Ari Berman is a senior contributing writer for The Nation magazine and a Fellow at The Nation Institute. His new book, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in America, was 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)
Post-primary update: I was wrong about Hillary. As Bill might say, we all make mistakes.
Salem, NH--Something happened to Hillary Clinton between Iowa and New Hampshire: she lost her message. In the final weeks of Iowa, Clinton focused almost exclusively on her record of experience and time in Washington, cloaking herself in the legacy of the 1990s and the shadow of Bill's presidency.
Experience is still virtually the only rationale for her candidacy, particularly the claim that she is the only Democrat prepared to be president on "day one"--a phrase she repeats over and over on the trail. But, in the wake of Iowa, Clinton seems dazed that voters want a fresh start. "I don't know when experience became some sort of liability in running for the highest office in the land," Clinton said last night in Salem. Maybe it's when your time in Washington is symbolized by a vote for an unpopular war, ties to big corporations and a soap opera presidency. Judging from the results in Iowa and the buzz on the ground in New Hampshire, most Democrats think Bill was a good president and Hillary is an able and astute senator, but they are ready for something different and new.
For weeks the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), the largest union in the AFL-CIO, has been relentlessly criticizing Barack Obama's healthcare plan on behalf of their favored candidate, Hillary Clinton. AFSCME President Gerald McEntee has long been a controversial figure in the union movement because of his exceptionally close ties to the Clintons. But conventional wisdom said the union would boost Clinton, especially in Iowa.
Following the Iowa caucus, members of AFSCME's executive board had seen enough, taking the unprecedented step of rebuking McEntee's anti-Obama strategy in a letter to the union chief. "We are writing to protest in the strongest terms the negative campaign that AFSCME is conducting against Barack Obama," the letter states. "We do not believe that such a wholesale assault on one of the great friends of our union was ever contemplated when the International Executive Board (IEB) made its decision to endorse Hillary Clinton."
The letter continues:
The Los Angeles Times ran an eyebrow-raising story this morning about how Hillary Clinton is raising money from a highly unlikely source: New York's Chinatown.
"Dishwashers, waiters and others whose jobs and dilapidated home addresses seem to make them unpromising targets for political fundraisers are pouring $1,000 and $2,000 contributions into Clinton's campaign treasury," the paper reports. "In April, a single fundraiser in an area long known for its gritty urban poverty yielded a whopping $380,000."
According to the article, powerful Chinese neighborhood associations pushed residents to donate to the Clinton camp. The source of many of these donations remains a mystery.
Listen up. Can you hear the drums beating for a third war?
The neocons are in a bubbling rage over Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's visit to Columbia University. The pro-surge propagandists at Freedom Watch labeled the Iranian leader a "terrorist" in--of all places--a New York Times ad. Neocon godfather, Giuliani advisor and "World War IV" author Norman Podharetz went to the White House recently to urge President Bush to bomb Iran's nuclear facilities.
And now Senators Jon Kyl and Joe Lieberman, who's already advocated attacking the country, are introducing a sense of the Senate resolution, possibly up for a vote today, that accuses Iran of fighting "a proxy war against the Iraqi state and coalition forces in Iraq." [SEE UPDATE AT END]
Late last month, the US Air Force transported a dozen cruise missiles from Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota to Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. The cargo, unbeknownst to the crew, included six nuclear warheads, with the power to destory 60 Hiroshimas. As they were moved across the country, the nukes went undetected for 36 hours. In an explosive front page story today, the Washington Post asks the question: "How Could It Have Happened?"
"It was the first known flight by a nuclear-armed bomber over US airspace, without special high-level authorization, in nearly 40 years," Post reporters Walter Pincus and Joby Warrick write. A high-ranking former Air Force official called it "one of the biggest mistakes in [Air Force] history."
The B-52 plane carrying the nukes sat on the tarmac in North Dakota for 15 hours with only minimal security protection. It was not authorized to transport such weapons. The episode, the Post writes, "may not have been a fluke but a symptom of deeper problems in the handling of nuclear weapons now that Cold War anxieties have abated." The military's post-Cold War nuclear safeguard system is described as "utterly debased."