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Bamboozling the American electorate again part 3

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BlackVelvet04 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-08-08 05:47 PM
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Bamboozling the American electorate again part 3
NOTE TO MODS AND ADMIN: I have received permission from the Editor to post this article in it's entirety.

Clinton Unplugged

Hillary Clinton has historically shied away from directly responding to personal attacks, whether it comes from Manhattan's sexist firefighters or Chris Matthews' daily disparagement of her on MSNBC's Hardball. Her campaign briefly cut off relations with NBC when another MSNBC reporter, David Schuster, said the Clintons had "pimped-out" daughter Chelsea as part of their election strategy. Over the course of several debates, however, her political reflexes have sharpened to the point where no personal attack has gone unpunished. (It was during the South Carolina debate that she first raised the specter of the Rezko indictment.) Yet it took a skit on Saturday Night Live to bring the issue of the media bias against her to boil over. In late February, SNL depicted infatuated CNN debate moderators fawning over Obama during a debate held a week earlier in Austin, Texas.

A few days later, Clinton referenced the skit during the Ohio debate moderated by NBC's Brian Williams and Tim Russert. After being asked to answer the initial two questions on NAFTA and health care first - as had become a pattern in the debates - she said it was "curious" that Obama was routinely afforded the opportunity to respond after she had essentially laid out all the talking points. "Should we ask Senator Obama if he's comfortable and needs another pillow?" Clinton mused aloud. The dig prompted evident embarrassment among some newscasters, who thereafter began offering more critical coverage of the Illinois senator. The day before the March 4th primaries, Obama was slammed with questions during a press conference about his relationship to Tony Rezko. The slumlord's trial had just begun in Chicago.

Regarding Karl Rove, Clinton has yet to implicate him as one of the instigators behind the G.O.P.'s covert support operation of the Obama candidacy. After being targetted with offensive direct mailers in Ohio, she accused her rival of tactics "straight out of the Rove playbook", but has never mentioned the crossover voting scheme. As for the rest of the Bush-Cheney team, all she has mustered to date on the subject is her oft-repeated statement, Theyre not going to surrender the White House voluntarily." Last spring, she suggested that another terrorist attack against the United States would inevitably play into the hands of the G.O.P. during the presidential election.

Vague as they sound, those last two remarks may prove prophetic in the event the Obama strategy fails and she goes on to win the Democratic nomination. The implications of a female president for American foreign and domestic policy are profound, especially when the candidate has promised greater oversight of corporation, federally sponsored job programs and an mandate for global women's human rights. The prospect has created jitters not only for Wall Street concerns but for the Pentagon, the CIA and the State Department. Officials accused of breaking U.S. laws or violating the Geneva Conventions could ostensibly be arrested and prosecuted by a Clinton-run Justice Department.

If that's not enough to keep Bush appointees lying awake deep into the night, their long-running wink-wink with the ayatollahs in Iran (who, after all, paved the way for Reagan's 1980 election), the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence and the Saudi royal family would likely be curtailed by a woman running the West Wing. The Saudis especially have reason to fret now that they and their counterparts in Kuwait and the U.A.E. have started buying up huge stakes in U.S. banks. Condolleeza Rice and Nancy Pelosi are one thing. A Clinton White House is quite another.

For his part, President Bush may have implemented a back-up plan last April when he signed National Security Presidential Directive/NSPD 51, an executive order allowing him to suspend the constitution without prior congressional approval. NSPD 51 gives the President the discretion to declare a state of emergency (i.e. martial law) in the event of a major terrorist attack or other decapitating incident against the United States, even if the attack happens outside the country. Under this scenario, he can cancel elections, padlock the Capitol dome and send the Supreme Court justices home. The directive also allows assigns the President's homeland security assistant - a low-level position exempt from senate confirmation - to administer what has been dubbed the Enduring Constitutional Government. (Heres the text of the directive.)

Michigan and Florida, Delegates and the Conventions

Assuming the homeland security assistant doesn't take over the country before next August, the Democratic Party's 796 superdelegates may get to decide the nomination. Most are elected Congress people, state and local public officials. The rest are DNC personnel, its committee members, as well as current and former presidential campaign managers. The specter of these folks determining the ticket in November has set Obama surrogates on their haunches, this time arguing that a "brokered convention" decided in "smoky back rooms" will destroy the party. (The local fire marshall may have something to say about this scenario.) Initially, it was thought that two-thirds of the superdelegates were pledged for Clinton, but more recent surveys suggest the situation is fluid.

Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean issued a press release last month reassuring Americans that he will intervene before August if the race still remains deadlocked. The extent of his authority to do so (or what exactly he plans to do) remains something of a mystery. Clinton, meanwhile, remains under a full-court press from media commentators and Obama supporters to "do the right thing" and bow out of the race, instead of risking a floor fight at the convention. Some pundits and journalists have also raised the prospect of violence or a riot. Both CNN and Fox were already using this "There will be blood" scenario in some their election-reporting title graphics leading up to the Texas/Ohio primaries. While the rules don't require Clinton to cede the nomination until the 2025-delegate mark is reached at the convention, if sufficient mass hysteria is generated by these efforts, she may have no choice.

That would be unfortunate. Several times in the past, conventions have decided the party nominee. The most memorable took place in 1932, when neither Franklin Roosevelt nor his rival Al Smith secured enough delegates to cinch the nomination. Media tycoon William Randolph Hearst took advantage of the deadlock, convincing FDR to adopt an isolationist foreign policy in exchange for the delegates of the third-place candidate, Texas Congressman Jack Garner. FDR also had to take Garner as his running mate. What's interesting here is that after FDR beat Hoover in the general election, a would-be assassin nearly liquidated the new President-elect in Miami. The bullets went astray when a woman in the crowd grabbed the assailant's arm. Otherwise, Jack Garner would have become president.

Today, with only two candidates left in the race and the innovation of superdelegates, the deadlock scenario is moot. Still, the VP slot remains open and there are also lingering questions about what, if any effect the ongoing Rezko trial in Chicago will have on Obama. It's possible that global warming crusader Al Gore, who says he'd still like to be president, may be jockeying to enter the election at the convention. While vice-president under Bill Clinton, his position on climate change was somewhat less impassioned than it is today, as evidenced in his 1998 press release on the Kyoto Treaty. In his role as president of the U.S. Senate, he has also been criticized for blocking challenges to the certification of the 2000 presidential election, an episode recounted in Michael Moore's documentary film Fahrenheit 911. Gore hasn't endorsed either Clinton or Obama.

If Gore doesn't surface as a candidate at the convention, he could be tapped by the so-called centrist politicians who met last January in Oklahoma to lobby for a bi-partisan, independent ticket. A similar effort, the internet-based initiative known as Unity '08, likewise hopes to field a Democrat and a Republican to run together in the November election. New York mayor and billionnaire Michael Bloomberg had been testing the waters for a possible run, but recently suspended his candidacy. Because the G.O.P. played such an anemic role in its own party primaries, it's not inconceivable that the Karl Rove camp may be angling to field their Bush-Cheney successor team as independents. Alternatively, they may be considering the VP slot as a means of retaining control of the White House, given that McCain is 71-years-old.

Meanwhile, the DNC and state parties are floating the possibility of re-doing votes in Michigan and Florida this summer as a way to allocate delegates that were stripped when the states were not granted "waivers" to hold primaries before February 5th.Clinton won 50 percent of Florida's popular vote, Obama 33 percent, and John Edwards 16 percent. State Senator Bill Nelson, a Clinton supporter, has balked at the suggestion that the ballots cast by 1.7 million residents should be replaced with caucuses that might at best attract 50,000 participants. (It's the nation's fourth most populous state.) State party officials argue that Florida's Republican-controlled legislature set the date for the primary, not them, by attaching the change to a bill that required electronic voting equipment to include a paper receits. Moreover, a December 17th article in The Nation suggests that Howard Dean and the DNC only excaserbated the situation by sanctioning Democratic voters in two key battleground states.

Clinton said in an interview with U.S. News and World Report on March 6th that she wanted the Florida delegation to be credentialed at the convention and rejected the idea of any more caucuses. "I would not accept a caucus. I think that would be a great disservice to the 2 million people who turned out and voted. I think that they want their votes counted. And you know a lot of people would be disenfranchised because of the timing and whatever the particular rules were. This is really going to be a serious challenge for the Democratic Party because the voters in Michigan and Florida are the ones being hurt, and certainly with respect to Florida the Democrats were dragged into doing what they did by a Republican governor and a Republican Legislature. They didn't have any choice whatsoever. And I don't think that there should be any do-over or any kind of a second run in Florida. I think Florida should be seated."

Michigan held its primary on January 15th. Since Obama and Edwards voluntarily pulled their names from the ballot beforehand, the votes for Clinton cannot be said to represent a mandate. However, there's more to this story than the mainstream press has reported. According to an October 11th article by Lynda Waddington of the Iowa Independent, "The campaign for Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, arguably fearing a poor showing in Michigan, reached out to the others with a desire of leaving New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton as the only candidate on the ballot. The hope was that such a move would provide one more political obstacle for the Clinton campaign to overcome in Iowa." In other words, the candidates' pledge to the DNC not to campaign never actually required them to remove their names. Along with Clinton, Chris Dodd, Mike Gravel and Dennis Kucinich appeared on the ballot.

And the plot thickens. With its high percentage of hispanic voters, Florida could also have been forecast far in advance as a Clinton stronghold. In Michigan, the candidacy of native son Mit Romney precluded the possiblity of a large crossover vote of Republicans on behalf of Obama, thus it too, would have favored Clinton in the eyes of political strategists back in 2007. Had the DNC not sanctioned Michigan and Florida, Clinton would therefore have hauled in the lion's share of over 300 delegates up for grabs, changing the delegate count and adding to her momentum going into Super Tuesday. The G.O.P., incidentally, punished the states for their early primaries by cutting in half the number of delegates allocated.

If the DNC opts to throw out the primary results and schedule caucuses this spring, Obama would probably emerge the victor, since this form of voting is riddled with pitfalls. In addition to its more primitive "raise your hand" form of vote tabulation, it often requires traveling long distances, untrained volunteers sorting out the logistics (if they show up at all), and then attending a meeting that lasts one or three hours. Such factors tend to deter Clinton's base: older voters; wage earners who work during the hours of the caucus: voters who need childcare, don't own a car or have other obligations; immigrants and those for whom English is a second language.

Recently, Florida Gov. Charlie Christ offered to hold the Democratic primary a second time, but only under the condition that the DNC pay the cost of about $18 million. Clinton would have to be concerned that under this scenario, tampering of electronic voting equipment could play a factor in depriving her of votes. (Since the tally on January 29th was considered meaningless at the time voters cast ballot, it follows that the election results are accurate.) There's also the potential problem of thousands of Republicans who voted in the first election switching party registration in advance of the second ballot.

Thus, even Clinton's superdelegate failsafe may prove insufficient in overcoming the deck that's stacked against her. Thanks to Karl Rove and his friends in the shadows, the Democratic nominee may ultimately be determined not by Democrats but by the G.O.P., with no shortage of help from its accomplices serving on the DNC rules committee.

- Rosemary Regello
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