Friday, September 28, 2007

Jackie Robinson and the four empty lecterns

We can say one thing for certain about the four top contenders for the '08 Republican presidential nomination: They are all men of conviction. They decided many weeks ago to boycott the nationally-televised GOP debate on African-American and Hispanic issues...and they hewed to that pledge. Which is why, when Travis Smiley's forum was aired last night, there were four conspicuously empty lecterns.

It's probably worth nothing that some of the participating candidates did acknowledge that the absence of Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney, Fred Thompson, and John McCain (supposedly due to scheduling conflicts) was a "disgrace" and an embarrassment to the Republican party, not to mention an insult to minority voters everywhere. But somehow the whole episode, and what it says about the contemporary GOP, made me think of Jackie Robinson.

Robinson, who had broken baseball's racial barrier in 1947, was an active Republican during his early retirement years. He voted for Richard Nixon in 1960, and, soon thereafter, he told author Roger Kahn that he had joined the GOP because he wanted the party to be a home for African-Americans. Using the nomenclature of his era, he said: "It would be a terrible thing if every Negro voted Democratic. Then we'd be on the way to having a white party and a black party in America. That would be a disaster for me - my whole career has been about integration - and, more important, it would be a disaster for the country."

Then he went to the 1964 Republican convention as an honorary delegate - and discovered that he was virtually the only black face in a sea of white. He listened as a succession of speakers denounced the newly-enacted and historic Civil Rights Act (because it mandated that all public accomodations had to be integrated). And he nearly had an altercation with a white Alabama delegate who tried to lunge at him, only to be restrained by his wife.

Robinson was so concerned about his party that he wrote an article that year for The Saturday Evening Post magazine. The title asked the question, "The GOP - For White Men Only?"

Robinson was wrong, of course. Four decades later, the party is for white women as well.


The plot thickens. Howard Kurtz has more today on the Clintons' muzzling of a negative magazine story (which I mentioned here on Wednesday). The Gentlemen's Quarterly writer whose work was spiked is now on the record for the first time: "GQ told me the Clintons were unhappy..."


Assuming that I have any other thoughts today, regarding the '08 presidential race, they will be communicated orally, between 10:05 and 11 a.m., on Philadelphia's NPR station, 90.9 FM. If you have a slacker Friday, listen here.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

The downside of measuring the drapes

Hillary Clinton got cuffed around pretty badly last night, at the latest Democratic presidential debate, but that kind of thing is bound to happen when a candidate acts like she's already measuring the drapes in the Oval Office.

And, in response, she didn't always perform well. At times, she seemed testy and defensive. None of this may matter in the end, of course, since relatively few Amercans are even watching these '07 debates, but clearly some of her rivals (and the press, as represented by Tim Russert) signaled that they have no intention of allowing Hillary to simply bask in her front-runner status. And the danger, for Hillary, is that any poor responses delivered under fire might well be used as video fodder by the GOP at some future date.

Several moments were revealing last night. Hillary was repeatedly asked whether, in order to make Social Security solvent for the long haul, she would consider raising more money by requiring that affluent Americans pay more Social Security taxes. As Russert explained last night, "Right now, you pay tax for Social Security on your first $97,500 worth of income. Why not tax the entire income of every American?...Senator Clinton, would you be in favor of saying to the American people, 'I'm going to tax your income. I'm not going to cap at $97,500. Everyone, even if you're a millionaire, is going to pay Social Security tax on every cent they make'?"

But she wouldn't give a straight answer. She kept offering variations of her initial response: "I don't think I should be negotiating about what I would do as president. You know, I want to see what other people come to the table with." (Nobody in the primaries has even voted yet, and she's already negotiating as president.)

John Edwards jumped on her for this. Obviously, he needs to draw sharp contrasts with Hillary if he is to stand a chance of winning over liberal primary voters, but he deftly skewered her by turning her non-responsiveness into a character issue:

"I would say that the single most important thing for anybody running for president is to be willing to be honest with America...The American people deserve to hear the truth. They have heard so much politician double-talk on this issue. That's the reason young people don't believe Social Security's going to be there for them. Why would you possibly trust a bunch of politicians who say the same thing over and over and over...

"The honest truth is there are hard choices to be made here...I don't understand why somebody who makes $50 million a year pays Social Security tax on the first $97,000...while somebody who makes $85,000 a year pays Social Security tax on every dime of their income." (By the way, Edwards last night was far more effective than Barack Obama at dogging Hillary. Obama seemed semi-comatose, perhaps because he reportedly had a cold.)

Hillary even took some hits from Joe Biden - an unusual development, since he generally spends his time at these events agreeing with her on foreign policy, seemingly auditioning to be her Secretary of State. Last night, however, he basically declared that she as president would have trouble getting things done because of her image as a polarizer. Referring specificially to health care reform, he said:

"I think it's going to be more difficult -- unfairly, but I think it's more difficult for Hillary...The special interests, with regard to Hillary, they feed on this, you know, this Clinton-Bush thing. It's not Hillary's fault. But the fact of the matter is, it's much more difficult to go out and convince a group of Republicans, I would argue, getting something done that is of a major consequence...I'm not suggesting it's Hillary's fault. I think it's a reality that it's more difficult, because there's a lot of very good things that come with all the great things that President Clinton did. But there's also a lot of the old stuff that comes back. It's kind of hard. When I say 'old stuff,' I'm referring to policy. Policy."

(I love that last qualifier, lest anyone think he was referring to the Lewinsky scandal.)

But her most awkward moment came later in the debate, when Russert brought up the delicate topic of her husband's backstage clout and its potential benefits to her political career. This was shortly after Hillary had insisted, with reference to her husband, "I'm running on my own. Im going to the people on my own."

Her husband heads a charitable group called the William J. Clinton Foundation. Recently, Bill remarked that the foundation is not required to publish the names of all its donors, but, in Bill's words, "if Hillary became president, I think there would questions about whether people would try to win favor (with her) by giving money to me."

Russert read that quote, then asked Hillary: "In light of that, do you believe that the Clinton Foundation and the Clinton (presidential) library should publish all the donors who give contributions to those two entities?"

Hillary: "I actually co-sponsored legislation that would have sitting presidents reveal any donation to their presidential library, and I think that's a good policy." And, as for the foundation, "it would be the same, because that's where the library comes from."

But since there is no such legal requirement, and no apparent likelihood that her bill is destined to become law, Russert asked whether her husband's library and foundation would be willing to voluntarily make their donors public, to address the issue that Bill himself had raised.

Hillary: "Well, you'll have to ask them."

No elaboration. A cold stare, directed at Russert. An expression that said, "I wish I could throttle you with that necktie."

Russert kept going, anyway: "What's your recommendation?"

Hillary: "Well, I don't talk about my private conversations with my husband, but I'm sure he'd be happy to consider that."

There was a lot of bob and weave in those answers. She says she is "running on her own," but, as to whether private donors will curry favor with her by going through Bill, she deems that to be mere pillow talk. Whatever. Russert soon moved on to the topic of Edwards' $400 haircut, giving Hillary a breather. But, as the biggest target in the Democratic field, she'll be back in the line of fire soon enough.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bill and Hillary's two-for-one media muscle

Way back in 1992, when Bill Clinton was first running for president, he was fond of promoting himself and Hillary as a unique package deal, "two for the price of one." And apparently that's still the deal - as evidenced by the way Bill and Hillary worked in tandem to muscle a national magazine into killing a negative story.

I'm a bit surprised that this incident, revealed this week by Politico, has not garnered more attention, given the fact that it shows how America's premiere power couple operates behind the scenes. One can only assume, hypothetically speaking, that if George H. W. Bush back in 1999 had somehow been able to muscle a national magazine into killing a negative story about his son the candidate, there would have been an outcry on the left about the Bush family using its clout to suppress freedom of the press.

The facts in the Clinton incident, as reported, are essentially these: Gentlemen's Quarterly, the glossy monthly that typically combines political and celebrity profiles with tips on cool socks and accessories, had enlisted a respected free-lancer, Joshua Green, to write about the inside skinny of the Hillary Clinton campaign. That's a tough assignment, because "Hillaryland" is a ship that rarely leaks. But apparently, Green unearthed some evidence of infighting among the top staffers, reportedly including some jealousy over one senior official's pay package. So when the Clinton campaign got word of all this (from Green, who he was seeking comment), the spinners swung into action.

It turned out that GQ had a separate project in the pipeline: a fawning story about Bill Clinton's good works around the globe, a story that was scheduled to run in December, with Bill's familiar mug on the cover. It was a sweet deal for GQ, because Bill is considered one of those rare celebrity-politicians who can actually inspire greater newsstand sales - which explains why GQ wanted him fronting the issue that would have lots of Christmas advertising stuffed inside.

Well, the Clinton team decided to threaten that deal. During the summer, it reportedly, it told GQ: Either you kill that negative Hillary story, or Bill would refuse to cooperate any further on any aspect of the Bill story.

And GQ caved. It killed the unflattering Hillary story in order to save its positive Bill story.

GQ's editor told Politico: "I don’t really get into the inner workings of the magazine, but I can tell you that yes, we did kill a Hillary piece. We kill pieces all the time for a variety of reasons." Then he declined to say anything further about the "reasons" for this particular killing. In other words, the Politico story is accurate...and the Clintons pulled off a two-fer.

It's hardly unusual, of course, for politicians to shape news coverage, or to wield clout in the publishing world. The Kennedy family was famously adept; thanks to the backstage machinations of old Joe Kennedy, Look and Life magazines often seemed to function as de facto campaign brochures for JFK. But the GQ affair demonstrates how the Clintons plan to play the game, by leverage his unique celebrity on behalf of her candidacy.

What's mysterious about this incident, however, is why the Clintons felt the need to muscle the Green story onto the editor's spike. Perhaps it's because they didn't like Green, who had previously written a long Atlantic magazine piece about how Hillary is "cautious" pol. It's hard to imagine why a piece about intramural campaign squabbling would set off alarms, since that kind of insider stuff is interesting to only the most devoted political junkies. (This being the Internet age, won't this article surface somewhere else, eventually?) The bottom line, however, is that this incident reveals the control-freak mentality inside the Hillary camp.

There could have been a different outcome, of course. GQ might have told the Clintons to stuff it, deciding instead to stick with the Green story and put some other celebrity on the Christmas issue cover. For free-press purists, perhaps that would have been the preferred outcome. But these glossy magazines are accustomed to being squeezed; they have to deal with Hollywood press agents (the most notorious, for a long time, was Pat Kingsley) who decree that their celebrity clients won't grace the mag cover unless the client gets to choose the writer, or even the subject matter. These magazines are all about business, not the First Amendment. And the two-for-one Clintons know how to work that angle.


Hell has frozen over. A Senate Republican has finally acknowledged that, on an important national issue, President Bush is "factually incorrect."

For years, of course, Bush has been making statements about Iraq that bear no resemblance to factual reality, and this week he has sought to extend the practice to the domestic sphere, to the debate over children's health insurance. But this was too much for Iowa Republican senator Charles Grassley, who also fumed that "the president's understanding of our bill is wrong."

Welcome to the club, Chuck.

He has been a key player in the bipartisan effort to expand a popular children's health insurance program (the one that passed the House last night, with 45 Republicans voting for it). But Bush plans to nix it anyway, claiming over the weekend that the bill "goes too far toward federalizing health care and turns a program into one that covers children in some households with incomes of up to $83,000 a year."

But, as Grassley's camp pointed out, there is no such provision in the bill. Bush was apparently seizing on the news that New York State, citing the high cost of living there, has asked for a waiver that would permit coverage of kids in family-of-four households earning $83,000, but the bill itself has no provisions to expand eligibility, and stipulates that the poorest kids below the poverty level get top priority. (As for New York's requested waiver, the feds have already turned it down.)

In any case, Republican congressman Roy LaHood of Ohio had the best question yesterday: "I'm a little baffled as to why the Bush people picked this issue to fight it out on. It's very sensitive. It's about kids. Who's against kids' health care?"

Indeed, why pick a fight over a children's bill that is endorsed by the American Medical Association, the health insurance industry, governors from both parties (including conservatives such as Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota), the AARP, and enough Republican senators (including Grassley and Orrin Hatch) to ensure a veto-proof Senate majority?

Whatever the answer, Bush's vow to veto health insurance for kids may well prompt even more congressional Republicans to consider retirement rather than run the gauntlet in 2008.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mitt's beef with his brethren

Can a Republican win the '08 presidential nomination by assailing his own party?

Mitt Romney apparently seems willing to take that gamble. And it would appear to be a risky tactic.

Despite the fact that the Republican "brand" is at low ebb nationally, and despite the fact that the lame-duck Republican president has been written off as an irredeemable failure by roughly 70 percent of the American public, GOP loyalists would prefer not to dwell on their past errors, or question their leader's wisdom; rather, they'd prefer that their '08 candidates simply serve up heapings of red meat about defeat-o-crat Democrats and the perceived evils of Hillary.

But Romney, perhaps with an eye on the Bush-weary independent voters who will ultimately swing the general elections, is now taking a different route. In a new national TV ad, in a weekend speech, and in a widely-circulated "open letter" to fellow Republicans, he has decided (at least for now) to position himself as the "outsider" and "reformer" who will clean up the failed Washington Republican establishment. And the riskiest aspect of this move is his subliminal skewering of the Decider himself.

Among other things, he says in his letter that "government" in Washington, in defiance of conservative principles, has been "spending too much money...If we're going to change Washington, Republicans have to put our own house in order. We can't be like Democrats - a party of big spending...We have to remember who we are. We are not Big Government Republicans."

That Romney pitch, about returning the party to its core values, is aimed at the sizeable number of disaffected Republican conservatives who have long been upset by the runaway government spending of the Bush era. It has long been documented that the former Republican Congress, in cahoots with Bush, jacked up federal spending to heights not recorded since the Democratic era of Lyndon Johnson; indeed, Bush in those years never vetoed a spending bill. This past weekend, in fact, a budget specialist at the conservative Heritage Foundation complained that the federal budget under Bush has grown by seven percent a year - twice the growth rate under Bill Clinton.

Romney, in a weekend speech to Republicans in Michigan, tiptoed even closer to assailing Bush directly. He said that true Republicans know "how to run a tight ship" - and that the handling of Katrina was the opposite. In his words, "the Katrina cleanup didn't look like the Republicans were in charge. I want to bring accountability back to Washington." (Implication: the Bush team is inept, and unaccountable.)

In his speech, Romney did laud Bush briefly, contending that the president has kept America safe since 9/11, while "restoring personal integrity and dignity to the White House" (I'm not sure that swing voters would buy the line about integriy and dignity, but the GOP base probably would). His praise for Bush, however, was quite measured, when compared to his Bush critique at the Iowa straw poll back in August, when he was road-testing his message about changing Washington.

At that Iowa event, he lauded Bush about keeping America safe, about championing the Patriot Act, about arresting terrorists, about pushing for domestic surveillance, and he implied that people were unfairly picking on Bush in general: "I know it's gotten popular in the media and other places to be critical of the president. There's no one that's perfect." Romney isn't talking that way now.

He's also going after the Republicans in Congress (as if those folks don't have enough problems). His open letter includes a blunt reference to the moral lapses of certain unnamed Republicans, presumably Larry Craig (wide stance), David Vitter (hookers), and the now-departed Mark Foley (underage boys). His line in the letter: "We can't have ethical standards that are a punch-line for Jay Leno." This is probably solid territory for Romney, since he is reputed to be squeaky clean on the morality front. But in his Michigan speech this past weekend, he pushed the point even further, by taking implicit aim at Bush: "The standard for high ethical conduct has to start at the very top."

Also, in the Michigan speech, Romney also broadened his ethical critique to include what he dismissively called "earmark Republicans," which perhaps can be taken as a reference to the party's longest-serving senator, earmark king Ted Stevens of Alaska, whose house was recently raided by the FBI in connection with a federal corruption probe.

It's hard to gauge Romney's true position in the unusually fluid GOP race - he is faring decently in the Iowa and New Hampshire polls, but poorly in the national polls - so perhaps he feels the need to roll the dice. And his decision to call himself a "change Republican" is certainly a gamble.

In his Iowa straw poll speech in August, he invoked the change word five times in the first minute. In his current open letter, he invokes the word six times in the last three paragraphs. But his potential problem is obvious: Change is generally a word employed by Democrats (especially in this election cycle); the Republican diehards might not be comfortable hearing that word from one of their own, since it implies that the fault of our current ills lies not just with the Democrats, but with themselves. And despite all of Romney's ardent wooing - particularly his rightward journey on social issues - he may be pitching the party loyalists a daring argument that they simply do not want to hear.


Public officials, saying and doing foolish things:

The runner up this morning is President Bush, who is continuing his quest to lead his party over the cliff, this time by opposing the bipartisan bill to expand the state health insurance program for children. It's rarely a political winner to be viewed as "against children," but he's apparently doing his best to make life tougher for the congressional Republican moderates who have to run again in 2008.

The SCHIP expansion is just part of the larger congressional spending package that Bush doesn't like; it exceeds his requests by $22 billion. Yesterday, while speaking to business leaders, the born-again fiscal conservative assailed the Democratic Congress for its spending priorities: "Some in Congress will tell you that $22 billion is not a lot of money. As business leaders, you know better."

In other words, Bush views an extra $22 billion for primarily domestic needs as "a lot of money." But here's a way to put the figure in perspective:

That's roughly the same amount of money that Bush is spending in Iraq...every two months.

Nevertheless, today's foolish award goes to Iranian President Ahmadinejad, who insisted at Columbia University yesterday that there is no gay community in his country. ("I don't know who's told you we have it.") This is why it was better to err on the side of free speech and allow the guy to talk. What better way to expose his delusions, than in the open marketplace of ideas?

Monday, September 24, 2007

The perils of privatizing the war

Let’s kick off the week with a fresh roundup of fact-challenged Bush administration assertions about Iraq.

President Bush, June 15, 2004: “I fully agree that it’s a sovereign country.”

Bush, Jan. 27, 2005: “This is a sovereign government, they’re on their feet.”

Donald Rumsfeld, April 26, 2006: “This is a sovereign country, they’re making impressive progress.”

Condoleezza Rice, April 26, 2006: “This is a sovereign government, a permanent government.”

Rice, May 4, 2007: “It’s a matter of respecting Iraq’s sovereignty, of non-interference in Iraq’s affairs….It is our goal to support the Maliki government…consistent with the fact that this is a sovereign government.”

Well, I know you may be shocked to hear this, but it turns out that this line about Iraqi “sovereignty” is just another Bush administration fiction.

Case in point: the Iraqi government is powerless to police or punish the gun-wielding private contractors who work for Blackwater USA – because of a 2004 regulation, written by the American occupation authorities, that shields all American security contractors from Iraqi prosecution. These private-sector soldiers are allowed to operate in Iraq without any legal constraints on their conduct. The “sovereign” Iraqis can’t lift a finger to hold these people accountable.

I realize, of course, that the Blackwater dispute isn’t nearly as important as the portentous struggle over a two-week-old newspaper ad; after all, the Blackwater story is merely about the deaths of at least 11 Iraqis and the wounding of 12 more, and we know that, in American politics, those faceless people matter a whole lot less than a few juvenile words aimed at an American military man. But, for the heck of it, consider this chronology:

Eight days ago, armed guards employed by Blackwater (one of the roughly 60 American firms that have profited from the Bush administration’s unprecedented war-fighting privatization program) were involved in a controversial gun battle in Baghdad. The Iraqi government contends that the Blackwater guards, while protecting a U.S. embassy convoy, got spooked by some mortar rounds that had landed nearby, and had then opened fire indiscriminately, killing and wounding the innocent civilians. Three Iraqi ministries have already determined that the Blackwater’s conduct constitutes “a terrorist action against civilians, just like any other terrorist operation.”

(When the Maliki government first tried to investigate further, the Americans reportedly refused to give the Iraqis access to the Blackwater guards in question – or to share any information with Iraqi investigators. Now all parties say that a joint probe is proceeding. Blackwater has issued a statement saying that it acted "lawfully and appropriately.")

Early last week, the Maliki government, which says that the Baghdad incident was the seventh violent episode involving Blackwater this year alone, was making noises about kicking the North Carolina-based firm out of Iraq. That threat didn’t last long. By Friday, a Maliki advisor was telling the press, “The reality of the matter is, we can’t do that.” One big reason: Order 17, signed in 2004 by American occupation chief Paul Bremer, who unilaterally decreed that all U.S. private contractors shall be exempt from Iraqi law.

In other words, “free Iraq” (as Bush likes to call it) shall be considered free as long as it doesn’t try to meddle with the Bush war-fighting privatization program. When it does try to meddle, it is deemed to be a hostage to U.S. interests; as Maliki said yesterday, the Blackwater case poses “serious challenges to the sovereignty of Iraq.” Meanwhile, Blackwater went back on the job last Friday, guarding U.S. convoys, after just a few days in the dog house.

Blackwater has a $750 million contract to guard State Department personnel, but they have plenty of competitors on the ground. By all accounts, the private military contractors (reportedly as many as 30,000 strong) have been involved in dozens of questionable incidents resulting in death and injury of innocent Iraqis. As U.S. Brigadier General Karl Horst reportedly complained to Jeremy Scahill (author of Blackwater: The Rise of the World's Most Powerful Mercenary Army), “These guys are loose in this country and do stupid stuff. There’s no authority over them, so you can’t come down on them hard when they escalate force….They shoot people, and somebody else has to deal with the aftermath. It happens all over the place.”

Actually, it’s not surprising that the Bush administration came up with an order that exempts Blackwater and the other firms from Iraqi law – considering the fact that the private military contractors are also exempt from American laws. Unlike the official soldiers (the ones who wear uniforms), the contractors are not bound by the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

There has been talk for years that perhaps Congress might want to address this issue – indeed, in 2006 there was even a bipartisan attempt to make the contractors more legally accountable – but, naturally, the supine Republican majority never showed much inclination to question Bush’s bid to fight the war with the aid of the profit motive. They kept cheerleading even after the 2004 Abu Ghraib prison scandal embarrassed America worldwide; many of the abusers at the prison had turned out to be private contractors. U.S. Army investigators had even reported that "approximately 35 percent of the contract interrogators lacked formal military training as interrogators."

Nor can one expect the minority Republicans to help police these military privateers, or even to hold Bush accountable for his claims about “Iraqi sovereignty.” They'd prefer to mask their performance failures by changing the subject, by inveighing anew against the ad (yesterday, the Republican National Committee invoked it again), and trying to frame that incident as some sort of national crisis.

A case can be made that the military contractors deserve more scrutiny, particularly since the outsourcing of war seems to be in vogue (as Blackwater CEO Erik Prince has said, “We’re trying to do for the national security apparatus what FedEx did for the Postal Service”). Perhaps the majority Democrats might want to take the lead on scrutinizing this issue of outsourcing our national security to unaccountable privateers.

Don’t hold your breath. They will probably shy away, lest they be tagged by the Republicans as “not supporting the mercenaries.”


Hillary Clinton appeared on all the Sunday shows yesterday - an act now known as The Full Ginsberg, in honor of William Ginsberg, Monica Lewinsky's lawyer, who was famous in 1998 for saturating the Sunday airwaves. I was struck by one particular exchange, with Tim Russert on Meet the Press.

Russert brought up the Norman Hsu fundraising scandal - the former "bundler" of campaign cash is now wearing prison garb - and said: "Money has been an issue that is of grave concern to the American people....You talk about the politics of change. Is this (reliance on fundraising bundlers) changing the way Washington does business?"

Hillary, who recently returned $850,000 collected by Hsu, replied at great length: "Well, I’m very much in favor of public financing, which is the only way to really change a lot of the problems that we have in our campaign finance system. You know, as soon as my campaign found out what I and dozens of other campaigns did not know, that he was a fugitive from justice, we took action. And out of an abundance of caution, we did return any contribution that we could in any way, no matter how indirect, link to him. And I believe that we’ve done what we needed to do based on the information as soon as it came to our attention...But again, the real answer is we’re spending an enormous amount of time, money and effort raising money, mostly to be, you know, clear to go on television. And we have got to solve this. It is not good for our political system. It is certainly not the way that most people I know who run for office and want to try to do something good for their constituents and their country want to be spending all of their time. And we’ve got to figure out how we’re going to address it, and there has to be a way that public financing becomes the law of the land."

Two problems with that answer: First, Hillary's campaign was actually sluggish in its response to the Hsu affair, at every stage (as I documented here). And second, Hillary may claim today that she is "very much in favor" of public financing as the antidote to sleazy bundlers, but there is scant evidence that she has expended much time or energy on that issue.

I don't recall her ever crusading for that kind of reform; on the contrary, she chose to "opt out" of the public financing rules and instead privatize all her primary season and general election fundraising (the first candidate to opt out of both phases since the rules were introduced in 1976).

Pragmatically, her decision made sense, since she thought she could scare away potential rivals by racking up prodigious amounts of private money. But, given her track record, it is disingenuous for her to now claim that she is "very much in favor" of public financing. That's just her way of trying to spin herself free of the Hsu embarrassment.


Speaking of Hillary, she is being endorsed today by Indiana Senator Evan Bayh. This is noteworthy. Bayh is a centrist Democrat with a long history of red-state electoral success; several years ago, he also served as chairman of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council, and, in that job, he frequently jousted with the party's liberal base. By endorsing Hillary so early, he is trying to tell independent voters that Hillary is not a flaming liberal - and he is probably trying to put himself on the short list as a running mate, if she does win the nomination. I've long thought (as have others) that he would make the list anyway.