At a time when we're entering a recession (it's official says Goldman Sachs), and many Americans are having a hard time paying their bills, is it that surprising that the FBI is a deadbeat when it comes to paying its phone bills on time?
According to the Washington Post's Dan Eggen, audit results released today found that "telephone companies have repeatedly cut off FBI wiretaps of alleged terrorists and criminal suspects because of failures to pay telecommunication bills, including one invoice for $66,000 at one unidentified field office....The report by the Justice Department's Inspector General Glenn Fine also identified one case in which an order obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was halted because of 'untimely payment.'"
According to Fine, "late payments have resulted in telecommunications carriers actually disconnecting phone lines established to deliver surveillance results to the FBI, resulting in lost evidence."
The IG's report also detailed the FBI's chronic failure to account for hundreds of guns and laptop computers--likely to have had sensitive intelligence or personal data.
This surreal story was brought to my attention Thursday afternoon, soon after it was posted on the Washington Post's website, by a gleeful Carl Bernstein--a reporter who knows a little something about FBI wiretapping and incompetence in another Republican Administration.
It's also a sign of how profit trumps all for these telecom companies--the same ones that the Bush Administration and too many Dems are too eager to give immunity to.
If there's any justice, common sense or legal accountability left in our system, this revelation will halt any attempt to upend the 1978 foreign wiretap law that would grant telecom firms immunity from lawsuits for assisting the FBI and other government agencies conduct secret surveillance.
Instead, let's demand that telecoms be sent a big citizen's bill --with interest-- so we can get some good money for real watchdog groups (in congress and outside) who will monitor the FBI and the companies to ensure they stop bilking citizens of real security and money!
What really happened in New Hampshire? First--forget what the polls say if youwant to know what happens next. Forget the establishment media, too.
For now, the race is wide open. And that's a good thing. (Though, ifwe'd really bust open our money-drenched, front-loaded system, we'dreally see elections of, by and for the people. But that's for theemerging pro-democracy movement, allied with sane citizens of allpolitical stripes, to fight for next round.)
For now, candidates will be tested instead of crowned. And that gives ustime to push from outside to define and sharpen candidates' stance onissues we care about as progressives. From a sane and humane immigrationpolicy as we go to Nevada, a more populist jobs and economics program aswe head into recession, and a sharper end-the-war strategy to stop the"strategic drift."
I'm still left with questions about how Hillary pulled offa win against Obama on Tuesday night--and what that means heading intoNevada's caucuses, South Carolina's primary and the tsunamiof 22 primaries and caucuses on February 5.
Why Hillary Won
1. Home court advantage: Clinton is well known in the Granite State; neither Edwards nor Obama much history there.
2. The women's vote: Women over 40, single women came home to Hillary, by a margin of 57 percent. Was it in response to the misty-eyed "human" moment in the coffee shop? Or in response to her more fiery, human and impassioned performance in Saturday's Manchester debate? Did Obama's peevish aside--"You're likable enough, Hillary"--resonate more than we understood at time? (Exit polls show that about half of those who voted said the debates were very important in their vote; Hillary won among these voters by a 40-32 margin. Among those who didn't think debate was very important, Hillary and Obama tied.) The heavily funded and super-organized field operations of Emily's List's paid off here after floundering in Iowa.
3. Registered Democrats support her bigtime: This augurs badly for Obamain those primaries which are closed to independents. And if moreindependents went to McCain, could that explain Obama's showing evenmore than what some call "The Bradley Effect"?
4. Boomers and older voters: The age slant of voting suggests boomers are resisting being pushed offstage. Andrew Sullivan may have underestimated the investment boomers have in their battles. They're not going to give it up just yet to the whippersnappers.
Dangers for Hillary
1. Bill was on the field and she made a comeback: Ergo, she'll keep Bill on the field. But as a boomer woman, I think her husband hurts her more than he helps.Hillary needs to make a forceful case for why voting for her--the firstwoman president--is about making history. Bill undermines that message,making her candidacy a referendum on his presidency, fueling the idea thatshe's completing a restoration, paternalizing and belittling the "little woman."
Hillary's candidacy is at risk, as Slate's Emily Yofferecently pointed out, because it begins to look less like a gender breakthroughand more like a gender throwback. And he always ends up making himself the story.
2. She can't fire Bill, but she can fire Mark Penn: Penn's strategy andmessage peddles cynicism against hope, and as head of the lobbying formBurson-Marsteller embodies the lobbying corruption and corporatestranglehold Americans asssociate with the beltway status quo.
3. Hillary gains when she's picked on: This dynamic played out duringimpeachment madness, and was theme of first Senate race. Women--with some notable media exceptions, like Maureen Dowd--rally to herwhen she's treated badly. No question that the media has adouble standard when it comes to women and tears in public life.But is this going to be how we want to reframe the powerful andmobilizing idea, "the personal is political" ? And is victimhood aneffective argument for her campaign? I think it will wear out its effect.
4. Why, exactly, is she running? To say, "This ispersonal to me. I have so many things I want to do," doesn't really explain it. She needs to throw out Mark Penn and the pollsters, exile Bill to a few choice spots, and lay out a big case about what she wants to do over the next four years, not what she's done for the past three decades.
MANCHESTER, NH – New Hampshire has rewritten a script that called for settling the Democratic and Republican presidential nomination contests by February 5 at the latest.
The state that on the eve of its first-in-the-nation primary was supposed to settle some things has stirred everything up. Instead of sending Illinois Senator Barack Obama on his way to the Democratic nomination or giving former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney a New England-neighbor boost on the way to the Republican nod, New Hampshire has declared the race for the presidency to be wide open.
Obama gave his planned "new American majority" speech on primary night. But he delivered it not as a victory speech; rather, it came in the context of a concession to Clinton, who prevailed by a narrow but for her absolutely redeeming 39-36 margin.
The Clinton win was the stunner of the night, upsetting pollster and pundit predictions -- and proving that getting a little choaked up, as the New York senator did on the eve of the primary, can do more than a thousand soft-focus TV ads to make voters rethink their impressions of her. The McCain win was anticipated by the pre-primary polls that failed so miserably when it came to predicting the Democratic race, but it has the same effect as Clinton's victory.
"There is not going to be any premature coronation," declared New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson, a Democratic contender who may not have won the contest but delivered the truest line of a roller-coaster night: "This race is going on and on and on."
To February 5 and perhaps beyond that day.
Of course, the candidates of both parties will follow a long campaign trail between now and then. They will compete in Nevada's January 19 caucuses, South Carolina's January 19 Republican and January 26 Democratic primaries, and probably in Florida's January 29 primaries.
Then they will go at it on February 5 in a score of states – including Clinton's New York, Obama's Illinois, Richardson's New Mexico, McCain's Arizona, Romney's Massachusetts, Mike Huckabee's Arkansas and Fred Thompson's Tennessee -- that will engage in the "tsunami Tuesday" voting that was supposed to settle both contests. But if this race that has not gone according to plan keeps producing unexpected and conflicting results, it is not unreasonable to imagine mixed February 5 results that could send the competition into states that were never supposed to matter: states like Wisconsin (February 19), Ohio and Vermont (March 4), Pennsylvania (April 22) and Oregon (May 20).
Whether the campaign gets to Ohio or Oregon remains to be seen, of course.
But one thing is certain: New Hampshire is over.
The exodus from the first primary state began almost as soon as the close Democratic contest was finally called for the woman who was not supposed to have a chance.
Clinton left in triumph, but also with a newly-populist message that acknowledged her determination to bid for the 25-percent of the vote that went to third-, fourth- and fifth-place finishers John Edwards, Bill Richardson and Dennis Kucinich.
"We are in it for the long run," she declared.
But she is running now as a different kind of candidate. In thanking New Hampshire, she declared, "In the past week I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice."
That makes two candidates who have found their voices over the past week.
Obama, it should be noted, found his in Iowa.
He didn't lose it in New Hampshire. But he did lose – not just the vote but the expectations game.
So Barack Obama leaves New Hampshire having been the "Barack star" of the Democratic race but not quite as the "Barack star."
John Edwards is searching for a state where his brand of populism is popular.
John McCain wishes he could keep running in a state where independent voters have given him wins in both his presidential runs.
Mitt Romney is excited to be headed for states with closed primaries and caucuses where he can just concentrate on appeals to the conservative base.
Mike Huckabee is on the hunt for more evangelical voters.
Rudy Giuliani is looking for someplace to win.
Ron Paul is just having a great time, and continuing to confuse pundits and frighten insiders.
And they all might make it to the Badger state or the Green Mountain state or the Buckeye state.
That's a new notion. But this is a new race.
Two months ago, Clinton and Romney were the safe bets to win Iowa, New Hampshire and their respective nominations.
One month ago, Clinton and Romney were solid bets.
One week ago, Obama and Huckabee were looking like fair bets.
Today, all bets are off. And that means that, when you ask the candidates if they expect to be competing in the Wisconsin and Vermont Democratic and Republican presidential contests, they will say "you bet."
Indeed, making it to Madison and Burlington would be a triumph for any campaign. That's because Wisconsin and Vermont chose not to join the rush to "frontload" the primary process. As such, they offer the promise of a longer, more nuanced and more meaningful competition,
Most states moved their caucuses and primaries up to dates in January or early February to capture the spotlight in the first presidential contest since 1928 when neither the president nor vice president even toyed with the idea of making a bid for one of the party nomination.
It was always certain that 2008 was going to see competitive races for both party nominations.
It was never certain that the competition would play out in Ohio or Oregon.
But something has changed.
With the supposedly definitional Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primaries done:
On the Democratic side, there are now candidates – Obama and Clinton -- who can compete in all 50 states and potentially win the nomination, and a third – Edwards -- who can continue to compete in at least some of the states and to be ready to step in if another runner stumbles.
On the Republican side, there are now four candidates – Romney, McCain, Giuliani and Huckabee – who can spin a scenario that might take them to the nomination, and a fifth candidate – Ron Paul – who can continue to annoy the competitors with exceptionally well-financed rebel yell of a campaign.
Whether any or all of them will be competing in Pennsylvania or Ohio will be decided between now and February 5. But, after last night, there is every reason to believe that February 19, March 4 and even May 20 could be a definitional dates on the new 2008 campaign calendar.
Hillary Clinton has eked out a crucial win in New Hampshire, a state her aides have long staked out as the "firewall" in her quest for the Democratic nomination. At roughly three points, the margin of victory is far smaller than her lead in state polls over the past 11 months, which often topped 20 points. But Clinton's success will surely help stabilize her presidential campaign, which was rocked by infighting since her loss in Iowa. Rumors of a major staff shakeup had percolated for days: Campaign Co-Chair Terry McAuliffe already annouced that the campaign would "bring in more people to help," while James Carville and Paul Begala spent the primary day denying rumors they were taking over. On Tuesday afternoon, a Democratic source told The Nation that Team Hillary was still debating whether to hand the reins over to Steve Richetti, who served as President Clinton's Deputy Chief of Staff – the strategic post that Karl Rove made famous.
Yet Clinton cleared away the doubts and struck an inspiring note in her victory speech, telling New Hampshire voters, "I listened to you, and in the process I found my own voice. I felt like we all spoke from our hearts and I am so gratified that you responded!" She was met with roaring applause. Clinton likened the narrow victory to her husband's famous "comeback" in 1992, when he battled back to a surprising second place finish in New Hampshire. Then she offered a much more important parallel, vowing to give America the "kind of comeback" that New Hampshire just gave her.
The Clintons shared another political asset in New Hampshire, though farther offstage. Michael Whouley, the most respected field strategist in Democratic politics, was dispatched to overhaul the mobilization program in the state. Clinton aides had debated whether to deploy him in Iowa, where he had helped engineer John Kerry's huge comeback in 2004, or task him with fortifying the famous "firewall." Some feared that his efforts would simply be wasted in New Hampshire if Clinton lost Iowa, but the "Plan B" advocates won, and now they look pretty shrewd.
Obama took the narrow loss in stride, congratulating Clinton and delivering a dignified iteration of his stump speech. Reminding voters that he was "far behind" for "most of this campaign," Obama repeated his call for a bipartisan "new majority who can lead this nation out of a long political darkness." He did not shy away from reiterating his contrasts with Clinton, claiming the mantle of a different, bolder campaign that is "not just about what I will do as president -- it is also about what you, the people who love this country, the citizens of this country, can do to change it. That's what this election is all about!"
If the boisterous beginning of this presidential campaign proves anything – and elections still do officially start with voting – it's the empirical fact that a year of polls and predictions were flat wrong. Clinton was not an inevitable frontrunner, as her chastened aides now rush to emphasize; "cash on hand" is not even a rough predictor of political viability, as Mike Huckabee and John McCain are celebrating; polling remains unreliable, as every candidate says when the "second tier" comes calling; and while Iowa is powerfully pivotal, even the sum total of its caucus wisdom cannot dictate democracy in other states.
So Obama can only take cautious solace from his strong position in the next two states. I'm not talking about polls, of course -- especially since Nevada's tiny caucus electorate is inscrutable to surveys (its 9,000 attendees were 1% of the voting population last cycle) -- but rather his political and organizational footing. Obama will receive the endorsement of Nevada's most influential union, the Culinary Workers, and Iowa demonstrated his organization's prowess in a caucus state. His aides have also built a strong network in South Carolina, the first primary with a significant black population. Meanwhile, John Edwards could reemerge with a strong finish in his birth-state of South Carolina, which he won in 2004. Clinton has no clear foothold in either state; this week her aides debated whether to surrender both and focus on regrouping for Super Tuesday. But even after winning New Hampshire, ceding two weeks to a delegate fight between Obama and Edwards would be dicey, potentially undermining claims that she is a fighter with national appeal. (Democrats want a nominee who can compete everywhere, including pivotal southwestern swing states like Nevada, which reelected Bush by a scant 21,000 votes.) Yet if Clinton competes and loses both states, she would be heading into Super Tuesday on two weeks of losses. That's a tough slog either way, but then again, she'll have more than five days to turn things around.
How do the presidential candidates compare on green issues? The online environmental magazine Grist has created a very useful chart that neatly compares the candidates' environmental records and rhetoric.
As New Hampshire voters stream into polling places in large numbers today to select candidates in the state's first-in-the-nation , the contenders vied for support from the undecided and worked to turn out their respective bases. For those environmentally-concerned citizens still undecided, it's worth checking out Grist's voter guide for insight into how the candidates plans to save the earth may differ.
Grist also teamed up with Outside magazine to interview the presidential contenders about green issues. Read Q&As with all of the Democrats and with the three Republicans (John McCain, Mike Huckabee and Ron Paul) who consented to an interview focusing on their eco-credentials and check out Grist's campaign 08 resources.
PORTSMOUTH, NH -- The first questions every observer will ask when NewHampshire polling places close their doors around 8 tonight and clerkstabulate the results of the Democratic and Republican presidentialprimaries will be the essential inquiries: Who won and by how much?
In a media age when even the most complicated stories are reduced tosimple headlines, the news of a Barack Obama landslide on the Democraticside or a John McCain win on the Republican side will dominate earlyreports from the state.
But the real story from New Hampshire will be more nuanced and, perhaps,significant than the identification of a pair of winners and a lot oflosers.
Here are some questions that voters and viewers can ask as the returnsare reported:
Will the frontrunners finish first, and by how much?
How a candidate fares in the expectations game may matter more than the actual results.Pre-primary polls predicted a big Obama win, while McCain was expectedto prevail in a closer race on the Republican side. If Obama's margin ofvictory over New York Senator Hillary Clinton is narrow, it may be readas something of a stumble for him and a comeback for Clinton. IfClinton were to win the Democratic primary, she would enjoy a monumental"Dewey Defeats Truman" moment--while Obama would be devastated.Similarly, if former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney were to overtakeMcCain on the GOP side, it would be a hugely important win for Romneyover a foe who was at the close of the contest portrayed as very nearlyunbeatable.
Will McCain win the way he did in 2000?
The Arizona senator is not merely competing with current expectations, but also with memories of ahistoric win in New Hampshire. Eight years ago, McCain prevailed with anear majority--49 percent--over four serious rivals. No one expectshim to win that sort of victory this year against an even more crowdedfield. But if he falls far short of his past mark, there will beinevitable speculation about McCain's declining appeal.
Who will New Hampshire voters recommend for vice president?
The Granite State's primary ballot allows not merely for presidential voting but for vice presidential voting. New Hampshire electors generally write in thenames of their favorite candidates, with a penchant toward makingpresidential contenders over as vice-presidential prospects. Often,voters write in the names of candidates of the other party. Thus, thevice presidential voting becomes a measure of the cross-party appeal ofpopular contenders.
Will Ron Paul beat a frontrunner again?
Libertarian Republican Paulfinished ahead of former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani in last week'sIowa caucuses, but Giuliani did not make much of an effort there. Not soNew Hampshire, where all the Republican candidates have waged campaigns.If Paul, an anti-war Texas congressman whose enthusiastic supportershave flooded the state, beats Giuliani, former Illinois Senator FredThompson or former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, then it will beharder for television networks to exclude him from debates--as theydid Sunday in New Hampshire.
Who drops out?
Republican Thompson seems to have had a hard timemaintaining interest in the race. Similarly, Democrat Bill Richardson isrunning far behind and waging a campaign that does not quite seem readyfor prime time. Particularly weak finishes in New Hampshire couldinspire both men to exit before they must spend more money and morecredibility on losing races--as did Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd andDelaware Senator Joe Biden after their out-of-the-running finishes inIowa. It is tougher to see Democrats Clinton or Edwards exiting afterfinishing behind in New Hampshire, though there has been speculationthat Edwards will have a hard time carrying on his populist campaign iffails to rival the popular support secured by Obama and Clinton. Thereis even a buzz about Clinton--who seemed to choke back tears during anemotional campaign appearance on the day before the primary. But that'sunlikely considering the large amount of money her campaign still has inthe bank and the fact that she continues to lead in many national polls.
Who gets fired?
If the Clinton campaign is to go forward, it will haveto be retooled. The candidate won't be fired and, frankly, she does nothave to change that much. She's actually been good on her feet in NewHampshire. (The whole "tearing-up" thing is a silly diversion. Everyserious candidate here is tired and, frankly, she's managing better thansome of her opponents.) Nor can "First-Man" Bill Clinton be ditched,although he is likely to be in more of a backseat role, as hiscontribution in New Hampshire has been negligible. So watch for campaignaides to be let go and new players--can anyone say "Carville"?--brought on board. It's the same with the Romney campaign on theRepublican side. There is going to need to be a "new Mitt" fast. Andthat's going to require new people taking places at the side of theformer frontrunner.
Who exits New Hampshire fastest and where do they go?
Candidates know that the best way to put a poor New Hampshire primary finish behind them is to shift attention elsewhere. After finishing second after adifficult 1992 Democratic presidential primary campaign in the state,Bill Clinton immediately declared himself "The Comeback Kid" and leftthe state before the night was done to campaign on friendlier turf inthe south. Former First Lady Clinton may tonight be similarly inclinedto get out of Manchester quick. If she loses badly, watch for her tohead for Michigan, a state where she is positioned to secure an easyprimary win next week over anti-war Democrat Dennis Kucinich. Similarly,Romney will be in a hurry to get elsewhere fast if he is badly beaten byMcCain--bet on Michigan, a state where his father served as governorand where aides say he may erect his "firewall." And watch for Huckabeeto head for South Carolina, which has an early primary and a lot moreevangelical voters than the Granite State.
Will Fox News Declare Mitt Romney a winner even if he loses?
The Republican-friendly network's taste for the favorites of the Republicanleadership in Washington has hardly been a secret. Even after mostanalysts said Romney took a beating in the Republican debate Foxproduced on Sunday--with all the leading candidates except Paul andCalifornia Congressman Duncan Hunter--Fox commentators were hailingthe former governor's "strong" performance.
What state is the next New Hampshire?
As the candidates disperse across the country, the race becomes less focused. Will Nevada, where the powerful Culinary Workers Union is expected to endorse Obama and perhaps tip the caucuses to the Illinois senator, be taken off thetable? Will Clinton try to play a race with Dennis Kucinich in Michigan--which most Democratic contenders skipped--as a serious contest?Will she risk embarrassment there at the hands of Kucinich? Will sheskip South Carolina and cede the state to Obama, whose support amongAfrican-American voters there is surging? Does she then target Florida'sJanuary 29 primary as her "firewall" fight? Do McCain and Romney decideto duke it out in Michigan? Do they give South Carolina to Huckabee? Inshort order, New Hampshire will be old news. Another state, or severalstates, will suddenly be "definitional," as what unsettled racescontinue for both party nominations.
Will more New Hampshire voters cast Democratic or Republican primary ballots?
New Hampshire voters can choose which primary in which to participate.Independents switch from one party to another. Historically, NewHampshire has been a Republican state. But it has been trendingDemocratic--electing a Democratic governor in 2002 and voting forDemocrat John Kerry for president in 2004. As recently as 2000, whenboth parties had seriously contested nomination contests, 236,802Republicans cast primary ballots while just 154,639 Democrats voted inthe state's first-in-the-nation primary. (Of those Democratic primaryvoters, more than 3,000 were cast as write-ins for McCain.) Ifsignificantly more voters participate in the Democratic primary thisyear--after dramatically more Democrats than Republicans caucused inIowa last week--it will be another indication that no matter whom theparty nominates Democratic fortunes are on the rise in 2008.
John Edwards just lost my vote. How dare he take cheap shots at Hillary Clinton for letting her eyes mist over (not "crying" as was widely reported) at a meeting with voters in Portsmouth NH earlier today? This is a man who has used his most private tragedies--his wife's cancer, his son's fatal accident -- in his campaign in a way that had a woman done the same she would surely be accused of "oprahfying' the lofty realm of politics. This is also the man who promoted himself early on as the real women's candidate, and who has repeatedly used his likeable wife to humanize his rather slick and one-dimensional persona. Today he deployed against Hillary the oldest, dumbest canard about women: they're too emotional to hold power. ABC's Political Radar blog reports:
"Edwards, speaking at a press availability in Laconia, New Hampshire, offered little sympathy and pounced on the opportunity to bring into question Clinton's ability to endure the stresses of the presidency. Edwards responded, 'I think what we need in a commander-in-chief is strength and resolve, and presidential campaigns are tough business, but being president of the United States is also tough business.'"
Ooh, right,we need a big strong manly finger on that nuclear button! Even if that finger has spent most it its life writing personal injury briefs in North Carolina, which, when you come to think of it, is not an obvious preparation for commander-in-chiefhood.
"When people say they don't want anyone's finger on the button who cries, I say I don't want anyone's finger there who doesn't cry," Pat Schroeder told me when we spoke by phone this afternoon. "Tears show someone is a human being." Schroeder ought to know. In 1987 she was viciously attacked for shedding a few tears while announcing her withdrawal from the presidential race. "Ronald Reagan used to tear up all the time," she said. " when John Sununu left the New Hampshire governorship to run Reagan's campaign he was crying so hard he couldn't finish his speech. Bush recently teared up. Dozens of male politicians cry. But when a man cries, he's applauded for having feelings. when a woman cries, she attacked as being weak."
Hillary Clinton, long criticized as cold, shows a bit of feeling and is attacked as overly emotional. It's the latest installment of the ongoing double bind in which if she wears a black pantsuit she's too masculine and if she wears a pink shell she's too feminine; if she's serious she's humorless and if she laughs she "cackles." (George Bush has a horrible heh-heh-heh laugh, Schroeder reminded me. But who, besides Jon Stewart, makes anything of it? ) When Hillary was First Lady she was attacked for being too involved in business of state; now, when she claims "experience" we're reminded that First Ladies are basically trivial. "I'm so sick about the way Hillary is treated I can hardly talk about it," Schroeder told me.
It's bad enough when the media goes after Hillary like a pack of addled lemmings. A few weeks ago it was her wrinkles -- would people vote for a visibly middle-aged woman? today it was her welling eyes. But Edwards is not some on-air airhead . He's supposed to represent "change," remember? You'd think he'd be more alert to sexist gender scripts, given that he's been dogged by accusations of effeminacy for (oh horrors) spending too much time and money on his hair.
I guess in his case metrosexuality only goes scalp deep, because today he sounded like quite the old-school bully boy.
Hillary Clinton has taken a beating in New Hampshire for tearing up in a conversation with a supporter.
In September, a House-approved bill granting 600,000 citizens in the District of Columbia a voting representative in Congress for the first time, fell just 3 votes shy of overcoming a Republican filibuster for an up or down vote in the Senate. Republican Sen. Orin Hatch declared that the tactic of filibustering against civil rights had been "resurrected" and DC Mayor Adrian Fenty observed that "not since segregation has the Senate blocked a voting rights bill."
DC Councilman David Catania was there when the vote went down and he decided to take action. As he told the Washington Post, "We've talked ourselves to death about this issue, but we need to take our show on the road and build allies."
Catania reached out to New Hampshire state Representative Cindy Rosenwald who serves with him on the National Legislative Association on Prescription Drug Prices(a group Catania spokesman Ben Young told me doesn't make them too popular with Inside-the-Beltway folks!). At Catania's urging, Rosenwald crafted a resolution for the New Hampshire legislature that Young said "expresses regret" that New Hampshire Senators John Sununu and Judd Gregg "voted to deny the District of Columbia the right to be represented in Congress." Young noted that once Rosenwald decided to proceed, voting rights advocacy organization DC Vote was instrumental in the effort.
"We've been in constant contact with Rep. Rosenwald and helped to prepare for Wednesday's hearing [on the bill]," DC Vote Executive Director Ilir Zherka told me. "We've also helped to promote the legislation to the media there and here in DC."
New Hampshire's House committee on state-federal relations will hear testimony on the resolution on Wednesday – the day after the primary – and witnesses will include Fenty, Catania, and Zherka. In all, the mayor, nine councilmen and the DC shadow (non-voting) congressional delegation will attend the hearing.
This is a smart and important effort spearheaded by Catania who has no short supply of courage and backbone. He's openly gay and was first elected to his at-large seat in 1997 as a Republican in heavily Democratic DC. He became an Independent in 2004 after speaking out against President Bush's proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage and then opposing his reelection.
Young said this is the very first time that DC's elected officials have left the city to push the voting rights issue. As Catania told the Post, "I want to cause these members of Congress who are voting against voting rights . . . to wonder, ‘What will this mean to me back home?'"
Indeed, Zherka said that New Hampshire is the "first leg of a multi-stop road trip" that will make sure constituents know which senators are standing in the way of voting rights for the citizens of the District. Over the next few months DC Vote will meet with media, coalition affiliates, students and others in Montana, Oregon, West Virginia and Kentucky.
"Rep. Rosenwald's bill supporting democracy for all Americans echoes the sentiments of many who have learned about DC's lack of voting representation," Zherka said. "New Hampshire is just one of many states DC Vote will visit to educate Americans about the disenfranchisement of the more than half a million District residents who pay taxes, serve on juries and fight in wars yet are denied a vote in Congress."
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:
We were therefore shocked and appalled to learn that our union-through "independent expenditures" is squandering precious resources to wage a costly and deceptive campaign to oppose Barack Obama. As Barack's standing in the polls has soared, according to numerous press reports AFSCME has spent untold dollars in Iowa and New Hampshire to send out mailings and run radio ads whose sole purpose is to undercut his candidacy. And now AFSCME has even registered a website with the explicit purpose of "opposing Barack Obama."
While we would not approve of attacks on any of the Democratic candidates in this race, all of whom have good relationships with our union, it is worth noting that AFSCME has chosen to attack only one of those candidates, Barack Obama.
It is also worth noting that the campaign that AFSCME is waging against Sen. Obama is fundamentally dishonest and inconsistent with past positions of our union, i.e. attacking him for not forcing individuals to purchase health care even when they can't afford it. The ads are misleading in attempting to give the impression that they are associated with John Edwards rather than Hillary Clinton and in their claims that Sen. Obama's health care plan will exclude 15 million people when infact every person will have the opportunity to participate. This dishonesty is giving our union a "black eye" among many in the media and the progressive community.
Funnily enough, when I interviewed McEntee back in the spring, he had nothing but nice things to say about Obama. He called the Illinois senator "lightning in a jar" and described how popular he was among the union's Illinois delegation. At AFSCME's national convention in Washington in June, it was Obama, rather than Hillary, who stole the show.
Thus far, Obama has gotten by with scant union support. Another victory in New Hampshire and that could change.