them in advance.

  • The answer was: I didn't know in advance. Fred Thompson is a private man who makes decisions on his own schedule. Following Saturday's third place finish in South Carolina, I was beset by calls about what he would do and when he would do it.

  • I had the same answer for all: You have a deadline to report his decision. He has no deadline on which to make it.

  • The next question I got was: Who will he endorse and when will he do it?

  • Same answer.

  • Thompson never got more than 16 percent of the votes in any of the primaries or caucuses, so his endorsement would not seem to be crucial to any of the remaining candidates. Nevertheless, two of them were gracious in their comments.

  • According to Associated Press reporters Dave Espo and Liz Sidoti, John McCain said:
    "Fred Thompson ran an honorable campaign. He and I will remain close friends, and I wish him and his family the best."

  • Mitt Romney responded to the news of Thompson's exit:
    "Throughout this campaign, Fred Thompson brought a laudable focus to the challenges confronting our country and the solutions necessary to meet them.

    "He stood for strong conservative ideas and believed strongly in the need to keep our conservative coalition together."

  • Mike Huckabee, on the other hand, whined that Thompson should have gotten out of the race before South Carolina because "the votes that he took essentially were votes that I would have most likely had."

  • On NPR's "All Things Considered" yesterday when I was asked about that I mis-quoted Shakespeare: The fault, dear Brutus, lies not in our stars, or our opponents, but in ourselves.

  • Throughout the week leading up to the South Carolina primary, Thompson told reporters - and those of us on the bus - that he needed to do very well. He wouldn't specifically define "very well" but it was clear coming in third about 14 percentage points behind Huckabee didn't fit any definition.

  • Here's a tale out of school which describes the kind of man Thompson is: One day in the week leading up to the South Carolina primary the campaign office in McLean, Virginia asked if he would record a video thanking supporters for helping to have raised over a million dollars from the day after the Iowa caucuses to that point.

  • This video was obviously going to be a veiled pitch to send in more money - a point not lost on Thompson even though the script I wrote never mentioned it.

  • He told me he wasn't going to record it. Knowing we were facing an uphill climb to stay in the race, and knowing the video would tempt viewers to donate to help the campaign to go onto Florida and February 5th, he said, "I am not going to ask for money under false pretenses."

  • Throughout the campaign, when reporters enquired about Thompson's commitment to the race because of what Espo and/or Sidoti called his "laid-back style" I answered the same way: "If you're looking for a guy who is going to put on a Clarabell wig and a red nose and jump on stage singing show tunes, you've got the wrong guy."

  • It is strange that the qualities we are looking for in a sitting President - thoughtful, calm, and serious - are exactly the qualities which we penalize in those running for President.

  • It was a great ride. I'm sorry it's over.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the AP story by Liz Sidoti and Dave Espo and to Clarabell.

    Also, the Mullfoto today is a fantastic drawing sent in by reader Brian Johnson. If you've never gone to the Secret Decoder Ring please click on the link now.

  • Sunday, January 13, 2008

    What Ifs?

    Click here for an Easy Print Version

  • Back home in Your Nation's Capital for a quick change of laundry and a Sunday show, all the chatter over the weekend was "What if…?

  • Interestingly, just last week the answers to any variant of that question from the mouths of High Level Politicians, Pundits, Pollsters and Political Hacks stating with mind numbing authority that they knew exactly what was going to happen in New Hampshire, then in Michigan, then in Nevada, then in South Carolina etc., etc.

  • But, alas, when New Hampshire voters actually went to the polls John McCain reprised the surprising result from 2000 and Hillary Clinton produced a shocking victory which rocked the High Level Politicians, Pundits, Pollsters and Political Hacks back on the heels of their oh-so-trendy Lands' End and Aquatalia (by Marvin K) 'March' boots (available in black suede only, $325 from Nordstrom's).

  • So now the general answer to "What If?" is: I have no Earthly idea - or words to a like effect.

  • In the hyper-sensitive world in which all major politicians live, Hillary Clinton was dinged for saying last week that President Lyndon Johnson had more to do with the passage of Civil Rights legislation than Rev. Martin Luther King.

  • Black supporters around Barack Obama used that as evidence that Hillary is not as committed to the cause of African-Americans as Obama.

  • Hillary had one of her high-visibility Black Supporters, Bob Johnson (founder of Black Entertainment Television) tell a crowd in South Carolina:
    "As an African American, I am frankly insulted that the Obama campaign would imply that we are so stupid that we would think Hillary and Bill Clinton, who have been deeply and emotionally involved in black issues when Barack Obama was doing something in the neighborhood that I won't say what he was doing that he said it in his book."

  • reminds us that
    "Obama admitted using drugs in his 1995 autobiography 'Dreams From My Father.' A top New Hampshire adviser to the Clinton campaign was fired last month when he brought up that drug use in an interview."

  • Obama then hopped into the fray by claiming his campaign had nothing to do with highlighting the MLK/LBJ dust-up saying, "The notion that somehow this is our doing is ludicrous."

  • Thus calling the Clinton campaign "ludicrous."

  • The Clinton campaign had to issue a statement explaining Johnson's remarks to a skeptical press corps (which is, in any event, growing weary of changing in and out of boots for Michigan events and soft, hand-crafted loafers for those in South Carolina):
    My comments today were referring to Barack Obama's time spent as a community organizer, and nothing else. Any other suggestion is simply irresponsible and incorrect.

  • Thus calling the Obama campaign "irresponsible."

  • The State newspaper in Columbia, SC analyzed the whole thing thus:
    Obama has gotten under the skin of the Clintons by painting Hillary Clinton as a calculating politician whose election would take the country back to the bitterly partisan years of the 1990s.

    The Clinton team mostly ignored Obama's digs in the early months of the campaign. But, as Obama moved closer to what became a resounding victory in the Iowa caucuses, Clinton and her supporters began to attack Obama.


    Note how easily the writer slipped in the phrase "the Clintons" in that first line but refers to Obama in the singular.

    Innerestin', huh?


  • Neither Obama nor Edwards are competing in Michigan because of sanctions put on that state by the DNC for moving its primary up too early, so Hillary will win there to no great effect.

  • However, both Hillary and Barack are competing in Nevada whose caucuses will be held this Saturday (the same day as the Republican primary in South Carolina. Democrats are a week later in the Palmetto State).

  • Thus the two candidates may well come into South Carolina for the election on January 26th tied in terms of wins and losses, if not in actual delegates.

  • There is nothing in the history of Clintonian campaigns which would lead anyone to believe Bill and Hillary will try to "out-nice" Obama.

  • They will use every tool they can get their hands on and give those tools to as many people as they can cajole, bully, plead with, wheedle, or threaten to get their hands as dirty as necessary in the process of trying to destroy Obama while the Clintons pretend to be above the fray and are photographed holding hands, gently sailing into the sunset down the River of Victory.

  • So, what if neither Obama nor Clinton has a clear path to the nomination three weeks from tomorrow on February 5?

  • What If, indeed!

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to newspaper coverage of the Obama/Clinton/Did-Not/Did-Too business; a MYTHBUSTING Mullfoto you will not want to miss, and the required Catchy Caption of the Day mocking of Global Warming with the snowfall in Baghdad.

  • Wednesday, January 9, 2008

    As I Was Saying ...

    Click here for an Easy Print Version

    From Sumter, South Carolina

  • All right, people, settle down. As was saying at the end of Monday's class: "I have to write MULLINGS three days a week. Chaos is my friend."

  • As you know by now, Hillary Clinton won the Democratic primary and John McCain won the Republican primary in New Hampshire thus jumbling both the Republican and Democratic nomination pictures like your three-year-old tipping over the card table with that 2,000 piece jigsaw puzzle you've been working on since Christmas.

  • As the afternoon progressed it became ever-more-clear to big-time reporters (and big-time political hacks) that Sen. Barack Obama would cruise to an easy win over Clinton, and the real story would be whether McCain would be able to continue with a loss - even a close loss - to Mitt Romney.

  • The "Hillary-Will-Retool-Her-Campaign-Tomorrow" story dominated discussions on-and-off the air including insider reports that James Carville and Paul Begala would immediately be brought in as unpaid Senior Advisors to get her faltering effort back on track.


    ABC's Jake Tapper reported that the story was given credence because participants in the high-level conference call discussing the addition of Carville and Begala had told others about it.

    Two of those participants were … Carville and Begala (who told Tapper that the story was NOT true) but that's not the interesting point.

    The interesting point is: If Carville and Begala were on the conference call to discuss how to fix the Clinton campaign, doesn't that already qualify them as Senior Advisors?


  • Reporters were openly discussing the exact place, date and time that Hillary Clinton would announce the end of her bid for the Democratic nomination. To punctuate this, cable nets spent the day running the footage of Clinton showing her weakness by tearing up at a campaign stop juxtaposed with a strong and smiling Obama confidently addressing a massive campaign rally.

  • As the early returns began to come in, and Clinton clung to a small lead, really smart and experienced viewers were betting on exactly what time the Obama surge would be reflected in the tally placing him ahead for keeps in New Hampshire and probably in the nomination race overall.

  • The answer was: Never. When the actual voters went to the actual polls and the results were actually tallied Clinton collected just shy of 8,000 more than Obama leading to a 39% - 37% victory.

  • If this were a poll, that result would be called a technical tie. But as there are no "undecideds on election day" a two percentage point win is a TWO PERCENTAGE POINT WIN!

  • On the GOP side, where the afternoon chatter had to do with whether McCain could possibly fend off the Romney turnout machine in a state where both had spent enormous amounts of time, effort and money, the results were instantaneously clear. Fox News Channel called the race for McCain at about 8:10 - ten minutes after the polls officially closed.

  • McCain's margin of victory - 13,000 votes - led to a 37% to 32% win over Romney. In the arcane language of big-time politics that is called: Convincing.

  • McCain and Romney will campaign in Michigan (whose primary is next Tuesday) where a McCain win in Romney's home state would inflict a potentially fatal wound. If Romney wins in Michigan he gets his first significant win (not counting the county caucuses in Wyoming last Saturday) and will recharge his campaign going into the South Carolina primary on Saturday the 19th.

  • But that is actually good news for Republicans. Having five more-or-less viable candidates as the process proceeds is, no matter how counterintuitive it sounds, good for party unity. If I am a fan of Fred Thompson (for whom I am a paid consultant) and my guy doesn't make it out of South Carolina I will still have three or four other choices.

  • As the process continues and the field winnows, there is a feeling that my candidate had a fair shot and I'll get in behind the eventual nominee.

  • The danger for the Democrats is this: When there are only two major contenders and they both stay in the race for a long time, support for each sets in and hardens into a very, very difficult bloc to crack apart.

  • The 1976 Reagan and Ford factions on the GOP side have never reconciled. If you were in Iowa last week, you would still have seen evidence of the rift between the Ford moderates and the Reagan conservatives like geologic scars on the political landscape.

  • If Hillary and Barack continue to whack each other through the February 5th Über-Tuesday primaries, past March 4 and into the Summer, the Democrats will have a very difficult time reconciling in time for next November's Presidential election.

  • They will hoot and cheer for the nominee at their convention in Colorado, but for slightly less than half of the delegates, their hearts won't really be in it.

  • Thus, endeth the lesson.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the CNN election results page Mullfoto from South Carolina which could never have originated in Iowa or New Hampshire and a Catchy Caption of the Day.