Updates

First, I’ll be back at the latest tomorrow–holidays always throw a wrench in blogging.

Second, welcome Daniel Biss to posting here at ArchPundit. I asked him some time ago to see if he’d like to blog here and he accepted and he’ll see how he likes it. I see he already has attracted good comments and I’m quite happy having him posting as he feels like it. Daniel is a math professor at UIC and a community activist in Evanston.

Third, Edwards will be announcing tomorrow and there is an ad up to the right on that–I’ll put up the video of it tomorrow.

Fourth, Vilsack raised $1 million already which is a good showing.

Finally, remember to go see Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore? On the upper left is an ad to the film. It’s a good film and fun.

An addendum on Obama, double standards, and the high bar

As a kid, I was fairly accelerated in math. When I came home one day with a test score that was just fine but not great, my parents were pretty upset and suggested that I withdraw from the advanced course. This seemed totally bewildering to me at the time since I was comfortably passing the class, but their claim was that you don’t skip ahead in order to just get by. You skip ahead only if you can still be exceptional.

I think this is an important thing to keep in mind when evaluating the putative Obama candidacy. If he runs, he’s running really early in his career. This is a great thing for him to do if you believe that he’s a special kind of leader who we need to fix our system as soon as possible (and like I said before, I see this as a possibility, but as far as I’m concerned the jury’s still out). It’s a less good–but still sort of okay–thing for him to do if he’s doing it just because he believes that the way the potential field lines up in this cycle is advantageous to him and maybe this is his best chance. And it’s a bad, cowardly thing for him to do if he’s doing it just because he doesn’t want to build up a long record in the Senate that can be used against him one day.

This last line is somewhat controversial, but I think it’s right. People often say that he needs to run now or else he’ll have too much Senatorial baggage, but that’s not really true. For one thing, he could easily end up as a vice president or governor if he really wanted to get out of the Senate soon. For another, as a friend recently said to me, if he turns out to be as great as we all hope he is, then he should be able to build up a record that helps him, not hurts him.

As for the middle option, where he runs now because it just seems convenient, well that’s what made me open with the story about the math class. I mean, I’m pretty sure he’d be a good candidate and good president, but when you’re talking about accelerating the career path that aggressively, it should be because you’re truly extraordinary, not because you’re just good enough.

Which brings me back to the first option, the Obama-as-transformational-leader option. That’s what the country really needs, and that’s what Obama needs to demonstrate he has to offer. Because if he can offer that, then we’ll all agree that we need him, we need him badly, and we need him now, and it will make all the talk about inexperience disappear.

So, Obama supporters, when you’re asked about your candidate’s inexperience, don’t bristle. We’re asking you because we need to be convinced that he’s the guy who can usher in a new era of government. It’s a helluva a high bar, and it sure is a double standard. But if Obama wants to be treated like the rest of the candidates, he should sit in the senate for a term or two and then run. Until then, we have no choice but to expect him to be something special and unique.

Barack Obama and our broken politics

Hi, there. So in the time since Larry gave me posting privileges here, all anybody’s been talking about has been the 2008 presidential race in general, and Obama’s candidacy in particular. I have pretty much nothing to say about that stuff, so I thought I’d just keep quiet until 2007, when there was actual legislation being talked about in Springfield and in Washington.

But so today I was reading Robert Caro’s Means of Ascent, the 2nd volume in his immolation/biography of Lyndon Johnson (and prequel to a gift I received this week), and this passage jumped out at me:

The shredding of the delicate yet crucial fabric of credence and faith between the people of the United States and the man they had placed in the White House occurred during the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. Until the day of Kennedy’s death–until, in other words, the day Johnson took office–the fabric was whole. By the time Johnson left office, the fabric was in shreds, destroyed by lies and duplicity that went beyond permissible political license…

So, right. Starting with LBJ, we’ve been on a pretty bad streak when it comes to integrity in the Oval Office (with some exceptions of course). This has had an absolutely crippling effect on our public and political life, from the way policy gets made, to the way citizens interact with government, to the way elections happen.

Now we’re approaching something I actually feel like talking about. My activity in politics stems from a desire to engage people, to increase civic involvement. Down here at the grassroots level, we do what we can to accomplish that, but the fundamental problem really stems from peoples’ lack of trust in their leaders.

The excitement about Obama comes from a belief that he can restore that trust. In other words, he’ll be a different kind of President, one who would fundamentally transform our relationship to the presidency (and, by extension, our government and political system).

This is a part of what Joe Trippi is getting at with his talk of “transformational politics”. Our political system is broken, and we need a leader who’s willing to transform it into something different, something functional. A lot of people have faith in Obama’s ability to accomplish this.

The Obama skeptics see this faith as naive. They see his proven abilities (giving a great speech, writing a good book, voting for good legislation and against bad legislation) as small when compared to the task at hand. They worry that the believers are falling in love with a persona or an image, and haven’t thought through how that image will translate into executive leadership.

Some Obama supporters might say that his ability to inspire will in and of itself be enough to transform American politics, but I think there’s got to be more to it than that. I look at Obama and I feel instinctively that he’s got it, but then I can’t even articulate what exactly it is, and then I remember how easy it is to get your heart broken in politics, and how high the stakes are in America today, and I just can’t help but want to know more about what he brings to the table.

So here’s my question for those of you who are committed to an Obama candidacy: how exactly do you think he’ll be able to transform our politics? Not just what about him will enable him to catalyze the transformation, but what precisely will the transformation look like? How will things be different? How, for example, will the 2016 presidential campaign look unlike the 2004 one? The more specific your answer, the happier I’ll be…

Mr. Smith Reviews

Michael Wilmington gives it one of the worst reviews I’ve seen and it’s pretty positive:

espite that sour-sounding title, a far more heartening view of politics than ” . . . So Goes the Nation’s” can be found in this little documentary by St. Louis’ Frank Popper about a quixotic campaign by little guy Jeff Smith to win the Democratic primary in pursuit of Dick Gephardt’s old Missouri congressional seat. That’s “little” in physical stature, not in heart. Part-time poli-sci instructor Smith, who played high school basketball in fast company and has a mean cross-over dribble, wages a hard-fought, eloquent campaign, despite being an unknown underdog running against Russ Carnahan, a member of a Missouri political dynasty.

We see it all, from Smith’s endorsement by kindred spirit Howard Dean to the calls, the canvassing, and the strategizing (by political newcomers) to the first really bad negative ad: Carnahan’s team accuses Smith of being a “strange bedfellow.” Hmmmm. The movie, like Smith, is breezy, fun and keeps comin’ at ya. Politics needs more of this and less of what went on in Ohio.

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The Sun-Times chimes in with:

“Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?”

Critic’s rating: 2 and a half stars

“You guys ever see that movie ‘Mr. Smith Goes to Washington’?”

Congressional candidate Jeff Smith asks prospective voters at the Oak Hill Community Center in South St. Louis. “Well, you can help make the sequel.”

Director, cinematographer, editor and co-writer Frank Popper trails Smith as he campaigns in the 2004 Democratic primary for Missouri’s 3rd District.

The seat long occupied by retiring Rep. Dick Gephardt (D) is open. Russ Carnahan, a lackluster contender with a famous name in local politics, is the likely winner. Smith’s own family is skeptical. Largely absent from this good-natured, grass-roots documentary, they seem unwilling to lend moral or fiscal support.

Popper depicts the zeal of the boyish Smith, a part-time political science instructor, as he knocks on drs and makes cell phone calls. Smith gets great results from a direct mail piece bearing a scary photo of the former attorney general with the message: “If John Ashcroft is for it, I’m probably against it.”

“Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore?” is an amusing case study in youthful enthusiasm for the electoral process, but this modest documentary skips the weighty issues posed by its namesake, the Frank Capra 1939 drama.

News at 11: Americans have Pre-marital sex

From Focus on the Family’s Citizen Link:

But Linda Klepacki, analyst for sexual health at Focus on the Family Action, said the motive behind the Guttmacher report is suspect, especially given the group’s close affiliation with Planned Parenthood.

“This is the condom cartel’s attempt at normalizing out-of-wedlock sexual behavior,” she said. “This is one in a series of documents that is designed to set the battle lines for January’s congressional battles over (funding for) sex education.”

Glenn Stanton, senior analyst for marriage and sexuality at Focus on the Family, questioned the method used to collect the data.

“These numbers seem a little high to me,” he said. “Additionally, what they don’t tell us is how active people were before marriage. Were most of these encounters among people who were engaged or were they simply casual hook-ups? We don’t know.”

More than anything, though, Stanton is distressed by the author’s implication that since so many people are doing it, it must be fine.

“What did each one of our mothers tell us?” he asked. “Just because everyone is doing it doesn’t make it OK.”

What are they complaining about from Guttmacher?

This is reality-check research. Premarital sex is normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades,” says study author Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute. “The data clearly show that the majority of older teens and adults have already had sex before marriage, which calls into question the federal government’s funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for 12–29-year-olds. It would be more effective to provide young people with the skills and information they need to be safe once they become sexually active—which nearly everyone eventually will.”

The federal government is spending money to keep people abstinent until 29 years old. Seriously. No, no, I mean it. It’s like the Handmaid’s Tale without the mass infertility.

I’m concerned about oversexualized teens and higher rates of sex during the teenage years for kids, but better sex education should help that more than telling kids to abstain. Just say no isn’t an effective strategy.

When it comes to adults I have a different view. It’s called, they are adults get the hell out of their sex lives. When people got married at 18 telling people to wait made some sense–though many still did not despite the urban legends of how pure society once was. The key difference now is that we have this great thing called contraception that is an universally accepted practice so someone can have sex and not get pregnant and hence, not ‘have’ to get married because they are pregnant.

This sort of rewriting of history by Focus on the Family and others as well as their tendency to pretend society agrees with them when it demonstrably does not would be funny, but the press takes them seriously.

Dobson and gang will insist the Guttmacher study is controversial when it is not. It’s pretty consistent with other findings and done by generally reliable techniques. The press will report Dobson and gang as serious people even though they are not. The entire discussion will take on some level of importance because some serious people said it, even though the issue has been settled by the American people for decades by the American people’s behavior.

Focus on the Family is filled with anti-women, anti-sex loons who get away with seeming reasonable because no one pays attention to how far out of the main stream their ideas are. Worse–they are providing many of the appointments to government programs overseeing these areas.

Private US Team==mercenaries

For some reason the LA Times and others are into euphemisms when it comes to clear cases of private armies working against US interests.

There have been no suggestions that American officials had a role in Sameraei’s escape Sunday afternoon. But the B-movie scenario of a rich businessman hiring armed muscle to bust himself out of jail from inside the fortress-like, U.S.-protected enclave could further contribute to Iraq’s image of instability and lawlessness. The flamboyant former government minister’s arrest and prosecution were held up by Iraqi and U.S. officials as a rare example of good government prevailing in the new Iraq.

His high-profile escape, splashed across Iraqi television channels Monday night, also could further damage the reputation of the U.S., which is already believed by many Iraqis to have wasted and stolen billions of dollars in Iraqi revenue.

Iraqi officials were enraged by his escape and the suggestion that any Americans had a hand in it.

“We think that there are a lot of terrorist operations through the money that was taken through corruption,” said Sheik Sabah Saadi, chairman of the Iraqi parliament’s anticorruption committee. “Ayham Sameraei has announced on more than one occasion about his support for the resistance and the insurgents and even claimed he was a mediator between the resistance and other factions.”

Fuck them. Seriously, you either fight under the flag, or you are nothing more than a hired thug. You can sit there and try and make excuses and say they aren’t all like that, but in the end, the presence of ‘private security’ creates just these sorts of incidents that are counter to the national security interests of the United States. There is no accountability and ultimately they are just seen as other Americans.

Oh, and the escaped prisoner is pals with Rezko
. Small world.

H/T Rich

Just How Crazy Can You Be and Be on the TeeVee?

Debbie Schlussel always makes me laugh.

Many months ago, readers began asking me whether Barack Obama is Muslim. Since he identifies as a Christian, I said, “no,” and responded that he was not raised by his Kenyan father.

But, then, I decided to look further into Obama’s background. His full name–as by now you have probably heard–is Barack Hussein Obama, Jr. Hussein is a Muslim name, which comes from the name of Ali’s son–Hussein Ibn Ali. And Obama is named after his late Kenyan father, the late Barack Hussein Obama, Sr., apparently a Muslim.

And while Obama may not identify as a Muslim, that’s not how the Arab and Muslim Streets see it. In Arab culture and under Islamic law, if your father is a Muslim, so are you. And once a Muslim, always a Muslim. You cannot go back. In Islamic eyes, Obama is certainly a Muslim. He may think he’s a Christian, but they do not.

Then, there are the other items in his background. As best-selling author Scott Turow wrote in Salon, Obama went to a Muslim school for two years in Indonesia. His mother, Anna, married an Indonesian man (likely another Muslim, as Indonesia is Muslim-dominated and has the largest Islamic population in the world).

And Obama has a “born-again” affinity for the nation of his Muslim father, Kenya, and his Kenyan sister. (Although Kenya is largely Christian, it has a fast-growing Muslim population that has engaged in a good deal of religious violence and riots against Christians. And Kenyan courts will apply Sharia law, when the participants are Muslim.) Wrote Turow:

Obama’s father died in a traffic accident in Nairobi in 1982, but while Obama was working in Chicago, he met his Kenyan sister, Auma, a linguist educated in Germany who was visiting the United States. When she returned to Kenya in 1986 to teach for a year at the University of Nairobi, Obama finally made the trip to his father’s homeland he had long promised himself. There, he managed to fully embrace a heritage and a family he’d never fully known and come to terms with his father, whom he’d long regarded as an august foreign prince, but now realized was a human being burdened by his own illusions and vulnerabilities.

So, even if he identifies strongly as a Christian, and even if he despised the behavior of his father (as Obama said on Oprah); is a man who Muslims think is a Muslim, who feels some sort of psychological need to prove himself to his absent Muslim father, and who is now moving in the direction of his father’s heritage, a man we want as President when we are fighting the war of our lives against Islam? Where will his loyalties be?

Is that even the man we’d want to be a heartbeat away from the Presidency, if Hillary Clinton offers him the Vice Presidential candidacy on her ticket (which he certainly wouldn’t turn down)?

NO WAY, JOSE . . . Or, is that, HUSSEIN?

This will be a zombie lie too. Sort of like John Kerry didn’t really deserve his medals and Al Gore claimed to have invented the internet. And she’ll still be on MSNBC or Fox and Bill Maher saying batshit crazy shit with hosts sitting there taking her seriously.

In reality she’s an unhinged fruitcake who couldn’t argue her way out of a paper bag, but she can go on cable news and get face time.

UPDATE: And let me continue with the rant by noting this is almost the same sort of crap anti-semitic assholes use to question the loyalty of Jews to the United States.

Of course, she’s not the only one accusing him of not being a good Christian since Petey Labarbera has been on that train for some time. Because, you know, the United Church of Christ isn’t a real Christian Church. Only True Christians TM are allowed to talk about Christian values. Trust me, that’ll soon be the next meme.

Your Holiday Plans

Going to see Can Mr. Smith Get to Washington Anymore? over the holiday.

It’ll be at Facet’s Cinematheque from Friday to the 31st and it is absolutely a must see. You can even get a brief glimpse of me tired, drunk and sunburnt. If you are interested in grassroots campaigns either from the perspective of being an activist or an operative the film is fantastic. I have no financial stake in the film, though I’m friends with the producers and know the filmmaker pretty well by now.

It won the SilverDocs Audience award, it’s up for the International Documentary Association award and is one of fifteen finalists to be a nominee for the Academy Awards.

For those of you who don’t know it, Jeff is a friend of mine from grad school and is now State Senator elect in Missouri. It puts grassroots campaigns in a good context and I think the lessons hit equally on those in the grassroots and those who are professionals. And the movie is extremely well done and Frank has told a story very entertainingly.

So go see it–you won’t be disappointed.

Oh, and for the Republicans out there, as a Republican friend of mine said about the movie:

First, let me alleviate the concerns of my fellow conservatives skeptical of plunking down their after-tax cash to see this film. I know what you’re thinking, and don’t worry — the movie is long on nuts-and-bolts campaign strategy and short on liberal poppycock. Replace Jeff’s riff that “every child should have the right to see a doctor” with “stop having babies you can’t support” and the movie’s subject could have been a Republican.

Someone Finally Gets How to Use PowerPoint

Unfortunately, he was blown up.

Army Capt. Travis. Patriquin, 32, St. Charles, Mo., died last week when a roadside bomb blew up his vehicle in the insurgent-dominated city of Ramadi in al Anbar province. Before he was killed Capt. Patriquin wrote a Powerpoint briefing that used stick figures to explain how the U.S. could tame al Anbar. (See the briefing in PDF format.)

The briefing, which is funny, smart and a bit sarcastic, rocketed around the military. It suggested that U.S. troops only dimly understood the competing and ancient power structures in al Anbar province. The only way to stabilize the deeply tribal region was to build security forces made up of Iraqis from the area who could police themselves, he reasoned.

In one of the last slides, the American stick figured, who goes by “Joe,” realizes that “if he’d done this three years ago maybe his wife would me happier and he’d have been home more.” Unfortunately, Capt. Patriquin didn’t make it home. – Greg Jaffe

PowerPoint is an evil tool utilized by incompetents to make the entirely unreasonable, reasonable. It is the bane of academics who attempt to use graphics to represent data accurately.

What is missed in the post from the WSJ is that Patriquin was a friggen genius who not only points out the problem of the entire Iraq war with stick figures, but turns the military’s reliance on upon PowerPoint into part of the joke. For more on the how PowerPoint led us to war and incompetence see here and here.

There are a lot of big picture draw ins I could make, but the basic issue is that this man died in vain while having some of the most hysterical and on target criticisms of the way this war has been mishandled.

Of course, Bush might get hung up on the reference to Sheik’s being around for 14,000 years (an exaggeration, but not by much) because, you know the Earth may only be 6,000 years old.

Two More

Zorn addresses the Obama detractors fairly well. While there are decent criticisms of him as a candidate, much of it appears to be bizarrely misplaced anger.

Rich makes a good point that I still haven’t internalized about the Rezko deal:

Apparently, nobody paid attention to the Blagojevich campaign. We had the most investigated governor in modern Illinois history (if not in all the state’s history) winning a race mainly by smearing a mostly honorable state treasurer as a George Ryan crony and a likely crook.

Besides, as I recall, that Whitewater thing went nowhere. It’s my opinion that she’ll have no qualms about using the Rezko deal against Obama, if she hasn’t already. Thoughts

Mea culpa, Rich is right. Blagojevich is really a Clinton wannabe anyway, just without the whole caring about policy and being a good speaker thing. He does have better hair though.

That said, it’s a good test for the team Obama will be putting together. When Clinton throws an elbow, how hard can he throw it back. I can say one thing for sure and that is I’m not going to be following anyone down the path of sitting around and insisting they people know better than to fall for dirty campaigning this cycle.

It also goes to the question Rich poses to Obama. I tend to think Obama’s story on the Rezko deal is credible and as such, the best way to kill it is to produce the previous owners and their real estate agent as well as the assessor for the property he bought directly from Rezko and get them on record supporting what he has said now. If he doesn’t the press will later and it’s always better to get it out now.

If there is any doubt about this rule, I have two words for the Obama campaign.

Blair Hull.

Things that are problems, but not by any means disqualifiers turn into disqualifiers if they aren’t fully exposed up front. As I mentioned in comments over at Rich’s the simple explanation is that if a former Harvard Law Review Editor wants to profit off his public position, there are a lot more sophisticated ways to do that than to enter into a real estate deal with a shady operator. People have disappointed me by doing such things in the past, I tend to think Obama isn’t one of those who is going to let me down on that account.

It’s Not Triangulation

It’s changing the debate. Atrios takes issue with Obama’s rhetorical triangulation here and I just don’t see it. He references Tomasky’s review of The Audacity of Hope in the New York Review of Books.

Tomasky’s review is okay, but there is one paragraph that descends into utter psychobabble crap:

One can’t dismiss the possibility that such lobbying may have affected Obama’s vote. But I think—from the evidence of his books and other writings—that a more likely explanation is this: he wanted, even if only to prove to himself that he could do it, to show at least one Democratic interest group that he could say no, and he chose the trial lawyers. They are less threatening than the advocates of organized labor and abortion rights. I feel certain that he just wanted to see how it felt.

I’m not sure getting into Obama’s head is all that necessary if one knows anything about Illinois politics and especially controversy over Madison County as a venue for class action suits. While this vote has become some litmus test for how liberal one is, it’s not some out there bill. The two key provisions mean that class actions with less than 1/3 of the plaintiffs from the state the suit is introduced in can be certified in federal court. On top of that was a coupon provision where disclosure is required when consumers get coupons and lawyers get millions.

The advocates against the law would have you believe the federal courts will kill off all of the lawsuits, but the problem with that is that Madison County has the opposite problem. It is viewed by many as a place you are likely to lose so many simply settle–this is a counter balance to that impulse and makes it easier for plaintiffs to litigate the case. Madison County does kill off consumer lawsuits some of which may be frivolous and most which are not by offering every incentive to settle at first chance leaving the underlying problem unaddressed often.

I don’t think it’s unreasonable to disagree with the provisions and Obama, but it’s hardly a litmus test of a progressive as to which side one is on. This isn’t Tort reform of the type to limit pain and suffering or even punitive damages. It is a change of venue with disclosure rules.

But more to the point, knowing Obama’s record as I do, I don’t see the triangulation. It’s a redefinition of the debate. Look at his speech from the Take Back America Conference:

Thank you. Thank you Roger Hickey and Bob Borosage for bringing us all together today and thank you for your leadership in the cause of a more progressive America.

My friends, we meet here today at a time where we find ourselves at a crossroads in America’s history.

It’s a time where you can go to any town hall or street corner or coffee shop and hear people express the same anxiety about the future; hear them convey the same uncertainty about the direction we’re headed as a country. Whether it’s the war or Katrina or their health care or their jobs, you hear people say that we’ve finally arrived at a moment where something must change.

These are Americans who still believe in an America where anything’s possible – they just don’t think their leaders do. These are Americans who still dream big dreams -they just sense their leaders have forgotten how.

I remember when I first ran for the state Senate – my very first race. A seat had opened up, and some friends asked me if I’d be interested in running. Well, I thought about it, and then I did what every wise man does when faced with a difficult decision: I prayed, and I asked my wife.

And after consulting with these higher powers, I threw my hat in the ring and I did what every person on a campaign does – I talked to anyone who’d listen.

I went to bake sales and barber shops and if there were two guys standing on the corner I’d pull up and hand them literature. And everywhere I went I’d get two questions:

First, they’d ask, “Where’d you get that funny name, Barack Obama?” Because people just couldn’t pronounce it. They’d call me “Alabama,” or they’d call me “Yo Mama.” And I’d have to explain that I got the name from my father, who was from Kenya.

And the second thing people would ask me was, “You seem like a nice young man.

You teach law school, you’re a civil rights attorney, you organize voter registration, you’re a family man – why would you wanna go into something dirty and nasty like politics?”

And I understood the question because it revealed the cynicism people feel about public life today. That even though we may get involved out of civic obligation every few years, we don’t always have confidence that government can make a difference in our lives.

So I understand the cynicism. But whenever I get in that mood, I think about something that happened to me on the eve of my election to the United States Senate.

We had held a large rally the night before in the Southside of Chicago, which is where I live. And in the midst of this rally, someone comes up to me and says that there’s a woman who’d like to come meet you, and she’s traveled a long way and she wants to take a picture and shake your hand.

And so I said fine, and I met her, and we talked.

And all of this would have been unremarkable except for the fact that this woman, Marguerite Lewis, was born in 1899 and was 105 years old.

And ever since I met this frail, one-hundred-and-five-year-old African-American woman who had found the strength to leave her house and come to a rally because she believed that her voice mattered, I’ve thought about all she’s seen in her life.

I’ve thought about the fact that when she was born, there weren’t cars on the road, and no airplanes in the sky. That she was born under the cloud of Jim Crow, free in theory but still enslaved in so many ways. That she was born at a time for black folks when lynchings were not uncommon, but voting was.

I’ve thought about how she lived to see a world war and a Great Depression and a second world war, and how she saw her brothers and uncles and nephews and cousins coming home from those wars and still have to sit at the back of a bus.

And I thought about how she saw women finally win the right to vote. And how she watched FDR lift this nation out of fear and send millions to college on the GI Bill and lift millions out of poverty with Social Security. How she saw unions rise up and a middle-class prosper, and watched immigrants leave distant shores in search of an idea known as America.

She believed in this idea with all her heart and she saw this progress around her and she had faith that someday it would be her turn. And when she finally she saw hope breaking through the horizon in the Civil Rights Movement, she thought, “Maybe it’s my turn.”

And in that movement, she saw women who were willing to walk instead of ride the bus after a day of doing somebody else’s laundry and looking after somebody else’s children because they walked for freedom. And she saw young people of every race and every creed take a bus down to Mississippi and Alabama to register voters because they believed. She saw four little girls die in a Sunday school and catalyze a nation.

And at last – at last – she saw the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act.

And she saw people lining up to vote for the first time – and she got in that line – and she never forgot it. She kept on voting in each and every election because she believed. She believed that over a span of three centuries, she had seen enough to know that there is no challenge too great, no injustice too crippling, no destiny too far out of reach for America.

She believed that we don’t have to settle for equality for some or opportunity for the lucky or freedom for the few.

And she knew that during those moments in history where it looked like we might give up hope or settle for less, there have always been Americans who refused. Who said we’re going to keep on dreaming, and we’re going to keep on building, and we’re going to keep on marching, and we’re going to keep on working because that’s who we are. Because we’ve always fought to bring all of our people under the blanket of the American Dream.

And I think that we face one of those moments today.

In a century just six years old, our faith has been shaken by war and terror, disaster and despair, threats to the middle-class dream, and scandal and corruption in our government.

The sweeping changes brought by revolutions in technology have torn down walls between business and government and people and places all over the globe. And with this new world comes new risks and new dangers.

No longer can we assume that a high-school education is enough to compete for a job that could easily go to a college-educated student in Bangalore or Beijing. No more can we count on employers to provide health care and pensions and job training when their bottom-lines know no borders. Never again can we expect the oceans that surround America to keep us safe from attacks on our own soil.

The world has changed. And as a result, we’ve seen families work harder for less and our jobs go overseas. We’ve seen the cost of health care and child care and gasoline skyrocket. We’ve seen our children leave for Iraq and terrorists threaten to finish the job they started on 9/11.

But while the world has changed around us, too often our government has stood still. Our faith has been shaken, but the people running Washington aren’t willing to make us believe again.

It’s the timidity – the smallness – of our politics that’s holding us back right now. The idea that some problems are just too big to handle, and if you just ignore them, sooner or later, they’ll go away.

That if you give a speech where you rattle off statistics about the stock market being up and orders for durable goods being on the rise, no one will notice the single mom whose two jobs won’t pay the bills or the student who can’t afford his college dreams.

That if you say the words “plan for victory” and point to the number of schools painted and roads paved and cell phones used in Iraq, no one will notice the nearly 2,500 flag-draped coffins that have arrived at Dover Air Force base.

Well it’s time we finally said we notice, and we care, and we’re not gonna settle anymore.

You know, you probably never thought you’d hear this at a Take Back America conference, but Newt Gingrich made a great point a few weeks ago. He was talking about what an awful job his own party has done governing this country, and he said that with all the mistakes and misjudgments the Republicans have made over the last six years, the slogan for the Democrats should come down to just two words:

Had enough?

I don’t know about you, but I think old Newt is onto something here. Because I think we’ve all had enough. Enough of the broken promises. Enough of the failed leadership. Enough of the can’t-do, won’t-do, won’t-even-try style of governance.

Four years after 9/11, I’ve had enough of being told that we can find the money to give Paris Hilton more tax cuts, but we can’t find enough to protect our ports or our railroads or our chemical plants or our borders.

I’ve had enough of the closed-door deals that give billions to the HMOs when we’re told that we can’t do a thing for the 45 million uninsured or the millions more who can’t pay their medical bills.

I’ve had enough of being told that we can’t afford body armor for our troops and health care for our veterans and benefits for the wounded heroes who’ve risked their lives for this country. I’ve had enough of that.

I’ve had enough of giving billions away to the oil companies when we’re told that we can’t invest in the renewable energy that will create jobs and lower gas prices and finally free us from our dependence on the oil wells of Saudi Arabia.

I’ve had enough of our kids going to schools where the rats outnumber the computers. I’ve had enough of Katrina survivors living out of their cars and begging FEMA for trailers. And I’ve had enough of being told that all we can do about this is sit and wait and hope that the good fortune of a few trickles on down to everyone else in this country.

You know, we all remember that George Bush said in 2000 campaign that he was against nation-building. We just didn’t know he was talking about this one.

Now, let me say this – I don’t think that George Bush is a bad man. I think he loves his country. I don’t think this administration is full of stupid people – I think there are a lot of smart folks in there. The problem isn’t that their philosophy isn’t working the way it’s supposed to – it’s that it is. It’s that it’s doing exactly what it’s supposed to do.

The reason they don’t believe government has a role in solving national problems is because they think government is the problem. That we’re better off if we dismantle it – if we divvy it up into individual tax breaks, hand ’em out, and encourage everyone to go buy your own health care, your own retirement security, your own child care, their own schools, your own private security force, your own roads, their own levees…

It’s called the Ownership Society in Washington. But in our past there has been another term for it – Social Darwinism – every man or women for him or herself.

It allows us to say to those whose health care or tuition may rise faster than they can afford – life isn’t fair. It allows us to say to the child who didn’t have the foresight to choose the right parents or be born in the right suburb – pick yourself up by your bootstraps. It lets us say to the guy who worked twenty or thirty years in the factory and then watched his plant move out to Mexico or China – we’re sorry, but you’re on your own.

It’s a bracing idea. It’s a tempting idea. And it’s the easiest thing in the world.

But there’s just one problem. It doesn’t work. It ignores our history. Yes, our greatness as a nation has depended on individual initiative, on a belief in the free market. But it has also depended on our sense of mutual regard for each other, of mutual responsibility. The idea that everybody has a stake in the country, that we’re all in it together and everybody’s got a shot at opportunity.

Americans know this. We know that government can’t solve all our problems – and we don’t want it to.

But we also know that there are some things we can’t do on our own. We know that there are some things we do better together.

We know that we’ve been called in churches and mosques, synagogues and Sunday schools to love our neighbors as ourselves; to be our brother’s keeper; to be our sister’s keeper. That we have individual responsibility, but we also have collective responsibility to each other.

That’s what America is.

And so I am eager to have this argument not just with the President, but the entire Republican Party over what this country is about.

Because I think that this is our moment to lead.

The time for our party’s identity crisis is over. Don’t let anyone tell you we don’t know what we stand for and don’t doubt it yourselves. We know who we are. And in the end, we know that it isn’t enough to just say that you’ve had enough.

So let it be said that we are the party of opportunity. That in a global economy that’s more connected and more competitive – we are the party that will guarantee every American an affordable, world-class, top-notch, life-long education – from early childhood to high school, from college to on-the-job training.

Let it be said that we are the party of affordable, accessible health care for all Americans. The party that won’t make Americans choose between a health care plan that bankrupts the government and one that bankrupts families. The party that won’t just throw a few tax breaks at families who can’t afford their insurance, but modernizes our health care system and gives every family a chance to buy insurance at a price they can afford.

Let it be said that we are the party of an energy independent America. The party that’s not bought and paid for by the oil companies. The party that will harness homegrown, alternative fuels and spur the production of fuel-efficient, hybrid cars to break our dependence on the world’s most dangerous regimes.

Let it be said that we will conduct a smart foreign policy that battles the forces of terrorism and fundamentalism wherever they may exist by matching the might of our military with the power of our diplomacy and the strength of our alliances. And when we do go to war, let us always be honest with the American people about why we are there and how we will win.

And let it be said that we are the party of open, honest government that doesn’t peddle the agenda of whichever lobbyist or special interest can write the biggest check. The party who believes that in this democracy, influence and access should begin and end with the power of the ballot.

If we do all this, if we can be trusted to lead, this will not be a Democratic Agenda, it will be an American agenda. Because in the end, we may be proud Democrats, but we are prouder Americans. We’re tired of being divided, tired of running into ideological walls and partisan roadblocks, tired of appeals to our worst instincts and greatest fears.

Americans everywhere are desperate for leadership. They are longing for direction. And they want to believe again.

A while ago, I was reading through Jonathan Kozol’s new book, Shame of a Nation, which tells of his travels to underprivileged schools across America.

At one point, Kozol tells about his trip to Fremont High School in Los Angeles, where he met a girl who tells him that she’d taken hairdressing twice, because there were actually two different levels offered by the high school. The first was in hairstyling; the other in braiding.

Another girl, Mireya, listened as her friend told this story. And she began to cry. When asked what was wrong, she said, “I don’t want to take hairdressing. I did not need sewing either. I knew how to sew. My mother is a seamstress in a factory. I’m trying to go to college. I don’t need to sew to go to college. My mother sews. I hoped for something else.”

I hoped for something else.

I’ve often thought about Mireya and her simple dream and all those before her who’ve shared that dream too.

And I’ve wondered – if she is lucky enough to live as long as 105-year-old Marguerite Lewis, if she someday has the chance to look back across the twenty-first century, what will she see? Will she see a country that is freer and kinder, more tolerant and more just than the one she grew up in? Will she see greater opportunities for every citizen of this country? Will all her childhood hopes be fulfilled?

We are here tonight because we believe that in this country, we have it within our power to say “yes” to those questions – to forge our own destiny – to begin the world anew.

Ladies and gentlemen, this is our time.

Our time to make a mark on history.

Our time to write a new chapter in the American story.

Our time to leave our children a country that is freer and kinder, more prosperous and more just than the place we grew up.

And then someday, someday, if our kids get the chance to stand where we are and look back at the beginning of the 21st century, they can say that this was the time when America renewed its purpose.

They can say that this was the time when America found its way.

They can say that this was the time when America learned to dream again.

Thank you.

I suppose the argument could be that he doesn’t say this in every speech, but it’s hard to see how this isn’t a call to change how the debate is fought putting it on the ground Democrats do best and adhering to core Democratic values.

How Low Can You Go?

One of the suggestions from many Republicans is that this year’s election is just a freak or that things will get back to normal by 2008 when the environment will look very different. The notion that you can predict what will be the top issue in two years is often true and no majority is permanent.

However, just as in 2005 I was able to suggest we were looking at a wave election, we can see where the country is headed for the next two years and it will be a tough two years for Republicans.

Looking around at the domestic scene, the Republican ethical scandals aren’t going anywhere. Abramoff is still cooperating and while there might be some Democrats in that investigation, there will be more of the party that was in power.

But more than that, all of the oversight hearings that Republicans didn’t hold for the last six years will now be held and there is a whole bunch of stuff going on at different agencies that haven’t made the major news outlets especially at EPA and Interior. My personal favorite is the closing of the EPA libraries, but even Novakula pointed out there is a bit of an exodus at the agency as they’ve figured out what’s coming.

Or just invite the loon appointed to be the head of family planning who is against contraception. Being against contraception is fine, being appointed to head the agency charged with providing low income women with contraception is like a Bush pinning a kick me sign on his back.

Only a completely incompetent Democratic majority could not be producing a press event every day to embarrass the administration.

That’s just the beginning of the problem for Republicans though. They are caught between a general public that has soured on the war and a base that is strongly supportive of it. From the CBS News poll released on the 11th, 57 percent of voters want a timetable to get out with 58 percent of independent voters agreeing and 71 percent of Democrats. In contrast, 61 percent of Republicans do not want to set a timetable.

The question for any potential Republican nominee then is how does one run with the base and then run to the center? There is a strong element of the Republican base that has tied everything to George Bush and defecting from that united front is considered being disloyal, yet there is very low confidence in George Bush and in particular his strategy for Iraq amongst non-Republicans.

The way out of that conundrum is to have a new policy that is effective or the start of a pullout.

As I said back in early 2005, Iraq isn’t getting any better while we are there. There is no sign of the President understanding how large of a disaster he has created and no suggestion that he wants to change course. His listening tour was only a photo op and the idea of adding more troops temporarily will fail, just as the strategy already failed in Baghdad. It is a case of doing the same thing over and over again despite it not working.

The Republican Party’s 2008 campaign seems to require a fidelity to staying in Iraq while appeasing social conservatives. Bush was able to do the second through the use of his personal story and his familiarity with evangelical language. Romney and McCain have no such ability and Brownback is like my dream GOP candidate to face.

GOP candidates are going to be facing an electorate that will continue to sour on the war and a domestic policy situation where firing up the evangelical base will be difficult to motivate. If this year looked bad, 2008 looks even worse.

The Right Conclusion, but the Wrong Inference

Carol Marin writes a pretty good column today on gender’s effect upon getting elected–the key paragraph to me is:

And just Tuesday, Thomas B. Edsall’s New York Times column pointed to what he called “disturbing” Democratic numbers. “In the 42 top-tier ‘Red to Blue’ races selected by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee for intensive financing and support, 25 of the candidates were male and 17 were female,” wrote Edsall. “In those contests, male candidates batted .800: 20 victories to five defeats. The women faced higher barriers: three won and 14 lost, batting .176.”

My question is more related to what races these women got into–I’m guessing that they were able to get in the primary when fewer men were wanting to get in the race–IOW, less favorable districts. There is a fair degree of evidence that women do best in State Legislatures when the pay is lower because men, because of wage disparity, have to give up more. In cases where the District is harder win in or perceived that way, fewer men maybe willing to run the risk if there is a connection between the two.