Ari Berman is a contributing writer for The Nation magazine and an Investigative Journalism Fellow at The Nation Institute. His new book, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, will be published in August 2015 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He has written extensively about American politics, civil rights, and the intersection of money and politics. His stories have also appeared in The New York Times, Rolling Stone, and The Guardian, and he is a frequent guest and commentator on MSNBC and NPR. His first book, Herding Donkeys: The Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and Reshape American Politics, was published in 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. (Photo by Ports Bishop)
In January 2004 in Iowa, an infamous murder-suicide took place. No, not a real one. This was of the political variety. In the final days of the Iowa caucus, Dick Gephardt launched a series of attack ads against Howard Dean. Dean--supposedly still the front-runner--responded in kind. The candidates finished a distant third and fourth. There is some truth and some myth to this theory, but the tale lives on.
Much the same thing happened in Virginia last night. From the get-go, Terry McAuliffe and Brian Moran viewed each other as their biggest obstacles to winning the Democratic primary for governor. In debates, radio ads and TV spots, Moran portrayed McAuliffe as a crony capitalist carpetbagger who vociferously campaigned against Barack Obama. McAuliffe tagged Moran as a hot-headed Richmond insider in the pocket of defense contractors and called his political consultant, Joe Trippi (long rivals from the Dean days), "an ass." McAuliffe claimed he was joking but neither Moran nor Trippi were much amused. The contest seemed oddly personal. The video below gives you a good example of the frequent absurdity of the race.
The Democratic primary for governor of Virginia, which takes place on June 9, has been a pretty nasty affair from Day One. At a February fundraising dinner, Democratic candidates Creigh Deeds, Brian Moran, Terry McAuliffe and Republican nominee Bob McDonnell (the current Attorney General) came together for an ostensibly friendly roast.
After telling a joke about Deeds' donkey, Truman, McAuliffe referred to Brian Moran's media consultant, Joe Trippi, as an "ass." He said Trippi had come up to him at The Palm one day and offered to help with his race. "I said to him, 'You really want to help me? That's what you want to do? You want to help me, Joe? Great. Go work for Brian and go do for him what you did for President Dean and President Edwards."
From the audience Moran yelled, "How's President Hillary Clinton?"
It's bad enough that Mike Bloomberg jerry-rigged a third term for himself via the hapless city council--a maneuver not even Rudy Giuliani could pull off after 9/11--and has already spent $19 million in the middle of a recession on an re-election campaign where he's facing only nominal resistance from city comptroller Bill Thompson.
But now anybody who has the audacity to question the mayor's decision to handicap democracy is called a "disgrace." That's what happened to the New York Observer's Azi Paybarah at a press conference in Queens yesterday. Bloomberg mentioned how the New York economy was improving, which prompted Paybarah to ask Bloomberg if such a turnaround undermined his supposed rationale for running for mayor again--that only Bloomberg could handle the city's finances during an economic calamity. Watch the response:
On the heels of Elizabeth Edwards' revelation in her new book that she wanted her husband to drop out of the race for the presidency after having an affair with videographer Rielle Hunter, George Stephanopoulos reported on Sunday that Edwards staffers had convened a strategy to "sabotage his campaign" if he won the Democratic nomination.
Onetime Edwards strategist Joe Trippi has since responded to that report, calling it "complete bullshit."
Trippi told CNN: "No one that I know had such a plan, I wasn't involved in a plan like that, it didn't exist, it's a fantasy."
The Bush Administration continues to aggressively push its Wall Street bailout plan on Congress, where it's reaching a surprising amount of resistance. Congressional Leaders in the House and Senate are still trying to cut a deal with Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, but the bailout seems to be getting more unpopular by the day with rank-and-file members of Congress from both parties.
Democrats are unhappy because the bailout favors Wall Street over Main Street. Republicans are unhappy about the $700 billion cost and expansion of "big government."
Matt Stoller of Open Left has been doing an excellent job of monitoring how members of Congress are reacting. Here's a great clip from Ohio Democratic Representative Marcy Kaptur:
Gary Hart was a groomsman at John McCain's wedding to Cindy Lou Hensley, so he knows a thing or two about the Arizona Senator.
On the day of Sarah Palin's visit to Colorado, Hart--who represented the Centennial State in the Senate for twelve years--had a message for Palin and McCain: now is not the time for political ignorance to be rewarded.
"It's more than a little concerning that one of four people who may take up the highest national office is unwilling to engage in any serious questions or real discussion," Hart said on a conference call organized by the group ProgressNow. "I hope that this attention she is getting now is a bubble of sorts. Given the financial markets and what has happened just this weekend, stakes are even higher than they were 72 hours ago. This is not just another national election."