Monday, March 31, 2008

Superdelegate Update

NBC News provides a very helpful update on where the Superdelegate count lies:

We listed the Senate superdelegates endorsements earlier today. We've broken out the House backers as well, and Clinton leads 72-68. That means there are 92 House members who are undecided. Also of note among these House endorsers, 23 of Clinton's 72 are reps from New York (32%). By contrast, nine of Obama's House backers are from Illinois (13%).

Here's how Clinton's and Obama's superdelegate support breaks down:
Among senators: Obama 14-12
Among representatives: Clinton 72-68
Then, among party activists/former party leaders: Clinton leads 171-140
TOTAL: Clinton 255, Obama 222

There's that, and Bailing Hay

Last night, President Bush threw out the first pitch at new Nationals Park in Washington DC. He went up on the mound and threw a hard ball, a bit high. As ESPN's John Miller put it, "There have been many other presidents that have thrown out first pitches, but I don't know any who have done it better."

And it's true, Bush throws a mean opening pitch. As someone who has done it on a much smaller scale, I can attest that's no small feat. It's probably the thing he's best at, and brings back memories of the 2001 World Series, where his pitch at Yankee Stadium (with bullet proof vest on, from the mound, weeks after 9/11, and a 90% approval rating) was probably the highlight of his presidency.

Below is that 2001 video... you have to give it to him-- it was a strike. This video is pretty cool, even though it combines two of my most disliked things.

George Will on Politics & Baseball

On Opening Day, here's a cool piece ESPN showed last night before the Nationals/ Braves game. It features Washington Post columnist George Will, a man known for his intellect, conservatism and love for baseball. He draws parallels between America's two national pastimes: baseball and politics.

It's only a couple of minutes long and worth checking out.

As Mr. Will once said, "Baseball trivia is the ultimate oxymoron, because there's nothing trivial about baseball."

Friday, March 28, 2008

Quote of the Day 3/28: Me Too!

"David Wright. He does everything I like and he's very young."

- The Godfather of baseball statisticians, Bill James, after being asked on 60 Minutes who he would build his dream team around. He picked the Mets 3B without hesitation.

That most American of holidays, Opening Day, is almost upon us. In three days the games count for real, and my beloved Mets open the season against the Marlins in Miami, here's a brief preview of the NL East, courtesy of ESPN's Baseball Tonight and

Now back to your regular, political programming.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Mukasey Controversy at BC Law

The law school at Boston College, my old university, plans to have the attorney general speak at commencement ceremonies in May. What might have been a prestigious event has turned controversial. Students, faculty and alumni have banded together to draft a letter asking AG Michael Mukasey to reconsider his attendance.

At his confirmation hearings last year, Mukasey's position was that he did not believe water-boarding constituted torture, and would not prosecute those that authorized or implemented the practice against terror suspects.

The group believes that his position leaves him at odds with the University's Jesuit commitment to human rights.

Mukasey will not receive the law school's highest honor, the Founder's Medal, although Dean John Garvey said that decision predated the controversy. The Founder's Medal is given to those who "embody the traditions of professionalism, scholarship, and service which the Law School seeks to instill in its students."

This is similar to the uproar that surrounded Condoleezza Rice's commencement address to the undergraduate class of 2006 (of which SAM blogger CPC is a member). Many students turned their backs, and one professor even resigned.

As a donor to the university (I gave $15 just before graduating), my take is that, based on the criteria, Mukasey probably doesn't deserve the Founder's Medal, but the protest itself goes against the Jesuit principles of reflection and open discussion as much as Mukasey's position.

Debate on serious legal issues is what higher education is all about. As Garvey put it:

"It is a mark of prestige among elite schools to attract a speaker who operates at the epicenter of American legal issues, regardless of whether the speaker's political views are liberal, moderate, or conservative... Far from wishing the controversy would go away, I think we should rejoice in it."

Rolling Stone Magazine: A Political History

On their website, Rolling Stone has posted a slide show of political covers over their magazine's 40 years. Below is one of three covers that featured President Bill Clinton.

Growing Gobama Buzz

In his latest column for Time Magazine, old SAM Online favorite, Joe Klien, touches on what he admits is a very unlikely scenario.

That would be Barack Obama being unable to gain the support of working- class whites, and the emergence of a ticket led by Al Gore, with Obama (and his 1900 delegates) on the back end.

This would only happen if the Democrats were deadlocked, and neither Obama or Hillary Clinton were able to get the necessary 2025 delegates for the nomination.

As Klien notes- "Chances are, no one will hand [the nomination] to [Gore]. The Democratic Party would have to be monumentally desperate come June."

But also- "A prominent fund raiser told me, 'Gore-Obama is the ticket a lot of people wanted in the first place.'"

Debating Obama

Check out these two links.

A past Notre Dame poli sci professor, current Rutgers professor, my old boss, and a generally awesome guy, Alvin Tillery, Jr., debates fellow academic, Dorian Warren, on the Daily Voice. This discussion begins with Warren saying, "As a native and proud Chicagoan who is supportive yet also very critical of the senator, I have to ask you, why are you such a hater?"

Tillery responds: "I
think that Obama has run, up until the controversy with the Reverend Wright forced him to talk about race relations last week, using a neo-southern strategy. In other words, the vast majority of the signals that Obama sends through his campaign rhetoric seem crafted to soothe the psychic angst of white voters while offering black voters very little."

They raise a lot of interesting issues and add a great deal to the race discussion in America.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

First Lady gets the Hollywood Treatment

An update on the ongoing story of Oliver Stone's Bush bio-pic "W."-- as we noted in January, Stone cast Josh Brolin in the title role.

Now, he appears to have zeroed in on his Laura-- 40 Year Old Virgin hott Elizabeth Banks.

Come on, who's playing Karl Rove, Matthew McConaughey?

I'd have gone with someone like Laura Linney (who is currently playing another first lady), but I do really like Brolin as W. If this movie is even in the same ballpark as Nixon I'll be happy (and I'm confident it will be).

Happy Birthday, Matt

My younger brother Matthew turns 14 today, so here's a birthday shout-out to the only person I know who supported Mike Gravel for president.

If only...

Recently, Florida Congressman and uncommitted superdelegate Tim Mahoney told a local paper that if he headed to August's Denver Democratic National Convention without a nominee, things could get interesting: "If [that happens], don't be surprised if someone different is at the top of the ticket."

Someone, like Al Gore.

Mahoney suggested that Democrats could get behind either a Gore/ Clinton or Gore/ Obama ticket. From Gore's point of view, a Gore/ Obama scenario is far more likely as he doesn't get along with the Clintons well anymore, and seems to have more in common with Obama.

Okay, so this probably (definitely) isn't going to happen. But, it raises a good opportunity to talk about the person most qualified to be the next president-- the man that combines Hillary's experience (only not fabricated) and Obama's judgment (only more specific).

Gore is always the smartest person in the room, and he knows it-- and that's always been his biggest problem. Back in 2000, when he rolled his eyes every time George Bush attempted to answer a question, it was the genuine reaction of a guy a foot smarter than his opponent.

A couple of days ago, I posted the speech Barack Obama gave a week before the authorization to invade Iraq. Now, it's time to rehash Gore's. Their conclusions are identical, but the speeches, like the men themselves, are very different.

Where Obama's is short and to the point, Gore's is long and methodical. Obama's is soaring and inspiring, and almost poetic in its delivery. Gore is scientific as he breaks down, point by point, why the war is the wrong decision. It's like a law review article in his precision, perhaps one drafted by Holmes.

Quick reminder: the speech was given on Sept. 23, 2002. At the time President Bush's approval ratings were in the upper 60s, and Al Gore had yet to publicly criticize any move by the president since their divisive 2000 election.

It's long, so here's the link to the transcript, and below are some key excepts.

Contrasting the first Gulf War (which he vigorously supported) with the present proposed action:

... Fifth, President George H. W. Bush purposely waited until after the mid-term elections of 1990 to push for a vote at the beginning of the new Congress in January of 1991. President George W. Bush, by contrast, is pushing for a vote in this Congress immediately before the election. Rather than making efforts to dispel concern at home an abroad about the role of politics in the timing of his policy, the President is publicly taunting Democrats with the political consequences of a "no" vote - even as the Republican National Committee runs pre-packaged advertising based on the same theme -- in keeping with the political strategy clearly described in a White House aide's misplaced computer disk, which advised Republican operatives that their principal game plan for success in the election a few weeks away was to "focus on the war." Vice President Cheney, meanwhile indignantly described suggestions of political motivation "reprehensible." The following week he took his discussion of war strategy to the Rush Limbaugh show.

On preemptive war

By shifting from his early focus after September 11th on war against terrorism to war against Iraq, the President has manifestly disposed of the sympathy, good will and solidarity compiled by America and transformed it into a sense of deep misgiving and even hostility. In just one year, the President has somehow squandered the international outpouring of sympathy, goodwill and solidarity that followed the attacks of September 11th and converted it into anger and apprehension aimed much more at the United States than at the terrorist network - much as we manage to squander in one year's time the largest budget surpluses in history and convert them into massive fiscal deficits. He has compounded this by asserting a new doctrine - of preemption.

Iraq after invasion:

... Moreover, if we quickly succeed in a war against the weakened and depleted fourth rate military of Iraq and then quickly abandon that nation as President Bush has abandoned Afghanistan after quickly defeating a fifth rate military there, the resulting chaos could easily pose a far greater danger to the United States than we presently face from Saddam.

... When Secretary Rumsfield was asked recently about what our responsibility for restabilizing Iraq would be in an aftermath of an invasion, he said, "that's for the Iraqis to come together and decide."


... What this doctrine does is to destroy the goal of a world in which states consider themselves subject to law, particularly in the matter of standards for the use of violence against each other. That concept would be displaced by the notion that there is no law but the discretion of the President of the United States.

I believe that we can effectively defend ourselves abroad and at home without dimming our principles. Indeed, I believe that our success in defending ourselves depends precisely on not giving up what we stand for.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Hillary in Bosnia

The Drudge Report linked to this video, a CBS report that calls into question some of Hillary Clinton's claims of "35 years of experience."

NBC news calls it a "clumsy" attempt to claim foreign policy experience during her time as first lady.

Big Bill in the Bender

Former president Bill Clinton made an appearance yesterday in South Bend, Indiana, for a traditional Dingus Day celebration (a Polish holiday that's a big time political rally). With the state's primary coming up, the former president made the case that his wife "can still win." Even though she probably can't. He made some good points that her victories in primaries like Ohio, Arkansas, Florida and West Virginia (four swing- states the Dems have lost the past two elections) make her the more viable general election candidate.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Obama's 2002 Iraq Speech

A major narrative of the Democratic Primary has been judgment vs. experience. Hillary has touted her eight years as first lady and seven in the Senate as appropriate seasoning for a Commander-in-Chief. Obama, meanwhile, points to his early opposition to the Iraq War as evidence of stronger judgment.

Former President Clinton called Obama's opposition "a fairytale," because in the Senate he didn't act forcefully enough to bring an immediate end to the occupation.

It's common knowledge that Obama spoke out against invading Iraq; however, for many his timing and motivation are unclear. So, below is the text from that speech. It's short and worth reading in full. Below that, is a video of excepts from the speech, including the only 13 seconds that remain from Obama's delivery.

This is from October 2, 2002-- a week before Congress gave President Bush the authority invade Iraq.

It's really quite something.

Good afternoon. Let me begin by saying that although this has been billed as an anti-war rally, I stand before you as someone who is not opposed to war in all circumstances.

The Civil War was one of the bloodiest in history, and yet it was only through the crucible of the sword, the sacrifice of multitudes, that we could begin to perfect this union, and drive the scourge of slavery from our soil. I don’t oppose all wars.

My grandfather signed up for a war the day after Pearl Harbor was bombed, fought in Patton’s army. He saw the dead and dying across the fields of Europe; he heard the stories of fellow troops who first entered Auschwitz and Treblinka. He fought in the name of a larger freedom, part of that arsenal of democracy that triumphed over evil, and he did not fight in vain.

I don’t oppose all wars.

After September 11th, after witnessing the carnage and destruction, the dust and the tears, I supported this Administration’s pledge to hunt down and root out those who would slaughter innocents in the name of intolerance, and I would willingly take up arms myself to prevent such a tragedy from happening again.

I don’t oppose all wars. And I know that in this crowd today, there is no shortage of patriots, or of patriotism. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war. What I am opposed to is the cynical attempt by Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz and other arm-chair, weekend warriors in this Administration to shove their own ideological agendas down our throats, irrespective of the costs in lives lost and in hardships borne.

What I am opposed to is the attempt by political hacks like Karl Rove to distract us from a rise in the uninsured, a rise in the poverty rate, a drop in the median income – to distract us from corporate scandals and a stock market that has just gone through the worst month since the Great Depression.

That’s what I’m opposed to. A dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

Now let me be clear – I suffer no illusions about Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal man. A ruthless man. A man who butchers his own people to secure his own power. He has repeatedly defied UN resolutions, thwarted UN inspection teams, developed chemical and biological weapons, and coveted nuclear capacity.

He’s a bad guy. The world, and the Iraqi people, would be better off without him.

But I also know that Saddam poses no imminent and direct threat to the United States, or to his neighbors, that the Iraqi economy is in shambles, that the Iraqi military a fraction of its former strength, and that in concert with the international community he can be contained until, in the way of all petty dictators, he falls away into the dustbin of history.

I know that even a successful war against Iraq will require a US occupation of undetermined length, at undetermined cost, with undetermined consequences. I know that an invasion of Iraq without a clear rationale and without strong international support will only fan the flames of the Middle East, and encourage the worst, rather than best, impulses of the Arab world, and strengthen the recruitment arm of al-Qaeda.

I am not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.

So for those of us who seek a more just and secure world for our children, let us send a clear message to the president today. You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s finish the fight with Bin Laden and al-Qaeda, through effective, coordinated intelligence, and a shutting down of the financial networks that support terrorism, and a homeland security program that involves more than color-coded warnings.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure that the UN inspectors can do their work, and that we vigorously enforce a non-proliferation treaty, and that former enemies and current allies like Russia safeguard and ultimately eliminate their stores of nuclear material, and that nations like Pakistan and India never use the terrible weapons already in their possession, and that the arms merchants in our own country stop feeding the countless wars that rage across the globe.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to make sure our so-called allies in the Middle East, the Saudis and the Egyptians, stop oppressing their own people, and suppressing dissent, and tolerating corruption and inequality, and mismanaging their economies so that their youth grow up without education, without prospects, without hope, the ready recruits of terrorist cells.

You want a fight, President Bush? Let’s fight to wean ourselves off Middle East oil, through an energy policy that doesn’t simply serve the interests of Exxon and Mobil.

Those are the battles that we need to fight. Those are the battles that we willingly join. The battles against ignorance and intolerance. Corruption and greed. Poverty and despair.

The consequences of war are dire, the sacrifices immeasurable. We may have occasion in our lifetime to once again rise up in defense of our freedom, and pay the wages of war. But we ought not – we will not – travel down that hellish path blindly. Nor should we allow those who would march off and pay the ultimate sacrifice, who would prove the full measure of devotion with their blood, to make such an awful sacrifice in vain.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

My Top 10 Political Movies

**Disclaimer** I haven't seen many of the most acclaimed political movies such as: Bulworth, The Candidate, Doctor Strangelove, Election, and (the original) Manchurian Candidate

Here is a list of my 10 favorite movies about American politics. This isn't a list of the best movies (so 1949's All the King's Men is left off), but the ones I enjoy the most:

10. Dave (1993)- One of the great fantasy movies ever. A regular guy winds up president. It makes you wonder what you'd do in the Oval Office, and lament that the country has to be run by those hardened enough to make it to the top.

9. Citizen Kane (1941)- It drags on a bit, but over 65 years after its release, Citizen Kane still holds up as relevant and chilling. Maybe that's why AFI ranks it as the greatest movie ever made.

8. Charlie Wilson's War (2007)- Takes (more than) a few liberties with the true story of America's proxy war in Afghanistan, which was the crossroads of modern- American history. In one dramatic turn we exchanged Red Soviets for Radical Islamic fundamentalists. Great writing (Sorkin) and acting (Hanks, Hoffman).

7. JFK (1991)- Makes Charlie Wilson's War look like a documentary, but Oliver Stone provides a riveting account of what many don't realize is a true story- Jim Garrison's prosecution of Clay Shaw for the murder of John Kennedy in 1967. The trial may have been bunk, but the movie is excellent, especially the scene with Donald Sutherland around the Reflecting Pool.

6. Wag the Dog (1997)- The meeting of Hollywood and DC, this satire was a poignant comment on the state of American democracy, media, and culture.

5. All the President's Men (1976)- Chilling performances that brought home Watergate. It's scary 'cause it's true.

4. 13 Days (2000)- For a guy who's been in a lot of terrible movies, Kevin Costner has been in a lot of great movies. The film taught a new generation about the earth- rattling days of the Cuban missile crisis. The taut pace earns this un- romanticized portrayal high marks.

3. Nixon (1995)- A stunning portrait of one of the most tragic American figures, whose greatest strengths led to his shocking fall. Stone chronicles the painful trip from a depressed California farm, to the White House, to disgrace, and does justice to a man who had the faculties and opportunity for greatness, but failed to overcome himself.

2. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)- The classic American film of idealism, cynicism and redemption. A lot like Dave, only a lot better.

1. Primary Colors (1998)- The movie has everything: drama, laughs, and surprises. It's the quintessential tale of American politics because it runs the gamut and doesn't oversimplify- it covers the excitement and tedium of campaigns, and its characters appeal to our ideals, but shock us with their flaws. It's also endless fun to figure out on whom each character is based, in this satire of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Richardson Gives Stirring Endorsement

New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, longtime Clinton compatriot, endorsed Hillary Clinton's Democratic rival, Barack Obama, today. This is surprising for at least two reasons: Richardson owes a lot of loyalty to the Clintons for two high level administration appointments (UN ambassador and Secretary of Energy) and he probably would have been at the top of Hillary Clinton's list for vice presidents. Although with Obama's lead, that possibility seems vanished (a Clinton/ Obama ticket is the best she can hope for).

In part two, Richardson gives an interesting story from the campaign trail that he says illustrates why Obama is a genuinely "good guy."

Richardson is the second former Democratic presidential candidate to endorse Sen. Obama, joining Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd.

That Old Nauseating Feeling

There are circulating reports about a particular passage in the speech on race Barack Obama gave earlier this week. When speaking about his pastor of 20- years, and the incendiary anti- American, anti- white comments he made, Obama said:

I can no more disown [Rev. Wright] than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.
A lot of news organizations and blogs have latched onto that part of the speech, and Obama's follow up comments about it. He pushed aside notions that his grandmother might be racist, and said that she was a "typical white person," who has a gut reaction that "comes out the wrong way." Calling a white person who is scared of African- Americans "typical" has given many pause, and forced further explanations from the Illinois Senator.

The coverage of these comments is disturbing. In his speech, Obama made a valiant effort to move our country forward, to talk about race honestly and openly. As a person with a black father, white mother and Asian sister, he's in a unique position to do that. His speech was remarkable because it was unflinchingly honest and unconcerned with the political fall-out that might come from acknowledging that (gasp!) inner city minorities still seethe over Jim Crow, or (brace yourself) many working class whites resent affirmative action.

Now, familiar forces are trying to draw Obama into the politics of the past. A politics that fains naivete in public, but is no- doubt aware of every prejudice behind closed- doors.

An elderly white lady feels uncomfortable passing a black man on the street? That's preposterous! People who came of age two generations ago use racial epithets? You're out of line, buddy!

If those facts are not acknowledged as true, and we don't recognize that it's not limited to older generations, we cannot move forward. To move past old racial behaviors, it is necessary to look at the causes behind the patterns. In the alternative, you can brand anyone who admits even slight prejudice as racist/ sexist/ anti- Semitic, etc. Reverend Wright is evil, Pat Robertson is a bigot, Obama's grandmother is ignorant. To demonize someone is easy and safe, but it's not right or helpful.

Not if you are tired of the way things have always been, and are ready to start to move in a new direction. That's where Obama is trying to lead us, and hopefully we have the courage to follow.

Todd's First Read

Below, one of my favorite political reporters, Chuck Todd, gives his thoughts on the events of the past week. He's one of the most fair, thoughtful and insightful reporters in the field today.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Final 4 Talk

NBC reports that Sen.'s Obama and McCain have released their brackets for the NCAA tournament, which starts today.

Obama's Final 4: UCLA, Kansas, Pitt and UNC; with UNC winning the championship over UCLA.

McCain picked UNC, UConn, Memphis and Kansas, and also picked Carolina to win the championship over the Connecticut Huskies.

As for my Final 4? UCLA, Stanford, Kansas and Tennessee, with UCLA over Kansas in the final.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Now, It's Personal

CNN reports that the falling dollar is jacking up the price of baked goods, even pizza. Mariella Pizza in Midtown Manhattan has had to continually raise its prices as the price for a 50 lbs. bag of flour has gone from $16 to $37 in just under a month.

"Over here people come to buy pizza, working people. How much [am] I going to raise the pizza now?" asks Joe Vicari. "Somebody come in here for two slices, and I take $5. I feel very, very bad for the person."

Wheat is skyrocketing as well, from the article: "At the Chicago Board of Trade a bushel, 60-pounds of wheat, now trades for more than $1100, more than two-and-1/2 times what it was just a year ago."

In addition to inflation caused by the sinking dollar, investment in ethanol (leading to more corn and less wheat produced) also has caused the up-swing, as have unusual weather conditions in the US, Europe and Australia.

Merchants in the article note that the cost is going to have to be passed along to the consumer. So add that to gasoline as another climbing cost that's pinching consumers.

Tales from a Struggling Economy has an interesting feature today profiling the lives of 10 average American families, and how they have been affected by the faltering economy.

Here is Theresa Grof's story:

I am facing my college loans and my low-wage job and the fact that I will not be able to send my own daughter to college.

All I want is full-time work that actually pays the bills. My family hasn't been on a vacation in three years. We don't go to the movies or even rent movies. I went to college and did the right thing and here I am in my 30s contemplating reenlisting in the military for money.

Something needs to be done in the country. My daughter said to me the other day, "Why bother going to college Mom? You have a great degree, from a great college and it means nothing. I think I might move out of the country."

And here's an account from Billie Romero, a 32 year old nurse from LaFayette, LA:
I work as a nurse. My husband is a truck driver/musician. We have two kids we are TRYING to keep in private school. [Like] most working couples, we want the best education for our children, because not just "the rich" deserve private school.
We want to be able to buy a home AND pay the bills. How do you do that when the price of everything is rising except your pay? What do you do?

We don't own a house. We are about to lose our vehicle. Financial strain is hard on a marriage and we wonder why the divorce rate is on the rise. I know mine is strained and 98% of that strain has to do with money (lack of).
You know what we need to fix this? Tax cuts for the rich.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

History on the Rocks

From the "Why didn't I think of that?" category here are two very funny and (somewhat) educational videos where guys describe historical events after drinking excessive amounts of alcohol.

Obama on Race

With a dust up caused by comments of his long time pastor, and ever present whispers on the topic, Barack Obama addressed race, his and our country's today in Philadelphia. Below is the video and the speech's full text.

"We the people, in order to form a more perfect union."

Two hundred and twenty one years ago, in a hall that still stands across the street, a group of men gathered and, with these simple words, launched America's improbable experiment in democracy. Farmers and scholars; statesmen and patriots who had traveled across an ocean to escape tyranny and persecution finally made real their declaration of independence at a Philadelphia convention that lasted through the spring of 1787.

The document they produced was eventually signed but ultimately unfinished. It was stained by this nation's original sin of slavery, a question that divided the colonies and brought the convention to a stalemate until the founders chose to allow the slave trade to continue for at least twenty more years, and to leave any final resolution to future generations.

Of course, the answer to the slavery question was already embedded within our Constitution - a Constitution that had at is very core the ideal of equal citizenship under the law; a Constitution that promised its people liberty, and justice, and a union that could be and should be perfected over time.

And yet words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights and obligations as citizens of the United States. What would be needed were Americans in successive generations who were willing to do their part - through protests and struggle, on the streets and in the courts, through a civil war and civil disobedience and always at great risk - to narrow that gap between the promise of our ideals and the reality of their time.

This was one of the tasks we set forth at the beginning of this campaign - to continue the long march of those who came before us, a march for a more just, more equal, more free, more caring and more prosperous America. I chose to run for the presidency at this moment in history because I believe deeply that we cannot solve the challenges of our time unless we solve them together - unless we perfect our union by understanding that we may have different stories, but we hold common hopes; that we may not look the same and we may not have come from the same place, but we all want to move in the same direction - towards a better future for of children and our grandchildren.

This belief comes from my unyielding faith in the decency and generosity of the American people. But it also comes from my own American story.

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners - an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

It's a story that hasn't made me the most conventional candidate. But it is a story that has seared into my genetic makeup the idea that this nation is more than the sum of its parts - that out of many, we are truly one.

Throughout the first year of this campaign, against all predictions to the contrary, we saw how hungry the American people were for this message of unity. Despite the temptation to view my candidacy through a purely racial lens, we won commanding victories in states with some of the whitest populations in the country. In South Carolina, where the Confederate Flag still flies, we built a powerful coalition of African Americans and white Americans.

This is not to say that race has not been an issue in the campaign. At various stages in the campaign, some commentators have deemed me either "too black" or "not black enough." We saw racial tensions bubble to the surface during the week before the South Carolina primary. The press has scoured every exit poll for the latest evidence of racial polarization, not just in terms of white and black, but black and brown as well.

And yet, it has only been in the last couple of weeks that the discussion of race in this campaign has taken a particularly divisive turn.

On one end of the spectrum, we've heard the implication that my candidacy is somehow an exercise in affirmative action; that it's based solely on the desire of wide-eyed liberals to purchase racial reconciliation on the cheap. On the other end, we've heard my former pastor, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, use incendiary language to express views that have the potential not only to widen the racial divide, but views that denigrate both the greatness and the goodness of our nation; that rightly offend white and black alike.

I have already condemned, in unequivocal terms, the statements of Reverend Wright that have caused such controversy. For some, nagging questions remain. Did I know him to be an occasionally fierce critic of American domestic and foreign policy? Of course. Did I ever hear him make remarks that could be considered controversial while I sat in church? Yes. Did I strongly disagree with many of his political views? Absolutely - just as I'm sure many of you have heard remarks from your pastors, priests, or rabbis with which you strongly disagreed.

But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic, and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam.

As such, Reverend Wright's comments were not only wrong but divisive, divisive at a time when we need unity; racially charged at a time when we need to come together to solve a set of monumental problems - two wars, a terrorist threat, a falling economy, a chronic health care crisis and potentially devastating climate change; problems that are neither black or white or Latino or Asian, but rather problems that confront us all.

Given my background, my politics, and my professed values and ideals, there will no doubt be those for whom my statements of condemnation are not enough. Why associate myself with Reverend Wright in the first place, they may ask? Why not join another church? And I confess that if all that I knew of Reverend Wright were the snippets of those sermons that have run in an endless loop on the television and You Tube, or if Trinity United Church of Christ conformed to the caricatures being peddled by some commentators, there is no doubt that I would react in much the same way

But the truth is, that isn't all that I know of the man. The man I met more than twenty years ago is a man who helped introduce me to my Christian faith, a man who spoke to me about our obligations to love one another; to care for the sick and lift up the poor. He is a man who served his country as a U.S. Marine; who has studied and lectured at some of the finest universities and seminaries in the country, and who for over thirty years led a church that serves the community by doing God's work here on Earth - by housing the homeless, ministering to the needy, providing day care services and scholarships and prison ministries, and reaching out to those suffering from HIV/AIDS.

In my first book, Dreams From My Father, I described the experience of my first service at Trinity:

"People began to shout, to rise from their seats and clap and cry out, a forceful wind carrying the reverend's voice up into the rafters....And in that single note - hope! - I heard something else; at the foot of that cross, inside the thousands of churches across the city, I imagined the stories of ordinary black people merging with the stories of David and Goliath, Moses and Pharaoh, the Christians in the lion's den, Ezekiel's field of dry bones. Those stories - of survival, and freedom, and hope - became our story, my story; the blood that had spilled was our blood, the tears our tears; until this black church, on this bright day, seemed once more a vessel carrying the story of a people into future generations and into a larger world. Our trials and triumphs became at once unique and universal, black and more than black; in chronicling our journey, the stories and songs gave us a means to reclaim memories that we didn't need to feel shame about...memories that all people might study and cherish - and with which we could start to rebuild."

That has been my experience at Trinity. Like other predominantly black churches across the country, Trinity embodies the black community in its entirety - the doctor and the welfare mom, the model student and the former gang-banger. Like other black churches, Trinity's services are full of raucous laughter and sometimes bawdy humor. They are full of dancing, clapping, screaming and shouting that may seem jarring to the untrained ear. The church contains in full the kindness and cruelty, the fierce intelligence and the shocking ignorance, the struggles and successes, the love and yes, the bitterness and bias that make up the black experience in America.

And this helps explain, perhaps, my relationship with Reverend Wright. As imperfect as he may be, he has been like family to me. He strengthened my faith, officiated my wedding, and baptized my children. Not once in my conversations with him have I heard him talk about any ethnic group in derogatory terms, or treat whites with whom he interacted with anything but courtesy and respect. He contains within him the contradictions - the good and the bad - of the community that he has served diligently for so many years.

I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother - a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed by her on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.

These people are a part of me. And they are a part of America, this country that I love.

Some will see this as an attempt to justify or excuse comments that are simply inexcusable. I can assure you it is not. I suppose the politically safe thing would be to move on from this episode and just hope that it fades into the woodwork. We can dismiss Reverend Wright as a crank or a demagogue, just as some have dismissed Geraldine Ferraro, in the aftermath of her recent statements, as harboring some deep-seated racial bias.

But race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now. We would be making the same mistake that Reverend Wright made in his offending sermons about America - to simplify and stereotype and amplify the negative to the point that it distorts reality.

The fact is that the comments that have been made and the issues that have surfaced over the last few weeks reflect the complexities of race in this country that we've never really worked through - a part of our union that we have yet to perfect. And if we walk away now, if we simply retreat into our respective corners, we will never be able to come together and solve challenges like health care, or education, or the need to find good jobs for every American.

Understanding this reality requires a reminder of how we arrived at this point. As William Faulkner once wrote, "The past isn't dead and buried. In fact, it isn't even past." We do not need to recite here the history of racial injustice in this country. But we do need to remind ourselves that so many of the disparities that exist in the African-American community today can be directly traced to inequalities passed on from an earlier generation that suffered under the brutal legacy of slavery and Jim Crow.

Segregated schools were, and are, inferior schools; we still haven't fixed them, fifty years after Brown v. Board of Education, and the inferior education they provided, then and now, helps explain the pervasive achievement gap between today's black and white students.

Legalized discrimination - where blacks were prevented, often through violence, from owning property, or loans were not granted to African-American business owners, or black homeowners could not access FHA mortgages, or blacks were excluded from unions, or the police force, or fire departments - meant that black families could not amass any meaningful wealth to bequeath to future generations. That history helps explain the wealth and income gap between black and white, and the concentrated pockets of poverty that persists in so many of today's urban and rural communities.

A lack of economic opportunity among black men, and the shame and frustration that came from not being able to provide for one's family, contributed to the erosion of black families - a problem that welfare policies for many years may have worsened. And the lack of basic services in so many urban black neighborhoods - parks for kids to play in, police walking the beat, regular garbage pick-up and building code enforcement - all helped create a cycle of violence, blight and neglect that continue to haunt us.

This is the reality in which Reverend Wright and other African-Americans of his generation grew up. They came of age in the late fifties and early sixties, a time when segregation was still the law of the land and opportunity was systematically constricted. What's remarkable is not how many failed in the face of discrimination, but rather how many men and women overcame the odds; how many were able to make a way out of no way for those like me who would come after them.

But for all those who scratched and clawed their way to get a piece of the American Dream, there were many who didn't make it - those who were ultimately defeated, in one way or another, by discrimination. That legacy of defeat was passed on to future generations - those young men and increasingly young women who we see standing on street corners or languishing in our prisons, without hope or prospects for the future. Even for those blacks who did make it, questions of race, and racism, continue to define their worldview in fundamental ways. For the men and women of Reverend Wright's generation, the memories of humiliation and doubt and fear have not gone away; nor has the anger and the bitterness of those years. That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table. At times, that anger is exploited by politicians, to gin up votes along racial lines, or to make up for a politician's own failings.

And occasionally it finds voice in the church on Sunday morning, in the pulpit and in the pews. The fact that so many people are surprised to hear that anger in some of Reverend Wright's sermons simply reminds us of the old truism that the most segregated hour in American life occurs on Sunday morning. That anger is not always productive; indeed, all too often it distracts attention from solving real problems; it keeps us from squarely facing our own complicity in our condition, and prevents the African-American community from forging the alliances it needs to bring about real change. But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races.

In fact, a similar anger exists within segments of the white community. Most working- and middle-class white Americans don't feel that they have been particularly privileged by their race. Their experience is the immigrant experience - as far as they're concerned, no one's handed them anything, they've built it from scratch. They've worked hard all their lives, many times only to see their jobs shipped overseas or their pension dumped after a lifetime of labor. They are anxious about their futures, and feel their dreams slipping away; in an era of stagnant wages and global competition, opportunity comes to be seen as a zero sum game, in which your dreams come at my expense. So when they are told to bus their children to a school across town; when they hear that an African American is getting an advantage in landing a good job or a spot in a good college because of an injustice that they themselves never committed; when they're told that their fears about crime in urban neighborhoods are somehow prejudiced, resentment builds over time.

Like the anger within the black community, these resentments aren't always expressed in polite company. But they have helped shape the political landscape for at least a generation. Anger over welfare and affirmative action helped forge the Reagan Coalition. Politicians routinely exploited fears of crime for their own electoral ends. Talk show hosts and conservative commentators built entire careers unmasking bogus claims of racism while dismissing legitimate discussions of racial injustice and inequality as mere political correctness or reverse racism.

Just as black anger often proved counterproductive, so have these white resentments distracted attention from the real culprits of the middle class squeeze - a corporate culture rife with inside dealing, questionable accounting practices, and short-term greed; a Washington dominated by lobbyists and special interests; economic policies that favor the few over the many. And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns - this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding.

This is where we are right now. It's a racial stalemate we've been stuck in for years. Contrary to the claims of some of my critics, black and white, I have never been so naïve as to believe that we can get beyond our racial divisions in a single election cycle, or with a single candidacy - particularly a candidacy as imperfect as my own.

But I have asserted a firm conviction - a conviction rooted in my faith in God and my faith in the American people - that working together we can move beyond some of our old racial wounds, and that in fact we have no choice is we are to continue on the path of a more perfect union.

For the African-American community, that path means embracing the burdens of our past without becoming victims of our past. It means continuing to insist on a full measure of justice in every aspect of American life. But it also means binding our particular grievances - for better health care, and better schools, and better jobs - to the larger aspirations of all Americans -- the white woman struggling to break the glass ceiling, the white man whose been laid off, the immigrant trying to feed his family. And it means taking full responsibility for own lives - by demanding more from our fathers, and spending more time with our children, and reading to them, and teaching them that while they may face challenges and discrimination in their own lives, they must never succumb to despair or cynicism; they must always believe that they can write their own destiny.

Ironically, this quintessentially American - and yes, conservative - notion of self-help found frequent expression in Reverend Wright's sermons. But what my former pastor too often failed to understand is that embarking on a program of self-help also requires a belief that society can change.

The profound mistake of Reverend Wright's sermons is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It's that he spoke as if our society was static; as if no progress has been made; as if this country - a country that has made it possible for one of his own members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition of white and black; Latino and Asian, rich and poor, young and old -- is still irrevocably bound to a tragic past. But what we know -- what we have seen - is that America can change. That is true genius of this nation. What we have already achieved gives us hope - the audacity to hope - for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

In the white community, the path to a more perfect union means acknowledging that what ails the African-American community does not just exist in the minds of black people; that the legacy of discrimination - and current incidents of discrimination, while less overt than in the past - are real and must be addressed. Not just with words, but with deeds - by investing in our schools and our communities; by enforcing our civil rights laws and ensuring fairness in our criminal justice system; by providing this generation with ladders of opportunity that were unavailable for previous generations. It requires all Americans to realize that your dreams do not have to come at the expense of my dreams; that investing in the health, welfare, and education of black and brown and white children will ultimately help all of America prosper.

In the end, then, what is called for is nothing more, and nothing less, than what all the world's great religions demand - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Let us be our brother's keeper, Scripture tells us. Let us be our sister's keeper. Let us find that common stake we all have in one another, and let our politics reflect that spirit as well.

For we have a choice in this country. We can accept a politics that breeds division, and conflict, and cynicism. We can tackle race only as spectacle - as we did in the OJ trial - or in the wake of tragedy, as we did in the aftermath of Katrina - or as fodder for the nightly news. We can play Reverend Wright's sermons on every channel, every day and talk about them from now until the election, and make the only question in this campaign whether or not the American people think that I somehow believe or sympathize with his most offensive words. We can pounce on some gaffe by a Hillary supporter as evidence that she's playing the race card, or we can speculate on whether white men will all flock to John McCain in the general election regardless of his policies.

We can do that.

But if we do, I can tell you that in the next election, we'll be talking about some other distraction. And then another one. And then another one. And nothing will change.

That is one option. Or, at this moment, in this election, we can come together and say, "Not this time." This time we want to talk about the crumbling schools that are stealing the future of black children and white children and Asian children and Hispanic children and Native American children. This time we want to reject the cynicism that tells us that these kids can't learn; that those kids who don't look like us are somebody else's problem. The children of America are not those kids, they are our kids, and we will not let them fall behind in a 21st century economy. Not this time.

This time we want to talk about how the lines in the Emergency Room are filled with whites and blacks and Hispanics who do not have health care; who don't have the power on their own to overcome the special interests in Washington, but who can take them on if we do it together.

This time we want to talk about the shuttered mills that once provided a decent life for men and women of every race, and the homes for sale that once belonged to Americans from every religion, every region, every walk of life. This time we want to talk about the fact that the real problem is not that someone who doesn't look like you might take your job; it's that the corporation you work for will ship it overseas for nothing more than a profit.

This time we want to talk about the men and women of every color and creed who serve together, and fight together, and bleed together under the same proud flag. We want to talk about how to bring them home from a war that never should've been authorized and never should've been waged, and we want to talk about how we'll show our patriotism by caring for them, and their families, and giving them the benefits they have earned.

I would not be running for President if I didn't believe with all my heart that this is what the vast majority of Americans want for this country. This union may never be perfect, but generation after generation has shown that it can always be perfected. And today, whenever I find myself feeling doubtful or cynical about this possibility, what gives me the most hope is the next generation - the young people whose attitudes and beliefs and openness to change have already made history in this election.

There is one story in particularly that I'd like to leave you with today - a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King's birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, twenty-three year old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that's when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother's problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn't. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they're supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who's been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he's there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, "I am here because of Ashley."

"I'm here because of Ashley." By itself, that single moment of recognition between that young white girl and that old black man is not enough. It is not enough to give health care to the sick, or jobs to the jobless, or education to our children.

But it is where we start. It is where our union grows stronger. And as so many generations have come to realize over the course of the two-hundred and twenty one years since a band of patriots signed that document in Philadelphia, that is where the perfection begins.

Monday, March 17, 2008

More on Arrogance

Ron Fournier of the Associated Press has an interesting piece on what may prove Barack Obama's biggest vice: arrogance. SAM had a similar post last month entitled "How to Beat Obama." This one is a little bit more interesting because Fournier provides telling Obama quotes, like "to know me is to love me," and "every place is Barack Obama country once Barack Obama's been there."

Hitchens: Why Did I get Iraq Wrong? I didn't.

5 years ago, the online magazine asked "liberal hawks" in favor of the US invasion of Iraq to defend their position. Intellectual author Chistopher Hitchens participated, and argued that active US involvement in Iraq stretched back to the late '60s, and George Bush's decision to invade was an appropriate extension of long- established US policy.

Here's a short excerpt of his well- written, well- argued position:

... But I would nonetheless maintain that this incompetence doesn't condemn the enterprise wholesale. A much-wanted war criminal was put on public trial. The Kurdish and Shiite majority was rescued from the ever-present threat of a renewed genocide. A huge, hideous military and party apparatus, directed at internal repression and external aggression was (perhaps overhastily) dismantled. The largest wetlands in the region, habitat of the historic Marsh Arabs, have been largely recuperated. Huge fresh oilfields have been found, including in formerly oil free Sunni provinces, and some important initial investment in them made. Elections have been held, and the outline of a federal system has been proposed as the only alternative to a) a sectarian despotism and b) a sectarian partition and fragmentation. Not unimportantly, a battlefield defeat has been inflicted on al-Qaida and its surrogates, who (not without some Baathist collaboration) had hoped to constitute the successor regime in a failed state and an imploded society. Further afield, a perfectly defensible case can be made that the Syrian Baathists would not have evacuated Lebanon, nor would the Qaddafi gang have turned over Libya's (much higher than anticipated) stock of WMD if not for the ripple effect of the removal of the region's keystone dictatorship.

... But the thing to remember about Iraq is that all or most choice had already been forfeited. We were already deeply involved in the life-and-death struggle of that country, and March 2003 happens to mark the only time that we ever decided to intervene, after a protracted and open public debate, on the right side and for the right reasons. This must, and still does, count for something.

Are you an SP? Take O'Reilly's Test, Pinhead!

The Culture Warrior himself, Bill O'Reilly, has a test on his website to help us, the humble viewer/ listener/ reader, identify ourselves as members of either the "Culture Warrior" camp or the Secular- Progressive camp. This classification seems odd to me, because it seems that just by taking the test or watching O'Reilly you're fighting the culture wars.

S- P has become the derisive term for gay- loving, environment protecting, stem cell researching liberals. They're ugly, dangerous people.

To find out if you're one, take O'Reilly's quiz. And if you fail, don't worry-- there's hope. Your diagnosis is to purchase (not necessarily read) O'Reilly's book Culture Warrior, a Culture Warrior hat, parka, tote bag, and coffee mug. Also, watch the O'Reilly Factor on Fox News at 7 and 11-- it has twice as many viewers as any show on any other cable news network.

The Culture Warrior Test
Are you a Culture Warrior or in the S-P camp? Take the test to find out...

1. Do you believe in "income redistribution"--that is, the government taxing affluent Americans at a higher proportional rate in order to fund entitlements to the less well off?
2. Do you believe the definition of marriage should include homosexuals?
3. Do you think suspected terrorists captured overseas are entitled to Geneva Convention protections-that is, the same rights that military people are afforded?
4. Do you believe that the USA, in general, is harmful to the world?
5. Are you against states legally mandating that parents be informed when their underage daughters have abortions?

Sunday, March 16, 2008

SNL: Using Politics to Regain Legitimacy

Not sure if you've seen, but FOX and NBC/ Universal have put up all their television shows and movies on the site, assuring I will miss the Dean's list semester.

Recently, Saturday Night Live raised eyebrows when host Tina Fey endorsed Hillary Clinton, and poked fun at the media's love affair with Barack Obama. What followed was tougher media coverage of the Illinois Senator, and Clinton victories in Ohio and Texas.

Well, perhaps to even things out, SNL had another former cast member, Fey's 30 Rock co-star Tracy Morgan on the show this week to talk about Obama.

The show also had a moderately funny sketch about Eliot Spitzer's fall from grace, and showed him going from public interest crusader to governor (back?) to sleezebag attorney.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Classic Clip: Black Bush

One of the all- time funniest political sketches, "Black Bush" from Chappelle Show. This is the uncensored version of the skit (couldn't find the full censored one), so it might not be suitable for work.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Picture of the Day 3/13: Buddy, can you spare a $5?

Honest Abe's getting another make- over. The US mint unveiled the design of the new five dollar bill. And, yes, that is a big purple five on the back.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Virgin Mobile Uses Politics

Virgin Mobile Canada debuted these advertisement, poking fun at the embattled Eliot Spitzer, or "Client #9."

They also have a an ad with a thought bubble over Hillary Clinton thinking, "I wish my bill wasn't so out of control." I'm on the lookout for that...

Quote of the Day 3/12

"I am deeply sorry that I did not live up to what was expected of me. To every New Yorker, and all those who believed in what I tried to stand for- I sincerely apologize."
- Soon- to- be former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, resigning from office in a press conference this afternoon, effective Monday.

Ferraro Defends Comments

Are Happy Days Ahead Again?

The astute EJ Dionne wrote a very interesting piece in the Washington Post asking: Whatever happened to the culture wars that dominated American politics from 2000- 2004?

For an answer, Dionne draws an interesting parallel to the the 1928 election, when Hoover- Republicans of Prohibition and unbridled capitalism handily defeated Democrats, who wanted to booze again and elect the first non- Protestant president, NY Governor Al Smith. With Hoover's triumph, the economic boom of the '20s seemed assured to last.

Four years later, FDR won a landslide against forces he branded "economic royalists." Whether a guy is allowed buy a 10- cent beer doesn't seem to matter when the guy doesn't even have the 10 cents.

Similarly, Dionne states, voters who cited "cultural issues" as pressing when pulling the lever for the anti- gay marriage, pro- life, pro- tax cut George W. Bush in 2000, and again in '04, have bigger concerns now. That's not to say it will necessarily lead to a Democratic victory in November, as Dionne points out, national security concerns have led a once unabashedly right- of- center Republican party to nominate John McCain, one of their most moderate voices, for president.

So it's unclear how it will play out. What is clear, is priorities have changed again, and the culture wars may be on hold for now. That spells bad news for Bill O'Reilly, Will & Grace and people who liked debating what constitutes the term "sexual relations."

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New York Public Library to be Re-named for Donor

The NY Times reports that Stephen A. Schwarzman, chief executive of the Blackstone Group, has donated $100 million to the NY Public Library as part of their $1bn expansion. In exchange, Mr. Schwarzman's name will be etched on the exterior of the library's famous, lion guarded building on 5th Ave., to be renamed the Schwarzman Building.

"They said, 'We'd like you to be the lead gift and give us $100 million, and we'd like to rename the main branch after you.' I said, 'That sounds pretty good.'"
Schwarzman's stake in Blackstone has fallen from $7.8bn to $4bn as stock in the company has plummeted 32% in the last 2 months alone.

Well, I think I speak for all New Yorkers when I thank Mr. Schwarzman for this generous gift, and admire his selfless engraving of his name on one of the city's most beloved landmarks. In fact, I'm surprised he didn't pay for a flashing neon sign reading:
The Stephen A. Schwarzman is a Great Guy and has Done Very Well for Himself Building & New York Public Library

FYI: Presidential Trivia

George W. Bush is our 43rd president, but there actually have only been 42 presidents: Cleveland was elected for two nonconsecutive terms and is counted twice, as our 22nd and 24th president.

Eight Presidents were born British subjects: Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Madison, Monroe, J. Q. Adams, Jackson, and W. Harrison.

Nine Presidents never attended college: Washington, Jackson, Van Buren, Taylor, Fillmore, Lincoln, A. Johnson, Cleveland, and Truman.

The college that has the most presidents as alumni (six in total) is Harvard: J. Adams, J. Q. Adams, T. Roosevelt, F. Roosevelt, Kennedy, and G. W. Bush (business school). Yale is a close second, with five presidents as alumni: Taft, Ford (law school), G.H.W. Bush, Clinton (law school), and G. W. Bush.

Presidents who would be considered "Washington outsiders" (i.e., the 18 presidents who never served in Congress) are: Washington, J. Adams, Jefferson, Taylor, Grant, Arthur, Cleveland, T. Roosevelt, Taft, Wilson, Coolidge, Hoover, F. Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and G. W. Bush.

The most common religious affiliation among presidents has been Episcopalian, followed by Presbyterian.

The ancestry of all 43 presidents is limited to the following seven heritages, or some combination thereof: Dutch, English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Swiss, or German.

The oldest elected president was Reagan (age 69); the youngest was Kennedy (age 43). Theodore Roosevelt, however, was the youngest man to become president—he was 42 when he succeeded McKinley, who had been assassinated. THE OLDEST LIVING former president was Gerald Ford, who was born on July 14, 1913, and died on Dec.27, 2006, at age 93. The second oldest was Ronald Reagan, who also lived to be 93 years.

The tallest president was Lincoln at 6'4"; at 5'4", Madison was the shortest.

Fourteen Presidents served as vice presidents: J. Adams, Jefferson, Van Buren, Tyler, Fillmore, A. Johnson, Arthur, T. Roosevelt, Coolidge, Truman, Nixon, L. Johnson, Ford, and George H.W. Bush.

Vice Presidents were originally the presidential candidates receiving the second-largest number of electoral votes. The Twelfth Amendment, passed in 1804, changed the system so that the electoral college voted separately for president and vice president. The presidential candidate, however, gradually gained power over the nominating convention to choose his own running mate.

For two years the nation was run by a president and a vice president who were not elected by the people. After Vice President Spiro T. Agnew resigned in 1973, President Nixon appointed Gerald Ford as vice president. Nixon resigned the following year, which left Ford as president, and Ford's appointed vice president, Nelson Rockefeller, as second in line.

Four Presidents won the popular vote but lost the presidency: Andrew Jackson won the popular vote but lost the election to John Quincy Adams (1824); Samuel J. Tilden won the popular vote but lost the election to Rutherford B. Hayes (1876); Grover Cleveland won the popular vote but lost the election to Benjamin Harrison (1888); Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the election to George W. Bush (2000).

The term "First Lady" was first used in 1877 in reference to Lucy Ware Webb Hayes. Most First Ladies, including Jackie Kennedy, are said to have hated the label.

James Buchanan was the only president never to marry. Five presidents remarried after the death of their first wives—two of whom, Tyler and Wilson, remarried while in the White House. Reagan was the only divorced president. Six presidents had no children. Tyler—father of fifteen—had the most.

Presidents Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, and Kennedy were assassinated in office.

Assassination attempts were made on the lives of Jackson, T. Roosevelt, F. Roosevelt, Truman, Ford, and Reagan.

Eight Presidents died in office: W. Harrison (after having served only one month), Taylor, Lincoln, Garfield, McKinley, Harding, F. Roosevelt, and Kennedy.

Presidents Adams, Jefferson, and Monroe all died on the 4th of July; Coolidge was born on that day.

Kennedy and Taft are the only presidents buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Lincoln, Jefferson, F. Roosevelt, Washington, Kennedy, and Eisenhower are portrayed on U.S. coins.

Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Jackson, Grant, McKinley, Cleveland, Madison, and Wilson are portrayed on U.S. paper currency.

Twenty-six Presidents were lawyers before becoming president.

Twelve presidents were generals: Washington, Jackson, W. Harrison, Taylor, Pierce, A. Johnson, Grant, Hayes, Garfield, Arthur, B. Harrison, and Eisenhower. At the end of the American Revolution, the suggestion that General Washington become king circulated in the Army's upper ranks. Washington reacted strongly against the idea, saying, "no occurrence in the course of the War has given me more painful sensations."

Nine years after leaving the presidency, Taft was appointed chief justice of the Supreme Court. So pleased was he with this career change that he later wrote, "I don't remember that I was ever president."

George Washington's salary as president was $25,000. Bush's salary is $400,000.

John Adams was the father of John Quincy Adams.

James Madison and Zachary Taylor were second cousins.

William Henry Harrison was the grandfather of Benjamin Harrison.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was a fifth cousin of Theodore Roosevelt.

George W. Bush is the son of George Bush.