Nasty Letters To Crooked Politicians

As we enter a new era of politics, we hope to see that Obama has the courage to fight the policies that Progressives hate. Will he have the fortitude to turn the economic future of America to help the working man? Or will he turn out to be just a pawn of big money, as he seems to be right now.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Bush renews demands for telecom immunity as Democrats seek compromise on spy bill

By Joe Kay
29 February 2008

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US President George Bush used a Thursday White House press conference to issue a belligerent demand that Congress pass a bill effectively gutting Constitutional protections against government spying while granting immunity to telecommunications companies that helped the administration break the law.

The bullying tone of the president, who repeatedly banged the podium while warning of supposed imminent dangers posed by the Congressional delay in renewing the administration’s unfettered power to conduct domestic wiretapping, stood in sharp contradiction with the overwhelming popular hostility towards Bush, whose standing in the polls has fallen to record lows. Despite his deepening political isolation, the Republican president is justifiably confident that the Democratic majority in Congress will ultimately bow to his demands.

Democrats in Congress are largely agreed on measures to permanently expand government spying and give the executive branch unfettered access to telecommunication systems. These are incorporated in different versions of the so-called Protect America Act passed by the Senate and the House.

Democrats are split, however, on the question of retroactive immunity—which would immediately eliminate over 40 class action lawsuits involving the secret National Security Agency (NSA) warrantless wiretapping program. Earlier this month, House Democratic leaders blocked a vote on a Senate bill that includes immunity. Both the House and Senate versions include prospective immunity for future actions.

The White House has insisted that Congress pass the Senate version of the bill, while Democrats are looking to negotiate a compromise between the two versions. Congress should act on a “very urgent priority,” Bush said Thursday, “to pass legislation our intelligence officials need to quickly and effectively monitor terrorist communications.”

In an indication that the House Democrats are preparing to cave in to White House pressure, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said on Thursday that he was “very hopeful” the House would take up the surveillance legislation next week, before the beginning of the legislative body’s spring break.

“If any off these companies helped us,” Bush declared at the press conference, “they did so after being told by our government that their assistance was legal and vital to our national security.” In other words, if the White House says it is OK, there should be no recourse against companies that illegally violated the privacy of their customers. The Bush administration has blocked separate lawsuits against the government, employing the argument of “state secrets.”

Bush indicated one of the real reasons the immunity question is so important when he said, “Allowing the lawsuits to proceed could aid our enemies, because the litigation process could lead to the disclosure of information about how we conduct surveillance, and it would give Al Qaeda and others a roadmap as to how to avoid the surveillance.”

The reference to Al Qaeda is a red herring, but it is true that the lawsuits against the telecommunications companies, if allowed to proceed, could reveal certain aspects of the NSA program that the administration has sought to keep secret.

The administration acknowledged the existence of a limited program in 2005, but the surveillance is almost certainly far broader than has been acknowledged. An employee at AT&T has said that the company opened up a separate room for the NSA and gave it uncontrolled access to all communications. There are also indications that the warrantless wiretapping of domestic communications—a violation of the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the US Constitution—began before the attacks of September 11, 2001. Those attacks have been used as the universal pretext for the massive attack on democratic rights in the United States.

The Democratic-controlled Congress passed an initial version of the Protect America Act in August 2007. Among other measures, the Act allows for warrantless surveillance “directed at a person reasonably believed to be located outside the US.” It also allows the executive branch to order spying for up to one year, so long as the spying “concerns” someone outside the US.

Both of these provisions provide wide scope for warrantless spying on domestic communications. Indeed, the monitoring of members of Al Qaeda or other allegedly terrorist organizations located outside the US—the ostensible purpose of the program—is allowed under pre-existing legislation.

Most significantly, the act requires telecommunications companies to open their facilities to the government, providing the executive branch with direct and unmonitored access to all emails, telephone records and other communications. The law violates the separation of powers by giving the executive branch supervisory authority over its own spying activities.

The legislation included a sunset provision that caused the bill to expire on February 1. This was later temporarily extended to February 15.

Bush administration officials have repeatedly noted that the Senate bill for a permanent extension with immunity was passed with substantial bipartisan support (on a vote of 68-29) and that it would receive a majority in the House if it were put to a vote.

Bush has refused to sign another temporary extension of the bill under the assumption that the Democrats in the House would capitulate, as they have many times before. The refusal of the House Democratic leadership to pass the bill immediately may reflect a certain weakening in the position of the Bush administration. Nevertheless, the White House is aggressively pushing ahead, confident in an eventual submission by the Democratic Party.

The administration has seized on the non-action of the House to paint the Democrats as “soft on terror.” The Republicans are planning on using fearmongering over terrorism as the basis of the upcoming election campaign.

In his radio address last weekend, Bush warned ominously, “Somewhere in the world, at this very moment, terrorists are planning the next attack on America. And to protect America from such attacks, we must protect our telecommunications companies from abusive lawsuits.”

Late last week, Director of National Intelligence Mike McConnell and Attorney General Michael Mukasey wrote a letter to chairman of the House Intelligence Committee Silvestre Reyes, warning, “We have lost intelligence information this past week as a direct result of the uncertainty created by Congress’ failure to act.” This was because some companies had “delayed or refused compliance” in the absence of immunity, they said.

On Saturday, a White House spokesman acknowledged that, in fact, all the telecommunications companies had agreed to continue helping the government “for the time being.”

Shortly after the House decided not to pass the Senate bill, House Republicans released a video warning that “America is at risk.” A Republican-connected organization, Defense of Democracies, has produced television advertisements, complete with photographs of Osama Bin Laden, targeted at House Democrats in close congressional districts.

Republicans have scuttled several attempts by Democrats to reach some accommodation with the White House. According to an article in Newsweek, “Democratic leaders say the administration has boycotted ‘multiple’ meetings intended to find a compromise that would be acceptable to House and Senate leaders and the president.” Republican Congressional staffers also boycotted initial conference discussions to reconcile the House and Senate bills.

Predictably, the Democrats have adapted themselves completely to the “war on terror” rhetoric used to justify domestic spying. The outlook of the Democrats was summarized in a column published in the Washington Post on February 25. It was signed by Reyes, Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Jay Rockefeller, Senate Judiciary Chair Patrick Leahy, and House Judiciary Chair John Conyers.

Accepting the framework of the “war on terror,” the Congressmen admonished Bush for not “working with Congress to achieve the best policies to keep our country safe.” They went on to insist that the temporary expiration of the Protect America Act would have no effect on the spying powers of US intelligence agencies. “Despite President Bush’s overheated rhetoric on this issue, the government’s orders under that act will last until at least August. These orders could cover every known terrorist group and foreign target,” the column insisted.

The legislators continued by stating, “A key objective of our effort is to build support for a law that gives our intelligence professionals not only the tools they need but also confidence that the legislation they will be implementing has the broad support of Congress and the American public.” There is clearly concern among sections of the Democrats that agreeing to immunity will further discredit the party in the eyes of its own supporters.

The column concluded with the assertion, “We are united in our determination to produce responsible legislation that will protect America and protect our Constitution.”

The authors of the column did not explain what they considered to be unconstitutional in the President’s demands. Nor could they, since both the House and the Senate passed the Protect America Act last year, acceding to all these unconstitutional demands. The Senate, moreover, has agreed to immunity as well. Rockefeller, as head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has been directly complicit in most aspects of the Bush administration’s illegal and unconstitutional actions—everything from wiretapping to waterboarding.

Absent in the conflict between the White House and sections of the Democratic Party is any discussion of the real motive for the expansion of domestic spying powers. Under conditions of mounting economic crisis and unending war, the political establishment is determined to push through measures that will provide legal cover for a program to access and database communications on a scale without historical precedent. These measures are targeted at any individual or organization that opposes the policies of the American ruling elite, represented by both the Democrats and Republicans.

If some form of immunity eventually gets through, as is likely, this will create the precedent for a much broader government-corporate collaboration in the destruction of democratic rights in the United States.

See Also:
US Supreme Court refuses to hear case against warrantless wiretapping
[20 February 2008]

Obama, Clinton debate in Ohio: What accounts for the bitter struggle within the Democratic Party?

By Barry Grey
28 February 2008

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Watching Tuesday night’s Democratic debate in Cleveland, Ohio, one could not but be struck by the incongruity between the bitterness of the conflict between the Obama and Clinton camps and the narrowness of the differences expressed by the candidates themselves.

With one week to go before critical primaries in Texas and Ohio, which could well spell the end of Clinton’s presidential bid, there was an air of desperation in the attempts of the New York senator and former first lady to draw sharp lines between her policies and those of her opponent.

This took the bizarre form at the beginning of the debate of a 15-minute exchange over minute differences in the health insurance plans advanced by the two candidates. In the end, a somewhat exasperated Obama protested that “there’s no real difference between our plans.”

Egged on by the moderators, NBC News anchor Brian Williams and “Meet the Press” host Tim Russert, the candidates exchanged complaints about allegedly unfair and misleading leaflets from the other side, rather absurdly exaggerating the import of such campaign minutiae.

Indicative of the embittered state of the campaign was an article published Wednesday on the New Republic web site by Sean Wilentz, a well-known historian and supporter of Clinton, entitled “Race Man: How Barack Obama Played the Race Card and Blamed Hillary Clinton.”

The disconnect between the heated rhetoric and recriminations and the narrow range of visible political differences draws one to the conclusion that more fundamental issues are being fought out behind the scenes and are driving the public conflict between Clinton and Obama.

What are those issues? One can surmise that they involve the intersection of a deepening economic and financial crisis, growing social discontent within the US, and a palpable decline in the world position of the United States after seven years of foreign policy debacles by the Bush administration.

The Iraq war, more than any issue since Vietnam, has divided the US political and foreign policy establishment, and it clearly plays a central role in the conflict within the Democratic Party. Clinton’s support for the invasion, epitomized by her 2002 vote to give Bush authorization to use military force, has been a huge political liability which the Obama campaign has successfully exploited. Once again, Obama used Clinton’s 2002 vote against her on Tuesday night.

Clinton has sought to portray Obama, a first-term senator, as too inexperienced and naïve to oversee US foreign policy and serve as commander in chief. When this was raised by Brian Williams, Obama responded by saying Clinton’s vote to authorize the use of force in Iraq was a failure of judgment “on the most important foreign policy decision we face in a generation.”

He went on to call the invasion of Iraq “a strategic blunder” for which Clinton shared political responsibility. “Once we had driven the bus into the ditch,” he said, “there were only so many ways we could get out. The question is: who’s making the decision initially to drive the bus into the ditch?’

He added that Clinton had “facilitated and enabled this individual (President Bush) to make a decision that has been strategically damaging to the United States of America.”

This was at once an appeal to popular opposition to the war and a signal to those within the foreign policy and Democratic Party establishment who see the Iraq war as a disaster for US imperialist interests in the Middle East and beyond.

As he has throughout the campaign, Obama made clear that his opposition to the invasion of Iraq did not imply a reluctance to use military force in defense of US interests. He decried the Iraq war as a diversion from the war in Afghanistan, calling for an increase in US troops in that country, and a distraction from the worsening situation in Pakistan, where he repeated his earlier call for unilateral US military action against Al Qaeda sanctuaries. Later in the debate, he joined with Clinton in calling for a tougher policy against Russia and suggested he would support a NATO military response to a Russian-backed Serb attack on Kosovo.

Moreover, as Clinton repeated Tuesday night, since Obama became a US senator he, like she, has voted repeatedly to fund the war, and both Democratic candidates hedge their calls for a US withdrawal with qualifications that imply an ongoing and indefinite presence of US troops in the region.

But as always in American politics, symbols play an immense role, and Clinton’s 2002 vote has become a symbol in the popular mind of Democratic complicity in a vastly unpopular war.

It seems that sections of the US political and foreign policy establishment who are deeply worried and bitter over the foreign policy debacle in Iraq, and frustrated by their inability to effect a change in policy through the more established leadership of the Democratic Party, have promoted Obama and rallied behind his campaign as a means of forcing a change in course in Iraq and the broader Middle East.

The prominence of Iraq in this year’s Democratic primary contest stands in stark contrast to previous elections. In the 2002 congressional election, the Democrats sought to exclude Bush’s drive toward war in Iraq from the campaign. They welcomed a vote on his authorization of force resolution in October of that year in order to get Iraq off the agenda in advance of the November election.

In the 2004 presidential election, Democratic candidate John Kerry did everything he could to distance his campaign from the growing popular opposition to the war.

By the time of the 2006 congressional elections, the Democrats could not avoid raising the issue of Iraq. They owed their rout of the Republicans and return to power in both houses of Congress to mass antiwar sentiment that they neither encouraged nor welcomed.

In the run-up to the 2006 congressional elections, the bipartisan Iraq Study Group was formed to publicly lobby for a shift in policy, including a diplomatic initiative that would include Iran and Syria, not to end the war, but to avert an outright US defeat and salvage what could be salvaged from the colonial adventure.

But the hopes of those Democratic insiders who were pressing for a change of course were dashed by the refusal of the Democratic congressional leadership to take up the Iraq Study Group’s proposals or mount any serious opposition to Bush’s war policy. Moreover, the cowardice of the Democratic Congress and its complicity in the war aroused immense anger among Democratic voters, intensifying the crisis within the party establishment.

Unable to effect a change of course through internal pressure, these forces are evidently, through the Obama campaign, taking their factional struggle into the public arena and making an appeal to the broader population. They have rallied behind Obama because they view Clinton as inalterably linked to the disastrous Iraq war and because, as numerous Democratic commentators have explained, they see in Obama, an African-American with less political baggage than his opponent, an opportunity to present a new image of America to the world.

One must always bear in mind that those within the Democratic Party establishment who are pressing for a change in course are by no means advocating a break with imperialism or repudiating the use of military force as an instrument of foreign policy. Rather, Obama advisers and critics of the Iraq war like Zbigniew Brzezinski are seeking to make US imperialist policy more effective. A major concern within these circles is the need for a president who could rally popular support at a time when the interests of the US ruling elite might require military actions in other parts of the world.

Obama’s mind-numbing platitudes—his empty slogans of “hope” and “change” and invocations of the “American Dream”—cannot address the profound contradictions of American capitalism and the crises that beset it both at home and abroad. There is, moreover, the danger, from the standpoint of the ruling elite, that his candidacy could unwittingly serve as a catalyst in the political radicalization of broad masses of working people and youth.

Should Obama, as seems increasingly likely, emerge as the Democratic presidential candidate, the divisions within the Democratic Party establishment will remain and the stage will be set for a general election that could sharply polarize the population.

The Republican candidate, Senator John McCain, is running as a supporter of the Iraq war and threatening to extend it into Iran. His “no surrender to terrorism” campaign is aimed at mobilizing the military and more right-wing and backward sections of the electorate and stigmatizing Democratic critics of the war as turncoats who are endangering the security of the American people.

This can only intensify the crisis and divisions within the Democratic Party, at a time when broad masses of people will be increasingly demanding not only an end to the war, but also answers to a deepening economic and social crisis.

See Also:
The New York Times and the 2008 elections: What the McCain "exposé" reveals
[27 February 2008]

Thursday, February 28, 2008

No-gossip rule applies only to Republicans
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, February 27, 2008

To the connoisseur of political farce, few events have been more
entertaining than the grave and serious New York Times hinting that Sen.
John McCain, presumptive GOP presidential nominee, may have enjoyed “a
romantic relationship” with a blonde lobbyist 30 years his junior. There
was folly everywhere; first, Times editors who pretended not to
understand the effects of yelling “SEX !” in a crowded political
campaign. “If the point of the story was to allege that McCain had an
affair with a lobbyist,” editor Bill Keller told his newspaper’s
ombudsman, “we’d have owed readers more compelling evidence.... But that
was not the point of the story. The point of the story was that he
behaved in such a way that his close aides felt the relationship
constituted reckless behavior and feared it would ruin his career.”
Never mind that the story’s lede described how anonymous McCain aides,
“convinced the relationship [with lobbyist Vicki Iseman] had become
romantic... intervened to protect the candidate from himself—instructing
staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away
and repeatedly confronting him.”

Translation: office gossip.

Then there was McCain himself. At a press conference, the
“straight-talking maverick” indignantly denied the newspaper’s strongest
evidence: two letters he’d written to the Federal Communications
Commission on behalf of one of Iseman’s clients, Paxson Communications,
regarding a regulatory ruling. The FCC’s chairman had depicted the
sharply worded letters as “highly unusual.”

A routine staff matter, McCain insisted. Campaign officials e-mailed a
flat denial to reporters: “No representative of Paxson or Alcalde & Fay
[i.e. Iseman] personally asked Senator McCain to send a letter to the
FCC.” Apparently, not even the time the senator and the lobbyist flew to
Miami together on Paxson’s corporate jet for a fund-raiser.

Oops! Within 24 hours, Newsweek unearthed a 2002 sworn deposition in
which McCain described meeting broadcast mogul Lowell “Bud” Paxson about
the FCC question. The Washington Post interviewed Paxson himself.

“Was Vicki there? Probably,” he said. “The woman was a professional. She
was good. She could get us meetings.” Also in the deposition, McCain
manfully conceded that it would have been justified for a member of the
public to say that there was at least an appearance of corruption.
“Absolutely,” he said. “And when I took a thousand dollars or any other
hard-money contribution from anybody who does business before the
Congress of the United States, then that allegation is justified as
well. Because the taint affects all of us.” Actually, McCain accepted $
20, 000 from Paxson Communications for his “reform” presidential
candidacy that year, along with lots of rides on its corporate jet and
the platonic pleasures of Iseman’s company. He describes the lobbyist as
a “good friend.” But then, that’s been McCain’s pattern ever since his
political career almost came to an end during the Keating Five
savings-and-loan episode.

“[S] ooner or later,” writes the inimitable Charles Pierce, “someone’s
going to have to break down this pattern he has of doing things
completely contrary to what he’s supposed to be about, apologizing for
it, and then getting double credit for the apology while the original
offense goes straight down the old memory hole.” But not this time,
because as Times editors ought to have realized, any attempt to apply
what this column has long described as the Clinton rules to any
Republican, much less a Republican popular with reporters, whom the
personable McCain reportedly treats as members of his campaign
entourage, was doomed to fail. According to the Clinton rules, which
also applied to Al Gore and John Edwards, and may yet affect Barack
Obama, allegations are treated as facts, sometimes even after they’re
proved false. (Google “Gore, inventing the Internet” for a classic

Over on the left, influential blogger Josh Marshall wanted to believe
that with all the horse manure the Times would eventually produce a
pony. He doubted that editors “would have put their chin so far out on
this story if they didn’t know a lot more than they felt they could put
in the article, at least on the first go.” Evidently, he’s forgotten the
extended Whitewater hoax, the Wen Ho Lee saga and all those front-page
Times exclusives about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction.
Indeed, far from being embarrassed, McCain has emerged as a wronged hero
to conservative talk-radio hosts desperate to climb back aboard the
Straight Talk Express. You really thought Rush Limbaugh was going to sit
the election out? According to them, the same “left-wing” New York Times
that endorsed McCain in the New York primaries is now out to destroy
him. Also to the slap-happy team on MSNBC’s “Hardball.” Back in 2006,
when the Times ran a front-page story linking Bill Clinton through “the
gossip pages” to a pretty Canadian politician he’d been photographed
with, host Chris Matthews loved it. Giving McCain equivalent treatment,
however, was deeply wrong. The moral’s simple: Unprovable gossip doesn’t
belong in newspapers, period. Alas, that particular pony’s long vanished
from the barn.

—–––––•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and
recipient of the National Magazine Award.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

In Tatters Beneath a Surge of Claims

Inter Press Service
Analysis by Ali al-Fadhily and Dahr Jamail*

BAGHDAD, Feb 22 (IPS) - What the U.S. has been calling the success of a "surge", many Iraqis see as evidence of catastrophe. Where U.S. forces point to peace and calm, local Iraqis find an eerie silence

And when U.S. forces speak of a reduction in violence, many Iraqis simply do not know what they are talking about.

Hundreds died in a series of explosions in Baghdad last month. This was despite the strongest ever security measures taken by the U.S. military, riding the "surge" in security forces and their activities.

The death toll is high, according to the website, which provides reliable numbers of Iraqi civilian and security deaths.

In January this year 485 civilians were killed, according to the website. It says the number is based on news reports, and that "actual totals for Iraqi deaths are higher than the numbers recorded on this site."

The average month in 2005, before the "surge" was launched, saw 568 civilian deaths. In January 2006, the month before the "surge" began, 590 civilians died.

Many of the killings have taken place in the most well guarded areas of Baghdad. And they have continued this month.

"Two car bombs exploded in Jadriya, killing so many people, the day the American Secretary of Defence (Robert Gates) was visiting Baghdad last week," a captain from the Karrada district police in Baghdad, speaking on condition of anonymity, told IPS.

"Another car bomb killed eight people and injured 20 Thursday (last week) in the Muraidy market of Sadr City, east of Baghdad, although the Mehdi army (the militia of Muqtada al-Sadr) provides strict protection to the city," the officer said. "There is no security in this country any more."

Unidentified bodies of Iraqis killed by militias continue to appear in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities. The Iraqi government has issued instructions to all security and health offices not to give out the body count to the media. Dozens of bodies are found every day across Baghdad, residents say. Morgue officials confirm this.

"We are not authorised to issue any numbers, but I can tell you that we are still receiving human bodies every day; the men have no identity on them," a doctor at the Baghdad morgue told IPS. "The bodies that have signs of torture are the Sunnis killed by Shia militias; those with a bullet in the head are usually policemen, translators or contractors who worked for the Americans."

The "surge" of 30,000 additional troops came to Iraq, mostly Baghdad, in February of last year. The total current number of U.S. troops in Iraq is approximately 157,000. They were sent to end violence, and with a declared aim of helping political reconciliation.

But where peace of sorts has descended in Baghdad, Iraq's capital city of six million (in a population of 25 million), it comes from a partitioning of people along sectarian lines. The Iraqi Red Crescent reports that one in four residents has been driven out of their homes by death squads, or by the "surge".

According to an Iraqi Red Crescent report titled 'The Internally Displaced People in Iraq' released Jan. 27, 1,364,978 residents of Baghdad have been displaced.

The Environment News Service reported Jan. 7 that "many of the capital's once mixed areas have become either purely Sunni or Shia after militias forced families out for belonging to the other religious branch of Islam."

Some of the eerie calm in areas of Baghdad comes because togetherness has ended. Sunnis and Shias who lived together for generations are now partitioned. This is not the peace many Iraqis were looking for, surge or no surge.

On Jan. 8, UNHCR spokesperson Ron Redmond announced that there were at least 2.2 million Iraqis internally displaced within the country, and that at least another two million had fled the country altogether. This, no doubt, would make many areas quieter.

The U.S. military has erected three to four metre high concrete walls around several neighbourhoods, forcing residents to choose either Sunni or Shia areas in which to live. Such separation has brought large-scale displacement, and protests.

Sunni Muslims seem to have the worst of it. Many Iraqis are outraged by the number of Sunni detainees the "surge" has taken.

Residents of Amiriya district of western Baghdad demonstrated Feb. 11 against mistreatment by U.S. and Iraqi forces involved in the "surge". The "surge" aims to eradicate al-Qaeda from Iraq, but this has meant that most military operations have been carried out in Sunni areas like Amiriya.

"We are here to protest against the unfair arrests and raids conducted against the innocent people of Amiriya," Salih al-Mutlag, chief of the Arab Dialogue Council in the Iraqi government told IPS at the demonstration. "This has gone too far under the flag of fighting terror."

Al-Mutlag said they were also demonstrating against arrests in the western parts of Baghdad, despite an apparently peaceful situation there as a result of residents' cooperation with Iraqi army units. Large numbers of residents came out in the Dora region of southwest Baghdad to protest against the U.S. military for arresting 18 people, including an 80-year-old man.

"We are the ones who improved the situation in western parts of Baghdad without any interference from the Americans and their puppet Iraqi government," former Iraqi Army Major Abu Wussam told IPS in Amiriya. "We negotiated with our brothers in the Iraqi national resistance who agreed to conduct their activities in a different way from the traditional way they used to work.

"It seems Americans did not like it, and so they are punishing us for it, instead of releasing our detainees as they promised."

Some of the apparent peace on the street is a consequence of rising detentions. In November last year Karl Matley, head of the Iraqi branch of the International Committee of the Red Cross, declared that more than 60,000 prisoners and detainees are held in prisons and other detention centres. A large number of these were taken during the "surge".

By August 2007, half a year into the "surge", the number of detainees held by the U.S.-led military forces in Iraq had swelled by 50 percent, with the inmate population growing to 24,500, from 16,000 in February, according to U.S. military officers in Iraq.

The officers reported that nearly 85 percent of the detainees in custody were Sunni Arabs.

Given that the majority of the detained are Sunnis, the "surge", rather than bridging political differences and aiding reconciliation between Sunni and Shia groups, appears to have had the opposite effect.

And yet, there could be more dangerous reasons to doubt such success of the "surge" that is claimed.

Among the recent arrests in Baghdad, the U.S. military counted six members of the Sahwa (Awakening) forces. This is a force of resistance fighters now ostensibly working with the U.S. military. The U.S. pays each member 300 dollars monthly. More than 80 percent of about 70,000 Sahwa members are Sunni.

The arrest of some Sahwa members is indication of U.S. military doubts about the loyalties of some of these Sahwa fighters. Shia political parties and militias already accuse them of being resistance fighters in disguise. Many believe that large numbers of Sahwa forces are resistance fighters simply riding the "surge".

"How come Sunni parts of Baghdad became so quiet all of a sudden," says Jawad Salman, a former resident of Amiriya who fled his house in 2006 after Iraqi resistance members accused him of being a government spy. "It is a game well played by terrorists to divert the fight against Shia groups. I lived there and I know that all residents fully support what the U.S. calls the terrorists."

The Sahwa strategy has brought down the number of U.S. casualties – for now. But the U.S. strategy seems to have done less for Iraq than for its own forces.

(*Ali, our correspondent in Baghdad, works in close collaboration with Dahr Jamail, our U.S.-based specialist writer on Iraq who has reported extensively from Iraq and the Middle East)

Friday, February 22, 2008

Obama gives opponents plenty of ammunition
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Chances are you’ve seen the video clips. First comes Sen. Barack Obama,
responding to the charge that he’s long on rhetoric, short on substance.
“Don’t tell me words don’t matter,” Obama told voters. “‘I have a dream’
— just words. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are
created equal’ —just words. ‘We have nothing to fear but fear itself’
—just words. Just speeches.” It’s rhetorically brilliant, even
thrilling. In four pungent sentences, delivered in an accent and cadence
very like Martin Luther King Jr.’s, Obama associates himself with King,
Thomas Jefferson and Franklin D. Roosevelt. It’s bedrock Americanism,
sheer magic. No wonder Obama has amassed fervent mass of followers. It’s
also a steal from Obama’s friend, Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick. You
can watch Patrick on YouTube delivering virtually identical remarks to a
cheering crowd in 2006. Obama’s better, a far more convincing actor. But
is it plagiarism, as the Hillary Clinton campaign charges? Well, if I
passed it off as mine in a column, I’d be fired, deservedly so. It would
merit an F in a student term paper. But it’s a political speech, and
Patrick, who probably didn’t write it himself—consultant David Axelrod
masterminded both men’s campaigns—says he’s not offended.

Obama dismisses it as a minor gaffe. Any Democrat who didn’t get a
queasy feeling, however, has definitely succumbed to Obamamania. Back in
1988, Sen. Joe Biden’s presidential run ended after he borrowed a line
from British Labour leader Neil Kinnock. To the Washington media, it
proved that he was a big faker, who, in the usual formulation, “would
say or do anything” to become president.

It’s also not the first time that Obama’s been accused of lifting
others’ words. Announcing his own presidential candidacy in 1993, Sen.
John Edwards said, “I haven’t spent most of my life in politics... but
I’ve spent enough time in Washington to know how much we need to change

For months, Obama has been saying, “I know I haven’t spent a lot of time
learning the ways of Washington. But I’ve been there long enough to know
that the ways of Washington must change.” An Edwards aide commented
dryly, “Next thing you know, he’ll be rooting for the Tar Heels.”

Of course, they all run against Washington, except Sen. Clinton, who’s
touting her experience. There are a limited number of ways to say it.

But did you catch Obama in South Carolina, warning African American
audiences, “Don’t be hoodwinked, don’t be bamboozled”? You can also
Google those words and watch actor Denzel Washington deliver them in
Spike Lee’s brilliant film “Malcolm X”: “You’ve been hoodwinked,
bamboozled, led astray, run amok.”

The irony of Obama’s borrowing the fictive words of Malcolm X, a black
Muslim, to rebut a scurrilous e-mail campaign calling him a secret
Islamist would be almost disabling, except for the greater one: All this
was going on while Obama’s media acolytes were accusing the Clinton
campaign of “playing the race card.” (A brilliant tactic to guarantee
landslide defeat in South Carolina.)

In context, Malcolm X was warning audiences to disbelieve politicians
sent by the “white man.”

Speaking of Black Muslims, are you aware that the charismatic pastor of
Obama’s Chicago church, Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., who invented the
phrase “the audacity of hope” and whose “Afro-Centric” gospel has
already been parodied on FOX News, is an admirer of Nation of Islam
leader Louis Farrakhan? Last year, Wright presented Farrakhan with a
Lifetime Achievement award.

That and Obama’s longtime relationship with Columbia University
Professor (and one-time PLO adviser) Rashid Khalidi have provoked
speculation in the Israeli press that he may be secretly anti-Zionist.
Another Chicago academic ally of Obama’s is Professor William Ayers, a
Weather Underground radical in the 1970s.

Obama’s Chicago benefactor, Syrian American real estate mogul Tony
Rezko, goes on trial in a federal court next week. The prosecutor is
Patrick Fitzgerald, the judge former Kenneth Starr aide Amy St. Eve.
Evidence embarrassing to Obama will not be kept hidden.

Did you know that Obama campaigned in Kenya for opposition leader Raila
Odinga, who claims to be his distant cousin? That Odinga has been
accused of scheming to bring Sharia, or Islamic law, to Kenya? How
credibly? Would it matter once GOP propagandists got to work on Obama?
So far, Obama’s strategy of playing upon the Washington media clique’s
loathing for everything Clinton has succeeded. To the extent that
Hillary Clinton is polarizing, however, it’s due to 16 years of
deliberate character assassination, accusing her of everything,
including drug smuggling and murder. The basic GOP method is to portray
Democrats as fraudulent elitists who “Blame America First” and seek
power by encouraging minorities to see themselves as victims. (The real
victims, of course, being Rush Limbaugh listeners.) Obama, alas, has
given them plenty to work with. If he wins the nomination, will voters
still recognize him come November?

—–––––•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and
recipient of the National Magazine Award.


Thursday, February 21, 2008

Who's The Real John McCain?
Bill Press//Tribune Media Services

To all my friends, Democrats and Independents, who have told me they'd consider voting for John McCain in November, I have only two words. PLEASE DON'T.

For the sake of God, country and Mother Theresa, wise up.

Now that it's clear he's going to be the Republican nominee for president, it's time to end our love affair with John McCain.

Don't feel badly if you were once a “McCainiac.” So was I. We all fell in love with the maverick McCain back in 2000, when he beat the pants off George Bush in New Hampshire. But the McCain of 2000 is not the same McCain we see today. That McCain doesn't exist anymore.

Yes, McCain's a likable guy. He's still an American hero. No one can ever take that away from him. He still has a refreshing, self-deprecating sense of humor. And he was once willing to tell leaders of his own party to go pound sand. But, unfortunately, in order to secure his party's nomination, McCain tossed his independence out the window. He's no longer a maverick. Before our very eyes, the once-moderate McCain has morphed into an extreme right-winger.

McCain's changed his tune on so many issues, he should change the name of his bus from The Straight Talk Express to the Double-Talk Express. There's not one major issue the new McCain has not been on both sides of.

In 2001 and again in 2003, he voted against the Bush tax cuts, saying at the time: “I cannot in good conscience support a tax cut in which so many of the benefits go to the most fortunate among us, at the expense of middle-class Americans who most need tax relief.” Today, he's the biggest champion of making the Bush tax cuts permanent. He once condemned religious conservatives like Jerry Falwell and James Dobson as “agents of intolerance.” Today, he's sucking up to them. On Jan. 9, 2000, he called the Confederate flag “a symbol of racism and slavery.” Three days later, he insisted: “Personally, I see the flag as a symbol of heritage.” Today, he says he'll leave it up to states to decide what to do about flying the Confederate flag.

Even on his signature issues, John McCain's all over the place. He angered conservatives by standing with President Bush on comprehensive immigration reform. Today, he says, as president, he wouldn't even sign the immigration bill he sponsored. Same on campaign reform. In 2004, he denounced the so-called Swift Boat Veterans for the lies they broadcast about John Kerry's record in Vietnam. Running for president in 2008, McCain, as first reported by The Nation magazine, has accepted over $60,000 in campaign contributions from the same Swift Boat liars. This week, the anti-torture McCain even voted to allow the continued use of waterboarding.

But nowhere is McCain's change-with-the-wind politics more apparent than in his approach to the war in Iraq. In January 2007, he blasted those who led the American people to believe the war would be “some kind of a walk at the beach.” Yet during the buildup to war, McCain himself told Larry King: “I believe that we can win an overwhelming victory in a very short time.” Now, running for president, McCain is the chief cheerleader for the war, asserting it's OK with him if American troops remain in Iraq for 100 years.

McCain is equally hawkish on Iran, rejecting direct talks with Iranian leaders and holding out war with Iran as a real option. “There is only one scenario worse than military action in Iran and that is a nuclear-armed Iran,” says McCain — which, of course, is the same policy toward Iran advocated by George W. Bush.

Indeed, that's what's so surprising about the new McCain: He's so much like the old Bush. They were once bitter enemies. Today, it's virtually impossible to tell them apart. Bush praises McCain as a true conservative, while McCain vows to continue Bush's economic and foreign policies and appoint Supreme Court justices like John Roberts and Samuel Alito. McCain even gushes over the man who engineered Bush's ugly attacks against him in South Carolina in 2000, praising Karl Rove as “one of the smart, great political minds in American politics.”

Don't be fooled. Vote for John McCain? You might as well vote to re-elect George Bush and Dick Cheney for another four years.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

When the Magic Fades

At first it seemed like a few random cases of lassitude among Mary Chapin Carpenter devotees in Berkeley, Cambridge and Chapel Hill. But then psychotherapists began to realize patients across the country were complaining of the same distress. They were experiencing the first hints of what’s bound to be a national phenomenon: Obama Comedown Syndrome.

The afflicted had already been through the phases of Obama-mania — fainting at rallies, weeping over their touch screens while watching Obama videos, spending hours making folk crafts featuring Michelle Obama’s face. These patients had experienced intense surges of hope-amine, the brain chemical that fuels euphoric sensations of historic change and personal salvation.

But they found that as the weeks went on, they needed more and purer hope-injections just to preserve the rush. They wound up craving more hope than even the Hope Pope could provide, and they began experiencing brooding moments of suboptimal hopefulness. Anxious posts began to appear on the Yes We Can! Facebook pages. A sense of ennui began to creep through the nation’s Ian McEwan-centered book clubs.

Up until now The Chosen One’s speeches had seemed to them less like stretches of words and more like soul sensations that transcended time and space. But those in the grips of Obama Comedown Syndrome began to wonder if His stuff actually made sense. For example, His Hopeness tells rallies that we are the change we have been waiting for, but if we are the change we have been waiting for then why have we been waiting since we’ve been here all along?

Patients in the grip of O.C.S. rarely express doubts at first, but in a classic case of transference, many experience slivers of sympathy for Hillary Clinton. They see her campaign morosely traipsing from one depressed industrial area to another — The Sitting Shiva for America Tour. They see that her entire political strategy consists of waiting for primary states as boring as she is.

They feel for her. They feel guilty because the entire commentariat now treats her like Richard Nixon. Are liberal elites rationalizing their own betrayal of her? Is Hillary just another fading First Wife thrown away for the first available Trophy Messiah?

As the syndrome progresses, they begin to ask questions about The Presence himself:

Barack Obama vowed to abide by the public finance campaign-spending rules in the general election if his opponent did. But now he’s waffling on his promise. Why does he need to check with his campaign staff members when deciding whether to keep his word?

Obama says he is practicing a new kind of politics, but why has his PAC sloshed $698,000 to the campaigns of the superdelegates, according to the Center for Responsive Politics? Is giving Robert Byrd’s campaign $10,000 the kind of change we can believe in?

If he values independent thinking, why is his the most predictable liberal vote in the Senate? A People for the American Way computer program would cast the same votes for cheaper.

And should we be worried about Obama’s mountainous self-confidence?

These doubts lead O.C.S. sufferers down the path to the question that is the Unholy of the Unholies for Obama-maniacs: How exactly would all this unity he talks about come to pass?

How is a 47-year-old novice going to unify highly polarized 70-something committee chairs? What will happen if the nation’s 261,000 lobbyists don’t see the light, even after the laying on of hands? Does The Changemaker have the guts to take on the special interests in his own party — the trial lawyers, the teachers’ unions, the AARP?

The Gang of 14 created bipartisan unity on judges, but Obama sat it out. Kennedy and McCain created a bipartisan deal on immigration. Obama opted out of the parts that displeased the unions. Sixty-eight senators supported a bipartisan deal on FISA. Obama voted no. And if he were president now, how would the High Deacon of Unity heal the breach that split the House last week?

The victims of O.C.S. struggle against Obama-myopia, or the inability to see beyond Election Day. But here’s the fascinating thing: They still like him. They know that most of his hope-mongering is vaporous. They know that he knows it’s vaporous.

But the fact that they can share this dream still means something. After the magic fades and reality sets in, they still know something about his soul, and he knows something about theirs. They figure that any new president is going to face gigantic obstacles. At least this candidate seems likely to want to head in the right direction. Obama’s hype comes from exaggerating his powers and his virtues, not faking them.

Those afflicted with O.C.S. are no longer as moved by his perorations. The fever passes. But some invisible connection seems to persist.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Don't depend on Obama for "Change"

The two faces of Barack Obama

By Bill Van Auken
14 February 2008

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Appearing before a packed auditorium at the University of Wisconsin Tuesday on the night of his victories in the “Potomac primaries,” held in Maryland, Virginia and Washington, D.C., Illinois senator and Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama delivered a speech that was notable for its populist demagogy, not only on the war in Iraq but also social conditions in America.

The Wisconsin rally is the latest in a series of campaign events that have drawn large and predominantly younger crowds—20,000 at the University of Maryland and 17,000 in Virginia Beach on the eve of Tuesday’s primaries—and which have seen Obama adopt a more “left” public face.

The Illinois senator has the instincts of an agitator and seeks to give the crowds what he senses they want. In Wisconsin, he linked “record profits” for Exxon to the rising “price at the pump,” provoking enthusiastic applause. He spoke of trade agreements that “ship jobs overseas and force parents to compete with their teenagers for minimum wage at Wal-Mart.” And he pledged to be a “president who will listen to Main Street—not just Wall Street; a president who will stand with workers not just when it’s easy, but when it’s hard.”

Turning to the question of Iraq, he declared that “our troops are sent to fight tour after tour of duty in a war that should’ve never been authorized and should’ve never been waged,” and derided those who “use 9/11 to scare up votes.”

He continued by citing deteriorating social conditions facing average Americans: “the father who goes to work before dawn and then lies awake at night wondering how he’s going to pay the bills;” “the woman who told me she works the night shift after a full day at college and still can’t afford health care for a sister who’s ill;” the retiree “who lost his pension when the company he gave his life to went bankrupt;” and “the teacher who works at Dunkin Donuts after school just to make ends meet.”

He responded with promises of tax cuts for working people, health care reform, better pay and a government that would “protect pensions, not CEO bonuses.”

Echoing the rhetoric of Martin Luther King, he concluded his speech with the vow that “our dream will not be deferred, our future will not be denied, and our time for change has come.”

There is an element in these speeches that would seem to give pause to the Democratic Party establishment and the big business interests it represents. Obama’s rhetorical excursions could be seen as leading into dangerous territory. After all, the Democratic Party has served as an indispensable partner in the Bush administration’s policies of war abroad and social reaction at home.

But this populist primary rhetoric is only one face of Obama. There is another, and it is turned firmly towards the very corporate interests he publicly criticizes, which have poured tens of millions of dollars into his campaign.

On the day after the Potomac primaries, BusinessWeek ran a special report entitled, “Is Obama Good for Business?” While the piece provided no direct answer to this question, the attitude taken by the business magazine appeared to be a qualified “yes,” based in large part on the private discussions that the Illinois senator is holding with top Wall Street and corporate insiders even as he is delivering his public appeals for “change.”

Thus, BusinessWeek noted, last Sunday, after learning of his victory in the Maine Democratic caucuses, Obama sat down at his computer to exchange emails with Robert Wolf, CEO of UBS America, one of his major Wall Street “bundlers,” responsible for bringing in millions in donations from fellow multi-millionaires to finance what Obama refers to as his “movement.” According to estimates made by the Center for Responsive Politics, 80 percent of the money raised by the Obama campaign last year came from donors affiliated with business, with Wall Street leading the pack. More than half of the money came in the form of donations totaling $2,300 or more.

In addition to Wolf, Obama stays in regular touch with Warren Buffett, the second-wealthiest individual in America, with a net worth of some $52 billion. Among his leading economic advisors is Austan Goolsbee, a University of Chicago professor and prominent advocate of free market policies.

The Volcker endorsement

Perhaps most significant was last month’s little reported endorsement of Obama by Paul Volcker, who was appointed Federal Reserve Board chairman by Democratic President Jimmy Carter in 1979 and remained in charge of the US central bank for nearly seven years under the right-wing Republican administration of Ronald Reagan.

Volcker was responsible for inaugurating a high-interest-rate regime demanded by the dominant sections of finance capital in the name of the battle against inflation. His monetary policy was inextricably linked to the offensive against the working class begun with the firing of the air traffic controllers and the breaking of the PATCO strike and continued with the shutdown of large sections of basic industry and the unleashing of the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of the 1930s. The ultimate effect of these policies was a vast transfer of wealth from the mass of working people to a narrow financial elite, a process that has continued to this day.

In a statement announcing his backing for Obama, Volcker noted that he had previously avoided involvement in partisan politics. He said that he was moved to intervene now not “by the current turmoil in markets,” but because of “the breadth and depth of challenges that face our nation at home and abroad.” He added, “Those challenges demand a new leadership and a fresh approach.” Obama’s leadership, he concluded, would be able to “restore needed confidence in our vision, our strength and our purposes right around the world.”

Larry Kudlow, the right-wing pundit and former Reagan administration economic advisor, commented on the endorsement earlier this month, noting that he had once worked as a speechwriter for Volcker and describing him as “a great American... a classic conservative... a man of fiscal and monetary rectitude.”

Volcker, Kudlow wrote, “would not have made this endorsement on a whim. Believe me. He never gets involved in these kinds of political decisions.” He concluded by asking: “Is Volcker the new Robert Rubin [the Wall Street insider who directed the Clinton administration’s economic policy]? Is it possible that Mr. Volcker is somehow tutoring Obama? Is it possible that Obama is more financially conservative than originally believed?”

These are the real relations that are being forged behind the scenes as Obama delivers left phrases from the podium. Those like Volcker see the Illinois senator as a useful vehicle for effecting major changes aimed not at ameliorating the conditions of life for masses of working people, but rather at securing the global interests of American finance capital.

No doubt, they believe Obama, who would be America’s first African-American president, is best suited to confront the dangers posed by continuing economic crisis and rising social tensions. Who better to demand even greater sacrifices from the working class, all in the name of national unity and “change?” At the same time, he would present a fresh face to the world, which they hope would help extricate US imperialism from the foreign policy debacles and growing global isolation that are the legacy of the Bush administration.

Given these big business ties, Obama’s campaign rhetoric about confronting poverty and social inequality involve a level of cynicism and demagogy that is truly staggering. His incessant promises of change are not tied to any radical economic program that fundamentally challenges the profit interests of the giant corporations and Wall Street.

On the contrary, Obama has advanced a conservative fiscal policy, pledging himself to a “pay as you go” approach and stressing the need to reduce debt and deficits. Given that he would take office with a near-record $400 billion deficit inherited from the Bush administration, this already determines an agenda of austerity measures.

On Wednesday, the candidate toured a General Motors plant in Janesville, Wisconsin and put forward a so-called jobs program involving investments in infrastructure and alternative energy that would total $210 billion over 10 years. In the face of the deep-going crisis confronting American capitalism, this is less than a drop in the bucket—and even this drop would quickly evaporate in the face of demands for deficit reduction.

Those who don’t want to talk about capitalism should by rights keep their mouths shut when it comes to poverty and unemployment. One cannot deal with either seriously without confronting the private ownership of society’s productive forces and the immense social inequality that it has created. The defense of jobs and living standards, the right to decent housing, health care and education for hundreds of millions of Americans can be advanced only through a far-reaching redistribution of wealth from the super rich to the broad mass of working people.

Clearly, the likes of Wolf, Buffett and Volcker are backing Obama because they know that he has no intention of going anywhere near such a policy.

As for the question of war, those looking to the Obama campaign as a means of ending American militarism will be sorely disappointed. The Illinois Senator has vowed not to reduce the ballooning US military budget—which consumes an estimated $700 billion annually—but rather to increase it. He has called for the recruitment of another 65,000 soldiers for the Army as well as 27,000 more Marines. He has vowed to put “more boots on the ground” in the “war on terror,” the pretext invented by the Bush administration to justify “preemptive war,” i.e., military aggression aimed at asserting US hegemony over the oil-rich regions of the Middle East and Central Asia.

As for Iraq itself, his promises to end the war are belied by his pledge to keep American forces in Iraq to defend “US interests” and conduct “counterterrorism operations,” a formula that would see tens of thousands of US soldiers and Marines continuing to occupy Iraq and repress its population for many years to come.

To the extent that Obama’s rhetoric arouses popular expectations—and there are indications that it does—these will inevitably be dashed. In all probability, this will happen once the primary season is over and Obama is confronted by the Republican right as well as elements within the Democratic Party itself with the demand that he clarify his program. Should he capture the White House in November, he will head an administration committed to defending the interests of the American oligarchy both at home and abroad.

Those turning towards the Obama campaign as a means of effecting progressive social change in the US and bringing an end to US militarism abroad will find that the Democratic Party and the corporate and financial interests it represents will allow neither.

These necessary goals can be achieved only through a decisive break with the Democrats and the entire two-party system and the independent mobilization of the working class through the building of a mass socialist movement.

See Also:
Clinton campaign in crisis after Obama sweeps five weekend contests
[12 February 2008]

The “circularity” of hope: The Nation endorses Barack Obama

By Patrick Martin
15 February 2008

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In an editorial in its latest edition, dated February 25, the liberal magazine The Nation has given its endorsement to Senator Barack Obama in the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The brief commentary makes no attempt to demonstrate that Obama’s political program represents a significant shift to the left by the Democratic Party, or even that he is more liberal than Hillary Clinton. Instead, the endorsement is based on the bare assertion that Obama has a better chance to win the presidential election and expand the Democratic majority in Congress.

The Nation editorial admits that Obama’s political record in the US Senate is anything but radical: “This magazine has been critical of the senator from Illinois for his closeness to Wall Street; his unwillingness to lay out an ambitious progressive agenda on healthcare, housing and other domestic policy issues; and for postpartisan rhetoric that seems to ignore the manifest failure of conservatism over these past seven years.”

This conventional right-wing orientation is offset, in the eyes of the magazine’s editors, by Obama’s exhibiting “a more humane and wise approach to foreign policy, opposing the Iraq War while Clinton voted for it...”

Even more important, The Nation says, is that Obama’s rhetoric about “unity ... embodies a savvy strategy to redefine the center of American politics and build a coalition by reaching out to independent and Republican voters disgruntled and disgusted with what the Bush era has wrought.” They conclude that the Obama campaign “represents the best chance to forge a new progressive majority.”

In the course of this brief declaration—only four paragraphs long—the editors endorse the article published the week before as the cover story of The Nation, headlined, “The Choice,” and written by Christopher Hayes, its Washington editor. This article makes a more extended argument for supporting Obama, one that demonstrates the intellectual and political poverty of the magazine that has long been the flagship of left liberalism.

The key argument in Hayes’s article—endorsed as well in The Nation editorial—is conveyed by its subtitle: “Why Obama is more likely than Clinton to bring about a new progressive majority.” This refers not to a majority of the American people, but to a majority in Congress that supposedly, in concert with a President Obama, would enact liberal legislation. The argument thus proceeds on entirely pragmatic grounds, based not on Obama’s political program, principles, biography or character, but on his perceived potential to be a successful candidate in the 2008 elections.

In examining Hayes’s arguments, it should be pointed out first of all that he discusses all political issues at the most superficial level—what the candidates think, advocate and do—without any examination of the underlying social forces that condition and ultimately determine the outcome of the political process.

His political universe is limited entirely to the existing two-party system and its political personnel. Hayes conducts a search for the most desirable political alternative within that narrow space, which extends approximately, by any objective estimation, from ultra-conservative to moderately conservative.

The Nation shares this political straitjacket. Last fall, the magazine devoted an entire issue to the 2008 presidential campaign. The publication consisted of eight articles, written by eight contributing editors and correspondents, each serving as the advocate of one of the eight candidates then seeking the Democratic presidential nomination. The message was clear: outside of the Democratic Party there is and can be nothing.

That the vast majority of the American people, the working class, are represented by neither party; that there is a political vacuum on the left of historic dimensions; that the deepening social and economic crisis of American capitalism is creating conditions for the development of a mass social movement that must break with the existing political order and take on a radical political dimension: all this is a closed book to The Nation. Or rather it is a prospect that fills them with such dread that they seek to suppress it.

In his article of February 18, Hayes admits that he and many others in “the left of the Democratic Party,” as he defines the milieu, had great illusions in Obama when he first entered the US Senate in 2004. Referring to liberal circles in Chicago, he writes, “We thought we’d elected our own Paul Wellstone” (the late populist senator from Minnesota who died in an election-eve plane crash in 2002.)

“That’s not, alas, how things turned out,” Hayes admits. Obama “shaded himself toward the center. His rhetoric was cool, often timid ... His record places him squarely in the middle of Democratic senators.” As a presidential candidate, his program on domestic issues “has been very close to that of his chief rivals, though sometimes, notably on healthcare, marginally less progressive.”

This doesn’t deter Mr. Hayes. On the contrary, he declares, “while domestic policy will ultimately be determined through a complicated and fraught interplay with legislators, foreign policy is where the President’s agenda is implemented more or less unfettered. It’s here where distinctions in worldview matter most—and where Obama compares most favorably to Clinton.”

The pigheaded ignorance of this statement is astonishing. It would be far more correct to say that while domestic policy is an area in which corporate America is occasionally compelled to be flexible, taking into consideration a complex array of countervailing pressures, foreign policy is the area where the interests of the ruling elite operate “more or less unfettered.”

Hayes would have us believe that the US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were simply the product of the minds of George W. Bush and Richard Cheney, although they were endorsed in advance by the principal leaders of the Democratic Party, and funded for years by bipartisan congressional votes, with the support of the two finalists for the Democratic party’s presidential nomination, Obama and Clinton.

No serious struggle can be waged against the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan on the basis of such illusions. These wars are the product, not of individual decisions of presidents and generals, but of the drive by the American financial aristocracy to seize control of the most strategically critical region on the planet, the oil-rich territories of the Middle East and Central Asia.

A President Obama, whatever his antiwar rhetoric today, would find himself confronted by the same strategic imperatives that now face President Bush: American imperialism cannot withdraw from the Middle East and cede regional domination to Iran or allow other major powers—Russia, China, Japan, the European Union—to displace the United States.

The principal difference between Obama and Bush is of a tactical, not a principled, character. It is not over whether the United States must maintain access to oil and control of strategic territory, but over what methods should be used. Obama advocates a greater emphasis on diplomacy, economic penetration, covert action and political subversion, in combination with military force.

Hayes’s article goes on to discuss Obama’s strategy in the election, and in the course of this makes his most revealing declaration. Attributing the following political assessment to Obama, and then endorsing it, Hayes writes:

“... the reason progressives have failed to achieve our goals over the past several decades is not that we didn’t fight hard enough but that we didn’t have a popular mandate. In other words, the fundamental obstacle is a basic political one: never having the public squarely on our side and never having the votes on the Hill. In this respect the Obama campaign is uniquely circular: his political appeal is rooted in the fact that he’s so politically appealing.”

The first half of this argument is typical of the once-radical sections of the American upper middle class who constitute the main readership of The Nation, and from among whom the magazine’s personnel and contributors are drawn. They blame the failure of liberalism on the essential conservatism of the American population, i.e., of the working class. And they cite, as proof of this supposed conservatism, the success of the Republican Party in presidential elections and its control of Congress from 1994 to 2006.

In reality, the dominance of the ultra-right in official American politics is largely due to the prostration and rightward drift of what passes for liberalism. The Democratic Party abandoned any association with significant social reform, to say nothing of redistribution of the wealth, as long ago as the presidency of Jimmy Carter more than 30 years ago.

Bill Clinton first came to prominence as a spokesman for the Democratic Leadership Council, which advocated the adaptation of the Democratic Party to Reaganism, and then governed, from 1994 on, in collaboration with a Congress dominated by the Republican right. As Clinton himself admitted, his policies were dictated by the bond market, not by the needs of working people.

The rot and political decay of liberalism was further demonstrated in its impotent response to the attempted political coup against Clinton, through the series of manufactured scandals that led to impeachment, and then in the collapse of November-December 2000, when the Democratic Party and the liberal establishment as a whole stood by while the presidential election was hijacked by a 5-4 majority of the Supreme Court, and Bush installed in the White House.

The second half of Hayes’s argument is its political heart: “the Obama campaign is uniquely circular: his political appeal is rooted in the fact that he’s so politically appealing.”

This statement deserves to be engraved on stone tablets as a monument to political opportunism and worshipping of the accomplished fact. Obama’s campaign appeals to Mr. Hayes, not so much because of the policies Obama advocates, but because—finally, at long last!—a Democratic candidate has discovered how to be successful in electoral politics. Hayes waxes enthusiastic about the crowds at rallies, the attendance at caucuses, the increased voter turnout, even the massive fundraising (much of it from the Internet, but much of it also from traditional corporate sources).

This argument is only a slightly more convoluted version of the cynical maxim that “nothing succeeds like success.” If Hillary Clinton and not Obama were drawing the popular attention, Hayes and The Nation would be rallying just as quickly to her side, notwithstanding their criticism of her past support for the launching of the war in Iraq. It is noteworthy, in that respect, that the editors only made up their minds to come out for Obama after he had surged into the lead in popular vote totals and delegate count.

And finally, after saluting Obama’s campaign and the prospect of expanded Democratic majorities in Congress, Hayes concludes that there’s really no guarantee that any change will take place as the result. “Whoever is elected in November, progressives will probably find themselves feeling frustrated,” he writes. “Ultimately though, the future judgments and actions of the candidates are unknowable, obscured behind time’s cloak.”

Hayes even claims it was impossible to know that the “George W. Bush of 2000, an amiable ‘centrist’ whose thin foreign-policy views shaded towards isolationism, would go on to become a self-justifying delusional and messianic instrument of global war”.

In other words, politics is not a science, it’s just a guessing game to be played by political dilettantes from the upper middle classes for whom the outcome is not all that serious. In the circles in which the writers of The Nation move, there are very few who have lost sons, brothers or fathers in Iraq or Afghanistan, who face layoffs, foreclosures or bankruptcies, who fear deportation or arbitrary arrest.

The World Socialist Web Site and the Socialist Equality Party entirely reject such political complacency. In the final analysis, it is only a screen for prostration before the supposedly invincible ultra-right. The struggle against war and social reaction requires, first and foremost, a break with liberalism and the straitjacket of the Democratic Party. The working class must build its own political party, based on a socialist program, and seeking to unite working people on an international basis against imperialism and war.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Election is about future, not feelings
Gene Lyons

Posted on Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Here are the numbers that make Democrats optimistic about running the
table come November, regaining the White House and controlling both
houses of Congress: On “Super Tuesday,” 15,417,521 citizens voted in
Democratic contests vs. 9,181,297 who participated in Republican
contests. The proportions have remained like that since January, with
Democrats out polling Republicans by 3-to-2 or better nationwide. We
appear to be headed toward a paradigm-changing election like 1932, with
Republicans relegated to secondary status. Reading the tea leaves,
numerous GOP congressmen have announced their retirement, scrambling for
K Street lobbying firms ahead of the rush. It couldn’t happen to a more
deserving party. Fourteen years after Newt Gingrich’s Contract With
America, we’ve seen the consequences of conservative dogma in action:
disastrous wars, authoritarian lawlessness, staggering corruption in
Washington and Baghdad alike, growing budget deficits and repeated
episodes of massive financial fraud.

But can Democrats screw up the presidential contest anyway ? Many are
starting to think so. The possibility that neither Sen. Barack Obama nor
Sen. Hillary Clinton will win enough delegates to lock up the nomination
before the August convention has tensions running high. The prospect of
so-called super delegates, i. e., senators, congressmen and other
Democratic officeholders, deciding the nominee has led to great anxiety,
particularly among Obama supporters.

If party rules aren’t interpreted to their satisfaction, some say
they’ll quit the game, take their ball and go home. Longtime Democratic
operative Donna Brazile, who managed Al Gore’s 2000 campaign, has
announced that if super delegates settle the contest, she’ll abandon the

Writing in his influential Open Left weblog, Chris Bowers warns, “If
someone is nominated for POTUS from the Democratic Party despite another
candidate receiving more popular support from Democratic primary voters
and caucus goers, I will resign as local precinct captain, resign my
seat on the Pennsylvania Democratic State Committee, immediately cease
all fund-raising for all Democrats, refuse to endorse the Democratic
‘nominee’... and otherwise disengage from the Democratic Party.”

Several things must be said. First, everybody making such threats needs
to take a deep breath and calm down. This isn’t about you, your hurt
feelings or your pure, unsullied idealism. It’s about the future of our
country. Any Democrat who can’t concede that either Clinton or Obama
would be an enormous improvement over President Bush or the bellicose,
irascible Sen. John McCain, the presumptive GOP nominee, has no business
participating in politics to begin with.

Second, a deadlocked convention ain’t likely to happen. History shows
that these theoretical train wrecks rarely occur, although the memory of
the 2000 Florida debacle can’t help but provoke unease. Chances are the
voters will decide the issue between now and the April 4 Pennsylvania
primary, maybe before.

Third—and this is the tricky parthow exactly would one go about
determining, assuming that neither candidate wins a clear majority
during the primaries, which one most Democrats favor? Given the
hodgepodge of procedures in place across the country, it won’t be easy.

“[W]ho decides what the popular will is anyway?” asks Kevin Drum in his
influential Washington Monthly weblog. “Is it number of pledged
delegates from the state contests? Total popular vote? Total number of
states won? What about uncommitted delegates from primary states? Or
caucus states, in which there’s no popular vote to consult and delegates
are selected in a decidedly non-democratic fashion to begin with? And
what about all the independent and crossover voters?”

As I write, Obama has won 11 caucuses and nine primaries. Caucuses
clearly discriminate in favor of wealthier, better educated voters, not
necessarily those with most at stake or most critical to Democratic
chances. A number of his caucus victories have been achieved in small
states such as North Dakota, Utah and Nebraska, which Democrats have
basically zero chance of winning. A few primary wins, e.g., South
Carolina and Alabama, also have come in places Democrats won’t carry
come November.

With the obvious exception of Illinois, Obama’s home state, the higher
the turnout and the bigger the state (California, New York, New Jersey,
Massachusetts), the more likely Clinton is to have won it. This leads
many political professionals to see her as the stronger candidate come
November, the Woodstock-like zeal of Obama’s supporters notwithstanding.
An amateur, I see him as the second-coming of Adlai Stevenson, another
high-minded orator from Illinois who made Democrats feel superior while
losing. Then there’s the ticklish matter of Florida and Michigan. Yes,
they broke party rules. (In Florida’s case, a GOP legislature made
them.) Together, though, they constitute roughly 10 percent of the
nation’s population. Is it sensible or fair to disenfranchise them? Both
states are crucial to Democratic hopes. With neither candidate
campaigning, Clinton prevailed easily in Florida. Likewise, Obama’s
withdrawal from Michigan may have been tactically clever, given the
demographics. None of these dilemmas has easy or obvious solutions.
Anybody who thinks they do may as well go home now.

—–––––•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and
recipient of the National Magazine Award.



Ambassador Joseph Wilson

With the emergence of Sen. John McCain as the presumptive Republican nominee, the choice for the Democrats in the 2008 presidential election now shifts to who is best positioned to beat him, in what promises to be a more hard-fought campaign -- and perhaps a nastier one -- than Democrats anticipated.

Sen. Barack Obama's promise of transformation and an end of partisan politics has its seductive appeal. The Bush-Cheney era, after all, has been punctuated by smear campaigns, character assassinations and ideological fervor.

Nobody dislikes such poisonous partisanship, especially in foreign policy, more than I do. I am one of very few Foreign Service officers who have served as ambassador in the administrations of both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, yet I have spent the past four years fighting a concerted character assassination campaign orchestrated by the George W. Bush White House.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is one of the few who fully understood the stakes in that battle. Time and again, she reached out to my wife -- outed CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson -- and me to remind us that as painful as the attacks were, we simply could not allow ourselves to be driven from the public square by bullying. To do so would validate the radical right's thesis that the way to win debates is to demonize opponents, taking full advantage of the natural desire to avoid confrontation, even if it means yielding on substantive issues. Hillary knew this from experience, having spent the better part of the past 20 years fighting the Republican attack machine. She is a fighter.

But will Mr. Obama fight? His brief time on the national scene gives little comfort. Consider a February 2006 exchange of letters with Mr. McCain on the subject of ethics reform. The wrathful Mr. McCain accused Mr. Obama of being "disingenuous," to which Mr. Obama meekly replied, "The fact that you have now questioned my sincerity and my desire to put aside politics for the public interest is regrettable but does not in any way diminish my deep respect for you." Then one of McCain's aides said of Obama, "Obama wouldn't know the difference between an RPG and a bong."

Mr. McCain was insultingly dismissive but successful in intimidating his inexperienced colleague. Thus, in his one face-to-face encounter with Mr. McCain, Mr. Obama failed to stand his ground.

What gives us confidence Mr. Obama will be stronger the next time he faces Mr. McCain, a seasoned political fighter with extensive national security credentials? Even more important, what special disadvantages does Mr. Obama carry into this contest on questions of national security?

How will Mr. Obama answer Mr. McCain about his careless remark about unilaterally bombing Pakistan -- perhaps blowing up an already difficult relationship with a nuclear state threatened by Islamic extremists? How will Mr. Obama respond to charges made by the Kenyan government that his campaigning activities in Kenya in support of his distant cousin running for president there made him "a stooge" and constituted interference in the politics of an important and besieged ally in the war on terror?

How will he answer charges that his desire for unstructured personal summits without preconditions with a host of America's adversaries, from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Kim Jong Il, would be little more than premature capitulation?

Senator Obama claims superior judgment on the war in Iraq based on one speech given as a state legislator representing the most liberal district in Illinois at an anti-war rally in Chicago, and in so doing impugns the integrity of those who were part of the debate on the national scene. In mischaracterizing the debate on the Authorization for the Use of Military Force as a declaration of war, he implicitly blames Democrats for George Bush's war of choice. Obama's negative attack line does not conform to the facts. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I should know. I was among the most prominent anti-war voices at the time -- and never heard about or from then Illinois State Senator Obama.

George Bush made it clear publicly when lobbying for the bill that he wanted it not to go to war but to give him the leverage he needed to go to the United Nations and secure intrusive inspections of Saddam's suspected Weapons of Mass Destruction sites. Who could argue with that goal? Colin Powell made the same case individually to Senators in the run up to the vote, including to Senator Clinton. It is not credible that Senator Obama would not have succumbed to Secretary Powell's arguments had he been in Washington at the time. Why not? Obama himself suggested so in 2004. "I'm not privy to Senate intelligence reports,' Obama said. 'What would I have done? I don't know." He also told the Chicago Tribune in 2004: "There's not much of a difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage." According to press reports, Powell is now an informal adviser to Mr. Obama.

In his tendentious attack, Obama never mentions that Hans Blix, the chief United Nations weapons inspectors, declared that without the congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force the inspectors would never have been allowed into Iraq. Hillary's approach -- and that of the majority of Democrats in the Senate -- was to let the inspectors complete their work while building an international coalition. Hillary's was the road untaken. The betrayal of the American people, and of the Congress, came when President Bush refused to allow the inspections to succeed, and that betrayal is his and his party's, not the Democrats.

Contrary to the myth of his campaign, 2008 is not the year for transcendental transformation. The task for the next administration will be to repair the damage done by eight years of radical rule. And the choice for Americans is clear: four more years of corrupt Republican rule, senseless wars, evisceration of the Constitution, emptying of the national treasury -- or rebuilding our government and our national reputation, piece by piece. Obama's overtures to Republicans, or "Obamacans" as the Senator calls them, is a substitute for true national unity based on a substantive program. His marginal appeals have marginally helped him in caucuses in Republican states that Democrats won't win in the general election. But his vapid rhetoric will not withstand the winds of November. His efforts will be correctly seen by the Republican leadership as a sign of weakness to be exploited. While disaffected Democrats may long for comity in our politics after years of being harangued and belittled by the right wing echo chamber, the Rovians currently promoting Obama are looking to destroy him should he become the nominee. Obama's claim to float uniquely above the fray and avoid polarization will be short-lived. He is no less mortal than any other Democrat -- Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry -- all untouched at the beginning of their campaigns and all mauled by the end. We should never forget recent history.

In order to effect practical change against a determined adversary, we do not need a would-be philosopher-king but a seasoned gladiator who understands the fight Democrats will face in the fall campaign and in governing.

Theodore Roosevelt once commented, "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly."

If he were around today, TR might be speaking of the woman in the arena. Hillary Clinton has been in that arena for a generation. She is one of the few to have defeated the attack machine that is today's Republican Party and to have emerged stronger. She is deeply knowledgeable about governing; she made herself into a power in the Senate; she is respected by our military; and she never flinches. She has never been intimidated, not by any Republican -- not even John McCain.

Barack Obama claims to represent the future, but it should be increasingly evident that he is not the man for this moment, especially with Mr. McCain's arrival. We've seen a preview of that contest already. It was a TKO.

This article is adapted from a piece published in the Baltimore Sun on February 12, 2008

Real ID Act a Real Intrusion On Rights, Privacy
By Bob Barr
If, as proposed in the law, a person must have a Real ID Act-compliant card in order to access a federal building, access any regulated or interstate mode of transportation, or obtain any federal benefit, then we have surrendered to the federal government (that is, federal bureaucrats) the power to deny citizens all manner of activities guaranteed in the Bill of Rights.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Obama sweeps Potomac primaries, deepening Clinton’s crisis

By Bill Van Auken
13 February 2008

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Illinois Senator Barack Obama swept Tuesday’s three Democratic presidential primaries in the states of Virginia and Maryland and the neighboring District of Columbia. The results put Obama, who has long been portrayed as the challenger, clearly ahead of the former front-runner, Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, in terms of both popular vote and delegates pledged to support his nomination at the Democratic National Convention in August.

The results, spelling the eighth defeat for Clinton out of the eight Democratic primaries and caucuses held so far this month, have increased doubts about the viability of her candidacy.

Exit polls indicated that the decisive Obama victory in Virginia—63 percent for Obama compared to 36 percent for Clinton—included sizeable majorities for the Illinois senator among those sections of the electorate that the Clinton campaign had previously claimed as its base. The polls showed Obama winning 60 percent of the female vote and racking up a clear majority among both Hispanic voters and working class voters of all races.

According to exit polls, 59 percent of voters who said they made less than $50,000 a year voted for Obama, as did 62 percent of those who said someone in their household belonged to a union. Roughly 90 percent of the African American vote went to the Illinois senator, along with nearly 70 percent of votes cast by young people.

In Washington, DC, a city with a majority African American population, Obama beat Clinton by better than a three-to-one margin. In Maryland, where a judge ordered polls kept open for an extra hour-and-a-half because of severe weather and traffic jams leading to the polling stations, exit polls showed Obama leading Clinton by close to a two-to-one margin.

On the Republican side, the putative front-runner, Senator John McCain of Arizona, narrowly squeezed out a victory over his challenger, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee. McCain barely won half the votes cast, reflecting the deep fissures within the Republican Party and hostility within its right-wing and Christian evangelical base to McCain’s candidacy.

Voter turnout in the US capital and the two states was expected to set new records for primary contests, with Maryland officials projecting close to 40 percent voter participation and reports of voters having to wait as long as 45 minutes because of crowded polling places in Virginia. As in previous primaries, the turnout for the Democratic primaries was roughly double that for the Republican ones.

As elsewhere, the days leading up to the so-called Potomac primaries saw large turnouts, particularly by younger voters, in support of Obama. On Sunday night he drew an estimated 18,000 people to the Virginia Beach Convention Center, while on Monday about 20,000 packed the Comcast Center at the University of Maryland.

Obama’s speeches to these mass rallies have, in the wake of last week’s “Super Tuesday” primaries, tacked to the left. In addition to trying to cast himself as an antiwar candidate—despite his repeated votes to fund the US interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan—Obama has increasingly appealed to the economic grievances of the electorate and engaged in anti-corporate rhetoric, linking the massive profits of the oil companies to the rising cost of gasoline.

By contrast, Clinton appeared before considerably smaller audiences, the largest of which comprised about 1,000 students at Maryland’s Bowie State University. On Monday, she spoke to a more or less captive audience of workers, managers and union officials at a Maryland General Motors transmission plant.

The primaries demonstrated the way in which the Democratic Party establishment is split between the two candidates. In Maryland, Clinton campaigned together with the state’s governor, Martin O’Malley, as well as Maryland Senator Barbara Mikulski.

For his part, Obama enjoyed the backing of Virginia Governor Timothy Kaine—a co-chairman of his campaign, whom he publicly promised a post in his potential cabinet—while in the District of Columbia he campaigned together with Mayor Adrian Fenty.

Obama has increasingly attempted—particularly in his speeches to mass audiences—to portray his candidacy as some kind of anti-establishment insurgency and his campaign as a social movement. Speaking on Monday night, he said, “I started from scratch and was up against an operation that had been built over the course of 20 years by a former president with the bulk of the Democratic establishment on their side, and after setting up a hundred-million-plus operation with hundreds of employees around the country; it looks like we’ve played them to a draw so far.”

The reality is that the senator from Illinois is himself backed not only by substantial sections of the Democratic Party establishment, but also by powerful interests within America’s financial elite. This has found clearest expression in the sharp shift of campaign funding towards his campaign, which recently reported collecting approximately $1 million a day—twice the amount flowing into Clinton’s coffers—after setting a record by taking in $32 million in January.

Within these circles, Obama’s candidacy is seen as an opportunity to effect a shift in foreign policy aimed at shoring up US imperialist interests threatened by the disastrous results of the policies of the Bush administration, particularly in the Middle East. His candidacy is also seen as a means of channeling growing social discontent and keeping it within the safe confines of Democratic Party politics.

Clinton went into Tuesday’s primaries with her campaign already shaken by defeats suffered over the weekend in five separate contests. In the Louisiana primary, as well as in caucuses in Washington State, Nebraska, Maine and the US Virgin Islands, she lost to Obama by wide margins.

The air of crisis around the campaign of the New York senator and former first lady was compounded by financial woes and a sudden shakeup in her top staff. Clinton was forced to loan the campaign $5 million of her own money after it had exhausted its war chest.

Reflecting tensions over the string of losses and dwindling cash, campaign manager Patti Solis Doyle—a close Clinton aide since the Clintons occupied the governor’s mansion in Little Rock, Arkansas—resigned and was replaced by Maggie Williams, who served as chief of staff for Hillary Clinton at the White House in the 1990s.

The shuffle at the top provoked a new race-based controversy in the party, with several prominent Latino Democrats expressing concern that the Clinton campaign was removing Solis Doyle, a daughter of Mexican immigrants. “She might be playing with fire with the Hispanic community,” New York State Senator Ruben Diaz Jr. told the Associated Press.

He, together with another elected Latino state official, wrote a letter of concern to the Clinton campaign, and said, “I just wanted them to know that we are not innocent, to believe that the person resigned on her own.”

Clinton’s political handlers have pointed to the candidate’s strength among Hispanic voters—evidenced particularly in her win in California—as one of her remaining advantages over Obama.

The replacement of the campaign manager was followed Monday by the resignation of the deputy campaign manager, Mike Henry, who said he was stepping aside in deference to the new campaign team.

The Clinton campaign has more or less written off the other primaries scheduled this month—in Hawaii and Wisconsin—which are likely to bring to 10 the number of consecutive primary and caucus defeats in the wake of “Super Tuesday.” Clinton is staking the fate of her nomination on March 4 contests that will be held in Texas and Ohio. The New York senator was speaking to a rally in El Paso, Texas Tuesday night as the media reported her defeats in the Potomac primaries. A failure by Clinton to convincingly carry both states next month is seen as probably fatal for her campaign.

Given the proportional distribution of delegates across congressional districts and statewide, it is becoming increasingly certain that neither candidate will win enough delegates before the August Democratic National Convention in Denver to guarantee them the nomination. As a result, both sides are battling to win votes that are not up for grabs in the primaries and caucuses.

Both Clinton and Obama are courting the support of former Senator John Edwards, who dropped out of the Democratic nomination race after losing in the South Carolina primary last month. Each of them hopes that Edwards could swing to their side some 40 delegates pledged to him.

Clinton met with Edwards last Thursday in North Carolina, while a scheduled meeting between Edwards and Obama was cancelled Monday for unexplained reasons. Both candidates are rumored to be offering Edwards a post in a future Democratic administration, including a possible appointment as attorney general.

Intensive efforts are focused on the so-called “super delegates”—nearly 800 elected officials and party functionaries—who are not bound by the primary results. Thus far, Clinton has enjoyed a large lead among those super delegates who have committed to either candidate. Such delegates, however, can shift their allegiances to conform with the prevailing political winds.

Obama declared in a television interview this week that it would be unfair if these super delegates negated the results of the primaries. “We’ve got to make sure that whoever wins the most votes, the most delegates, that they are the nominee,” he told the Washington, DC ABC affiliate WJLA. “I think that it would be problematic if either Senator Clinton or myself came in with having won the most support from voters and that was somehow overturned by party insiders.”

Democratic Party National Chairman Howard Dean expressed the same sentiment last week. If neither of the two enjoyed a clear lead coming into the convention, he said, “then we’re going to have to get the candidates together and make some kind of an arrangement. Because I don’t think we can afford to have a brokered convention; that would not be good news for either party.”

The evident fear is that, should Clinton fail to pull ahead decisively in the upcoming primaries and also refuse to bow out, the convention could become the scene of bitter public in-fighting, potentially convincing millions more Americans of the undemocratic character of the entire political system based on the domination of a financial elite represented by two big business parties.

See Also:
Clinton campaign in crisis after Obama sweeps five weekend contests
[12 February 2008]