Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Is the racial divide a distraction for Barack?

With his eloquent speech last week on the state of the racial divide in America, Barack seemed to be suggesting that the topic of race deserved a much higher profile in the presidential campaign. I am not convinced. There are plenty of divides in America. Talking about them is no answer and will not magically make any of them go away. If Barack or anyone thinks some topic or "divide" warrants discussion in a presidential campaign, the discussion should be about how to address that topic or divide. And if we are not yet ready to advance to discussing actual solutions, then the discussions can occur many different places in America, but a presidential campaign is unlikely to be the place to make any real progress. A political campaign is all about choosing between alternatives, not airy discussions of concept.

In an Op-Ed piece in The New York Times by Bob Herbert entitled "With a Powerful Speech, Obama Offers a Challenge" tells us:

The fundamental message that Senator Obama is trying to get across is that the racial madness that has perverted so many elections needs to stop -- and stop now. Time and again, that madness has been employed to undermine efforts to create what the senator characterizes as "a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America."

Racial prejudice, ignorance, hostility -- whatever -- has caused millions of Americans to vote against their own economic interests, and for policies that have damaged the country.

"It's hard to address big issues," Mr. Obama told me, "if we're easily diverted or distracted by racial antagonism."

Far more people will see the endless loop of Senator Obama's frenzied former pastor than will ever read or hear the sober, thoughtful, constructive words of the senator himself.

The Philadelphia speech was obviously political, designed to limit the damage that the sermons by the Rev. Jeremiah Wright were inflicting on Mr. Obama's campaign. But the theme of the speech was both legitimate and powerful, and it ought to resonate with fair-minded Americans, regardless of whether they support Mr. Obama for president.

"We have a choice in this country," the senator said in his speech. "We can accept a politics that breeds division and conflict and cynicism."

Or, he said, Americans could move in a different direction. "At this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, 'Not this time.' This time, we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native-American children. ...

"This time, we want to talk about how lines in the emergency room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care. ... This time, we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life."

The great challenges this country continues to face -- challenges linked to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the threat of terror, a failing economy, climate change, and on and on -- cannot be solved, Mr. Obama said, in an environment riven by divisiveness and hostility.

His Op-Ed piece seems to me to basically fall flat. It seems to me that much of what Barack refers to in his interview that was quoted above has little to do with race, racial discrimination, or any racial divide, and likely to be more about economics, the state of business in America, class, culture, social priorities, etc.

In fact, if Barack really wants to talk about all of the problems he mentions that transcend race, then why would race have such an urgent priority for discussion in a presidential campaign? If we were having race riots and race strikes and massive race protest marches, then maybe race would have "the urgency of now", but that is not the landscape of problems that voters are confronting.

Yes, we do have a significant array of lingering racial problems in this country, but Barack's speech is not the answer. Government cannot solve all problems at every moment. If Barack feels that he has a solution to a problem that the voters find urgent, then let him inform us of his solution. So fare he hasn't. Vision and aspiration are important, but they need to be coupled to the real world and real solutions.

It still appears that Barack was simply trying to finesse a problem from his past rather than stake out a solution to an urgent voter priority. He can proceed to talk a lot more about the racial divide, but I do wonder where he thinks that will get him in the presidential campaign. I do believe that most Americans are eager to transcend race, but I also suspect that they are distinctly disinterested in more endless, circular discussions of the problem without focusing on solutions.

-- Jack Krupansky

Is it ever really too late to vote for change?

I was both amused and offended by the sign in this photo on the Obama HQ Blog:

The sign says "Your chance to vote for change ends March 24th." Sorry, but that is not true. There will never, ever be an end of opportunity to think, believe, act, or vote in favor of change.

My point is that true change is a continuous, neverending process. There is never a "deadline" or "last chance" for "change."

The claim by the Obama campaign that only their candidate represents "change" is a complete and deliberate fraud.

The claim by the Obama campaign that if you don't support their candidate in this election that this is somehow their, Barack's, and your "last chance" is a complete and deliberate fraud. Put simply, there is always a tomorrow and every tomorrow will be a new opportunity for change. Do not trust anybody who tells you otherwise. The "urgency of now" should never supplant a belief in the opportunity of tomorrow.

Besides, if you miss the deadline for registering and even if you do not vote, you can always support change in a myriad of ways, only one of which is voting. In fact, a lot of the changes desired by the Obama cult can in fact best be brought about by grassroots activism of a non-voting and non-violent kind. There are plenty of opportunities for change at the state, regional, county, local, neighborhood, group, organization, and individual level as well. Struggling to grasp for national political power may in fact be the least useful approach to pursuing true change.

Keep in mind that there is a lot more to leadership than a mindless focus on change.

-- Jack Krupansky

What can Barack deliver on health care that Hillary can't deliver even better?

A post on the Obama HQ Blog by Sam Graham-Felsen entitled "Obama Statement on Report of the Trustees of Social Security and Medicare" informs us that "Senator Obama issued the following statement today in response to the Report of the Trustees of Social Security and Medicare":

"Today's report should give Americans confidence that we can keep Social Security strong for future generations if we come together and address its real but manageable long-term cash flow issue.  But the report also shows the cost of Washington's failure to overcome the special interests and pass health care reform that expands coverage and lower costs, which would keep Medicare strong and affordable for America's seniors.  As president, I will reduce costs in the Medicare program by enacting reforms to lower the price of prescription drugs, ending the subsidies for private insurers in the Medicare Advantage program and focusing resources on prevention and effective chronic disease management.  I'll also bring Democrats and Republicans together to provide every single American with affordable, available health care that reduces health care costs by $2,500 per family.  By investing in proven measures to improve the health of all Americans and reduce health care cost across the economy, we can ensure that the Medicare program remains strong for future generations.

That is all well and good and perfectly in line with what we all would consider the Democratic party platform, but the core question is what Barack is claiming to deliver that Hillary would be unable to deliver even better.

The simple truth is that Hillary has done a better job in the U.S. Senate of working with Republicans as well as fellow Democrats, so what does Barack really have to offer here?

Seriously, is there something special that he feels he has to offer on health care and social security that Hillary cannot do much better?

-- Jack Krupansky

Monday, March 24, 2008

Hillary under sniper fire?

Maybe Hillary was simply obsessing over how the Obama campaign has been treating her, but I myself was a little suspicious when I was reading Hillary's speech on her plan for Iraq and I read in her introductory comments before diving into her prepared remarks:

I remember landing under sniper fire. There was supposed to be some kind of a greeting ceremony at the airport, but instead we just ran with our heads down to get into the vehicles to get to our base.

People with better memories and some video from 12 years ago pointed out that Hillary's recalled account was simply not how it was. What can we say... Hillary had an Al Gore moment last week. Sigh. This kind of thing happens on occasion, even with the best of politicians. It provides us with a little amusement, embarrasses the politician a little, and we all move on. In fact, if the Obama campaign were to focus too much attention on it, they themselves would be accused of not focusing on issues.

You could say this was an example of "dishonesty" by Hillary, but it clearly falls into the Al Gore "tall tale" category, a "white" lie at worst.

I don't know why Hillary would have said such a thing. Maybe she just wanted to add a little color to her dry speech. Maybe that is what she in fact remembered or just how she remembered it. It did not really add any significant value to her speech. Maybe she is just jealous of how impressive Barack's speeches are.

Anyway, let's get back to the real sniping, the political kind that packs some punch and sting.

-- Jack Krupansky

Who will McCain focus his attacks on?

Although it is easy for a Republican to attack Democrats in general, it is much more effective to have a face to attack in a more "personal" manner, almost literally on a first-name basis. That presents a conundrum for McCain. He can either attack fuzzy Democrats in general or he has to pick whether to go after Barack or after Hillary. Going after two faces simultaneously takes more time, energy, and money, is not as effective, confuses people, and diffuses the effect of the "personal" attack.

The problem for McCain is that whichever of the two he attacks will be relatively weakened by his attacks which will make the other one appear relatively stronger for the remainder of the Democratic primary season. So, if he attacks the stronger candidate on the presumption that they are the ultimate contender for November, he will only increase the odds that the weaker will be able to overcome their current underdog position. Similarly, if he attacks the weaker one, he only makes the stronger one look even stronger.

Basically, he cannot win by focusing his attacks on either Democratic contender at this stage.

But, reality dictates that he must attack somebody. The result may be that each of his attacks has a target but that he does not maintain a focused attack. The Democrats do not realize this, but it does appear that keeping two of them alive until much later in the game actually makes it more difficult for McCain to attack either of them.

Besides, the degree to which Barack and Hillary spend any effort attacking McCain rather than each other is a good thing and there of two of them, so that partially makes up for the fact that they can only attack McCain part of the time since they are busy tearing down each other most of the time.

The beauty of this state of affairs is that if McCain attacks Hillary he effectively annoints her as still being in the running and gives her a chance to show her "stuff" in battle." And if McCain attacks Barack, Hillary has the triple benefit of attacking McCain directly from the side while he is distracted and unable to respond directly, to rush to Barack's defense to show that she works for the best interests of the Democratic party, and to at least partially let McCain draw some blood from Barack to show that he is relatively weaker than her.

Barack has similar options. His major strengths are that he wasn't party to getting the U.S. into Iraq and won't be party to getting the U.S. into Iran. Other than that, he has nothing but weaknesses to attacks from McCain on the "warrior" and commander-in-chief front. Sure, he can try to re-focus on non-defense/security issues, but deflection will only highlight his weakness.

And if McCain does not attack strongly, he only looks weak and feeble. Besides, he really does need to attack since he is vulnerable on the anti-war/pro-Iraq front and the weak-regulation of Wall Street excesses on the conomic front.

What an interesting time this is.

The Democrats may be wringing their hands that they do not have a nominee yet, but for the American people overall it is better to see three strong contenders duking it out in a three-way match.

Just wait until Ralph Nader shows up on the scene. Then things will really get... confused.

-- Jack Krupansky

Free Tibet now?

Maybe this is a good candidate for a YouTube presidential debate question: Should we, both as individuals and the U.S. government, be actively promoting the independence of Tibet from China?

In principle, I am in favor of a free and independent Tibet, but what are the ramifications?

Or, maybe we should be promoting the independence of Tibet regardless of the ramifications.

Or, maybe we should be promoting the principle of the independence of Tibet, but not be specific as to the timing of such a move.

And if Tibet is to be granted independence, why not Taiwan? Granted, Taiwan just held an election in which people voted in favor or closer ties with China, but are there lessons from one to be learned from the other?

In particular, is the core issue in Tibet absolute political independence, or political autonomy, in much the same way that Hong Kong operates? Sure, some people much prefer absolute independence, but what do the majority seek?

And ultimately, whatever the solution is to political independence, the immediate question then becomes what the ongoing relations should be with China.

In principle, "a people" should be independent or at least treated as equal to other ethnic groups with no discrimination. The Kurds are another example, with many in Iraq and many in Turkey. Should the Kurds have their own independent country? In principle, I would say yes. Should we as both individuals and the U.S. government be lobbying to permit the creation of a free and independent Kurdish nation? That gets sticky.

My position is that we should focus on making our principles clear but step cautiously about applying them. Maybe phrase it as speak strongly about your principles but go gently with a strong stick.

The most important thing I would say is that we, as the U.S. government, have to be very careful not to get ahead of the situation. A people will seek their freedom when they are ready. There may be false starts and unrealistic expectations well in advance of a legitimate move to independence. We should always be there to aid fledgling nations once they have firmly established their independence, but be careful not to get involve when questions about independence are still unresolved within a sovereign nation. An exception is where a general agreement arises among multiple nations that independence now is an urgent necessity.

Meanwhile, private citizens and non-governmental organizations are free to lobby for the independence of any region, people, or political entity.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Hillary's plan for Iraq

Although Barack got a lot of media attention last week for his speech on the state of the racial divide in America which was long on passion woefully short on solutions or plans, Hillary's speech on her plan for Iraq got very little media attention. Granted Barack's speech was "stirring" and Hillary's was dry and full of dull and "boring" policy details, but the difference is the choice facing voters. Barack offers soaring rhetoric that may soothe your troubled soul, while Hillary offers the mind-numbing nuts and bolts of real solutions for real problems.

Barack's supporters apparently need the fancy pep talk, while Hillary's supporters simply want to know that their president knows how to actually solve the problems facing America and even has plans ready so that she can hit the ground running.

Leave the soaring rhetoric for Sunday sermons. Most Americans want to ignore what goes on in Washington and what the politicians are talking about and simply go about their own daily lives knowing that their president is busy at work and not focused on flowery rhetoric that is long on "ideas" and short on solutions, plans, and results.

It does not really matter what Barack's position on Iraq was over fives years ago. What does matter is whether he has a credible plan for dealing with Iraq and whether his plan is somehow better than Hillary's. Hillary's speech on Iraq shows that she is ready to get started on cleaning up the mess with a very comprehensive and credibe plan, while Barack chooses to focus on what his position was as a minor politician in the Illinois state senate so many years ago.

-- Jack Krupansky

Campaign Sniping Has More Democrats Saying They'll Vote McCain If Their Candidate Loses

I have a lot of sympathy for that sub-headline on a story from ABC News: "McCain Gains from Clinton-Obama Feud - Campaign Sniping Has More Democrats Saying They'll Vote McCain If Their Candidate Loses." I am an independent and although I obviously lean a little towards Hillary, she is certainly not "my" candidate. As I have previously written here, sure, I could vote for McCain if Barack wins the Democratic nomination, but that is mostly because he has not convinced me of his centrist credentials and is far too tolerant of his left-wing supporters.

Hillary is in fact behind in delegates precisely because she does lean towards centrist and does understand the nuances of Washington and the need for compromise that frequently looks to bystanders as "dishonesty" or a "willingness to say different things to different groups" or a "willingness to say anything to win", etc. Being a centrist is very hard work. Nobody "loves" a centrist the way people in the left-wing and the right-wing love candidates that hew strictly to their party-line positions. Sure, Barack talks about reaching across divides -- something that is second-nature to Hillary -- but he offers no clues as to how he would do it without compromising on the staked-out positions of his left wing supporters.

Sad to say, but given the tone of many of Barack's supporters, he is even further from center than even McCain. That is what might "force" me to vote for McCain, not the mere fact that "my" candidate did not win the nomination.

What I do find hard to believe is the notion that hard-core left-wing Barack supporters might actually consider voting for McCain if Hillary gets the nomination. No way! They hate Hillary because she did not oppose the Iraq war (so they say) and now they would vote for the guy who pushed for the "surge" in Iraq? Really? Now there is a pig that has wings!

What I am expecting is that once the Democratic convention is over Barack will himself be "forced" to swerve hard to the right to get much closer to center in order to beat McCain who himself will be swerving hard to the left to get even closer to center.

Once both candidates are close to center, then for independents like me it simply does not matter who wins and I will simply vote for whoever seems the most committed to centrist "ideals". As long as Barack abandons his current left-wing supporters, I could in fact vote for him.

Right now, I would not be happy voting for either McCain or Barack since they are both too far from center. But we are not voting right now.

Hopefully this so-called "sniping" will wake up a lot of Democrats to the reality that if they want their party to survive and thrive they need to support "a big tent", where both centrists and liberals can feel comfortable. Centrists by nature are very tolerant, but unfortunately the hard left-wing liberals (and the hard right-wing conservatives) view that tolerance as a weakness rather than a strength. If the hard left-wing "snipers" would just tone down their extremist rhetoric then maybe the Democrats would not be facing this "my candidate or McCain" dilemma.

I have no vested interest in either party. If Barack wants my vote he will have to earn it and start talking and acting in a manner that actually appeals to me and centrists in general. He is spending far too much of his time preaching to his hard-core left-wing choir, his cult, with little effort spent appealing to us centrists.

I certainly do not want to put 100% of the blame on Barack. Hillary has resorted to a too much spinning and negativity for my personal taste, but usually only in reaction to an excess of rhetoric on the part of the Obama campaign. The simple fact is that other than youth and charm and a vague and impractical notion of "hope" and "change", Barack has nothing to offer us centrists over Hillary. I would have preferred that Hillary would have taken the high road and stayed on it, but Barack seemed too addicted to playing the Mr. Charisma card, even though even he knows that the campaign should really be about real issues and not about personality. I do have to blame him 100% for that strategic blunder, which may win him the nomination but risk losing the general election.

There is only one thing I am certain of at this stage, that in November us centrists and centrism will prevail! I am convinced that McCain will position himself as a centrist. The key uncertainty is whether Barack will remain loyal to his left-wing supporters or pull a "Hillary" and compromise and begin to toe the centrist line.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Paranoia takes root in the Obama campaign

A pattern has developed. The Obama campaign is exhibiting an extreme over-reaction to even relatively benign and innocusous statements that don't even mention their candidate, let alone their ongoing over-sensitivity to any statement that even hints of criticizing their candidate or his "special" quality.

The latest incident was a simple statement by Bill Clinton that neither mentioned Barack nor was even a critical statement on its own, but was perversely twisted into a critiicism of Barack's patriotism and and resulted in the Obama campaign criticizing Bill of being McCarthyesque to boot. Unreal. Absolutely unreal.

Bloomberg starts by telling us that:

A foreign policy adviser to Barack Obama accused Bill Clinton of questioning his candidate's patriotism and said comments by the former president were reminiscent of anti-communist crusader Joseph McCarthy.

Strong stuff. Hard to imagine Bill Clinton saying anything like that.

Here is what Bill said, as per CBS News:

The former president told a group of veterans Friday in Charlotte, North Carolina: "I think it would be a great thing if we had an election year where you had two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country. And people could actually ask themselves who is right on these issues, instead of all this other stuff that always seems to intrude itself on our politics."

That seems like a perfectly innocuous political statement to make. Nothing outrageous in any way and nothing that anybody should complain about.

I've tried, but even if I were to put myself into some paranoid state of mind, it would still be a long stretch to treat this as a statement about Barack. Sure, I can imagine some hyper-sensitive people doing so, but I seriously would say that someone going that far out of their way to insist that this was a criticism of Barack and assert that Bill was definitely questioning Barack's loyalty and patriotism was not being fair in any way.

CBS News informs us that:

Retired Gen. Merrill "Tony" McPeak, a co-chair of Obama's campaign, said he was astonished and disappointed by recent comments the former president made while speculating about a general election between Obama's Democratic rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and Republican John McCain.

Standing next to Obama on stage at a campaign rally in southern Oregon, the retired Air Force chief of staff repeated Bill Clinton's comments aloud to a silent audience.


McPeak then said to his Oregon audience: "As one who for 37 years proudly wore the uniform of our country, I'm saddened to see a president employ these tactics. He of all people should know better because he was the target of exactly the same kind of tactics."

Bloomberg fairly reports on Bill's statement:

Clinton said yesterday in Charlotte, North Carolina, that it would be great if the U.S. presidential election were between his wife, Democratic Senator Hillary Clinton of New York, and Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona:"two people who loved this country and were devoted to the interest of this country."

Bloomberg goes on to tell us:

Introducing Obama today at a town hall in Medford, Oregon, retired four-star General Merrill "Tony" McPeak, said Clinton should know better than to employ the same tactics that were used against him when he ran for president 16 years ago.

"Both Barack Obama and John McCain are great patriots who love this country and are devoted to it,'' McPeak, an Obama campaign co-chair, said. "So is Hillary Clinton -- any suggestion to the contrary is flat wrong."

When approached by reporters after a rally yesterday in Salem, Oregon, McPeak said Clinton's comments were "more like McCarthy," referring to the senator from Wisconsin who in the 1950s sought to brand political rivals, government employees and some celebrities as being communist sympathizers, spies or otherwise unpatriotic.

"I grew up, I was going to college when Joe McCarthy was accusing good Americans of being traitors," McPeak said yesterday. "So I've had enough of it."

So Bill was even accusing Barack of being a traitor? Enough of this guilt by association.

McPeak did of course indirectly remind people that Hillary is married to a draft dodger. Himself employing the precise tactic that he decried Bill from using! Slick. So old politics.

So, here is some of the pattern that we have seen play out:

  • Bill Clinton of all people accused of making rascist statements in South Carolina.
  • Obama supporters "worried" about their candidate's "safety" because he is so "special" that somebody will go after him the way they did with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Bobbie Kennedy.
  • Geraldine Ferraro of all people accused of making rascist statements.
  • A Barack campaign adviser referring to Hillary of all people as a "monster."
  • Now, Bill Clinton of all people being accused of questioning Barack's loyalty and patriotism.

There is no question, there is a decided air of paranoia engulfing the Barack Obama campaign. Paranoia has clearly taken root and seems unlikely to be uprooted any time soon. It explains a lot of the hyper-negativity emanating from the campaign lately.

Where did this paranoia come from. Personally, I think it comes from the fact that Obama supporters really do see his rising start as truly something "special", something to be especially cherished and especially protected, to the point where any criticism or implied blemish of their "special" star is a matter of deep dishonor for them, causing them to lash out in, well, outright anger.

But the really scary thing is that we are not seeing Barack asking his people to chill, take a minute, take a deep breath, tell them "Don't worry, we can win even if not everybody loves us", or chiding them to remain positive, or any of the other forms of behavior that would show that he does not share their belief in him as being "special." Wow, he drinks his own Kool-Aid. A cult leader is not supposed to do that. Well, he knows they are a cult and he knows that it is best for him to simply let them run. Still, it would be a relief to see him exercise a little more adult supervision and dial back the cult-like and paranoid behavior.

-- Jack Krupansky

How might Bill Richardson's support for Barack change the campaign?

Thinking overnight about Bill Richardson's decision to come out in support of Barack, I have concluded that it is at most a minor black eye for the Clinton campaign and only a minor boost for Barack. Sure, it is definitely a feather in Barack's cap, but really simply more of an ego boost, and a boost for the spirits of Barack's supporters, but not necessarily much more than that. After all, Richardson never gained any significant traction when he was a candidate. That shows the raw limit of his impact on the national scene.

OTOH, for Washington insiders, Richardson's "act of betrayal" has cosmic symbolic significance, and could inspire more Washington insiders to "switch horses", but the goings-on inside the beltway really are neither here nor there when computing the political calculus at a national level.

My personal philosphical view is that Richardson had gotten about as much mileage out of the Clinton's as possible, having been Secretary of Energy and Ambassador to the UN, so they simply did not have a lot to offer him. Even as VP, he would spend eight years knowing that in 2016 he would be facing Barack as a potential rival for the White House. Worse, he would look forward to 2016 as being "tainted" by the "old order" of the Clintons rather than the "new order" of "the next generation." By betting big on Barack now, Richardson give himself a much stronger option of being top dog for president in 2016, and positioned himself as part of that "next generation." Whether that is the calculus he used, I do not know, but it is certainly a calculus that any observer would view and say that Richardson has a better career ahead of himself by aligning with Barack rather than Hillary.

Also, if Barack does fail to win the nomination and decides not to pursue the White House any further, that would still leave Richardson in a good position for 2016. In fact, even though the Clinton's may feel betrayed by him, the political calculus (e.g., the Hispanic vote for Richardson and a desire to appeal to Barack's supporters and other of "the next generation") might persuade them to accept him as VP as a form of peace offering with the rest of the Democratic party. I am assuming that Barack really has no intention of playing #2 to Hillary.

I would say that Richardson's decision to back Barack is a slam dunk wise career move.

Now, whether all of this really means any significant net setback for Hillary at the national level is, I would say, quite debatable. Maybe it cut her chance of winning the nomination by another couple of percent, but I doubt that it cuts her chances by more than 5% at the max.

The silver lining in this dark cloud is that it sends a very loud message directly to Hillary and Bill Clinton that they need to take a very deep breath and seriously reinvent themselves for the next phase of the campaign. But, given their history, I think that is just the kind of challenge that they can and even enjoy rising to.

There are two things that I would not bet against at this stage, one is Barack, and the other is Hillary.

-- Jack Krupansky

Friday, March 21, 2008

Bill Richardson supporting Barack

Congratulations to Barack for scoring the support of Bill Richardson. Of the original batach of democratic presidential contenders, I found Bill to be the most sincere, competent, qualified, and candidate with the highest integrity. I had assumed that he would eventually come out in support of Barack. I am only curious why it took so long or why now.

Now the question is what his support for Barack tells me. Not that much. There is s long list of leading Democrats who support either candidate. Frankly when I listen to him list out what Barack can do for America, I do not hear anything that could not be said for even stronger for Hillary. Maybe it tells us that he is really interested in running as VP for Barack, which would put him in the best position for succeeding Barack as president in eight years.

-- Jack Krupansky

Even more "old politics" from Barack

An article/post in The Boston Globe by Foon Rhee entitled "Obama goes on offensive" tells us of the latest "offensive" by Barack in his new-found passion for ultra-negative "old politics." Instead of trying to convince us of how he will be a great leader for America, he focuses on trying to tear down his opponent. The article/post tells us that "Barack Obama's campaign, after a week of largely playing defense over his spiritual mentor's sermons, is going on the offense with a vengeance this morning with a memo accusing Hillary Clinton of "a history of misleading voters."" In all honesty, Hillary has been in the public eye for sixteen years now. For Barack to claim that the American public doesn't know very much about her and need to be reminded by him is quite an insult to the American public.

The simple fact is that Hillary has tackled a lot of controversial issues, many of which involve a lot of nuance and compromise. In a country split 50/50 on many issues, compromise and nuance are essential. Some people see only the negative side of that willingness to compromise, but the simple truth is that is what governing a divided house is all about. If Barack sincerely believes that all of America and all of Washington is suddenly going to toe his line, and maybe he does believe that, then he is going to have a lot of disappointment in his future.

Hillary has done an exemplary job of trying to bridge the many divides in America. Certainly not perfect, but certainly a lot better than Barack, his campaign, and his supporters (his cult) would lead you to believe.

An article on ABC News entitled "Obama Campaign Claims Clinton Has 'Character Gap' - Campaign Promising 'New Politics' Assails Rival as Untrustworthy, Duplicitous" also highlights the extreme negative turn that Barack's campaign has taken, telling us that he "Assails Rival" and that "The campaign of Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., delivered one of its harshest, most negative attacks yet today, asserting that Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., is lacking in character and regularly misleads voters."

The article quotes Barack's campaign manager as saying "The central assertions in her candidacy have proven to be false." That of course is not a credible statement in any way. And if that is what Barack really believes, then that is a very black mark on his own character.

Where is his "new politics", or is this it? I thought that by new he meant better, rather than an intensification of "old politics." All of this extreme tone of negativity and hostility from his campaign is unlikely to increase his own standing in the eyes of the public. It is as if he has suddenly decided that he is out to make Newt Gingrich look calm, reflective, and mild-mannered.

Trying to put Hillary on the defensive and make here look like the victim, will ultimately only help Hillary and hurt Barack.

If I could give only one simple, positive piece of advice to Barack it would be that he should be very careful not to raise anything from Hillary's past, for the simple reason that the majority of the public has already seen and heard it all before and would prefer not to hear about it all again and much more likely to let it just go in one ear and out the other (and the same goes for the media), and most importantly, she has the sharpened political skills to take anything that he brings up against her and turn it around and turn it into a positive to use against him. Yeah, she also has the history and ability to go negative against him when cornered, but it is her skill at building her past into a positive that is the most risky to Barack.

In short, Barack, go back! Go back to being positive and filled with hope and willingness to change things for the better. Maybe you won't win the presidency, but at least you will retain whatever sense of integrity and dignity you still have. And, in truth, that may be the only way for him to win. Giving up on a playbook that was working simply does not seem like a very good move.

Pointing out Hillary's mistakes and character flaws only makes her more human (and hence appealing), and gives her a great opening to spin them in a positive way.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, March 20, 2008

More "old politics" from Barack

The negative, "old politics", smear tactics machine is now in overdrive at the Barack campaign. Rather than focus on his own policies and how they would better work for America, he instead is focusing not just on trying to tear down his opponents, the kind of "old politics" that he had supposedly forsaken, but to do it with ugly smear tactics. To wit, here is the opening text from his campaign manager's latest email to his "supporters" (my highlighting):

Friend --

Senator Clinton and Senator McCain are reading from the same political playbook as they attack Barack on foreign policy.

They have both criticized Barack's commitment to act against top al Qaeda terrorists if others can't or won't act.

And they have both dismissed his call for renewed diplomacy as naïve while mistakenly standing behind George Bush's policy of non-engagement that just isn't working.

But most of all -- after five years of overwhelming evidence that we are less safe, less able to shape events abroad, and more divided at home -- Senator Clinton and Senator McCain are failing to address the consequences of a war they both supported that should have never been authorized and never been waged.

We need a leader who had the judgment to oppose this war before it began and who has a clear plan to end it.


Today, he laid out the economic costs of the war that Senator Clinton and Senator McCain supported.

Unbelievable. Almost every single paragraph and even sentence contains some misrepresentation and deliberate smear.

He starts will a clear and obviously deliberate smear, a classic "guilt by association" tactic so common in "old politics", by asserted that "Senator Clinton and Senator McCain are reading from the same political playbook", when nothing could be further from the truth. Hillary using McCain's "playbook? Obviously that is not the case, and Barack and his campaign and his supporters know that is not the case. As almost an aside he is asserting that anything than his opponents say or do is "political" and by implication anything that Barack and his supporters say or do is somehow not "political." Geez. Come on Barack, get real!

The simple underlying truth here is that Barack as a negative, "old politics" politician is not a very interesting campaigner. He is offering little new worth addressing in a meaningful manner, and ends up smearing his own reputation as somebody who at least claims to be above "old politics."

Hillary was never in favor of going to war. For her its was always only an option "of last resort." It is a bold and deliberate mischaracterization for Barack's campaign to assert that Hillary's vote for pursuing diplomacy, pursuing strengthened inspections, and military force as a last resort somehow "supported" the war or invasion of Iraq.

He asserts that "they have both dismissed his call for renewed diplomacy as naïve while mistakenly standing behind George Bush's policy", which is yet another clear "guilt by association" smear that improperly asserts that Hillary stands begin any Bush policy, when nothing could be further than the truth. And to assert or imply that Hillary is somehow opposed to diplomacy is of course complete nonsense and Barack and his campaign and his supporters know that. Notwithstanding the truth, they continue with the smear. The problem here is that Barack goofed in one of the debates and came off looking silly and in fact "naïve" about how to properly deal with Iran. Hillary is not opposed to working with Iran (as opposed to Bush who refuses to work with Iran in any substantial way), but understands the nuances required, in a way that Barack apparently does not. Sure, he can have a disagreement with Hillary and others about the proper way to pursue diplomacy, but his disagreement is no excuse for associating Hillary with Bush's policy. This smear by Barack is inexcusable.

It is also very misleading for Barack's campaign to assert that Barack was "a leader who had the judgment to oppose this war before it began" when in fact Barack was not even in a leadership position back in 2002 and in fact had absolutely no role in Congress or anywhere in Washington back in 2002. He was merely a member of the Illinois state senate, a position where his opinions carried no national weight and should be of little concern in the debate about what to do about Iraq today. Further the statement begs the point that Hillary was also opposed to war and viewed it only as "a last resort."

The refusal of Barack and his campaign and his supporters to simply acknowledge that Hillary was pushing for diplomacy and strengthened inspections back in 2002 is truly appalling. If all we knew about Hillary was what Barack and his campaign tell us, we would conclude that she was pushing for war and invasion in 2002, when the record clearly shows that she was not.

Now, lets see what "old politics" tactics Barack and crew come up with tomorrow.

My simple advice to Barack: If you want to be elected as a leader, stop playing the victim.

-- Jack Krupansky

Barack is now completely bogged down in "old politics"

Where once Barack focused on "hope" and all of that, now he is completely bogged down in the kind of negative "old politics" that he claimed that he was opposed to. Now we are at a stage where every day he appears to be unable to resist engaging in smear tactics. He did it again in a speech today where he says:

Now, at that debate in Texas several weeks ago, Senator Clinton attacked John McCain for supporting the policies that have led to our enormous war costs. But her point would have been more compelling had she not joined Senator McCain in making the tragically ill-considered decision to vote for the Iraq war in the first place

The truth is, this is all part of the reason I opposed this war from the start. It's why I said back in 2002 that it could lead to an occupation not just of undetermined length or undetermined consequences, but of undetermined costs. It's why I've said this war should have never been authorized and never been waged.

Barack knows that his characterization of Hillary is incorrect, but he continues to mischaracterize her and himself, anyway. Worse, he takes a big leap and tries to associate Hillary with McCain's policies. Wow. Barack has no shame. He is a classic "old politics" politician. Maybe he looks "cleaner" and uses more flowery rhetoric, but his tactics are as old and stale as the worst that America has to offer.

Here are the facts:

  1. Hillary never voted "for the Iraq war." The authorization in 2002 was: 1) for "military force", but not necessarily war or even invasion per se, 2) the "authorization" placed primary emphasis on pursuing diplomatic efforts and strengthening of weapons inspections. Hillary's words at the time clearly show that she was voting for the latter.
  2. The U.S. Senate congressional record shows that Hillary's was opposed to going to war with Iraq and would accept it "only as a last resort." For Barack to suggest that Hillary was not opposed to war with Iraq is simply spinning and deceit on his part.
  3. Hillary never "joined Senator McCain." There was no such collaboration as Barack suggests.
  4. Barack was not in the U.S. Congress in 2002. Not there! What he said or did in the state senate of Illinois is neither here nor there in a discussion of national politics. So, this implication that he has some kind of lofty political or moral claim over Hillary as far as what was happening in the U.S. Senate and Congress in 2002 is complete nonsense.
  5. There is no question that Hillary was in fact opposed to invading Iraq in 2002. You can read her views in her own words on the floor of the U.S. Senate from the congressional record.
  6. Put simply, for most Democrats the vote in 2002 was not "a vote for the Iraq war" and was not a vote to "authorize war". Sure, a lot of people think of the vote that way, and sure a lot of people are unhappy about the results, but is spin on their part. For Barack to talk now as if it was a vote "for war" and an authorization "for an invasion" and an authorization "for war"  is revisionist history. Go back and read the authorization itself rather than trust in Barack's misrepresentation of it.

The politics of 2002 were a lot more nuanced than Barack is willing to admit. The simple truth is that when it comes to politics in Washington, Barack is way out of his league, and his claims about Hillary are way out of line.

Barack and his supporters -- his cult -- are engaged in a classic, "old politics" smear campaign. Plain and simple. And obvious. I am quite disappointed that so many people are falling for it.

And if there is any lingering belief that Barack is "above old politics", Barack seems determined to prove such a belief wrong, on a daily basis.

What this proves is that Barack is not out to make America a better place to live, but is simply personally seeking raw, naked power. He is no saint, but simply another sinner.

-- Jack Krupansky

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Why is Barack so unable to resist engaging in "old politics"?

One moment Barack is so high and almighty about how is offers something much better than "old politics" and then the next moment he feverishly engages in "old politics." First he decries "smear tactics" and then he vigorously and unrepentantly engages in smear tactics himself.

Most sane people are able to see that Hillary is not even close to the foreign policies of President Bush or John McCain, but Barack insists on lumping her in with them, and doing so every chance he gets. Supporters of Barack -- his cult -- refer to Hillary as a "Bush Democrat." This is truly incredible, that a Democrat would engage in such a blatant smear campaign. AND in the same breath suggest that he is far above "old politics." Absolutely incredible. Really, he has no credibility on this score whatsoever.

There is an article in The Los Angeles Times by Johanna Neuman entitled "Obama intensifies attacks on Clinton's, McCain's plans for Iraq" which tells us that:

"Sen. Clinton, Sen. McCain and President Bush have all distorted and derided this position, suggesting that I would invade or bomb Pakistan. This is politics, pure and simple," Obama said. "The same three individuals who now criticize me for supporting a targeted strike on the terrorists who carried out the 9/11 attacks, are the same three individuals that supported an invasion of Iraq -- a country that had nothing to do with 9/11," he said.

To be brutally clear, a politician engaging in criticizing his opponents and lumping a member of his own party with members of the opposing party rather than focusing on his own, positive solutions simply has no credibility claiming to be far above "old politics", or in this case seeming to claim to be far above even "politics" itself. What on earth is "This is politics" supposed to mean? Well, we know what it is supposed to mean, an approach that is not political, but the reality is that Barack's tactics are every bit as political and in every negative sense of bad politics as the "old politics" that he claims to be above.

The article quotes Barack:

"Sen. Clinton has tried to use my position to score political points, suggesting that I am somehow less committed to ending the war," Obama said. "She makes this argument despite the fact that she has taken the same position in the past. So ask yourself: Who do you trust to end a war -- someone who opposed the war from the beginning, or someone who started opposing it when they started preparing a run for president?"

Amazing. How can this guy credibly even IMAGINE that the tactics that he himself is engaging in are not designed 100% "to score political points"? Does he really think that people are that stupid and blind that they cannot see exactly what he is doing? Apparently he actually does have faith that his supporters -- his cult -- really are that gullible.

To be clear, Barack was not in Congress to "oppose the war" back in 2002 and 2003, so his so-called opposition is truly meaningless. Besides, a reading of the legislative record shows that Hillary was in fact opposed to war, and voted for "the use of military force" only as a last resort. Barack should be ashamed of the way he is distorting and spinning and outright misrepresenting Hillary's record solely for... his own political gain. So much for being opposed to "old politics."

Barack refers to Hillary as having "supported an invasion of Iraq", when the record shows no evidence of such "support." At no time was she a "supporter" of invasion. Yes, she supported the use of military force as a last resort, but the record shows that her primary focus was on strengthening of weapons inspections and diplomatic efforts. And there is certainly no evidence of any support on her part for a unilateral invasion.

In truth, Barack's criticisms would be far less noteworthy if it were not for the fact that he has been insisting that he is somehow above "old politics" even as he engages in the kinds of smears all so typical of "old politics as usual."

-- Jack Krupansky

Can Barack run away from his past?

Despite yet another eloquent speech yesterday, Barack has not done a great job of explaining his relationship with his past in a way that fully aligns with his professed faith in "hope", "real change", and his purported opposition to so-called "old politics."

In truth, everybody has all manner of "skeletons" in their closets and has associated in the past with people whose background, behavior, or speech is now... inconvenient. Hillary certainly has skeletons. McCain certainly has skeletons. The rest of the former Democratic presidential hopefuls all had skeletons. But the difference here is that Barack was trying to come across as if he had no skeletons in his closet, that he was somehow new, and different, and clean. He did take a positive step forward yesterday by publicly admitting, albeit indirectly, that even he, the great "hope" of the left-wing liberals, also had some skeletons in his closet. His great (political) sin has been his hubris at presenting an image that he has been without (political) sin. His claim that he is completely above "old politics" can now be seen for what it always has been: a great fraud. Sure, plenty of people will "forgive and forget", but no longer can he credibly claim that he represents anything other than more of the same "old politics". He certainly represents a slick, new, re-packaging of "old politics", but he simply is not credible at claiming that his politics is somehow something "special" far above and far beyond the politics of any of the other leading Democrats, whether they are still in the primary campaign or not.

We should of course praise Barack for being as honest and candid as he was yesterday, but that does not grant him a free pass to claim that he has no past to hide from. He failed to stand up to his pastor when he should, when he had the chance, even in an environment where he himself acknowledges that people are expected to jump up and express themselves freely and loudly whenever the spirit calls them. Why didn't he stand up and call out his pastor over all of those years? Was it lack of energy? Did he not feel "the urgency of now"? Or, maybe, more likely, he is simply yet another cynical politician who saw great short-term advantage to simply smiling, nodding his head, and otherwise keeping his mouth shut. None of that would make him any worse than your average politician, but any of it certainly savages his claim to some moral high ground beyond the reach of any of his fellow Democrats.

His speech showed that he would not be running away from his past, but did show us that he would continue trying to walk briskly away from it, that he would keep it at an arm's length, and that he is really simply "one of us" and not something so super-special as his supporters keep insisting.

By all means, let us focus on real problems and real solutions, but we cannot do so as long as Barack and his supporters -- his cult -- continue to strut around in the plumage of being something far above and beyond "old politics." By all means we should focus on good politics, but to disparage so many people all in the name of trying to separate themselves from the rest of us, Barack and his supporters -- his cult -- have done all of America a very grave disservice.

My simple message to Barack is that he did well by showing a little humility yesterday, but now he and his supporters -- his cult -- need to follow that up with a lot of humility and on a regular basis.

So, now, the main question is whether Barack can in fact run away from his past, namely his past lack of humility. Yes, he can, but is he too addicted to ungrounded "hope" to give feet-on-the-ground humility a chance?

-- Jack Krupansky

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Support McCain?

Since 1976 I have voted Democratic even though I am a hard-core independent. That may change this year. I have no loyalty to either party. I vote who whoever represents the more centrist position. Since 1976 that has always been Democratic. I feel that Hillary would be the more centrist of the current contenders. I would not normally have considered supporting McCain, especially with his gung-ho attitude towards Iraq, but if Barack is the Democratic nominee McCain will suddenly be in play.

It is not that Barack couldn't meet my centrist interests, but the way he campaigns and his "appeal" to various far left-wing groups (e.g., the strict anti-war crowd, the Hollywood elite, traditional liberals, etc.) leaves me feeling distinctly left out, at least relative to Hillary and her more-centrist background and certainly her association with uber-pragmatist and centrist Bill Clinton.

It is still not too late for Barack to turn the tide and win me over, but the simple fact is that he is doing absolutely nothing to appeal to us centrists and is being way too accommodating or at least tolerant of so many non-centrists.

In truth, McCain is actually more centrist than his primary campaign reputation since he was busy appealing to conservatives to win the Republican nomination.

It may also be true that Barack could shift a lot more towards center once or if he wins his nomination. If that happens, great, but nobody is really talking as if such a shift were a likely prospect. Whereas for Hillary it is a slam dunk that she will be a hard-core centrist for the general election, but only if the Democrats come to their senses and give her the nomination.

As things stand right now, I could accept either Hillary or McCain as president. Barack in his current form is not acceptable to me. As I said, he can turn that around, but the question is whether he will. Does he even know whether we wants or needs my support and vote in November? It certainly feels as if he doesn't.

As of today I lean towards Hillary... will Barack do anything to try to change that?

-- Jack Krupansky

The racial divide in 2008

I just finished carefully reading through the text of Barack's "A More Perfect Union" speech on the racial divide. Barack once again gives a great speech and he certainty does a decent job of characterizing the current state of race relations in 2008 in America, but once again he fails to offer much in the way of a solution or a good reason why somehow he will actually be able to "make a difference" if it is him in the White House rather than somebody else.

In fact, it sure sounds as if his solution to the problem is to simply talk about it and otherwise accept it as it is... and enforce civil rights laws, and ensure equal access to opportunities, and... in general do all the things that Democrats decided to do back in the days of LBJ.

What is he really bringing to the table other than more dramatic delivery of stock Democratic party talking points? Sure, he is more passionate, even charismatic, but so what? He sure is putting a lot of emphasis on hope, but not really offering much in the way of real change.

That said, I really do want to recognize that his speech really was a robust characterization of the state of racial relations in America in 2008.

What that has to do with being president of the U.S. is rather murky. I do not recall any polls suggesting that racial relations was one of the top concerns among Americans.

-- Jack Krupansky

Obama in 2004 vs. Obama in 2008

Just for a point of reference I went back and reread Barack Obama's keynote speech before the 2004 Democratic Convention. In all honesty, it all standard stuff. Sure, his delivery may have been more dramatic than many other speakers, but the actual content was not exemplary in any way that I could detect. The one thing that did stand out was his prediction in the final paragraph:

America, tonight, if you feel the same energy that I do, if you feel the same urgency that I do, if you feel the same passion that I do, if you feel the same hopefulness that I do, if we do what we must do, then I have no doubt that all across the country, from Florida to Oregon, from Washington to Maine, the people will rise up in November, and John Kerry will be sworn in as president. And John Edwards will be sworn in as vice president. And this country will reclaim its promise. And out of this long political darkness a brighter day will come.

Hmmm... that is rather problematic. He has a bunch of ifs in there and assures us of a positive outcome... if all of these things are true. Well, we know that there was not a positive outcome, so what does that say about Barack's ifs? Was his intuition and analysis of the requirements for success off the mark? Maybe, maybe not. Was his assessment of how people feel off the mark? I would say that must have been the case. Even assuming that Barack himself felt the way his said he did, he may have been making the mistake of projecting his own feelings onto broad classes of sovereign individuals who in fact had a wide range of their own feelings that were clearly not in complete alignment with his own. Sure, maybe all of the delegates at the convention felt the same as him, but that says nothing about how the voters felt or would feel come time for the general election.

The point of all of this is that even if you truly believe that Barack is "right" and is the "right" person for the job of president of the U.S., we really do need to ask whether he is truly in alignment with the needs, interests, and will of a sizeable majority of the American people.

I am not sure how much has really changed since 2004. The economy feels softer. Is health care really much different? Is education really much differnt? Is Iraq really much different? All of these are debatable. To me, the net feels about the same, with the big difference being the weakness in the economy. The point is that his views from 2004 should be just about as relevant today as in 2004. So, what of these prerequisites for success that he postulated in 2004:

  1. if you feel the same energy that I do
  2. if you feel the same urgency that I do
  3. if you feel the same passion that I do
  4. if you feel the same hopefulness that I do
  5. if we do what we must do
"... then I have no doubt that all across the country... the people will rise up in November, and <you-know-who> will be sworn in as president..."

Barack himself and his team and his core supporters may well feel all of those things, but I seriously question whether the average American citizen voting in 2008 feels:

  1. full of energy -- what fraction of Americans are anything other than very tired and exhausted
  2. a sense of urgency -- Bush and Cheney, et al are gone in 2009 no matter who gets elected
  3. the passion of a politician or their gung-ho supporters
  4. any sense of hopefulness about the future
  5. any sense of having the get-up-and-go to expend much more effort than they already are forced to in their daily lives

To be sure, Barack is a great speaker, but I seriously question whether great speeches at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. are going to be any more effective than speeches that he has or could have given at his current end of the same street in the U.S. Senate.

Barack may well "win" the Democratic nomination, but unless he comes up with a stronger message, we will have a new president in 2009 who does not have a deep and broad mandate to govern, no matter who wins in the 2008 general election in November.

The passion and energy of Barack's supporters notwithstanding, he needs to offer the vast majority of average American voters something more substantial than hope and a vague promise of change.

-- Jack Krupansky

Sunday, March 16, 2008

OPEC is right - there is no shortage of oil

I am no fan of OPEC or any cartel, but they are precisely right when they refuse to increase production and insist that there is plenty of oil available in the market. They are ABSOLUTELY correct in their assessment of the supply of crude oil. Sure, global demand for oil is growing, but certainly not at a pace even a fraction of the pace of recent price rises. In fact, the inventory level of crude oil here in the U.S. is quite healthy. As of Wednesday, the weekly U.S. DOE EIA inventory report says that we have 311.6 MILLION barrels of crude oil sitting in storage tanks waiting for someone to use it. Granted, that is 2.8% below the level a year ago, but is still "in the middle of the average range for this time of year." There is simply no shortage of crude oil. Let me say that again: There is simply no shortage of crude oil.

So, why is the price of oil so high? One word: speculation.

Of course, we have always had speculation. So, what is different this time? One phrase: taking delivery. In the past, speculators simply bought futures contracts, held them for days or weeks or months and then sold them at a profit and "rolled" into a new batch of futures contracts. Because they were buying and selling fairly frequently their net impact on the price level was fairly modest, a mere "tax." But now, hedge funds and proprietary trading desks within financial institutions, among other speculators, are actually taking delivery of oil and other commodities. Now, they do not actually have the physical product delivered to their offices, but simply begin paying for storage of oil in a storage tank or gold in a vault or grain in a storage bin or whatever the appropriate storage may happen to be. The point is that since they are no longer selling the futures contracts there is no opportunity for the upwards price impetus when they purchased the futures contract to cancel out with a sale.

In short, there is plenty of oil sitting in storage that could be sold, but hedge funds and financial institutions and other speculators are intentionally keeping product off the market. Even so, OPEC, et al are still pumping more than enough oil to keep the maket fully supplied, but the ongoing one-way trading of oil futures contracts keeps the NYMEX futures market price of oil artificially higher, much higher than actual demand by true users of oil (refiners, chemical companies, transportation companies.)

To put it another way, OPEC is in fact selling a huge amount of oil, but the one-way nature of futures markets is attaching a price to each barrel of oil or other unit of commodity that is completely out of line with the actual supply and demand for actual use of the commidity.

Not all speculators are engaging in taking delivery, but enough of it is going on to keep this pyramid scheme going. Technically what the big speculators are doing is cornering the market. That can work for a while and even for quite a while, but is a very dangerous game to play. If they do not get out before the full speculative demand is met, they will get stuck with losses so massive that they effectively cannot sell their holdings at any price. That is why OPEC is reluctant to increase supply further, because it will only fuel the speculative bubble and cause even greater risk that the market price for oil will completely collapse once speculators realize that "the bubble has burst."

To be clear, OPEC is doing precisely the right thing: Pumping just enough oil to meet real demand by real users of crude oil.

Another factor influencing supply is that the inventory in the U.S. Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR) has been rising lately, by 100,000 barrels of oil in the latest week. My suspicion is that the oil companies are pumping oil into the reserve to make room in commercial storage tanks for storage of oil for speculators who have taken delivery.

The bottom line is that "total stocks" of oil and oil products is 0.8% above a year ago and "in the upper half of the average range for this time of year." To say it again: There is no shortage of oil. As far as gasoline, the inventory is 11.2% above a year and and "above the upper limit of the average range." There is no shortage of gasoline.

What I find truly appalling is that not even any of the Democratic presidential candidates are focusing any attention of the massive tsunami of commodities speculation that is continuing to wash over the pocketbooks of middle-class consumers. Let me be clear, the problem is not "big oil companies" or "big bad OPEC", but primarily the self-serving "investment" practices of hedge funds, financial institutions, and other speculators, both large and small. There seems to be very little comprehension among politions of the massive, pervasive, and socially-ruinous qualities of this speculation. Or, when they do know, they have too many deep-pocket contributors who have grown dependent on that speculation.

Finally, it could very well be that profits from this tsunami of commodities speculation might very well be all that keeps Wall Street from complete collapse. That alone may be keeping the regulators at bay, the hope that maybe Wall Street can "profit" its way out of its current financial mess.

To close, I am once again forced to admit that: OPEC is right - there is no shortage of oil and that the causes of high oil prices have to be found elsewhere - namely Wall Street.

-- Jack Krupansky

Saturday, March 08, 2008

Are hope and change actually issues?

An editorial in The New York Times entitled "What We'd Like to Hear" suggests that:

... there is still a chance to take this campaign and elevate it, finally, to a serious debate about major issues. That is what American voters deserve. And that is what Democrats must do if they hope to break the Republican grip on the White House.

After eight damaging and divisive years, there is certainly a lot that needs to be debated starting with President Bush's disastrous war, his tax cuts for the rich, regulatory incompetence and neglect and unrelenting assaults on civil rights, civil liberties and the balance of powers in government.

That certainly sounds like a good idea for the campaign.

Alas, the Cult of Obama does not want the primary campaign (and maybe even the general election campaign) to be strictly about "issues" per se in the sense that The Times lists them. The whole thrust of Barack's campaign for "hope" and "change" is not to focus on "issues" per se, but to rant against "the system", "the established order", and "Washington", but not the issues per se.

Hillary is as opposed to the U.S. presence in Iraq as much as anybody, bur Barack is so focused on his campaign for a "new" politics, that he cannot bring himself to admit that he and Hillary have roughly the same objective for Iraq in the near-term. Rather than focus on the real issue of how to deal with Iraq going forward (in 2009), Barack and The Cult of Obama obsess over twisting Hillary's vote in 2002 into a vote "for war" rather than the vote for stronger diplomacy and "war as a last resort" that it really was. The Obama campaign would rather not focus on the real issue of what to do going forward.

Yes, it would certainly be nice to see the campaign be about issues, but Barack and The Cult of Obama are insistent that the campaign be about overthrowing of the existing political order in the purported named of "hope" and "change" and even "transformational change" rather than get bogged down with discussions of real solutions for real issues.

Hillary wants as much if not more change than most in politics today, so the ongoing claim by Barack and The Cult of Obama that only he represents "true change" or "transformational change" is simply not credible nor is it defensible.

For Barack and The Cult of Obama to similarly suggest that Hillary's campaign does not represent a deep and passionate sense of hope is equally not credible and not defensible.

The very simple fact is that hope and change are core values within the Democratic party. For anybody to hijack them and incorrectly claim that only they as an individual represent true hope and true change or represent them in much greater measure than every single rank and file member of the Democratic party is ridiculous, not credible, and certainly not defensible.

Besides, "hope" and "change" are not really "issues" per se. Yes, they are core values, but they are not issues in the sense of specific problems affecting the lives of average Americans.

I rarely agree so much with editorials in The Times, but they have it mostly right on this "issue."

Alas, The Times fails to finish the job by failing to point out that it is Barack's and The Cult of Obama's distinct passion for veering away from directly discussing real issues and real solutions, and instead veering into flowery rhetoric about only he being the one true representative and agent for hope and change that has caused the overall tone of the campaign to be much less about issues and much more about matters that are not the true interest of average Americans.

So, by all means let's get back to real issues and put aside all of the "hope" and "change" rhetoric that has plagued the campaign for so many months now.

-- Jack Krupansky

Can Barack win by wallowing in the mud with Hillary?

I am not an enthusiastic admirer of Bob Herbert's political views, but I do have to agree with the general thrust of his Op-Ed piece in The New York Times entitled "Confronting the Kitchen Sink":

Whatever anger and frustration he may be feeling, he should stick to the high road. He can't win wrestling in the mud with Hillary Clinton. That will not put Barack Obama in the White House.

Mr. Obama's strength was his message of hope and healing, the idea that he could bring disparate groups together to work on the nation's toughest problems. That has gotten him this far, which is much further than almost anyone expected.

He now needs an added dimension. He needs to articulate a vision. He needs to spell out to voters where he wants to take this country over the next few years, how he will alleviate the suffering of millions trapped in vicious economic circumstances and what he will do to restore the honor and prestige of the U.S. around the world.

Political campaigns are not about fairness, but they can often be about vision. Voters want more from Senator Obama.

I personally do not approve of any of the negative tactics being employed by any of the campaigns, especially Hillary's. I personally think that Hillary has a lot to gain from herself taking the high road.

That said, Barack is now skating on very thin ice. All along he has insisted that he represented a new kind of politics that was not based on the traditional cynicism and negativity. Personally I was always skeptical of that position, but I was willing to let him go his chosen path. But now, he is in grave danger of turning himself into a fraud by engaging in the "same old" negativity and tearing-down of your opponent that he explicitly told us he did not represent.

So, Barack, push has come to shove and we all need to know whose shirt you wear and whose flag you are flying.

Will you stick to the high road and the vision that Bob Herbert believes that you are capable of, or are you on the verge of proving yourself to be an absolute fraud and ready to show your supporters that you are in fact cut from the same "old" cloth as Hillary.

Give credit where credit is due to Hillary for admitting that she is a politician and enjoys "the game of politics."

If Barack really wants to prove that he is above all of that, great, he now has the opportunity to show us what he's got and what he is really made of.

So, here is the test: will the Obama campaign focus on alleged "ethics" issues such as Hillary's tax returns and White House "papers", or will he do the right thing and begin espousing the kind of vision for a better America that Bob Herbert can support?

My view is that Barack thought he could get away with this sham of a "new" politics, and he has certainly gotten a lot of mileage out of it, but except for a view diversions (Wyoming and Mississippi), most of the rest of the road from here to the White House (and the eight years beyond) will require something far deeper than his current shallow veneer of so-called "new" politics.

Bob Herbert says that Barack needs an added dimension. Well, he is right, but the problem is that it is too late in the game to add a new dimension.

-- Jack Krupansky

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Was Hillary in favor of the war in Iraq?

In Barack's latest email, one of his minions writes that Barack is "someone who opposed the war in Iraq from the beginning", implying that Hillary was not opposed to "the war in Iraq from the beginning." In fact, the congressional record makes quite clear that she was in fact opposed to war right there at the beginning. To quote her from the congressional record:

Even though the resolution before the Senate is not as strong as I would like in requiring the diplomatic route first and placing highest priority on a simple, clear requirement for unlimited inspections, I take the President at his word that he will try hard to pass a United Nations resolution and seek to avoid war, if possible.

Those are not the words of someone in favor of a war.

You can read through her full words spoken on the floor of the U.S. Senate and you will not find anything to suggest that she was actually in favor of "war in Iraq." She was one of a group of Democrats (and Republications) who sincerely believed that when pushed to the brink, Saddam Hussein would blink and cave and allow the inspectors back in.

If there was any doubt as to what she was in favor of, she tells us:

I urge the President to spare no effort to secure a clear, unambiguous demand by the United Nations for unlimited inspections.

Yes, she was well aware that war in Iraq was a strong possibility, but she in no way suggests that she viewed it as necessarily inevitable or even necessarily the likely outcome:

A vote for it is not a vote to rush to war; it is a vote that puts awesome responsibility in the hands of our President. And we say to him: Use these powers wisely and as a last resort. And it is a vote that says clearly to Saddam Hussein: This is your last chance; disarm or be disarmed.

We all know how history played out after that joint congressional resolution was passed, but frankly it is revisionist to suggest that all who voted for the resolution were doing so with the intention of "war in Iraq" or that they lacked an opposition to "war in Iraq."

As a side note, Barack was not even there in the U.S. Senate to oppose "war in Iraq." He was still a minor-league politician in the Illinois State Senate back in 2002. So, his so-called opposition is hardly relevant to the situation back in 2002 in the U.S. Senate. Senator Durbin from Illinois was in the Senate and did oppose the authorization "for use of United States Armed Forces."

The resolution in fact had two main sections, the first urging more intensive diplomatic efforts, and the second authorizing military action only if diplomacy failed, as represented in the paragraph requiring "Presidential Determination" In fact, there is no mention of invasion, occupation, installing a new government, etc. Read for yourself:

Whereas it is in the national security of the United States to restore international peace and security to the Persian Gulf region: Now, therefore, be it

    Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


    This joint resolution may be cited as the `Authorization for the Use of Military Force Against Iraq'.


    The Congress of the United States supports the efforts by the President to--

      (1) strictly enforce through the United Nations Security Council all relevant Security Council resolutions applicable to Iraq and encourages him in those efforts; and

      (2) obtain prompt and decisive action by the Security Council to ensure that Iraq abandons its strategy of delay, evasion and noncompliance and promptly and strictly complies with all relevant Security Council resolutions.


    (a) AUTHORIZATION- The President is authorized to use the Armed Forces of the United States as he determines to be necessary and appropriate in order to--

      (1) defend the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq; and

      (2) enforce all relevant United Nations Security Council Resolutions regarding Iraq.

    (b) PRESIDENTIAL DETERMINATION- In connection with the exercise of the authority granted in subsection (a) to use force the President shall, prior to such exercise or as soon there after as may be feasible, but not later than 48 hours after exercising such authority, make available to the Speaker of the House of Representatives and the President pro tempore of the Senate his determination that--

      (1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic or other peaceful means alone either (A) will not adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq or (B) is not likely to lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

      (2) acting pursuant to this resolution is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations or persons who planned, authorized, committed or aided the terrorists attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001.

    (c) War Powers Resolution Requirements-

      (1) SPECIFIC STATUTORY AUTHORIZATION- Consistent with section 8(a)(1) of the War Powers Resolution, the Congress declares that this section is intended to constitute specific statutory authorization within the meaning of section 5(b) of the War Powers Resolution.

      (2) APPLICABILITY OF OTHER REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this resolution supersedes any requirement of the War Powers Resolution.


    (a) The President shall, at least once every 60 days, submit to the Congress a report on matters relevant to this joint resolution, including actions taken pursuant to the exercise of authority granted in section 2 and the status of planning for efforts that are expected to be required after such actions are completed, including those actions described in section 7 of Public Law 105-338 (the Iraq Liberation Act of 1998).

    (b) To the extent that the submission of any report described in subsection (a) coincides with the submission of any other report on matters relevant to this joint resolution otherwise required to be submitted to Congress pursuant to the reporting requirements of Public Law 93-148 (the War Powers Resolution), all such reports may be submitted as a single consolidated report to the Congress.

    (c) To the extent that this information required by section 3 of Public Law 102-1 is included in the report required by this section, such report shall be considered as meeting the requirements of section 3 of Public Law 102-1.

As you can read there, the resolution is not a "go directly to war" authorization, but required the President to certify first that diplomatic efforts had failed. Senator Clinton and other moderates were at least hopeful that enhanced diplomatic efforts would in fact succeed and avert war. War was supposed to be a threat to strongly encourage Saddam Hussein to stop resisting inspections and not the intended outcome -- at least for the moderates who voted for the resolution.

In short, there is no question that according to the congressional record Hillary was opposed to "war in Iraq." Yes, she voted for the "AUTHORIZATION OF THE USE OF UNITED STATES ARMED FORCES AGAINST IRAQ", but as we can see from SEC. 4 and her words, she was pushing for diplomacy, strengthened inspections, and military force only "as a last resort."

And of course the backdrop for all of this was an "intelligence estimate" that even the technical experts supported.

The other backdrop was that some viewed that the Neo-conservatives and the rest of the so-called Pro-Israel Lobby were intent on pushing President Bush to "liberate" Iraq no matter what Congress did or didn't say. In that sense, at least the moderates were on record for strongly encouraging enhanced diplomacy as the main thrust. Sure, ultimately the moderates failed, but those who voted against the resolution were not any more successful at avoiding war.

Barack's continued promotion of the idea that Hillary did not oppose "war in Iraq" is just the kind of political cheap shot that he claims to be above. Hmmm... what does that say about his own character?

-- Jack Krupansky

Barack's math and Iraq and Iran

I just got my first email from Barack after signing up last night. It is entitled "RE: The math", which is partly about reminding supporters that Hillary only gained a net of 4 delegates Tuesday evening and about how much money he raised in February. I'm sorry, but why should the amount of money he raised matter to anybody but somebody's ego?

The second part of the email is what I call "The Shakedown": give the campaign another $25 today, RIGHT NOW!, or else he will not be able to "vigorously defend my record and make the case for change that will improve the lives of all Americans." Hey, wait a minute... I am not at all interested in improving the lives of Republicans or the Neo-conservatives, and I most certainly am not interested in improving the lives of President Bush, Vice President Cheney, or any trial lawyers (well, okay, maybe an exception for John Edwards.) I might be able to support Barack if he changed his message to say "make the case for improving life in America, so that average Americans no longer have to feel like second or third-class citizens." Yeah, I could get 100% behind a message like that, but that ain't what Barack is offering.

The third part of the email, originally from campaign manager David Plouffe, is yet another rant about Iraq, complete with the strong suggestion that Hillary has been in cahoots with Bush and McCain and that she supports "a march to war with Iran." Incredible. I can't believe that the left-wing progressives still buy this crap and eat it up. And members of the Barack Cult have the gall to suggest that his campaign is more positive. In the old days, people called it "guilt by association" and it was socially unacceptable, but these days it is "business as usual" for the left-wing progressives.

-- Jack Krupansky

Can Barack win by going negative on Hillary?

Although Hillary does have plenty of vulnerabilities that Barack could go after, Hillary also has plenty of defenses and experience fighting off attacks, so that "going negative" could be a very risky proposition for him. The biggest risk for him will be that projecting an image of "going negative" will severely undercut his image as being squeaky-clean, super-positive, and "filled with hope", all the good things that had boosted him all along the way.

The other problem is that he himself also has vulnerabilities. For example, if he goes negative and really rips Hillary for not having any significant actual foreign policy experience, he immediately opens himself to the criticism of having even less experience himself. That would be a double net negative for him and only at worst a modest net negative for Hillary and maybe even a net positive after people compare her to him.

The obvious point that people seem to be ignoring is that the only reason that Barack feels that he has to go negative is that he does not really have anything positive to say about himself and his record other than mindlessly repeating his "hope" and "change" message which resonates to some extent, but with not with the middle of the road pragmatic centrists that he desperately needs to win over.

Maybe Barack's biggest problem with going negative is that all of Hillary's baggage has already been tossed around by the media ad nauseum to the degree that most people really aren't interested in hearing about any of it again. Almost literally, she can laugh most of it off, and then turn around and play that she is the candidate for hope and change and experience.

Besides, if Barack goes negative enough to actually do real damage to Hillary, people are simply not going to have the stomach for five weeks of that level of intensity, and he then risks turning her into a martyr or victim and watching her get a boost of sympathy vote.

The other thing that Barack has to keep in mind is that although he has had a great run, he may be getting to the stage where the honeymoon is over.

-- Jack Krupansky