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The Nation

January 8, 2008
Katha Pollitt
Katha Pollitt

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.

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January 7, 2008
Katrina vanden Heuvel

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.

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January 7, 2008
Ari Berman
Ari Berman

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:

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The Notion
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January 7, 2008
John Nichols
John Nichols

MANCHESTER, NH -- Anyone who has seen the trilogy of "Lord of the Rings" films knows that Aragorn is up for a daunting battle. And so it should probably come as no surprise that the actor who played the king has thrown himself into the New Hampshire primary battle at the side of a candidate who faces a test that is the equivalent of Mr. Frodo's journey up Mount Doom in Mordor.

Film star Viggo Mortensen was so angered over the exclusion of Ohio Congressman Dennis Kucinich from the last Democratic presidential debate before Tuesday's first-in-the-nation primary that he jumped on a red eye flight from the west coast to not just endorse the anti-war Democrat who has proposed impeaching Vice President Dick Cheney but to campaign on Sunday with Kucinich in Concord and Manchester.

"When a television network has the power to decide which candidates are 'worthy' of addressing the American people, it robs the American people of their most precious right to the free flow of information and dissenting points of view," said Mortensen, a deeply political man who used the forums he was given during the "The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" publicity tour to oppose the rush to war with Iraq. "I am an actor, but I am also a citizen and a voter who resents the control that big money, big media, and entrenched political interests have in deciding what I should see, what I should hear, and what I should be allowed to think."

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January 6, 2008
Katha Pollitt
Katha Pollitt

The election is almost a year away, and already it's come down to branding. In Saturday night's Democratic debate the candidates discussed in considerable detail muclear terrorism, health care, carbon emissions and other substantive issues. But what really got them excited were the vague competing mantras of "change" and ‘experience." Obama says he stands for change. Edwards, siding with Obama against Clinton for some strategic reason too subtle for me to understand, says he stands for change too. Hillary Clinton, who casts herself as the candidate of experience but actually uttered the word "change" more often than the other candidates, dismissed her rivals as fancy talkers. She said she has 35 years of experience ( which means she's counting everything she's done since getting out of law school) and knows how to make change happen. She points out, quite correctly, that electing a woman president would be a very big change, but nobody seemed too interested in that. After all, electing a black president would be a big change too.

Hillary Clinton was fiery and funny and bore no resemblance to the candidate relentless attacked in the media as rigid, incompetent, Machiavellian and screechy. You can understand her obvious frustration with the ongoing lovefest for Obama: At one point she even compared his "likeability' to that of George W. Bush. In real life, Obama has made the same sort of compromises she herself has made. As she pointed out, he said he'd vote against the Patriot Act, and then he voted for it. He casts himself as the candidate who'd repair our bellicose relations with the world, and then talks about bombing Pakistan. He talks about putting Republicans in his cabinet, as Bill Clinton did. His health-care plan, as Paul Krugman points out every day on the New York Times op-ed page, is weaker than Clinton's or Edwards'. I'm sure Hillary Clinton must be wondering what the difference is between "triangulation" and Obama's calls for unity.

Somehow Hillary Clinton is stuck as the candidate who simultaneously represents excessive compromise and excessive partisanship. For various reasons, John Edwards, who actually represents the most substantive hope for change, seems in some ways a throwback to the old-fashioned class-based politics of the 1930s. Poor Richardson, who actually has the most experience of any candidate in either party, can't get any traction at all. Obama, the black candidate who never mentions his race, gets to smile his mile-wide smile and be a rock star. Somehow he has made himself a great big humongous hope object. People can project on him what they want him to be.

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January 6, 2008
John Nichols
John Nichols

Most of the people who made Barack Obama the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination – a status that new polls suggest will be confirmed when New Hampshire voters go to the polls Tuesday – flew out of Iowa with the candidate on caucus night.

But the man who was most responsible for the win – aside, perhaps, from the candidate himself – did not make the trip.

John Norris, the old Iowa political hand who was an early and essential adviser to the Obama campaign in the first-caucus state, was back to practicing law and chairing the Iowa Utilities Board.

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January 4, 2008
Katrina vanden Heuvel

Barack Obama's stirring victory in Iowa was also a good night for our democracy. The turnout broke records and young people – who were mobilized and organized – participated in unprecedented numbers. And now that Iowans have spoken – the first citizens in the nation to do so – here's the Democratic delegate count for the top three candidates (2,025 delegates are needed to secure the nomination):

Clinton – 169

Obama – 66

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January 4, 2008
Peter Rothberg
Peter Rothberg

The outsize importance of the entirely unrepresentative state of Iowa in the US presidential selection process casts America as tractor pulls, county fairs, town halls and truck stops.

Yet more than 80 percent of Americans live in cities and densely-packed suburbs. The crazy primary process seems to totally stiff big cities which makes it much easier for the candidates and the media to neglect the question of a federal urban agenda. A strong federal/metropolitan relationship is arguably more important than its ever been in the wake of the Bush administration's total abdication of responsibility for urban America. But what would a progressive, proactive urban agenda look like?

A new collaborative video project between The Nation and the Drum Major Institute asks the people who know our cities best: America's mayors. In ten punchy video interviews, the mayors of Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Buffalo, Denver, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, Rochester and Salt Lake City offer their prescriptions for a reinvigorated urban agenda.

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January 4, 2008
John Nichols
John Nichols

DUBUQUE – As they left Dubuque County Precinct 19's Democratic presidential caucus, supporters of Illinois Senator Barack Obama grabbed up campaign signs they had placed a few hours earlier outside downtown Dubuque's Carnegie-Stout Library.

"We'll need these in November," they shouted with delight, expressing the confidence that comes with having just written a new narrative for the 2008 presidential race.

The polls going into Thursday night's Iowa caucuses showed Obama leading New York Senator Hillary Clinton, the national frontrunner, and former North Carolina Senator John Edwards, who at one time was the Iowa front-runner. But his backers, most of them young and many first-time caucus participants, were not quite ready to believe it when they showed up to caucus at the library on Dubuque's Bluff Street.

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