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

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Wright is Wrong

  • An increasingly anxious Obama campaign had to have been watching in horror as Jeremiah Wright continued to elbow his way onto the national political stage with his performance at the National Press Club in Washington the other day.

  • The Washington Post's Dana Milbank short-handed Wright's remarks as follows:
    "Wright praised Louis Farrakhan, defended the view that Zionism is racism, accused the United States of terrorism, repeated his belief that the government created AIDS to extinguish racial minorities, and stood by his suggestion that 'God damn America.'"

  • Louis Farrakhan is the head of the Nation of Islam and has said things like:
    "Do you know some of these satanic Jews have taken over BET [Black Entertainment Television]?... Everything that we built, they have. The mind of Satan now is running the record industry, movie industry and television."

  • And that wasn't 10 years ago. It was five months ago in November of last year.

  • After claiming that the oft-viewed clips of his sermons were taken out of the context of 30 years of preaching, Wright is now - with, as the Chicago Tribune called it, "caustic sarcasm" - defending those very snippets and putting them very much into context.

  • On the campaign trail, Sen. Barack Obama said of Wright, "He does not speak for me. He does not speak for the campaign."

  • Obama is wrong. In the minds of many - if not most - Americans, Jeremiah Wright and Barack Obama are very connected, spiritually and politically.

  • The Boston Globe's Joseph Williams wrote:
    A series of high-profile appearances by [Wright] defending some of his more racially charged remarks threatened to undermine Obama's campaign just when he is trying to connect with white, working-class voters on the eve of crucial Democratic primaries in North Carolina and Indiana.

  • And Obama doesn't need any more problems on the white, working-class voter front. Obama tried to shake the "elitist" tag a couple of weeks ago by going bowling, at which he was dreadful.

  • The other day he threw a verbal gutter ball by saying:
    "I was raised in a setting with my grandparents who grew up in small-town Kansas where the dinner table would have been very familiar to anybody here in Indiana: A lot of pot roasts and potatoes and Jell-O molds."

  • So … he was describing his grandparents' dinner table in small-town Kansas. The pot roasts and Jell-O molds and all. Was Obama faced with pot roasts and Jello-O as well?

  • I … don't … think … so.

  • And, we must assume, this was the same grandmother whom, Obama told a world-wide audience, damned-near fainted at the sight of Black people; "a woman who once confessed her fear of Black men who passed by her on the street." In that small-town in Kansas. As she carried her famous pot-roast and Jell-O mold to the K of C Hall. For the annual Founder's Day Pot Luck Dinner.

  • That description was typical of an elitist, Ivy-League-educated, snobbish, pretentious dope who thinks Hoosiers still sit in front of their black-and-white TV sets watching Howdy Doody reruns while waiting for their Jell-O molds to set up in the Frigidaire.

  • Here's the thing: I was Congressman and Senator Dan Quayle's press secretary. I spent a lot of time in Indiana. I'm not certain I ever saw a pot roast or a Jell-O mold.

  • I did see a potato. But, it didn't have an "e".

  • Jeremiah Wright is basking in the glow of the national spotlight; the spotlight which has been denied him lo these many years in favor of fellow Chicagoan Jesse Jackson and New Yorker Al Sharpton.

  • Jeremiah Wright is working out the decades of frustration, having attempted to do good works for the poor and underserved in Chicago while Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have been on the national stage in top hats and tails like Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle singing "Puttin' on the Ritz."

  • But the unkindest cut of all comes, again, from the Dana Milbank piece:
    "Most problematic for the Democratic presidential front-runner was Wright's suggestion that Obama was insincere in distancing himself from his former pastor. 'He didn't distance himself,' Wright announced. 'He had to distance himself, because he's a politician.'"

  • Maybe, on that, Wright was right.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Dana Milbank piece and to the Anti-Defamation League's summary of Farrakhan's greatest hits. Also a Mullfoto from the cooler at the business class lounge in Dubai the other night and an anatomically strange Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Sunday, April 27, 2008

    The Racial Thing

  • The Republican Party of North Carolina is running an ad which features that footage of Barack Obama's preacher, Jeremiah Wright uttering his now-infamous imprecation for God to damn America.

  • The ad is not in opposition to Barack Obama; nor is it an ad in favor of John McCain. It is an ad aimed at the two Democratic candidates for North Carolina Governor.

  • The ad (and there is a link to it on today's Secret Decoder Ring page) attempts to make this case:
    - Wright was Obama's "spiritual advisor" for 20 years.

    - Wright is on record of saying some fairly awful things.

    - Obama is a Democrat.

    - Lt. Gov. Beverly Perdue and State Treasurer Richard Moore are Democrats running in the primary for Governor on May 6.

    - Each has endorsed Barack Obama for President.


    - Perdue and Moore are "too extreme for North Carolina."

  • I have worked with State Parties off and on for more than three decades. This is the kind of ad which (a) seems like it was written over greasy cheeseburgers and cheap beer on a paper napkin, (b) sounded like a really good idea at the time, because (c) it would tie the North Carolina gubernatorial race to the Presidential primary, thus (d) providing a terrific fundraising opportunity, and (e) could be produced for $1.47.

  • John McCain immediately condemned it, which irritated the right wingers of the GOP but that was not enough for the main stream media. The New York Times, which has resolved to be the nation's decider of what is acceptable in this campaign and what is not (after spanking Hillary Clinton for the race she ran in Pennsylvania):
    "Unless Mr. McCain quickly gets control of his party, we fear there will be worse to come."

  • Which caused Barack Obama, who would have been better off keeping away from anything having to do with Jeremiah Wright (but couldn't) to say:
    "I assume that if John McCain thinks that it's an inappropriate ad that he can get them to pull it down, since he's their nominee and standard bearer."

  • Which demonstrates, at a minimum, a willful ignorance of the way State Parties operate.

    Dear Mr. Mullings:

    We could have gone for the whole rest of our lives - indeed we could have gone for the whole rest of the history of the Planet Earth - without having to deal with the mental image of Hillary Clinton being spanked.

    Thank you SO much.



  • Let us not forget who was the first person to interject Race into this election cycle. It was not the North Carolina GOP. It was the once-sainted William Jefferson Clinton.

  • From ABC's Jake Tapper on January 26, 2008:
    Said Bill Clinton today in Columbia, SC: "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina in '84 and '88. Jackson ran a good campaign. And Obama ran a good campaign here."

    Boy, I can't understand why anyone would think the Clintons are running a race-baiting campaign to paint Obama as "the black candidate."

  • Not only that, but the Washington Post put Race on its front page this weekend in a piece headed:

    Party Fears Racial Divide

    Attacks Could Do Lasting Harm, Democrats Say

  • In the piece, reporters Jonathan Weisman and Matthew Mosk wrote that following the Pennsylvania primary:
    [Clinton's] backers may be convinced that only she can win the white, working-class voters that the Democratic nominee will need in the general election, but many African American leaders say a Clinton nomination - handed to her by superdelegates - would result in a disastrous breach with black voters.

  • The House Majority Whip, James E. Clyburn (D-SC), who is Black, said in the WashPost article:
    "We keep talking as if it doesn't matter that Obama gets 92 percent of the black vote, because since he only got 35 percent of the white vote, he's in trouble. Well, Hillary Clinton only got 8 percent of the black vote. . . . It's almost saying black people don't matter."

  • Oh, yeah. This is all the fault of the North Carolina GOP. They're the ones bringing Race into this deal.

  • Here's the short hand: Republicans have nothing in this. The Racial thing in this cycle is between a White woman and a Black man for the Democratic nomination.

  • John McCain was correct: It's the Democrats' mess and it is going to get worse before it gets better.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the North Carolina GOP ad, the definition of the word, "imprecation," the New York Times article blaming the NC-GOP ad on John McCain, and a link to the WashPost front pager on Race in the Democratic nominating process.

    Also a Mullfoto from my trip over to the Middle East and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, April 24, 2008

    Dubai, Farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, Adieu

    STILL from Dubai, UAE

  • As you know, I am an accomplished world traveler. I can get from just about any point on the planet to any other point on the planet zip-zap-passport-please-you-may-board-now.

  • So, I arrived at Dubai airport Wednesday night with plenty of time to spare, my well-stamped passport in one hand, and my Delta platinum member card in the other and got into the Elite line (which, by just about any definition, I am) and joked with my fellow passengers about the 12½ flight to Atlanta.

  • In the words of that great American philosopher, Curly Howard: Nyuk. Nyuk. Nyuk.

  • Guess what? I was exactly, precisely, to-the-minute, 24 hours early for the flight I had actually booked.

  • So, I am writing this from the Business Class Lounge at the Dubai International Airport still waiting for my 12½ flight to Atlanta.

  • The previous night I had dinner with former US Senator from Texas, Phil Gramm. We got to talking about the results of the Pennsylvania primary the previous night and he said he had some thoughts about that.

  • I have known Gramm since he was a DEMOCRATIC Congressman from Texas …


    Phil Gramm has a PhD in economics and was an Econ professor at Texas A&M before he ran for the US House in 1978 - as a Democrat. He won and quickly established the fact that (a) he knew a lot more than his Democratic colleagues about economics and (b) what they did know, was wrong.

    In 1982 - in the midst of the Regan Revolution, Gramm decided to switch parties and become a Republican. I do believe what he did next was the only time in my adult life someone has done it:

    He resigned his seat saying, in effect, my constituents elected me as a Democrat. If want to elect me as a Republican, I'll be back.

    They did. He was. And the rest is history.

    It was a truly extraordinary example of political courage for which Gramm has gotten just about zero credit.


  • … so when Phil Gramm says he has some thoughts about just about anything, I put my fork down, pull my reporter's notebook out, and pay attention.

  • His main point was this: The news media, the national Democratic party leadership and the Barack Obama campaign had all been beating the drum about how Obama was unstoppable in his quest of the nomination; that it was over; that Hillary Clinton had no chance; and that she should drop out.

  • In the face of all that, Democratic voters in Pennsylvania chose her over Obama by about a 10 percentage point margin.

  • Gramm thinks that, as the super delegates begin deciding how the end game for the Democratic nomination should play out, this will weigh very heavily in Clinton's favor.

  • This was a nice tactical move on the part of the Clinton campaign: Did you notice on Tuesday night, that Bill and Chelsea sat to the side of the stage while Hillary took her victory lap? And they only joined her at center stage when all the other Democratic bigwigs in Pennsylvania came up as well.

  • No chance of Bill stealing Hillary's spotlight. I thought that was pretty smart.

  • The new most-overused-phrase among the Popular Press is: "Can't Close The Deal." Obama, that is.

  • Why? Because this is a country at war. It is a country sliding into a recession. It is a country where food and fuel inflation is beginning to affect everyone. And it is a country where people are saddled with home mortgages, student loans, car loans, and maxed out credit cards which means most of us are not more than one large financial hit - a new roof, for instance - of being completely underwater in are ability to pay our debts.

  • "Change" my butt. People are not going to turn the keys to the kingdom over to a guy who has three years experience as a US Senator and has spent two of them running for President.

  • Ain't. Gonna. Happen.

  • They're calling my flight.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to Phil Gramm's bio and an pretty interesting anecdote about him. Also a Mullfoto which is even a worse pun than today's title and a Catchy Caption of the Day which may make you feel small and inadequate.

  • Tuesday, April 22, 2008

    Hill-are-EE; Hill-are-EE!

    From Abu Dhabi, UAE

  • It is shortly before 4:00 AM in the Middle East. I feel like writing a Blues song:
    It's four in the mornin' (dah-dum; dah-dum)

    Ah'm in the UAE (dah-dum; dah-dum)

    Watchin' CNN's results (dah-dum; dah-dum)

    For a Democrat nominee

    In Pennsylvania

    It's Pennsylvania

  • I'm just bored waiting for the numbers to start coming in. Maybe I'll add a lyric about my wives leaving me, my camel dying and my having lost my oil well in a card game.

  • Ok. 5:05 AM in Abu Dhabi and CNN has just called the race for Sen. Hillary Clinton.

  • This is great news. For Sen. John McCain.

  • She's never getting out. Hillary will not leave the race tonight. She will not leave the race before the convention in August. She may not leave the race ever.

  • Here's my new fondest hope:
    - Clinton and Obama go to the convention with neither - including the super delegates - having a majority to claim the nomination.

    - The issue of seating the delegates from Florida and Michigan delegates will not have been resolved.

    - The "L-word" - Lawsuit - will be in the news every day with each side threatening to take the result in Denver to court.

    - The race between Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama has become so nasty that their negatives are driven through the roof and the general electorate doesn't like either one of them.

    - While Clinton and Obama continue to slime each other, McCain continues to look and sound Presidential.

    - The "C-word" - Change - election Democrats have been touting, implodes and John McCain becomes the "C-word" - Consensus - candidate.

  • I ran though some of this - especially the lawsuit idea - with Judge Andrew Napolitano on his Fox radio show, Brian & the Judge. He immediately pointed out that the US Supreme Court isn't in session during August and September. "They don't come back until the first Monday in October" he reminded me.

  • In truth, it is impossible to believe that the Dems won't come out of Denver with a nominee. But it is very, VERY possible that they come out of Denver with a nominee who is out-and-out detested by the supporters of which ever candidate comes out the loser.

  • The Pennsylvania exit poll numbers I found most interesting last night tracked a Gallup poll from several weeks ago - that is the relatively huge numbers of Obama and Clinton supporters who told the pollsters they would not vote for the other candidate in November; they will stay home or vote for McCain. From the AP:
    The animosity between the two camps led more than one in seven Obama supporters to say they would vote for Republican John McCain if Clinton were the nominee. Even more Clinton supporters, one in four, said they would defect.

  • At shortly after 7 AM in Abu Dhabi, the CNN ticker just clicked over to the double-digite percentage point lead (55% - 45% with about 84% of the votes counted) that the Clinton camp was looking for while Obama was speaking through the top of the hour to make certain he was still on when local newscasts began.
    "In White, blue-collar rural Pennsylvania," CNN's John King just said, "Hillary Clinton is getting 75% of the vote."

  • This is an issue which will not go unnoticed by the super delegates as they try to figure out how to avoid that nightmare situation I described above.

  • Hill-are-EE; Hill-are-EE!

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A link to the AP's exit poll analysis a Mullfoto with my new best friend here; and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Monday, April 21, 2008

    The Pennsylvania Primary from Afar

    From Abu Dhabi, UAE

  • I am in Abu Dhabi to give a speech tomorrow to a conference sponsored the financial firm, UBS. As long-term readers of MULLINGS have come to know, I have been to this region many times and I like it.

  • One of the advantages of being in the Middle East is that there is an eight-hour time difference. I am typing this at 10:30 Monday morning UAE time which is 2:30 AM in Your Nation's Capital.

  • While 90% of those of you on US soil are fixated on the primary election in Pennsylvania tomorrow, the major English language newspaper here, The Gulf News, found it could wait until page 23 before getting to the US elections.

  • The major story on the front page of The Gulf News describes the decision by the United Arab Emirates to begin moving toward nuclear power to meet its energy needs by 2020.

  • You may know that they grow oil here, so if the Emirates think they need to move to nuclear power, what do you think will happen to the power grid in the United States over the next couple of decades.


    Gasoline here is about two dirhams per liter. A dirham (the unit of currency in the UAE) is about 27¢; there are about four liters to the gallon so petrol is about $1.08 a gallon.

    Actually, according to the NY Times, the price of a gallon of gas (not adjusted for inflation) in the US didn't break through the one dollar barrier until 1980.

    Although, when measured in 2007 dollars, a gallon of gasoline has never dipped below a dollar a gallon, and from1920 to 1985 was almost always north of two dollars per gallon.


  • As we are somewhat more interested in the ins-and-outs of the American political landscape than the average Abu Dhabian, the campaign finance reports for March have been released showing that Sen. Barack Obama raised $41 million during the month - down from the $55 million he raised in February - but still unbelievable by any rational standard.

  • Overall, Obama has raised some $235 million. At his current rate he will have broken through the QUARTER OF A BILLION DOLLAR mark by mid month.

  • There is a point of diminishing returns, however. When that point is reached, the additional money spent does not have an additional impact on the campaign.

  • No matter by how much Obama will have outspent Sen. Hillary Clinton between April 1 and tomorrow night, the polling summary shows Hillary hanging onto a six-ish point lead moving into the final hours of the campaign there.


    While we're on the subject of RealClearPolitics, I am probably never going to write about, or speak to, The Lad again as long as I live.

    It is not enough that he has interpersonal skills which I cannot even pronounce.

    It is not enough that he has a better head for business than I can even calculate.

    It is not enough that he has progressed so quickly in politics that while he used to be known as "Rich Galen's son," nowadays I am known as "Reed Galen's dad."

    Now, it turns out, he is every bit as good a writer as I am and a much better analyst than I will ever be as his essay which was published on the RealClearPolitics website late last week really, clearly shows. The link is on the Secret Decoder Ring page.



  • Finally, on all this, Barack is in a full whine saying Hillary is throwing "the kitchen sink" at him with charges which are nothing but "distractions" from the big issues. ABC's Jake Tapper captured the theme on his blog, writing:
    "How on Earth can Obama with a straight face decry these "distractions" when his campaign that very same day organized a conference call to harp on Clinton's Bosnia-sniper-fire gaffe?"

  • This has gotten so ugly, that I am not now certain Hillary will get out of this thing even if she loses tomorrow.

  • Hope, as they say, springs eternal.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the NY Times graphic on gasoline prices through the ages, a map of the Middle East for your viewing pleasure, the RealClearPolitics polling summary for the Pennsylvania primary, the link to The Lad's essay, and Jack Tapper's blog.

    Also a Mullfoto from the Amsterdam Airport the other day and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Friday, April 18, 2008

    The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

  • On Wednesday night, Sen. Hillary Clinton and Sen. Barack Obama participated in their final debate before Tuesday's primary in Pennsylvania.

  • The prevailing theory is that Clinton was trying, in the wake of Obama's "bitter" comment, to demonstrate to the super delegates that he is unelectable in November and, so, they should support her at the Democratic National Convention in August.

  • According to Clinton's home-town paper, the New York Times, it didn't work.

  • Reporter Patrick Healy writes in today's paper that the Times interviewed "a cross-section of a cross-section of these super delegates - Members of Congress, elected officials and party leaders."

  • The result? "Most of the super delegates said they wanted to wait for the results of at least the next major primaries - in Pennsylvania on Tuesday and Indiana and North Carolina two weeks later - before choosing a candidate."

  • On Super Tuesday, February 5, it was inconceivable that this would go beyond the date of the Texas and Ohio primaries a month later - March 4.

  • When Clinton won three out of the four contests that night, senior Democrats were horrified as they considered the six long weeks before the next major event - Pennsylvania.

  • There was a flurry of activity (in what would have been smoke-filled rooms if indoor smoking were still a part of our culture) way back then, to try and come up with some mechanism to have the super delegates choose up sides.

  • The idea was - and is - to get the number of super and the number of elected delegates above the current magic number of 2,025 which would be the majority and, thus, declare a nominee.

  • That, of course, presumes, that neither Michigan nor Florida has their delegations seated, but that is a discussion for another day.

  • Senior Dems are putting on a brave smile saying the continuing excitement attached to this electoral death march is good for their party.

  • But, DNC chairman Howard Dean was on CNN yesterday whining about a process which is sapping the strength of the party faithful. Calling on the supers to pick a side, Dean told Wolf Blitzer:
    "We cannot give up two or three months of active campaigning and healing time. We've got to know who our nominee is."

  • Whoa. Check please! "Healing time?" If this is such a good party-builder what is Dean talking about? Who has to heal? And from what?

  • Obviously, every day this goes on is one less day Hillary or Barack get to run against McCain and is one MORE day when the lines harden between their supporters.

  • Further, I continue to get questions from reporters wondering whether this attention on Obama/Hillary is damaging Sen. John McCain's ability to generate news.

  • Here's the answer: McCain gets to make news whenever, and where ever he wants. News organizations HAVE to cover McCain when his is on the campaign trail because he is the GOP nominee.

  • McCain went to Pennsylvania and Wisconsin for major economic addresses this week and the press corps dutifully followed to report on them.

  • Not only that, but if Hillary or Obama had much to say about that speech, it was lost in the tsk-tsk-tsking over whether Obama is more elitist than a woman who has been driven around in limousines by state troopers and Secret Service agents for, maybe, decades.

  • McCain looking Presidential and looking forward; Hillary and Barack sniping at each other and looking small. Does it matter?

  • Associated Press has a new poll which provides the answer. McCain has a slight general election edge over either Clinton or Obama. According to the analysis by Alan Fram and Trevor Tomson:
    "The survey suggests that those switching to McCain are largely attuned to his personal qualities and McCain may be benefiting as the two Democrats snipe at each other during their prolonged nomination fight."

  • Isn't that what I've been telling you?

  • As much as it pains me to write this, Howard Dean is right. There will not be enough time for the Democratic Party to heal its self-inflicted wounds.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the NY Times and the Associated Press pieces a topic-appropriate Mullfoto and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Friday, April 11, 2008

    Olympian Problems

  • The 2008 Summer Olympic Games are scheduled to be held in Beijing, China from August 8 to August 24.

  • As part of the run-up to the Opening Ceremonies, China has mounted an Olympic Flame tour - a highly staged effort to drum up support by having runners carry a torch who's flame was lit in a ceremony in Greece on March 24, as the official International Olympic Committee (IOC) website reports, "by a Holy Priestess, according to the traditional ritual, using the sun's rays and a parabolic mirror."

  • Since that time the Torch has been mugged in Paris, London, and San Francisco by demonstrators who, apparently, blame it for the troubles between China and Tibet.

  • The Modern Games were reinstated in 1896 in Athens with the goal of:
    "to contribute to building a peaceful and better world by educating youth through sport practiced without discrimination of any kind and in the Olympic spirit, which requires mutual understanding with a spirit of friendship, solidarity and fair play."

  • A worthy effort which, unfortunately, has been - as Hamlet said - honored more in the breach than in the observance.

  • It is precisely because the world's attention turns so fully to the Olympic Games that the whole business becomes as large a stage for political actors as it is a field for athletes.

  • There is a rule, according to the UK Times, against athletes participating in propaganda. The reporting by Ashling O'Connor has IOC president Jacques Rogge saying that "that competitors were free to express their political views but faced sanctions if they indulged in propaganda."

  • Fine line there, it seems to me.

  • Sen. Hillary Clinton has broad-jumped into the fray by demanding that President Bush follow the lead of UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown (whom she praised) in boycotting the Opening Ceremonies.

  • Once again Hillary appears to have been misinformed. According to The Times, Brown had long ago announced he would be attending the Closing Ceremonies instead and 10 Downing Street has been trying to knock down the notion that Brown was now the poster child for high-level protest of the Chinese government.

  • The IOC didn't just decide Tuesday afternoon to allow China to host the 2008 Olympics. They awarded the Games to Beijing in July, 2001 with Sports Illustrated saying:
    "The International Olympic Committee put aside human rights concerns in making their historic decision, hoping to foster further change in the world's most populous country."

  • The point being, the world has had seven years to complain about the 2008 games and has had nearly 60 years to complain about China's swallowing of Tibet which (according to the BBC webpage) occurred in 1950.

  • The very people who are calling on political leaders, advertisers and athletes to boycott some or all of the Beijing Games are the same people who routinely pillory President George W. Bush for not following a policy of engagement with political foes.

  • Sen. John McCain has suggested President Bush reconsider his plans to attend the Olympic Games saying, "If Chinese policies and practices do not change, I would not attend the opening ceremonies."

  • Clinton we already know about.

  • Barack Obama skated on the issue first saying, according to the Agence France-Presse (AFP), "he was of 'two-minds' over whether the United States should play a full role in the Olympics, again citing Tibet and Darfur."

  • But upon, as NFL referees like to say, further review, Obama's folks realized he was the soft cheese standing along and so hardened his position saying:
    "If the Chinese do not take steps to help stop the genocide in Darfur and to respect the dignity, security, and human rights of the Tibetan people, then the president should boycott the opening ceremonies."

  • The people who get caught in the cross-fire of all this are the athletes. For a huge proportion of demonstrators against the Olympic Flame, their commitment to the protest was cutting their ten o'clock Poly Sci class.

  • The athletes, however have, in most cases, devoted the majority of their time on Earth preparing for these Games. If, having practiced for hours a day, every day, for years on end, an athlete decides that China's reluctance to help in Darfur or free Tibet is too much to overlook, then he or she has earned that right.

  • The pretension of politicians and protesters that anything China is doing today is any worse than it was doing in 2002 or 2003 or 2004 is at best, folly, and at worst, hypocrisy.

  • On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: A TON of links today which I urge you to take a look at. A Mullfoto which demonstrates the excellence of professional work, and a Catchy Caption of the Day which, I guarantee you, has NOTHING to do with Beach Volleyball.

  • Tuesday, April 8, 2008

    General Protect Us

  • From Gen. David Petraeus' opening remarks to the US Senate Armed Services Committee:
    Security in Iraq is better than it was when Ambassador Crocker and I reported to you last September, and it is significantly better than it was 15 months ago when Iraq was on the brink of civil war and the decision was made to deploy additional forces to Iraq.

  • Last September Democrats were frothing at the mouth as they looked for reasons to declare "The Surge" in Iraq an abject failure.

  • Unfortunately for the wing of the Democratic Party, General Petraeus proved to be the military equivalent of Chief Justice John Roberts - intellectually honest and factually powerful.

  • Democratic Senators - whose staffs had labored for weeks to develop the "killer question" which would embarrass Petraeus - only served to expose the Senators to be the self-promoting, ill-prepared, unproductive academic pygmies they are.

  • Gen. Petraeus and Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker had to sit through hours of political theater - mostly amateur political theater - while the Senators postured and the two men at the pointy end of the sword patiently parried.

  • At one point in the proceedings, Petraeus tried to explain to the Senators that they shouldn't look at the up-tick in violence over the past few weeks in isolation to the overall improvement of security in Iraq.

  • A significant percentage of Middle Eastern men have attended college in the West. It is not at all unusual to ask someone where he went to college and have him answer something like Colorado State.

  • The point here is, the bad guys understand the nature of the media. Over the past few weeks they have returned to their first principals: If you want to influence the Western press, toss rockets and mortars into the Green Zone where the Western press will report it.

  • The bad guys knew that Petraeus and Crocker would be testifying this week, so they increased their bad behavior to attempt to influence policy.

  • Obviously the American media were specifically interested in the questions posed by the three remaining candidates for President, John McCain, Hillary R.(!) Clinton and Barack H.(!) Obama.

  • On Fox yesterday morning, I suggested that Obama needed a map to find his way to the hearing room.

  • This is the actual transcript, according to the Washington Post, of Obama's first question:
    Should we be successful in Mosul, should you continue, General, with the effective operations that you've been engaged in, assuming that in that narrow military effort we are successful, do we anticipate that there ever comes a time where Al Qaida in Iraq could not reconstitute itself?

  • Read it again.

  • See? You can read that as many times as you like and it will not make any more sense than it did the first time.

  • Now say these words to yourself: President Barack H.(!) Obama.

  • Make you feel comfortable?

  • Later in his questioning, Barack H.(!) Obama asked this of Ambassador Crocker:
    Can you respond a little more fully to Senator Boxer's point?

  • Let me tell you: If it weren't for Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-WV), Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) would be the dumbest member of the US Senate. So Obama depending upon anything that Boxer asked is an open admission of his lack of preparation.


    To prove my point, Rockefeller - who appears to have crawled out of the shallow end of the family gene pool - said in an interview in the Charleston (WV) Gazette:
    "McCain was a fighter pilot, who dropped laser-guided missiles from 35,000 feet. He was long gone when they hit. What happened when they (the missiles) get to the ground? He doesn't know. You have to care about the lives of people. McCain never gets into those issues."

    After half the civilized world smacked Rockefeller in the back of the head for being even dumber than usual, his office issued the following:

    "I have profound respect and appreciate his dedication to our country, and I regret my very poor choice of words."



  • The Democrats in Congress must take care that they are not seen as rooting for failure in Iraq.

  • Americans are, by our nature, optimists. We may be exhausted by this war, but we will never be so weary that we want our military personnel to lose.

  • General Petraeus is representative of the hundreds of thousands of Americans who have answered the call to duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.

  • Given that, it is politically very dangerous for Democrats to try and paint Petraeus as anything other than a patriot.

  • On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the opening statement of General Petraeus and the apology of Sen. Rockefeller. Also a Mullfoto which I really, really like and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Sunday, April 6, 2008

    Conflict of Interest

  • One of the problems in modern-day Washington is trying to decide who works for whom and on what basis.

  • So as not bury the lead, Mark Penn has been relieved of his duties as the Chief Strategist and More of the Presidential campaign of Hillary R.(!) Clinton.

  • Here's the background.

  • Penn was not paid by the campaign. His polling firm, Penn Schoen & Berland, is paid by the campaign. His polling firm is owned by the mega-PR firm of Burson-Marsteller. Burson-Marsteller is a unit of Young & Rubicam which, in turn, is owned by the WPP Group.

  • Penn is the CEO of Burson in addition to having been the Chief Guru of the Clinton campaign.

  • According to a long backgrounder in the Washington Post by Anne Kornblut last year, Penn
    "receives no compensation directly from the Clinton campaign and that his salary from Burson-Marsteller, which he declined to reveal, is contingent upon his management performance for the corporation overall, rather on than specific fees from the campaign."

  • It is one of the many oddities of the campaign finance laws that campaigns have to disclose to which vendors, and for how much, they write checks; but vendors are under no obligation to disclose who is on their payroll or how much they are paid.

  • According to the FEC, Penn's firm was paid $3.1 million in March and is owed $2.4 million bringing the grand total for this campaign to over $10 million.

  • Why is this important?

  • Because the work of Mark Penn and the work of Burson-Marsteller got tangled up last week when Penn met with the Ambassador to the US from Columbia

  • One of Burson's clients, it turns out, has been the country of Columbia which is in serious negotiations for a Free-Trade Agreement with the United States. I have been involved in this sort of thing and it is the PR firm's job to convince people that this is not only a good idea, but the passage of this agreement is the most important issue facing the Congress this year!

  • Susan Davis, writing in the Wall Street Journal,
    "Hillary Clinton has been railing against free-trade agreements.

    Clinton pointedly told the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO: 'We've got to have new trade policies before we have new trade deals. That includes no trade deal with Colombia while violence against trade unionists continues in that country."

  • Oops.

  • This business of having clients on both sides of the same issue is known in most places (not counting, of course, Your Nation's Capital) as a conflict of interest. Some conflicts are easy to avoid. But being paid by Clinton to advise her on how best to oppose the Columbian Free Trade Agreement and being paid by Burson-Marsteller for advising the Columbians on how to minimize opposition (like Clinton's) to the same pact is - even INSIDE the District of Columbia - a serious conflict.

  • The Clinton campaign stated that Penn was meeting with the Ambassador in his role as the CEO of Burson. But a spokesman for the government of Columbia, according to the Wall Street Journal, appeared to disagree, saying:
    "The ambassador met with Mr. Penn to discuss the bilateral agenda. There have also been meetings with the advisers to the campaigns of Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain. It's the embassy's job to explain Colombia's reality."

  • Well, that certainly sounds like the Ambassador thought he was meeting with Penn, at least partially, as a representative of the Clinton campaign.

  • On Saturday the country of Columbia fired the PR firm of Burson-Marsteller. According to the WSJ's Jackie Calmes, after Penn called the meeting "an error in judgment," the Columbians canned B-M saying:
    "The Colombian government considers this a lack of respect to Colombians, and finds this response unacceptable."

  • By Sunday night the pressure - internally and externally - became too much and Penn was out as the Senior Strategist and More of the Clinton campaign.

  • It didn't take long for the Clinton insiders to begin dancing on Penn's professional grave. Again, according to Jackie Calmes in the WSJ:
    Mr. Penn has been blamed by Clinton advisers and supporters for a flawed strategy that has left the New York senator, once seen as the inevitable nominee, instead struggling against Sen. Obama for the Democrats' nomination.

  • As the old saying goes: In Washington, ya want a friend? Buy a dog.

  • As the new saying goes: Wanna wear two hats? Buy a second head.

  • On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Kornblut backgrounder and the WashPost coverage of Penn's departure. Also a cool link to the FEC page on Presidential campaign spending, a Mullfoto showing the highlights of the in-seat entertainment on my Delta flight last week and a Catchy Caption of the Day.

  • Thursday, April 3, 2008

    Random Thoughts

  • This 'n that for a Friday Morning.

  • The husband of US Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mi), Tom Athans, is described by the Detroit News as "the co-founder and former CEO of the liberal-progressive Democracy Radio" and "was executive vice president of Air America."

  • Ok. Stabenow is a liberal Senator so the fact that she is married to a liberal activist - pro-abortion, pro-women's rights, and all that - should not be a surprise.

  • But here's the paragraph which makes this piece Mullworthy. It seems that Athans
    "was stopped Feb. 26 by undercover officers investigating a possible prostitution ring in a room at the Residence Inn near Big Beaver and Interstate 75. Athans paid a 20-year-old prostitute $150 for sex in the hotel."

  • Putting aside, for the moment the onomatopoeian name of the town involved, it may be there emerging a "Spitzer Rule:" The more liberal the public figure, the more likely he is to pay for sex.

  • Ok, you caught me. I didn't think the story was such a big deal but, I really did giggle at the name of the town.

  • The WOW fundraising numbers that Sen. Barack H.(!) Obama put up yesterday ($40 million raised in March to about $20 million for Sen. Hillary R.(!) Clinton) obscured some numbers which were just as interesting.

  • The Gallup organization has been conducting nightly tracking polls following both the Obama-Clinton primary race as well as general election matchups between either of them and Sen. John McCain.

  • As summarized on the polling page, through Wednesday night, Obama and Clinton were at 49-46 for the second straight night - essentially a tie. That three-point spread matches the Rasmussen Poll tracking which has them at 46-43.

  • Now to the general election matchup. McCain leads Clinton by two percentage points (47-45) and McCain leads Obama by one (47-46) in the Gallup numbers.

  • But Rasmussen has the potential general election numbers with McCain leading Clinton by five percentage points (47-42) and leading Obama by seven percentage points (48-41).

  • The CBS/NY Times poll, to complete the circuit shows each Clinton or Obama beating McCain by five percentage points, but even that isn't all good news for Obama. According to the analysis by Adam Nagourney and Megan Thee:
    "Obama's support among Democrats nationally has softened over the last month - particularly among men and upper-income voters."

  • How to account for the disparity? You should treat polls like judges used to treat Olympic figure skating scores:
    Everyone knew the French and the East Germans were cheating so they threw out the highest and the lowest scores and then averaged the rest.

  • Same with early polls.

  • National reporters are beginning to pick up on the fact that GOP senior political hacks don't much care who the Democratic nominee is. From a Reuters piece by John Whitesides:
    "Originally people thought Hillary would be better to run against only because she generated so much ill will among the Republican base," said Republican consultant Rich Galen.

    "But I don't think professional politicians on the Republican side have a rooting interest anymore because it doesn't matter. We can beat either one. We just wish the election was tomorrow," he said.

  • A quote which I pulled off the Internet by random chance.

  • Bill Clinton, campaigning in Altoona, Pennsylvania (oh, how the mighty have fallen) spoke about those who are urging Hillary to get out of the race. From the AP's Beth Fouhy:
    "They're telling you, 'Oh don't worry, this doesn't matter, and it's OK if we disenfranchise Michigan and Florida, we got this deal under control. You guys just be quiet and go away,'" Bill Clinton said.

    "Let me tell you something. I've been in politics a long time. People don't tell you your votes don't count unless they do."

  • Uh …

  • With Clinton/Obama raising money at a $60 million-a-month clip; with Iraq still dodgy; with the Fed Chairman telling Congress that "a recession is possible," either Clinton or Obama should be leading McCain by 25 percentage points.

  • Why, then, have the Democrats in Washington put away their tape measures and stopped putting in their bids for corner offices in the Executive Office Building?

  • Because Americans consider their vote for President on a completely different intellectual and emotional plane than any other public office.

  • Americans, it appears, are extremely hesitant about trusting Hillary or Barack with the keys to the country.

  • On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to just about everything referenced above. Also a Mullfoto from Ontario, California and a Catchy Caption of the Day which … well, just take a look.

  • Tuesday, April 1, 2008

    Good News

  • Rasmussen has published polls in New Jersey, Michigan and Washington State which show - as of now - John McCain is, at a minimum, competitive with either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton.

  • Whoever the Democratic nominee is, he or she cannot afford to lose either New Jersey, Michigan or Washington State.

  • Got it?

  • I will repeat this, probably, twenty seven hundred times over the next seven months but all that matters on November 4 is the number 270. That is the number of electoral votes necessary to stand on the steps of the US Capitol building at noon on January 20, 2009 and take the oath of office as President of the United States.

  • A state's electoral votes is calculated by adding the number of Congressional Districts plus the number of US Senators (always two).

  • New Jersey, as an example, has 15 electors. Michigan has 17. Washington State has 11. Neither Hillary nor Barack is likely to get to the magic 270 without all three.

  • Why is this? It is because the two Democratic contenders, Hillary R. (!) Clinton and Barack H. (!) Obama, are slugging it out in Wilkes-Barre and Upper Macungie Township, Pennsylvania while John McCain is standing astride the world in places like Baghdad and Jerusalem.

  • On the air, my Democratic debate partners insist that the Clinton-Obama bloodletting will ultimately be good for their party in the Fall, I always ask this:
    If this is such a good thing, why is every senior Democrat in Washington in a projectile sweat trying to figure out some mechanism to stop it?

  • That is generally when we go to a commercial.

  • Next bit of good news: The economy may have already bottomed out.

  • From the Associated Press last night:
    Wall Street began the second quarter with a big rally Tuesday as investors rushed back into stocks, optimistic that the worst of the credit crisis has passed and that the economy is faring better than expected.

    The Dow Jones industrials surged nearly 400 points, and all the major indexes were up more than 3 percent.

  • If, in the approximate words of my back-door neighbor James Carville, "It is ALWAYS the economy, stupid" then the economy may not be the crushing issue Democrats have been hoping for.

  • I have no idea what this means, but the AP also reported that:
    Wall Street got another boost when the Institute for Supply Management said its March index of national manufacturing activity rose to a reading of 48.6 -- indicating a contraction, but a slower one than in February and tamer than many analysts had predicted.

    Government data on construction spending for February also came in better than expected.

  • The next bit of good news is that the Bush Administration, it turns out, has been working for about a year to bring the Federal regulatory mechanism into the 21st Century to match the new realities of how slick-haired, spread-collared, French-cuffed Wall Streeters do their work.

  • According to the NY Times:
    In the past decade, there has been an explosion in complex derivative instruments, such as collateralized debt obligations and credit default swaps, which were intended primarily to transfer risk.

    These products are virtually hidden from investors, analysts and regulators, even though they have emerged as one of Wall Street's most outsized profit engines. They don't trade openly on public exchanges, and financial services firms disclose few details about them.

  • According to that semi-official mouthpiece of the Bush Administration, National Public Radio:
    [Treasury Secretary Henry] Paulson's proposal is aimed at curbing the kinds of risky investments that led to the current credit crisis, like the widespread use of complex mortgage-backed securities.

  • Naturally, economic geniuses like Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Ct) who is the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee complained the plan was "a wild pitch" but pointed out that the basis of Dodd's opposition became clear when he was caught "grumbling that he was not consulted."

  • Rules to Live By: Never underestimate the size of the ego of a sitting United States Senator.

  • Final bit of good news: This was the headline in the Washington Post: "Clinton Vows to Stay in Race to Convention"
    "I have no intention of stopping until we finish what we started and until we see what happens in the next 10 contests and until we resolve Florida and Michigan. And if we don't resolve it, we'll resolve it at the convention -- that's what credentials committees are for."

  • You go girl!

  • Absolutely last bit of good news: The Washington Nationals have won their first two games and are on pace to go 162-0 this season.

  • On a the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to everything - EVERYTHING - in the piece, an unabashedly self-promoting Mullfoto of me on the field prior to the Washington National's first game and a Catchy Caption of the Day.