Thursday, January 31, 2008

Independents, Don't be Fooled: McCain is NOT a Moderate

John McCain is in many ways an admirable man. He's a war hero who survived the Hanoi Hilton with his dignity intact, and has served his country through the armed forces and in elected office. On some key issues, like campaign finance reform and immigration, he has tried to work across the aisle to seek a workable compromise. He prides himself on being a straight shooter, telling you what he thinks whether you like the taste of the medicine or not -- and a few times after he subverted his straight-talking instincts (like the confederate flag issue in South Carolina a few years ago), he has even righted his course and admitted his politically-induced lip service. And he has been blunt and unwavering in his disdain for U.S.-government-sanctioned torture, not hiding his deep disappointment that the United States has sunk to that new low. All of these things make for a good public servant and a good politician. As I said, John McCain is an admirable man. However, he is absolutely, postively, NOT moderate in his politics -- not even a little bit. And we'd all do well to remember that when we consider the kind of president he would make -- especially you independents.

I know some of you would like to believe otherwise, especially since both of our Democratic candidates have managed to make themselves look pretty unattractive of late (though they were better in tonight's debate). And now that McCain seems to have a good head of steam -- even the beginnings of an aura of inevitablity -- you might be looking at him seriously for the first time, all over again. But don't let the endorsements of the New York Times, Rudy Guiliani, and Arnold Schwarzenegger fool you. Remember that McCain also has the hearty support of such stauch social conservatives as Govs. Tim Pawlenty (R-MN) and Rick Perry (R-TX), fellow senators Sam Brownback (R-KS) and and Tom Coburn (R-OK), and former senator Phil Gramm (R-TX). And for god's sake, don't put any credence in the endorsement of Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT); in fact, that should give you pause. The allegiance of a turncoat is not a valuable statement, nor can it be trusted.

Just take a look at McCain's voting record on progressive issues, on social issues, on labor issues, on education issues, on women's issues. In the 109th Congress, he had a 20% voting record with the American Association of University Women, getting credit for a vocational education vote that went through 99-0. In 2006, McCain had a 7% voting record with the AFL-CIO, having only voted the right way on the Voting Rights Act -- another popular measure that went through largely unopposed. That same year he received a 15% rating from Americans for Democratic Action. There are more voting records on the Zaftig Redhead's main page, where you can guage McCain's support on issues you care about. Take a look, but even on the issues where you might be reassured -- like his vote against the marriage amendment last year -- don't count on the fact that his position will stay firm now that he's got Pennsylvania Avenue on his mind.

Remember that immigration compromise he worked on earlier? McCain is now back-pedaling from that bill -- which he co-authored -- as quickly and as publicly as he can. In truth, he may be one of the bigger flip floppers in the campaign, having seen the error of his ways in 2000 when he had the gumption to skip Iowa and diss the evangelical, conservative block in the Republican party. As a result, on issues like gay marriage to making the Bush tax cuts permanent to repealing Roe v. Wade -- McCain has changed his mind, pandering to the religious right since his speech at Bob Jones University, and even more so the closer he got to the nomination.

On other critical issues, like judicial nominations, healthcare, student aid, broader reproductive rights, pay equity issues and the minimum wage, McCain has been distressingly, depressingly, consistently conservative. This, despite always being a target of the civil rights community as a potential swing vote on the issues that matter most, McCain rarely comes through -- in 2007, only about 15% of the time.

So let's just be clear. Despite whatever appeal he may have as a person, whatever we might rightly admire in his life story and character, no matter how much we might like to have a beer with the man, McCain is a conservative. Indeed, he keeps saying so himself -- over and over and over again, in every Republican debate this campaign season. We should take him at his word on this one, folks. On the issues that matter most to progressives -- from civil rights to reproductive rights, from domestic budget priorities to his selections for the U.S. Supreme Court -- he will be a socially and fiscally conservative president. (NOTE: I do not believe that fiscally responsible and fiscally conservative are the same thing; they are, in fact, very different things.) McCain is not, in fact, all that much different from President Bush in his social positions -- just as McCain is not all that different from the president on Iraq. I don't mean to imply McCain would be anything like the unprincipled leader we have now. But I do believe John McCain would be a consistent president -- consistently conservative. Please, happy voters, don't be fooled -- not if you truly want change this election season.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Edwards Out, But Left His Mark

In the lower ninth ward of New Orleans, a city that has come to embody his message of rebuilding the nation into one America, Democratic primary contender John Edwards gracefully bowed out of the race. "It's time for me to step aside so that history can blaze its path," Edwards said. Words both profound and prophetic, because try as he might the former North Carolina senator simply could not get any traction while he was bookended by such important, longed for, historic "firsts."

And so Edwards, the son of a North Carolina mill worker, ended a scrappy underdog bid in which -- without the superstar status of his rivals -- he still managed to steer the discussion towards some oft-ignored progressive ideals. I have no doubt that John Edwards will continue to fight for the middle class, universal healthcare, and ending poverty in America. And, with the delegates he has already garnered and the loyal followers he has accumulated, he will continue to be a voice in the Democratic party. Perhaps most importantly, however, he has inspired the other candidates to take up these core issues, to focus on policy issues that are often paid lip service but see little serious debate, and the party is better for it.

Edwards undertook this race at great personal cost, publicly grappling with family hardships that both garnered voters' sympathy and also made them question his decision to run for office. I remember the "60 Minutes" interview with he and his wife, Elizabeth, when the reporter asked what to many of us was a simply question. Why? Why pursue this gruelling race in the face of such tragic circumstances? I'll always remember Elizabeth Edwards' answer -- paraphrased, of course, but here is the gist: So that will be my legacy? That in the face of adversity I quit something I believed in? That I quit fighting for the causes I care for, and deprived the country of possibly having a leader like John? I will not have that be my legacy. I will live now like I mean to go on.

We didn’t hear an endorsement from Edwards today, though I am sure both Clinton and Obama would each dearly love to have it. Edwards has said he would be happy to spend time with both candidates, talk more about their plans and ideas, and perhaps make a decision then. He championed issues that are often hard to discuss, asking the simple question: Why, in the land of plenty, are so many people falling farther and farther behind? I have no doubt he wants to know what the "last two standing" propose to do about the issues he has championed so passionately, and inserted into the debate so skillfully. John Edwards did change the political landscape this election season. I would hazard a guess that is more important to him than putting his stamp of approval on either of the candidates.

John Edwards would have been a fine president. A moral, just man who would have worked tirelessly to put his vision of One America into reality. Now, he'll move on to other, more private endeavors, and he will continue to work towards these causes outside the spotlight. But I will miss John Edwards if he doesn't take some continued, visible role in public life. Oh, I know, this son of mill worker is going to be just fine. But I think we'll all be better for it if we could hear his inspiring message -- and see the evidence of his good works -- from time to time. "America’s hour of transformation is upon us," Edwards said as he bowed out. I hope he's right, and we should all thank John Edwards for the role he played in spurring that transformation.

Monday, January 28, 2008

SOTU: Bush, Version W.7

For the seventh and final time, George W. Bush addressed the Congress and the nation about the state of our union. Thanks to you, Mr. President, the country is in deep shit. Tonight you came to Capitol Hill with your lame duck, lame ass wish list. Here's a few of the more brazen highlights:

  • Faith-based initiatives that don't just blur the line between church and state, they trample it -- unrepentantly proselytizing, shoving your version of religion down the throats of people who come looking for basic social services. You want Congress to make them permanent.
  • Precious public funds being siphoned off into private schools through the DC voucher program -- which, oh by the way, were mainly given to students already in private schools, not those needy kids in underperforming schools you like to use as smokescreen. Oh, and civil rights -- like Title IX -- don't apply in these private schools now mooching off the public trust. But no matter, you'd like the program to go nationwide.
  • Injecting religion into science, effectively scuttling promising breakthroughs on such things as stem cell research and delaying the over-the-counter availability of critical alternatives like emergency contraception. You still think it's the government's role to hamstring critical research based on your own narrow moralistic viewpoint, and plan to withhold federal funds to ensure your agenda.
  • Short-sighted, selfish tax cuts that sent the country further into debt and only benefit the rich -- not so much as a trickle has trickled down. These, too, you'd like Congress to make permanent -- you know, because the middle class is doing sooooo well.
  • Renewing No Child Left Behind, the teach-to-the-test unfunded mandate you and Ted Kennedy thrust on the states five years ago. A circuit court recently slapped your hand and said you can't force state and local governments to underwrite your schemes anymore, and Teddy seems unwilling to be duped by you again. Still, you like the high stakes testing cuz it lets you find some measure, somewhere, that shows some group of students has improved. Let's see you put lipstick on this particular pig.
  • Preemptive wars that cripple our economy and undercut critical domestic programs and -- oh yeah -- have made us the most reviled country the world over. Yeah, yeah, you think the surge is working, you want more money, blah blah blah. Meanwhile, our fighting men and women get extended stays overseas, less time at home, and a crippled and underfunded Veterans Administration either unable or unwilling to treat our soldiers with the dignity they deserve. Shame on you. (My brother's a vet, pal -- I am particularly hawkish on this one.)
  • Constant patriotic platitudes while you question the patriotism of those who dare to disagree or criticize your policies, and barely concealed scare tactics used to con people into believing that giving up their civil liberties is a fair price for freedom. The latest is your recommendation that we give retroactive immunity to the telephone companies that violated our right to privacy under the auspices of your administration's illegal wiretapping witch hunt.
That's quite the parade of horribles. Impressive, really. Prior to the speech, President Bush went to great lengths to say he was not feeling the least bit nostalgic about his last State of the Union address, that there was no sentimentality about this event that marks the beginning of his last year in office. Gotta tell ya, George, I'm not feeling particularly nostalgic myself. In fact, January 20, 2009 can't come soon enough. But since you were so kind to share your list of recommendations with the people tonight, here's one for you: don't let the East Wing door hit you on the ass on your way out.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

The Democrats' Circular Firing Squad

The Democratic Party should be crowing right about now. We have the first truly viable woman running for president. She is accomplished, confident, experienced, and has an amazing political pedigree. We have the first truly viable African American running for president. He is inspiring, committed, challenges the status quo, and appeals across racial and party lines. Democrats should be -- as the song says -- dancin' in the streets in celebration of this bounty. Could anyone have predicted that the one white guy in the race would be the also-ran? The afterthought? And, potentially, the spoiler for either front-running, history-making candidate? Uh, nope. And that guy bringing up the rear ain't no slouch either -- he was the Veep nominee last time around.

It's the Democratic Party that produced this wondrous constellation of candidates. Holy smokes, Batman, it's a big-tent party! Pats on the back all around. Let's all sit back and enjoy a spirited debate that makes the eventual winner a stronger candidate, and gives the party a better platform. Go Team! Then, we'll enjoy the spoils of our hard won unity and diversity, and use them to march on down to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue and take back the People's House from this imperial president and his stormtrooper disciples.

But wait. Too easy, Drill Sargent, too easy! Too sensible. Booorrrriinnggg. That kind of unity might actually put a Democrat -- any Democrat -- in the White House, even in the face of an increasingly intimidating McCain juggernaut. Why the hell would we want to do that when we could be miserable for another four -- maybe eight -- years? Because we're Democrats, and we're even better at shooting ourselves in the foot than the Republicans are at swift-boating us. Don't look now, but we're reloading the shotgun again -- with divisive rhetoric, personal smears, and underhanded tactics. And it's ugly, folks -- and liable to get uglier if the candidates don't take a good hard look in the mirror, rein in their surrogates (this means you, too, Bill), and quit cutting their nose off to spite their face. Either that or their mama needs to hit them upside the head. Hard. Really, whatever works is okay with me.

Yes, indeed, it's time for the donkeys to get a good swift kick in the ass. It's not too late to salvage this thing, and come back together as a party when the dust has settled. But if the contenders and their camps keep up this circular firing squad for much longer, the damage might well be beyond repair. There are no choir boys -- or choir girls -- here. Everyone is slinging mud of questionable origins and validity. The problem is, mud sticks to everyone eventually -- and true or not, fair or not, at the end of the day the voters will see only the dirt.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Times Endorsement: A Yawn for Young Voters

The 24-hour TV news outlets were all over the New York Times' announcement of their presidential primary endorsements yesterday, and the narrative was a helluva lot more fascinating than the latest Britney Spears crash and burn -- and perhaps even the endorsements themselves. Strangely enough, I still kinda got the feeling of a crash and burn -- or at the very least the ending of an era -- when it came to the Times endorsement. I can't tell you how many times the venerable paper was referred to as the "voice of the Liberal Establishment." Calling it a "Liberal bastion" was also popular. Even The Zaftig Redhead lists the Times under "Old Reliables" as a source on this very blog. Kinda makes the Times -- also famous for its Square, ironically enough -- sound a bit creaky, stuffy, ivory-towerish, maybe even a little bit behind the, um, times. Nonetheless, the New York Times' endorsement of Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary and John McCain in the Republican primary was discussed as BIG news.

It was big news because, well, it was the New York Times -- and simple muscle memory and tradition dictates that what that paper says shall be taken with all due seriousness and like the medicine it is. It was big news because the Florida primary is on the horizon, and approximately half of Mickey Mouse's new disciples migrated there from one of the five boroughs. It was big news because McCain squirmed like a kid in Sunday pew when he heard about the endorsement -- trying to be good but really really really not wanting to be there. It was news because of the delightfully insulting way in which the Times dissed Giuliani as "a narrow, obsessively secretive, vindictive man..." whose "arrogance and bad judgment are breathtaking." (Damn, wish I'd written that.) And it was news because the Times dissed hometown Mayor Rudy yet endorsed transplant Senator Hillary -- but of course, who is more Democratic Establishment than Hillary?

And that, my friends, is where it gets truly interesting. Because the talk about the Times' endorsements was about why they were interesting, not why they were important. And I would largely agree, but for one caveat -- I think the Democratic endorsement still carries weight in Florida, where you can't walk three feet without tripping over Hillary's prime demographic -- women over 65. And hey, if they hail from the Empire State originally, mores the better.

Otherwise, though, the Times endorsement -- while interesting, is not all that necessary, to any candidate, anymore. Not in this era of CHANGE. Not in this era of young voters finally sowing their electoral oats and turning out in droves. Not in this era of voters -- young and old -- who turn suddenly deaf when phrases like "that's how we've always done it" are uttered. Indeed, the Times, while saying largely good things about Obama, calling him "the incandescent if still undefined senator from Illinois," seemed also to be saying that he was not quite ready for the Big Show. It is a sentiment many voters feel -- but not younger voters, who themselves are tired of hearing from their own bosses that they need to wait their turn. Bosses who can't use an Excel spreadsheet, have no idea how to send a text message, or even program their damn DVRs. So, for these voters, the Times endorsement may be news, it may be interesting, but it's not important. Not in the era of the blogosphere and RSS feeds and The Daily Show. These voters want to know who Jon Stewart is going to endorse -- now that would be important.

By the way, signs point to a record voter turnout today in South Carolina. Regardless of the outcome, Democrats generally have got to be jazzed about the energy amongst the base -- folks who have had it with four years of imperial idiocy are letting their feet -- and their votes -- do the talking. Here's hoping the outrage holds through November.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Long Term Economic Stimulus: How About Fair Pay?

Extra!! Extra!! The Sharks and Jets have come to terms on an economic stimulus package! Yes, folks, the powers that be in our nation's capital -- also known as Republicans and Democrats -- managed to channel grown ups and hammered out a deal involving $145 billion in rebate checks to poor and middle-class workers. And, because this is America and you can't give a dime to the working man without padding the pockets of big business, the plan also includes one-time business incentives to invest in new equipment and write off tax losses. The plan includes nothing for unemployment benefits, nothing for food stamps -- stuff that might actually "stimulate" the economy since they're targeted towards folks who are practically guaranteed to spend it, you know, cuz they must to make ends meet. Imagine that.

But, don't start spending your windfall yet, my friends. This is only a House deal (all spending bills must originate in the House) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) has already indicated that the Club of 100 will want to "make improvements" to the House package. Given that it will take at least 10 weeks for checks to start flowing, it seems to me the Senate oughta just leave well enough alone. But we have to remember, the Senate is filled with 100 extraordinarily important people, each and every one of whom will want to add his or her two cents to this economic policy debate. Several times. With charts and graphs. Preferably on television. With cute kids standing around them. So, hmmm.... Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's estimate of May Day being Check Day might well be pushed back to the dog days of August once the Senate process gets a hold of things. Here's hoping Harry can herd those cats, um, I mean Senators, and drive this bill through quickly. Not that I am completely convinced of this whole economic stimulus thing, mind you, but if you're gonna do it, do it -- don't pussyfoot around.

Now, for my money, if you want long term economic stimulus, Congress should take a long, hard look at pay equity issues -- and remedies for the lack thereof. The Senate had a hearing today on the Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act (S. 1843) -- a bill the House has already had the good sense to pass. The bill is a time warp of sorts, taking us back to May 28, 2007 -- one day before the Supreme Court's wrongheaded, unrealistic -- okay, I'll just say it -- dumb ass decision in the case of Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Folks, this 5-4 decision was so backward that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg felt compelled to read her scathing dissent from the bench -- a pretty rare action by the usually mild mannered Justice intended to heap additional disdain on the Court's majority.

So why was Ruth so steamed? Well, to put it mildly, the Ledbetter decision hamstrings the ability of victims of pay discrimination to sue under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Without a legislative fix, employees will have very little recourse against continuing pay discrimination and employers will actually be immune from any kind of accountability for their actions once 180 days have passed. That's right, folks. If employers can hide pay discrimination for six months, they are forever free from responsibility for that bad act -- and can profit from it from that point forward. Profit from the money they save in an employee's lost wages, in lost benefits, in lost retirement contributions. WTF?

Let me try to break this down. Prior to Ledbetter, more than 30 years of legal precedent and EEOC practice held that each paycheck tainted by discrimination was -- in and of itself -- an act of discrimination. Makes sense to me, since a paycheck has always been recognized as a legal, contractual document. As a result, the 180-day statute of limitations in Title VII was deemed to be retriggered with each paycheck. However, in Ledbetter, the Court said -- nope, no more. You have 180 days from the time of the discriminatory pay decision -- say, when you were hired -- to get a clue. If you haven't gotten the lay of the land by then, you're shit outta luck.

Never mind the fact that lots of folks are actually forbidden by their employers to discuss their wages with co-workers. Never mind that we are more likely to share the intimate details of our sex lives with co-workers than we are salary information. The Court's reasoning assumes that new employees will wander down to the cafeteria, or gather 'round the water cooler -- in their first six months on the job, mind you -- and quiz their new colleagues about their automatic deposits. What a great way to win friends and influence people in a new job.

The Fair Pay Restoration Act clarifies -- again, for the folks on the Supreme Court that seem stuck on the short bus -- that each discriminatory paycheck is in fact another act of discrimination, restoring the law to how it was previously applied. It's a simple, commonsense fix that must be passed. 'Course, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is lobbying heavily against it -- the Ledbetter decision was an unexpected plum that fell in their lap and they don't wanna give it up. But really, guys, even with this bill the system is still stacked against employees -- the burden of proof is all on them. And you're still playing women 77 cents on the dollar to the average white guy. Heck, even when you crunch the numbers for the kinds of things that should effect wages -- experience, education, responsibilities -- there is still a significant but unexplained gap. It's discrimination, that's what it is. And denying women any effective legal remedy when discrimination is alive and well and living in your cubicle villages and board rooms -- well, now you're just being greedy.

Fair pay. Now that's a long term economic stimulus plan we could bank on. If Congress and the courts -- as well as employers -- would take proactive, effective steps to ensure fair pay, just imagine the additional X-boxes and Lazy Boys people could buy. Oh, and they might be able to pay the mortgage and save for retirement, too. Is it too much to ask -- more than 4o years after passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Equal Pay Act -- that women and people of color bring home the bacon at the same rates, for the same jobs, as the white guys? I really really really don't think it is. Oh, and it would be fair, too. Now that's a stimulating idea.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Reagan, Edwards, and Lessons Not Learned

It's been a rocky few days. Hillary and Obama are squabbling like third graders on the jungle gym about one of the most critical policy questions of our day. I don't know about you, but I can't possibly get a good night's rest until we finally and forever settle the question of whether Ronald Reagan was the most visionary leader of our time. And really, this revisionist history lesson and/or game of gotcha -- depending on your perspective -- is ever so much more productive than debating issues such as the health insurance crisis, Iraq, our sagging economy, the subprime mortgage crisis, the education achievement gap, AIDS in Africa, etc.

Phew! It's so reassuring to know our candidates have their priorities straight -- cuz what Democrats nationwide really wanna do is spend more time knee deep in the Reagan era. Oh, and Barack Obama finally acknowledged, out loud and in public, what the rest of us have known all along: when you're running against a Clinton, it's a formidable package deal -- and when you're a Clinton running for president, you really can be two places at once -- which means the war (uh, I mean, primary) is always going to be fought on two fronts at all times.

John Edwards not only stayed pretty well above the mud slinging in Monday's debate -- in fact he came out looking like the grown-up -- but he's also managed to drive his party’s policy agenda from the back seat, at least on the question of an economic stimulus package. Yep, this is the latest candy that everybody wants. Take note, readers, that it was Edwards who -- a month ago, before the world stock markets took a collective nosedive and the experts starting signing the word "r-e-c-e-s-s-i-o-n" -- first proposed a stimulus package. Hillary and Obama followed Edwards' lead last week -- wonder if they thanked him for the tip.

In other news, the Republicans lost two from their presidential contest -- former Sen. and Law and Order alum Fred Thompson (R-TN) and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) both called it quits. Thompson is a longtime ally of John McCain, and may throw his weight -- well, what there is left of it -- behind the Straight Talk Express. However, for such an endorsement to do any good Fred needs to make a move before Super Duper Nuclear Tuesday. No one was surprised when Fred pulled out after his lackluster showing in South Carolina -- he was supposed to be the candidate of the South, the Republicans' saviour, the heir to Reagan (there's that name again), but voters seemed to think Thompson was walking -- not running. In fact, Thompson's announcement that he was withdrawing from the race inspired a similar reaction to that of the death of President Calvin Coolidge -- "how can you tell?" Sad, but true. As for Rep. Hunter, who is retiring from the House, he threw his support to Mike Huckabee -- he threw it, but I'm not sure if Mike thought it was all that good a catch.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Democrats' Need an MLK "Day On"

This year's observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day seems to be, sadly, less about Dr. King and the ongoing lessons of the civil rights movement and more about politicking and poll numbers. Don't get me wrong, the presidential candidates should properly honor Dr. King's legacy, and hopefully also pledge to not only preserve it but actively work to win back what's been so merrily and summarily sabotaged by the Bush administration. Pretty speeches will be made and "We Shall Overcome" shall be sung -- and these observances can be important food for the soul. I guess it's just that I wish there wasn't political hay to be made from this reflective holiday, and that change-making, inspiring action rather than more rhetoric would make the headlines. Given the recently turbulent racial waters and emerging gender and racial dimensions in the Democratic primary, I hope this day is used to generate what Dr. King so often called for -- unity and healing.

But I'm not holding my breath -- perhaps I have lived inside the beltway too long. My suspicions were reinforced by today's Washington Post coverage, which leads off its political section noting that "Speaking in [the] pulpit of Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Atlanta church, Sen. Barack Obama links King's vision of an America free of segregation and racism to the central tenet of his own presidential campaign, a call to end partisan rancor." Meanwhile, according to the same Post article, Clinton made an appearance at the Sunday services of the famous Abyssinian Baptist Church -- where trailblazing black congressman Rev. Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. once preached -- to receive the endorsement of its pastor. Clinton described for the congregation how she traveled with a youth group to hear Dr. King speak, and the "transforming experience" it had been in her life. That the church is in Harlem, in the congressional district of House Ways and Means Chairman Charlie Rangel -- who is a longtime leader in the Congressional Black Caucus and an outspoken Clinton supporter -- is no coincidence.

Indeed, despite Obama's unmistakable charisma and promise, one of his biggest hurdles has been winning over the civil rights leaders from Dr. King's generation. A fair amount of these notables -- like civil rights pioneer and Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) -- have endorsed Clinton. The question is whether this steadfastness is out of loyalty to the Clinton machine or a real sense that Obama is not quite ready for prime time. Civil rights leader and former ambassador Andrew Young has said Obama will be ready to be president -- in 2016. Meanwhile, Jesse Jackson is firmly in the Obama camp. One wonders how much of an impact the split in the old guard African American leadership will have on the black vote.

Not much, if the way the winds are blowing in South Carolina are any indication. Interestingly enough, African Americans as a whole -- who had been supporting Clinton over Obama in the early going -- have switched in droves to Obama since he established his bona fides in Iowa. And no wonder. If the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas can win in the frozen plains of Iowa -- which are as white as its population -- there's a new sense that Obama really could win over Joe Voter in Middle America. His challenge, however, remains in winning over Josephine Voter. Clinton's got the clear edge there, and the gender gap is not only alive and well it's keeping the Democratic Party afloat.

But if Democratic primary goers are largely going to vote their DNA, where does that leave the party come November? The reality is, we are in the midst of an historic election, with barriers falling faster than Giuliani's poll numbers -- this is good news for Democrats, and for the country as a whole. Today of all days, we should celebrate this progress. It represents a shift in the national political landscape that hopefully will change forever the image of American leadership. It is important enough that we get beyond the horse race and stop reporting about this momentous election as if it were an auction. To take back the White House, no matter who the eventual nominee is, Democrats will need a large dose of Dr. King's unity and healing.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

How the West Was Won, or Was It?

Go West, Democrats! The Nevada caucuses marked the first contest in the West, not to mention the first test in a state where diversity is a real factor. After a split decision in the first two contests and a national party power play rendering the Michigan Democratic results useless, this was the next round in what has become a tense intraparty rumble between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. If the Dems aren't careful, this rivalry could degenerate into a truly disabling search and destroy mission -- leaving the "winner" wounded going into the general election and providing free ammo for the guns of Republican swift boats.

The turbulence was evident in both candidates' response to the Nevada outcome. Clinton said caucus voters, who came out in record numbers, gave her the nod because "They want somebody who's going to give them solutions, not just rhetoric." And Obama didn't even bother to congratulate Clinton in his statement -- he merely talked about how proud he was of his own campaign.

Perhaps Obama didn't congratulate Clinton because he doesn't believe he got beat -- and with good reason. Why? Well, its got to do with the assignment of state delegates in rural areas and a strange twist just reminiscent enough of 2000 to make me queasy. Despite Clinton's six point victory in the popular vote -- thanks in large part to women and Latinos, the latter of which supported her by a three to one margin -- state party rules actually give Obama a sliver of a lead in actual state delegates (13 to 12). While Nevada's national delegates won't be decided until April, it appears we're likely to have an electoral college-like result. And -- it could only happen in Vegas -- one precinct broke a tie by a draw of the cards; Clinton won, ironically enough, with the Queen of Hearts.

These delegate numbers become more and more important as this war of attrition progresses towards its rocky mountain conclusion at the party's convention in Denver. Could the convention actually be used to iron out the party's nomination, rather than merely putting icing on the cake of a fait accompli? It's a tantalizing thought. But in the meantime, the spin machines are in high gear, trying to assure their camp at least a rhetorical win and thus the all important claim to the "Big Mo" going into South Carolina.

As for John Edwards, he finished third with a wrenching, Dennis Kucinich-like four percent of the vote. He has vowed to fight on, riding a rich message despite his cash-poor campaign.

For John McCain, the win in South Carolina was sweet vindication after the vicious statewide smear campaign that stopped him cold in 2000. Plus, he was quick to point out that the Republican candidate who wins South Carolina typically wins the nomination. Tell that to Mitt Romney, who took Nevada gold.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Congress is Back: Gridlock and Waterfowl Ahead

While the House has been back making noise for a week, the more leisurely Senate doesn't return from its holiday break until after Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. It's then that the Second Session of the 110th Congress will begin in earnest. But, contrary to the powers granted in the Constitution and the reasonable expectations of the electorate, don't think for a second there will be much legislating going on.

Why? Because 2008 is that mystical time vortex known as an election year. Worse, it's a presidential election year. Worst still, it's the first time we haven't had a sitting vice president vying for the Oval Office since 1928. (Yep, the last time we had such wide open primaries the stock market took a header a year later, with the Great Depression hot on its heels. I'm really trying not to read too much into that.) And, of course, we have the usual 435 House seats on the table -- plus the five non-voting House delegates including the one from DC (don't get me started on taxation without representation in our nation's capital) -- as well as 35 seats up for grabs in the Senate. Like a kid in a candy shop, Congress will have only one thing on its collective mind -- and it won't be law making.

You see, the election year vortex makes our Congressional friends even slower on the uptake than usual. It works something like this: no one wants to let anyone else achieve anything that could be viewed as an even remotely attractive accomplishment on the campaign trail. And, while it's mostly Democrats tripping up Republicans and and Republicans stiff-arming Democrats, it's also been happening even amongst "friends." It's primary season, when intraparty search and destroy is the order of the day. Until recently, it was more unusual to stumble over a Senator who wasn't running for president than one who was -- as a result, truthfully, it was unusual to stumble over a Senator in DC, period. They were all out of town kissing babies. While that situation will improve with Biden, Dodd, and Brownback's return, it's still a factor.

When Clinton and Obama do wander back inside the beltway, their camps are watching closely to ensure neither accomplishes anything of note while the nomination's still up for grabs. In the same vein, McCain detractors are keeping the Maverick from pushing pieces of his agenda in the Senate -- these are folks in his own party, mind you -- because they've pledged allegiance to other candidates. Combine this election year vortex with the already truculent partisan bickering on Capitol Hill and a lame duck, veto-happy president as determined to be relevant as a stubborn toddler whining "me do it, mommy," and you've got granny's family recipe for gridlock. Congress will be lucky to pass its budget this year, and anything else of import will only be done after a careful political calculus has revealed that neither party gets the bennies or its impact is somehow a wash.

In fact, I'll go out on a short limb right now and predict there will be a lame duck Congressional session after the election. In fairness, however, part of this lameness, er, gridlock will come as a result of President's Bush's last minute muscle contractions, with expected vetoes on anything that doesn't feed the hungry monster that is Iraq or cut domestic programs -- which (call me crazy) seem even more necessary to a country going through rough economic times. (BTW, did anyone notice that when Romney was asked this week how he would fund the great research and innovation age that he predicted would resurrect manufacturing jobs, he recommended we oughta cut all those wasteful, piddly job training programs? Still can't believe Michigan, the state with the highest unemployment rate, voted for this transparent wannabe.)

At any rate, the Zaftig Redhead is predicting we'll see lawmakers coming back to the Potomac post Nov. 4, some of whom will have lost their seats yet will be still empowered to take critical votes on the people's business -- including how to spend our tax dollars. Now that's democracy for you.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Courting Single Women Voters: Bring Change

Single women turned out in droves in Iowa and New Hampshire. About time these babes showed up! According to census data, 46 percent of voting-age women nationwide are unmarried, but they made up a lame 22.4 percent of voters in 2004 and a truly shameful 19 percent in the debacle of 2000. These single women seem especially partial to Democrats -- in fact, unmarried women are much more likely to crush on the Dems than women overall. Since Michigan was such an unfortunate aberration (see January 15, 2008 blog), inquiring minds want to know if Nevada and South Carolina will similarly showcase single women flexing their electoral muscle.

An empowered block of sex-in-the-city voters is a flashing neon smiley face for the Democrats. If single women continue to speak their minds in greater numbers and stay faithful to the Democrats to boot, it could swing the partisan pendulum in November and beyond -- potentially cementing the new majorities in Congress for years to come. But the Democrats need a plan to cash in on all this love coming their way, because unmarried women -– more than any voting block -- are the most dissatisfied with the way things are going ‘round the neighborhood. Can you say CHANGE? Well, we know the candidates can -- over and over and over again (currently, they're trying to say it a lot in Spanish or with a Southern drawl). But can the Democrats actually deliver -- that's the vital question, and single women are demanding answers. If Big Blue can convince single women voters, it could be a marriage made in electoral heaven.

And women voters overall continue to kick ass and take names in the primaries. Enter, again, the Edwards Factor. Tongues are still waging about Hillary's netting 47 percent of the women's vote in New Hampshire to overcome Obama's Iowa-influenced polling advantage. But, insightful observers note that the Granite state's outcome demonstrates the impact of a three-way race. Obama drew about the same percentage of women voters in New Hampshire as he did in the cornfield caucuses; it was Edwards' lapse with the ladies that created Clinton's gain. Similarly, it was Edwards who pulled the rug out from under Hillary in Iowa; lots of women caucused for him in 2004 and stood by their man this year as well.

Notably, women voters seem to be the deciding factor on both sides of the aisle. Obama and Huckabee wooed us in Iowa, Hillary and McCain got our come back support in New Hampshire -- even Romney in the bllink-and-you-miss-it Wyoming GOP caucus -- all won at least in part by carrying the plurality of women.

So, onward to Nevada, South Carolina and Florida, then to the 23-state elections on Feb. 5. In the past this was called Super Tuesday, but in this year of all election years, everything's changing -- and the first Tuesday in February is no exception. Given that it's been super-sized since 2004 -- when only seven states went to the polls -- folks have been calling it "Super-Duper Tuesday" or "Super Nuclear Tuesday ." Me? I think I'll be calling it Ladies Night Out, and I'm hoping the girls really strut their stuff.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Why Michigan Matters

The Michigan primary results are rolling in on my television, and the talking heads keep saying that Michigan doesn't matter. I know, I know... what they really mean is that Michigan's state Democratic party is being spanked by Howard Dean and Co., resulting in the loss of delegates to the Democratic National Convention (horrors!) and thus rendering useless the Democratic primary results in the Great Lakes State. Candidates Obama and Edwards even pulled their names off the ballot -- Hillary bucked the boys and stayed in, though she didn't campaign.

So what was the reason for Michigan's Democratic primary woes? Well, it revolves around the national party's complicity in maintaining the supremacy of two tiny states in the nomination process. Two states, I might add, that are not even remotely representative of the rest of the country (sorry Iowa and New Hampshire, but I gotta speak the truth). Now, I know that Michigan was scheduled to take place after the tradition-bound, snow-bound, Caucasian-bound first contests, but it didn't matter -- the national party couldn't afford to let any state buck the election scheduling system -- and therefore had to really thump anyone who didn't walk the party line. How dare Michigan (or Florida, for that matter) set the date for their own primary? What nerve to show such independence! If we let them do it, other states will do it, it'll be anarchy!! THUMP. Still, there was a rather fervent game of election-day musical chairs, as various states tried vainly to be relevant in the process. But each time a precocious upstart made a move, Iowa and New Hampshire simply leapfrogged them to stay in first place -- New Hampshire state law, in fact, mandates it.

I believe the Democratic party and its candidates were disappointingly myopic in passing on this golden opportunity to dialogue with a group of voters who is not only diverse, but facing some of the most pressing problems in the nation. Michigan is essentially in a one state recession. It has the highest unemployment rate in the country. It's the only state with a net loss of U-Haul trucks leaving the state. It's ground zero for the subprime mortgage disaster and foreclosures are at an all time high. Sound familiar? Across the country, folks are worried about a tanking economy, jobs swimming overseas, ballooning inflation and lagging incomes that don't keep pace -- these are all headaches that the next president is not only going to be saddled with, but MUST tackle in the next four years. Unfortunately, Michigan is already there -- and the rest of the country will follow if we don't do something and pretty damn quick. But, the Democrats took a rain check until November on the chance to get up close and personal with the people living it everyday. WTF? We had a microcosm of the nation at our fingertips, a chance to hear stories from real people and discuss possible solutions, (and for the more cynical pols, voters ripe for testing messages and honing policy plans) in a state that typically goes blue but by narrower margins as union power wanes. And what did we do? We let an internal party scramble for king of the hill keep us from capitalizing on the silver platter Motown was willing to pass our way. Shame on us. We'll pay for it, of that I'm sure. I just don't know what the cost will be. I do know, however, that Michiganders are already hurting.

You know, if the Democrats are truly willing to let just a few states be such critical drivers in the presidential contest, here's a thought. No president has ever been elected without winning Ohio (by hook or by crook, right, W?). Maybe we just oughta let Ohio voters go to the polls and save us all the trouble -- they seem to take the country's pulse right on the money every time. And I'm not just saying that cuz I'm a Buckeye.

NOTE: The Republicans didn't handle Michigan's machinations like the Dems... they stripped Michigan of half its delegates and duked it out, letting the Michigan voters speak their minds. Though one could wish those same voters had not chosen to prolong the cardboard, Ken-doll agony of Mitt Romney's campaign by finally giving him a gold medal -- but to each his own.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Edwards the King (or Queen) Maker?

According to a new poll released today, the gleeful reports of Hillary Clinton's imminent demise have been greatly exaggerated. The nationwide poll, taken Jan. 9-12 for CBS News and the New York Times, shows that Clinton is still the clear Democratic favorite at 42 percent -- down just 2 percent (within the poll's margin of error) since December and the debacle in Iowa. Barack Obama's numbers have not moved a millimeter at 27 percent, and John Edwards has also held steady as a rock at 11 percent. Inexplicably, Dennis Kucinich's numbers have gone up from 2 percent to a whopping 4 percent; his wife will be thrilled. A fair amount of Dems are still undecided, folks.

But, as has been pounded into our heads ad nauseum, the party nomination is not a nationwide process but rather a war of attrition, state by state. Obama is the current beneficiary of that state of affairs, given the fact that he is handily ahead of Hillary by 13 percent in anticipation of the Jan. 26 South Carolina primary, and the two frontrunners seem to be neck in neck for the Nevada caucuses coming up on Jan. 29.

But what about John Edwards? He won South Carolina in 2004, forever after pissing off John Kerry. However, this time around the home-state boy is only polling marginally better in South Carolina than he is nationally... about 13 percent, give or take. So now what? There is a lot of talk these days about the Edwards Factor -- which way would his supporters break were Edwards to pull out of the race? That 11 percent of faithful followers he has nationally, and the respectable numbers he draws in the primaries and caucuses, could make the difference for either Clinton or Obama -- and both camps know it.

Enter the intriguing notion of Edwards as King -- or Queen -- maker. Not a bad role if you can't get the crown yourself. The potential of Edwards conceding graciously and making an endorsement is more than a little intriguing. Could it be a deciding factor in the race, given the rather glaring gap between the national numbers and the state-by-state trench warfare ahead? Such an endorsement would certainly be far more influential than Kerry's spiteful defection last week. Edwards says he is in it for the long haul, for a nationwide campaign. Me, I wish he had a better chance -- I have tremendous respect for the man. He's tough, he's smart, and he actually seems to genuinely care about folks with modest bank accounts and real life troubles. But he's not getting traction amidst the Clinton din or the Obama furor. So now what? Edwards is a bit like a bull terrier with a bone -- he just can't seem to let go. And I get it, John. I do. You'd be a good president, you have a vision, and you actually give a crap about the working man -- not to mention that you and your family have sacrificed a lot to go after the brass ring. But the wind doesn't seem to be blowing your way. What's the next best thing -- how else could you have an enormous impact on the process and perhaps still see elements of your vision become reality? Maybe its time to make a choice -- for yourself, your party and your country -- and start sipping on some sweet lemonade. Who knows what kind of cabinet doors it may open.

I'd be remiss if I did not mention the other half of the poll. In the Republican race, John McCain seems back in the role he is least comfortable with -- front runner. McCain is up an eye popping 26 points since December, leading all Republicans with 33 percent. The Straight Talk Express has displaced the plummeting Rudy Giuliani, who's down more than 12 percent, and Mitt Romney, who's down 8 points. Lots of us have wondered whether the party rank and file would warm up to the Maverick again, but in this poll he now leads among self-described conservatives as well as moderates. Actually, I think McCain’s improving fortunes are a result of a massive reality check on the part of Republican primary voters, who are asking themselves that age old question: "who's the most electable in November," which can be rephrased as, "who can save us from Hillary?" In the current poll, 41 percent of Republicans think McCain's the man to take out the wicked witch of the Democrats -- sorry Rudy, only 12 percent think you're the guy most likely to steal her broom. But the fat lady has not even begun to sing on this one, folks, because more than 70 percent of Republican voters say they could still change their minds, and less than half strongly support their candidates.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

If You Want a Friend, Get a Dog

Once again, President Truman's old adage that there are no friends in politics has been put on embarrassing display. Sens. John Kerry (D-MA) and Joe Lieberman (I-CT) are the latest entrants in the "who's lower than a dog" sweepstakes. Just this past week, Kerry gave his much-sought after, eagerly awaited endorsement to Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL). Yawn. Who gives a crap. The only thing remotely interesting here is the personal spitefulness with which the whole thing was accomplished, which says more about Kerry than it does about any imagined dis that may have been delivered to his more gifted 2004 running mate, former Sen. John Edwards (D-NC).

Of course, it's well known that the Kerry/Edwards relationship has been strained since early in the 2004 presidential race, when the more charismatic phenom beat Kerry in South Carolina and then proceeded to eclipse him on the campaign trail despite his #2 status on the ticket -- not a tough job, given Kerry's stoneface demeanor. But it's true that Edwards and his camp never really embraced the traditional role of the VP candidate as heat seeking missile, and there's talk that Edwards never shared his campaign lists with Kerry -- perhaps the Edwards camp simply viewed the veep nomination as a steeping stone. What a shocker! Truly unforgivable! Everyone knows that Edwards began his 2008 campaign before the 2004 results were cold, but the Kerry camp seems to think that action broke a pledge that Edwards wouldn't run until Kerry had decided on another go around (yeah, right, like we'd support that loser again!). But the word is that Kerry saw Edwards' 2008 aspirations as a betrayal, and apparently now believes what goes around comes around. The sad fact is that Kerry is trying vainly to make himself relevant in a political world that dropped him like a hot potato, and his anti-endorsement is sour grapes about Edwards' continued prominence as well -- taken together, it is not a well balanced meal.

And of course, in December, Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT) turned his back on Democrats (again) when he endorsed Sen. John McCain (R-AZ). Never mind that Joe caucuses with the Democrats or that it's their majority which provides him with the committee chairmanship (aka, bully pulpit) the he loves so much. It seems sadly appropriate that good ol' Joe gave the Dems the cold shoulder from the frozen tundra of New Hampshire. Oh, and don't forget that good ol' Joe lent his weighty support to McCain instead of home state Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), as is traditional -- yeah, remember, Joe, when Dodd was the only senator who endorsed your wannabe, also-ran candidacy back in 2004, when you had your own delusions of grandeur about the Oval Office having your name on it? Now, I know Dodd endorsed Ned LaMont after he beat you in the democratic primary -- as did the rest of the Democratic party. You lost the party's nomination fair and square and for good reason, Joe. Dodd was just playing by the rules. But paybacks are hell, huh? I guess you learned about that from former Vice President and newly minted Nobel laureate Al Gore, who endorsed Gov. Howard Dean (D-VT) over you, his former running mate. Bet that stung.

What's next, a McCain-Lieberman ticket? Hmmm.... well, they share bylines, write legislation together, why not crisscross the country together in a vain attempt to show their mutual obsession with a failed war policy really ain't so bad after all? While Lieberman says he has no ambitions to be VP (sure, Joe, 'cause your politics over the past few years haven't demonstrated an ounce of personal ambition), Sen. McCain credits good ol' Joe's endorsement with helping him out in New Hampshire. So, he owes you, right Joe? Don't bet on it... there are no friends in politics, as you've amply demonstrated. Don't count on being rewarded for this latest defection. Joe, we're not shocked by your endorsement/defection. In fact, you're becoming depressingly consistent. It's no wonder none of the democratic candidates asked for your support.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Where All Good Bills Go to Die (60 or bust)

The House begins the Second Session of the 11oth Congress on Monday; the Senate comes back the following week, just in time for the State of the Union (that would be the equivalent of the Super Bowl for political folks). Much attention has been paid to the House and its accomplishments, and its historic first-ever woman Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), and it will continue to be a focus as all those nervous freshment Democrats angle to become sophmores come November. But to my mind, the House is in good shape. For those of you looking for more progressive changes, keep your eyes on the legislative prize -- the Senate. And, more specifically -- the number 60.

Here's the scoop. Right now, the Senate is split very narrowly -- 49 Democrats, 49 Republicans, and 2 Independents (Sens. Bernie Sanders [VT] and Joe Lieberman [CT]) who caucus with the Dems, giving them the slimmest of majorities -- especially given the fact that Lieberman is presidential wannabe John McCain's new best friend and appears to also be at the top of the White House Christmas list. Just ask Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) how easy its been trying to herd these 51 cats. Getting a simple majority is a minor miracle.

But in the Senate, it's typically not about a simple majority -- if only that were the case! It's all about cloture -- it's all about 60. That's because the Senate is a body of continuous debate -- and made up of 100 very, very important people who like to talk. A lot. Constantly. Even if the room is empty. In order to move to a final vote, the Senate literally must agree to shut up -- to stop talking. This is called a cloture vote, and to be successful it must win a super majority of 60 votes -- it's such a big deal to get senators to agree to stop talking, a simple majority won't do. I call it the "shut up already and vote" vote. That means anytime the Democrats want to do anything, they need to find 9 Republicans to agree. A bathroom break. Turkey or chicken for lunch. The sky is blue. Never mind the presidential vetoes leveled in their direction, the Senate has not been able to get to 60 on a lot of things that matter. Cloture is a longstanding part of procedure, and not likely to go anywhere. Oh, and technically, when a cloture vote fails, that issue is now being filibustered -- they might not roll in cots and read from the Betty Crocker Cookbook on the Senate floor, it won't look like Jimmy Stewart in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, but in function it's a filibuster -- the issue is blocked.

So the election this fall is all about 60. The Dems want to get closer to 60, and the Republicans --who would like to take the majority back (in their dreams) -- at the very least want to keep the Dems as far away from 60 as possible. This is going to be a tall order. Here's why. There are 35 Senate seats up in November. Usually there are 33, but this time around there are two special elections. The first is in Mississippi in response to the happy retirement of Sen. Trent Lott (R-MS) in late December 2007, who seems to have resigned just in time to ensure he only has to wait out the revolving door prohibiting lobbying by former members of Congress for one year -- instead of the newly required two years he'd have faced starting Jan. 1, 2008. The second special is set for Wyoming, and the much less timely passing of Sen. Craig Thomas (R-WY) this past June, may he rest in peace. Anyway, of the 35 seats up, the Republicans have 23 seats to defend -- which will take a lot more money in an environment where its been tough to come by (being in the minority sucks, doesn't it guys?). To make the picture even more bleak for the Republicans, several senior senators have decided to call it quits -- seats that would likely have been surefire holds that are now in danger of going blue. Either way, the Republicans will have to spend money defending seats they hadn't counted on.

The Senate -- and the country -- are losing statesmen like Sens. John Warner (R-VA) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE), as well as old bulls like Sens. Pete Domenici (R-NM) and Wayne Allard (R-CO). Sen. Larry Craig (R-ID) is also supposed to be calling it quits, but that's another blog. All but the Idaho seat are in serious play for the Dems, and the Dems also have no retirements to worry about and fewer seats to defend. Hey, girls CAN do math and I can see the negatives here. And this equation doesn't even factor in other tight races where moderate Republicans like Sens. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) are sweating bullets, or where red-type guys who never should have won a blue state in the first place are running scared -- like Sen. Norm Coleman (R-MN).

So anyway, the Dems have a good shot at getting closer to 60... they won't likely hit the magic number, but they could get close enough that life could get a lot better for Majority Leader Reid and all the rest of us, especially if a Dem manages not to self destruct and takes the White House. This would be a welcome change, so the Senate would hopefully stop being the great black hole where all good bills go to die.

Angry Crier or Next President?

This past week, pundits have been all atwitter about Hillary's so-called humanizing moment -- when she got all verklempt when asked about the rigors of the campaign. The next day, the press and all of punditdom proceeded to herald far and wide that Hillary had "cried" and seemed to think it was the last nail in her political coffin. Although I am not personally a Hillary supporter this primary season, I was more than a little chagrined at the unholy glee with which Hillary's apparent demise was reported, and how her emotion had been portrayed as a weakness -- especially since I hadn't seen any tears fall in the multiple replays I saw; to me she just seemed choked up -- a big difference. (I should note that I was up in New Hampshire the weekend before the primary, just before the "big cry," and the talk in the pub at the Radisson -- where all the media was staying -- was all about the end of the Clinton dynasty, whispered with a lot of relish.)

After Hillary's no-tissue moment, most news outlets, CNN and MSNBC included, kept cutting from the "crying" clip to the "angry" clip from the New Hampshire debate, where she defended her record on this year's must have political accessory -- CHANGE. So, throughout the day, the media narrative about Hillary was that she was an angry crier whose campaign was in disarray, whose donors were in revolt, and who was going to get her political hat handed to her in New Hampshire.

Then, Tuesday came and went and -- low and behold -- Hillary not only won, but she cleaned up on the women's vote, the group that largely seemed to desert her in Iowa. Did women appreciate Hillary's brush with emotional depth? Or did they just decide that another woman candidate was not going down to defeat on their watch because of a little tear duct exercise (hello, Pat Schroeder). It's probably hard to tell... there are reports of women waking up, looking in the mirror and pretty much saying, "what the hell am I thinking, voting against the first viable woman in history? Am I smoking crack?" or something to that effect. The big question will be, if the New Hampshire vote was largely a defense of Hillary -- rather than an outright support of her candidacy -- will that be enough to carry her to nomination? And, if women truly decided to vote their DNA, will the Obama and Edwards campaigns get on the stick and actually start paying attention to women voters? And will the Clinton campaign finally realize that they shouldn't take women for granted and need to earn their votes just like any other group? It should be interesting -- and is a critical question given that the gender gap is alive and well in American politics, and that women will likely chose the next president. Stay tuned.